Saturday, November 18, 2017

Christmas through the eyes of a child

John 3:16 [Full Chapter]
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

I was shopping at Menards the other day when I decided to take a  detour through the Christmas area that draws thousands in search of house decorating supplies from indoor/outdoor lighting, lighted trees, large lighted angels, the manger scene consisting of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the Wise men, the shepherds, and last but not least the miniature buildings, miniature people  and amusement rides with sound and light that bring smiles to  everyone who encounters it.  

Every year there are some who buy new miniature buildings to add to their expanding village they set it up in the corner of their basement before the holidays. As soon as he sees the first smile, he is hooked to do this again year, after year, after year.

As I was strolling through this smorgasbord of light and sound, I saw a young child with this incredible sense of awe looking every which way trying to take in what she liked most while her parents stood nearby with this look of delight watching their happy child experiencing something the rest of us take for granted.  I commented to mom and dad, "She really looks like she is enjoying herself."  Dad responded with a smile," She loves coming here to see the Christmas area every year and this was her consolation prize."  

As I reflected on this, I had this sense that we live in a world of hope and hopelessness.  There are many people this holiday season who emotionally cannot handle the thought of celebrating Christmas because they may be missing someone- a parent, grandparent, sibling, a child or a pet.  Sadness and emotional pain become their friend, instead of the sense of awe as seen through the eye of this child at Menards.

As I chewed on this thought a bit, I realized that Christmas isn't about the lights I see at Menards, but Christmas is a time of celebrating God's greatest gift to the hopelessness of this world- the birth of the Savior of the world. A birth that would give hope to those who were on the treadmill going nowhere trying to please God with perfect animal offerings and rituals that offered no promise it would be enough.

 I'm in awe that God loved us so much that he decided to take matters in his own hands and offer us eternal life through this baby Jesus born in an animal trough in a little-known village of Bethlehem.

If we can only focus on the real meaning of Christmas, not on the pain that so easily consumes our lives, soon we too can have this same sense of awe so often found in a child.  

We must remember to never isolate from others when grieving, but place one foot in front of the other and continue to worship God on the sabbath, week after week, month after month, year after year, regardless of how we feel from moment to moment.

 By doing so, you will experience God like moments where strangers you meet will have a word of encouragement that was meant for you. 

God truly uses the body of Christ to encourage us!

Friday, November 17, 2017

The holidays can be tough on people as they reflect on the loved ones no longer there.

Romans 15:13New International Version (NIV)
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The holidays can be a painful time of year for most people when members they were used to seeing the previous years are no longer there this year.  I remember my own mother becoming weepy at holiday gatherings over the recent loss of her own mom.  I know now from my own life experience that she felt the triggers of her grief- remembering her mom's holiday cooking, the special meals, the delicious bars and opening up that Christmas present. This is what grief will do the more losses in life we encounter.

All of us may be surprised when we are bombarded by those triggers which is the reason why the grieving person must have a plan that anticipates those triggers.  One of the ideas from Griefshare is to bring a candle to a holiday gathering and asking them if you could burn a candle in honor your loved one. This will open up the door to sharing a memory of your loved one, and it may give others permission to also burn a candle of their loved one as well. Grief has a tendency to masquerade as isolation- we think we're the only ones really hurting this time of year so we try to put on the happy face that in the end makes our grief worse. 

Another technique I've learned is the art of being thankful.  I did this by sitting down and entering in my journal all the things I'm thankful for in my life.  Things like the day I received Christ as my Savior, having great friends, a roof over my head, the opportunity to watch my son grow, a job that I enjoy, and the list goes on.  Being thankful helps me take my mind off of what I do not have and put the focus on what I have. 

 I now know from my own grief experience why the elders in my life reacted the way they did during the holidays. In the 60's, there wasn't the knowledge we have now that allows us to connect the way we feel and grief and loss. Today, we know that healing from our losses isn't a matter of days, weeks, but years at a timetable that is as unique to them as the person they lost. Grief share didn't exist then. Adults of that era, as well as today, try to numb the pain of grief with alcohol and drugs. 

I love being a facilitator for Griefshare. The lessons I've learned going through grief share as a participant gave me the tools to survive my journey of loss.  As a facilitator, I would encourage everyone suffering the loss of a special person to think about joining a 13-week grief share group near you. The lessons you learn from this interactive study will benefit you in more ways than you realize. 

Finally, God understands your pain. He knows that grief hurts, but if you learn to lean into your pain, going through the pain, not around it, you will find that God will become your greatest source of comfort. 

Remember, while your loved one may not be there for you this holiday season, God still has a marvelous plan for your life and a reason to keep on living.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Just as 2 Timothy 3:16 reminds us, God breathes life into us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17New International Version (NIV)

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a]may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

As I reflect back on how many years when I opened the door to my heart and said 'yes' to Jesus to take his rightful place on the throne of my heart, I'm counting the blessings of that decision.  I'm also remembering this verse above which reminds me the power of God's word in the life of his believers.

God breathe.  Like the gentle wind that blows through the open window, like the life-giving breath  of someone giving mouth to mouth to an unconscious person, God gives life to his fellow believers  whenever we read eyewitness accounts of the testimonies of Jesus, or feel the heart of David in the Psalms,or as we read how God helped his people overcome great obstacles.

Our God breathes life into us whenever we worship with others in his sanctuaries whether it is in publically defined places of worship, or in inner rooms in countries that forbid such public display- God breathes life into us.

God breathes life into us whenever a diagnosis has been given, a particular medical procedure recommended, or in those cases where we might only have months to live.

God breathes life into the survivors when loved ones pass on when scriptures they gleaned from personal quiet times, or words of hope offered at the pulpit soothe our aching souls and gives us hope for tomorrow.

God is our mighty king, our gentle shepherd who cares for his people and breathes life into us.