Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men- Really?

Is the Christmas message really relevant?  How can we truly believe the angels who made this declaration upon the birth of Jesus with all of the turmoil that we saw this past year?

Continued terrorism, violence and beheadings.

Demonstrations and violence over police actions and racial strife.

Sluggish economic conditions and unemployment.

The struggle for fairness and equity.

Immigration rights and yielding to the law and authority.

SW_AmarpreetKaur

I’m sure you can come up with many more.  This year has been a poster child for the struggle of life.  The  struggle to provide for our families.  The struggle for justice and fairness.  The struggle to be heard.  So why don’t we have the peace that the Christmas story seems to promise?

The reality is that the Christmas promises are personal.  The peace that Jesus offers is for you.  If Jesus was truly looking to fix things here on earth he certainly would have freed Israel from Rome’s brutality.  He would have ended the inequities of the rich and poor.  He would have taken away hunger and disease.

What Jesus offers is simply love.  See, love is more powerful than all of these things.  Love will cure all problems.

Jesus knew the struggle first hand.  That’s why he had to live amongst us.  So we would  know that he knows the struggle first hand.  Jesus did not promise to take evil away from the world.  At least not until the final victory.

So how does the promise of Christmas provide me with peace?

I don’t need to worry about fairness.  I know that the Lord will take care of me.  The fixation on fairness and equity can be disguised pride.  That making things equal fixes things.  I know that things will not be completely fair this side of heaven.  I will be taken advantage of.  I am OK with this.  He will take care of me.

I don’t need to worry about provision.  I know that the Lord will provide for me.  He always does.  I have been continually blessed.  He will take care of me and my family.

I don’t need to worry about controlling everything.  I know that the Lord is in control and he will take care of things.  I can take my hands off the wheel and let him steer.

I know that he loves me and love drives out fear and worry.  So how do I know this?  I have seen with my own eyes the power of this love first hand.

I have witnessed changes in my life and others.

I have watched connections made and provisions that cannot be explained.

I have watched his peace invade lives, change hearts and restore what is broken.

I have witnessed his power, his truth and his promises.

The promise of peace this Christmas season is your peace.  Are you at peace ?  Can you relax knowing that he’s going to take care of you?  Do you know that he loves you and wants the very best for you?  If you struggle- his offer stands.  Just reach out to him.  He’s waiting for you!

Blessings to you and yours!  May your Christmas be filled with wonder, joy and peace!

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Take Back Christmas!

I think everyone would agree- Christmas is special.  Regardless of your level of faith, the holiday brings a wonder of warmth, family, and giving to others.  The feeling of Christmas is hard to describe.  For children it may be focused on the gifts, and with age, the focus shifts to family, friends and the gathering together of loved ones.  There is a special love that surrounds this most special holiday.

Christmas in the post-War United States

What is this love?

Where does it come from?

Why does it feel so good?

I believe that the wonder and that feeling of warmth and love is a glimpse of our Father’s love.  Unconditional.  Complete.  Without any strings or requirements.  Like the love of a grandfather.  An enveloping warm blanket.  No matter where you are in your life frustrations, this love seems to power through on Christmas.

There is someone who wants to distract you from all of this.  By making you crazy in trying to keep up with everyone else.  By trying to make you think that it’s all about the gifts.  By keeping you super busy so you will not have time to concentrate on what the holiday is really about.

He is the prince of the air.  The enemy.  He wants to steal your Christmas.  He is the expert in distraction.  He wants you to concentrate on the gifts and the decorations.  The chaos.  The commercialized and prepackaged Christmas.  He wants you to fret about your gift not being good enough.  He wants you to doubt and worry.

See this is all in his plan.  If he can get you to concentrate on the present- you will miss the eternal.  And he does it with glitter, gold, garland, lace, cashmere, and trinkets.  Christmas is sensory overload.  And I believe that it is not by coincidence.

So what can you do to win?

Take back Christmas!  Realize that your struggle is not yours.  Focus on the beauty of this holiday.  Slow down and don’t get sucked in.  Make it about Christmas day.  The birth of our Savior.  His warmth.  His love!

I pray that your Christmas will be a wonderous time of peace and warmth with your family and friends.  May he cover you in His AMAZING blanket of love and grace!  Merry Christmas!

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Dirty Snow

Snow is the picture of purity.  Snow white is the way you would describe this special color.  When the ground is blanketed with a fresh layer of light and fluffy snow, the view turns fluorescently bright.  Years ago, we lived in a home on a hill overlooking a nature center.  After it snowed, it was amazingly beautiful.  Like a Christmas postcard.  A silvery brilliance gathered on the branches of the trees and the ground changed to a consistent cottony blanket of goodness.  Everything is clean and white.  When the sun would shine, it would be so bright you had to squint in order to see.

Frosty Footpath - winter snow

Frosty Footpath – winter snow

As the snow lingered on the ground, it would begin to tarnish.  The brilliance would fade and become dull.  The snow turned gray with streaks of black and brown impurities.  The white was gone and what remained was dirty snow.

Then, after a period of time, it would snow again and cover the dirty snow with another blanket of pure white.  The scene was beautiful again.  Renewed.  Back to a brilliant white.

Last weekend, I attended a men’s retreat in North Georgia called Souly Business (link).  This was not my first men’s retreat.  I have attended a bunch through the years.  During the introductions, I was asked why I was at the retreat.  I responded, “Because I need to be here”.  See, I need a new coat of snow.  I need it to be all white again.

Retreats are a great way to get readjusted and reacquainted with the Father.  I felt like I have been in a good place lately, but I know that He always has more for me.  More love.  More life.

As I spent time during the retreat with the Lord, He gave me a glimpse of my selfishness and pride.  The dynamic duo!  I feel like when I humbly approach Him, and the daily noise is turned off, His love and holiness can make me feel like dirty snow.  Like Isaiah in the throne room.  Unclean.  Still snow- but tarnished a bit.   Ready for renewal.

Do you need a new blanket of white?  Some ideas-

Get Quiet- Find a quiet place and get away from the noise.  We live in a constant stream of audio and visual overload.  Break away- even for a few hours, all alone, to spend time in prayer and reflection.  He promises that He will be there.  You will hear from Him.

Find a Partner- Find a friend who can journey with you.  Someone you can share your struggles with.  Someone that can help you off load some of your junk.

Slow Down- It’s likely that He’s trying to speak to you but you are running so hard that you can’t hear Him.  Prune some activities that are overwhelming your schedule.

Truth Escape- Get back into the Word and a regular prayer life and get reacquainted with His voice.  Morning, evening, even drive time audio Bible, whatever it takes to get you there.  He’s waiting.  He’s a gentleman and you need to make the first move.

I know that I need this time.  A time to unplug from this world and plug into Him.  There is power in living a life connected to Him.  Not because I’m supposed to- because I need it.  I need a fresh perspective- a new breath of life.  I need His love.  I need a fresh coat of snow.

Do you get what I mean here?  Do you have ideas that you can share that help you hear His voice?  Click on “Leave A Comment” and let me know what you think! 

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Christmas Aftermath: Sifting Through the Rubble

I have to admit: I get pretty frustrated with the Christmas season as it has become. 

The commercialization and extreme excess of the holiday is overwhelming to me.  I want a quiet day in which we can just relax and reflect on the importance and meaning of Christmas.  The true meaning of the season- the birth of our Savior and the indescribable and outrageous gift that Jesus is to believers.  What I experience is generally far from quiet and spiritual.  The gift giving and preparation for Christmas is overwhelming.  It seems like an abomination of a religious holiday.  And it is.  But the key word here is religious.

christmas paint

My friend Brian shared a Christmas revelation with me this morning.  He was also a bit frustrated with the events of the day.  He felt like he was not giving the Lord the focus that He deserved.  Then the Lord spoke to him and reassured him:  It’s OK to celebrate.  It’s OK to have fun.  It’s OK to exchange gifts.  Go ahead- have a day of celebration.  I am still God and I still love you!

My experience Christmas day was also the typical day of gift giving and excess, yet there were sweet times with family and friends.  In the midst of the chaos of the day, I was able to connect with them  in a deeper way.  And through the time together and the gift giving, I was able to receive the feeling of being truly loved by them.  So, like Brian, I was given a glimpse of the Father’s love for me.

My take away from this years Christmas is this:  Christmas is a bit out of control, yet it’s good to celebrate, to appreciate others and enjoy the sweetness of the season.  I must be intentional to connect with family and friends and enjoy the opportunities of the Christmas season.  Rather than getting frustrated and trying to change things, I need to embrace the good of the Christmas season and let God take care of the rest.  The correct response is gratitude and worship, not frustration and guilt!

So going forward, I must focus less on the excess and commercialization and focus more on the amazing opportunities of the Holiday season.  Opportunities to reconnect, mend or deepen relationships.  Opportunities to show my love for my wife, family and friends.  Opportunities to appreciate the incredible and amazing blessings that the Lord has provided to me and my family.  For me, this revelation is my greatest gift this year.  And my response must be like the shepherds in the Christmas story:  To bow and worship the Savior King!

Merry Christmas!  

So what do you think?  Click on comments and share your experiences and thoughts on the Christmas season!

Men: 10 Shopping Tips for Christmas!

Ah, the Christmas season has begun!  A time for family, great food and gift giving!  One problem:  The thought of Christmas shopping makes most men cringe.  I would guess that most men would do diaper duty instead of hitting the mall!  Yet, we know we have to do it AND it’s coming up pretty quickly here.  When you think of shopping for your wife or special loved one, you can’t help but think of the scars from past failures.  The dress that was three sizes too big (How big do you think I am?).  The new vacuum cleaner (Oh, I guess the place is a mess, huh?).  The earrings that exactly match the set she already has (You idiot, don’t you notice anything?).   You try every year- yet it always ends in failure.  You want to give up- just go all gift certificates.  You know that this isn’t personal.  Doesn’t show you really care.  No, won’t work.  What can you do? Christmas in the post-War United StatesI am writing this based on wisdom gained from pure failure.  I have made just about every stupid mistake possible.  Yet, I am getting better.  Last year, I probably did about 80% not returned.  Not saying that this year will be as good, but I am gaining confidence.  I know I will get a couple gifts right.  And this is the way it should be.  Because it’s important to her.  You want to see genuine joy on her face on Christmas.  Not- “Oh, thanks Honey…” and then it gets returned.  You want it to be really special for her.

OK- so what do we do?  Here is a list of hints that have been helpful for me through the years.  Understand ALL women are different, so I may not have this exactly right for your loved one so adjust as you see fit.

  1. Planning:  Start thinking about gift giving NOW.  Very often she will give you hints about what she wants.  Some will be subtle and others are not.  Be careful with the non-subtle hints.  This is when she is all but TELLING YOU what she wants.  Write it down!  You will forget- trust me.  Make a list of these hints and ideas.  Start now!
  2. Do the Recon:  Before you hit the mall, a reconnaissance mission is required.  When she is out of the house, go through her closet and dresser and write down the sizes for her clothes.  Be careful here.  Her closet can be full of traps.  There are often things in there that she wishes would fit.  Find the clothes that she always wears.  Look at the tags for the brands.  You may be able to get hints on the stores where she shops.  Write down the sizes and the brands.
  3. Right Style:  Really LOOK at what she wears.  You do not want to be a pioneer here.  Even if you don’t really care for the style she likes, buy what she wears.  She’ll tell you that she loves what you bought her- yet she will never wear it.  My daughter tells my wife that she dresses like a hippy while my daughter dresses conservatively.  Don’t generalize.  Buy what she will wear!
  4. Get the List:  Ask her for a list.  Don’t think that you are so good that you don’t need a list.  Get a few slam dunks in along with some more risky items.  Nothing worse than seeing it all go on the return pile.  Quiz her on her list.  She will likely give you more ideas as she describes what she wants.  Get all of the details- stores, sizes, colors, everything.  These are givens- so go get em!
  5. Shop with Her:  Go Christmas shopping with her.  While she is shopping for others she will spot clothes or items that she wants.  She may tell you to get something specifically or she may just be drawn to something.  Typically she will see something that she wants but thinks it’s too expensive.  Jackpot.  This is good target.  Snap your mental picture and return later and make the buy.  Shopping with her is gold.  You will get great hints here.  So do it!
  6. Danger Zone:  There are certain gifts that are very risky.  Stay away from risk- this isn’t Vegas!  Here are a few:
    1. Practical Gifts:  Household items, TV, blender, toaster, washer, new roof.  May be really needed, but not at Christmas.  Unless it’s a list item- stay away!  This is REAL quick sand here.  Stay with personal gifts.  Practical some other time- not Christmas!
    2. Fitness:  Exercise equipment, gym membership, workout clothes, yoga classes, etc.  Risky, very risky.  Realize the message that you are giving.
    3. Cooking  Items:  Careful here.  Unless she is an avid cook, you may be delivering that same bad message.
    4. Victoria Secret:  Stay away- this is also a trap!  The sizes are about impossible to get right.  There is a fine line to trashy.  And, what is the message- not sexy enough?  Too sexy?  Don’t do it!
    5. Jewelry:  This is a typical “go to” for many guys.  Spend a bunch of money in one spot- and be done.  Easy choice.  However- if she is not a jewelry girl- she’ll take it back.  Trust me on this one.  And then because you chose the “nuclear option”- she’ll have no other gifts that were good.  Now you really stepped in it!  Be careful here.
  7. Go it Alone:  Don’t bring your buddy or your daughter with you.  If you bring your buddy you know where you will end up- Ruby Tuesday’s with a cold beer.  Don’t do it!  You will just have to go out again.  If you bring your daughter and you mess up she will be collateral damage.  Ask her what she thinks, but don’t bring her.  Keep her out of it.  Come on…she’s family!
  8. Use the Mannequins:  The mannequins can be your friend!  See how it looks on them.  They generally put some of the best selling styles on the mannequins.  Look at colors and styles.  Stripes, black, paisley, whatever.  You will know what’s in by looking at the mannequins.  You can also see what it looks like on.  Things look way different on a person than on the clothes rack.
  9. Ask for Help:  Ask the sale people for help.  They will help you find sizes and match things up.  I am not suggesting that you take ALL of their advice.  This is also a trap.  I have wrapped suggested outfits that were a total bomb.  Stay with the look that you are sure she will like.  Don’t experiment with someone else’s taste.
  10. Start Early:  Don’t wait for the last minute.  Start now!  Get a few things bought and stored away.  I will admit that I like getting some last minute items.  Getting out a couple days before Christmas with all the other guys is kind of a tradition.  I do love the last minute excitement- but if you wait too long you will be stuck with what’s left.  All of the common sizes to the cool clothes will be gone.  Many of the good gift ideas will be sold out.  There are great last minute sales but try to be nearly wrapped up.  The internet is a great starting point.  Get a few internet purchases done early and start to look for ideas.  Do your research on-line so your time can be concentrated on hunter/gathering (pick-up and pay!).

These are a few tips that I have learned through the years that I think are most valuable.  Most men would say it’s only Christmas and what does this have to do with leadership?  I can assure you that Christmas gifts are very likely much more important to her, than they are to you!  I also know that being a bonehead and doing a crummy job sends a really poor message to your kids and others about how much you care about her and the importance of completing a task with excellence.  So suck it up and get it done!  It’s not that difficult and when you get it right- it is truly magic!

Merry Christmas!

Can you share some stories of mistakes or victories in Christmas gift selection?

Ladies:  Any ideas to share with the guys?

 Click on comments and tell us your story!