Taking Advantage of the Times

Taking Advantage of the Times
This Christmas you have an opportunity that you may not have had in a long time or ever. The present state of the economy and the hysteria of the news media gives us this opportunity. You can make changes and new traditions and use the economic situation as the stimulus to do so!
In our family, we are cutting back this Christmas. Each year we have tried to make Christmas a focus on others and not on things, but it is hard when children have lists; you have to buy a gift for a family member; or you are "obligated" to send presents to people you used to be good friends with but are no longer. This year we are cutting back on the number of gifts given and to whom we give. But, we are not trying to reduce the love we show, so we are getting creative and focusing on what is important.
Last year our daughter wanted, as a gift, to sponsor a child in Peru through Compassion International. Her request this year, her big gift, was for us to sponsor that child again. With the knowledge that there would be limited gifts, I was pleased that she focused on what is important.
We are getting creative this year as a family and as individuals. Once my children get through finals this week, we are going to bring back several Christmas traditions that we have stopped doing once the kids became teenagers. We are going to focus on creating memories instead of things, being thankful instead of wanting and giving instead of getting.
Another way we are giving gifts is through service. We have some friends who recently had another child. Our gift's focus will be on building the friendship and also giving them a break. Our children will babysit while my wife and I have them over for a very nice dinner, a night on the Harts. In this gift, the whole family is involved in giving. Another gift is that my wife is going to take a friend on an adventure, lunch at our house, then on to a few other fun things. The focus of this gift is relationship. A great gift can be a letter written to your parent(s) in how much you appreciate them. Write a dear letter then have it framed.
Take the present situation and get out of the norm; do something creative and different. Use this opportunity to get rid of the Christmas stress and have fun, love other people and to be thankful. Have each family member create a list of 10 things they are thankful for and 10 people they are thankful for and why. Have them write a note to each person.
Living in America
No matter what our economy is like, we live in America!!! We have it better than anyone else in the world. This season focus on having a positive, thankful attitude. Don't focus on how bad things are but on how good they are. ("Bad compared to what: Africa, Asia?" is my question.) Make your gift to another person a smile, a "Merry Christmas" and a positive, thankful attitude. Attitudes, like colds, are contagious.
The good news is that in trying times people focus less on things and more on faith, family and what matters the most. Maybe this economic state will bring this country back to its roots of faith in God, family values, love thy neighbor vs the current state of get it all at the expense of thy neighbor.
Raising Narcissistic Kids
Sociologists and psychologists say that each generation is more narcissistic than the previous one. We are raising kids who are filled with excessive love or admiration of themselves. We are raising kids who feel, believe and are willing to fight for their preeminence! Kids today have this expectation of certain "rights" that are not rights. They expect to be given things because they are your kids. They expect the family to revolve around their schedule. They expect to be entertained and are very impatient. Hear them complain if the Internet is slow.
Who's to Blame?
We are to blame. In the name of competition and raising well rounded kids, we have let sporting activities, social activities, entertainment, etc. control the family. We have let the TV or sports eliminate the family meal (if people have one anymore.) We have let social, school and entertainment control our lives through our kids. I heard a parent the other day say, "I would love to participate in that church event but I can't because of my child's event." What a noble statement until you realize that all the child's events control the family. The child is never not doing something that takes away from family time or time for parents to build their relationship or their faith. Children need to be told "No" more often than not when it comes to more activities. When I was growing up, much of my extracurricular activities was called "work." If I wanted spending money, there was plenty of grass to mow or hedges to cut. (Many allowances fall into the category of "free lunch". Does your child have to earn anything or is it just an expectation? No wonder so many want the government to bail them out.)
Parents have gone overboard with their children. The fathers of the 60's and 70's did not get involved in their kids lives. Now, the parents of the 90's and 2000's are so involved that they don't have a life of their own. Mothers are the family taxi. Dad's rush to one event after another. I can't name 10 people who have told me that because an event interrupted their family life, a child could not participate. The family was more important than playing soccer, band, or whatever. I know there a few of these people out there, but they are truly few.
This Christmas Be Different
This Christmas use the opportunity of downsizing to downsize your family's "busy" activities and "upsize" important activities. Give less presents but give more of yourself in relationship. Watch a movie together with your kids. Play games. Look for gifts that can involve the whole family such as board games, Wii or something that is not just "me" focused. Go visit your neighbors. Go Christmas caroling; go work at one of the local missions.
Invite someone who has just lost their job to enjoy a meal with your family. Get you whole family involved in helping them. Have a family meeting and reduce one gift for each person and give the money saved to the family who does not have a job or give that money to a homeless shelter, the Salvation Army or another worthwhile charity. If the family is financially ok, give them moral support, words of encouragement. Make them feel loved. Many times, people need to know that others care as much as they need financial support.
Make this Christmas less about you and more about others.
Why We Give Gifts
Most do not know why we give gifts during Christmas. Most just suppose it is because God gave us his son Jesus. True, but there is more, the story of St. Nicholas, a man who lived out his faith. He took his wealth and used it to serve others, not himself.
This is an excerpt taken from the website http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=38 Take this opportunity to read the whole story to your family.
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Why We Use Stockings
A famous story about St Nicholas, is about a poor man who had no money to give to his three daughters on their wedding day. St Nick dropped bags of gold into the stockings which the girls had left to dry by the fire. The sisters found the gold and ever since, children have hung up stockings on Christmas Eve hoping that they will be filled with presents by Christmas morning.
Hebrews 11: 1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Luke 1:26-33 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

Matthew 1:23 The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."
This Christmas season focus on your Hope - God with us. We do not just celebrate a baby in a manger or a "gift" given by a loving God. We celebrate that God came as a man - God with us! He lived a perfect life and died for us as the perfect gift, an eternal gift, the gift of forgiveness and salvation. Now he reigns as King of Kings.
During this Christmas season will you receive his gift of eternal life? If so, you have to ask Him and he will freely and joyfully give it to you. Do you already have eternal life? If so, this Christmas share your gift with someone else. For just as you can never give your smile away, you just reproduce it on another, share your story of faith in Jesus with another, do so in word and deed. You can give no greater gift!
Merry Christmas to all!!!!

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