Anticipating Christmas

When my kids were young we made a big deal out of Christmas. We put up the tree and made sure there were plenty of gifts to open, even if some of them were underwear and socks! We wanted to make sure that somehow the number of gifts under the tree reflected how much we loved them. We wanted to create memories to last a lifetime.

When I was married to my second husband and we shared the children at  Christmas with his ex-wife, the focus became showing her up. We wanted to have the better gifts. We wanted to have the better time. We wanted them to love us more because we showered them with things. And we missed the boat in such a huge way.

My own daughter is an only child. I always felt she was missing out on having a family to share the surprise of Christmas morning. She had no one to share her toys with or to one-up on her gifts. Yet we did everything we could to bring our family around us so that she felt part of something bigger. And I made sure it was always an event when the family came over—one they would talk about for years!

Today both those efforts have faded away. My step-daughters have families of their own now. They are making their own Christmas memories with their children. My daughter and I still celebrate Christmas together, but no longer with our family. As I look back, I wish I had invested more in the relationships that surrounded us than in the number of gifts under the tree. And I hope that my girls will not follow my example but that they will focus on why we even have a Christmas to celebrate. I hope that they won’t stress out over the gifts they buy so that their children know they are loved.

I hope my girls will shower their children with love, the love that comes down from above and works its way out of them and shows up in the way they treat others, including their extended families. 

This year we are keeping it simple. This year I am looking forward to Christmas Eve service and gathering with my church family to celebrate the birth of a man who would die that I could be forgiven. I am anxiously anticipating singing those songs that move my heart to a place of worship and gratitude. I am looking forward to a change in my behavior that shows others what God has done, and is doing, in my life. I am taking in the greatest love and hoping that I can pass that on to others as I meet them.

That is the gift I am seeking and hope to give to others.

Lord, I ask your forgiveness for the times I forget that you are the real purpose for our Christmas celebration and I pray for my family that they will stop and remember not just their presents but your unfailing love. I pray our Christmas will be more about you this year.

God bless,

Maggie

 

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A Season of Purpose

Living with purpose isn’t about how much we do. It is NOT about making ourselves feel better or relevant. Living with purpose is about having a heart for others that compels us to serve our brothers and sisters. Purpose is the result of a changed heart that propels us into action, with little thought about what we get out of it. It is a heart that overflows with excitement to be there for another human—to share our love and our gifts that someone’s life too may be changed. Continue reading

We’re all Superheroes

Each of us has skills, talents, and ‘super powers’ with which we have been gifted. Some of us may speak while others prefer to write. Others love speaking in front of groups and teaching. Some of us use our gifts to help others. Sometimes our gifts are intended to bring joy to others. Some get ideas that others figure out how to implement. The list of gifts and how we use them goes on and on, but I think you get my point. You have something that you feel most comfortable doing and you don’t understand why someone else is uncomfortable doing what you do. It is your gift. Their “power” is something different and most likely not your gift.

I used to measure my self-worth against the gifts of those around me. For example, I can’t do math to save my life. I shudder at numbers and live in fear that someone will discover that I can barely add. I hide my inability because I am afraid that other people will think that I am stupid or uneducated. The fear of math is one of the main reasons I did not finish my college degree until I was in my 40s. I was terrified that I would not pass my math class and not graduate. Numbers are not my gift.

I love to write though. I love communicating, including giving speeches or speaking in front of crowds. I also seem to have a knack for organization and administration and often find myself wondering why my friends are not more organized and structured. I try to teach them my skills but to no avail. In my mind they refuse to embrace the process. I even once developed an analytic framework to help students organize their research and writing. They loved the process even though they didn’t fully use it! My skills are not their skills.

Can you imagine how it is to be a superhero and recognize your power for the first time? There is a slow realization that you have been given something special. You experiment to see how your powers work. You begin to accept that you have something supernatural that no one else has. And then you enter a phase of celebration and excitement for your gift—like a new toy to play with. Maybe you recognize that you have been given a talent to  for good. And then you see other superheroes with different talents. You don’t envy their talent because you know what you have is just as special as that which has been given to them. And then you realize how together you are a powerful unit that can change the world.

When we come together in a group, organization, or ministry we will discover that we all bring different talents to the table. If we are fortunate, we will find that in bringing our superpowers together we might create something almost supernatural. It is far better to celebrate our differences and the ways in which we complement each other as part of a system. An effective project/program leader should explore what each person believes to be their personal gifts. We may need to take a little time at the beginning to ask questions of each other and to record each person’s gifts to determine how we fit together and complement each other. Remember to ask the right person to do that for which they are gifted. You will most likely find yourself with a happier and much more enthusiastic group. You may even find a surprise talent in the pack that you didn’t know you needed.

I like to think of this system process as God’s way of teaching us to see the value and worth in others. If we think that only our talent is needed or that only certain talents add value, then there is no need for building a team. This applies to mission or ministry teams as much as those teams we build in organizations and businesses.  However, if you want to work to build a successful and cohesive group or committee, then take the time to look at what gift God has given each person and be willing to let God’s full vision come to life. Unleash the superhero in each person!!

Pre-Christmas Shuffle

Like many of you I am in the midst of pre-Christmas activities—shopping, decorating, and planning for the big day. This past week we brought most of the decorations out of storage and began to unpack and set up the tree and lights. Well, the tree is up and a string of lights are on the balcony now. And there is stuff everywhere waiting for its special place in the house. And even though my daughter is an adult now, there is still a child-like excitement and joy in all the chaos.

Our boxes of decorations are memories of Christmases past, packed away for a year. They are the pieces of our past that have been trapped in boxes waiting to explode on us at just the right time. There are the hand-made decorations from my daughter that make me smile and think what a happy little girl she was. There are the decorations from my parents that I have held onto for years. They remind me of special mornings with my brother and sister that I will never have again. There is a special little pillow my sister made with my husband’s name on it that keeps him a part of our Christmas every year. There is the special White House ornament my dear friend gave me and I cherish that friendship every time I open the box. There are the decorations my husband bought when we were at Disney that he was so excited to find. The child in him came out as he and my daughter picked out their treasures for the next tree. There are special ornaments my father brought me from Israel—one of the few gifts he ever gave me.

These are the Christmas reflections of our past. Some sweet; some tempered with sadness. Each box we open reminds us of times past; and yet those memories are made new and fresh as we add to them each year. We are in a new home this year and I won’t have room for everything I usually set out. The pieces we pick will have unique meaning to us. They will connect this place we are passing through to our family and friends, some now gone.

In the moments of our reflections, let us stop and reflect on why we are preparing for this special day in December. A new family was created that day with the birth of an extraordinary baby. This baby would change the lives of his parents and those of the world. This family would celebrate his birth each year, just as we do, and build memories on memories. One day this child would die for his family and for the people he so loved. His family and friends would be left with a different memory. Each day, each year, they would remember the tremendous love he had for them and they would speak of passing that love on to others. They would come to share the memory over and over, hoping that we would never forget.

In the middle of my Christmas shuffle, I want to remember not just my friends and family. I want to remember the man whose life I celebrate. I want to remember that Jesus was born and that he is coming back one day. I want to remember that he is the most important thing to celebrate. And the best gift I can give another is to share the story of what he has done in my life. I hope you will see him in the pages I write and I hope you will find him in the boxes you open this Christmas.

“She will give birth to a son and he will be called Immanuel (meaning God is with us).” (Matthew 1:23,New Living Translation)