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

The Antidote to Loneliness

Alone in a Crowd

Loneliness can be found at every level of society.

The rich can be lonely as well as the poor.
The busy as well as the idle.
The young as well as the old.
The crowded as well as the isolated.
The leaders as well as the followers.
The wedded as well as the single.

Loneliness has less to do with the quantity of people in your life and much more to do with the quality of people.

Loneliness has a lot to do with our soul.

First, our western culture keeps us so busy and focusing on the surface of things that we don’t value the investment and time that it takes to cultivate deep friendships.

Quality friendships demand time and re-prioritizing.
Quality friendships do not happen quickly or easily.
Quality friendships move beyond the, “What’s in it for me?” and requires a commitment of selflessness and humility.

Quality friendships are the antidote to loneliness.

William Shakespeare wrote, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

Helen Keller wrote, “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”

Quality friendships motivate your character to mature.

These kinds of friendships make us want to be better people.
These kinds of friendships challenge us to grow our moral fiber.
These kinds of friendships are not always easy, but they are invaluable.

When I’m around my friend Eldon who sponsors 21 Compassion children, I want to be a more generous person.

When I’m around my friends Tom and Janis who work passionately and tirelessly with the homeless, I want to be a more caring, less judgmental person.

When I’m around my friend Mike, who believes in the power of prayer, I want to be a more faith filled person.

When I’m around my friend Kevin, who is one of the most selfless people I know, I want to be a better friend.

When I’m around my friend Ginger, who loves the broken-hearted and the grieving, I want to be a more empathizing person.

The writer of proverbs compares these kinds of friendships to how when iron sharpens iron, there is friction and sparks result, but the long term result wins out over the short term pain.

These kinds of friendships are rare.

Do you have people like that in your life?

If you do, invest in them.
If you do, thank them for what they do.

Quality friendships also respect and treasure your soul.

These kinds of friendships look past the “What can you do for me?” question and attaches great importance on how that friend is doing on the inside.

What fears are paralyzing their soul?
What sins are strangling their soul?
What unmet dreams are saddening their soul?

Quality friendships go to these deeper places.

James wrote in the New Testament to confess your fears, your sins, your feelings to each other and pray for one another and the result will be the healing of your heart.

Do you have people like that in your life?

If you do, value them, invest in them and thank them.

Quality friendships ultimately encourage your journey.

We live in a very negative, tear one another down world.

The hostile environment of the work place, the cyber bullying of the internet, the ridiculing comments and judgment of the school yard can drive us to deep discouragement and low self-esteem.

As people of faith, we are supposed to be the contradiction to our mean spirited culture.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are to spend our days “thinking of ways to encourage one another toward creative outbursts of love and good deeds.”

Child expert Kevin Heath wrote, “Four very powerful words to say to your child: I BELIEVE IN YOU!” yet I would argue that those are the words that are used often in all deep, quality, life-giving friendships.

During one of our summer camps on our campus, we had over 450 grade school students, who needed to know that someone believed in them. I thought I would try something.

After lunch, the students would line up, single file to go outside to the water games or to the gym for sports, so on the first day I stood at the front of the line and as the kids begin to file out, I tried to tell as many of them as I could how special they were.

As they walked by I would point at each one and say, “You are amazing, you are spectacular, I love how smart you are, you are awe-inspiring, you are stoopendous, you are truly remarkable, you are superb, you are wonderful, you are magnificent, you are astounding, you are grand, you are splendid, you are outstanding, your are perfecto, you are impressive and you are groovy!”

You get the idea. On the first day, the kids were looking at me and thinking, “Who is this man? Stranger danger.”

But by the third day, the kids were lining up with anticipation of what they were going to hear and they would yell out to me, “Pick me! Pick me!”

As humans, we were created for encouragement and our culture has abandoned this practice and our souls are dying of starvation.

Do you have people in your life who encourage your journey?
Do you encourage other people’s journey?

Let’s try practicing what the writer of Hebrews taught us. I have never met anyone who has said, “Please, stop encouraging me, I’ve had enough!”

People will rise to the level of expectation that we give them.

Jesus was the master of this. He came to a loudmouthed fisherman named Simon, and he told him that he was going to rename him Peter (Petros-rock) and that he was going to be the foundation of the church and the gates of hell would not prevail. And over time, Simon began living like Peter, and he was never the same.

Speak encouragement into the people around you and watch them rise up to the words that you have given them.

God created us to be in deep, meaningful relationships.
Don’t neglect one of life’s most essential needs.

Find people who will motivate your character and do the same for others.
Find people who will respect and treasure your soul and do the same for others.
Find people who will encourage your journey and do the same for other.

You will see loneliness slip away and purpose and meaning follow.

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” Mother Teresa