My favorite time of year… Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Happy Holidays! And Merry Christmas!
My favorite time of year… Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Happy Holidays! And Merry Christmas!
Don’t I know it!
Remember, it is Thanksgiving!
It’s “that” time of year. It’s the season of holiday madness, black Friday deals, family tensions, disappointing football, and a general bah-humbug-i-ness that permeates and coagulates into an imperceptible emotional sludge. During the very time of year when we should be most thankful, filled with joy, peace, and love, many struggle to just keep trudging through.
I’ll admit there are days like that for me. So how do we focus? Where do we find the courage and strength just to deal with the realities of life during the “holidays?”
Maybe it is as simple as understanding that commercialism drains us, and God Himself wants to fill us. The lure and enticements of “the deal” can instantly shift our focus back to material, earthly concerns. We fuss and fidget to find that perfect gift for the ones we love, or we worry that the hints we’ve been dropping about what we “want” for Christmas haven’t been heard… because it’s on “sale” this weekend.
This year my prayer is that you will find Thanksgiving Happiness, and the Joy-filled Christmas you’ve always wanted. So, I’m praying that God will intervene personally in your life, in your mind, in your relationships, and in the core of your being with a simple truth to focus on.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
“Behold! The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means, “God with us”).
If God can make good on a four hundred year old promise, then we can trust that He will make good on the other promises He makes to us as true Christ-followers. One promise that I pray you will focus on this year is this:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Think of all that emotional sludge of this season as “the thief” in this verse, and don’t let it rob you of the joy, peace, and hope of this celebration time!
Live in such a way, through the next few days and weeks, that your very abundant life demonstrates God’s glory to the world around you.
Let’s be candid. Let’s be honest. Let’s be specific.
I know lots of good folks who say they “know” Jesus. There is a kind of “oh yeah, been there done that” to the way it comes across. But I remember one story where Jesus was talking to the leaders of Israel, who themselves thought they knew God better than anyone else on the planet. When Jesus confronted them with this statement, they went ballistic on Him.
And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
So, I guess the question today, from me to you, is: “How well do you know Jesus?”
If it causes you pause, if it challenges you a bit, I’m also offering this helpful list of “FACTS” or “Truth about Jesus.” I’m doing it to stimulate you once again to not just know about Him… but to know Him. Personally engage with the Master of the Universe, and discover something new. So go get your Bible and sit for a few minutes with the Truth.
Are you ready?
Here we go…
And this is just the short list…
There’s so much more!
Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!
Sometimes I experiment with my camera, but mostly I just focus, snap, and done.
Here’s a good example.
I’ve always liked the “holiday” season. With the coming of winter, the festive ways people adorn their homes and hearths, the abundance of food and friends gathered to give thanks, and a few weeks later give gifts in celebration of the Best Gift… it’s a great time of year, and it is upon us.
There are those around the world who don’t feel this way at all. Caught up in relationships where conflict and strife are abundant, tends to taint the festivities. Facing a newly diagnosed illness or disease will pretty much put a person in a dour mood, evident to anyone who engages them. Additionally, not everyone will have enough to eat on Thanksgiving, much less a Christmas Ham. For each person in one of these situations finding the merriment of the “holidays” is just like finding the Panda in this picture.
Yes, there is a Panda in this picture, and once you see it, you can never un-see it again.
This paradigm is also true for those who seek the real meaning of the “holidays.”
Because Thanksgiving is not about watching football on the “big” screen, or eating from a buffet fit for kings, to feed a family of five. Thanksgiving is about “giving thanks.” Right? And just like the image of the Panda, being truly thankful is elusive sometimes.
Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:17-18]
I realize you may think I’m doing the typical preacher platitude thing again. However, by quoting this verse, I’m NOT suggesting that you give “thanks” for whatever has robbed your “holiday” spirit this year. I’m saying this because I’m pretty sure, from personal experience, that this is not what Paul is teaching in this verse.
There is a big difference in being thankful in the middle of the stuff of life that attacks when you least expect it, versus being thankful “for the attack itself.” I’m suggesting that you consider it a joy, when God gets you through it, and act thankfully for God’s strength and power to deliver you, redeem you, and encourage you through it all.
I don’t thank God for everything. Not everything is “thanks” worthy. But what I do is, I thank God in everything I face. This verse also doesn’t say to put on your happy face, when you don’t really feel so happy.
Back to the Panda in the image for this article. If you haven’t found it yet, I’ll give you a clue. The Panda is the only one without a smile on its face. Why would he smile? The Panda is in this herd of snowmen. He’s probably feels a little out of place.
While all the snowmen merrily droll along, the Panda is out of its element, not happy, not joyful, and not thankful.
Even James isn’t saying be “thankful” [James 1:2-3] Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
Joy is not necessarily a synonym for thankfulness. Joy is a separate attitude all its own, fueled by a knowledge that nothing in our lives escapes God’s notice. So I can be joyful in times of sorrow or loss, and in the middle of it all, I can be thankful for God’s love for me. I can know that I am His and He is mine.
You don’t have to wear the smiling mask all the time. You don’t have to be like the hundreds of smiling people who droll along through life, pretending everything is ok, when it isn’t.
However, we know what God’s will is for us.
Pray for what exactly?
God’s glory to fill the earth?
God’s kingdom to come soon?
God’s will to be done in your life?
Daily food supplements?
To have the strength to forgive others?
Deliverance from temptation?
Sure, all that; it’s what Jesus Himself taught us to pray [Matthew 6:9-13].
And when you pray, don’t just spew meaningless spiritual verbiage in God’s general direction.
Or in some way offer droll statements in an attempt to diffuse your own pain. Just be real, be genuine, be authentic as a true believer. Stand out among the others around you who wear a smiling mask while they merrily droll along without hope.
If you haven’t found it yet, look hard for the Panda. In that same way, through you prayers to God, while being thankful and joyful, look hard for God’s grace, and you will find it. Nothing in your life escapes God’s notice.
color of sin, death and the darkness of night
image of my heart without forgiveness,
absence of light
Black is not my destiny…
for I am found, delivered, redeemed
my heart now filled with His goodness and light
directed to joy, hope, happiness, and life
Black no longer binds me…
just as it could not hold Him
it does not hold me
for I am in Him
and He is in me.
I guess this is one of the reasons I love Texas so much. This shot was taken from a cart path on hole #14 of the Slick Rock Golf Course at Horseshoe Bay, November 2, 2017. One of the golf course attendants told us it cost $1million to build. That’s a stretch for me, but on this particular day, it was beautiful! Not more than a breath of air, clean and bright, and the colors of fall were everywhere we looked.
It’s hard not to look at this image and see that God is indeed a wonderful designer/creator.
As winter approaches, soon the colors in this image will fade, making this one fleeting day all too temporary. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Minions make me laugh. Minions are hysterical!
It’s Friday! Strut!
#18: 348 yard dog leg left, fairway bunkers at 275 on the right, green-side bunker back and left. As I walked up to the green, after this exotic roller-coaster round of golf, 4 lost balls later, I was dancing with joy to learn I was about 5 feet for par on the final hole. Apple Rock Golf Course that day pretty much ate my lunch. But what a ride! The greens were immaculate, and rolled true, leaving little margin for error in either direction or speed. And I mean lightning fast speed! At 6,536 yards from the “regular” men’s tees, this course is a beast. As I was dancing with this beast, I found new meaning in the give-and-take of life.
Like Job at times, I suffered as this course would take a reasonably well-struck shot, and within a heartbeat of landing in the fairway, was out-of-bounds left due to the slope of the terrain. This stuck me then, as it does now, as a perfect metaphor for this life I live today.
Job said, [Job 1:1]
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Job’s perspective is not always easy to come to, is it? Things are rockin’-and- rollin’ along and life’s pretty good, then whammo! Everyone has “stuff” that happens to them, rocking their world, emotionally, financially, physically, or relationally. When the “taken away” part happens, it usually doesn’t result in much dancing does it?
The same guy (Job) that had it all “taken away” also came to realize that God also “gave.” The balance of knowing that God is sovereign, loves us unconditionally, and has a purpose for our existence, is what caused Job to declare through it all … Blessed be the name of the LORD!
This is the verbal equivalent of DANCING! And when you’re dancing, you also gain another insight, verbalized by Job in 19:25.
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another.
Sometimes it seems we are so close to God, so close to contentment, so close to discovering the real meaning of life, kind of like this 5-foot par putt. Then our human frailty lifts its head, and we miss the putt. Suddenly we allow our emotions to cloud our judgment, so we beat ourselves up for failing, instead of just enjoying the dancing.
In the now famous words of Lee Ann Womack…
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
#12: 155 yard cover, 165 yards to the pin. Apple Rock Golf Course at Horseshoe Bay down in the Hill Country of central Texas is a challenge for even the low handicap strikers of the golf ball. That said, even a mid teen handicap, like myself, found this hole mesmerizing. After waiting on the tee box for the green to clear, I promptly put my first ball in the water, short and right. “Splish splash I was taking a bath!” Not to be beaten, I teed up again and put the second on the green, and two putted for double bogey. The photo above helps gain some perspective of just how difficult this game really is. While the whole golf course at Apple Rock offered a great vacation experience, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to play this course as my “home” course. It is definitely not for the faint of heart.
At times my life seems captured in this imagine of a daunting tee shot. Much of what I face today is so challenging, there are days when I think “why bother?” Hazards and pitfalls loom at every turn, people and relationships can be dangerous and fraught with peril at the slightest twitch. But my life is no different than yours, right? You feel this way too at times, I’m sure. Life itself is not for the faint of heart. So how do we step up to the tee, throw down a ball, and gain the courage to go where God intends us to go?
2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
If I fail, then I fail, and I tee it up again… with a confidence that with the help of God I can do this.
I did it last week at Apple Rock.
I’ll do it again today, in real life… the life that counts… for God.