Monthly archives: December, 2017

PRINCE OF PEACE

 

 

Yep, I’m one of “those” people. Around the day after Halloween (or so), I get pretty excited about…Christmas. I’m proud to say our kids are the same way. I know, I know; some of you are doing a big eye roll about now. But those of you who are like me, you understand!

Christmas. The Holidays. This time of the year can bring to mind many reactions and emotions. They’re intended to be times of great joy. Celebrating the birth of Jesus. Catching up with extended family. Time off from work and school. Traditions had. Memories made.

Yet in reality, if we’re not careful, the Holidays can be one word. Exhausting.

Days of travel. The cancelled flights. The long drive with kids fighting.  The surprising unkind exchange of words with your spouse. Family drama. The awkwardness. Late night cupcake baking for your kids Christmas party. Shopping. For gifts that you can’t afford. Wrapping presents. Fighting with tangled Christmas lights. Keeping up with the neighbors. Family pictures. Christmas programs. Work Christmas parties. The trash and cleanup. The stress. Whew!

And, just like that, it’s over. Another Christmas is in the books. We almost feel a letdown. All our good intentions didn’t deliver what we had imagined. Peace evades our souls.

Somehow we get so wrapped up in the chaos that surrounds the season that we miss the season itself. It’s so easily done. We’ve all been guilty of it at some point in our lives.

I’m wondering. With there being such division and unrest within us and around us, maybe there’s a question that we should be asking ourselves? A shift in focus that would change so much. “How can webring peace not just to our Christmas season, but to our own world? Peace to our home. Peace to our relationships?”

Have you seen the recent television commercial that features Microsoft employees and a children’s choir singing, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me to employees at (get this) an Apple store?  It’s worth googling. I mean, this is almost as if the “light side” is reaching out to the “dark side”, right?

This season, don’t miss it. Give the gift of peace to someone’s soul. To your soul.  And, may we focus on the One Who gives peace like no other. Our greatest Gift. Our Prince of Peace.

 

“And his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father.

The Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6


F O R G I V E N E S S

 

It had been ten years. Yes, ten years since I had spoken to let alone seen my friend.

 

 

We were friends in college and “couple friends” after marriage. We had a long runway of friendship…20 years worth. We vacationed together, played spades until all hours of the night together, swapped stories and shared a crazy amount of laughs over chips-n-salsa at Chile’s at least once a week.

 

 

Life happened. A significant fracture in our friendship happened. A painful one.

 

 

How could it be possible to let a 20-year friendship go…just like that? Looking back, it may sound a bit “cliche-ish”, but there was some definite spiritual warfare stacked against us coupled with a bit of jealousy, pride, and immaturity.

 

 

The bigger question is why did I hold onto this offense for 10 years? Why did I allow this to be ok? I mean I grew up in the church,  became a Christian at a young age, and just happened to be married to a Pastor. You could say I’ve heard a few sermons on forgiveness and I could quote you several verses on the topic as well.

 

 

And yet, I wasn’t forgiving. Most days, I wasn’t even making any effort to. Other days, I felt I had, and then something would happen that would trigger a memory that sent me spiraling back down into resentment, what ifs, and anger.  How easily I judged other people for their sin that was visible and so quickly ignored and dismissed my own. It’s like I compartmentalized this one area of my life and all the truth that I heard or read in the Bible didn’t apply to me here.

 

 

Why didn’t I choose to forgive all those years?

 

 

Want some excuses? It hurt too much. I somehow felt like I was losing some of my footing in this side of the battle if I forgave. Like I was silently saying what happened was ok. That it wasn’t even a ‘deal’ to begin with. Like I had gotten over it and I knew very well most days I had not.

 

 

But, I mean there’s always a bright side of holding a grudge.  Sleepless nights. A feeling of being unwell physically. Imagined conversations with the people that I felt hurt me. Frustration with those closest to me as they were in my line of fire not because of something they had done, but because I was mentally cycling through scenarios…what I should have said/done with the other person. I could never truly be present because I was still fighting battles from the past.

 

 

 

Then the opportunity came for me to see my friend. My flesh still didn’t want to go. I wanted to just not care, but I decided it had been long enough. I couldn’t drift and allow myself to continue down this road any longer. It wasn’t right.  And, really, what had my staying upset with this person accomplished the last decade? Nothing good. I gained nothing and neither had they.

 

 

Our eyes met..my friend and mine; and, somehow I saw the same grief and sorrow of years gone by and time that was lost in their eyes. We smiled and hugged both of us knowing what was being said without saying a word.

 

 

Maybe you can relate to my story. You have your own and it may look very different than mine. You may need to be reminded to just get the monkey off your back. Let Elsa declare to, Let. It. Go. Seriously, just choose it and do it. It may be something much different that would take time and lengthy conversations to happen first. You may even need to seek some counseling to just know how to handle it. It may make my story seem very insignificant and small. I get it.

 

 

But, in this season of getting together with family (!) and making lists, may each of us stop making those that keep a record of wrong and be reminded of what Love really looks like.

 

 

“Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive!” (Psalm 130:3 NLT)

 


THE DEMAND OF SELFLESSNESS

 

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of selfless is: “to show great concern for and willingness to give unselfishly to others.” It says ‘willingness to give,’ which indicates that selflessness is a choice; you have to be willing. Another edition gives the definition as, “to be devoted to other’s welfare or interest and not one’s own.”  When I think of the word devoted I think of taking a vow. We are to be willingly devoted to serve others.

David Nelmes (2007) describes selflessness as agape love. He says agape is unconditional love that is always giving and impossible to take or be a taker. It devotes total commitment to seek your highest best no matter how anyone may respond. This form of love is totally selfless and does not change whether the love given is returned or not. This is the original and only true form of love.

This is the kind of selfless love that Christ has for us. It is pretty humbling to think that Jesus selflessly laid down His life for us and loves us no matter what we do. We could do the greatest thing…or the very worst thing…it will never change how he loves us. He loves us freely without receiving anything and without condition.

Jesus is our standard and the perfect picture of selflessness. First, as God Himself, Jesus submitted to the will of the Father and secondly, He sacrificed himself for the sins of the world without condition.

What does it look like to consider a life of selflessness? How should it impact our relationships? How do we live out love in a selfless way? How do we get to a place where we can serve and give without condition and without expecting anything in return?

Well, to begin with, as basic as it may seem, we need to check our purpose and our priorities.

Are you ever so busy you find yourself on survival mode just trying to figure out how you will manage to complete the next task? How in the world could you find time to do something for someone else? So then what?

When I find myself there, I know it is once again time to…pause…step back…and reset my boundaries. The Word clearly tells us to, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

When in the midst of times like that, when life becomes so full (even full of all good things), it seems an impossible task to purpose to give selflessly by putting others first. This is especially true when considering that sometimes being selfless can prove uncomfortable because of the unanticipated effort required. Sometimes a selfless act might mean we need to do something we might not want to do. Or maybe it turns into a bigger time commitment than we thought. However, God tells us in Philippians 2:4 to put others first by “…not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Of course, we need to keep healthy boundaries in check. Sometimes, we may need to say “No”…and that’s okay. It is part of knowing the difference between inconvenient versus unhealthy. On the other hand, maybe it’s a small shift in our perspective that’s needed to become others-directed. Selfless acts may simply be the little things that include opportunities to be more thoughtful, considerate, and kind to those who God has put in our lives. When we begin to make ourselves available to the needs of others, the Holy Spirit will lead us.

Again in Philippians 2, we read, “Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (1-3).

From 1 Thessalonians 2:14, we know we are to imitate Christ’s humility: “For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus.” If we are to be imitators of Christ we must be purposeful to be more like Him in order to live a life of selflessness with intention. We should serve selflessly out of shear gratitude for who He is and what He has done for us. We should give to others unconditionally with no reciprocity, because God loves them, too, and that is how God gives to us. We are called to be imitators of Christ and live in a way that reflects Him.

Are we willingly devoted to serve others?

In the name of Jesus, may the Lord help us to develop an ability to serve others and make us ever mindful of the needs of those around us. May the residue of His Holy Spirit, living in us, permeate our lives as we grow to selflessly love like Jesus.  Amen.

.

.

.

-Guest writer Jane McCann and her husband John are Love Defined small group leaders. They have been married for 32 years and have 3 adult children. Jane has been a school teacher for 33 years and enjoys spending time with her 2 grandchildren in her spare time.

McCanns