Luke 6:28-31 (NLT)
Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
With my new motto glaring at me from the other side of the room, I am reminded today that “there is always, always, always something to be grateful for.” I consider myself a “thankful” person who tends to be optimistic about things most of the time but for some reason Christmas has always been a struggle for me. I am not sure why but will confess that for most of my life I have fought depression over the holidays for no real reason. God has finally broken me of that but at a very high price. It took three years of spending Thanksgiving and Christmas visiting doctor’s appointments, accompanying our son to his infusion treatments, or escorting him to radiation that finally broke me of my holiday funk. I refuse to be overtaken by anything but joy this Christmas as I think about what the Lord has done in our life. Yes there have been many struggles. There has absolutely been a great deal of pain. But just as promised, the Lord has brought us through them all. Our son is currently cancer-free, just finished school and will soon be home to eat all our food. Our daughter is spending her first Christmas with her new husband. Our wanderer/adventurer/soldier son will cruise in soon. Thankfully we still have two “not-so-little” girls at home to celebrate the season with us. We are making new traditions. We are doing things a little differently mixing it up if you will. No longer will we rush past the holidays to get to the New Year but enjoy our family and life that we have been given.
Rah, Rah, Rah! My elation is also tempered by the realization that there are many who are still struggling this year. One particular family whose daughter is fighting the same cancer our son has been battling is in a hospital room as we speak. The family has been through many traumatic events over the last year some health-related and others not related to their health at all. I keep up with their journey on Facebook and check in with mom off and on. She is overwhelmed and rightfully so. It is hard enough to focus on one child who is gravely ill but quite another to manage your family with it. My heart and mind think about those who are not able to provide a nice meal for their family this Christmas while I pour over Pinterest for ideas. I think of the parents who are struggling to give their kids gifts when ours have more than enough. I have been there before. As a single parent of three small children with no assistance, my grandparents would send money for me to provide for them. I would use it to make them dinner and provide gifts for them squirreling some away for the next month’s deficit. I was so very thankful when the discount toy store opened in the mall with all of last year’s gifts at a fraction of the cost. Those days are long gone but as they flash through my mind, the Spirit presses my heart to remember. My greatest calling in this life is to be a blessing. Bless those who curse me. Pray for those who hurt me. Offer others more than they demand. When others take, let them have it. Do to others as I would like them to do to me now and back then when I was struggling. It’s time to take a look around.
Luke 6:36 (NLT) You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
I must be compassionate. Compassion is not part of human nature although some people are giving by nature, we do not want to give beyond our personal comfort. God is love. He has called us to love one another. Jesus commanded us to do so. To give our life to Christ requires that we give our life to others just as He asked. What better time to try than Christmas? The media tells us to give until it hurts. Buy, buy, buy. Overload, overload, overload. It begins with helping those around us. Smiling at the mom holding up the line with three squirming, squealing children. Holding the door for the person who is in such a hurry or struggling to get by. Allowing others to go ahead of you in line. Letting the crazy driver have the parking space opting to walk just a little farther to preserve the peace. Our sinful nature tells us that we are entitled to fairness but the Spirit of God inclines us to give up our way to have His Way. His Way is love and compassion for all people. His Grace says they get it whether they deserve it or not just like me. His Mercy is new every morning so mine should be, too. I must see to the needs of others in order to prove that I trust the Lord to meet all my needs. There is always someone who is praying for what you already have and take for granted. Maybe it has been given to you to meet their need. Perhaps we would see them if we choose to take a look around.
Luke 6:37-39 (NLT)
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
When we decide not to give to someone in need, when we have the means to do so – it is an act of judgment. Did I really just write those words? God is speaking to me directly today. I condemn others when I decide what they need and don’t need based on my personal assumptions rather than listening to their cry for help. Who am I? Faith says, “Give and you will receive!” I used to take so many things for granted. I really did. When the health of my child became my greatest desire and deepest need, everything changed because my perspective did. No longer looking at what the world thinks makes us successful and important, I began to see the importance of the Fruit of God’s Spirit. When money could not heal our child, Jesus did. When money could not meet our need or give us the desire of our heart, Jesus did not once but five times so far. Now I see that time is our greatest commodity, so this Christmas rather than worrying so much out perfection I have changed my perception. Time is the only thing that I have that cannot be replaced. I should share it with those who are important to me. I should tithe it because it is valuable giving some of it away. There is a promised attached to our giving. “Your gift will be returned to you in full-pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.” There is no mixed words or hidden implications for “the amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Before you stroke a healthy check for the offering or dig into your pockets for a few dollars for the homeless guy by Walmart, this is not a bad thing but is it what you really want back. Is money enough? I don’t think it is what God is after – He is calling us to give compassion this Christmas in the form of time, talent and treasure. We are His Hands and Feet. We are His Body. Money is not the answer but the Love of God is. Again, you still should give if your heart is led to do so but make sure that you are being led by your heart.
Luke 6:43-45 (NLT)
“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
The next time you are sitting by the tree, drinking a cup of your favorite hot coffee, looking at your Christmas list, why not inspect the fruit on your tree. What fruit is your life producing? I am doing the same with mine. I want new traditions this year. No more depression, worry or stress, but a season of joy, peace and love. I will not get it if I do not give it. I don’t just want to be a good person. I want to be God’s Girl this Christmas. It’s time to take a look around.
Luke 6:46-49 (NLT)
“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”
Our life is built on a foundation of faith. We are called and conditioned to prosper in this life. Everything God does has meaning and purpose whether we can see it now or not – we know it as a condition of His Great Love for us. We must become compassionate. We must love others and treat them as we want the Lord to treat us. We are called to love one another. It is the only commandment that Jesus Christ gave us to do. You get to decide what you will give. Faith demands it. Confident hope cultivates it. Opportunities surround us. We must just look around!
John 13:34-35 (NLT)
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”