Embracing the Wonderful

What we choose to focus on in life, is a choice.

What we choose to focus on in life, is a choice.

I had the opportunity to watch the movie,Β “It’s A Wonderful Life,”Β over the weekend. It’s my daughter’s favorite Christmas movie and perhaps one of the best movies ever made. As usual, she and I were crying like babies at the final scene.

She commented during the movie, that the only thing she doesn’t like about it, is we never get to see the villain, Mr. Potter, get what’s coming to him. I completely understand her point. Although he’s mean-spirited throughout the film, towards the end, he’s a criminal. He takes money that isn’t his and then tries to have George Bailey arrested.

Most of us know by heart, the verse from Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” We want to see Potter get justice.

We love the idea of good always winning, but in the movie, good does win, just not in the way George Bailey had in mind.

Every time Mr. Potter tried to knock George down, something good came of it. When he insisted that George not see the world and stay home to run the family business, George married the love of his life. When he tried to put George out of business when there was a run on the bank, George used his own hard earned money to convince people not to panic and keep the doors of the savings and loan open.

That selfless act planted seeds of mercy and compassion in the hearts of Β the townspeople that would sprout much later in the movie when he desperately needed them.

And when George’s hour was the darkest, Mr. Potter kicked him one more time and he decided to take his own life. Meanwhile, the entire town prayed for him. God listened and sent an angel and George decided he wanted to live even if he was going to jail for a crime he did not commit.

But, there was more intervention going on too. (There always is.) Β All of those kindnesses and mercies that George had been spreading for all of those years sprouted that night and just about everyone in town showed up at his house on Christmas Eve, with money to donate to replace what was stolen.

While we didn’t get to see Mr. Potter get his, it never was about Potter anyway. The story was about George. The story was about him doing the right thing, even though things never went like he planned or wanted them to go. The story was about him learning to embrace the life that he was given and the people who God entrusted to him.

His story is our story. Very often in life, things do not go like we plan and all Christians have a common enemy who likes to knock us down. But, if we keep our eyes focused on God and not our own Mr. Potter, and continue to sow seeds of kindness, mercy and love, they will eventually sprout, just as George’s did. God will grow something beautiful with all of our perceived failures and weaknesses if we allow Him to.

Who knows, He may send us angels too; the Bible tells us we may have even entertained them and not know it. There’s a lot of negativity to focus on in life. There always is; but focusing on God and all of the good He gives us, is a choice, one we are free to make.

George Bailey reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

Categories: Building Christian Character, Trusting God | Leave a comment

Intentional Prayers

We can learn to pray for God's will not our own.

We can learn to pray for God’s will not our own.

My mama and I were talking on the phone a couple of nights ago about her upcoming trip to Canada. She has never been to that particular part of Canada and was super excited. She was a little bummed when she learned that her dog sledding excursion was cancelled because there wasn’t enough snow.

I completely understood. I mean, for a lifelong Georgia girl, the idea of having enough snow to go dog sledding, is pretty exciting, kind of exotic. We chatted for a while longer and as we were saying goodbye, she asked me to pray for snow, but not a blizzard.

We laughed at that and said good-bye.

I thought about our conversation the next day. She was just joking. She’s actually quite a prayer warrior, but in our customer service driven society, I feel like we often try to get picky and sometimes downright bossy, with our prayers.

We pray for the perfect job, but we don’t want to move or work harder. We pray for rain, but not on Saturday because we have plans that day. We don’t pray for simply enough money; we pray to win the lottery.

We pray for healing both physically and emotionally, but want it to be immediate, involving no work on our own part, even though we often made the choices that put us in the need of healing. We pray about losing weight, but keep eating cookies.

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him how to pray, the prayer we call, “The Lord’s Prayer,” was born. One of the first parts of that prayer has to do with surrendering to God’s will. That’s not easy when we are raised with slogans like, “have it your way” and “you make your own destiny.” Perhaps we should ask ourselves if we believe that God’s plans for us are good. Do we trust in God’s destiny for us?

Jesus also tells us to ask for our daily bread, not for riches. Most of us are not content with that concept either. We want to have and spend as much as possible.

But, God was well aware that life for His people on earth will always have ongoing tension between the physical and the spiritual. We live on the earth for a time, but we are not supposed to be of it. He sent us Jesus to rescue us from our own nature.

Jesus became one of us. Taught us. Healed us. Died for us to save us and then rose for us. We can learn to pray like true children of God because Jesus taught us how in Matthew and still teaches us today through the Holy Spirit.

Advent seems like the ideal time to be a little more intentional about our prayers. Thankfully, we have Heaven cheering us on.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

 

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December Reflections

Perhaps the best gift we can give this season is prayer.

Perhaps the best gift we can give this season is prayer.

Today is the first day of December. The Christmas season is well underway. I’m hearing Christmas songs playing on the radio. I’m seeing houses decorated with lights. I’m seeing cars, with trees strapped to the top. That always makes me smile.

I have seen a huge board outside our cafeteria, full of wishes of children for Christmas, in our Secret Santa program. There is everything from socks to bicycles on that board and all kinds of things in between. I saw many parents take an item at our Thanksgiving feast and then when an e-mail went out appealing for help with all that remained, I saw some of those same parents come and pick another item.

I have seen amazing generosity at the school I am blessed to work in. I have seen God at work in this season.

I have also seen an incredible amount of tragedy this season. Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is in ruins. A wild fire burned a huge portion of it. Many people lost their homes and some even lost their lives. But, I also saw the rain all Southerners had been desperately hoping and praying for that eventually helped to control those mountain fires.

I find it kind of interesting that while a good portion of the fires blazing in the Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina mountains appear to be man-made; it took the power of God to finally get the best of them.

In my own little town, there have been two families who lost a father within a week of each other and another family who lost a daughter. When a co-worker came by my desk with a post it note to ask me to pray for one of those families, I could see God at work. When my pastor’s wife asked me to pray for another, I could see God at work and when a brand new Facebook friend, asked for prayers for the third family, I could again, see God at work.

We live in a broken world on this side of Heaven. There’s sickness, and death, and tragedy here. There are wild fires that sometimes burn out of control. But, there’s beauty here too, and generosity that sometimes brings me to tears. Sure, there’s plenty of hate, but there’s more love and love trumps hate every time.

As I think about the celebration of the birth of our Savior, I find myself wondering if this season isn’t perhaps a season that the enemy seeks to attack us the most. The birth of Christ was really the official beginning of Satan’s demise and since deception and destruction are his mantra, wouldn’t he use this time to target believers?

I feel a deep urge to pray in this season, to pray for the people of Tennessee, and the people who are struggling with sickness, and the people who are struggling financially, and for the people who are mourning.

I pray that those who feel lost and alone, will find the comforting arms of Jesus. Maybe this season, what our country needs more than anything, is some prayer warriors, people who are willing to stand in the gaps for people who are too weary to pray for themselves. It’s possible that in this moment in time, it’s our opportunity to, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Perhaps you would like to join me.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

Categories: Building Christian Character, Christmas, Trusting God, Watching for God | 4 Comments

The Gift of Empathy

Empathy is something the world could use a lot more of.

Empathy is something the world could use a lot more of.

A few weeks ago, a child was brought back to our school on the bus, because no one was at home. This occurrence is fairly common at our school. It’s an elementary school, so if the bus driver sees that no one is at home, they bring them back to the school.

Sometimes when this happens, the child is not fazed in the least. They accept that sometimes miscommunications happen or emergencies occur.

Sometimes the child is really upset and worried. On that particular day, the little boy was inconsolable. We tried desperately to convince him that everything would be okay, but he wasn’t buying it.

He was frantic until we could find his mother and he was assured that all was well and someone was on the way to pick him up.

On my way out the door to an orthodontist appointment, after he was calmer, I chatted with him for a few more minutes. There was a very loud play practice going on to our left. My co-worker was at the window waiting for another bus to come in, when the little boy looked at me and said quietly, “My bus driver told me that as long as there are children at the school, someone will stay with them.”

As my heart shattered into a hundred pieces, I assured him with all of the sincerity in my soul, that he would never be left at school alone. I reminded him that the principal was still there, and that all of those children were still there for play practice, and that my co-worker was still there. We even have an after school program.

But, his words weighed heavily on my fractured heart. He was terrified of being left alone. Haven’t we all been there? If you have ridden around the sun enough times, you have likely felt abandoned at some point. You have likely felt alone.

Whether it was actually a physical state of being alone or an emotional state, it’s a terrible feeling of hopelessness and if we’re not careful, it can scar us. It can lead us to be guarded and defensive. On the other hand, if we allow grace to work, it can teach us empathy, something that is blaringly absent in today’s world.

When we have empathy for others, we try to put ourselves in their shoes. We take the focus off of ourselves and try to understand what the other person is going through, even if that person hasn’t been particularly kind towards us.

God is perhaps the best empathizer of all. He wasn’t content to stay in Heaven at a distance. He sent His son to become one of us. God became one of us through Jesus. So, He truly understands our hearts when we celebrate and when we mourn. He understands what it’s like to be loved and hated, and He knows first hand what it’s like to feel abandoned and alone.

It’s certainly an easier route to close ourselves off to the pain of others. There’s so much of it; it can be overwhelming. But this Advent Season, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, maybe we should ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”

The words of a child reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

 

Categories: Building Christian Character | 2 Comments

No Matter the Weather

No matter the weather, God has us covered.

No matter the weather, God has us covered.

Yesterday at work, the most popular topic of conversation was that rain was headed our way. Weather is always a well discussed subject in rural Georgia, but lately it’s been the centerpiece of our thoughts as well as our conversations.

We haven’t had rain in 42 long days here and to add to our misery, a good portion of the north Georgia mountains are on fire. In a state known for its humidity, we have become much more like a desert lately.

Rain is one of those things that we don’t give much thought to unless it is interfering with our plans somehow, like a day at the pool or the 4th of July picnic. The other instance that causes us to really think about it, is times when we need it.

Rain is an interesting phenomenon. Too much of it makes the earth flood and causes all types of disaster and damage. Too much rain will kill crops. Β Too little of it results in drought. Crops can’t grow without rain. Trees are weakened without rain. We would eventually run out of drinking water without rain.

It’s all about balance. Isn’t it always?

I found myself pondering the concepts of rain and drought all day yesterday. I thought about how our lives go through times of drought and floods as well.

Sometimes we find ourselves wondering if the rains of change will ever stop. There are seasons where we want more than anything for the earth to stop turning. We long for a day of peace where nothing changes and nothing new happens, good or bad. We get to a point where we truly believe that just one more thing added to our already heavy load, will actually drown us somehow.

We don’t dare ask, “what else can happen?” but we think it. We find ourselves praying for peace and stability and we wonder if God hears us.

But, then there are those seasons where we wonder if anything will ever change. We pray and pray for some spiritual rain, for guidance, for a new plan or the next step, or answers, and we find God is silent. We wonder if He’s even listening to our parched prayers as we send them upward.

He hears our prayers in times of floods and times of drought and in every season in between. He is at work in our lives in every season and those who are willing to stubbornly hold onto faith and stand fast, will see His work eventually. Neither His power nor His plan can be missed if we are always at watch for them.

The Bible assures us that we never walk alone. We get assurances like:

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up, the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

Our forecast reminded me that the weather, like our circumstances, will always change. Sometimes the change is welcome and sometimes it is not. Either way, God’s got this whatever your this may be.

Sometimes I need reminding. Perhaps you do too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

 

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character, Trusting God | 1 Comment

In Preparation

Advent calls us to prepare ourselves spiritually for the birth of Christ.

Advent calls us to prepare ourselves spiritually for the birth of Christ.

I have two Facebook friends who have recently had babies. They shared their journeys from first announcing their pregnancies, to showing their growing baby bumps with each passing month. There was great joy in every shared photo. Then there were showers when well wishers gathered to give gifts in celebration and preparation of the lives that grew inside.

Thanks to social media, I was able to be a part of the expectation of the pending births. I was able to celebrate with them and pray for them.

There’s a lot of preparation that goes into welcoming a new child into a home. Besides all of the physical needs like cribs and diapers, any parent will tell you that life is never the same after the birth of a child. You find that your life is never really your own again and almost inexplicably, you are happy about it.

You come to realize that you never really understood how full your heart could become or how much you can love another human being. When you see your child for the first time, you know you have had a brush with the Divine.

Yesterday, marked the beginning of Advent. It’s a time when Christians are supposed to get ready for the birth of Christ. There are four Sundays in Advent and then we celebrate Christmas Day.

The Advent season is a busy time for most of us. There are gifts to buy and meals to plan, decorating to do and parties to attend. It’s incredibly easy to lose the meaning in the hustle and bustle of it all and to get incredibly stressed and overwhelmed. All Christians have a common enemy who is all too happy to see that happen.

But, Advent is meant to be a spiritual time of preparation. Just as parents-to-be have to do more to prepare for the birth of a child than the merely physical, we are called to use Advent to prepare our hearts for Jesus.

We are called to remember what the world looked like before the birth of Christ and perhaps relate it to what some of it looks like now without Him. We are called to remember the faith of a terrified teenager and a man who stood by her even though she carried a child who was not his. We are called to remember angels who brought the news to the couple straight from God Himself.

We are called to reflect upon a city who made no room for the Messiah and possibly to ask ourselves if we are doing any better some two thousand years later. We are called to consider that God chose a group of hard working shepherds, who lived on the fringe of society, to announce the birth of His Son and perhaps to give those who live on the fringe of our society today, a second look.

We are called to remember and reflect upon the love of God and His perfect plan. We are called to believe in miracles. As the Advent season gets into full swing, I’m going to begin each day with a prayer that God will remind me that we are getting ready to celebrate the coming of the light of the world and that I am called to reflect that light to all who cross my path.

Perhaps you would like to join me.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

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A Week of Thanks

Thanksgiving Reflections

Thanksgiving Reflections

My kids have the week off for Thanksgiving break and I’m going to take the week off to spend with them and enjoy some family time. I pray that as a nation, we will all take a step back from all of the negativity and fighting and reflect upon the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us. I pray that we will remember Who has given us those many blessings and return our hearts and souls to Him. The Bible says that Jesus holds all things together. I pray that if we earnestly seek Him, He will unify us as a Nation.

Perhaps you would like to join me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

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That’s What Christians Do

The opportunity to bless others sometimes shows up in unexpected ways.

The opportunity to bless others sometimes shows up in unexpected ways.

I haven’t been spending much time on Facebook lately. The political barbs are still flying and quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing it. I have never believed that a man or a woman was the answer to our country’s problems. If we are putting our faith in humanity alone, we have missed the boat.

But, when I did take a moment to scroll through my feed last night, a post from GodVine caught my eye. The headline was about a grandma’s text sent to a wrong person, going viral.

Now, my sweet Mama loves to consider herself tech savvy and that sounded exactly like something she would do, so I stopped to read it.

Apparently, a grandma named Wanda, meant to text the details of her upcoming Thanksgiving dinner to her grandson, but texted a perfect stranger instead. The 17 -year-old stranger was a senior in high school, named Jamal. When he didn’t recognize her number, he asked who she was.

She replied, “your grandma.” He then asked for a picture, which she sent. He then sent her a selfie, expecting to end the conversation when she saw they clearly were not related, but he asked her if he was still invited.

I imagine he never expected to hear from her again.

But, she replied, “Of course he was invited, she would save him a plate because that’s what grandma’s do, feed everyone.”

The shocked teen posted screen shots of the conversation all over Twitter, saying, “Somebody’s grandma is coming in clutch this year!!” (which simply means, saving the day)

Wanda’s act of kindness has been re-tweeted 150,000 times. Jamal said, “With…all the racial comments going on, it’s kind of good to see there’s still good people out there.”

Wanda was surprised about all of the attention and she met Jamal and his family a couple of days later and officially invited them to Thanksgiving dinner. They accepted.

Tears streamed down my face as I read this story. These are the stories that we need to share. The call to love one another is strong and we are often given so many unexpected opportunities to show the love of Jesus to those who so desperately need to see it.

Abraham Lincoln attempted to use the Thanksgiving holiday during the Civil War, to unite the country and he issued a proclamation: “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens…..to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of thanks and praise to our beneficient Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. I also recommend while offering up ascriptions justly due Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also with humble pentinence for our nationwide perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are currently engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of this nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

It almost sounds like a prayer, a prayer we could surely pray over 150 years later. I think Abe would be equally proud of Wanda and Jamal. Agreeing to accept a kindness is every bit as much a testament to faith as extending the kindness is.

I pray this Thanksgiving, that we will seek more stories like Wanda and Jamal’s and share them. I pray that we will become willing participants in stories like theirs. I pray that we will take a cue from Wanda, and make it our mission to feed everyone, because that’s what Christians do.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

 

 

Categories: Building Christian Character, Watching for God | Leave a comment

Life is Not Like Golf

Does our daily walk reflect thanks and faith?

Does our daily walk reflect thanks and faith?

At a recent high school football game where our team completed a really long drive to the goal post, the announcer made the comment that the crowd needed to make some noise and reminded us that we weren’t watching golf.

His statement worked and the crowd started cheering. The team needed to hear that enthusiasm and they began to play even better.

I thought about the golf statement in the weeks that went by. Golf is a subdued game. Not only are spectators expected to be quiet, there are officials who actually hold up signs with the word “quiet” on them.

Football is not a quiet game. It’s loud and rowdy and the players love to be cheered on with all of the noise the fans can muster.

We are a week away from Thanksgiving and I wonder what kind of picture of gratitude I give to the people around me. I have much to be thankful for as do most of the people I know. I have a family. I have friends. I have a home. I have running water that gets hot. I have electricity. I live in a country where I am free to worship as I please.

I have faith in a God who has promised me eternity with Him after I finish my journey here.

Do I reflect my faith and my thanks to the world around me like a football fan or is my reflection more subdued, like a golf fan? Do people feel like they want to draw closer to Jesus after spending time with me? Is my faith hard to miss?

As I pondered these questions, I was reminded that like the players on a football field, God’s people need cheering on. We need to let people know that we are praying for them. We need to encourage each other as much as possible. We need to stand in the gaps and offer a helping hand when we can.

As Christians, we need to live loudly, so our faith is hard to miss, because life is not a game of golf. It gets rough and rowdy sometimes and at times, it’s the cheers from the sidelines that make all of the difference.

A football announcer reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

 

 

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Yearning for Christmas

Perhaps the rush to decorate for Christmas is a symptom of our heart's desire for Jesus.

Perhaps the rush to decorate for Christmas is a symptom of our heart’s desire for Jesus.

A friend of mine commented the other night, about how she doesn’t spend that much time on Facebook. But, she said what she had noticed lately, was that every time she logged on, someone was sharing pictures of how they had already decorated for Christmas. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

I’ll have to admit that I have noticed the same trend myself. I even heard a dad who was checking his kids out of school one day last week, say that his wife wanted to go ahead and decorate for Christmas this year.

We expect it from retailers. They go straight from Halloween to Christmas. They skip right over Thanksgiving, I suspect, because it doesn’t make them any money. A season where we are supposed to be thankful for what we have is not big boom for business.

But, what’s going on with the American people?

I have given it some thought and I have a theory.

Americans have just lived through a brutal political campaign and a brutal election. There has been lots of division and lots of ugliness and the barbs are still flying across social media. Peace and unity seem nowhere in sight. Perhaps the rush to decorate for Christmas has to do with the peace, joy and love that the holiday represents.

Perhaps that even though we have tried to commercialize and secularize Christmas as much as possible, the baby at the heart of it all, pulls us towards each other, whether we want to admit it or not. Perhaps our hearts and souls know, even if our brains don’t, that the peace that we all are yearning for these days, can only truly come from Jesus, who is the reason for the season.

So, perhaps the rush to decorate, is an effort to usher in the Advent season, where we expectantly await the coming of Christ and all He represents, balm for hurting hearts, rest for weary souls and salvation for all who ask.

As I prepare my own heart and home for this season of Thanksgiving and all that living a life of gratitude represents, I find myself joining in with all of those early decorators if only in spirit. Perhaps you would like to join us.

Oh come, oh come Emmanuel!

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

Categories: Building Christian Character, Holidays | Leave a comment