To Santa or Not to Santa

That is the question.  Bennett is still too little to really get into Santa and understand what that whole thing is all about, but one day he will want to know about this man in the red suit and I want to be ready for it.

My husband and I have had some discussions this holiday season and here’s what we’ve decided.  I want Bennett to choose what he believes in.  This includes everything from talking animals to Santa to Jesus.  God created us with a will and has given us the freedom to choose what we believe.  Obviously, I pray that Bennett chooses to believe in Christ and I will teach him that Jesus is real and live out Christ’s love as best I can throughout the year, but the decision to accept Jesus is Bennett’s.

So, Jesus will be the center of my house at Christmas and any other time of year.  That means I won’t be the one introducing him to Santa Claus.  I won’t set out cookies or say his presents came from Santa.  At least, not yet.  Not until he tells me that he wants to do those things.  Bennett’s imagination will be the guide to how we do Santa Claus.  So, just like I would make a sword out of aluminum foil for him to kill his imaginary dragon, I will put out cookies for imaginary Santa to eat.  It’s pretend, imaginary, childhood.

Then, when he is old enough to start questioning Santa’s existence, we’ll have a talk about the jolly old man in red and where his story came from.  There’s this great Veggie Tales video St. Nicholas:  A Story of Joyful Giving which does a really great job of explaining the story of St. Nicholas and how we eventually turned that story into Santa Claus. (It’s watch instantly on netflix or just click on the link and it will take you to the video.)  Hopefully, since Jesus has been the center of our home and the holiday season, when Bennett realizes that Santa isn’t an actual person, he’ll be able to see Jesus in Santa’s story.  And hopefully see Jesus’ Story in other stories he reads, movies he watches, or songs he listens to throughout his life.

So, instead of rejecting Santa, I plan to redeem him.  At least, that’s the plan.  This could go terribly wrong and Bennett need therapy because he thinks his parents are liars, but, let’s be honest, he’ll probably need therapy for all the other stuff I mess up in his life.

We did put Bennett on Santa’s lap this year and by the looks of it, he probably won’t want anything to do with him, so I won’t have to worry about any of this anyway.

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Please post in the comments section how you do (did) Santa in your home.  Obviously, I’m still figuring it out and I’d love some advice!

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Gravity

I saw the movie Gravity on my birthday and I really liked it even though it totally freaked me out.  Being an English teacher, I’m cursed with never actually enjoying a movie, a book, or a song without looking for the hidden message behind the story.  Gravity was no different.  In the midst of my heart palpitations, I was drawn to the juxtaposition of beauty and danger that the movie kept referencing over and over.

The Earth from space is glorious.  Breathtaking, even.  Probably one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen (if you ever get to see it from up there).  But, space is also incredibly dangerous.  People are not meant to survive there.  There is no oxygen, no air pressure, no gravity.  Without the protection of a space suit, you would be toast.  In the movie, these dangerous, life-threatening situations kept occurring, but always in the background was all of this beauty.  The sun rising, the mountain formations, the blue of the ocean.  Truly breathtaking stuff.

It made me think about life here.  In our lives, terrible things happen.  Sometimes we have to dig deep and figure out a way to survive.  A way to go on in a productive manner and put our best self forward.  At times, you can’t even pinpoint the terrible thing that’s going on in your life; it might just be the daily tasks of life itself that you are having to survive.  Life is hard and there are moments you feel like you are drifting through space with nothing to grasp hold of.

But, then I think about how beautiful our backdrop is.  Yes, there are moments of struggle and loss, but if we can step back and look at the big picture, we can see how God really is in control.  How He has created the entire universe and everything in it.  How our lives are just a tiny speck in His plan to bring life and glory to Himself.  It’s hard to see it when you’re drifting, though, you know?

Gravity provided a helpful visual.  Yes, your struggles are real and they are intense and in no way do you need to ignore them and just say, “Well, everything will be okay.  I’ll pretend this isn’t happening and let God work it all out.”  No, I think He wants us to face our struggles and deal with them so that we can grow and mature as believers, but He also wants us to remember what’s in the background.  He has created a beautiful life for us with blessings abundant and needs provided for.  The immediate struggle is temporary in the big picture of life.

The Lord loves to redeem us.  That’s why he gave us Jesus Christ, but he loves to redeem us over and over by gently reminding us of what He has done.  And, boy, do I need that redemption on a daily basis.  It’s so easy for me to focus in on myself and my world and forget about the reason I’m here.  Jesus Christ is my gravity.  My gentle pull that reminds me of who I belong to and who I really am.  He is what keeps me grounded.

Colossians 1:15-20

15 “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Lord, let this truth seep into my soul, so that it’s not just words on a paper or an idea in my head.  But, something that I live out on a daily basis.  Remind me of my background:  all of the ways you have provided for me, love me, and redeem me.

What the Lord is Teaching Me

I am blessed to be part of a women’s group through my church.  We meet on Sunday mornings and talk about our lives, our struggles, our blessings, and whatever random stories happen to come up during conversation.  I cherish this time because it’s an opportunity to connect with other women, first of all.  And, second of all, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow and allow the Lord to bind hearts together as believers.  Really, how blessed am I to have this in my life?  Not only do I have amazing female friends, but these friends are also strong believers who will advise and encourage me with scripture and truth!  Thank you, Lord, for this gift!

We’ve been discussing Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick together.  If you haven’t read it and want a good devotional that brings Christianity back to it’s core values and meaning, I highly recommend it.  Fitzpatrick does such a good job of reminding me of what my salvation means and what it means to be a Christian…stripped away of all the definitions the world tries to give it and cut down to the bones of scripture.  It’s something I know I need to read and allow to sink into my heart this summer.

Specifically, the Lord has brought to mind over and over again one sentence:  “It’s not about you.”  NOTHING in this life is about me.  EVERYTHING is about the Lord and bringing him glory.  It sounds so simple, (as most things in Christianity are–love the Lord, love your neighbor) but it isn’t.  It is immensely more difficult than it sounds.

Jesus was a perfectly humble servant, even unto death.  Of all people, he had every right to feel good about what he was doing while on Earth.  He had a close relationship with the Father; he preached the gospel on a daily basis; he loved other people with a pure, unconditional love; he healed those who were sick; comforted those who were hurting and grieving; he resisted the temptation to sin; he was patient with his disciples when they didn’t understand his teachings and constantly questioned what he was doing; and he humbled himself to the point of dying.  Of sacrificing himself, taking on sin which caused his Father to turn away from him thus marking the first time they would ever be separated.  Ever.  None of us can even imagine the grief the Father felt on that day.  Worse than any grief a mother would feel after the loss of her child or a child would feel after the loss of a parent.  There is no comparison.  The Father and the Son had NEVER been apart from each other until that moment.  And it was all done so that the Father would never have to turn his face away from anyone else again.  Now, when He looks at us, He sees the blood of Jesus Christ covering us.  There is nothing that can separate us from Him because Jesus was obedient on the cross.

This is why it’s not about me.  I cannot take credit for any good deed, any act of love, any moment I open my Bible and glean truth from scripture, any time I sin and promise to never do it again, the blessing of my husband, my child, my parents, my upbringing, my home, my job, my stuff.  All of it.  Anything I am given, anything that I do (good or bad) is not about me.  Take myself out of the equation completely.  It’s about the Lord and bringing Him glory.  Even in my own sin.  God is so amazing that he can turn my sin into glory for Himself.  For, when I sin and try to not act on that sin again in my own strength, I fail.  Every time I fail.  But, if I give that sin to the Lord, realizing that He loves me and has already forgiven me, that he doesn’t even see the sin for which I am trying to atone for on my own (what?!), in that pure, perfect grace, I find that my sin has been turned into glory.  How?  Because from now on, when I speak of that sin, I will speak of the Lord, of his goodness, of his grace, his mercy, how he has forgiven me and how Jesus has atoned for my sin on the cross.  It directly points others to the gospel.  “In my weakness, His power is made perfect.”  Unbelievable!  It’s not about me.

He deserves the glory for the moments when I am able to love that student that has been driving me crazy, or when I find the energy to play with Bennett for 20 more minutes, or when I’m sitting on my computer typing a blog post about what He is teaching me.  Why?  Because love, energy, truth, blessings…all of these things come from Him.  In my human nature, I run out of these things.  And even if I can produce this on my own, the motivation behind it is wrong or I may be able to hold on for today, but what about tomorrow?  Again, it’s not about me.

This truth has set me free.  Now I am free to open my heart to the Lord, allow him to fill my cup, and allow that cup to overflow.  Now that I know this, do I do it?  Is life suddenly easy for me?  No way.  There is still a constant pull in the opposite direction, but the Lord is imprinting this truth onto my heart.  Little by little, he is molding me into a true believer that belongs to Him.

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon him;

Thus says God, the Lord,

who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread out the earth and wham comes from it,

who gives breath to the people on it

and spirit to those who walk in it:

I am the Lord; that is my name;

my glory I give to no other.

Sing to the Lord a new song,

his praise from the end of the earth…

Let them give glory to the Lord,

and declare his praise in the coastlands.

Isaiah 42:1,5,8,10,12