Here’s a great Christmas shopping story from Rebecca….
“A few years ago I was Christmas shopping by myself. As I hurried past the stores I saw a large UNICEF
display set up ahead and could tell that the people running it were
asking shoppers for donations. I had to pass it but didn’t like to,
as my husband and I plan our giving together and I hate telling people
“no” when they ask for money. “Just say ‘no’ and keep walking,” I told
myself. A woman at the booth caught my eye as I approached. “Just say
‘no’ and keep walking,” I told myself again. The woman stepped towards
me and asked, “Do you like children?” Without thinking, I said “no” and
kept walking. I was too flustered to stop or explain, but I peeked back over my
shoulder at the woman and will never forget the look of shocked disgust
on her face.”
More girltalk on Monday,
Nicole for the girltalkers
You guessed it: I too have been thinking about worldliness. As we’ve told you before, girltalk flows out of an ongoing conversation between us four girls, our spouses, and each other. For me, in addition to helping my dad with edits to his book, my husband is doing a series on “worldliness” at our church’s youth meetings. So I’m talking about it to one family member or another almost every day. This is not a morbid, legalistic, judgmental conversation. It is sober, to be sure, and we are all grateful for the reminder to freshly examine our hearts and lives. The ultimate goal, though, as Mom and Janelle have been saying, is to root out whatever is keeping us from enjoying God. So, although “worldliness” is not usual Christmastime fare on the blogosphere, our aim is not to be a virtual Grinch and rob you of this season’s joys. The actual “Grinch Who Stole Christmas” is often the sin of worldliness. It’s at the root of much of the anxiety, unhappiness, bickering, discontent and strife that permeate what should be a joyous time. That’s why we want to spend next week talking about practical ways we can resist worldliness. Not because we want to clamp down on Christmas celebrations. Rather, we want all of us to revel in the joy that Christ has come to rescue a dying world.
So now my mom’s got me thinking about worldliness. The fact is, that we are most in danger of worldliness when things are going well. Christmas can be a time of particular temptation because it is a time of particular prosperity. Family and friends are gathering. School is out. There are cards and gifts. And don’t forget Christmas dinner! For many of us, prosperity abounds in this season. And worldliness easily goes undetected.
Where is worldliness? you ask. It is there when I prioritize holiday activities over my time with the Lord. Or when I look to the superficial joys of this season for happiness rather than the truth of God’s Word.
Mr. Spurgeon warns us to beware of worldliness in prosperity:
“But another testing moment is prosperity. Oh! there have been some of God’s people, who have been more tried by prosperity than by adversity. Of the two trials, the trial of adversity is less severe to the spiritual man than that of prosperity. It is a terrible thing to be prosperous. You had need to pray to God, not only to help you in your troubles, but to help you in your blessings. Mr. Whitfield once [requested prayer] for a young man who had—stop, you will think it was for a young man who had lost his father or his property. No! ‘The prayers of the congregation are desired for a young man who has become heir to an immense fortune, and who feels he has need of much grace to keep him humble in the midst of riches.’ That is the kind of prayer that ought to be put up; for prosperity is a hard thing to bear.”
So let’s pray this for ourselves and our loved ones: that God would “help us in our blessings.” That He would give us “much grace to keep us humble in the midst of riches” this Christmas.
I’m still thinking about worldliness.
Which might cause some of you to think: Maybe Carolyn’s bout with the stomach virus over Thanksgiving has got her stuck on a dreary topic. Enough already – let’s move on to some Christmas cheer!
I can promise you, it’s not my difficult Thanksgiving holiday that’s got me thinking. It’s a heightened awareness (a work of the Spirit, I trust!) of how susceptible I can be to let “good things” extinguish my passion for the Savior. And so I’m thinking about worldliness—not because I am gloomy—but because I want to get rid of anything that is standing in the way of my joy in God, at Christmas or any time of year.
Once again, Mr. Piper expands on this point:
“The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.
Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire for God is awakened in their hearts. But then, ‘as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life’ (Luke 8:14). ‘The pleasures of this life’ are not evil in themselves. These are not the vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God” (John Piper, A Hunger for God, p. 14-15).
We’ll receive many gifts this Christmas. Some we’ll unwrap; but others will come in the form of “pleasures of this life.” I want to enjoy these Christmas pleasures for the glory of God—not allow them to become deadly substitutes.
Therefore, will you join me in making Philippians 1:9-11 our prayer this Christmas holiday season:
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about worldliness lately. Maybe that’s because my husband is presently immersed in editing and contributing two chapters to a book on this topic (which of course I get to read while it’s being written). Or possibly it’s because Chad is writing a paper on this subject for his Bible class at school (which of course I get to help with).
All this thinking about worldliness has led to a fresh realization: I don’t think often enough about worldliness.
I assume worldliness doesn’t apply to me. I take for granted that I’m not lured by things of the world. I’m above that temptation.
I may not be tempted to dress immodestly or to watch ungodly movies, but I am tempted by other things that spoil my hunger for God.
Take the Christmas season, for instance. Every holiday I can be drawn to all things Christmassy—the shopping, buying gifts, wrapping presents, decorating the tree, baking holiday treats, attending parties and celebrations. Of course these things are not wrong in and of themselves. They can be delightful gifts from God. But I can be tempted to desire them more than the most important thing—regardless of the season: sitting at the Lord’s feet (Luke 10:38-41). And then I wonder why my heart feels so dull come December 26th.
John Piper provides the explanation when he says:
“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation for the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great” (John Piper, A Hunger for God, p. 23)
This holiday I don’t want my soul stuffed only with decorations, shopping, and Christmas cookies. I want to make every effort to drink deeply of God’s presence so my soul will be truly satisfied.
We in the Mahaney clan look forward to Thanksgiving all year long. Only, as you know by now, this Thanksgiving didn’t go as planned.
It all started when Janelle got the stomach virus two days before the holiday. Mom and Kristin tried to watch Caly and do the grocery shopping. I ran some extra errands to help out. Things were a little crazy, but she seemed to be recovering.
Then—mother of all Thanksgiving disasters—Mom got sick on Thanksgiving day! Of all days in the year for Mom to get sick, this might have been the worst. As you may have read, Thanksgiving dinner was not exactly a triumph (I’m determined now to learn how to make gravy!). And even though she’s the quietest of this noisy bunch, it wasn’t the same without her at the table.
Friday morning everyone woke up healthy, and we thought we might salvage the weekend after all. But by mid-morning Mike was in bed. The guy’s morning out had to be cut short, and the Turkey Bowl cancelled for first time in recent memory.
Saturday was a repeat performance. We girls got away for a little while before Chad got sick. In the end we fed everyone an early dinner and Steve and I packed up the kids and traveled home.
To be honest, there were moments we girls were tempted to be not-so-thankful for this Thanksgiving. But then Mom reminded us of the example of Mrs. Spurgeon. It is said that when her husband, the great preacher Charles Spurgeon died, she knelt by the bed and “thanked the Lord for the precious treasure so long lent to her.”
She focused on the undeserved goodness of God, instead of her indescribable loss.
For starters, we experienced no real loss this Thanksgiving. No one passed away. No one was seriously ill. That alone put things in perspective. We were not suffering.
But it also helped to remember the thirty odd Thanksgivings we have enjoyed together. To be grateful for the Turkey Bowls and the delicious meals and the memories—instead of focusing on the one year that didn’t go the way we had hoped. To thank the Lord for the precious treasure of our family, so long lent (not earned or deserved) to us.
We’re already looking forward to next year, when hopefully, no one will have the stomach virus. But we’re also thanking God for this Thanksgiving and His many undeserved blessing in our lives.
“What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?...I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Psalm 116:12, 17
Our Thanksgiving craziness continued today. Mike went down hard with the stomach virus this morning. Mom is doing better, but still not back to normal. So obviously, we had to cancel today’s Turkey Bowl. (We girls weren’t too disappointed as it was pretty cold outside!)
But thanks to our great friend and childhood sitter, Aunt Kathy, we still got to sneak out for a relaxing dinner. Aunt Kathy and her daughter Amanda insisted on babysitting so that we could enjoy some time together with just the adults. Thanks girls! We had so much fun. Wasn’t the same without Mikey though. Let’s just say this is a Thanksgiving we won’t soon forget.
It all started when Mom called me early this morning to let me know she had a stomach virus. “I’m so sorry,” she told me, “this means that you girls will have to manage the Thanksgiving dinner on your own.” Yeah, right.
Mom has always made the turkey, stuffing and gravy, and even though we each contribute various dishes to the meal, we’ve never pulled it all together by ourselves.
Kristin and I tackled the turkey…which, I’m proud to say came out of the oven around 3pm looking beautiful. But it was downhill from there. For some reason we didn’t get the baking time right for all the dishes. Some were ready too early. Some were ready too late. Then Nicole tried making gravy for the first time, and well, it never actually became gravy. We even forgot to put a couple of smaller condiments on the table.
Let’s just say it was a little more chaotic than when Mom is running the show.
So, in keeping with the rather hectic day, the only picture I have for you is this blurry one of Kristin and me cooking the prize turkey.
Tonight Mom is feeling better and that’s something we’re very thankful for. She may even be well enough to play in tomorrow’s turkey bowl. We’ll see…
I’m taking a break in between the “crabbies” appetizer and the pumpkin cream-cheese pie to bring you this Friday Funny on Wednesday (thanks Kriscinda!). That’s because tomorrow and Friday we’ll be posting pictures from our Thanksgiving celebration and—of course—the annual Mahaney Family Turkey Bowl!
In the meantime, hope your Thanksgiving preparations go a little better than this ...
for the other three (busily cooking) girltalkers
Speaking of traditions, when my kids get a little older I want to read them the following story on Thanksgiving Day—not simply to educate them about the origins of the holiday (no, Thanksgiving wasn’t founded by the National Football League or The Food Network), but also to remind us all to thank God for the peace and prosperity that we enjoy.
“The Woman Who Brought Us Thanksgiving”
by Harold Ivan Smith
Most Americans associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims. Fifty-one survivors of the Mayflower gathered to celebrate after their first fall harvest. Governor William Bradford proclaimed it a day of thanksgiving.
But during the next century and a half, thanksgiving was an irregular celebration, varying from community to community, dependent at times upon the religious and political climates and the attitudes of individual governors.
Then the victory of the Americans over the British at Saratoga in October, 1777 prompted the Continental Congress to set aside December 18 as a day of thanksgiving and praise to be observed by all the colonies.
On September 28, 1863, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale wrote President Abraham Lincoln urging him to make the annual Thanksgiving “a national and fixed Union Festival.” By this time, she had built the circulation of her magazine, Godey’s Ladies Book to 150,000. Hale’s letter could not be ignored. Nor her editorials. Her annual Thanksgiving editorial in Godey’s opened with Nehemiah 8:10: “Then he said unto them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto our Lord; neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”
Hale argued, from her strong Episcopal faith, that if Nehemiah set aside a time of thanksgiving in a time of national stress, “in a time of national darkness and sore troubles, shall we not recognize the goodness of God never faileth, and that to our Father in heaven we should always bring the Thanksgiving offering at the ingathering of the harvest?”
Lincoln weighed the matter and decided that the timing was right for something that would promote national unity. He ordered Seward to draft the proclamation.
Early on October 3, Lincoln read the proclamation: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and helpful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
Seward wrote, “No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gift of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
Lincoln commended Seward for a project “well done” and then focused on the last paragraph: “I do, therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”