Category Archives: Loving and Following Jesus

Christmas Craze and Holiday Haze: Part 2

So I want to blog about busyness…the irony is I was too busy to blog about it last week and honestly, I’m really too busy to be doing it right now. Like I said, ironic.

Here’s the deal…we’re all too busy. All the time. And so when the extra celebrations, get-togethers, concerts, and parties begin to pile up; when the baking and shopping and decorating find their way onto our to-do lists; we blame Christmas. “This time of year is always so busy!” Well, of course it is! We’ve just added another helping or two to our already overly full plates! Listen, it isn’t Christmas’s fault!

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So now that you have learned to just breathe and simply be kind (Christmas Craze and Holiday Haze: Part 1), here’s tip number 3 – slow down. I know, you just rolled your eyes at me, but I’m being serious. I have yet to discover a way to enjoy the Christmas season quickly or rushed. It just doesn’t happen. All good things must be slowly savored, and Christmas is the best of things.

Slowing down is something you have to fight for though. It won’t just happen on its own. You have to choose lazy Saturdays decorating and baking as a family. You have to let go of the work project in order to celebrate our Savior with friends. You might have to let company come over even if the house isn’t clean and choose relationship over reputation. You may have to use that last vacation day so you can carefully shop for the perfect present instead of quickly buying the first item that will do. And I KNOW you have to slow down to actually allow the truth of a Savior in a stable and a King come down from his throne to sink in and move us, maybe even change us.

It might be cliché to talk about the “reason for the season” but nevertheless, it’s true. In our busyness, we lose sight of Jesus. We lose sight of the meaning of Advent and the eager expectation and desperate longing for a savior (we’ll tackle that more next week in part 3). We forget what matters most isn’t the trees and twinkle lights, the wreathes or bows, the gifts or goodies, the concerts or caroling. No, it is Jesus. It always has been and always will be all about Jesus. Emmanuel. God WITH us. Incredible. Heaven truly came down at Christmas. Our task today is to join in bringing Heaven down each and every day. We simply cannot do that in a hurry. We won’t notice the Holy Spirit at work in or around us in a rush.

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But if you just HAVE to hurry, if you just MUST be in a rush; may I suggest we take a cue from the shepherds. For they were in a hurry once too. Luke 2 describes the Christmas story we all know so well. The shepherds hear of Jesus’ birth from a host of angels and are terrified (can you blame them!). Once they gather themselves, the shepherds say to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in a manger. (Luke 2:15b-16, emphasis added).

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So this holiday season, slow down. Watch the snow fall. Listen to Christmas music. Enjoy a hot drink by a warm fire. Take in a favorite Christmas movie with the family. Schedule a random vacation day, sleep in, shop leisurely, bake joyfully. Slow down and give thanks for “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-11) But if you must be in a hurry, hurry towards Jesus.

Christmas Craze and Holiday Haze: Part 1

We’re one week past Thanksgiving and just three weeks away from Christmas. I attended my first Christmas concert this weekend although odes to Saint Nick and sounds of Joy to the World have been ringing through store sound systems for what feels like months. (I don’t want to start WWIII but I refuse to play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, even then I have a hard time truly getting in the spirit until approximately the week before.) Tis the season for tinsel and bows; red, green, and gold; Rudolph and Wise Men; Buddy the Elf and Red Rider BB Guns; shopping and baking; and at some point, Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus laying in the manger.
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And I don’t know about you, but the holiday season simply seems to bring a level of busyness and stress unprecedented by any other time of the year. It’s the Christmas craze…and it tends to put us all in a holiday haze. And so after a bit of a hiatus, I hope to offer a little hope on how to navigate this time of year without completely losing it at the in-laws or becoming Ebenezer Scrooge.

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Here’s tip number one: Breathe. Just breathe. Seriously, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Breathe.

Ok, tip number two: Be kind.

I know, earth shaking. But seriously, how much better would our world and the holidays be if we were simply kind to one another? Unfortunately I have seen way too much unkind behavior lately. Do I really need to remind anyone what the weeks following the election looked like in this country? I’ve never experienced or witnessed such cruelty and unkind behavior or attitudes from friends and family towards other friends and family in my life. Out of our own hurt, frustration, and fear we lash out at others, often those we love the most, which then leads to incredible guilt and remorse making the fake smile through the stress that much more difficult.

What would the Christmas season feel like if instead of fighting for the closest parking spot, we actually allowed someone else to have it? What if we chose the longest line in the grocery store or slowed down while moving through the aisles to actually look our fellow shoppers in the eye? What if buying a gift for someone we know wouldn’t expect it and would be extra blessed by it actually blessed us instead? What if we bought a weary shopper a coffee? What if we put our politics and passions and perilous opinions aside, just for a season, and embraced our common need for a Savior in a manger? Wasn’t it simple kindness that caused the Grinch’s heart to finally grow? Isn’t it ultimately kindness that leads to the Miracle on 34th Street?

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Kindness. It is so simple of a concept it is often overlooked. Kindness is simple, but it’s implications are incredibly powerful. It can turn sour attitudes, melt cold hearts of stone, and restore hope. It can reconcile feuding families and bring peace where there was once prejudice. God’s kindness is what turns us from our sin (Romans 2:4) and our kindness demonstrates the Holy Spirit at work in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). “Be kind” may sound cliche, but it is an integral part of God’s very character (Psalm 145:17) and a command from God to his chosen people (Colossians 3:12). Ephesians 1:7 says, “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.”

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Kindness sets people free. Free from stress. Free from fear. Free from bitterness and resentment. Free from loneliness. Free from hurt. Free from cynicism. So slow down (kindness rarely happens when we’re rushed). And be kind to someone this holiday season. Whether your holiday is magical enough to be in a Martha Stewart magazine or tends to give the Griswold’s a run for their money, we can all be kind in the midst of the crazy.

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I’d love to hear your holiday stories of kindness – comment below. And stay tuned for part two of surviving the Christmas craze and holiday haze.

“That Place” – Between the Old and the New

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Have you ever been in the “in between”, in the “not yet”? You’re not where you used to be but you’re not yet where you want to go either. My friend calls it “that place” – you’ve left the known, embarked on the journey, but you’re not sure where “there” is just yet. In fact, maybe you don’t even know where “here” is – so you’re in “that place.” And it is a difficult place to be. I’ve been in “that place” for a while. I know where I’ve been and I’ve left it behind. I know where I WANT to go, but the path between what was and what I want isn’t clear. Plus, we don’t always receive what we want!

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So I’ve left what I’ve always known behind. I’ve left the comfortable in order to follow God to where I believe He’s called me. But I’m not at what I believe the destination is just yet. And I believe with all my heart that God is the giver of not just good gifts, but the BEST gifts and that His plan for my life is better than anything I can come up with on my own. So I pray and believe in the “there”, in the “not yet” while I hang out in “that place” of being in between. And I remind myself that my “there” may not be God’s destination for me. And I want to be OK with that, but honestly I’m not. I want to have holy indifference and total trust that God’s way is the best and His gifts are best, but I want my way and I’m anxious about what will happen if I don’t get it.

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And so as I sat in “that place” the other night, I asked God, “How I am supposed to actually LIVE day in and day out in ‘that place’? How am I supposed to approach life in the in between?” And His answer to me was both simple and convicting…with gratitude. As the journey continues, as the adventure unfolds, live with gratitude. As the unknowns remain and the future stays unclear, be thankful for today. As you wait for “there,” stay present in and be grateful for “that place” or you’ll miss out. You’ll miss out on peace, on provision, on growth opportunities, and on His presence.

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Yes, God. Yes! Exactly what I needed to hear. (Funny how He seems to always know.) Live with gratitude, even in “that place”, in fact, especially in “that place.”

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