Tuesday, December 31, 2013


My husband and I recently led a marriage small group at our church.  We had a blast!  We shared from the wealth of our twenty years experience being married.  Our method of teaching was very entertaining to say the least.  Al is more spontaneous and unpredictable, while I have everything laid out in an organized fashion.  I think our expressions to each other in the middle of our discussing topics said it all. 

During the small group semester we gave the group several challenges to help them take what they were learning and put it into practice.

Cherish Challenge:
For the next 30 days do not say anything NEGATIVE about your spouse.
(To him or her or to anyone else about them)

The Six-Second Kiss Challenge:
How you say goodbye as you and your spouse begin your day can help you build a lifelong romance.

Before you go out to face your day, find each other, wrap up in a warm embrace, and begin your day with an intimate, very married, six-second kiss.

Go ahead. Try it! Your young children will grow up feeling secure in the love between their parents. They will blush and groan hoping their friends don’t see you, but you will be building a life-long romance between you.

15 minute challenge:
Find just 15 minutes each day to be a couple instead of parents, employees, or whatever other roles you play.  It’s just 15 min. each day (1% of the time you have available each day).  YOU can do this and it will change your marriage!!!!

Many in the group took the challenges we gave them.  It was kind of fun to try new things.  I will have to say that Al really liked doing the “Six-Second Kiss Challenge”.  He felt we needed to be faithful every day to be examples for the group.

The Challenge…
I was thinking recently.  If taking time out to be together and communicate is vital for our marriages, wouldn’t it be just as essential for our relationship with God?  

How could spending 15 minutes a day with God change things?  Maybe that is too much for you.  I’m sure you are busy.  That is a lot of time to carve out in a day with 24 hours.  I know the couples in our class had to get creative to find their special time together.  How about 14 minutes?  I challenge you to spend 14 minutes a day with God in 2014.  It’s the “14/14 Challenge.”  

What would it look like to spend 14 minutes a day with God? 

For those who know God…
I’m talking about 14 minutes of personal time set aside for you and God each day.  It’s a date with Him.  It’s not about clocking time at church, listening to Christian music or radio, watching preachers on TV, or sitting in on a Bible class at a Christian school or church.  It’s personal and private alone time with the God of the universe.  This kind of 14 minutes carved out of each day in 2014 could definitely change things!

For those who don’t know God…
You may be reading this and thinking… “What on earth are you talking about?  That sounds a little creepy… reading a book, talking to yourself, and listening for what?”  I know, I know.  It may sound weird, but I challenge you to try it and see what happens.  Don’t just read any book; read God’s love letter to you…The Bible.  Don’t just talk to yourself; tell God what’s going on in your life… the good, the bad, and the ugly.  What are you concerned with?  What are you excited about?  Let Him know.  Then just sit and wait… listen.  Sometimes it is in these moments He brings peace, wraps us in His love, or we feel His presence near.  I dare you to try it and see what happens.  2014 may never be the same for you.  God just might rock your world!

I’m in, now what?
Okay, so I roped you in… now what?  What could 14 minutes a day look like?  

Here are some ideas for you
Break it up or keep it all together.  It’s up to you.  My suggestion is…
5 minutes reading your Bible and 9 minutes talking & listening to God.

Take 5 plan…
Let’s just keep it simple.  I found a Bible reading plan that takes just 5 minutes a day.  I’m committing myself to do this for 2014.  If it’s not enough, read it and more.  Nothing is holding you back, but YOU.  You can find the Bible reading link here.  Just print it out, fold it up, and put it in your Bible.  If you prefer reading online or on your phone, I love this website for online reading.  It’s www.biblegateway.com.  My favorite versions of the Bible are:  New Living, New Century Version, or the Message.  It helps in reading if we can understand it.  Sometimes reading in different versions can bring things out more to us that we may have missed otherwise in reading.  Try it!

Another way to help you get more out of your reading is to write things down.  Here is a suggestion for you.  As you read… S.O.A.P.

Which stands for…
S- Scripture (write down the verse or phrase that stands out to you)
O- Observation (write down what you think this verse means)
A- Application (write down how it affects you or applies to your life)
P- Prayer (write down any prayer needs you may want to remember for the day)

Take time 5 minutes a day to read God’s love letter to you and it will be life-changing!  The Bible reading plan I provided only covers 5 days a week.  So… what should you do on the off days?  You could read other scriptures of your choice or you could talk to God longer that day.  It’s totally up to YOU!

Say what?
Okay… I know you might be thinking.  I get the Bible reading thing, but what
on earth am I supposed to talk to God about for 9 minutes?  That’s a LONG time!  We are talking about an awkward silence.  Don’t worry.  God isn’t worried.  He just wants to spend time with YOU.  Tell Him out loud or in your head what you are learning as you read, what might be bothering you, or what you are excited about that day.  Just talk and then sit in the silence and give God a chance to respond in His way.  That may be with giving you a sense of peace, filling you with hope, overwhelming you with His love, or bringing something to light that you had no idea about.  He is faithful to respond.

Where do I do this?
Find a quiet place where you can be alone with God and interruptions will be limited.  Maybe it’s a special chair to read in, a special room you like, or at the kitchen table.  For prayer it may be in the shower, driving to work or school, on a walk or run, or in your room.  Do what works best for you.  It’s okay if it isn’t the same place every day or the same time.  You might have to be creative to carve out time with God, but I guarantee it will be worth it!

I want to hear the results…
I am taking this challenge with you and I want to hear your results.  Who is joining me and how you are growing?  Is it really making a difference?  Is God showing up when you listen to Him?  How are you getting creative at carving out time to be with Him?  Don’t leave me hanging.  I want to hear it all!  Here is to growing closer to God in 2014!  Are you with me?

Living to leave a legacy,

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Keep it Simple

Have you ever gotten consumed with the commercial side of Christmas?  I went to a store recently and was surprised as a lady in front of me pulled out a STACK of credit cards to pay for her purchase.  Her items might have totaled $50, most of which was food, but she scanned several cards to pay and even asked her husband to try some of his to complete the sale.  

The commercial side of Christmas draws our focus on pleasing others… the neighbors with our d├ęcor, the family with our selection of gifts, and our friends with our festive parties.  There is no price we won’t pay to celebrate the holiday season in style.

The hustle and the bustle bring with it LOTS of expectations… not to mention stress and pressure to deliver the holiday goods.  Those participating in this kind of Christmas must… decorate their houses inside and out extravagantly (preferably Thanksgiving weekend), stockings should be hung for each family member with names attached, Christmas cards and pictures should be sent (by a reasonable date), and presents should be wrapped in similar colors full of ribbons and bows, organized under the tree in a fashion pleasing to the eye.  Don’t forget visits with Santa, cookies of all varieties made and shared with others, and wardrobe colored red for the holidays.  Mark your calendars for kids Christmas programs, plays, and candlelight services.  Oh, and there are the holiday movies you can’t miss.  Are you stressed out yet?  I am just thinking about it.

Bits and pieces of this may describe some of your Christmases, but I hope the heart of it is very different.  I hope it’s not all about out doing yourself each year.   Our Christmas shouldn’t drip with excess.  We shouldn’t have to spend more than we have to please everyone.  I decided a long time ago to avoid the commercial side of Christmas and go the simple route.  My goal is to keep Christ in the center of our season while focusing on quality time with family.   We can still celebrate our family traditions without going over board, right?

We have several family traditions we have celebrated for years and some new ones we have added recently.  It’s never too late to start a new tradition.  Everyone has their own special traditions.  These are a few of ours…

~we decorate our tree together and watch a Christmas movie afterwards
~we come up with a creative Christmas card to send out to family & friends
~we make Christmas cookies to give out to our neighbors to share God’s love
~we drive around looking at Christmas lights
~we read a special book about the Christmas story Christmas Eve
~we open one gift Christmas Eve (or should I say the boys do)
~we read the Christmas story Christmas day
~we make a special family dish only served at Christmas time
 (a meat pie that only the men can make)
~we also go to the movies together Christmas afternoon each year
~we make a birthday cake for Jesus to celebrate Christmas night

New tradition this year…
~we started doing an advent type reading and lighting candles each Sunday before Christmas
~we made Gingerbread houses with grandma from a kit
(I’m not sure if this will carry on to next year. It proved to be more difficult than expected)

 The commercial side of Christmas seems more focused on RECEIVING than GIVING.  I find it interesting that we spend Thanksgiving being thankful and the very NEXT day (black Friday) being selfish.  People literally fight over bargains to get their loved ones for Christmas.  They are rude, violent, they push, shove, and all for another special gift to put under the tree for Christmas.  Not to say everyone is that way, but so many get caught up in the holiday hullabaloo. 

Our focus for Christmas is centered on giving not receiving.  We want to be purposeful with our boys teaching them to be generous not greedy.  Our holiday season is full of quality family time, special memory making moments, opportunities to serve others, and a consistent focus on the true meaning of Christmas… Jesus. 

We also try to keep the gifts simple.  Excess brings selfishness.  We want to focus more on giving and less on receiving.  We are still working on this one.  I have heard several great ideas on this that I need to check out later.  One I heard was about just giving THREE gifts to each child representing the gifts from the wise men given to Jesus.  Another one I like is only giving four gifts:  something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.  I like this idea… sounds good and practical to me.

I have also been focusing this year on “random acts of kindness.”  I like the idea of blessing people randomly and teaching my boys to have generous hearts all year long.  I would love to some day start a “blessings account” to save up money to bless people randomly as God leads our family.  Hopefully this is coming soon.

Our goal during the holiday season is to keep things simple and the focus where it needs to be… on JESUS and spending quality time with our family.  Some times that includes a variety of our traditions and some times we just can’t fit it all in.  In those cases we re-prioritize and choose what we feel is MOST important for us at that time.  The key is to avoid allowing the busyness of the season to push Jesus out.  Keep Him in the center and your season is guaranteed to be amazing.

Luke 2:9-14 says...Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”  13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (NLT)

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Living to leave a legacy,