How important is focus? Last week's post talked about setting goals (if you missed it, click here). But we are all surrounded with good ideas and opportunities to help others and fun places to experience. Even if we took the time to pray and only write down what we believe God wants us to do this year, how closely do we really need to stick to it? Jesus's example Many of you are familiar with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus from the Bible. They were friends of Jesus, and, as they lived in Bethany on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives, He stayed in their home when He visited Jerusalem. John 11 relates the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead: Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
A new year. A fresh start. Many of you have set resolutions or goals for 2017. Some of you have already messed them up. That's okay! Start again. Progress is about moving forward, even if it's imperfect. I'm a big believer in goals. If I don't have something to aim for then I get lazy. I meander. I wander through life rather than seeking out the next great thing God has for me. But when I consider the past year and what I'd like to see done in the next, I get excited about the possibilities. Even when the last year had some bumps and twists that were neither planned for nor fun to walk through. I suspect, many of you run into the same big problem I do: What goals should I set? What if I set my sights too high? Or too low? What if I set one goal and something that seems better comes along?
What a year! In 2016, I graduated a son (my toughest student), published two new books for military spouses, and one new fiction novelette. What was the best of the best? What did you, my readers, like most? It was a mesh of military tips (like surviving a military move), friendship advice (avoiding the wrong friends), and finding what the Bible says about how involved we are supposed to be in each others lives. But to read the best of the best, or remind yourself of what you read earlier this year, this is the place to start.
It's the final few days before Christmas, and everything is falling into place. Presents are neatly wrapped and beautifully decorated under the tree. The Christmas ham or goose awaits the oven, and pie baking commences in the next day or two. What? Your holiday doesn't look Currier and Ives picture perfect? Mine either. I suspect we are not alone. The first Christmas I love nativity scenes and set out several around my home during December. While each has its unique beauty, they all share the same problem.
Why do you put up a Christmas tree? Why do you give presents? Why are candy canes a part of our Christmas traditions? Are you sure you know the full story? So many of the things we hang onto as truth, really aren't. Or, at least, the terms we use aren't defined well. For example, what's the highest mountain in the world? You just said Mount Everest, didn't you. Are you sure?
Today, author Sherry Gareis has stopped by to get our Christmas season started the right way. She asks some great questions we all need to consider. [And don't miss my newest giveaway!] Where in the CHRISTMAS is Jesus? Valid question, right? I mean CHRIST should be in CHRISTmas, shouldn’t He? THE NORM How do we usually show Jesus? Anyone own a ‘Jesus is the Reason for the Season’ pin? I have several and make no bones about wearing them during December. We display Jesus on our Christmas trees, right? I’ve got verses and nativity scenes on my tree. And how about on our Christmas cards? Isn’t that an easy way to share Jesus? Am I suggesting that pins, angels, and cards are bad? Of course not. Not at all! But are they enough? Could you be missing blessings?
I'd hurt her feelings, and she didn't want to talk to me. I gave her some time and space, yet a couple weeks later she still wouldn't talk to me. Our relationship felt irreparably broken. How can you heal a broken relationship? Should you always seek restoration, or does the Bible tell us that sometimes it's okay to walk away? And what if the other person refuses to talk to you about it? These are big questions, but important ones. Let's start with a more foundational one: How important are relationships?
Thanksgiving will soon be over, and you can breathe a sigh of relief. One holiday almost done, one more to go. This season brings out the worst in you: anger, depression, loneliness, bitterness. Your mind fills with the thoughts of what could have been, what should have been. If only . . . If you are in a fresh crisis, grieve. I want to make it clear that this post is not for those who are in the midst of a crisis. If you are coming out of a fresh loss, if tragedy turned your world upside down this year — give yourself grace. You do not need to have it all together with your happy face firmly planted for all to see this December. Instead, I'm talking to the person who thinks they have nothing to be grateful for. The person who faces a rough life, feels betrayed by a loved one, or stands between a rock and a hard place. The one stuck in a world of negative emotions because life hasn't been good or fair. While I empathize with your hard places and disappointments, I want to lovingly remind you of truth.
To be honest, before I started researching my fiction book Kindling Embers, I didn't give much thought to fire protection. We didn't have a lot of open flames around our house, rarely used candles or the grill, so what was there to worry about? According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments across the United States responded to a fire every twenty-three seconds in 2015. On average, fire departments reported one civilian injury due to fire every thirty-four minutes, and someone died due to fire every two hours and forty minutes. Maybe, we all have a lot to learn about the fire hazards in our homes.
In the United States, this Friday is the special day dedicated to honoring veterans. What comes to mind? Among other things, The Star Spangled Banner and Lee Greenwood's God Bless the U.S.A. Two very different songs, but they communicate the same things to this U.S. Air Force girl's heart. The same things I see when I look at the American flag and or any American uniform within our Department of Defense. Honor. Courage. Commitment to a cause bigger than themselves.