Last week the media was full of stories about Black Friday. Apparently today is Cyber Monday. Someone told me it’s even bigger than Black Friday.
What I’m wondering is when the celebration of a holiday like Thanksgiving became less about the actual holiday and more about the shopping afterwards. Maybe I’m old fashioned but this doesn’t seem right to me.
The experience will be repeated again very soon. In Canada the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day. This is another day that people line up in the early hours of the morning to be among the first to scoop up the bargains being offered. Every year media reports tell of fights among the shoppers. In some cases there are even injuries!
These events occur immediately following holidays celebrating thankfulness, joy and peace on earth. Something is wrong with this picture. Somewhere our priorities have become messed up. Shouldn’t we be enjoying time with our loved ones and not fighting strangers over purchases?
Instead of Black Friday I prefer to focus on Good Friday. The greatest gift ever given didn’t come from a store. It was when Jesus gave his life for me. When God sent his son so that we may have life abundantly, he wasn’t referring to material possessions.
As I enter the Christmas Season I choose to focus on the reason we celebrate. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love for all mankind. He taught us that we should love our neighbours as ourselves. For me, this love is the best gift I can give and receive not only today but every day.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10 ESV)
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14 NIV)
One of my volunteer roles at a recent seminar was to open the doors at the start of each session to allow the participants to enter. As strange as it seems, this simple task pointed out some life lessons to me.
There were two main sets of doors to enter the training room. Line-ups formed at the closest set of doors, while the other set, just steps away, had few people using them. I realized that the majority of people follow the crowd. The ones that bypassed the line-up and walked to the second set of doors shook their heads in disbelief that so few thought to do this.
The metaphor was not lost on me. I wondered how often in life I have waited in line, following the crowd, when I could have moved ahead quickly if I’d taken the time to look for another open door.
The second thing I realized is that there is usually a reason for closed doors. In this case it was because there were preparations for the next session going on behind those doors. That’s why participants were asked not to enter until the doors were opened for them.
I thought of the many times in my life I’ve been frustrated because the door I wanted to walk through was closed. Perhaps the closed doors were there because I had more to learn before I would be ready to go through them. Maybe I was trying to do too much in my own strength rather than waiting for guidance from God.
All I know for sure is that the plan is not my own. My job is to be aware of the doors before me and learn from both the open and closed ones. I have faith that God will open the right doors for me as I walk closely with him and pay attention to his leading.
The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think. Rather, he is patient for your sake. He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act.( 2 Peter 3:9 GWT)
My husband and I took three of our grandchildren on a special shopping trip. It was explained to them that we would be picking out items to put in shoe-boxes for Operation Christmas Child. After dinner we would go to our church and join with others to pack the boxes.
The question of, “Do we get one too?” was something we expected to hear from six-year-olds. This is where the teaching began. My husband sat patiently and explained that these packages would be going to children in who lived in poverty and didn’t have all of the things we had.
Later we arrived at the church and placed our items in the assigned places. There were spots for school supplies, toys, clothing, personal hygiene items and more.
At the starting time each of the girls took a box and we guided them through the lines to choose what to add to theirs. Then we went to a finishing table where the boxes were labeled for boy or girl and the appropriate age group. As we waited in line for the label I bent down and told my granddaughter that this box would be the only gift a little girl received and she had been the one to fill it. She beamed and couldn’t wait to pick up another empty box to fill.
We had only expected them to fill one box each. Instead they continued putting together gifts for children who needed them. The seeds of compassion had been sown.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)
A favourite song of mine has the words, “There is a candle in every soul; some brightly burning, some dark and cold.” It goes on to tell us to take our candles and go light the world.
A recent experience illustrated this in a simple but powerful way.
I arrived for a scheduled a book reading at a senior’s residence to find only two people in attendance. The low number was unusual but the reason behind it soon became clear.
After I read a couple of short stories, one woman tentatively told me that she was a writer. She’d taken courses and written short stories but didn’t have the confidence to share them. The other person drifted out of the room and I had the privilege of giving my full attention to the one remaining.
She told me about the depression she suffered and that some days she couldn’t bring herself to get out of bed. Medical issues were part of this, but deeper were the feelings that she was not making a meaningful contribution to life.
I gave her the gifts of listening and encouragement. By the time I left she was excited about returning to the stories she’d started several years ago and promised to share some with me on my next visit. I gave her a hug and she told me it felt like she had a new friend.
My time had the effect of using my candle to ignite hers. Now she is able to shine. It wasn’t a momentous event and didn’t take much time. My candle is burning brighter as a result. Together our light will brighten the world.
How will you take your candle and go light the world? I’d love to hear your stories.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)
Just before leaving the house for the morning I made what I thought would be a quick trip to the basement. At the bottom of the stairs I heard a drip, drip, drip. “Oh, that can’t be good,” I thought.
It didn’t take long to identify the problem. A pipe that circulates the water for our in-floor heating had sprung a leak. I had been in this area less than 30 minutes before and everything was fine so this took me by surprise. I quickly found a bucket, mopped up the floor and said a prayer of thanks that this had been discovered before I left the house.
While waiting for a plumber that day I learned that even a pinhole opening in a pipe can disperse a lot of water. Drop by drop my bucket filled until it needed to be emptied. A large outdoor garbage can was brought in to hold the bucket and catch any overflow. The dripping didn’t stop until the main water line to the house had been turned off.
This was a powerful visual of what negative thoughts and ideas can do in my life. The first few are just drops in an empty bucket. A little doubt and disappointment here, some fear and anxiety there and soon these drops accumulate. It doesn’t take long for them to become a steady stream of negativity. Before I know it my bucket is full to overflowing. Then it spills out and affects those around me.
The only way to stop this is to turn it off at the source. When I take all of my concerns to God he is able to take the negativity away. Through my faith in him, he will allow it to be replaced with peace, joy and hope. Now those are things I’m happy to overflow with.
May God, the source of hope, fill you with joy and peace through your faith in him. Then you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 GWT)
A disturbing dream woke me just after daybreak. I slipped quietly out of bed and headed for the living room. My heart was heavy and my mind troubled. The dream had a basis in reality and this view of myself was not pleasant.
I picked up my Bible but found it difficult to quiet my mind and focus on the words. Instead, I shared my anxious thoughts with the Lord. My mind stilled and I was able to resume my reading.
The devotional I read next seemed to speak directly to my concerns. This must be more than coincidence.
Suddenly a movement in the back yard caught my attention and I went to the window. We had filled a small wire feeder with winter bird food a few days earlier. Our little oak tree had become a gathering spot for numerous birds. I smiled as I watched some in the branches, one or two at the feeder and several on the ground enjoying what had been dropped.
This image was a visual reminder of the promises in the Bible that the Lord will take care of me. I knew then that he had heard my prayer. I had nothing to worry about because I was in his capable, loving care.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26 NIV)
Turn your burdens over to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will never let the righteous person stumble. (Psalm 55:22 GWT)
Today’s story in honour of Remembrance Day appeared in my book Dragonflies, Snowdrifts and Spice Cake.
November 11 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, 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’s why, on this day and for weeks before, people wears artificial poppies as a symbol of remembrance. There’s 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 honour are my father and father-in-law, who both fought in World War 11.
While I’m remembering those sacrifices, I 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 didn’t 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 pool in my city was to be closed for three months while maintenance and upgrades were done on the facility. This meant that I would need to find a replacement for my aquafit class.
As I put my membership on hold, I thought of all of the other forms of exercise I could do. It shouldn’t be a problem to keep myself motivated to exercise on my own.
That’s where I was wrong! My intentions were good, but the follow through was not.
The pool reopened this week. I was pleased with my progress as I worked through the class. Thinking the hour was almost up I glanced at the clock on the wall to see we weren’t even half way through!
The next class caused a few muscles to scream in protest. It was then I realized that I achieve better results with guidance from an instructor than I do on my own.
This applies to more than exercise. There have been many times I’ve thought I could do something on my own instead of enlisting the help of others. It may have been my pride, not willing to ask for help. Maybe I was trying to prove something to myself.
What I do know is that I have often decided to do things on my own instead of taking them to God for his guidance. This doesn’t usually end well. God knows the plan for my life and what needs to be done to accomplish it. His ways are far better than mine. With him guiding my life, I never have to do it on my own.
Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. (Psalm 73:23-24 NLT)
Have you ever been caught in a situation that took you by surprise and left you wondering what happened?
That was my experience recently. The situation itself is not important, how I dealt with it is what I need to focus on.
I sought a neutral party for guidance in how to proceed. After listening attentively to my story, I was asked how I was doing. My immediate response was, “I’m alright.” After assurance that this really was the case, we moved on.
The truth was that although I knew I would be alright, at that moment I was hurting. The person I was speaking to was in demand from other sources so I decided it was better not to add to her burden.
When I examined this the next day, I realized that this was a self-defeating behavior. By not acknowledging my feelings, I didn’t allow the other person the opportunity to comfort and reassure me. It was not my place to decide that for someone else.
Deep in my subconscious was the lie that I didn’t deserve the time and attention another was freely offering. I was suddenly struck by the thought that it’s not only other people I do this with. I have done the same with God.
Frequently I feel that my little issues are not worth taking to him. He has much more important things to take care of. That, however, is not the way God works. He cares about every aspect of my life and is always willing to give me the comfort and guidance I need. All I need to do is ask.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (Psalm 139:23NIV)