Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Secret of the Happy Christian

Believers, if you would have an increase of happiness in Christ’s service, labor every year to grow in grace. Beware of standing still. The holiest men are always the happiest. Let your aim be every year to be more holy–to know more, to feel more, to see more of the fullness of Christ. Do not rest on old grace: do not be content with the degree of Christianity which you have attained. Search the Scriptures more earnestly; pray more fervently; hate sin more; mortify self-will more; become more humble the nearer you draw to your end; seek more direct personal communion with the Lord Jesus; strive to be more like Enoch– daily walking with God; keep your conscience clear of little sins; grieve not the Spirit; avoid arguments and disputes about the lesser matters of religion: lay more firm hold upon those great truths, without which no man can be saved. Remember and practice these things, and you will be more happy.

~ J.C. Ryle

Practical Religion, “Happiness”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1998], 259.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Practicing Hospitality (Part 2)

By Lori H.

When I was growing up, there was a family who had a New Year’s Eve party every year. Their home was open to everyone – even the kids. It was wonderful! It is one of my favorite memories. It made me feel special and gave us something to look forward to, so we have done the same thing. Every year we have a New Year’s Eve party – everyone is included, even the kids – especially the kids! It is always fun and laid back. I want everyone to feel at home and welcome. I want to create those memories for my children and their friends. I want people to feel at home in my home. Mi casa es su casa. I love that saying: my house is your house. Seriously, ladies, put it on your calendars: New Year’s Eve party at our home. Bring an appetizer or dessert to share, 7 pm to whenever. Bring the whole family, especially the kids.

Here’s another example: I went home with a friend once to help her with her children on the trip. I will never forget how welcome her parents made me feel. Her mom had made us these little welcome baskets filled with lotion, candy, and goodies and placed them on our beds. What an impression that made on me! What an example! Little details like that showed us we were loved, thought of, and prepared for.

Another friend in Northwest Arkansas always opens her home when we need a place to stay. It is usually for a soccer tournament or a Razorback game, but she opens her home up to my whole family – all 8 of us! She cooks for us and includes us in whatever is going on in their lives. She makes us snacks to take to the field, takes time with my children, and loves each of us separately and as a whole. What an example of hospitality she is to me!

Listen to Romans 12:13 : “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” This is a mark of the true Christian.

Did you know that hospitality is required in ministers and elders?

I Timothy 3:2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober minded, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…

And again in Titus 1:8: “but hospitable, a lover of good, self controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.

Even in widows it is required: (I Timothy 5:10)And having a reputation for good works, if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

Ladies, we can do this. Make hospitality a part of your life. Be known for it. Don’t wait until you have time, money, or a beautiful home. Invite them in. Be kind to strangers, guests, friends, and family. Love them as Jesus would.

When we were first married, we lived in a trailer. It was not big, but we had people in. We sat on the floor when we ran out of seats. We shared what we had. I wanted to be like my mom, like these other women I had watched all my life. Now my home is a bit bigger, but my life is a whole lot crazier, and my house is really never clean. I have 6 kids. Our schedules are crazy. I have to make it a priority to invite folks over. I may have to make a few phone calls and ask for rides to and from practices for kids, because it is important to open my home to others. Let people see that they are important and you are not too busy for them.

Get your kids involved in this (What a great training opportunity!). Teach them to clean, cook and serve. Get your husbands involved. If you are single, ask another friend or two to join you. But love on others, have them in your homes, and make them feel special, loved, and important. Be a vessel for Jesus’ love.

There are several friends who I know make it a point to have a meal in their home a couple of times a month and invite folks they don’t know very well. What an example this is to me; what a ministry to others; what a way to build relationships!

Here are a few excerpts from the book Silent Witness by Georg Andersen:

“No matter what the size of one’s home, it can and should be a welcoming place. Whether a cottage or a mansion, if loving hearts live there, it will show in the family pictures, the old loved books, and the bits and pieces of treasures accumulated through the years….” Ruth Graham (p. xi)

“It has been often said that ‘home is where the heart is.’ Perhaps the better statement is that ‘home reveals where the heart is.’”…. Steve Schall (p. xi)

“Hospitality – eagerly sharing the resources of my home to benefit others” (p.69)

“Nevertheless, these physical components and the thoughts behind them say a lot about the occupants and their activities. Naturally, our homes don’t speak with words per se, but they subtly reveal so much: interests and priorities…the place God has in our lives…our concerns for others…the value that we put on our families…how we spend our time. Thus, our homes become ‘silent witnesses’ to the multifaceted work of God in our lives. St. Francis of Assisi succinctly immortalized this concept: ‘Preach the gospel everywhere; when necessary, use words.’ Words of silent witness are vitally important, for they affect – by either helping or hindering – our work and influence for the Lord.” (p.4)

“Hospitality has a worthy ally in Gentleness. Gentleness is the display of tender care and concern in reaching out to others. What distinguishes a house from a home? All houses have walls and floors, but Gentleness sparks a nurturing and warm atmosphere. Who doesn’t want to come to a home that provides a comfortable refuge?” (p.75)

Let’s practice hospitality, ladies.

Be known as having an open home to friends, families, and even strangers. Hebrew 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Love people where they are. Love the tired mama of little children who needs some adult conversation; love on the lonely; love on the crazy mom of 6 (Me!); love on the newlyweds, the college students, the youth, the guests, the singles, the older couples…everyone needs it.

Be the vessel God uses to encourage someone else and I promise you this: as you pour yourselves into others, you will find that you are the one encouraged, loved, and blessed.

God commands us to be hospitable.

Are you practicing hospitality?

See you on New Years Eve!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Practicing Hospitality (Part 1)

By Lori H.

Let me start off with a question: “Are you practicing hospitality?”

Webster defines hospitality as “generous and kindly treatment of guests.”

We live in the south, ladies – so it should be easy for us, right? We are known for southern hospitality. Do we treat guests and even strangers kindly? We (well, most of us) talk with a slow southern drawl and can say “bless her heart” about everything, but are we truly being hospitable?

I love parties. I love the planning. I love the chaos. I love the preparation. I love working with others. I love the relationships I have made serving with others. You really get to know someone when you work with them. And most of the time I even enjoy the stress of trying to get it all done. My motto is “what really has to get done will get done.” I love making things special for others. This is just how God wired me and I know we are not all wired the same way.

But the question is, “What does God think about hospitality?” The Bible is full of examples of hospitality – with feasts and celebrations, with entertaining strangers, and with taking care of the needs of others. But did you know that hospitality is commanded?

I Peter 4:9 says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Wow, that is pretty straight forward! We are to be stewards of God’s grace, and we are not to complain while doing it.

As a young girl, I watched my mom open our house up over the years to friends, family, missionaries, pastors, and even strangers. She would invite people visiting the church over, and share a meal with them. She would include them as a part of our family. People were always at our house, because she made them feel welcome. I had a wonderful example to watch, to train me, and to emulate. Even when she made mistakes and forgot to turn on the oven, made egg drop ice cream, or burned something, people felt included and a part of the family, and laughed with us. Seriously though, most of the time things ran smoothly and that is because she planned well and always had something ready. As kids, she would always let our friends come over. I thought it was cool and wonderful (and it was), but now I see it was also a tool she was using to get to know my friends and to make sure we were all behaving. We must have created a ton of extra work for her, but she never complained and was always welcoming. I want to be like that. I want to know my kids’ friends and for them to know they are always welcome in our home.

What is the difference between hospitality and entertaining? I read this on a blog and it is so true: “when you entertain, you bring honor and glory to yourself… Showing hospitality brings honor and glory to God.” Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t so much about what you do but about your heart attitude behind it. You can host a lovely dinner that is planned down to the last detail or you can throw something together at the last minute. Either one will work. Just be sure your focus is on bringing glory to God through honoring your guests. Make them feel at home and a part of your family.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Gift of Gifts

The following prayer is called "The Gift of Gifts" and is from The Valley of Vision.

O Source of all Good,
What shall I render to Thee for the gift of gifts,
Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, Proxy, Surety, Substitute,
His self-emptying incomprehensible,
His infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
He came below to raise me above,
He was born like me that I might become like Him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to Himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father,
place me with ox, donkey, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer's face,
and in Him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born Child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith,
exulting that He is mine and I am His.

In Him Thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

[Arthur Bennett, ed., The Valley of Vision (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 28-29.]

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mary's Heart of Submission

By Hannah S.

For many of us, the Christmas story is so familiar that we can sometimes forget the significance of the events that took place. We read of a young woman who was visited by an angel with news that she would bear God’s Son.

The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

We cannot gloss over the impact that this announcement would have on this young girl’s life. In the matter of a moment, Mary’s life was changed forever. Her hopes, plans, and dreams were all of a sudden altered. She was to receive a gift, a gift like no other woman that has ever lived. She was going to birth God in flesh.

Before we move on, we cannot overlook that this gift would also bring hardship. Who would believe that she had not sinned? How would she deal with the rejection and isolation that comes from such a role? The thought of a “normal” Jewish life was gone. Later, as they took Jesus to the temple to be circumcised, Simeon said to Mary:

“Behold this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed - and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Mary’s Son was sent to be opposed. She would watch the rejection not only of the Savior but of her son. She would experience greater joy and blessing but also greater sorrow and hardship than other women. Thinking through this has made the way Mary responded incredibly precious to me this Christmas season.

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.

Mary had a heart of submission. She did not cling to her own selfish desires for a nice, easy life, but she submitted to a life of blessing and hardship. We do not know if she struggled with this blessing, if she cried out in the night, “Why me?” but we do know that she was well aware of the hardship before her. She would be misunderstood and accused of a crime that she did not commit. Her righteousness would be thought of as evil. She would watch her Son be rejected and crucified, and yet Mary submitted. Mary allowed her reputation to be marred that God might accomplish His will through her. Mary was willing to be used by God.

This heart of submission is easy to read about but hard to live. How many times in my life have I resisted a blessing because it was not in my plan? I have not had the attitude “let it be done to me according to your word.” God forbid, but I want it to be done to me according to my own word. This submission, this willingness of Mary to walk the path before her, trusting God, is a challenge to us all. Do we think of ourselves as bondslaves, at the will and use of our master, or do we demand our own will and rights?

As you see pictures of Mary this Christmas season, don’t let the tranquility of the scene allow your mind to forget what this precious young girl was embracing. As she held the Lord in her arms, she embraced God’s will for her life.

Dear ladies, as we journey through this life together, may we encourage each other to follow the path laid before us with such a heart. What is the Lord asking you to submit to? What mixture of hardships and blessings lay before you? May our hearts embrace with joyful submission the will of the Lord. May we, like Mary, say, “may it be done to me according to your word.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cape Cod Salsa

By Gail H.

We love chips and salsa just about more than anything else. When Scott and Amanda married at Christmas time, Tandy's gift to our family was making this salsa for the reception. Since that time, it has become part of our Christmas tradition. We make it for parties, friends, and family. It is great with chips or poured over cream cheese with some crackers. The red is so pretty for Christmas, and we love the taste.

The only thing that I have never been able to do is get my raisins to chop. It may be due to dull knives. I just buy small ones and put them in whole.
Cape Cod Salsa

2 cups cranberries
14 crushed tomatoes
1 cup tomato puree
3/4 chopped green pepper
3/ 4cup chopped onion
1/2 to 1 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 JalapeƱo peppers
2 TBS chopped garlic
3/4 cup raisins
Salt & pepper to taste

Process cranberries to finely chopped. Also chop onion and both peppers to diced finely. Finely chop raisins. Add remaining ingredients. Mix all together, cover, and sit at room temperature overnight. Adjust sugar, vinegar, salt & pepper to taste. Adjust the heat of salsa by adding more jalapenos or Tabasco.

Monday, December 19, 2011


By Deborah H.

When we first moved into our house eighteen years ago, we had more than a few surprises. One of the more pleasant ones was the fact that in my youngest son’s room the previous owners had stuck glow-in-the-dark constellations on the ceiling. During the day, they absorbed light so that by night there was a soft glow of stars and moon above. There was something soothing about that faint glow.

Repeatedly, in the Scriptures, God gave us commands regarding light: His light. And I can’t help believing that when others see that light in us, they find it comforting and soothing as well. Like those glow-in-the-dark stickers on the ceiling, the light we give off is but a pale reflection of His wonderful, blinding light, but any reflection at all is a good thing.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light,” 2 Peter 2:9. He chose us, drew us out of the darkness of a sinful world, and brought us into the splendor of His glorious light. That, alone, is reason to offer up praises. But He has done so much more. He has lavished us with the riches of His grace, has provided for our needs, and has equipped us to be the means, feeble though we are in our own strength, to reach others still trapped in the darkness. We do that by reflecting His light, His love, and His holiness.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life,” Philippians 2:14-16.

You see, we’re not going to blind anyone with our light, but we are to reflect HIS light and will stand out from the darkness in doing so. He has equipped us to shine like glimmering jewels of the night, bedecking the darkness with our warm, soft glow. In a way, His people accessorize the darkness around them like diamonds accessorize any ensemble. His children make the world around them more beautiful – not because WE are so beautiful but because we are to reflect HIS beauty.

My son, Scott, is responsible for this current meditation. He allowed me (or forced me, rather) to listen to a current gospel rapper do a “song” entitled, Let There Be Light. One of the lyrics that caught my ear and has penetrated my heart was, “Glowing in the dark till the Lord return.” I’d never thought about it before, but we are to glow in the dark. That’s what we do when we reflect our Savior’s light.

Ephesians 5:8-9 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth).” This verse tells us what it looks like to reflect the light of the Lord. To others, it looks like goodness. It looks like righteousness and is rooted in truth.

In my prayers, I often ask the Lord to make us salt and light in the dark world around us. That’s what I think of when I read, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,” Matthew 5:14-16.

This Christmas season, my prayer is that we are not distracted by the lights and busyness and gift-buying that surround this time of year, but that we may be mesmerized by the Light of Christ. In our own imperfect ways, let us worship Him and bathe in the illumination of His Being, soaking up as much of it as we can possibly hold. Then, a little like Moses as he came down from Mt. Sinai, when we turn again to face the world, let them see in us a reflection of the One we love. May His light shine from every pore of our being – at Christmas and beyond.

“Glowing in the dark till the Lord return.” ~ Andy Mineo

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Focus

By Kim W.

"We don't want our conversations with people to center around our new car or curtains." I read this on a blog years ago and this statement resonated with me. I want my conversations to be so much deeper than this... and although there are times we must talk about getting a new car or decorating our home, it should not be the heart beat of our lives... at least I don't want it to be. I hope to be the kind of person who speaks about the Lord and what He has done. I desire to be a woman who builds relationships with others to encourage them in the Lord... to build others in the faith and to grow in my faith through others' help and teaching... to walk alongside others to learn from their wisdom and be teachable in my spirit. I would love for my speech to be seasoned with grace and used by God in other people's lives. I want to be more about learning how God is working in others' lives instead of learning about the latest decorating ideas. I love being a homemaker and I do find joy in serving in my home - preparing meals, making my home a warm and inviting place, etc. - but I pray my priority would be worshiping God with my whole heart and investing in people's lives, loving those around me. I have been convicted lately that I have not been this kind of person.

I have had such a heavy conviction on my heart that I should be more about seeking Christ right now... the moment is NOW... and it seems strange to me to be thinking about the Lord and talking about Him and then be Christmas shopping online the next minute... finding greater joy in that. Does that make sense? It seems this time of year can make me so busy doing and doing that I can easily lose sight of what really matters. We have done all the things we normally do with our children... the Christ centered Christmas activities and all... but sometimes I feel my heart is not engaged in true worship like it should be. There are so many distractions... and I have been guilty of becoming distracted.

So, at Christmas, I have been thinking through some things. We spend a lot of time on temporal things this time of year and I have to admit, I enjoy some of it. Sometimes, though, I feel as if I enjoy it too much or find joy in these earthly treasures that will pass away. I know they will pass away, but I still seem to be enticed by the sparkle and the glitter at times.

Finding joy in the things of this world is a struggle for me...and I am fighting it.

I have found some quotes to help me refocus my heart and mind on the person of Christ. These have been a great reminder to me that Christmas is about celebrating my Savior. It is a holiday celebrating His deity, His magnificence, His glory in all of creation: heaven and earth.

John MacArthur says this in Truth For Today:

This baby who was to be born would be God Himself in human form. If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these words would be "God With Us." We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth.

This one is from Joni Eareckson Tada:

On this side of eternity, Christmas is still a promise. Yes, the Savior has come, and with Him peace on earth, but the story is not finished. Yes, there is peace in our hearts, but we long for peace in our world.

Every Christmas is still ‘a turning of the page’ until Jesus returns. Every December 25 marks another year that draws us closer to the fulfillment of the ages, that draws us closer to . . . home.

When we realize that Jesus is the answer to our deepest longing, even Christmas longings, each Advent brings us closer to His glorious return to earth. When we see Him as He is, King of kings and Lord of lords, that will be ‘Christmas’ indeed!

~Joni Eareckson Tada, “A Christmas Longing” in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus ed. by Nancy Guthrie (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 137.

To live for yourself is to rob yourself of your own humanity. It is only in living for Christ that we actually begin to become what we were meant to be.

~ Paul David Tripp, A Quest for More (Greensboro, NC; New Growth Press, 2007), 100.

Another quote from John MacArthur from Truth For Today:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

Here's a side to the Christmas story that isn't often told: Those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb, were made so that nails might be driven through them... Jesus was born to die. Don't think I'm trying to put a damper on Your Christmas spirit - far from it. For Jesus' death, though devised and carried out by men with evil intentions, was in no sense a tragedy. In fact, it represents the greatest victory ever.

I pray all of us will find Christ in this Christmas. But this is not just a wishful will take effort on our part. This world fights for our attention and our own selfish, wicked hearts like it more than we should! I think I see my own wickedness at this time of year more than any other.

God, please forgive me and make my heart more like yours. Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Promises for Fears

By Karlyn M.

What are you afraid of this morning?

What is the deepest, most gut-wrenching thing you're looking at? The thing you're convinced you won't make it through? The road you're terrified to start down? The situation you think the Lord will not involve Himself with...

King Jehoshaphat was looking at a "great multitude" that was coming to wage war against the Israelites. They were close, and it looked like the slaughter of God's people was imminent.

The king appealed to God with a very courageous and humble prayer, but in the end, all he could say was, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." God, there is nothing left that I can think of. I have no plans. I have no idea how to conquer this. I can only look to You.

Which is always the right response. The point is this: 2 Chronicles 20 says Jehoshaphat was afraid and without any idea of how he was going to survive this great crisis.

What about you? What is causing you the most fear?

Listen to what God told the king, and hear what God says now to those who love Him:

"Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at [this great horde], for the battle is not yours but God's."

Now YOU fill in the blank.

Are you afraid of your crumbling marriage? Afraid to forgive your spouse ("He'll just do it again! He always does!" [Psssttt... Yes, he will. He's a sinner. And guess what?... So will you. Why else would Jesus say "70 times 7?])

Afraid your child will never trust the Lord for salvation? Afraid of the choices you're starting to see him make?

Afraid you'll never have victory over that secret sin that no one knows about except you and God? And it's eating you up because you continue to fall and it's destroying your communion with the Lord? And you think His mercy and forgiveness has ended and you are lost?

What are you afraid of this morning?

God says: "Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at (IT!), for the battle is not yours but God's." (2 Chron. 20:15) And also: "I have chosen you and not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isa. 41:10)

Do as Jehoshaphat did: go immediately, continuously, to the One Who does not want you to fear; tell Him you can't do anything (because you can't); and look to Him only. In Him alone is your victory in what you're fearing most. Obey what He's commanded you to do, and then rest as He conquers.

Originally posted on Karlyn's blog, A Journey of Joy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Family Traditions - Making Meaningful Memories (Part 2)

(Editor's Note: I'm SO SORRY! I meant to post this yesterday and I just plain forgot. Oops! Better late than never, right? I was just trying to build the anticipation. )

By Kim M.

Years ago, my friend Libby and I gave a talk at Ozark Conference Center called “Traditions – Tried, True, and New.” We compiled a list from many of our friends on “Everyday and Special Day” family traditions. I have continued to add to this list and want to share it with you to jump start your thinking. Some of the traditions incorporate spiritual truths, some foster family togetherness, and some are just for plain ole family fun and memory making times. Click on the link below to see the list:

Traditions – Tried, True and New

Monday, December 5, 2011

Family Traditions – Making Meaningful Memories (Part 1)

By Kim M.

Think back to when you were a little girl. What do you remember most about the holiday season? How many specific gifts can you really remember? I remember one gift in particular...I was about 12. It was a bicycle: purple bike, banana seat, tall, curvy handlebars with the sparkly things from the handlebars – a very cool bike. But what I remember most was that mom and dad had hidden the bikes from my sister and me. After all the other presents were opened, mom and dad made up some excuse for Kathy and me to go into our utility room, and there we got the joy of discovering our fashionable, sparkly new bikes. You know, I don’t remember one other present from that Christmas. But it was the way my parents planned for us to discover the gifts and the surprise that had the lasting effect. It is the memories we make with family and the times that we spend together that are what truly have a lasting effect on us.

As we move into what usually proves to be one of the busiest seasons of the year, it is easy to get caught up in the frenzy that comes with shopping, wrapping, baking, hosting, and decorating. Sometimes we can become so busy that we lose the meaning and people in the midst of the all the activity. I want to slow down the pace long enough to challenge us to think about how this season can be different. How can we as women be deliberate and purposeful in our planning so that we can make meaningful memories for our family; memories that promote family togetherness and other-centered service; memories that point us to the faithfulness of our God? How can we use family traditions to facilitate these memories, not just during the holidays, but everyday?

Noel Piper in her book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions, gives us three definitions of traditions:

  • A tradition is a planned habit with significance.
  • A tradition is the handing down of information, beliefs, or worldview from one generation to another by word of mouth and by regular repetition of example, of ceremony, of celebration.
  • For a Christian, tradition is laying up God’s words in our own hearts and passing His words to the next generation.

Traditions are one generation declaring to the next the faithfulness and the
wondrous works of the Lord. Recently, I was reading a book by where the author refers to family traditions as “we always.” I love that phrase! “We always” do breakfast in bed on birthdays. “We always” have a “Happy Birthday, Jesus” cake for Christmas dinner dessert. “We always” bake together as a family at Christmas. When your kids think back someday on your family, what will they remember fondly as the “we always?" Let’s focus on two categories where we can practice traditions or our “we always” with purpose in our families through what I call “Everyday traditions” and “Special Day Traditions.”

First, let’s consider “Everyday traditions.” You are all familiar with Deuteronomy 6: 5-7 where we are instructed to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might and then to have these words on our heart and to teach them diligently to our children and talk of them when we sit in our house and when we walk by the way and when we lie down and when we rise up. Have you ever thought about the fact that your daily habits and routines can become, as Noel Piper defines it, “a habit with significance” where you can carry out the commands of Deuteronomy 6?

Noel challenges us in her book to think through our daily walking, rising, talking, and going to bed times, and ask the Lord to show us how we can establish habits or traditions with meaning. How can our daily traditions pass on and proclaim God’s Word and faithfulness from one generation to the next?

Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
  • setting the example by having a regular quiet time (Will your family be able to say “we always” knew mom was having her quiet time and praying for us?)
  • family devotions
  • family nights
  • meal times together
  • tucking them in times
  • date night with daddy
  • having special family recipes or meals
  • travel time habits – “We always” pray in the car before a trip. Maybe it is singing hymns as you travel? When I was little, “we always” counted windmills as we traveled to south Texas, knowing the more we saw, the closer we were to MamMa and Grandpa’s house.
  • bath time – a reminder of how God washes our sins away
  • making Sunday special (Karen Mains has a book by that title with helps)
  • read aloud time
  • praying together
  • keeping a family journal or scrapbook
Let Deuteronomy 6 transform your everyday habits and routines so that they take on a totally new meaning for you. Ask God to give you His vision for family. Think about the things you do every day that can be a tradition with meaning to foster the blessing of family and to point your family to God.

God also established “Special Day” traditions. Think about the ordinance of the Passover Feast for the Israelites in Exodus 12:42. It is a night to be observed for the LORD for having brought them out from the land of Egypt. This night is for the LORD, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations. He also established the Feast of the Unleavened Bread: “Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance,” (Exodus 12:14). Besides the everyday remembrances, God gave special days for remembering.

Noel Piper shares a story in her book where a college friend had heard once too often, somebody pontificating that, “Every day should be Mother’s Day,” or “Every day should be as significant as Christmas.” Finally, the student exclaimed, “No! All days are NOT the same! God knows we need ‘especially.’” Noel says, “God appointed special days, such as the Passover, for His people and gave them ceremonies to set those days off from the others. The ceremony of a special day keeps it from slipping away like an ordinary day. We stop and recognize the specialness of an event in large part because of the traditions in which it’s wrapped… our ‘especially’ celebrations anchor us and our children in the harbor of our family, reflecting our true refuge: God.”

I suggest that you sit down with a calendar and think through the year and the holidays and special days that your family celebrates. Choose times that your family will celebrate and consider how you can add special meaning to these special days in your family. Hear me say this: I do NOT want you to feel guilty or to think of this as one more thing to add to your already-too-long “to do” list. It may be that the best thing you can do to make holidays more meaningful in your home is to simplify! Sometimes we need to “do more… better” and sometimes we need to “do less… better.”

Tomorrow: A list of practical ideas to jump start your thinking