Monday, December 9, 2013

Muddy Waters: Santa vs Savior

Chiming in on the debate over whether or not Christians should perpetuate the notion of Santa Claus.   Here's my opinion and a few examples.  Not meant to be legalistic or an indictment against those who make other choices.   But to offer some choices and insight (I qualify as an "older woman") and perhaps raise your awareness of the consequences of choices you make when your children are young.  

First off, a question:   Why do parents--in particular CHRISTIAN PARENTS--think that the having of "fun" associated with Santa is more important than the understanding of the WONDER of God-come-to-Earth?

My three youngest children grew up knowing their Savior's birth is what we're celebrating in December--and we spent all of Advent in preparation and anticipation, and also into January (6th - Epiphany = Christmas for Gentiles!).  That is to say:  Santa never came to our house.  

TRUE STORY #1:   My youngest daughter knew that Santa was a fairy-tale.   As the Sunday School children were lining up for the children's Christmas Eve service one December 24th evening, my daughter and a little friend were having a discussion.    They were around five or six years old.   The little friend excitedly mentioned that Santa would've visited by the time her family got home after church.   My daughter sweetly told her that Santa wasn't real, that it was a made-up thing.   The little friend was aghast at this news.

Overhearing this exchange, I quickly pulled my daughter aside and whispered that it wasn't her job to tell her little friend about this.   There was nothing we could do to fix the situation, and the little friend soothed her ruffled feathers by stating that when she got home from church that evening, Santa would too have visited their house.   I told her mother as soon as church dismissed, and hear later that this was no more than a blip on the radar.  

TRUE STORY #2 (which took place many years prior to True Story #1):   I grew up loving the Lord and knowing Jesus' birthday was what we were celebrating on December 25th.  After all, my family attended and I LOVED the Wednesday evening Advent church services which focused on Christ's birth.   The Advent Wreath and lighting one more candle each week was exciting!  Every Saturday morning throughout the month of December, we Sunday School children rehearsed for the service we would lead on Christmas Eve--every recitation and every song memorized BY HEART!   And when the big tree went up in church--oh man!--the anticipation was almost too much!   All of this, to my little girl heart, signaled the arrival of--Yes!  You guessed it!--Santa!!!  Oh, and as an after-thought, Jesus who was born in Bethlehem.

Santa came to my childhood home on Christmas Eve every year, while we were at church.   And so, while I loved our little Christmas Eve services where we children recited the whole Christmas story (from memory!) and sang all those lovely carols and loved the candles and the banners and the marching in and out--oh my dear!--my sinful little-girl-heart was MUCH MORE interested in getting DONE with the program (if only those little kids would line up quicker so we could get DONE sooner!!!), getting the bag of fruit and ribbon & raspberry CANDY from the usher when we marched out, and urging Daddy to drive home as fast as conditions allowed, so that me and my five brothers could get IN the house and SEE what Santa had brought.  

I wasn't a greedy, selfish little girl.   Indeed.   I was (and still am!) the oldest of six children born within an eight-year span to an average American couple.   Simply put, we didn't get presents at other times in the year.   My parents had enough money to pay the bills and not much else.   We weren't starving or poor or needy, but we did NOT ever get gifts at other times of the year.  So Christmas in my childhood years was a HUGE deal to me.  It didn't matter that me and my five brothers always knew we were going to get some new replacement underwear and socks and brown work gloves and new knit hats & mittens, we would also get a nice present, too.   And we spent all of December anticipating THAT!

That was how I saw it as a child--and I would bet I was like probably 99.9% of other American children in Christian homes then and now, where Santa was/is the deliverer of gifts on Christmas.   I'm sure my parents thought they did a fine job of telling us about Jesus's impending arrival, in fact I even knew at a rather young age, that December 25th wasn't "really" Jesus's birthday, but a date that some church guys a really long time ago decided on.   But whatever.   The important part is that (from what I remember) Ma & Pa perpetuated the myth of Santa!   Yes, it was fun!   Yes, it was delicious to anticipate!   Santa's watching to see if I was being good or bad.   Up on the roof-top.  

Sure, I could recite all of Luke 2 from memory (still can!).   And just as I could sing from memory all about mangers and angels and shepherds and silent nights and the little town of Bethlehem, I could also recite "Twas the Night Before Christmas," knew all the reindeer names, and could easily sing about Rudolph, Frosty, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all 12 verses of the Twelve Days of Christmas.   In my little childhood brain, Jesus was a side issue (he was born!) and Santa was the real deal (he brought presents:   visible, real, wrapped presents!).

In my little girl world, I knew that Jesus was more important than Santa Claus, because Jesus IS God after all and all that dying on Easter business was very serious, too--my parents had made that clear.  But I still thought Santa was the cool guy for bringing presents.  

Then the conflicting stories at school, from kids who said there was no Santa (horrors!?!!) and others who said Jesus brought the presents.  (What?)   Well, none of that lined up with what my parents were saying or telling me.  

And it didn't make sense with what little I knew from the Bible either (because at that point, as a six- or seven-year old, my Bible knowledge was basically limited to the highlights of  "Sunday School stories").    How did Baby Jesus bring me presents?   I had five little brothers; I'd seen first hand how helpless they were as babies.   How could a baby get down a chimney?   OR carry a bag with presents?  And how could a BABY know anything when I'd seen that all they could do was eat, sleep and poop their diapers?   It didn't make sense that Baby Jesus brought presents.  

CONSIDER for a moment:   we do our children --especially if we are calling ourselves Christian--a GREAT disservice by muddy-ing the waters with Santa Claus.   It breaks my heart to see young Christian parents rushing around to all these "secular" events (checklist:  take kids to get picture with Santa Claus; attend annual community tree-lighting, for example) and totally MISSING the opportunity to read various Bible scripture verses having to do with Jesus' birth and boyhood and so many of the prophecies.  

Your children believe what you tell them or lead them to believe (up until about age 11 or so).   You really ARE muddy-ing the waters of their understanding when you introduce a fairy-tale (like Santa) side-by-side with Christ.   Little ones in particular are very "concrete" in their understanding of things unexplainable.   Black and white.   Pause now and consider which one is more "visible" (and therefore more "real") to a child:   the red-garbed, white-bearded Santa ho-ho-ho'ing at the mall or the baby Jesus in your ceramic nativity scene?

It's MUCH easier to "believe" in something you can see, touch, feel, hear.   You know that, yourself!   Have you ever fondled a corner of fabric to measure its weight?   Or said, "you have to see this!"?  Seeing is believing.  Thomas--one of Christ's disciples--was a firm believer in that policy!   Children are believers in what they can see, touch, feel and hear, too.

And children are MADE to trust their parents.   So if a parent says, "Santa Claus will bring presents," a little one will believe that's the truth.    And if you later amend that to "Santa brings presents but Jesus is the REAL reason" or you inject "Jesus brings the true gifts" your child will take you at your word, but parents please UNDERSTAND this fact:   because the REAL presents are under the tree--Santa is going to get the credit, and whatever you said about Jesus is--sure, whatever you say, Mom.

My dear friends.   Please consider this:   Satan is having a heyday as we dilute our celebration of the MAGNIFICENCE of Christ's birth by "dashing through the snow" and "Rudolph's red nose" and "Frosty's escapades around town."   Satan enjoys our false busy-ness with baking and making and taking, because anything that keeps us from reading God's Word and knowing Him is a victory for Satan.   Muddy waters?  How lovely.    

We profess to care so much about making Christmas "fun" for them, meanwhile our children have NO or very little comprehension of the Old Testament pointing to the coming Savior--prophecies galore!   Satan is clapping his sticky paws with glee when we snuggle up with our little ones and make a big "tradition" out of watching "Home Alone" and "The Grinch" while our Bible languishes in a dusty heap somewhere on a shelf.  

Many times I've heard moms say "we read Luke 2 on Christmas morning"....and I wonder, did you read all the prophecies that lead up to Luke 2 and Matthew 1 and John 1--and show your children the stroke of God's pen throughout the sweep of history?   Or is reading Luke 2 just a little check mark on a long Christmas To-Do List?   Whew!   That's done.   Let's eat Christmas cookies and drink eggnog now.  

Parents!   Do NOT discount the ability of even very young children to be in absolute AWE of the simplicity and majesty of the "Christmas Story."   Children are MUCH more cognizant--even before they can speak coherently--of the spoken word than most parents will give them credit for, thus parents vastly ignore the "sponge-like" ability children have for soaking up EVERYTHING in their world.   And if some of the details of the Christmas Story go over little ones' heads, that's okay.   Someday the details will soak in and make sense.   Just like they do when you're an adult and something "dawns" on you.

Since when is having "fun" the central purpose or activity of our lives as Christians?   Most mothers wouldn't dream of feeding their children a full bowl of sugar and calling it a meal!  Yet how many will present their children with Santa, arrival via chimney, gift deliveries at midnight and yet fail to point out the much more SIGNIFICANT arrival of GOD IN THE FLESH and the way that one birth changed the course of history (past, present and future) and our eternity?

The "magic" and "fun" of Santa Claus compared to the "majesty" and "sacrifice" of God-With-Us.   Magic is an illusion.  Fun is fleeting.    

Eternal consequences actually hang on the God With Us.  


As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pond Ripples & New Friends

Talk about an amazing little ripple on the pond!

This past Tuesday was our homeschool co-op day.   I teach first period US Geography for 4th - 6th graders and third period Artsy Journaling for 6th - 12th graders.   Second period is my free period but now that we've started this Biggest Loser And Beyond (TBLAB) contest, ladies are streaming in and out of my room for their weigh-in.  (So much for it being my "prep" period but I don't mind because I'm a loser, too!)   Fourth period is Teacher's Toolbox which I organized, host and lead; fifth period is the highlight of my day:  I lead a ladies' Bible study for the moms.   

So.  I dreamed up Teacher's Toolbox when some of the homeschooling moms (several years ago) asked if those of us with professional teaching backgrounds would be willing to mentor them.   They needed hints on things like classroom management and organizing and lesson-planning.   Last year I offered a few sessions on these topics during my free period.   Since that turned out well, I went head-long into it for this year and loaded the calendar with nice juicy topics!

This past Tuesday my friend, Vanessa, was leading a Toolbox session on Working At Home and was covering all sorts of interesting topics related to this.   She mentioned business opportunities, service opportunities (assistance or administrative), direct sales and multi-level marketing.   

During that last one (MLM) she gave several examples, and then added, "If you're a good writer, you could do a blog and then monetize it."   She pointed out that I have a blog (this one!) and that I've chosen NOT to monetize it because I consider this a ministry of sorts.   She mentioned the name of my blog.  She also mentioned that one can use Pinterest to link your blog and get more visibility.   And that I had done this, too, with my blog.

From across the room, my new friend, Julie, who is the helper assigned to my Artsy Journaling class, raises her hand and says, "Deb, you have a blog?   And your husband was hurt in a motorcycle accident last year?"

Yep.  That's me.

Then she says, "I knew you looked familiar."

Oh.  My.  Gorsch!    

So.  Here's the rest of the story.   

Julie and her family moved to this area (eastern panhandle of West Virginia) from Seattle this past summer.  Talk about a cross-country move!

Seattle to the eastern panhandle of West Virginia - now THAT's a cross-country trip!

Anyway, before they moved, like any good inquisitive homeschooling mom, Julie did a little internet searching and came across one of my Pinterest boards that has  homeschooling stuff on it.   (Of course she fell in love with my OTHER Pinterest boards, too, because I'm just that cool.)   One thing led to another and via Pinterest Julie came across things I'd pinned in my "Titus Two Friends" board, and that's how she found my blog!   

Just think about this for a second....because to me, this is so hugely enormous and just so God-like randomly & perfectly planned:   Julie in the Seattle-area, looking straight down the barrel of a cross-country move, types a few letters into the search bar.  Up pops a few bajillion "relevant" findings, she clicks on one of them which takes her on a little journey.   She digs around for a bit, and idly drops into the TTF blog.  Reads a few articles and thinks, "hmmm, this is interesting."   

Months later (after all that packing, a long move and unpacking), she registers her children for a few classes at this sweet little homeschool co-op.  Part of the deal is she has to be a helper and gets assigned to this whacky-doodle class called Artsy Journaling with a teacher who is all over the place!  Julie finds out there's this other session during 4th period she can attend (for free!).   Some of the ladies are slightly crazy, but she's  new here and hoping to make friends, so she attends a few sessions and also signs up for the 5th period Bible study, too.   

Ripples on the pond may bring a new friend into your life!
Fast forward to Tuesday.   It's late October.  And the ripples on the pond from that long-ago search of homeschooling in West Virginia and the blog article about the guy in the motorcycle accident are an unremarkable, almost forgotten, ordinary part of an ordinary day months ago when preparing for a cross-country move.   Until a chance remark brings it all clearly into focus!   

Sure, we don't always meet the people who read our blogs or the people who write the blogs we read.   My point is how amazing our God is, that He puts us in just the right place, at just the right time, and how He uses us for the glory of His kingdom.   

Gosh, this lady looks familiar, but WHERE did I see her before?  

At Bible class, talking & baby-holding---love it!

Our times are in His hands, remember!?   So, to me this is another reminder that I'm where He wants me, and He's (again) reminding me to do the things I do--that's He's laid out for me to do--and to do them to His glory.

And yes, God DOES work little miracles in our lives.   Daily.

Just like that.  

You might also like this post about friendship!


I am dedicating this article to all the moms who have ever faced a move to a new place, 
whether across the county or the state or clear across the country.   
Picking up stakes, leaving all the beloved friends and family, 
and facing a new adventure takes courage and faith.   

I've been there, I've done that, and I know what it's like to have to start over from scratch.   
I've stood in the  middle of a new grocery store and cried because I missed my old store.   
I've felt the fear of not knowing if the road I was on would take me back to my new house.   
I've walked into a room full of strangers and not known a single soul and 
bit back the tears of missing my old friends so much and wishing I could be transported back to them.

I know how long it takes to make new friends, 
and how long it takes before a new place feels like "home".    
Before this place IS home.

And I'm dedicating this to the not-yet-friends 
who need a reminder to invite the new gal or guy to join the group, 
to get to know them, to include them in your little circle of conversation.   
To invite them over for dinner.   To light up with a smile when you see them.   
To offer a hug and a shoulder when home-sickness bears down.   
For it does.  And it's hard to feel friendless.     

Friday, September 27, 2013

Food for Thought: Loyalty, Trust & Good-Doing

I ran some errands this morning and stopped at a fast-food joint for lunch.   As I ate my lunch and diddled on my iPhone, I overheard the conversation of a 30-something couple in the booth near my table.   

He complained about his wife to the woman across from him.  He didn’t like that she was hanging on to her old sports’ trophies and family mementos from her childhood.   That she wouldn’t combine her bank account with his until just recently—he admitted to his lunch companion that he had been bankrupt.   He complained about the way his wife did things at home, about her job, about her education.   

He also explained to his female companion what a great man and father he was, and how lacking the wife was as a home-maker and as a mother.    He covered a LOT of ground in the short time before they left the diner.   

I felt physically sick throughout my quick little lunch, as I listened to his litany of complaints.   I warred within myself because I really wanted to ask him what he would think if his wife was meeting a man for lunch and speaking about him the way he was speaking about her.   I wanted to ask him why he married her in the first place?   AND I wanted to upbraid the young woman stoking his ego by egging him on and handing him more ammo to lob against his own wife.   

I wanted to, but I didn't--even if he was young enough to be my own son.   Instead I said a prayer for his wife.

As I left the restaurant, I spied the man and woman near my car.   She got into a van with a stick-figure family on the back window.   He got into a sedan with a car-seat in the back seat.  

While driving home, I had time to reflect on my own marriage and how THANKFUL I am for the trusting relationship I have with my husband (of almost-35 years!).    We have our ups and downs, but one thing I know:  
I trust him to always have my back.   How blessed I am to have a husband who wouldn’t DREAM of running me down—never mind going out to lunch with another woman to do so!   

There is, among women, a tendency to think that “sharing” with girlfriends and telling them about hubby’s less-than-stellar moments, well?--that isn’t really gossip because (don't you see?) “we’re just having a heart-to-heart talk to get advice”—after all.   Really?  
This is a “heart issue” which goes back to our motivation.   

Is the sharing really done out of love for the man or to get pity from the friends and make ourselves feel better?    When are we crossing a line from "sharing" into "gossip" and disloyalty?     

Certainly it can be very helpful to get another’s perspective and helpful advice for a problem we’re having at home.    However:  better to be very selective about the friends we consult.   Definitely not in an open group, not in a restaurant with volume on “High” for all near the table to hear, and certainly NOT with a friend of the opposite sex (I don’t care HOW GOOD of a friend he is!!!).   

St. Paul wrote to Titus that the older women should be the ones to teach the younger women to LOVE their husbands and children and by word and example show them how to run their homes in a God-pleasing manner.   AND all of that with the express purpose of giving glory to God.  

So then.  If we follow the logic of Paul’s words, it would make sense that when we need advice, we would consult with an older, wiser and more-experienced Christian woman.     Expecting your “same-age” (or life situation) friends to be able to give solid, God-pleasing advice is like 11-year-olds giving each other advice on how-to-drive a car.    Think about that one.

Loyalty to your husband should be your first thought and putting the “best construction” on his words and actions whenever you get into an argument.  Running to girlfriends and “tattling” on him is back-stabbing and not the “good” we are to do him all the days of our lives—and it adds drama to your life that hurts your marriage.

Proverbs 31 outlines our relationship with our own husband:   “doing him good all the days” of my life and doing my work so that my hubby’s name is exalted rather than my own.     Genesis 2 explains that I was created to be my husband’s helper (not the other way around as the world would have us strive).     Titus 2 explains that maintaining self-control and being kind are also part of my "job" description as a wife.   Harder to do, but worth the effort, especially where our relationship with our own husband is concerned. 

A wife of noble character who can find? .... 

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good not harm ALL the days of her life.
.... Her husband is respected at the city gate, 
where he takes his place among the elders of the land.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; 
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and 
faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household 
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed; 
her husband also, and he praises her:
    'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.'

...a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned, and 
let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Proverbs 31:30 - 31 NIV

Friday, September 20, 2013

Time Passages (A Song Title, A Noun and a Verb)

For those of you who have wondered "Where has Titus Two Friends been?" I'll tell you.   Back at the end of 2012, I had this BRILLIANT (I thought) Idea--yes, capitalized because it seemed to be that important!--that I should update some things on my blog--earlier in '12 I had changed the blog-look on the advice of a young friend.   AND I wanted to fix a few problems I had on the back-side of the blog.

Seemed like an innocent Idea.  At the time.

So, <cue the eerie music that foreshadows horror & disaster for our brave heroine> I went to work behind-the-scenes and started my little "fixing" stuff.   

Tweak.  Click.   Zip!   Zing!  Pow!   Click.  Tweak.  Mmmm?  Yep.

Well, there I was with things "fixed" (or so I thought) and a few more left to do.   Several days later I "tried" to go back in to write a new blog-post and --what is this?-- I couldn't get "in."  Knock!  Knock!    I mean, I couldn't even FIND the little button that blog-owners use to get IN to their own account.   


That was irritating, but oh well, I was in a hurry to do something else, too, so I got side-tracked, and each day went by and my blog fell further and further behind.  I "meant" to get back to it--but real life has a way of intervening with "more important" stuff like meals and laundry and family responsibilities.   

Time.  It flies.   

I'd catch myself thinking "I should write about this," and then remember I was stuck outside the door without a key and oopsie daisy--real life again would call:  YOOOHOOO!--and I'd forget about it again.

Then just recently, I got an email from Google mail, and--what is this?--miracle of miracles!   Hello?   I completely forgot that I had changed the email associated with my blog-account.   Well, that explained why I couldn't even SEE the back door knob, never mind having a KEY to get in!   HA!   I can be SUCH a nitwit at times.   Short memory, too.  But that's a whole other topic!

Anyway...I am working now to restore things to what I used to have on my blog--no more sleek, trimmed to the lean look.   That's not me.     

But restoring the pages and gadgets takes time.  

And TIME is what I wanted to talk about today.   Somehow when I was younger I thought I'll have MORE time when I get older.   But no, that hasn't been true.  If anything I feel it rushing away, between my fingers, much faster now than ever before.   

Rushing to do this.   And that.  Hustling between daily chores that really aren't URGENT!  but feeling like I have a TIME CRUNCH bearing down on me!    Being irritated when "little" things prevent me from getting done with a boring chore, because there's something else I'd RATHER be doing instead.   And then biting off the head of a loved one because I'm irritated.  

Compounding and pressing in on all sides.   

Some (most!?) of my busy-ness comes from the bushel-basket of activities of my own making.   All of them "good" and even mostly "meaningful" in their own right.  Plus I work part-TIME.  And that's a necessity.

But a LOT of busy-ness comes from getting carried away and forgetting my PRIORITIES.   When I feel the most harried and harrassed by TIME nipping at my heels is when I stupidly 'allow' myself to get side-tracked with silly-ness.   Like playing too many games-in-a-row on my iPhone.   Or caught up with social media-izing on Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest.    Ad nauseum.   Total fail.  

Actually?  I've been pretty good about sticking to my resolution to continue my daily Bible reading each morning.  But honestly?  On the days when other stuff crowds in and I fail to sit down in the morning to read my Bible?   I feel like I've been cheating on God--the lover of my soul.   Almost without fail, the remainder of my day is marred by pushing God away.  

Would you DREAM of saying this to Him?  "Hey, God.  Not today.  Okay?  Because my other stuff is more important than this half-hour with You.  And seriously, God?  You expect me to get up even EARLIER so that You can talk to me through Your Word?   I'm too tired for You.  I need to sleep much more than I need some wisdom from You.  Go away."

I won't say THAT (^above) because I actually LIKE getting up in the morning!  AND I really LOVE my morning routine (brush teeth, dress, cappuccino, Bible reading, then GO!).    But I HAVE let some pretty inane stuff push Godly living OFF my list a few times in the MIDDLE of my day!   I don't even want to tell you how bad it can be sometimes.  

So.   Whatever it is for you or me, we all could use a sort-of mid-year kick in the britches reminder:   

keep those priorities straight.  

  • If "make good food for the family" was on your PRIORITY list on January 1, and you're not doing that, figure out what IS stopping you.  Fix it.  

  • If "get more exercise" was the goal, then cut out a half-hour of sitting & watching TV or reading blogs (but not mine!) and go walking.   
  • If "read my Bible daily" was on your New Year's Resolutions, add it into your schedule, your "To Do" list for the day.   

Re-resolve to STICK WITH THE PLAN!  

Ask God to bless your daily work.   Because He LOVES to bless His children.   

And You--my dear friend--are a Daughter of the King.     

There is a time for everything
and a season for every activity under Heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot
... to kill and ... to heal,
... to tear down and ... to build,
... to weep and ... to laugh,
... to mourn and ... to dance,
... to scatter stones and ... gather them,
... to embrace and ... to refrain,
... to search and ... give up,
... to keep and ... to throw away,
... to tear and ... to mend,
... to be silent and a time to speak,
... to love ... and to hate,
... for war and ... for peace.
Eccelsiastes 3: 1-8 NIV

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