In God’s Lap

Runners to the mark … get set … BANG!

And you are off and running in the annual holiday marathon. The winner will be determined on January 2, based on who has

• Accumulated the most points for the best decorations on their block;
• Attended the most holiday events;
• Hosted killer parties; and
• Saved the most money on Christmas sales, while getting everyone the perfect gift.

Bonus points are given for sending traditional Christmas cards, participating in the church choir cantata/musical/play, and helping to feed the homeless. Points are docked for failure to have home-baked cookies, packages sent too late to arrive before Christmas, and acting like Scrooge.

As you run this annual rat race, expect to occasionally have a twinge of guilt about not having time to stop and focus on worshiping our Savior, whose birth we are supposed to be celebrating.Your intentions will be good, and it will continually be on your mind, but you won’t have the time or the energy to make it happen.

But above the din of all the noise and the chaos that has become part and parcel of this time of the year, a still small voice is heard: “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother… is my soul within me.” It’s the voice of King David in Psalm 131:2 (ESV).

If anyone understood the pressure, expectations, and chaos of responsibility and deadlines, David did. As king of Israel, everything landed on his desk. He was the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the government. In addition, he was the Commander-in-Chief of the army and set the spiritual climate for his people.The very welfare of an entire nation rested on his shoulders.

How was he able to quiet his life and soul before the Lord in the midst of all the demands and stress in his life?

He learned to live his life with childlike faith.

He saw himself as a 3- to 4-year-old child, snuggled in his mother’s lap—old enough to be weaned but not yet old enough to care for himself. The cares and demands of life do not touch him as he feels the loving arms of his mom around him, knowing she will protect and care for him.

This childlike faith is what Scripture calls us to embrace. It is characterized by a simple, unquestioning, and accepting dependence on God. It is quietly submitting to and trusting in God.

This faith grows from the foundation of deliberate choices. “…my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and wonderful for me” (Psalm 131:1).

There had been times in David’s life when pride, haughtiness, and self-ambition were a struggle for him. But now he chooses a new path of humility before the Lord and turns his back on the selfish, ambition-filled life. His life is now focused on trusting in God and enjoying His presence.

This time of year gives us a good opportunity to see the clear distinction between all the demands society puts on us to have a Merry Christmas and the Lord’s invitation to step away from the self-elevating, self-exalting, and self-centered aspects of this holiday season. It’s an invitation to choose to climb up into His lap and allow Him to put His arms around us and draw us close to His breast so we can listen to His heartbeat.

Maybe society is on to something when it proclaims that Christmas should be a time of allowing ourselves to be children again, to be lost in the wonder of this season. It is time to embrace a child-like faith and celebrate the wonderful gift of God’s love, grace, and mercy in Jesus to us.

But remember, it won’t happen if you don’t make it happen. So sit down with your calendar and block out some time every day to get alone with the Lord to worship and celebrate Him.

If the stack of obligations staring at you on your desk or calendar is hindering you, take a walk, or jog without your earbuds, or bundle up and go sit in your backyard—whatever it takes to get alone and quiet with the Lord.

Climb into His lap, snuggle down, and listen to His heartbeat for you.

Merry Christmas!

Plan B

“In all honesty, we would rather not have you come.”

That was not the answer I expected to hear when I called the activity director of the nursing home to set up a time for our church youth to sing Christmas carols to their residents. It was the Christmas season and, traditionally, that’s when youth groups show up to share the joy of the season.

“Let me explain,” she continued. “This time of the year we are swamped every day of the week with every imaginable group walking our halls singing carols. But the other 11 months of the year, nobody remembers us. If you want to be an encouragement to our people, bring your youth during the off-season and just sit and visit with the people—they would love that.”

Ouch. She was right. So I told her we would take her up on her suggestion and call after the first of the year.

But this meant going with “Plan B”—whatever that was! The kids had wanted to go Christmas caroling, so we decided to do that but change the location and format.

So one week later kids of all ages, as well as adults, met at our church for a family night of neighborhood caroling. Our church was located in a declining urban area, and going door-to-door to share the love of Christ in song just wasn’t done—until that year.

At the beginning of the evening, we would walk up onto a front porch, and a motion sensor would turn on the porch light. As we began to sing, someone would peer out from behind curtains. By the second song, they would stand in the doorway, smiling and singing along. Soon, porch lights were turning on at neighbors’ homes in anticipation of our arrival.

When we were about one-and-a-half blocks from the church we came to a house that was dark. It seemed like no one was home, but we decided to walk up onto the porch and begin singing “Silent Night.” Soon, the front door opened a crack, and we could see someone standing in the darkness behind the door. As we finished singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” the door opened, and there stood an elderly woman. With tears streaming down her face and her lips quivering, she whispered, “Please don’t stop.”

She stood there weeping as we sang several more carols. As we finished a song, she spoke up, “We have lived here over 29 years, and this is the first time anyone has come to our house and done what you are doing.

“My husband died a little over two months ago, and I feel so alone. I didn’t know how I was going to make it, but you guys have given me hope and helped me to realize that the Lord has not forgotten me. I can’t thank you enough.”

Instead of singing our usual “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” as our final song, we gathered around her and prayed.

What started out as an evening of merriment and silliness, suddenly turned into a sacred moment of ministering to a lonely, heartbroken widow as the Lord used us as an answer to the cry of her heart.

Although that evening of caroling in our neighborhood was our “Plan B,” it turned out to be the Lord’s “Plan A.”

Don’t despair when things don’t go as planned with all of the ministries and activities that swamp your calendar this time of the year—the Lord is still at work.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps,” Proverbs 16:9.

Praying that you have a blessed Christmas!

Duane

What Your Volunteers Secretly Want for Christmas

I recently asked on my Facebook page how leaders appreciate their #kidmin workers and how #kidmin workers like to be appreciated this time of year. You can check out the conversation here (Post by Melissa J. MacDonald).

As you can see there were some great ideas on there. In fact, I’d love if you would add your own ideas to that post as well. I know a few people who are watching closely to glean from you.

You can also go to this pinterest board where I’m collecting volunteer appreciation ideas.

In the busyness of this season don’t forget to make sure your volunteers, your team, knows just how appreciated they are by you. Most volunteers will say they really don’t need or want much. However, I have discovered that regardless of what they say there are at least 3 things your volunteers secretly want for Christmas.

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  1. They want to know they matter.
  2. They want to know they’re making an impact.
  3. They want to know they’re noticed.

Whether you have time to make a craft for each one of your people (I did that one year, 60 snowmen ornaments and 9 years later I can say I’m still not ready to craft again….ever) or have time to write an individual note to each one (have someone on standby to do a hand massage) or have the money to buy everyone a Starbucks gift card (can I get an “amen!”?) make sure you give them the 3 things they really want. It’s amazing how a story of a volunteer’s personal impact can mean more than the nicest gift card and the most beautifully crafted gift.

Think outside the box. Have the kids write the thank you note you include with your bag of candy, tell a victory story of what God’s doing in kid’s ministry in big church as you have your volunteers stand and be recognized, take the time to write an individual note thanking each person and letting them know you spent time praying specifically for them, give hugs and a specific word to each volunteer as you hand out their gift cards, invite them over to your place for dessert and a time of sharing what God’s doing, etc. Go crazy. Just make sure they know they matter, they’re making an impact, and they’re noticed. Be honest, isn’t that what you want too?

Love on those volunteers and then make some hot chocolate and sit still for a half hour just breathing in the wonder and awe of this season and the great love of our God who sent his Son.