Let's spread the word. When you see a great movie to talk about it, right? Well, let's talk about books instead. For the month of July I would like to feature books our readers have read that have helped them in overcoming difficult circumstances in their lives. If you have a book or two or three that were tremendously helpful to you and you would like to recommend them, please email me at admin [at] gloryandstrength.com. Please include why you liked it and how it helped you. If you want to share your full name, that's great, otherwise I will include only a first name or initials.
December 26, 2011
I pray you have had a wonderful Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa) and that you are enjoying the season. I am on vacation so there will be no new articles posted until later this week.
As I pray and contemplate the direction of Glory and Strength for 2012, I ask you, my readers, what issues would you like to read about; what are you struggling with and where do you need help? Please post your suggestions via a comment or email me: admin [at] GloryandStrength.com. Your comments, questions and suggestions are welcome all year long!
I pray that 2012 will be a year of healing, growth and victory for you all.
Debra L. Butterfield
Editor and Publisher
by Kimberly Chastain © 2009
Have you always dreamed of a Norman Rockwell Christmas - where everyone is singing Christmas carols and there is joy in the house? Alas, your Christmas memories are often filled with Uncle Joe getting drunk and your parents ending up in a fight. By the end of Christmas day family members are mad and no one is talking to one another.
Christmas can be very difficult if you grew up in a dysfunctional family and you choose to go home for Christmas. Often the holidays bring out the worst in families instead of the best. Old arguments that have never been resolved are reignited. Old wounds that you thought were healed are ripped open once again.
Is there anything you can do to truly make this Christmas different?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Pray that God will give you the wisdom to know when to speak and when to stay quiet. Many times you won't win the age old argument. Is it worth the fight?
2. Have realistic expectations about what will happen at your family gathering. Often we dream and envision things will be different and our dreams are crushed once again.
3. Limit your time or choose not to place yourself in toxic situations. If you will be putting yourself or your children in physical or emotional danger you may need to choose to stay home.
4. Remember and be with your "adopted family." Often people from dysfunctional families have extremely close friends who feel like family. I have had several people tell me about a friend who is like a sister or a mother to them. You may choose to spend Christmas with your "adopted family."
5. Remember your heavenly Father loves you unconditionally and that He can meet your needs, even when your earthly family does not meet your needs.
6. Recognize that there is a difference between forgiveness and acceptance of actions. You can and should forgive family members and others who have hurt you. That does not mean their actions were acceptable. Also, you can be cautious of putting yourself into situations where you could be emotionally or physically harmed once again.
7. Don't be too hard on yourself. You may have made great progress in your own spiritual and emotional growth and find when you go home you are right back where you started. Dysfunctional family patterns have a tremendous pull. You can realign yourself when you return to your own home.
8. Make a conscious choice to raise your own children and live your life in a more healthy family. Decide what new Christ honoring traditions you want to start for your family.
9. Be open to and aware of other people who come from hurting families. You have a story you may choose to share of the healing that has occurred for you. You can give others hope.
10. Be aware that your own addictions may resurface. Those could include overspending, overeating, drinking, or drug use. Often we try to soothe our emotional pain by overspending or overeating.
Above all I pray you will be kind to yourself. Have realistic expectations of what Christmas will be for your family. Create your own good memories with your own family or your "adopted family." Remember Mary's first Christmas was probably not what she expected. She probably did not plan on delivering Jesus in a barn, but what a blessed and glorious night. May God be your peace and joy this Christmas.
By Poppy Smith
Instead of a houseful of kids and their little ones running around laughing, crying, playing with toys and sneaking treats, this year my husband, Jim, and I will be home alone for Christmas. My automatic reaction is to feel sad—but I am glad that all of them will be celebrating the coming of Jesus with their in-laws. After all, we are usually the ones who get that privilege!
But—it’s easy to be sucked down into a “poor me” mindset and play the blues, unless we decide to change our perspective. So here are eight simple ways to help you enjoy the holidays whether you’re physically or emotionally alone. Why not join me and let’s beat those blues which aren’t where God wants us at this special time of the year—or at any time!
- Sing. Play music. Listen to the words and join in praising God. Singing is a guaranteed mood lifter and perspective changer. “Sing for joy to God our strength” Ps.81:1.
- Smile. Smile at little children. Their harried moms. The older shoppers who are trying to find just the right present. Make smiling your chosen expression (not through gritted teeth, however!). It will make you feel so much better and maybe lift up another lonely soul.
- Invite. Is there someone you haven’t had time for this past year? Could you suggest meeting for coffee, lunch, or even over to your home? Perfection isn’t needed—only a loving heart that looks beyond its own world.
- Rest. Remember all those too early mornings when you longed to just stay in bed? Now’s your chance. Take time to read a book of the Bible or several psalms. Choose a special book, magazine, or television program. Make or buy some once in a year yummy treats and ENJOY this gift of time!
- Give gifts to others. Go online and look for simple Christmas recipes. Make peppermint candy or a cranberry loaf and go drop it off at a homeless shelter or place that serves those without a home. Change your perspective from looking inward to looking outward—as God our Savior did when He gave us the most amazing gift of love any one can receive.
- Write a list of your blessings. Think back over this past year. Even if it has been one of the most difficult you’ve experienced, ask God’s Spirit to show you where He was present, loving and supporting and guiding you through. He will show you something and lift your heart.
- Go to a Christmas Eve Service. Even if you’re by yourself, don’t miss the presence of God amidst the beauty of this celebration. Let your senses feast on the beauty, your ears delight in the music, your heart be moved to new heights of gratitude and love.
- Pray about your dreams for 2012. What do you want to see happen in the coming year? Have you thought about changes you want to make? New paths to walk? Write out what comes to mind when you think of taking better care of yourself physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. (See my video: Take Care of Yourself, …….. or check my website on the media clips page).
May your “Home Alone” Christmas fill you with joy and a fresh awareness that Christ is with you, whether you’re surrounded by people or peacefully alone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: With her fun personality and passion for communicating life-changing truths, Poppy Smith inspires believers to thrive spiritually and personally. Poppy’s practical how-to messages (in print or in person) use colorful examples from her own struggles to be more like Jesus. She encourages women (and men, at times) to grow in every kind of situation—whether joyful or painful! Poppy is British, married to an American, and has lived in many countries. She brings an international flair seasoned with humorous honesty as she illustrates Bible truths. A former Bible Study Fellowship Lecturer, Poppy’s teaching challenges women to look at their choices, attitudes and self-talk. As a result, God’s speaks, changing hearts, changing minds, and changing lives. Sign up for Poppy's THRIVE newsletter at: http://www.poppysmith.com/newsletters.htm
by Alan Allegra © 2009
Many of us whose memories are slipping are old enough to remember Elvis singing, “But I’ll have a blue, blue blue blue Christmas.” Stuttering aside, his point was that, instead of red and green and white, his sorrows would paint a predominantly blue Christmas. For many, the joyous sounds of others at Christmas time only echo sadly within the hollow memories of happier times.
Some churches now hold what they call a Blue Service, quietly geared to those who, for whatever reason, are not experiencing Coca Cola and Currier and Ives Christmases.
Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the “cuddly babe in the manger,” with great joy. Later in the year, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, with great joy. Joy, joy, joy. We almost look down on anyone who claims to be a Christian and who isn’t walking around with a sparkly smile and a bounce in his steps. Just like Charlie Brown and the empty mailbox, it looks like Christ has nothing for them.
The truth is that Jesus has something for everyone. At this time of year, we often turn to Isaiah 7:14 or 9:6, the Old Testament Christmas verses. If you are having a Blue Christmas, I challenge you to read all of Isaiah 53. Let’s focus specifically on a few key passages.
By Dr. Charles W. Page
Do you recall trying to sleep on Christmas Eve while waiting for Santa to come to town? The anticipation of Saint Nicolas and all his goodies was just too much—who could sleep? The lyrics of Santa Claus is Coming to Town taunted me. “He sees you when you’re sleeping—he knows when you’re awake…” I tossed and turned trying to fall asleep, fearful I’d miss out on Santa’s visit if he caught me awake. I never doubted Santa’s ability to be aware of my wakefulness.
Unfortunately, as adults, the issues that keep us awake during the Christmas season are more complicated than those we experienced as kids. Financial burdens, strained relationships, difficult decisions, brooding regrets and fretful thoughts race through our minds and hinder our rest.
There is someone who “sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake.” It’s not Santa Claus. The Bible reminds us, God’s eyes never close. Perhaps this truth can tuck us in for the night.
“He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4)
We erroneously think that as we “turn in” that God somehow “turns off” or moves on to do more important things. But God doesn’t wait for us to wake up before He returns to work. God is just as active during our sleep—or sleeplessness. Believers can rest assured knowing God is awake guarding our lives.
What does God do as we slumber? Psalm 127:1-2 reminds us that God gives to those that He loves as they sleep. What does God give? Understanding God’s generous nature, one rendering would be that God gives to the believer whatever is needed at the time. God can give you wisdom and direction with decisions as you “sleep on it” overnight (Psalm 16:7, James 1:5). Maybe there is a financial need. The scriptures are filled with examples of how God provided for the physical needs of those He loved as they rested (I Kings 19:1-8; Exodus 16:1-8).
God’s gifts are good, perfect (James 1:17), eternal (Ephesians 1:3) and purposeful (Galatians 5:22-25). They do not require batteries, warranties and cannot be purchased in stores. But they are available 24/7/365—not limited to one night each year. God’s greatest gift did not arrive under a tree but on a tree (John 3:16). “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
It’s plain to see, God has our back as we sleep. Try this Christmas recipe for rest.
- Repent—in areas where we are aware of our transgressions. “A clean conscience makes a soft pillow.”
- Release—control of problems you’re facing and give them over to God.
- Relate—connect with God through prayer and meditation while in bed.
- Rest—allow God to do what you cannot do for yourself as you sleep.
- Receive—God’s unmerited forgiveness, grace and blessings while you sleep.
An English proverb reminds us, “As you make your bed so you must lie in it.” The truth of God’s Word helps us face our situations. Although we cannot change the failures of our past, we can rest with a clean conscience based on God’s gift of forgiveness. Our current circumstances may appear overwhelming, but God gives His presence and His guidance in our hour of need. Our future is secure and hopeful when God’s greatest gift—His Son—is kept in view. A life supported by a vibrant, healthy relationship with the Shepherd of Sleep makes the most comfortable mattress. In childlike faith learn to trust Him as you lie down to sleep and remember: “He sees you when you’re sleeping.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Charles W. Page is a sleep-deprived surgeon who completed medical school and residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Dr. Page is currently a rural surgeon and has taken numerous medical mission trips to South America and the Middle East. He and his wife Joanna live in Texas with their five children. He is the author of Surrendered Sleep: A Biblical Perspective. You can find more information at surrenderedsleep.com.
By Connie Hilton Dunn © 2011
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
~From a headstone in Ireland
I got the call while I was at Bible study. At first I didn’t answer, but when I saw the flashing envelope on my cell phone, I thought I’d better return the call, just in case. My father suffered from poor health the last few years, and I wanted to make sure everything was okay. The message was from Vicky, a family friend. Dad had suffered a stroke, but refused to go to the hospital. I called back and instructed her to call an ambulance, and then insist he go to the hospital. I assured her I would meet them at the hospital as soon as I could; it was a 45-minute drive. That was Tuesday night. My father passed away the following Thursday morning.
The grief still causes tears to well up in my eyes at unexpected moments. He died February 17, 2011. Now, months later, I’m wondering how I will survive the holidays. My heart is still numb. I realize celebrations may take on a more somber, subdued tone this year. I’m hoping that while celebrating the joy of Christ’s birth and engaging in the familiar rituals of the holidays, comfort might come to my grieving heart. My prayer is that as I build an altar of memories and commemorate my father’s life that my holidays will be more than tolerable, that in the midst of my pain and sorrow, I will be able to find an inkling of joy in the knowledge that my father is in heaven.
A common name of Jesus often uttered during the holiday season is “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). I wonder, “Is God really going to be with me this year?” Of course he is. In the humble beginnings of a manger, Christ took on human flesh. Because of his willingness to become flesh and dwell among us (John 1:14), I know he can understand my grief and sorrow. The Bible says he wept at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:34-36). He too felt the pain and separation of death.
My Christmas traditions include buying a new ornament each year. This year I plan on buying a memorial ornament for my dad, to honor him and the impact he had on my life. As I hang it on the tree, I’ll remember he may not be with me physically, but in spirit he lives in my heart, and in heaven he waits for me to join him some day.
Another activity I hope will soften my pain, since I won’t be buying my dad a gift this year, will be to donate to a charitable organization in his name. I haven’t decided yet which one. Perhaps the American Stroke Association or Gideons International. Or maybe I’ll make a contribution to missionaries I know who are working in Japan or Africa. I’m sure my dad would be pleased to know that his legacy will continue in the hearts and lives of others.
One of the things my dad left me was his Bible. That morning after he died, my siblings and I went to his house. It was comforting to see his Bible on his dresser and imagine how his hands turned the pages as he read the words of life. This year I’m going to have my husband read the Christmas story out of Dad’s Bible.
I’m sure there will be moments of sadness and tears during these weeks ahead, but I also know that Emmanuel, God with me, will carry me through as the Great Comforter, the Holy Spirit, comforts me (John 14:15-17). And I rejoice in the knowledge my dad is in heaven, praising God, and he has already received the greatest gift of all—forgiveness of his sins and eternal life. I will choose to rejoice in that gift of eternal life, and in the promise and assurance I will get to see my dad once again. Lord, heal my heartache and comfort me with fond memories.
My favorite Christmas carol is “O come, o come Emmanuel.”
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
This year the words have a deeper meaning. The sadness in my heart reminds me I am the mournful exile here on this earth, awaiting my Lord’s return, to ransom me and take me home. So until that day when I shall see the Son of God appear, and in heaven once again feel the embrace of my earthly father, my heart sings, “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie Hilton Dunn believes in pursuing life passionately. Her roles include wife, mother, systems specialist, writer, and missions enthusiast. She has a heart for prayer and short term missions trips and has traveled to Tanzania, East Africa several times. She and her husband are enjoying their empty nest in Kansas City. If you’d like to read about her Africa adventures check out her blog:
By Kristi Bothur © 2011
"I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. Luke 1:38
|Photo by M. Reed Butterfield|
I wonder if Mary felt like that after hearing the angel's announcement. Her plans for her life were probably quite simple – and yet quite familiar to most of us. Marry a nice man (and she was well on her way with this, since she was already betrothed and planning a wedding). Have a houseful of kids. Settle down in the village where she grew up, surrounded by family and friends. Grow old with her husband, surrounded by children and grandchildren.
Simple. Perfect. Plan A.
But after the angel left, where was she? Pregnant out of wedlock, with village tongues just waiting to wag. A husband-to-be planning to abandon her.
And later – giving birth miles and miles from home. In exile in a different country as they fled the threat of a tyrannical king. Very likely enduring the death of her husband before Jesus began his ministry. Dealing with jealousy among her children. And eventually living out her days far from Nazareth – in Ephesus under the watchful care not of her own children, but of the apostle John.
Complicated. Messy. Plan B.
Okay, she didn't know most of this the moment the angel departed. But she must have had a glimmer that life as she knew it, life as she planned it, would never be the same again. But what was her response? "I am the Lord's servant."
Submission. Acceptance. Trust.
I think of her response whenever I have felt like my plans have been derailed. My plans were simple, similar to Mary's. Marry a nice man, have a houseful of kids by the time I was thirty. I never planned to be single through my twenties, even though I did eventually meet the man of my dreams. I certainly never planned to deal with infertility, or to experience multiple pregnancy losses, or to be diagnosed with a cancer-like tumor. Those were not my plans. And when my plans were replaced by a different reality, it was hard to understand God's role in my life. My plans had not been evil or selfish. Surely they must have been God's plans, too. Which meant his plans were also derailed, right?
Wrong. If God is sovereign and in control, then can any of His plans be thwarted? Not according to Scripture (Job 42:2). And while it is true that God‘s original creation did not include suffering and sickness and death, and that these things will be wiped away in the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21:4), in this interim sin-stricken world of trouble and sorrow, God is still in control. Nothing comes our way that He is not aware of and did not allow and cannot redeem for His glory. We may not be able to fathom how the plans of a loving Father can include emotional and physical pain…and yet, this was true for His own Son. And the pain He endured on the cross culminated in the glory of the resurrection and salvation for all who put their trust in Him.
When you look at the nativity scenes this December, imagine all that was going on in the hearts of Mary and Joseph, whose plans had been turned upside down. They could not imagine at the time of Jesus’ birth all that their willing submission to God’s plans, and their trust in His love, would bring about.
Neither can we.
So will we trust anyway? When life takes a detour, will we stick with God and follow him, believing that no matter what our circumstances are, He still loves us and really is working all things together for our good and His glory? Can we have eyes that see beyond this world and believe that on heaven’s side of eternity everything will be clear?
This is my prayer for you this Christmas season – that you will know the “tidings of comfort and joy” not because life is perfect, but because you know Immanuel, who is “God with us” in all of life, even (or especially!) on the detours.
Father, my life is not turning out the way I planned, and it makes me angry, and sad, and scared. Help me to trust you and to move forward as you lead. Help me not to look back in regret for what never was, but to look ahead as I follow the path I am now on and allow you to guide my steps. Amen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristi Bothur is a pastor's wife, teacher, and mother of four - one on earth and three in heaven. She has a heart for other women who have experienced the loss of children during pregnancy or in early infancy, and she has a passion for sharing the truth of God's word in a way that makes sense in everyday life. She and her husband are the founders of "Naomi's Circle", a ministry for parents of babies in heaven (www.naomiscircle.weebly.com). You are welcome to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kristi lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband and daughter.