For years I struggled with feeling good in my skin. I would go on a diet and do pretty good for a few days, but then life would get busy, my daughter would get sick, or my motivation would fade. I would fall off track, eat my favorite things, and then plan to do better next time.
This cycle caused a negative conversation in my mind: Why did you eat that? Why can’t you stick to a diet? Why didn’t you work out today? If only you could reach your fitness goals. I lived with an ever-present feeling of failure.
Is it really possible to live and exist in perfect peace in an ever-increasing chaotic world?
Can God provide the peace I need to get good, consistent, nightly rest?
Is He able to give peace when my household is completely torn apart?
What about when I lose my dream job? Can He still give peace when I’m not sure where the money will come from?
The answer is – YES!
Christmas is over. The presents were unwrapped, the food was eaten, and the stockings may or may not still be hung. The lights have a leftover glimmer on the trees and houses, and in a few days we might un-deck the halls, then wake up to a new year.
We celebrated Christ born in Bethlehem. Now, life must go on, and so did his.
After the Manger
He “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man,” Luke tells us (Luke 2:52).
Where I live in the mountains of southwest Virginia, Advent arrives with the beginning of winter.
Night gathers quickly
Night gathers quickly, with a deep darkness settling in by the time we settle around the table. The ground that only a few months earlier burst with life lies dormant, under a chill that never seems to lift. From the warmth of my kitchen, I look out the window to see my once-lush garden encrusted with ice, full of thick, heavy clods of earth, and littered with the remnants of cornstalk and pumpkin vine that twist up among the table scraps.
One weekend, we traveled to my brother’s house and planned to leave on Sunday. It started snowing on Saturday evening and continued through Sunday. My brother had to travel home from South Bend with almost zero visibility due to the snow. He told us, though, that once we got through Berrien Springs, we should be good.
Now, you may not know where any of these places are, but stick with me. My sister and I pulled off (we drove separate vehicles) and headed out into the snow…
Some Bible verses lend themselves quite well to becoming a tweet, a “life verse,” or the inside of a greeting card. But when we read the Bible looking for catchphrases and mottos, we risk mangling the meaning of the Bible and invariably miss out on important truths. Two verses in particular have become slogans for inspirational posters or t-shirts: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4)
Admitting our weakness is often a difficult task for most of us, because calling our imperfections, failures, hang-ups, and habits what they are, is uncomfortable. And it often produces shame.
Shame and self-esteem
Shame is a powerful emotion that is inward and, when not dealt with appropriately, deadly to our self-esteem and connection with God and others.
Growing up in a Christian family, being the son of a minister, attending services at various churches and different denominations, and moving to several different towns and cities, I’ve had numerous opportunities to see how people praise the Lord as a community of believers. I’ve been a regular attendee at churches that average about 55 people on Sunday morning as well as churches that average 200, 500, 800, and even 2600 in their attendance.
“He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.”
There are times when all the promises and doctrines of the Bible are of no avail, unless a gracious hand shall apply them to us. We are thirsty, but too faint to crawl to the water-brook. When a soldier is wounded in battle it is of little use for him to know that there are those at the hospital who can bind up his wounds, and medicines there to ease all the pains which he now suffers: what he needs is to be carried thither, and to have the remedies applied.
For many people, it’s difficult to see how life can be considered a gift, because that means they’d need to acknowledge the Giver. Most people want to make it seem like they don’t need someone else’s help. We humans take pride in our independence.
The Jewish tradition has an inspiring view of gratitude that I think every person, no matter their religion, can learn something from. Every day it is the goal of those who practice this particular tradition to recite one hundred blessings—or thanks—to God, beginning with eighteen blessings right when they wake up in the morning.