Reason to SMILE #344 – Christmas Edition: The LIGHTS

There’s a house on my drive home from work that is decked with a huge display of Christmas lights. Glowing holiday characters and flashing trees fill the yard. And if you tune into a particular radio frequency, you can even hear Christmas music playing along with the blinking lights. This house is a bright and cheery beacon of Christmas spirit on an otherwise dark and quiet stretch of road.

The lights of Christmas are beautiful and whether it’s a simple string of white bulbs draped over the azalea bushes or a grandiose exhibit of colorful luminaries dancing wildly to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol of the Bells”, you cannot deny the cheer these lights bring to a dark and dreary world. And for the few brief moments we are enjoying their brilliant display along a neighborhood street or basking in their soft glow around the family Christmas tree, we find a sense of comfort, peace and joy. We forget our worries and we find a SMILE.

Then we drive down the road or unplug the tree lights and the darkness surrounds us once again, stealing away our security and contentment.

Oh, but the respite we find while enjoying the lights of Christmas does not have to end when their gleam can no longer be seen. The darkness does not have to overrun our lives. For there is a Light that brings unwavering joy and everlasting peace. This Light reaches the darkest crevices of our lives, drives out the shadows of our hopelessness and despair and brings hope to a weary world, to a weary soul, to a weary you and to a weary me.

This True Light of Christmas is Jesus. He is the reason for our celebration, the reason for our joy. He is the reason we can SMILE in the midst of our darkest nights.

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:2-3a, 6 (NIV)

A tiny baby born in Bethlehem pierced the darkness of a dying world more than two thousand years ago. Though the shadow of death followed Him, the Light of the Son of God could not be extinguished, even on the cross.

That Light still shines brightly for all to see today. Though the shadows of darkness threaten to overtake us, we’ve no need to fear. The True Light of Christmas has conquered the darkness so you and I can have life – a life filled with hope, a life filled with peace, a life filled with joy!


Supernatural Peace

Peace – oh, how we take it for granted! But when we do not have it, oh, how we realize it’s great worth!

The kicker is we don’t have to live without peace in our lives. That’s right. We don’t have to live in turmoil or in fear. Peace is readily available. No, it’s not a life without pain or troubles, not a world without war or strife but an inexplicable calm in the midst of our troubling circumstances, a steadiness that holds us when our fears overwhelm. This peace comes only from the Lord.

In John 14:27, Jesus says,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

There it is, folks! The Lord has already given it to us. So, why are we shaken when bad news comes our way? Why do we worry when our bank accounts are drained and our livelihoods are taken from us? Why are we consumed with anger and hatred when the world turns its back?

Maybe, the problem is our focus.

Take a look at Peter. I know you’ve read the story. I know you’ve heard sermon after sermon and already know the illustration I’m about to give. But the Word of God is an eternal fountain of knowledge and truth (Proverbs 2:6, Psalm 119:130; John 17:17; Matthew 24:35). His Word provides light and understanding each time it is read so, this well-known story of Peter walking on the water to Jesus may just be worth another look.

In Matthew 14, the Bible tells us of a time when the disciples were in the midst of a lake fishing. The weather took a turn for the worse and the waves began to grow higher and higher. Suddenly, the disciples saw a figure walking on the water toward them. Someone piped up, “It’s a ghost!” And, of course, that had to be true so fear overtook the disciples. We know, however, that it wasn’t a ghost; it was Jesus coming to the disciples’ rescue. Knowing their fears, Jesus cried out,

“Don’t be afraid. It is I.”

Well, good ol’ Peter challenged, “If it is you, Lord, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus beckoned and Peter jumped out of the boat and began walking on the water toward Him. Everything was fine and dandy as long as Peter kept his eyes on his Rescuer. But the waves were crashing in on him and he just had to turn his head. As soon as he did, Peter began to sink.

The story continues with Jesus pointing out Peter’s lack of faith, pulling him out of the water and returning him to the boat. In the end, Jesus stepped into the boat, the storm subsided and the disciples once again smacked their foreheads and said, “Wow! This really is God’s Son.” (Oh, how we are so much like Jesus’ disciples! No matter how many times Jesus reveals His sovereignty, love and faithfulness, we are surprised at each revelation as if we doubted His promises were ever true. But that is a subject for another time…)

Peace – it’s all about our focus. Peter was fine when he kept his eyes on Jesus. The waves were still crashing in around him. The storm was still brewing but Peter remained steady. The problem arose when his focus was diverted. Peter forfeited his peace when he turned his attention toward his circumstances. How often we do the same. We survey our situation and conclude there is no hope. We surrender to the fear, to the helplessness, to the unknowing and we begin to sink. In fact, we begin to drown. Fortunately, our Rescuer knows our weakness and reaches out His hand to save us.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7

Peace – Supernatural Peace – that surpasses all of our understanding and transcends any circumstances can be yours. Your situation may remain the same, the problems may still exist but your life can be filled with peace if you’ll turn your focus from the waves crashing around you and fix your eyes on the only One who can steady your heart and mind.

In a song of praise to God found in Isaiah 26:3, we find the words,

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

These words remind me of another song I sang as a child that says,

“I’ve got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart,

Down in my heart,

Down in my heart.

I’ve got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart,

Down in my heart to stay.” ¹

Don’t you want that lasting peace?

Take your eyes off the storm and focus on Jesus.

¹Lyrics by George W. Cooke

When I Trust Him

When I Trust Him - If you’re ready for your life to change, you have to change where you place your trust. |

When I trust Him,

My steps become a little lighter;

My breathing becomes a bit easier;

My thinking becomes a bit clearer.


When I trust Him,

I can let go of my burdens;

I can find peace in the midst of my storms;

I can meet uncertainty with courage.


When I trust Him,

I learn to face my fears with boldness;

I learn to rely on His strength to sustain me;

I learn to believe in the impossible.


When I trust Him,

I don’t have to live in shame;

I don’t have to be bound by my failures and regrets;

I don’t have to be constrained by the expectations of others.


When I trust Him,

I begin to love myself;

I begin to see beauty in my weaknesses;

I begin to find acceptance and self-worth.


When I trust Him,

I know that I am never alone;

I know that I always have someone to depend on;

I know that I always have arms to run to for shelter, rest, comfort, encouragement.


When I trust Him,

My sins are forgiven;

My hope is restored;

My life is forever changed.


When I trust Him…


Yes, I trust Him…


Lord, give me strength to trust you…


I don’t want to be the same.

His vs. Mine

His vs. Mine - How does your faithfulness compare? |

He will cover you with His feathers;

you will take refuge under His wings.

His faithfulness will be a protective shield.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭91:4‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Did you catch that?

HIS faithfulness will be my protection.


Because my faithfulness is fickle. It fluctuates with my circumstances. It wanes as dark times invade. It swells when the winds of good favor blow.

My faithfulness falters in the midst of a battle. It must be bolstered by the prayers of others. It must be stoked and fanned into mere sparks.

No, my faithfulness does not shield me from my enemies or push back the darkness.

HIS faithfulness does.

His faithfulness is never changing. It is not determined by my merit or my righteousness. It is not biased or self-serving.

His faithfulness cannot be measured. It has no limits. It’s reach is higher than the heavens and deeper than the depths of the oceans.

HIS faithfulness offers a shield of protection, a refuge in the storms of life, and warmth and security in times of trouble because this is who God is.

But mine?

My misplaced, feeble faithfulness so often does not accept His offer because this is who I am.

Whoever rests in the shadow

of the Most High God

will be kept safe by the Mighty One.

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭91:1‬ ‭NIRV‬‬

The Small Stuff

The Small Stuff - What to do when the small stuff becomes huge stuff |

As my younger son was growing up, I had to find creative ways to deal with his, well, let’s just say, “antics.” Social media was my outlet and I would “vent” by posting daily updates on what my kid was up to. Most of the posts were about his behavior at school, for example:

2nd Grade Saga: Day 80 – Morning Conversation
ALEX: Maggie was Model Student this month. Do you know who the model student was last month?
ME: Nope. Who?
ALEX: Maggie’s best friend. You know, mom, model student doesn’t go in order.
ME: I know. You have to be on dark green every day to be the model student.
ALEX: Yeah. I don’t know how to do that!


Such was the theme throughout his entire elementary school years. <SIGH>

Other times, the posts were about my child’s unique perspective on the world around him:

3rd Grade Boys and Pizza:
Alex opens up a box of pizza and sings “Aaaaaaaah” in his best angelic voice.
He closes the box and opens it again. “Aaaaaaaah,” he sings.
“It would be cool if it did that every time you opened the box, wouldn’t it?” he asked. “I wish there was an app for that!”


I learned to truly enjoy how his little brain thought!

This kid always kept me on my toes. He challenged me to see the silver lining in every situation, to turn what could be worrisome mom moments into opportunities to enjoy my child’s rough edges and pointy corners and to laugh when everything was telling me to give up.

And many times, his crazy antics ended up teaching me much, much more:

Alex’ Summertime Antics:

Tonight at church, we learned that if Jesus can calm a terrible storm by saying three simple words, “Peace! Be still!”, He can surely calm the storms of our lives (help us through tough times). So, I asked the kids to tell me some tough things that they go through that God can help them with. The kids gave great answers – school, losing a friend, the death of loved ones, breaking an arm or leg, parents getting divorced.

Then, Alex raised his hand…

“When you drop your iPod on your bed and it bounces up and hits you in the eye!”

One of the other teachers looked at me and said, “That’s YOUR kid!”

Yes, he is my kid! And he had a very good point – whether he realized it or not.

There is absolutely nothing too small to take to God in prayer. If it matters to you, it matters to Him. He cares about everything that is going on in your life.

We tend to believe we don’t need to waste God’s time on the small stuff, like our child’s behavior at school or loosing our car keys or getting hit in the eye with a bouncing iPod. But it’s often the little things like these that weigh us down the most. We throw these small troubles over our shoulders and say, “I got this.” Then, when the next little thing comes along, we throw it over our shoulders, too. And we keep adding and adding and adding until all those little problems that we thought for sure we could handle become a huge burden that we can no longer bear.

We could save ourselves a whole lot of heart (and back) ache by just taking each little trouble to the Lord. You’re not going to offend God by bringing what you think is a tiny matter to Him in prayer. No, God will say “Peace! Be Still!” to any size storm – even a little rain shower. That’s how amazing our God is!

So, what are you waiting for? Take Alex’ advice about the small stuff and start unloading those shoulders of yours. Then, get ready to enjoy God’s peace!

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:7‬

One Wish

One Wish - Can peace truly be a reality? |

We were driving home from church. It was a stormy night and from the silence in the back seat of the car, I could tell my soon-to-be 5th Grader’s wheels were spinning.

“If I had fairy godparents,” he began, “I would wish for this storm to go away. You know what else I’d wish for?”

“What?” I inquired.

“I’d wish for world peace!” he declared with great conviction.

Wanting to take advantage of this opportunity to teach my kid a little something, I replied, “You know, if you want world peace, you don’t have to wish for it. It starts with you and me.”

Reminding him of his behavior toward some of the kids at church, I continued, “You can’t have peace by telling everyone to ‘be quiet’ all the time or by tattling on others.”

I paused to see if I’d get a response but after hearing nothing, I concluded my mini lesson for the evening, “We all have to play our part if we want to have world peace.”

Without even the smallest moment of reflection, my son piped up again, “You know what else I’d wish for? I’d wish for the game, Lego Jurassic World.”

So much for that teachable moment!

I really think I should get extra “good parenting” points for trying! Don’t you? 😉


That’s ok. I’ll keep trying. I MUST keep trying! It’s what we all must continue to do.

We must continue to teach the next generation that the pursuit for peace is a worthy endeavor, that peace is worth the fight.

Yes, the fight.

You see, it’s easy to talk the talk, to make our wishes and preach our sermons about living peaceably with all men. Words come easy.

But when push comes to shove, when we’ve logged off of social media, when those that we hate are standing right in front of us, this is where our words are put to the test. This is where the pursuit for peace is accomplished. This is what our children are watching and what the next generation will emulate.

Oh, friends. Peace must be more than a simple wish.

Peace must be an action.

And peace must begin with you and me.


Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness —

without it no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14



Amen - Imagine if we all prayed this way! |

Because these virtues are not second nature – they don’t come easy and they certainly aren’t all the rage.

Because these qualities can make us unpopular – they separate us from the crowd and they are often and easily misunderstood.

Because these characteristics are life-changing! – they make all the difference in our relationships with others, in our view of the world, in our acceptance of ourselves and in our internal and outer struggles for peace.

Because this is how God’s spitting image should act. This is how He intended us to be – loving with our lives, forgiving without record and entrusting it ALL to Him.


Give us eyes that see the best in people;

Give us hearts that forgive the worst;

Give us souls that never lose faith in You.


Let It Go

Let It Go - Troubled? Searching for peace? This is how to find it... |

Cast off your burdens:

Hurl away your troubles;

Force out your worries;

Get rid of all your cares;

Abandon them into the hands of the Father –

No strings attached,

No fingers crossed,

No take backs,

No 50/50 split –

Let it all go.


Walk away;

Don’t look back;

Keep pushing forward;

Enjoy the peaceful rest while HE carries the load –

No strings attached,

No fingers crossed,

No give backs;

No 50/50 split –

He will take it all.


And the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:7‬

Even THIS Day

Even THIS Day - Are you struggling today? I have some encouraging words for you. |

This IS the day the Lord has made.

Yes, even THIS day.

And all the days He made before it have prepared you for today. All the moments of gladness, moments of struggle, moments of doubt, moments of triumph and moments of sorrow that have filled your previous days have built the foundation of strength that will see you through this day.

This IS the day the Lord has made and HE will not allow you to live this day alone.  HE plans to spend it with you. HE intends to experience every moment by your side.  You can walk through this day with confidence for there is nothing in this day that will take its Maker by surprise.

Yes, this IS the day the Lord has made.

No matter what it holds, joy or sadness, healing or pain, celebration or mourning, you can trust the Lord to carry you through.

And in this assurance, you CAN rejoice and be glad!