We Must Always Look Back, We Must Always Remember

Well, this is it. That’s all she wrote for 2016.

As I reflect on the year, I see how God’s hand was at work. I see His faithfulness. I see His great love. And I see His goodness permeating the story of my life. I encourage you to ask God to reveal how He has moved in your life this past year. It might surprise you.

Friends, we must always look back and be thankful. We must always remember.

I was reading my devotional this morning and it was so beautiful I thought I would share it with you.

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, December 31st     

     As this year draws to a close, receive My peace. This is still your deepest need, and I, your Prince of Peace, long to pour Myself into your neediness. My abundance and your emptiness are a perfect match. I designed you to have no sufficiency of your own. I created you as a jar of clay, set apart for sacred use. I want you to be filled with My very Being, permeated through and through with Peace.
     Thank Me for My peaceful Presence, regardless of your feelings. Whisper My Name in loving tenderness. My Peace, which lives continually in your spirit, will gradually work its way through your entire being. 

Thank you so much for joining me in my journey to love and know God more this year. And may God bless you in 2017!

Tis The Season of Night

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and the sun is going down. The shadows loom long behind me. Tis the season when the sun goes down before it is actually up. Tis the season of night.

I used to be cheerful around the holidays. I used to love the carols, cookies, candles, and the warmth of the season. I used to like decorating. I liked the tree and the lights and the celebration and gift giving.

Now, its mostly darkness. It’s mostly night.

I get why this season has the most suicides. There is something about intense jubilee and celebration over presents and a fat man in a red suit in the midst of a dark, troubled world that seems wrong.

But without darkness, what good would the light be?

I am so grateful to God. He has been so good to me, yet I can’t shake the darkness. I can’t shake the night.

Part of the difficulty of the season for many people is reconciling family with joy around Christmas. So many movies and commercials show joyful and magical families and traditions. Take for instance the inevitable Christmas Hallmark movie. It would be wonderful if everyone’s life was filled with a warm loving family, a passionate and fulfilling romantic relationship, and wonderful friends and the perfect job.

However, not everyone’s story has a happy ending . . . or a happy beginning, or a happy middle.

And it struck me. What about people who did not or do not enjoy a warm family and loving relationships? Their wounds are opened afresh in the name of Christmas. What they did not or do not have is dangled in front of them. And they are wounded all over again.

Who doesn’t long for peace on earth? Who doesn’t long for unity in their family? We all do. However, some people know they will never have it. How does one reconcile that?

Unity and peace on this earth are a luxury not a guarantee.

Even Charlie Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas was depressed at Christmas time.

charlie-brownI just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”  ~Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas

I, and many others, sympathize with good old Chuck.

I am glad that Christmas is over. I always look forward to the holidays being over. Maybe that makes me a negative person. But, I know I’m not alone.

We are told that we should be happy because of Christmas.

I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus, Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.  ~Charlie Brown

However, being depressed at Christmas might mean that you are more in tune with the reality of the world than those who are happy. And it might mean, that you see how we have turned Christmas into something that has nothing to do with Jesus. And that should make us sad. There is such a thing as Godly sorrow.

Jesus came into a dark world. A world of night.

He left the glory, beauty and light of Heaven and the love of His Father to save our sorry souls. He came to a place of darkness and perpetual night for us. Wow! It’s amazing! Would I have done the same thing? Probably not.

If the holidays are difficult for you, I’m right there with you. Your family might not see your hurt, but God does. And He blesses you.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
     for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
     for they will inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:3-5

Where We Went Wrong

I often wonder where we went wrong as a society in America. A majority of our kids are walking away from church and the faith when they get old enough to make their own decisions.

I have spent a lot of time in thought over this issue. And I have done much research for my book on the topic of passing on faith in Christ to our kids.

While on the treadmill the other day, a commercial came on about kids asking Santa to bring them their favorite toys. A scooter for $1,000, a princess carriage for $400, an American Girl doll and accessories for $120, etc.

It hit me that this is one of the ways we, as a society, have gone wrong.

Christmas is the story of Jesus coming to the world to save us. He was a King, yet there has never been anyone more humble than Jesus Christ. His crown was made of thorns not adorned with jewels. Jesus came with a message of love, grace and hope. He was the very picture of humility and selflessness.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,  Philippians 2:5-7

He taught us to love our enemies, take care of the poor, and turn the other cheek. He taught us to focus our attention outward, on others.

Yet often, at Christmas time, we send the message to our kids that causes them to focus inward. The message of Santa Claus is to focus on me. What do I want for Christmas? How many presents will I get this year?

Parents spend and spend on Christmas presents for their kids. And the holiday season becomes about selfishness, not selflessness.

At a pivotal age, we teach our kids the rituals of Christmas. We teach them to work hard and be nice, so they will get presents. God forbid they be on the naughty list! We teach them to focus on “what will get me stuff?” We teach them to focus on themselves.

Selfishness is human nature. We are born with it. Parents, little by little, have to teach kids to change their nature and to become selfless.

What if we had never introduced Santa Clause, Rudolph or Frosty? What if our observance of Christmas had always been about the message of Christ? What if we taught our kids selflessness at Christmas?

As I write this, A Charlie Brown Christmas is on TV. The message of Charles Schulz in this show is brilliant. He saw the materialism and all the silly things we focus on during the Christmas season back in 1965. He tried to portray the true meaning of the birth of Christ, and show us how we have strayed from it.

Schulz illustrated beautifully how we were, and still are, valuing the wrong things during the Christmas season. The money, the stuff, the decorations, the lights . . . .

Charlie Brown:  “I am in sad shape.”A-Charlie-Brown-Christmas-image

Lucy:  “Wait a minute, before you begin I must ask that you pay in advance. 5 cents please.” (Charlie Brown puts a nickle in the can)

Lucy:  “Boy what a sound! How I love hearing that old money plink! That beautiful sound of cold, hard, cash! That beautiful, beautiful sound! Nickles, nickles, nickles! That beautiful sound of plinking nickles!”

How we handle Christmas speaks volumes to our kids about our faith. If we treat the birth of Christ like it is no big deal, or ignore it completely at Christmas, our kids will see that it is less important than the ‘American Christmas.’

We must get back to teaching our kids the message of Christ at Christmas.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:35-40

Christmas is one of the ways that we, as an American society have gone wrong.