10 Commandments for Christmas (Part Four)

christmas,couple,ideas,love,photography-df74241b3af4e567623b20d1f3199d00_hHow can we apply the 7th and 8th Commandments to our busy American Christmas season? Let’s see.

Commandment 7: Don’t commit adultery

Really? At first, it was a mystery for me to know how to apply this commandment to Christmas. Of course I’m not going to commit adultery! So how could I fit this into my 21st century holidays? After thinking about it awhile, it struck me, and hard.

Though we may not be physically unfaithful, how often do we entertain a “mistress” of shopping or busyness instead of spending quality time with our spouses? Too often our marriages get put on the back burner during the busy holiday season, and we forget to take the time to nurture our most precious relationship. Yet the gift of our mate should be one of the greatest reasons to celebrate the season. So during the holidays, my husband and I make sure to have special time set aside that focuses on our marriage.

Commandment 8: Don’t steal

Okay, this commandment was a tad easier to understand. I won’t steal the cologne I want to give my husband or the pretty doll I plan to give my granddaughter. Duh!

But how often to we “rob Peter to pay Paul” when we put gifts on credit or buy things that aren’t in our budget. When we can’t pay off our credit cards in January, or we don’t know where the money will come from to stay on budget after the Christmas presents are opened, are we not stealing from God’s provision for us?

Understanding this helped us create a reasonable holiday budget. I even shop during the year. Because my granddaughters live in South Africa, I just finished my holiday shopping for them—a whole new wardrobe of summer clothes at a fraction of the cost for just one outfit not on sale! Our motto has become: Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul.


10 Commandments for Christmas (Part Three)

bell-ringingHow can we apply the 5th and 6th Commandments to our busy American Christmas season? Let’s see.

Commandment 5: Honor your mother and father

In a culture that often dishonors parents, how can we teach honor to our children, and how does it apply to Christmas? I had to think long and hard about how I could especially honor my parents at Christmas. For me, I had to make their gift choices an extra special priority.

For others, I could speed my shopping cart through the holiday gift aisle and check them off my list pretty quickly and effortlessly. But for my parents, I decided to take the time and effort to really ponder what would bless them, what would be meaningful to them. I even prayed about it.

For many years, especially when the children were small, a handmade photo album, a personal poem, or framed children’s drawings were the perfect gifts. Last year, I collected digital photos from my siblings and downloaded nearly 700 of them on a digital photo frame. Whatever the present might be, it’s important to honor your parents with a special gift, and teach your children that their grandparents—as well as you, their parents—should be honored in a special way.

Commandment 6: Don’t murder (i.e. respect life)

This commandment was puzzling. How does “don’t murder” fit into the holiday season? Of course we won’t murder, but how can we respect life and teach our children to apply this commandment at Christmas?

Showing that we care for “the least of these” is a practical way to respect life and fulfill this commandment. Whether providing groceries for a family in need, serving in a soup kitchen, handing a PB&J to a homeless person, or giving a gift through Operation Christmas Child or the like, there are lots of ways to show respect for other people’s lives. My husband and I serve as bell ringers for the Salvation Army every year, and watching parents coach their children to drop change into the kettle is one of the joys of our holiday season.


10 Commandments for Christmas (Part Two)

ChristmasCarols2How can we apply the 3rd and 4th Commandments to our busy American Christmas season? Let’s see.

Commandment 3: Don’t misuse God’s name

It’s easy to sing Christmas carols and not even notice what we are singing. The meaning of many of our carols is so full of the truth of God’s amazing gift to our world, and yet we often allow them to be like elevator music to us.

Truth is, it’s not just cursing that abuses His name. Many Christmas songs, sayings, and marketing methods ignore, belittle, or carelessly reflect this holy holiday season. These can misuse God’s name, too.

So when I give a Christmas greeting, I try to reflect an attitude of reverence and respect that He alone deserves. And when I listen to or sing a carol such as “Oh Holy Night” or “Away in the Manger”, I take a moment to bow my heart and worship the One who came that holy night. But here’s a warning: always carry a tissue. There have been times when I’ve come to tears in the middle of the mall as God has met me through the words of a carol or holiday song, and I suspect He may do the same with you.

Commandment 4: Keep the Sabbath Holy

When I was a child, it was so much easier to honor the Sabbath since the shops and activities were closed on Sundays and on Christmas. Today, things have changed, and it’s tempting to get your shopping done, go to a movie, or wash your car on a Sunday afternoon. It’s even easy to skip church because there’s a ball game, a practice, or some event that you don’t want to miss.

Yet we have the opportunity to teach our children what it means to keep the Sabbath—and Christmas—holy by choosing how we will order our days. I’ve learned that it’s as simple as scheduling—or not scheduling—events, chores, etc., on days other than Sundays. It’s tempting to sacrifice a family meal for a trip to the mall, but if we make it a priority to keep the Sabbath holy, our children and those around us, will see that holy moments matter in our every day lives.



10 Commandments for Christmas (Part One)

jesus_mangerRecently I’ve been studying the Ten Commandments and trying to apply them to my 21st century world. Yet as the holidays approached, I faced with a whole new set of decisions. How could I apply the Ten Commandments to my busy American Christmas season? For the next few weeks, we’ll explore the 10 commandments from the perspective of Christmas. I hope it’s an inspiring journey.

Commandment 1: Worship God alone

On the surface, this seemed obvious. Believers don’t worship other things, do they? Yet as I looked at my life and the lives of those around me (mostly believers, by the way), I wondered if the saying, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” is really true for many of us. We get so busy with holiday plans, parties, and projects that we often forget to rejoice in the profound truth that the God of the heavens came down to earth…for us!

When my children were young, we had little money for our holiday endeavors, so we kept things much simpler. Besides, I tried hard to be intentional about imparting the true meaning of Christmas to them. So each evening of Advent we centered our hearts on the coming of the Savior. We gathered in front of the manger and talked about His birth. We took time to worship God.

But after they left the nest, it was all too easy to get caught up in the festivities and forget to worship the Prince of Peace. I realized that it simply takes intentionality to pull away from the holiday chaos and take some time to worship Him every day. Since then, I’ve tried to make this an important cornerstone of my Christmas season.

Commandment 2: Don’t make idols

Of course we wouldn’t make idols! we all think with an heir of dignity and pride. But how do we address Santa and all the secular symbols so pervasive in our world today? The topic of Santa can be controversial, and every family must decide how they are going to handle such Christmas traditions. Yet as believers we should never let Santa become more of a focus than the Babe in the manger.

When my children were young, I went a little overboard. Because my parents placed such importance on Santa coming, even to the point of stomping around the attic as if it were Santa on the roof, I went to the opposite extreme and forbade any reflection of the man in the red suit. As my children grew and I saw how other families made Santa a fun tradition yet still kept Christ in Christmas, I relaxed my legalistic attitude and allowed some Santa into our holidays. But I tried to keep it all in a proper perspective, so that the posture of my heart would always keep secular symbols from becoming idols.


A Honeymoon That Never Ends

2748559-young-happy-couple-embracingRemember how thrilling your dating days were? And what about those happy honeymoon memories? I bet you wished it would never end, right? Well, it really doesn’t. Though you may not be able to stay on the cruise or Caribbean island or in that cozy mountain cabin, and though you may have lots of commitments, kids, and responsibilities that weren’t with you on your honeymoon, you can still keep the passion and romance that was present on your honeymoon.

People might think I’m sappy, strange, or silly, but I’m of the opinion that your relationship really can get better and better with time—if you’re willing to invest the time and energy to keep it growing.

I know it’s true; I’m living it every day.

I’m not bragging. I just want everyone to experience what we get to enjoy. Yes, it takes work, determination, sacrifice, and intentionality. But it can be done. It’s deciding every day to choose to love your mate fully—that day.

I know what you’re thinking. No one can ever do it all right every day. And you’d be correct.

We get busy. Distracted. Frustrated. Tired. Even bored. But we can choose to keep working at it, keep moving forward, and keep creating an atmosphere of love, romance, and intimacy that feels like your honeymoon days, even when you mess up.

It’s an amazing thing, really. You keep on trying to show your love, to share your love, to speak your love for the other. And you try to meet their deepest needs. After all, isn’t that what you did on your honeymoon?

And what about the fun that was such a big part of your honeymoon? You made time for laughing and playing and being silly. And you took time to rest and be intimate.

I encourage you to go back to the basics. Take some time to look at your dating, wedding, and honeymoon pictures, and remember what made that season so special. Then do it. Just do it all over again.

The honeymoon doesn’t have to end. Really.

What do you do to keep the honeymoon in your marriage? I’d love to know!



Reconnecting with Your Spouse

images-14We hear it from couples over and over again. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how long you’ve been married, if you have kids at home, or grandkids near or far. Life is busy. And in the midst of our busyness, it’s easy to find ourselves disconnected from our spouses. So what are some simple ways to get reconnected without an expensive weekend get-away—or counseling sessions? Try a few of these; you both may like them.

  • Be intentional. Sync your schedules each week, and plan on time together.
  • Get out your photo album and share memories together.
  • Break the bedroom routine. Enjoy time together on the living room floor or another unusual place (when the kids aren’t around, of course).
  • Write a love note and put it on your mate’s car seat.
  • Create a Bucket List together.
  • Watch old home movies together.
  • Write “I love you” in lipstick on your mate’s mirror.
  • Check out your baby pictures together.
  • Do something your husband or wife loves, even if you don’t. That shoulder-to-shoulder and romantic stuff really matters.
  • Make your dates unusual. Skip the dinner and a movie thing and go to a park, enjoy the zoo, a museum, or dancing. Mix it up and keep it fresh.
  • Do chores together. Doing the dishes together gives you time to talk and lessens the workload.
  • Massage each other’s shoulders. Rub his arm while watching TV. Stroke her hair while you cuddle. Touching is good.
  • Walk around the neighborhood and pray for your neighbors.
  • Make a new recipe together.
  • Write a “What I appreciate about you list” for your mate.

There are endless possibilities—little things you can do to reconnect. If you’re interested in receiving ways to reconnect, I send out tweets Monday-Friday that provide ways for you to do just that. Every Monday you’ll get a question you can talk about together. On Tuesday you’ll receive a thought-provoking idea to spark your imagination and discuss. On Wednesday you’ll get a link to my blog, “Enjoy the Journey”. On Thursday you’ll receive an idea for doing something fun together. On Friday I’ll provide a date idea for you to enjoy. Whatever you do, as couples, stay connected.

What are some ways you stay connected as a couple? I’d love to know!