Archives For christmas

If you’re married, do you get your spouse a gift?

Or do you forego the gift? Because, after all, you don’t really need anything, right? Or…well…this is a time to get other people gifts. Or…our budget just won’t allow it.

Is it really that important to get your spouse a gift? Or can we just skip it and focus on others? Do we really need to focus so inwardly?

Yes. Yes, you do.

If you’re married, you better get your spouse a gift for Christmas. [Tweet that]

I remember in premarital counseling, my pastor told me something about my then-fiance, now-wife. It was over a decade ago that he spoke the words, but I’ll never forget them.

Your spouse is God’s gift to you. They are your treasure. Treat them like they are. – R. Sing Oldham

If something is my treasure, I’m going to do whatever it takes to find, and keep, my treasure. I’m going to guard it. I’m going to protect it. I’m going to go out of my way to value it because it’s valuable! At the end of the day, I’m going to…treasure it.

One thing that I tell couples when I counsel is that a key to remaining happily married is to continue to date your spouse. Look for moments to steal away. Snag a kiss. Go out of your way to make the mundane special. Go on dates. Do little things to show them you love them. Do big things. Do tiny things. Do medium-sized things. But whatever you do, continue to date them. Continue to get to know them. Spend your life getting to know, and love, your spouse increasingly.

I got gifts for Laura when I dated her. I wanted her to know just how much I loved her. Just how much I treasured her. I wanted her to know how special she was to me. I wanted to impress her with the gifts I got. I wanted her to know I knew her well, and that I understood what made her tick and what she valued.

Just because we’re married now doesn’t mean I should want to impress her less. Yes, we’re committed. She’s not going anywhere and neither am I. But if I really love her, I ought to go out of my way to show her.

I ought to get creative. Think out of the box. Listen to her when she says what she likes and what she thinks looks good to her.

Sure, my wife may not “need” anything. She may not even say she “wants” anything. But it would make no sense for me to go shopping for hours, stretching my brain and my budget, to buy stuff for others without buying something for the one I love the most on this earth.

You’d better get your spouse a Christmas gift before you run out of money and ideas. [Tweet that]

I’m not saying you have to get something expensive. Not at all! It has very little to do with a dollar amount, and everything to do with your heart, your motivation, and how well you’ve listened and know your spouse.

Gifts that show you’ve listened well are more valuable than expensive ones. [Tweet that]

And those you love the most should get the best, most thoughtful gifts of all.

What do you think?

 

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How do preschoolers tell the Christmas story?

My church sat down with some recently.

I think you’ll enjoy their…retelling.

A Kids’ History of Christmas from Long Hollow Creative on Vimeo.

 

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Our creative director, Jason Dyba, wrote this book. He read it during our Christmas services at Long Hollow. It’s phenomenal.

Read along with it. Then pick up a copy (see below the video for easy, free instructions) for your family to read this Christmas. I did.

Laura, Rex, and I will be reading it together this year.

 

Herbie and the Manger from Long Hollow Creative on Vimeo.

To download your copy

You can also to order a physical copy to be delivered to your home!

 

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The difficulty of Christmas

Ben Reed —  December 18, 2012 — 3 Comments
11820

image credit: Joe Cavaszos

I was standing in line at Wal Mart, checking out with a few snacks that my wife and I were taking to our staff Christmas party. We were both pretty excited to celebrate a great year with the staff at Grace, whom we loved.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. I slipped it out to see who was calling as I slid my credit card to complete the transaction. It was my mom.

“Hey mom, we’re checking out at Wal Mart. Can I call you right back?”

All I heard in reply was the rapidly-inhaling wheeze someone has when their words are battling with their tears. I instantly squatted down beside the register, cupped my hand over my right ear, and strained to hear every word coming through the phone.

“Mom? What’s wrong? Take a deep breath.”

“It’s Grandma…she’s…”

*wheeze*

“Mom. I can’t hear you. What’s wrong with Grandma?”

*wheeze*

“She’s gone, son. She’s gone.”

My world started spinning. I felt like things slowed down and sped up, all in the same moment. Everything seemed incredibly real and tangible…and at the same time, chaotic. In shock, I relayed the information to Laura as we grabbed our receipt and bags, rushing out the door. I remember the sound of the ignition as it combined with the screams from the ambulance and fire trucks. I knew they were for Grandma. I knew they were headed in the same direction we were.

My grandma’s house was less than 2 miles from Wal Mart. When we pulled up, the flashing lights of the Emergency vehicles lit up the house like Christmas lights normally would that time of year. I parked in the driveway and ran up the shiny metal wheelchair ramp that had recently been installed. My dad walked out, holding my son, Rex, in his arms. They were playing with a toy. It was Dad’s way of distraction-coping. He had just lost his mom, and to keep from crumbling under the emotional weight, he played with Rex. I talked to Dad briefly, then went inside, pushing past the medical personell who didn’t know what to say to me.

Grandma was laying on the bed. She’d died in her sleep. She hadn’t been in the best of health, but her general demeanor and look were improving. Then, she was gone. In an instant, she went to be with Jesus. I bent down and kissed her cheek, a tear dripping down mine onto hers. “I love you, Grandma” I whispered.

2 years ago, just a couple of weeks before Christmas, I lost my Grandma. I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. I’m reminded of her love, her warmth, her laugh, and her put-everything-from-the-freezer-in-the-pot soup. Every Christmas Eve, I remember the breakfasts we’d eat and the gifts we’d open. I remember the shows she loved and the coffee she drank. I remember the smell her house had.

Every year, I wish I had one last Christmas with her. That I could have one last Christmas to hear her laugh at Rex jumping off of her wheelchair. That we had one last Christmas Eve to eat her huge, very-unhealthy-but-very-good breakfast. That one last time I could hear her say, “Eat, honey. Eat ’til you’re full. Then eat some more. Eat slow and eat a lot.” That I could open up the refrigerator one last time and see all of the drinks she’d gotten…she always had your favorite good and cold.

Just one last time.

Joy for the Joyless

For so many people, Christmas is pure joy. Gifts. Family. Food. Relaxing. Celebrating.But for some, Christmas is tough.

It’s a reminder of our pain.

Maybe you lost someone you loved, and every Christmas season you’re reminded.

Maybe you’re lonely, and all of the chatter about family, friends, and celebrations reminds you that you don’t have anyone. No family. No children. No spouse. Nobody to celebrate with Christmas morning.

Maybe you got fired during the holidays one year. Maybe your dream crumbled before your eyes.

If you have a family, and you’re able to see them on Christmas, you’re prone to forget about others’ loneliness.

If you haven’t lost someone you love this time of year, it’s easy to forget that others have.

If you have plenty, it’s easy to forget that others don’t.

This season, remember that Jesus came for the broken. The hopeless. The helpless. The shattered. The confused. The sick. The lonely. The angry. The depressed. The fakers. The weak. The ones in pain.

Jesus came for us.

He didn’t stay up in heaven and simply tell us he loved us. He entered our pain. He shifted our world. He came to be one of us, and offer us hope.

He doesn’t offer hope that this life is going to be easy, pain-free, and full of wealth. But He promises to be with us through it all.

Christmas reminds us of that. At Christmas, we see a God who’s not far off, but is near. A God who can sympathize with us in our weakness. (Hebrews 4:15) A God who doesn’t just let His creation groan in pain from afar, but through whom all things hold together.

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. – Colossians 1:19-20

Jesus came for us.

 

 

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Merry Christmas from the Reeds!

Ben Reed —  December 24, 2011 — 2 Comments

 

 

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Keep ‘X’ in Christmas!

Ben Reed —  December 15, 2011 — 21 Comments

image credit: Creation swap user Joe Cavasos, edits mine

We use the letter ‘x’ for a variety of things.

  • It marks the spot on a treasure map.
  • It stands for ‘kisses,’ as when you sign something XOXO
  • It represents an unknown amount of something. As in something that costs $XX.XX
  • It represents getting rid of something. I’m “X”-ing that out. Striking it from the record.

Used alone, ‘X’ often stands in place of something else. In other words, it “replaces” the real meaning that should be intended. It stands in place of something more important that, for whatever reason, you did not wish to display.

Replacing Christ with an X

Which can get a little hairy when it comes to Christmas, right? X-mas is seen by many as a way of, quite literally, removing Christ from Christmas. Replacing the King of the world with an “X.” I mean, at least it’s a capital letter when it’s done…but still, it seems a bit too easy to be rid of the most pivotal person in all of human history.

And, come on…nobody says, “Happy X Day” for Labor Day or “Happy Xter” for Easter or “X Luther King, Jr. Day” for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. That would be weird. Except for Xter day…I kind of like how that sounds.

Greek to English

Before you get yourself in a tizzy over the X that people often use “in place of Christ” in Merry X-mas, I think it prudent to understand a bit about language. Here’s rule number 1:

Greek is different than English.

At least that’s what they taught me in seminary.

And it’s so pertinent in this situation.

English has basically transliterated the Greek word (which is the language of the New Testament) for Christ. The Greek word for the name of Jesus Christ is pronounced ‘yay-soos’ ‘cree-s-toss’. Spelled out, it looks like this: Ιησούς Χριστός.

Notice the first letter of the second word: ‘X’. “X” is the first Greek letter in the name of Jesus. And that ‘X’ isn’t actually an ‘X’ like it is in English. It’s actually a “Chi.” You may have seen/heard this in various fraternities/sororities (e.g., the sorority: Chi Omega).

Throughout history, ‘X’ has been a shorthand way of referring to Jesus because it’s the first letter of his name in Greek. In no way meant to be disrespectful or derogatory, ‘X’ has historically just been a way of referring to Jesus Christ.

‘X’ is not, and has not been, a replacement for Christ in Christmas. There are many ways to keep Christ out of Christmas…but unfortunately for those of you who like to hop on the “keep Christ in Christmas” bandwagon, this isn’t one of them. If you are looking for some proactive ways to “keep Christ in Christmas,” I’ve got some thoughts for you HERE.

So I’m starting a new campaign.

“Keep X in Christmas!”

I’m having buttons made as we speak.

Merry X-Mas!

*image credit: Creation swap user Joe Cavasos, edits mine

 

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Do people really want to leave Christ out of Christmas?

I don’t think so. Because if we did, we’d be left with just ‘mas.’ Which can’t work.

  • We wish you a merry mas.
  • All I want for mas is my two front teeth.
  • We’d invite people to our mas Eve service.
  • We’d watch National Lampoon’s mas Vacation.

Nobody wants that. Not even pagans. Because we all know that whether you’re a pagan or a Christian, you watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at some point during this season.

With the myriad of distractions flying at us through the media, shopping, office parties, and traveling, we need reminders to keep Christ in Christmas, right? You’ve seen them on buttons, t-shirts-billboards, and yard signs.

CHRISTmas reminders

  • Jesus is the reason for the season.
  • Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas.
  • No Christ. No Christmas. Know Christ. Know Christmas.
  • Christmas is about Jesus from long ago, not Santa trudging through the snow.

Maybe I made that last one up. But I’m not convinced that these types of reminders work. I also think that when you make it a personal mission to tell everyone you see, “Merry CHRISTmas” (over-dramatizing the “Christ” part), you don’t necessarily help your cause.

In fact, that’s offensive to many people.

“Shouldn’t that make us, the Church, upset?” you say. “It is our holiday, after all, right?” This holiday should be all about Jesus, so we should expect that everyone, even those who don’t follow Jesus, to honor him as Savior and Lord during the Christmas season, right? Oh wait…never mind…forcing someone to recite something they don’t believe isn’t necessarily helpful. Expecting that they’ll honor Jesus during December even though they don’t believe He is King may not be the best way.

Can I offer a better way?

Better CHRISTmas reminders

Maybe a better way to keep Christ in Christmas is to show people love. Even people that don’t deserve it.

Maybe a better way to keep Christ in Christmas is to pursue peace with people because God, through Jesus, has pursued peace with us. 

Maybe a better way to keep Christ in Christmas is to live joyfully in the midst of difficulty. Because we have a Savior who endured our suffering.

Maybe a better way to keep Christ in Christmas is to live generously. Because we serve a King who has given us salvation.

Maybe a better way to keep Christ in Christmas is to live our lives as if the God of the world sent his Son to call us His own.

But maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe we should just keep wearing our buttons. 

 

 

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image credit: creation swap user Matt Gruber

Lots of small groups take the Christmas season off. And that’s fine.

But if you’re one of the groups that really loves Jesus, you’re not taking the season off. You’re soldiering through like the little drummer boy who could. Massive traveling, family celebrating, and time off of work won’t slow you and your group down!

If you’re one of the groups that’s meeting throughout the month of December, you may be wondering what you can do that’s a little outside of the norm. I’ve got some suggestions.

15 Christmas Ideas for your Small Group

Fellowship:

Don’t feel bad about wanting to have fun together as a group this Christmas season. Having fun together is very biblical.

  •  Go caroling.
  • White elephant gift exchange. See explanation HERE.
  • Ornament exchange.
  • Pot luck with your favorite Christmas dish.
  • “Favorite book” exchange.
  • Celebrate with a gift exchange mid-January. That way, you can get gifts on sale, and extend the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Jesus would probably have loved a good sale. Am I right?!?

 Serving

  • Email your pastor for families in need, and serve them food and gifts.
  • Contact your local public school system and tell them you’d like to sponsor ___ families with food and gifts this Christmas. Ask them to connect you with the families.
  • Contact your local Salvation Army and sign up to ring the bell.
  • Write letters to soldiers who are deployed, if you live in a military town.
  • Bless your pastor. Examples: a gift card to Amazon, a night away for him and his wife, or a gift card to a nice local restaurant.

Worship/study

 Is your small group meeting for the Christmas season?

* image credit: creation swap user Matt Gruber

 

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We all want to get that perfect gift for someone for Christmas, right?

image via creation swap user Travis Silva

The one that says, “I know you so well that I didn’t even have to ask you what you would want, I can pick the perfect gift you didn’t even know you wanted or needed.”

Allow me to help.

If you’re looking for a gift for a blogger, I’ve got your back.

1. 31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo

This is a great e-book resource from Bryan Allain. It’ll help kickstart a new blog or restart an old one. And it’s only $4.99. 

2. Evernote Premium

I’ve made it no secret that I love Evernote. I’ve found some new uses. It’s revolutionized the way I capture information, which I believe is key to having fresh blog content. An Evernote premium account just takes Evernote to a whole new level. I’m finding more and more every day just how key Evernote is to blogging success. Pay for a year’s subscription for $45.

3. Standard Theme

This is the theme that I use here on my blog. It’s fantastically simple to use, but beautifully robust on the back-end. It’s a great theme that’s easily customizable. If the blogger you love doesn’t have it, this would be a great gift. The theme is $49, but for $99 you can get lifetime support and updates.

4. Idea Paint

I use a big dry-erase sticker, but Idea Paint is even more awesome. You can get it on their website, or you can snag a much cheaper can at Lowe’s HERE. It’s $30 for enough paint to cover a 6 square foot area.

5. Kindle Fire

This is a great new tool that gives the blogger flexibility to read e-books and post updates to their blog as well. And you’ll be someone’s hero. Priceless. Or, if you’re counting change, it’s $199.

6. Coffee

I prefer Starbucks VIA or Starbucks cards. If you’re not a Starbucks fan, just head to your local coffee shop and get a pound of coffee. Your blogger will love you for it. Average price: $10/pound.

7. Moleskine Notebook

Sometimes it’s easier to write our thoughts out, or sketch an idea on paper. Enter the Moleskine. With a variety of colors, cover-types, and paper, you can pick just the right one. Soft cover: $12; Hard cover: $17.95

8. Apple gift cards

From music to apps, bloggers can find a variety of useful things. Most of them serve as distractions, but that’s beside the point. Price: starts at $5…but depends on how much you love your blogger.

9. Headphones

If we’re going to listen to music in public places, respect dictates we listen to music through headphones. I’ve got my eye on a set of Beats by Dr. Dre that have a built-in mic for talking on my phone through the headset. Those are $179, but the Plantronics Backbeat are great, too, have a built-in mic, and are $19.99.

10. Laptop bag

If you’ve got a laptop you carry around, you’ve got to have something to carry it in. I have an STM bag that I love. A new laptop bag is always a good idea. The STM bag I’ve got is $49.99.

11. MacBook Air

I know, I know…this is a stretch. But for those you really love, this may be just the right gift! The portability and power of a new MacBook Air is perfect for the person that travels throughout the day and needs something light and easy to move with, but that’s still got plenty of power. It’s a steal at $999.

Have a blogger in mind? What are you getting them?

* photo credit: creation swap user Travis Silva

 

 

 

 

 

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A Social Network Christmas

Ben Reed —  December 22, 2010 — Leave a comment

What would it look like if Mary and Joseph had Jesus in the age of Facebook?

(HT: Greg Atkinson)

Merry Christmas!

 

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