A Christian Hates Carols and Trees?

Why would any Christian hate Christmas trees or Christmas carols?

Back when my kids were younger our Christmas season was so stressful with all the grandparent gift competition and squabbling over where we were spending the day, I was so disgusted with it all that I simply quit. I actually stopped putting up a tree for quite a few years! We all needed to focus on the joy and not the gift. Consequently, I was called a Scrooge by quite a few so-called Christians! Because I didn’t decorate the way they thought I should? I was a Scrooge. Hmmm… Since Christmas is supposed to be about the birth and not the tree, I ignored those comments because they showed the position of their heart.

When I did some research, I found the word “Christmas” is short for “Christ’s Mass” given from the Catholic Church. Christ’s actual Birth was (according to the Roman census) in early September, not the end of December. As with most holidays, they evolve. The church wanted to coincide with the pagan holidays and this one fell on winter solstice. (Just Bing search it!) I don’t believe for one second that Jesus cares one iota if we celebrate his birthday. I do believe he does care that we celebrate his life! I do believe he cares that we honor his death and the sacrifice he made for all mankind. And I do believe he gives us the joy of celebrations, whenever they are, because he loves us! After all, his first miracle was at a party!

But Christmas Carols in November?? I think I finally figured out why Christmas Carols make me change the radio station faster than Frosty snowboarding with Clark Griswald! All songs have a subject. Originally, these songs were written to bring light to the birth of the Christ, the Savior of the World. It’s all about the “fluff”. Momma’s, don’t we all know how messy birthing babies can be? Yet, even through the pain and the mess, we find love looking in that little baby’s face, then we turn around and do it all over again! We smile at the goodness while ignoring the ugly. That’s what a Christmas Carol is all about. Sweet and beautiful.

So why the sink in my soul every time I hear a carol? The same sink that made me put away the tree. The meaning and joy has been zapped right out of it! Let me ask you this, do you hear a song about the life of Jesus in a major retail store any other time of the year? No. We wouldn’t want to offend anyone, right? But during the Holidays, carols are promoted because studies prove that people buy more “stuff” when they are played over the intercom. Our society has evolved the Christmas Holiday into commercialism. I get depressed just thinking about all the junk I’m subliminally made to feel I should buy, and the ungrateful people who could care less about their gifts, and all the money wasted.

I have to always remember the enemy has been trying to thwart Christianity for over 6,000 years. He is pretty good at taking the good things God created and using them for evil. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” People and things are not our enemy…attitudes are. We can’t throw out the baby with the bath water!

Eventually, I began to focus on things that will matter a hundred years from now. People not presents. I’m not worried about who can come to Christmas dinner and who can’t or won’t. We can always get together another weekend. I don’t stress about the perfect gift. Personally, I treasure homemade gifts. Yesterday, my dad gave me a present of a handpicked perfect mix of nuts, full of Brazilians!! That two pound can he wrapped up is by far the best present I’ve had in years!

Yes, we still exchange gifts, and I still decorate my house, but I focused on nativity sets, which represents the purpose for the season. We stopped putting our gifts under the tree (yes, I do have a tree these days), though now our new tradition is to put them under the large nativity, the reason for the season. The kids began focusing on giving and not receiving, and I stopped feeling guilty for not buying them everything society said I should. Win.

Amazingly enough, the Joy came back! And…every once in a while…I’ll even sing a carol or two.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” ~John 3:16-17

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Comfort & Healing Journal

Comfort & Healing Journal

Do you or someone you know need a little encouragement today? Are you or someone you know, experiencing the pain of loss? The holiday season can be very tough for those of us who are grieving. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or the loss of a marriage, we all grieve. Journaling through that process helps us to grow and not get stuck. Here is my latest endeavor with Thinking Tree Publishing Company. This journal helps give encouragement from others in the same situation, and helps point to the hope God gives.

Don’t give up on hope. Don’t give up on life. You are loved!

Click here: Creative Journal & Coloring Book for Comfort & Healing

Here is an excerpt:

A Letter From Nora :

When Sarah asked if I would put this book together, I thought to myself, “Sure! This one will be a piece of cake!” And then life hit…and death hit…

About three quarters of the way into this project, a close family friend committed suicide. Her death was a shock to most people because of the way she lived her life. She lived as a committed Christian, always the first to help others, and at almost 70 years of age she was a devoted grandmother. And yet, she suffered from devastating depression most of her life.

Consequently, we are all left with nothing but the “why” questions. Some things in life are unexplainable. Why would an innocent baby die? Why would I lose that perfect job? Why would my husband decide he didn’t want to be married anymore? Why did my dad leave? Why did my adult child reject me? Why would a natural disaster wipe out a lifetime of memories? Why didn’t I notice my friend was suffering before committing suicide? And the resounding question of all time: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Book written by my good friend, Mark Tabb

And…we grieve.

I have all the head knowledge, but still, I grieve. I know all the pat answers, but still, I grieve. Grief is messy. Each of us grieves differently, for we are all unique. Some people cry outwardly, others internalize. Some will hide from life, while some will busy themselves with every activity available. Experts say we experience at least two of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. In my own grief, I simply could not pick up this book on grief. Every time I wrote a sentence, the words sounded dry. I shut down my social media. I wouldn’t talk about it. I wouldn’t cry. I felt paralyzed. I just needed time. I needed time to process our loss. God allows us that time to grieve. He allowed the Israelites to grieve for 30 days after Moses died. Then he instructed Joshua to tell them to pull up their boot straps and move on into the Promise Land. God allowed Job to ask all the “why” questions when he endured suffering upon suffering, and did not count it against him.

In my processing, I remembered that as long as we live in an imperfect world, with imperfect people, bad things will happen to both the good and bad. But…good things will also happen to both the good and bad. In those times, both good and bad, I remembered that God is always good. It’s ok to be mad at God, as our children are mad at us when things don’t go their way. His grace allows us to grieve. I don’t believe God causes the bad things to happen in life, it’s simply the consequences of life in an imperfect world. Though we may never understand why /he allows bad things to happen, He always works everything out for our good. (See Romans 8:28) Though we may feel all alone in our grief, we have a creator who understands our pain and loss more than anyone.

Sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes He will calm His child in the middle of the storm.

When did I start functioning again? When I got out of bed in the morning. When I put one foot in front of the other. When I took a walk with my camera, forcing myself to see God’s beauty through a different lens. When I smiled at the check-out lady because she was stressed and watched her smile back. When I took dinner to a friend who was suffering their own loss.

I was able to begin functioning again when I found that in life’s changes, I still have purpose. We are needed. We all have value and worth. We are loved by the One who created us.

In His Love,
Nora

A Grief Observed By: CS Lewis 

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Example of Journal Pages

** If you enjoy devotionals with beautiful artwork that you can doodle as you read…this journal, as well as my Proverbs Devotional & Doodles journal, can be found through The Thinking Tree Publishing Company on Amazon here: Journal for Comfort & Healing in Times of Loss and here: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles. You can also order direct from CreateSpace: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles.  … The proceeds help support the mission work in Ukraine!

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Are we near the end?

Since people hate over the silliest of things, yes, I believe we are at the end. How much worse can it get? Jesus said when asked about the end of the age: “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.” ~Matthew 24:10

Are you ready for eternity? Do you live in forgiveness or bitterness? Will that thing you harbor anger and bitterness over really matter a thousand years from now?

We have to forgive, and forgive, and forgive again no matter how much it hurts, or how much the offender continues their attack, even if they never admit to their offense. It’s hard. I have to continually remind myself of this all the time. For, I’m not perfect, just forgiven. Forgiveness is the only way to find freedom for our soul. Forgiveness does not mean the offender is not guilty of the sin, for we all give an account for every little thing we do; it just means we release to God our right for revenge. (God’s vengeance is always much better anyway.) We are then free to live in God’s peace and joy, which usually makes the offender angry because we aren’t letting them cripple us. We are free. We are ready to “meet our maker” with a clean heart. We are forgiven. Because, yes; no matter how slighted we feel, if we don’t forgive, God won’t forgive us. If we aren’t forgiven, we spend eternity without freedom, without light, without God…in hell.

Don’t believe me? Or, maybe you don’t believe me because you feel like I shouldn’t be forgiven because I have offended you in some way and you don’t like me. Then I say don’t. What do I know? All I am is the messenger. Here in the States, there is a bible (taken from ancient scrolls) in every corner. Look it up on the internet. All I am doing is relaying what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

What of this life will you take with you into eternity?

“Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” ~Matthew 18:21-22

 

“And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” ~Revelation 21:6-8

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Irma Destroyed Our Barns!

With all the images coming out of the islands decimated by hurricane Irma, one resounding word keeps popping up in my mind: barns. In just one day, the “fun” was washed away…

washed away…

We moved off our farm in spring of 2015 and became city-dwellers. My husband’s family farmed that land for around 150 years. You would not believe the old equipment lying around…continually replaced by the new.

Needless to say, it took us more than two months to clear our junk out of the barns! We sold, gave away, and threw away…and still found more and more…stuff. :/

Though our intention was to downsize…our new house…you guessed it…bigger.

Do we ever learn??

Tearing down the old storage shed and chicken coop…

 

Parable of the Rich Fool

Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

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Keep the Dogs Out! Proverbs 19

Day 19 ~ Proverbs 19*

“Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers,
   but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” ~Proverbs 19:14

Does our world respect the marriage union? An antonym for prudent is reckless, which is a lack of self-control based in self-centeredness. To be prudent is to be careful, cautious, and wise.

God said in Genesis 2:24 “the two shall be one.” How can a couple be “one” unit if their Love Tanks are being filled outside the marriage? Love is to want the best for the other person and leave our desires aside. Paul said in Ephesians 5:25 (NLT)For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.” Now, I don’t believe he meant for husbands to physically die, but rather to give up his desires, dreams, and wants; to replace his personal (self) desires with a desire for his marriage as a unit. And, yes, that’s easier said than done…especially in our world. It’s no different for women. Our first priority is to God, then our family…our immediate family. (God also said to leave our parents!)

How can we identify a lack of respect for the marriage union? When interacting with your married friends, are you showing the most attention to your friend’s husband? Do you seek private conversation with him? Do you call your friends’ husband to plan events? Do you seek out married men on social media? Do you continually come up with things which we need “the husband’s help” (i.e. change a light bulb)? Do you show up at your friend’s house when she’s not home and end up spending time with her husband? Are you confiding in a married man and sharing your heart with him? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then I would highly question what’s happening in your heart. In today’s world, more than half of marriages will suffer through an affair. Most affairs begin with friendship, a counseling situation, or a work relationship. The most likely person to be an affair partner is a close friend of the opposite sex. But, isn’t our spouse supposed to be our best friend?

Affairs begin with dissatisfaction in the mind. Too many marriages have been destroyed by men who transfer their desires to a young air-brushed fantasy on-line, in a magazine, or in sleazy movies. When a mind is focused on physical perfection, will an aging bride ever satisfy? Too many marriages have also been destroyed by a woman who is not satisfied with her position in the home, expecting her husband to give in to her control. Decisions become one-sided. When respect is lost for a husband who cannot fill a need for satisfaction that only God can fill, she turns her focus outside the relationship. The illusion is that the grass is always greener on the other side; the truth is that the grass is only green on the side that is watered.

We need to water our side of the fence. Your marriage is like a garden to water, protect, nurture, and cherish. Keep the weeds and the dogs out! Guard the sanctity of your marriage. Too many of us live with the destruction of divorce. Before we become reckless, shall we be prudent? If God gives you someone, why would you not cherish them?

Be wise. Be careful. Be prudent.

“The foolishness of a man twists his way,
And his heart frets against the Lord.” ~Proverbs 19:3

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**The above is an excerpt from the devotional book I wrote while living in Ukraine for nearly 10 months in 2016. If you enjoy devotionals with beautiful artwork that you can doodle as you read…my Proverbs Devotional & Doodles book can be found through The Thinking Tree Publishing Company on Amazon here: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles. You can also order direct from CreateSpace: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles.  … The proceeds help support the mission work in Ukraine!

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Proverbs Procrastination Day 3

The Proverbs. Day 3. Chapter 3. It’s packed full of great little nuggets! Several verses have been popularly quoted throughout the millennia, especially the 5th verse…the one about leaning on our own understanding. It always amazes me when we do that since we obviously don’t know everything. But, after all, we are control freaky humans!

Two verses on this day seem to be tossed in the background:

At first glance, the verses are saying to be sure and pay our debts. Don’t be stingy. When we are diligent to pay everything we owe, not only do we show our good character, but we show honor to God in our trusting Him to meet our needs. Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:25-35 that worrying is for the birds, “…Are you not of more valuable than they?” Figuratively: He loves us so much more than we tend to believe, so why do we hold onto our finances and not trust God to provide?

Yet, these verses also bring up another underlying thought. Procrastination is an all too common enemy. A definition of procrastination is to put off or to delay. Why do we put off that which we are capable of accomplishing today? Sometimes, we procrastinate out of pure laziness. Most often, we put others off out of our desire to control our situations. We believe our schedule, our money, etc. is more important than anyone else. Both procrastination and laziness are rooted in self-centeredness and pride. Most of us never thought of procrastination as a sin. We excuse ourselves with our good “intent” of giving, but only when it is convenient for us. One of the first companies I worked for had a saying, “Five minutes now will save five hours of cleanup tomorrow.” That concept is not only true in the business world; it is true in our relationships.

Gardening…Lots of hard work!

Do you have unresolved conflict with anyone? Time is not the healer; God is our healer. Ephesians 4:25-27 says to not let the sun go down on our anger, followed by saying not to give the devil a foothold. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Taking that step toward reconciliation doesn’t always mean the other person will respond, but it’s our responsibility to do our part.

We need to take an honest look at ourselves. Are we withholding money, forgiveness, or restoration from anyone? Let’s give where the giving is due, and trust the Lord to take care of the rest.

The hard stuff of discipline, forgiveness, and restoration only lasts for a moment…the rewards last an eternity.

“My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” ~Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT)

 

What are you procrastinating today?

 

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**If you enjoy devotionals with beautiful artwork that you can doodle as you read…my Proverbs Devotional & Doodles book can be found through The Thinking Tree Publishing Company on Amazon here: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles. You can also order direct from CreateSpace: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles.  … The proceeds help support the mission work in Ukraine!

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Sunday Morning Thoughts

We are not defined by our past. Yet, we do not forget our past unless of course we want to make the same mistakes over and over again. Learn from our past, trust God for our future, and live in today!

An Earnest Appeal for Guidance and Deliverance: A Psalm of David…

143 – Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
In Your faithfulness answer me,
And in Your righteousness.
Do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no one living is righteous.

For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in darkness,
Like those who have long been dead.
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart within me is distressed.

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your works;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
I spread out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah

Answer me speedily, O Lord;
My spirit fails!
Do not hide Your face from me,
Lest I be like those who go down into the pit.
Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You.

Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;
To You I flee.
10 Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Your Spirit is good.
Lead me in the land of uprightness.

11 Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake!
For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.
12 In Your mercy cut off my enemies,
And destroy all those who afflict my soul;
For I am Your servant.      ~Psalm 143 (NKJV)