Christmas Gratitude

nativity

I am thankful for Christmas, it’s a gift not deserved
It symbolizes the privilege to humbly serve
I am thankful for the manger, my Savior’s bed
Giving up his rights, a life of poverty he led

The King of Kings, creator of all things
Came lowly, quietly, bound as a human being
From riches to rags, a story seldom told
No room in the inn, God left out in the cold

I’m thankful for Christmas, when down is up
It reminds me that giving actually fills my cup
I am thankful for the poor who teach me real faith
They teach me how to walk, in more eloquent ways

I’m thankful for Christmas, God gave up all rights
He honored lowly shepherds, on that bright starry night
Jesus came to love the unimportant, turning success upside down
With no earthly titles, born in a forgotten town

I’m thankful for Christmas, Jesus experienced every human grief
He walked on this earth, homeless, rejected, forsaken, not believed
But it teaches me about pain, pain I too often try to avoid
That it draws me to the only One who can fill my heart void

I’m thankful for Christmas, God came for a relationship
Jesus had close friends, experienced loss and actually wept
It shows me that tears that fill my eyes
Bring healing to my hurt and that he hears my cries

Christmas teaches that man is not perfect, as not to depend
It reminds me to put my hope in the One without end
Jesus came for my mistakes, for my sins and disgrace
Christmas keeps me from religion and makes me run towards Grace

I am thankful for Christmas, it’s a gift that keeps on giving
I gain a new perspective, with a view of eternal living
My creator to a cradle, who wonderfully made me
Makes me live with a greater sense of responsibility

Christmas is about waiting, there was 400 years of silence
It was a hopeless world, dark, oppressed and full of violence
But then “For unto us a child is born, a son is given,” the prophets decreed
Mighty God, wonderful counselor, everlasting father, the prince of peace

I’m thankful for Christmas, it’s about forgiveness, a gift offered freely
It makes me let go of past grudges and do it more quickly
I am grateful for an innocent baby willing to be punished
My life is based on Him growing up, opening his arms, saying, “It is Finished!

So this Christmas, receive the good news that brings everlasting joy
It the serious business of heaven given by that little baby boy
Take responsibility, don’t wait for perfect conditions, this is the day
The angels remind us a savior has been born, REJOICE and don’t delay

VOICES

voices2

Two friends were walking down the sidewalk on a busy street during rush hour.  There were all sorts of noises in the city; car horns honking, feet shuffling, loud sirens, people talking! And amid all the noise, one of the friends turned to the other and said, “I hear a cricket.”

“No way,” her friend responded. “How could you hear a cricket with all of this noise? You must be imagining it. Besides, I’ve never seen a cricket in the city.”

“No really, I do hear a cricket. I’ll show you.”  She stopped for a moment, then led her friend across the street to a big cement planter with a tree in it.  Pushing back the leaves she found a little brown cricket.

“That’s amazing!” said her friend, “You must have a super-human hearing. What’s your secret?”

“No, my hearing is just the same as yours. There’s no secret,” The first woman replied. “Watch, I’ll show you.”

She reached into her pocket, pulled out some loose change, and threw it on the sidewalk.   Amid all of the noise of the city, everyone within thirty feet turned their head to see where the sound of the money was coming from.

“See,” she said. “It’s all a matter of what you are listening for.”

Jesus said, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” Matthew 7:24

Because the truth is…WHO AND WHAT YOU LISTEN TO WILL DETERMINE THE DESTINY OF YOUR LIFE.

Everyday there are voices competing for attention in our heads and the question is, “Which ones will we listen to?”

It’s funny how the voices in our head change very quickly and those voices can take you on a wild ride.

Last year, I ran in the “Run to Feed the Hungry.” It is a 10k run in Sacramento to raise money for the hungry. I did ok, but a voice in my head said, “You need to train more for next year.”
It was the VOICE OF MOTIVATION.

6 months later, I thought about the race and how I should be training but a voice in my head said, “Hey, you still have 6 months until the race, it’s all good.”
It was the VOICE OF PROCRASTINATION.

In September, of this year, I realized the race was in less than 3 months and a voice in my head said, “You better get training!”
It was the VOICE OF URGENCY

3 Weeks before the run, I ran 3 miles on a high school track, and a voice in my head said, “You are in big trouble!!”
It was the VOICE OF TRUTH

Thanksgiving morning, I woke up at 5:30 am, to get up to run the race that started at 8:15, and a voice in my head said, “You already paid for the race, they have your money, which is really what it’s about, to help feed the hungry, it doesn’t matter if you go and run, just roll over, keep sleeping, it’s Thanksgiving, you don’t need to go…”
It was the VOICE OF COMPROMISE and WIMPINESS!!

I got to the race, I stood at the starting line with thousands of people, getting ready to run 6.2 miles, and there was a prayer, and the national anthem, and then the countdown, and when the race started, and I’m running fast and I’m listening to “Streets With No Name” in my headphones, and a voice in my head says, “You are invincible!!!”
It was the VOICE OF DENIAL.

And then I crossed the 1 mile marker and realized I had 5.2 miles left and a voice in my head screamed, “This is not good!”
It was the VOICE OF REALITY

About mile 2, as we were running through neighborhoods, someone was blaring the Rocky theme song out their window, and I got all pumped up, and a voice in my head began to shout out, “ADRIENNE!!”
It was the VOICE OF INSPIRATION

About mile 4, I started hearing jingling bells behind me, and they kept getting closer, and finally, an 80 year old lady, about 4 foot nothing, passes me, with bells tied to her shoes. She passes me and a voice in my head says, “You are pathetic. You should be embarrassed.”
It was the VOICE OF DISCOURAGEMENT

When I saw the mile 5 marker and realized I only had a mile to go, I found a renewed strength and motivation and a voice in my head said, “You can do it! Suck it up and finish strong!”
It was the VOICE OF ENDURANCE

And I began to run faster, and then I saw the little lady with the jingling bells. And a voice in my head shouted, “You can take that old lady. Pass her. Don’t let those bells get the last laugh!”
It was the VOICE OF PATHETIC DESPERATION.

And I passed her and finished the race in front of her. When I crossed the finish line, the voice in my head said, “You did it! You are awesome! Piece of Cake! You are so impressive!”
It was the VOICE OF DEHYDRATION and HALLUCINATION

And as I got in my car, to drive back home, a voice in my head said, “Maybe you need to train a little bit more for next year.”
It was the VOICE OF WISDOM.

And the question is: Will I listen to that voice this year.

Because…THE VOICE YOU LISTEN TO WILL DETERMINE THE DESTINY OF YOUR LIFE.

What voices do you listen to?
What voices do you trust?
What voices are the loudest to you?

One of the loudest voices in our head is THE VOICE OF OUR CULTURE.

They tell us who is important, beautiful and successful.

The voices in our culture shout out, “Look this way, act this way, WALK THIS WAY, live this way.” “This is how you can be happy.” “This is what success looks like.”

But Proverbs tells us that “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”

Another voice that competes in our head is THE VOICE FROM OUR PAST.

Phrases like, “You have blown it”, “You have burned too many bridges”, “You had your chance”, “Why would it be any different now”, and “You will always be this way”, scream at us all day long.

Another voice that is debilitating is THE VOICE OF OTHERS.

It is amazing how hard it is to forget words like, “You are fat.” “You are stupid.” “You are ugly.” “I wish I would of never had you.”  “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”

Besides the voices of our culture, past and others fighting for supremacy in our head, there is another voice at work full time and it is THE VOICE OF THE ACCUSER.

Jesus said, “…he is a liar and the father of lies.”

I recently met a single mom, who had been abandoned by her father, was involved in substance abuse and had compromised her values through many broken relationships.

She was listening to the voices in her head that were telling her that she was worthless, ugly and that God was done with her.

She felt it was too late and she had made too many mistakes.

She felt scared, alone and very fragile.
She was hurting so bad.

Someone invited her to church and she began to learn about a different voice.

She began to learn about God’s VOICE OF VALUE that says “You are not an accident and you are wonderfully and fearfully made.”

She started to listen to God’s VOICE OF SATISFACTION that says, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.”

She learned to obey God’s VOICE OF WISDOM that says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice saying, “This is the road! Now follow it.”

She experienced God’s VOICE OF HEALING that says, “I have come to heal the brokenhearted and set captives free.”

And then she accepted God’s VOICE OF INVITATION that says, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”

She decided that day to begin to change the voices she listened to. I remember her being baptized.

Today, God is changing, healing and bringing joy and purpose to this beautiful mom’s life.

Everyday, we must choose, what voice will we listen to…because…WHO YOU LISTEN TO WILL DETERMINE THE DESTINY OF YOUR LIFE.

C.S. Lewis once wrote about voices that, “It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.”

Will you take a few moments and listen to God’s voice speak to you through scripture:

For those who are tired, listen to the voice of God who says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

For those who have been abandoned listen to the voice of God who says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

For those living with shame, listen to the voice of God who says, “…as far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your transgressions from you.” Psalm 103:12

For those searching for significance, listen to the voice of God who says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

For those seeking eternal life, listen to the voice of God who says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25

For those needing wisdom for the future, listen to the voice of God who says, “Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you wonderful and marvelous things that you know nothing about.” Jeremiah 33:3

For those figuring out what success is, listen to the voice of God who says, “If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you give it up for me, you will surely find it.” Matthew 10:39

For those tempted to take short-cuts in life, listen to the voice of God who says, “People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.” Proverbs 10:9

For those needing financial wisdom, listen to the voice of God who says, “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.” Proverbs 11:24

For those who are buying into the cultural phrase that if it feels good do it, listen to the voice of God who says, “Save yourself for your wife and don’t have sex with other women.” Proverbs 5:17

For men looking for ways to be a better husband, listen to the voice of God who says, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it.” Ephesians 5:25

For those sorting out their priorities in life, listen to the voice of God who says, “Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well.” Matthew 6:33

For those who are looking for good investment tips, listen to the voice of God who says, “Caring for the poor is lending to the Lord, and you will be well repaid.” Proverbs 19:17

For those who are feeling weak, listen to the voice of God who says, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

For those who are wanting to be productive, listen to the voice of God who says, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

For those who are discouraged, listen to the voice of God who says, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

For those who need refreshing, listen to the voice of God who says, “The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning;” Lamentations 3:22-23

For those who want to be great, listen to the voice of God who says, “If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others.” Matthew 20:26

For those who love to worship, listen to the voice of God who says, “I’ll tell you what it really means to worship the Lord. Remove the chains of injustice. Free those who are abused! Share your food with everyone who is hungry; share your home with the poor and homeless. Give clothes to those in need; don’t turn away your relatives.” Isaiah 58:6-7

For those who want to meet Jesus, listen to the voice of God who says, “Whatever you did for the least of these, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” Matthew 25:40

And to all of us who have lost someone close to us and need the hope of heaven, listen to the voice of God who says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4

Because…WHO YOU LISTEN TO WILL DETERMINE THE DESTINY OF YOUR LIFE.

And to those of us, who sometimes forget how much God loves us, listen to the voice of God who says, “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief…it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down…and he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5