Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

Want to Simplify this Christmas?

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The pressure is on to find the right gifts for everyone on your list, to prepare the perfect holiday meal, and to make it to every party. With all the obligations of the season though, can anyone remember what Christmas is all about? Something about a baby—Oh no! I forgot to put the Smith family’s new baby on my shopping list!

Oftentimes we lament the consumerism of the season, but we can’t quite seem to back our sleigh ride away from that slippery slope. Over the years I’ve dabbled with various ideas of simplifying my celebrations to focus on what is most important to me: faith, family, and friends.

In my latest post at Life & Liberty Online Magazine, I wrote a sampling of ideas to help you be more deliberate about how you spend your time and money this holiday season. You can read the full text of the article over there, but here is the basic list broken down by three categories, gift-giving, cooking, and celebrations…

 

Put Joy (Back) Into Gift-Giving

  1. Shorten the gift-giving list.
  2. Make gifts using a craft or skill that is truly enjoyable.
  3. Create gift baskets.
  4. Make a music mix.
  5. Give a copy of a favorite book.
  6. Give gift cards/certificates.
  7. Give a membership.
  8. Write an original story or poetry collection and give it as a gift.
  9. Give yourself permission to give the same gift to more than one person on your list.
  10. Give family gifts.

For more on any of these gift-giving ideas, read my full commentary on my post, “Tis the Season to Simplify,” at Life & Liberty.

 

Cook Up some Holiday Spirit

  1. Consider potluck.
  2. Say “yes” when someone offers to bring something.
  3. Choose simpler preparations for at least some of your dishes.
  4. Stick with what you know.

For more on any of these cooking ideas, read my full commentary on my post, “Tis the Season to Simplify,” at Life & Liberty.

 

Keep the Merry in Your Merry-Making

  1. Rethink “White Elephant” parties.
  2. Make kits to give away to charities.
  3. Enjoy the arts together.
  4. See the lights!
  5. Serve together.
  6. Make a special treat or meal together.
  7. Reschedule your celebration for a less-rushed time.

For more on any of these celebration ideas, read my full commentary on my post, “Tis the Season to Simplify,” at Life & Liberty.

 

Pick and choose from this list, take or leave what works for you and helps you have the most joy this holiday season.

Drought-Tolerant Faith?

 

Scorched trees near Bastrop, TX affected by drought-related wildfires of 2011 with dying grass affected by current drought.

Scorched trees near Bastrop, TX affected by drought-related wildfires of 2011 with dying grass affected by current drought.

I got to preach again last weekend, and although I was the one coming in to bring the word, I had an important word imparted to me about our present drought in Texas.

Now, you have to know that the summer before we moved here there was a terrible drought in the area. Livestock herds could not be maintained. Wildfires swept through the area. Even though we weren’t living here at the time, I’ve heard stories and seen pictures.

Growing up in Ohio, we had drought, but I didn’t understand the meaning of drought until I learned of what they went through down here.

It has had me scared, really. We’ve been behind on precipitation and have been under “burn bans” a good deal of the time we’ve lived here.

I’ve worried and wondered, what if it gets like it was back before we moved here?

Things were looking up over the summer. No burn bans meant I’ve had lots of my backyard campfires which I love. (Apparently according to a quiz I took online, my subconscious is obsessed with nature, so my urge for backyard campfires makes sense.)

But rain has not been coming and we are back under a burn ban…and inconveniently that means no more backyard fires…but more seriously, it has rekindled my worry.

When I was at church on Sunday (one of two churches I preached at that day), I made small talk before the service, “Have y’all gotten any rain yet up this way?” (I mean, the weather is always a good topic for small talk, right?)

But no, there hadn’t been much to speak of up that way. The next statement schooled me, “I guess we don’t need it. We think we do but I guess we really don’t.”

What could I say?

I wasn’t personally convinced, but I learned a long time ago not to argue with other people in how they size up a crisis they’re experiencing firsthand.

But then, after the service was over, I had a similar conversation with another person who said nearly the same thing: We think we need the rain. But we must not need it.

And I’m a little slow, so it took me hearing it twice over the course of that morning for it to have its full impact.

If it would have just been the one person who said it, I could have dismissed it. I mean, we need the rain because life and crops and all rely on it! And what is God thinking not providing rain when we need it? That’s sweet to let God off the hook like all that, but I expect a bit more from The Almighty!

But when the same sentiment was spoken twice, and both times it was spoken by people who lived through the major drought what with livestock and forests in danger and all…

Perhaps they knew something, they discerned something that I was missing.

In my fear and worry about the devastation I knew the last drought caused…and I had to face it, with my irritation about not being able to have my backyard fires…well, I was missing the really big picture.

But they knew better.

They knew to wait patiently, to trust that what we really need isn’t always what we think we need or what we fret about.

And my own worry and fear were once again exposed. Oh Lord, how many times must I need reminded of your provision? Of your goodness? Of your faithfulness despite what seems impossible?

In this way, I was among those who received a word that day I preached. Oh Lord, give me a drought-tolerant faith like theirs.

Christian Community Saved My Faith

whatsavedmyfaithI’m joining the synchroblog for the release of A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth by answering the prompt: ‘What saved my faith?’

One of the darkest times in my life was before I had my son and I wrestled with God about my infertility. What saved my faith in that time were my faith communities. I wrote more about that in an older post about coping with infertility. Here is an excerpt:

Even when I’m mad at God, I need the support of my faith communities.

It was a big turning point for me before we had our son when I finally asked to be added to the church prayer list for my infertility concerns. I had told one or two people in the church, but most people had no idea. When I asked for prayer it became public. I was nervous at first, but my church family at the time held my prayer need with utmost respect.

When I am struggling in my faith I am particularly glad for corporate worship and liturgy in particular. Even if I can’t pray, the community of faith carries me through their prayers. Churches who do liturgical worship are accused sometimes of “just going through the motions.” I have to tell you though, when infertility plunged me to my lowest point, those “motions” were all I had. Reciting liturgy that I have memorized, that I know by heart allowed me to pray when I would not have otherwise been able to pray.

One thing that helped me also was when my congregation and other supportive faith communities became aware of the pain of infertility. Due to awareness about infertility, my church family prayed for couples who cannot have children on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Before I had my son, fellow members of an online discussion group for Pastor’s Wives made a point to show sensitivity when sharing about baby news.

What saved your faith? Write your own post answering that question and then visit http://www.edcyzewski.com to learn how you can join the synchroblog or to read additional posts to celebrate the release of Ed’s book A Christian Survival Guide, which is discounted on Amazon this week.

P.S. I got to chat with Ed Cyzewski about A Christian Survival Guide for the Life & Liberty podcast. Listen to our chat here: http://www.davidhousholder.com/a-christian-survival-guide-ed-cyzewski/

Heeding the Signs

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Oh, there are signs. We see them. We know what they say, what they mean. We even know they’re right and helpful. But do we heed them?

There has been some road construction on the highway that goes by our house. I drove through it a number of days ago.

There were signs up that warned of “Loose Gravel.” And indeed, when I drove through the construction on the first day, I had to drive very slowly on account of said loose gravel.

On the second day of construction, I got in my car to drive into town. As I was driving down the driveway toward the road, I noticed one of those “Loose Gravel” signs. I recalled how loose the gravel had been the day before.

I drove right up to the road and paused in my driveway to wait for a break in traffic.

Once I finally had my chance, I did as I’m used to doing and I pounced on the accelerator. You see, our driveway is not level with the roadway; we have a steep climb right at the end of our driveway to get up onto the road. I have to really give it the gas to get up and out.

But only, this time, when I gunned it, my tires didn’t grip right…because they had gotten caught up on some…loose gravel.

And I thought, gee, I sure wish someone would’ve warned me about that gravel being all loose like that. And all at once I remembered the construction and I looked up and noticed that “Loose Gravel” sign once again.

Oh, someone had warned me. But I forgot. I knew there was loose gravel. I had even seen that sign just minutes before my tires spun out.

The same type of thing happens in my spiritual life more often than I’d like to admit.

Just today something a friend wrote reminded me of a lesson that the Lord has been trying to impart to me repeatedly over the last several months. And every time I get these kinds of reminders about that particular lesson, I say, “Yes, Lord. I remember you telling me that before.”

I know the lesson pretty well on one level. I get what the Lord is trying to tell me. I know it is right and it is for my own good.

I hear the reminders and I know they’re true.

But then? Then, I forget.

All at once I forget and I revert back to my old ways, to what I’m used to doing instead of heeding the Lord’s message to me.

The old ways are so ingrained and it’s hard not to do it those ways. I mean, like putting the pedal to the metal to get out of my driveway, I do what I’ve always done in my life as well. I do what has worked for me in the past even when God has showed me clear signs to do it a new way.

I know I’m not perfect at heeding the signs Lord, but I thank you for providing them so generously. I do see them; I need your strength to obey.

Why I Stopped Hoarding Hotel Soap

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I used to hoard hotel amenities like the little bars of soap and the small bottles of shampoo. But I don’t anymore and I want to tell you about my transformation in this area.

 

How it Started

It started innocently enough. When I would go to a hotel for a youth event or band trip in high school I would grab the shampoo & conditioner bottles from the bathroom before checking out. As a young-married I would grab the shower-cap to take home with me if I didn’t use it during our stay.

But those little bottles are so darling, and I found that on multiple-night stays that hotel staff would replenish any and all amenities that appeared to be used up. So, to create the appearance of them being used up, I would stash whatever was left in the morning in my suitcase before they came to refresh the room.

Sure enough, they replaced everything. I found that I could do this each and every morning and build up quite a little store of soaps, shampoos and shower caps.

At some point in married life there came a trend of getting in-room coffee and tea at some hotels. And I found I could do the same trick of stashing the pillow-packs of coffee, the tea bags, and sugar in my suitcase and those too would get replenished each day!

 

How it Stopped

In a similar way to how I stopped collecting magazines, I finally stopped hoarding these little hotel goodies.

For one thing, it became a storage problem for me. I mean, I wasn’t going to use those little bottles and bars at home and I didn’t travel frequently enough to use them all. I hardly ever used the coffee pillow packs, and I didn’t really much like the tea bags compared to the brand I always favor at home.

So, here was all this loot that kept taking up space in my life and in my home.

But that wasn’t really what did it. I mean, I found places to stick all the little treasures here and there. And then they were out of sight, out of mind.

What really did it for me was moving around the country multiple times. Having so much stuff that needs packed and unpacked prompted me to take an honest look at just how much I was hoarding.

Because really, when all I wanted was to find my son’s bath toys, I didn’t expect to have so many “Bathroom” boxes to go through. And when I wanted bath toys and only found mixed lots of hotel shampoos, no one was served by that.

So, I started to get honest with myself about my hoarding habit and decided to cease the stock-piling.

 

But It Smells Soooo Good…

So, here I am at this church convention this weekend and would you believe they have the most scrumptious-smelling little bars of soap at the hotel where we’re staying. I mean, absolutely divine. And all I want to do is take ALL the bars home.

And there’s a Keurig coffee-maker in the room. I don’t even have a Keurig at home, but I want to take ALL the little K-cups home with me.

What is with this crazy compulsion?

I have to consciously talk myself out of grabbing everything each day.

It reminds me of the story in the Bible (Exodus 16) when God provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. God instructed them to just gather up what they needed for each day and no more. And when they gathered up too much, it was spoiled by morning anyway. But there was always plenty to gather each new day.

Whether it’s me and soap or it was the Israelites and manna, trying to store more than needed only backfires and leaves us with something unpleasant to have to manage. Pluswhich, the hoarding in both cases is/was wholly unnecessary!

 

Provisions

I’ve never gone a whole day without access to soap or coffee. Even now, back at my house, there are back-ups of full-sized bars of soap in a cupboard in the bathroom; there is coffee in the pantry. To be honest, I’ve never gone a whole day without all of my real physical needs being filled.

God’s provision is abundant, but still I find myself wanting to grab more than I need.

Once again, I talk myself out of taking ALL the amenities.

Before I leave, I’ll lather my hands up and inhale the wonderful aroma of the soap one last time, and I’ll have one last cup of coffee brewed in the Keurig. Then I’ll head back home and enjoy the “amenities” there.

And I will be fine without hoards of things I don’t really need. Better than fine. I will be free.