by Kathy Lay
(*--Note, this devotion is a re-post from December, 2007. Enjoy your Christmas with family!)
This Week’s Verse: Mark 9:49, "Everyone's going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you'll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace." (MSG)
A conversation the other day about the possible hazards of using space heaters led to a trip down memory lane. The woman I was talking to and I both remember the fire safety advice we were given as kids: Stop, Drop, and Roll—It can save your life! 1.) Stop running around (air feeds fire); 2.) Immediately Drop to the ground, and; 3) Roll around to try to smother out the flames. The executive who coined that safety campaign slogan should be very proud because we really do remember it all these years later.
What’s ironic is that I began to think how the same advice could apply to us during the Christmas season. (And no, I haven’t been hittin’ the egg nog, though I might be a little drunk with the Spirit!—Eph. 5:18) :-)
It’s well-documented that many people face the holidays with a sense of dread. Prayer requests for peace, or at least no fights, are voiced in Sunday school classes and church hallways. It seems that in some cases, visiting with family actually produces stress and high-blood pressure instead of the peace and joy Jesus brings. I’d wager that most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the continuum—that even though we’re not as bad as the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, we’re also not a Normal Rockwell portrait of familial perfection.
Family relationships are unique. We get to choose our friends, but family? They’re chosen for us, right? And the tension sometimes produced by that leaves us vulnerable to attack; family gatherings can be just as much a spiritual battleground as anywhere else, maybe more so.
But take heart. Psalm 76:3 says, “There he has broken the fiery arrows of the enemy, the shields and swords and weapons of war.” So how can we break those fiery arrows and deal with any dysfunctional flare ups? Why not Stop, Drop, and Roll?
Stop: When Uncle Fred’s on the 18th minute of his monologue on why the other political party is a bunch of idiots, politely excuse yourself and find some privacy. No one over the age of ten will bother you if you stop and retreat to the bathroom for a few minutes.
Drop: When you’ve found sanctuary, Drop it all at the feet of Jesus—whether you literally drop to you knees or just drop the front you may have been putting on. Fight fire with fire and allow the flame of His Spirit to emanate from you. Recognize that He placed these relationships in your life for a reason, and seek His will to not just survive them for a day, but to enrich them for an eternity.
Roll (twice!): First, roll into action. Even though God’s will is sometimes difficult to determine, especially quickly, there’s always one constant—LOVE one another! When you “dropped” and plugged into Him, you no doubt soaked up some love that you can now pass on to others. Second, even if someone’s unlovable, let irritations roll off. Did Aunt Louise just insult your sweater? Let it go and present “your other cheek” (Luke 6:29) by agreeing that maybe it’s time to donate it to Goodwill. (And also choose to take the high road by NOT reminding her she gave it to you last year!)
And so, beloved Sisters, as you embark on your Christmas family get-togethers and begin to feel the flame of dysfunction that every family experiences to a certain extent, remember to Stop, Drop, and Roll. It can save your (spiritual) life! And it may just save someone else’s when they see the evidence of Immanuel in you.
Lord, let the only flames that touch us at our family gatherings this Christmas be the fire of the Holy Spirit living in us and through us, warming those around us. That’s one fire we DON’T want to put out! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Be proactive. Before you hit the road, identify and list the things that have driven you crazy at past gatherings. Pray over each one, claiming God’s promise that “love covers a multitude of sin” (I Peter 4:8) as your own. During festivities, don’t forget to Stop, Drop, and Roll.
Job 18:5, “The lamp of the wicked is snuffed out; the flame of his fire stops burning.” (NIV)
Proverbs 17:9, “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”(NLT)
Colossians 3:12-13, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (NLT)
Proverbs 17:1, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” (NIV)