Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Elusive Spirit of Christmas—One Scary Ghost Story

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? I Corinthians 3:16

How is your Christmas season shaping up? For so many of us, this time of year is a mad dash of insane commitments and looming expectations. It’s not just the presents or the gatherings—although those alone can be overwhelming. The real Christmas killer, in my opinion, is that elusive Christmas Spirit we’re all supposed to be filled with—like some kind of nebulous holiday ectoplasm.

If you ask me, that’s one scary ghost.

It’s frightening because it’s imaginary, not to mention completely unattainable. And in case you didn’t know, there is nothing in God’s word that propels us toward this unreachable pinnacle of holiday perfection—not a single verse. The only spirit we’re to be filled with is the Holy Spirit and He’s with us year round.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things we need to strive toward when it comes to holiness. But the idea that we have to be super-Christians during the holidays is a lie of mythic proportions.

I’m not against celebrating Christmas, far from it. It’s the time when we commemorate the birth of our Savior. But we’ve turned this season into an incalculable measure of holiness—a mark on the spiritual scale that we’re all attempting to reach.

This doesn’t do anything except add pressure to an already impossible situation.

So what’s a person to do?

Ghost-Busting Strategies for the Holidays 
  • Look up, then look around. Pray to see the world around us through the eyes of Christ. (Drive by random act of kindness)
  • Slow down, this isn't a sprint to the end of the year. Sometimes I find myself wishing I could just hang on until...  That's when I'm reminded of something my husband told me when the boys were little. He warned me not to wish our kids' lives away by hurrying to the next year.
  • Be deliberate about creating breathing space in your life. It doesn't just happen, we have to carve out that space. Maybe it means a less elaborate feast for the holiday or choosing to sit with a hurting friend rather than a trip to the mall. But fight for it and you'll find time to recharge.
  • Double up on your devotion time. The less time I have, the tighter the deadlines, the MORE time I need to spend with God.
  • Reprioritize and put relationships first. We all know we need to make time for family, but I've learned it's just as important to make room for friends. Make the extra effort to meet for coffee or lunch or dinner, invite them to your house. They won't remember the dust bunnies, they'll remember the time spent together.
  • Let go of expectations. Decide right now to embrace the fact that the true joy of Christmas begins and ends with God. Sure it’s great to go and do, but people will always disappoint us. Instead, when our focus remains on God, we’re protected from the friction that can arise during the holidays.
  • Unplug and recharge. Step outside, go for a walk, play frisbee golf or build a tightrope in the trees. Kids are great at this. Let them set the example.
  • Choose joy. Catastrophes happen, some days it seems that chaos is the only order of the day. That doesn't matter. We have a choice. We can believe that God is with us and has plans to prosper us, not to harm us. Or we can believe life is bad and the worst will happen. It's a choice—a simple one—but not an easy one. But to refuse to choose joy is to turn our backs on God and declare that, in this situation, He is NOT able.
  • Make plans, but embrace the detours. Life isn't going to go as we envision, but that doesn't mean disappointment. It means adventure, new opportunities and abundant blessings.
We serve a God who loves the scenic route. Taking off from the main road isn't the thing of ghost stories, it's a lifetime of adventure. So take a look around you right now. We're in a unique place, a place that has a lot to teach us, a place we'll never be able to return to. We can't afford to waste the experiences we have access to right now.

Life rarely goes as planned, so it’s time to get over that fable. Enjoy the journey and embrace the process. Go deep and wide with God, and no matter what ghosts appear we'll have the covering of peace to thrive.

Edie Melson—author, editor, and blogger—is a leading professional within the writing industry, as well as a popular inspirational speaker and mentor. She’s the author of While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military (Worthy Inspired). She’s also the military family blogger for Guideposts at While They Serve. In addition, as a respected expert in social media, Edie has the proven expertise to teach others how to plug in without sacrificing valuable writing time. Her bestselling eBook on this subject, has recently been updated, expanded and re-released as Connections: Social Media & Networking Techniques for Writers. Connect with her on her popular blog for writers, The Write Conversation, which reaches thousands each month, and through Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Achieving a God-led Schedule

Photo by Poulsen taken from
freedigitalphotos.net
Balance. 

This word seems to pop up in my thoughts throughout the year, and though I continually strive to achieve it, honestly, I'm not sure I ever have. Or ever will. I'm not sure I even know exactly what that looks like. 

Because life happens and schedules change. Loved ones get sick, deadlines hit, friends need support. 

My former boss, Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach, often says, "Life is a pendulum." In other words, it swings and sways from busy to... um... Less busy? For writers, this is doubly true. When deadlines loom or a book releases, things get crazy. Many writers will lock themselves in their office, emerging only for an occasional scoop of peanut butter and shot of sugar-laden caffeine. 

But then, they reach "the end" and everything slows down, and they begin to re-emerge into the land of the living. It's then their neighbors do a double take. "She's alive," they say, wishing they hadn't called the FBI, suggesting they investigate said author's disappearance. Because no, their spouse was not digging a grave in their backyard at 5am. He truly was doing yard work. In the wee hours of the morning, because sleeping in is impossible for him. :/ 

They say time is our most valuable resource, and as such, it must be guarded and used intentionally. Prayerfully. Even in--especially in--the busy. 

Years ago I read something in a book, or maybe I heard it in a sermon. Regardless, the truth of the statement really resonated: You're always going to have to cheat somewhere. 

Let me unpack this: Our time is our most valuable and most limited resource. Each day, we will encounter more ways to use our time than we have hours in our day. And each day, we'll have to cheat somewhere. We can cheat by default, allowing what feels immediate to rob us of what we know is imperative. Or we can be intentional, prioritizing each moment, knowing we will have to let something go, maybe a lot of somethings. And being okay with that. 

But there are two areas we absolutely can't afford to cheat in: our relationship with Christ and our family. 

Years ago, I read A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George, a highly successful and
influential writer. In it, Elizabeth encouraged women to minister to their family first. For example, when baking cookies for a neighbor, she'd make a special batch specifically for her loved ones. When serving a meal to a church family in crisis, she always gave her family the best portions. Because she never wanted her loved ones to feel pushed aside or undervalued. 

Yesterday I spent the day listening to two of the most effective and influential leaders in modern Christendom, Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel, and during the last session, Andy shocked me by sharing the following: When his kids were young, he left the office each day by 4pm and determined not to work evenings. He's a pastor, a job that requires insanely long hours, and routinely, incredibly unpredictable hours. Pastors rarely work a 9-5. It's more like a 9-12, 1-9; 9-9; 7-5... 

You get the idea. But despite this, and despite incredible pressure to the contrary I'm sure, Andy guarded his time and chose not to cheat his most precious, most important relationships. The result? 

His ministry and influence has exploded. Because increase and results aren't up to us. They never have been and never will be. 

I love this quote, spoken by Reality Church's senior pastor, Lance Burch, last Sunday: "You can't force God's hand or sabotage His will."(You can listen to the entire sermon HERE.) What we can do, however, is listen for His guidance then follow wholeheartedly, courageously, intentionally, in whatever direction He leads, leaving the results and other people's expectations to Him. 

Because other people's expectations regarding how we should use our time might (probably will) differ greatly from how God is leading us to use it. 


Photo by Unsplash taken from pixabay.com
I don't always know what this looks like, and I doubt I'll ever figure this balance-time-management thing out, but I know I'll do much better by trying than simply allowing life to happen. By being intentional in what areas I choose to guard and what ones I'll cheat. And I'll rest, knowing God's got it all worked out and will perfect that which concerns me. 

What about you? What areas might you have to cheat in order to avoid cheating in other areas? How can you be intentional regarding how you spend your most valuable resource, time? Consider listing your priorities and scheduling your day accordingly. In what ways have you managed to find more balance, and what have been your greatest challenges in that regard? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Honoring Our Veterans


  
In honor of Veterans Day, I wanted to share a story, and not just any story, but of a WWII veteran I've had the privilege of getting to know over the years. Let me introduce you to Rudy Bise.



                 By Sea and Air

                Written by: Tanya Eavenson
 
 
Edward Rudolph (Rudy) Bise had an insatiable thirst for aviation, fueled by his father who taught him to fly at age ten. At age seventeen, Rudy desired to put his flying skills to good use, so on December 7, 1944 he made decided to join the Air Force, but they turned him down. Needless to say, this didn’t stop Rudy from enlisting, and he soon joined the Navy’s Amphibious Force which was known for its rigorous training and its ability to move swiftly through water and over land.
It wasn't long after Rudy volunteered to join the crew of the USS Swanson - Destroyer DD443. On June 21, 1945, the USS Swanson headed out to sea and traveled to Pearl Harbor. It was during his time in the Pacific, Rudy found himself in the last stages of World War II. He was involved in two invasions and witnessed the atomic cloud from Hiroshima. While being drawn into one of the biggest battles in history, he still thought deeply about his family, saving money to send back to the states.

In a letter to his sister, Fanny, Rudy wrote, “I know all the money I send home comes in handy for they have no income whatever. It looks like a bad year for them. I know it will be well over a year before I get to come home.”

It wasn’t until the death of his brother that Rudy decided it was time to return home, even though he was asked to sign on for four more years. He enjoyed the camaraderie and “having a swell time” with the crew from the USS Swanson, but he longed to reunite with his family.

After meeting and marrying his wife, Rudy’s thirst for flying flamed and he secured a job with Eastern Airlines as a pilot. He worked there for thirty-three years until the age of sixty when he retired. Hurricane Katrina forced the Bises’ to leave Texas and move to Alabama.
The Vice Admiral of the U.S. Navy, Daniel E. Barbey once said, “The Amphibious Force trained its personnel, fought a determined enemy, and carried Allied troops forward with accelerating pace and swelling power. Its strength and its success derived from the qualities of the individuals who composed it--foresight, courage, indefatigable energy, resourceful "know-how", the will to endure danger and suffering and hardship.”
The words from Vice Admiral of the U.S. Navy, Daniel E. Barbey, not only sum up Rudy’s dedication to his country and to the men he served, but also reflects his commitment as a RSVP volunteer. Rudy actively volunteers as a greeter at Hospice of West Alabama, FOCUS on Senior Citizens, Salvation Amy’s Angel Tree, the Yellow Dot Program, and assists with the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program.
Although his work is much different from his time in the military, his service and strength in helping others has not wavered.
 

 ______________________________________
 ~ Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. Her books are available on Amazon and other retailers. You can find her at http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/
 
 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I thank God for...(insert the worst thing that's happened to you here)

"I thank God for the stroke," my mom said. We cruised along the highway toward home, on the last leg of our five-thousand mile, two-week long journey.

I silently thanked God, too.

If not for the stroke, she would never have flown from Wisconsin to Kansas City to join my husband (an Anglican bishop) and I on our annual Episcopal visits. Before the stroke, we could hardly manage a forced phone call to each other.

But five thousand miles had flown by in a breeze of wonderful, cherished moments. Along with visiting with beloved church family across the US, we stopped at some amazing sites all along the way--from Missouri, across Kansas, to Wyoming, down to El Paso, TX and back home.

Pre-stroke was not like this. Old wounds, personal issues, differences of opinions and general misunderstandings led to a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship that remained strained for years.

Then, the stroke.

But it wasn't the stroke itself that changed everything. The path towards healing actually began before the stroke...with prayer. We had both prayed for God to help us heal our broken relationship...but we didn't know how. Phone calls remained strained. Every conversation erupted in anger.

Then, an A-Fib heart event landed my otherwise healthy mom in the ER.

"Would you like to talk to her?" my sister said, standing outside of the hospital room. "I can pass the phone to her."

"Of course." I loved her. I always did.  

After assuring my mother of my husband's and my love and prayers, I caught a deep sigh through the phone. "There are things in my life I want to change," she said.

Released from the hospital, a couple of days later she collapsed on the floor. A major stroke. Paralyzed and unable to speak, she was rushed to the hospital again. The doctor said that by taking the meds she would either die, remain the same, or improve--a third of a chance it could go each way.

The meds worked. Praise God! She was told she would heal back to a new normal, not quite how she was before, the doctor warned, but she would walk out of the hospital.

The medical staff did not predict what would happen next.

My mom insisted on going to church that first Sunday out of the hospital. We continued our prayers for her full healing.

Then, a bonafide miracle!

She walked out of church that Sunday taking a lighter step than she took when she went in.

My sister phoned again, "Mama is completely well. The doctors can't believe it. They think it's a miracle. And she's...different. Just talk to her and you will see."

My mom did sound different. "God healed me completely-body, mind, and soul," my mom said. I heard peace in her voice. Calmness. Joy. She spoke about the Lord's mercy. "Whatever is in the past...all the hurts...it's all gone."

Thank God for that stroke. We both agreed!

But we also both understand that it wasn't just the stroke. True healing occurs with a desire to change, prayer, forgiveness asked and granted, and the true seeking of our God in our lives.

Exactly two years later, after five thousand amazing miles logged on the road together, filled with laughter, hugs, and special memories...we arrived back home, thinking those two weeks had gone by way too fast.
Wind River Canyon, Wyoming

In Alburquerque, NM with church member Flo Green (left), my mom, me, and my husband, watching the balloon festival

Thermopolis, Wyoming

My mom in Sheridan, Wyoming...visiting the Sheridan Inn, a place she visited with my late father, 30 years ago.

Alamagordo, NM. By the largest Pistachio in the world. Lol Looks like its coming out of my head. 
Miraculous spiral staircase Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, NM and my mom, a living miracle. 
God is good! Always!

And on the topic of the worst thing that's ever happened to you, my son Jake, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes admits that this "worst thing thats ever happened to him" became a blessing in many ways. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a teenager but was able to compete in the NFL and has been a mentor to many children diagnosed with Type 1. NOVEMBER is National Diabetes Awareness Month and through the month we are supporting a cure for type 1 diabetes by donating $1 from every autographed copy of his devotional book sold to the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).CLICK HERE to oder an autographed copy of FIRST AND GOAL from this sweet NFL player...this #1bestseller devotional makes a great Christmas gift


Holly Michael has enjoyed a writing career as a journalist, features writer, and a regular ghostwriter for a Guideposts magazine before authoring novels and nonfiction books. Married to Anglican Bishop, Leo Michael, Holly has three grown children; daughter Betsy and football-playing sons—Jake (NFL) and Nick (University of Louisiana-Lafayette). Kansas City, Missouri is home and she blogs at www.writingstraight.com

Contact her at www.HollyMichael.com or on Facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/AuthorHollyMichael  or Twitter: @HollyMichael