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Monthly Archives: December 2018

REFLECTIONS ON NEW YEARS EVE

thinking_woman

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (I Samuel 17: 34-37)

As I am quiet before the Lord on this morning of New Years’ Eve, I am reflecting on the faithfulness of God.  In the last few years of my life, including the one we’re just leaving behind, let’s just say that not everything has gone just right.  You?  But God has never, ever failed to be ever-present, ever-loving, and ever-faithful to see me through the most difficult of times.

I think about David, who had just learned about a giant who had dared to challenge God’s people.  Goliath was way too big for David to fight in his own strength.  But the lion and the bear had been, too.  David didn’t deny the size of the problem.  Goliath truly was about 9-10 feet tall, and he roared his taunts across the valley.  But you didn’t see David wringing his hands and recounting all of Goliath’s scary attributes.  No way.  David began remembering other situations that were way beyond his own capacity and thinking about how God had delivered him miraculously in them and then out of them. This young teen knew that God had not changed, and He would work through him with what he had,  right here, right now.  David also knew the covenant he had with Almighty God, and he understood that “this uncircumcised Philistine” was not an heir to it.  All that God is would be David’s strength.  The size of the giant was irrelevant.  Only the size and power of God were relevant.

So this morning, I’m remembering.  I’m not looking back and bemoaning what went wrong or what I did wrong.  No, I’m visualizing, with a heart bursting with gratitude, how God never left me, comforted my broken heart, and always restored me.

I encourage you to do some reflecting of your own on the faithfulness of God.  It will warm your heart today, and you’ll be filled with hope and courage as you head into this new chapter.

May your New Year be a blessed one!

Lord, I thank You and praise You for Your faithfulness!  You’re my Shepherd, my Shield, my Provider, my Loving Father. I’m ready to step into 2019 with courage and holy anticipation!

IGNORING THE ALERT

emergency_alert
The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12: 15)

Our town was under flash flood warning last night, and those grating, startling alert sounds have gone off incessantly.  I paid attention the first time or two that the emergency alert sounded – especially since a tornado watch was an issue earlier.  Having experienced a couple of them in recent years, anything tornado gets my attention. But my home is on high ground, and I did not fear the flood.  I perceived that I was not in danger.  I was going to stay inside.  It would not affect me.

I started thinking about how we can come to ignore many kinds of warning signals in our lives.  Those “explanations” we give ourselves rob us of the opportunities to turn around before it gets much worse.

Let’s take first a practical example.  A weird light comes on in your vehicle.  “Wonder what that is?  I’ll check on it later.”  Then that light simply becomes an unnoticed part of the landscape, until it’s not.

Here’s another.  Your relationship hasn’t seemed right over the past few months, and you wonder if there’s a problem.  But you explain it away  “We’re (busy – under stress, – a ‘normal’ couple).” You fail to have the brave conversations and do the essential work, until you show up in my office when it’s nearly too late.

One more.  Others have said, and you have secretly suspected, that you (drink too much, take painkillers too much, gamble too much, eat too much) etc.  But denial kicks in to dull your awareness of the warning signs, and you minimize the growing impact of the problem.  You tell yourself, “I can quit any time I want to.” But the compulsive behavior morphs into addiction.

Warning alerts are a gift from God.  They can have an irritating sound to them, but they are provided for our good.  The earlier we take action, the easier it is to make the changes.  The people in flood areas last night needed to hear and heed, taking action promptly to get to higher ground.

Are there alerts that are crying for attention in your life?  Isn’t it time to actually take action on them? I’m thinking this may be a timely message as we head into the new year!

Holy Spirit, I want to pay attention when You sound the alarm when I set foot on a path that can destroy me.  I’m asking You to turn up the volume when I seem to be in denial or in stubborn refusal.  I want to be a great listener to everything You say to me, God!

LOOK BACK TO GO FORWARD

Rearview mirror

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, (Philippians 3: 13)

As I approach the turning of the calendar to a new year, I often find myself looking back before gazing forward.  Now I’m not usually a proponent of spending much time looking in the rear-view mirror.  The expansive windshield is for looking ahead.  But the rear-view is there for a reason, too – to glance back, see what’s coming up behind you, protect yourself from any danger approaching,make good decisions..

Similarly in life, you don’t camp in the past, but you don’t ignore healthy life review either. If you don’t take the time to figure out how you succeeded and also how you messed up, you’ll have no insight going forward to make the next year better.

So what’s the wise way to do your year review? Ask yourself these questions.

  1.  What worked? Start here!  Too often we rush to the memories of what went wrong.  Begin with what went right!  For what are you grateful?  What prayers were answered? What choices did you make the worked out well?
  2.  What changes did I successfully make, and how did I do that? The pressure for those New Year’s resolutions is around the corner, and resolutions are notoriously short-lived.  However, I’ll bet if you think back over 2018, you’ve been able to make some changes.  If you spend time regularly with the Lord, I know that the Holy Spirit has given you a nudge in the ribs about “a few somethings.”  Don’t just learn from your mistakes; learn from your successes!  How were you able to focus on a goal, struggle through it, and refuse to give up?  Well, then, repeat that!
  3.  If I had the opportunity for a do-over, what would I do differently?  Reflect momentarily on your regrets.  While you may not face that exact situation again, I can assure you that you’ll face it in principle.  Go ahead and plan how you will make a different choice next time.  Back it up, way back, and identify the tiny, almost imperceptible choices that led you on the path.  Sharpen your sensitivity to those little choices.  Don’t lie to yourself next time, telling yourself that you are immune from going any further.
  4.  What are the most important lessons I’ll be taking into the new year? This one is worth some additional thought.  Hmmmmm…I’m thinking.

Notice that none of these questions called for self-flagellation! Intense criticism of yourself that involves demeaning statements like, “How could you be so stupid?” are not helpful.  Hateful put-downs only destroy your confidence and your belief that you can do better.  Look back at the things you regret and learn from them!  If you do it differently, you can get different results next time!

.Lord, I always want to be growing in You.  Help me learn from my successes and my failures.  I want to be more like You in the coming year!

A MESSAGE TO PARENTS WHO HAVE LOST CHILDREN – used with permission

Brokenhearted promise

My daughter, Amy Barrett, posted this on her Facebook this week.  She writes it out of the unthinkable experience of losing her oldest son tragically a little over 4 years ago.  His birthday was last week.  Amy is a woman of great faith, but faith does not remove the deep pain of loss.  I asked her for permission to share it with you in hopes that someone in a similar situation might feel understood or encouraged.  Do share with anyone that it might help.

_______

 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34: 18)

 

From my heart to yours…

For parents and families who have had to bury a child….

Every day is complex. A roller coaster of emotions. That roller coaster takes unexpected twists and turns and gives no fair warning. You can feel like you are rising higher, getting a better perspective. Then WHOOSH! Down you go in what feels like a free-fall that nearly takes your breath away. This is every day.

Holidays – well, that’s even more complex. Trying to figure out how in the world to have a “merry” Christmas is almost beyond comprehension, though you desperately want to.. Add to that, trying to make it a joyous occasion for your other children or family. It’s far beyond human capability. Only God can put the pieces of the puzzle back together in a different arrangement and bring beauty for ashes. I still believe He will.

You see, we have FAITH. But that faith doesn’t take away the deep sorrow. However, it does take us through it and helps us find light and the promise of a better day.

We have HOPE.  That hope doesn’t take away the ripping pain, but it does help us to take the next step and find a way to help someone else along the journey, too.

And we have LOVE, enormous amounts of love. You see, the pain of grief goes as deep as the love we carry in our hearts for our child who left this world too soon. But that love, it’s eternal. It will live on. And we will each find ways to express it. Yes, the greatest of these is  love. That love will never end…for all of our children, those here and those in heaven.

Even greater than that is, God is Love. His Love will never end, and He will never stop expressing His Love to us, even on the darkest of days. I’m so thankful that He is close to every broken heart and sends heavenly help to save and rescue those who are literally crushed in spirit.

Pray for the families with the huge void, the empty chair, the awkward silence, the hurting hearts, the tear-stained pillows. Pray for the PEACE of God to rule in each heart and home and for joyous moments to arise in the midst of it all.

Sending this with love and hugs to my family and all families who know this road, though it wasn’t chosen. Maybe you’ve not lost a child, but are dealing with a huge loss of a loved one. Hold to His Promises. God will see us through❤️. I KNOW He will.
Sincerely,
Amy B.

(If you know someone else who needs to hear this, please share it with them.)

THE CENTER OF IT ALL

nativity in cave

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9: 6)

C.S. Lewis, the great Christian writer, told the story of a woman riding on a bus during the Christmas season.  The bus passed by a church with a manger scene in the yard in front of the church.  With disgust, the woman said loudly, “They bring religion into everything. Look—they’re dragging it even into Christmas now!”

We smile and shake our heads at her spiritual ignorance  But the question before us today is, to what extent do you and I focus squarely on Christ during the Christmas celebration?  This morning, kids will squeal and run to the tree to see what Santa left.  Families will scramble from extended family home to the other, trying to keep everyone pleased with time and attention.  Healthy eating will be postponed (at least) a week as family members ooh and ah over all the delectable goodies.

But will we actually pause it all and genuinely reflect together on the miracle of God entering a tiny human body and bringing all that He is to earth for you and me?  Will we discuss what it means even to go beyond the “Christmas story” and completely receive Him into our hearts and lives?  Will you and I give any genuine thought to where we are in our consistent practices of living the lives that Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection made possible?

Let’s! O, come, let us adore HIM!

Lord, on this day that we commemorate as Your birthday, may we place You at the center of every celebration and at the center of our lives!

 

 

 

Do YOU Believe for the Impossible?

Gabriel and Mary

 

For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to Your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1: 37-38)

I was reading  the familiar “Christmas passages” of Luke 1 and 2. You know how it is when you read the familiar. You can just skim over the words and miss the message. But that did not happen this time, and I saw some things in a fresh way.

When the angel came to Mary to tell her what was about to happen, her first reaction was to point to the circumstances that would make it impossible. “How can this be, since I have no (intimacy with any man as a) husband?” (Luke 1:34, Amplified Bible) Have you ever done that (as I have)? You “receive a word,” something God seems to be speaking to you about a wonderful thing He plans to do in your life, and you begin to point to all the factors that would make that highly unlikely if not impossible?

But the messenger of God (the angel Gabriel) was not put off by that. He talked to her about how the Holy Spirit would impregnate her with the Son of God. Then he said words we all need to have burned into our spirits: “For with God nothing is ever impossible, and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.” (v. 37, Amplified Bible) No matter what the barriers look like, if the dream that is conceived in you is from God, it is totally possible.

Mary responded with a “YES!” She said, “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to what You have said.” The question for each of us is, are we willing to say a wholehearted “yes” to the plans of the Lord in our lives, even those that are so big , they astound us? Even those that will rearrange our lives and boot us out of our routine comfort zones?

After Mary affirmed the message and allowed it to be planted deep within her heart, the angel immediately left her. His mission was accomplished. She would not see the baby for a while, not until it was just the right time. However, it was a done deal. The process had begun. I want to remember, even when I don’t see it in the natural, the word of the Lord is spiritually “mission accomplished” when I believe in and depend on it.

Lord, I have heard Your word to me, and some of the dreams You have placed in my own heart seem impossible. But I wholeheartedly believe that with You, all things are possible. Show me every step I am to take today to prepare the way for the fulfillment of Your plans. I say with Mary, ‘Let it be done to me according to what You have said.’

HOLIDAY SEASON SADNESS -WHAT TO DO

sad-dog-santa-christmas-featured
But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength. Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, for You have been my stronghold and a refuge in the day of my distress (Psalm 59: 16)
So what do you do if your Christmas season is not merry and bright?  If your level of sadness exceeds your degree of joy in the world?  In the previous message, we identified four possible causes of “Blue Christmas.”  But what are the implications of those?  Is there anything you can do to make your holiday experience a little brighter?
I can’t guarantee that all the feelings will line up like little soldiers, but there are some things that you can do for a good start on creating a more positive experience.
1.  Focus on Christ, not on your personal situation. This is the number one recommendation.  Celebrate the One Whose birthday we’re commemorating.  He is the Unchangeable One – not matter what has changed in your life.  He is the All-Sufficient One, despite what you are lacking right now.  He is Jehovah Shalom; He is your Peace -no matter how much anxiety is tempting you. He is enough.  He is more than enough when you give Him complete control in your life.
2.  Hold realistic expectations. Your family visits, holiday meals, and present exchanges will NOT be perfect.  Forget that!  Don’t stress yourself out trying to achieve the impossible.  The spiritual focus matters, and family relationships matter.  The more stressed out you are, the less likely it is that you’ll enjoy it all and help others to do the same. Chill.  Perfection is not a goal.
3.  Create new family experiences along with your traditions. When you have lost someone you love through death or distance, it seems that every traditional family happening triggers a memory.  Sometimes people attempt to avoid the subject, trying not to make each other uncomfortable and sad.  My suggestion is, don’t avoid it.  Actually carve out some time in the family celebration to share stories about the one who is mnot present.  Acknowledge that he or she is deeply missed.  This can actually relieve some of the emotional tension and allow people to go ahead and positivelyexperience the present together.
4.  Make it a priority to take care of yourself. In the best of holiday seasons, the stress is palpable.  You need your mind and body working at their best in order to make it through.  Minimize the junk food.  Don’t neglect that walk.  Get some rest.  If you are saying, “No way to do this!’ refer to #1 and 2 above, breathe, and lean into divine joy.
As the angels said, “Joy to the world.  The Lord has come!” Will He find room in the inn that is called your life?
I want to keep You first in my focus, Lord – during the holiday season and every other day! And please, Lord, continue to heal our hearts.

 

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