#ThanksLiving2014 #Abundance

So yesterday’s post on Abundance did not happen on time because we received a call that has us on the road back to Iowa.

As we are traveling today, I am thinking about abundance especially in conjunction with All Saints Sunday. When I think about abundance I think about the abundance of love that I have experienced in my life. Abundance for me is not the stuff we have accumulated (although with five daughters there is certainly a lot material abundance in our life!) rather it is the abundance of people, of opportunities, of beautiful moments shared.

Abundance is having a church member call simply to say “drive safely because you are a treasure to us”. Abundance is getting to share a Father’s Day dinner with your father, father-in-law, grandfather-in-law and husband, four men who are extravagant in their love. Abundance is a six year old who just has to have a snuggle. Or children in the back seat of a long sudden car ride who are singing “El Shaddai” at the top of their voices. Abundance is getting to celebrate the lives of those who have given so much, who have lived authentically and who have influenced your life in ways profound.

Abundance is knowing that the ability to travel, to be with family, to pay for meal after meal in resturants, to sleep in a hotel room is something that many people could not do but you can. It is the having of plenty of everything so you can be where you are most needed when you need to be there. I don’t know how to take a picture of abundance but if I could it would encompass the faces of the many people who have made my current reality possible.

#ThanksLiving 2014

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The Young Clergy Women’s project of which I am blessed to be a part has put out a “photo a day” Challenge for the month of November. Since I have failed horribly with taking pictures of words in the past I thought I would try spending a few minutes at the end of each day reflecting on the word and where it was visible. Today’s word is Gratitude.

I could give you a fairly good synopsis of my day starting with waking up to joyful children sounds instead of an alarm clock (at 8:30 none the less!) and moving moment by moment though my day for all the ways I saw and felt gratitude but I expect that would not be in the least bit edifying for anyone who might read this.

When I think of gratitude and frankly this day, which was nothing special in the grand scheme of days, I think of all the small moments where I saw beauty, where I felt love, where I experienced the wholeness that God longs for creation to have all the time.

“We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew… Human beings are actually created for the transcendent, for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truthful… and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world a little more hospitable to these beautiful things.”
~Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Today I saw gratitude in the faces of the people I love, heard it in deep thoughtful conversation with my 13 year old, smelled it in the chicken vegetable soup made by my mother’s loving hands, tasted it in a Reese’s Cup carefully chosen for me because its my favorite, touched it as my husband held me close. Gratitude is what fills my heart as I think of all the ways I was able to participate today in moments that make the world a little more hospitable to the beautiful things of God.

The Kingdom of God is like a pile of puzzle pieces

It was rainy day. We were sitting at our timeshare in Williamsburg, VA with nothing planned except enjoying each other. So we decided to break out a puzzle our eight year old has been wanting to do for awhile. Its a complicated one with pieces that are not exactly normal puzzle shapes. With 1500 peices, it is a doozy for an 8 year old so teamwork to get it done in two days was what it would take.

I have a deep love of puzzles. As a teenager, I would spend hours on my bedroom floor assembling any puzzle I could get my hands on. My grandfather taught me that you sort out all the edge pieces first and put them together, then you sort the pieces into like colors. When you do it this way you do not need the box cover to put the puzzle together. His advice was not to look at the whole picture but to look very carefully at the details of the piece you needed to find a match for. His wisdom was that very often the pieces that belong together do not look like they belong together if you are looking at the puzzle as a whole.

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Working on this puzzle as a family, made me realize that some are more gifted in seeing the details and putting them together than others. My eight year old, like her mother, can look at a pile of puzzle pieces and pull out just the one that is needed. My ten and twelve year olds threw their hands up in frustration because they just could not see the details in the shape of the piece, the minute variations in color and pattern. They would pick up a piece and try it over and over again only to have it go in a completely different part of the puzzle.

Leading a church to revival is much like putting together a puzzle. Leading a particular people to Christ is like matching puzzle pieces. The challenge for church leaders is that we do not get caught up in needing the big picture, the picture of what is going to be, but we spend time carefully considering the edges, the patterns and textures.

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At the Festival of Homiletics, one of the speakers suggested that we should continue to point out parables as a way of understanding God. The parable that came to me on that rainy day is this: The kingdom of God is like a puzzle without the box, its messy and chaotic and overwhelming at times. It calls us to patience and persistence. It demands we pay attention to tiny details: peoples lives and struggles, the churches history, the communities needs, the words of scripture, the hope of Christ which is found in the mundane.

The kingdom of God is like a puzzle, we can try to work it out alone but when we have help, the vision emerges faster and the burden of putting it together is filled with far more laughter and joy.

My eight year old and I discovered that we could put the puzzle together by ourselves very quickly. But we also discovered the joy of leaving the “easy” pieces for others to come along and add. It gave us more pleasure to hear squeals of excitement when the others came along and put in a piece that was waiting. The baby of the family put in the last two pieces (the only two she was able to fit together on her own), and we all rejoiced because the picture was beautiful; because the work was worth it; because we did not do it alone but helped each other along the way.

We have a pile of pieces in the church, locally and globally. We actually have a picture, a very clear picture, of what is supposed to emerge from a pile of believers and communities and opportunities that are very different from each other. The picture is that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

It is going to take all of us, conservative, liberal, and inbetween. All of us, those who believe women should preach the word of God and those who believe women should use their gifts only to support men. All of us, random, seemingly unrelated, pieces. The ones who love high church organ music and those whose souls resonate with loud rock music. The ones who love color and texture and those who love stone and flying buttresses. The sinners and the saints. The ones who are absolutely certain about what they believe and the ones who have more doubt than faith.

I hope we will not stop working together. I hope we will continue to sit beside each other, examine tiny details, the curves and colors of the pieces, remembering that it is not for our own glory we labor, but so that Christ will emerge with love and grace. We might be tempted to toss aside the pieces that don’t look like us, the ones whose shapes seem a little off and whose coloring is not quite right, but if we do we will find ourselves with holes in the picture when we run out of pieces.

At the Bedside of A Wounded Church

 

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Often time, when a church member is struggling with dying, hospice, the nurses or I as the pastor, will coach the family to offer love and forgiveness and give permission to their loved one. Many times I have sat at a bedside telling someone it is okay to no longer fight, to go quietly to the place that has been prepared for them. I have been at bedsides where the family cried and wept and wailed. Where they told their loved one that they cannot leave yet, that they will not be able to live without them, that surely God is not yet calling them home. I have been at other bedsides where the family lovingly and without prompting, tells the person they love that they will be okay without them, that they want them to be at peace.

I have seen very sick individuals who have fought against dying because they could not let go of the living. I have seen those who medically might have recovered go peacefully into death. Finally, I have seen those who are sure to die, recover and live on.

We cannot predict death. But as people of faith, we have to believe and live into resurrection.

We are a church in hospice with a self inflicted wound.

I am horrified as I watch what is happening to the United Methodist Church. Not because we are dying. Not because I am afraid that I am going to lose a church I love before I have had enough time with her. But because there are factions on both sides of the bed screaming, “YOU CAN’T LEAVE US!!! WE CAN’T SURVIVE WITHOUT YOU!”

I don’t understand how people on either side think we can possible divide something that is United. We are the UNITED Methodist Church. We are the church that took risks, having to send lay leaders because the gospel was spreading so fast that we didn’t have enough time to prepare and ordain preachers for all the communities who were hungry for God’s word. We are the church that very early on let women be among the group of those lay preachers (even though ordination for women was hard and rocky). We are the church that sends Korean and African American pastors to churches where racism was so entrenched that property deeds often stated that whites only could be members and if a member of another race was permitted the property would be returned to the gift giver.

We are United. More than anything, we are the denomination that found a way to bring together people. We brought together city and rural people with a shared vision of transforming the world. We are the denomination formed from other denominations.

I am standing at the death bed, whispering quietly to our church, “its okay. we will survive without you. we will thrive without you. you are not the gospel. you are not the salvation. you are not the hope of the world. if it is your time to go, go and know we will keep doing your work.”

I know and believe more than anything else death leads to resurrection. I am not sure the United Methodist Church will survive because we are so focused on one issue, one pain, one political stance that we are not living or proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ and there are no churches that can survive without the Living Word of God at their center. We have forgotten our name. We have abandoned our rich history of doing what others said could not and should not be done so Christ can be lifted up above all.

I find myself with tears of grief and lose and hurt streaming down my face, trying patiently to hold in the screams that are building in me. I want to say to those who are focused on division, go…go away and do what God is calling you to do but do not call it United Methodist because it is not. I want to scream, “let our church have peace so that it can die and be raised to new life or so it can regain its strength to rise up and do what United Methodists have always done so well, transform the world through making disciples of Jesus Christ.”

I want to throw both sides out into the waiting room so that the church I love can hear me whisper, “its okay. you can go to the place God has prepared for you. we will not stop living or loving or following Jesus if you do. you are loved and your work will not stop with your death.”

Oh, I how I grieve. I will not go to the right or the left but will stay here, beside the church that has shaped and formed my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ. I do not think any good will come out of division and so I will stay United Methodist until that identity is no longer there to claim. Then I will turn, look to Christ, and follow Him from the death bed into the world, where His work is still waiting.

 

Living in a “Let It Go Culture”

My three year old came home from daycare the other day singing all the words to what sounded like a very complicated song. It wasn’t until she got the chorus that I realized she had learned Frozen’s “Let It Go” word for word along with intonations and hand gestures.

“Snow blows white on the mountain tonight, not a footprint to be seen. Kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.”

As the mother of five daughters who tries really hard to teach them that love for each other is found in self sacrifice, I don’t think having their childhood defined by Frozen is such a terrible thing.

But I can’t help but wondering at the let it go type of mentality we seem to have. Concealing emotions is damaging and pretending we are not feeling hard stuff is no good for anyone BUT I am afraid of the “let it go” mentality more.

I am in a profession where I cannot let it go. I have to carefully think and consider what I say when, with appropriate explanations. I am not allowed to have pure, raw, fall to your knees grief that calls a community to gather around to comfort me. When I am faced with health crisis’, I am in the role of the comforter, assuring everyone else that all will be okay and God’s will will perserver. I am not supposed to be afraid of the future or voice frustration with other people’s hypocrisy or show my own emotions too much. I certainly am not supposed to have vocal political opinions or put my foot down at being on the receiving end of abuse. I am called into a world of “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them see….”

And trust me, in just ten years of ministry, I have crossed over every one of those boundaries in inappropriate way, even though I try to be self aware enough not to. But when I reflect on those times I would have liked to let it go and just allow the emotions, confusion, utter hopelessness spew out of me everywhere I look, but somehow managed to turn to the appropriate people to process instead of everyone I encounter, I see how my witness and how my faith was made stronger.

What the world needs is not people that just let it go. What we need is more people who understand how and where and when to let it go and when to conceal and not feel. But more than that, we need more people who are committed to being safe people, people others can turn to so they do not unleash the full brunt of their emotions on everyone. We need to learn to trust the people in our lives with our deepest most authentic selves so that we will not feel the ned to just explode.

One of the saddest things about Frozen, one of the things I don’t know was really resolved, was Anna standing at the door asking to be let in and Elsa feeling like she was keeping Anna safe by locking her out. We think its better for others if we lock them out. And we think its better for ourselves by letting go. I’m not convinced that either is entirely true.

For better or worse, our witness is learning to do both. To learn to allow the Holy Spirit when we should “conceal, don’t feel” and when we should “let it go”. We were created for relationship. But we have to carefully balance our relationships, knowing which ones we can “let it go” and which ones we need to “conceal, don’t feel”.

On a very personal note I am so thankful for the handful of people who allow me to be my fully authentically raw self with them so that I have the strength to witness to God’s working in me to others.

Pintresting Church

The last couple of “church growth” type trainings I have been to offered many different workshops with ideas of things that have been wildly successful at helping other churches grow. I walked away with lots of ideas that were really creative and innovative and wrong for my congregations/context. The problem with these workshops was not that they offered ideas but that they did not provide any way to be able to translate these ideas into a different context. Sharing ideas is great but most of the time, most of us don’t know how to take these creative ideas and translate them in a way that makes them matter in our specific context.

We want church growth to be easy. We want to tell pastors if they will just move their office hours to the local coffee shop or show up with ashes in a public place or move vacation bible school to the local park, we will somehow convince people that our church is worth going to. We call it “getting outside the walls of the church”.

I am troubled because church growth today feels sort of like planning my children’s birthday parties. If I can pin just the right combination of really great things that someone else has done, all I have to do is buy the supplies and execute the ideas. Unlike my children’s birthday parties, which usually end in rave reviews (hey, I know how to steal other people’s ideas in a spectacular way!) , I think we have a great risk of feeling not just disappointed but of missing opportunities that would matter in our community.

Now full disclosure, I love the idea of having my office hours in a coffee shop because for me, my imagination and productivity are off the chart when I am in a busy environment. I don’t like the ashes-to-go for really selfish reasons. I cannot imagine receiving ashes without the liturgy and service and community that comes along with gathering. For me, (and I realize that others have very valid arguments that discredit this) that dark smudge on my forehead is too emotional year after year to be able to receive it on the run or to offer it in passing. I love the idea of VBS in a park. I think it is an amazing way to get outside of the walls of the church. I think churches should be in their town parades and handing out bottles of water at the beach. I believe we ought to have people with umbrellas in our parking lots when it is raining.

I LOVE stealing other people’s successful ministry ideas. I am pretty sure 99.9% of my ministry thus far has been exactly that.

BUT…

Ideas are easy.

Ideas no matter how creative and innovative and well executed they are are not going to save our churches from death and dying.

If we care about the cause of Christ we cannot expect reaching out to “make disciples of Jesus Christ” to be easy.

It demands we build relationships.

So when we show up in the park with VBS, it is no surprise we are there because we have been there playing with the kids, talking with the parents, building relationships all along. When we show up with our ashes one day a year, it is no surprise because we have been on that corner before, offering prayer, handing out muffins, sharing love, building relationships with the people who are there day after day after day. And when we tell our pastors to have their office hours in a coffee shop we should not expect them to be “productive”, we should expect them to turn that coffee shop into the modern day Cheers. We should encourage them to be a part of a community outside the church “where everybody knows my name”.

Beside me is last Sunday’s paper. I haven’t read it and probably won’t. Every Sunday after church I go to the local gas station and buy a paper and a cup of coffee so I can talk to the high schooler who is at the cash register. We are essentially strangers but it is important to me that I show up and check in with her. She tells me when she is not going to be at work and why. She shares some of her troubles. We have a relationship. It may or may not ever lead her into my church. But more than anything I hope it leads her to know that she is loved an important and worth listening to.

We cannot pintrest church. All great ideas have to go through the hard work of seeing how they can help us build relationships with those around us. Then success is redefined not by the number of people who participate but by whether or not we are more connected with the community around us.

“I am the church,
You are the church,
We are the church together.”

Even if we never do anything new or creative or innovative, if we are committed to building up relationships and making connections, I believe God will use us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Pintrest can never claim that.

Being Christian = Life is Fair?

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Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13 NIV)

I have a confession to make. This week my family and I have been taken care of in ways I am certain we do not deserve or at least that I do not deserve. God has gone over and above and I have spent the last few days repenting because I know that I am not really worthy of the gifts that have been showered on me.

In the midst of being blessed, I have seen other people, good people, people I love, people who work harder than I do, others who certainly deserve more than I have recieved, have heaped upon them heartbreak and sorrow.

I am going to read into Luke 12: 13 for a minute. Its purely my biblical imagination with very little exegesis behind it so be careful in referring to it outside of my imagination. I imagine a younger brother, whose father has died, who is in the throngs of guilt, who is left without security, seeing his brother get everything his father has worked so hard for. He has heard that Jesus speaks and acts powerfully on behalf of those who are treated unjustly and so he seeks Jesus out assuming that Jesus would see the injustice of his situation.

Isn’t this how we stand before God?

“God, make life fair for me!”

“I deserve at least as much as that person over there!”

“How could you not bless me?”

“I don’t deserve this!”

“…I am not worthy.”

When we get wrapped up in what we deserve, what is fair, how unequal things are when we compare ourselves to someone else, we lose sight of the fact that a relationship with Jesus is not about us living (and getting) the life we “deserve”. God makes it pretty plan in the book of Job that bad things don’t happen just to the people who “deserve” them because of their sins. And good things certainly don’t just happen to faithful people.

Our relationship with Jesus should lead us to become the person that God wants us to be in every circumstance of life; in the times we should be most grateful because we do not deserve His gifts and in the the times when life has brought us low.

For me, I hope to answer the call to live graciously, with imagination and courage, pointing to God’s amazing love whether I am receiving good gifts or whether I am brought to my knees with the pain of living. I am certainly not there yet. I am still like the young man who came to Jesus asking for my fair share, but I hope with time and patience and prayer that day by day I will get closer to not noticing what I am due because I am focusing on Him.

We should have strong independent churches too…

Someone (I believe it was my father) once told me that the problem with raising strong, independent daughters was that you got strong, independent daughters. Now living with five strong, independent daughters I completely sympathize with this statement. (Hey dad, at least you only had one!) There are a number of days when I think it would be easier to raise weak, fearful daughters who are dependent on me for ever decision they make. In fact I KNOW it would be easier to raise children who are not allowed to be or do or think anything that I do not tell them. It would be so much easier to have them all live in such fear that they simply followed me where ever I told them to go.

When I think about the vast majority of churches, when I read over and over and over about the impending death of mainline denominations in general and the United Methodist Church in specific, I wonder if we have raised up a church that is afraid. It is so much easier to be the pastor of a church that lives in fear. I can come in and say “do this”, “don’t do that” and they will follow me. It is so much harder to help a church claim their unique identity, to help them find their voice and then to help them be strong and independent.

I suspect most of the problems in local churches come not out of lack of good leadership or the pastor not being relational enough, I suspect most of our problems come from a system where we have encouraged our churches to live in fear instead of boldly insisting that the pastor partner with them, giving them guidance and direction but essentially allowing them to be the people God has called them to be.

The truth is that we don’t want strong, independent churches. We want churches that fit into a mold, that provide numbers that steadily increase, that maintain the comfortable status quo with just enough change to make us feel like we are still relevant.

I am learning to claim my identity as a pastor; to be okay with who I am as a leader and who I am not. I am trying to apply the same strong independent leadership to the church as my daughters do to their life. I am also trying to teach my churches that it is okay to be who they are, to love with pride pie auctions and weird Jesus art and liturgy that speaks the same language they do. It is even okay for them to love what I do not or to not love what I do.

I believe that God has a place for us all and that the church should reflect the boldness of God’s choices in creating us. I celebrate in each of my daughters. They love what I frankly do not love (horses…ugh). They are excited about things that put me to sleep (the digestive system…yay!). They are passionate about things that I have to really work up pretend lukewarm excitement (ANOTHER app on constellations…my cup runneth over!) But I would not dampen the very real importance of any of these parts of their identity.

Why do we step into the doors of a church and think that it is okay to tell people that they cannot be who God has created them to be? This comes up in dramatic ways as evidenced in the current homosexual debate in our church but it happens in more subtle ways too. We use prepackaged bible study material that comes out of the Church of Resurrection or Ginghamsburg Church and don’t adapt it which makes our small 30 person churches with limited resources feel overwhelmed instead of inspired. We apply the same leadership model in a church of 75 as we do in a church of 350. We make them fill out forms that ask questions that don’t apply and don’t point out the things that they really excel in as the body of Christ.

I am struck by the fact that Jesus looked each person he healed in the eye. His solution for the demon possessed in Mark was not the same solution every time. He took time to assess the individual and the situation before he decided what would be the best way to offer healing. Maybe, just maybe we need to equip our clergy leadership as well as our lay leadership to do the same. Maybe we need to be willing to say that perhaps God has made us all vastly different and while we may not be enthusiastic about someone else’s difference we should not diminish the fact that God can and does boldly use them to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Ramblings today are inspired by my five year old daughter who sees the world with pure love and who reminded me this week how precious and important diversity is.

New Year Praying

Last night we prayed for a couple in our church. The girls don’t know them terribly well but I was able to share that their grandson, his wife and their three small children just moved to Narobi, Africa to do mission work for the next two years. We talked about how important it is to bring God’s good news to everyone and how hard it is to live in places where there are no roads for cars.

Every January 1st we begin the new year by taking down our Christmas cards one by one off of the walls where they are hung. At dinner, we pray for each person and family. Last year it was well into March before we got through each card. For most of one dinner, we focus on these individuals who took the time to remember us during the holidays.

I don’t know about you but when cards come in we often get five or ten in a day. I open them, but Nathan and the girls often don’t have the time to read them all. This tradition gives us the chance to talk about church members, present and past, friends, and family members. We often take the time to share memories or moments. It is a tradition that of all of our traditions is the most precious to me.

So many of the individuals on our wall at Christmas are folks we only hear from once a year. And if I am honest, some of them are people I don’t think or pray for often, and other than their Christmas cards or an occasional passing comment usually from a mutual friend, we don’t really even know what is going on in their lives.

In a culture where we have hundreds of ways to connect and yet remain so isolated, it is a sacred moment to stop, pray and celebrate the people with whom we have crossed paths.

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No Santa? Now what?

Navigating the month of December with children under the age of twelve in the culture of Santa-centered celebrations is a careful dance. Making the decision has had an impact on our December celebrations in ways I could never anticipated when we made this seemingly simple choice.

Everyone expects that your kids will be visited by Santa. This is especially hard when they are the preachers children and they have not just the usual folks but entire churches full of people asking them if they are ready for Santa to come.
I will never forget the first year Santa came up in our house. We calmly explained to our six, four and three year old that Santa was based on a man named Saint Nicholas who was a real person who gave lots of gifts to poor people. We read them a story about St. Nicholas and they were pretty comfortable with the idea that St. Nick was real but Santa is a way people honor what he did. On Christmas Eve at the end of the worship service one of my church members asked our very verbal three year old if she was ready for Santa to come. The response to this wonderful, elderly member of my church? “Don’t you know that Santa is dead?”
Yup. Santa is dead. That’s how our three year old translated all the justification we so logically laid out.

I’m not going to pretend it is easy. It is hard on a family and kids and on innocent bystanders who just assume that everyone celebrates like they always have.

We have found that some things help.

We don’t make an issue of it. When our girls ask, we tell them the truth but we try to be gentle and we try to be sensitive. They want to be the same as their classmates and its hard for them not to be. If they don’t talk about it, we don’t talk about it.

We let them pretend. Our now five year old very vocally announced a couple of years ago that she wants to pretend Santa is real. That is fine with us. She talks about Santa coming and she wants to see Santa and she is just like every other five year old you are likely to meet. But she doesn’t realize that Santa is supposed to bring her presents on Christmas morning so its funny that all the Santa stuff comes out in early December but is not mentioned at all on Christmas Day.

We talk to their teachers. This is the tough one. Every year towards the end of November I contact all the elementary teachers and tell them that we do not use Santa in our Christmas celebration. I explain our reasons (See the previous post) and ask that they not tell our girls that Santa is real or to have them write letters to Santa. I don’t care if the rest of the class does such a project but I am very, very adamant that Christmas is not about them asking for stuff they want. We have had several teachers give them alternate projects. When Santa comes to visit class I ask the teacher to let me know and I pick our children up for a special date. We do something fun and more exciting then Santa together. I have never had a teacher push back or be less than understanding. One very amazing teacher saw that our daughter was struggling and told her that she could come anytime during the day and talk to her about how hard it was. It helped to know that her teacher was her friend and was okay with her knowing Santa is not real.

Its really, really hard to have friends who believe. We have five sensitive, caring daughters. We try really hard in all things to not bully them into believing what we think is important. We figured out very quickly that making this choice meant that they easily felt like something was wrong with our family and by extension them. We have combated this in two ways.
First, we encourage them to talk about it and ask us questions. We read stories about Santa and we include him in small ways in our December preperations. There are all kinds of imaginary characters around them all year that are important to them (Rapunzel, Minions, their dolls, for example) so Santa just dove tails into that category. We just always figured that outlawing Santa completely would be too much for them to understand, especially when there is so much out in the world.

Second, we encourage them to be sensitive to their friends. We always tell them that different families celebrate Christmas in different ways. What Jesus wants is for all families to be happy together and to have lots and lots of love at this time of the year. For some families, Santa Claus helps them be really happy and show love. For other families, like ours we do other things. We have lots of traditions that have built up around celebrating Jesus’ birthday that are somewhat unique to our own celebrations. We tell them that they don’t want to take happiness away from their friends Christmas by telling them that they are wrong about Santa. Our children are sensitive enough to other kids feelings to understand this. Mostly I think they just go along with their friends, we don’t pressure them into any certain response.
For us, not including Santa is not about changing some deep seeded problem in society, its about worshiping and celebrating Jesus Christ as authentically as we can.

I have learned that most people are taken aback when it comes up. I have had churches that have Santa visit and while it makes me uncomfortable, I think that when we keep the gospel front and center we can find a place of letting it be just innocent fun. In all things, its important to have a relationship with your children where they can come to you when they are struggling or when things don’t make sense. We are honest with the older girls, we know its hard but they are learning about faith and life in ways that change them daily, not just in December. We have been able to have some really profound moments of faith development with our oldest two children as we make sense of what we believe and why.

I hope this helps some of you who may want to go in this direction and don’t know how. Soon I will do a post on some of our traditions that help fill in the Santa gap this time of year and that make the celebration in our house about Jesus.

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