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It's the most wonderful time of the year...except when it isn't. With Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, stress and busyness abound for many of us. As we prepare to host family and friends for holiday gatherings, we are often pressed on every side with things to do and shopping lists and dreading the inevitable arguments at the dinner table between family members over politics and religion—or even some conflict dating back to 1982. Pinterest offers inspiration for the picture-perfect table setting and menu (or should I say it produces the opportunity for feeling like a holiday failure if you chose paper over fine china and your un-brined turkey is a bit on the dry side.) We can find ourselves feeling exactly the opposite of grateful and merry. We can even wonder if it's not time to toss tradition and make a break for somewhere warm and tropical!

In Luke 10:38-42, we read about a hostess who is dear to my heart. She was not just preparing a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. She had the honor of welcoming Jesus Himself, along with His disciples, into her home for a big dinner. I don't know about you, but I think that is a task that could intimidate even Martha Stewart! Our hostess (a Martha herself) wasn't a stranger to Jesus, but in fact a dear friend. As she hustled to do the many things necessary, she became frustrated that her sister Mary wasn't helping but was instead sitting with Jesus listening to what He taught. (Usually around here it's a sister who disappears when there are dishes to wash!) Martha was so comfortable with Jesus that she came to Him and said: "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me."

But, the Lord said to her, "My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! there is only one thing that is worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her."

I can't help but think that wasn't the answer Martha was expecting Jesus to give her. It might not be the answer you and I are expecting either—at first. Nevertheless, it IS the answer. If we consider it with an open heart, we can find our way out of the holiday hosting performance trap. When we focus more on Jesus and less on "all these details," we are concerning ourselves with the right thing and no earthly stressors can take away our joy!

Of course, the turkey still needs to be cooked and the table set. I don't believe Jesus was telling Martha to forget the meal entirely. There is joy in serving our friends and families as we give them a place to gather together for the celebrations that mean so much to us. It is a matter of perspective. When we are so busy with the details that we don't have time to sit with the Lord and talk with Him, listen to Him, and simply BE with Him, we are missing the main thing. When our relationship with Him takes first place, gratitude wells up in us. We just can't help it.

His Holy Spirit in us producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control will allow us to accomplish the shopping and the cleaning and the cooking with grace. We will be more able to be flexible and not over-react to the inevitable challenges that will come up that threaten our ability to enjoy the holidays. It doesn't matter if we are hosting a feast for 40 of our friends and family or opening a can of soup with no one else but Jesus this Thanksgiving or Christmas. The traditions are nice, but they aren't "the thing". It's all about Jesus. With Him, we have all we need. Won't you join me in striving to be more like Mary this holiday season, no matter your circumstances?


Posted by Denise Woodliff with
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I have to admit that this election cycle was one unlike any other I’ve ever witnessed. This is the eleventh election that I have had the privilege to participate in as a registered voter and I’ve never been so taken back than I was this year by the two candidates who ran for the office of the Presidency. And that’s putting it in the nicest way I can.

Well, now it’s all over. We have a new President-elect, new governors, new senators, new office holders and the work of leading our country is just beginning for those who have been elected and those that serve with them as they lead. Our leaders have crucial, new responsibilities now thrust upon their shoulders as they seek to fulfill their obligation to the people. But you might be surprised to remember that the biggest burden really doesn’t rest upon them as much as it does the Christian, people like you and me. Our prayers make a huge difference. I heard that “Amen”.

As believers we have the responsibility/privilege, to pray for our leaders.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV)

Could it be that our nation is in the mess that it’s in because Christians have forgotten to pray for our leaders? I mean after all, the Word says, “First of all”. In every language I can think of, including the Greek, it means this is number one when thinking about living our lives and loving our country. But you say you don’t really like the leadership we have, you didn’t even vote for them. It really doesn’t matter now because they are our leaders and no matter what kind of leaders they are, if God’s people will pray, He will take care of us. That’s why I believe the greater burden rests upon the knees of God’s people as we humble ourselves and pray. Have we forgotten what the Lord has said?

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)

Whether we voted for them or not, they deserve our prayers and they need our prayers and we dare not sin against God by failing to do so. We should pray for our leaders and all that surround them. We should pray to God and ask Him to:

  1. Save their souls and teach them to depend upon Him
  2. To teach them humility, for pride comes before the fall
  3. To fear and respect the Lord God, it is the beginning of wisdom
  4. Protect them and their families
  5. Give them strength and wisdom
  6. Give them patience and understanding
  7. Guide their decisions
  8. Lead their plans
  9. Develop their character
  10. Allow them to be a blessing to our nation

Additionally while in prayer regarding our nation you can ask the good Lord to have mercy on our nation. That’s a quick list of ten but I’m sure you will be able to add to or develop further your own list, but the greater burden is indeed upon followers of Christ to pray for our nation and our leaders. Make the Master proud.

“Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God's emissaries for keeping order. It is God's will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you're a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.”1 Peter 2:13-17 (MSG)

There are many decisions and actions that will be taken by others in our nation that are outside of our reach on a daily basis, but they are not outside the reach of our Lord and our prayers. Our prayer is the action that we can make while trusting and leaving the results to Him.

And while we pray for our leaders we might be like those who have gone before Daniel, who prayed for the forgiveness of his people.

“So listen, God, to this determined prayer of your servant. Have mercy on your ruined Sanctuary. Act out of who you are, not out of what we are. 18 " 'Turn your ears our way, God, and listen. Open your eyes and take a long look at our ruined city, this city named after you. We know that we don't deserve a hearing from you. Our appeal is to your compassion. This prayer is our last and only hope: 19 " 'Master, listen to us! Master, forgive us! Master, look at us and do something! Master, don't put us off! Your city and your people are named after you: You have a stake in us!'” Daniel 9:17-19 (MSG)

With a nation as divided as I can remember in my lifetime we can be a part of the solution...through our prayers. It’s not all we can do...but it is supposed to be number one. Do something that really can start is the time for must not be shoved to the back must be what we make first...because we want to, not because we have to. It’s all a part of engaging our culture while loving God and loving people. May God Bless America!


Posted by Ralph Sawyer with

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