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)

Using Duct Tape to save Thanksgiving !

Sorry for the awkward title… no this isn’t a new crazy recipe or menu suggestion.

This Thanksgiving I’m choosing personally to be content. That means I’ve put some mental duct tape (my metaphorical censor) on my mind and mouth for the duration. Words that have been banned are… “Should have”, “I wish”, “Too bad” and anything sarcastic. Thoughts no longer allowed include…”any ideas that associate or dwell on guilt”, “anything that pauses to regret” and anything with “a random comparative criticism of anyone or anything”.

Con·tent·ment
(noun ) 1.the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind.

Wow… so it IS true. Content is the “state” of being contented. It’s a state of mind, a place we determine to go to, not a destination we arrive at. I’ve watched and seen so many times as I’ve visited and participated over the years with various family and friends holiday events… their beautiful and precious family moments often de-evolved from the happy and joyful occasions they were designed to be…into frustrated and irritating debacles.
Why ?
Is it possible we’re looking and living too much in past memories or distracted by our future hopes? So often in doing so we miss the actual life we are supposed to be living in the present ? It’s kind of tragic… life is so short, so precious.
If you’re doing what we do… somewhere in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas, you’ll be reading the latest Southern Living edition and planning to host the perfect meal or holiday party with Paula Deen or Martha Stewart’s most innovative and elegant advice. We always seem to start out with the greatest intention of preparing everything just as we saw in the pictures…only to fall short somewhere between the pile of laundry in the living room and the dirty guest bathroom toilet bowl.
Let’s step back a second BEFORE we get to Thursday’s special family day and give ourselves permission to fall a little short. To cut ourselves and those we love some serious slack for not being more mature, or considerate or helpful. Let’s be prepared to live in the now, the present and let’s agree to welcome the reality of today with all of its flaws. To position ourselves to enjoy what we have and not long for what we don’t.
Costco and Kroger ( i have discovered 🙂  have amazing options for last-minute thanksgiving dinner bailouts ! After all, when you slow down and think about it, our homes are meant to be safe places, lived in and loved, not pristine and beautiful testaments to our domestic prowess. Remember, we are allowed to actually Enjoy the food we prepare. We are allowed from time to time to eat too much, sleep too much, watch tv too much and simply be grateful, happy, relaxed with life as it is… A STATE OF CONTENTMENT.
Thanksgiving is about remembering what we have… not fretting about the things that always seem to elude us. We have each other, we have our life and homes and families, flawed and broken though they are. They are with us now. Don’t let them slip through your fingers in the time we’ve been given to embrace and enjoy and love those in our immediate and extended family.
Paul said it this way in Phillipians 4:11-12 (the Message) “Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am”
I’m asking you to join me in the self-censorship of the negative and instead make a determination to be hopeful. Families, this year let’s strive to seek to be “available” to those we love, to be “accessible” to those we care about and “attentive’ to the needs of more than those outside our homes. It’s easy for us to volunteer to help out with the distant downtown homeless and the occasional downtrodden stranger… but isn’t it time we do the same with our own families this Thanksgiving?
Peace out my RTP friends… HAPPY TURKEY DAY !
LOVE to you… Brad.