“It is for freedom that Christ has made you free.” (Galatians 5:1)

This scripture runs through my head at least once per day. Paul wrote it in his letter to the Galatians. The church was dealing with the pressure to add to the grace given by Christ. He accused them of turning to a different gospel, “which is really no gospel at all.” (1:7) The people were like many of us being thrown into confusion by the opinions of this world, the rituals, and the traditions that tell us how we should think, feel and act in order to be acceptable or even “normal.” 

When I think about the things our world is broadcasting these days, it’s not all bad. I’ve enjoyed learning the science behind calories, simple carbs and complex carbs. I love getting into a deep conversation about classical education vs traditional. Even a light political discussion can be invigorating, as I pretend to know the ins and outs of the constitution; but, when I am not careful, these things begin to suffocate me. Condemnation creeps up and condemns me for not measuring up to the standard, and pride creeps up as I judge others for not reaching my standard. Then, I begin to see gluten-free eating as the standard for all and classical education as God’s best. Even political leanings can begin to look like a leg of the Gospel.  

 

These thoughts and feelings hold me captive; I become a slave to them. I rise, and in order to satisfy my conscience, I strive to eat that gluten-free muffin. When it comes to politics, I begin to ignore an obvious wrong in efforts to stay aligned with the “right” political party. I continue classically educating my kids even though I may find myself overwhelmed with the process, while there is a great traditional school right down the road. And just like the Galatians, I enter again into a system of works, trying to earn my righteousness, being a slave to the law. While reminding the Galatians that their salvation came through faith in Christ alone, Paul also admonished them not to add again the works of the law (namely circumcision) in efforts to maintain their salvation.

There was a time in my life that it was all about maximum effort in hopes of maximum results. If you are like me, it’s exhausting maintaining a standard imposed on me by popular culture. Paul reminds us of the freedom we have in the finished work of Christ. Breathe easy, my sisters and brothers, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Doesn’t that feel good to read this scripture releasing us from our works and inviting us to rest in Christ? I can just hear Christ’s invitation to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and lowly at heart and you will find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

 

Martina is a wife and mother of four wonderful children. She began as a participant of RYH groups and is now an RYH Ambassador. The Griffins live in Orlando, FL.

 

It was 1965 and Charles Schultz continued to create the timeless comic strip Peanuts.  The producers at CBS took a chance on creating an animated Christmas special.  As the story boards were being created and the concept was being set in motion, there were conversations happening between the creator and the people from CBS.  What kind of music?  We find out that Charles Schultz wasn’t sure about the jazz music.  Which has not only continued to be part of the program but it has become part of many people’s Christmas music library.

Not only was their discussion over the music, there were some who were not sure about the ending.  Do we really think that people will want the Christmas story quoted from the Bible?  Well as it ends up Schultz gave in on the Jazz music and CBS gave in on the passage from the gospel of Luke.

The story line is classic. Charlie Brown, conflicted again, bring his concerns to Lucy who has a Psychiatric “lemonade” stand. He continues to ask Linus and even after taking on the role of director of  the Christmas program filled with dancing children, Snoopy making animal noises and Lucy wanting to be the Christmas queen, he cries out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

It seems that the same challenges face us today. “Isn’t There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas is All About?”

What do you find yourself thinking during this Christmas season? Where are you spending most of your time?  Are you just as discouraged as Charlie Brown? Have you found yourself looking at websites for Christmas cruises or short weekends away in the mountains?  Maybe instead you have found yourself bearing all the expectations of your family, parents or church?

It is so hard to dim the lights, drop our blue security blanket on the floor and begin to tell our hearts, “what Christmas is all about.”

Luke 2 The Message (MSG)

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.  Take this to heart!  Stop.  Listen.  Consider.

Have you been in that auditorium? Have you been at the end of yourself?  The end of the program points to where you might need to begin.

The children who have made fun of Charlie Brown’s little tree, find that all it needed was a little love!  The tree that was once made fun of becomes the object of their attention.

Jesus is that little tree!  He was the object of scorn. He took on human flesh, became a man so that he could take our place on a Cross. Joseph was told, “Call Him Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.”

The children, circle around the tree and begin to sing at the end of the program.

CharlieBrownChristmas

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

This is what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

[hr]

Just in case you missed it here is a clip of the last portion of the program

One of the circumstances of getting older is that I have begun to do things slower. It’s not that I intentionally want to, it just happens. In the fast-paced world we live in today that could be a cause for anxiety. But since I am slower, my anxiety doesn’t have the power it used to have.

Actually, there is a great blessing that comes with moving slower. I call it “living in the moment”. 

When I was younger I remember always waiting for the “next thing” to happen. I can’t wait till my daughter sits up, crawls, walks, talks, etc. I can’t wait till this pregnancy is over and I can meet my baby boy. I can’t wait till we get a bigger house. I can’t wait till I finish school and get a better paying job. Sometimes it was big stuff I was waiting on to happen and sometimes it was little everyday things. I can’t wait till it’s bedtime for my kids. I can’t wait till I finish cleaning the floor. I can’t wait till the mail comes. I can’t wait to get out of this car I’ve been riding in for two hours.

You probably know what I am talking about.

As I have gotten older though, one thing I have noticed is that time passes by at an alarmingly fast rate. When I was a child, the summer seemed to last forever. It was agony waiting for Christmas to arrive. The school day seemed to never come to a close.

Now, I sometimes feel like I can literally see time flying by me.

A few years ago I found an interesting little book that helped me change my thinking about how I was living my life and viewing time. It’s called The Practice of the Presence of God . This little book was written by a monk named Brother Lawrence who lived in France in the 1600’s.  Brother Lawrence was a humble and lowly kitchen aide in his monastery. He was so humble that if he had not spoken in depth with a French nobleman of the time, we would probably never have heard of him today.

Praise God for French noblemen!

One of Brother Lawrence’s jobs in the monastery was peeling potatoes. Every day, he peeled mounds of potatoes. Although this could be a monotonous and tedious job, Brother Lawrence adopted the specific attitude of peeling every potato as though he were peeling it for God. This helped him find joy and purpose in even the lowliest, most tiring aspects of his day. When I first read Brother Lawrence’s writings, a light bulb went off in my head. The example Brother Lawrence set could be used in my everyday life as well. I would not have to be missing the present moment by waiting on the next better thing to come along.

Living in the moment.

Perhaps you have already had this little revelation in your life. If you haven’t, I hope you will consider this. Life is not a destination, you are already there. Pay attention to each moment and open your mind and senses to what is happening right now. Don’t miss out on the moment while waiting for the future to come.

In C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters  Satan writes letters to his nephew, a lessor demon, and explains to him ways to keep “his human” away from God. In one of the chapters, he advises his demon nephew to keep the human’s mind either on the past or on the future. He tells him that the future is the better choice because thinking about the unknown future can cause anxiety. The main thing is, it will keep the human apart from God. God lives in the present. The present is the closest thing we have to eternity here on earth.

Maybe this is old news to everyone but me, but realizing this concept has impacted my life in a dramatic way. Living in the moment, practicing the presence of God. It makes time go by at a less frantic pace and it calms my spirit. It is not a destination, you are already there.

Here are a few ideas I have about how to better live in the moment:

  • Turn off your electronics
  • Go outside
  • Give someone your full attention with kindness
  • Breathe
  • Notice your thoughts and feelings
  • Engage your senses in a really intentional way (taste, smell, sight, sound, touch)
  • Accept what is and don’t fret about what isn’t
  • Slow down
  • Express thankfulness

There are countless other ways to live in the moment. My prayer for you is that this might encourage you to consider applying the concept of living in the moment and practicing the presence of God in your own life.

If you have already done this, what are some of your ideas for living in the moment?

*Editors Note: This blog is from our archives and was one we wanted to repost! Enjoy

thanksgiving dinner rockwell

thanksgiving dinner rockwell

Ok, so most of us are planning a family gathering on Thanksgiving.  Some of you are most likely wondering if there is any way to avoid the tension and stress as families unite, cooks pack the kitchen, and people arrive bearing side items and desserts.

I’m honestly not bothered by the chaos.  However, there are some in my family who find getting the food ready on time, carving the turkey or getting the green beans just right as a stressor. (I just avoid the kitchen.)

This year my family has experienced a faith building situation as my Dad is going through treatment for cancer.  Yuck.  That’s not something to look forward to during the Thanksgiving Holidays.  So Dad having to go thru radiation treatment over an 8 week period has changed some of this years family traditions.  Some of my family, not to name names but they are the only 2 nephews, will certainly miss the crockpot macaroni and cheese. But the thing that I’m considering is how a change in focus from all the food and preparation reminded me of what I am thankful for and Who I am Thanking.

Normally after a big meal and a few too many pieces of pie, we wipe our mouths and say, thanks to the cook or cooks.  “That was great, thanks.”  I’m thinking the change will be good and help us think about how precious it is to be together.

This year, we’re planning on having sandwiches, stuff all us children can bring in, so that Mom doesn’t have to do much more than make iced tea.  I’m hoping the lack of a table full of food helps us consider that it isn’t just about thanking the cooks but being thankful period.

Not only do we need to be grateful, we need to remember who we are Thanking.  America has a long tradition of thanksgiving.  As with many holidays, Thanksgiving has turned into another way to make us spend more on groceries or food channels to show 10 new ways to use left over turkey.  However, the whole point was that we would take time to stop and gather with the people we care about and talk about why we are thankful and to whom we are thankful.

George Washington proclaimed a day of thanksgiving on Oct 3, 1789 and pointed us to the fact that it is our duty to “acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.” 1

For it is not just the cooks and those who provided the food for our meal that we thank.  It’s not just the Thanksgiving Dinner or the family that is gathered, our focus, as in all things, is to see that it is the hand of Almighty God, our Provider and Sustainer, the God of the Bible who has given us all things.

So this Thanksgiving – Remember who to Thank!

Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. “Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name ..” … 1 Chron 29:12-13.

Enjoy the good gifts of God!

1 Timothy 4:4-5

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,  because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

i stood in front of loved ones 9 years and 1 day ago and declared my “til death eternity NOTHING do us part” love for jesus. this was my public and outward vow of faith in christ. in a very real way it was my wedding to him: a public statement of my intent and desire to remain with him for all eternity.

Keight

i stood in front of many of those same loved ones exactly 7 years ago today and committed my entire earthly self to jesse. sickness, health. richer, poorer. brain-meltingly frustrated, googly-eyed smitten. every moment we’re both on earth, we’re each others’.

KeightnJesse

the kingdom of heaven

the marriage parallel is probably my favorite of all the ways that the bible likens our relationship with christ to other things (i also LOVE king/subject, btw). i think one of the main reasons i favor this one above all the others (coin, sheep, prodigal, etc) is because it’s sort of backwards from the way the others are presented.

lots of time we hear jesus say “the kingdom of heaven is like…” and then he puts it in terms of smaller, everyday stuff that we have more experience and familiarity with than the all-encompassing glory of god. i dont super-understand the everlasting sanctification of my mortally sinful spirit through christ’s work on the cross, but i can picture a tree giving crappy rotten figs versus nice delicious plump ones. (i’ll take a bushel of sancti-figs, please!)

take a big awe-inspiring idea and use something more common to help us understand it. take a big magical mysterious thing and boil it into something simpler that we have real life experience with. jesus was helpful like this when explaining his ways to us pea-brains

these comparisons are illustrations and they kind of stop there. we arent going to become seeds, or sheep or fruit when we enter god’s kingdom. it’s just a little glimpse to help us understand until we can truly see.

but with marriage it’s the opposite. he presents the thing we’re more day-to-day familiar with first: earthly marriage, and then says: “hey, this right here, it’s even more lofty and weird and cool than you had ever dreamed of. MARRIAGE is like the kingdom of heaven.” it is a subtle difference but it’s one that i think makes both the faith relationship and the earthly marriage relationship both more magical.

when “the kingdom of heaven is like…” something else, it’s glory coming down to earth. to our level. god most-high becoming human. the mystery of god’s word being like scattered seed so we can sort of/kind of understand it. the creator of ALL THE THINGS becoming a tiny middle-eastern baby so we could feel his love.

that is amazing and awesome. but the coolest part of jesus isnt that he came down. it’s that he rose back up: out of the grave and back to heaven and he brought us with him.

marriage isnt something bigger becoming something more humble to get on our level. it seems to me that it is something already magical having the chance to become even more. marriage is like the kingdom of heaven. the promise of the chance to be more, to love more. to draw even closer to him.

the bride

because when we get to god’s kingdom we ARE actually going to be brides. spotless and new. perfected and ready to enter into an even deeper and more intimate relationship with our groom than we could have even dreamed of before the wedding feast. charles spurgeon describes it so perfectly:

Then it shall come to pass that Christ will celebrate this marriage supper, which will be the bringing of the people of God into the closest and happiest union with Christ their Lord in Glory.  Even now the Lord Jesus Christ is no stranger to some of us, and we are not strangers to Him. Yet there shall come a day when we shall see Him face to face and then we shall know Him with a clearer and fuller knowledge than is possible for us today.

jesus didnt give us marriage just to help us understand his love for us and ours for him. he gave it to us to PRACTICE this love…in both directions. when everything is as it was intended (this occurs approximately 43 minutes per year in our house) my jesus relationship should constantly be informing and dictating my devotion to and love of jesse, and my marriage relationship should constantly be pointing me back to jesus and acting out a perfect christ-minded unity. like two mirrors face to face reflecting back to infinity.

christian marriage isnt just LIKE the kingdom of heaven. when we give christ the centrality and sovereignty over our marriage that he intended, asks for and deserves, it actually IS the kingdom of heaven.

mind: blown.

having my 2 wedding anniversaries within a day of each other is an awesome reminder for me every year of the high standard my marriage is called to and of the even more perfect promise of christ to come.

 

This blog was written by Keight Dukes.  Keight is married to Jesse Dukes, associate staff with WDA.

Their staff page can be found here.

You can follow Keight’s original blog by clicking here.