Living Differently at Christmas

Will we have the heart of Jesus during the upcoming Christmas season? Will we be radical about Christ at Christmas as well as the rest of the year? “Lord, forgive me for indulging myself in the entitlement of being an American at Christmas. Forgive me for being so distracted from your mission this times of year.” We don’t get a break from following Christ because it is the holiday season. We must choose, either we are ‘all in’, or we aren’t.


“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” Luke 14:12-14 

As I put our pumpkin away a couple of weeks ago, I thought about all the money that we spend on holidays in this country. It was estimated that Americans would spend $6.86 billion dollars this year on Halloween, according to an annual survey commissioned by the National Retail Federation. For Christmas, however, The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and other goodies totaling more than $465 billion. Wow!

There are 3 billion people in the world who make less than $2 a day. If those 3 billion people work every single day for a year they will earn $730. We, in this country, spend almost that same amount of money for Christmas day on things that we don’t need.

“Its crazy!  But it becomes normal to us. I hope that we as believers take these things into account and live differently.”  – Francis Chan

Christmas is not about family

For some reason Americans have bought into the mistaken notion that Christmas is all about family. The story of Christ’s birth has nothing to do with family. In fact, Jesus was not even born into one. Mary and Joseph were not yet married.

Christ’s birth has everything to do with God and His amazing love for us. Christmas is about 1 person . . . . Jesus Christ.

Christmas is the beginning of the greatest love story that ever was or ever could be. It is our redemption story. Christmas is about the transformation from us being condemned in our flesh to being redeemed in Christ. The storyManger with crown of thorns in barn with light coming from above is beautiful; every part of it. He is an amazing God, and there was no better way to save us.

How do we repay Him for this wonderful gift and respond to this beautiful story? We become even more materialistic than we were the rest of the year. We become more distracted by shiny things and great deals.

We build up the idol of Christmas and shrink Jesus in the process. That is the ‘thanks’ we give to God.

We spend money that we don’t have on things that people don’t really want or need or could easily buy themselves. Being a good steward of money goes out the window until January.

It is like a nation-wide overspending frenzy. I buy you what you want, but don’t need, and you buy me what I want, but don’t need. It is a fool’s paradise.

What does Jesus want from us?


 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’   Matthew 25:35-40


 

AMBOSELI, KENYA‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ – are we getting that? That is huge!

Most of our moms and dads, brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles are not the ‘least of these.’ Why are we spending our time and money giving things to each other at Christmas?

How can we ignore the 3 billion people in the world who have nothing? How can we be so focused on ourselves and our families when half of the world’s population lives in poverty?

Orphan children in Africa don’t have food or a decent place to sleep. They can’t afford to go to school, or have proper medical care. They don’t even have clean water. They are alone and hopeless, and we are over here tearing through our piles of presents.

It doesn’t make any sense.

We have so much

I can’t think of the last time that I was starving, because I never have been. I can’t imagine being sick and not being able to just go to the drug store, or a doctor’s office, or the hospital.

I wake up everyday in my 68 degree bedroom and get up out of my sleep number bed. I have a refrigerator and pantry full of food. I live in a house that has way more space than we’ll ever need. I don’t have to get wet when it rains, or be cold on blustery winter days, or sweat in the extreme heat of summer. I don’t ever have to hunger or thirst.

Every single physical need I have is met.

We Americans, are the ‘greatest’, not the ‘least’. Therefore, we have a great responsibility to care for those less fortunate than us.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”  1 John 3:17

Living Differently

If we are believers, then we need to live differently. Either we are living for God and doing what His Word says, or we’re not.

“Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.”
― Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

We can’t go through the year listening to stories of the poor children in Africa, praying for the oppressed on missions Sunday, and forget about it at Christmas time.

We can’t just forget about ‘the least of these’ because it is November and the start of ‘our’ holiday season. Hunger and poverty do not take a break.

Following Christ is a full-time gig! If we are not living radically for Him, then what are we doing? Why are we going to our churches? Why are we singing our praise songs? Why do we call ourselves Christians at all?

God doesn’t just want our Sundays, or our tithe, or our prayers alone. He wants us to give Him everything.

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21


God has been so good to me! The amount of love and grace that He has shown me is unfathomable. He has saved me from death, which is what I deserved. How can I not give Him everything?

How can I not be moved by His many blessings and endless mercy? How can I not respond to His loving ways?

“Freely you have received; freely give.”  Matthew 10:8

What if we all took what we normally spent on Christmas and gave it to the poor?

What if we gave all of our gifts to people that we will never even meet? What if we gave gifts to orphaned children halfway across the world? What if we gave it all to the downcast and lowly?

God, I pray, make me better than I am without You. Make me more like You. I give everything to You, Abba Father, because YOU are everything. Teach me to be humble and live a life of simplicity. Help me to separate myself from the materialistic things of this world. Change my nature to be more like yours.

When people look at me, I want them to see Jesus.

“Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.”   1 John 2:6

Watch the first 10 minutes as Frances Chan talks about gaining perspective about Christmas in the following video clip . . .

Margin or The Rat Race

After 14 exhausting but wonderful years of raising kids and homeschooling for a few of them, I am finding that my life is finally calming down. I am incredibly blessed to now have time and margin in my life.

About a year ago, I discontinued homeschooling when my husband and I felt God leading us to send my youngest daughter back to public schools. It was absolutely the right thing to do at the right time – Praise God!  However, the week that she went back was one of the hardest weeks of my life.

Since then, my time has been filled with bible studies, coffee with friends, doing some writing, and seeking God’s will for my life. However, the biggest blessing has been the time that I have had for thinking and reflecting; and, spending time in prayer.

My natural tendency is to be a ‘Mary’ and sit at the feet of Jesus.  I have less ‘Martha’ in me than I would care to admit. So, I have been able to sit with God and soak in every drop of what He has in His Word for me.  I have let it wash over me like a tidal wave; like a healing rain.  He has built a hunger and thirst for His Word within me.  What a remarkable thing that is!The-Bible-giving-girl-a-hug

I look forward to my bible studies now more than anything.  I am hungry for God’s Word.  For the first time in my life reading the bible is not a chore.  I am starting to see it for what it really is . . . the living, breathing, Word of God.  It is a toolbox, a gift, a love letter, a mirror, an admonition, and a glimpse into our future with Him.

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty.”  Jeremiah 15:16

I also spend my days cooking, cleaning, and basically keeping my home and family running. In addition to that, I am half way through a Doctor of Naturopathy program at an online school. I also co-lead a women’s bible study at my church, and, obviously, I write a blog.

At times, my life is definitely full and a little crazy, but not all the time.  I am very fortunate to have what most people don’t . . . . . margin.

According to Dr. Richard A. Swenson, M.D., margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits.

Not many people experience margin in their life. So, I feel like I stand out like a sore thumb.

Pressure from Society

I feel tremendous pressure all around me because I am not working. Pressure from society and pressure from the culture.

There is a voice in my head that says that I should be working; that I should be earning a paycheck; I need to be eternally busy or I am being lazy.  It says that If I’m not running 90 miles an hour and busy from dawn until dusk, than I am not doing enough.

I battle the guilt of not contributing financially to our household, not contributing to the economic machine of capitalist America, and not living the distracted, mundane life that can be a prison sentence here on earth.

I also feel guilty because I don’t have to work, like so many single mothers or families that are financially strapped. My heart goes out to them. I am very fortunate to have a husband who gets payed well.

I feel resentment from friends who have to work to make ends meet, and friends who are miserable in their jobs. I see how their jobs consume them.

I don’t have a job with a paycheck. Does that make my life less valuable than others’?


How busy is busy enough?  Who gets to decide?


The Accepted Way of Life: Busyness

I think that everyone would agree that we live in a workaholic society. Our country is drowning in busyness, and we’re proud of it!

“As a society, we’ve forgotten what margin is.  In the push for progress, margin has been devoured.”  – Margin, Richard A. Swenson, M.D.

Middle class America esteems those who work way too much. Dare I say that we make our jobs an idol?

This is not to say that you can’t find great meaning and purpose in your job. And, I am not saying that it is impossible to keep your job in its proper place. Many people do it, and do it well. For some, their workplace is their mission field and God does great things through them there.

However, most people I know work hard all day at a frustrating job that they don’t like and come home deflated. I can picture them at the end of the day, falling down in their easy chair in an exhausted heap.  Living the dream, right?!

“The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Lilly Tomlin

Do I have the right?

So, I need to dissect this. Do I have any right to not run the rat race?

Am I allowed to have a season of life that is calmer and less hectic? Do I have the right to a season of reflecting . . . . of being still . . . . of seeking God’s direction for the next steps in my life? Or, am I required to instantly jump into the next thing so that I am working?

Did God intend for us to live life in a frantic state of continuous activity? Did He intend for our lives to be just a blur?  Simply a means to an end?

I don’t have a job, but that doesn’t mean that I do not work.  It does not mean that I do not contribute to society.  It does not mean that I’m not busy. It means that I am not busy ALL of the time.

God definitely calls us in seasons to push ourselves to the limit.  But, I don’t think He intended for us to always live at that pace. God allows us to rest.

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”  Psalm 116:7

God also has a lot to say in scripture about our work. Obviously, He does not want us to be lazy. God made us to work, to be productive, and to live with purpose.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  Genesis 2:15

However, above everything, He wants us to give our lives completely to Him.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:58

Seasons

seasons_of_change_by_autumnsgoddessRight now, I am in a season of transitioning, learning, growing, and waiting on the Lord.  I desire to use my giftedness to love and serve others.  In what venue or arena or circumstance I don’t yet know. I want to love God by being His hands and feet.

I feel the strong need for prayer, and to be still enough to hear His voice. I don’t want to miss it. He has been so good to me, and I want to give Him my everything.

He may want me to get a job and use me there. He may be calling me to ministry.  He may want me to wait on Him; wait and focus on disciplining my children in Christ, being a helper for my husband, and being available to love and serve others in my community as Christ did.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8