Sliding On the Ice

~~ Psalm 25:15-16 (NIV) ~~   My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.

by Carley Cooper

Playful Baby Polar Bear Sliding On the Ice
Free Source Photo.  No Copyrights Claimed
Sometimes it seems that no matter how many times I go through an experience; how many times God teaches me a lesson... and sometimes I even pass the test!... I still feel like it’s in one ear and out the other.  I wonder if this frustrates God much.  Personally, I get irritated when I have to repeat myself over and over to get a point across.  My patience level is limited.  I seriously can’t imagine how I don’t, sometimes, get on His very last nerve. 

Christmas is almost here.  I am honestly trying harder than I have in many years to keep a good outlook and to keep my focus away from the fact that I don’t have what others have to celebrate the season with.  There are many moments when I can honestly see a possibility that I could have a great Christmas without all that.  This is more than I’ve been able to see in past years; so this is a step forward.  I am truly thankful for that.  This morning, just when I needed it the most; I got advice from three different sources. 

First there was an inspirational message from a dear online friend by the name of Ravyna, who gives me so much advice and support when I need it.  She said “You are a Princess of the King, the Lord of Lords.  He promises to never leave you or forsake you.  He is always with you.  Always by your side, always there to listen to your needs.  Remember, Jesus looks at you and sees a princess, and wants you to rest in him.  Blessings.”  Honestly, this reminder that Jesus is the answer escaped me at first.  I saw it as meaning “as long as I’m lonely it means that I don’t love Jesus enough” or “if I truly love Jesus, I wouldn’t feel any loneliness”.  But, I am lonely sometimes.  And, some of those times, so much that I can have physical pain throughout my body.  During these times, the loneliness not only overwhelms me but so does the guilt.  I have overwhelming guilt over the fact that I feel lonely, because I think that it means I’m failing Jesus somewhere.  It’s hard for me to remember that these are lies whispered to me by the enemy.  That’s the problem with lies, deception and falsehoods... as long as you’re inside them looking out you can’t see that they are not real.  It’s only from the outside looking in that you can see the true picture.

Secondly, there was the ever present advice and support of my angel and friend (who I wrote about in an article called “Angels From Heaven”).  He told me this morning that “Loneliness is a legitimate feeling.  Jesus was surrounded by 12 of his friends most of his ministry and when he went to pray shortly before his death he invited his closest to pray with him.  Loneliness is an appropriate feeling to have.  Where we get into trouble is  how we at times seek to fulfill that need.  Jesus is with us all the time but he recognizes that we also need other people.  That is why he has given us Christian community.”  He finished with “Got to go for lunch.  There are some deviled eggs that are waiting for me in the fridge.  Have a good one.  As the shrink on Mash has said ‘Take my advice.  Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.’

Finally, there was a devotional message by Samantha Reed of Proverbs 31 Ministries called “All By Myself”.  If I didn’t know better, I would have thought she took the passage from my own journal.  I don’t mean the piece she wrote; but the story she told.  It is my story.  It is the story of so many people who spend the holidays hurting and lonely.  If the holidays are difficult for you, I highly recommend that you read this article.  She reminded me, again, that I have to focus on Jesus.  He will lead the way to a brighter future. 

Even though I am physically alone; and at times that hurts emotionally, mentally and physically; Jesus is always with me.  That doesn’t mean that I will have to be totally cool with being single forever and give up on my dreams.  It means that I have all the hope that Jesus has to offer that He has a plan for my future that is better than any dream or plan I could come up with.  God knows my needs down to the tiniest detail.  He created me and He loves me.  He can, and will, and does supply all of my needs... and that includes the dreams that He has put on my heart.  I am thankful that God has the patience to keep telling me things over and over again; to keep reminding me of lessons that I’ve already learned.  Hopefully these reminders, and these people that he has put in my life to help me, will get me through another Christmas season; or at least another day.  Though, more realistically; with the way I tend to fall and keep wanting to focus on myself instead of Jesus, it’s more  likely to be advice to carry me through the next fifteen minutes.  After that God may need to send me more encouragement.  But, I know if I need it that I will get it; because He never fails me when I need Him the most. 

So, at least for today... who wants to go sliding on the ice with me?

~~ Dear Lord ~~    Help me to keep my eyes focused on Jesus for, I am lonely and afflicted.  Thank You for being so patient, merciful and gracious to me.  Help my heart to be free from the torment that I seem to be determined to carry with me.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Yuletide Cheer

~~ Luke 1:47 (NLT) ~~   How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

by Carley Cooper

It’s almost here!  Christmas, that is.  The excitement is in the air so thick you can practically smell it.  Do you have your tree and decorations up yet?  Are you finished your shopping?  Have you done your Christmas baking yet?  Oh, and don’t forget the Christmas cards!

We put ourselves through weeks of preparation for this day.  Hundreds or even thousands of dollars are spent for gifts that we don’t really want to buy so we can give them to relatives we don’t see the rest of the year because they get on our nerves so much.  Decorations are hung everywhere, and more food is prepared for that one day than we need for several days.  Then there’s the parties with eggnog spiked enough to knock out a black bear.  We write out so many Christmas cards to people we never see or talk to that we get writer’s cramp; and keep the post office in business for another year.   Weeks are spent baking fruit cakes that have the daily caloric limits to keep the average healthy elephant going for several days. 

Have you ever stopped to wonder why we do so much for what is essentially one day?  We put up a tree... inside the house.  I mean, think about it for a minute.  A tree?  In the house?  Does that not strike you as just a tad bit odd?  Only to put all sorts of completely useless and colourful doo-dads on it.  And we finish it off by letting some strange fat guy come into our house in the middle of the night where gets to eat our snacks, and have the freedom to snoop to his heart’s content around the house and we are be none the wiser.  Oh, have you ever stopped to notice that not only has he not shaved in... forever... but he has also been wearing the same coat and pants for decades?  Truthfully, I’m not sure I would want my kids sitting on this old guys knee.

What is the excitement about anyway?  Do you even get excited?  Some of us have a difficult time through the Christmas season.  It’s been about 18 years since I’ve had a truly great Christmas.  It’s a very long story, but the bottom line is that it’s been a long time since I’ve looked forward to Christmas.  It is a very emotionally draining time of year for me.  When the Yuletide Cheer was handed out, I seem to have missed getting my portion.  There’s one person out there who got a double shot of joyfulness; and who’s just a little bit too cheery; and it isn’t from the eggnog. 

I put my Christmas tree up last week.  That alone was emotionally draining for me.  But wait... it wasn’t decorated yet.  I mean, literally, just putting the tree up.  And it’s only a small tree about 3.5 feet tall sitting on top of a small table; which I have to stick with because of space issues.  I am proud to say, though, that I haven’t killed any trees for my own pleasure in many years.  I’ve stayed with some very nice artificial trees.  Anyway, since I put it up last week, it took me all whole week to force myself to put any decorations on it, which I did yesterday.  The place looks nice.  Except I wasn’t feeling it.

This morning, when I got up I showered and got ready to go to church.  Except, that I had no interest in going and my joy was completely nonexistent.  The tension has been building inside me for a couple months at the thought of Christmas coming.  This past week was the worst, and the height of that was since yesterday.  I have been questing a few important things in my life in the past week.  I talked with my Pastor in a counselling session a few days ago, about the doubts that I’ve been having.  I have had strong believe for certain things in my life for a long time.  One of these things didn’t come to pass.  It made me question my faith; if it was placed right.  If I could be so wrong about one thing, than how do I know that I’m not wrong about more important things?  My vision of the future became very bleak.  I wondered if I am to spend the rest of my life in this same struggle.  Will it ever end,  or if I should try to come up with a solution to my issues and go out and solve it myself. 

Well, I forced myself to go to church because I know that in the past when I have been in this state of mind, going to church has always been a wise move.  Today was no exception.  Being the second Sunday of Advent, the sermon was about... wouldn’t you know it... about “Joy”.  I went and spent the first half of the service trying to hold back tears because of how I was feeling inside.  Then I heard the message of the day.  God definitely wanted me to hear this sermon today. 

Pastor said that as a culture, we are confused and disoriented about Christmas.  When the angel appeared to Mary to tell her she would conceive a child; she didn’t exactly jump for joy.  Mary was “confused and disturbed”.  I try to put myself in her place.  How would I feel if God said that I was chosen to give birth and be a Mother to the One who would save the world?  I’m not sure, but I think I would panic at the very least.  I mean, my first thought is “but God, I’m having a hard time just with writing a book.”  However, Mary took the angel at his word, and decided to obey God.  Then  she went to visit her cousin who she could talk to; who she knew would understand, support and encourage her.  After being obedient, Mary found true joy.  It is by being obedient that we are rewarded with try joy.  (Luke 1:26-47 (NLT))

Pastor asked us if we were hearing from God, as Mary did.  He said that we will always hear from God in many ways in our lives.  He said that we probably feel like it’s shaking up our lives and rattling our cage.  It’s confusing and scary.  My thought was “yep, that sounds familiar!”  But if we surround ourselves with supportive people, and vow to take God at His Word, and obey Him; we will find joy. 

After the sermon I went to the prayer rail and cried; partly because I needed to let out all the emotion inside me and also because I was thanking God for how well He takes care of me.  God knows that I want so very much to obey; but when I need someone the most, that’s when I’m least likely to reach out.  So, He sends people to me.  For example, yesterday when I was feeling overwhelmingly lonely and alone; my friend Jeff from Myrtle Bach popped up on Skype.  The conversation got around to where he was telling me that when Jesus taught us how to pray He said we are to ask that God “give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV84)).  Jeff said that means ‘Today’; not tomorrow, or next week.  We are to pray for what we need on this day.  Tomorrow will take care of itself (Matthew 6:34 (NIV84)).  Yesterday, I needed someone to talk to, and God gave that to me at the moment I needed it the most; along with a great message of guidance and support.  Today, He gave me what I needed to hear to realize that I am on the right path.  I don’t have to try to fix my own issues.  God has a plan, and as long as I stay on this track and obey; joy is at the other end. 

I got out of service today, and had another pep talk from a wonderful friend, Garry which topped off what we had just heard.  I told him that every year for many years I have only asked for one thing.  Every year I don’t get it.  Garry asked me if I was asking for what I wanted for Christmas, or what God wants for me.  I had never thought of it like that before.  He was right.  I have been asking for what I want in my life, not what He wants in my life.  I left there feeling like there is a real possibility that I may have a great Christmas this year.  Where do you find your Christmas cheer?

In my life, the cultures that I have been blessed to be part of, at times, during the Christmas season wish each other a Merry Christmas in the following ways.  How do you say it?

English – Merry Christmas
French – Joyeux Noel
Portuguese – Feliz Natal

Here’s a video of everyone’s old Spanish favourite...  Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano

~~ Dear God ~~   Thank You for the joy, and the path of obedience that you are taking me on to find it.  Please help me to keep Jesus at the center of my Christmas cheer, and to never lose sight of that.  Help me never to forget that neither fruitcake, decorated trees or fancy wrapping paper will ever bring me the joy that only You can bring.  In Jesus name, AMEN.