Mentoring Minutes

HOW TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE DURING THE HOLIDAYS

If you have not yet done so check out the first post in this series, “Thanksgiving – A Day or a Lifestyle? It contains a brief history of Thanksgiving from the Israelites to the early Church, showing the gratitude that was continually given to God…2 Corinthians 4:14-15; 2 Corinthians 9:10-12; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; 4:4-5.

An attitude of gratitude is what makes Thanksgiving, and all of life, special.   

Family time, great food and eating all you want, road trips, precious memories, warm hearts and hearths…. Or harried schedules, “burnt offerings,” and eating way too much, strained budgets, trying to please everyone, not-so-pleasant memories, broken homes and hearts and lost loved ones.  Which describes your Thanksgiving thoughts, memories and expectations?  Maybe it’s a bit of both.

Here are some quotes that represent both sides of Thanksgiving and the Holidays…

“He who thanks but with the lips thanks but in part; the full, the true Thanksgiving comes from the heart.”                                                       J.A. Shedd

“Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks.”  Anonymous

“You can never be really happy if you keep holding to those bad memories which make you sad.”                                                                                   Anurag Prakash Ray

One of my most memorable holidays was the Thanksgiving when I was 13 years old. I had a relapse of the flu and spent the entire holiday either on the couch or in bed while all my cousins played basketball, football, baseball and any other kind of “ball” that we knew. You can imagine how a 13-year-old loved being down the entire holiday and family time together!  I said memorable, not best! 

The other was an unseasonably warm CHRISTmas that we spent the entire time (except for the meal) playing outside in shorts and short sleeves!  It was AWESOME!

These were the best until I had my own family and began focusing on and finding ways to make Thanksgiving and holidays special for them.  It’s wonderful when we find out how much more satisfying it is to do all we can to make life good for others rather than just having others do so for us.

For me the holidays were all about extended family, fun, food, gifts, sports and generally good times counting our blessings and thanking The Lord for them!

Over the years I learned that things weren’t always as they seemed in our “perfect family” as financial struggles, health issues, divorce and broken homes became evident as well as the loss of loved ones.  Still, I’m so thankful for the efforts of my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles to keep us coming together and sharing with each other. We still do to this day with over 60 in attendance last Thanksgiving!

These two questions will determine whether you can enjoy this Thanksgiving and all those yet to come.  What’s been your experience of the holiday?  How have you responded?  Pay special attention to the second one as it makes all the difference.

For those who don’t have pleasant memories or suffer the pain and sorrow of loss or brokenness that is magnified during the holidays, here are reminders from God in His Word to help you cope and find reasons for hope and to give thanks always to Him…Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 61:1-3; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

Attitude has everything to do with what you get out of life, including the holidays! God’s Word put it this way, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).  Giving thanks not only gives us a better perspective but also reminds us that God is in control and we can count on Him no matter what.

Some things we can control and some we can’t.  Keep this in mind with the following Priorities and Tips to help you not just survive but thrive in the Holiday season…

Priorities in your life, marriage and relationships determine whether you follow through on tips or suggestion.  So here you go…

10 Priorities that make for a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry CHRISTmas

1) Seek The Lord first in your life, relationships and decisions

2) Choose an attitude of gratitude in all things

3) Forgiveness is mandatory for Christ followers

4) Take care of yourself

5) Put others above self and your marriage/immediate family above your extended/blended family

6) Honor your parents and extended/blended family

7) Budget within your income and stick with it

8) Plan your calendar/travel according to priorities with family and loved ones

9) Enjoy those you spend time with and don’t let others make you feel guilty

10) If you’re single consider what applies to you and be willing to honor your parents and family for their sake – remember others above self!

With these priorities guiding your decisions, here are ten tips that can make your Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas peaceful and enjoyable:

1) Spend a few minutes in God’s Word and take time to thank Him for at least one thing every day!

2) Pray for your family members and friends and forgive those who’ve wronged you – you’ll never be free to enjoy the holidays or life until you forgive others.  It’s hard to hold grudges against those you’re praying for.

3) Pray for your plans, budgets and schedules.  Placing all in God’s hands helps you make the best decisions and enjoy the season and those you share it with.

4) Be sure to maintain good exercise and rest – you need to be healthy in order to enjoy your family and for them to enjoy you. 

5) Don’t overdo it.  Schedule, prepare and travel so that you can enjoy the time and people you’ve planned for.  If you spread yourself too thin, everybody loses.

6) Budget for holiday spending and then stick with it.  Be sure to include food and travel costs in your budget, not just gifts.  Don’t try to impress or please others at the expense of your personal, financial and family well-being.   

7) Schedule and plan ahead of time and communicate with extended family the time you can spend with them.  Do your best, enjoy the time and don’t fret about what you can’t do.  Don’t add or let others add a “guilt trip” to your travel plans.

8) Alternate trips and time with families as needed between Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas and/or from year to year especially as miles and money are an issue.

9) Don’t COMPETE!  Your food, clothes, car and whatever else you’ve been blessed with are just that—a blessing through which you can bless others—not outdo them.

10) Enjoy those you spend time with!  Remember, people and relationships are most important.  You can’t please everyone so don’t try!

Our prayer at Love and Lordship is that we, individually and as spouses, families and Christ followers, would be able to show a hurting world that the Holidays and giving thanks are a reminder that no matter the circumstances, because of Christ, we can choose to “Rejoice always, give thanks in all things and pray without ceasing, for that is God’s will for us in Christ!” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Here are a couple of articles that I pray will help you “recalibrate” and find ways to enjoy the holidays and even more so those that make them special…Christ, family, loved ones and friends.  Be sure to let all of them know you are thankful for them!

Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – What dictates how you enjoy or avoid Thanksgiving?  What can you do to make these special times special again (or maybe for the first time)?  Prayer?  Priorities?  Planning?  Forgiveness?  Gratitude?

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Plan and budget what you can do this Thanksgiving and holiday season and follow through to bless your spouse and family without trying to please everyone or spreading yourself too thin.  Also, set yourself free by forgiving at least one person you need to forgive.  If you are willing, think of any and all you are holding grudges against and forgive them.

THANKSGIVING…A DAY OR A LIFESTYLE?

“Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.”   Author Robert Caspar

Thanksgiving – Let me just begin with full disclosure…I Love Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas!  I know that you purists want to keep these two holidays separate, but for me each of them enhances the other. If it weren’t for Thanksgiving we’d miss the history of so many people that have honored and given thanks to God for blessing us with all that we’ve been given.  And if it weren’t for CHRISTmas there would be little reason to truly give thanks, even for the struggles and tough times. It is because of Christ that we have all things and we should continually be offering our thanks to Him.  (Hebrews 13:15-16)

I have to say that my parents and family had a lot to do with my view of the holidays. It wasn’t until I was in my later teens that I even knew that these wonderful holidays filled with so many great times and memories for me could also hold sorrow, grief, pain and loss for many others.   

Holidays can also bring great stress, frustration, angst and anxiety, any or all of which can rob us of the peace and joy that we desire and see in the movies and hear in the songs!  Is that joy and peace real and attainable, or a pipe dream crafted in fairy tale media and cultural marketing?

Over the next three weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and then the four weeks heading into CHRISTmas, we’re going to take a look at the history, the reality and the reasons why these holidays should mean so much to us.  For those who love the holidays as I do, I pray that you grow to love them even more and know The One to whom we owe our thanks.  For those who struggle to make it through, my prayer is that you find The One to Whom we can and should give all thanks; the CHRIST of CHRISTmas and the joy, peace and love that He brings.

A Brief History: Thanksgiving Always Belongs to God—From Israel to Plymouth Rock; From Washington to Lincoln to Today

We have so much to be thankful for and yet there is also much that we wish to forget.  How do we celebrate a holiday? Even more importantly how do we give thanks in all things as we’re called to do as Christ’s followers?

Scripture is replete with God’s people giving thanks to Him continually.  The Old Testament includes numerous times and circumstances where God’s people were constantly giving thanks to Him in worship and praise (see Leviticus 7:11-15; Ezra 3:10-12; Nehemiah 11:16-18; 12: 7-9, 24, 46; Psalm 100) for many reasons.  This pointed to continual Thanksgiving, setting an example for us that is pleasing to God.  The New Testament sums it up by simply telling us to give thanks “in every situation” and “in all circumstances”  (Philippians 4:4-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Look for more on how we can do this as we continue through this series.

Fast-forward to the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock: the Pilgrims celebrated what we commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. Ninety Native Americans and approximately 50 Pilgrims (the survivors of the 100 that had made the journey from the Old World) attended the feast, which lasted three days, according to attendee Edward Winslow.

Yet this was more of a continuance of what they had always known.  The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings, following the examples of God’s people found in Scripture.

Thanksgiving in general, and in particular to God, continued to be prevalent and emphasized in the founding of the USA.  Founding Father and our First President, George Washington proclaimed, “It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors.   (Thanksgiving Proclamation, 3 October 1789)

In the middle of our country’s darkest moment, President Lincoln echoed and magnified President Washington’s reminder: we must remember to give thanks, and, even more importantly, Who we must give our thanks to, acknowledging our many blessings, even in the most horrific circumstances. This officially instituted Thanksgiving as a Holiday in our country. (Take time to read all of this and remember the circumstances under which it was given and be encouraged to be thankful.)

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed… Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

“It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.  “We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?  “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.  “But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand, which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.  “It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.”  — Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving proclamation, Oct. 3, 1863

One final reminder of our country’s history with Thanksgiving to God Almighty:  almost exactly one hundred years after Lincoln’s official proclamation President John F. Kennedy issued Proclamation 3560 on November 5, 1963, stating, “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together and for the faith which united them with their God.”

Our country is in a faith crisis…defining God in our image, promoting sexual immorality through media, education and government, and even in some of our churches, denying the religious freedoms without which any and every nation eventually crumbles.  But we have so much to be thankful for!  So let us give thanks to God for all He has blessed us with, seen us through and prepared us for.

Our prayer at Love and Lordship is that we as individuals, as families, as Christ’s Church, would remind those in our spheres of influence and be an example to our country of what His love, grace and mercy are as we offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.  Hebrews 13:15

Here are two articles that can help further remind us of the importance of Thanksgiving as a holiday and as a lifestyle in praise to Him!

God is Good – Give Thanks!…https://homeword.com/?s=God+is+good+Give+Thanks 

30 Days of Thanksgiving – https://homeword.com/articles/30-days-of-thanksgiving-for-2019/?mc_cid=58c1985672&mc_eid=a504990dad#.XbyDTb97lAY

Next week:  How to Survive and Thrive at Thanksgiving

Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – How have past Thanksgivings impacted your approach to this holiday?  How has your approach impacted you and those in your life when it comes to celebrating (or not) Thanksgiving?

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Seriously…take a few minutes to write down at least three people, three things and three trials you are thankful for.  Spend some time thanking God, and others, as applicable.  Think about how an attitude of gratitude impacts your Thanksgiving, your life, your family and others.

AUTHORITY – DEMANDED OR INVITED?

Jesus is the Ultimate Authority and yet He waits to be invited into our lives! What should that tell us about authority? 

His teaching and example are very clear that His Authority is never demanded…we must invite Him in!  As The Author, He teaches and models for us what True Authority is so we need to know and apply His Truth about authority to any position of authority that we have been given or placed in as well!

I have the awesome opportunity and privilege to teach and share the Love and Lordship message with a couple of addiction rehab residential facilities as well as in prisons.  It’s always interesting when I ask them, “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say the word, ‘authority?’” 

The first and most immediate replies, and nearly always with negative tone, connotation and body language, include the following and usually in this order…Police, Judge, Courts, Government, Parents, Teachers, Pastors, Coaches, etc.

Most people equate every one of those people or positions of authority as negative and push against those in authority and the related system because they are seen as controlling and none of us wants to be controlled!

God’s design is to always move from the heart of the individual to the relational, into community and then the system.  If we do not teach and learn real authority in our families we’re going to naturally, in our own selfishness, reject and rebel at all levels.

You get the idea…authority is most always associated with systemic authority and seen as controlling, demanding and “lording it over” to use a Biblical phrase.  We imitate what we have seen and experienced so we practice authority as controlling and we push back against the same from others…all contrary to God’s Word and Christ’s teaching and example.

Turns out this is not new at all?  Remember worldly authority is all about control – always has been since the gate was shut on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden…Paradise Lost!  Actually that was the serpent’s final straw – “You can be like ‘god(s)’” – you can be your own lord…in controlAnd we’ve been biting on the wrong fruit since then!

Worldly Authority…The Sword and The Scepter – Matthew 20:20-24

Even Jesus had to deal with the same thing.  In the story in the Matthew passage above we read that James and John (2 key disciples) sent their mommy to ask Jesus if they could reign and rule with Him…“sit on His right and left hand (thrones of prominence and “authority”) when He entered His Kingdom?”  Now don’t get too upset with just those two because the other 10 got “indignant” (good old King James Version of the Greek word that literally meant, “ticked off”). 

They all wanted to biggest seats, swords and scepters when they got to RULE in His Kingdom!  Are we any different?  Don’t we all want those seats?

You know that as soon as they realized and believed that Jesus was The Messiah they were chomping at the bit and waiting to reign with Him on Thrones of Glory. 

Surely they had entertained such thoughts and spoken to each other,

“Peter, can’t wait until Jesus’s Kingdom is here and we can stick it to those Roman guards and the entire Roman Empire!  Can’t wait to get my sword and scepter!” 

“Yeah, John, and we can put those haughty synagogue leaders and rabbis in their place as well.  They think they have a monopoly on God, leaving us out when it comes to choosing their disciples.  But we know God’s Son and He chose us as His disciples so we’ll get to rule and reign over all of them and all of this with Him!” 

So the other 10 apostles were ticked because they hadn’t acted first to claim the top spots in Christ’s Kingdom!  They had so much to learn and yet these were the 12 that Jesus chose that would eventually “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) with His Gospel message…that means there’s hope for all of us. 

How did Jesus react to their worldly desire and claim for authority in His Kingdom?

“The Last Shall Be First…Serving Is Real Authority” – Matthew 20:25-28

Jesus did not blow up at them and dismiss them as prideful, worldly brats with no hope of leading His Kingdom.  He calmly and respectfully captured the teachable moment to let them know what true authority always is, summed up in three points:

  1. Authority is not “lording it over,” controlling or manipulating others as that is how sinners and unbelievers recognize and practice it;
  2. Authority is submitting and humbly moving from the greatest position to the least position, from first to last;
  3. Authority is serving others rather than expecting them to serve us.

He concludes by pointing to His own ultimate Authority, stating, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

He didn’t just teach real authority, in contrast to the world’s, sinner’s or unbeliever’s ideas and application of it, He modeled it in a very humble but powerful way.

The Author Models Authority…A Wash Basin and Cloth – John 13:12-16

Does it surprise anyone that Jesus would back up His teaching by His actions?  In John 13 we see Him do just that.  Jesus demonstrated on the night He was betrayed – the following as the model for His Kingdom Authority:  

  1. He showed the full extent of His love…v. 1
  2. He did so in Humility – knowing Who He Was and Is….v. 3 – Displayed with Servant’s Heart and Servant’s Hands…vv. 4-5

As He rose from this incredible act of humble service that was a foreshadowing of His sacrificial love displayed the following day as He was nailed to The Cross, He paused to make His most powerful statement that tied it all together:

3. He recounted His service…v. 12
4. He acknowledged disciples’ recognition of His Authority…v. 13, then
5. He explained love, humility and service as Real Authority…vv. 14-16

Finally, He calls us to love, discipleship and authority as He taught and modeled.

Real Authority is Invited Influence

Jesus closes out the dialogue, the teaching and modeling with this simple but profound statement that captures all He has done in love, humility, serving and authority in v. 17, If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

The word “know” is not just to have knowledge but “to know how,” demonstrated by following the example and serving others the same way. 

We as His disciples are to display the same kind of humble, loving service as the only way to walk in and live out True Authority!  As we do so, we are blessed which simply means that Jesus takes our actions and multiplies the impact in the lives of others…influence!  

As we live according to His teaching and modeling, as our Authority and Lord, we become like Him and others invite us to have influence in their lives!  His invitation is not only to us but also through us to others. 

Authority is never forced and it never changes regardless of the position you’re in or the people with whom you have been given authority. It is serving those who invite you into their lives…just as Jesus did…“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. Revelation 3:19-21

Jesus, the Ultimate Authority and Gentleman, waits to be invited in to influence our lives!  We as believers and as His disciples then are to serve and share with others.  As we do we can wait on Him to open doors and as they invite us into their lives we influence them with His Loving Authority and Truth!

Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – How have you thought about authority?  How has that impacted the way you’ve practiced authority in your life, roles and positions of influence? 

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Consider the areas where you are in a position of authority… Spouse?  Parent?  Supervisor?  Church leader?  Coach?  Teacher?  Elected official?  How have you practiced authority in each role and responsibility?  Does it differ depending on the position and people?  Should it?