Tag Archives: meaning

Lessons From Your Favorite Christmas Songs – 4: Do You Hear What I Hear?

The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night; He will bring us goodness and light

An important part of a Californian’s Earthquake Preparedness Kit is a flashlight. This vital tool brings light to the darkness when all the other lights go out. Even without a power outage, there are times in our lives when it seems the light has gone out.

This holiday season sometimes has a way of distracting us from the Light that shines within us. The rush of preparations, the desire for a perfect holiday, or even the memories of past Christmases can accentuate both our deepest hopes and the fears that keep us up at night.

Christmas cannot be bought at the store. It cannot be created. Christmas can only be found in the Child sleeping in the night. Only because Christ entered into our world can Christmas be a time of great joy.

baby jesusAt our deepest level, we know Christmas isn’t about getting nice gifts – it is about the Light of the World entering into it and offering us grace. The light of the Star of Bethlehem meant God crawled into our world to heal it and mend our broken hearts. He loves us even when we don’t love ourselves. His deepest desire for us is to have more of what really matters – more peace, more joy, more love.

The Child who brings goodness and light longs for you to rest in his embrace. And while we may not be certain what our next steps will be, we can always be certain of God’s hand in ours. Christ gave himself to us in order to touch the wounds of our heart with a warm and gentle hand.

He knows us intimately, yet into those places we seek to hide, his light enters. Just like the light in the sky dazzling the shepherds, that blinding brilliance of the angel who brought good tidings to all people, his light is for you. You can always count on it: Jesus is the light surrounding you, illuminating your footsteps, bring warmth to every corner of your life. His light is always waiting to shatter the darkness.

Goodness and light – the Light of the World gave us the most expensive Christmas gift of all: himself. His grand plan is to conquer the dark and flood it with the radiance of his light and love. His mission is a wild and loving pursuit of us.

The child sleeping in the night would awaken. The babe sleeping in the wooden manger eventually would lay down on a wooden cross. And with the scars he bore on our behalf there, he would restore us. He would save us.

Peace is a Matter of Perspective

When a mind is stayed on the Lord, peace is ours. That’s what the topic of the panel discussion was at Leadership Training that morning. Let me be perfectly frank: I’m not a big fan of panel discussions. I’ve been to many conventions and conferences. It is extremely rare I come away with great insight from a panel discussion. Whenever one is on the agenda, I tend to hit the snooze button. This one was different.

It wasn’t so much of a discussion as it was 5-minute talks by 5 different women explaining on how they found peace in their lives. They each had a unique story to tell and that’s what caught my attention. Good stories have the ability to transform hearts, stimulate imagination and inspire people. Stories ask questions and inspire conversations. Stories entertain us and make us laugh. More importantly stories open our minds to ideas that might be unfamiliar to us.

But there was one woman whose story grabbed me so much I want to share her wisdom.

Each of us has over 50,000 automatic thoughts each day. If we let negativity creep into those automatic thoughts, we’ll never have peace. So, we must be careful our thoughts uplift and encourage us. She had a simple, daily 5-step process to accomplish this. The steps are hers, the verbiage is mine.

  1. Each morning say a quick surrender prayer to God. Do this before sunriseyou even get out of bed or kneel beside your bed as soon as you get out of it. Lift up the day to God, surrendering all you will do to Him. Remind yourself of God’s promises to protect you, to use you for His glory and to always be with you as you move throughout your day. Every great victory begins with prayer.
  2. Write down gratitudes every day. Researchers have found if you scan for positive things in your life, your brain trains itself to see even more.  Sometimes we get entangled in bad habits, destructive behaviors and fear. But if we turn into God with an attitude of gratitude, He can wash away our wounds.
  3. Journal right. Many of my friends are not into journaling. I love it because it helps me experience the freedom and healing that only comes from being reconciled to God. Make it easy: just expand on your gratitudes. When I quiet myself to write down what makes me thankful, I turn to God, who is reaching out to heal me. Jesus is the One who give us strength. Don’t ever get caught in the trap of turning away from God. If you aren’t the type to put pen to paper, spend time every day thinking and meditating on all the wonderful ways God showed you His love.
  4. Complete a daily act of kindness. We can assure a brighter future by practicing profound kindness. There are times, often in the face of no easy solutions, when we restore each other with the strength of our kindness. This act need not be large or daunting; it can be just a simple as sending out a short text complimenting a friend. Start practicing: say ‘thank you’ to as many people as you can today, hand out as many compliments as you can, maybe even wave at as many truck drivers you see today.
  5. Movement – Each day, get your body into motion. It will enliven your spirit and replenish your heart. It could be taking a walk to soak in the beauty of nature or something even smaller like hugging someone who wouldn’t expect it.

Peace grows in our hearts when we share our love with others with our eyes locked on Jesus. The world may be divisive and seek to destroy our peace, but what changes our world is sharing and giving away His amazing grace. We get more peace when we spread it through our love.

The world can wear you down, even on good days. Yet, peace is not only possible, it is available in abundance through Christ. Learn to be so intimate with Christ, people will want to imitate you.  Peace only comes when a mind stays focused on God.

Step Forward

As a native Chicagoan, I’ve flown into O’Hare Airport more times than I can count. Sometimes, when the plane is coming in from the west, the pilot takes a curious route. Instead of heading straight to the airport, the plane passes over the city and heads east, out over Lake Michigan. To those not familiar with this pattern, flying over the lake brings some dreadful questions. “Why did we fly right by the airport? Are we out of control? Will we be landing in the lake?” Eventually, the plane will make a series of turns, head west and land safely at the airport.

When chasing a dream, we often take alternate routes like this one. We’ve been working so hard, concentrating on the destination. Just when it appears to be in sight, God bypasses around our goal. And sometimes, God takes us over rough waters instead of seeing us safely to our objective. It can be so frustrating.

I believe God plans detours in our slow march to our dreams. It isn’t because He doesn’t love us. It is because He loves us beyond belief. He doesn’t want us to just achieve our dream; He wants us to grow in character, to become more God-like, to see His glory in every step on the way to our destination. He wants our journeys to be more about what we might do for Him, rather than what might be in it for ourselves. God desires we remain focused on every step of the journey so we can feel and appreciate His power, love and wisdom.

When I face a painful detour, I spend too much time focusing on the negatives. But if I take a step back and examine the path God has planned for me, I can also spot all the gifts He showers along the way. I see the friends who have backed me up, the prayers offered over me, but more importantly the opportunities for spiritual maturity as I trust God with my life.

It is hard work, but in the difficult no’s, in the unexpected changes and in the broken heartbumpy roads, God wipes away our tears. He cups our broken hearts. And when we wail loudly from the pain, He answers, “I know you hurt. I’m stimulating growth in your life.” Isaiah 43:19 states: Behold, I will do something new. Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?

If you find yourself in a difficult spot, in the place of discouragement and doubt, if you feel like a dream has passed you by, take a step back and count a blessing. See the love in the face of a friend. Enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Find a quiet place and pray in order to hear Him gently whisper back to you, “I came for you. I came to hold you. I want to carry you, to save you.”

Until you see your dream fulfilled, the work can be tough and lonely at times. But do the rare and wonderful thing: allow the tough times to help you experience the love of Jesus in new, different and exciting ways. Find a gift in each moment, step forward with the belief that God really does know best and His plan is truly perfect – even if you have trouble seeing that today.