Christmas is coming!
Does that warm your heart? Are you excited to find or make perfect gifts for everyone on your list? Do you anticipate relaxed evenings gathered around the fire, delightful afternoons making cookies, evenings caroling and partying? Will you decorate your home with the most beautiful Christmas tree ever, and brighten the neighborhood with your extravagant light display?
Most of all, will you spend extra time with God, focusing on the incredible significance of His light shining in our darkness and thanking Jesus for coming as one of us?
…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20)
Do we give thanks for everything? That’s a pretty tall order! In this season of thanksgiving, some of us may not feel all that thankful. I have a wonderful friend who, in an eloquent blog post, expressed his frustration in his own lack of gratitude. Life was hard. Finances were lacking, dreams were unrealized, and it seemed as if everyone else was better off than he was. He wanted to appreciate what he had, but the feelings just weren’t coming.
There are many reasons we can find ourselves struggling to be thankful. In my friend’s case, I could immediately see several areas where some unsolicited advice might help.
Pete and I love road trips. When we fly, we miss everything between our home and our destination, but with a road trip we can turn off at every interesting sign. (I particularly like brown signs, as they usually imply some sort of natural feature or wildlife refuge.)
Ten years ago, during a particularly stressful time in our lives, Pete gave me the gift of a month-long road trip, all by myself. I had the luxury of wandering wherever God led, while he took care of everything at home. (Yet another reason I adore my husband!)
How well do you know the Bible? Do you attend a church with Biblical teaching? Do you read books about the Bible? Watch a Christian TV show? Perhaps you’re part of a small group, a “home group.” Some groups discuss the previous weekend’s sermon; others may read a book together and discuss that. When is the last time you cracked open a Bible and read it for yourself? Continue reading
Do you have muscle pain? Need to lose weight? How about anxiety or stress? We just got a flyer in the mail promising help for all these things, plus better sleep, increased libido, reduction of cellulite, pain management, a decrease in jet lag, a stronger immune system, fewer wrinkles, and—just to cover all the bases—enhanced mental clarity and “invigoration” of your mind and body. I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t suffer from at least one of these issues, including me. Is there something that can help? It seems too good to be true.
Of course it does.
The houses on our street are festooned with fake cobwebs, carved pumpkins glare from porches, and a witch on her broom seems to have run into a near-by telephone pole. A bowl of candy sits by our front door—ready for Tuesday night’s trick-or-treaters. I’m looking forward to seeing cute little kids in their princess and superhero costumes. But all the other stuff? I don’t mind cobwebs, spiders, bats, or pumpkins (even with leering grins). But witches? Seances? Evil spirits? No thank you!
Dylan was right. “The times they are a changin’.” One change is that Muslims now make up about 1% of the US population—about 3.3 million people. That number is expected to double by 2050. More and more, our neighbors and coworkers, will be Muslims. Will they be our friends as well? What are we doing to reach out to this growing minority?
In an effort to better understand a Muslim worldview, I’ve been reading a series of books on Islam. Ignorance breeds fear and misunderstanding. I recently wrote about one book, Wholly Different, by Nonie Darwish, that I found informative but largely lacking in love and compassion. Well, the book I just finished is filled with love and compassion. If I had to recommend one book on the subject, this would be it! And it’s not just me—Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus won the Christian Book Award for both “Best New Author” and “Best Non-Fiction” of 2015. Continue reading