Encouragement for Today - December 22, 2011


Danita Hiles

December 22, 2011

Think About What Is
Danita Dalton Hiles

"Whatever is true... whatever is lovely... whatever is right... think about such things..." Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

I've decided that pre-lit Christmas trees are a modern marvel. Three parts of a tree insert together. Three plugs connect into each other, into the wall and voila! An instant, gorgeous, perfectly balanced display! Can you hear the angels singing?

Except of course when it doesn't ...light up, that is.

The day after Thanksgiving, we hauled our Christmas treasures down from the attic; dragged them into the house, box by box. Anticipation ran high as Christmas carols and cinnamon candles filled the air. Two girls and their single momma were excited to get our house all Christmas-y.

The tree was first. Bottom section, check. Middle section, check. Tiny pointed top section — all in place. Plug A into B into C and ... tada! Well, almost.

It was a 'tada!' moment except for three pesky branches that remained dark. Cords were plugged and re-plugged. Still dark. Branches were jiggled and bulbs tested. No lights.

The type A' perfectionist in me was completely frustrated, and it felt like my Christmas cheer was being sucked down a black hole of disappointment. It was a simple thing, yet in that moment the tree symbolized the many areas of my life that were dark, filled with disappointment and out of my control.

My then thirteen year old squinted at the tree, tilted her head and forever changed my perspective with these simple words: "Momma, I know! Don't look at those branches that are dark. Just look at the branches that are lit."

Hmmm, I thought. Looking at the lit branches only, I was reminded of Paul's words today in Philippians 4:8, which encourage us to find what is true and lovely and think on thosethings.

Sure enough, when I concentrated on the twinkling lights, the areas of darkness seemed to disappear. When focused on the working lights, they were so bright, the darkened parts didn't matter much.

It was a great Christmas tree lesson, but one I knew Jesus wanted me to apply in my life too. I have my own dark branches that include widowhood, family health struggles and financial challenges. But lighting my way are other branches overflowing with love — His love and the love of my family. I also have friends, a house to live in, two precious girls to kiss goodnight, flavored coffee, fluffy pillows. The list goes on and on — if I focus on what I have instead of what I don't.

This Christmas, let's purpose together to look at the branches that are lit in our lives instead of thinking on those that aren't.

We will always have things we wish were different. But we also have a choice to concentrate on what isn't or think about what is. Instead of bemoaning our life's lack of Hallmark perfection, let's focus on the lit branches: things like love, sacrifice, time and togetherness.

Instead of heaping more on our to-do list, or trying to achieve an elusive Christmas ideal, let's choose to see the blessings we do have. And if we squint our eyes just right and tilt our heads, life looks pretty bright after all.

Dear Lord, thank You for simple illustrations that help us to see Your truth. You are the light of the world and our hope for the future. Please help me see the things that 'shine' in my life instead of dwelling on the darkness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit with Danita and a group of friends on A Widow's Might, where they share the dark and light branches of their lives each week.

Might you be a bright spot to a child waiting? Light up the world of a child through Compassion International!

The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life by Louie Giglio

Application Steps:
Take time to think on what is true and lovely in your life. Maybe even sit in the dark in front of your lit Christmas tree or some candles and really see the beauty of the light - even if there are dark spaces. Ask God to show you His bright spots in your life as you meditate on our key verse.

Write ten things you can be thankful for.

Light a candle, turn off your lights and play a Christmas carol, really concentrating on the words of hope and peace. A few suggestions: O Holy Night and Joy to the World.

Are there dark areas I need to surrender to the Lord, once and for all?

Is there someone with dark spaces that I can bless with a card, letter or small gift?

Power Verses:
Luke 2:19, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (NIV)

Colossians 3:15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (NIV)

Psalm 16:8, "I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (NIV)

© 2011 by Danita Dalton Hiles. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105

Originally published Thursday, 22 December 2011.