Poetry Saturday—Christmas Fancies

When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow, 
We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago, 
    And etched on vacant places 
    Are half forgotten faces 
Of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know— 
When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow.

Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near, 
We see, with strange emotion that is not free from fear, 
    That continent Elysian 
    Long vanished from our vision, 
Youth’s lovely lost Atlantis, so mourned for and so dear, 
Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near.

When gloomy gray Decembers are roused to Christmas mirth, 
The dullest life remembers there once was joy on earth, 
    And draws from youth’s recesses 
    Some memory it possesses, 
And, gazing through the lens of time, exaggerates its worth, 
When gloomy gray December is roused to Christmas mirth.

When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis 
Each heart recalls some folly that lit the world with bliss. 
    Not all the seers and sages 
    With wisdom of the ages 
Can give the mind such pleasure as memories of that kiss 
When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis.

For life was made for loving, and love alone repays, 
As passing years are proving, for all of Time’s sad ways. 
    There lies a sting in pleasure, 
    And fame gives shallow measure, 
And wealth is but a phantom that mocks the restless days, 
For life was made for loving, and only loving pays.

When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes, 
And silences are melting to soft, melodious rhymes, 
    Let Love, the world’s beginning, 
    End fear and hate and sinning; 
Let Love, the God Eternal, be worshiped in all climes 
When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Poetry Saturday—Bells Across The Snow

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain!
There’s a minor in the carol
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath tonight.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”
O Christmas, merry Christmas,
’Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing,
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow,
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”
O Christmas, merry Christmas,
This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee,
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good will,
With holy songs of glory
Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.” —Frances Ridley Havergal

The Power In Rejoicing

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:4, 6).

Paul isn’t playing around here—when he says to rejoice, it’s not a suggestion or a good idea. He says REJOICE with the force of a commandment!

Even the Greek word for rejoice isn’t a mild “yea!” It carries with is the idea of big joy! It’s the kind of rejoicing that is…

  • exceedingly great!
  • overflowing!
  • bubbling up!
  • never ending!
  • continuously gushing!

Why would Paul make this kind of rejoicing a command? Because God is serious about pointing us to the only path that will guard our hearts and minds. When we are rejoicing, praying, and thanksgiving, then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

Do you realize how much of our worrying is pointless? My friend Scott pointed out the following research:

  • 40% of the things we worry about will never even happen
  • 30% of the things we worry about happened in the past and cannot be changed
  • 12% of our worries are regarding health issues we don’t even have
  • 10% of our worries are about our friends and loved ones which are based on rumors

That means … only 8% of the things we worry about have any basis in reality!

Think about that—9 out of 10 things that consume our minds with worry aren’t even worth our time!

That’s why Paul commands rejoicing as a means to freedom and peace.

  • What should we worry about? Nothing! 
  • What should we pray about? Everything!
  • What should rejoice about? All things!  

This is the one and only path to transcendent peace! 

This is part two in our series The Antidote For Anxiety. Be sure to check out the video below, and also check out the first part of this series—Honk! Honk! Honk!

Saturday In The Psalms—Joy In The Desert

A psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah (preface to Psalm 63).

Being in a desert place, you would expect David to say things like, “my soul thirsts,” “my flesh longs,” and “I am in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.”

But what’s unexpected is what David found that satisfied. Not food and water, but “my soul thirsts for You,” “my flesh longs for You,” and “O God, You are my God.”

David knew that when outward conditions were at their worst, his focus needed to be at its best—and it needed to be on God. So David made the following commitments:

  • Early will I seek You
  • I have looked for You
  • I remember You on my bed
  • I meditate on You in the night watches
  • My lips shall praise You
  • My soul follows close behind You
  • I shall rejoice in God

Because of these commitments, David could reach the following conclusions:

  • Your lovingkindness is better than life
  • My soul is satisfied
  • I will rejoice in the shadow of Your wings
  • Your right hand upholds me

David found joy in the desert by changing his focal point!

I can reach the same conclusions that David reached, IF I am willing to make the same commitments David made.

In the desert places, I must deliberately and continually turn my eyes and thoughts FROM the desert TO God’s goodness.

Honk! Honk! Honk!

First of all, I encourage you to watch the first few minutes of the video below for an amazing story about honking horns. Trust me on this one—it’s a memorable story that will go along way toward helping you defeat anxiety when it rears its ugly head in your life.

What kills joy and happiness and gratitude? Anxiety is the killer.

What makes people so full of joy-killing anxiety? In a word: fear. Fear of missing out … Fear of falling short … Fear of not measuring up … Fear of bad things that might happen.

If anxiety kills joy, what kills anxiety? Anxiety—the joy-killer—is itself killed when joy is expressed.

Being grateful for what you have kills the anxiety of what you don’t have.

Being thankful for what you have kills the fear of what you may be missing.

Being grateful for what you have kills the anxiety of the bad stuff that may never even happen.

If joy kills anxiety, how can we develop more of it? Most people would say, “If you’re happy, give thanks” or “If you’re happy, honk.” But really it’s the other way around: “If you want to be happy, honk!”

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Honking your thanks is not only good for you, but it’s good for everyone around you who hears your “honk! honk!” of gratitude. David experienced this in Psalm 34:1-3. Even when he was at a low point, when he started praising God other anxious people began to experience joy as well.

Can I challenge you to join me in doing two things for at least the rest of this month:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal in a notebook, on your computer, or in your phone or tablet. Regularly write down those things for which you are grateful.
  2. Don’t keep your gratitude to yourself, but share it with the world. Use hashtag #honk to let people know you are using joy to kill anxiety in your heart.

Honk! Honk! Honk! It’s good for you; it’s good for others; and it brings glory to God.

Joyless Christianity??

“Many—would I overstate the case if I said the majority?—of those who confess their faith in Christ and enter into association with the community of believers have little joy in their hearts, no peace in their minds, and from all external appearances are no better morally than the ordinary educated citizen who takes no interest whatever in religion and, of course, makes no profession of Christianity. Why is this? I believe it is the result of an inadequate concept of Christianity and an imperfect understanding of the revolutionary character of Christian discipleship.

“True faith brings a spiritual and moral transformation and an inward witness that cannot be mistaken. These come when we stop believing in belief and start believing in the Lord Jesus Christ indeed. …

“One of the first changes will be a shift of interest from earth to heaven, from men to God, from time to eternity, from earthly gain to Christ and His eternal kingdom.” —A.W. Tozer, in Man—The Dwelling Place Of God

Is Christ’s Gospel Full Of Abundant Life Or Not?

“Since a saint’s gloom reflects unkindness on God Himself, how can we recommend His satisfying love if it does not satisfy us? The world thinks the Christian life is depressing anyway, a dry meal where very little wine of joy is tasted. Why will you confirm their deception, Christian? Why should they have your example as evidence against Jesus and His Word, which promises peace and joy to everyone who comes to this table?

“God forbid that your behavior, which should hold forth ‘the word of life’ and demonstrate the reality of it in the eyes of the world, ever disagree or throw doubt on His Word (Philippians 2:16). …

“When unbelievers see Christians sad as they hold the cup of salvation in their hands, they suspect that the wine is not so good as preachers say it is. … Christian, do not give unbelievers reason to imagine, by seeing you limping through the race, that they must forfeit happiness if they become Christians and spend the rest of their lives in a house of mourning, with a team of losers.

“Is Christ’s Gospel full of abundant life or not?” —William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armor (emphasis mine)

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