Monday, January 31, 2011

The Christmas Jars - Redux

A couple of you have asked for more details on The Christmas Jars that I posted on. I hesitated to post more on the story because the book is such a good read. But I don't want you to miss out on the blessing that is sure to come with filling and giving away a Christmas jar, so I'll do my best to summarize the premise behind the jars here.

The book, which appears to be a work of fiction even though it could just as easily be based on a true story, chronicles a budding writer who, after receiving a Christmas jar, decides to track down the people behind the tradition. The family who started the tradition used the jar initially to save money for their own Christmas. As newlyweds, the couple would take however much was in the jar, divide it between the two of them, and go to a local department store to buy the best gift they could buy with their half of the meager savings. This practice continued for several years until they had children.

It was then that the tradition took a different twist when their daughter gave their jar to a lady sitting on a curb as they were on their way into the bank to have the change turned into dollars so that they could go shopping. From that point on, they gave away the Christmas jar each year. Sometimes to a family who had lost a loved one, sometimes to a wealthy person who needed to learn how to receive (& possibly regift), and sometimes to a stranger who came across their path and was in obvious need.

The Christmas jar helped the family stay focused on others throughout the year and proved to be a blessing to them as they stored away their change day after day, anticipating the day when they would get to give it away. And ultimately, the tradition was carried on by the recipients, who started giving their own jars after being blessed by a Christmas jar.

As unexpected checks have come my way this month, I've cashed them and put them in the jar. As change weighs down my wallet, I empty it into the jar. And with each emptying, I am reminded of how Christ came and emptied Himself for us. So for me, the jar is already serving as a reminder to think about Christmas each and every day, instead of just in December. But there's a new anticipation about Christmas as I am looking forward to seeing who is supposed to receive my jar.

It's not too late to start a Christmas Jar. The initial ones in the book were started much later in the year. I hope you'll join me in this new tradition and that we can exchange stories this Christmas about what we learned from the tradition, how we made it our own, and how it blessed us.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Weight of Words

I've been reading through the Chronological Bible, and the past few weeks spent in Job have left me thinking about words with friends. I'm not referring to the popular game but rather about the ones in real life that I've spoken to my friends.

Like those three friends of Job, my lips part too often, words flowing without the wisdom to back them up. Critiquing. Accusing. Not a word of encouragement to be found. Not taking into account what the heart on the receiving end of my words needs to hear.

Could it be that those who receive my words have the love language of encouraging words, such that emails received and sentences spoken get rehashed time and time again? Might they store up my words? Make boxes for "Cards Worth Keeping" and online folders for "Emails Worth Saving"? Do words hold such weight for the receivers of my words?

If there is even a chance that the people on the receiving end of my words stores them up like I do, why do I not speak encouragement into their lives? Why not err more on the side of encouragement than discouragement?

I've heard that the enemy of gentleness isn't meanness; it's efficiency. After all, it takes time to be gentle. What if I took the time to think through my responses before I said them? What if I searched for encouraging words before I responded? What delight might be added to someone's day?

Negative feedback is readily available many places in this world, but it need not be on my lips. If I love others the way I need to be loved, I share a gift that doesn't cost a thing but can uplift, bring a smile, and hopefully point them toward the One Who has unlimited power to encourage. I just need to put some time into it. Because there's no telling how long my words might be weighed, and I want them to be the good kind worth saving.

[Ann Voskamp and Holly Gerth have challenged other bloggers to write a post about loving Jesus and others with our words, and the above is my attempt to respond to that assignment.]

Monday, January 17, 2011


I recently listened to a sermon on "Beholding the Beauty of the Bible." One of the initial points that caught my attention was Pastor Ronnie Smith's comment: "We become what we behold." And while I was still chewing on that, he said, "Worldliness kills your capacity to behold the glory of God in the Scriptures."

Enough said. I was convicted and guilty.

Pastor Smith's words provided an explanation, a diagnosis of sorts, for what I was experiencing as I read through Job in the chronological Bible, trying day after day to look forward to Job's friends berating him. But each day, what was pulling at my heart was a desire to do other things, worldly things. Things that won't count for eternity.

But hearing that sermon, I realized that my choice to follow after the worldly desires pulling at my heart is robbing me of much more than I ever thought; it's robbing me of seeing God's glory when I read His Word. That's not something I'm okay with.

Pastor Smith urges that part of the solution is to lay ax to the root of worldliness in your (my) life. I don't know exactly what all that will entail, but I know I want my mind focused more on God's glory than on worldly things. And one way that I can do that is to have music that keeps my mind off worldly things and puts the focus on God.

So lately, I've been listening to Chris Tomlin's newest CD entitled If Our God Is For Us and Hillsong United's song You Hold Me Now. I leave you with a video of the latter; I hope it ministers to you and helps you keep your focus on God's glory.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Christmas Jars

When I mentioned the idea of not giving family Christmas gifts this year, my mom immediately threw out the idea of doing Christmas jars for others instead. She said that she had read a book about this tradition and thought it would be a neat idea. She said that she'd send my sister and I copies of the book.

Last week, the book arrived in my mailbox, and I couldn't wait to read it.

If not for starting it so late in the evening (intending to read only a few pages), I could have finished it in one night. The story is compelling and is the perfect way to keep my focus on others as I drop my change into my Christmas jar each day. The best part will be praying about who to give the jar to at Christmas.

I'd love for you to join me in this new tradition or share your stories if you've done this in the past.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Being Stretched

For several years now, I've been wanting to take yoga. I went to a few classes a long time ago and got discouraged at how advanced they were, how big the classes were, and the type of message that yoga was sending. I wanted to find a Christian yoga class, but I couldn't find one. I also developed a list of additional requirements for such a class should I happen to find one:

It can't be New Age-y.
It can't be very advanced.
It can't be with a large group of people.
I'd prefer it be a class with women only.
It can't be expensive.
It can't be that hundred-degree yoga.

I never thought I'd find a class that would fit my list of requirements and had given up looking.

Then, this fall, my friend Ally told me that she had become a certified yoga instructor and was offering classes in her home for $15/month. She promised that there wouldn't be New Age-y music and that the classes would be small, with only four or five gals, most of whom she knew from church or had known from her days on the TCU volleyball team. And though I was intimidated by being in a class with some athletes, I told her to count me in.

She's named the class Community Yoga, and that's exactly what we've become. As Christian music plays softly in the background with Ally's encouraging voice moving us through the different positions, we've become a little community. I find my thoughts drifting more toward how the girls are doing in their lives than how they are are doing in their poses. And I look forward to every Wednesday night, not knowing whether I'll make any progress in touching my toes but knowing that I'll try hard and that I'll get to reconnect with these gals in my new community, which should take my mind off my lack of flexibility.

It's been a gift to find the perfect class to help me work out my kinks and to allow me to start friendships with gals whose paths may not have otherwise crossed mine. And it's been an encouragement and reminder that God hears the smallest of prayers and wishes.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

One Word for 2011

The problem with not knowing my one-word resolution ahead of time is that I tend to want to adopt what others have chosen. For instance, Ann Voskamp has chosen 2011 as the Year of Here. My friend Kirsten has chosen intentional. And I originally thought my word for 2011 might be focus.

But the more I thought about it, the more that word didn't seem right. I could easily make the focus about me, and that didn't tie into what I wanted the year to be about.

Going into Christmas, I couldn't stop thinking about a post Ann wrote about how her family celebrates Christmas. Their celebration is more of a birthday party for Jesus, and all of the gifts are for Him.

While I was home at Christmas, I talked to my family about making Christmas 2011 less about us and more about Him. After all, we struggle each year to put together gift lists because we truly don't need a thing. And so we decided we'd give up our personal gift-giving to focus on giving to others instead.

As I thought about our decision, I realized that others is where I want my heart and my time to be focused throughout this year. I'm tired of being so ME focused, and I'm sure others are tired of it, too. And so I look forward to seeing what God will teach me about others over this year.