Christmas Season, Take It Easy

This year, the first of December marks the beginning of the Advent season. This marks a time of spiritual preparation before Christmas. The lights of advent remind us that we are called to be light amid darkness and that we are people of faith, hope, love, joy, and peace.

One of the best ways to be the light in the midst of darkness that we are called to be,

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:24-16

I will admit that I have not always been light amidst the darkness, in fact I know I’ve instead been the darkness. When I look back I’m able to see that one of the main reasons for my being moody, overly anxious, impatient, and less than cheerful has been a result of being overwhelmed with the holiday season. Too many Christmas potlucks, too many persons to purchase gifts for, too many get togethers, and way too much decadent foods that leave me with sugar crashes and fatigue.

Tired Eleves
Copyright: Spoonful of Science

During December it can be easy to forget that we can and maybe need to take some time for rest and solitude. We don’t have to RSVP “yes” to every invitation, especially if it comes from someone you see regularly throughout the year. We don’t have to give a gift to everyone we know. And we don’t need to send a physical gift to all the names on our lists. If you feel stretched for time, a great “present” is gift cards. They are available online and you can also grab some quickly while at the grocery store or gas station.

People love to invite others to Christmas parties that are actually potlucks. If you want to go but dread having to slave away in the kitchen multiple times during the month of celebration, then consider picking up a fruit tray from the grocery store, or a few dips like a seven-layer dip. You can even bring nachos and salsa; these are party snack foods that people love all year round.  Don’t know how to bake, but you’ve been assigned to bring a dessert? Make use of local bakeries, let them do the work, they love it and appreciate your business.

Thomas Kinkade
Thomas Kinkade, artist.

Jesus hasn’t called us to be fatigued, tired, and overwhelmed when it comes to getting together with others. He knows that we need times of rest and rejuvenation.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” Mark 6:30-32

 

Enjoy the festivities of the season, but remember, the one of the best things you can do for yourself and others is to be aware of how much you can handle.

 

 

Shortcuts, and Getting Lost in Life

 

I think we can all admit that we’ve made some unwise decisions in our lives due to impatience. We want something and we want it sooner than later. We don’t want to take longer than we think it should take to get somewhere in life, be it a physical destination or a goal.

This weekend I learned about the story of the Donner Family, also known as the Donner Party. This was a group of approximately 90 American pioneers in 1846 who were to make their way from Illinois west to California. At one point during the journey brothers Jacob and George Donner decided to not follow the already established, tried and true path west, but instead decided to follow a supposedly new and shorter trail established by a man named Lansford Hastings. Let’s just say the shorter path ended up not being quicker, in fact, it didn’t even exist.

Image result for donner party

During the journey the emigrants discovered the path had not even been cleared; instead it was all dense bush and rocks. Travelling with a caravan of children, women, and men of different ages, along with animals, and personal belongings made the trek even more difficult. To say the journey was filled with failure is an understatement.

Due to heavy snowfall the travelling party eventually became trapped in the Sierra Nevada, unable to proceed further due to the weather. Unprepared for the harsh winter they experienced hypothermia and eventually ran out of food.

Members of the Donner Party eventually turned to survival cannibalism due to near starvation; some turned to murder; and others experienced trauma due to the death of their spouses and children. Eventually some members of the party were rescued when the weather allowed a group of men to form a search party. Apparently roughly half of the party survived long enough to be rescued, the majority of them being children.

I share this extreme story of what can happen when we make decisions to take unnecessary short cuts to show the lengths some of us could be willing to go even if it meant risking our safety and well-being. It’s easy to look at the Donner Party and question how they could be so foolish and careless, but I’m confident we can all search through our past and find our own versions of impatient decisions which lead from one thing to another until regret, embarrassment, anger, and shame took over.

Image result for going in circles

Major areas in life where we are heavily tempted to take shortcuts:

Money. Be ware of risky habits such as gambling, buying lottery tickets if you can’t afford them, signing up to be an multi-level-marketing (MLM) rep if you can’t afford the start up costs and don’t have a large network to sell to, borrowing money from friends for things you don’t need, and using credit cards for unnecessary big ticket items instead of saving money.

Friendships. Making friends as an adult takes a lot longer than it does when you are in high school or college. Solid adult friendships take time. Avoid the mistake of thinking that frequently hanging out with people leads to meaningful friendships, it doesn’t most of the time. It might take years to build long lasting friendships with people you can trust, depend on, and genuinely care about, but it’s worth it.

Goals. Whatever your goal is, the way to achieve them is to commit to the work of daily discipline, learning, failing forward, sacrifice, and prioritizing. We look around and see successful people in person and on social media. What can easily be forgotten is how long it can take to become knowledgeable in your field and develop the skills that will keep you successful for the long run. People who take shortcuts to success are often people who have cheated others, stepped on people, fought a nasty fight to the top, and deceived someone somewhere. You want your goals to be achieved with integrity, honesty, hard work, and ethics.

Whenever you are tempted to take shortcuts in life remember this verse from Proverbs 21:5:

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.

 

There Are No Experts On Life

There is an expression that some people believe, “You are the expert of your own life” or the other variation, “You are the only expert of your own life”.

I was in a planning meeting where we were working on developing a tool for women who might feel isolated or lack community during their pregnancy and postpartum period. A common theme and belief that kept being repeated during the brain storming session was that women know what’s best for themselves and they are experts in their own lives. I had to disagree.

I reminded everyone in attendance that if these women were indeed experts, they wouldn’t be needing help because they wouldn’t have found themselves in these situations that required government help. An expert is defined as “One with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject; b) having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.” (Websters-Merriam Dictionary)

The reason I believe we can’t ever become “experts” of our own life is because of a simple fact, we don’t know what we don’t know. As someone who has worked with numerous women and others who are in emergency situations I have never believed that we should expect people to know exactly what they need. In the midst of situations that will eventually become traumatic, it is unrealistic to expect a person to be an expert while their life feels like it’s spiraling out of control, or in danger. That is why we as workers, friends, and family are there to be of help to those in need.

Failed expectations often lead to shame, embarrassment, isolation, and sometimes mood disorders. We can manage our lives as best as we can, but that never guarantees that occurrences outside of our control won’t happen and that we won’t be in a place where we won’t know what to do and seek assistance and advice.

There are a variety of reasons why people aren’t so called experts of their lives: PTSD, mood disorders, sleep deprivation, lack of self-awareness, being manipulated, effects of domestic violence, medical issues, and simply being human.

If you are an expert of your life, this can lead to not being open to growth and learning. Learning more about yourself, your environment, and others. It’s easy to see yourself one way while others might see you a different way. We can learn self-reflection, self-awareness, and healthy self-critique; but it is unlikely that you will ever become an expert on yourself.

Life's Journey

Instead of being an expert, embrace being a learner with periods of thankfulness for the experiences of growth and transformation. We can plan for the future, but if we aren’t flexible and resilient, we will always be disappointed. Allow yourself to change directions and welcome new experiences. An expert is rarely on a journey because they know everything already and are often there to tell the world what they know rather than what they are learning. Experts spend plenty of time talking about the past and less on the future of open possibilities.

Let’s leave being an expert to things that are external to our self and instead, let’s be journeyers in our own lives.

You Are Not a Jesus Feminist Pt 2

You are not a Jesus Feminist Part 2

 

In this current political climate feminist is a word that is used by women to let the world know that they stand up for the rights of women and seek equalization with men. Unfortunately, not all feminists are interested in fighting for the rights of ALL WOMEN. They have some how made a mental, sometimes unconscious list in their mind of which women are worthy and which one’s aren’t.

The most selective feminists have deemed women who are poor, of colour, not formally educated, hold a criminal record, are “too religious” or whatever qualifier they have decided is worthless, to not be females worth fighting for. Unapologetically, they exclude the women who have made it onto their list of undesirables.

I’ve read articles where Christians have labeled Jesus a feminist. I think that’s a slippery slope and it’s best to avoid attaching political labels to Jesus. It is no different than saying Jesus is a Democrat, Republican, environmentalist or a union supporter.  I’ve even listened to people who claim that Jesus was a vegetarian, and yes, this is even though we read of Jesus fishing and eating with his disciples.

Based on scriptures in the bible, I have no doubt that Jesus cared about the environment; the earth is God’s creation. And we know that Jesus cared about the poor, the widows, children, and women based on his teachings. The issue is not the values, but the labels. Jesus never labeled himself. Yes, he was a Jew born into the Pharisee tradition, and he came from a town that was part of his identity; but other than that, he didn’t give himself labels, especially political ones.

We as Christians can have labels, we can either assign them to our self, or whether we like it or not, one will be assigned to us by society, government, employers, and strangers on the internet. Your first identity is as a Christian, a follower of Christ, a child of God, and on this foundation is where the other identities grow from. No person has a single identity, we wear many hats and have multiple roles in our lifetime.

The values associated with feminists, Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, NDP, environmentalists, etc. have changed over time and will continue to be fluid; therefore, it is never a good idea to associate Jesus with a political label. When you say that Jesus is a ________ (fill in the blank) you assume that Jesus agrees with everything a group or organization does. The truth is we don’t know if he would. Jesus never gave easy answers or explanations; even bible scholars, philosophers, and theologians have different interpretations of his parables, actions, and purpose.

Go ahead and be a feminist, a member of a political party, and an advocate. Keep your choices rooted in the values and commandments that God has called us to live; but please don’t assume that Jesus would be a card carrying member or financial donor of any group or organization. God has given you strength, wisdom, a conscience, and skills to fight the good fight and seek justice rooted in mercy, grace, and repentance; this is what you need. Associate Jesus with values, attributes, and things that fall into alignment with the will of God instead of a political label.

As my friend used to say, ‘Labels are for jars’.

A faith based blog about life, learning, and goals!

%d bloggers like this: