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Holy Day or Holiday?: Getting Serious about the Season

This is Santa Believes by Susan Comish. This post doesn’t seek to explain, exhort or condemn the artist’s work.

Image result for Santa holding a snow globe of nativity scene

I was out Christmas shopping with my roommate when I came across this picture of Santa Claus holding a snow globe with a nativity scene inside it.

A big Santa holding a small nativity scene in a bubble is a powerful statement to me.

The push pull of the holiday season, the competing celebrations of Santa Claus versus the birth of Christ have left many confused. I see friends struggling with the decision of whether or not to teach their kids about Santa. I see them buy all the advent products and try to squeeze the story of Jesus’ birth into their holiday routines. I see people who argue Jesus wasn’t born in December, and Christmas is based on a pagan holiday. It’s hard to miss how many people walk in the tension between Christmas as a holiday and Christmas as a holy day.

A holiday is a day of celebration. It’s a day free from work. It’s a day to spend time doing things we love with people we love. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A holy day is a day in which we do what the Lord has prescribed for us to do in observance of that day. It’s about remembrance, observation, and thankfulness. It is focused on the only one who is holy–that is, the Lord. So is Christmas a day of fun enjoyment with friends and family, to observe the traditions we’ve established with the people we want to observe them with, or is it a time God has set aside for us to remember a certain event and to carry out specific actions the Lord has called us to on this day?

Whether it’s a debate over Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays, red cups at Starbucks, or whether to go to church Sunday morning or stay home to open presents, the holiday season full of pointless debates for the Christian to get into. But are we missing God in our debates?

Have we commodified Christ? Have we reduced His birth to a set of rituals to perform in the midst of a season that celebrates ideals He abhors?

Does it really matter if our Starbucks cups are red and baristas say “Merry Christmas” if we go into debt buying gifts we lie and tell our kids are from a magical man in a red suit? If we sprinkle daily advent reading into the mix of covetousness, short tempers, and selfishness, have we met our Christian quota for the season? As the picture I saw suggested, have we made Santa bigger than the birth of Jesus?

Why are people so quick to go to war over keeping Christ in Christmas when many of them set this same Christ aside unless it’s a “Jesus Holiday”? Why won’t they act as if He’s important and belief in Him is worthy of defense at any other time?

I hear you, fellow Christian woman. I see you drowning in advent calendars and devotions, with your nativity scene beside your Christmas tree full of presents, trying to figure out the logistics of sharing this special time with friends and family. The birth of Christ is important. If He didn’t come, He couldn’t die. His birth is remarkable. But are you making it a footnote to your festive season?

Listen, I’m not a Scrooge or a Grinch. There’s nothing wrong with observing the birth of Christ, giving gifts, or taking time to let people know you love and care about them. What’s awful is letting the world tell us when to read about Jesus’ birth and meditate on it. It’s deplorable when it goes from a life to lead to a ritual to complete in December.  It’s unconscionable when reading about Jesus’ birth during advent season is just another thing to check off our good Christian list, or “Instagram for Christ.” It’s a case of drawing near with lips instead of hearts and doing things to be seen of men instead of from a true reverence for God.

Ask yourself: Am I truly worshipping Jesus and thanking God for Him in this season, or am I making an obligatory trip to ooh and ahh over a new baby? Do I send cards and gifts proclaiming Jesus is the reason for the season, even as I forget Him in the hustle and bustle? Do I forget about Christ until His birthday rolls around again?

Let’s be serious. After the birth of Christ, we don’t see Christ as an infant anymore in scripture. We see Him again at twelve, then thirty. The weight, the awe, the importance, isn’t in the baby, but in the man Jesus–His teaching, living, dying and resurrecting for our salvation.

We observe Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection every day. This is what makes up the gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-4). Every time we take communion, we show  (announce) the Lord’s death until He comes (I Cor. 11:26). There are many scriptures pertaining to observing and announcing the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. This part of the story is what makes it possible for us to have salvation: the shedding of His blood; His victory over death; His ascension to the right hand of God. Christians should live in light of this sacrifice every day, even the day the world lumps His birth in with other holidays.

 

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Monday Motivation: Praying Hands

What do you do with your hands when you pray?

Do place your palms together in front of your chest? Raise them? Place them palm side down on the ground as you bend low to the ground? Do you hold hands with others?

I’m a clasp-er. I interlace my fingers tightly. When I clasp my hands, it triggers for me the image of being a little child going to their father. But I also carry worry and anxiety with me into my day. I don’t feel as if I’ve fully left it there. It’s as if my clasped hands are holding on to my worries instead of placing them at the feet of Jesus. 

I’m not sure how much of a conscious decision your prayer posture was before it became a habit. Perhaps, like me, you’ve tried many different ones. In this season of my life, I want to embrace a different prayer posture.

In A Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes about a simple meditation. You start with your palms down, cupping your hands a little as if pouring water out of a cup. We pour out to God. We are either letting specific things go or meditating on a surrendered will. You empty yourself of all worry, fear, and concern. Now,  sit with your palms cupped upwards. This is where you ask the Lord to fill you. You can ask for a different attitude toward a situation/issue or meditate on God filling you with His grace, will, or peace.

When I remembered this palm down/palm up method, it stirred my heart for prayer again. It gives me an opportunity to do more than make requests.

In many different areas of life, I’ve been meditating on the scripture where  an unclean spirit is driven out of a man. The spirit wanders around looking for a place to go. Finding no place, he returns to the man and finds the place clean and empty. Not only does he return, but with seven other spirits worse than him, so that the end of the man is worse than the beginning. When I pray and give everything to God, walking away empty, there are a million worries waiting to fill my empty cup. I find that if I don’t fill myself with God’s word, will and way, the cares of this world are waiting to fill in any space they can.

Instead of me dumping everything at the feet of Jesus and collecting more junk the minute I leave that prayerful place, I want pray to be an exchange. I am giving Him my worries and fears, but I’m also giving Him my day, my focus, my attention, and my abilities. In exchange, He’s giving me more of His nature, revealing more of His will for my life, and filling me with purpose. Instead of leaving empty and wrung out, I leave my prayer time feeling filled.

My question to you, then, is what are you doing with your hands and heart when you pray? Are you only letting go without allowing God to pour in? Are you holding on too tightly to the things you want God to do or the things you have that you don’t want Him to take away? Are we giving God our hearts along with our cares?

Prayer posture may seem like a little thing, but for me, it speaks to mindset and intention. I encourage you to look at your prayer life–when you prayer, how you pray, how you feel after you pray, and how your day goes in light of your prayer time. Do you feel as if your prayer life is an exchange or a baggage/garbage dump you only visit to disgorge the smelly, broken things in your heart and life?

In 2016, I want to have the unclean spirits driven out, yes, but I want to put a new tenant in my house: the Holy Spirit. I want that unclean spirit and all his little friends to find the door of my heart secured against them, and the Holy Spirit in residence. I want him to have to go elsewhere. I am tired of getting up from my knees wrung out and exhausted instead of refreshed. I’m going to stop dumping and asking without allowing God to fill me with His grace and perfect peace.

I hope you’ll join me.

XOXO,

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Erica

Join me tomorrow as I share my January goals!

 

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Maybe May May Be My Month

In case you’re wondering where I’ve been and why I haven’t had anything personal to say since returning from my social networking sabbatical, I’ve been writing. Since the writing has been personal in nature, summoning up something for this particular blog has been a lot harder than expected. I forgot how hard it is to crawl out of the past when you’ve been delving deeper into it to bring this book out into the now.

Speaking of the book, I have the number of someone to call about my book proposal and how to go about the publishing process. I have never spoken to this person before, ever, and this person has never heard of me. I feel like I’m about to make a cold call for a telemarketing company, but I told myself that I would be more aggressive in marketing myself. I really should stop telling God I’m going to do things like step out on faith; He is that friend that always looks you in the eye and tells you to stop talking and do it, then, if you’re going to do it.

I’ll tell you one thing I haven’t been worried about lately–my relationship. I know how some of you feel about the so-called ultimatum, but let me tell you, I’ve never felt so free to just be. I am not spending so much time trying to predict what’s going to happen or feeling like we aren’t on the same page or feeling like I should probably tweak this or fix that and maybe things will be more like I want them to be. I have unblocked myself. I prayed about what to do, I did what I felt was right, and I am letting God handle the rest. It’s amazing what I’ve freed myself up to do when I’m not on ring watch or emotionally constipated by things I wanted to say but just couldn’t seem to get out.

I’m still waiting on the graphic designer to get back to me with some ideas for my logo, but my brain is still turning over ideas for my future website. I can’t wait to start bringing some of this brainstorming to fruition! There are so many people out there who are doing the same type of website and writing in the same genres, but I truly believe I have something to add to the arena, and I’m not stopping yet.

It has taken me since the first of May to right this, and as I type, the fifth is in its infancy. I’ve been so busy with work and trying to get my apartment into shape that I haven’t had as much time as I would like to devote to a bit of introspection. We had a meditation teacher in from a local yoga studio to give us some beginner’s techniques, and I have to say, I really got something out of it. Finding that quiet space where your mind clears and you can finally focus in on one thing and really see it is amazing. It was like how I felt during my social media fast magnified 10x.

I’ve also started a journal challenge, writing to God and spending time with him each day. It’s in a paper journal and isn’t for sharing, but it’s really been eye opening–and I’m only on day 3.

I hope all of you are doing well. Leave me a comment and let me know.

God bless.

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Maintaining Military Silence

There’s a saying in the music business that your only as big as your next hit. It doesn’t matter if your last album was great; in fact, it may be a detriment. Once you have some success, you have to get bigger with each successive song, video, and album. Eventually, you can become so big that you have to branch into acting, start a clothing line, endorse a fragrance, or be in an ad campaign for a make up company to maximize your earning potential (or, if you’re Beyoncé, you can do all of the above). Through all that you do, however, you’re still only as big as where you are at this moment. The focus is on your present production.

When I think about what it would take for me to stop comparing myself and start focusing on my own journey, one of the first things that came to mind is a simple statement of fact: I’m not eighteen anymore. I’m not fifty pounds lighter. I’m not conditioned by running every day. I don’t have time and nature on my side. All of my time is not my own. And that’s OK.

I can’t live in the past or yearn after it. It’s gone. I need to start fresh. I have to forget about what I used to be and focus on what I am and how to become what I want to be.

So what thing(s) can I do to start focusing on my journey? How can I differentiate between what I’m doing because I want to and when I’m just being competitive/comparative? How do I figure out what adds to my growth instead of keeping me stagnant?

  • I need to reduce opportunities for comparisons, at least initially. To that end, for the next couple weeks, I will not be reading blogs about running, writing, relationships, or personal finance, nor will I read facebook or twitter. You will still see posts from me, but I won’t be reading anything. This began at midnight. Should you want to reach me, you can contact me via email at 2blu2btru4u@gmail.com.
  • While on this social networking fast, I will be partially focused on my fitness journey. At present, I don’t even know if passionate I am about running, so I am going to try new things. I will take at least three classes at the gym at least three times to see if I like something else more than running. This will begin Monday.
  • I also want to focus on myself spiritually, and without hours of being sucked into what’s going on in the lives of people that could be robots for all I know, I can do that. I want to try Christian meditation (yes, we meditate. The Bible even uses the word!). I’ve already been preoccupied with a couple scriptures focusing on one concept that may become a post. I also want to spend more time on developing my prayer life.
  • I will be reading more books. I already began to do this a little bit, but with my free time, I am going to finally have the opportunity to read a Jodi Picoult book. I plan to cross several titles of my “to be read” list. I am currently stuck in India in Eat Pray Love, should you be wondering.
  • I will resume making my daily to do lists.
  • I am setting a daily writing goal of at least five hundred non-blogging words.
  • I will identify concrete, finite goals that will move me forward.

So, for those of you whose blogs I will not read and who will not email, I guess this is good bye…at least for a while. I only hope that we can still be social network friends.

The Gist: I will not read any blogs, nor be on facebook or twitter for the next two weeks. In the meantime, I will pray, meditate, write, read, and break a sweat in three non-running related ways at least three times.

How are you going to focus on your own journey in the next two weeks?

 

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Monday Meditation: Ask & Ye Shall Receive

This weekend’s highlight was an interview double feature I did with the very lovely and personable Sis. Tartt from my church (note: she is my sister in Christ, and yes, she gave me permission to use her name). I have been trying to score this interview for nearly a year, and by trying to score I mean thinking I should really interview Sister Tartt for my blog.

I don’t know about any of you, but sometimes I sike myself out. I dissuade myself from trying things, or I put things on the backburner because I don’t know how they’ll pan out. That’s what I was doing with this interview. I had been put off or outright rejected so many times when I asked people to do these interviews that I didn’t want to ask anyone else. Sister Tartt had told me that she was interested in my project and wanted me to email her the particulars, but I kept putting it off. Sister Tartt is busy; she has other things to do. Besides, I haven’t even (insert any of a million different things here).

The thing is, she was delighted to do the interview. She responded to my email promptly with three possible interview times, inviting me to her home to conduct the interview. Once there, she answered all of my questions without constraint and we had a good time while the recorder rolled.

I had lost a bit of faith in this project. I knew I felt it was something important for me to do, but maybe it just wasn’t meant to be, or not right now. There had been so many stops and starts, so many missed opportunities, so many rejections, not to mention so many changes in direction with this project, that I began to lose my certainty that I would ever get it going in the right direction again. Maybe it was time to do something else. I had forgotten the advice I gave you all so long ago in Screwtape Explains it All: disappoint occurs at the threshold of every human endeavour…once you get through the initial dryness successful, it is much harder to tempt you away from achieving your goals.

Just because something isn’t going the way you planned doesn’t mean it isn’t meant to happen. Don’t stop asking. You can’t receive if you don’t ask; if you don’t know, no one’s going to open the door. If you are going to go for it, go big. Why not?

So, in the spirit of asking, two things: if anyone wants to be involved in my marriage kit interviews or wants to share some of their thoughts on marriage, please get in touch with me and let me know. My email: 2blu2btru4u@gmail.com , my twitter: @2blu2btru, or leave a comment here. Second, in addition to my regular interviews, I am going to start (as soon as I finish posting this), working on getting two special interviews for the project: one with an African-American male who is a professional matchmaker, Paul Brunson, and one with the relationship coach(es) I wrote about in my open relationship posts (parts I, II, & III), Kenya K. Stevens (possibly her husband). These are definitely unique perspectives to bring to the table, and I want them! So, keep your fingers crossed for me, and tweet them how awesome I am and how they should absolutely grant me a phone or email interview. @PaulCBronson and Kenya’s twitter is @JujuMama.

Tell me what you are going to stop putting off and just ask for. Let’s put our intentions out there!

XOXO

2blu2btru