Distraction of Moving-Distraction Devotion

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Rick and I just returned from a trip to MD. It still feels like home, but I didn’t feel homesick, if that makes sense. Connecting with dear friends and family was the highlight of each day. We had lived there for 38 years and raised our family creating a multitude of  treasured memories. Preparing to move to Colorado two years ago was a bittersweet process, yet I know God has been with us guiding each step. Here is a poem describing revelations that helped me let go, grieve, and prepared me for this new season.

 

Melodies of the Home

Empty rooms and echoing halls once filled with

the music of laughter, voices and footsteps.

Walls that were decorated with faces of loved ones’ smiles,

are now bare, with only the memories soaked inside.

Oh if these walls had voices, the ballads they would sing

If the floors were instruments, the rhythm of life would be a symphony.

First the bouncing beat of babies and toddlers

Full of giggles and teary-eyed cries

Boo boos being kissed and bedtime stories retold.

Next the chaotic cacophony of school books and

choruses full of chatter, chiding and cheers,

Interspersed with descants of backyard picnics,

Refrigerator Picassos, piles of laundry, and insatiable appetites.

As the family grows into the teen years, the symphony reaches a climax of

             the dichotomous joys and challenges that accompany emerging independence,

Ending with a mournful melody interspersed with harmonies of joyful expectation!

This home embraces the many memories and movements carved into the

walls and floors from each season of life.

But just like seasons, houses change, families grow up and move on.

This house now silent; cleaned spotless, swept clear of generational legacies,

Becomes an empty score for the composition of a new family chorus.

God bless this home, the tunes that dwell within and the harmonies of a new song.

                                                                              By Peg Arnold 2017

Distraction of Darkness #bluechristmasdevotion

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never live in darkness. They will have the light that gives life.” John 8:12

At this time of the year our world is filled with Christmas lights, music, decorations, baking, trees and gift giving. The calendars overflow with parties, programs and obligations that can overwhelm us. Putting up and decorating the Christmas tree is one of the traditions of this season that I love. However, it can be a source of stress as it consumes a large chunk of time in that already-packed schedule. I have fond memories of travelling to the Christmas tree farm, drinking hot chocolate and trudging through the evergreens searching for the perfect tree.

As we began to travel during the holidays, we switched to an artificial tree, for safety and convenience sake. At first we had the old fashioned kind that you needed to string the lights just as you would on a real tree. Now, we have a pre-lit tree – making the process much easier. Imagine my frustration one year when we turned on the tree, and I noticed one dark space, right in the middle of the tree. An entire section of lights had burned out and we could not figure out a way to fix it. This was an annoying inconvenience because we could not decorate the tree until we purchased a string of lights to lace through the burnt out section. There was not time to do this right away, so for about a week, I just turned on the lights of the undecorated tree to enjoy that magical glow.

In the early morning hours, I’d sit and do my devotions in the cozy atmosphere created by the sparking lights. On one of those days, while I was praying for loved ones and friends, that dark spot became more prominent. I began praying for friends who have recently experienced loss, others who are fighting life-threatening diseases, ones who are facing difficult life transitions, not to mention the many families crushed by the recent tragic acts of violence, hurricanes and fires. As I prayed for strength and peace, it became poignantly obvious that not everyone was feeling the nostalgic warmth of the Christmas season. In fact, the very decorations, lights and music that bring joy and comfort to my Christmas season triggered painful memories for others.

In a season when we are rejoicing in the birth of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, there are many hearts that are shrouded with darkness. Their songs of joy have been replaced with reminiscent mournful melodies. Instead of schedules crowded with holiday festivities and concerts, their time is prioritized with doctor’s appointments and medication schedules. Instead of a house filled with holiday smells and sounds, they are struggling to keep food on the table and stay warm. Instead of feeling the comfort of family, there is a haunting heartache that perpetuates loneliness, sometimes even when surrounded by loved ones.

John 1 reminds us;  In Jesus was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who came to bring light to a dark world. His light brings compassion to the hurting, healing to the sick, comfort to the grieving, hope to the disheartened and salvation to the lost.

If you are hurting and lonely during this Christmas season, my prayer is that Christ will surround you with His love and light. May God supply the strength, hope and comfort for the challenge or loss that consumes your energy. If you find joy in this season, may your heart be focused on Christ’s light and love. May God open your eyes to be sensitive to those who need support and encouragement. Take time to be a vessel of His love and light.

Dear Jesus, It is the season we celebrate your birth. The world has filled this holiday with many distractions from the true meaning, but we want to focus on your purpose, your hope and your love. Thank you for reminders, like burnt out lights, that help us realize that too often we focus and worry about the unimportant. Comfort and strengthen those who are struggling this holiday season and give them hope in the days to come. You are the light of the world and, as your children, we are called to be the bearers of your light in a dark world. Amen

 

Distraction of Dough #devotion

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

How fun it is to have toddlers around during the Christmas season. I remember one year having the gift of my twin grandchildren with us for an extended stay. They delighted in every little detail from decorations to presents. Their excitement was infectious as they clamored to turn on the lights of the little village or wind up the dancing bears. They especially loved being in the kitchen to help create all the Christmas goodies. As soon as I began pulling out the recipes, they eagerly pulled their stools over to the baking counter on either side of the big mixer. Each one took turns measuring and pouring in all the ingredients of sugar, butter, vanilla and flour. The fun began when they turned on the mixer and watched the dry powdery ingredients blend with butter and eggs to make a smooth, sweet dough for the cookies!

I fondly remembered the times of doing this with their mother when she was around their age. One of the first times she helped me, she got her hand on the switch of the mixer and turned it to high before I could stop her. Quickly we were dusted with powdery flour from head to toe. She even recalled this event as her children were helping me.

Not wanting to repeat this part of making cookie dough with the twins, in my most gentle Nana voice, I carefully instructed each grandchild to wait for my direction and we would slowly turn the mixer on. This worked well with the first batch of dough. I was feeling confident with the second one as each took a turn gently pulling the switch. Feeling confident that I had avoided the historic error, I added the final cup of flour. Before I knew it, one of the excited twins turned the switch to high and in a micro-second, all three of us were covered with floury, new-fallen snow. I began laughing at my own misdirected confidence, thinking we were going to avoid this flash back scene. But not everyone found humor in this predicament. One of the twins was whimpering because her nightgown was messed up and the other was just shocked at the mess created so quickly. My daughter just smiled as she gave me that look of “I warned you “. We spent the next few minutes cleaning the mess on the counter, the floor, their hair and their clothing with both of them exclaiming that they did not want that to happen again!

Here I thought I had done everything I could, to instruct and prevent this chaos from occurring. Yet in one swift move, history repeated itself once again. I was surprised by my patience. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t as calm when the same flour fiasco occurred with my daughter.

It made me realize how God must have even more patience with me. He carefully and continually instructs me through His Word and prayer, while I forge ahead, repeating the same mistakes over and over again. He is always there to help me clean up the debris, while being loving and forgiving in the process. I wonder if God finds humor sometimes when I am upset with the unimportant messes I have made for myself.

Thank you Lord, for your tender and compassionate patience with me. During this Christmas season, help me be aware of the times I need to demonstrate more love, forgiveness and patience to others throughout my day. Guide my steps, my words and my actions to be your hands and feet to others. Amen.

 

Distraction of Dates

heart

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

February 14th, Valentine’s Day just passed.  The stores were filled with cards, chocolates, jewelry and flowers even before the Christmas holiday decorations were discounted and limited to the back corners and shelves. Restaurants posted signs and ads with special features and offers to lure you to their place for the perfect evening out. Everywhere you looked you saw images of happy couples, wrapped gifts and candlelit tables raising the expectations for many people in anticipation of the date of February 14th. But what happens when that day arrives and we find ourselves disappointed because reality doesn’t meet expectation? Instead of celebrating, we find ourselves vicariously living through movies, commercials and Facebook images. This is just one day in the entire year, but it is an example of how many individuals place their hopes and dreams on the outcomes of one single date.

Have you ever thought about how a single calendar date can dominate and control your emotions, your mood and your expectations? Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other dates typically hold special meaning in our lives. The emotions that surround these days can be built on positive memories and the anticipation of new experiences. On the other hand, dates that commemorate losses, tragedies and other life changing experiences evoke emotions of sorrow and sometimes regret. When these events occur near or on a specific holiday, it can have a transforming effect on the mood of that day. Having experienced several losses since the holiday season, started me thinking; how does a date that brings joy and love into so many lives become a catalyst for loneliness, pain and despair for others?

There are many situations that separate us from the blessings of specific dates. These can be events in our control and events that control us. Let’s face it, life’s situations have the ability to change the ways we face particular dates and they are not necessarily limited to the traditional holidays. The dates commemorating life changing events are typically unique to each individual. They are etched in our memories and have the ability to evoke emotions that shock and confuse us, shadowing that date each time it arrives. In fact, the actual date can catch us off guard when we see it scroll on the TV or appear on our digital device. Likewise, the birth of a new family member or the marriage of a happy couple can change an ordinary date to one with memories of joy and celebration.

No matter what memories or emotions are associated with a date, our Savior does not want us to suffer alone. He grieves when we allow the culture to dominate our expectations for a specific date. He desires to comfort us in our sorrows and celebrate with us our joys throughout all the cycles of the year. One of my life support verses is Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Many times this is the only part of the verse that we will remember. But if you go on to read the entire passage the next verses are instructions on how to tap into His presence and power. Verses 12 and 13 say “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

As you experience dates that commemorate loneliness, grief, pain, or sorrow, remember that you are not alone.   Your Savior Jesus experienced pain, loneliness, grief and sorrow and He yearns to comfort you in all your days. Call on Him, seek Him with your whole heart and He will find you for He has a plan for you, a plan to give you a hope and a future!

The dates for Lent began this week. This is the period of time that we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter. But rather than getting caught up on the calendar dates, the expectations or the “required” sacrifices, how about focusing on seeking God with your whole heart. What does that look like?

Dear Lord, I know that my sight can become narrowly focused, I see a date and sometimes I can only focus on the unmet expectations, the losses, the sorrow and the pain. Instead of worrying about dates’ expectations, help me make each date begin and end with You. I ask you to help me seek you with my whole heart so when I call upon your name, I will be able to hear You and feel Your loving presence. Amen

 

Distraction of Decorations

tree

Romans 6: 23b (the Message) But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

There is a special joy wrapped in the preparations and decorations of Christmas but a feeling of dread in the finality of packing them up and putting them away. There is a cozy feeling in the magical glow of the lights, the beauty of the ribbons and greens, the warmth of the candles, the memories in each ornament and the inspiration of the music. However, every year it seems these decorations go up earlier and earlier. This year, I walked into the store to buy Halloween candy, and the Christmas sections were already aglow with the lights, trees and decorations. Even the radio stations began playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving. We were bombarded with the commercial Christmas long before we began reading true Christmas story in church.

Then on December 26th, everything changed. In the stores, all the Christmas decorations were piled in unattractive displays, plastered with sale and 50% off signs. The Christmas music came to an abrupt stop and secular songs wafted through the air of the malls and stores. Santa thrones sat empty where just days before throngs of children and parents stood in line to see the bearded fellow. The fancy Christmas decorations were taken down and packed away for next year’s frenzy. The neighborhood streets were dimmed with the absence of white and colored lit trees. Even my own home began to feel cluttered with open gifts, dusty nativities and withering evergreens.

The suddenness of this transition seems to distract from the true meaning of Christmas. Why are the preparations and decorations for the Christmas celebration emphasized far greater than basking in the afterglow of Christmastide? When in fact, the historical celebration of the twelve days of Christmas begins with Christmas day and ends on Epiphany, January 6th. Why do most of us traditionally begin decorating and celebrating early in December and then dismantle our trimmings by New Year’s day? Does this mean that we stop celebrating the meaning of Christmas because the decorations no longer adorn our mantles and doorsteps? Or has this routine become part of our Christmas celebration?

When I thought about this, I thought about how God sent His son Jesus to bring the gift of eternal life to all people. We honor and remind ourselves of God’s gift of Jesus in the many ways we celebrate and decorate throughout Christmas season. It seems to me that the celebration of the New Year has become part of this tradition. For God’s gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ. This gift comes when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Christmas involves both parts, putting up the decorations for the celebration of the season, and then removing the Christmas decorations to prepare for the new year. Just as I was filled with anticipation for all the celebrations and traditions the Christmas season brings when I put up the decorations, there is a sense of renewal and new beginnings when I take down my decorations.

So as I put away each ornament and wind up each strand of lights packing them away for next year, I relish in reliving this year’s memories. Joyful memories created in celebrating the joy of Christmas with my loved ones. And as I clean up and restore the house for the new year, I am focusing on Christ’s gift of new life, Romans 6: 23b (the Message) But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

Cleaning my house of all the seasonal trimmings are as much a part of my celebrating the gift of the Christ Child as putting them up in anticipation of the season. It is time that allows me to focus on the ways that I can be born again and grasp the opportunities the new year brings for new beginnings and to grow closer in my relationship with Christ.

Dear Lord, Help me to treasure the memories of the Christmas season as I take down the decorations and put them away for next year’s celebration. But help me to also see how this routine and preparation for the New Year is not an end to Christmas, but a continuation of the gift of new life you offer to me through Your Son Jesus. Amen