November 24, 2010

Thanks A Lot!

This time of year we hear a lot about all of the things we have to be thankful for but sometimes life has us saying, "Thanks for NOTHING!" We find ourselves in situations we never asked for or dealing with circumstances (sometimes through our own choices and sometimes not) that leave us feeling scared, anxious and doubtful. Is it possible to be thankful even when life doesn't make sense? I think it just might be.

Let's take a look at 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and see if we can break it down into manageable parts.

Rejoice always…
-The idea of being joyful always sounds like a fantasy world
-It's important to recognize there is a difference between joy and happiness
-Happiness is fleeting; joy is deep
-True joy comes from a consistent relationship with Christ which helps us maintain consistency despite life's crushing lows or deceptive highs
-Psalm 31:7
-These ups and downs are meant to be shared within a community (1 Corinthians 12:25-27), if you don't have one, find one

Pray without ceasing…
-For some of us, we think of praying as the thing that happens when our heads are bowed, eyes are closed and hands are folded and only then
-Prayer is attitude over posture
-What if prayer is simply keeping God in mind?
-The early disciples were devoted to prayer
-Do not underestimate the power of prayer (James 5:14-16)
-We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties. When a man is at his wits' end it is not a cowardly thing to pray, it is the only way he can get in touch with Reality. ~Oswald Chambers
-I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. ~Abraham Lincoln

Give thanks in all circumstances…
-You're kidding right Paul?? This seems absolutely impossible
-Everyone knows hard times will come
-We have the hope that God can create something out of nothing; turn dead ends into open doors
-In my opinion this is easily one of the most difficult aspects of discipleship, giving thanks when it doesn’t make sense or even when it hurts
-I think this is part of the reason Jesus said the gate is small and the road narrow
-The ability to give thanks despite the circumstances comes down to a trust issue, believing that God is truly in control

...this is God's will for you through Christ.
-This is God's desire for you and you don't have to do it alone...because you can't.

November 23, 2010

A Thankful Perspective

When I present you with a spiritual gift, remember that it still belongs to Me. When I take something away from you, I take nothing that really belongs to you, because I own every good and perfect gift. If I send you suffering, if I send you any kind of a cross at all, refuse to complain, refuse to lose courage. I can come quickly to your rescue; I can translate your heavy heart to a light heart. Remember this when I deal with you like this.
~Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

November 15, 2010

Something Different

The holidays are right around the corner and if we’re not careful we’ll find ourselves buried beneath all of the hustle and bustle before too long. If you’re anything like me, whenever this time of year rolls around you begin to wonder if this year could be something different. Between the lists, parties, traffic, bills, exchanges…we end up spending so much of our time doing things we’d really rather not do. Then our holidays become nothing more than a frenzied attempt of managing an already stressful and busy work, family and social schedule.

What happened to the whole peace, love, and joy thing? Since when did the Christmas season become a season of stress, debt and exhaustion? As I think about the Christmas story as told in the Gospels, I realize that for many of us, the holiday season needs to become something different. I’m not suggesting we throw out our family traditions or stop buy gifts altogether but perhaps one less gift or maybe think about how and where we spend our time.

So the following are just a few suggestions I’m throwing out there, take what you want and send the others right back…

1. Consider how others (and yourself) deal with change.
-Some people thrive on change, while others avoid it like the plague. Be sensitive to each when suggesting a change in your or your family’s holiday routine.
-When it comes to traditions, change can be a tricky thing so be careful.

2. Start small.
-Don’t stop buying gifts altogether but instead maybe buy/spend less.
-Take some time to think about which gifts you are going to ask for and why. Could you do with 1 (…or 2, 3, 8, 12…) less gift?
-Come up with creative ways to stay small because remember it’s not about the amount of money the gifts cost.

3. Think about the way you spend.
-This is more than just about spending $, but asking ourselves how we spend our time. Time is such a precious thing isn’t it? And it seems like we have less and less of it during the Christmas season. Is that how it should be?
-What if you spent more time with loved ones and less time in traffic? What if you spent more time with family and less $ on gifts for them?

Christmas gives us a beautiful story to tell, one that talks about things like peace, joy and hope…NOT stress, credit card bills or being exhausted. Perhaps this Christmas season could be something different. The way we “celebrate” the holidays tells a story, we just have to decide which one we’ll choose to tell.