Monday, November 30, 2009

Two Very Different Holidays

By Alan Smith

I heard about a teacher who asked the children in her class about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. She thought it might be effective to inch toward its meaning by having them playfully correct some wrong ideas.

"Now let me think," she began. "Thanksgiving. That's the day when we think about all the stuff we have. And how we want more things than anybody else has. And how we don't care about anybody but ourselves. And . . ."

"No!" the preschool kids were starting to chorus! "No-o-o!"

Then one little guy in the middle of the pack looked up and chirped, "That's not Thanksgiving, Miss Michelle. That's Christmas!"

As we begin the transition in this country from Thanksgiving to Christmas, there does indeed seem to be a world of difference in the way these two holidays are viewed. Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays left which has not been ruined by commercialism. It is still a relatively "pure" time of giving thanks to God for our bountiful blessings. Christmas, on the other hand…….

What should be a time when we are able to take great joy in giving to others (for "it is more blessed to give than to receive", Acts 20:35) and a time to remember the great gift that God has given us through Jesus Christ, has (for many) turned instead to a stressful, hectic time when we are focused on ourselves and our wants.

Allow me to make a suggestion based on an ancient Jewish practice. The Jews had a day set aside, like our day of Thanksgiving, to remember how God had blessed them as a nation and taken care of them in their darkest hour. Purim was a day of "gladness and feasting…and for sending presents to one another." (Esther 9:19).

However, there was one major difference in their practice and ours (though there shouldn't be). Their thanksgiving resulted in gift giving, but not just to friends and family. They had a practice of "sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor." (Esther 9:22).

This holiday season (indeed in our daily life) let's sieze every opportunity to give thanks to God for how He has blessed us. We need to remember that with blessings come responsibilities -- and we have a responsibility to use our blessings to God's glory. In the weeks ahead, may you truly know the joy of using your blessings not merely to make your family happy, but to share with others around you who are in need.

- Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the White House church of Christ in White House, TN, may be contacted at

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How To Survive The Holidays

By Jeff Archey

“He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Proverbs 4:4-7).

Through God our Father, we see the value of parental wisdom. His word speaks unto us as His children and we know He loves us (1 John 4:19; John 3:16; Hebrews 12:5-11). We are able to grow in knowledge—the learning and the wisdom—the “how to” in order to adapt and apply. He has given us “…all things that pertain to life and godliness…” and “…exceeding great and precious promises…” that we can partake of (2 Peter 1:3).

Of course, the title of this article is quite strange at first glance, but in reality there are those that just wish to “get through” this holiday season. This is a time of year where folks generally seem happier and peaceful, but, it is not the case for some. Let us consider some of the “how to” God’s Word grants us in dealing with the following.


Families vary…some relatives you love to be around, some you don’t because of faith, life in general or common interests. Some family you never hear from during the year, but at the holidays it is like you’ve “just got” to get together with them…and you wonder what the fuss is? And, we come away from family gatherings aggravated and frustrated. What to do?

1. Shine as a Christian regardless where we are and remember our light must shine (Philippians 2:15; Matthew 5:16), so keep the proper example.
2. Set differences aside. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. Chances are they're feeling the effects of being around you, too.
3. Schedule minimum time. If things are such a struggle, do only as much as you can. Grant a minimum amount of time or “make an appearance” and move on.
4. Simply refuse. Yes, this is difficult, but consider 1 Corinthians 15:33 and 2 Corinthians 6:14. This may be the choice that aims towards reconciliation. There may be those times that you have to simply refuse an invitation due to its nature. Always do so firmly, but gracefully.


This is probably the number one challenge with this time of year. I think of families whose loved ones are away in Iraq or Afghanistan and of course there are those who have lost a loved one in the past year. I recall an article about a lady who went through a divorce earlier in the year and when she got out her ornaments and decorations, she broke down uncontrollably because the happy memories of her husband and what they did each year at this time came to mind. What to do?

1. “Abba, Father…” Think of the prayer of our Lord in the garden (Mark 14:32-42) and how He poured out Himself with such agony! We, too, must pour out the heart in fervent, ardent prayer to our Father and cry unto him as His child. God will provide and this day will pass, too.
2. Allow the time to remember those that are away from you. I recall a beautiful story of three grand-daughters who would always receive a box of covered cherries each from their grandmother. After their grandmother passed, I encouraged them to purchase a box of cherries each year and find the time to sit down, enjoy the cherries and think and talk of their grandmother. Sure, tears come, but smiles follow! Rainbows will follow rain.
3. Acknowledge what the one you miss would want you to do. Of course, they would want you to make the best of your holiday.
4. Afford yourself the opportunity to enjoy the moment with something new…or start a new “tradition.” Some find travel helpful; some spend time with friends that they see more than family. Whatever it might be, a new door of opportunity will open for you.

- via the Lake Hills Letter, weekly bulletin of the Lake Hills church of Christ in Chattanooga, TN. Shane Robinson, preaches for the congregation, and he may be contacted at or through their website at

Monday, November 16, 2009


A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. The conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups—porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain-looking, some expensive, and some exquisite—telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

After all the former students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups and then began eyeing each other’s cups.”

Now consider this: Life is the coffee, and the jobs, houses, cars, things, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life, and the type of cup we have does not define nor change the quality of life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee.

Enjoy your coffee. Being happy doesn’t mean everything’s perfect. It means you’ve decided to see beyond the imperfections.

CyberSalt Digest; via SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted at - You may also visit their website at

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Art of Happiness

You can’t pursue happiness and catch it. Happiness comes upon you unaware while you are helping others. As the Hindu said, “Help thy brother’s boat across, and lo! Thine own has reached the shore.”

Happiness does not depend upon a full pocketbook, but a mind full of thoughts that are rich and heart full of rich emotions.

Happiness does not depend upon what happens outside of you but on the inside of you; it is measured by the spirit in which you meet the problems of life.

Happiness is a state of mind. Lincoln once said, “We are as happy as we make up our minds to be.” Happiness doesn’t come from doing what we like to do, but from liking what we have to do. Happiness comes from putting our hearts into our work and doing it with joy and enthusiasm. It does not come from doing easy work, but it is the afterglow of satisfaction that comes from the achievement of a difficult task that demands our best.

Happiness grows of harmonious relationships with others based on attitude of good will, tolerance, understanding and love. It comes from keeping constructively busy.

Happiness is found in little things: a baby’s smile, a letter from a friend, a kind word, the beauty of nature.

The master secret of happiness is to meet the challenge of each new day with serene faith that “all things work together for good to them that love God” and to prove our love for good to them that love God” and to prove our love for God as we give help and encouragement to our fellowman.

- Unknown; via the Lebanon Road church of Christ’s weekly bulletin. Adam Faughn serves as the pulpit minister for the Nashville, TN congregation. He may be contacted through the congregation’s website at:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Coping With the Holidays

The following material may be helpful to you in recognizing and dealing with what is commonly referred to as “the holiday blues.” With exception to references to alcohol, the lists are as they appear on the website:

Factors contributing to the “holiday blues:

· Increased stress
· Unrealistic expectations
· Family issues
· Over-commercialization
· Memories
· Changes in daily routines
· Not having enough money
· Spending more than you can afford
· Fatigue
· Shopping, cooking, parties
· Too much food
· Weight gain
· House guests

Symptoms of “holiday blues”

· Headache
· Sleep problems
· Appetite change/weight loss or gain
· Agitation
· Excessive feelings of guilt
· Difficulty in concentration
· Decreased interest in usually pleasurable activities

Some basic coping strategies:

· Live the basics of good health—eat right, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly
· Set realistic goals and expectations
· Let go of the past
· Try something new
· Set aside differences
· Enjoy free holiday activities
· Do something for someone else
· Spend time with supportive people
· Find time for yourself
· Focus on what you have instead of what you do not have.

Remember, the “holiday blues” are usually a normal response to a stress filled time of year and are usually short-lived, subsiding after the holidays are over and routines are resumed

— via The Family Friend, a monthly newsletter published by the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY. It is an excellent resource for articles relating to the family. To learn more consult the congregation's website:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

If Only You Knew What I Have Done

By Debbie Preuss

Lord, if only You knew what I have done
You wouldn't offer the grace of Your Son
The things I've done wrong in my life
That fill my very soul with strife
The "secret sins" that I have hid
Ever since I was just a kid
If You knew all, You wouldn't want me
To spend time with You for eternity
How could You love me if You knew all
If You'd seen me slip, if You'd seen me fall

My child, I've seen all that you've done
That WHY I offer the grace of My Son
The things you've done that caused such strife
Are gone, a part of your former life
I've forgiven and forgotten every one
Because you come to Me through My Son
I saw all the "secret sins" you've hid
But I still want you to be My kid
My unconditional love is for you
Not because of what you say or do
But because you've come, cleansed by My Son
You have become to Me, a chosen one
My child I love you and I've seen it all
Now I'm here to pick you up when you fall
I want you now, to soar free
And we'll be together for eternity

- Debbie Preuss, January 17, 2004