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Seasonal Anxiety

It’s supposed to be the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year and yet all I am hearing is:

I’m so stressed out.”

I cannot wait until this season is over.

I don’t know how I’m going to afford Christmas this year.”

I meant to only have a glass of wine, but then x, y & z happened, so I just drank the whole bottle.

I need a drink or a xanex or both.”

I’m freaking out. I don’t have enough time to get everything done.

Probably sounds familiar to you, right? You hear it at work, in the stores, and from family and friends.

I’ll be honest, hearing this breaks my heart and pisses me off. I’m angry because anxiety/stress is basically fear. And I loathe and detest fear!!! And it breaks my heart because this season should be about the joy of the greatest gift anyone has ever given, Jesus.

Jesus came to give us peace & rest. He came to set people free and heal their bodies and broken hearts. A celebration of His birth should not drive you to wino-hood or prescription meds!

Here’s what the Word says about anxiety:

1. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 NASB

Don’t let stress win! Change your perspective! Give God the things your stressing about & focus your energies on the things your thankful for!!

2. “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NLT

Give your anxious thoughts to God and THEN His peace comes & guards your heart & mind.

3. “And now, dear brothers & sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 NLT 

A mind fixed on lack of money or creating perfect holiday will find stress. And stress is fear! Fear is a bully! And bullying is unacceptable!

You do not HAVE to spend a fortune on presents and decor! You don’t HAVE to cook a 7 course meal! If that stuff is stressing you out, scale back! I don’t care if it’s been done that way since forever! It’s not worth it.

Jesus came to give life and life abundant! He came to free you. He came to heal you. He loves you! He doesn’t want you to be full of anxiety!

You have the right to say no. No day, meal or gift is worth the loss of your health or sanity!

Point to ponder while you wander… Ask yourself what is important to you. What do you enjoy about the holidays? Now focus on those lovely and excellent things.

Point #2…Fix your mind & focus your energy on loving your family and friends well this year instead of big expensive gifts and perfect dinners.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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Not Sleeping

On the way to work this morning I listened to “I Heard the Bells in Christmas Day,” and this just jumped out at me:
 
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fail the right prevail, With peace on earth goodwill to men.”

After a night of little sleep, with a busy day ahead of me I needed that reminder! God is alive, alert, and knows exactly what’s going on in your life. And He cares about you and what’s happening. He will strengthen you if you ask Him too. He’s good like that!

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.” Psalm 121:1-3 MSG

Something to ponder while you wander…God does not sleep! God is not dead! He will strengthen you whenever and wherever you need it!

O Holy Night

Merry Christmas, Everyone!!

The Christmas carol O Holy Night is my favorite.  I love how gently it reminds me that Jesus is Savior and King, and how it inspires me to worship Him.  Not because I am subservient, but because I choose to give Him honor.  Not because of what He has done for me, although I’m grateful and He’s certainly worthy of my best, but because of who He is.  When I hear O Holy Night I picture what it would be like walking into the presence of Jesus; to feel the love that radiates from Him.  I cannot think of anything more intimate or amazing than being in the presence of someone who loves me that much.  When the lyric says “fall on your knees;” I see myself so overwhelmed by His love that I sink straight to my knees to adore Him.

This song reminds me the meaning of Christmas is love.  Jesus’ immense and immeasurable love for us and our love for Him and our love for one another.  Love that is patient.  Love that is kind.  Love that forgives and forgets.  Love that encourages our best, and supports us when we’re floundering.  It reminds me that Jesus values me.  He believes in me, enough to sacrifice His life for mine.  It reminds me to not grow weary, because there is always hope.

There are about a zillion versions of this song out there, give or take a trillion or two, but my favorite is when I heard Natalie Grant sing it live a few years ago.  I cried.  So did most of the people around me.  I found a video of her singing it live, so I am sharing it with you.  I hope it moves you as much as it moves me.  So without further adieu here’s Natalie Grant singing O Holy Night. (PS…she opens the song slightly differently than you may have heard before).

Here are the lyrics to O Holy Night by John Sullivan Dwight, so you can sing along.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

 

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born;

O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

 

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,

With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,

Here come the wise men from Orient land.

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;

In all our trials born to be our friend.

 

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,

Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

 

Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

Let all within us praise His holy name.

 

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,

His power and glory evermore proclaim.

His power and glory evermore proclaim.

 

Here are a few bonus versions for you, depending upon your musical tastes.

Celtic Woman

Harry Connick Jr

Pentatonix

Relient K

Scotty Mc Creery

No Virginia, God Is Not Like Santa Claus

I overheard a conversation between a parent and a child that went like this:

“That’s enough now. You need to be good or Santa won’t bring you any presents.”

“I’ll be good.”

Not anything earth shattering. Not anything new. I’ve heard this said many times. I’ve been told this many times. I’ve even said this many times myself. But this time when I heard it, it smacked me. It actually made my stomach knot up and I didn’t know why. It was commonly spoken and commonly believed, why did it suddenly upset me?

It took me a while to figure it out, but eventually I figured out that that way of thinking prevented me from receiving from God most of my life. I thought God was like Santa. He would only give me things if I were good. He only loved me when I was perfectly well behaved. I didn’t think that God loved me, because I wasn’t perfect. Is this way of thinking preventing you from receiving from God too?

Honestly, there are a lot of people out there who think God is the same way. They believe that God only loves us when we “be good.” He only approves of us when our behavior is within the little box of rules and regulations. We need to be flawless to be loved. We are only given the things we want and need when we are “behaving” and being “good.” But it’s a lie. The truth is that God loves us all the time, unconditionally. The whole Bible illustrates that He loves us and that He gives good gifts to all people. Period.

Here’s some truth about God’s gifts:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.” James 1:17 (NIV)

For God’s gifts and His call can never be withdrawn.” Romans 11:29 (NLT)

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17 (NIV)

Therefore as by the offence of one (Adam) judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one (Jesus) the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Romans 5:18 (KJV)

What was His best gift? I think it was Grace. The grace that came in the form of a small baby born in Bethlehem approximately 2013 years ago. His name was Jesus. You wanna know why?

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:6-8(NLT)

God gave Jesus (the person of grace) to everyone who will ever be born, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. No matter what family you were born into or what country you were born in. No matter your past, present or future behavior. Whether you are wealthy or poor, brilliant or slow-witted, Jesus was given to you so you could be reconciled to God.

And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s wrath. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Romans 5:9-11(NLT)

God is not trying to control your behavior, like your parents did with the “no gifts from Santa” hogwash. He wants you to know Him and have a relationship with Him. From that you learn how much He loves you! You also discover who He made you to be and are set free from the lies people have spoken over you. The change in behavior comes as a side-effect from knowing who you are and how much you are loved. You are righteous and holy because Jesus is righteous holy, not because of what you do or don’t do. This is the reason He sent Jesus. This is the reason for the celebration of Christmas.

No Virginia, God is not like Santa Claus.