Christmas in July (faithful)

I stood at the Starbucks counter last December, chatting with one of the friendly baristas. I asked about her Christmas plans, to which she responded that she doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

It’s too commercialized she said.

It isn’t that she doesn’t believe in God’s heartbeat taking human form in Jesus because she does.

It’s just that society has missed the point and made something holy into something for profit and that bothers her.

And it bothers her enough to opt out of Christmas.

It bothers me, too! But what if, instead of asking ourselves how we might dismiss the season altogether, there was a better question for followers of Jesus to ask:

How can we faithfully remember and rejoice in this God who entered our mess and engaged us where we were – our God who Himself didn’t opt out just because we were missing the point?

It may be July 31st, but there are still months to go before the Christmas celebrations begin!

Choose now to faithfully celebrate Jesus – not to lament the way others are missing the point.

Fix your focus on the arrival of the Christ child and take a different route the manger this year.

Choose a theme for this year’s celebrations and embrace the ideas that theme produces when it comes to gatherings and gifting.

Have some fun with it! Make people smile! There are far too many Grinches and Scrooges in the world already – let’s choose to bring glory to God!

Give a piece of yourself to your loved ones this year.

Give gifts that support a cause and multiply the blessing.

Put your creativity to work now – while there is still time to follow through.

Becoming a victim of the business of Christmas is a choicechoose wisely, my friends!

Merry Christmas!

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Morningly

I am not a morning person. Really not a morning person. I am a night owl to the bone. Marrow.

Unfortunately for me, life hasn’t been the most accommodating to my body-clock. About the time my REM cycle hits deep-and-satisfying, my alarm clock begins to chirp and the demands of motherhood, employment, and academia trump my biological rhythm once again.

So, I sit here tonight (or should I say today? It’s 1:00 am, after all), enjoying the irony of a newly-discovered word. I spotted it on a billboard last week, en route to the Atlanta airport, and it made me giggle. Plastered beside the image of an enormous donut were these terrific words:

Made Fresh Morningly

Morningly? Is that even a legitimate word? I admit to jumping through some mental hoops while searching for context and verification. The light came on when I realized that day becomes daily… I suppose morning could present itself as morningly by the same token? Being a night person, my very next thought was – of course – whether the same thing could be done with evening. Eveningly. Sounds weird. But night does become nightly, so there you go.

And if donuts can be Made Fresh Morningly, how much more wonderful it is to realize that God’s mercies are new morningly, as well (even though they come far too early for a late-night-thinker like me). Great is His faithfulness!

As crazy as it sounds, this word makes me smile at mornings, redeeming some of the unpleasant memories of dreams interrupted before the sun begins to shine (which, by the way, is completely unfair – if I have to wake up at dark-o-thirty, Mr. Sun, so should you). Unlike the word morning, which in my experience is never a good thing, morningly is positive. Upbeat. Full of promise. Akin to words like merrily and joyfully. Something to look forward to.

Eveningly, my energy level will continue to spike and I will fight hard for each and every wink, because that, my friends, is just how I roll.

But as long as my coffee is Made Fresh Morningly (and strongly), and as long I am met with the grace of a forgiving Father at the start of each new day, I simply can’t complain. (I can hit the snooze button, though.)

Great is Your faithfulness, God!

To All of my Traveling Buddies…

It has been a JOY to take this Trek to the Manger with you! Thanks for journeying, and for shining the Light into the lives of those around you.

Can we talk? I would LOVE to hear from you regarding your Trek to the Manger experience! Feel free to email me with your stories and reflections, while the Trek is still fresh in your mind:

brita@pinkshoesministries.me

In addition, if you purchased your copy of the Trek from Amazon, you’re in a unique position to be able to review the book online. Log in to your Amazon account, and look for the category called “Personalization”; click on “Your Reviews” and you’ll find Trek to the Manger among your other Amazon purchases. You can select your star-rating and write a review from that screen. Your words will assist others in future years, as they look for materials to enhance their own Advent adventure. Thanks so much for taking time to tell others about the Trek!

Updates will be made to the book for 2015, including a small group discussion guide! Look for Trek to the Manger on Kindle in 2015 as well.

And keep your eyes open for our next devotional adventure: Want What You’ve Got! God willing, it’ll find its way to the Amazon bookshelf mid-2015.

You have been fantastic Traveling Buddies, and I thank God for each of you! May the New Year bring you closer to His heart than ever before.

Driving With the Top Down…

Brita

Empty Calories

‘Tis the season to be jolly! To eat homemade fudge and divinity! To drink eggnog and graze on appetizers from a generously stocked buffet! Is it possible to be jolly without consuming our body weight in sugar?

Just as consumption of empty calories creates body-maintenance issues over time, consumption of sprinkles costs more in the long-run than most of us are willing to admit. Whether it’s the spare tire around your midriff, or a pile of spare tires in your garage, stockpiling takes up space and costs precious time, energy, and attention; resources you could be leveraging for God’s Kingdom-work instead.

There’s a reason God provided Israel with manna in the wilderness! Apparently they, too, were prone to stockpiling vs. trusting God to meet their daily needs. And, like us, they were driven by their appetites for the tasty-but-unnecessary. As a remedy, God quite literally provided their ‘daily bread’ in the form of sustenance from the sky. To prevent stockpiling, God simply caused the manna to spoil overnight, using maggots and mold to take away the appeal of hoarding altogether. (Exodus 16)

Spiritually speaking, what are you consuming that contributes nothing more than a pile of empty calories to the life you’re trying to live? I’m here to tell you – from personal experience – that the longer you let the sprinkles (the colorful-but-pointless) accumulate (in your body, in your closet, on your schedule), the more effort it will take to weed them out.

Today, take stock of the empty calories you’re consuming! Ask yourself what it will take for you to live as the Apostle Paul suggests: “as free of complications as possible” (1 Cor. 7:32, The Message).

Then take one step toward that life – on our Trek to the Manger.

Have a comment or question to share? Click here for the Trek homepage, then scroll to the bottom where you’ll find the Reply/comment space!

Looking for the Trek to the Manger reading schedule? Click here!

Alien/nation

Reflections on Trek to the Manger, chapter 6

In many places around the world, Christians are increasingly considered to be aliens. Not so much the “from another country” kind of alien; more like the “differing in nature or character to the point of incompatibility” type (merriam-webster.com).

Don’t believe me? In the article A More Secular Europe, Divided by the Cross (June 17, 2013), Gudrun Kugler, director of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, was quoted as saying:

““There is a general suspicion of anything religious, a view that faith should be kept out of the public sphere… There is a very strong current of radical secularism,” she said, adding that this affects all religions but is particularly strong against Christianity because of a view that “Christianity dominated unfairly for centuries” and needs to be put in its place.” (Andrew Higgins, nytimes.com)

In spite of the growing animosity against Christianity worldwide, we who belong to Christ have an opportunity each and every day to “be limitless light in a world filled with lines and boundaries and borders”  –Trek to the Manger, p. 23

The way you choose to live your life has the potential to shift the focus from words to action; from ideas to illumination; from your life to the presence of God Himself. 

As members of an alien nation, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we can choose to sit back and avoid alienation by hiding our light under a bushel… or, we can saddle up the camel and hit the road with passport in hand. “The degree to which you are open to letting the Light of God shine through you is the degree to which your life can be a beacon of hope in a desperately hopeless world.” (p. 23)

How your life answers these questions could make all the difference today:

“Who are you? What are you doing here? Now, prove it.” (p. 21)

Passport, please.

Have a comment or question to share? Click here for the Trek homepage, then scroll to the bottom where you’ll find the Reply/comment space!

Looking for the Trek to the Manger reading schedule? Click here!

What Are You Waiting For?

Reflections on Trek to the Manger, chapters 3 & 4

It’s that season again – the children’s Christmas program at church. We rehearsed yesterday during Sunday School, which means those lively songs from Group Publishing’s Bethlehem Bound are still dancing around in my brain-space. The one that seems to be stuck on repeat this morning is the one that testifies:

I’m looking for a star to follow.

“Many of us are in a holding pattern today. We’re feeling the need to move on, move out, or move forward, but we’re waiting. We’re waiting for God to give us a sign. We (like the Wise Men) want a star to follow, too!”           -Trek to the Manger, p. 12

Chapter 3 sets the stage for the adventure-to-come by asking you to “take inventory of the things in your life that shine light, bring joy, elicit smiles, and create energy… this list is where you’ll catch your first glimpse of the Star – the Light of the World” (p. 8-9).

What are you waiting for? Follow the good stuff in your life to the Source. Ask God to, slowly and surely, replace the heaviness of life with the lightness of His Light today!

Have a comment or question to share? Click here for the Trek homepage, then scroll to the bottom where you’ll find the Reply/comment space!

Looking for the Trek to the Manger reading schedule? Click here!

Trek to the Manger Reading Schedule

2014 Trek to the Manger Reading Schedule

Welcome to the Trek! For those who wish to travel together, a reading schedule is provided below! As you seek the Light and ways to lighten your load during this Advent season, I hope you will make time to interact with others who are taking this journey, too. Click here to access the Trek to the Manger homepage, then go all the way to the bottom of the page where you’ll find the Reply (comment) section!

Godspeed!

  • Nov. 30 – Chapters 1-3
  • Dec. 1 – Chapter 4
  • Dec. 2 – Chapter 5
  • Dec. 3 – Chapter 6
  • Dec. 4 – Chapter 7
  • Dec. 5 – Chapter 8
  • Dec. 6 – Chapter 9
  • Dec. 7 – Chapters 10-11
  • Dec. 8 – Chapter 12
  • Dec. 9 – Chapter 13
  • Dec. 10 – Chapter 14
  • Dec. 11 – Chapter 15
  • Dec. 12 – Chapter 16
  • Dec. 13 – Chapter 17
  • Dec. 14 – Chapters 18-19
  • Dec. 15 – Chapter 20
  • Dec. 16 – Chapter 21
  • Dec. 17 – Chapter 22
  • Dec. 18 – Chapter 23
  • Dec. 19 – Chapter 24
  • Dec. 20 – Chapter 25
  • Dec. 21 – Chapter 26-27
  • Dec. 22 – Chapter 28
  • Dec. 23 – Chapter 29

Statues

I close my eyes and I’m there, on the front lawn, at dusk.

Giggling girls, tired of straining to defy gravity (some of us just weren’t made to be gymnasts), have traded cartwheels and handstands for a wild game of Statues.

And there I am in the center of the yard, outstretched arm grasped by two small hands, ready to be spun at speeds faster than my mother would approve. On the verge of dizziness, I feel my arm fly free and momentum carry me around the yard as if I’ve been flung at full speed from a merry-go-round. Slowing down, eventually I land in an awkwardly triumphant pose, which I hold as best I can while fighting the pull that threatens to take me to the ground. Hardly breathing, I wait like a statue as the girls circle me, prolonging their decision in order just to see me sweat; and then, the naming.

Rock star! Sasquatch. Basketball player. Ballerina. Darth Vader.

Breaking pose, I fall laughing to the ground before another round begins.

The game of Statues.

Have you ever played? It’s not unlike the way I feel inside as I close my eyes tonight, tired of straining to defy gravity and entropy and the clock that ticks this day into the next at a speed I don’t approve. Today life has spun me around and around, and although I’ve a sense that it ought to be fun, it isn’t and I’m dizzy and I just want to make it stop.

The release. Tightly wound now, it’s as if life has flung me from one corner of the ring to the other, and I’m bouncing off the ropes and grasping at the air, and grasping at the air…

And slowing down. Gaining some control, I try to stick the landing, fighting the tug that wants to see me hit the ground, that wants to see me fail and fall to pieces – but I land on my feet. I land on my feet in a ridiculous pose, which I hold as best I can while waiting breathlessly for the naming to begin.

The names I expect, considering the shape I’m in, are names like:

Wannabe. Just-shy-of-the-goal. Maybe someday. Maybe not. Poser.

I’m sweating it now (just a hot flash?). I’m doing my best just to hold it together, to keep from collapsing into a puddle of tears, when the Voice speaks an unexpected name over me. And then another.

Beloved. Child of Promise. Masterpiece. Forgiven. Set Free.

Spun, flung, landed and named, the statue breaks pose and I fall, laughing and crying, into the arms of the One whose healing Presence strengthens me for tomorrow.

Another round begins.

Not Okay

Rain or shine, sleet or snow – he was always there. Sitting on a bucket-turned-upside-down as a stool, I would drive past him on my way to the post office in the small community where I live. He always made eye contact. He sometimes smiled. He usually waved or nodded cordially in my direction. Once he tried to bum a cigarette from me, but I was powerless to help him out with that one. He was a fixture there, at the crossroads of neighborly concern and I’m-late-for-an-appointment, but until yesterday, I didn’t even know his name. It was Bob.

Weed-Wacker Bob.

I turned the corner toward the post office yesterday and noticed an empty spot on the shoulder where he would normally sit. Instead of the elderly, white-haired man with a weedeater, propped up against the fence in a sea of political signage was this sign:

Weed Wacker Bob Memorial

And it made me sad. It makes me sad. And it makes me ask questions – some of which make me uncomfortable today.

What was my responsibility to Weed-Wacker Bob? What I mean is – as a child of God with resources to share, should I have given him something? The only thing he ever asked me for was a cigarette. And the opportunity to whack my weeds. I gave him neither. Instead, I smiled and waved and drove right on by. Year after year. After year.

How did he die? I wonder. Was he alone? Did he have a family? Friends? Loyal landscaping clients? There must have been others who actually stopped and talked to Bob, maybe giving him a job or a ride or a cigarette. Right? Someone else surely has been picking up the slack all these years for Weed-Wacker Bob… They must have!

But what if I’m wrong and everyone else on their way to the post office smiled and waved and drove right on by – just like me?

I set the bar low with Weed-Wacker Bob, and yet Jesus says:

“Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” Matthew 7:12 (The Message)

I am faced on this day with a mirror of sorts, found in the pages of God’s Word. I don’t need to ask myself what I want from others – I know I set the bar high in that department. And there was clearly no initiative-grabbing going on in my head – no doing-it-for-them as I smiled and waved and drove on by.

And this is not okay.

I am not okay! I am disobedient, selfish, apathetic and lazy, but I am not okay.

I am in need of rescue, just like Weed-Wacker Bob and everyone else who has ever found themselves in a puddle of regret and despair and at the end of themselves. And yet – thanks be to God! – this is right where He wants us to be:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Matthew 5:3, The Message)

That is good news, because today I’m feeling pretty darn less of and in desperate need of God’s more-than-enough.

Rest in Peace, Weed-Wacker Bob. Rest. In. Peace.

Trek to the Manger: Advent Devotions for Women on the Move

Trek to the Manger by Brita Hammit

Trek to the Manger by Brita Hammit

Advent should be an adventure!

One that honors tradition without bowing the knee to retail-bullying.

One that embraces fun and gift-giving without breaking the bank.

One that engages more of me than just my schedule and my credit card.

The season of Advent may appear to have been hijacked by a relentless stream of commercial messages – but this year can be different!

 

 

Instead of plodding through another stress-filled holiday, women on the move are choosing a different route to Christmas morning. Trek to the Manger is a tool in the hands (and hearts) of busy women (and brave men!) during the season of Advent, which begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Each daily devotion presents an opportunity to redeem the Christmas holiday and reclaim our focus on the Light of the World.

This spiritual adventure is an ideal resource for small groups, Bible studies, or personal devotional reading. A reading schedule is available here (and by using the Trek to the Manger tab at the top of this page) for women wishing to join others on this journey of faith.

It’s time to fire up your GPS and grab a traveling buddy or two! Not for another trip to the mall…

for a Trek to the Manger.

 

Click here to purchase Trek to the Manger: Advent Devotions for Women on the Move by Brita Hammit (also available on Amazon).