Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It is also the most worrisome and burdensome time of the year for some people. My “Martha mentality” is kicking into overdrive. The list has been rewritten multiple times over the last couple of weeks. Already about halfway done with my Christmas shopping and the Thanksgiving turkey is not in the oven yet, one might think that I am ahead of the game. Would someone please tell my mind that as she keeps putting the hamster on the wheel and telling it to run? Ever feel like that as your mind begins to process the holidays, like a little rodent on a wheel to nowhere especially at night, it just runs and runs. Interfering with sleep, causing anxiety as the expectations of family seem to fall on our shoulders. Perfect means, plethora of presents, making Kodak moments, holiday soirees, and if that wasn’t enough we have a couple Christmas babies in our family – Hooray!
Before we officially kickoff the holiday season by overindulging in food, sleeping it off to repeat again until gone, can we get a game plan? I am making one final list to work from and hopefully this time I will get it right. I saw a revised “Holiday List” on Facebook yesterday that reminded me of my good intentions before Thanksgiving was suddenly upon us. It read as follows:
Holiday To Do List.
- Buy Be Presents.
- Wrap Gifts Someone in a Hug.
- Send Gifts Peace.
- Shop for Donate Food.
- Make Cookies Love.
- See Be the Lights.
You get the point. I did. I want to be present this year and experience the thankfulness of His Faithfulness during Thanksgiving right up to celebrating His Great Love given on Christmas Day. For the last several years, it has been a struggle with many years ending cancer treatment just in time to make home for these holidays, I am so very thankful for a year of remission and our family coming together to focus on Jesus and all He has done. But if I am not careful, I will easily become overwrought and owned by the list of demands placed on myself by society’s hand.
I Thessalonians 5:16 (NIV) Rejoice always!
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! It seems like such an easy concept to learn until one attempts to exercise it daily. In every moment and every season, salvation is enough to live a life of celebration. It is not based on what we have or do not have but who we are in Jesus Christ. I am a task minded person who struggles with my to do list daily. For the type A personality, success and failure is dictated by the items not crossed off or accomplished in our designated time frame. The Lord is reminding us today that if we do purchase a single present, attend one party, or even put up a tree – we have every reason to live a life of rejoicing. Stress and anxiety are not spirits given by God. They are not emotions produced by the Holy Spirit. When present, they must be severely and harshly dealt with and never entertained to maintain the true joy we have in Jesus.
Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. When two or more are gathered in His Name, He is there. Whether you are entertaining a houseful, or having a quaint family gathering we must strive in all things to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient. Agreed? Okay. Now let’s take it to the streets, after the turkey is demolished, kitchen is cleaned, sale papers thoroughly perused and game plan made, many will hit the streets for Black Friday. Now let’s repeat…we must strive in all things to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient…even at Target, Walmart and BestBuy. A couple years ago, on Thanksgiving night, a local store was opening at 8:00 PM with an incredible boot sale. I have three daughters this really was a no brainer. We bundled up and drove over to the store with grandma to be met with about 100 people already in line. Together we stood for about an hour visiting with the people in line until about 10 minutes before they opened. Now about that time a group of ladies of all ages, started hanging around up to no good. It was clear that they intended to rush the line. The store was giving away gift cards to the first 200 people. My mother-in-law was mad. She was ready to take these ladies on head on. It took some serious convincing to back her down – she is a feisty one. Was it right that they skipped in line, of course not? I understand that they did not wait their turn. But my God who supplies all my needs, as well as, doing more than I can think to ask has me covered. Once in the store, we simply stood and watched the madness like a shark frenzy I have never seen anything like it over $20 shoes. It was crazy. When the excitement died down, I had a couple of things that were on sale and headed to checkout. My gift card turned out to be worth $100 which paid for my purchase. Lesson learned. There is blessing in maintained godly character in an ungodly character. I don’t have to fight for what is rightly mind, He gives me the best stuff.
Forgiveness. I am going to leave this one here without much to say. You know. The person you need to forgive. Not because they deserve it, but such an act sets us free to live without the weight and burden of bitterness. Often we are forced to face these problematic relationships otherwise ignored. What better way to honor Jesus who full of grace forgave us to forgive another.
I Peter 5:7 (NIV) Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. We can worry about some really useless things considering that my God will supply all my needs, not according to the rotting and decay “stuff” in this world, but His Riches in Glory. If my heart and mind want only the things that this life has to offer, we will remain burdened and heavy laden. When we allow worries, cares and anxiety to remain in us, it will begin to thrive in the form of doubt, discontentment and bitterness. Our perspective on life is dictated by that which we put our trust in. If I look to my job as my provider, I miss out on what the One True Provider has for me because I put my faith in lesser things. Although I have been away during the rush and push before Christmas, thanks to online shopping presents have made it under the tree. However, what I have learned in this journey of life embarked upon is that it really didn’t matter to me as much as all my babies big and small being together. I took that for granted way too long. We become anxious and overwrought over the wrong things. With Jesus all things are possible, nothing is impossible. He has given us His Promise and written in His Word, so we do not have to be afraid but step boldly into His Presence. It says in Matthew that it is those worries and cares that choke it out before it can take root. I will be anxious or nothing and in every situation pray and petition the Lord THANKFULLY. Contentment will produce thankfulness in our life.
I Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Be thankful. If you begin each day thanking God for your life now, it will dictate the rest of your day. Thankfulness in prayer reminds our heart, mind and soul of all the good things God has done in our life. It reminds us of the very thing Jesus is doing in us and through us. Suddenly, the list of wants and needs begin to dwindle in the midst of satisfaction. If we live a life of thankfulness, we soon find that our perspective in life changes as we become wealthy and rich in our spirit.
Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. My favorite Christmas movie is Elf. I cannot wait to watch it over and over again. At one point, Buddy calls himself a “cotton headed ninny muggins” which must be a form of elfin character slur who knows. I call myself that sometimes when in the midst of the holiday push I find that like Martha I have gotten lost in the doing and am not present like Mary as I should be. This is a problem that is resolved first in our mind. We must fix our thoughts on what really matters and decide in our heart to stick with the plan. The Lord promises perfect peace to those whose minds are steadfast and trust Him. Worry, care and stress do imply that we trust the Lord but confirm otherwise. We must cast down them down and allow God’s Perfect Peace even when the rest of the world thinks otherwise.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. One final thing on my new to do list, I must practice what I preach. I must put into practice all that I have learned from my prime example – Jesus Christ. It is ironic that during a season meant to honor the Lord, the worst comes out in us many times. The enemy will do anything to ruin the celebration of the Birth of Christ because it was the day that his death sentence became a reality signed the day Jesus died. He has no future. He has not heart. The only way that we overcome His Attacks and Advances against our life is to run the race of faith and follow Jesus. If I will just practice all that I have learned and received from the Lord, I will have joy and peace in my life. Love came down and rescued me. Love came down and set me free. I have all I need to prosper in peace every day of my life even the busiest of them. We have all that we need to be thankful for if we have Jesus as our Savior and Lord. If that sounds shallow to you, you must go deeper in Him to understand that potential of His Love. Begin each day thanking the Lord. After you have exhausted all thankfulness, hand Him what’s left called burden and care and leave it in His Capable Hands. Decide that this season you will practice love and not tradition. Look and listen to the people around you they will tell you they want things but what they want most is love. We know the Source of Love, Joy AND Peace so let’s share Him. Random acts of kindness are excellent ways to give back. Overly thank your cashier, she has probably already been cussed out several times. Hold the door open for others and smile as they walk by. Don’t avoid that person who is overbearing by pretending not to see them at the mall – you are never too busy to be kind and compassionate – it’s the Lord’s Work for you to do. Give yourself; presents lose their value but you are priceless. Be present. This for me is the most important one. Martha feels comfortable in the kitchen. I need to sit with Mary and learn to be at the Master’s Feet, playing games with the kids, watching football with the husband and sharing life with those I love. This is my holiday to do list.
John 14:26-27 (NIV)
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.