Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Gifts Christmas Is About

‘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; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to 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? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’  Matthew 25:35-38,40

A sweet young woman named Alex was diagnosed with the same disease I have when she was eleven years old. I haven't had a lot of trouble with my disease. At 25, she passed away on December 4th. Many of us are still reeling in shock.

An older man my husband and I know from our church is not fully able to take care of himself and is alone. At 73 years old, he suddenly lost almost everything he has, which isn't much, and he doesn't know what to do. I encounter people begging for money and food every few days and I live on the nice side of town.

When I get down about Christmas and the things I can't do anymore or what is lacking, it doesn't last very long when I think about the gifts that I have--the gifts that many take for granted. I have the gift of life. I have the gift of provision: a roof over my head, all the food I need, clothes, a warm bed, heat, even the phone and the internet. I can go to the doctor when I need to. There are so many basic needs that many are without.

Then I think about Jesus who was born in a manger with animals and grew up poor in a lower class working family. His father was a carpenter. He lived in a farming community in Nazareth. He chose to be poor all of his life and spent a good part of his life on the road serving others.

When I think about my Savior coming into the world in such a humble way, living the way he did and then going through torture and death for me, I see life in a different way. The basic needs that are met are gifts and something to be thankful for.

Not only that, but when I see people who don't have those basic needs, I know that God would want me to help how I can. He extends grace without question to us and wants us to do the same for others. Isn't that how we show Christ to others? Isn't that how we bring them in from the storm?

Luke 3:11 John replied, "Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same."

Maybe Christmas is about gifts, but not gifts under the tree. Christmas is about the gift of Jesus coming into the world and us celebrating by giving the gift of ourselves to share the light of God's love.

Whether you buy someone a meal, something to drink, pray with them, adopt a family, or say "God bless you", God's love is to be shared.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thankfulness Is A Choice

The holidays can be a very difficult time to get through. We are coming upon Thanksgiving and for people who have suffered hardships and loss, some have trouble imagining how they can enjoy a holiday like this one. We associate holidays such as this with family gatherings and tidings of happiness and cheer. How does one do that if they are grieving? How does one have a good day among bad days or ill days? What if it takes a lot just to get out of bed in the morning? Then what?

There are things that are completely out of our control. Things that happen to us that we don't have a hand in fall into that category. It could be a medical illness of ourselves or one of our loved ones. It could be loss of a job or a home, or loss of a relationship that was not chosen. What do we do when we fell like hope is running out and faith is running cold?

I have been in that place before- that place where it's so dark and you can't see any light ahead.

Part of how we experience our lives is our perception -how we see it. We have more choices than most people realize. No, we cannot choose what is out of our control. We can make choices involving how receive and perceive it. Is it easy? Of course not. This is where God can help us.

I have been the strongest after I went through something hard. Do you know why that is? It's because that's when I was desperate enough to completely surrender myself to the Lord without holding anything back. That's when I was willing to try anything.

At a friend's suggestion, I started counting my blessings every morning before my feet hit the floor. Every time I felt weak I would ask God for His help. I made myself start looking at positives instead of negatives. Also, I started thinking of my situation as temporary instead of permanent (after all the only thing that is constant is change.) As I put these things into practice, they became more natural. It felt better. It didn't change the situation, it changed me.

It you are one of those people who are dreading the holidays, I challenge you to try what I tried to change your perception. Count your blessings every morning before you get out of bed. Every time you see yourself going down, simply ask God to lift you up. When you go to bed at night, ask God to help you see things in a brighter light. It won't make anything less than it is. But even in the darkest places, we all have a Great God to give thanks to, and we still have blessings we can focus on.

God bless you. I wish you enjoyable holidays!

Put The Christ Back Into Christmas For More Joy

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."  ~Luke 2:10-11

Many people when they think of Christmas, think of decorations, family gatherings, gifts and festivities. The Christmas departments in stores go up quite early in most places, and these elements of Christmas are overemphasized. So Christmas can become quite depressing for many folks who don't have money to buy gifts, have no family to see,  or who are too ill to keep up with decorating, cooking and festivities etc. Loss can be felt in many ways during the holidays, especially when we think of the holidays in traditional terms.

This isn't how we are supposed to think of the holidays. Two thousand sixteen years ago, in a little village in a town called Bethlehem, in a country named Israel, an infant was born in a manger. This baby was the savior of man. He was the "Christ" child who was sent to us by God himself to save us from our own sins. Christmas is supposed to be about Christ Jesus. Some people follow the traditions of Advent, which is supposed to prepare us for Christmas, and go to candlelight services on Christmas eve, but how many have their hearts in it? Many churches don't even have Christmas services anymore, so that families can attend to their "festivities."

The angel brought "good tidings of great joy" on that dark night when Christ was born. That is what Christmas is about. Regardless of what our circumstances are at the time, we have one true great hope that is tied into Christmas, the symbolic day of Jesus' birth. Despite what any of us may be going through, it is a good day to think about the incredible gift that God gave us; one that we can never lose; from a love that is everlasting and faithful. We have been redeemed and set free because of a little baby born to a teenage virgin. He lived his short 33 years to teach and perform miracles while on earth and then take all of our sin upon himself and die a torturous death for us. And, he left the Holy Spirit behind to help us whenever we need.

Each one of us is so loved, we are cherished and treasured. None of us will ever be alone. He always hears us and He has a perfect plan for each of us. I can't wait to see what His plan is for me!

If you have not yet accepted Christ as your savior, these are the things you will gain, for eternity. You will not die, but move on to a perfect life, void of pain or problems, in a new perfect body. All you need to do is pray and ask him into your life, and accept him as your savior- that's it.

I pray that you find the true meaning of this holiday this Christmas, and that your heart is filled with Joy, with good tidings of great joy, for the savior that was born unto us and set us free.