Preparing Your Mind for Advent and Christmas


It’s almost December and the first Sunday of Advent is fast approaching. Christmas parties and events have already begun and with each week there is increased busyness related to the holidays.

As a culture our time is not filled with the story of Jesus’ arrival into the world, instead, we are often consumed with celebration of the secular holiday season and commercialism. I’m not about to pretend that I somehow become extra holy during Advent and Christmas, but I can certainly feel the tension between focusing on Christ verses focusing on the secular celebrations and habits of the season.

I don’t have a problem with making “Jesus the reason for the Season”. I feel an increased need to draw closer to Christ during these busy times because I am tempted by corporations that try to convince us that Christmas doesn’t exist without all the small appliances and toys they are offering for sale. I need to call on Jesus so I don’t allow myself to become a bitter and angry person when family issues surface due to holiday pressures. My prayers increase because I see the desperate needs of people who live on the streets and those who are living in poverty and I remember what Jesus said to us about our relationship with those who are poor. I remember my identity in Christ when the thief of comparison pays a visit, reminding myself and others of the material things we don’t have.

I invite Jesus into the holiday season by engaging in Advent rituals. Without these daily reminders it becomes easy to spend more time focusing on Christmas instead of Christ.

There’s nothing wrong with having fun during the holidays, personally, I think it’s necessary for our well being to do so. The winter season is long, dark, cold, and sometimes depressing. Gathering together and having fun is the best way to beat the winter blues.

So, what are some ways you can invite Jesus into your holiday?

Advent Wreath: With an advent wreath in your home, you have a visual reminder of the seasonal themes Love, Joy, Peace, and Love. You can light the candles every day or once a week. You can even take things further by doing a reading or prayer each time you light the candles.

Advent Daily Devotional: These devotionals focus specifically on the story of Christ’s incarnation, the prophecies of the Hebrew scriptures with foretold the story of Christ, and provide reflections on how to live as Christians waiting for the advent (coming) of Christ.

Decorate your home with religious symbols: Christmas is filled with beautiful trees and the equally appealing decorations they hold. Adding religious decorations such as nativity scenes, angels, and art depicting the Christmas story serve as reminders that Jesus is a part of our holidays.

Listen to Christian Christmas Music: There are many winter songs that sing of warming up by the fire, Santa Claus and loved ones, but throwing in some songs that reflect the hope and joy of the season help to create a spiritual atmosphere. Christian Christmas music is found across many genres and are produced by both Christian and non-Christian artists.

Give-Give-Give: Christmas brings out the charity in all of us. A great way to celebrate the holidays is sharing with others whether it be by giving financially to a charity of your choice or by donating goods and your time to organizations.

The Horror of the Cross and Women’s Monthly Flow

In the city I live in, there is currently a shortage of free menstrual items for women and young girls who are homeless, low-income, or living in poverty. It has been so problematic that a woman and her friends took the initiative to start a donation campaign exclusively to collect pads and tampons.

Over a year ago I had asked a local church if we could do a women’s hygiene donation drive, the response of one of the women’s ministry leaders was that it had to be at one of the women’s events. This caught me off guard. Why did this important need have to be regulated to women’s ministry? What would happen if this need was advertised in the Sunday bulletin. Would it really make both men and women uncomfortable? Are periods only a woman’s issue?

I sometimes feel that that Church is only comfortable with blood if it is associated with Jesus being tortured on a cross. Not many seem to object to images of a bloody Jesus hanging from the cross despite the fact that he is no longer on the cross. Jesus defeated the cross, he is resurrected in heaven, free from the blood and gore caused by the Roman torture devise. Yet we can’t let go of that bloody image. In fact, we are so attached to the blood of Christ that we celebrate it and pretend to drink it during the Eucharist. I’m not saying we should not remember how gruesome the crucifixion was; that would be minimizing the amazingness of Christ’s sacrifice; what I’m getting at is our acceptance of a bloody Jesus and the rejection of a bloody woman.

Niddah is a Hebrew word used to describe a woman who is menstruating or a woman who hasn’t completed her ritual bath requirement. The literal word niddah means “removed” and is also used to mean “cast out”.

When a woman has a discharge of blood that is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. Everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean. Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. Whoever touches anything upon which she sits shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening; whether it is the bed or anything upon which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. If any man lies with her, and her impurity falls on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.” Leviticus 15:19-24

If she is cleansed of her discharge, she shall count seven days, and after that she shall be clean. On the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The priest shall offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf before the Lord for her unclean discharge.” Leviticus 15:28-30

How nice of the priest to make an atonement for the SIN of a woman having a period. Something that she has no control over, something that is a healthy part of being a woman.

Christianity doesn’t have any purity laws, but when it comes to menstruation, we certainly act as if it is impure by not allowing it to be a topic that is openly discussed among both men and woman. We treat women and their periods as impure when we glorify the bloody stories of war, murder, and genocide found in the bible, but then shame anything that has to do with women who bleed.

If there are food banks, domestic violence safe houses, or shelters in your area; consider finding out if they need any menstrual products and donate proudly without shame or embarrassment. Let’s change the discourse about women and their periods from one of sin to that of being a gift from God. Sometimes periods don’t feel like a gift from God, but they are. Consider that without a proper menstrual cycle some women wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. Similar to the beauty of the cross, is the beauty of menstruation.






#Metoo and the Bible

bible women

Over the past couple of weeks, social media lit up with hashtags and comments by mostly women sharing that they too had been on the receiving end of sexual harassment.

It was no surprise to me that so many women had experienced sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually draining. The harassment might be physical, but it affects a person’s sense of well-being; especially if they keep their experience to themselves. Imagine carrying shame, embarrassment, and sometimes confusion on your own; it eventually becomes a mental burden.

One would think the church would be a safe place to seek help and share experiences, but sometimes it’s not. The bible, the very book that is used by Christians as a guidebook for godly living, is filled with horrific stories of the physical abuse and oppression of women, sometimes at the hands of godly men. Hello King David, I’m talking about you!

In the Hebrew scriptures, the stories of revenge against rapists is more about protecting the family name and their female property rather than respecting the woman herself.

In Genesis 34 Dinah’s rape was avenged by her brothers who killed all the men of Shechem and pillaged the village of items including women. On the surface this might seem like a victorious story, but it’s not. The women who were captured certainly didn’t need to be taken by men as a revenge prize. The capture of these women are equally as appalling as the rape of Dinah. In both cases women were violated. These women were seen as nothing more than possessions to be had by any means without any thought about how they might feel.

The story of the Levite’s Concubine can be found in Judges 19-21. It is a repulsive story of a traveling husband who offers his wife to a group of strangers to be gang raped. After being assaulted all night she manages to make it to the doorstep where she likely died. In the morning her husband finds her unresponsive and places her on donkey. Once at home he dismembers her body into twelve pieces and sends her body to different territories of Israel. There was no mention of a memorial, funeral, or burial. All we are left with is another story of a man who is angry that his property has been violated is no longer of any use to him.

As a person who has read through the entire bible, I have no memory of any verses and stories about sexual harassment against women that would be inspiring to a victim.

The bible clearly tells us that God is our rock, our strength, our protector; but I certainly wouldn’t encourage women to turn to the bible for any heroes or heroines of assault.  A woman’s body belongs to her, not to her parents, nor her husband. Scripture will not inform you of this.

no means no

So… all this to say: When dealing with sexual harassment and sexual assault, don’t look for inspiration in texts of terror (as feminist theologian Phyllis Trible would call them). Instead, seek out verses that strengthen you, ones that remind of God’s love for you, those verses that remind you that while God did not stop bad things from happening to you, he is still with you. You are still his beloved daughter, you are not damaged goods. His love, mercy, and grace will bring healing to your life and your body. 



Goals That Never Happened


September is a month of change. Changes that we don’t have a lot of control over. Young children start Kindergarten and Grade One for the first time. Young adults begin college, some leaving home for the first time in their lives.

Mother natures brings change in the form of fall coloured leaves, garden vegetations; some dying, some just coming into season.

September is a great reminder that change is a part of life, some changes are pleasant and welcomed, others are not.

I live within walking distance to our provinces’ largest university. Each Fall I see a wave of teenagers with big dreams and goals of becoming something. I know they are at school to achieve something; a job, a title, status; something. No one enrolls in a four-year program with the intention of failing in life or going no where. School, whether it is grades K-12 or post-secondary is about achieving something.

My friend and I were thinking back to when we first started college and noted that none, not a single goal that we had at the beginning of this stage of life came true. Things changed significantly. Between then and now there were accidents, injuries, a change of academic interests, jobs we loved and jobs we hated, moving to different cities, and a host of different friends entered our lives.

We are taught to pursue our goals at any cost, to not give up, stay focused, and not fall off track; but I have to say, sometimes not pursuing and achieving our goals can be a good thing.

Goals can turn from healthy to destructive when the following happen:

Over focusing on one area of your life while neglecting other aspects of your life. Goals certainly require focus, but it’s also important to engage in other activities not related to your specific goal. Variety in life is important and fuels creativity. It also gives you a break from focusing exclusively on tasks related to your goal.

Engaging in unethical behaviour to meet and maintain a goal. A strong desire to meet a goal can lead to desperate actions. If you lie, cheat, steal, or hurt others you’ve gone too far. Your achievements should never involve bringing others down. Success can be obtained through honest means.

Jealousy towards those who have achieved what you are working towards. If you find yourself experiencing feelings of jealousy and envy towards others who have achieved what you want, then it’s important to stop and do some self-inventory and reflection. Envy is a sign that you are focusing more on others than yourself. One way to ward off these negative feelings is to admire the work of others. Let their work inspire and motive you in a positive and non-competitive manor. Learn from them instead of hating them.

Allowing your identity to be based on accomplishments towards your goals. We are more than our job title, hobbies, and achievements. We are well rounded people, we wear many hats: spouse, employee, parent, child, community member, etc. Our identity changes with time. The accomplishments you reach are only one aspect of who you are. People often “fail” at something while achieving a goal. If you have too much of your identity attached to your outcomes, any mistakes or mishaps can be taken too personally. Remember, failing at something doesn’t make you a failure.

I believe The Son of David was wrong when he said,

Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1: 2). There is meaning in our lives, there is meaning in the things we do. What matters is the meaning we give to it. This bitter sentiment is what happens when people place too much importance and focus on goal achievements.

Pursue goals, but don’t neglect to enjoy life!






A blog about life, learning, and goals!

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