Thursday, December 29, 2016

Change the Thinking

So once again Christmas has come and gone with all the hype and build up, the worry and the joy, the mystery and surprises. What you did in preparation and what you didn’t, really doesn’t matter now as (using the words from the Lion King) “It’s in the past”.

It would seem that so often we allow what goes on around us and the demands and expectations of the media or others, dictate our thoughts and actions whether we want it to or not. The desire to ‘please’ can sap the very joy we want to portray, from us. Even without realising it these outside forces and the news we hear over the days around Christmas will control our very mood if we are not aware this is what is actually happening. Without us realizing it we are propelled into action or reaction and before we know it we are caught up and what is normal for us has gone out the window, so to speak.

When the guests are gone, half the decorations have fallen down and the fridge is still crammed with left overs you are brought to your senses and desire to get back what you had control of in the past. You desire to have the joy and contentment that you treasured. Or maybe you haven’t felt that joy and long to know it.

In reflection I was reading from my book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I hadn’t picked it up for a few days and this day 28th December I read….

I am your refuge and strength, an ever-present Help in trouble. Therefore, you don’t need to be afraid of anything – not even cataclysmic circumstances. The media are increasingly devoted to fear-inducing subject matter: terrorism, serial killers, environmental catastrophes. If you focus on such dangers and forget that I am your Refuge in all circumstances, you will become increasingly fearful. Every day I manifest My grace in countless places and situations, but the media take no notice. I shower not only blessings but also outright miracles on your planet. 
As you grow closer to Me, I open your eyes to see more and more of My Presence all around you Things that most people hardly notice, like shifting shades of sunlight, fill you with heart-bursting Joy. You have eyes that see and ears that hear, so proclaim My abiding Presence in the world.

Psalm 46:1-3 
1 God is our refuge and strength, 
 an ever-present help in trouble. 
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way 
 and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 
3 though its waters roar and foam 
 and the mountains quake with their surging. 

Psalm 89:15 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.

The news seems to be filling of famous people dying. Looking back over the past year with all its earthquakes, floods and killings and I did wonder where the news of God’s work was.

I follow the blog Club Organized by Pam Young and one of her recent posts had a similar theme in that she talked about our moods being influenced by the things going on around us. How we can get in the habit of being in a bad mood with a bad thought and feeding it with negative thoughts.

So what can we do…

Take a deep breath and sit. Be in a place where you can see the beauty of God’s creation around you. By a window or out on a deck. If you are in the northern hemisphere by a burning fire or under a cosy rug. Take a note of the quiet sounds around you and find something to smile about. Close your eyes and allow it to be a focus in your mind. Be thankful for it and see if you can find a couple more things to be thankful for. Allow yourself to take control of your breathing and slow it down. Maybe even go for a walk and go to an area where you will not be distracted by traffic, shops or other people. Slow your walk pace and take note of God’s creation as you pass. In this time let the negatives go from your thoughts and grab hold of a positive, a blessing, of someone you love.

As you allow your mind and thoughts to be transferred from the negative to the positive take it slowly to get back into what needs to be done around you and know that God is good. He showers us with blessings every day but we just have to recognise them and allow them to be the influence of how we feel and act.

Christmas is really about love, joy and peace – let the peace of God be with you always from this day on.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Quiet

Did you know it now costs a dollar to send a letter in New Zealand and I’m not sure how much for overseas. I usually send about a dozen Christmas Cards around New Zealand – that’s $12 not to mention the ten or so I post overseas … that’s a lot of money when you are on a sickness benefit.

There are lots of things to do…
Lots of cards to send.
Lots of presents to buy.
Lots of baking to do.
Lots of decorations to put up.
Lots of activities to attend.
Lots of presents to wrap.
Lots of food to eat.
Lots of extra work to attend to.
Lots of…. Lots of…. Lots of….

Do you feel like this and almost overwhelmed?
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this. I love Christmas and do what I can to make it a wonderful time of year. In fact this year is going to be so special, as I have two of my daughters and their families coming to stay so we are going to have grandchildren around and the house will be fill of excited children, chatter, maybe even tired tears but oh so many good memories to make. I know when it is all over I will be happily exhausted!

Tricia Goyer
Last week we had our Church’s Women’s homegroup Christmas lunch (that’s a mouthful!) and I offered to do the devotion. I have a devotional book titled The One Year® Book of Amish Peace by Tricia Goyer and I recalled reading an entry for the middle of December. I am drawn to the simple ways of the Amish free from the demands of materialism and although the book is American/Northern Hemisphere based, the content it still uplifting.

Here is a little of what it said:

"These days there is more than enough Christmas cheer to go around. There are holiday parties, cookie exchanges, and children’s programs. There are gifts to buy, and maybe cards to mail and homes to decorate as bright and beautiful as the magazine covers on the rack at the grocery store. Yet there is little peace. And on some busy, frantic holidays I’m certain that I’ve forgotten that the whole thing is supposed to be about the Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, 
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In the Amish home, preparations for Christmas start a few days (not a few months) before the holiday. If gifts are given, they are simple gifts for the children, there is often an Amish school Christmas program that focuses on Christ. In fact, in a book for Amish schoolteachers a new verse to the familiar carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was added:

O little In of Bethlehem
How like we are to you;
Our lives are crowded to the brim
With this and that to do
We’re not unfriendly to the King,
We mean well without doubt;
We have no hostile feelings,
We merely crowd Him out.

It seems even the youngest Amish children know what Prince needs to reign in their Christmas! Can you make an effort to remember the same?"

When I was putting up my Christmas Trees I was listening to one of my Cliff Richard's Christmas CD’s and a song came on “Christmas is Quiet”

As I listened I was drawn to the thought of escaping away somewhere to stop and reflect. Over the last few years I have made a point of having a break away either at a retreat or somewhere where I can have a couple of days resting without having to do all the work, in November. It’s something I learnt to do after my breakdown – part of looking after myself. The days in December have fast filled up with all those things to do and I have circled a day on the calendar and called it “Day Off”. I am not going to do any ‘work’ work or Christmas prep. There are no activities to attend. I am going to use the day to sit and read, pamper myself and maybe do some gardening or generally just sit.

I encouraged the group to do the same and ended with the prayer from the book:

"Dear heavenly Father, forgive me for my busy plans that tend to push You out. Help me to focus my thoughts on You today. It is there that I will find peace."

I encourage you to take time out and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas ... that God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us so our sin will not separate us from Him. We celebrate His birth each Christmas.

I wish you a Christmas full of Peace.

Scripture from the New International Version