Saturday, November 28, 2009

The hustle and bustle of the Christmas season is well under way. The coming weeks with all the shopping, parties, and Christmas celebrations are typically the most stressful of the year. It’s easy to let unrealistic expectations, bad experiences, frustrations, and overbooked schedules interfere with our focus on the reason for the season. How can we manage the stress that will inevitability visit us; We need to do as Dr. Gary Smalley suggests in The DNA of Relationships and practice good self-care. We can picture ourselves as huge batteries with terminals on top for charging and sockets on the sides where people “plug” in to fill their own needs. As long as we get daily re-charged with God’s love, we can relay love to others. We need to daily connect to our power source in order to share his love.

Jesus’ greatest commandment tells us the heart of good self-care.
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your minds, and all your strength.” His second commandment tells us to care for others. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 23:37-40)

The busy Christmas season often brings more stress and depression than peace and joy. Smalley defines stress as “the gap between what we expect ourselves and others to do and what actually happens.” By adjusting our expectations, we can manage our stress and experience the joy of Christmas. Smalley offers four actions in his self-care program. I’ve described my attempts to implement this program in my life.

4-Step Self-Care Program

1. Start off the day by reducing earthly expectations.
Our expectations should be God’s expectations and his timeframe. This is a challenge because I usually want my life to follow my own will and timeline.
Prayer: “The Lord is my shepherd and I will never want again. I will graze in green pastures, by quiet waters, expecting only that God will continually restore my soul and guide me every day to righteousness.”

2. Believe that everything that happens to you has been filtered by God.
When I face painful, unfortunate, or confusing circumstances, I must hold on to the belief that God is always in control. He is always at work for our good.
Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purposes."

3. Every upsetting experience is an opportunity to worship God.
How can I use my frustrations to draw closer to Christ? I can remember that God is my provider and protector. I can reframe my disappointments by looking for the lessons I can learn. I can see that struggles are an opportunity to hunt for the treasures that come when we turn negatives into positives. James 1:2 illustrates this treasure hunt, “Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.” In my joy I can sing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1).

4. Rest in God, listen quietly, and ask him what he’s telling me to do.
When facing stressful situations, I know that I must “be still and know that he is God.” It is in being still and listening to him that I will know what he wants me to do. I will ask God to show me his will.

Prayer: Father, show me your ways and teach me your paths (Psalm 25:4). Help me to walk in your truth and focus my heart on you (Psalm 86:11).


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