“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14 KJV
Have you heard the Christmas song, “This Christmas“? It goes, “This Christmas will be a very special Christmas for me…”
Each Christmas, we remember all that’s transpired since the last Christmas. For some, it’s a time of happiness with loved ones, and for others, they’re feeling more like “Blue Christmas”.
From Scripture, we can find several threads that connect to the kind of atmosphere we choose and the type of Christmas we can decide to have.
A Christmas of peace. When we are at peace, we choose to embrace tranquility and trust God and His hand in our lives, regardless of our circumstances. Christ’s coming is the biggest gift and reason to be at peace we could ever have. The earthly life of Jesus wasn’t marked by a lack of strife, but it was marked by peace, and ours can be the same, if we so choose. “…on earth peace…” (Luke 2:14)
A Christmas of joy. We can choose joy for the great things God has put into our lives. No one has perfect lives, and some years highlight that more than others, but when we choose a lifestyle of joy, we recognize all of the amazing blessings God has given to us. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10b-11, NIV)
A Christmas of hope. This year more than others, I’ve heard a lot of people deciding to hope for the good God has for them, and that makes my heart rejoice! Truly, when we zoom out, so to speak, and take a good look at our lives, it is so obvious that our problems aren’t that big and our reason for hope is so huge. “And his name will be the hope of all the world.” (Matthew 12:21, NLT)
A Christmas of good will. We can choose to believe the best of others- be friendly, helpful, and forgiving, never forgetting all that we’ve been forgiven of. The birth of Jesus is the first part in the salvation story, and as much as we need it, how can we not give the same? “…good will towards men.” (Luke 2:14)
May your Christmas be defined by choosing peace, joy, hope, and good will in your life. May broken relationships be restored, pride be set aside, hope be embraced, peace be chosen, and joy be overflowing.
From your friends here at Canvas & Table, may you have a very blessed and Merry Christmas.
There’s something that’s been on my heart all year long: there is a time to say “yes” and a time to say “no” to everything. Early this year, God started drawing my attention to a level of over-commitment in my life that was creating an atmosphere of stress & busyness in my life that was unhealthy spiritually, mentally, emotionally, & physically. While some changes were immediate, others have taken the course of the year and others have started migrating from a “yes” to a “no”. Today I want to share my journey with you.
Saying “no” isn’t something new to me- I’ve always managed to be fairly straight-forward and bold in what I allow into my life. However, after ending the year last year in a state of exhaustion, it became apparent to me that while I had my hands to many good things, they weren’t all God things. What’s the difference?
A good thing is just that- it’s a good thing to do. You believe in it, and you think it’s a wonderful activity, but the grace isn’t there to do it. It isn’t what you were created specifically to do, at least for this season of your life, and it isn’t something you feel God has directed you to be a part of.
A God thing is something you’ve specifically seen God lead you into and not lead you out of. It’s something that goes towards your “why” in life, and for which you’ve been specifically anointed & set apart to be a part of in your life. This can include your vocation- not just “super-spiritual” activities.
I don’t know about you, but when I started looking at my life in that light this year, I could see where there was no grace, where there was abundant grace, and the places where God was beginning to lead me out of in my life.
I’m writing this today because I think there are a lot of us doing good things that cause us to neglect the God things. The God things are those things that make up your purpose, those things you should be doing in this season of life. The good things are those things that sound good, but that you know you’re only doing at this point because they are just good things to do. And there is a difference.
God things connect to your core while good things tire you on a deep inner level. This all has to do with grace. If you have three children, God has given you the grace to deal with them, and while it may be tiring, it’s purposeful. If you’ve decided to help your neighbor with her three kids and this isn’t something you’ve seen God lead you to do, you are going to be a different type of tired, because the grace isn’t there for doing it- it is literally just a “good thing” you are doing, not a God thing.
I challenge you today to consider the activities that make up your schedule. Walking away from good things can be difficult, especially when you feel as if you are leaving a hole behind for someone else to fill and when you really care about the way that good thing affects others. Yet, when you pray about it and have peace about leaving that activity behind, trust that God will fill that hole with the person to fill it for the new season. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been there, and He does it every time.
“Well, it’s been quite the year,” we all say. It’s a phrase laced with bittersweetness – joy at memories made, a sigh of relief to have closure on the hard parts that the year held, and anticipation of a new year.
What summarizes your year? Was it a year of triumph – goals reached, soared beyond? A year of jubilee – sweet rest, joy, and restoration? Or maybe you’re just weary. Maybe your year was characterized more by grief, strain, or restlessness. What do you need? Hope. What will break the back of weariness? Joy.
“A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices!”
This is what I love about the Advent season. We wait and long, we anticipate, we recognize, and we celebrate and rejoice all over again! One of my favorite Christmas hymns so opens up so honestly: we’re weary and worn. We crave deliverance and peace. And that cry is answered and fulfilled in the most perfect, seemingly senseless way: the birth of a baby. The God-Child who was born for you to die for you. That’s the thrill of hope that rich hymn talks about.
Rejoice this Christmas. Let the hope of Gospel deliverance thrill your soul. Let your heart “prepare Him room” and let the “light and life” that He brings refresh your spirit.
How do you keep the family together once everyone is living on their own? If you ask many families, there is almost always a central figure in their family they can point to. Often, it is the mother, but sometimes it is the member of the family most proactive about meeting up and spending time together. Too often, when that person dies, the family no longer regularly meets together. How do you keep from becoming disconnected and make the most of the time you have together with your family, even when you no longer live with or around them?
For most of my life, much of my extended family has not been nearby, or even in a close vicinity of where I’ve lived. To boot, when I was 19, I moved out of the country and away from my own immediate family. While I already recognized the value in having family nearby, especially when I would hear friends speaking of the way they would see their grandparents practically every other day, this move out of the country only further reinforced the value of making the most of the time I had to spend with my family, no matter what. Indeed, there is an appreciation for family that is only learned through distance.
So, today, whether you’ve lived away from your family or not, I am sharing five simple things I’ve learned about family that I hope can stir a desire in you to spend more time with your family, to love them more, and to forgive them more quickly. Family is truly a blessing!
Take time to spend with your family. I know you have other responsibilities in your life. Maybe you have started your own family, or perhaps you have people in your life you are working with in ministry or for a good cause, and you feel like you don’t have much extra time. The fact is, throughout changing seasons of your life, few people will stay constant in your life- even the best of friends-, but your family will. Be purposeful in carving out time to spend with your family and individuals in your family. It’s an investment that pays off in spades.
Practice taking interest in what your family members are interested in. Relationships feel very empty without substance. Even if you don’t agree with what your family members are doing with their lives, ask them about it. They obviously see worth in what they are doing, or they wouldn’t be doing it, and not asking them doesn’t go unnoticed. When you take the time to ask about what is important and interesting to your family members, it sends a message that you value the person enough to invest some of your time hearing about what they care about, regardless of your opinion (which they probably haven’t asked you for, so it’s likely best to keep that to yourself).
Let bygones be bygones. Your family is going to hurt you: fact. They are some of the, if not the, closest people to you in the world. It is impossible for them not to hurt you at some point in your life, because of this. That being said, you’re not always going to get an apology, either, so just let things go. This is where having a strong relationship with God really is important, as we can cast our burdens & cares on Him (Psalm 55:22) and let Him know our hearts- and, when you believe in God, you stop ranking sins and you realize that, whatever this person did to hurt you, you’ve done the same to God and probably lots of other people as well. There is little more destructive to any relationship than holding on to past wrongs.
Take the time to be there when it is important. Spending time with your family is wonderful, but even better is showing up at events that mean a lot to your family members. This may be your niece’s soccer game, a graduation, an event your brother is speaking at, or even a simple family lunch, but putting forth that effort sows seed. There are times you may think the event is unimportant, but if it seems important to your family member, then you being there matters to them. Whether or not the favor is returned, there are great rewards in making the effort to be there for someone.
Cherish every moment. Life is too short to stay angry or bitter about something that happened last week or even long ago. If you lost your family members today, would you have regrets about what was going on at the moment? Would you wish that you had spent an extra evening with them or made an extra phone call? I believe we all have family members in our lives we could be a bit better at reaching out to and staying in contact with. Take it from someone who has not always had access to her family whenever she would like to, every moment you spend together is worth so much. Cherish the people in your family for who they are and cherish the time you’ve been blessed to have together. The time will eventually run out- make the most of it.
In closing, I would like to say that family is a great blessing. Not everyone has one! Regardless of the flaws in your particular family, take time to just enjoy being together. One of my favorite things about my family is that we can just be together. It doesn’t have to be fancy or crazy or loud, and it’s usually quite the opposite. Every family has its own dynamic. If you’re married, I’m sure you’ve already experienced that! Accept your family for the way they are and operate within the context of how they choose to live. Love them, forgive them, and cherish them. Those three things, you will never regret!
A side note: If you have family that has hurt you and has little interest in being there, I’m sorry. There is a time to evaluate whether it is healthy or not to continue being around people who constantly hurt you, yet I would caution you that cutting your family off is something to take very, very seriously. I have met too many people that are estranged from their families or hardly ever spend time with them, simply because they don’t like their families and haven’t practiced the unconditional love they desire, themselves. Life is too short for grudges and holding them will not make the people in your life change- it will only make you bitter. If you truly feel like you need to distance yourself from your family, I encourage you to speak to someone with an outside perspective whom you know won’t automatically take your side. It’s a really big decision and that wise advice can be very helpful.
Have you ever wondered how people go from being best friends to breaking up, divorcing, or ending their friendships? Blogger Matt Walsh wrote a blog earlier this year called, “I Think There Are Irreconcilable Differences In My Marriage.” He highlighted the fact that every marriage has irreconcilable differences because it is impossible to agree with any one person about everything in the entire world. So, if irreconcilable differences exist in not only every marriage but every friendship, what contributes to some people to ending friendships and marriages and not others?
A place we should all evaluate that is often overlooked is the home. What is “home”? What does it signify? It’s a place of comfort and ease; it is the place in which we share our most intimate relationships. In our homes your find our spouses, our family, our closest friends. It is the place we are most comfortable and vulnerable at. Yet, when we become most vulnerable is when we can become the most defensive. We like the idea of being right. It’s just true. Instant friendships can grow over being the same- “Wow, I love that place, too! I love to do that, too!” We like to be liked and we like to be alike. Differences feel okay as long as they are convenient. Well, something you can take to the bank is the fact that, in any home, there will always be differences in any relationship, and dealing with them in a graceful way begins long before that conversation in which you run into said differences.
How do we deal with our differences in a healthy manner? It all starts with the atmosphere of the home. Is it a place of peace, unconditional love, and acceptance? Or is it a place of bickering, judgement, and strife? From families to friends to marriages, everyone has a responsibility in how they contribute to the atmosphere of a home and it is important to recognize that. If you’ve never been intentional about setting the atmosphere of your home, you might just be surprised at how different it is once you try.
The atmosphere of your home starts with spiritual groundwork. What is the spiritual atmosphere of your home? Does it feel like a place the Holy Spirit has been invited to work or does it feel like a place that is “crazy” and completely lacking the fruit of the spirit? Pray over your husband, your wife, your children, and pray for peace, joy, and love to abound in your home. These prayers have the powerful to transform your home, and this daily spiritual groundwork has the power to change the way things happen in your home- from how disagreements go to just what kind of mood you are in when you are at home.
Then, there is the practical side. If your children are running everywhere and you’ve spent all day yelling at them, your home is not going to be a peaceful place for anyone to walk into. If the way you deal with your spouse is with barbs and veiled insults, it isn’t going to feel like your home is a safe place to be vulnerable. If you respond to critique with defensiveness, that creates a breeding ground for bitterness and citing those “irreconcilable differences.” Creating at atmosphere of peace and acceptance allows everyone to speak from their heart, disagree, to still be loved, and still move on.
Please understand I am not insinuating that relationships are not hard. Any relationship that one is truly invested in will be painful, at times. In fact, the Bible references this in Proverbs 14:4, which says, “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for for a large harvest.” Our lives (the stable) are neater and more tidy without relationships (oxen), but for a full life of purpose, friends, loved ones (a large harvest), you need relationships (a strong ox).
I remember the first time I heard someone talk about the atmosphere of the home. It hit me like a load of bricks between the eyes. I realized that the reason my days often felt dreary was because I walked around with a pessimistic view of life and that’s what other people walked into when they walked into my life. Changing and choosing to be hopeful and see the potential of life took a lot of work, but, with time, my home began to change and people walking into my space didn’t feel this negativity I had been holding on to.
You create a personal atmosphere everywhere you go, and it is most noticeable in your home. If you feel like you’ve been needing a change, evaluate how you’ve been living and what atmosphere you are creating around yourself. This impacts those who live with you and this impacts your future. I challenge you to think about what goes on in your home and why. Take some time and begin setting a fresh atmosphere in your home through prayer and daily intentionality. You’ll be surprised at just how big of a difference it makes.
Have you experienced the way the atmosphere of a home can impact others? Comment below and tell us about it!
Maybe your work load is mounting or deadlines are coming up. Maybe you stay at home and it feels like everything needs to be done. Maybe life has been extraordinarily busy and you don’t have time to stop.
There are times when it seems like we don’t have the time to spare. Truth be told, what we may really need most is to slow down and take a break. My preference for an ideal break is a couple quiet hours in a coffee shop – nothing fancy and totally cliche, but it works for me. There are at least 4 reasons why a break benefits you…
Change of scenery. A break doesn’t necessarily mean removing yourself completely- sometimes you just need a change of scenery. Take a break from being on your feet all day, sitting in a cubicle, or whatever else your day to day typically looks like. Go to an environment that’s comfortable and stimulating.
Renewal. When I need a break – just some time to reflect or sit in quiet – it amazes me after a short time how ready I am to go back to my routine. My focus and vision are renewed.
Clearing of the cobwebs. We race around everywhere and live life at a crazy-fast pace. Not only is quiet good for you – you need it!
Brainstorms. I love sitting down and just dreaming up new ideas. Breaks are the perfect chance to brainstorm exciting plans and ideas for the future!
When was the last time you took a break? Tell us in the comments.
Busy, busy, busy. Time starts now- better get everything done. We’re having a party, they’re having a party. What are we going to do tomorrow? We live in a nation of ulcers and panic attacks and sleepless nights and everyone just…needs…to slow…down.
I lived in Haiti for about a year and a half, and I remember how hard it was to adjust to the different pace of life when I first moved there. Here in America, and in many other similar cultures, we seem to be slaves to busyness. In Haiti, on the other hand, things started when people got there and definitely not before. Schedules hardly ran anything, and once you adjusted to that pace of life, you found yourself much calmer and much more rested.
Since moving back to the States a few years ago, I have readjusted to the way of life here. Life is busy, there are lots of things to do, and I found myself exhausted. I thought about how much I had done, how much there was to do, and I just wanted some time to relax. I think of myself as a good optimizer. I optimize my time, my schedule, and many things in my life. With that, I feel like I am a great time manager. So, what was wrong?
I began to consider the last time I had had a whole weekend off. It had been a long time. Our culture celebrates busyness and those that make time to refuel are sometimes scoffed at- as if they just don’t have “enough to do” or somehow have the kind of life you could never have and have the “luxury of rest”. The truth is, though, people who live with a consistent time for refueling have chosen to live that way. It doesn’t happen by accident.
In that moment, I realized I needed to reclaim my time. After Jon Acuff issued a challenge to “do summer”, I decided my project was going to be spending 15 minutes a time on my schedule Monday-Friday and work on making my Saturday & Sunday work-free days. Now, believe me, I know the summer is typically full of small excursions and family trips for all of us, and that can contribute to the busyness, but the basis of my project was simply changing the way I had allowed myself to think. No longer were Saturday and Sundays going to be eligible days for work duties, and to start with, I was going to make sure I had at least one completely free day every week. In that free day, it was time for rest, fun, family, and friends. No work. At all.
Perhaps you think this is a ridiculous idea, but even God took a day of rest of the seventh day. This is the basis of the Sabbath- a day of rest. Rest is vital to the body, spirit, and mind. We need rest, we need downtime, and we need to be less busy. In fact, having some time to just rest can make you more efficient in your work or “busy” time.
So, today, I am issuing you a challenge- decide to reclaim your time. Make the decision to no longer let “to do”s govern your life. There will always be things to do and ways to be busy, but surely a day of the week to not do any work is important for all of us. As I recognized- if we have “too much” to do in 6 days, we have too many commitments, and it is time to start reshaping those, too.
Taking a day of rest is not foolish or unrealistic. It is vital to our wholeness and happiness. God Himself knew this and instituted a day of rest. I encourage you to make the choice to change your schedule and change your habits and create at least one day of the week for rest, pleasure, and fun. We don’t have to be victims of society- we can decide what we want to do with our time. Take the challenge. Reclaim your time!
What makes the difference between a bad day and a good day? Sure, the circumstances of the day have a pretty big bearing on how it goes, but I think much more than that, your mindset has the biggest impact.
Lately, I’ve felt like I have been in a bit of a funk. The days have been full, draining, and long. I’ve been needed from sun up until sun down (and usually once or twice between those, too). A month or two ago – after a full week and a busy weekend – my husband sent me to a coffee shop for a few minutes of quiet. I sat there drinking my coffee and read a passage from the book of Philippians. It’s a passage we hear often…
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
It’s a great “guideline”, but as I read it again and meditated I realized that there was much more to it than that. This is not just a check list for “okay” and “not okay” thoughts – this is a command to purpose to set our minds on a certain genre of thoughts. That changes the game a bit doesn’t it? It doesn’t just happen. It takes concentrated effort.
What does looking for the lovely look like practically?
Prioritizing time with the Lord. We cannot know what is lovely unless we first look to the Lovely One.
Make an environment conducive to finding loveliness. Keeping clutter at bay, playing peaceful and worshipful music, and avoiding being busy at all times all work to open our eyes more to the lovely, beautiful, and peaceful moments around us.
Control your mind. This can be so difficult. Our minds race from one thought to another. We started in our back yard and ended up on Pluto. Purpose to focus your mind on the things that are “worthy of praise” and put away the thoughts that drag you down and away from what honors God.
Pray! My desire in prayer lately has been that the Lord will aid me in seeing His greater purpose throughout my day and that I will act in grace and love as I face less than stellar moments.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)
Leave a comment and tell us… In what ways do you look for the lovely?