Archive - November 2016

A Gratitude Filled Christmas

I’m really feeling the need to focus on gratitude this Christmas.

Changing our mindset from one of entitlement to one of gratitude is a small change with a huge impact. Someone said, “It’s not happy people who are thankful, it’s thankful people who are happy.” And it’s so true.

Whether or not we have joy at Christmas or at any other time is largely dependent on whether or not we have a spirit of gratitude.

The birth of The Messiah was the most extravagant gift ever given. We can never match it's greatness, but we can express our gratitude and magnify The Lord.

I plan to be really intentional about guiding my children’s hearts, as well as my own heart, toward gratitude this Christmas.

It’s a simple thing to chose gratitude, but it can difficult if our hearts aren’t tuned properly. It’s something we have to be intentional about. We have to consciously choice gratitude over dissatisfaction, especially in difficult situations.merry-christmas

To help us focus on gratitude this Christmas, I’ve created a gratitude advent. It’s more or less a book with a Bible verse and space for writing what we’re thankful for each day in December up to Christmas day. If you would like to join us you can get a free printable copy of the Gratitude Advent here.

If you have an Elf on the shelf or other Christmas visitor, I included a letter that can be used to introduce this activity.

In the first chapter of Luke after Mary is visited by the angel and told that she will be the mother of the messiah, she goes to see her cousin Elisabeth. When Elisabeth is told Mary’s news, she tells Mary how blessed she is to chosen for this task. Mary’s response is, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”

She recognized that her blessing and the blessings of the nation of Israel came from The Lord. He is the reason for every good thing we have in our lives, and it’s right that we should praise him for it.

The birth of The Messiah was the most extravagant gift ever given. We can never match it’s greatness, but we can express our gratitude and magnify The Lord.

Will you magnify The Lord with me Christmas season?

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. Luke 1:46-55

Download your free printable Gratitude Advent book here, or by clicking the image below.

A gratitude filled Christmas

I’m linking this up with Christian Blogger Community.

Why we should have Thanksgiving for Christmas

I know, I know Thanksgiving is over and I’m supposed to be talking all things Christmas. I’m supposed to be writing a post that will make you feel guilty for having an Elf on the Shelf, or a post that make you feel like a Grinch for not having one. My Instagram should be filled with pictures of my neatly decorated house, while I share my already planned Christmas menu.

I’m supposed to have moved on from Thanksgiving.

Except I have no idea what I’m cooking for Christmas. I’m staying out of the whole Elf on the Shelf debate. I just am. No ones salvation rests on the shenanigans of a toy elf. And while I am sitting in front of my Christmas tree as I type this, my house is far from Instagram worthy.

Half of my decorations are still in boxes, and I still have ceramic turkeys on my kitchen table.

I’m trying to get there, but there is only so much energy and time in the day.

I’ve had mixed emotions about the approaching holidays. Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, but this year is different. My emotions are all over the place.

I want to enjoy the season, but I feel guilty for enjoying the season.

But as I go to the Throne of Grace and try make sense of all these feelings, I hear that still small voice leading me to chose gratitude.

It’s a small thing, but so significant.

And what better time for gratitude than at Christmas time.

The celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday is just beginning. We need to continue the spirit of thanksgiving all the way through the holiday season. And really year round.

Last year when I wrote about giving thanks in difficult seasons, I made this closing statement, “I’m realizing that the key to focusing our hearts on Christ at Christmas might just be to focus on thankfulness at Thanksgiving.”

The celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday is just beginning. We need to continue the spirit of thanksgiving all the way through the holiday season. And really year round.

It’s so easy this time of year to get caught up in trying to make sure everything is perfect. We make sure all the right decorations are up, all the right presents are wrapped up under the tree, and all the right food is prepared, but those things aren’t what make the day special.

Christmas is special because of what we’re celebrating, not how we celebrate.

We can piously avoid all celebration of Christmas and still have an ungrateful heart. We can preach about keeping Christ in Christmas all we want, but if we leave out gratitude, we’re still missing the point.

The celebration of the birth of Christ, how ever we celebrate, must begin in our hearts, with gratitude.

Ingratitude is a disease running rampant throughout our culture. We want more, more, more and never stop to give thanks for what we already have. A look at the lines in the stores this past Friday will tell you that. If you were an alien from outer space, you’d have no idea that it was the day after the day we supposedly gave thanks.

Ingratitude is a monster that comes in and steals our joy. It keeps us focused on what we don’t have instead of what we do have. It makes us feel as though everything in our lives is wrong. Ingratitude isolates us from loved ones and makes us believe that no one cares.

An ungrateful spirit blinds us to blessings of God that are all around us each and every day.

This is why we are constantly complaining, one reason why we won’t settle down until everything is “perfect,” one of the reasons we get pouty when things don’t go our way, and why we can’t seem to find any joy in our hearts.

Joy is ours for the taking. It’s one of the fruits of The Spirit, but we have to cultivate our relationship with The Spirit in order to have those fruits. An ungrateful spirit is one of the biggest barriers in that relationship.

So many times we ignore the admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks in all things. But if we look at the book of James, we can see why ingratitude might actually be a sin.

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. James 4:17

We know we should give thanks, but so many times we don’t. God’s Word calls that sin. And sin a hindrances to our relationship with Him. It grieves The Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:30)

That’s why ingratitude is such a dangerous thing. It’s a deadly poison that slips in before we even know it and steals our joy.

We don’t have to let it though. We have the antidote to this poison already at our disposal. The antidote is just to stop and give thanks. Stop complaining, stop comparing, stop trying to make things perfect, stop wishing things were different, and start giving thanks for what is right now.A gratitude filled Christmas

So this year I’ve purposed in my heart to focus on gratitude. To give thanks, even on the hard days. I want my children to focus on gratitude too, and I’ve been thinking of ways we can accomplish this. I had a flash of inspiration while sitting in front of our Christmas tree, or maybe it was in the middle of church… Cough.

I printed off pages with a Bible verse and space for writing down what we’re thankful for each day until Christmas day. The verses will serve as a reminder of what we’re celebrating, and writing down what we’re thankful for help us focus our hearts in the right place.

Because I don’t want to be a grinchy mama, I thought a fun way to introduce this concept might be with our Elf so I wrote an elf letter to go with it. Yes, we have an Elf. I know you were dying to know that. We won’t be using the book that comes with the elf, so the letter will introduce both the elf and our Christmas gratitude project. (Yes, those are affiliate links.)

If you don’t think my idea is too crazy insane and you’d like to join us, you can get the free printable by clicking on the image below. You print the pages you want, and incorporate them however you wish. It would make a nice addition to a homeschool or advent study.

Have fun and be grateful!

GraceTruth-Featured

 

Click the image, or click here to get the free printable.

A gratitude filled Christmas

I’m linking this up with Grace & Truth.

Why our entertainment choices matter

I realized not too long ago that I am an easy target for the devil right now. It doesn’t take much to turn an off day into a really terrible day. And the past couple of weeks have been full of off days just waiting to turn sour.

One Tuesday, I was standing the checkout line at Walmart, when I realized that I had left all of my cash and my bankcard at home. As I was driving back to get my card and complaining about the other drivers on the road, it hit me that my attitude was part or the problem.

In fact my attitude was probably the biggest part of the problem.

All I wanted to do was go home and binge on Netflix, but that was the last thing I needed right then. That is what I had been doing.

It wasn’t helping my attitude at all.

When I’m consuming a steady diet of the worlds entertainment, my mind not stayed on Christ. It’s the spiritual equivalent of eating cake for every meal. It might seem good at the time, but it leaves you feeling sluggish and sick.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found I have to be very careful about my entertainment choices. Whether it’s music, books, or television, whatever I choose to consume influences me either positively or negatively.

A bad day can be made better by turning on music with a positive God honoring message, and vice versa. I can ruin a good day by yielding to the temptation to listen to just that one song.

Darkness breeds darkness.

The more darkness and corruption I allow into my life through entertainment, the more my attitude reflects that darkness and corruption.

It’s not necessarily about how many curse words there are, if there is any sexual content, or violence, it’s where my mind goes when I’m feeding myself from the worlds goods. This is why I stopped watching the news and listening to talk radio.

Isaiah 26:3 says:

Thou wilt keep [him] in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

When I’m consuming a steady diet of the worlds entertainment, my mind not stayed on Christ. It’s the spiritual equivalent of eating cake for every meal. It might seem good at the time, but it leaves you feeling sluggish and sick.

Sure, I might be having my daily quiet time, but opening my Bible for a few minutes in the morning then spending the rest of the day watching Netflix, is like eating a carrot before my breakfast cake thinking that will erase the effects of the cake.

There might not be anything wrong with having a slice of cake, or watching an episode of my favorite television show now and then, but there’s such a thing as too much.

Those things aren’t really doing me any good either.

Just because there’s nothing wrong with it doesn’t mean it’s what I need.

The renewal of our minds has to be constant. Instead of a steady diet of spiritual junk food, we need the wholesome nourishment of the Bread Of Life.

No, we don’t have to walk around with our noses in our Bibles. But when we’ve collected the dust of the world, we need to allow the Master to wash our feet.

It’s also true that while some forms of entertainment may be harmless in small doses, there are others that we need to avoid all together. Pornography, violence, drugs, alcohol, astrology, and music that glorifies all of that, are things that bring nothing good to our lives. Even a little bit is too much.

This is especially true when we’re struggling with depression or anxiety, and when we’re going through a season of stress or sadness. 

The entertainment of the world is so appealing and distracting, and we love it. It makes us forget for just a little while. But, when we’re depressed, the music that we identify with is only going to make us more depressed. So will that glass of wine.

I would never claim that depression is always a spiritual problem. I’ve had enough experience with it to know better. There are some things though that we do have control over, which can make it much worse.

When we are struggling with depression dabbling, no matter how lightly, in the spiritual darkness of pornography, drug use, alcoholism, and astrology will be counter productive to the healing we seek. 

If our loved ones are struggling, our dabbling will be harmful to them as well.

And all those more harmless things wont really help either. It may seem like it for a while because they’re so distracting, but when that movie is over, we’ll still be in the same place we were before.

So, what do we do? We fill those empty spaces with The Word of God, music that lifts up the name of Christ, and other things that bring light into our world.

We have to heavily filter everything.

That includes what we see on social media. You know I would end up there, din’t you? I didn’t, until now. But it was missing from the discussion, and it can be huge influence if we let it.

Social media can be dangerous because it runs the spectrum from helpful to outright destructive. It can change from helpful to harmful in an instant, and without warning. For some people it can be addicting.

For the most part we have a great deal of control over whether our social media accounts are helping or hurting us. We can choose who and what we see in our news feeds. We don’t have to read endless statuses from people who complain about everything. We don’t have to see the posts that tell us everything that’s wrong with the world.

The list people and groups I follow on social media seems to get shorter every day. If your name pops up attached to a picture of a mostly naked woman, or a meme about beer, I will probably stop following you.

If we fill our newsfeed with people and groups who love the Word of God, who have a desire to honor Him, and encourage others in their Christian walk, then social media can be a positive influence. I’m not saying that every post has to be spiritual. I love a good joke as much as the next person, but we can share jokes, food videos, and pictures of cats without being destructive.

We need to use a great deal of discernment about what we share, what we see, and when it’s time to turn it off.

The same goes for what we read, watch, and listen to.

The more darkness and corruption we let in, the more we find it acceptable. Then we let in even more, and it shows up in our attitudes and our actions. Eventually it can ruin our testimony with the world we should be trying to reach.

It’s not about a bunch of rules that we have to follow in order to make sure God is happy with us. It’s about choosing the right food for our souls. It’s about filling ourselves with the light of Christ so that we can project that light to others.

If we want to be Battle Ready, our hearts and minds have to free from the distractions of the world

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I’m linking this up with Sitting Among FriendsThankful Thursdays, and Grace & Truth.

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