Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Christmas Diet That Really Works!

Want to "think thin" this Christmas? Here's what one woman is doing to cut the fat.

Lisa Henderson is a blogging mom who trimmed down her family's Christmas when she and her husband decided to cancel Santa, stockings and gifts from their family's Christmas. Instead, her kids are writing letters to Santa, asking him to give their presents to kids who need them more. Lisa and her husband will be using money they would have spent on gifts towards service projects and giving gifts to others. Their motive: "To teach [our kids] the pleasure of giving rather than continuing to feed their childhood desire for more."

The Henderson's decision was inspired earlier this year when their children displayed ungrateful and disrespectful behavior. They warned their kids that if their behavior didn't change, there would be consequences. The results--the gift-receiving part of Christmas has been canceled.

The Hendersons have come under fire for their decision. Some people say they're being very unfair to their kids. "Christmas is all about gift-giving!" one critic opined. Another one chimed in,"Don't deprive your kids of the joy of opening gifts on Christmas morning."

May I go on record and say I whole-heartedly agree with the Hendersons. I applaud their efforts and wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being the best Henderson Christmas ever. Imagine years from now the Henderson kids sharing with their kids how Grandma & Grandpa Henderson taught them that the truer, deeper meaning of Christmas is about giving, not receiving. You see, the Henderson kids are in agreement with their parents' decision (a point the critics have missed or ignored).

If we were really honest, most of us would admit that Christmas has become a bit bloated, thanks to stress, overspending, family tension and pressure to meet unreasonable expectations. In fact, medical experts assert that the number of heart attacks dramatically increases during the holidays. When did Christmas become so unhealthy?

Here are five fat-busting ways to a leaner Christmas:

1. Set a low budget and stick to it.
2. Pay cash only. (You'll thank me for this in January when no credit card bills arrive.)
3. Don't ask people what they want for Christmas. Surprise them with only one very meaningful gift.
4. Reconcile with estranged family members and restore peace in your home.
5. Remember the real meaning of Christmas--it's not OUR birthday. It's HIS.

Trimming the excess Christmas "fat" just might be the way we can actually experience what Franz Gruber wrote in his song "Silent night, Holy night -- All is calm, All is bright . . . Sleep in heavenly peace."

Silence. Calm. Peace. I think we can all live with that. 

May you and your family have a healthy, skinny, unforgettable Christmas.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

It's All About Me--Becoming Shrink-Wrapped

Every year our church opens its doors for a week as a warming center hosting the homeless. On a given night, we might serve anywhere from sixty to more than one-hundred individuals, providing two hot meals (dinner and breakfast) and a dry, warm place to sleep. Our guests arrive at 7 p.m. and leave by 7 the following morning.

Finding volunteers to assist with check-in, security, cooking and serving isn't difficult. In fact, neighboring churches offer their resources and local businesses are always generous with donations.
However, the first few years we ran the warming center, it was a challenge getting people to sign up for morning clean-up. The early shift requires arrival at the church by 6:30 a.m. and includes cleaning the eating area, mopping and vacuuming the floors and (ugh) scrubbing and disinfecting the bathrooms.

One morning I was working alone in the women's bathroom and discovered that someone had been sick the night before and left a mess. (Let your imagination run.) When it comes to cleaning up other people's messes, my stomach leans on the weak side, and this particular morning was no exception.

I pulled the bucket of hot water with strong disinfectant close to the bathroom stall and began to clean, trying my best not to gag. I prayed hard, asking God to give me strength to finish this very unpleasant task. Soon self-pity took over and I found some comfort in feeling sorry for myself. I even silently grumbled that no one else was helping me clean up the mess.

Within seconds, God corrected me. "Stop your pity-party," He seemed to say. "Why aren't you praying for the woman who is sick? You can go home, shower and change clothes. You can even throw your clothes away if you want. But this poor woman has no home. She will wander the streets all day until the warming center opens this evening."

God has a way with words, doesn't He? I was duly corrected and ashamed of myself. Here I was, supposedly serving other people, but I was making it all about me. His rebuke was exactly what I needed to finish the job. As I emptied the bucket of water, I prayed for the safety and healing of the woman who really needed a touch from God that day.

Self-focus knows how to skew our vision so we don't see the needs of others, and we forget why we're helping them in the first place. If we're not careful, self-focus can even overshadow the very presence of God in a situation. Maybe that's why John the disciple said, "He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less" (John 3:30).

This Christmas season, let's purpose to be "shrink-wrapped" so people will see less of us and more of God.