Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Keeping Christmas Simple

Only 9 days till Christmas! The pressure is on! Are all the presents purchased, Christmas cards mailed, meals planned, house in order for company, goodies for neighbors and friends baked and delivered, Christmas programs and parties attended? I don't know about you but it can get quite busy and overwhelming to say the least this time of year.  I honestly have not accomplished my goal of keeping Christmas simple but I'm getting closer each year in my heart anyway. One of my all time favorite quotes from Elizabeth Elliot has always been, "Do the next thing, there are many good things but choose the wise things to partake in".  Simplifying Christmas begins in the heart. It is the desires of our heart that drive our daily decisions and plans.  Gods word tells us that the desires of our heart are either rooted in the pleasures of this world or in  pleasing Him.  Seeking Him first in all we do will drive our desires to align with His will.  This may seem radical to some of you but my vision of a simple Christmas would look something like this:  Instead of attending all the fancy musicals and programs, I would love to be spending my time sharing the Story of Christmas with the many children in foster care or orphanages in our area. Instead of spending so much time deciding on gifts and the purchasing of them, I wish we could combine our resources and give more to missions or specific local families in need.  Instead of always spending all of our holidays with our close families and friends at various parties and events , we could share our time by inviting those around us who are lost and much less fortunate into our homes to love on and share Christ with. I would love to be apart of a celebration that truly focuses on the Heart of our Savior ,which I believe would involve putting into action, plans that focus and prioritize the reaching of the lost around us. Can you imagine what our homes and churches would look like if this was how we choose to celebrate and honor our Savior this time of year! I cant help but think how it must grieve His heart that so much of our time and focus is really not about Him at all. Yes, we may sing and praise and share Him from the choir lofts and pulpits of our churches ,which is all good, but how are we spreading His story  outside of our church buildings? God forgive me for the amount of time I've spent in stores and shopping malls and online looking for just the right presents when so many are sad, lonely, destitute and lost. Simplifying Christmas is  about how and what we spend our time on, which is a reflection of where our heart truly is this time of year. My prayer is that the husbands and fathers of our Christian homes will lead their families in this direction during this season. What an impact on our children and our world this could make! Have a blessed Christmas !

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving Rewind

     As we reflect on our recent Thanksgiving holiday , I cant help but wonder what we ,as the church, did to reach others in response to the abundance of blessings we share.
    Let me back up just a bit and tell you that I just returned from the "woods" of Coleman, Georgia, where I spent the last eight days with my husband, hunting. Now, when I say the woods, I mean we are literally miles from the nearest gas station and or store of any kind.  All you will see when drive through this little town of Coleman is some homes ,one small post office, a church and a blinking light. Oh , and did I forget to mention that there is no cell service unless you are in certain hunting stands, near a tower and clear skies. I'm sure to most of you this sounds like a terrible way to spend your thanksgiving but as I "rewind" my thoughts backward I have truly been able to see all the blessings. Now, mind you, as I am using the outhouse bathroom , I did have fleeting moments of feeling like a true pilgrim!
    I feel like year after year as we celebrate this wonderful holiday we are often missing out on opportunities that we ,along with our children can reach out to others. Now, don't get me wrong, I love everything about Thanksgiving, the incredible food, watching the Macy's day parade and most of all time with friends and family.  But in all of our thanksgivings, like indoor bathrooms, what and how are we responding to the lost, poor and lonely people around us.  Growing up my mom and dad always made a point of inviting a college student away from home or without family over to share in our Thanksgiving day. What a great lesson they were teaching us just through that little gesture. I think what is truly in my heart is that in  response to our many blessings we, the church and people of God, should be inviting the reaching out to the "least of these" more than ever during the holiday season. For example, hosting a thanksgiving dinner at church where "we serve" the meal to the homeless and less fortunate of our communities. Invite them to our homes or family gatherings.
I know this sounds uncomfortable but God did not call us to comfort, He called us to compassion, service and love for the unlovable.  As I was without  my ''comforts of home" this past week my heart was saddened for so many who live like that every day. Lord, Forgive us for not taking the opportunities we have to reach those who are lonely and less fortunate around us. Forgive us for our selfishness in wanting to spend all of our time during the holidays, in the comfort of our homes ,with friends and family when so many are without. Help us Lord to see the needs around us and in response, share and invite them into our lives and families so that we can truly show and spread the message of the Gospel in and through our cities and communities.
" God create a clean heart in me and RENEW a steadfast spirit within me. Do not take me from your presence or your Holy Spirit but restore the JOY of your salvation to me, and give me a WILLING SPIRIT.  Psalm 51:10-12.  
May  each of us begin this holiday season with a renewed vision of how we can change lives through simple acts of serving and loving those around us, remembering the same Christ who gave His life for us, gave His life for them as well!