Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

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Satan Hates This New Year’s Resolution

January 5, 2015

This year I found myself crippled with indecision as New Year’s Day approached.  Not because my life is too perfect to choose a resolution…but because it is in such disarray.

I am angry at my kids too often.

I don’t eat as healthfully as I should.

I don’t exercise. Ever.

I fritter away countless hours on the Internet when I should be working.

My upstairs bathroom hasn’t been cleaned in weeks and the rest of the house isn’t much better.

I don’t do personal devotions daily. (GASP. Isn’t that the eleventh commandment…?  Wait, it’s not?  Huh…)

I stay up too late.

I don’t get up early enough.

I’m terrible about keeping on top of the laundry.

I am a mess.

My soul curled in a fetal position as potential resolutions swirled around me like accusations of the devil. I could list at least ten ways in which I could – and probably should – improve my life. How do I choose among so many when I should probably address them all?

I know exactly what would happen if I charged into the New Year with such a list.

I would fail.

Two weeks in – who am I kidding? Two days in! – I would falter. Soon, I’d forget about most of them altogether.  What’s the likelihood of even seeing one resolution through, in my current state? I wondered.  Pretty small.

I began to despair. My life is in such a mess that I can’t even imagine making a single New Year’s resolution! What a disaster I am!

Finally, the solution came to me.

I would make one, and only one resolution.

It would be the easiest resolution in the world.

It doesn’t require me to lift a finger.

It doesn’t require me to make any major life changes.

I don’t have to buy equipment or special gear. In fact, I don’t have to spend any money for it at all!

I can do it anytime, anywhere, without advance preparation.

It sounds like the easiest resolution in the world!  But I didn’t choose it because it was easy. (In fact, it is surprisingly hard to do.)  I chose it for its power.  Because this single, tiny resolution has the power to fix all the rest of my mess, to strength my hands to fight bad habits and my mind to have more willpower.

Are you ready to hear it?

Pray More.

That’s it.  That’s the entirety of my New Year’s resolution.

As I sat there, paralyzed by the disarray of my life, buffeted by Satan’s accusations on how far I fall short, I realized something – I can never do it all.  Not by myself.  And I know this, and yet I have been neglecting the heavenly Source of all my strength!  Ashamed by my failures, lately I have more and more avoided the Giver of all good gifts, feeling too small and dirty to enter His throne room and cast my needs before Him.

But the small and dirty are the ones He loves.  They are the ones for which He pours out his life!

Is it any wonder I have become such a hot mess of lazy habits and clueless time wasting?  Is it any wonder that I feel sucked of vitality, unable to even tackle the smallest resolution?  I have not been seeking out the company and help of the greatest of Helpers.  Sick, I was afraid to go to the Healer.  Broken, I was too ashamed to petition for repair.  Weak, I thought for certain I was in no shape to call out to the Strong to carry me!

I lift my eyes up to the hills;
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made of heaven and earth.
– Psalm 121:1-2

Satan would love it if I embarked on 2015 with a heavy, burdensome list of requirements, striving to fulfill them in my own limited strength.  But he hates it when God’s children go to Him in prayer!  Alone, we are weak and easy to pick off, like straggling travelers.  In prayer, we gain the aid of the greatest Help there is, Who can blow Satan and our sin out of the water in a moment if we ask Him.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. – James 4:10

All that wretched mourning and weeping always makes me cringe as I read.  Who wants to do that?

But how can I possibly do anything else! – when I know how wretched I am and how much I need the saving help of my Lord?

I tend to distance myself from people when I feel I am doing poorly.  I don’t want to feel the weight of their judgment, even if it’s only in my imagination.  So coming to the Lord in prayer when I feel so ineffective and messy is hard.  It requires the humility of admitting I need help.  It requires the mourning of repentance.

But because of my Lord Jesus, I will find that when I come to Him like this, there is no judgment.  Only open arms.  God is in the business of helping sinners.  It is His delight to lift us up and glorify Himself through those who are pathetic, weak, sad, and helpless.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope. – Matthew 12:20

I have a strong aversion to anything that sounds like an “input = output” approach to faith, that is, suggesting that if you pray, your life will be better, or that if you do daily devotions, you’ll be happier or more motivated – or otherwise making devotional acts a means to any end other than closeness with my Savior.  Aren’t those kinds of approaches, at the root, born of selfish motivation?

Truly, prayer can make your life harder.  Haven’t we all prayed that innocent prayer for sanctification and then been walloped, hard, by situations that changed and grew us painfully?  Prayers like that often lead us into harder things.  But have you ever regretted that kind of prayer once you’re on the other side?  I never have!

In 2015, I resolve to pray more.  It is one of the most important things I could do, and when I am leaning on my Rock, there is nothing else I cannot accomplish.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.  The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:16-17

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Did you make a New Year’s resolution?  If so, what was it?

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“It Just Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas!”

December 24, 2014

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One of the hard things about married life has been adjusting to the fact that holiday traditions – especially Christmas ones – will never be the same again.  I will never get to go back to the Christmas Days I enjoyed growing up.

I don’t get cozy new jammies and a book from my parents on Christmas Eve anymore.

I don’t get to sit with my siblings at the top of the stairs, antsy and eager, and then rush down to see our “big gifts” sitting unwrapped in the middle of the room.

For several early years of our marriage I didn’t get a stocking to empty.

The tattered quilt of tradition

I’ve spent years clinging to “the way it used to be,” desperately tugging together the disparate bits of joy I remember from my youth and trying to piece them into a familiar kind of Christmas, like a ragtag patchwork quilt.

But no matter how I finagle it, of course it is never quite the same.

I had far too many items on the list of “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas unless…!”

– unless we have that delicious chocolate raspberry trifle
– unless we arrive at my family’s early enough to be there when my siblings come downstairs
– unless I have a stocking to open
– unless we do an advent calendar
– unless we watch these specific Christmas movies during December
– unless, unless, unless

And somehow I had to fit these “feel like Christmas musts” into a life that now includes not one family but two…a life where we switch back and forth between my husband’s family and mine for Christmas Day…a life where we celebrate with the other family on Christmas Eve in “off years” (opening presents before Christmas!  Horrors!)…a life with very small children (currently battling pink eye!).

This is the year that I finally let it go.

I stopped asking myself, “How can I make this Christmas feel as much like my childhood memories as possible?” and instead I’m wondering, “What kind of Christmas memories do I want my children to have?” and planning my own traditions accordingly.  I’m not trying to replicate my childhood – wonderful though it was – but taking the life we have and making a joyous Christmas of it.  It includes many familiar traditions, but I mean to create memories for my kids, not only tickle my own sense of nostalgia.

Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more

As much as we might say, “Don’t forget Jesus is the reason for the season!” it’s easy to get caught up in nostalgic family traditions and value those above what’s truly important: the reality that Christ has come into the world – for the lost, for the lonely, for the hurting.  He comes to mend broken hearts, to bind up the wounded, to give His life for the repentant Pharisee and the repentant reprobate alike.

In this world, nothing is certain.  Traditions have to change.  People move away.  Beloved family members die.  There are empty chairs around many Christmas tables as children move out and start their own families or new jobs across the country.  In some homes, mothers hold together Christmas traditions for their children, all while knowing that inside their belly, the tiny bundle of joy that was going to grace their coming New Year no longer has a beating heart.  There are many who could listen to the Whos’ refrain in the old, animated Grinch movie – “Christmas Day is in our grasp as long as we have hands to clasp!” – and can only think of the hands they do not have any more to hold.

My own “complaints” are nothing compared to those who are truly feeling the loss of “Christmas Past” or even any “Christmas Present.”  For as many as celebrate the holidays with perfect peace, there are equally as many or more hearts crying out, “How long, Lord?  How long?”

For when it doesn’t feel like Christmas

Some days and some years, it just won’t “feel like Christmas”.  And that’s okay.  We can’t hold on to Christmas traditions and warm holiday fuzzies eternally, but we can hold on to the true and greatest gift of God.  There is a King Who has come, Who is here, and Who is coming again, and He is preparing a place for us.

This year I am determined to be done thinking, “Ugh, it really doesn’t feel like Christmas,” when things don’t go my preferred way, and instead proclaim with joy, in good times and bad, “It’s Christmas!!  Let’s celebrate!”

There are times the glowing lights, traditions, sweets, and decorations seem tacky, unfamiliar, or shallow to us.  But there is never a time we cannot claim the promise of God and sing with grateful hearts, “Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel!”

He is here to bring us a sure, unbroken eternity of joy.

O come, let us adore Him!

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:10-14

Merry Christmas, dear readers!