Ultimate Joy

Archive for December 2010

Normally around this time of year, I’m trying to figure out my New Year’s Resolutions.  It is something that I neither want to do nor enjoy doing.  Resolutions sound so punitive to me – harsh and unforgiving.  They seem a little like starting the year promising to climb Mount Everest – something I lack the physical stamina and the mental endurance to accomplish.

Just recently, a pastor told me to bag the resolutions and think of this time of year as a season of renewal.  Now that I could do.  Resolutions remind me of whips used to beat myself until I finally give up.  But, renewal speaks to me of serene retreats, peacefully slowing down to examine my life in a positive way and coming away with a doable roadmap.  Renewal means thriving in the life of Christ and coming to know more fully the realization of His life in me. 

I’m not a Bible scholar, so I’m unsure as to whether it speaks of resolutions.  Renewal, though, is mentioned many times.  My favorite is II Corinthians 4:6 – “This is why we never lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” In Jesus, God will meet our every need, through Jesus we will be given every provision, and from Jesus we will receive every blessing God can give.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t need discipline to reach my personal goals and my divine purpose, but it does mean every step of the way, God is with me.  In fact, during this season of renewal, my goal is to cast all worry, care, burdens, anxiety and concerns on Him.  I’m cleaning out the worries of the world and welcoming new management into my heart.  I want 2011 to be the year that I can hang a banner over my heart that reads:  “Under the Management of the Prince of Peace.”

As we end 2010, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my blog.  While I’ve enjoyed your comments and your encouragements, mostly I’ve enjoyed doing life beside you.  I look forward to sharing an abundant life with you in 2011.  My prayer for you in this season of renewal is:   

May you set your sail of faith to capture the trade winds of the Spirit’s sweet communion. May He carry you into the strong currents of God’s grace, to the harbors of Jesus’ comfort, to the ports that abound with blessings, and to the warm waters of the Father’s love. And may the Captain of your Salvation, pilot you through troubled seas, quieting your heart when rolling waves beat against you. May you daily be kept from drifting away from the course He has set for you. May He guide you to safe havens, fill your vessel with eternal treasures, and bring you triumphantly to heaven’s distant shore.

Lately I’ve had a case of the Bah Humbugs.  Normally, I’m like a little kid excitedly waiting for Christmas, which just can’t come fast enough. 

It isn’t my disappointment with the economy or any personal setback.  Most frustrating to me is the attitude of your average Christmas shopper.  First getting into any shopping center is risking your life as cars roar through the aisles looking for that perfect parking place.  NASCAR race drivers have nothing on these folks.  Then there is the inevitable pushing and shoving to get inside the store.  Once inside, the focus becomes completing the gift chase – with little thought as to whose toes are mangled by the shopping cart.  Where is the peace on earth in the middle of this mayhem?

No matter what the excuse is for this behavior, it starts to wear me down.  My stomach did flip flops while watching the evening news coverage of one man actually rejoicing over his purchase of a high definition television.  I honestly thought at one moment, he was going to kiss the darn thing.

This afternoon while I was listening to Christmas carols, my heart was weighed down when remembering that there was no room at the inn for Jesus.  Was my inn open for Him? It struck me that the more hurried we become at finding the perfect Christmas gift – at making the perfect Christmas – the less room we have for the real gift of Christmas, the baby Jesus.  Even good things, like finding the right color scarf for your aunt, can drown out His voice. 

Inadvertently, I can crowd out Jesus by my choices.  The more I say no to excess, the less cluttered my life is. A frenzied holiday schedule can push Jesus away or lose Him in the shuffle.  I need stillness and peace to hear Him.  I don’t want to send away Jesus because I was too busy shopping, decorating or baking.  I want Him close by me.  I want to make more room for Him.

This Christmas fully appreciate the life-changing gift that was freely given.  Christmas is more then blinking lights, colorful ornaments and parties with friends.  It’s about what happened in the manager on a cold winter’s nights.  God’s promises fulfilled by a precious infant.

And so I ask you – What is more important? The chase or the gift?

My heart has been pierced today with sadness, withered and dry.  It doesn’t help that blizzard conditions exist here in Chicago – 40+ mile per hour winds, snow on the ground and bitterly cold temperatures.  Still I know that God is up to something.  There is change in the winds and I want to be in the middle of God’s plan.

My husband and I are taking the day to clean out some long-overdue places within our home.  I’m tired of the junk pile.  I grow weary from the long-forgotten things that somehow remain hidden deep in the closet where no one can see.  I wish that the snowplows outside my door would just whisk all the junk away so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

My emotional junk causes me even bigger problems.  Cleaning out that would lead to an even bigger mess.  Yet, God sees my personal failings and He is not afraid to deal with them.  He sees the pain and the baggage from my past.  And despite all that He comforts me and gives me strength to grow beyond the ugliness in my heart.

That’s because it is in these cold, stinging places that I hear God’s softest voice.  In the heaviness of the heart, God is there to lift me up.  In my loneliest hour, I sense His closest companionship.  In this season of winter, that I sense His gentle, warm touch; in the harshest rejection that I know His deep embrace.

I have several decisions that are weighing me down.  Some life-changing; others significant, but less dramatic.  An internal voice feeds my insecurities…my inability to lean into God’s plan.  I want to be obedient to Him, yet sometimes I stay stuck in my messiness unsure of where to go next.

Still, God sanctifies me; He ordains me to do His work.  I take comfort in his words, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

I don’t know where His great love will lead me.  I do know that God does not mean to leave us in defeat.  And so while I feel withered, I know that He will lead me through this current storm; He will take me through every storm.  So as the snow piles up outside, there is really only one path:  trusting in Him.