Hating Christmas?

I was recently in a store when I overheard a woman at the register saying, “I’m beginning to hate Christmas.”

My heart sank because I adore Christmas. But not for reasons most would know.

When I was a little girl, I went to church but never really knew God. And what I knew of Him, I was afraid of. I felt like He was this big monstrous person who was out to get me.

Until Christmas.

Christmas time, the church was decorated with trees in the front of the sanctuary. The harsh, overhead lights were dimmed and the soft glow from those trees gave a gentleness to church.

And there was baby Jesus lying in the manger right in front. I found myself standing on tippy toes (we always sat in the back), believing He was going to move any minute, and I was going to see Him and tell everybody. I spent most of those December services, staring at baby Jesus. I was hopeful. Expectant.

It took years (that’s another story), but I realized God wasn’t a cruel god who was out to get me and zap me with a lightning bolt whenever I messed up. Like the baby Jesus with His arms reaching out from the manger, God was reaching out to me. And He’s done it every Christmas since.

It has nothing to do with decorations, although I enjoy them immensely. It has nothing to do with baking and presents and watching my favorite Christmas movies (there are many).

Christmas has everything to do with Jesus Christ reaching out to save us from eternal darkness and from our own personal dark places (mine – the falsehoods I thought were true about Him). It’s about Him drawing us into a relationship with Him by showing us how much He loves us. He came for us. He’s coming back for us.

It’s all about standing on tippy toes with expectation and excitement and joy sending you into fits of laughter because His love is swelling within and you can’t  contain it. You just can’t.

So, my dear friend, if you’re saying you hate Christmas, ask yourself why.  Commercialism, despair, stress, and anxiety are all thieves. They will steal your joy if you let them.

Don’t let the darkness distract you from the Light of the world that’s reaching out to you. Instead, dance in the light of life this Christmas with the One who came to draw you into His arms for all eternity.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12 NIV.)

Stuck in the Mud

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When I was a little girl, my mom and I went for a walk through the trees and trails on our property. I wore boots, so I wasn’t too worried about all the mud from a recent rain.

I was making my way through the thick sludge, putting one foot in front of the other and realizing my boots were starting to get pretty heavy.  Finally they wouldn’t budge at all.

I tugged and pulled with everything I had, feeling different muscles in my feet and legs screaming at the absurd torture. But my boots wouldn’t even wiggle. It’s as if they suddenly developed an attitude, stubbornly refusing to move and laughing because now they were stronger than me, and I wasn’t going to tell them what to do anymore, thank you very much.

It got me thinking this morning…

How often do we feel stuck? Stuck in debt or an illness? Stuck waiting for an answer so we can move forward, knowing then which way to go?

Maybe our “mud” is in the form of anxiety or fear or even bitterness and we don’t know how to escape the muck. (Read more on that here.)

The day I got stuck in the mud, I called my mom and she came to my rescue, pulling my feet out of my boots and then wiggling those stubborn beasts free as they let out a loud slurping roar. (We had a good laugh as I stood there in my socks!)

When you and I get stuck in our lives we can call out to God, and He will come to our rescue.

I’ve learned He sometimes allows us to wait for the rescue for a number of reasons:

He wants us to know the rescue, the glory belong to Him; we can’t get unstuck by ourselves.

He may want to stop us to protect us from what’s up ahead.

He may be preparing a blessing up ahead, and it’s not ready. Or we’re not ready.

He may be teaching us this path is not for us.

And sometimes this may be the only way He can slow some of us down so we will spend time with Him. (Any other caffeinated gung-ho-ers out there?)

The point is if you feel stuck, the moment you cry out to God He hears you. The answer and the rescue will come. Just sit tight (or stand if you can’t get those boots off!) and wait for Him. He will never let you down.

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears…He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.” (Psalm 18:6, 16 NIV.) *

*If you’re really struggling, needing God’s rescue, try reading all of Psalm 18 out loud…so powerful!

(Photo from Pexels.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overwhelmed

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It started snowing on our flowers this morning, so naturally I grabbed my camera and ran out the door. A lone daffodil that had been standing tall in the sunshine yesterday, hung its head in a layer of snow and ice today.

I can completely relate to that flower.

Last week I had an amazing day with God and felt like His hand was in mine, and His face was shining on me all day long. I woke up, slipped on a really comfy and bright T-shirt (not just my socks!) and felt like God instructed me to grab some old CDs for the drive into town to get groceries.

I listened to songs I hadn’t heard in years and found myself laughing at what I used to think was so “cool” and crying when a few love songs made me think of God. (Am I the only one who does this?)

After visiting a few grocery stores and feeling such a peace among the bags of spinach, frantic mommas and their fussy little ones, and a kind woman who explained to me how to make dandelion jam, I was about to go home when I felt God telling me to go to one more store. I shrugged (what a profound response to my Lord!) and obeyed. As soon as I walked in I realized they had shelves full of chocolate on sale. I laughed and thought, Okay, Lord. If you really want me to buy some I will. Sometimes it’s downright fun to obey God. 🙂

I wandered over to the book section with a particular book in mind for a few friends, but instead found a biblically-based book on a subject I’d been praying to understand more: angels. As I went to pay for my items (only one piece of chocolate in my hand!), I heard a song over the speaker that stopped me right in the middle of the store.

I once had a vision of Jesus waiting for me under a tree with tears in His eyes as I ran to Him. I had the vision while listening to this song, so whenever I hear it, it stops me and I lock eyes with my Jesus.

I stood in that store and smiled. The chocolate was great and the book was a blessing, but this was a treasured moment; a private conversation between my Savior and me.

I was completely overwhelmed by His love that day, by the blessings He tucked into songs and brought through friendly faces, the surprise of flowers hidden around a corner when I took a walk later, and the sunlight filtering through the bare branches in our backyard and dancing on the ground at my feet.

But a new week began and life picked up its pace. I hit the ground running with my to-do list crammed in one pocket, writing deadlines in another, friendships to be nurtured in yet another pocket, planning for an event, preparing for two speaking engagements…I found myself running out of pockets. And air. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.

Until today. Today I hit my knees and prayed. It wasn’t anything fancy.  No special words or powerful Scripture came from my lips. Just a simple, “Please help me, Lord. I don’t know what to do.”

Not long after my prayer, I noticed the snow and the daffodil. In a strange way, I felt like I was looking at myself.

No, I’m not a bright yellow flower, of course. But I felt God shining His light on me just recently and here I was overwhelmed and loaded down with all this “stuff” I needed to get done.

I realized I can’t control time any more than that flower can control the snow.

But I know Who controls every bit of it.

And now as I look out the window, the snow has already melted and I know the daffodil will soon lift its head to be kissed by the sunlight again. And I will soon find myself standing in the middle of my life, smiling and in awe. Not because things are perfect or have slowed down, but because I’m no longer overwhelmed by anxiety but by peace. Peace that comes when I cry out to God for help and when I admit I can’t do it all.

Peace that overwhelms me like a day spent with God and locking eyes with my Savior in the middle of a store.

“O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.” (Psalm 61:1-2a NLT.)

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT.)