Thanksgiving has come and gone.
What a special time with family and friends. I love family time.
Families represent biological family, blended families, spiritual family and extended family that have become one big happy family by birth, by marriage, by the heart. A legacy of love.
If you haven't heard Alicia Key's new song, please take a listen.
It's the jam!
It also reflects the beauty and complexity of family.
Family is my heart beat.
We have exchanged gifts each year but the best gifts are encouraging each other, laughing to tears, watching each other mature and seeing God deliver in seasons of struggle and seeing God bless in seasons of triumph. We enjoy the journey together. They are expensive gifts to me. Rare and Valuable. Thanksgiving owes us nothing!
Now all roads lead to Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ and we also pause to acknowledge and celebrate the beginning of Advent season today.
What a glorious time of the year!
I'm celebrating with the family of God.
(Devotions during Advent season can be found at www.focusonthefamily.com).
Some will enjoy quite reflections in this time of the year.
Some will enjoy family traditions or gatherings with friends.
Others will take part in festivals, musicals, church services, prayer vigils or attend operas, ballets or other holiday productions.
Some will light candles, some will fill their homes with beautiful Christmas wreaths and trees, bountiful stockings, activities for children, holiday music and sweet and savory aromas of the season.
I absolutely love the holidays and all that the season brings!
As we celebrate, let us also consider what will remain as the holidays end?
Let's "begin with the end in mind."
When the candles are distinguished, the wreaths and decorations are stored, when the guests become a memory, when the music fades, the books have been read, and the holiday shopping sprees and family, company and staff parties conclude, what will remain will be what matters most-the things that are not cheap.
Have you considered what is most valuable in your life and what is not cheap?
What have you placed on your wish list or bucket list that will not tarnish or ever decrease in value?
The holidays help us to slow down and recall or reveal what is expensive and lasting and what is cheap and fading away.
Does our happiness rise and fall in this season based upon what we are given and based upon how much something costs?
Do we evaluate the success of the holiday based on how big our tree is or how many gifts are under the tree?
Or do we value the sweet, handwritten note from a child, the smile of an elderly man or a story of wisdom of a senior woman passing by? Do we cherish times to volunteer or to give to Salvation Army, to give to a food bank or family in need or a church ministry or non- profits that are making a difference?
Do we stop and notice brothers and sisters along the way who are in need?
These are the moments that grace us. The gifts that really matter and have no price tag but are priceless.
Am I bashing the fact that someone may have a new car, a trip around the world, new red bottom shoes or expensive tennis shoes, a desired video game, a new flat screen tv or jewelry from Tiffany and Company on the Christmas list? No. Not at all. We all have favorite things.
Gifts are not wrong and neither is the desire to want nice or expensive things.
The problems is when we worship the gift and not the giver and forget that all gifts, great and small come from our Heavenly Father. Even in the holiday hustle and bustle we must see others, assist others and reflect Christ. He is the light in a dark world and the hope of glory. Offer people the gifts that never tarnish. Jesus Christ.
Offer His Love. Hope. Empathy. Grace. Patience. Understanding. A helping hand or a look at life from their point of view.
Choose What Is Timeless Not What Is Temporal. Cheap and expensive gifts tarnish.
Choose your gifts wisely.
Choose the gifts of:
Costly activism and reconciliation!
I've had a lot and I've had a little, and in each season, I've come to the same conclusion. God is enough. He never goes out of style and is one size fits all!
If we keep our faith in God and our focus on Him, we will see how His Word and our deep rooted spiritual value system can keep us stable in unstable times and will help us to see the holiday season in perspective and the days that follow.
I know now more than ever what is not cheap and I value those gifts the most:
It cost Jesus everything.
The blood of men and women in the civil rights movement who died for our right to vote and to be seen as (and treated as) human beings was not cheap.
Young people who stand in courage of the protection of black lives in the #blacklives matter movement who are often misunderstood or stereotyped yet have values for human rights of protection that are needed and costly. #convictionsarecostly
Policemen that stand up for what is right and defend even when they are not defended stand at a cost because they know that all public servants aren't "bad" and speak up on behalf of those who abuse others. #bluelivesmatter.
Blacks, Browns, Yellows and Whites that all stand together in peace or protest are faithful, frustrated at times, but refuse to be divided socially, politically or spiritually because the cause is greater than any one group because this is a position that is costly. #alllivesmatter #yourvoicematters #christianlivesmatter
Worship is not cheap.
Genesis 22 reflects God's command for Abraham to take Isaac to Mt. Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice.
In other words, God tested Abraham to show him what he valued the most by asking him to give back his most prized son.
That. Is. Costly. Worship.
A worship that costs us nothing is shallow, empty worship. Worship is costly. Give God the best. Jesus did it. Abraham did it and the woman with the alabaster box did it. #Costlyworshipmatters
Marriage and friendships are not cheap.
Relationships of longevity have endured some things and overcome some things together.
If your relationships have not come at a cost, then it is a relationship that may not be in full bloom. We can not bloom without seasons of pruning and pruning hurts, but helps. It's 'expensive' to grow relationships because it costs something. #relationshipsmatter
May the first Sunday of #Advent remind us of what matters, of what we love and believe, of what is costly and valuable and of what we are waiting for. Advent is about waiting.
Let us wait and pray for peace, but may we also commit to making peace.
Give costly gifts this season that have no price tag but are timeless.
We honor you in this holy season and thank you for the costly gift of your son Jesus.
We wait for Him.
Remind us of what matters most.
Thank you for gifts that are not cheap.