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Tuesday

Is the Christmas spirit fleeting? Or, What’s in your wallop?



The holiday season seems somehow to bring out the best and the worst in people.

Aren’t we all inspired by the heartwarming stories of folks giving secret surprises or performing extra-mile helps to brighten the lives of others at Christmastime?

We love to hear about someone dropping a solid gold bar or a diamond ring into a charity bell ringer’s bucket outside a busy shopping mall. 

We may even tear up to see a news story about a long-lost prodigal returning home to a warm welcome and reconciled relationship.

On the other hand, Christmas can make people downright crabby.

I’ve been there. I’ve been the crabber and the crabbed. Recently, I faced an in-your-face reminder of this curious holiday phenomenon.

Finishing up at the checkout counter of a local store, I caught the lady behind me huffing and puffing and groaning. "Could you just hurry up?" she growled at the cheery cashier and me, as we exchanged a quick holiday pleasantry.

I turned and glanced at the impatient customer, realizing then that this was the same lady I had seen a few moments earlier in another department, struggling to pull an item off a wall rack. I had set down my stuff to help her untangle and remove the things she wanted.

"Are you looking for one of these, too?" she'd asked.

"Nope, just saw you needed an extra hand or two," I'd replied.

I'm not sure she connected the dots in the checkout line. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered.

Just before I left, I leaned in to whisper to the long-suffering checkout clerk, "Be extra nice to the lady behind me. She's probably had a rough day."

And I meant it. The lamenting lady likely had a long list of tasks to accomplish before her day was over. Maybe she’d faced a personal tragedy. Possibly, a nagging health condition made her uncomfortable and irritable.

Or it could be she was just feeling a little crabby at Christmastime.



God only knows.

Perhaps we’ve all had grouchy, Grinchy days. We’ve all had folks step ahead of us in crowds, pull into our chosen parking spots, or even confront us rudely for no apparent reason.

If we say that we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us.
(1 John 1:8, KJV)

Frustration is part of the human condition in a fallen world, isn’t it?



Perhaps we’ve all encountered folks who shocked us, in our own grumpiest moments, by treating us kindly.

All I know is this: Each of us can only choose our own actions and reactions.

None of us has to absorb the anxious, aggressive, or antagonistic attitudes of those around us. And others need not take on our occasional testiness, either.

If you love those who love you,
what reward will you get?
(Matthew 5:46a, NIV)

After all, what’s the end result of a knee-jerk response? Who becomes the jerk?

In His mercy, God often nudges our spirits to prompt us to stop and step back. Only then do we stand a chance of considering a gentler way, instead of a quick comeback or a quiet seething.

And be ye kind one to another,
tenderhearted,
forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:32, KJV)

That’s grace. But it can be hard – so hard.

Oh, baby, we’re a long way from biblical Bethlehem.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus. In the meantime, help us to stop embarrassing You when we’re feeling a little moody, especially while preparing to celebrate Your birthday.


 
Image/s:
Salvation Army Bell Ringer by Dwight Burnette 
Creative Commons Licensing Photos
Store Checkout
US Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Jim Williams
US Government Photo/public domain

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Friday

Zonked and Zzz-less - 30 Days of Thankfulness



Here we are, at the end of another busy week, and I need some sleep. Desperately! Maybe you do as well.

Honestly, a family of four could pack their stuff for a week in the bags under my eyes, right about now.


 

Family concerns, professional responsibilities, finances, personal issues, and other hot topics can easily send one’s mind awhirl – especially at bedtime. Maybe that’s the only time some of us slow down enough to ponder questions that plague us behind the scenes all day long.

So we stare at ceilings, waiting for sleep to come. It’s not that we’re worry warts, refusing to trust God with the details of our lives. It’s just that our minds are racing themselves in the night.

Yet a little sleep,
a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to sleep:
(Proverbs 6:10, KJV)

In those wakeful moments, we are faced with a choice.

We can toss and turn and grump and growl. We can try to rouse the snoring one nearby, be he human, canine, or feline. We can urge the night owls next door to turn down their TV or music machines.

Or we can focus on the Father in the quiet of the night, asking for revelation of His heart. Often, in such times, He opens our eyes, at least in the spiritual sense, to insights or greater understanding. Frequently, He nudges us to pray for someone who may need it right then.

Eventually, He quiets us to a slumber that is indeed sweet.

I’m thankful for sleep, which I hope to find one of these nights.

Actually, I’m considerably more grateful for God’s rest, which He promises to those who trust Him.

Whether I sleep or not, I know genuine rest may be found in His presence.

Come to me,
all who labor
 and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you,
and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
 and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
(Matthew 11:29-30, CEV).

For what are you thankful?

Image/s:
 From Sleeping Beauty by Viktor Vasnetsov
Mid-20th Century
Public Domain Image
Thankful at Thanksgiving
Adapted from public domain artwork

 
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Yes, I'm Yelling - 30 Days of Thankfulness



Boy, do I hope this image has PhotoShopped. Even so, my heckles are up. As a Christian, I have to say this hurts my heart.



Take a look. This photo’s been all over Facebook and other such sites.

 
Ouch!

Yes, I am one of those traditional sorts. I’ve been known to holler out “Merry Christmas” throughout the Advent season. I even belt out a “Happy Birthday, Jesus” now and then in December.

That’s what Christmas is all about, the incarnation of the Holy One.

But I find this most unholy.

So we interrupt this season of gratitude, along with this “30 Days of Thankfulness” blog post series, for a moment of righteous indignation.

Aaaaaaaargh!

That is seriously messed up. 

Now, I won’t claim to be a good Christian. And I won't point fingers – or Christmas trees. I wouldn’t even begin to guess where this sign might have been found. Maybe it was PhotoShopped, after all.

Perhaps it’s all a bad joke.

But I’d guess my Lord weeps to see such signs. I’d be willing to bet He’d be pleased to see Christmas trees going up in all sorts of homes on the days leading up to His birthday.

And Jesus said unto him,
Forbid him not:
for he that is not against us
is for us.
(Luke 9:50, KJV)

I’m thankful for yelling … when it absolutely must be done.


And I am grateful to God for His grace, which He mercifully lavishes upon any who recognize their need for it. 

Oh, and that includes me.


For what are you thankful?

Image/s:
Christmas Trees for Christians?
Widely Circulated Fair Use Photo
Thankful at Thanksgiving
Adapted from public domain artwork
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