Helpful and Hopeful Links For the Holidays

There are some things you read that just hit home. Words that walk right through the door of your heart and startle you with God’s honest truth.

Below are links I found this week that both wrecked me and warmed me. I hope they will bless you as well.

The first deals with issues revolving around our relationships. All year long we struggle to understand one another, and maybe especially so at Christmas.

1. This humorous post is convicting but encouraging –  How to Overcome an Offense.

The second is a response to the Sandy Hook tragedy. Sometimes there are no words. But sometimes there are a few that are just right.

2.  There is comfort to be found in this Beautiful prayer written by Max Lucado.

Finally, I told you last week that I would share more thoughts on giving. This is something I struggle with each year. How to do it the right way and make the gift exchange more meaningful.

3. This is one way to turn Christmas giving upside down – 7 Ways to Have More Grateful Kids

4. Here is another cute idea that incorporates the Gifts of the Wise Men

5. And when you read this short article, Just in Time, you’ll see why you and I have been blessed for such a time as this – to give the gift of hope, to meet real needs. 

Sometimes we look at all that’s wrong in the world and we feel helpless, overwhelmed. But when we do something for another person, we allow God’s power to flow through us and we can actually overcome evil with good!

Maybe it’s as simple as offering a smile or a kind word to our neighbor next door. Or maybe we can order a life-saving gift for a neighbor living a world away through this Compassion Catalog.

But, whatever we do, let’s waste no time doing it. Because if we want to see change in this world we need to let the startling God’s honest truth settle in and move us to change.

 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21

A Light to Chase Away the Dark

Evening was settling in as the last ornament was hung. Darkness became the backdrop to a brilliant display of sparkling, white lights wrapped around the branches of our Christmas tree. Wrapped up like ribbon around a gift.

And what a gift it was! This year and every year, it is always the first of the season. Tiny, twinkling lights reminding me of the great power of our great God. The One who helps us see beyond the veil of darkness that covers this world.

The One who awakens our spirit with whispers of hope when real life feels like a bad dream. When the news flashes dark tales of families suffering the deepest pain and we hear again about the loss of innocent lives.

It’s hard to breathe. 

And then more stories of disease and divorce and famine and poverty and injustice. And all this suffering threatens to snuff out the last gasping flicker of light we have left.

But before we brace ourselves for the long, dark night let us reflect on these words from the psalmist:

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide meand the light become night around me,”even the darkness will not be dark to you;the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139:11-12

 

And this ancient prophecy from Isaiah who spoke about the coming Messiah.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given…
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,

Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:2,6

The pastor said it best in his sermon yesterday. All this suffering is precisely why Jesus came. It’s why we celebrate Christmas. 


It’s the reason we can sing Joy to the World because our God stepped into the depths of our darkness and gave us a Great Light. A Savior who is able to bring all the blessings of healing and hope and peace and joy to everyone, everywhere, “far as the curse is found”.

And I sang that old hymn this weekend, especially verse three, with more passion than ever before.


No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found

from Joy to the Word, written by Isaac Watts
I pray the blessings of our Savior will overflow in your life today and that His light will surround you, chasing away the dark, now and forever.

Sharing the Spirit of the Season

The past couple of weeks I’ve posted some Christmas-related links to celebrate the spirit of the season. Here are a few more to help sweeten your weekend. 🙂

If you love roasted pecans and the warm scent of cinnamon wafting through the air, you have to try this recipe for these fabulous Glazed Pecans!

I made them this week and they were as good, if not better, as the overpriced ones that are so hard to resist at the local mall. I put them in little bags tied with colorful ribbon and gave them as gifts.

They’re wonderful but be warned…highly addictive. 🙂

Check out all the pretties on my Pinterest Christmas Board!!!

And, in the midst of holiday preparations, I think it’s good to pause and breathe and reflect on the reason for it all.

Jesus. 

I hope you enjoy the following video. Be blessed!

Restore The Joy – It’s About Giving

My husband and I attended a dinner last week where we met this nice couple who began talking about their four kids and how they wish they could turn back the clock and do Christmas differently.
In fact, they said they are trying to simplify things this year and preparing their kids to enjoy the holiday more – with less. But they are running into opposition from the younger two who say that it’s not fair that their older siblings have been able to get more over the years. Sigh.
Those parents are struggling. And I feel their pain. Right or wrong, it’s hard to untie the traditions we have established and grasp hold of new ones. But we have to try.
Because this is Christmas. And we have to get this right. Not only for ourselves but for the little eyes watching and learning from us. 
The Bible says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35
So we tell them this about Christmas. It’s not about how much you can get, not about greed. It’s about giving. And that is true, but we need to share with them about the receiving part as well because the two go together.
Through the symbolic giving of our gifts to one another, we celebrate the most precious gift of all – Jesus. Immanuel. God with us.
And when we open our hearts to receive from Him, we are filled with joy.
Because He brings us what we desire most. Life. Hope. Peace.
Gifts that never disappoint.
Gifts that will last forever.
Gifts that humble us because we know we have been given
something we don’t deserve.

And the result is, or should be, that all of this blessing turns us from grateful receivers into grateful givers.

So why do we sometimes get so wrapped up in the trappings of the holidays that we forget it is a holy day? Does joy have to be something we just sing about but have little acquaintance with during this stress-filled season?
Many of us are tired of watching the true meaning of Christmas get tossed around in that mangled mass of shredded paper torn from treasures we bought on November 26th and the credit card company still owns on December 25th. It hurts to see ribbons of regret running all the way through our self-made piles of twisted expectations. 
We know what we have to do. We have to stop draining our bank accounts hoping to fill the empty spaces, these hidden holes in our hearts that cannot be named or seen, only felt.
Mary Hunt wrote a book out of her own painful experience called How To Debt-Proof Your Christmas. She talks about what she learned in this interview. Here’s an excerpt.

“We want people to love us. I’ll be honest. I wanted my children to love me and have the best memories and to be the parent of the year and for my friends to think i was wealthy. All of these crazy things. It was about me, wasn’t so much about them.”

“It was about me.” Those words keep ringing in my head like a Salvation Army bell, demanding my attention. I have to ask myself what I’m doing to keep Christ at the center of Christmas.
To put Him first, and others before myself.
Maybe it’s as simple as this. If we keep our focus on how Jesus paid our spiritual debt we will not feel the need to acquire more monetary debt.
Because we’ll realize we really do have everything we need.
I believe it’s possible to change. To do Christmas differently than we have in the past and enjoy more with less. It might not be easy. We might meet with some resistance. But God, the Great Giver, will show us the way and grant us grace in the process.
 Lord help me remember that when I light the candle of gratitude, greed melts away, the flame of joy burns bright and I learn again what it really means to give. Amen!
Next week, I will be writing more on this subject and sharing unique ways to restore the joy in our gift-giving this season.
Meanwhile, here is one fun idea –
Go catalog shopping with your family and pick out a gift to give to someone in need!

“Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you. ~ Deut. 16:17 #itsaboutgiving

God Bless Us, Every One!

One of my all-time favorite stories of the season is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Ebenezer Scrooge has an encounter on Christmas Eve that changes him forever. His life goes from miserable to merry in a beautifully written tale of hope and redemption.

What about your story? Maybe, like me, you are able to identify with certain aspects of Scrooge’s inner psychosis. Sometimes, circumstances can cause us to shout our own version of “Bah, Humbug!”

It is easy to understand how a troubled childhood or lost love or the normal struggles of life might have turned him into a curmudgeon. But the process must have been so subtle, so gradual, that he was not able to see himself as he really was.

I wonder if this is true of us as well. How can we prevent ourselves from slowly becoming someone other than the person we want to be?

What would our lives be like if we allowed ourselves to look back at our past with honesty, face our present with courage and imagine our future as it might be if we continue to chart the same course?

The good news is that the same hope found by Ebenezer exists for us all! As long as we have breath, we have a chance to embrace change and write our own happy ending. God is able to redeem everything in our lives. The choice is ours.

So, before the clock strikes midnight, let us examine our own hearts and pray that God will allow Scrooge’s story to inspire our own story of transformation this Christmas.

“It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God Bless Us, Every One!”  ~ Charles Dickens

Please enjoy this lovely song by Andrea Bocelli. (For full lyrics click here)

 


Above post is from the archives
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons