There’s A Lot More to the Day than Just Opening Presents

Just Like That, Christmas is Over…Now What?

With every passing year, Christmas seems to come and go faster and faster. It seems like it was just last week that we were celebrating Christmas 2020.

It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the Holidays and lose sight of the “Reason for the season”. With all the excitement building up to Christmas, what’s left after can be depressing. All those decorations need to be taken back down and put away for another year (week).

Don’t let the fun seasonal activities cause us to forget that we’re celebrating the coming of our Heavenly Savior.

In Matthew 1:18-25 Joseph is told to accept Mary as his wife and to name the baby Jesus because He will save people from their sins. This all happened as the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isiah. “They will name Him Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us”.

God is with us… Not just for the day. He is with us every day.

We’ve been falling short of God’s plan from the very beginning. Adam and Eve in their desire to be like God, fell for Satan’s pitch and did the one thing God commanded them not to do.

Like Adam and Eve, we still are persuaded by Satan to do things we shouldn’t. We’re fortunate that we were given the gift of Jesus.

God’s gift of Jesus is like any present we get, if we don’t open it and use it, there’s no benefit to getting it.

We’re like Paul when he writes about how he struggles with doing the things he wants to and not doing the things he doesn’t. We’re pretty good at messing things up.

A couple was eating pizza with their son who is in a group home. While they were still eating, the cleaning lady came in. They apologized for the mess and said they would clean it up. The cleaning lady just kept cleaning and said, “This is what I do.”

This is what Jesus does for us. He cleans up our messes.

This doesn’t mean that we should just go be as messy as we can be. If we accept God’s gift, we will do all that we can to keep the messes to a minimum.

As we move past this Christmas and into a new year, remember that Immanuel, God with us is that Gift which we’ve been given.

Use this Present today and every day and enjoy it!

It’s Amazing How Much of an Effect Little Things Can Make

Big Things Can Come in Small Packages

When we think God…we think big. He is God after all. The Creator of the universe in all its vastness. In a few days we celebrate His coming into the world. What’s amazing is that He didn’t come big, He came small. He came born a baby to a couple of scared teenagers.

You want to talk about an overwhelming mission…just think about what that was like.

There are three lessons that Mary would share:

  1. God is working in the small things –

God could have come as a conquering warrior, a charismatic king or a commanding emperor. Instead, he came as a helpless baby, dependent on Mary and Joseph to feed and clothe him.

He loves us enough to be born into our lives. It’s like the butterfly effect. The small things we do have a big impact…either for good or bad.

It’s up to us to decide what kind of impact we’ll have.

2. God is working through the difficult circumstances –

Jesus was born in a difficult time. Throughout the Bible, God doesn’t choose the easy path and it’s no different today.

You know there were scandalous rumors about Mary being pregnant and her not being married. When Jesus was born Harrod was a ruthless king willing to kill infant boys to keep his throne.

Why didn’t God choose an easier path?

God’s light shines brightest when it’s the darkest. God’s power is greatest when we’re at our weakest. God’s grace shows up in the times when we least expect it.

It’s up to us to see it.

3. God is working in everyone who opens their heart –

In Luke 1: 39-45, we see Mary’s open heart in her conversation with Elizabeth.

God never forces anyone to accept Him. He came in the most unlikely manner, to the most unlikely people, at the most unlikely time. He did this so that we wouldn’t be overwhelmed…but overjoyed.

The actor Richard Crenna grew up in downtown LA living in a family run hotel. Many of the people who stayed there were unhappy and less desirable types. Young Richard would make fun of them to his friends.

After landing an acting job in New York as a young man, he was going to be leaving shortly after Christmas.

Growing up his family wasn’t big on celebrating Christmas, but this time was different. His parents had a Christmas celebration at the hotel with these “less desirable people”. These people celebrated Richard’s opportunity and gave him gifts and shared a meal.

On the train to New York someone asked him how his Christmas was. He replied, “It was my best Christmas ever. I spent it with children of the Most High, my family.”

This event showed Crenna the importance of an open heart and lead to his becoming part of God’s family.

Everyone is invited to be part of God’s family…we just have to open our hearts.

It’s amazing how much of an effect the little things can make, if we’ll just open our eyes and our hearts.

The Francesca Battistelli song Be Born in Me, sums up this whole amazing big/little Christmas gift thing really well. Listen to the song here.

Open your heart to the Joy of Christmas!

Where Do You Find Your Real Christmas Joy?

It Comes from the Inside, Not the Outside, No Matter How Much “Stuff” You Have

It’s almost Christmas.

Last night my wife came to me and said, “Do you realize Christmas is next week?” I told her that I did know that. She said, “I can’t believe how close it is. I’m not ready.”

This is a common sentiment this time of the year…okay, every year.

It seems that the conversation of time going by faster is a familiar, not just at this time of the year. I don’t disagree that it certainly can feel this way. But time is not moving any differently than it ever did.

The time issue is more about us trying to squeeze in too much. I believe we’ve been given exactly the right amount of time to do whatever we’ve been put here to do. The problem is with how we spend our time rather than how much we have.

And so much of what we’re trying to squeeze in, is the wrong stuff.

This issue only increases with Christmas.

The focus can become the activities, events, competing with the neighbors when decorating and gifts…rather than family, friends, celebrating and the real gift of Christmas.

There is a story about a little boy who only wanted a specific red toy truck for Christmas. This truck was had the boy’s full focus. Nothing else mattered. There under the tree was that red truck on Christmas morning. All the other presents were overlooked. He had his truck.

Later that day the little boy came to his dad crying. His truck was broke. Through his sobs, he said, “My Christmas is broke.” We can sure tell where his focus was. His whole Christmas was wrapped up in that truck.

Our Christmas focus can end up being in the wrong place if we aren’t careful.

We need to have the kind of attitude that Paul exhibits in Philippians 4:4-7. He wrote, “Always be filled with joy from the Lord…Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds.”

He wrote this while in prison.

You would think we should be able to be joyful, living the blessed lives that we live.

We need to take Paul’s passion to heart this and every Christmas.

This is where real Christmas joy comes from!

Monday is a Special Day…It’s My Second, Ninth Birthday

Every Day We Get Second Chances, Don’t Wait Until You’re Smacked in the Head

That’s right…it’s my second, ninth birthday. Most people don’t get to have two birthdays a year, but I’m one of the fortunate ones.

There’s my original birthday…the day in which my mother gave birth to me. And then I have a second birthday…the one in which I got a second chance at life.

Too many people live their whole lives never finding their purpose. My second birthday helped me to find mine.

Let me explain. On December 6th, 2012, I was working, standing on a plank, approximately 8’ above the ground when it broke. Luckily, I don’t remember any of the ordeal from the time that I was measuring for a piece of wafer board until I woke up in the hospital three days later…

As I recovered from the fall, I realized this situation could have ended differently. I was still here for a reason.

God wasn’t done with me yet.

Some of us are a little slower than others and it takes a board upside the head, to get our attention.

As I was watching one of my favorite Christmas movies a few days ago I was thinking about why it is that I liked it so much…. then I realized that it was the opportunity for second chances. It was like my fall.

It’s never too late to start building a better life.

The movie, A Shoe Addict’s Christmas (Not a title that most guys would probably have on their movie list.) is about a woman, Noelle, who accidently gets locked in a department store where she works. While waiting to be rescued, a quirky woman named Charlie appears. Over the next few days Charlie, Noelle’s guardian angel, helps her rediscover the life she has been avoiding, by visiting Christmases past, present and future. (Sounds a little like another movie, doesn’t it?)

We’ve all had situations that we can look back on and wish we’d done different.

We can’t change the past, but things we do today will affect the future.

In the movie, Charlie tells Noelle a story. You’ve probably heard it (or some variation of it).

It goes like this, there was man who was out in the snow. Someone came by in a sleigh and offered him a ride. The man refused. He said, “God will take care of me”. Later as the snow continued to get deeper another man in a sleigh came by and offered to help. Once again, the man refused. “God will take care of me.” The next time a sleigh came by the snow was up to the man’s chin. For a third time the man declined the help and said, “God will take care of me”. Then the man is in Heaven and asking God why He didn’t save him. God answers, “I sent three sleighs and you ignored them all”.

Don’t ignore the sleighs that God sends.

I love Christmas movies. They offer us a perspective that too often is overlooked in real live. They are a great example of God’s love shared through people in the world.

My wife and I like Christmas movies so much that we make a long list (currently 146 and growing) and we implement a plan for watching them. (I also love making plans 😊) Besides that…there won’t be any NACAR races to watch until early February.

My friend Shep and I talked about the Christmas movie list which prompted him to compare Christmas movies with God’s love in his most recent Monday Morning Moment. (Follow this link to Shep’s post)

All of this is to say, that if you’re still alive…it’s not too late. You don’t need a second birthday to make changes in your life.

Be aware of the sleighs that God sends. Don’t wait until you’re hit in the head with a board.

Be Patient, the Day is Coming…You Can Count on it

The Heart of the Advent Season is the Coming of Christ

We live in an “I want it now” society. We’ve been spoiled by the speed at which things move at. Instantaneous access to the internet on our hand-held devices, drive through restaurants, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with efficiency, but in the process, we’ve lost the ability to wait patiently.

This sense of immediacy makes us a demanding people.

It seems that this has always been the case. Throughout the Bible people were unwilling to wait for things to happen according to God’s timing and inevitably they would have to wait longer. They would take things in their own hands and then pay the price.

Jerimiah speaks to this in Chapter 33. He is sharing a message with the people. It was the promise of Jesus’ coming. They were feeling hopeless, and Jerimiah gave them hope.

Early on, Jerimiah was a preacher of righteousness, in the last chapter of his book, he speaks words of comfort. Before the people needed to be confronted, now they need to be comforted. Before they needed words of judgement, now they need words of grace. Before they deserved condemnation, now they need hope. So instead of offering a word of punishment, Jerimiah offers a word of promise.

Behold the days are coming.

Jerimiah uses the phrase, “The days are coming.” throughout his book. This is God’s promise to us of Christ’s coming. This doesn’t mean everything is going to be easy, it just means that that we’ve been promised something better.

During a live presentation of the Wizard of Oz the good witch Glinda was being lowered on to the stage when there was a problem, and she was left hanging above the stage. When something like this happens during a live performance there’s not much the actors can do other than improvise and wait patiently.

We need to do what we can and be patient with things that we have no control over.

We live in a fallen world. We can’t change that, but we can control how we live in it. We aren’t perfect, we are a people under construction.

Enjoy this season of Advent and the coming of Christ as we celebrate Christmas time.

An Unexpected, Modern-Day Twist to The Christmas Carol

It’s Never Too Late to Build A Better Life

An update of the December 29, 2018 post.

As I’m working on goal setting and planning for the new year, I’ve been reviewing the past several years. Looking back can be disappointing and discouraging if things haven’t gone as well as you had planned. And this year certainly didn’t go as planned

While thinking about places I fell short and opportunities I missed or ignored, it caused me to think about the Hallmark Christmas movie, “A Shoe Addict’s Christmas”. In this movie a woman, Noelle, accidently gets locked in a department store where she works. While waiting to be rescued a quirky woman, Charlie, appears. Over the next few days Charlie, a guardian angel, helps Noelle rediscover the life she has been avoiding, by visiting Christmases past present and future.

We all have situations that we can look back on and wish we had done something different. We can’t change the past, but what we do today will affect the future.

You may have heard the story (or some variation of it) that Charlie told Noelle in the movie. It goes like this, there was man who was out in the snow and someone came by in a sleigh and offered him a ride. The man refused. He said, “God will take care of me”. Later as the snow continued to get deeper another man in a sleigh came by and offered to help. Once again, the man refused. “God will take care of me.” The next time a sleigh came by the snow was up to the man’s chin. For a third time the man declined the help and said, “God will take care of me”. Then the man is in Heaven and asking God why He didn’t save him. God answers, “I sent three sleighs and you ignored them all”.

Too often we ignore the sleighs that God sends us.

As long as we’re still alive, even if we’ve missed or ignored sleighs in the past, it’s never too late to use the next one. It is up to us to decide. There is a balance of faith and doing. Dave Ramsey says to “Pray like it all depends on God but work like it all depends on me.” We need to take of the blinders off and be more observant of the sleighs. “God moves mountains to create the opportunity of His choosing. It is up to you to be ready to move yourself.”, “The Traveler’s Gift”, Andy Andrews.

If I don’t want to get buried in the snow, I need to shovel what I can when I can and take the sleighs when they come along. I was presented some sleighs this past year and took them.

Learn from the past, look to the future, live in the present.

Watch for the sleighs and make this year the best year ever.

Make My Heart a Manger

A place Where Jesus Can Reside

This time of the year the Christmas story is a big part of things. You know the one, the on where Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger. As we reflect on this story here are a few things to think about.

When Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem is was full of people going about their required duties. There were so many people there was no place left for Jesus to come into this world except an animal shelter. He was given the leftovers. Too many times this is what we give Jesus… We give Him our leftover time and attention. We don’t give Him anything but some space out with the animals.

Give Jesus more than your leftovers.

A manger is a trough or box for feeding livestock. Yet this was the place where our Savior was first laid. This was the place where He began to change everything. It was the starting point.

Jesus doesn’t need a palace or a king size bed. He just needs a place to reside.

This story from “1001 Illustrations That Connect” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elsolf about Rose Kennedy, mother of President John Kennedy, explains this well. (Make your heart a manger)

Rose Kennedy’s story:

“I was a spoiled young bride of a strong-willed man, a socialite who attended every function possible,” she began. “We were expecting a child and elated at the prospect. The day came when our child was born. She was a beautiful child.

“But it wasn’t long until we realized that there was something terribly wrong with her. We took her to the doctor, who confirmed our fears. She was [mentally handicapped], and nothing could be done.”

“Anger grew in my heart,” Rose said. “How could God do such a thing to this child — to me? I turned my back on God, my husband, my closest friends — and became a recluse.

“One evening, a major event was happening in the city. I wanted to go, but I was so filled with wrath that I thought I might create a scene. My husband feared it, too, so we decided to stay home. A lovely woman, who was one of our maids, gently said to me, ‘Please excuse me, Mrs. Kennedy, but I’ve been watching you the last few weeks. I love you very much, and I hate to see this destroy your life. Mrs. Kennedy, you’ll never be happy until you make your heart a manger where the Christ Child may be born.’

“I fired her on the spot! Yet later that night, my mind ruminated relentlessly, keeping me awake. I could not forget that lovely face, the sweetness of the maid, the joy in her spirit, and especially her words.

I have loved Christ my whole life, and tried to be a good Catholic, but now I knelt beside my bed and prayed, ‘Dear God, make my heart a manger where the Christ Child may be born.’ I felt a fresh, new, divine entry into my life, and there was born in me a love for [mentally handicapped] children.”

“Oh, by the way, I rehired the lovely maid,” Rose added. “She was with us until her death.”

Make your heart a manger where the Christ Child may be born.

God Cared Enough to Send the Very Best

 

 

 

We Should Do Nothing Less in Return

 

Hallmark Christmas movies are on at our house a lot this time of year. Typically, people either love these movies or can’t stand them. I’ve discussed this multiple times with different people over the past several weeks.

 


I think the dislike comes from a negative place…a place of, life isn’t filled with happy endings like every Hallmark movie ever made.


Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of Hallmark movie appreciation, you should admire the company’s clearness of vision. They are a private, family owned American company founded in 1910 and still going strong today. Their slogan, “When you care enough to send the very best.” was created in 1944 and has been used consistently ever since.


God cared enough to send the very best, when He sent His Son.


If God cares enough for us to do this, we should incorporate a version of the Hallmark slogan into our own lives. To “Care enough to give the very best.” Every day we should be giving our very best to God and to others.

 


This doesn’t mean that every day is going to be sunshine and lollypops. It means that even when things aren’t going so well, we can still give our very best in that situation. It’s an attitude and we can control it.


Just like in the Hallmark movies bad things are exaggerated by people making presumptions or decisions without all the facts. Too many times we do the same thing in real life. Hallmark does have an advantage of experienced writers. We can write our own happy ending too.

 


If we accept the Very Best (Jesus) that was sent to us by God and in return live our very best (accept Him as our personal savior) as explained in the Bible, we can have a better than Hallmark happy ending of eternity in Heaven.

 

Anticipation Can Be Stressful or Exciting

It’s Up to Us to Decide Which It Will Be

Christmas has come and gone for another year. That’s okay because we will look up in a few days and it will be here again.


Some people find the Holiday season stressful. The busy, rushed and harried pace can get overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.


We get to choose how it’s going to be.


I love the anticipation of looking forward to opening presents on Christmas morning. I don’t want to know what I’m getting until I take the paper off and open it. I will be extra careful to not see what’s in boxes and bags around the house leading up to Christmas. The looking forward to the unveiling of the surprise is exciting.


Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus at the Second Coming.


This season really is more about waiting than coming. Joseph and Mary both showed great faith and patience waiting for Jesus’ birth. Because they were not married yet and she was pregnant they were looked down on. They had to trust what they had been told by God and believe it to be true.


Look forward to the future possibilities God has for you with excited anticipation!


Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Worrying Is A Waste of Time and Energy

 

 

 

 

Avoid the Worry Trap

 

Worry is a real thing. It can eat away at our spirit like cancer. Too often time is spent worrying about things that no amount of worry will have any effect on. For some, the holiday season increases the level of worry.


It’s easy to get sucked into the commercial world of Christmas. This perspective will leave us feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. The world’s view is focused on money and gifts and trying to keep up with the Jones’s.


This isn’t how Christmas is supposed to be.


In the article “The Fog of Worry”, Earl Nightingale wrote about the counterproductive action of worry. He compares worrying to a fog covering a city.


According to the Bureau of Standards, “A dense fog covering seven city blocks, to a depth of 100 feet, is composed of something less than one glass of water.” So, if all the fog covering seven city blocks, 100 feet deep, were collected and held in a single drinking glass, it would not even fill it.


Worrying can trap us in a fog with no seeming way out. Mr. Nightingale goes on to explain this with an authoritative estimate of what most people spend their time and energy worrying about.

 

  1. 40% – never even happens.
  2. 30% – are over and past and can’t be changed.
  3. 12% – are needless heath worries.
  4. 10% – are petty, miscellaneous worries.
  5. 8% – this small percentage is the real legitimate things worth concerning ourselves with.


92% of worries are a fog that we create.

 


We need to focus our time and energy on the possibilities rather than the negative. This time of the year everything seems more intense, both good and bad. We just look for the good, the lights, the giving, the music, etc.


On Christmas in 2018, there was a nine-hour standoff between a man who barricaded himself in his home and the police. It began when he started shooting after his sister-in-law came to check on him, so the police were called. He continued firing shots at the police, from a second-floor window, hitting cars and nearby homes.


At 6:00 AM the next morning the SWAT negotiator tried something different…he started singing the Christmas song, “White Christmas”. When the song was over the man surrendered. This brought the standoff to a conclusion with no one being injured.


 

Music, especially Christmas songs, have a powerful message and connect with our emotions.


We can choose if we are going to focus on the negative or positive in this Christmas season and throughout the whole year. It’s up to us to make the choice.

 

 

Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.