Celebrating Christmas

Yesterday at church, one of our pastors spoke about lifting our eyes.  Lifting our eyes and not being concerned with ourselves, but being more concerned with those around us and what we can do to help them.  To love them.

I think especially during this time of year we can all get a  little too caught up in our list of “to-do”s and easily miss out on so many simple opportunities to help others, to serve, and to just love.  To spend quality time with our kids and talk about what this time of year is really all about.   Gathering friends together to help feed the homeless.  Baking cookies to bring to an elderly neighbor.  Giving money to those who need it more than we do. 

I’ve really been re-thinking how I view Christmas this year.  I want it to be so much less about buying and more about giving.  Giving of my time, my heart, my hands and my love.  I want it to be about sharing my life with others.  I want it to be about getting to know people better, reaching out more.  I want it to be more about my incredible Savior.  I want to celebrate His life through my actions.  I don’t want to make the malls and stores and bazillionaires more money while throwing away mine.  I want to pour into those who need my help, who need my encouragement, my care and my understanding.

God has been speaking loudly to me lately.  He is wanting me to get uncomfortable again.   He wants me to get out there and HELP people.  Casting out all fears and just washing some feet for a while.  

Isn’t that what Christmas should be about?  Shouldn’t we be celebrating the life we all should follow?  Imitating the perfect role model. 

I mean really, can you see Jesus at the mall buying gifts and fretting over what he should buy his neighbor or his boss?  No, he would be helping, serving, loving and teaching.  So simple and so much more important than anything we could ever buy.

When I was looking for a graphic to put at the top of this post, I came across this blog post from last year at this time.  I love it, so I wanted to share it. 

Letter from Jesus

How God Intended Marriage To Be

I think many of the problems married people face today stem from not seeing marriage the way God does.  If we focus on our marriage vows and live them out how God intended, we would have less problems and less people would be heading for divorce, in my opinion.

God commands us to respect our husbands (no matter what) and for our husbands to love us (no matter what).  I think the “no matter what” trips a lot of people up.  They think to themselves, “but you don’t know my husband”, or “you don’t know how my wife can be”…. my response to that is….no, you are wrong,  God does know.  If BOTH spouses are obeying God’s commands….marriage works!  It’s like He knows what He is doing or something. 

“However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”  Ephesians 5:33 

As an example of this topic, I want to share something with you.  This past weekend, on Valentine’s Day,  my husband had me read two blog posts by Gail and Michael Hyatt.  Michael Hyatt is the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, the largest publisher of Christian books and Gail is his wife.   We follow Michael on twitter and also read his blog posts.  I also follow Gail and it is very inspiring how much focus they both put on God first, and then their marriage.  Read each of these posts and you’ll see what I mean.  They seem to have a pretty good handle on marriage and making it work.

Click here to read Michael’s post from last Valentine’s Day entitled “What I Love About My Wife”.

Click here to read Gail’s response to Michael’s post.  Gail’s is entitled “A Super-Human Husband?”.

Do You Love Others As You Should Be?

Love-2Jesus gave us our two great commandments in Mark 12:30-31.  The first is fairly easy for me.  “…love the Lord with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength. ”  I can do that.  He is so worthy of my love.   That one is easy for me.  The second command is to “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  Wow.   I will be the first to admit that I definitely need some work on this one.  The Bible even says that if you do not love others, then you do not know God.  Ouch. 

God is serious when He commands us to love others as ourselves.  We are to treat others exactly how we want to be treated. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

The Bible doesn’t say you only need to love those that are easy to love, or those that deserve love, or those that are nice to you.  No, the Bible gives a blanket statement of “love others as yourself” and that is how God intended it to be.  It is for everyone. 

Now, if someone is untrustworthy, or mean, etc.  You must forgive them and love them as yourself, but you do not have to be friends with them or hang around them.  That would not be smart.  So God doesn’t expect you to blindly trust people.  That is not one of His commands to us.  He just wants you to forgive others who have wronged you and love them.  Do what you can for them, but if they treat you badly, then you can stay away from them as much as possible.  Do not get that confused.  You can forgive and love others from afar.  God does not want you to harbor any hatred in your heart.  It only ends up hurting you.  Loving others and forgiving others frees you of that hurt, but it doesn’t mean that you then allow those people to hurt you more.  I have struggled with this concept in the past so I want to make it clear.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2.   This verse is a call to not only love our neighbors, but to be patient with them.  Aren’t we all guilty of being harder on others sometimes?  I definitely have been guilty of getting frustrated or even angry with someone for doing something I myself have done.  How does that help anyone, including me? 

Start today and practice loving others, forgiving others and being patient with others.  Reach out to someone today, show that you love them.  Do not let others frustrate you today in line, or in traffic, etc.  Just love them, forgive them and realize they may be having a rough day today.  Be the smiling face that changes their day, not the frowning face that just adds to their pain or sadness.

Can you imagine what the world would be like, or even your neighborhood, if we all adopted this philosophy?

‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. – Leviticus 19:18

Marriage Isn’t 50/50

Our pastor made this statement during one of his recent sermons.  Marriage is not 50/50.  It’s 100/100.  It’s not about being fair, or always giving the same amount to the marriage.

It’s about each person giving 100%.  It’s about serving your mate, going above and beyond and not counting the costs or keeping score.

Next time you are upset about something not being “fair” in your marriage, remember that it was never meant to be fair.  It’s about commitment.  Period.  It’s about giving everything you have.

However, all of this is not at all possible without God being at the forefront.  You have to have God first in your marriage, or it will never work.  If both of you are focused on God then you’ll be headed in the right direction.  If that is not the case, you’ll be headed in circles or worse, nowhere.

Marriage is a commitment to each other and most important a commitment to God.  You’ve committed to God that you will love this person no matter what, that you will be there for them when times are tough, you’ll pick up the slack, serve them, and respect them.

Ephesians 5:33 says  “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”  It doesn’t say “respect your husband if he deserves it”  and it doesn’t say “love your wife only if she deserves it”  It just says to do it.  This, in my opinion, is what keeps marriages together for the long haul.  Because I can almost guarantee you will come across times where neither of you deserve love and/or respect.  And God knew that, that’s why He instructs us to do it anyway.

Our pastor also always says that if you see something positive in your spouse, then focus on that.   Even if it’s small at the moment  just keep fanning the flames to make it bigger.  Encourage whatever is good until you are blue in the face. 

Nobody said marriage was easy, but if we approach it in the way God has outlined in the Bible it will not only last through the hard times, it will flourish.  

Here are 5 things that will help every marriage:

  1. Focus on God for your guidance, answers and strength
  2. Pray together
  3. Communicate constantly
  4. Honor your commitment to your spouse by loving and respecting them no matter what
  5. Have fun

Marriage can be a lot of fun.  It can be so rewarding.  You have your best friend right next to you to do life with.  But I think the most important component is commitment.  100% commitment from both sides.