Thursday, December 11, 2008

Peace On Earth- Day 11: Reflect

My dear back East girlfriend wrote this; read and enjoy. Thanks, Nicholle!

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."

Philippians 2:5

Is Christmas shopping hard for anyone but me? As I walk through the stores glancing at the decorations, I can feel my blood pressure rising as I think about all the gifts I need to find by December 25. I suppose I have more of my father in me. He likens the malls to a combat zone and prefers to give practical gifts like cash or winter boots. My mother, on the other hand, takes great pleasure in bargain shopping the entire year to find gifts that total $2 but are probably worth $200. In theory, her way is the smart way to save money and avoid the Christmas rush, but it hinges on one critical technique: browsing. In my opinion, "browsing with children" is the ultimate oxymoron, and I would rather stick hot pokers in my eyes than attempt it. So here I sit in November, way behind on my shopping (by her standards). The words "give, give, give" ring in my ears. Slowly, my thoughts change to "serve, serve, serve."

Serve? The Lord responds, "Yes. Serve. Give of yourself." If God Himself were physically standing in front of me, He would be met with one huge blank stare. My clueless expression would hopefully communicate to the Lord what He clearly must have missed over the past decade: My whole life is about giving of myself! I am richly blessed with a devoted husband, three beautiful children, and a wonderful home. Yet they are the reason I have not sat down in about ten years. Patiently, the Lord clarifies, "Yes, but your focus is on the action of serving, not the attitude of the action." My deer-in-the-headlights stare continues. The Lord gently reminds me of Philippians 2:7 which tells us that when Jesus was born, He "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant." He literally emptied Himself of all the glory attached to His deity so that he could serve, not be served. Philippians also tells me that my attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. The fog starts to lift. You see, in the busyness of the holidays, or really the busyness of everyday life, it is easy for most women to do, do, do -- to serve in our homes, workplaces, schools, churches, and communities. It is much harder to do, do, do with the attitude of Christ Jesus. Yet that is his call to us.

So how do I go from serving "with an attitude" to serving with the attitude of Christ Jesus, especially in the frenzy of the Christmas season? Scripture tells us to serve wholeheartedly as working for the Lord, not men. Our focus should be on the Lord, but this is challenging. I serve my family daily, but I often expect a "return" on my "investment." Certainly, there are many returns on the investment of being a wife and mother. However, on a daily basis, I seem to expect more "returns" than they are humanly capable of giving. I'm serving them, not the Lord.

I threw a temper tantrum recently. I had spent the entire day making homemade soup. In the past, my kids loved this particular soup, but something changed, and now my fickle little cherubs did not want it. That fact was painfully obvious as we sat down to eat. As I watched the kids move restlessly around in their seats, my husband gave me a sympathetic smile. He insisted he liked the soup, but my agitation over their apparent disdain of my meal prevented me from believing him. I could feel my agitation turn into anger as I watched my seven-year-old push the broth around in his bowl, hoping it would absorb into his body by osmosis. My four-year-old plainly said she was not hungry. When my two–year-old shouted, "No!" and pushed the bowl away, I had had enough. This is where my attitude kicked in, not the attitude of Christ Jesus. I grabbed everyone's bowls, dumped them back into the pot, stomped upstairs, and went to bed. I had prepared a meal "as unto my family," not "as unto the Lord." I expected appreciation for the time I had spent in the kitchen. I expected praise for the meal. The more I thought about it, the more my anger illogically snowballed. Seriously, my kids should thank me for the career sacrifice I made to stay home with them! Why am I the only one who picks up shoes in this house!? And, oh by the way, honey, what is it like to have clean clothes appear in your dresser every week? In the end, I was left feeling resentful and empty because I had expected my family to meet needs only He was intended to meet. Really, my family didn't need to change. My attitude needed to change.
Thankfully, the Lord does not leave us empty-handed in His call to us. Like Santa's sleigh overflowing with presents, His Word overflows with helpful promises that He wants you to unwrap with the same excitement a child has on Christmas morning. Starting this Christmas season and resolving to continue through 2009, embrace the demands of your life with a renewed attitude, but do it with the strength God provides (1 Peter 4:10). Start by reading Philippians 2:1-18 (Yes, your personal study of God's Word is very important during the holidays, contrary to what the enemy might have you believe.). Memorize one verse that speaks to you. I love the promise of Philippians 2:13, "…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Then through prayer, don't just serve, but serve with the attitude of Christ. The Lord will be pleased and will reward you with an inheritance that never perishes (Colossians 3:23-24). You will feel better because serving with a Christ-like attitude is the appropriate response of gratitude for the gift of God's Son (2 Corinthians 9:15). Finally, the people you serve will not be unfairly expected to meet the needs that only He can meet (Philippians 4:19). Everyone wins, and you have a gift that will reap returns from 2009 into eternity. Merry Christmas!


Kristin said...

Thanks for posting this! I needed to hear this in the worst way or shoud I say the best way!! God has been giving me this same message for weeks now and I am still fighting it. This seems to be a daily, or more like a minute to minute battle for me. Surrender Kristin, surrender!!!

Blessed Mama of 4 said...

beautiful words, I need the reminder, daily, or maybe even hourly this month.

Where "back east"? Are you an east coast-er? I grew up in Western NY