Ho! Ho! Ho! Help!

Ho! Ho! Ho! Help!
by Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

Luke 2:16-20 (NIV) "So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told."

Friend to Friend
Are you ready for the holidays? For some people, that question spurs exciting thoughts of beautifully decorated tables filled with scrumptious meals, festive shopping trips, extended family time, brightly wrapped gifts under a tree ... the "Walton" kind of holiday. For others, the holiday season is a very difficult and dark time that is to be endured rather than enjoyed. According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans take medication for stress-related causes each week. During the holiday season, another one million people battle what experts refer to as the "holiday blues." I am very familiar with depression and the pain it holds and must constantly battle to stay out of that pit.

Depression is an emotional, mental, physical and spiritual disorder. Something is out of balance. We have buried some pain instead of confronting it or have misplaced our trust and sought help from impotent sources. In order to deal with depression, we must first come to a place of total and complete surrender to God and His plan of healing - even if we cannot see or do not understand that plan. The bottom line of God's heart toward His children is always restoration and healing.

While I am not a big fan of television, I do enjoy watching a few select home improvement shows. On a recent program, an interior decorator and home owner were discussing a list of changes that needed to be made in order to update the home. "First, we have to do something about those windows," the decorator announced. I was surprised that she had listed this task first - until I saw the house. The existing glass was not only an ugly shade of gold but was thick and chunky as well. The windows let in no light and made it virtually impossible to see in or out. The result was a dark, isolated home. The distressed homeowner protested, "But I like my privacy. And if I thought anyone could see in, I would feel totally exposed." When it comes to dealing with depression, many people feel the same way.

We construct walls over which no one can climb because the cost of friendship is too high. We fill the windows of our soul with emotional excuses in order to avoid dealing with pain. The result is darkness, loneliness and missed opportunities for restoration. We don't want to understand depression or find the treasures of that darkness; we simply want to be rid of it. Many people try to understand and deal with depression on a surface level - refusing to face painful experiences, difficult relationships and, in general, the broken places where darkness lives. We look for the nearest exit, hoping to bypass transparency because the price is just too much to pay. Emotional integrity is an essential step to recognizing, understanding and dealing with depression. We must be real before we can be right, and until we are willing to risk being transparent, we can neither understand nor effectively deal with depression during the holidays or any other time of the year.

The holidays seem to tug at the masks we carefully hold in place or push the emotional buttons we desperately try to hide. The arrival of family members can resurrect painful issues that have never really been resolved. Financial pressure opens up like a sink hole waiting to steal our joy and destroy our peace. Schedules demand every ounce of energy and false expectations leave us empty and hollow. Before we realize it, the dark, slimy pit swallows us up. It is not supposed to be that way, girlfriend!

Make this Christmas season a time of praise. Choose to focus on the victories and joys you have experienced during the year and then find ways to share that victory and joy with others. Christmas can be a true celebration of fresh starts and new beginnings, if we choose to focus on a tiny baby born in a manger, come to save us and give us true life. The darkness can be destroyed if we choose to face and deal with whatever it holds. Right now, choose an attitude of joy by focusing your mind on the things of heaven - not earth, and by fixing your heart on Jesus Christ.

Let's Pray
Father, I want this holiday season to one that is filled with light instead of darkness. Please help me discard my emotional masks and be real before You as well as with my family and friends. Give me the courage to be obedient to You in every holiday setting. Give me eyes to see those You bring into my life that need my encouragement because they are on the same journey. Father, prepare and enable me to make this holiday season an offering of praise to You.

In Jesus' name,


Now It's Your Turn

Read Luke 2:1-16. Answer the following questions after reading the Christmas story.

· What was the attitude of Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem?

· How did the shepherds react to the news of Jesus' birth? What did they do?

· How would you describe the emotions and thoughts of Mary? How can your choice to "ponder" on the miracles of Jesus' birth change your perspective of the holidays?

Write a letter of commitment to Jesus, asking Him to empower the choices you have made. Make a plan or a list of "dos" and "don'ts" that will help you experience the best holiday season of your life. Include your family in making this plan and make the commitment to hold each other accountable.

Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 725
Matthews, NC 28106

Seeking His Face
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1, by Os Hillman

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. - Deuteronomy 34:10

One of the great differences between Moses and any other character in the Bible is how God describes Moses. Moses was a friend of God, and he met God face to face. "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend" (Ex. 33:11a). So often, we view others for what they can do for us, instead of who they are. There is a difference between being a servant and being a friend. There is a difference between being an employee and being a son.

Do you seek God's face, or do you find that you spend more time seeking His hand? God wants us to seek Him for our every need. However, there is a higher calling for every believer. That is to seek God's face, and to see Him for His love and tenderness toward us as His children. He can provide for our physical needs, but when we see Him face to face, we are changed. We no longer see Him as one to be feared as much as one to know intimately. We no longer view Him for what He can give to us, but for what He already has given for us.

When we see Jesus face to face, we are no longer slaves, but friends. We do not fear Him as a slave fears his master. We have entered a new kind of relationship-a relationship that has mutual respect and care.

Today, Jesus is calling you to seek His face, not just His hand. When you seek His face, you will know His provision and His mercy in all aspects of life. Seek His face today and become a friend of God.

Today's Prayer

Dear God, You know my heart and my heartaches. You have showered me with blessings and carried me through the valley of pain and sadness. Thank you for the godly influence of special people in my life. Thank you for those who pray for and encourage me. I even thank you for the hard times and trials I have been through, for they have strengthened my faith. I praise you for giving me a spirit of hope, love, and acceptance, rather than allowing me to become angry, bitter, and downcast. I praise you God, from whom all blessings flow. May I, in return, be a blessing to you. In Jesus' name, amen

Today God Is First (TGIF) devotional message, Copyright by Os Hillman, Marketplace Leaders.

A Christmas Moment - Pastor Andy Stanley

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