Another New Year Knocks Where to Take Your Anxiety About Tomorrow by Marshall Segal

Why does Christmas joy turn so quickly into new-year anxiety?

Often, it’s because what felt like joy at Christmas was not anchored very deeply in Christ after all. He was invited and welcome, on our terms, as we were trying to wrap our fears in paper, hide our trials under the tree, and drown our sorrows in eggnog. We thought it was all about baby Jesus, but we were merely covering our burdens for a couple weeks with lights and garlands and activity. We were too afraid to really trust him and cast our anxieties on him.

Then January 1 comes knocking again — responsibilities to resume, decisions to be made, resolutions to be made and kept, procrastination to be forsaken. Anxiety suddenly casts a dark shadow on our joy, and our hearts struggle to withstand it.

The reason many of us feel so insecure and anxious at the end of another year is that we’ve taken gifts meant to lead us to God, and looked to them for the strength, hope, clarity, and purpose only God can give.

Earnestly I Seek You

When King David found himself with a dry and anxious soul, he knew where to go:

My soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:6)

At his lowest moments, when the future looked bleak and shaky, David didn’t stuff his anxieties under a new gym membership, fad diet, or another short-lived resolution. He crawled to the only well that had ever truly satisfied, looking to drink deeply of living water. He let suffering and opposition and heartache carry him on a stretcher of weakness to God.

If we let our anxieties and thirsts lead us to God himself, he will graciously provide what we truly need at the beginning of another new year. As David testifies in the rest of the psalm, God will give us strength, but not our own; hope, but at great cost; clarity, but not control; and glory, but not for ourselves.

Strength for the Weary

It may feel like the strength we need most today is measured in meals consumed or minutes slept, but the strength we need most will always be a spiritual power and resolve to persevere through trials and war against sin and temptation.

The enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.
I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you. (Psalm 143:3–6)

When David ran out of his own resources — worn out by fear and opposition — he didn’t dig deeper in himself. He stretched out his empty hands to the one who had worked and fought for him so many times before.

Hope for the Sinful

David knows he is not merely a victim of sin committed against him, but that he himself deserves God’s anger — not compassion or support — because of sins he has committed.

Answer me quickly, O Lord!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust. (Psalm 143:7–8)

The secret ingredient to David’s joy is his awareness that a sinful man like him should never get to experience this kind of happiness. God would be righteous to turn away from David, but he delights instead to shower David with steadfast love.

Clarity for the Future

David faced a hundred impossible decisions every day, for sure while he was king, but perhaps even more while on the run. He had to exercise wisdom and discernment at all times, and under incredible pressure in the most dangerous situations.

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul. . . .
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground! (Psalm 143:8, 10)

The clarity we need to make difficult decisions today, especially as we enter another year, comes not mainly from meticulous planning or budgeting or scheduling, but from lifting our eyes up to God — knowing him more through what he says (in his word), waiting on him in prayer, deepening our joy in him.

Glory for the Father

The most freeing part of David’s joy in God is that it is not ultimately about him. Part of what makes happiness so elusive is that we’re always tempted to try and put ourselves at the center of it. The deepest human happiness, though, has been liberated from that temptation, and loves instead to hide in and behind the living God.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant. (Psalm 143:11–12)

Make your name great through me. Show the world how merciful and generous and powerful you can be. Even when David pleads for deliverance and safety, he wants God, not David, to be glorified. He wants his people (and his enemies) to see that God did it. Do you regularly ask God to move in your life — your relationships, your neighborhood, your ministry, your work — in ways that magnify him, and not you? If his greatest glory is our greatest joy, we’ll begin to pray more like David prays.

The end of the year is a great time to remember why we exist, and to re-center our lives practically around that one great purpose. If you’ve found yourself drifting away from God and an appetite for his glory, it’s even more of a joy problem than a discipline problem. Ask what treasures have robbed you of the deeper joy of living for his name’s sake. And as you restore and grow your joy in God — your soul’s thirst for him like a parched land — let it lead you through trials, away from sin, into wisdom and discernment, all for his glory.


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The Story of “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” By Dr. Jeff Sanders

I have loved singing this song at Christmas time.  The tune is slow and majestic and “haunting” and thrilling.  The theology of the words is impeccable.  The song is ancient. . . . and the author is unknown.  We have no idea who wrote this.  Just some monk sometime before 800 A.D.  A time in history we often call “the Dark Ages.”  Civilization, it seemed, had broken down and mankind was sliding backwards into more chaos, ignorance, pestilence, and unending warfare.  But someone, somewhere in a monastery in Europe, penned a song that would reach across the ages to encourage and thrill millions even in the 21st century.  Who knew?

During those “Dark Ages” the Bible was inaccessible for most people.   But the monk who composed this song must have had a full and rich knowledge of Scripture.  The song displays a wealth of phrases from Old Testament prophecies that speak of the coming of the Messiah.  He is “the rod of Jesse,” the “Dayspring from on high,” the “Key of David,” and “Wisdom from on high.”  For the people of the Medieval world who did not have a Bible to read, this was a teaching tool, expressing the hope and truth of Christmas— the fulfillment of ancient prophecies in the birth of Christ.

But how did this tune become so popular worldwide?  In the early 19th century an Anglican priest named John Mason Neale was reading through an ancient book of hymns called the “Psalteroium Cantionum Catholicarum.”  (Some people golf for relaxation; Fr. Neale read ancient hymns I suppose.)  Rev. Neale was a brilliant, but frail gentleman.  He could write and speak over twenty languages (!), and should have been a leading scholar/preacher of the Anglican church.  Apparently many were jealous of his intellectual prowess, and so through political chicanery he was shunted off to labor in some forgotten church in the Madeira islands near Africa.

But he did not despair.

On a paltry salary he established an orphanage, a school for girls, and a ministry to evangelize and reclaim prostitutes.  And while he was tirelessly educating and evangelizing, Rev. Neale came across this hymn of faith in a Latin text.  The tune that went with the text was from a 15th century French Franciscan convent of nuns ministering in Portugal.  Rev. Neale easily translated the Latin into English and gave the world a song.  Soon his translation made it to England, and from there “across the pond” to America and around the world.

A gift was penned by unnamed monks over 1200 years ago.  Given a tune by nuns in an obscure convent.  Rediscovered by a forgotten evangelist off the coast of Africa.   The song of Emmanuel— “God with us.”  Hidden for centuries but now enjoyed by millions worldwide.  No one does it alone.  God is the One who orchestrates history.  And the theme of His song is “Emmanuel.”

O Come Thou Dayspring come and cheer/ our spirits by Thine Advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night/ and death’s dark shadows put to flight;

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011, 08:33 AM

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The Real Reason Charles Dickens Wrote A Christmas Carol By John Broich

Marley's ghost appearing to Scrooge. Illustration for Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," 19th century.

After a particularly bleak year, millions in the English-speaking world and beyond will seek some comfort by watching a converted miser in a nightshirt, skipping about as light as a feather. “Whoop! Hallo! …What’s to-day my fine fellow?”

Published 173 years ago this month, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was an instant bestseller, followed by countless print, stage and screen productions. Victorians called it “a new gospel,” and reading or watching it became a sacred ritual for many, without which the Christmas season cannot materialize.

But A Christmas Carol’s seemingly timeless transcendence hides the fact that it was very much the product of a particular moment in history, its author meaning to weigh in on specific issues of the day. Dickens first conceived of his project as a pamphlet, which he planned on calling, “An Appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child.” But in less than a week of thinking about it, he decided instead to embody his arguments in a story, with a main character of pitiable depth. So what might have been a polemic to harangue, instead became a story for which audiences hungered.

Dickens set out to write his pamphlet-turned-book in spring 1843, having just read government report on child labor in the United Kingdom. The report took the form of a compilation of interviews with children—compiled by a journalist friend of Dickens—that detailed their crushing labors.

Dickens read the testimony of girls who sewed dresses for the expanding market of middle class consumers; they regularly worked 16 hours a day, six days a week, rooming—like Martha Cratchit—above the factory floor. He read of 8-year-old children who dragged coal carts through tiny subterranean passages over a standard 11-hour workday. These were not exceptional stories, but ordinary. Dickens wrote to one of the government investigators that the descriptions left him “stricken.”

This new, brutal reality of child labor was the result of revolutionary changes in British society. The population of England had grown 64% between Dickens’ birth in 1812 and the year of the child labor report. Workers were leaving the countryside to crowd into new manufacturing centers and cities. Meanwhile, there was a revolution in the way goods were manufactured: cottage industry was upended by a trend towards workers serving as unskilled cogs laboring in the pre-cursor of the assembly line, hammering the same nail or gluing the same piece—as an 11-year-old Dickens had to do—hour after hour, day after day.

More and more, employers thought of their workers as tools as interchangeable as any nail or gluepot. Workers were becoming like commodities: not individual humans, but mere resources, their value measured to the ha-penny by how many nails they could hammer in an hour. But in a time of dearth—the 1840s earned the nickname “The Hungry ‘40s”—the poor took what work they could arrange. And who worked for the lowest wages? Children.

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Popular theories about how—or whether—to help the poor often made things worse. The first was the widespread sense that poor people tended to be so because they were lazy and immoral, and that helping them would only encourage their malingering. If they were to be helped, it should be under conditions so awful as to discouraged people from seeking that help. The new workhouses were seen as the perfect solution—where families were split up, food was minimal and work painful. “Those who are badly off,” says the unreformed Scrooge, “must go there.”

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The Story Behind the Carol: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing!” by Tyler Scarlett |

Here’s a few, little-known facts about Christmas

Did you know that Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870?   In fact, Congress actually met in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution.  (Furthermore, did you know that Christmas wasn’t declared a state holiday in Virginia until 1890?)

Did you know that in 1822 the United States Postal Service wanted to outlaw the delivery of Christmas cards because the overwhelming number of seasonal mail put such an unusual strain on their resources and manpower?

Did you know that from 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was completely outlawed in Boston, and law-breakers were fined five shillings (approx. $0.40) for celebrating it?

And did you know that the singing of Christmas carols — as we now know them — was abolished in England by the Puritan Parliament in 1649?  It was under the leadership of the famous Oliver Cromwell that this was done.

As a result of Parliament’s ruling, Christmas hymns and carols were scarce between the late 17th and the early 18th Century in England. Charles Wesley’s “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” was one of the few written during that period that became popular wherever Christians gathered during Advent. After Cromwell died in 1658 and the monarchy was soon restored, the former decision to prohibit the singing of Christmas carols was abandoned.  Thus, hymns written to honor the birth of Jesus began to appear and have continued to this day.

Wesley’s “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” is one of the most popular Christmas carols today.  It can even be heard in both of the classic films It’s a Wonderful Life and A Charlie Brown Christmas.  But did you know that the carol is completely different today than originally written?  Did you know that both Wesley’s words and tune have been changed?

The first line of the hymn originally read, “Hark! how all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of Kings.”  Welkin is an old English word that means “vault of heaven.” In 1753, George Whitefield, a famous English preacher, rewrote the first line of the carol into the modern version, “Hark! the herald angels sing — Glory to the newborn King!” And this, of course, is how we sing it today.

Despite Whitefield’s presumption that angels sing, the song has remarkable theological accuracy, depth, and richness not often found in carols.  (Bible students love to point out that nowhere in the Bibles does it ever record that angels actually sing.  It doesn’t say they don’t sing, it just never says they do sing.  Confused?  Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  I still think that Whitefield’s version has a better ring to it.  Try singing and rhyming the phrase, “Hark the herald angels mentioned…”)

If you listen closely to the lyrics you’ll notice that the carol gives a full explanation of the gospel.  We often sing just three verses of the song, but there is a fourth, lesser known, verse that exists.  The fourth verse says:


Come, Desire of nations come, Fix in us Thy humble home;

Rise, the Woman’s conquering Seed, Bruise in us the Serpent’s head.

Adam’s likeness now efface: Stamp Thine image in its place;

Second Adam, from above, Reinstate us in thy love.

Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King.


However, what this song had in rich lyrics, it greatly lacked in melody.  Wesley insisted that his hymn be sung to a slow, somber, and “boring” religious tune.  It wasn’t until the words were paired with a more upbeat melody that it became popular.

The current tune for this carol was composed by Mendelssohn, who himself was a Messianic Jew. It is from the second chorus of a cantata he wrote in 1840.  The cantata was originally written to commemorate Johann Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press. Mendelssohn strictly warned that his composition was to only be used in a purely secular manner. However, in 1856, long after both Wesley and Mendelssohn were dead, Dr. William Cummings ignored both of their wishes and joined the lyrics by Wesley with the music by Mendelssohn for the first time. As a result, the modern version of this beautiful, gospel-centered carol was born and generations have been singing it ever since.


Posted: December 12. 2012



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Jesus Isn’t Threatened by Your Christmas Gifts By Tim Challies


Christmas is fast approaching and, not surprisingly, my kids are looking forward to seeing what’s under the tree. The girls, at least, are still young enough that they are waiting with bated breath to learn what treasures they’ll be receiving. I love this. I enjoy their anticipation and am excited to experience their joy as they unwrap what Aileen and I have bought for them. It promises to be a good morning.

At the same time, I think we all feel a little bit of tension between the dual purposes of Christmas—the giving of gifts and the birth of the Savior. It is this time of year when we encounter all kinds of articles about the real gift of Christmas and when we are warned about spending too much money or buying gifts that are too lavish. We need to keep Christ in Christmas and not succumb to materialism, right? We need to ensure that we don’t look forward too much to unwrapping new toys, new clothes, new books. The implicit messaging is that Christmas is a kind of either/or proposition in which we can either emphasize Jesus or emphasize gifts. But one always threatens to displace the other.

I disagree with this. I don’t think there has to be any tension at all between Jesus and gifts, between a Christmas celebrating the gift of Jesus and a Christmas celebrating the gift of gifts. Both are good. And if both are good, there is no necessary competition between them. I don’t think we gain anything as Christians when we continually speak of this tension or when we load people with guilt who are excited to find out what’s under the tree.

Jesus isn’t threatened by Christmas gifts. He doesn’t get better when we diminish or downplay them, either by eschewing them altogether or by contenting ourselves with gifts that are frugal, that cost us nearly nothing and really aren’t that good. We don’t threaten the wonder of the incarnation when we give nice gifts to the ones we love and when we look forward to receiving them. We don’t need to spiritualize these gifts by assuring ourselves that Jesus is the greatest gift of all. We can just enjoy them on their own terms, we can enjoy them as one of God’s innumerable blessings to us. I’m convinced God is thrilled when we give good gifts, when we receive good gifts, when we enjoy good gifts. He’s a loving Father and what loving father doesn’t take joy in the joy of his children?

Christmas falls on a Sunday this year and I think this gives us an especially good opportunity to see how all of Christmas integrates with our faith, with the Christian life. In the Challies home we will undoubtedly get up early, woken by an excited little girl. We’ll head downstairs and the kids will pull the trinkets out of their stockings. Then we will exchange gifts—nice gifts, even (though, of course, we shop smart and keep things within a reasonable budget). We will eat a special breakfast together. Then we will go to church and worship Jesus, celebrating the marvel of God made man. After it all we will return home to a feast. We will do it all, every bit of it, to the glory of God. We will do it all as one great, day-long event that unashamedly enjoys all of God’s gifts.



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10 Tricks, Tips, And Techniques To Beat Writer’s Block

Writer’s block can happen at any time, usually just as you’re about to sit down in front of the computer and type your masterpiece. It doesn’t matter if you have a five-page personal essay, 10-page short story, or your master’s thesis ahead of you; sometimes, the words you put to the page simply don’t come together. That’s when it’s time to take a strategic look at how to get past your writer’s block.

Here are 10 helpful ticks and tricks to help you get your writerly engine going again!

10. Unplug for a Little Bit

Instead of distracting yourself by checking social media or reading the news, unplug from your computer for a bit. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and start writing the old-fashioned way. The physical act of putting words to paper actually increases brain power by making more neuronal connections within your brain, so this may foster a more efficient thinking process.

Via Brendan DeBrincat

9. Change Your Surroundings

Try to change your surroundings to give your senses something new to interpret. Set up on your back porch, your favorite coffeehouse, the local library or at a friend’s house. See if inspiration hits you along the way as you contemplate what to write.

Via Vladimir Kud

8. Read!

Read for 30 minutes before you even start writing. It doesn’t matter what you decide to read, but concepts from another person’s perspective may get an idea churning inside your head. Make sure you enjoy the topic you read, whether you delve into the latest news, Shakespeare’s sonnets or essays from Stephen Hawking. Inspiration may jump out at you from any source.

Via ATL10Trader

7. Do Something Physical

Engage in an activity that has nothing to do with reading or writing. Exercise, take a walk outside, clean up the kitchen, play with your cat or do anything mundane. Instead of staring at a screen or a book, give your body something else to do and get your blood pumping. After this physical activity, sit back down and get ready to write.

Via Tim Green

6. Start in the Middle

Start in the middle or at the end of your piece instead of the beginning. Go back to your outline, and see what jumps out at you. Start with the most interesting aspect first, and work from there. The rest of the piece should come to you eventually.

Via Michael Mol


5. Find Your Inspiration

Sit back and find inspiration in your workspace. Examine your child’s scribbles, the motivational poster on the wall, the representation of a famous piece of art or the wonderful gift your spouse gave you as an anniversary present five years ago. Write down the thoughts and feelings these objects invoke, and see what happens to your writing project.

Via Peter Alfred Hess

4. Dive Into The Problem

Problem-solve your writer’s block by taking stock of your emotional state. Write down how you feel at that moment, then get to the bottom of those feelings. Why does your writing feel blocked? Do you feel frustrated or angry? Play armchair psychologist, and find out what makes your feelings tick before trying to compose your next piece. Clear your mind of all the clutter — in a logical and rational way — so you can focus on writing.

Via Isengardt

3. Give Yourself a Deadline

Create a realistic deadline to trick your brain into getting something done. Set a goal of 100 words in 30 minutes, set an alarm clock or a timer, and start your engines. Many people work well under pressure and this can help you find out if you’re that type of person.

Via Globochem3x1minus1

2. Get Into a Routine

Write at the same time every day, no matter what that time happens to be during your daily routine. Whether you sit at your desk at 9 a.m., 2 p.m., or 8 p.m., get your brain ready to write at the same time of day. People who love routines can get in a groove, tailor daily activities around the most important tasks of the day and clear out schedules to make room for writing.

Via Maurizio Pesce

1. Start a Conversation

Talk to the people around you, such as your spouse, best friend, workout buddy or a co-worker, to see if the light bulb comes on at some point. Discuss any topic, not just the one you’re writing about, but don’t bring up the fact that you’re writing something. Another person’s perspective on topics you enjoy can lead to a breakthrough that clears your writer’s block. To help you along the way to better writing, read more stories and tips for aspiring writers here.

Via Sonny Abesamis

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The Longings Of One Physically Disabled Woman


The Outspoken TULIP

Commonwealth Mall Sept 2012 026Being a physically disabled Christian often requires responding graciously to assumptions that my able-bodied brothers and sisters in Christ make. One friend envied all the extra time I have to study God’s Word (never mind that everything takes longer and my Personal Care Attendant schedule limits the hours I have on my computer). Countless people think of me as a prayer warrior (never mind that I struggle more with prayer than any other spiritual discipline). And almost everyone assumes I wish I could walk (believe me, I’d much rather be rid of my speech defect).

But the assumption that most bothers me is that I can’t wait for my resurrection body.

Friends often talk about having foot races with me in heaven. They envision me pushing them around in wheelbarrows (as payback for all the times they pushed me around in my manual wheelchair), and they anticipate dancing with me…

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