Christmas Poetry, by Ann Weems

Old scroll, pine branches and cones

I’m not an avid poetry reader, until there are seasons like Christmas.

Here are two of my favorite poems by Ann Weems…enjoy:

Yesterday’s Pain

In the godforsaken, obscene quicksand of life,
there is a deafening alleluia
rising from the souls of those who weep,
and of those who weep with those who weep.
If you watch, you will see
the hand of God
putting the stars back in their skies
one by one
Yesterday’s Pain
Some of us walk in Advent
tethered to our unresolved yesterdays
the pain still stabbing
the hurt still throbbing.
It’s not that we don’t know better;
it’s just that we can’t stand up anymore by ourselves.
On the way of Bethlehem, will you give us a hand?

Not celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you.

7 Tips for Healthier Marriage Communication

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Marriages are built on communication. Improve communication…improve the marriage. Poor communication…it will be very difficult to have a successful marriage. We could all stand to improve in this area.

Here are 7 tips for better communication in marriage:

Be a good listener – You can never expect to grow in your communication until you learn to truly hear one another. Have you been listening lately?

Timing is important – Don’t try to address major issues when the other party is distracted. Set aside time to address important topics. Know when to speak and when to listen. Do you need to be silent more often?

Never criticize the person – You can address actions, but when you attack the person, defenses rise and communication fails. Every time. Are you being critical of the one you are supposed to be building up?

Be willing to give each other credit for differences

There are so many…

Men, you can’t talk to your wives as you talk to your guy friends…She is more tender hearted…understand that an deeper meaning is often attached to what they are saying.

Women, if you want your husband to understand something…You must say it in a language he understands…simple…straight-forward…men don’t as easily read subtleties or between the lines.

Keep emotions under control – When the female starts shedding tears or the males anger rises, even though both can be natural responses for either person, communication is hindered. Wait until the intense emotions calm, then address the issue. But, definitely address the issue.

Prompt resolutions – Don’t let issues linger too long. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. The longer an issue lingers, the harder it is to address. Do you have some issues you need to address?

Be willing to humble yourself and forgive – Marriage is hard; people make mistakes; marriage must be free flowing with grace. Are you holding a grudge you need to release?

What would you add to the list? What has improved the communication in your marriage?

Be honest: What is the real state of your marriage communication? Be willing to get the help you need.

There’s a difference in knowing and doing. Let’s commit to improving our marriage communication. I’m in…how about you?

For more help for your marriage, click HERE.

7 Ways to Get Young People to Serve

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I hear frequently that it’s hard to get the younger generation to serve in the church. That may be true, especially under some of our current church structures. I don’t think it’s because they don’t want to serve, however. I think we may simply need to reconsider the circumstances under which they are willing to serve or the structure that works to attract them to serve.

After working with a younger age group in church planting and the more established churches, I’ve made some observations that appear true in both.

Here are 7 ways to get young people to serve:

Don’t just talk about it…do it. They truly want to be active. They want to be doers of the word…not just hearers.

Reward progress…not people. Humble service is a valued character trait to the current younger generation. That’s why they love teams so much.

Think people impact…not project completion. They want to help others…make a difference in someone’s life…and add value to the world around them.

Make meetings social events. Boring meetings won’t work anymore, but they’ll get together for pizza…and organize a cause in the process.

Use teams more than committees. They tend to rebel against bureaucracy and embrace working together through fellowship.

Give ownership more than assignments. They want a seat at the table. They want to do something of importance now. They want to help shape their own future. Make them feel welcome.

Be inclusive, not exclusive. They aren’t looking for the country club environment, as much as a collaboration of differences.

None of these mean we have to lessen our values to work with the younger generation, but our values should be Biblical, and clearly identified. This newer generation is more tolerant. It’s not a buzzword for them…it’s in their DNA. The good news is they are more willing to work with others, even if they don’t completely agree with them. If they know people are being transparent with them and others, and are working to address a concern in which they believe needs addressing, they are eager to serve.

What have you learned about getting a younger generation to serve?

5 Suggestions for Finding More Christmas Joy

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11

As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. With the equivalence of hope, joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.

For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. How do we find the joy of Chrismas? (You may want to read my previous post 10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss. This post come from another angle.

Here are five suggestions to greater joy at Christmas:

Lower expectations of others - I see this so many times. You thought others would respond as we respond. We expected them to react to our gift differently. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. We shouldn’t hold others to expectation we set for them. People, even the best of people, will disappoint us.

Increase your investment in others – if we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, that we unintentionally become selfish towards others. Something supernatural happens when we share with others. We are to give and extend grace, as it was given to us…this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us in the previous point.

Examine your life/Address known sin – You can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if you are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you know. Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate your life to Christ.

Change your perspective – Choosing to be greatly joyful is not based on circumstances, but comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in faith. Joy is a gift. It’s not based on what we have done or could do, but on His grace towards us. Choose joy. Choose again. And again. And again.

Set your eyes on the prize – If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus; the author and perfecter of your faith. Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. God will write the final chapter of your story. You can trust Him. Look again at the manger…Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God. I can’t find joy in that! Can you?

What suggestions do you have for finding more joy at Christmas?

What can the church learn from a coffee shop? (Update)

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Can/Should, the church learn from a coffee shop?

You may recall a post I did earlier this year about a new coffee shop in town. They are doing things that, honestly, I think the church could learn from them. Read that post HERE.

Well, they are at it again. Recently, thieves broke into the coffee shop. How they responded is getting citywide and even national attention.

Check out THIS local article and THIS national article. And there as many more.

Again, what can the church learn from a coffee shop?

Good job A Cup of Commonwealth!

Some of my takeaways questions:

  • How would the church respond to a break in at the church?
  • How would the community come to support us?
  • What are we doing that’s causing a community to take notice?
  • Are we making our community better?
  • Would our community say it’s a better place to live because of us?

Please add yours…

10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss

Christmas tree gifts

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”. But, for some people, Christmas can be a miserable time. Many have lost a loved one, suffered the end of a significant relationship, or even had a severe personal loss of income or health and Christmas is a just another reminder of what they no longer have. If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.

In a recent Christmas message, I shared some suggestions for dealing with the emotions of Christmas loss. I consulted with two professional Christian counselors in our church Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis. With their advice and some of my own, I’m offering some practical ways to overcome that sense of Christmas loss.

Ideally, Christ is the answer (and in the message I make that clear). Apart from Christ there is no Christmas and there is no peace. These are not designed to take the place of that truth, but rather to give some practical things to help you deal with loss at Christmas.

Here are 10 ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss:

List your losses – Death, divorce, injury, finances…children moved out this year…whatever they are…write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. Admit the pain…write them down.

Share them – Certainly with God, but with a close friend, or with people who have experienced your loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. Find support in a Bible study group or prayer group. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.

Grieve the loss – Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some form of depression is a normal response to grief. We’ve almost created a culture where we think suffering is abnormal. Don’t be afraid to grieve…even publicly at times. It’s okay to be human.

Resist falling into despair – That’s where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring them.

Take care of your physical body- Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It’s more important during a sense of loss.

Be aware of negative thinking – Catch the negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.

Do something for someone else – There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us that loss is universal and that other people are struggling with you.

Force yourself to participate in social activities – You won’t feel like it, but social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. In fact, you actually increase the likelihood you will become clinically depressed.

Avoid the comparison game – Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And, it’s dangerous.

Honor you losses with new traditions – Begin some new family rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced with the person you have lost or will help you remember happier days to come.

I shared one more suggestion, one I believe is the most powerful of all, in the Christmas message. It’s this: We have to learn to worship in tears. Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.

You can find all my messages on my Vimeo page at vimeo.com/ronedmondson. This message is titled Obstacles to Christmas Joy: Loss.

The Best Christmas Present You Can Give

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Give words. Give written words.

Years ago, when I was almost 18, and just about to graduate from high school, my grandmother gave me a Bible for Christmas.

It’s a great Bible. In fact, it was my first study Bible…a New American Standard, Ryrie Study Bible. I still have it and occasionally use it today. It was a great gift. An expensive gift at the time.

But, inside she included these handwritten notes. She shared her heart. She wrote Scripture that was important to her. She encouraged me to live a life of value. She expressed her joy in being my grandmother.

It was the greatest part of the gift. The most valuable.

It was then and it is now.

I still have the Bible…although I have many other Bibles on my shelf…but I can replace the Bible. I can’t replace these notes.

My grandmother died in 2013, a few months after my grandfather. She was my last remaining grandparent. As soon as I heard of her death, I went to that Bible…to read the notes she had written. I have read these notes 100’s of times since she first wrote them. I’m positive…Lord willing…I’ll read them 100 more.

The best Christmas gift ever! … at least that a human can give…

Take a hint…who needs a letter from you?

Maybe a child, a grandchild, a parent, a spouse, a friend. Write! Give. Bless.