THE GIFT AND THE GIVER ALL WRAPPED IN LOVE

Christmas image

Christmas is my favorite time of year. There is always a distinct shift in the atmosphere, a sense of anticipation and an awareness of peace that often overshadows any adverse circumstances I may be experiencing. I can also recall a time when Christmas was more about celebrating the birth of Christ, and gifts were more to commemorate the ultimate Gift and the Giver. Yet, how many times over the years have I declared that I am not feeling the “Christmas spirit?”

Unfortunately, some will not experience the peace, warmth and joy that come with celebrating that glorious and mystical event. And a holiday that is suppose to bring the conclusive message of hope and peace for all mankind, sadly and ironically, will trigger depression, hopelessness, aloneness, or a heightened awareness of lack for many. Because it is such an intimate time for friends and family, it can also be a painful reminder of the love we have lost and what once was.

So, as I am writing this, I am wondering, could it be that these feelings are actually revealing of the first Christmas? Have we lost sight of the painful part of the message of Christ and God’s indescribable gift?” Following the angel Gabriel announcement to Mary that she was to be the mother of Jesus, nothing was normal or comfortable for her and Joseph. Mary was accused of been unfaithful and endured malicious gossips. We could say it was a joyous, but nevertheless painful time for her. She and Joseph had to flee the comfort of home to protect our Lord from Herod. And where was the Merry Christmas for the Messiah? He became human to suffer indignity and pain for our salvation, and the hope of heaven.

There is no doubt the message and the significance of Christmas have been mangled by a “gimme” culture and political correctness. It has been distorted for commercial gains, misrepresented to appease religions and pacify atheism, and in so doing we have devalued the greatest gift of all—Christ. So this Christmas, as you reflect on the gift and sacrifice of this supreme love, remember to say “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

So if you do not get extravagant gifts or invitations to fancy parties, do not allow Christmas to become a reminder of what you have lost or what is missing, and do not allow loneliness and depression to overshadow the greatest love of all. For while we cannot stuff Christ in a box and wrapped Him with ribbons, we carry Him year ‘round in our hearts and He never stop giving undeserved grace to see us through loneliness. This supreme gift was not thoughtlessly chosen or casually given. Therefore, if you find yourself alone or feeling lonely during the holiday season, remember that our Father’s timing was perfect when He sent Christ, and at the right time He will respond to your needs. So do not give up hope or compromise your peace for what the world has to offer. The Messiah is available all year-round to pour into every aspect of your life. He has promised that He will never leave you or forsake you, and that He will always be there with you. And He cannot lie.

Thank you for your support during 2015. I wish you joy, love and many blessings in the years to come!

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LET US COME BEFORE HIM WITH THANKSGIVING

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Several years ago, my siblings and I started a Thanksgiving tradition, which continues today. At our thanksgiving dinner, we all gather around the dinner table and hold hands while each family member, including the children, take turns and share what we are thankful for that year. During the years when we were bruise or battered by events such the loss of loved ones or financial difficulties, those brief moments of remembrance and thanksgiving never fail to reignite our passion for God. Those special moments always offer new hope for the year ahead, and I continually gain strength and confidence in recalling instances when God had intervened in my circumstances. Not to mention the rate of returns I enjoyed because of the lessons I learned from depending on Him.

However, during the 2008 recession, there were some of us who had to determine in our heart that in spite of our financial difficulties we were going to continue trusting God. It is through those times of hardships, which are often blessings in disguise that God’s children come to understand that we always have more than enough for our harvest of thanksgiving.

So I understand the importance of a thankful heart. I have learned to be thankful in good times and in challenging times. I recognize that during my times of pruning I need to be especially mindful to be grateful for what I have, and not focus on what is lacking. Understanding Christ’s heart for His children and maintaining an attitude of gratitude will always sustain and restore us through the lean times.

Just as prayers are sometimes rush because of our “to do list,” we tend to be more reflective and thankful when all is going well. But the Apostle Paul reminds us to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Our gratitude should not sway during the dry, lean seasons. Just as we are commanded to pray continually, we are to give thanks continually with a joyful heart. The following verse rings true in my own life: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11 NIV).

Recently, while working on an incredible painful writing project, I was reminded of how far God has carried me through pain and sorrow. I reflected on the things He withheld from me so I could learn to depend on Him. And I took time to give Him thanks because He forgives my sins, heals my shattered heart, loves me, and blesses me.

It’s tempting to complain about the things that are missing in our life. It’s easy to be resentful or bitter over what we have lost, and self-pity can be very enticing. But if we look around us at what is happening, particular in the Middle East, there is plenty for which to be grateful. As my late mother loved to quote, “Once there is life, there is hope.” In this wonderful country of America, we can be thankful no one is being persecuted or murdered for worshiping a loving and patient God. We can be thankful for the hope of that last harvest that is yet to come.

 

 

A SNIPPET FOR THE WEEK

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today, is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.” ~ Excerpted from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

TAKE A LEAP INTO THE LIGHT

A few years ago I read a book by WM. Paul Young call The Shack: Where Tragedy confronts Eternity. Young states, “Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect.” This suggests that if we have taken the time to create an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father, we will not only understand His character, but also love, respect and trust His purpose for us. Also, once we trust His purpose, we will be more willing to surrender our will for His will. I thought about David’s total dependency and his devotion to God, especially when he was running from Saul, which happened only because he had cultivated a true relationship with Him. But it also seems that the whole point of being a Christian is to yield to God, to accept His invitation and grasp His hand, allowing Him to lead us through the challenging times.

However, the issue may be that the world sees surrendering as a sign of weakness, giving up control, or admission of defeat. And while God did not command us to be doormats, the “starting point” to righteousness or greatness is always submission. By yielding to God’s command, Abraham departed for parts unknown and became the father of many nations and Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt. By saying, “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38), young Mary surrender to God’s plan without knowing what was in store for her. When we submit to God’s will, we demonstrate faith, strength, righteousness and wisdom, and we become moldable and useable. An intimate relationship with God empowers us because it’s letting go of our resistance to the total openness of who we were created to be, and would not otherwise be without His control or direction.

Remember, it was in the Garden of Eden that our first ancestors abandoned their intimate relationship with God to assert their individuality. And now we are continually searching for something outside of God and ourselves to fill that gap, or heal a relationship many are not even aware has been broken. Since then, men have been seeking to reestablish their identity, value, and security through work, while women are trying to find it in relationships, when all we need to do is reestablish our original relationship with God. But we can only surrender willingly to someone we love and respect, and this is the basic concept of a relationship with God.

Still, for some to surrender to God would be to commit intellectual suicide. But when knowledge is insufficient, or fails to answer the unpredictability of life, we begin to look behind spirituality and question God. A. W. Tozer states, “The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to a the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.” Webster states that to surrender is to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting because you know that you will not win or succeed. We struggle so hard just to survive, when we could simply meet at the starting point on our knees, and surrender to the One who has already secured our victory lap. God knows the distance, timing and outcome of the race, and while it is not our nature to surrender without a fight, life has a way of forcing us to our knees—willingly or unwillingly—for it is where we find good relief.

International Poetry Month

The Tongue of Words

Condensed milk, thick and sweet
is how I like my poetry
flowing consistently
comforting as cornmeal porridge on a rainy day

Sometimes my poetry
taste spicy as scotch bonnet peppers
emerging from under the clumsy shuffle of new love
embracing her power, palatable, full of herself

My poems blaze and spread red
leaving imprints brilliant as poinsettias
marching to their own drumbeat
disciplined and with a moral conscience

My poems have grown muscular arms and legs
and gallop away from the ordinary crowd
their voices loud and tender
moving to their own vibrant rhythm

 

Celebrating Black History Month

Testament
BY CAROLYN M. RODGERS

child,
in the august of your life
you come barefoot to me
the blisters of events
having worn through to the
soles of your shoes.

it is not the time
this is not the time

there is no such time
to tell you
that some pains ease away
on the ebb & toll of
themselves.
there is no such dream that
can not fail, nor is hope our
only conquest.
we can stand boldly in burdening places (like earth here)
in our blunderings, our bloomings
our palms, flattened upward or pressed,
an unyielding down.

Understanding the Path to Fulfillment and Happiness

There is no doubt the world is aching for joy. It is perhaps the one thing all humanity seeks—since the fall of our first ancestors—and which continues to escape so many of us. From the appeal of books such as The Secret and Eat Pray Love, joy is an elusive commodity for many, even followers of Christ. When you consider all the self-help books and sought-after motivational speakers out there (some not without merit) proposing the secrets to living a joyful life, it is easy to see that this is a human dilemma. But this quest for peace that transcends all understanding is nothing new. Almost 3,000 years ago, King David—with all his wisdom, money, power, and intellect—experienced this same dilemma, only to conclude that life is empty and meaningless without God leading.

The Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And today, we are still disillusioned, tired, frustrated, and unfulfilled because we are searching for joy and happiness through power, possessions, relationships, and entertainment. But oftentimes, our search has not only placed an impossible burden on others to make us happy, but it has afflicted us with moral blindness and an insatiable appetite for instant gratification.

However although the desire to be happy is innate in all of us, joy is more than merely happiness. It is a fruit of the Spirit, and perhaps it has eluded us because we are pleasure-seekers instead of Christ-seekers. Jesus tells us to “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 KJV). Unlike happiness, which is contingent more on external actions, joy flows from within and by believing and attending to God’s Word. C. S. Lewis states, “Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.” David writes, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures evermore (Psalm 16:11 NKJV). Joy is a life-giving and Christ-sustaining emotion, and believers should have that sense of security, in spite of what our circumstance may be telling us.

God, in His infinite wisdom, gives us everything we need. But regardless of what the world tells us, living a jubilant life will not happen simply by positive thinking or by the power of intention. As a fruit of the Spirit, joy is the spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit in us, and so it requires a relationship with God to thwart our self-indulgence tendencies. However, when that relationship is broken or fragmented, joy is not sustainable. When we keep in constant, close communication with Christ, joy is assured even when setback seems imminent. David declared, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rest is safety” (Psalm 16:8-9 NLT). Real joy is of Christ, in Christ, and no one or nothing can fill us like Christ can. It is the path to living a jubilant life!

First published in the July issue of Truth in the News Magazine