The Stuff we see is the stuff we want!

Christmas is cool…but very EXPENSIVE!

Budgets are great in theory… but when you hit the local mall, your consumer DNA kicks in hard. The stuff you SEE is the stuff we WANT! But is it the stuff we can AFFORD?

From the siren call of the credit card to the demands of travel and last-minute meals, the average family feels the pinch of our finances every Christmas. It’s how you respond that makes the difference.

If you’re like me… you can get very frustrated! After all we mean well, doing our best to save money throughout the year. Unfortunately, life intervenes all to often. Braces, Car repairs, broken washers… surprise school expenses… all conspire to suck up our cash before we even get to Black Friday.

We (fathers) have the added struggle of giving our gang the best possible Christmas! We get hammered with hundreds of big budget commercials showing well-groomed men of substance buying new cars and diamonds for their wives and offering massive piles of presents for their kids! sad-christmas-man_si

Mom’s feeling the heat too, she’s hustling to prepare her home for a Southern Living photo shoot, every towel and trinket in its place, the lights and candles all lined up like they saw it on Pinterest. The pressure’s on to perform, provide the ‘perfect’ Christmas with the perfect meal in the perfect setting… after all, the in-laws are coming!

But what about the payoff in January and February? What happens when those bills come back to haunt us…. Conflict, guilt, anger… we hide stuff from our spouses and hope we can pay it off in the year ahead.

Somewhere in all the pressure to get… we lose sight of ‘giving.

The Christian parent feels all the secular stresses AND is supposed to move past the pressures of this season to make it a Holy thing. Some days it simply feels impossible. Somehow – somewhere we must rein in all this distraction and focus our kids and our hearts on the amazing GIFT behind the cyber frenzy of e-commerce. As parents… we must push the distractions away – and battle to focus ourselves on the truth and the triumph of Christmas. folkmassor-i-shoppinggalleria-på-jul-48343163

Parents! Have a plan – budget your expenses – stick with it. Don’t go to the mall unprepared 😊 Arm yourself with a good Christian attitude and some Charles Dickens or Little Drummer Boy lyrics in your mind – push back – don’t let our culture force it’s selfishness and materialism on you or your family.

Protect the sanctity of “contentment” in your home. Don’t allow the season to be about ‘stuff’.

No matter your age or stage as a parent, there is always the temptation to over-spend. To indulge and over-imbibe on the latest gadgets and gifts for those we love. But… at what a price?

Couple of things to remember when you’re in the ‘fever’ or caught up in a sudden shopping spree.

  1. Gifts are supposed to be special – attached to the intended recipient in a unique and personal way.
  2. Financial budgets are meant to help and protect your family. The boundaries you’re setting with your spouse – are not to be dismissed lightly.
  3. More is not always better. Take care to keep a healthy balance between getting and giving. What are you doing as a family to share and care for those less fortunate?
  4. Engage the spiritual with spiritual. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your gifting efforts. Recognize when you’re Peace is gone… it’s a signal that you may be out of balance in the moment. Lay whatever it is down. Restrain or discipline yourself. The Peace of Christ will return.
  5. Be vigilant as a parent help your kids and yourself to develop a ‘critical’ thinking filter. If shopping – ask the hard question… is this actually going to help someone or hinder them in living a wholesome life?
  6. Grab the popcorn and DVR; Watch the classic movies and do the Christmas stuff, but be prepared to point out the fantasy vs. the reality. Christmas isn’t supposed to be perfect, it supposed to be sincere! Help prepare your kids for adulthood – ask them how they view God for themselves? (Is he a “Santa Claus” figure to your kids?) Discuss – and enjoy!

Christmas can be hard, a moment in time when we as parents want to “get it perfect”! I can assure you no matter how hard you try, people in your family are going to struggle with some part of the Christmas season, and that’s ok. Let God have some space to work! The season can knock you off-balance if you’re not careful.

Christ is still in Christmas… but it may mean some difficult decisions as a parent to keep Him there. It may mean your marriage and family could benefit from some healthier boundaries to get the balance right.

Peace and Grace

Pastor Brad Mathias

  • Article for Charisma –  Christmas ’17

Christmas Podcast/YouTube Video Link

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http://brilliantlybraveparenting.com/458-2/

(for more – check out the Christmas edition of our Brilliantly Brave Parenting – Podcast)

First things

Found out last night one of our families closest friends was just diagnosed with cancer.

Stops you right where you are. Seriously, the news will stop your last distracted thought cold in its tracks (something about getting the Christmas lights out of the closet), you put down whatever you have in you hands and you sit on the sofa and try to process what was just said. But you can’t…

Cancer?

45 years old…. we’ve been friends for decades.

No way.

Can’t be right.

The thoughts pile up on each other, with no way to get out of your head. They build and build until there is some kind of psychic pressure that rises up threatening to explode. Then you realize it’s FEAR that’s really behind all that pressure….starting to drown your ability to function. FEAR that’s trying to take over and FEAR that’s starting to paralyze…but then something else grows, bright and brilliantly beautiful as it dawns in your mind.

Clarity.

Suddenly life gets very sharply focused.

First things become reoriented back into their proper place in our minds eye. Decisions that we struggled with are now much easier to determine in the dark shadow of the diagnosis. Things we’ve put off that need done, suddenly take front and center of our thoughts and all the vexing little trivial anxieties of life evaporate. Our Faith re-asserts itself into the equation and we start to recall verses or sermons from the past that seem to talk about hope and trust in difficult times…

Psalm 9:10 (ESV) “And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you“(Biblegateway.com)

First Things

When you think about it, we are all fading to one degree or another. Our cells are slowly loosing control of their functions and beginning to blink out one at a time. As we age the process accelerates and whether we contract a fatal disease or develop mutations we call Cancer or slide off a ditch on an icy bridge, we all have a day and time when we’re going to run out of road.

The question is… what will we do between now and then?

My friend is a strong and healthy individual, a health professional and surrounded by good medical care. I’m confident she is going to be just fine. BUT the wake up call she had this week and it’s ripples into the lives of those around her may be much more profound than she realizes.

We who love her will need to take stock of our lives as much as she will hers…and I believe that’s a good thing.

Christmas is dawning on the December horizon and we’re going to be pulled a hundred different directions, feel a hundred different emotions from pure contentment to bitter regret and everything in between. Somewhere in all of that busy Holiday hustle… lets remember to put those First Things back to First in our lives.

Faith, Family…. Friendships.

Not complicated, but OH SO Profound.

Love you guys, Peace out RTP!

B