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Off the Leash, by Phil Ware

    The dog had broken free of his master, who was half a block behind. Leash in hand, his face showed distress and panic. This was far too busy a street to let a dog run free. Yet the more he pursued, the more the mutt pulled away. His dog was off the leash and unaware of his danger.

    Sometime half way through December, we find ourselves looking like this panicked pet owner as our “pet holiday” breaks free and we lose complete control of our lives, our schedules and our sanity.

    Aside from “routine” responsibilities we must accomplish in less time, children (and grandchildren) have school plays, concerts and parties we must attend. We’re invited to church, office, and neighborhood parties. Colds and flu make their ugly presence known. We have gifts to buy. The weather likes to be lousy.

God often fills this hectic time with his unexpected treasures.
    Sound bleak? Then why do we look forward to it so much? Because God often fills this hectic time with his unexpected treasures. That’s what Christmas is all about—God surprising us with life's greatest gifts. The real skill is finding, noticing, and relishing them!

    Since everything of value begins with prayer, let’s use the letters of the word P R A Y E R as an acrostic to help us seize the joy God wants to bless us with this time of year.

P lan — The holiday season runs away with us because we don’t take out our calendars, plan our schedules, and say “no” when needed. Let’s plan on one uninterrupted family night a week to allow everyone to reset their lives and let their “souls catch up with their bodies.”

R est — Rest during stressful times is essential. Rest helps keep our bodies well and our emotions under control. God reserved one day of his creation week to rest. We ignore his principle at our own peril.

A ffirm — Under stress, we are often critical of others. Let’s take time to catch people doing what is right, then affirm them. By choosing to notice the good, we get less caught up in the difficulties around us. God blessed his Son by saying, “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.”

Y outhen — While not a proper word, the principle is important. The exuberance and wild-eyed wonder of young children makes the season fun. Spend time with children. If you don’t have children close at hand, baby sit for a single parent or help with a children's Bible class at church. It will remind you of the blessing and challenge of children and their preciousness to God.

E xpect — Look for God’s gifts. God is leading you by his Spirit and listening to your prayers. He is loving you through the actions of others. Notice these blessings by expecting them. When they occur, thank God for his generosity. Let this be the season when you notice the gifts God routinely pours into your life.

R ejoice — Like Paul told the Philippians, we can find joy in difficulties, hardship, loneliness, disappointment, family stress, travel… Joy is more about attitude and choice than it is about circumstance.

    If we invest a little more in P R A Y E R this season, we will find the joy in our journey and the taste of heaven in our holidays.


HEARTLIGHT® Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
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