Dr. Beverly Smallwood

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IF GOD SPOKE THROUGH A DONKEY, HE CAN SURELY SPEAK THROUGH YOU. (Just kidding on the title!)

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.” And Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back.” Then the Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.” (Numbers 22: 31-35)

I get frustrated sometimes with God’s little and big no’s.  I’m “pretty sure” I know that the thing I’m praying for would be just great.  Then – “crickets” from heaven.  God doesn’t seem to be answering me.  However, the reality is, He is answering me with the response I don’t want to hear.

Recently, I was reminded of a related principle demonstrated in a passage I studied not long ago.  This story involved a pagan prophet named Balaam, who was being sent by Balak, king of the Midianites, to curse Israel.  Balak was very threatened by the Israelites as he had come to the brilliant conclusion through observation that God was blessing them.  Balaam had the reputation of being “tops” when it came to sorcery and pagan divination, and Balak had to have the best for this critical assignment. Balaam agreed to accept the job.

A scene in the middle of this story, which spans Numbers 22-24, forms the backdrop for our reflections this morning.  Balaam was riding his donkey on the way to see the king.  All of a sudden, the donkey balked, refusing to go forward and detouring into a field.  Apparently more spiritually astute than the famous seer, that donkey had seen an angel with a drawn sword standing in the middle of the road.

This unplanned detour ticked Balaam off!  Frustrated, he beat his donkey to get them back onto the road.

As they went on on their way, they passed through two vineyards with walls on either side of the road.  Once again the donkey spied the angel, and that animal wisely pressed as far to the side of the passageway as possible.  In the process, Balaam’s foot was caught against the wall.  This resulted in another beating for the poor donkey.

A third time the angel appeared, standing in a narrow place where there was no room to turn.  This time Balaam’s donkey just lay down.  “This trip just isn’t working out,” the donkey must have thought.  For this behavior, Balaam’s donkey endured yet another beating.

Now the story gets very interesting.  God actually allowed the donkey to speak!  That animal asked Balaam, “What have I done to you to deserve three beatings?”  The furious Balaam responded, “You made a fool of me! If I had a sword, I’d just kill you now.”

The donkey reasoned with Balaam, “Have I ever done this to you before?” Balaam had to admit that the answer was no.  Just then, God opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the huge angel with sword drawn that his beast had been seeing.  Then the angel spoke:  “Why have you been beating your donkey?  I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one.”  The angel went on to say that the donkey had actually saved Balaam’s life.

This story continues with some very interesting outcomes.  Go to Number 22-24, and read it.  But I’d like to park right here and ponder the relevance of this portion of the story to our own lives.  Does such a series of events ever happen to you and me?  Is it possible we don’t even know that it’s happening?

Remember with me times in your life when God’s no could have reflected a situation similar to this one.  You were headed to a destination you wanted to go, pursuing a relationship you thought you couldn’t live without, or simply making a series of choices that gradually were seducing you into a destructive habit.  Perhaps what you were craving did not seem inherently to be bad.  But little did you know that there was danger lurking in that path.  If you’d gotten what you wanted, you would somehow have missed God’s best or even would have proceeded toward your worst.

When that road keeps being blocked, misplaced frustration plagues us. So we try harder, just sure that this time we’ll be able to make it work.  Then yet another barricade appears.

Is it possible that these roadblocks are not challenges to be overcome but instead signs from God that we are on the wrong path?

Lord, please help me to trust that You are Wisdom.  You can see the beginning from the end, and You want me to have Your best for me.  I breathe deeply, and I exhale my determination to get what want, and I inhale blessed surrender to all the treasures that You have stored up for me.

SOMETIMES THE MOST SPIRITUAL THING YOU CAN DO IS REST

Dog In Bed

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done. (Genesis 2: 1-3)

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.(Matthew 11: 28-29)

Many people have told me they feel guilty when T they relax, and I have a little of that malady myself.  My problem is not so much feeling guilty when I rest, but in taking on so many things, I often feel I don’t have time to rest.  Either of those perceptions can rob you and me of something very important to our physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being.  It’s rest, the kind of rest that replenishes, rejuvenates, and even celebrates after a cycle of work.

God set it up that way, modeling it for us the value of rest in the very beginning.  He built rest into the natural rhythms of life as He rested on the seventh day of creation (Genesis 2:1-3).  Rest draws a boundary around the tasks of work and allows a time of looking at what has been accomplished,  reflecting on it,  and celebrating it.  Such rest is a time of reorientation, taking our preoccupation off work, and placing it on spiritual realities and the things that matter most.  We so need that.

That’s what God did, but often we don’t.  We second-guess our work with “yes, but,” or we rush on to “next!”

God continued the theme of a cycle of sevens when he instructed in the Ten Commandments, “Remember the Sabbath (seventh) day to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work.  But the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work.”  He went on in that passage to say that you shouldn’t cause anyone else to work on that day either.  (By the way, the Sabbath was actually Saturday, though many of us often think of it as Sunday.  Sunday was instituted later as “the Lord’s Day,” but Saturday is actually the day that completes the week.)

It hit me as I studied this that seven is used as the number of completion in the Bible. So, it makes sense that the Sabbath rest is essential for completion.  Is it possible that failing to take this rest could be the reason we feel frustrated because it never seems that we get anything done?  Interesting to ponder.

Jesus also talked about the importance and the true meaning of rest.  Yes, I believe that when God instructed the Sabbath rest, He referred to literally resting and not working.  But Jesus challenged us to dig deeper in our understanding of the rest that only He can give.  He said in Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest.”  He goes on to say in v. 29: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Ever tried to move something really, really heavy by yourself?  You push, and you shove, and you try to get various parts of your body in weird positions to leverage the move.  Finally, you are exhausted, with little progress.  What if  a super-strong muscle man came by and said, “Here, let me help you,” and proceeded to get on the other side to left the huge object?

Jesus was using the metaphor of two oxen yoked together for work.  He is the strong One.  When you yoke up with Him, your own pushing and shoving and sweating comes to an end.  You can trust that He has this thing called your life under control.  That peace and confidence is real rest – even when you’re working!

I’m working on giving rest its proper place in my life, and I hope you will, too.  So do we need to feel guilty when we relax – especially when we relax IN HIM?  Absolutely not.  Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is REST!

I find my spiritual and emotional rest in You, God.  Along with that, I will choose to take care of this body temple You gave me by resting more, which leads us to my time management.  I need help on it all, Lord!

HOLIDAY EXCESS? YOU CAN AVOID IT

25 Secrets to Becoming the Best Holiday Party Guest Ever

Who has woe?  Who has sorrow?  Who has contentions?  Who has compaining?  Who has wounds without cause?  Who has redness of eyes?  Those who linger long over wine… (Proverbs 23: 29-30)

What will control you in this holiday season?  Something will, if you are not vigilant.  It’s a time of high emotion – sentiment, stress, fun, frustration, goodness, grief.  Any time your emotions are in gear, you’re at greater risk of becoming out of balance..

That passage in Proverbs describe drunkenness.  Some may actually have that problem with alcohol or other drugs.  However, don’t go all sanctimonious, polish your halo, and say, “Well, that’s not ME.  I would never do that!”  I challenge you to search a little deeper.

First of all, never say never about any subject.  Both you and I, left to our own devices and rampant self-will, are capable of anything.  (Don’t doubt that.)  Second, the exact substance or activity does not matter.  Each one of us has something – some old habit that sneaks up on us when we aren’t looking, some “attitude” that seems justified but harms us and all we touch.  Who among us does not struggle with something that has enough control that it is robbing us of some aspect of our health, our influence, and our best productivity?  And let me assure you, the rush and stress of the holidays make you and me especially vulnerable to the expressions of those sneaky saboteurs.

Consider these possibilities. I’ll reflect on them with you.

~Could it be the food you use for comfort instead of turning to God?

~How about the “retail therapy” that you will pay for in January with worry and lack of financial peace?

~Could you be addicted to trying to keep everyone “happy” and to having their love and approval – creating out-of-balance spending and anxiety over the holiday celebrations?

~Will the family gatherings and activities bring out the worst in destructive relationships that have had you in their emotional clutches for too long?

~Does your tendency for disorganization become chaos when you are so busy and preoccupied?

~(On the other hand) Are you hooked on control itself – control of your environment through order – or control of others by trying to “keep them in line?”

The problem with all of these is that, while they may give a momentary escape or sense of satisfaction (or not!),  they do not ultimately satisfy because:  1) they do not work, and 2) they are not the permanent real deal of peace and satisfaction.  In fact, they can become entrapping, not just in the season but throughout the year.

They give the illusion of some false sense of happiness and power, but illusions never produce any real quality of life. Guard your heart and your habits against these traps – now and always!

It’s good to have self-control, but not to be controlled by things of the earth or destructive habits.

In the list we considered today, which of them are your own “ones to watch?”

God, I want YOU at the center of my life and nothing or no one else.  Holy Spirit, please produce in me the fruit of self-control, patience, kindness, and everything else I need to stay centered on the right things during this season and all year long.

ENCOURAGE YOURSELF!

26 Inspiring Self-Love Quotes | Positive self talk, Self love quotes, Self  quotes

Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is [deep] within me, bless His holy name.
Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And do not forget any of His benefits;
Who forgives all your sins,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you [lavishly] with lovingkindness and tender mercy;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the [soaring] eagle. (Psalm 103: 1-5, Amplified Bible)

ENCOUR’AGE, v.t. enkur’rage. To give courage to; to give or increase confidence of success; to inspire with courage, spirit, or strength of mind; to embolden. (KJV Dictionary)

What beautiful results come from encouragement! Confidence of success, inspiration with courage, strength of mind, boldness. We all had those experiences where someone spoke an encouraging word at just the right time, generating the second wind that we needed to keep going. However, encouragers are not always present and handy just when you need them – or are they?

First, the Holy Spirit – the Comforter, Encourager, the One Who walks alongside – is always right there within the believer. He stands ready, eager, and able to empower you to get up and keep on going. He will equip you and enable you to do what you are designed and called to do. Are you regularly taking quiet before Him to listen to His encouraging words within you rather than to the accusing words of your enemies – Satanic destroyers or human-type voices that speak negatively or haunt you from your past?

Second, and this is also very important, you are always there with you, narrating your personal interpretations of the events in your life. You tell yourself stories about overwhelming situations, your inadequacies, and your doubtful future. Stop that! Change the story line! Rewrite the script! Focus instead on how every knee and every situation have to bow to the Name of Jesus. Remind yourself that though you’re weak in your own abilities, you’re strong in His. Believe God’s promises about His plans for your future. Know deeply that nothing can happen today or tomorrow that the Lord cannot redeem and bring good out of it.

It’s a luxury when you’re surrounded by human encouragers. However, they are not the source of your strength. They won’t be there when your head is tossing and turning on the pillow. God will, and you will. Open your heart to access God’s opinion about you, your situation, and your future – and agree with Him, out loud!

Lord, this morning I draw on Your energy and Your Word, and I encourage myself in You. I can do all things through You because You give me Your strength!

LIVING FOR THE LIKES?

Facebook removing likes is good for social media

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6: 1-4)

OK, come on, admit it with me.  You make a post about cool things going on in your life, then you go back multiple times to see how many likes you’ve accumulated.  (Guilty, Your Honor.)  To complicate matters, some of those entries are about “good deeds” you’ve done and which also brought you satisfaction.  No problem with getting satisfaction from doing the right thing, and I understand about posting things that are meaningful to you. No problem there – if…

The scripture says that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. God’s checking out motives.  Perhaps in posting that good deed, your motive is to inspire others to give, to pray, and to go into the world and honor the Great Commission.  You and God know if that’s true, and that’s no one else’s place to judge.  If that’s your pure desire, post away!

On the other hand, perhaps the desired payoff is human admiration and approval, symbolized in “likes” and other emojified reactions – maybe even “loves!” The heart beats a little faster as the praise rolls in.  Congratulations!  You just received all the rewards you’re going to get for your service behaviors.

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 

Motive is a big deal.  The scripture talks about all the deeds that will be “burned up” in the end as “wood, hay, and straw.”  When rewards are being awarded at the end of our lives, our actions will be tested to see what they’re made of and why they were taken in the first place.

But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will be clearly shown [for what it is]; for the day [of judgment] will disclose it, because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality and character and worth of each person’s work. If any person’s work which he has built [on this foundation, that is, any outcome of his effort] remains [and survives this test], he will receive a reward. But if any person’s work is burned up [by the test], he will suffer the loss [of his reward]; yet he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has barely escaped] through fire. (I Corinthians 3: 12-15, Amplified Bible)

So back to our social media habits.  Maybe you are an individual who opens the entire book of your life on Facebook and other social media outlets.  Your choice about that is your choice, though the rest of us may cringe in embarrassment for you as you air dirty laundry.  However, the polar opposite can also be harmful.  Do you make sure to portray yourself as the paragons of service, of success, and of “to be envied?” Do those “likes” thrill your soul and cheer you on to your next public exploit? If someone scanned your site, is it all about you, you, you? Your motives are not my business, and if I’m reading to judge them, I’m in the wrong.  That’s between you and God.

However, may I just suggest that some things are better done in secret and offered up to the Lord as a private praise to Him?

Lord, may everything in my life honor YOU.  Lord, please deliver me from the temptation to seek the approval of people in lieu of the approval that counts – Yours.  It’s Your Voice I crave to hear in the end saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

HAPPY THANKSLIVING!

thanksgiving art | thanksgiving cornucopia 1024x819 Happy Thanksgiving |  Happy thanksgiving images, Happy thanksgiving wallpaper, Thanksgiving images

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude, (Colossians 2: 6-7)

“So walk in Him.” That’s more than a special-day-a-year’s-worth. I came across these verses yesterday morning, and I was struck with the wisdom they contain. Walking this way results in overflowing with gratitude on a regular basis!

So how do you live in such a way that thanksgiving is a habit?

  1. Walk in Christ. As a believer, you are in Christ, and He is in you. Understand that all He is, is in you! If you are tackling something that He has led you to, all of His strength, wisdom, and power are available to you at just the time you need it. Who wouldn’t be overflowing with gratitude for that kind of arrangement?
  2. Get rooted and grounded. Let your spiritual roots go down deep as you hide more and more of His Word in your heart. Every new experience “in Christ” grounds you more securely in well-founded confidence. Adversity may bend you but not uproot you. What a reason to give thanks!
  3. Become heart-established in the teachings of faith. It’s one thing to know the principles in your head, and quite another for faith to be so much a part of you that it naturally flows out in response to a challenge. As you grow, your faith isn’t just something you do. Your relationship with the Lord defines who you are. When you really consider all of that, rivers of gratitude irrigate the peace and joy in all of your life.

So as we celebrate this special day of Thanksgiving, may we recommit to the daily practice of Thanks-Living!

My Lord, I am so grateful for how You loved us so much that You gave Yourself so that we might have abundant life. Never let me lose sight of your goodness, even on trying days. I want to walk in You and through You so that my life will be defined by thankfulness for Your Love.

DON’T FORGET TO THANK GOD FOR ALL YOU TAKE FOR GRANTED

Ladies restroom Logos

Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5: 20)

Sunday on the way to the funeral of my beloved first cousin, Bonnie Barnett, I passed a service station where I had a life-changing experience. I’ve shared it with you before, but especially in this season, I believe it’s worth a retelling.

But first, I have to say it bothers me a little that when the calendar turns to November or later in the month, we begin to think about “giving thanks.”  Facebook and other social media are filled with nice posts about gratitude.  But what about the rest of the year?  God’s rich blessings, nourishing friendships, and  even the breath that we breathe happen all year long. The scripture reminds us to “always be giving thanks.”

I especially want to encourage you this morning to give thanks for the things you take for granted, such as the way your body works.  As one who learned it the hard way in an accident seven years ago, I now know that the capabilities of your body can change in an instant.  Further, I’m getting a little older (I know you hadn’t noticed! LOL!), and all the parts don’t necessarily work with precision and in concert as they once did.

Early one rushed morning several years ago, I had an experience that seized my attention and lodged in my heart.  It’s as vivid this morning as I recall it as it was on that day. Will you go there with me?

I’d had an unexpected delay, and I was in a rush to a speaking engagement that was close enough to travel a couple of hours by car. Wouldn’t you know it? All the coffee took its toll, and I realized I was going to have to stop. Frustrated and a bit annoyed, I looked for the next service station. OK, great, there’s one up ahead. I’ve stopped in there before, and the bathrooms are clean.

I hurriedly opened the restroom door, and I was taken aback. In my rush, I undoubtedly had gone into the men’s room because there with his back to me in an open stall stood a man. But wait! He was talking with someone, and as I looked more closely, I saw another person. He was helping a little old lady sit steadily on the potty, apparently his mother. “Awww…that’s very sweet,” I thought.

But what am I to do? I’m in a big hurry, and I’ve GOTTA go. There was one other stall right next to them. I reasoned to myself, “Oh, well, they don’t know me, and I’ll never see them again. I’m just going to do it.” So I did.

In the middle of “conducting my business,” I heard a little weak female voice from the stall next to me – soft, but loud in my soul’s ears.

“I wish I could pee like that.”

The things we take for granted!  Don’t!

Lord, Your creation of the human body and its concert of functioning is amazing! Forgive me when I take all that for granted. I thank You, God, for Your healing and for Your everyday sustaining power so that I may live.

IS ANYONE THANKING GOD FOR YOU OR ME?

Radical Gratitude: Give Thanks in All Circumstances - Immanuel Baptist  Church

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. (I Corinthians 1: 4)

Thanksgiving Day coming up this week. Every day should be Thanksgiving Day, but in this special season, families and friends gather together to express gratitude for God’s gifts of grace, for steps of progress, and for the love shared. 

Among all of those blessings for which we are thankful are individuals who have been there for us, who have stepped up when others stepped out, and who have listened and cared without judgment.

I’ve been thinking about something, and I invite you to personalize the thoughts for yourself, mentally substituting yourself in the “me” and “I” slots. When folks are in private conversation with God about the blessings in their lives, how many will name me?  Have I made a big enough difference to make it into the Thanksgiving prayers of those I have touched? How many people have I significantly impacted?  How deeply have my compassion and help been experienced?  When the folks with whom I’ve had the opportunity to relate review the significant events of their year, does my face materialize in their minds’ eyes?

Oh, I’m not talking about some kind of ego trip here.  I’m wondering before God if I have fulfilled the assignments and opportunities He has given me to show His Love to those who casually or more intimately cross my life path. I question whether I’ve been consistently alert or whether I’ve snoozed through encounters with some people for whom God had a plan to work through me. No, I’m not entertaining pride at all but rather embracing the humility of understanding that I must have the Lord to make a lasting impact on anyone!

This week, as you give thanks for special people who have made a big difference in your life, pay attention.  What kinds of actions have these folks taken that comforted you, assisted you in practical ways, and helped you succeed?  Can and will you pass those on, this year and forever?

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace, Your blessings, and most importantly, Your Love on this earth!  I thank You for the opportunities that You give me to minister to your beloveds.  May I live in such a way that others are thankful for me!

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Run YOUR Race!

RUN YOUR RACE & WIN – Koffee with the King

In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. (Ephesians 4: 1-3, The Message)

Whoa, there’s so much in this Message paraphrase of Ephesians 4: 1-3!  I’ve read this passage several times now, seeking to taste every morsel.  Why don’t you do the same?  I’ll seed your thinking by sharing a few thoughts, line by line.

I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. Get out there and move, and keep on moving! Walk, and keep on walking.  Run some, too, as long as you are on your God-given path. If you’re comparing yourself to others and trying to walk anywhere else besides in the talents and callings God has given you, you’ll be off track, and you will soon burn out. God has a unique plan for you.  Move in that!

I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. Diligence and faithfulness to the assignments God has given you – it’s called spiritual maturity.  Procrastination, excuses – not!  You’ll never regret focused hard work on the right things.  And, it will hardly seem like work – when you are working “on purpose,” God’s purpose for your life.

I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. Oh, Lord, You know I’ve wandered onto some paths leading to nowhere.  But I was deceived; they looked so appealing at the time! I overestimated the positive possibilities, underestimated the costs, and was grandiose about my ability to “handle it.”  I heard a quote that sums it up:  “Sin takes you further than you ever wanted to go, keeps you longer than you ever wanted to stay, and costs a price you never wanted to pay.” Ouch! Truth!

And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.  Humility and discipline – now there’s a pair to try to live habitually!

The scripture says about humility, don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.  What’s “more highly than you ought?”  That’s secretly seeing yourself above others, superior  in your understanding, and holding rights and opinions more important than those of other people.  By the way, humility also does not mean devaluing yourself and becoming a doormat for selfish people.  God valued you, and why shouldn’t you?  He valued you enough to give His own life for you!  So listen, you respect yourself as God’s precious creation, while being committed to honor and serve others. That’s humility.

Oh, dear, then there’s discipline.  Manage yourself well so that you work steadily and consistently, not subject to the whims of discouragement and stress. Organize your tasks so that the chaotic challenges life is bound to throw at you does not derail you.

Finally, give yourself in love to the people God places within your circle of influence.  Don’t let irritations become resentments or resentments become bitterness.  No, catch problems in infancy, and settle them quickly.

Wow!  What would happen if each individual turned each of these principles into daily action?  Will the change start with you?

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me, Lord.  Help me to be the change I want to see.  All of those catch phrases are coming to my mind, but You know that my desire is deep in my heart.  Grow me up, God.  Use me to make a difference!

DEALING WITH GRIEF IN THE HOLIDAYS

How to Help Children Express Their Grief – Funeral Help Center

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.  (Matthew 5: 4)

Happy holidays to all! Or are they?

Holidays can be bittersweet or just plain sad when you are missing someone important in your life, a beloved one who has already left this earth. Even folks those who have gotten “better” in their grief in more normal times often find themselves unusually melancholy during the holiday season.

Other than the obvious fact of the absence of the person you are missing, what causes the special angst in the holidays? Three reasons come to mind.

  1.  “Family gatherings” make the empty chairs more apparent and felt. The holiday celebrations carry an expectation that all the family will be together.  It’s “not right” when all are not.
  2.  You relive memories with the deceased or absent loved one. We remember those events in our lives that have more intense emotion of any kind.  The memories of past family gatherings, funny or upsetting happenings, and other “ghosts” of Christmas past come calling.
  3.  Everyone else seems to be all merry, making you feel different and far removed from the celebration. You go out to the hustle and bustle of the mall, and you want to run.  Everyone is talking and laughing at the office party, and you’d much rather be home wrapped in a blanket.  The contrast of your struggling feelings with the apparent happy moods of others makes your experience feel more painful.

Some families try to pretend everything is OK, though the atmosphere is thick with the heaviness of loss.  I’ve found this is not usually the best plan.  Carve out a time in the holiday gathering to share memories of the person who is absent.  Funny memories are great; any meaningful stories are helpful.

For you personally, do the same thing.  In between the demands of shopping and preps for visitors, allow yourself time to reflect on the beloved person who is no longer physically present in your life.  Recall special moments.  Tears are just fine.

Think about what was important to the deceased person.  Plan an way of service (best) or a symbolic act to honor his/her memory. Make a donation or volunteer for a cause he/she cared about.

Finally, understand that grief is very, very normal when you’re dealing with loss.  Holiday times are fertile fields for it.  If you don’t run from it, sink into its quicksand, or turn the heavy feeling into depression or anger – it does get better.  I promise. Better yet, God promises – that He will comfort those who mourn.  Healthy grief is a sign that you have loved.

Help us in our grief, O Lord.  Heal our hearts, we pray.

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December 2021
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