a short list, but a good list

What’s that you say?

Christmas “spirit” got you down? Tired of overdone light displays and gaudy vests (and it’s not even December yet!)?

Here is a list for you, my friend. It’s SHORT so you are sure to make it to the end on this delightful Friday afternoon. This is about keeping the main thing the main thing (if you know what I mean).

  • You MUST pick up this Advent Jesse Tree Book! It’s free (no swiping necessary!) if you sign up to receive emails from Ann Voskamp’s site. She’s a pretty neat lady, so you should check her out even if you don’t dig the book. This resource will give you something to do with your family to prepare for the Christmas season and to remember well the glorious arrival of our Savior!
  • I know I talk about these guys a lot, but I really appreciate their music! If you are of the “Christmas music whenever you feel like it” camp, jump on the Sojourn Music bandwagon with me!
  • If you are all about a good deal (but would rather it be something to read then something to wear) then check out what Tim Challies is gathering for you at his blog. Leading up to Thanksgiving, he will post Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday deals for stuff you might actually buy! Check it out at his blog here.
  • I’m pretty excited at the challenge of making this another Advent Conspiracy Christmas at our house. There are some Ah-mazing ideas at their website about how to make it happen with you and yours! Here’s the video:
  • If you live anywhere near, around, close to, next to, or in the vicinity of Des Moines, Iowa – LISTEN UP. There is an AMAZING ministry that you might not know about called Freedom for Youth. You can support them by doing some Christmas shopping at their location (2301 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA 50310) on December 3 and 10. Here’s a snippet from their website,
    “This holiday season, Freedom for Youth Ministries is hosting a Christmas Village at the Freedom Center. We will be featuring the teens & young adults handcrafted items such as art, woodworking, food and more! Come for a soup lunch or Christmas shop for unique and handmade gifts for family and friends! Freedom Blend Coffee is on sale during these 2 days!”

That’s the list, as promised, and still no overdone light displays or gaudy vests. #winning

let LOVE fly like crazy

giving PRESENCE this Christmas

I intentionally didn’t start out my post yesterday with an apology because I wanted to get right into the strangeness of my gym encounter. Today, I want to post an ENORMOUS slideshow to give you an idea of what the last two weeks have been full of: PRESENCE.

Awhile ago, I posted a video from Advent Conspiracy that challenges people to give more meaningful gifts of time and hand-crafted gifts rather than breaking the bank. Here it is again, if you missed it:

I haven’t quite felt up to pounding out life at the keyboard because there’s been a LOT of presence-making! I finally got my handmade gifts off to the States, via someone’s suitcase and now I’m working on finishing up the ones I still need to deliver here. There’s A LOT of baking going on, to be sure. It could be granola, sugar cut-out cookies, pumpkin cake, or a number of other things… but there’s ALWAYS something to do in the kitchen this time of year.

Well, enjoy this slideshow. I hope it lets you peek in and kind of sit with me as I go about being present this Christmas.

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where suffering meets joy

Here’s a little piece I wrote for the guidance newsletter this month:

My friend went to Kenya in 2008 and found himself surrounded by refugees displaced by civil war.

We all marveled at the pictures and listened to his tales when he returned, but after a while, we found ourselves again caught up in our lives layered with routines and more “important” matters. His experience was forced to fit into phrases like, “Oh, yeah, when you were in Africa…” because we didn’t have time for deeper questions requiring deeper answers.

As we step into this Christmas season, much of our discomfort results from crowded checkout lines and shopping cart traffic jams. Our culture presses in to define this celebration with catchy tag lines and guilt-ridden advertisements enticing us to add another gift to the cumbersome pile.

The joy in the angels’ announcement that filled the sky at Christ’s birth is somehow reduced to greeting cards and cavalier “Happy Holidays” thrown around like plastic swiped in those nifty little machines.

Scan of a Christmas greeting card.
Image via Wikipedia

Is the subject of your holiday adoration worthy of all the discomfort?

As I examine my own motives for crafting homemade gifts, my mind wanders back to my friend who went to Kenya. Maybe we moved on so quickly from his experience because being near to someone’s pain brings a certain suffering to our lives as well.

Thinking about Kenya beyond the powerpoints and post-trip Q & A is… uncomfortable, and we have a tidy way of stuffing uncomfortable stories in the attic while we stuff stockings over the fireplace.

Though we often set them against each other, suffering is not opposite joy. Christ, who for the joy set before Him, endured the great suffering of the cross. When we open our lives and hearts to let the Spirit move in us, we will experience some of the greatest suffering and most abundant joy.

Christmas is both a time to celebrate the joy of a Savior and a time to long for Christ’s appearing as the only response to the suffering around us.

The closer we walk with those who are suffering, the more we will wonder at God’s joy in this season. Who will you choose to walk beside this season, sharing their pain? Great joy awaits, dear sojourner… GREAT JOY!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy