Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I'm Trying to Love Christmas

I'm trying to love Christmas. That sounds terrible doesn't it? I should LOVE Christmas. It celebrates the birth of my Savior. How could I NOT love this holiday? I'm a little ashamed to admit I don't.

I like a lot of things about Christmas:

  • I like Christmas trees and decorating my house. This is the only time of year my house actually looks decorated. Any other month things are pretty sparse in here. 
  • I like mistletoe (which is easy to come by in central Texas) and I Christmas kisses too.
  • I like sending and receiving Christmas photo cards by snail mail.
  • I like buying egg nog for my guys who can't seem to get enough of it. How they can drink that soupy stuff I'll never know.
  • I like Christmas music. Well, most of it. I hate the schmaltzy shoe song and the dogs barking Jingle Bells -annoying!
  • I like loading up the kids, grabbing some hot chocolate and driving around to look at Christmas lights.
See, I really do like A LOT! So what's the problem? What's not to love?

Get this - I hate the presents.

I hate the pressure I feel to find the things on my boy's lists that will bring them the joy they've been waiting for all year. (Joy that often seems so fleeting.) I hate feeling like if I miss the mark - buy the wrong brand or the wrong color or the wrong thing - I've ruined it. I hate that Christmas seems to come with discontentment, like if we only had more money THEN everyone would be happy because everyone would get more stuff.  I hate knowing that for so many families Christmas means spending money they don't have and mortgaging future months for wrapping paper and bows.

It makes me want to scream!

Yes, I know. Of course, I know. This is NOT what Christmas is all about. But...IT IS. If you live in my world, in my sweet, safe suburban world - this IS what Christmas has become and I'm not sure what I can do to change it.

I don't want to go all BAH-HUMBUG and stop buying presents. Scroogette. 
I don't want to let my heart shrink two sizes too small and hide away in a cave all season long. Grinchella.

So this is my prayer - God help me LOVE CHRISTMAS.

When an opportunity arose to attend a free Christmas concert, I jumped at it. First, it was free so it didn't require reallocation of the budget. Second, I like the music, remember?

THANK YOU to the artists of 1211 for Christmas Unplugged

It took me a while to decompress, to be in the moment. Paying attention. Listening. Not thinking about my to-do list or letting the shopping anxiety in the back of my mind seep to the front.

The candlelight helped.

I loved 1211's take on familiar Christmas carols. It was like hearing them for the first time. The second song got me. O Holy Night, not as the Christmas power ballad we've come to know but tender and repentant.

"O Holy night, the stars are brightly shinning. It is the night of our dear Savior's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining..."

Like the grammar police, I had to point out the misspelling on the slide to my husband. (Did you catch it?) UGH! Why do I do that? "Jesus help me hear from you. To embrace this moment. This message!"

"...'til He appeared and our soul felt its worth."

Wait a second. Is that another typo? "OUR" soul felt its worth? I always heard "the" soul.
But this one word makes a difference.  And it is rings true. Our soul. My soul. 

Perhaps my soul has been searching for worth under the tree. (Click to tweet) Thinking my worth as a parent is found in making my children happy by giving them things. Do I want more money so I can buy them more gifts or for what their smiles give to me?

I can't ask my children to answer the question of my worthiness.

My soul feels its worth at Christmas, because of Christmas. Because God became flesh. Because of this gift given to me. A gift of love. A gift to love.

In trying to love Christmas this year, one thing I can do is rest in my worthiness.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

God' Speaks to Discouragement, Fear and Frustration

Building a temple or a life is messy business. There will always be opposition. 

But just as God did not abandon the Israelites to work alone, he will not abandon you! 

The prophet Haggai delivered God's answer for each adversary we learned about in Ezra chapter 4. Click here to read Discouragement, Fear and Frustration Part 1

Discouragement  "...Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. " Haggai 2:4

When we are discouraged God tells us not to quit working. He empowers us with his presence. When you know he is with you, its easier to keep moving forward.

Fear  ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ Haggai 2:5

Remembering the promise of God, his covenant of love, reassures us when we are afraid. Hear his words 'Do not fear' not as a command to cowerers but as words of comfort and care.

Frustration "..in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:9

In this place.
In the frustration, in the opposition, in the building process - God brings peace. (Click to Tweet)
Peace that can't be explained. Peace that doesn't make sense at all.
I could use a strong dose of some o' that right now. 

So as we are in the process of building a temple for God to be glorified in let's remember Ezra and Haggai. It would appear that discouragement, fear and frustration are just part of the process. But God has an answer for each challenge. He is with us. He empowers us to do the work and he grants peace in the process.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Discouragement, Fear and Frustration

God brought his people out of captivity and commissioned them to rebuild his temple. It wasn't easy:
"Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans...." Ezra 4:4-5
They faced discouragement, fear and frustration as they built a home for God - while they were doing exactly what he asked them to do.

God is not contained by stone structure any more. His Spirit lives inside of you and me. WE are the temple of God. 

I tend to pout when I face discouragement, fear and frustration, don't you? 

When I read this passage, it occurred to me - maybe that's just what happens when you build a temple. Click to tweet

We face discouragement. We get frustrated. Fear happens.

I think sometimes I stumble twice. I stumble over the discouraging event and then I stumble again for feeling discouraged. 

We are going to face challenges but we can't let them keep us down!
  • Don't quit when you feel discouraged.
  • Don't run away and hide if you get scared.
  • Don't let frustration ruin your resolve.
You're building a temple and it's going to be magnificent!

Guess what? 
They did it! 
Despite the opposition. Despite a pause in construction. They finished the temple. And then.....they partied!  

How much sweeter was that celebration after all they'd been through?

Click here to read Part 2