Are we celebrating the REAL Christmas?

The last 48 hours have been quite funny and sad at the same time. For the last 6 years I had stopped celebrating Christmas. I got divorced 6 years ago. I live alone with my dog and felt that there was no reason for me to put decorations or cook a big meal because I didn’t have anyone to share it with. Yes, I’ve gotten invitations from family and church family members, but it didn’t feel the same.

This year I got really down during Thanksgiving for the same reason. One of my brother’s in Christ saw me the Monday after and I told him how I was feeling. He told me to decorate my place and invite him and his wife over for dinner. Although I appreciate their gesture; something didn’t set well with me.

The next Sunday, visiting a friend’s church, they were talking about the meaning of Christmas. The pastor was talking about the time when Mary was visited by the angel. We all know the story, the angel told her she was going to fulfill the prophecy, have a virgin birth. She basically said let God’s will be done. Joseph wasn’t happy, but another angel came and told him this is from God and he went OK. He married Mary and off they went to Bethlehem and had the baby.

Was it that easy? I’m not a parent. Your 14 year old comes home and says she’s pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Think about it, I’ll wait. Your virgin fiance tells you that she’s pregnant by the Holy Spirit. I’ll give you a chance to digest that. You are minding your business cleaning the house and an angel shows up and tells you that you are going to be carrying God’s child.

The faith and obedience that Joseph and Mary had to believe God’s plan against what the world was in those times and it’s right now, most of us wouldn’t pass that test.

It got me thinking, what are we really celebrating? Everyone knows that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but that as a society we picked that day to celebrate his birthday. Are we really? Our Christmas celebrations have become about us and not about Jesus, even for those of us who go to church.

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I’m sure many will think I’m the Grinch and I’ve come to terms with that. Our traditional Christmas celebration is usually to decorate the house, a tree, and have lots of food. I’ve heard that Christmas is about gathering the family together. I didn’t read that during the story of Christ’s birth, but here we go. And of course we need presents, lots of them, especially for the kids, because we need to make it special for them. So we go to church, and pray before the meal and read under the Christmas tree the story of the birth… Being the good Christians that we are,”right”?

I think we’re wrong.

If we’re going to celebrate the birth of our Lord, shouldn’t we be giving gifts to him? Shouldn’t this be a day of service to others as an offering to him instead of serving ourselves? Naty, what the idea of getting together with the family? You can do that any time of the year. Actually why are you waiting for Christmas to tell anyone you love them? That sweater or new TV is going to be the same sweater or TV March 13th as it is on December 25th. Save that gift for that person’s birthday.

Naty, what about the kids? What about starting to teach our children the true meaning of Christmas so that they don’t stumble through the same paths that we have?

We get hung up on coffee cups (which I know it was a hoax). We say we need to put Christ back in Christmas, when our celebrations don’t put Christ in Christmas.

As I was thinking about this post I realized that the majority of us actually partake in the 7 deadly sins even while  celebrating that God sent his only son to save us from hell. Naty you are exaggerating! Am I?

Gluttony- I don’t even have to explain that.

Anger- It’s a joke already about the fights that happen when the family gets together.

Lust-Remember lust is not only about sex, but about things and pleasures that have nothing to do with God.

Envy-Wait, why is their gift better than mine?

Pride- I’m not inviting/calling XYZ, You remember what s/he did to7-Deadly-Sins me? Or, I have to make sure my outfit is perfect for the next Christmas party.

Sloth-This one comes right after the gluttony attack.

Greed-It’s the season to “give” but I’m expecting to receive too.

We already received our Christmas present. It is JESUS, is he not enough?

That was my revelation. I realized that when I was married, I still didn’t have a big family. It was usually  my husband, my mom and I. But I used to invite anyone who didn’t have a place to celebrate to my house. I was sad out of my selfishness because I had forgotten who my real brothers and sister’s really were. I had bought into the lie of the traditional Christmas. And as I try to get closer to God I’m no longer afraid to be criticized for not following the world but for following Christ.

I think this is the real gift, anyone who says that they love the Lord should give to Jesus on December 25th. Ironically this is in Matthew 25:34-40

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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I challenge you to celebrate the true nature of Christmas. From this year forward, I know I will.

Merry Christmas

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The Patience of Job

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You have probably heard this phrase frequently. When someone seems to be able to tolerate what seems to be intolerable they are often told, “You have the patience of Job” Although I don’t consider myself a very patient person, I have been told that I have the patience of Job. Here’s the thing. I think we miss some of the elements of the patience of Job. We have the tendency to idealize that he never complained, never got angry. If that was the case, not even Job had the patience of Job.

Patience is defined as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. The key wordsimages for me in this statement, without getting angry or upset and the fact that there are no screams, lamps flying or inappropriate language doesn’t mean a person is not angry or upset.

I’ve read the book of Job a little over three times. There are passages where I pushed my bible to the side fearing that just the fact that I read some of his remarks towards God was going to make a thunder come down from the skies.  Here are some examples but you have to read the book, there are a lot more:

  •  Job 3:11 “Why didn’t I die at birth, my first breath out of the womb my last?”
  • Job 6: 8-9 “All I want is an answer to one prayer, a last request to be honored:
    Let God step on me—squash me like a bug, and be done with me for good”
  • Job 7: 11-16 ““And so I’m not keeping one bit of this quiet, I’m laying it all out on the table;
        my complaining to high heaven is bitter, but honest. Are you going to put a muzzle on me,
        the way you quiet the sea and still the storm? If I say, ‘I’m going to bed, then I’ll feel better.
        A little nap will lift my spirits,’ you come and so scare me with nightmares
        and frighten me with ghosts that I’d rather strangle in the bedclothes
        than face this kind of life any longer. I hate this life! Who needs any more of this?
        Let me alone! There’s nothing to my life—it’s nothing but smoke.”
  • Job 9:21-24“Believe me, I’m blameless. I don’t understand what’s going on.
        I hate my life! Since either way it ends up the same, I can only conclude
        that God destroys the good right along with the bad. When calamity hits and brings sudden     death, he folds his arms, aloof from the despair of the innocent. He lets the wicked take over running the world; he installs judges who can’t tell.”
  • Job 10:1 “I can’t stand my life—I hate it! I’m putting it all out on the table, all the bitterness of my life—I’m holding back nothing.”
  • Job 16:8-10 “God, you have wasted me totally—me and my family! You’ve shriveled me like a dried prune, showing the world that you’re against me. My gaunt face stares back at me from the mirror, a mute witness to your treatment of me. Your anger tears at me, your teeth rip me to shreds, your eyes burn holes in me—God, my enemy!”
  • Job 17:6 “God, you’ve made me the talk of the town—people spit in my face”
  • Job 21:4 “It’s not you I’m complaining to—it’s God. Is it any wonder I’m getting fed up with his silence?”
  • Job 23:1“I’m not letting up—I’m standing my ground. My complaint is legitimate. God has no right to treat me like this— it isn’t fair!”
  • Job 30:20-23 “I shout for help, God, and get nothing, no answer! I stand to face you in protest, and you give me a blank stare! You’ve turned into my tormenter—you slap me around, knock me about. You raised me up so I was riding high and then dropped me, and I crashed. I know you’re determined to kill me, to put me six feet under.”

So once again, if your image of the patience of Job is this quiet guy who took everything in longsuffering not getting ever upset, go read the book again, that was not in the one I read. I don’t know about you but I read a lot of griping and complaining. If someone is saying constantly that he hates his life that is someone who is upset.

I’m not saying this to down Job. He was patient and truly waited on God. He endured everything that happened to him, but he vented and complained quite often. Don’t ever feel that when you bring your sorrows to the Lord it means that you are not trusting God.  When you feel the need to vent to God, don’t think that you can’t.  If God is our everything, it means HE will also be THE ONE to whom we should go with our heartaches, anxieties and pain.

One of the things I admire about Job is that he always knew that his life depended on God. He knew he was feeble and that God was sovereign. He never cursed at God, he kept his faith through losing it all and he lost it all. He lost his wife, his sons, all his earthly possessions, his friends and even his health. When I say he lost it all, he lost it ALL; but his faith.

So at least in my case, I may have some of the patience of Job. I whine and whine and complaint knowing that God is there. I give it all to him, but I still say “God is not fair” and God says it’s true, I never said life was fair, but I am fair.

I don’t only want to have the patience of Job. I also want to have his faith and endurance to be able to Praise the Lord no matter what comes my way.

Food for thought.

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HALT

Some feelings can be lights in a dashboard alerting us of a need that needs satisfying.  The way we deal with them could determine our behaviors and finally our outcomes.  There’s an acronym that I learned, not mastered yet but working on it. H.A.L.T. stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. Just like the word halt, when any of these are present you need to stop, assess and respond to the appropriate need to avoid these feelings from affecting your mood and your surroundings.  These feelings can distort your reality, affect your perception and potentially drive you to actions that otherwise you would not have taken and that could be regrettable.

Hungry

Issue: My mother says that my father was a very pleasant person unless he was hungry, I have excused myself saying that it’s an inherited trait. That’s an honest copout. If you’re hungry, instead of being grumpy…eat! Hunger can cause our mood to change. Our blood sugar gets low and the body is sending a signal to the brain that it needs something. Hunger is merely a red light going off on your dashboard requesting your attention that something needs to be done.

Physical hunger is not the only one that can affect us. Spiritual hunger is just as detrimental. When our spirit is hungry from the word of God, we lack wisdom and connection with the Holy Spirit to make the right decisions for our lives. In John 6:35 Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”

Suggestion: Eat! I know it sounds simple, but sometimes we’re so caught into meetings or errands that we forget to eat before we know it  we’re starving. It is good to always have something available, like a fruit, a trail mix packet or a nutritional bar. At least it will get you through until you can actually have a meal.

On the spiritual side, start feeding yourself with the Word of God. Sometimes you don’t know where to start with some worship music, its usually the quickest way to get your mindset connected to then dive into prayer and bible study. “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.(Luke 4:4)

Angry

Issue:This one is simple to relate how it can affect our mood. Something makes us angry and we do, say things we later regret. Anger is a powerful emotion that we need to learn to identify and channel appropriately. Remember when we are angry, the emotion is not affecting anyone else but us. Consider Job 18:4 “You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger, is the earth to be abandoned for your sake? Or must the rocks be moved from their place?”  It doesn’t mean ignore your anger, but do consider the times that you are making mountain out of molehills. Are you really angry because of what happened or is there a deeper issue?

Everyone expresses their anger in a different way, but ignoring the irritant or not handling the situation is never the answer.

Suggestion: For some people it’s a timeout. Removing yourself from the situation can help you calm and think things rationally. For some people they need to talk things out. Having an accountability person in your life that can listen without interruptions, but that can give you some wise insight once you’ve vented can be a good source to work through these feelings. For others writing your feelings down allows you the opportunity to see things in perspective. Process your anger before acting on it. “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil” Psalm 37:8

Loneliness

Issue:The feeling of loneliness can drive us to unwise decisions. For people with addictions it can be a trigger back to their vices. The problem is that when people think of addictions they only think of substance abuse and there are way many addictions out there untreated due to this misconception. Any behavior that affects your appropriate functioning and that is having harmful consequences is a potential addiction. The so called shopping therapy, reading books for hours on end trying to hide from the world, overeating, excessive use of the internet, television, pornography, video games, unhealthy relationships (and I’m not just saying couple relationships, even some friendships can be part of an addictive relationship); these are just some example of thing that we can engage due to loneliness that will end up.

Suggestion: Keep accountability, having someone in your life that knows that you are struggling with these issues can help you sort your feelings before you act on them. Having healthy relationships can help you feel less alone.God never intended for us to do life alone. Life, although very individual, its still a group effort.  “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.”Exodus 18:18 Filling your life with the Word of God will fill the emptiness that you may be feeling. Last but not least is service. When you feel alone you are focusing on yourself, executing acts of service not only can give you a sense of purpose, but can expose you to many fulfilling experiences.

Tired

Issue:This is another feeling that I consider to be a red light in your dashboard. Especially in our current lifestyle where we believe to be supermen and superwomen without capes, we can be under the impression and the pressure of all these life demands that can be exhausting. The reality is that being tired affects the way we process information and can cause us to make mistakes and erroneous decisions. Out of exhaustion you can give in into that thing, talking to a person or attending a place that you know its not the best for you and that could have negative results in your life.

These emotions are born in us. If you look at babies, aren’t those the reasons why they cry? Think about it, hungry, angry, lonely and tired. Abraham Maslow developed a theory in psychology based or human hierarchy of needs. His long theory can be summarized by saying that unless you meet your basic needs you can’t achieve higher levels and execute appropriately other functions.

Suggestion: Rest! You need to be honest with yourself, assess your priorities. Yes there are dishes to clean and clothes to fold, but if you’re tired you are good to nobody including yourself. Naps are an option. Look at your load and delegate or find creative ways to make your life easier. Flush the superman/woman down the drain right now, its not doing anybody any good. Those around you will enjoy you better with paper plates than screaming because of the load of dishes. Finally enjoy the refreshing rest that only He can give, by spending some time with your Savior. “The LORD replied, My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”Exodus 33:14

Blessings

Naty

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Moving Forward

First of all I want to apologize for not writing in the last few days, between Camp Nano and other distractions I have not been able to sit down long enough to concentrate. I’ve been thinking a lot about how sometimes we are affected by issues regardless if they have direct or indirect impact in our lives.

Life is never without challenges, disappointments and painful events, most of them out of our control. The way we react to those events and the way we view those events will determine our behavior and ultimately potential future outcomes.

When something unexpected affects negatively our lives its very common to feel anger, sadness, shock, resentment, disappointment, grief and many other negative feelings. Ephesians 4:26 reads “In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” but I know there are wounds that are longer lasting, however once the sun comes back up, it may be time to start our baby steps back on the road of life.

We believe that we have no control over those feelings and that’s not totally true. Yes, those feelings are normal. We should not stuff them or deny them. We should talk about them and process them, the problem arises when we sulk and get stuck on them.

At some point the grieving process of an event runs its course and yes, the timing is different for everyone, but when the grief hinders you from functioning, you’ve gone too long.

That’s why I say that you can ultimately impact your future outcomes, for example…the loss of a relationship may be devastating, but it could open the door to self examination, discovery and the potential of a new, sometimes even better relationship. The loss of a loved one is devastating, but if you have faith that they are in a place of no pain and no sorrow, that will give you hope. The loss of employment or some other financial loss will not be easy to recover until you get back on your feet.

Feel what you need to feel, process what you need to process, but then it’s time to get up and move on. Trust that God will make everything right and that he’s in control. That there’s no evil that will not be avenged and no good deed unrewarded.

Faith will get you through

Be blessed.

Glad that God doesn’t anger like us

Every day I’m thankful that God is God and he doesn’t react like we do to situations. Every day we make decisions based on impressions, emotions, hormones (both men and women), pressures and they’re not always the best route. Imagine a God whose mercy depended on the weather outside, or how upset He was about the things we did? I think this would be a very empty world. I mean that literally.

We all have been in places were raw emotions have taken over, but as we grow in our spiritual walk we tend to be able to manage those better. It’s not an exact science and it doesn’t mean that we always react the best way to upsetting situations. This is definitely well described in Proverbs 14:29 ”Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly” Folly in case you don’t know means a fool; and don’t we make a fool out of ourselves when we lose our cool. But when we lose our cool or make a mistake the Grace of God can restore us through repentance. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19)

It still amazes me how God can love us through our sins, how he never loses his cool with us as we are too quick to lose ours sometimes for the smallest things. He doesn’t want us to stay there and wants to restore us to peace; therefore the quicker we come to repentance the faster we can continue our life of peace. Psalm 103:10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

So my invitation for today is to be” slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:9) to prolong our peace on earth and enjoy our everyday relationship with God.

Blessings