Ultimate Joy

Archive for November 2012

Are you a Black Friday fanatic? Please tell me you aren’t! This year, I was thoroughly disgusted that major retailers started the Christmas shopping season on Thanksgiving. Instead of giving us a few more hours to bask in the thankful glow for all God gave us, for all the blessings this country has received  –  instead of sitting with family and friends relishing deep community and fellowship – something we all need – folks were out sleeping in tents, standing in lines, pushing and shoving all to save a few dollars on an item that will probably be obsolete in a couple of months.

The saddest commentary for me was a man sleeping in a tent in front of a big box realtor. He explained, “I brought bats and pepper spray; just in case someone tries to cut in front of me.” How very sad that the holiday meant to pause and offer gratitude has become one of battling it out for the latest electronics.

Especially this year, I didn’t want Thanksgiving to end. It’s quickly becoming a holiday that is skipped over in our dizzying rush to Christmas. Instead, I like to make Thanksgiving a time I reflect on all God has done for me. In Luke 8:15, Jesus reminds us, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it and by persevering produce a crop.” (NIV)

I long for all of us to have the noble and good heart – to reflect the love of Christ in all we do. There is no better way to express thanks to Christ than that. Could those at the first Thanksgiving dinner ever imagine their holiday of love, peace and thanks would get sandwiched in between Blackout Wednesday and Black Friday? America showed its nobility when it became the first nation to set aside a national day of thanks, yet now we seem to be the laughing stock of the world as we drink ourselves to oblivion the night before and shop ourselves silly on the day afterward. Has that become the sign of a thanking God for our country, life, family and friends?

Thanksgiving for Richard and I has always been a slow holiday. We enjoy each other; we cook dinner together, we talk, we laugh – we open up space to love each other. We both want the same thing, a heart that is humble and fertile enough to receive God’s Word, retain God’s instruction and reflect on God’s character in both action and reactions.

Want a noble heart during this frenetic season?  Here are three simple suggestions:

Focus on People – Open your heart to all. See everyone as someone who deeply matters to God. Place a higher importance on people than on anything you could ever purchase in a store.

Be Generous – Think of your favorite Christmas memories. Most don’t involve the gifts, but the people. Create fantastic new memories for your family. Give your time and your treasures to those around you – even if it means giving up an afternoon of shopping to work in a homeless shelter. That precious gift will bring more joy than anything wrapped under the tree.

Slow the Season – Avoid hurry. Replace it the community, with friends. Sit on the sofa with those you love reflecting on how Christ’s birth impacts you. People are shaped by two things: trust and truth. And those two things require time.

Above all, with a noble and good heart, thank God for the miraculous love He showers on you.

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I’ve always had a tender heart. When first married, my husband was astounded by how much I cried. “She even cries at commercials,” he’d explain to friends in utter frustration. For a thinker like him, living with a feeler like me became a difficult transition.

But I love my tears – even when they embarrass me, like when I am seeing a movie with friends. I look around and it seems I am the only one in the theater moved to tears by the intensity of the scene on the screen. “Geez, Myra, get with it! You are an adult,” I silently scold myself.

But we all cry. And we cry for different things: happiness, sadness, feeling overwhelmed, hopelessness or even just plain tiredness.

Tears also have a purpose. They are a great stress reliever; they lubricate our eyes; remove irritants and contain antibodies to fight infection. How cool is that!

But what I like best about tears is that they express emotions so powerful they simply can’t be conveyed in words. Tears capture it all – the disappointment, the defeat, the drama. Messy and bold, striking thoughts jumbled in water, they are an effective way of letting go. My tears remind me I must embrace rest, grace, prayer and self-care.

But not because I want to rid myself of crying. Oh no, quite the opposite!

Psalm 56:8 states: You have put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your Book? All my tears stored in God’s bottle! What wonderful imagery of God nurturing me.

Tears are honest and they are about admitting need, even when tears of joy are shed. They call out to the sense and strength of God’s spirit. Of realizing life is about being instructed by God’s voice and not fear and weakness. Tears are about grounding yourself to God at time when sifting through life’s intense emotions requires a greater perspective.

Tears remind me of the discipline of holding on to God; of accepting His choices for my life. For they are the ones that will ultimately set me free and get me through stressful seasons. And God is all about making the unbearable bearable through His presence. Following in His footsteps brings a clear-mindedness not possible at the height of a whirling, intense season.

Tears cut to the quick. They tell us we are over our heads and need to rush into God’s arms to find safety, love and acceptance.

The bottle God created to hold my tears may be much larger than most, but that’s what brings joy to my heart. For each tear was a pathway to understanding the supreme love God has for me.

What are some of your practices for rushing into God’s arms when you are in the midst of a rough, intense crying spell?