15 Dec It’s a GIFT-Giving Season
When young Gabriel Hurles turned six, he threw himself into enjoying the celebration, especially the cake. Gabriel was focused on that cake the way only a little boy enjoys food. He was so focused that he hadn’t really noticed the giant gift in the corner of the room. Another of the children finally pointed out the gift, and Gabriel started unwrapping it with a vengeance.
I have to imagine all of the wonderful things Gabriel thought might have been in that box. Was it a bike, a big dog, a television? Was it a bunch of the smaller things he had asked for? Maybe it was a spaceship! He had to know it was going to be exciting!
But Gabriel never would have guessed what was hidden behind that shiny paper. It was the best gift any little boy could have wished for. Gabriel’s dad, Army Specialist Casey Hurles, had earned a leave from the war in Iraq and he came up with the plan to surprise his son on his birthday. When little Gabriel finally got the package open, he was greeted with his father’s open arms.(1)
That is a GIFT.
Gabriel’s father gave him the gift of his presence, his love, and his time.
God did that for each of us. He came to this earth as a tiny baby, wrapped up in swaddling clothes. He gave us His presence. He lived, loved, hurt, and experienced life as a human. He took the time to teach us how to live the way He wants all of his people to live, with great faith and generous love. He loved us so much He walked this earth and faced horrible trials for us.
That is the GREATEST GIFT.
I want to talk a little bit today about gifts. Specifically about three gifts that are mentioned in Luke 2:13-14: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (KJV).
Gift #1: Peace on Earth – Restoration for your Mind
Peace on earth is something most of us just dream about. I’ve met so many people who have dealt with oppression, war, gang violence, and domestic violence, and the trauma that comes from each of them. Many of them were the most positive, uplifting people I’ve ever met. If we let it, the negative in the world can creep into our lives and affect every part of our being: mentally, emotionally, and physically. But if we choose JOY and healing, that opens the door for the Holy Spirit to step into our lives and give us strength that we could never have imagined.
There are two ways to face stress and tragedy: with hope or with resignation. Those who have hope are more resilient. They find small things to be joyful and thankful about each day. They reframe the situation to try and find the good. I’ve seen the results of positive thinking in tragedy! Some may call this looking for the silver lining. And you might be thinking, “Not every cloud has a silver lining, Robyn. You just don’t know!”
My friend, I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen pain firsthand. I’ve felt it too. I sat in an ER, sobbing, when the doctor came out to tell me my infant son had died on the table, but they brought him back. My day had started with what other doctors told me was a simple ear infection. As Graham deteriorated, my mother urged me to take him to the ER right away. He coded as I walked through the door calling for help.
The doctors didn’t seem to think bringing Graham back was good news. They said he would be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, and if he coded again it would be better to just let him go. My husband and I stood on faith that day. We thanked God for the time He’d already given us with Graham, and we prayed for a lifetime with him, no matter how he recovered. If you’ve read Graham’s story, you can see that story not only has a silver lining, the whole cloud turned silver!
It took a while, and there were struggles along the way, but I have experienced Gift #1: Peace on Earth – Restoration for MY Mind. I never planned to face the trails of raising a child with disabilities. On my most difficult days I cried out to God, asking Him why this had happened to my little boy. Today I know that God has had a purpose for Graham all along. His story has brought hope to families across the country, and Graham himself has touched more lives than I can count!
Finding your RESTORATION
Do you need restoration for your mind today? Are you facing an illness, or have stress and tragedy left you struggling to find those joyful moments each day? They are there, you just have to make them happen! Your thoughts are powerful, my friend. Your thoughts can create actual physical change in your life.
Research shows that up to 87% of illness can be attributed to our thought life and approximately 13% to diet, genetics, and the environment. The mind and the body are integrally connected. The good news is, we can limit negative effects through the power of our own thinking! God has given us the gift of peace in our personal lives through His careful creation of how our minds work!
Powerful thoughts aren’t just an idea I’ve come up with, it has been proven scientifically over and over. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking can:
- Increase life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress (2)
Johns Hopkins experts researched the impact of positive thinking on heart health. They found that positive thinking reduced heart related illness “even in people with family history who had the most risk factors for coronary artery disease, and positive people from the general population were 13 percent less likely than their negative counterparts to have a heart attack or other coronary event.” (3) They recommend three ways to bring more positivity into your life: smile more, practice reframing, and build resiliency in your life through good relationships, accepting change is just a part of life, and dealing with problems head on.
The Power of Thought in Scripture
While science is now proving the power our thoughts hold, the idea is not new. Look at these verses:
- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom. 12:2)
- Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil. 4:8)
- Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col. 3:2)
God fully understands the power of our thoughts, and He has been teaching us to pay attention to them throughout Scripture! The Apostle Paul said, “But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.” (1 Cor 2:16, AMP). So how can we harness our MIND to become more positive so we can experience ABUNDANT LIFE?
YOU TRAIN your THOUGHTS to stop the DESTRUCTIVE and move forward to health and LONGEVITY!
GIFT #2: Good Will Towards Men – Restoration for Your Relationships
We are created to be in relationship with God and with our fellow humans. As we see in many places in Scripture, sometimes those relationships suffer and break down. In reality, we don’t even have to look to Scripture. We can look in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.
We are not perfect. We make mistakes. We say the wrong thing, argue when we shouldn’t. We get stubborn and refuse to budge or admit we made a mistake. Before we know it, a little SITUATION can turn into a relationship ending snowball.
To find restoration, we need to be proactive in our relationships. When one of those “little” situations comes up, speak to IT, the situation itself, instead of lashing out at the other person. Here are the steps you might take:
(1) SAY how you feel
(2) SAY what you usually do
(3) SAY the truth instead
(4) SAY what you will do differently
This is another aspect of reframing. Instead of reacting in the same negative ways, you are building new neuropathways in your brain. You are TRAINING your brain to approach a negative situation in a positive and productive way. This changes your thought process from those that focus on the pain to those that look for JOY!
Once you have that new pathway created, your first thought will be to assess the situation, not to lash out at your mother, friend, husband, sister, or coworker.
How it Works
Let’s look at an example. Sarah’s mother arrives for Christmas dinner, and Sarah immediately tenses up because she knows what is coming. Her mom gives her a hug and then smooths down Sarah’s hair. “I had hoped that new haircut would give you more control, sweetie.” Then she walks into the house and starts straightening the already clean living room. “You go finish up in the kitchen sweetie, I’ll take care of this out here. I know you have a lot to do with everyone coming to your house for dinner for the first time!”
Sarah, could take immediate offense. And many of us might do the same in her shoes. She might tell her mom to stop, everything is already taken care of. If she did, you can be sure her mom would be hurt and would likely react with the same harsh tone and attitude.
Sarah, however, has learned that she alone controls her thoughts.
- Instead of reacting, she is proactive.
- She thinks about how she feels: once again mom is trying to control her life and she feels small and insignificant, like she can never please her mother.
- She thinks about what she would usually do: lash out and get defensive.
- She takes a BIG step back and looks at the truth: her mother is genuinely pleased to be there. She hasn’t criticized anything, she just wants everything to be perfect FOR Sarah.
- And then Sarah decides what she will do differently: “Mom, I’m so glad you’re here. I always look forward to being with you. Would you like to come into the kitchen and keep me company while I finish up? I’d really like to hear about that thing you were telling me about the other day.”
Your feelings don’t always reflect the TRUTH of the situation. Those closest to us often just want what they think is best for us. Is that always the right thing? No. But instead of pushing them away and getting hurt or angry, we need to look for the motivation behind the actions and words. We need to be proactive in contributing to our relationships in a positive way instead of reacting with the same, ingrained feelings and words.
Gift #3: Glory to God in the HIGHEST – Restoration for your SOUL
“We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” (2 Cor. 10:5-6 MSG)
Perhaps the greatest gift promised in this verse is the one that affects each of us at the very core of our being. Glory to God in the HIGHEST will bring you restoration at the deepest level. It will heal your SOUL.
The word Immanuel means God with us (Matt. 1:2:3). Our God, Immanuel, is always with us. Watching over us and protecting us. He has provided us with the GIFT of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. When God is with us, what can’t we do!
I want to tell you something very REAL right now. I have had moments when in my soul I felt so alone and abandoned. I felt God had put me in situations that were beyond my capabilities, and that I just wasn’t strong enough to deal with them. I felt, honestly, betrayed by God.
In those moments I’ve raged at Him. I’ve screamed, cried, begged, and pleaded for relief. And you know what, it worked. The problem wasn’t God abandoning me. It was me closing myself off from Him. I had let my hurt feelings, my wrong thinking, lead me down a reactive pathway. I closed the door of my soul to Him, just a little, and dwelled instead on the difficulties, the pain, and the hopelessness I felt. My anger and hurt finally broke through that door, opening me up once again to hear His voice. And each time it broke me a little, then mended me and made me stronger.
Open yourself up today, friend. God hasn’t left you. He hasn’t abandoned you. He is RIGHT THERE, RIGHT NOW! All you have to do is reach out. You might reach out in pain, in anger, you might rage at Him as I have. That’s okay! He KNOWS what you are going through. He’s just waiting on you to come back to Him so He can show you the truth, bring you the healing, and so He can fill your life with Joy once again.
Restoration at Christmas will lead to a lifetime of hope!
I want to take just a minute to talk about another GIFT you can give yourself this holiday season.
G – Get into the Right Attitude
Make the decision to create new pathways and thought patterns in your mind. Control your thoughts. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may prove what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I – Invest Yourself in Something
You can’t receive unless you are willing to give and do! It’s the truth! Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Open yourself up to receiving today by doing something for someone else!
F – Focus on Your 4 Way Win
Change is good, but long-term change is better. You want a 4 Way Win! A 4 Way Win is Sustainable Long Term Personal Change in Body, Mind, Soul, and Spirit. Make it your goal and start right now! You can be the change agent in your life!
T – Treasure Today!
Don’t dwell on the hurts of yesterday, and don’t worry about what is coming tomorrow. Treasure Today! Matthew 6:20-21 tells us, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.”
God has given us the gift of RESTORATION in our lives. Now it’s up to each of us to give ourselves the GIFT we need to truly live in the moment. We Don’t Get What We Want, We Get What We Are!