With Thanksgiving over, the Christmas season is here. I don’t know about you, but it’s so incredibly easy to get sucked into the DOING:
It can get a bit overwhelming. And some years, Christmas comes and goes and I sit, knee deep in wrapping paper and eggnog, the birth of my Jesus regrettably, an after-thought.
I want this year to be different. I want to enter into the holiday in a deeper way. I want to make Jesus the focus.
Yet, truth be told, I don’t want to add another “To Do” to my already long list. I don’t want or need another way of DOING. I need a way of BEING this Advent.
How to merge my busy life with the simple life and love of Jesus?
I have an idea but first, which I obtained from a book. I’ll share more with you on that next week but first, let me ask you a couple of questions.
Think about your life.
If you are like me, you are feeling a little sheepish right now. Yep, I can badmouth another person quite easily, especially if they did something that I found mean or stupid or irritating.
As I thought about all of that, I issued an invitation to myself:
Lori, focus on Jesus this season by seeing Him in others. Talk well of everyone. There is no reason to complain. Just love others with HIS LOVE.
I wanted to make it a firmer decision. Right then and there, I decided on an Advent challenge:
I won’t talk negatively about others this Advent.
I love the idea because I won’t be able to do it by myself. If I am going to be successful at this, then I will absolutely need His help and grace.
I also love this idea because I love being transformed.
And He’s in the business of transformation. If you think about it, our entire lives are about transformation.
That sounds holy and beautiful. It can be. But. It can also be pretty raw.
As I look back at my life, one of those times of RAW transformation happened as I went from high school to college. I want to share this with you to first, make you chuckle. But I also want to highlight the process of transformation. It’s not always easy.
I went to high school in the 80’s, graduating from Wilber-Clatonia High School in 1985. My hometown was what country songs are made of.
Pick-up trucks. Cornfields. Hard working people that knew how to party.
One time I was fishing with a bunch of my friends and I noticed that every single male in the group chewed tobacco.
They sat on that river bank and would spit and I kid you not, it was kind of cool. They were talented spit artists. I wanted in on the action and I told my boyfriend that I wanted to try some.
He laughed and said I’d get sick but he handed me his Skoal can. I took an itty bitty dip. Over the course of about a month, I was chewing and spitting with the best of them. It sounds gross to me now, but let me tell you, back then, it was fun.
I even had a female friend join me. Yep, Debbie Keller chewed tobacco with me, which was just perfect because Deb was always on the crazy/fun side of my high school equation.
Another aspect of small town living: we swore. A lot. Everyone swore, because our dads all swore. We grew up hearing a variety of ways to make a sentence more meaningful, more powerful.
Small town Nebraska in the mid 1980’s consisted of parties, lots of drinking, swearing and yes, chewing tobacco. We were a Luke Bryan song.
The problem: I went to UNL (University of Nebraska in Lincoln) that fall.
I met a BUNCH of strong, amazing Catholics at The Newman Center. Most of them did.not.swear. And none of them chewed tobacco.
Yes, my Skoal can went to college with me. It felt incredibly awkward. I was a good kid, a good student. Yet evidently not smart enough to realize that nicotine, no matter how it gets into the system, is severely addicting.
I thought I could stop chewing it as easily as I had started.
But guess what? When you meet your future husband and you want to make a good impression, Skoal Long cut tucked into the lower lip is not an option.
So once my Russell came into the picture I suffered through the withdrawal symptoms and quit the chaw.
But how to quit swearing?
I felt, in the pit of me, that swearing was just fun and it relaxed people. In church-type group, I felt like they needed to loosen up a bit.
Well, one time a close friend told me that whenever I left a group, people talked about me and it wasn’t in a good way. They actually DIDN’T like my potty mouth and the occasional f-bomb.
After my friend told me that, I was a bit devastated. Here I thought I was being cool and adding to the group dynamic.
I sat with all of that. I acknowledged that I was jagged around the edges. But I also knew that my inner essence, the me of me, was beautiful. I, like you, was a rare and precious gem, but because of the environment I had grown up in, there was a lot of rough edges on this raw diamond.
I wanted my new friends (and my Russell) to see and appreciate the real beauty within.
So I decided I wanted to change. I issued myself a challenge: Stop swearing.
I developed a mental picture for myself: whenever I wanted to swear but held my tongue, I imagined Jesus, the Ultimate Carpenter, with a big piece of sandpaper swiping down a side of my rough inner self.
Every single day there would be situations where I would want to jump in with a swear word or phrase. But I’d pause, smile and say internally, “Nope, I’m not gonna.”
And I’d imagine the approval of Jesus as his big hand swept that sandpaper over the inner core of me, scraping away my nasty.
He needed my cooperation. He wasn’t gonna just go in there and clean me up, He needed and wanted my commitment to control myself.
I am not sure why that mental picture worked for me, but it did. I held my tongue and received, over time, a polished inner self. The EXCHANGE was powerful.
Not only did I stop swearing so much, I even started holding my tongue when I wanted to say loud, crazy obnoxious things...which was about every other sentence back then.
It’s 2018. I am 51 years old. As I stated earlier, I can get so caught up in the DOING of Advent.
But Jesus isn’t that concerned with the doing. He is much more interested in the BEING. So thinking about my current desires of wanting to be more in tune with Jesus AND recalling how Jesus helped me clean up my potty mouth in college,
I will enter into this Advent Challenge
For the four weeks of Advent, from Sunday, December 1 to December 25, 2018, I will not talk negatively about another person.
When I am tempted to complain, gossip or nitpick, I will stop. I will think of Jesus and I will hold my tongue.
Holy Spirit, you know how weak I am.
I humbly ask for the grace to accomplish this desire of my heart…
I like this idea because it doesn’t seem overwhelming. It’s a quiet sort of thing, a private mindfulness between me and Jesus.
How about you? Do you gossip, complain or nitpick others?
Do you need an Advent Challenge?
If you are thinking yes, that sounds good, then for four weeks, let’s actually prepare our souls for the birthday of Jesus.
Every time you want to talk poorly about another, consider holding your tongue. It’s a tough thing to do. But we serve a good and gracious God. He will take our efforts and transform them into beautiful presents, fit for a King.
Silly? Maybe. But I like it. I like it a lot.
P.S. If you have a daughter, I highly invite you to check out The Daughter Dare, our free online mini course designed for mothers and daughters to grow closer.