12 Days of Christmas Rest

12 Days of Christmas RestChristmas rest, at its best, might be found in the 12 Days of Christmas. It begins one week from today on December 26 and ends on January 6, the day commemorating the arrival of the Wise Men. Want to make this a Christmas to remember?  Try some of these 12 Days of Christmas Rest suggestions.  Most won’t cost a dime, but they will line your heart with treasures. And you can’t go wrong—all of these ideas have all been field-tested and kid approved. Why keep the celebration of Jesus’ birthday confined to a single day when we can be blessed by 12 Days of Christmas Rest?

  1. Roast mini marshmallows over candles with toothpicks. It will make you smile. (If a little girl with long hair joins you, pull her hair back with a pony tail.) Want to have some extra fun?  Make them into s’mores with Golden Graham cereal and chocolate chips.
  2. Write the Birthday Babe a love letter or make Him a card. This little ‘pause with a cause’ will bless your heart and make His day.
  3. Listen to “O Holy Night” in a darkened room, watching the flickering flame of a candle.
  4. Buy your favorite protein snack (nuts, cheese sticks, peanut butter, hummus) and add that to any high carb-snacks to off-set the sugar crash that’s bound to take place.
  5. Sleep. Remember, winter is a time for hibernation!
  6. Give and get a foot massage.
  7. Take a night time stroll under the stars, through a city block full of lights, or when the snow is gently falling. Bundle up. Grab a friend. Listen to the quiet.
  8. (Next year) Visit the bank for a fist full of ones, fives or quarters. Keep them handy. Every time you pass by a Salvation Army ringer, give with great joy and lift up a prayer for the people who will be blessed. Make each gift a celebration of thankful joy.
  9. Read your Christmas cards in the glow of your Christmas tree lights.  Receive each wish and prayer. Don’t rush. Pause and pray.
  10. Buy yourself a Frasier Fir candle from WoodWick.  The wooden wick crackles and the scent is incredible.  Enjoy it all year long.  I do.
  11. Set your phone or a household timer for a couple times a day. Each day, do something silly or sacred. Ring some jingle bells. Sing a song. Say a prayer. Breathe—slow and deep. Eat the cookie crumbs. (Did you know crumbs have no calories?!)
  12. Initiate some Christmas Tree Time.  It’s our family favorite.  What does this mean? Lights off. Tree on. Cozy cuddle time (or not so cozy depending on the end-of-the-day temperament of any given person—big or small). Through the years we’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the adventurous Advent stories of Arnold Ytreeide: Jotham’s Journey, Bartholmew’s Passsage, and Tabitha’s Travels.  Powerful and riveting, these 3 books have shaped and defined our Christmas Tree Time. Each chapter ends with a cliff hanger, leaving our kids begging for more. We end our time together with a Christmas carol or two. Do we do it every night? No, but when we do, we are richly blessed. (Hey – please note. These stories may be too adventurous for little ones.) Did you get some money for Christmas? Order these books today.

This year I have a brand new Christmas decoration sitting on my kitchen sink windowsill. It’s a 2-inch Star Wars figure with a lightsaber in one hand and a shield in the other. He’s reminding me to guard our Christmas Quiet, our Christmas Rest.

Love-Come-Down. He will see to this miracle in the making.

What might you do to guard and bless your 12 Days of Christmas?

 

First time here?

Welcome! We’re a group that gathers around the theme, “There has to be a better way.” We’re finding it in the 4-word mission statement, “Run hard. Rest well.”

  • It’s a journey into the heart of God. It comes our way through an on-going exploration of four biblical rhythms that revive, replenish and restore: Sabbath Keeping, Sleep (and other simple stress-reducers), Stillness—personal retreat, and Solitude—personal retreat.
  • It’s an expedition that challenges us at every turn. It convicts us in deep, tender places. It alters our priorities and plans. It’s not for the faint of heart.
  • It’s adventure at its best – as we learn to run the race in a power not our own.

We cannot wait for a convenient time. It will never come, not in December, nor in the New Year before us. Stillness must be made. Carved out. Shielded. Protected.

 

Let Freedom Ring

“I have to…”Christmas as it was meant to be

“I have to _____.” Fill in the blank.

It’s a dangerous phrase. Common, yes. Necessary, at times. But taxing, even toxic in the world of December overload.

Bound, hard and fast, to the emotional expectations of ourselves and others, we feel obligated, trapped to “do,” to “spend” our time, energy or money on things that may have relatively little value in the big picture of life.

Choice is an option, but we see and feel little of its influential power.

Greg McKeown challenges us to exchange “I have to…” with “I choose to…”

Go ahead, give it a try. Do a mental inventory of what’s on your schedule for this week, this month.

Through this simple exchange of words, may we find the freedom to do Christmas as it was meant to be: guilt-free.

Why did Jesus come? He made it clear in Luke 4, Jesus quoted from Isaiah 61:1:

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives…”

Captivity takes many forms.

How will you pray for freedom this Christmas? This year?

 

First time here?

Welcome! We’re a group that gathers around the theme, “There has to be a better way.” We’re finding it in the 4-word mission statement, “Run hard. Rest well.”

  • It’s a journey into the heart of God. It comes our way through an on-going exploration of four biblical rhythms that revive, replenish and restore: Sabbath Keeping, Sleep (and other simple stress-reducers), Stillness—personal retreat, and Solitude—personal retreat.
  • It’s an expedition that challenges us at every turn. It convicts us in deep, tender places. It alters our priorities and plans. It’s not for the faint of heart.
  • It’s adventure at its best – as we learn to run the race in a power not our own.

Christmas quiet

Charles Blow, a single dad of 3 children shares his secret through the strain and drain of daily overload. He writes, “My mother taught me that you must allow yourself time to find stillness so you can be moved by it.” (Big Shoes to Fill, Reader’s Digest April 2014…first appearing in the New York Times.)

Time must be given to stillnessTime, real time in real minutes, must be given to stillness. In it and through it, attention can then be given to what moves us.

Quiet is a deep thing—a deep, deep well.

Drop the bucket.

Drop to your knees.

Drink.

Drink deeply my friend, for the road before us chases the horizon.

In the days before us, Jesus invites us to quiet. Chaos uncontained, unrestrained is deafening. Its drone drowns out what moves us, and deadens us to what we hold dear.

Christmas Quiet.

May it find a place in your heart.

And in your home.

How do you find yourself in the Father’s presence?

First time here?

Welcome! We’re a group that gathers around the theme, “There has to be a better way.” We’re finding it in the 4-word mission statement, “Run hard. Rest well.”

  • It’s a journey into the heart of God. It comes our way through an on-going exploration of four biblical rhythms that revive, replenish and restore: Sabbath Keeping, Sleep (and other simple stress-reducers), Stillness—personal retreat, and Solitude—personal retreat.
  • It’s an expedition that challenges us at every turn. It convicts us in deep, tender places. It alters our priorities and plans. It’s not for the faint of heart.
  • It’s adventure at its best – as we learn to run the race in a power not our own.

On Coffins & the Spirit-Led Life

Like JesusJesus is the poster-child for the Spirit-led life. “Out of my league,” is my initial response. He’s God. I’m not. Ask my family. They will verify, in flowing narrative, the degree of my fallen nature.

As a child, I never had a hard time recognizing the divinity of Christ. His humanity, however, was harder to grasp. For me, His divinity overshadowed His humanity. It felt like He always got the “Pass GO and get $200” Monopoly card.

“How hard could life really be living on planet earth if you were God?”

Jesus did not get a “Pass GO and get $200” card—ever. His was a life of rejection, betrayal, missed meals, fatigue, fickle friends and torture. On top of that, the realities of a human body were also His: a sun burned face, sore feet, blistered hands, a pebble in his sandal, dust in his eyes, and about everything else we can imagine…hangnails, heartburn, headaches.

His divinity did not trump the “nit and grit” of life on earth, yet He lived for one thing.

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me. John6:38

Can that desire be my desire? The driving force of my life? About ten years ago I read through the Gospels, blue highlighter in hand, looking for passages that spoke of Jesus’ time with His Father. The fact that Jesus prioritized prayed, also astounded me as a child. “Prayer was about getting things from God. What would He need that He couldn’t get Himself,” I reasoned. The Gospel of Luke is covered with blue in my Bible. Jesus was a man of prayer…personal, private, and intentional. Maybe, I’ve surmised, prayer is more than just request. Maybe there is something about communion, intimacy and marching orders. Things I don’t always invite or receive, hindered by my ideas of prayer that miss the mark.

Luke 4-6 is covered in blue: 4:1, 4:14, 4:42, 5:16, 6:12.

I found this “lead up” intriguing as I read the story of a funeral in Luke 7:11-17. Unasked, Jesus “went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still.” (vs. 14) Whoa, baby! What a way to make a scene. That was not a casual action, a stage show, but a Spirit-led reaction to do the will of the One He knew so well.

Jesus was Spirit-led.

And the impact?

Not only was a dead man raised to life, but it caused the crowd to see, recognize, acknowledge “God has visited His people!” (7:16 ESV & HCSB). Jesus’ Spirit-led action that day brought life to more than just one man. The news of Jesus spread far and wide.

Eyes were opened. Hearts made ready.

The pressure is off, dear friends. Being about the Father’s work is beyond what we can do. It’s not about us and our gifts and plans and abilities. We do not have to make or manufacture the work of God on earth. We only need to know His voice.

How do we know His voice speaking into ours today? It’s not hard. It’s not complicated, but it does take time.

Like Jesus, we spend time in our Father’s Presence.

Been there lately?

How do you find yourself in the Father’s presence?

First time here?

Welcome! We’re a group that gathers around the theme, “There has to be a better way.” We’re finding it in the 4-word mission statement, “Run hard. Rest well.”

  • It’s a journey into the heart of God. It comes our way through an on-going exploration of four biblical rhythms that revive, replenish and restore: Sabbath Keeping, Sleep (and other simple stress-reducers), Stillness—personal retreat, and Solitude—personal retreat.
  • It’s an expedition that challenges us at every turn. It convicts us in deep, tender places. It alters our priorities and plans. It’s not for the faint of heart.
  • It’s adventure at its best – as we learn to run the race in a power not our own.

Pilgrimage

PilgrimageTomorrow I will be on retreat. It will be a full day away, and my longing heart is hungry—hungry to be unplugged, un-needed and free. Physically, I hope to be outside much of the day.  Spiritually, I am longing for a Spirit-led journey into the heart of God. I don’t know what I need, but He does and I can rest in that truth.

Timothy Jones, in his book, A Place for God written in 2000 reminds us that on retreat, we trust that

“the God who leads us on pilgrimage will lead us to the place where we need to be.” (pg. 46)

Jones goes on to write,

“We open ourselves to God and let God be the prime mover…(we go on retreat) out of more than a desire to become less frazzled but also out of a desire to become more aware and alert to God. Deep within is a longing to be met, loved, guided, wherever that might lead.” (pg 47)

I will go empty handed and open hearted. Honesty will reign. Masks will come off. Tears will flow. There will be songs to sing and prayers to pray. Things to think and God to meet. I hope for a blue sky and fluffy clouds. I hope for a breeze to whisper in the leaves.

And I hope to be brave.

There are places I need to go within. Places that will not be easy. Places that demand space and a pace for God to do His tender work.

Militarily, many view “retreat” as a cowardly move. But I have learned that retreat is for the brave, for the courageous ones bent on an adventure like nothing else the world can offer. Feeling brave, but don’t have a day? An hour will do. No doubt about it.

Update

The thyroid surgery went well, the news was great and my recovery has been smooth and uncomplicated. I have learned new things about rest. Can’t wait to share them. A smiley face scar now rests at the bottom of my neck, a testimony to the battle I fought and lost over burning the candle at both ends. Sleep was the last rhythm I learned to embrace (about 2009). Retreat was the first (in 1992). We are all on a journey…

 

First time here?

Welcome! We’re a group that gathers around the theme, “There has to be a better way.” We’re finding it in the 4-word mission statement, “Run hard. Rest well.”

  • It’s a journey into the heart of God. It comes our way through an on-going exploration of four biblical rhythms that revive, replenish and restore: Sabbath Keeping, Sleep (and other simple stress-reducers), Stillness—personal retreat, and Solitude—personal retreat.
  • It’s an expedition that challenges us at every turn. It convicts us in deep, tender places. It alters our priorities and plans. It’s not for the faint of heart.
  • It’s adventure at its best – as we learn to run the race in a power not our own.