Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Waste Not, Buy Not!

Did you ever try to keep track of your spending for a month, or even just a week or day? Pretty tough, huh? It's a good idea recommended by budget counselors to help people control their spending.

I've found a more effective method of curbing my spending though. Over the last week or so, I've been trying to keep track of waste. Wow. I didn't realize how much of what I spent went right down the drain! An uneaten fast food salad here, that jar of special salsa I bought on a trip last month, that bargain pair of pants purchased on-line last winter.

Try it for a week. Don't worry about what you spend; just record everything of value you throw away. Between uneaten food, unworn clothing, unwatched video rentals, unread books and unnecessary "junk" purchases, I've discovered I toss between $25-50 a week. Now THAT, my money-conscious friend, will be an effective deterrent next time you go to spend money on the same items.

Okay, that was just a freebie but such an amazing discovery I couldn't resist sharing!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Who Took Christ out of Christmas?

It's on the news nightly these days - reports of retailers attempting to celebrate the holidays in a politically correct manner. This means no wishing anyone a Merry Christmas - "Happy Holidays" is the sentiment of choice these days. If at all possible, red and green should not be worn in combination with each other during December. Even jewelry needs to be holiday-neutral.

"They've taken Christ out of Christmas!" outraged Christians everywhere exclaim. But can we really blame this on the secular world? How can we expect those who do not keep Christ in their hearts to keep Him in their holiday?

How long have we as believers straddled the holiday fence ourselves? On one hand, we've succumbed en masse to the materialistic cesspool that has become "Christmas." We stand in line, pushing and shoving with the best of them. We overspend and overeat. We over plan and end up just as stressed as everyone else. On the other, we want Christ-honoring Christmas programs, and Christmas carols. We want to drop our extra change in the Salvation Army kettles, and invite unsaved relatives to church. We want our nativity scenes and advent wreaths. Can we have it all?

Maybe we need to take the Christmas out of Christ. Perhaps somehow we can return to a simple celebration of His coming? Maybe He'd be honored by simple gifts of our hearts . . . a humble and contrite spirit . . . our time . . . our worship.

Let the retailers and politicians have their Christ-less holiday. For me, Christ is not found in Christmas carols or two significant colors or meaningless sentiments. Christ is in my heart and it's in my heart I want to celebrate Him. No one can take that away!

P.S. Do yourself a favor and check out some of Martha's ponderings on the Advent season.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Prayer God Wants to Answer

James 1: 5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Been reading in James for a Bible study I'm in, and at the same time time we're covering the topic of prayer in our teen small group right now. As I've been preparing to discuss prayer with the girls, my heart's desire is that they understand prayer to be more than merely asking God for things.

I think what God really wants is for our hearts to be constantly communing with Him. One thing I've noticed myself doing lately is asking God for wisdom. I don't mean at a set time, as something I check off a list. It's something I can do any time and any place.

Sometimes it's just a simple, "God, what can I make for dinner tonight?"
"What would be the best gift for this person?"
"How can I help this person?"
"How can I best spend my time today - help me to know what my priorities should be."

I can ask God for a bigger house or the resources to quit work. I can pray for my husband to grow spiritually. I can pray for the salvation of family members. God may or may not answer those when and how I would like them to be answered. I'm finding better prayers to be, "Lord, help me manage my spending more wisely. "Give me wisdom to know what my husband needs from me." "Lord, show me how I can reach out to this family member who needs you."

Amazingly enough, God seems to answer those prayers immediately. Not in a big Damascus road kind of way. Instead He provides just enough light to see the next step. To make a wise purchase. To seize an opportunity to listen to my husband. To not be selfish with my days off but give of my time to my family.

The best thing about prayer is knowing my heavenly Father longs for me to commune with Him. And like the verse says, He doesn't find fault with my request. He doesn't chide me or scold me or say I should have known that. He's all ears, so to speak.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Dirty Feet

In our Adult Bible Fellowship the past few weeks, we've been discussing worship and, in particular, the ordinances of baptism & the Lord's supper. As we read the passages last week relating to communion, I began reading John 13, where Jesus washed his disciples' feet. As clearly as Christ commanded his disciples to observe the meal as a reminder of his sacrifice on the cross, He also told them to follow His example and wash each other's feet. I wondered though, why is foot-washing not regularly practiced in most churches today?

The teaching I've heard on foot-washing usually takes one of two roads: it either emphasizes the servanthood of Christ, or it emphasizes the need for on-going confession and forgiveness of sins on a daily basis. While both are no doubt important truths, one other thought occurred to me.

Most of us don't have a problem with dirty feet nowadays, but we all struggle with ugly sin on a daily basis, sin we manage to hide very well. I think perhaps His intent was for us as fellow believers in the family of God to be open & intimate with each other. I think it was as important for Peter to allow Christ to wash his feet as it was for Christ to stoop down and wash them. The honesty was as vital as the serving.

In John 17, Christ continues on this night of nights by offering the prayer of prayers for his disciples. What an awesome glimpse into His loving heart we see here. Among other things, He prays for unity among the believers. He prays that we may be one, just like He and the Father are one. And this oneness will speak volumes to the rest of the world about the love of the Father.

What does it mean to be one? Oneness means when you hurt, I hurt. When you cry, I cry. Too often, it seems that church is more about a gathering of individuals than a oneness. A bunch of individuals, coming together, facades in place, to create an illusion of oneness. But are we really becoming one? When was the last time you admitted a weakness to a brother or sister in Christ? Obviously it wouldn't do to walk around the church with a sign around our necks enumerating our sins & shortcomings. But do we have someone we can be open and honest with? Or are we too ashamed to let anyone know we have dirty feet? To me, intimacy and oneness in the body of Christ start with the washing of the feet. The boldness to let others see the chinks in our armor, the cracks in the vessel. And the humility to admit we need each other.