Mere Christmas

I’m not feeling the Christmas season.

photo credit: John Morgan via creative commons

photo credit: John Morgan via creative commons

Perhaps it’s the warmer weather we have had in Nashville (which I love). Maybe it’s because I have been busy. I have not been able to figure it out completely, but I don’t feel merry this Christmas. I have a playlist with Christmas music on it and I held off listening to it most of this month. With no new podcasts to listen to and not wanting to hear the garbage on sports talk radio I decided to play it driving home from work the other night. It didn’t do anything for me.

I’m reading Mere Christianity right now. My dad gave this book to me when I was a sophomore in high school. I remember attempting to read it on a beach trip and losing interest after the first few pages. I liked what C.S. Lewis was saying but had trouble absorbing it.

As I turn through the pages now it is still hard to absorb at times. There are chapters I read when I feel I’m right there with him. Our brains are on the same wavelength decades apart. Then there are other times when I read it and pages take days to read. I read a few paragraphs and it’s a foreign language. This lingers on and I will go a few days without picking the book up. Eventually I go back and crack it open. I sit down and clear my head and read page after page and it means something. I keep coming back to the book because I know I will enjoy the finished product.

I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay.” – C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

As I have been going through this ebb and flow the past few weeks it reminded me of how I felt about Christmas this year. Even though I’m not in the mood to celebrate this Christmas season I need to choose to be in the mood. I need to embrace it even though all I want to do is lower my head and push through until January or until it is warm again.

I want to listen to the lyrics of “O Holy Night” and feel something, but it’s probably not going to happen unless I stop and listen to the song. In this advent season I’m trying to focus on the waiting.

However, I’m not waiting on me to get used to Christmas. It’s almost here and I’m going to remember Christmas 2015 for all the insane blessings which have come my way this year. The year has gotten better with each passing month. I don’t want to see it end. I’m going to celebrate it even if my car has a flat tire and even if I wake up not feeling well. You only get a certain number of Christmases and they are all merry if you allow them to be.

My nature is to rush and it feels unnatural to wait. It’s uncomfortable but you learn to embrace it. I’m attempting to understand the moments in life where waiting seems the worst possible outcome but where it is all we can do. I’m leaning into it. There is only a week left. I’m going to make it count.

Why Is It so Hard to Give?

I have a confession to make. I struggle with giving. I love to give gifts but often times I talk myself out of giving.

photo credit: Joe Buckingham via Creative Commons

photo credit: Joe Buckingham via Creative Commons

I know I want to give but when I start to give generously I get caught up thinking too much.
What if my car breaks down?
What if I have to go to the hospital for something?

I selfishly think I need to create my own safety net. There certainly is a place for saving money for unfortunate circumstances but we often hide behind it.

What I have found in my own life is often times I’m scared to be generous because I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. It sounds odd because who doesn’t like getting presents? I don’t want people to feel obligated to give me a gift. I don’t want them to wonder why I am giving them something. They may think I have an ulterior motive.

Earlier this year I read, I Like Giving, which is an incredible book that talks about giving and living generously. In the book Brad Formsma writes this about giving,

When we choose to give, we change, and the people around us change. When we move from awareness to action, miracles happen. When we allow giving to be our idea, a world of possibilities opens up before us, and we discover new levels of joy.”

This sounds a bit dramatic but when you start to give you start to understand what he means.

There isn’t a better time to get back in the swing of giving than Christmas.

I’m writing this as much for myself as I am for anyone else. To paraphrase Pete Wilson, if you can’t be generous when you make $20,000 a year you will never be generous when you make $200,000 a year.

As I have seen an incremental amount of growth over the past few years in my income, I know exactly what he means. We all have this idea in our heads that when we make a lot of money then we will be generous. It doesn’t work that way.

Be generous this Christmas. Don’t wait until next Christmas or the one after that to give. Do it now.

What an Old Amy Grant CD is Teaching Me About New Experiences

Monday I was driving to work listening to my Amy Grant Christmas album.

photo credit: Paul via Creative Commons

photo credit: Paul via Creative Commons

I know it sounds insanely cool but let me briefly explain. Growing up my Dad always played Christmas music throughout our surround sound system in our house during the Christmas season. The most notable album was Amy Grant’s Christmas CD. For Christmas last year my parents got Morgan and I a copy of the CD (yes, I received a CD for Christmas last year it was like 1999 all over again).

I thought it would be a great idea to put the CD in my car so I could play it while I’m driving to work and wherever else this month.

As I turned it on Monday I had an epiphany. I don’t really like this album. No knock on Amy Grant, but it isn’t my favorite album. I like “Tennessee Chirstmas” and 2 or 3 other songs but overall I didn’t like it.

Part of this is because it was 60 degrees and it was only a few days after Thanksgiving so I wasn’t really in the Christmas spirit. But as I thought about it more I came to another conclusion.

The reason I enjoy this album is because it reminds me of Christmas. It is the song we listened to growing up as we ate breakfast before opening presents. It’s the song we hear in the background of all our home videos shot during Christmas. A Christmas without Amy Grant singing is hard to imagine for me.

However, when I was driving to work it wasn’t the same. Listening to “Hark! The Hearld Angels Sing” while merging on I-40 on a Monday morning commute didn’t have the same impact as listening to it on Christmas day.

Sometimes this is how I get with my relationship with God. I listen to certain songs or read something again which has really impacted me in the past, but I can’t replicate it. I want so badly for the feeling to stay with me but the harder I try to hold onto it the quicker it slips through my fingers.

I listened to Mark Batterson’s sermon from Sunday and he said something which I loved. He talked about the verse in Lamentations 3 where it says God’s mercies are new every morning. He said what this means is his mercies are not only new each day but different.

I love the way Lamentations 3:22-23 is translated in The Message: “God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning.”

I often times find myself wanting to replicate certain events like listening to an Amy Grant Christmas album. I often try to replicate instances I have had where I listen to a song or read a verse that said something to me so profound once and I get frustrated I can’t emulate it again.

I’m learning it’s OK to savor past experiences in my walk with God and in my life. Although I can’t recreate the events, I can experience joy in knowing his mercies are new each day. New experiences are the same way. It’s fun to remember positive events from the past but knowing there are great things ahead is something I am starting to focus on more and more.