Making Space

We collapsed into our seats at church Sunday morning, worn out after an intensive two days of emptying our storage pods into our new house—moving furniture, hauling boxes, and trying to make snap decisions on where everything should go. Two days of violent thunderstorms, driving rain, and up to six inches of hail made the process a bit more “interesting.” Now, with the hired movers gone, we’re left with rooms full of boxes. I admit to feeling more than a bit overwhelmed. How in the world will we fit into our downsized digs?

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It seems as if everything that can hold things—bookcases, cabinets, and the like—are buried behind the boxes of books and linens that belong in them. But the room is so full, there’s no place to put the boxes so that we can extract the furniture, and no way to position it correctly so we can start unpacking into it. At the moment, downsizing doesn’t seem like much fun!

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Staying Available

Jump out of bed. Throw on workout clothes. Fry egg, drink tea, spend ten minutes reading the end of Colossians. Rush out the door, head for Curves. Dive into my 30 minute workout; spend 15 more stretching, then cool down for half an hour while chatting with some very interesting ladies. Drive home, clean up, throw on clean clothes. Write blog post, run out door for appointment downtown.

And on and on it goes.

How in the world did I get so busy? Why do I have so little time? And I only work part time! What if I had a job that took up 40 hours a week—or more?

It’s not just me. Everyone I know seems to be running at top speed. We fill our calendars then wonder why we feel so stressed. It’s an epidemic.

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What God Wants for Christmas

What do you want for Christmas? As small children sitting on Santa’s lap, we quickly learned to rattle off a long list of our desires—mostly things we’ve seen in ads on TV. Now that we’re older, we still have our lists, posted online at the request of family members trying to assemble a Christmas shopping list.

As the primary gift shopper in our household, I was scanning these lists when the thought occurred to me… what does Jesus want for Christmas? After all, it’s his birthday!

I was reminded of a passage I read recently—found in both Matthew 16:23 and Mark 8:33—where Jesus tells Peter “Get behind me, Satan! … You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” I wondered, what are the concerns of God? What could He, the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills (not to mention the rest of creation) possibly lack? Or, if you’re not the practical gift type, what could we give Him to make Him happier?

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Permission to Say “No”

Most of us know to say no when someone asks us to do something wrong. But sometimes you have to say no to something good in order to be available when God calls on you. Pete’s friend (we’ll call him “Steve”) discovered just how important saying no can be.

Given the state of the economy, it was no surprise when Steve was laid off from his high tech job a couple of years ago. While disappointed to find himself without an income, he wasn’t overly worried. He had salted away some savings, and figured he’d find another position before too long. After all, he had excellent technical skills, and plenty of experience in his field.

However, Steve was in for a surprise. When he started praying about his job search, God clearly told him, “Don’t look for a job. I’ll bring your next job to you.” That sure ran against the advice everyone else was giving him. How could he just sit around and wait for God to do all the work? Still, he was obedient, and did not send out his resume or fill out applications. And the months passed.

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Celebrating Jesus

“We know how to celebrate Christmas. We’ve got that down to a science.  We just haven’t figured out how to celebrate Jesus.”

This quote is from Matt, who blogs at TheChurchOfNoPeople.com. While his posts are always thought-provoking and entertaining (yes, he manages to accomplish both!), this statement really got me thinking.

It’s true. Our culture is so bound up in Christmas that we miss Jesus. Even in the church, we sometimes focus on the Christmas program, the poinsettias for the platform, the gifts for missionaries, the songs, the turkeys for the poorer part of town, the lights, and all the other holiday accessories, that we just don’t have time for the birthday boy. Have we even invited Him to the party?

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I Don’t Have Time…

Due to a God-arranged series of events, I was recently offered a free membership at our local Curves, the “gym” for women. Since I had been praying for some way to get into better shape (although, as I’ve often heard, “round” is a shape), I eagerly accepted.

A little context: In grade school, back when the kids still chose up teams, I was the stereotypical “last kid” nobody wanted. I passed high school P.E. by showing up with a freshly washed uniform every Monday. If a sport involves any sort of ball, from ping pong to softball, I’m worse than pathetic. In fact, my 11th grade tennis teacher told me I was so hopeless, I would never learn to play tennis. I’d like tell you the story of how that comment inspired me to become a skilled tennis player, but God frowns on lying.

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Keeping God on the To-do List

Waking to the insistent beeping of my alarm clock, I groggily thought, “I have got to learn to say no!”

Usually, life ambles along at a fairly reasonable pace. There are brief stretches when we’re too busy, and even briefer stretches where I have enough spare time that I consider adding another responsibility, but for the most part, I have a good balance between working hard and relaxing, with plenty of time for contemplating God at work in my life.

Lately, all that balance has come crashing down on the side of overload.

There’s work to attend to, housework needs doing, and I’m spending far more time than I had anticipated on a photography class I’m taking. The perennials out in the yard are clamoring for me to clean off last year’s winter-killed stems and leaves, and the vegetable seeds I ordered need planting.

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Giving When We’re Broke

Pete and I enjoy giving financially. This doesn’t make us super spiritual, and I’m not trying to brag or impress anyone—it’s just that we both find giving to be lots of fun. I am quite sure our attitude is a direct result of God working in us, rather than anything we achieved for ourselves. It’s a gift from the Holy Spirit.

However, as I wrote a few months ago, we’re currently “treading water” financially. We haven’t received a paycheck since October. Since there’s no income, we have nothing to tithe on, and we’ve cut our discretionary spending to zero. It’s frustrating.

Well, frustration can be the impetus to start thinking more creatively. Sunday afternoon, Pete and I sat down together and said, OK, we can’t afford to write checks. How else can we give? Sometimes our culture is so focused on money, we miss other things we can spend. A bit of soul-searching was all it took to come up with a few ideas:

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[Advent Conspiracy]

There are 22 more days until Christmas, and most of us are juggling to-do lists, shopping lists, budgets, and calendars, trying to fit it all in. How did this become the norm for advent? Somehow, somewhere, we’ve gone horribly wrong.

Enter the  [Advent Conspiracy] (yes, the cute little brackets are part of the name). While most of us acknowledge the problems of a commercialized, frenzied, over-committed, hollow shell of a holiday that has lost its heart, they have a cure. Click on their logo to watch their short video. At the very least, you will be inspired, and this might even change the way you do Christmas!

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