No Lists, Just Love

???????????????????????????????

He’s making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice, Santa Claus is coming to town…

Most of us have heard those familiar words many times.  The nice get a gift and the naughty, well…they don’t get anything or, if they’re lucky, they get a lump of coal.

As my husband and I were traveling down the expressway last week, my eyes caught a sign outside of a church facing the cars that were driving by.

 SANTA ISN’T THE ONLY ONE MAKING A LIST!

“What?!?  Did I read that right?  Santa isn’t the only one making a list!  That’s the message the church is communicating to those passing by,” I told my husband.

On our next drive down that same expressway yesterday, I stayed alert watching for the sign.  I read it carefully thinking that maybe I was mistaken the first time but I wasn’t.  There in bold letters fastened to the large sign of the church were the words:

SANTA ISN’T THE ONLY ONE MAKING A LIST!

“If you want a gift, you better be good, because Santa is making a list and checking it twice and he’s gonna find out who is naughty and nice,” many parents sing the song and retell the story year after year.

It’s all in fun and I don’t think there’s one kid, that I know of anyway, that has been harmed or traumatized by the story of Santa.

But the message on the church sign?  I’m not so sure about that one.

Is that the message that they want the world to accept?  The message that God is making a list of all our wrongs and that we better be good or He won’t love us?  Is their message saying that we have to perform, do good works, clean up our act, obey the rules, or else?

I know there are thousands of good churches that communicate truth with love and I attend one.  I’m not implying that I know exactly the motive behind the sign but the perception comes across as God is making a list so if you’re naughty you better watch out!

We can shut ourselves up inside brick structures to make us feel safe.  We can hide behind programs, methods, procedures to puff ourselves up and think we’re secure because we’re us inside and not them outside.

We can point out the wrongs in others, forgetting who we are (or who we once were) and erect barricades of false security, we can have rules that make us harsh judges or we can have LOVE.

There in the manger on that quiet night long ago LOVE was born.  When we were the naughtiest LOVE came for us.  Jesus was born to die that we may live.  He took our punishment so we wouldn’t have to.

He knew our list of wrongs, all too well, and left His throne of glory and came down to rescue us.

We receive the gift; the greatest gift when we deserve it the least–we don’t have to be good enough to receive it.  All we have to do is accept it.

That’s the beauty of the gift.  God wipes our list clean in one swift stroke and writes across it PAID IN FULL.  Then slowly but surely we’re transformed in a way that rules could never accomplish. 

When we have LOVE, know LOVE, and extend LOVE our pointing fingers will come down.  Then the greatest gift of Christmas, who wrapped himself in love and is LOVE, can keep on giving…

Written by Nancy Janiga ©2014

Don’t Let Them Steal Thanksgiving (part 2)

grasses 2 - Copy

How do we give thanks in a culture that continues to tell us we’re not enough, we don’t have enough, and that our self-worth is only measured by all that is external?

Thankfulness can often be stolen from us, not only as we navigate through the retail stores during the month of November, but during any month.

You only have to glance at the magazines lining every check-out in every supermarket.

The messages that we’re hit in the eyes with are how to fix ourselves, our families, our relationships, our houses, our diets, our hair, our skin, our figures, our finances and how to have the best, be the best, want the best and never rest until we get the best.

Whoa!  Put on the brakes.

If we buy into all those plastered/plastic messages sprawled across the media, the advertisements, the displays or we get pulled into the enticements at the magazine counters how will we ever be thankful right here; right now?

gords - Copy

As I count down the days to Thanksgiving, I’ve been purposely keeping my focus off of the commercialism that begins this season and all the other messages I’m hit with at every checkout counter.

Before I start focusing on Christmas (too early) I’ve tried to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and finding one thing to give thanks for daily.

Often that one thing leads to many more things but concentrating on one is a great place for me to start.

One of the benefits of giving thanks daily is that the by-product of thankfulness is JOY.

joy of gratitude - Copy

You can’t give thanks and be discontented, downcast or distracted at the same time and you really can’t give thanks and be depressed or angry either.

The out working of a thankful heart is always JOY and it’s deeply rooted in being aware of the blessings from God and it’s not dependent on circumstances.

Even in the middle of undesirable circumstances we can still have JOY.

Maybe that’s why 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to give thanks in all circumstances.

As an overwhelming sense of gratitude works its way in and through our lives, we’re often moved to give thanks in new and unique ways to God.

A few of the ways we can offer thanks is through worship, by our lifestyle, by telling others about what God has done and is doing in our lives and by giving generously.

I don’t think there’s a better way of giving thanks to God for all He has given to us than by giving to others…in time, talent, resources, or other ways we may feel led to reach out to someone in need.

After all, we’re told in Matthew 25:40 that whatever we do to the least of these we’re doing it to Jesus.

When I concentrate on the simple truth that everything that I have belongs to God, and that I’m just a steward of all of it–even my very life–I’m more ready to loosen my grip and give to others.

So as I cultivate an attitude of gratitude in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I’ve also included a simple prayer–Lord, who is it that you want me to help this season?

I pray my simple gesture (to whomever God leads me to this year) will have a ripple effect and that they would see it coming from the hand of God and offer thanks to Him.

Then the gift of thanksgiving won’t stop with me but will keep on going…

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014