The Fourth Week of Advent – This is When We Pause, Ponder, Prepare

It’s hard to believe, but here we are! The fourth week of Advent! In just a few days we will be celebrating the birth of our savior!

If you are like me, you might be thinking that Advent has gone by way too quickly! You are probably looking back and wondering where the time went, and wishing you had a few more days!

Maybe you feel your Advent didn’t go as you had hoped. Maybe you wished you would have spent more time on your spiritual growth, or more time creating memories with your loved ones.  Let’s face it, even if we started with a well thought out, organized plan for our Advent,  with all the hustle and bustle during this time of year, it’s super easy to lose sight of what it was!

The good news, it’s not too late!  We can use these last few days to, “go away to a quiet place”, and reflect on Christ’s coming into our lives;  as our infant Savior,  at the end of time, and also how He comes into our lives each day. This fourth week of Advent is the perfect time to pause and reconnect with your hopes and desires for this Advent season.

I like to think of the fourth week as our Advent intermission. Not that we will step out of Advent at all, on the contrary, we will step back and take a breather from the world; entering more fully into the Advent experience. The fourth week of Advent is like an intermission, strategically inserted into an exciting theatrical production.

During the play, we get so caught up in the experience that we barely notice the time passing, sometimes we are even surprised to find that when  intermission arrives, we have been perched intently on the edge of our seat! The pause in the production is a welcome break. We look at it as an opportunity to stand up, stretch and refocus. We take advantage of the lull in the action, to reconnect with our companions, and talk about what we have just experienced. In addition, a well timed intermission gives the audience an opportunity to reflect on the first part of the story, rest, and prepare for the conclusion of the production.

If we choose to take advantage of the opportunity, the fourth week of Advent offers us that same opportunity to pause, ponder, and prepare. We can use the intermission to reflect on our experiences so far; perhaps discuss our thoughts with loved ones, and make some adjustments if we need to. Pausing during the fourth week of Advent can help fuel our fire, and prepare us for the coming Christmas celebration, that can last for twelve days!

This week, let’s press pause on the demands of the world, bring it all in and breathe. Take the time to review the past three weeks. How did it go? Are there any unmet human or spiritual goals that you’d like to focus on this week?  If so, what are they and how will you accomplish them?

If a stranger came into our homes this week, would he know what we are preparing for?

By inserting an Advent intermission, we can pause, and reflect on where we have come from and how we can finish this Advent and Christmas season well.

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10 Ways To Help Your Marriage

 

Contempt- /ken’tem(p)t/ noun – The feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.  Synonyms include, disdain, disgust, loathing, hatred, disrespect, and disobedient.

It definitely seems like contempt is a word we should reserve for our worst enemies or our worst behavior. We can have contempt for sin, or for the car that left us stranded in the middle of nowhere. We can even be in contempt of court. But, one things for sure, contempt certainly isn’t a sentiment that we would associate with our loved ones right?… Or is it?

Unfortunately, when we spend our time and energy focused only on the negative traits of our spouse, we invite the darkness of contempt to take hold of our heart. Sure, it’s easy to see the bad in people, because it’s those little annoyances that aggravate us and make us uncomfortable.

Although, it might be easy to point out the imperfections that irritate us about our spouse, it can be just as easy to see the positive. The first step is the decision. Decide to make the shift from a negative focus to looking for your mate’s positive attributes. Here are a few simple ways to help you make this shift.

10 ways to banish contempt and help your marriage:

  1. Be friendly – Friendliness is a base component to any relationship. Sadly, when we are wallowing in contempt, friendliness seems to be the first thing to disappear.   We are all super nice people aren’t we? And we have friends that really like us right? So how do we talk to them? How do we treat them?   Let’s resolve to bring the person we are with our friends, into the home.
  2. Show Approval – Without realizing it, most of us seek the approval of the ones we love. It stands to reason then, that many of our actions, and decisions are based on whether they approve or disapprove. With that being said, let’s bless our spouses with our approval! Let’s find ways to extend our approval to our spouse.
  3. Be considerate – Being considerate means to consider our spouse in our life. We can’t lead our lives as if our spouse doesn’t exist. Consider how our actions and decisions will impact their life. When we say yes to something whether inside or outside the marriage, we end up saying no to something else. Sometimes when we say yes without considering our spouse, it is he or she that pays the price for our yes.
  4. Be liberal with your praise – If we commit to focusing on the good in your spouse, we will discover those things that are praise worthy. Let’s take the time to observe him or her as they move through their day. In what ways do they excel? What are their strong points? If we are so entrenched in the habit of looking for the negative, we might need to look through the eyes of friends, colleagues, and family to see what wonderful things they see. No matter how we do the discovery part, we need to take what we learn, make a list of our spouse’s gifts and talents; and begin verbally praising your spouse for each of them. The key to praise and complimenting, is sincerity. Anything less than a sincere delivery of praise may do more harm to the relationship.
  5. Compliment your spouse – Complimenting is similar to praise. However, there is a slight difference, when we praise someone, it is normally for larger accomplishments. Compliments are normally offered in response to the finer details in life, such as a color that looks good on them, a new outfit, haircut, or appreciating their choice of wine. In order to compliment our spouse we will need to be more observant. If we pay attention to the finer details of our spouses we will find plenty to compliment!
  6. Respect your spouse – Contrary to the popular statement. “Respect needs to be earned”. Respect doesn’t need to be earned. Respect begins deep inside ourselves. It is something that we all deserve as children of God. Respect in its simplest form then, is treating our spouse in a manner that would be pleasing to God. Assuming their moral compass is working, we don’t always have to like what the other person is doing or saying for them to deserve our respect. Respect is shown first by our words and tone. Then, respect is shown by recognizing their particular role. Whether it is Husband or Wife, there is respect due each of these important roles. Our thought, and treatment of our spouse should consider the unique way their role fits in the marriage.
  7. Endorse your spouse – To endorse our spouse we simply have to speak well of them no matter who your audience is! No more “vent sessions”.   Rather, we can share some of the observations we are making as we become more aware of our spouse’s positive traits!
  8. Give your spouse credit – Sometimes we get so busy juggling our own responsibilities that we forget the contribution our spouse makes to the marriage and family life. We need to take time on a regular basis to make an accounting of that contribution, and give him or her the credit. We get bonus points if we give them credit in front of friends!
  9. Sympathize with your spouse – We can take the time to sympathize with our spouse when he or she comes home from a hard day and wants to tell us about it. Rather than creating a competition of whose day was worse, we can allow our spouse to have his or her own tough day. We can let our spouses own their experience; it was real and shouldn’t be minimized.
  10. Show your spouse kindness and affection – We can show our spouses affection through kindness. A sweet smile, a gentle touch, or a reassuring word are a few ways to show affection. Another way is to remember our spouse’s preferences.   It is true, we may not have the same interests or see value in the same things as our spouse, but that isn’t the point. The point is how to show affection for our spouse. How does it make you feel when someone remembers your preferences, or something you enjoy? Make an effort to show your partner that what’s important to him or her, is important to you.

Of course these are only a few of the many ways we can heal a marriage that might be struggling with contempt. If you have fallen into the habit of seeing only the negative qualities in your spouse, I encourage you to choose one or two of these ideas and begin implementing them right away! Remember, the first step to changing the course of your marriage is to make the decision to spend so much time focused on the positive qualities or your spouse that you won’t have any time to look for the negative!

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How to Stay Balanced During Advent

Trying to maintain balance during this time of year may not be as hard as you think. In fact, if you are willing to do it, the fruit of your efforts could be experienced for generations! 

The key to balance during the Advent and Christmas season is simplicity.

The idea of living simply has definitely gained in popularity in recent years.  In fact, simplicity has become a well-used “buzz word” in many circles.  Everywhere I turn, I hear talk of some kind of reducing, or down-sizing, in an effort to simplify.  I have to admit the thought of “selling it all”, to live a simpler life has crossed my mind more than once!  What about you? Have you yearned for a “simpler life”, or wondered how to get those “simple times” back?  

Sometimes it seems, that the challenges of living in this current, complicated culture, contradict that trendy idea of “the simple life”.  As we struggle to maintain balance, it’s difficult to see the possibility of any kind of simple.  Trend or not, many of us seriously struggle with simplicity.  Although the idea is attractive, we barely manage to juggle the demands of our everyday lives.  How do you live simplicity amid a society that appears to measure “worth”, with what we do and what we produce?

Despite the trendy “less is more” mantra, we continue to be less of human beings, and more of “human doers”.   If we are not doing or producing, somehow we feel deficient.  Unfortunately, we often equate our self-worth with how many activities little Johnny and Suzy are participating in, or how productive we are at work.  It seems our self-esteem is wrapped up in how busy we are and how much we get done or produce.  I ask again, how can we live simple lives in a culture that measures success by how busy we are?  

If simplicity is the key to living a balanced Advent and Christmastide, what do we have to do to be simple?  The essence of simplicity eludes us because we have lost sight of its truest meaning.

The essence of simplicity is not found in being organized, or downsizing, or cutting back. It isn’t even found in the well-meaning attitude of living with less or reducing our carbon footprint.  The essence of simplicity is found in relationships.

It makes sense, if you think about it.  We were created for relationship, beginning with our relationship with God.  So it stands to reason that, when we focus on nurturing, and growing great relationships, the closer we are to our purpose, and our world feels balanced and we feel at peace.  

Once upon a time, when all we had was our relationships, life was simpler and we enjoyed a natural balance.  

Now that the world has exploded with possibilities for going, doing, having, and consuming, we have lost our relationship focus.  Having lost that focus, we struggle with simplicity and therefore, we struggle with balance.  Guess what?We’ll continue to struggle as long as we continue to put worldly possibilities before the nurturing of healthy relationships.  

It’s amazing;  when we focus on cultivating healthy relationships, beginning with God, everything else in our life seems to find its natural place.  Because of this natural “settling”, we finally enjoy personal peace and satisfaction.  This beautiful new attitude of “people first” will truly inspire future generations.

Cultivating an attitude of simplicity, through building quality, loving relationships, has the potential to change yours and your family’s future. By putting people first, we have the opportunity to leave a legacy of love, and self-worth that no worldly possibility can replace.

The balance we are searching for is found in simplicity. Simplicity is living a life focused on our relationships, beginning with our relationship with God. There is no better time to nurture healthy relationships than Advent and Christmastime! If balance is what you are looking for during this holy season, focus on your relationships first!

 

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Slow Down and Wait on the Lord

We have become an incredibly impatient culture haven’t we?   It seems we are always in a hurry, and we constantly want things to be faster.

This sense of urgency shows up everywhere in life, and our relationships. It can even show up in our spiritual life, and our relationship with God. We hear the impatience in statements like, “I don’t have time to pray” or, “I pray but nothing is happening”.

In addition to what we say, we betray our impatience through our actions. We have all the best intentions when we, “let go and let God”, however, when things don’t move along, quite as fast as we’d like, we end up taking it all back.  Perhaps we take it back, because we want, what we want, when we want it. It seems we want it our way and we want it now. It also seems we aren’t willing to wait on God and His timing.

It is true that, if we trust in the Lord, and rest in His timing, things may not go according to our plan, or happen according to our timeline.  But think about it; if we step back and take a realistic look at what we are talking about, we can see how absurd this sounds. We are comparing our plan and timeline with God’s!   Let’s consider the extent of the absurdity, shall we?   We, being merely humans, are severely handicapped by our human limitations, and our narrow view of life. Our plans and our timing will always be deficient in some way shape or form, because we don’t have the whole picture and we aren’t perfect!

Where we, have only part of the picture of our life, God has the whole picture. Where we, have limitations caused by our human condition, God, being all-powerful, has no limitations. He is perfect! Accepting His plan, and resting in His timing, for our life, is brilliant, right?

I don’t know about you, but even though I know that the Lord’s plan and timing, for my life, is definitely the best, I still struggle.  It’s that whole human thing that trips me up!  I battle my desire to have it my way.

I have to deny my desire to be in control, and choose to trust that God knows what and when is best for me. It takes a conscious act of my will to rest in His timing, when I really want things to hurry up.  The decision isn’t a once and done thing either; I have to remind myself to be docile to the Lord every minute of every day. (I’m kind of hard headed).

Resting in the Lord’s timing renews my strength, because I am no longer fighting against my life, and the circumstances that seem to mount against me.  If I wait on the Lord, He becomes my guide, my gauge, my timing.  He becomes my strength.  It is His plan and His timing.  I become God’s paintbrush and my life becomes His masterpiece.

My plans and my time frame are so flawed and short sighted in comparison to the Lord’s eternal view. I need to slow down, step aside and wait on the Lord’s perfect plan and timing for my life.

“Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint.”    ~Isaiah 40:31~

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