Friday, December 10, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Holiday Conflict, Cheer and Hope

How to Handle Holiday Conflict 
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“…if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” –Proverbs 2:3-6 (ESV)

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, the airport, stores, banks and even some gas stations near where I live had begun decorating for Christmas. These signs foretell the joys of holiday cheer, food, family reunions, generational traditions and introductions of new members of the family.

When I was young, my mother would make a cranberry relish as a savory garnish for the holiday meal. I watched and learned. Soon it was my task. She supervised closely, but I did the work. Recently, I bought fresh cranberries and oranges. When my granddaughters saw them, they became joyous!

One of our traditions is to make the cranberry garnish for holiday dinners that my mother made. At the end of the process, they taste the fruit of their labor. When dinner is served, they proudly bring their dish to the table.

I hope that we will build many more fond rituals and family traditions that mark the festivities of the Advent season. I have become aware that there are many negative triggers that mar the revelry of the holiday seasons for some people: Empty seats, due to the deaths of loved ones or relationships may hover over holidays. Memories of abusive experiences or other negative drama can be the killjoys of festivities.

If something is killing your Advent joy, I have a few recommendations that may be helpful to you. I have been through some negative seasons. Yet, I have experienced and learned how to have and enjoy happy endings.

There are five steps in my methodology of restoration:

Step One: Use the Bible as your guide. Proverbs 2:3-6 (ESV) says: “…if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

The wisdom writer is offering a spiritual elixir created by blending insight, understanding and wisdom. The best preparation for reducing the apprehension of negative triggers is to prayerfully seek new perspectives about the painful situations. Relationships are like kaleidoscopes, meaning that shifting the aperture can change the entire perspective.

Step Two: Own the depth of your woundedness.

Two pearls of mother wit from my counselor seem appropriate now:

1. What you bury alive, inside, doesn’t die. It metastasizes.

2. If you don’t feel it, you can’t heal it.

Step Three: Shift your focus.

Instead of looking at the old wounds and feeling past pain, aim at a different target. Make your focus Heaven instead of the hell that you have been through. Matthew 6:33 (ESV) may have been one of the first texts that I memorized. It says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

When we find Heaven, we find love and love heals. Even if the person who wounded and broke your spirit is dead, love can heal your heart and reignite joy in your life. Love is contagious. When it fills you, it oozes out.

Step Four: Seek support.

Feeling wounded can result in isolation. Don't isolate yourself! Seek support! A good support team can dull your pain and expedite your healing. Just be careful that you choose supporters who will uplift you rather than wallow with you in your despair.

Step Five: Grow beyond!

Your wounds are part of who you are, but you are much more than that instance or those times. Grow beyond!

You have survived, so there is much more in front of you than behind you. Lean forward and live into your capacity rather than the crucible that formed you. When I travel, I have begun to use ride share services rather than renting a car. What I like about these services is that I don’t have to leave an event in the same car that brought me.

You have arrived at this juncture of your life. The experiences that formed and informed you do not have to limit you. Seeking wisdom and Heaven can create a vehicle and venue for a better holiday season, a better quality of life and a destiny seasoned by the savory garnish of God’s grace.

Let’s Pray: O Lord, during this holiday season, please bind up the hearts of the wounded and free them from the triggers of past traumas and drama. Bless each individual and family with joyful connections, peace and love. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Author Bio:

Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.

Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.

He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.

You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address,

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