Preparing Your Heart for the Holidays

Preparing Your Heart for the Holidays

In America we are beginning our holiday season and the tension is already beginning to build. Thanksgiving is approximately two weeks away but the stores have been putting Christmas decorations out since October. How do we prepare our hearts for all the added activities, family gatherings, difficult personalities and enjoy the traditions that mean the most to us? We can start by setting boundaries and goals.

In the 1989 movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold plans to have the best Christmas ever with his entire family. His grand idea includes having the biggest tree they can find, lighting the entire house in twinkly lights and enjoying a wonderful sit down dinner in harmony. However once the grandparents arrive the bickering begins and his dream starts falling apart. Clark is perpetually optimistic and sometimes in denial but still passionate about putting on the perfect family holiday. His wife Ellen doesn’t share his outlook but supports him all the way. After a hilarious sequence of mishaps the movie ends with everyone on the front lawn enjoying the beautiful lights and Clark is satisfied that his goal was achieved. ( Warning : this movie was originally rated R for language and some racey scenes. It is often modified for TV)

What can we learn from this crazy tale? Clarks’ heart was in the right place but his goals were unrealstic. Beverly was the perfect hostess, “we have plenty of room, plenty to eat and plenty of balnkets” and was supportive of her husband. They were kind to unexpected company as well as elderly confused and grouchy relatives. Everyone truly tried to make the best of the situation and enjoyed the evening. We can control some of the chaos.

Set realistic goals: If this has been a difficult year for you whether financially, health issues, loss in the family; keep it simple. Family size and traditions can change. What is most important to you? Don’t fall into the trap that more is better.

Be a good host or guest: The goal is to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable. Ask how you can help if you are the guest.

Manage expectations : Despite careful planning something inevitably will go wrong. Be flexible and don’t let it ruin the day.

Share blessings: Before eating and asking a blessing on the meal and people gathered, ask each person to share one thing they are grateful for.

Shut off the electronics for awhile: I know, big football games are on! Weather permitting go for a walk. Play board games or a group game like Pictionary. Look at old photo albulms together. After Thanksgiving day enjoy the free lights and activities around town.

Be sensitive to those who are struggling: Anyone struggling with a crisis, loss, over stimulation or trauma may want some space. Let them opt out of the activities in a quieter corner.

Guard the conversation: Don’t react to negative comments and try to steer clear of politics and other hot topics.

Put the fun in dysfuntion: We live in a broken world with broken families and we all have weird relatives. Focus on the good. Tell stories and have a good laugh.

1 Peter 4:9(ESV) Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Thanksgiving should be a time to focus on what we do have and not what is wrong in our lives or our world. The first Pilgrims had plenty to complain about but they chose to be grateful. Most of us have plenty of everything. Let us be intentional on sharing the good things God has done over the past year and show the light of Jesus in our homes.

Psalm 100 A PSALM FOR GIVING THANKS.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Four Verses for Difficult Times

Four Verses for Difficult Times

I always bristle when I hear Scripture taken out of context, twisted around and made to fit the speakers’ agenda.  Recently one of our top politicians did just that to maybe make her words sound righteous: “Let us think on these things”. If we actually look at the whole passage we will find deep truth for everyday living.

No one would deny that we are living in very difficult times and that is exactly why the Bible is vital today. When the Apostle Paul was writing his letters, Caesar Augustus was conquering the world. Caesar and his armies took what they wanted, persecuted Christians and advanced his Empire all the way to Spain with much collateral damage left behind. Paul was no stranger to political upheaval, mob mentality, religious persecution, fear, poverty or health issues. In his letter to a beloved church, St. Paul gives us a key to living for Christ in a difficult world in Philippians chapter 4: 6-9.

Remember, the Lord is coming soon.6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 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.

The opposite of worry is trust. Trusting our heavenly Father for every need means that when we pray we expect Him to answer. He is the Prince of Peace and promised to never leave us comfortless. Therefore we can rest our hearts and minds in His everlasting arms knowing He loves us and is in control of the situation.

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

How we think determines how we will act and what we believe determines our values. Truth does not depend on experience or comprehension. Truth is an absolute and doesn’t change with our opinion or feelings. God’s Word is truth. However, we are still challenged to seek the whole truth and not settle for subtle lies and misinformation. We also need to do a self check on what we are fixing our thoughts on.

It is easy to pick out someone else’s faults but Jesus told us to take the “log” out of our own eyes first. We can change the atmosphere around us by looking for the good, the beautiful, the honorable.  Paul was so confident in his walk with the Lord he told us to follow his example. We can do that by reading God’s word, praying, trusting and practicing thankfulness.

Christians should be the calmest people on earth because we know the Lord is in control and He holds the future in His hands.

Days Without the Sun

Days Without the Sun

Spring has been so dreary in New England this year.  April only had four days of total sunshine. Gray clouds and light sprinkles to pouring rain have continued to drag our rainyhandweary bodies and souls down. Oh how we long for the sun and warmth! Nature still takes its course despite the weather and the days grow longer. We watch the birds return, buds sprout on trees and flowers push their way up through the ground.

But what a difference the sun makes! I watched with gladness when my perennials shot up five inches after only two days of sunshine. I enjoyed coffee on my patio in the brief warmth and felt a sense of relief. It gave me a renewed feeling of energy and a better attitude.

sunny patioThis is true of our spiritual lives as well. A day without the SON is also a little bit dreary. Without spending some time in prayer and reading God’s word my day is not as focused and my spirit can sag.  

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matt 11:28-30 (NLT)

Jesus calls us to come to Him. We are to leave our worries and problems with Him believing that He loves us and is at work in our lives. Our God is not a harsh task Master but has promised good things to us. So many people misunderstand God because they don’t really know Him.

               My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.      John 10:10 (NLT)

We all have days in our lives that are gray and seem never ending.  I find a lot of encouragement in the book of psalms and chapter 42 is a favorite of many because it describes the weariness of the soul. If you are feeling blue, I encourage you to read the whole chapter.

5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and6 my God!     Psalms 42:5-6 (NLT)

Even on the dreariest day I can have Sunshine in my soul.  Anyone who knows me or has read my blog knows I love music. I’ll end today with the words to a dear old hymn.

There is Sunshine in My Soul

There is sunshine in my soul today,
More glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky,
For Jesus is my light.

O there’s sunshine, blessed sunshine,
While the peaceful, happy moments roll;
When Jesus shows His smiling face
There is sunshine in my soul.

There is springtime in my soul today,
For when the Lord is near
The dove of peace sings in my heart,
The flowers of grace appear.

There is gladness in my soul today,
And hope, and praise, and love,
For blessings which He gives me now,
For joys laid up above.

 

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