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For Christmas last year, my niece gave her parents a gift of discovering their ancestry through DNA testing. My brother and I laughed when he told me this, as our father was a first-generation American, his father coming from Germany and his mother from a German village in Switzerland. Our mother was second-generation American, all her grandparents having emigrated from Germany. Big surprise: the test showed my brother is 99+ percent German. This got me to thinking of my spiritual heritage…
But God’s desire is not for us to compare. His word tells us to be happy where we’re at, to be content with what God has given us and what He has taken away. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Philippians 4:11-12) His desire is for us to be joyful and content in every aspect of life. But why is it so hard? If you’re anything like me, those little devils of comparison chirp their discontent ALL DAY LONG. “Your house could be cleaner. You could be in better shape. You could be a happier mom. You could read more books. Your hair could be prettier. You could be more charismatic, because you’re socially awkward.”
Early each holiday season when the lights and ornaments are brought out from storage and we fill the house with festive decorations, we also bring out an old baby doll our girls used to play with. We swaddle the doll in a faded, worn receiving blanket, place it in a shoebox covered in brown paper with a shiny red bow, and slide it under our Christmas tree. It’s a simple representation of the gift of baby Jesus.
The brown paper box is meant to be a manger, so it’s also filled with “straw” made from ripped strips of yellow construction paper. Many of these strips of paper have statements written on them.
My sister tells the story of meeting a Hollywood actor and producer in a little semi-rural town in PA. A gentleman approached her for assistance and she blurted out, “You’re Mark Harmon!”
“Well, yes I am,” he countered. “And you are…?”
“Me? Oh, I’m nobody!” replied my sister.
Alan Shlemon’s family was originally from Baghdad, Iraq. Before they came to this country, they believed that America was a Christian country. Alan explains that over the years of living here, what he found instead was a country with many people who are ‘nominal’ Christians. “They don’t attend services regularly. They don’t know much about […]
It’s hard to remember the last time I was truly joyful. I’m a generally happy, positive person. But when was the last time I truly exuberated joy? I’ve heard the difference between happiness and joy described many ways, but this is one of my favorites: Happiness is an emotion that can disappear as quickly as it comes, but Joy is a choice.
It was amazing how the faux brick surrounding the colorful mural blended in with the surroundings, making the mural itself stand out even more. So, I’m thinking, as human beings, should we be blending in like the “brick” or working to stand out like the mural? It’s so much easier to blend in even when we are forty-something years old and middle school is far behind us. We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves; we don’t want to upset people; we are too busy with our own day to respond to, or even notice, the needs of others. Standing out is difficult. It takes energy. It’s uncomfortable. Yet, that’s exactly what Jesus asks us to do.
Recently I attended a women’s retreat at a campground in the northern part of lower Michigan. The trees were just beginning to turn; as we drove further north, the display of color became more and more amazing. Here and there red leaves and pink, yellows and gold, and brilliant orange peeked out among the greens. As I gazed on the beauty around me, I was appreciative of our Creator God. Then it started to rain.
Light splashes here and there on the windshield became a steady drizzle, then a downpour. Gray clouds turned dark, and fog rolled in as the temperature began dropping. We could no longer see the color because of the darkness. It was still raining when we arrived at camp, and the ground was turning to muck. I thought of the umbrella hanging in my closet at home, and was glad I had packed a hooded, all-weather jacket.
My husband, Sean and I are considered the “sandwich generation”. Our children still require assistance and guidance in their schoolwork, we are involved in their boy scouts, sports teams, youth group, etc. And…we drive them there. Our parents range from 75 to late 80’s so we are assisting them when needed. Recently, my father-in-law suffered a severe infection with complications resulting in his being in and out of the hospital, a step-down rehab facility and finally, trying to regain independence in his own home which is becoming increasingly difficult.
Let it go…let it go. We all recognize these words from a familiar Disney movie. Words that many times are much easier sung than done! How often do we hold on to minor offenses done to us by others…many times unknown by the “offender”? We either become angry and defensive or retreat into ourselves. I am guilty of this a lot, especially the retreating part.