Monthly Archives: December 2016

Make it last…

two-turtle-dovesThe day after Christmas…are you tired, worn out, a little bummed out after all the hype? Hopefully you’re not taking back gifts at the hectic mall you were just in days earlier! After all, it is, in the original Christian celebration, only the second day of Christmas (you know, from the Twelve Days of Christmas, made memorable by the song of the same name?) Yet, instead of continuing to celebrate Christmas for 12 days starting yesterday, the day Christ was born, most of us have already celebrated for weeks instead of observing the more solemn waiting period of Advent, and are done with it all, perhaps even glad it’s over. I’m guilty myself…of getting caught up in the preparation and decoration and shopping and wrapping and feeling like it’s all “over.” And yet…I want Christmas to continue somehow, even though the fun chaos of family and friends gathering is over, the gifts have been unwrapped, and the big day is past. So…how can we keep “celebrating” Christmas until Jan. 6? I plan to keep the tree up (and watered and hopefully alive), to try to be “present” to those around me (even though the one left in my house now, my husband, is sick with a bad cold), and most importantly, to try to grow closer to Jesus in my heart by reading daily scriptures and observing the various feast days along the way. Today, for example, is the feast of St. Stephen—an apostle who showed generosity to the needy and the first martyr of the early church, witnessing to Christ by the ultimate gift of his own life. Dec. 27 is the feast of St. John the Evangelist, the author of one of the Gospels and Revelation. Dec 28 is the feast of the Holy Innocents, the children murdered by King Herod, who plotted to kill the Christ child. And the Christmas season culminates on Jan 6 with the Epiphany, when the wise men followed the star and paid homage to the baby Jesus. The “real” 12 days of Christmas are important because they give us a way of reflecting on what the Incarnation – God made man – means in our lives. Lord, help us to keep Christmas in our hearts as long as we can – to make it last and so remember how you were born like one of us to show us the way to be like You, so that the world will know a little more kindness, peace, mercy and love.

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Quiet in the storm

tree-in-stormSo often, especially in the Christmas season, we want to be seen and heard…to be the life of the party or to be thanked (and praised) for the gifts we give that we picked out so carefully and spent so much money on, for that special dish we made, or for how amazing we look in our new outfits. I know I do. Christmas can be the time of excess, stress, and for me, wanting even more attention and recognition than I usually get at other times (which happens to be one of my character defects). So this Christmas season I am working hard NOT to give in to that particular desire but to crave instead to be quiet, and to be the quiet in the “storm”…to show restraint when I want to be critical,  to calm another person who is stressed out, to tell others how great they look, how special their gifts are, and how amazing they are…and then to be quiet, expecting nothing in return except the peace and joy of knowing that I am spreading a little of God’s love. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a great example of this. She played such a huge role in our salvation, yet she didn’t speak much (only 15 verses in the Bible), showing instead her quiet humility, gratitude and grace, even when her Son was born. “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger. After they had seen the Child, they spread the message they had received about Him. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  Lord, help me especially this week to remember to be quiet, to meditate upon the silent, holy night you were born and the special gift of your love, and to reflect upon how I can spread your love to those around me.

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Don’t forget to invite God!

inviteTis the season to invite others and be invited to holiday parties, to gatherings of family and friends, lunches, dinners and the like. But have you remembered to invite God to the party? And if you’re not hosting, will you at least invite Him to come along? I recently was reminded in a Bible study on the Book of Revelation (as I’ve heard before and then forgotten as is in my human nature!) that I need to invite God to be part of all I do…in my daily life, thanking Him for the food I eat, asking for help in relationships, to bless the work I do, to give me grace and strength, to be by my side. And the holidays are no exception, although I tend to get caught up, like we all do, as Dr. Seuss would say in his wonderful book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, “with (their) presents, the ribbons, the wrappings! the tags and the tinsel, the trimmings, the trappings!…” and forget what this holiday season is really about…love, peace, joy, family, friends, our relationships with people…and with our God Who came to us as the baby Jesus, to save, lead and love us. So don’t forget to invite Him to accompany you to that next holiday gathering (which may be delightful, or may be difficult) to help you have a better attitude, to be less self-centered and to think more of others, or to be by your side so that your heart may be filled with gratitude, peace, love and joy. Because as the Grinch discovered, “maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store…maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!” It really is all about God. And of course, He is always awaiting our invitation:  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me…” (Rev. 3:20) Lord, help us to remember to invite you to be by our sides and dwell in our hearts…when we work, when we play, when we gather with people whom we love and even those who are hard for us to love.

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Power in Letting Go…

god-box-2Have you ever heard of a “God Box?” It’s simply a box – any plain, decorative, hand-made or store-bought box – in which you place your concerns, worries, doubts, fears and problems, written on slips of paper – and then turn what’s written there over to the care of God. You simply release your own control, or attempt to control, whatever is bothering you, in faith that God will take care of it for you. It’s a physical way to “let go and let God.” I first heard of the concept at a women’s recovery retreat over ten years ago. At the end of the retreat we women collectively filled a God Box with slips of paper and then burned it in a ceremony which was very peaceful and healing. At the time I was really struggling with a failing marriage and business and didn’t know which way to turn. I went home and started my own God Box in a pretty round cardboard box that a good friend had given me as a gift. It had held tealight candles which I had used up and was too pretty to throw away. I’m sure what I wrote down was resolved because I removed those slips of paper over time (and ended up remarrying and starting a new successful career). And then I forgot to use my God Box again until a few years ago when four out of our five teenage kids were living with my new husband and I and there was a lot of, shall we say, drama. (We have a blended family of three boys and two girls all fairly close in age.) Yes, you can write people’s names with whom you’re having issues on those slips of paper too. I also wrote down “get a new publisher” because I was having problems with my current one. I forgot about these though until I uncovered them just two months ago when I opened it up to put new slips in.  I smiled as I unfolded and read each piece of paper – God had truly solved what I could not! The very people and things that I had felt hopeless, helpless, frustrated and fearful over were gone! I put new ones in…and just the other day one of those has already started to become resolved. It has made me realize that there is nothing too overwhelming for God to tackle…but we first need to stop wrestling with whatever it is and hand it over to Him, much like a child would hand a tangled ball of yarn over to his or her mom or dad to unravel. I believe this Advent season is a great time to start or use a God Box to clear and prepare the way for the Lord to enter our lives this Christmas. The very wise Book of Proverbs in the Bible encourages us to do this as well. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6). Lord, during this hectic holiday season help me to remember that You have all the power and to simply turn things over to You to experience true peace and joy.

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