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Desperate for Christmas

Around the holiday season, there are two types of people. Those who put their tree up before Thanksgiving and those who wait until after. It’s really funny to see how the people who wait until after are incredibly proud of their act of self-control. And the ones who pull the trigger before Thanksgiving seem to be even more proud of their Christmas cheer singing loud for all to hear.

As I’m not above any of it, I am proud to say that in the Krueger household, our humble 7-foot artificial tree that Ryan and I have had since our first year of marriage is always up before we head out of town for Thanksgiving. Yes, we are those people. If you don’t like it, I hope we can look past our differences in the name of all that is merry and bright. Regardless of who you are, I think we can agree that, for one reason or another, we all love Christmas.

What’s not to love? The lights, the trees, the shows, the food, the parties, the gifts, the music, the movies, the fellowship. The list goes on and on, just like our amazon wish lists. And who doesn’t love their friend’s annual Christmas cookie party?

Beyond all of the festive hype of Christmas, I believe there’s a desperation for the holiday season that goes deeper than just gifts and lights. It’s an eagerness of soul, a longing, and an anticipation that there might just be something fulfilled that our hearts search for during this time.

2,000+ years ago, before Christmas lights and caroling even existed, the origin of why we celebrate centered around only one thing: a desperation for the coming King. It’s the heart of advent, which literally translates “arrival” or “coming”.

On the night of Jesus’ birth, a heavenly host of angels gloriously broke onto the scene before an unlikely group of people that we read about in Luke 2:8-20:

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to Go in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus, being God incarnate, was fully sovereign and in control over every detail of His birth?

In February of this year, Ryan and I welcomed our first child, a son, into this world. Our baby, Graham, was a beautiful picture of the faithfulness of God in our lives and we couldn’t wait to tell those we loved that he was finally here. But there was an order to his birth announcement. We started with our immediate family, then extended family, then close friends, then other good friends, and then finally made an announcement on social media. We think Graham is pretty great, but not so great that he would have the ability to control the news of his arrival or any other detail of his birth for that matter. But the baby in a manger, Jesus, actually did have full control over His.

 

Jesus, the long-awaited savior-King, could have sent the angels to ANYONE to give the good news of great joy. And who did He send them to first? The shepherds.

At that time, shepherds were regarded at the very bottom of the Palestinian social ladder, right there with the tax collectors and those who cleaned up literal waste. They held a reputation of “incompetence”, to the point where it was stated that if one were to a fall into a pit, no one should feel obligated to pull them out. Sheesh. Talk about a tough go.

But in Jesus’ upside-down Kingdom, they were the perfect audience to receive the invitation to first behold His glory.

So why the shepherds? Jesus wanted to start his life the same way that he would end it – by coming to seek and save that which is lost (Luke 19:10).

The shepherds had nothing in their own merit or reputation to cling to. They knew they were depraved. They were okay to show their need. And because of that, they weren’t afraid to be desperate for that which could save, redeem, free, and heal.

Just as there are two types of people during the holiday season, they are also two types of people in the gospel story, both in which need saving: those who know it and those who don’t.

When it comes to the birth of Jesus, we will never care about it unless we see that we are those in which He came for. We are those that need saving this Christmas. Not just for the neighbor that drives you crazy. Not just for the friend that has hurt you. Not just for the significant other that you wish put you first more. Jesus came for me. Jesus came for you. We are the people who desperately need saving this year.

So, when the shepherds heard of the Good News, what did they do? They responded in their desperation. Luke’s account of the story tells us that they responded with “Let us now go”and then they “went with haste”.

After years of longing for a Savior, the silence was broken on this dark night in Bethlehem. And the shepherds traveled far and wide not for worldly gain, but for just a glimpse of Emmanuel – God with us.

The posture of the shepherds thousands of years ago shows us what the advent season is supposed to stir in us today: an awareness of our need for saving, and an awakened desperation for the presence of our Savior.

So my question is this: Are we as desperate for Jesus as we are for the Christmas parties, the presents, and another year of our favorite holiday traditions?

I don’t know about you, but for me, I could easily fill this month with some of the best things: friends, family, gift giving, volunteer opportunities, Christmas Eve services, advent devotionals, lights, hot cocoa, celebrating my baby’s first Christmas, photo ops, Christmas cards, extra rest, you name it….. and I could still miss it. I could miss the wonder, the awe, the haste, the urgency, the longing, and the desperation for the origin of the Christmas story: Jesus. Let’s not miss it this year.

This advent season, let us see ourselves as shepherds, full of lack and with nothing to boast in but Christ. Let us remember the goodness of God in the past to send us His son to be born, live the perfect life we could never live, and to die a death that we deserved… all to set us free from sin and death. And let us look ahead to the promise that one day He will return and bring it all to peace.

He will right every wrong.

He will heal every sickness.

He will wipe every tear.

He will welcome every outcast.

He will free everyone stuck in shame.

He will redeem all brokenness.

I pray it’s such a wonderful holiday season for you. I pray you laugh, drink all the hot cocoa, see all the lights, watch all the classic movies, attend all the festive parties, kiss under the mistletoe, and soak in all the music, fellowship, and chats around the fire. But above all, I pray you and I experience Jesus in a renewed way this year. I pray we would crave His presence. I pray we would cling to His word. I pray that we would look to Him as our ultimate comfort and our true reason for the season.

Let’s be desperate together for true Christmas this year. Let’s be desperate for Jesus.

Morgan Krueger is a wife, mother, and an encourager at heart. She loves all things Fall, talks around a fire, and teaching/learning what it looks like to follow Jesus. Having been on team LO, she will always have a “young & scrappy” mentality when it comes to life, ministry, & sisterhood and is so grateful for any opportunity to come back & encourage sisters and friends. You can read more from Morgan on Instagram @morganwkrueger 🙂

Emmanuel

Have you ever stood at the top of a mountain, or the ocean’s edge, or deep in a redwood forest, or in the stillness of a winter blanket of snowfall, and wondered at God, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4). Who am I, God, that You hear me, know me, or meet me in my need?

God’s creation can draw out that wonder and humility in us that so often gets tangled up in our self-made confidence and sense of control. It can be hard to break away from our bustling lives to recognize clearly that God is the creator of the universe. And I’m not. “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created” (John 1:3 HCSB). How humbling to remember that nothing happens outside of God’s care. How often do you remember, in the course of a day, that God is in full control of all that He’s created? Likely, not enough.

God made everything, and He called it good. He made our hearts to respond to music and He made tastebuds to experience all the flavors He has conceived. He made us to be different from the rest of creation; He made us for fellowship with Him. All of creation was formed, shaped, and designed to show us His character and to declare His glory. God didn’t create the universe out of boredom, but out of a desire to be Love to His created and have a relationship with us.

Creation was God’s labor of love. It was His plan from the beginning to show His delight through creation and His faithfulness through fellowship with us, His image-bearers. God with us, through the birth of Christ, was His heart from the beginning—that we would be with Him. The Jesus we find in the manger is indeed Immanuel, God with us, but God demonstrated His presence and desire to be with us from the very start of creation.

Creation is forever connected to the Christmas story because it is there that God reveals His heart for us, His children. It is there we find the unhindered fellowship He intended for men and women to have with Him—a tender and intimate relationship given to no other part of creation. And so, as we prepare Him room this Advent season, don’t forget where it all began: God and His creation, good and made to walk with Him.

When we start here, we begin to discover that Christmas—the story of God with us—is not about us, but about the heart of God. And if we know nothing else, this is enough: that our Creator God loves us and created us for Himself. 

Chances are this Christmas finds you feeling more alone in your personal struggles and thoughts than the busyness and festivities of this season might suggest. Maybe it’s physical distance from those you love, or maybe it’s emotional. And maybe the challenges of this year have you wondering if you’re the only one who struggles like you do. Our enemy, Satan, just as he did in the Garden, would love for us to think God has abandoned us—that He has left us to fend for ourselves.

Most of us experienced the effects of isolation and distancing that a global pandemic brought. And those effects were compounded for an already-lonely generation. The separation we felt during that global crisis was not unlike the separation that sin causes in our lives. It isolates, it hides, it removes us from the comfort of others. Sin robs us of the very nearness we were created to have with our Creator, God. The weary world that looked for their Messiah couldn’t fix the problem of pain and brokenness that sin set loose. They needed God to do the impossible, and He did.

The name Immanuel emphasizes God’s nearness to us when we were unable to be near to Him. For us as believers, God is with us; He is not without us or against us. This truth reveals the heart of God. It makes His promise in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always,” all the more special. We are never alone.

God with us is the true gift of Christmas. For all the human effort and our insufficient means of paving a way back to fellowship with Him, God closes the gap and makes the only way through His Son. He came to us! The weary world rejoices, indeed. And in our rejoicing, we relax our shoulders, sigh in great relief, and sing, “O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel!”

Taken from: Emmanuel by Ruth Chou Simons Copyright © 2022 Ruth Chou Simons. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97408.www.harvesthousepublishers.com

Ruth Chou Simons is a Wall Street Journal bestselling and award-winning author of several books, including her most recent Emmanuel: An Invitation to Prepare Him Room at Christmas and Always. She is an artist, founder of GraceLaced and speaker, using each of these platforms to spiritually sow the word of God into people’s hearts. Through her online shoppe at GraceLaced.com and her social media community, Simons shares her journey of God’s grace intersecting daily life with word and art. Ruth and her husband, Troy, are grateful parents to six boys—their greatest adventure.

Remodeling

Remodeling

I am involved in a lot of remodeling projects in my work. These are usually large-scale projects that take many months and sometimes years to complete. As I’m working on the designs for these projects and then watching them unfold, remodeling analogies will sometimes occur to me—analogies relating to what the Lord does for us, how he remodels us. 

I think the Lord treats each of his children like a very special remodeling project. Although there are similar processes and elements, each “project” is unique, and each will turn out a little differently. 

Remodeling usually is motivated because something isn’t right. I’m not referring to a need for redecorating, like painting a room, or even a face-lift like changing countertops and light fixtures. I’m referring to when things deeper than the surface need attention, times when the right paint color will not solve the problem. It may be that major mechanicals like plumbing or electrical systems need to be replaced, or it might be a floor plan problem, where walls have to be put in different places or removed altogether. 

My particular design specialty is kitchens. I just love a broken, non-functional, ugly kitchen. Especially if it’s tucked into the darkest corner of the house (which it usually is!). I actually get excited when I realize how dramatic the change could be, how wonderful, beautiful, and highly functioning the kitchen could be after a properly designed and expertly executed remodel. 

I know the Lord considers us this way. In front of him we can stand broken, ugly, and non- functioning, but what he sees excites him, because he knows what he created us to be, and he’s been waiting to be able to do his beautiful thing. As Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s handiwork” (niv).

The first step of the remodeling process is to agree that it’s necessary to do something. The second is to start uncovering one layer at a time, which means removing things that are obvious problems, like a damaged plaster wall, or finding and removing deeper problems, like corroded pipes, crossed wires, or rotten floor joists. A skilled craftsman will take care during demolition, as often there are things that have value, are important to the home, and need to be saved. 

I have experienced the Lord’s careful work on me as he exposes, then identifies areas that need to be removed for the sake of making me more like him. He is patient with me, and even though it is painful sometimes, I can be confident that he is the Master at this type of work, has a plan, and will be faithful to complete it. He is the author of beauty and knows exactly what needs to stay and what needs to go. I can trust him in this. 

The acceptance of this is usually a process. On my latest major remodeling project, one I call the “Slow Flip,” one of the things that appealed to me most about the house when I first saw it was that the original plaster walls and ceilings were in excellent condition, almost crack-free. This is very unusual for a house almost 100 years old. One of my main objectives going into the remodel was to keep as much of as the original plaster as possible. Another one of my objectives was to design a beautiful, functional kitchen. 

This is where my two objectives collided. To be able to install the kitchen I designed, the almost pristine plaster ceiling would have to be torn down. The ductwork for the range hood needed to travel across the ceiling, and I needed to access the ceiling to install adequate lighting and modernized heating and cooling ductwork. I first asked the contractor if we could just remove a little portion and save the majority of the plaster. He tried. Every day was a call. Every day, he needed to take down more plaster. It was painful for me. I was losing my beloved plaster! Finally, I came around to the truth of it; the whole ceiling needed to come down if the job was going to be done correctly. I’d been holding on to something that had to go in order to make something beautiful and functioning. 

A similar story took place at the project I call the Madison. The 1902 home had a beautiful staircase in a gracious stair hall in the center of the home. One of the biggest problems of the home was an antiquated floor plan which relegated the kitchen to a dark corner away from all the other rooms. I tried to think of a way to open up the house to integrate the kitchen into the other living spaces, but I kept running into a huge obstacle: the stairway. It was simply in the wrong place. I tried everything to leave it where it was. Moving a staircase is a huge undertaking, not to mention a costly one. 

But relocating it was the only way to make the house right. It’s hard to surrender something that appears to be so important. Yet this is often what is required. And again, the Lord spoke to me. He said, “There are things that you feel are very integral to yourself, that may even appear to have great importance. I have a better plan and it involves removal of some ‘sacred’ things, at least in your eyes. Do you trust me?” 

My response has to be “Of course I trust you, you are worthy of all my trust!” The master craftsman who knows me best, loves me most. My most secure place is in his hands. He wants me beautiful and functional. It can require painful removal of some pretty important stuff, at least in my eyes. But the result is so completely worth it. 

He is good, and he loves me. He has good plans for me, a future for me, and a hope for me. He tells me, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, esv). 

I derive great joy from turning these old, forsaken homes into beautiful dwelling places for families. If that is true, imagine the joy the Lord has when one of his prized possessions—you!—is open to a remodeling of the heart. Of course, it may be painful; certainly there will be things that seem dear and important but must be removed. 

But they are removed for the sake of replacing them with something so wonderful and marvelous. You and me, more like Christ. To be more like him—we allow him to remove the things in us that must go. And by God’s grace, we can do this. God achieves his desired results. A beautiful, remarkably functional piece of his workmanship. And that is you.

Jean Stoffer is an award-winning Grand Rapids–based independent interior designer specializing in kitchen and bath designs. Each of her designs is custom suited for her clients’ lives and how they hope to use their home. Jean is also the founder of Stoffer Home, a retail store featuring beautiful and functional items for the home, and Stoffer Home Cabinetry, the source for Jean’s own line of quality, British-inspired flush-inset cabinets. In December 2021, Magnolia Network began airing The Established Home, a TV series featuring Jean and her design work.

My Jesus

My Jesus

When Uncle Steve was finished reading, it was my turn. I stood from my seat on the front pew and began to walk to the piano onstage. I took one slow step after another up the red-carpeted stairs, a shaky nervousness filling my body. It was the same sensation I’d felt for days, only magnified. I reached the piano and turned to look out across the sea  of faces in the crowd. Friends and family members look back at me with tears in their eyes. Had I not been feeling such a dark sense of loss, I would have been thrilled to see so many loved ones gathered in such a majestic place. It was beautiful, but I couldn’t appreciate the beauty of it. I was overwhelmed by both the ache of goodbye and seeing hundreds of people staring at me. A few friends gave me encouraging nods as I took a seat. It was time to worship my Jesus.  

I  took a deep breath and smoothed my dress to calm my shaking hands. I was about to sing fir the first time in front of twelve hundred people. Would I even be able to make it through? Would my hands stop shaking enough to let me play?

As I gently placed my fingers on the keys, I looked up to God for a brief second, imploring Him for help. At that very moment, God removed every nervous feeling from my body. The fear and worry were gone. Thank You, God! With a heart suddenly at peace, I took in a deep breath and prepared to sing. 

As Carson, Hayes and I began to play the intro to the song, I heard God’s voice again. His words, interjected at such a pivotal moment, would change my life completely: Anne. This is what I’m calling you to do. I’m calling you to praise and worship My name.

I had no doubt the voice was the Lord’s. I will never forget those words. 

With a confidence that could only come from God’s spirit, I began to play and sing “What a Beautiful Name,” a song that magnifies the powerful, wonderful name of Jesus. The song speaks of His longing for us to join Him in heaven and tells of His victory over death and the grave. The song was a cool drink of water to my parched soul, and I prayed it was the same for everyone who heard it that day. 

That day, I sang for Jacob, and I sang to worship my Jesus. Without tears, without stopping, and without breaking down, I offered my song for them both. The ability to sing such powerful words at such a sorrowful time without breaking down was only possible through God’s strength and His Spirit. Now, more than ever, my family and I wanted to praise the name of Jesus. We all realized in a terrible and wonderful way how short life really is and how it can change in an instant. We longed to to tell the world of the hope found in Jesus’ beautiful name. I knew that was what Jacob would want too. 

I lifted my fingers from the keys as the final notes of my song rang through the sanctuary. I exhaled a deep sigh of relief. The faces I had just feared were smiling at me through tears. Many held tissues to their eyes. 

As I returned to my seat, Good impressed another thing on my heart: I would never be an astronaut. I have called you to a life of worship through music, He said. I could never have imagined that God would speak to me about my future at such a moment, and even less that He would call me to a life of music. But somehow, I just believed Him. In that moment, I had no doubt the Lord would fulfill this calling on my life. I knew that meant I wasn’t going to be an astronaut, and I was okay with that knowledge. In the aftermath of losing Jacob, the dream of being an astronaut didn’t seem important anymore. With Jacob in heaven and a huge hole in my heart, I barely had a will to live, much less to pursue the dream of going to space. I did not feel an ounce of grief at the thought of leaving that childhood dream behind. I actually felt peace. The desire to go to space was simply gone. 

Losing Jacob changed everything, including my dreams for my life. I now knew I would have a future in music, worshipping and praising the name of Jesus. God must have given me a gift of faith to accept such a sudden change in direction and believe that He would fulfill that calling. I had no idea how or when His new plan for me would happen or what that calling would entail. I just knew it would be. Someday. Because God said so, and I believed Him.

Anne Wilson grew up in Kentucky with her parents and two siblings, Elizabeth and Jacob. Her family’s Christian faith sustained them through the tragic loss of Jacob when he was only twenty-three years old. She is passionate about writing and singing songs that draw others to Jesus. Anne’s debut single, “My Jesus,” became the #1 Christian song of 2021 and won the Breakout Single of the Year at the 2022 K-LOVE Fan Awards, where Anne also won Female Artist of the Year.

Don’t Believe the Lies

Don’t Believe the Lies

My finger was literally on the button. Everything in me wanted to click Like and Share. Why am I not doing it? I thought. The author of the meme was a Christian, the quote sounded positive and life-affirming, and it would surely encourage and uplift my social media friends. I still can’t do it. But why? With my index finger lightly tapping the top of the computer mouse, I sat pondering my hesitation. Then, in a sudden burst of clarity, the Holy Spirit was all like, “Snap out of it!” Oh yeah. I was hesitating because although this quote sounded nice, it was not biblical. It was actually a lie . . . a happy little lie.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar spot? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked social media only to see a message like “Follow your heart.” And I’m thinking, Awww. That’s nice. I hit Like before I have a chance to remember, Oh, wait. The last time I followed my heart it got smashed to bits and took me years of counseling to recover. “Trust your instincts. They never lie.” That one landed me in traffic court.

Are you tired of feeling like you have to check social media to find out what you’re supposed to think? Are you weary of the latest self-help book that promises to set you free but only imprisons you with a laundry list of studies to consider, positive affirmations to recite, Facebook groups to join, causes to advocate for, and other books to read? (It seems as if it were really “self-help,” I shouldn’t need all this outside support!)

In that moment of hesitation over a meme, I realized that there are endless ways truth can be spun, manipulated, covered up, and even used to promote deception. Often, the lie is christened with religious language, so the temptation to share it without thinking is real. As A. W. Tozer said, “Too much of contemporary Christianity is borrowed from the philosophies of the world and even other religions—phrases and mottos that on the surface look great but are not rooted in Scripture or that mostly bolster one’s self-image.”1

These happy little lies are pithy assertions that sound good, safe, optimistic, and constructive. They look great stitched on a pillow, digitized into a meme, or turned into a slogan. They are

usually stated in a positive form, like “Believe in yourself” and “You are perfect just as you are.” You see, the best lies are the ones that sound the most beautiful. They are made up of at least 50 percent truth. Sometimes they are almost totally true. But that small bit that spins the entire outcome? That is the important part.

Our culture is brimming with slogans that promise peace, fulfillment, freedom, empowerment, and hope. These messages have become such an integral component of our American consciousness that many people don’t even think to question them. They sound nice and carry an illusion of truth. Often these messages are popularized by social media celebrities who claim to be Christians, promote their materials as being in agreement with Christian principles, and publish on Christian formats and venues.

The problem? They are lies.

More than ever before, people are looking to their own hearts, opinions, preferences, biases, and predispositions to guide them through life. In other words, we have learned to trust our feelings. But how is that working out for us? It is leading to all sorts of problems. And in so many cases . . . didn’t we get ourselves into this mess in the first place?

Today we have authors, influencers, and life-coach gurus peddling their personal transformation stories as models for others to follow. Their advice is frequently based on very recent life-altering decisions that seem to make them happy in the moment but have not stood the test of time. In some cases, their books come out within a few months of their divorce or after that affair, which they think helped them discover their true selves. And we are supposed to follow these people? Reader. Listen. Please do not take life advice from someone who is in the middle of a major crisis. Unless they are gleaning from time-tested, biblical wisdom and pointing you to Christ, it would be wise to hit the pause button on that hot mess and just wait and see how it all pans out over the next ten years or so.

Taking advice from someone because they’re funny, self-confident, or Instagram savvy makes me think of a hypothetical scenario in the air. I don’t tend to get nervous about flying, because I know that the training pilots go through is rigorous . . . especially when it comes to commercial flying, where the lives of so many citizens are at stake. At the end of the day, I trust the airline industry to keep me safe.

But imagine I step on a plane and just after takeoff the pilot announces, “Good morning, everyone. I’d like to thank you for joining me on my very first flight ever. Not to worry, I’ve

spent quite a few hours in classroom education and flight simulators. Oh, and our copilot couldn’t make it this morning, but I feel confident I’ll do a great job and get you all to your destination safely and on time.” Can you imagine the level of anxiety that would strike the heart of every passenger in that moment? That’s because trust is a huge part of feeling safe and secure.

But what and who can we trust when it comes to knowledge about life, death, goodness, and purpose? I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that our culture has never been more divided, polarized, or suspicious. No one knows where they can find reliable information about anything from brownie recipes to personal health to morality to politics.

I think that ditching the jargon and clinging to the timeless truths of the Bible is the most freeing and stabilizing thing we can do. It will ease anxiety, quell depression, and calm a restless heart. Recognizing who we are in Christ is the ultimate self-care because the Word of God doesn’t reinvent itself along with a constantly changing culture. Scripture has stood the test of thousands of years, been endorsed by millions who have been transformed by its truth, and given countless believers a solid foundation for knowing God and living out their faith. We have good evidence from history, archaeology, and biblical scholarship to trust that we have an accurate copy and that what it records is true. Jesus told us in Matthew 24:35 that his words will never pass away. We know from Hebrews 13:8 that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He doesn’t change, and his words will remain forever.

In Matthew 7:24, he says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

As a wise friend once said to me, “I’d rather have a shack on solid ground than a mansion on the sand.”

Will you choose to stand on the unchanging truth of the God-breathed Scriptures, or will you choose whatever trendy catchphrase people are currently obsessed with?

The choice is yours.

Adapted from Live Your Truth and Other Lies: Exposing Popular Deceptions That Make Us Anxious, Exhausted, and Self-Obsessed by Alisa Childers. Copyright © 2022. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Alisa Childers is a wife, mom, author, podcaster, blogger, speaker, and worship leader. She was a member of the award-winning CCM recording group ZOEgirl. She is currently a respected speaker at apologetics and Christian worldview conferences, as well as the host of her popular YouTube channel. Alisa’s story was featured in the documentary American Gospel: Christ Crucified. She has been published at The Gospel Coalition, Crosswalk, The Stream, For Every Mom, Decision magazine, and The Christian Post, and her blog post “Girl, Wash Your Face? What Rachel Hollis Gets Right . . . and Wrong” received more than one million views.

Change Your Brain

Change Your Brain

Make Rules for Vulnerable Times

Everyone falls; failure only happens when you stop getting up. Many of my patients find it helpful to create simple rules for vulnerable times, such as:

1. Start your meal with healthy foods such as vegetables so there is less room for unhealthy ones.

2. Split entrees.

3. Don’t go to a game or concert hungry; it leaves you vulnerable to the temptation of bad foods, such as cotton candy and hot dogs. Eat ahead of time.

4. Swap dinner plates for salad plates so it forces you to have smaller portions.

5. If you want to “cheat” on your nutrition, call a friend first. This will distract you, delay the craving, and enlist some support.

6. Have a plan when you experience cravings or feel out of control: take a walk, drink a glass of water (you may be thirsty, but misperceive it as hunger), play Tetris for a few minutes (it actually decreases cravings) until the impulse goes away.101

If you are truly going to change, you must change what brings you pleasure. Find what you love about nutritious food. Learn to find what you love about exercise. One of my friends hates running but loves playing table tennis. Connect to who you are becoming; think like a healthy person. How would a healthy person order this meal? The simple act of identifying yourself as a “Brain Warrior,” someone who is a healthy role model for others, can be enough to change the way you see yourself and the way you behave.

Today’s practice: Which of these rules can you adopt for vulnerable times? Write it out and post it where you can see it.

101. Jessica Skorka-Brown et al., “Playing Tetris Decreases Drug and Other Cravings in Real World Settings,” Addictive Behaviors 51 (December 2015): 165–70, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26275843/.

Excerpted from Change Your Brain Every Day: Simple Daily Practices to Strengthen Your Mind, Memory, Moods, Focus, Energy, Habits, and Relationships by Daniel G. Amen, MD. Copyright ©2023.

Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

________________

Three Steps to Thrive in a Crisis

Develop a TLC mindset. How can you be happy while the world is falling apart? The people who are resilient versus those who are not have a TLC mindset. They see what is happening as temporary, local, and with some sense of control. People who crumble in hard times tend to see the situation as permanent (things will never change) and global (it’s everywhere), and they feel as though they have no control over the situation (they feel like a victim). Here’s how I used TLC to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Temporary: The coronavirus pandemic will not last forever. Think about all the pandemics from the past—the Spanish influenza, bubonic plague, and cholera, for example. They all eventually resolved. This, too, will pass.

Local: Although COVID-19 was worldwide, it did not hit every street in every city in the world. While far too many died, the vast majority of those who contracted the virus survived. Even though my dad died not long after contracting the virus, my mom and others close to me survived it.

Control: What can I “control” during hard times and what can’t I control? During the pandemic, I practiced good hygiene, wore a mask where appropriate, and shored up my immune system with vitamins D, C, zinc, and mushroom extracts. I also took one of the available vaccines, because my experience with my patients was that those who were vaccinated fared better than those who were not.

For managing the control aspect of TLC, I often say the Serenity Prayer. It is the essence of mental health: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. This is the happy person’s way of life. Practicing TLC will strengthen your resilience to get through any significant issue in your life.

Today’s practice: Say the serenity prayer three times today.

Excerpted from Change Your Brain Every Day: Simple Daily Practices to Strengthen Your Mind, Memory, Moods, Focus, Energy, Habits, and Relationships by Daniel G. Amen, MD. Copyright ©2023.

Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

________________

Tiny Habits for Trauma and Grief

Pick habits that help you feel better fast and last. Each of these habits takes just a few minutes. They are anchored to something you do, think, or feel so that they are more likely to become automatic.

1. Whenever I feel upset, I will cross my arms and stroke down from my shoulders to my lower forearms (this stimulates both sides of my brain and helps to have a calming effect on my mind) for one minute.

2. When I feel a wave of a traumatic memory or grief coming on, I will observe myself, write down any negative thoughts that come to my mind, and challenge them.

3. When painful memories from the past get stuck in my brain, I will write them out from an adult perspective, which can stop the thoughts from circling in my head.

4. When I feel anxious, I will take five diaphragmatic breaths to calm myself.

5. When memories of a traumatic event surface, I will ask myself what I am thinking or feeling. Then in my mind, I will go back to the very first time in my life that I can remember thinking those thoughts or feeling those feelings to see if my past is infecting the present. If it is, I will say to myself, “That was then, and this is now.”

6. When a lost loved one’s birthday (or other anniversary) arrives, I will spend time recalling happy memories and be grateful for the time we had together.

7. When I feel upset or lonely, I will call a friend and ask for their support.

Today’s practice: Pick one or more tiny habits to place in your life when facing grief or trauma.

Excerpted from Change Your Brain Every Day: Simple Daily Practices to Strengthen Your Mind, Memory, Moods, Focus, Energy, Habits, and Relationships by Daniel G. Amen, MD. Copyright ©2023.

Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

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