Friday, December 16, 2011

Give the Gift of Prayer This Year

By Chris Hammond, MS, IMH

I don’t know about you, but every year I struggle with finding the perfect gift for my family and friends. It is almost a mission to seek out the right gift balancing between the person’s needs, wants, and talents. When the right gift is discovered it is pure joy to watch them open it and it is in moments like that when it is truly better to give then to receive.

This year as finances have become tighter, I find myself less interested in all of the bargains, deals, extra shopping hours and countless searches on the internet. Rather it has become a time of self reflection onto the meaning of Christmas rather than the gift giving of Christmas. When I recall the best gifts I have received during the year, it is the rare moment when a friend tells me they have been praying for me without my prompting and without any knowledge of my present circumstances. Those moments are precious to me and I can remember every one of them with great clarity far better than I can remember the gifts I received from Christmas even just last year.

So this year, I’m going to give to my family and friends the gift of prayer. Not in a showy way or prideful manner that says “I’m more Christian than you”, not in a gossipy or need to know the details of their life manner, but rather a simple personal email with the below prayer. This prayer was taken from the first chapter of Colossians and it was Paul’s prayer for his fellow believers. While reading the passage, it occurred to me that many times I pray for circumstances rather than character, relief from stress rather than strength, and change rather than clarity. But no more, here is my prayer.

May God bless this season of your life through (Col. 1:8-12):
• Thanksgiving for your faith
• Knowing His will for your life
• Gaining spiritual wisdom and understanding
• Living to honor and please Him
• Learning more knowledge of who God is
• Increasing in strength for endurance & patience
• Filling you with joy and thankfulness

Let me invite you to consider a similar prayer for your family and friends this year, perhaps in addition to or in replacement for a gift. Just imagine for a moment the change that could occur during your family visits if you prayed this prayer for each family member before gathering together. Maybe, just maybe, it might be the best Christmas yet.

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Chris Hammond is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at LifeWorks Group w/ over 15 years of experience as a counselor, mentor & teacher for children, teenagers & adults.

Reprint Permission- If this article helps you, please share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2011), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit http://www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005"

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

G U I D A N C E

When I meditated on the word guidance, I kept seeing "dance" at the end of the word. I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing.

When two people try to lead, nothing feels right.

The movement doesn't flow with the music, and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky.

When one person realizes and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music.

One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing lightly in one direction or another.

It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully.

The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person and gentle guidance and skill from the other.

My eyes drew back to the word guidance.

When I saw "G," I thought of God, followed by "u" and "i."

"God, "u" and "i" dance."! God, you, and I dance.

This statement is what guidance means to me.

As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance about my life.

Once again, I became willing to let God lead.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

We Wish You a “Mary” Christmas

By Chris Hammond, MS, IMH

It’s that time of the year again when the list of things to be done grows by the minute, plans are changed again and again until the last minute, and stress over finances, family, and friends is at an all time high. There is too much to do, too much to see, too many places to be, and far too many expectations to be met. The demands of work, family, friends, and even church push us to a panic frenzy to meet and exceed those demands but at what expense?

When did this season, the season of joy, the season of celebration, the season of giving and the season of bonding become the season of anxiety over unmet expectations and financial pressure, the season of depression over the loss of loved ones, and the season of trampling over others to make a purchase? “Merry Christmas” is not so merry anymore. Rather than trying to put the “Merry” back into Christmas, I would propose a different type of “Mary”. Jesus refers to Mary in Luke 10:38-42 when he informs Martha that she is worried and upset over the details of preparing a meal while her sister Mary sits a listens to Him talk. She has chosen the better path, one of quiet listening instead of hurrying around.

Has anyone seen my calendar? Take a moment to glance over your calendar right now and see just how full it is with events, parties, and special gatherings. If it is like mine, it is frightening and double booked for several nights and events. With all of this running around there is not much time to sit and reflect on the true purpose of Christmas and even less time devoted to spending with just your immediate family. But you can choose the Mary way instead of the Martha way by adjusting your calendar to spend more time with the most important people in your life.

Can you ever have enough Christmas decorations? Yes Christmas decorations are fun and do help to put you in the mood for Christmas but when you find yourself angry at your spouse for not helping with the outside lights, frustrated at the kids for breaking a favorite ornament, or annoyed at the cat for destroying the bottom of yet another tree, they are adding to your stress level. Decorations are meant to be fun but if they are not, then don’t add them. Martha would be decorating and redecorating, Mary would not.

Of course we are doing another family picture with Santa! Family pictures are frequently exchanged this time of year and they are always full of smiles and happy faces but life is rarely full of smiles and happy faces. In fact, I have yet to know of a family who does not go through some struggle in any given year yet we pretend that everything is fine. This is most hurtful to those who have lost a loved one in the last year and are still struggling with grief. Martha tried to live up to everyone else’s expectations by preparing a great meal, but Mary chose to focus on the one person that mattered most, Jesus.

This year take some time to evaluate your traditions and expectations. Read the section in Luke about Mary and Martha and ask yourself, are you more like Mary or Martha? Then make the better choice.



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Chris Hammond is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at LifeWorks Group w/ over 15 years of experience as a counselor, mentor & teacher for children, teenagers & adults.

Reprint Permission- If this article helps you, please share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2011), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit http://www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005"