Archives For holidays

Many of us had the day off on Monday.

Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about free shipping when he said "free at last," right?

Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about free shipping when he said “free at last,” right?

MLK Day is a nice little holiday that has absolutely no social obligations attached to it. For those of us who have the day off, it truly is a day off. No family gatherings to attend. No meals to prepare. No gifts to buy.

On the other hand, the day that commemorates one of the greatest Americans in history has been kind of reduced to a throw-away holiday. It’s a day to sleep in and maybe save 20% on a new mattress, which I’m not so sure does justice for a man who gave his life in the name of equality and justice.

Despite all of our talk of “progress,” “acceptance” and “equality” I have become convinced that our culture in many ways has gone backwards, towards division and intolerance. Maybe we need a day like MLK Day more than ever.

These are three things I want to do with my family on a day dedicated to memorializing a great man.

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It’s that time of year. The time of year for “resolutions.”

It’s the time when people make promises to themselves.

They promise that they will do more.

They promise that they will be more.

They make promises to themselves that they will be better people. Most of these promises turn out to be empty promises, of course. But we are still compelled, at least annually, to reflect on our successes and failures, and try to do better.

I cannot remember a year of my adult life when I did not want to do more, be more, be better in everything I did.

That can be exhausting, the relentless pursuit of better. Better is almost never enough. And so we get back on the treadmill next year, determined that this time will be different. We won’t let ourselves down this time.

I spent the last week of 2014 tending to my new son. Our first child. A long time coming.

Before he came, I had plenty of fears about all of the things I would now not be able to do, not be able to accomplish, not be able to promise myself. I feared that my life would go into standby mode.

I’m back at work today though. My life is not in standby mode. But it occurred to me as I read my son his first bedtime story (a completely unproductive activity to do with a five-day-old) that this is what life is supposed to be like.

There are moments in our lives, even whole seasons which are not designed for pursuing more, for chasing better. There are seasons which are meant to be less, to be quiet, to be a retreat from all of the things the world says we should do. This is the way God has designed life to be.

So maybe you have a new baby, and maybe not. But maybe you are in a season of life when it is okay to be content with less, with doing things a little bit slower, with being a little less ambitious, with things being a little bit quieter. Make peace with this season. Don’t fight it. It is our culture of celebrity, consumerism and glittery churches that tell you that it’s never enough.

It is enough, just to exist today.

productive

Happy New Year, friends. I hope yours is as blissfully unproductive, interrupted, and contented as I think mine is going to be.

It wouldn’t be Christmas time without all of the traditional trappings…

You know our culture doesn't have a real war to fight when this is its hill to die on.

You know our culture doesn’t have a real war to fight when this is its hill to die on.

The lights, the gifts, time with family,

Some sermonizing from Kirk Cameron.

Now, I am assuming that most of you have not, and will not see Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. It has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (and a 32% user rating.) Even still, Cameron’s “movie” represents a bigger picture of American Christmastime, an annual tradition of defending tradition against the forces of paganism, liberalism, consumerism and whoever else may want to “destroy” Christmas. Every year, there is a part of our culture that makes it their mission as Christian soldiers to wage a culture war, to preserve American Christianity for the next generation.

You know what? I don’t think the liberals or the pagans or the retailers are destroying Christmas or Christianity. I think the culture warriors are. You shouldn’t not see Saving Christmas because it’s bad art. You should skip movies like Saving Christmas, because movies like this actually achieve the opposite of their goal.

It’s time we stopped trying to save Christmas and changed our priorities.

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On Friday, people went nuts again.

I heard about people camping out for two weeks for some Black Friday deals. I don’t know what kind of math you have to do for that to make sense. But it seems more sensible to me to go to work. If you have to camp out for two weeks to buy a television, you probably have bigger problems than not having a television.

I wonder if Black Friday is even fun anymore. It does not look like it. It looks awful. I said that as I stayed at home in my pajamas, drinking coffee and enjoying the beautiful morning.

The thing is I do not even know what I missed. I don’t know about any of the deals I passed up. I don’t know about all of the fabulous stuff I could have had and unbelievable prices.

But I also know something else.

No matter how much time I spent or money I saved. No matter how hard I fought to get a great deal, I would still probably forget everything I bought by next Christmas. There are so very few gifts that I have received in my life that I remember. Does anyone else realize this?

Gift-giving has long lost its luster for me. In some ways, I actually dread it. The thing that used to excite me most as a child has all but lost its meaning for me. I am glad my family does a fun little “gift auction.” We get play money and bid on items that any of us would enjoy. The other option is that we all just buy gift cards for each other, which is a thinly veiled way to just swap cash.

I have long since learned that the excitement that Santa promised was very temporary, very fleeting. Stuff always loses its appeal, sometimes very quickly. IMG_7885

If everyone realized that, it would probably be a disaster for the economy.

On Thursday, we will spend time with family.

We will eat a lot of food.

We will watch football and parades.

And we will be thankful.

Or will we? I’m completely certain of the first three things. I’m not so sure of the last.

People complain about how the retailers have completely overshadowed Thanksgiving with their Black Friday sales. It’s true, but I don’t blame the retailers. I cannot blame the retailers for the fact that there are, apparently, people willing to camp out for two weeks for a cheap television. It is not the fault of the retailers that those people probably never did the math to figure out how much they are losing in lost wages verses how much they will save on such a television.

No, I don’t blame the retailers for giving people an opportunity to show what is already in their hearts. If people did not want to spend their Novembers this way, it would not work as a business model.

I don’t think the American church has done anything about it, either, with our massively consumeristic church culture that has been built.

And so, as we near Thanksgiving, I am left with one conclusion…

That we are not thankful.

Because I have to believe that the foundation of gratitude is contentment. If people were content, they would see no need to bust down doors at Wal-Mart. They would know that they have enough.

I am not sure that enough is in our vocabulary anymore. And so, I have to go to the wisdom of a different culture and faith, a faith that never knew the joys of Black Friday…

enough

If we only brought back the word “enough” into our vocabulary, it would change everything. It would change the way we do business. It would change the way we raise our kids. It would change the way we worship. Enough makes people happy. More always leaves people wanting.

You have enough.

You are enough.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day.images

The day when we all think of the women who gave us life, who nurtured us and raised us.

And plenty of you ladies who are still raising children will be celebrated. Maybe your kids will make you breakfast in bed. Maybe the word “breakfast” will stretch the definition a bit. But it will be served to you in bed.

Maybe your husbands will bring you flowers.

Maybe your gift will be that the family just leaves you alone for the day.

And all of you who go to church on Sunday are sure to be honored. Maybe your pastors will have you stand up and be recognized. Maybe someone will give you a carnation, which is a nice old-fashioned Mother’s Day thing to do.

If you would, please take a moment on Mother’s Day to do just one thing. It’s not very big, and you can get right back to your special day.

Please remember your childless friends. Continue Reading…