Expecting Light: Peace

two candlesEver notice how the second week of December seems to ramp up?  As Christmas approaches with all of its traditional accoutrements, our schedules become increasingly chaotic.  As if holiday decorations, gift buying, and planning for vacation periods wasn’t enough, every time we turn around there’s always just one more thing…a band concert at the kids’ school, donating items for the local food bank, a cookie exchange with the neighbors, the company party, arrangements for out-of-town relatives, trips to the mall and the mailpost, and the list goes on…

My ministry partner and I still perform a very popular ditty we wrote several years ago to the tune of “Supercalifragilistic” from Mary Poppins.  The chorus goes like this:           Super tired, cooking, cleaning, shopping for my gift list.  All the while just feeling that my body’s rather listless.  If things don’t get done I’ll be a failure and be blissless, running like a chicken with my head cut off at Christmas!

Busyness may be universal at this time of year, but the truth is, when we lose focus on the true meaning of Christmas and instead get caught up in the spinning and the crazy culture in which we live, we can actually miss the peace and the beauty that is at the heart of this Holy Season!

Yet, what if the problems we’re facing aren’t just a result of an over-extended schedule?  Sure, making the choice to simplify may be a great solution for some, but what if we’re talking about BIGGER problems?  What about the trials of illnesses and death, divorce, financial ruin, or pain and suffering from a variety of other causes?  Honestly Friends, this is what Christmas is all about!

We live in a fallen world where there is pain, where people hurt one another, and where even the Earth itself suffers from years of mis-management.  Christmas reminds us of God’s ultimate love for us– where Jesus, the Prince of Peace, gave up his heavenly home to come and live with us in our poverty and ignorance.  It’s a holiday that shows us God’s faithfulness can be trusted.  He came to rescue us from ourselves, and He’s coming back!  As we make our way through December, tempted by consumerism and frazzled by the to-do list, or perhaps grieving a bigger tragedy this year, let’s try to remember that true peace isn’t about our circumstances at all, but Peace comes with knowing, believing, and trusting in our souls that God is with us, He is good, and He has a plan.  We really can expect the light to push away the darkness!

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The Things I Don’t Have (for which I am still grateful)

Lately it seems I’m living in the land of whiners– Seriously Pacific Northwesterners, must you complain about every cloud and raindrop and temperature dip “below normal” for this time of year?  And what about all of the negative news the media bombards us with each day?  I think I remember reading a statistic that said if events in the world were proportionate to the way news is covered, (negative stories to positive stories) we would have destroyed the planet by now!  Is it any wonder people have a hard time with the concept of experiencing true joy?  I’m not just talking about “glass half-full” optimism, or happiness in fortunate circumstances, or even a giddy, childlike emotion; I’m talking about finding joy even at the bottom, & having a really tough time…

It so happens a couple of women’s book study groups at my church are reading Kay Warren’s book, “Choose Joy”, (I highly recommend it!!) and our discussions have got me thinking.  Many people will talk about creating a gratitude list of our blessings, and to add to it regularly. While this makes great sense, doesn’t it also add to the myth that joyful feelings follow positive thoughts and circumstances only? What if, I wondered, we created a list of the things we don’t have– traditionally the negative or painful things of life and chose to be grateful for them as well?  Well, I’ve started my list (below) and would love to hear your thoughts / additions in the comments! Feel free to forward it to your friends too!! Who knows?  Maybe together we can help inspire people to put a stop to their whining and begin celebrating all they have, and ALL THEY DON’T!!

I’ve lost my mom, wrecked my knee, struggled with depression, and battled chronic aches and pains –these make me compassionate

I’ve let go of lofty aspirations for myself and my children, owned my baggage, peeled away the cover of denial, and accepted trials as opportunities to grow– these build my character 

I’ve got a limited wardrobe, an 11 year old Subaru that I share with my son, and I am woefully lacking skills in gardening, housecleaning, and technology–these keep me humble

I’ve experienced rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and a long-held belief that I was unlovable–these drew me to seek Jesus

And now in the hard stuff, I have a life of joy I never imagined was possible.