2008 at 3:52 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Biblical Womanhood Joy Homemaking Holidays and Seasons
by Nicole Whitacre
What would make you happy this Christmas?
What if I told you that you won a contest and someone was going to do all your holiday cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping and wrapping? What if I promised you would get the present of your dreams (like that car with the bow on top in the commercial)? Or what if I predicted that family rifts would be mended, or that this year’s Christmas memories would be the best ever?
The fact is, all these things (if they actually happened) might bring us a measure of temporary happiness. But they wouldn’t sustain us through a year’s worth of hardship and trouble. We know this. Yet every year, we place a losing bet on the world to supply a truly joyful holiday season.
But what if I told you that you could have a joyful Christmas, guaranteed? And what’s more, that you could experience that joy year-round? And what if I wasn’t kidding this time?
This week we’re going to offer five keys to joy this holiday season. No, we aren’t going to do your Christmas shopping for you. But we hope these thoughts will serve you more than that.
The first key to a joyful Christmas? Contemplate the incarnation.
Consider the staggeringly glorious news that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). Ponder this truth every day for the next twenty-two days, and you won’t be disappointed the day after Christmas.
Here are two simple ways to contemplate the wonder of God become man this season:
Read Chapter Five, “God Incarnate” from JI Packer’s classic Knowing God. I’ve taken to reading this chapter every Christmas, and it never fails to help redirect my gaze from worldly pleasures to eternal truth. As Dr. Packer writes:
“The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity—hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory—because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear.”
Purchase and listen to the Sovereign Grace Christmas album, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man. While not traditional Christmas tunes, these beautiful songs are full of the wonderful truths of the incarnation:
God has sent His greatest treasure
Shown His love in greatest measure
Sending Christ to bleed and suffer
Purchasing our joy forever
Let the earth rejoice!
Instead of looking to the world to give us joy this Christmas, let’s focus on the one who came to earth and bore our sins, purchasing our joy forever!
by Janelle Bradshaw
I’m chiming in today to talk about another key for maintaining our Christmas joy, and keeping it all year ‘round.
The second key is to consistently practice the spiritual disciplines.
Christmas time is busy and there is always lots to do. It can be a temptation to let a few things slide. You know the thoughts: “Things will settle down after the holidays. I’ll get back to it then.” Often times, the spiritual disciplines can be the first to go.
We usually don’t feel the immediate effect of skipping a few devotional times here and there. But, what happens if we don’t get our presents wrapped in time or the cookies made before the big meal? That would be a disaster!
Ah, but the neglect of the spiritual disciplines will have greater consequences. Over time, our heart will begin to grow cold to the things of the Lord. And no amount of Christmas cheer will provide the fix.
But if we give priority to our time in God’s Word and to prayer, we will find renewed joy each morning. Joy that sticks in the midst of Christmas craziness. For as the Psalmist says:
“The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart...they are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” Psalm 19:8,10
So as things get busy, let’s make sure to keep the spiritual disciplines at the top of our Christmas to do list, and experience true holiday cheer.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
by Kristin Chesemore
It’s that “most wonderful time of the year!” I try to start enjoying the festivities of Christmas as early as I possibly can. Christmas music began playing in our home even before Thanksgiving (My mom is a firm believer in waiting until the day after Thanksgiving, but I personally like to enjoy the Christmas holiday as long as possible!). It’s only the 5th of December, but we’ve already purchased and decorated our tree, hung the stockings, and bought presents for the kiddos. This week we’ll make cookies, attend Christmas parties, and take a drive to see the neighborhood Christmas lights.
These are all blessings from the Lord to enjoy.
Funny though, how quickly these Christmas traditions become all about me. And selfishness (seeking to satisfy myself with the things of this world) is a one-way ticket to a lack of joy.
That’s why the third key to Christmas joy (and fighting worldliness) is to serve and give to others.
After all, isn’t this season ultimately about the Savior who came to seek and save the lost? Isn’t it supposed to—in addition to reminding me to be grateful for the gospel—also remind me to follow my Lord’s example and sacrifice for and serve others?
JI Packer, in his chapter on the incarnation Nicole mentioned the other day, exhorts me to put aside my selfish tendencies:
“The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor—spending and being spent—to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others—-and not just their own friends—in whatever way there seems need.”
I would like this Christmas season to be characterized by a renewed desire to be outwardly focused instead of selfish. JI Packer continues:
“If God in mercy revives us, one of the things he will do will be to work more of this spirit in our hearts and lives. If we desire spiritual quickening for ourselves individually, one step we should take is to seek to cultivate this spirit. ‘You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty became rich’ (2 Cor. 8:9).”
So will you join me in praying that God would work more of His spirit in our hearts? Then let’s take time to look around. Who can we serve? Who in our family can we bless? Who in our church can we sacrifice for? How can we care and give to those in need this holiday season?
Let’s enjoy the festivities, but not stop there—let’s chase after the pure joy of serving others this Christmas!
by Carolyn Mahaney
Serving with communion is the fourth key to joy. All too often, I spend time with the Lord, reading His Word and praying, but then I rush into my day, trying to serve others, but neglect to continue to commune with God.
And soon my joy dissipates.
You know what it is like. We can be busy doing all the shopping, wrapping, decorating and baking that make for a happy Christmas, but we can be anxious, overwhelmed and irritated in the process. We’re still focused on worldliness instead of godliness.
As Kristin exhorted us yesterday, serving is a vital to fighting selfishness and holding on to joy this holiday season. But if we try to serve without relying on God’s strength, without meditating on His Word, without offering up prayers to Him, we’ll still be lacking joy.
Think of Martha in the Bible. I don’t need to tell you her story again (Luke 10:38-42). But needless to say we can all turn into Marthas around Christmastime. All service and no joy. Our Lord did not rebuke Martha for serving. He rebuked her for failing to choose the best thing (as her sister Mary had done) and sit as His feet and listen to Him.
As JI Packer (we’re using him a lot this week!) has observed: “Meditation is a lost art today, and Christian people suffer grievously from their ignorance of the practice.”
Martha certainly experienced the consequences of not communing with the Savior. But we don’t have to “suffer grievously” this holiday season. We don’t even have to be anxious or overwhelmed. By meditating on God’s Word throughout the day, joy can be ours, even amidst the chaos.
One practice that has helped me to meditate and pray is to write one verse or quote from my devotions on a 3x5 card and carry it around with me throughout the day. This way, God’s grace and truth is with me right at the moments when I need it most.
You may have a method that works better for you. But whatever your practice: by meditating on God’s Word throughout the day, we can experience joy that will last from morning coffee till we lay our heads on the pillow at night.
by Janelle Bradshaw
As we’ve been saying all week long, Christmas is full of wonderful gifts. And not just the ones residing underneath the tree. We experience gifts of family and friends. Gifts of food and fellowship. As my dad would say, “We are rich!”
And yet, I can sometimes fly through this season, taking for granted all that I have been given. This worldly mentality can rob me of joy if I fail to recognize and appreciate every good gift as coming straight from my heavenly Father (James 1:17). This leads me to our fifth and final key to joy this Christmas: “turn every gift into an opportunity to glorify and adore God.”
Each year at the outset of vacation, my dad is faithful to remind us to transfer glory to God for His many gifts. He reads us the following quote from C.S. Lewis:
“Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility….I have tried…to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I meant something different…Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun….If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline. But it is worth some labour.” (as quoted in, When I Don’t Desire God, by John Piper)
This discipline is worth some labor. If, when we receive a gift, we stop and allow our minds to “run back up the sunbeam to the sun,” if we adore the One from whom all gifts come, we will find our joy multiplied a hundred fold.
2008 at 1:59 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Biblical Womanhood Suffering Homemaking Holidays and Seasons
I know many people who are suffering this Christmas. Their trials weigh upon my heart as I cut fresh holly for the mantle and bake cookies with the kids. All the Christmas gaiety—“Have a happy jolly Christmas, the best time of the year…”—feels as out of place as a circus act at a funeral home.
For Christians though, Christmas is never out of place. Sure, the trappings of the holiday may be more painful than pleasant some years. But Christmas for the Christian can be a welcome reminder of our certain hope, a celebration of promises kept by God.
In Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, compiled by Nancy Guthrie, Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains:
“What God did when he sent his Son into the world is an absolute guarantee that he will do everything he has ever promised to do. Look at it in a personal sense: “All things work together for good to them that love God”—that is a promise—“to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28, KJV). “But how can I know that is true for me?” asks someone. The answer is the incarnation. God has given the final proof that all his promises are sure, that he is faithful to everything he has ever said. So that promise is sure for you. Whatever your state or condition may be, whatever may happen to you, he has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5, KJV)—and he will not. He has said so, and we have absolute proof that he fulfills his promises. He does not always do it immediately in the way that we think. No, no! But he does it! And he will never fail to do it.”
Whatever your state or condition this Christmas, whatever your future may hold, God’s promises are certain. He kept His promise to send His Son and He will keep His promises to you—to be with you in trial and to deliver you. When Christmas reminds us that God keeps His promises it truly can be “the best time of the year.”
“Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted” (Isaiah 49:15).
2008 at 2:55 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Homemaking Holidays and Seasons
Are you distracted this holiday season?
Martha—sister of Mary, friend of Jesus—is famous for being frantic about all she had to do. It says in Luke 10:38 that “Martha was distracted with much serving” (emphasis mine).
You remember what our Lord said to Martha, don’t you? His gentle rebuke is directed at you and me today.
“Martha, Martha,” (Sometimes you have to say a distracted woman’s name twice to get her attention.) “You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
What is the “good portion” Mary chose, and that we must choose this Christmas season? She “sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching” (Luke 10:39).
I know, I know, you have a lot to do and no one to help you. But so did Martha. You may have a crowd for Christmas, but she had the incarnate God in her home. And Jesus told her not to worry about all that. Only one thing is necessary, He said: sit and listen to me.
This doesn’t mean we are to leave the Christmas shopping unfinished and forget about cooking the big meal. We are still called to serve. But, as Charles Spurgeon suggests, “We ought to be Martha and Mary in one: we should do much service, and have much communion at the same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve than to commune.”
Let’s ask God for great grace this holiday season. Let’s take time to sit and listen to Him.
2008 at 4:26 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Homemaking Holidays and Seasons
Can you put yourself in one of these two categories? For many of us, the Christmas season heightens our distractions or highlights our despondency. We may be consumed with our holiday responsibilities, and the truth of who Jesus is and what he’s done is lost in the clutter of our minds. Or, we may be suffering and all the tinsel and lights are a vivid contrast to our trouble and despair.
If you find yourself distracted or downcast today, I want to encourage you to listen to this message on The Glory of the Incarnation by Jeff Purswell and set your mind on truth this Christmas season.
2008 at 10:42 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
Fun Stuff Friday Funnies
We haven’t stopped laughing since Tracy sent in this story about her husband. A big thank you to Tracy’s husband Matt for being a great sport!
Janelle for the girls
We have a bees’ nest under one of our bushes in the front of our yard. The bummer is, the bush is at our front walkway so everytime we go out or come in, we need to walk around so as to avoid the mad rush of bees. I for one just walk right by figuring that if I don’t bother them, they won’t bother me. Matt and the kids are not so carefree.
Matt had to preach this morning so he left early and was probably in a rush, so instead of walking across our lawn, he just risked it and walked quickly past the bush. Bad move. Before even reaching his car, he realized he had been stung and as he was driving to church, his arm was swelling up. Did I mention that Matt is allergic to bees and as long as I’ve known him, I’ve heard him proclaim, “The only good bee is a dead bee!”
After church when I saw him, he showed me his arm and I immediately pulled him over to Steve Bickel - the resident pastor/pharmacist. Treatment required: Benadryl.
When Matt arrived home, his arm was swollen even more and he was finding it extremely difficult not to scratch it. Treatment required: anti-itch cream. Sounds good, right. He found some cream upstairs that he apparently really lathered on - BIG TIME lathered on. It seemed to help. Or, was it all in his head?
We had a single sister over that evening and after slipping into the kitchen for a cookie, she made an interesting discovery. Her face was turning a bright pink and she looked like she was holding back laughter. I asked her a few times what was going on and she finally whispered in my ear that the cream Matt was using was this. Of course I cracked up and then told Matt to check out the cream he had been using. He got up, walked into the kitchen and broke out in his deep laughter upon the discovery. He’s convinced that this was part of the sovereignty of God, if only for a fresh opportunity to laugh at himself and to be laughed at.
2008 at 3:30 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Homemaking Holidays and Seasons
We hope the simple suggestions for managing your holiday time have been helpful. But let’s be clear: this is not a self-help blog, because if truth be told, we can’t help ourselves. Whether peacefully navigating the Christmas season—or any other season of life—we must constantly depend upon God’s help.
What does it mean to depend on God? Proverbs 3:6 answers that question: In all your ways acknowledge him.” Charles Bridges explains how this works out in everyday life:
“Take one step at a time, every step under Divine warrant and direction. Ever plan for yourself in simple dependence on God. It is nothing less than self-idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day without his counsel. He loves to be consulted.”
It’s the “ordinary matters of the day” that we try to accomplish on our own, is it not? When we’re faced with a big decision, Proverbs 3:6 is our go-to verse. We’re quick to acknowledge our need for God in extraordinary situations. But Christmas preparations? We think can handle them by ourselves.
But of course we can’t! Rather, we must abandon self-effort and self-idolatry and actively choose to depend on God.
So let’s humbly conceded that we can’t carry out even the most ordinary of Christmas preparations apart from God’s help. Let’s consult God, acknowledging him in all our ways, while not forgetting Mr. Bridges’s confident assertion: “He loves to be consulted!”
2008 at 5:07 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
Homemaking Holidays and Seasons
Practicing the 15:4 rule this holiday season opens the door to another productivity option. It gives us the chance to decide the best time to complete each task.
First consider what optimal time corresponds to each type of task In other words: do the hard stuff first. It can be very helpful to take tasks that require more thinking and energy (e.g., Christmas baking, cleaning, shopping) earlier in the day, when our mind and body are at peak energy. (Although I think I only peak for about 5 minutes.) Then we can leave the less brainy stuff (e.g., wrapping presents, recipe hunting, addressing Christmas cards) to the end of the day. This allows us to use our physical and mental resources more efficiently.
Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, it helps us fight that pesky enemy of peace and productivity: procrastination (which some people call my middle name). When you sit down in the morning and look at your to-do list, ask yourself, “Which task am I most likely to avoid?” Then resolve to take care of it first. If I’m not convincing then Alexander MacLaren most certainly will.
“No unwelcome tasks become any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow. It is only when they are behind us and done, that we begin to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant. Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us. Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God. If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once. The only way to get rid of it is to do it.”
Only imagine how happy our days of Christmas prep will be, once we’ve rid ourselves of those disagreeable tasks early!
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord….” Colossians 3:23
2008 at 3:44 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Biblical Womanhood Living Intentionally Homemaking Holidays and Seasons
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." Ephesians 5:15-17
Here’s another time-saving tip for the holidays: Take fifteen minutes at the beginning of each day to plan. Planning for a few minutes each morning can significantly affect the trajectory of your day, and thus your holiday.
I base this claim on a businessman’s helpful little rule, the 15:4 rule:
“Spending fifteen minutes thinking about what you are going to do before you start will save four hours of wasted time later on. Any individual who has thought through her workday, set priorities, and organized the days’ tasks is likely to accomplish far more than someone who randomly moves through the day.” (James W. Botkin)
Four hours a day is a lot of time! If fifteen minutes saves me even one hour a day, it’s worth it. Point being: when we deposit a few minutes into morning planning, we’ll yield significant returns in time and productivity all day long.
Ignore this little rule, however, and we potentially throw away time that was free for the taking. Not pausing for a few minutes to plot our days’ course is like going Christmas shopping without making a list. We would undoubtedly forget someone and waste a lot of time going back to the same stores to purchase more gifts.
On the other hand, if we’re faithful to plan first thing each morning, we’ll conserve loads of valuable time. We may realize that our hair salon is in the same shopping center as the post office or figure out that we can order a gift online instead of going to the store. Or we may plan to call a relative during our Christmas baking (although my mom and sisters wouldn’t recommend this time-saver for me!).
If we make the 15:4 rule a daily ritual this December, imagine how much time we’ll save!
2008 at 5:39 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Biblical Womanhood Living Intentionally Homemaking Holidays and Seasons
Last Monday I went to the craft store in search of Thanksgiving stickers for the nieces and nephews. It was still three days until Thanksgiving, but the harvest decorations were on the clearance rack and it took me fifteen minutes to find a few, lame pumpkin stickers underneath the mounds of Christmas stuff. The store was packed with people whose carts were full of Christmas lights and wrapping and gifts.
I wasn’t even close to being ready for Thanksgiving, and now I was already behind on Christmas!
Here on December 2nd, the outlook still isn’t good. I only have a handful of gifts and about 3 hours available between now and the 25th to finish my shopping.
Thankfully, I have Mom’s “Three S’s for Busy-Season Survival”: Separate, Simplify, and Size-Up. We’ve blogged about them before, but never are they more helpful than in December. I hope they serve you. Unless, of course, you were one of those people at the craft store last week who were ready for Christmas before you sat down for Thanksgiving turkey.
2008 at 4:45 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Biblical Womanhood Spiritual Disciplines
Last week CJ sat down for an interview with one of my favorite authors and teachers—Jerry Bridges. As I listened to the podcast of their conversation, I was freshly reminded of why I appreciate Mr. Bridges’ ministry so much. He is a man who combines a deep understanding of the truths of the gospel with a passion for personal holiness. To listen to him describe his daily pursuit of godliness—which has not waned, but only increased with age—inspires me to new zeal in fighting sin and loving the Savior. I would heartily encourage you to listen and apply.