Tag Archives: celebration

Pain in the Background

Behind all the joyful smiles, for some the holiday season is a deeply painful season. Perhaps it is because of loneliness, painful family memories, or loss. If you are suffering during this season of celebration, you are not alone!

A few years ago my friend, author Holley Gerth, stopped by to talk about what it means to celebrate even when life is difficult or painful. I hope this excerpt from our 2011 interview provides you with hope.

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(From December 2011)

Holley-pic-NEW-2You may have heard of Holley Gerth — she’s got a hugely popular blog called “Heart to Heart with Holley.” She’s the author of Rain on Me, God’s Heart for You, and You’re Already Amazing. She’s also created thousands of greeting cards and gifts for DaySpring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark and is the cofounder of their web site for women, (in)courage. Holley shares her heart and home with Mark and a crazy dog.

I’m sure you’ll be encouraged and inspired by her honest words.  Keep reading . . . 

Holley, tell my readers about yourself!

I love chocolate, coffee, my husband, and Jesus (not in that order). I’m not a morning person—I once put chocolate on the alarm clock to bribe myself to get up. I ate it and went back to bed. Yes, ma’am. But I married an early bird so I’m learning to change my ways. I’m named after my Grandpa Hollie. He and my Grandma had a  Christian bookstore so I grew up dreaming of being a writer. Being able to share God’s heart with women through words is my passion and I feel so grateful to be able to do so every day. It’s the next best thing to having coffee with all of my readers—which I would do if I could!

This month we’re looking at the twin spiritual disciplines of worship and celebration. In a very basic sense, I define them as praising and thanking God for who he is (worship); and praising and thanking God for what he does (celebration). Why do you think these disciplines are important?

Our church service last night was actually about worship and how it transforms us. The pastor talked about how closely the word “worship” is related to “service” in Greek and Hebrew.Over time I’ve come to see worship not as what we do at church but as a lifestyle of serving Jesus. To me, worship means bowing our hearts to God and saying, “I’m your servant. Use me as little or as much as you want.” That’s actually the prayer I say each morning as I get ready to write. I’ve also started writing what I’m thankful for in a journal each day. I use an unlined journal and draw all kinds of crazy pictures and things. But it works for me.

I recently read that our brains have a natural “negativity bias.” In other words, we tend to focus on and remember what’s negative better. That is a gift from God to help us survive (for example, focusing more on the bear charging out of the woods than the lovely flower behind it). But on a day-to-day basis, it means that we have to be intentional about refocusing our hearts and attention. We don’t need to feel guilty about our tendency to be negative but we do need to recognize it and change it through worship and gratitude. What’s amazing is that our brains literally rewire themselves as we think new thoughts. We actually create new neural pathways and are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Isn’t that beautiful?

Wow — Yes! Celebration can take many forms — gratitude, joy, prayer, praise, feasting, and more. When has celebration made a difference in your life?

I feel like this has been a year of learning to embrace joy in my life. Continue reading

The Christmas Gospel (Go After It!)

Last year I had the great privilege of interviewing author and professor Patty Kirk about her great Advent/Christmas book. Here we revisit our conversation — I’m sure it will encourage you as much as it blessed me!

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(From December 2012)

One extra-special part of Advent for me is the reading: The time I return to well-worn favorite books that come out just this time of year, such as Madeleine L’Engle’s books, poems, and Christmas stories or Walter Wangerin Jr.’s  Preparing For Jesus. I’m especially excited this year because I have a NEW Advent book to dwell in: The Gospel of Christmas by Patty Kirk (InterVarsity Press). Patty, a professor and author, was gracious enough to share her thoughts about Advent with me and with you, my readers.

Patty, welcome! Please tell my readers a bit about yourself.

PattyKirkI grew up believing in God but lost track of him in my teens -— along with most other comforting certainties — and spent the next decades roaming the world seeking I didn’t know what. I made an unhappy atheist, envious of those I encountered who somehow managed not only to believe in but to depend on the promises of an invisible, inaudible, intangible being. Eventually, I regained a sense of God’s existence and attention, but the one thing that connects my believing years — as a child and later in adulthood — with those intervening years of atheism was the excitement and, paradoxically, the longing that filled me during the Christmas season. Ever since my return to faith, I have written out of this longing every Advent, and this book is what I wrote.

Our culture is so Christmas-consumerism-crazy right now, that it can be difficult to create space in our lives — and in our hearts — for Advent. Are there spiritual practices, traditions, or habits that help you foster the Advent spirit in your life during this often hectic season?

gospel of christmasSo, for me, Advent means that period of longing and excitement that overcomes us at Christmas. The longing for something more, yes -— for meaning or certainty or quiet or, as you say, “space” in our lives and hearts for God.

But Advent is also that very hectic jolliness: the gathering of families, children’s eagerness for presents, the shopping and card-writing and tree-decking and worrying we won’t get it all done, what I like to call the jingle-belling of the Christmas season. During Advent, I consciously re-visit my old sad longing for the Bible’s promises to be true and simultaneously latch onto the hectic celebration of those promises’ fulfillment. Continue reading

Holiday Treats

color lightsThe holidays are a great time to make some fun treats with your kids . . . and gobble them up together! Here are recipes for 3 of my faves.

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Snow Ice Cream

(Excerpted from my book Faith-Filled Moments: Helping Kids See God in Everyday Life; Wesleyan Publishing House, with permission)

Ingredients

8 to 10 cups fresh, clean snow
1 14-oz. can Eagle sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

 Instructions:

Help your child use a measuring cup to fill a large mixing bowl with 8 to 10 full cups of fresh, fluffy snow. In a separate bowl, stir together the condensed milk and vanilla. If it’s not thinned down enough, add 1 teaspoon of whole milk and stir it in. Slowly pour the liquid into the bowl of snow while you gently stir it in. When it’s mixed sufficiently, serve it up in bowls with spoons and start eating. Yum!

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Microwave Manger Cookies 

(Also excerpted from Faith-Filled Moments; WPH, with permission) Continue reading

Advent Ideas

Advent may be my most favorite time of the year. It’s a time of darkness, shivers, and cold . . . but also of starlight, snuggles, and hope!

red berriesIt’s a time we focus on God’s amazing promises–on his plan of redemption weaving both subtly and powerfully throughout human history. It is the time we dwell in the beautiful truth: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

Do you desire to deepen your own spiritual experience of Advent? Or are you looking for ways to make it a meaningful season for your kids? Throughout this month I’ll be featuring a variety of ideas for you–spiritual encouragement, fun activities, and great resources you can use during Advent. 

This first week of Advent, let me encourage you to  zero in on God’s messianic promises in the Old Testament. Spend time in the beauty of words of hope like these:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this. 
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

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Stay tuned for 3 fun holiday recipes to enjoy with your kids… I’ll be posting them later this week.

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Also, if you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s a day-by-day devotional calendar I created for Today’s Christian Woman. This resource is packed with spiritual encouragement and some of my favorite ideas for marking the season with God and with those you love. Each weak of this calendar delves into a key biblical theme of Advent, helping you and your family connect with God in profoundly meaningful ways.

 

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Train

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word discipline? As a mom of three, I think of child-tears, frustration, time-outs (or worse), and me feeling frazzled and worn out. Discipline, if we’re honest, is not fun. Rewarding in the long run? Sure. But not exactly a word with a positive connotation.

So when I talk about spiritual disciplines? Well, the danger for you and for me is that we can bring this somewhat negative connotation into the conversation. But Scripture uses several words that are translated at “discipline.” One means to chastise, correct, or instruct (see Hebrews 12:6-7). But here’s some good news: God’s Word uses entirely different words to talk about discipline in terms of our spiritual formation. Consider this excerpt from my book, The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival:

trainersAs we look at the spiritual disciplines, we’re instead aiming for the concepts of gumnazo and askeo. Gumnazo—from which we derive the English word gymnasium—means discipline in the sense of athletic exercise and training. We’re talking about a spiritual sweat here: regular “workouts” that keep our faith in shape. This is the word Paul uses when he urges Timothy, “[T]rain yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, emphasis added). This is the same connotation the writer of Hebrews intends when he prods his readers by saying, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14, emphasis added).

Askeo means the discipline of a master craftsman who employs skill, persistent determination, and great effort to turn raw material into a piece of art. Continue reading

12 Days (and 48.25 Songs)

Merry Christmas!

color lightsIt’s here! It is upon us! Here’s a blog post from last year which I still love, so I’m sharing it again (with updated numbers!):

Christmas wasn’t just yesterday. In the church calendar, Christmas literally is to be celebrated for 12 days! So even today in your post-Christmas-Day-recovery-mode, your heart can continue to sing at the manger and wonder at the glory of the Incarnation.

One simple celebration idea I want to share is to infuse this week with music. Christmas carols and hymns proclaim some of the most stunning theological truths! One of my favorite web sites, the cyberhymnal, has the lyrics (and music to listen to) for 579 Christmas hymns. Yes, 579!!!

So, if you want to sing them all, that’s 48.25 songs per day for the 12 days of Christmas. (If you missed yesterday, you’ll need to catch up!)

But in all seriousness, I do believe one of the most profound ways I’ve encountered God in my personal times of prayer and worship has been in pondering old hymns that are new to me. Find time this week to visit Cyberhymnal (or your own hymnal on your bookshelf) and prayerfully ponder the lyrics of a Christmas hymn that is new to you.

When all is cleaned up, when our culture has moved on from Christmas after just 24-hours, you can remain at the manger.

Live in the wonder.

The Miracle

All the waiting, all the yearning, all the longing . . . all caught up into one spectacular mystery. The fullness of God entering into humanity, taking on the limitations of flesh and bone and breath. With divine compassion, experiencing our frailty. With grace spanning eternity past to infinite future, entering into finite time and limited space.

incarnationThe miracle of the Incarnation.

When God answered the prayer, “O Come!” When the promises of the ages appeared in a strange and hardly recognizable fulfillment: the King of Kings, the Desire of Nations, in the wrinkled palms and piercing wail of a suckling, swaddled infant.

This is the miracle and the mystery: That in the first Advent, Emmanuel came. And that we await his Second Advent in which all these promises bloom into ultimate fulfillment.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
REJOICE! REJOICE!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! Continue reading

When Christmas Hurts

Last year my friend, author Holley Gerth, stopped by this blog to share some thoughts about the spiritual discipline of celebration and what it means to celebrate even when life is difficult or painful. Advent & Christmas can be very painful times for those who are suffering, who are depressed, who’ve walked through tragedy. If that’s you — if you’re hurting while the rest of the world is celebrating — find encouragement in this interview with Holley as she shares a bit about her own approach toward holidays during difficult times.

[From December 2011]

YHolley-pic-NEW-2ou may have heard of Holley Gerth — she’s got a hugely popular blog called “Heart to Heart with Holley.” She’s the author of Rain on Me, God’s Heart for You, and You’re Already Amazing. She’s also created thousands of greeting cards and gifts for DaySpring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark and is the cofounder of their web site for women, (in)courage. Holley shares her heart and home with Mark and a crazy dog.

I’m sure you’ll be encouraged and inspired by her honest words.  Keep reading . . . 

Holley, tell my readers about yourself!

I love chocolate, coffee, my husband, and Jesus (not in that order). I’m not a morning person—I once put chocolate on the alarm clock to bribe myself to get up. I ate it and went back to bed. Yes, ma’am. But I married an early bird so I’m learning to change my ways. I’m named after my Grandpa Hollie. He and my Grandma had a  Christian bookstore so I grew up dreaming of being a writer. Being able to share God’s heart with women through words is my passion and I feel so grateful to be able to do so every day. It’s the next best thing to having coffee with all of my readers—which I would do if I could!

This month we’re looking at the twin spiritual disciplines of worship and celebration. In a very basic sense, I define them as praising and thanking God for who he is (worship); and praising and thanking God for what he does (celebration). Why do you think these disciplines are important?

Our church service last night was actually about worship and how it transforms us. The pastor talked about how closely the word “worship” is related to “service” in Greek and Hebrew.Over time I’ve come to see worship not as what we do at church but as a lifestyle of serving Jesus. To me, worship means bowing our hearts to God and saying, “I’m your servant. Use me as little or as much as you want.” That’s actually the prayer I say each morning as I get ready to write. I’ve also started writing what I’m thankful for in a journal each day. I use an unlined journal and draw all kinds of crazy pictures and things. But it works for me.

I recently read that our brains have a natural “negativity bias.” In other words, we tend to focus on and remember what’s negative better. That is a gift from God to help us survive (for example, focusing more on the bear charging out of the woods than the lovely flower behind it). But on a day-to-day basis, it means that we have to be intentional about refocusing our hearts and attention. We don’t need to feel guilty about our tendency to be negative but we do need to recognize it and change it through worship and gratitude. What’s amazing is that our brains literally rewire themselves as we think new thoughts. We actually create new neural pathways and are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Isn’t that beautiful?

Wow — Yes! Celebration can take many forms — gratitude, joy, prayer, praise, feasting, and more. When has celebration made a difference in your life?

I feel like this has been a year of learning to embrace joy in my life. Continue reading

10 Advent Observance Ideas

Looking for ways to observe Advent with your kids? Or hoping to do something new this December for your own spiritual growth? My good friend Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence and I put together 9 of our favorite ideas for celebrating Advent. You can find them here at Today’s Christian Woman.

The tenth? It’s an idea we tried for the first time last year with our kids. We helped the kids make simple Advent candles which we lit at dinner each night. It was a great way to drive home the idea that Jesus is the light we await in Advent.

We made them simply, using cardboard juice concentrate canisters for molds and crayon pieces to add layers of color. If you’re new to candlemaking, find very easy instructions here.

Treading the Dark Path

cold morning

It’s cold and dark these mornings.

Darkness, coldness — something our souls do well to remember.

What is it like to live without light, without warmth, without the illumination our spirits long for?

This is the posture we assume during Advent. We step into the shivering darkness of longing and the heavy quietness of waiting.

We plod into the groove tread by Christians centuries over: How long, O Lord? O come, Emmanuel!

Like weary travelers stiff on an age-old night, our eyes strain toward that glimmer, that pinprick of light. That candle in a window that means warmth and home, welcome and hearth. Continue reading