It has been a winter for the record books. The temperatures have been colder and we’ve received more than double the usual snowfall. This combination can make driving a little more challenging.
As my husband and I were traveling along a major highway, we saw several vehicles that had gone off of the road. One was a pickup truck that was perfectly balanced on the roof of its cab, wheels in the air; reminding me of a turtle placed on its back. A little further on a jackknifed semi caused some major traffic delays as lanes were closed while crews worked to rescue it.
Once we passed this scene and were back to 2 lanes of traffic, it surprised us how fast people were driving. Yes, they lost some time with the backup, but did they learn nothing from the vehicles stranded in deep snow?
This, in my eyes, was a good metaphor for life. How often do I hurry along at my own pace, despite the conditions because I am determined to get where I want to be when I want to be there? Do I tend to call on God, like my personal tow truck, relying on him to come and rescue me when I get stuck? Once he sets me back on the proper road, do I reevaluate my speed and direction or just rush off on my own again? The road of life I travel will have less slippery spots if I slow down and allow God to direct my pace.
A person may plan his own journey, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 God’s Word Translation
My husband and I had a unique experience on New Year’s Eve. We stood outside in a park watching a fireworks display while snow was falling all around us. The snowfall didn’t deter the large crowd gathered to enjoy the fireworks display. Somehow, it added an almost magical quality to the experience.
The exploding bursts of colour in the sky were lovely to watch. Just as much fun for me, was observing and listening to the children around us. There were many “oohs” and “awes” and a few “oh wows”.
Not everyone was standing outside. Some had arrived early enough to get a good parking place so they could remain in their vehicles and still watch the spectacle. Nearby I heard children excitedly commenting. Turning to see them, I realized that they were not looking at the sky at all, but were leaning out of an open car window, eating snow they were scooping off of the side of the car!
This made me think of the wonders and blessings that God has provided for me. Often they are right before me; all I need to do is turn and look. Instead I busy myself with little pleasures of my own making. I settle for crumbs when God has prepared a feast for me. This year I am going to consciously seek the good things that the Lord longs to provide for me.
Make your ways known to me, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me because you are God, my savior. I wait all day long for you. Psalm 25:4-5 God’s Word Translation
As we end one year and embark upon another I’d like to share with you a poem that was given to me many years ago. Every year I read it and appreciate what it has to say. Unfortunately I don’t know who the author is. My prayer is that each of you will be blessed this way in 2014.
NEW YEAR PRAYER
May God make your year a happy one,
Not by shielding you from sorrow and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, if it comes.
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy enough to travel any path.
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking all cowardice and fear from your heart.
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows.
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you where man and his cause need you most,
And by making you anxious to be there, and to help.
The city we live in boasts one of the largest free outdoor lights displays in Western Canada. Travel experts at where.ca have rated it as one of Canada’s Top 10 holiday light shows. This display takes place every night in the month of December.
A few nights ago, my husband and I took advantage of a mild evening and joined the crowds of people strolling through the display. Many others, like us, were walking the paths, enjoying the lights and taking pictures.
As I admired the lights, the display that captured my attention was the nativity scene. It was on the top of a small hill so sat slightly higher than everything else. It seemed very appropriate to me that Jesus, the light of the word, was in lights and above all else.
I have felt the light of Jesus shining into my life many times this past year. Among other things, His light has given me strength when I was weak, hope when I felt hopeless and encouragement when I felt defeated. Unlike the light display that only shines for a few hours each evening during a one month period of the year, the Jesus I know is always available to shine his light on me.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world. John 9:4 NIV
You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14 NLT
Christmas is the season of giving. The gift doesn’t have to be extravagant to be appreciated. It is the spirit in which it is given that is the most important thing.
A couple of days before Christmas someone was telling me that he had cut his budget for gifts in half this year. This person was upset that the gifts he received last year didn’t cost as much as gifts he had given. For this reason, he would not spend as much on his friends this year. Somewhere in all of this the spirit of giving had been lost.
There was a time when I felt the same way. I couldn’t wait to see what people had purchased for me. I still appreciate receiving gifts, but my focus is no longer only on myself. Now, the true pleasure for me is picking out something special for someone and seeing their excitement when they receive the gift.
Sometimes the value of a gift cannot be measured in dollars. Acts of service may cost me nothing but my time, yet may be priceless to someone else. When I cheerfully give my time or attention to another, I am honoring not only them, but God. My life has been blessed by God so that I may pass some of these blessings along to others. This is a gift that is not just for Christmas, but can be shared on a daily basis throughout the year.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV
A few days ago a good friend celebrated the birth of a new baby into their family. This child was eagerly awaited and loved long before he drew his first breath. He is loved unconditionally even though he can give nothing in return. He is loved for his very existence in this moment and not for what he may become in the future. His family is committed to provide for his needs and to guide him as he grows.
This is the way that God loves each one of us. I know that he loves me just as I am. He loves me even when I have nothing to give back. He is watching over me and is always there to nurture, support and guide me to reach my full potential. When I fall down he is there to lift me back up. All I need to do is to call out to him in prayer.
I can have this relationship with God because he sent his son Jesus to earth to demonstrate His great love for me. The birth of Jesus had been foretold and written about in the scriptures hundreds of years before that historic night in Bethlehem when he arrived as a helpless baby. The baby Jesus is the greatest gift known to mankind and is the reason I celebrate Christmas this week.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NIV
As we approach Christmas I overhear parents telling their children to be good so Santa will come and leave them presents. A well know Christmas song reinforces this. The words that have been imprinted on the minds of many generations are as follows:
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good, for goodness sake
When I hear these words I have a slightly different perspective. I think of Jesus. He sees us in all circumstances. He does know if we’ve been bad or good and still loves us unconditionally. The gifts that he brings are everlasting and always available. They are not just delivered on one night of the year, but are there for us every day.
My celebration at Christmas is not all about the man in the red suit. It is a celebration for the Son of God, who came to earth as a baby, born in a manger. I will rejoice as the shepherds did that night in Bethlehem when the angels sang glory to the newborn King.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying” “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:9-14
While attending a potluck dinner, we placed our meal on paper plates and picked up plastic cutlery to eat with. When my husband tried to cut his chicken the pressure he applied on the knife caused it to snap into 3 pieces.
I looked at him and said “I think there’s a story here.” Instead of getting him a new knife, I pulled out my phone and took a picture of the broken piece of plastic cutlery!
To me this knife was a reminder of what happens when too much pressure is applied in my life. I have been known to keep adding things to my to-do list until I have far too many commitments. Knowing that I can’t keep up adds so much pressure to my life that I am liable to snap. This is especially true during this time of the year. Life can be busy enough without adding extra shopping, baking, decorating and socializing to the mix. The added pressure takes away from the true meaning and joy of the Christmas Season.
Christmas is not about running myself ragged. Instead of being ready to snap from too much pressure I need to stop and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. It is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. God sending his son to earth was the greatest gift known to mankind. Nothing else can compare. The gift I can give back to God is that of my time and appreciation. It’s easy to do and fills me with peace, joy and love.
A child will be born for us. A son will be given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. He will be named: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 God’s Word Translation
The cold weather we were experiencing reminded me that I am not yet thinking like a native of Alberta, my adopted province. My car had been parked in the garage at home for 3 days. The next day I drove to work and parked in the employee parking at the rear of the building. With wind chill, the temperature had dipped to -40°C. My car was parked outside for close to 12 hours. When it came time to go home, I discovered that it would not start. I felt terrible calling my husband and my son out into the frigid night to rescue me.
A simple way I could have avoided this situation would have been to use my remote start and let my car run for a few minutes during the day. It was something that never occurred to me as I went about my busy day at work. In Vancouver, where I come from, such a thing is not needed. After several winters here, I should have learned what is necessary to keep my vehicle running safely. My mind slipped back into old patterns however, and I forgot about the measures I needed to take.
I know there is a deeper lesson here for me. No matter how good my intentions are, sometimes I slip back into old patterns that are not beneficial. When I busy myself with many other things and don’t spend time connecting with God, my life also grows cold. The longer I spend in the cold, the more difficult it is to get going again. There is a simple preventative measure for this. Connecting with God in prayer throughout the day gives me the power I need to keep moving forward. He is always there to guide me into a more purposeful life and there is nothing remote about His kind of start.
Pray in the Spirit in every situation. Use every kind of prayer and request there is. For the same reason be alert. Use every kind of effort and make every kind of request for all of God’s people. Ephesians 6:18 God’s Word Translation
As we carefully crossed the snowy church parking lot we saw a sign by the door that said “Watch Your Step”. This was very appropriate for the weather but since there was also a scripture reference written at the bottom, I knew that there was more to this message than I saw at first glance.
Watch your step is good advice in many areas of my life, not just when walking along slippery surfaces. There are many things in life that can trip me up if I’m not careful. When I want to be like someone else or have what others have, I am not watching the steps that God has dictated for my life. Also, there may be others watching the steps I take. Part of my life purpose is to gently lead others and to make a positive difference in their lives. This can only happen if I am authentic.
God has a wonderful plan for my life and not only do I need to let him guide my steps, I need to be intentional about them. It is only by spending time with God that I will be able to achieve this.
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Ecclesiastes 4:5 NIV
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV