Tag Archives: holidays

a little holiday preview

December is just around the corner (it starts tomorrow) and I’ve been tossing around a few ideas. I’ll more than likely be writing about Advent and I did contemplate writing about my favorite Christmas carols before I realized I wrote about them last year…

I’ll be writing on my favorite holiday traditions and a few songs (my favorites) instead as well as focusing on the Christmas story, probably more than once, throughout the month of December.

What if I took the time to look at those traditions, songs and the Christmas Story with fresh eyes? Or maybe even a different mindset? What if I spun a little humor in the mix? What would the world look like if we truly believed the deeper meaning behnd each of those carols?

“…Holy Infant, so tender and mild…Love was born at Christmas…O come, let us adore Him…Sing we all of the Saviours’ birth…”

Care to join me as we fa-la-la-la through this holiday season?

***Note to the reader — those of you who receive emails with each post I write, there will probably be more than one per day. I’ve been writing like crazy the last while and I’ve learned that you have to take advantage of creativity when the mood strikes. It’s okay if you can’t keep up. Create a folder and move those items there to be read later when you do have the time. And as always, I welcome any feedback, grace for any errors and of course love. Have a safe, blessed and happy holiday season!

30. the holidays…and so much more

winterVisions of decorated trees, twinkling lights, ornaments, front window holiday displays, and Santa (even though I’ve never believed in him) flutter through my mind. The sounds of Christmas carols, bells ringing and noisy family gatherings are heard through memory’s ears. The smells and taste of baked goods, holiday frosting, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and cheesecake tantalize my imagination’s senses – all of this as I think of the holidays. I absolutely love this time of year (and it’s about now that I wish the English language had other words to use besides “love”); everything about it from the Salvation Army bell ringers to the over-the-top decorations in downtown Minneapolis. Add a little Christmas snow to the mix and perfection. Close to it, anyway.

And while all of those things are good in and of themselves, I can’t stand what the holidays have become: an over-commercialized, over-marketed, top-sales event of the year for retailers and consumers around the world. Christmas displays hit store shelves in July, or earlier with each passing year, so it seems. Now, I probably shouldn’t say anything since I “salt-n-pepper” my Christmas music in starting November 1st and decorate my apartment the weekend before Thanksgiving, just so I can enjoy it longer – but hauling out Christmas displays in July and announcing Black Friday sales in September (not to mention stores being open on Thanksgiving) is beyond ridiculous. I also don’t think that will be changing anytime soon.

We live in a selfish world. One where the next dime must be pounced on immediately or you’ll miss out on the extra dough that could be lining your pocket or adding cushion to your bank account; all at the expense of community, family and relationships – the things that matter.  And it is the latter – the community, the family, and the relationships – that I adore about this time of year, and this includes the amazing, ever-deepening relationship I have Jesus.

Growing up, my family didn’t have much – I still don’t when it comes to material things. We were farmers…close to the bottom of the middle class than we would have liked, but that was okay. A typical holiday (Christmas in particular) would include donning my Christmas dress, going to church, dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s, plenty of food and at least one gift from Mom and Dad and a stocking full of sweet candy or chewing gum and a random brain-teasing toy. Note that I call it typical. Not every year was the same.

There are two Christmases that stand out in my memory above all the rest. There was always food. Mom and Dad made sure we always had food on the table and a roof over our heads – the necessities – but those two years were harder on the finances due to a hard crop year or lower prices in the markets. And while our needs were met, they decided to not do gifts that year and chose to continue giving to those in need through Operation Christmas Child and to spend time doing things as a family. Those years were spent around the kitchen table with good food, baking Christmas cookies, playing board games and watching classic holiday movies. Conversation flowed freely – the topics ranging from school activities to Jesus and more.

Those conversations meant the world to me, especially since I’m a sucker for words and my thirst for the things of God when I was kid was quenched by my mother’s allowing Him to teach us through her. You see, the church we attended taught God’s commandments and Jesus’ life from the pulpit, but never once talked about how to have a relationship with Jesus or what that would even look like lived out on a day-to-day basis. Faith was a Sunday-morning-thing and the rest of the week, you could live as you wanted. It didn’t make sense. It was dark. Empty

Save for the small flame my mother had lit in the window of her soul that shed light where the truth should have been – which to this day shines even brighter; almost like a warm, welcome-home hug. And that light has also spread, by the grace of God, into my life, my heart, my soul and my mind and continues to whet my appetite with His love, mercy and undeserved grace.

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name ‘Immanuel,’ which means, “God with us.’” Matthew 1.23

Two thousand years ago, God came in the form of His Son. He gave up His glory and arrived, wrappedchistmas in human flesh; confined to finite humanity. He lived a human life; experienced what I go through on a daily basis. He was tempted. He was betrayed. He felt sorrow, pain and joy. He gave, sacrificially. He taught not just by words, but by example. He lived. He died. He rose again and will return to call His brothers and sisters home. And He loved.

And it is that love, that joy that I allow myself to be covered in, not just this time of year, but all year round. It’s almost like living Christmas every day.

the forgotten holiday

1eb9f16f59fb8020c27690c20e1675cbCrammed somewhere between the costume and candy of Halloween and the lights and mad rush of Christmas is a Thursday holiday that is slowly become obsolete: Thanksgiving. It’s slowing becoming the last thing on the minds of millions of Americans and if you look hard enough, you might find a small section of Thanksgiving cards, autumn decorations, and maybe a turkey platter amid the aisles of Halloween costumes, miles of candy, Christmas decoration and toys.

For some, especially in America, it’s a day to prioritize their shopping list for their marathon shopping spree on Black Friday. Others, it’s the start of the darkest season of the year due to past financial strain, the loss of a job or a loved one, and/or many other stresses that can affect one’s life.  Few rarely stop long enough to be grateful.

Somewhere along the way, our perception of Thanksgiving Day has been skewed. We’ve forgotten the reason for celebration that first Thanksgiving and what the holiday should be about.

Historically, we think of Thanksgiving as the time of feasting for the Pilgrims and Indians. In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims had been in America less than a year. During those months, over half of their original population had died from disease or starvation. The Pilgrims hosted the first feast not to try out their latest recipes, but to celebrate life with their Indian friends and give thanks to God for His provision in difficult circumstances.

Thanksgiving is about coming together as one to give thanks for a vast array of things – from life to health, from provision to family – no matter where you’re at or where you’ve been in life.

Perhaps you’d like to redirect your loved ones toward gratitude this year.

That was my intended purpose of writing 30 days of gratitude. It’s been fun and my focus has shifted quite a bit this year. How can I further that shift or change my focus? How can you?

Read through the different scriptures about giving thanks or gratitude (some listed below to get you started). Think about the reasons for ingratitude and make a 180 degree turn. Focus on your blessings instead of what you don’t have and you may find that you are far richer than you originally thought. Think of a loved one you rarely see and reach out to them by making a phone call or sending them a card, maybe even make a visit in person to show your appreciation. And, as always, focus on praising God.

My family goes around the table and says one thing they’re thankful for. I’m even contemplating adding a new tradition called the “Encouragement Jar” to this year’s festivities. Ask me about it sometime.

What are you family traditions? What can you do to refocus your view of the holiday?

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118.24

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3.17

Give thanks in all circumstances… 1 Thessalonians 5.18

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 136.1

I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1.3

further inspiration: a winter bucket list

There is something pristine and pure about a winter landscape. It’s quiet. Peaceful. Serene.

I found myself thinking about what I’d like to this upcoming season (November 1st is this Friday and that is usually when my Christmas music, movie and book collection sees the light of day once again) and, well, here’s a glimpse into the typical holiday and winter things I tend to enjoy…along with a few I’ve either never done or haven’t since my childhood. Here’s to feeling like a giddy kid again:

  • Go sledding
  • Make a gingerbread house
  • Build a snowman
  • Decorate cookies
  • Celebrate the birth of Jesus
  • Read through the Christmas story in all four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • Give someone a secret gift
  • Decorate the tree
  • Drink/Make loaded hot cocoa
  • Drink/Make some  “clean” eggnog
  • Look at Christmas lights
  • Watch Christmas movies…there’s a whole list – including the new ones aired on the Hallmark Channel
  • Watch It’s a Wonderful Life simply because I haven’t seen it
  • Watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas
  • Watch the classics from my childhood
  • Play in the snow – make snow angels – haven’t done that since I was a kid
  • Make and deliver treats to neighbors and friends
  • Go caroling
  • Sit by a fire and read a book
  • Read through my holiday collection or pick up a few new ones from the library
  • Start a new book series…any suggestions?
  • Volunteer
  • Donate food
  • Attend a winter festival…St. Paul anyone?
  • Have a snowball fight
  • Watch a play or a musical
  • Attend a Christmas concert
  • Go ice skating
  • Trim the tree
  • Decorate for winter
  • Host a winter dinner
  • Learn to knit/crochet
  • Take too many photos
  • Send out Christmas cards
  • Maybe learn to ski…cross country
  • Go on a horse drawn carriage ride
  • Listen to Christmas music…starting November 1
  • Bundle up and go on a city walk
  • Take a walk while it’s snowing

What’s on your list?

Week 33: All Hallow’s Eve

I once read somewhere that parents shouldn’t allow their children to dress up on October 31st. Yes, I understand that there are evils that lie within the context of that holiday, but why not let the kids dress up for the fun of it? I did when I was a kid and didn’t officially “celebrate” Halloween.

Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays and is celebrated differently in a number of countries around the globe. In Latin American communities, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) honors deceased loved ones and ancestors. It’s a three day celebration that starts on October 31st and ends on November 2nd.

Halloween originated in Ireland nearly 2000 years ago. When Christianity spread to the Celtic isles of Ireland, higher officials declared the holiday evil and sought ways of making the festivities more Christian-oriented. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV proclaimed November 1 All Saints Day, which is known as All Hallows. From there, we get All Hallows Eve…a.k.a Halloween.

Cultures around the world celebrate Halloween much like it is in the United States. Children dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating. Adults throw parties with neighbors and friends. Spooky stories are told in an effort to scare each other.

But what harm is there in Halloween? To some, the holiday emphasizes violence, death, horror and fear. To others, it’s Satan’s holiday.

I agree whole-heartedly with Anderson M. Rearick III in his article Matters of Opinion: Hallowing Halloween – Why Christians should embrace the devilish holiday with gusto – and laughter in Christianity Today (found here).

In his article, he states how he’s is “reluctant to give up what was one of the highlights” of his childhood to the “Great Imposter and Chief of Liars for no reason except that some of his servants claim it as his.” I tend to agree with him.

Halloween was a fun time for me as a child. It was the highlight of the fall some years. I remember being a clown (personally, the costume itself scared me and probably shaved about 10 years off my life), a princess (3 years in a row), Pocahontas, and a witch. I even went as roadkill one year. Now that was a fun costume. There may have been a vampire in there somewhere too…my obsession with the gothic was a bit much when I was a teen.

I have a friend in Brookings who designs his own costume every year. Two years ago, he was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and boy, did he look just like him! And last year…Iron Man. Sweet…Should his creativity be taken away? No!

Halloween was a day to celebrate my imagination. I looked forward to concocting my own outfit from things around the home. We didn’t have the money to purchase a new costume every year. Why not be creative?

Rearick also argues that with the coming of Christ, came a “great light that reclaimed not only individuals but also the holidays they celebrated.” He goes on to use quotes from C.S. Lewis (one of my all-time faves) and Thomas More, stating that Satan hates to be mocked.

He also points to what I mentioned in my post about yoga, if the person redeemed has been saved from the occult, then they shouldn’t have to celebrate Halloween. Just like in Corinthians, when Paul clarifies the eating of meat offered to idols…you may recall.

Christians should instead celebrate Halloween with humor. If we have a good time at Satan’s expense, he flees.

Rearick closes with the following, and I agree with him: “If we give up All Hallows Eve, we lose the delight of God’s gift of imagination and we condemn the rest of society to a darker Halloween because our laughter will not be there to make the devil run.”

What are your thoughts on All Hallow’s Eve?