I salute You! There is nothing I can give you which you have not;
but there is much, that, while I cannot give, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you,
now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.
I was asked a question by my husband this past week. He was wondering why certain circumstances in our life were not bothering me as they did him. I thought for a moment and told him, "It's because I have put boundaries on my disappointments".
He looked startled, it was not what he expected to hear. And to be honest, as the poster child for the melancholic temperament... he most likely wonders why someone would do such a thing.
Perhaps that is why this Advent Season has been more joyful than those in the past few years. Either I have become comfortable with the new normal or by placing boundaries on those disappointments of life, it has enabled God to fill my heart with joy. Most likely a combination of both.
I have long enjoyed the above quote by Fra Giovanni*. It appeared in my Advent reading again this week as well as in Tasha Tudor's beautiful DVD Take Peace, which I watched a couple of times again this Season. It inspires that part of my soul that loves all things lovely. But back to the quote.
For me, the advice given so beautifully reflects what God has been teaching me in that still small Voice. Long ago He showed me how... should I have nothing else to give Him... I can lay my attitude at His altar. That choice between bitterness and defeat or choosing to thank Him for what good things He has given. The trust that God will work all things together for my good and His glory.
But Fra Giovanni's message takes all a step further as we are reminded it is up to us what we do with the given circumstances, how we choose to accept them that can make all the difference. And as for me... I take Heaven, I take Peace, I take Joy.
There is something about God's design on the human soul which I find quite remarkable. That is quite often... not always but often... we can change our emotions by choices we make.
For instance, I can be quite gloomy but if I choose to put some lovely Christmas music in the CD player, I may feel better. Music alone cannot by any means change circumstances but it has a power within to encourage my soul's thoughts from dark to light. It helps us to take Joy.
Last year I was having conflict with people I love. They had quite unintentionally hurt me deeply. When talking to my daughter about the situation, she reminded me that I could choose to remain hurt or offer them forgiveness. The way that situation would turn out was up to me. I chose forgiveness and it changed everything. I took Peace.
Many years ago I was a teenager crushed by life's circumstances. An acquaintance I went to school with invited me to a revival meeting at her church. I learned later that they were told to ask the least likely person they thought would say yes. She chose me. I said yes. And at that church, I found Jesus. I took Heaven.
The world becomes darker each year it seems. More of the ways of the enemy and less the ways of the Lord. A couple TV stations have been playing the Christmas episodes of shows from the 50s and 60s. It is with nostalgia that I have watched a few, for the episodes... even the comedies... show the Christmas seasons of old as much more Christ glorifying.
But that is where your choices come in, and my choices, and what we do with each December.
Do we go with the flow of the Culture and ignore Him?
Do we give into our circumstances when they are less than perfect and stomp our feet and cry into our pillow and tell Him if that is the what you are allowing in my life... forget Christmas this year!
Or... do we accept the knowledge that we are not living in Heaven, yet. Neither are we living in the New Earth in all its' Glory. No... we are but pilgrims and sojourners walking on this most fallen of planets.
But we can be a reflection of Heaven and its' Glory to all around us. While our faces may not shine as did Moses when he returned from the mountain, we can reflect at least a little of His Joy, His Love, His Compassion, His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness... His willingness to be obedient to the Father.
The battle may rage in this world. But He really does win. Whatever is going on in your life at the moment, He is at work in your situation. You have not been forgotten. Hold on. Christmas is here but Easter is coming.
My prayer this Season is that you, too, my friends will Take Heaven, Take Peace, and Take Joy. And then lay them at His feet as an offering of thankfulness for what He has done in the past, the mercies He is showing in the present, and the hope that remains in the years to come.
*The entire letter from which this quote is excerpted can be read here.
Image: Winter Scene