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 pool that I do my exercise class in seems to have lowered the water temperature. It feels shockingly cold to climb into and there are many complaints from members of the class. The funny thing is, once I am wet and working hard, the water no longer feels cold to me. I know that the temperature has not changed, but it starts to feel comfortable.
The instructor challenged the class to look at it differently. She said it was mind over matter. If we get in thinking it will be cold, we will slowly immerse ourselves, making the cold last longer. “Just jump in and get the worst of it over with” she told us.
This made me think of the many times in my life I have approached a challenge very hesitantly, certain it would be unpleasant. A saying that comes to mind is ‘What I fear, I create.’ Once I change my mindset and immerse myself in the task at hand, the earlier trepidation fades. Just like the water temperature, the situation doesn’t change, just my attitude toward it. The best way that I have found to do this is to pray about the situation. Once I know it is out of my control and in the hands of Jesus, the pressure is off and anything is possible.
I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 God’s Word Translation
According to Wikipedia, a glow stick is a self-contained, short-term light-source. I also found more technical information but nothing that describes the enjoyment that they bring.
The children in my life love to get glow sticks. They have fun wearing them as bracelets or just waving them around in the dark. When first taken out of the package, a glow stick is nothing special to look at. The light does not appear until after you crack it. Then it changes and brightens up the area around it.
My daughter sent me a quote that said, “It’s okay to be a glow stick; sometimes we need to break before we shine.”
This made me think how much my life has been like a glow stick. I have found that I can live with no risk and be nondescript, like a glow stick fresh out of the package. When I step out of my comfort zone, there is the chance that I might get hurt, or broken. By taking that brokenness to Jesus, I allow him to turn it into a light that attracts others. Like a glow stick, that light is not only used for recreation, but can also be relied upon for many other things. The main difference, though, is that a glow stick can be used only once. After I allow Jesus to light up my life, I can be used continually to bring light into other lives.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 NIV
November 11th is known as Remembrance Day in Canada. In other countries it is called Armistice Day or Poppy Day. This date marks the anniversary of the official end of World War 1 on November 11, 1918. As a holiday, the day commemorates the sacrifices made in armed conflicts. Countless numbers have given their lives. Many more have suffered serious injuries and great emotional scars.
The sacrifice that so many have paid to ensure a better life for those who followed is overwhelming. That is why on this day and for weeks before, people can been seen wearing artificial poppies as a symbol of remembrance. There is also a period of silence at the eleventh hour to remember these sacrifices. Many areas have commemoration ceremonies and military parades. Those who made the sacrifices are remembered and appreciated. Among those I will be honoring will be my father and father-in-law, who both fought in World War 2.
While I am remembering those sacrifices, I also need to remember the greatest sacrifice of all. Jesus gave his life so that I may have the opportunity to spend eternity with him. He paid the penalty for my sins so that I may be forgiven. He knew what the outcome would be, but carried it through because of his great love. This is something I did not deserve. This gift is something to thank him for each and every day.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 NIV
The snow was still falling when I went out to shovel. There had been quite an accumulation in the previous hours and the sidewalk and driveway needed to be cleared. This was normally my husband’s job, but he was unable to do it this time so it was up to me.
As I removed the first few shovelfuls, I was happy at how much easier it was than I had first thought. Self congratulations were short lived though, as it seemed the longer I worked, the heavier the snow seemed to become. There was the same amount on the shovel each time, so I found it interesting that the load became heavier the more times I carried it off to the side. As I struggled, I saw a man across the street clearing the sidewalk with a snow blower. Part of me wanted to ask for his assistance. The other part wouldn’t let me ask for help. It would be different if he noticed that I was struggling and offered to help. That didn’t happen, so I carried on, feeling sorry for myself as my back screamed out in protest of the heavy loads.
Later, as I reflected on this, I realized there was a relationship between shoveling snow and my life. When I just have a few burdens, they may be a nuisance, but they are not too heavy to carry. Unfortunately, like the snowfall, if not dealt with they multiply making it ever more difficult to bear the load. When I struggle under this weight alone, not only do I suffer physically, but my emotional state is not pleasant. What I sometimes forget is that I do not have to do it on my own. Help is available if I just ask for it. Jesus is just a prayer away and when called upon will always send someone or something to lighten my load.
A person standing along can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12 New Living Translation
The calendar tells us that it is Thanksgiving, and once again I reflect on the meaning behind this holiday. For some it is merely a paid day off or a day to enjoy a turkey dinner with loved ones. For others, it is as the name suggests, a day to give thanks.
If it truly is a day to give thanks, what is it that I’m thankful for? Although I appreciate the opportunity to enjoy a turkey dinner with loved ones, there is more to it than that. I need to dig much deeper. While I’m at it, I need to realize that being thankful is something to practice consistently through each and every day. A wise friend told me once that there is no such thing as an entirely bad day. There is always something to be thankful for. Many in the world would be overjoyed to have some of the things that I tend to take for granted. A comfortable home with electricity and running water come to mind. My nightly habit is to pick up my gratitude journal and write down 5 things that I was grateful for that day. Looking for and focusing on the positive has changed my life.
Part of this is not just giving thanks, but who I am giving thanks to. God has blessed me, not just with material things, but with his loving presence. Even during the trying times, he is there leading and guiding me. He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for the wrongs I have done. Now I can look forward to everlasting life with him. Now that is something to give thanks for.
.. always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20 (NIV)
The owner of the store I work in is known for the amazing gift baskets she creates. When she wanted to teach me how to do them, I panicked. Feeling that I don’t have a flair for that sort of thing had me terrified to even attempt it. As she guided me through the creative process, I secretly hoped the day would never come when I would have to make one on my own.
Through her encouragement and belief in me, I slowly gained confidence. Then the fateful day came when it was necessary for me to create a basket completely on my own. The fact that I enjoyed picking out and arranging the items in the basket surprised me. After wrapping it and making a bow, I stood back and admired what I had created. I even took a picture of the finished product! The saying “I didn’t know what I could do until I did it” came to mind.
Thinking about this, I realize how many times I have been stopped in my tracks by something I thought I couldn’t do. Now I realize that just because it’s something I’ve never done before, doesn’t mean I can’t do it! When I stop and pray about the situation, Jesus guides me every step of the way. Through Him, I am able to accomplish far more than I ever thought possible. When those negative, “I can’t do it” thoughts enter my mind, I just need to think of the gift baskets and remember that all things are possible through Christ Jesus.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NLT)
Last week I received one of the most valuable gifts I have ever been given. It came in the form of a written letter. This letter was from someone who wanted to let me know how much I was appreciated. My friend had verbally expressed appreciation for me before, but wanted to put it in writing. Reading the words had a profound effect on me. The fact that I can read them again at any time is priceless.
A few days ago I was one of many volunteers at a community event. Standing in the pouring rain, taking my shift as a crossing guard, I was happy and smiling at the people who went by. One of the main reasons for this was the appreciation that was expressed. The majority of people thanked me for serving in this way. Many offered kind words and one even offered to give me his umbrella! That evening I received an email expressing appreciation for my help during the event.
These experiences have reminded me the importance of showing appreciation. Even a difficult situation can be made better when appreciation is shown. I do my best to let people serving me know that I appreciate what they are doing. How often, though, do I make a point of letting loved ones know how much I appreciate them? It doesn’t always need to be for what they have done; maybe I need to let them know that I appreciate them for who they are. How will they know if I never tell them?
One that deserves my constant appreciation is Jesus. His love is faithful and he is always there to lead and guide me. He provides me with much more than I could ever deserve and I need to show my appreciation by thanking him every day.
Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Proverbs 16:24 NLT)
My mouth is filled with your praise, with your glory all day long. (Psalm 71:8 GWT)
Clouds had been gathering and now obscured the sun. The few remaining patches of blue sky were slowly disappearing. Then I saw it. Through one patch of clouds, the sun was beaming down in clearly defined shafts of light. It was these sunbeams, bursting through the clouds that captured my attention.
Without the clouds to block it, the sun’s light is often taken for granted. Looking at the sunbeams, forcing their way through the clouds I was reminded that, although I may not always see it, the sun is still there. It may be temporarily blocked by circumstances in my life. Above the clouds the sun is still shining. If I consciously search for it, I may be rewarded with shafts of light that are like rays of hope shining through the dark sky.
One thing I have learned is that I tend to find whatever it is I focus on. Life is gloomy when I only focus on the clouds that block the light and warmth of the sun. By shifting my focus to the glimmers of light, soon I don’t notice the clouds, only the positive effects of sun reaching out to embrace me. God’s son, Jesus, is always willing to pour out His light upon me. All that I have to do is consciously seek Him. When filled with His light and love I can, in turn, reflect this to others, so they may also feel the warmth of His love.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father. Matthew 5:16 NKJV