Tag Archives: peace

Silent Night | Seeking the Savior Amid the Noise of Christmas

15 Dec

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Christmas comes the same time each year—but does it always seem to just blaze by at lightning speed and go careening off into January before you get a chance to breathe it in? Perhaps it seems like the more Christmases you experience, the more Christmastime feels like a striving for a feeling—that warm, peaceful feeling you’ve always associated with the birth of Jesus. Yet Christmas comes faster and faster each year, and the feeling you’re so desperate to feel just seems to sweep in and out, muffled by the whirlwind of gifts, lines at the mall and Christmas parties you arrived late for. So you buy tickets to Christmas concerts and holiday expos, penciling in time to get some Christmas in your life before the 25th arrives. But these efforts are in vain. They offer a short flicker of the feeling, but it is quickly snuffed out once you re-enter your life, where the bills are waiting to be paid, dinner is waiting to be made, the dishes are waiting to be washed and, of course, Christmas gifts are waiting to be be bought. Perfect gifts that will make everyone you love feel special and make you look like a thoughtful friend—not like you’re trying too hard or anything, but not like you’re just cheap and in a rush either. It’s a tough balance to master.

Before you know it, it’s New Years Day and you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to take down the lights, when to disassemble the tree, where in the world you’re going to put all the new stuff you got, and when you’re going to have a few free hours to go back to the dreaded shopping center to make your returns and exchanges. Maybe you feel a bit of remorse for never really obtaining the feeling, but it’s not something you can dwell on. It’s a new year—you’ve got to try to make some feasibly obtainable resolutions, lose that holiday weight and get on with life. You made it through the season, though, and maybe things will be better next year when your life is a little more together.

But we all know that won’t be the case. Life is unpredictable. New seasons bring with them new joys and sorrows, and by the time Christmas rolls around again who knows what your laundry list of things keeping you busy will look like?

The trick isn’t to put the joy and peace of Christmastime on the back burner until all of your duties are accomplished. You can’t push the manger aside until you feel like you’ve done enough to rest in the promises of a silent night. There will always be more to do. Consumerism and our own self-induced societal expectations do an excellent job of drowning out the cries of the newborn king with the ringing of jingle bells and the stampeding of shoppers. The peace of Jesus is unlikely to be found amid such madness. Expecting that Christmas feeling to overwhelm you while you’re caught in life-altering traffic trying to get out of a packed-out parking lot is naive at best.

Jesus made his entrance into the world quietly and discreetly. The greatest gift ever given was given on a silent night two thousand years ago, in a barn, to an audience of poor shepherds. 

Try to bask in that simplicity for just a moment. The God who gave us that gift is not a God of grandiose, complicated expectations. He is a God who had every ability to give this gift in an elaborate, over-the-top experience for the whole world to see, but instead He sent his son to a little-known couple traveling to their hometown by donkey. The gift was delivered in the deep stillness of a silent night. Even the grandest part of the story, the choir of angels declaring his birth, was only revealed to a group of shepherds watching their flock in the night.

The promise of Christmas is the same today. It can’t be achieved by constant striving for more Christmasy experiences. It can’t be put off until a more convenient time comes around. It is here, now, in the stillness of a quiet and receptive heart. It is here when you allow it to bubble up inside of you until it spills over into everything you touch. It’s here when you slow down, give up your striving and simply ask for Jesus to meet you in this place at this time.

He’s waiting for you to wait for Him—expectantly, joyfully, with all the hope and anticipation of that first Christmas.

Wait for him in these last few days of Advent. Allow him to join you in your waiting, to point your heart in the direction of the stable. Let him show you the beauty of his gift—the only gift that really matters when the blur of December fades and gives way to the new year. Be still and receive it.

Rambling of the Day: Desperately Seeking Permanence

10 Mar

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Photos by Simone Anne, courtesy of Death to Stock.

We’re all seeking permanence of some kind. Whether it’s a career, a relationship, a personal goal or maybe even a spiritual need, we are all seeking the stability we believe can only be found only in a permanent situation. Nobody likes the uncomfortable feeling of floundering around in temporariness, harboring on the edges of something that could be but wondering all the time if something will ever come of it. We hate that in-betweenness, that uncertainty that hangs over us in situations with undeterminable outcomes.

Will this relationship ever move forward into something permanent? Will I ever get the promotion I need to have to income that will make me feel stable? Will I finally find the perfect place to call home, never wondering if there’s something better out there—and be content to stay there?

And we get weary waiting. Day after day we become increasingly desperate for that thing, whatever it is—that thing that’s going to flick the switch from temporary to permanent: that job, that person, that perfect situation, whatever it is. Once it comes, we’re certain things will change. We’ll be happier, less worrisome, more comfortable, at peace with ourselves. Life will be better. And so we live on, each day plodding along, eagerly anticipating that day when we won’t have to anticipate anymore because we’ll finally have it. Permanence. I’ll be happy when…

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When what, exactly? When the stars aline and life is finally all you dreamt it would be? When you’re finally at that goal weight and it’s here to stay? When your relationship is finally going smoothly and you’re settled down comfortably in happy wedded bliss?

It’s funny how we do this to ourselves. We’ve got a whole lifetime of experiences to prove to us that that nirvana state doesn’t really exist, yet we continue to hold out for it, waiting for something permanent to take hold of us and sweep us up in the beauty of complacency once and for all.

But this life doesn’t offer permanence.

Nothing about it does.

Tomorrow morning isn’t a guaranteed event. Neither is your next birthday, or next year when you’re up for that promotion, or ten years from now when the mortgage will finally be paid off. None of that is guaranteed to you. And even if and when you do finally get there, there is no guarantee of what life will look like at that time. That permanence you’re so desperately holding out for is simply the illusion of stability; up close it is just as evanescent as the moment you’re living right now.

Here’s the point. I’m in the midst of a very uncertain time in my life right now, and I have found myself increasingly living in a state of desire for it to be over and longing for the things in store for me in the future. I’m constantly in a state that feels like something similar to the agony of adolescence: an entrapment in a painful in-between phase that nervously clings to the status quo while at the same time staring wistfully toward the future, daring to dream—no, demand—that it come blazing in like a chariot. I’m impatient for that future now. I’ve waited long enough. I’ve done enough of the in-between work. I’ve done enough temporary. I want the permanence.

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But it is in this moment that a voice whispers, ever so gently, that nothing will ever be permanent. That it was never intended to be. Because this place is temporary, and everything here will one day pass away. This world is not the end of the road; in fact it’s just barely scratching the surface of the beginning. So the light of the end of the tunnel isn’t anywhere to be found in this life. It’s only found in the One who has overcome the troubles of this world. The One who has gone before and paved the path from temporary to permanent, who has our future solidified in His work on the cross.

And so, that voice whispers, carry on. Carry on in all that you do with a grateful heart, an open mind and a hopeful spirit. Carry on with your day-to-day in-betweenness, your working-up-to-something-ness. And do it cheerfully. Do it willingly, with a full heart, confident in the wisdom that this life is not your permanent situation. This world is not your dream home. It won’t feel any more so when you finally get to that elusive goal, either, because this life doesn’t offer that, and it was never intended to. This life is wonderful, beautiful, extraordinary—but, oh, so very, very temporary.

And so, my dear, I hear in a whisper, stop your desperate search for the permanent here. Steady your heart—it needn’t be so overwhelmed with longing for the things of this life. Some of it will be wonderful, and you will get to those places, and for a moment you’ll be at peace and you’ll feel the warmth of the sun on your face and you’ll think that this is it. But, darling, the sunshine will soon be overcome by clouds once again, and you’ll wonder what you did wrong, and you’ll again question why, why, why, dear God, can’t I have permanence? My love, you shall, but please believe that it is not to be found here on this earth. So embrace the sunshine and the clouds alike, bask in the beauty of whatever weather comes your way, and eagerly await the permanence of the place being prepared for you.

Rambling of the Day: Taking a deep breath with confidence

22 Aug

I’m changing direction on topics today, because it is just one of those times I feel really bogged down by the personal struggles in my life and it’s difficult to focus on other things. I won’t go into detail about my problems and why I feel overwhelmed, because that’s not what this post is about. My issues are going to seem like huge problems to some people, and other people will just laugh at them because they seem so minor compared to their own. I’m writing this because I’m sure I am not alone in oftentimes feeling so anxious about life that it causes me to stop living it as fully as possible. When I was talking about this with someone today, I was graciously reminded that sometimes we go through times when we’re tested. I know the language is cliché, but it was a great reminder to me to calm down and adjust my attitude about my situation.

Sometimes we get so caught up in everything that seems to be going wrong in our lives that we downplay the good things that deserve our attention. We forget that we are loved during both the good and bad times in our lives. Perhaps we even feel that God is neglecting us when we are going through difficulty, but it is in these times that we need to remember the promises of God. Sometimes when we think about the Bible, we only want to take into consideration the parts that make us feel happy. But oftentimes the promises God offers are prefaced with the fact that this life will not always be easy! We are told we will have difficulty in this life, but we are also reminded that it will eventually be overcome.

John 16:33 explains it perfectly: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Philippians 4:6-7 is also a wonderful reassurance for those of us with the tendency to be anxious and dwell on our worldly problems: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I read these words today and it is amazing how much easier it was for me to focus on the positive things. The key to this verse is the description of the peace of God as being something “which surpasses all understanding.” Once you realize that God’s peace is greater than anything understood by man, how can you not simply let go of your burden and accept that peace? I know sometimes it seems impossible to let go of the difficulty in our lives because we feel like we have so much to be worried about. Honestly, sometimes I feel like if I’m not worried about something then I’m doing something wrong, and I do that mental checklist of things going on in my life, until – oh, yeah, that thing, that’s what I was supposed to be stressing over. But that isn’t the way we’re supposed to handle our burdens. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The first part gives us the instructions, and they are pretty simple to follow. The second part holds the promise – we will be given rest! The peace of God will guard our hearts and minds, and we will be given rest. That’s more than enough to convince me to let go of my anxiety.

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