The moment you realize a worship song says something horrible

I am currently IN that moment so I thought I’d share. Have to get the thoughts out!

You can read all of the lyrics and see if it stands out to you, but it might not because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen and sung these lyrics and suddenly today I almost did a spit take.

For those who don’t know, Cornerstone is inspired by and uses lyrics from the hymn Solid Rock by Edward Mote in 1934. That may be why this slipped by me for so long. It’s all Olde English-y words. I love Olde English but it’s not usually the headspace I’m in during worship.

This is the line . . .

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

In all fairness, the group at Hillsong might not realize what they’re singing, because o the Olde English-y stuff, but this is not cool.

If you’re still wondering what’s wrong with these lyrics, “the sweetest frame” that he “dare not trust” is saying that he knows better than to trust a woman.

He’s basically saying

I know better than to trust even the most beautiful woman, but I trust completely in Jesus’ name.

Why are these things incompatible?

Why can’t you trust a woman and be saved by Jesus?

If you trust a woman, unlike the hymnist, does that mean you can’t be saved?

These lyrics are HORRIBLE!

I can’t enjoy this song anymore.

I’m bummed, but glad I’m not mindlessly singing mysogyny (at least in this song) anymore.

Speaking the Truth in Love

We’ve all heard the person who says, “I’m telling you this because I love you,” before they cut into you with laser sharpness or verbally offer what feels more like a sucker punch or a slap.

That is not at all what Ephesians 4:15 is saying to do when it says, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”

Let’s actually look at some context by reading the entire statement that Paul is making and see if that helps us understand what this should look like.

“1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one immersion, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all, and in us all. 7 But to each one of us, the grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Messiah. 8 Therefore he says,

“When he ascended on high,
he led captivity captive,
and gave gifts to people.”

9 Now this, “He ascended”, what is it but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.

11 He gave some to be emissaries; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; 12 for the perfecting of the holy ones, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Messiah, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah, 14 that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; 15 but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him who is the head, Messiah, 16 from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love.”

Paul starts by laying out the Gospel as a reminder of why we need to walk in a way that properly reflects our calling. He encourages believers to be humble, gentle, patient, and to “bear with one another” in love.

In what Paul wrote in the Greek the ideas of “humble” and “gentle” are connected in a way that explains the variety of translations of the idea here. You might encounter “lowliness and humility” or “humility and gentleness”, but the lightbulb came on for me when I learned about the Jewish understanding of humility.

In Hebrew thought humility is expressed as taking up exactly as much space in the world as God created you to take. No more – as that would reflect thinking yourself better than others and trying to steal the space God intended for them). No less – as that would reflect a lack of understanding of who you were created to be that rejects God’s intentions in making you. Trying to steal someone else’s space is as inappropriate as attempting to leave space empty as though God made a mistake in who He created you to be.

Humility is the what – gentleness is the how.

Paul is talking with believers about accepting who God created them to be, the space He intended them to take up, and the purposes He created them to fulfill . . . in community. And as these believers are coming to understand and figure out who God intended them to be, the space He intended them to fill, add the purposes He intended them to accomplish, they are going to bump into each other. They are going to find they are trying to steal this person’s space while also leaving space intended for them empty – resulting in jobs undone. They are going to make mistakes as they shed their junk from their pagan lives, and as they try to understand and embrace the walk God put before them.

Doing that and maintaining relationship requires everyone involved to be gentle with one another. Lowliness and humility means being willing to admit when you overstepped and the attitude with which we tell someone they overstepped . . . as well as how we encourage them to consider whether they were intended to actually fill the space they don’t feel worthy to fill. Humility is the what – gentleness is the how.

Paul gives us an example of how to speak the truth in love.

He then references Psalm 68:18

18 You have ascended on high.
You have led away captives.
You have received gifts among people,
yes, among the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell there.

It stands out to me that he left off that last line, but it wouldn’t have been lost on his audience in that day. Paul gives us an example of how to speak the truth in love. The reader gets the message that they are the rebellious people that the Lord is bringing gifts, without Paul coming out and calling anyone rebellious. Paul is gentle and humble because he is the one delivering the message but he is not the Holy Spirit who is responsible for doing the work of convicting.

Paul then lists some specific jobs that God calls various people to fulfill.  My understanding of these roles has changed since I began studying them from a Hebraic perspective and trying to look at how they were expressed and fulfilled in Paul’s world as a Pharisee.

emissaries – those who are commissioned to take the message out to the world beyond the church walls and establish new communities of believers

prophets – those who understand the Word of God in Scripture and can help translate it for their community while being connected to God with a spiritual awareness that allows them to see how and when those truths of God’s Word apply to an immediate situation

evangeliststhose who are called to brightly shine God’s love and truth into the world by the very way they live and share their love with those around them, serving as a beacon that calls others to want to know what is fueling their brightness

shepherds – those who are called to serve and love a particular community and serve as overseers responsible for feeding, nurturing and growing them up while keeping predators from entering the community and being able to attack

teachers – those who have a gift for explaining the truths of Scripture that apply to how we are to live and what we need to understand in order to walk a faithful life

Why did God assign people to these roles?

12 for the perfecting of the holy ones, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Messiah,

How long will we need people in these roles?

13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah,

What are they protecting us from until then?

14 that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;

How are they supposed to accomplish this?

15 but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him who is the head, Messiah,

What will it look like when they do their job right and we grow up into full grown adults in the faith and reach the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah?

16 from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love.  Truth in Love meme

The truth that needs to be spoken is Biblical Truth

This is a beautiful example of where the sum is greater than the whole of its parts.  Paul has provided us with a roadmap to maturity in the faithful walk of a believer and a picture of how to create an environment that nurtures them along that road.  The truth that needs to be spoken is Biblical Truth – starting with the Gospel and moving through the instructions that God gives us for how to live, how to worship, how to interact with each other in a Godly way, and everything Scripture provides for the boundaries and direction in our lives.

God wants us to learn these things in community with other people who are also learning these things. Those called to roles of authority in these communities are tasked with a very important job of protecting the “sheep” from the things they don’t know are waiting to take them down – paths that are not safe for them to go down, wolves who would kill them and use their skin to deceive others into thinking they are also an innocent sheep, and all manner of things that are able to discourage us and cause us to be fearful.

Love is the context that allows you to speak Truth

The only people we will be able to hear speak Truth into our lives are those we already trust and know love us. They are the people we will feel safe going to when we struggle.  They are the people who will know us well enough to know when to speak and when not to speak.  They are the people who know us well enough to know HOW to speak to us so that we can hear.  Love is the context that allows you to speak Truth.

The depth of love determines the level of authority

King David was able to hear Nathan the Prophet when he came to him about his improper relationship with Bathsheba because their story didn’t start there.  The foundation of their interactions and the development of their relationship with each other started long before and was based on mutual love and respect as well as a shared history.  Nathan knew how to talk to David, and David knew that if Nathan was talking to him it was Truth he needed to hear.

It is the depth of love that determines the level of authority someone will be given.  Leaders are not exempt from the requirements of those living within the community that Paul begins this passage by laying out in verses 1-3.  Leaders should come from those who are modeling these things to the level that people are already following them.  Since leaders can only lead you where they are going, it’s important to have leaders who are going towards the goal of spiritual maturity that Paul lays out as the goal of our journey.  When leaders are going to that destination we will want to walk with them.



Messianic Passover Haggadah

This Messianic Passover Haggadah will help you in a study of the Passover or in leading your own telling in a celebration in your home or community.  I hope you will be blessed.



Subordinationism . . . is that still a thing?

This is another article that we have moved over to Thomas Talks!

I hope you’re enjoying the new site and if there are any subjects you would like to see addressed there please let me know!

What we, the Church, can learn from Josh Duggar

With all of the talk about the Duggars that has been happening for the last several days, the one thing I am troubled by most is the message being sent to the world when the main supporters of how this was handled by the Duggar family are Christians who are demanding everyone should be okay with what happened, that it was a “mistake”, that anyone saying anything negative must not be a Christian or, at the very least, doesn’t understand grace.

I’ve heard loud declarations from posts, tweets, and blogs, that “this is an attack by the left-wing media/liberals/progressives.” I admit there have been some hateful things said.  I expected worse considering the Duggars, and their staunch supporters, are the very same people who openly attack everyone who doesn’t believe like them for being guilty of so many things – including the blatantly unsupportable accusation that everyone in the LGBT community is just waiting for access to molest children.  And we all know that molesting children is the worst thing you can do!  Unless you’re a Duggar and you say ‘sorry.’

I admit the responses have helped me to see this seeming hypocrisy through a new lens and I believe I finally understand their position on the Transgender and bathroom access, as well as their objection to gay couples adopting.  They sincerely believe that all anatomically male humans are equally at risk for molesting women and children if no one is looking.  They believe this is universal and the only way to keep women and children safe is to 1) limit access, and 2) encourage each boy, as early as possible in his life, to find a woman who knows her place and understands that through dressing modestly (to not bring inappropriate sexual violations on themselves by someone other than their husband) and willingly providing him with sex that satisfies every sexual urge that might arise within him, she is doing her job of making sure he is never put in a position to experience those urges in a way that might result in him needing to have sex with someone else or turn to the children around him to satisfy his urges.

I finally figured this out after several people actually came out and said that “anyone” would do the same if it wasn’t for the threat of punishment from the legal authorities.  The only response I find myself able to come up with for that one comes from a wonderful friend, who happens to be an atheist, who will be the first to say if the only thing keeping you from violating other people or committing heinous crimes is a belief in God, please please don’t ever abandon your belief!

The truth is, NOT “anyone” would do the same thing given the chance. But a big thank you to those who are saying that – you are making it even easier to identify people I should keep myself and my family away from.

I’m just left thinking about what it means to be a witness for Jesus and a testimony to the world and I can’t let go of this Truth: When atheists are clearly seeing that what a publicly professing Christian did was disgusting, immoral, and requiring of punishment, I have to believe that Christian has lost their moral compass. I’m not just talking what a 14yo did. I’m talking about the parents, their community, and every single person who is adamantly defending them!

My dear friend Rebecca Diamond​ reminded me of an amazingly appropriate passage that speaks directly to this situation and I wanted to share it with you. It is a reminder that “grace” doesn’t mean sin stops being sin, and that having received grace doesn’t mean everyone else has to pretend you didn’t do anything wrong.

I am sharing this so that those within the Church can be reminded of what God thinks about this situation and how it was handled, AND so that those outside of the Church can know that God’s response is not what they are seeing from the defenders.

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” Ephesians 5:1-13

This isn’t being said about unbelievers.  This isn’t an instruction about how to call the World out for their sins. This is about how to deal with these very things within the community of believers. This is about the response God expects from the CHURCH!

I’ve heard some Christians dismiss this entire passage by quoting the part of the passage that says, “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”  This is NOT saying that it’s shameful to call out what the disobedient do in secret – because the entire passage is saying that it requires being called out!  What it’s saying is that what the disobedient do in secret is so shameful that if you find yourself even talking about doing those things yourself, the way to stop yourself from doing it is to call it into the Light!  Don’t do these things!  Don’t even talk about doing these things!  If these things are being done by people in your community, call it into the Light and do not pretend that it’s not a big deal – no matter what anyone says!

So I will pray for the Duggars, but I will not support them while support means pretending like this isn’t really a big deal and since he said he’s sorry it all went away.  I will not be deceived with empty words. I want nothing do with fruitless deeds of darkness and I am willing to be among those exposing them.

Ultimately what I hope the Church learns is this …

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  Matthew 7:15-23

If those of us within the Church who are shepherds, charged with tending the flock – and this is the purpose of Pastors – fail to identify and call out the wolves, driving them far away from the sheep, then we will answer to God for that failure.  When we become shepherds who tend the wolves while beating the sheep, we become protectors of the workers of lawlessness.  I will not be among those who defend lawlessness under the guise of grace.  That is not grace. That is denial.

I choose to be on the side of God’s purpose of protecting the sheep from the wolves. I absolutely believe God can turn wolves into sheep!  I just don’t believe he does it by killing the sheep and draping the wolf with pelts.

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Messianic Haggadah

Haggadah CoverThe Haggadah has been updated and is in an easier to print PDF. I hope you will enjoy it and have a blessed Passover!



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10 Things We Can Learn from that Little Black-Blue-White-Gold Dress

If you don’t know what dress I am talking about you must not be on any social media and I am even more grateful you found me and are reading this!

This Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 7.52.25 PM is the dress that launched 1,000+ Facebook and Twitter posts, as well as offline discussion and mention on the nightly news.

To be up front about it, I am part of #teamgoldandwhite, but people I love dearly see the blue and black like some of you. I still love them. ;). I am very fascinated by the ideas that have been put forth attempting to explain the phenomenon involved and I welcome anyone to post links to valiant efforts in the comments section.

What I find even more fascinating is what the interactions over this issue are revealing about us as individuals and communities.  Here are 10 things I have observed.

1) Some people really need things to be black OR white. They are not comfortable in the realm of gray.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 7.45.31 PMAs someone who prefers all of the in between, it might be better to say I love the full spectral range of color.  It really is like some people are looking at gray scale and others are working in a whole different color palette.
Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 7.44.30 PM

This first point is one of the most fundamental differences I was aware of in all of this – people simply see the world, and interact with it – differently. Rarely does anything create such an instantly polarizing reaction, but this is at the heart of it all!

It is okay for those who are in a black and white world to hold to their perception. It is also okay for those of us who see all the colors to be very comfortable mixing and matching! It doesn’t mean we have no values or want to spin into anarchy. It just means we might wear sunglasses you don’t understand  and, occasionally, might see a picture on the internet that we really see differently than you.

I think one reason this particular issue was so upsetting to some is that most of the black and white thinkers that I know have at least come to terms and/or learned to live with the fact that others don’t agree with them on everything. They might believe in their soul the other person is wrong (unless they disagree on the issue of whether or not we have a soul, in which case please feel free to correct my efforts as needed in order to interact with my proposed idea), but they have come to terms with the reality that other people are sometimes wrong and at some point will let it go.

For example, they may accept that you loved the movie Dumb and Dumber by simply determining you must be the dumbest and they will have to endure you. (Okay, I admit it, I hated that movie – and Napoleon Dynamite – and even though I really do sing with all the colors of the wind I also get judgey about people liking them. I am human.)

Unlike movies or music or tv shows – things we know people hold varied opinions on – this is the very reality of vision and what we literally see before our eyes. We might disagree on the value of Napoleon Dynamite (it really is a very bad movie – I am sorry – it just was 😉 ) we all can agree on what was actually in the movie! With this dress, we found ourselves looking at the exact same screen, at the exact same picture, and disagreeing on the colors we saw. And not just in a “Is that turquoise or teal?” way – a disagreement my dear friend and I spent literally HOURS over, including many web image searches and even some paint swatches at a later date :). This is black and blue verses white and gold!

Is it really possible that the diversity in people impacts more of how we experience and interact with our world than we ever realized?

2) Some people need to be right and cannot accept two separate and diverse ‘rights.’

One of my favorite little cartoons is a stick figure on a computer. Another stick figure asks if they will be coming to bed anytime soon and they respond, “I can’t, someone on the internet is wrong.” 

Before we wrestle with too much of the metaphysical here, let’s just admit that everyone wants to be right – but some have a deep need to be right. I am fine entering that realm when the issue is a factual thing. When it isn’t, I am fine letting your world be beautiful with your neon (or whatever color you want to argue it is)! 5 children broke me of that. Now the main thing I resist is someone’s insistence that not only are they right, but that makes me wrong. Because, really, at the end of the day you can only see the dress the way you see the dress. To insist otherwise is to dismiss the other person’s equally real experience.

I see this in a lot of posts and memes insisting that things ‘simply are’ … whatever the issue is. One recently insisted everyone’s life is what it is because of nothing but the choices you have made. Or, put another way, if your life sucks it’s your fault. At one level I don’t disagree, but more in the sense that an empowered person will be able to perceive more choices and make healthier choices and can change their life from anything to something better! Where I disagree is with the assumption that everyone is empowered enough to even recognize that they can make choices that could change their life, or that a different life is even possible.

Empowered people can sit and talk all day about what unempowered people are doing wrong, but unless they work to actually empower them, it’s that proverbial clanging gong or banging brass.

But back to this dress, you can’t empower someone to see what they cannot see. And, honestly, we wouldn’t agree on which group needs to be empowered here. There really is no factual right or wrong to the question, “What colors do you see when you look at this dress?”

Of course, to be fair, the question was generally posed as, “What color is this dress?” Some people seemed to take this as presenting a question that was factually based. I saw it as a phrasing intended to set the person answering up for assuming there would be no disagreement – or at least a disagreement on nuance and saturation rather than one of this magnitude.

3) Some people perceive any disagreement as conflict.

I saw several posts to the effect of ‘can’t we all just get along?’ And others insisting it was ugly in any color. However they attempted to agree with everyone and get everyone to play nice, some people were really stressed just knowing everyone on social media was disagreeing about something.

It’s not that I enjoy conflict, it’s more that I don’t perceive every difference of opinion as conflict. In reality we disagree all the time about things. Some people like a movie, others don’t. In a sense, every time you don’t buy a shirt because you don’t like it or would never wear it you are disagreeing with those who bought it.

Disagreement can be healthy and, when handled maturely, an opportunity to grow and learn more about the other people in our lives. It is the diversity that gives life flavor! It can also be exhausting to try and avoid/prevent/stop conflict because …

4) Some people approach every disagreement as conflict.

While this goes back to the people who always have to be right, this is another level. Some people feel compelled to correct people in a way that is more aggressive and off putting.

I recently went through multiple courses on alcohol laws and policies (for multiple venues where I work with a Booster Club, not because I failed any 😉 ) and they were consistently clear that when confronted with someone too intoxicated to serve, the employee is expected to diffuse, not escalate, the situation. You never tell the person, “You’re drunk.” Rather, you offer alternatives and, when necessary, state your unwillingness to serve them using I statements that are factual and morally neutral.

This means instead of saying, “Listen Dude, you are drunk and you need to go somewhere and sober up,” it would be better to say something to the effect of, “Would you prefer some food or water? No? Okay, I will not be able to serve you more alcohol. I can get you something else, though.” I loved how it was explained for two reasons – first, I absolutely hate talking to anyone who escalates a situation and, second, when I encounter them I have always thought it best to handle them as I would a drunk person!

I don’t have to buy into someone else’s perception or accept their beliefs just because they demand I do. I also don’t have to make a big deal about not doing so in order to make sure they know I am not. People who approach every disagreement as conflict engage in debate instead of dialogue, and see the issue in terms of winners and losers. It is ok to hold your position without needing to annihilate your opponent’s. It is even okay to not see them as an opponent and just consider them a person with a different idea.

5) Some people are really squicked out by the very fact that the human brain is capable of seeing something two distinctly different ways.

There were some of my friends who were weirded out that people were seeing the dress so differently. Others got weirded out when they began to see it the other way! It can be very disconcerting to some to be confronted by two separate yet simultaneous realities. I have some friends who ended the day very unsettled and saying they would not be able to go to sleep because of this.

6) Some people believe that the ‘factual reality’ of the dress, as seen on Amazon actually matters to the discussion.

These are the people who would post links and declare the matter settled as though we were all picking out a prom dress and just grabbed the wrong swatches. It seemed logical that once presented with the ‘actual’ dress, all of our perceptions should just get on board and correct our crazy brains. Others of us are very comfortable with acknowledging the reality of the dress and the reality ‘as we perceive it’ of the picture of the dress. Yes, I see the Amazon ad as black and blue. No, that does not change the reality that I see the photo of the dress as white and gold.

7) Some people care a lot more about these kinds of issues than ones that truly matter.

I say this with no judgement because, honestly I have no idea why some people threw themselves into this issue. If it was less stressful than, say, the reality of a dying loved one, then I don’t blame you at all! If you find this kind of thing to be a fun way to blow off steam then, as long as you didn’t hurt anyone, whatever floats your boat.

I do pause with my friends who stop at these moments and ask what happened yesterday that the media wanted us to not notice. There is a very real possibility that we thought we were debating the colors of a dress and we were actually caught up in a wag the dog. Anytime something like this makes the nightly news I admit I wonder what headline they didn’t want us to see.

8) Some people will jump in with ‘answers’ and ‘facts’ whether they have any clue what they are talking about or not.

I would say I can’t believe the number of ridiculous claims circulated yesterday, but I am not new to the Internet and very little surprises me anymore. Some seemed plausible, some ludicrous. Some admitted they were guessing, others claimed to be the original poster. Some were trying to be helpful, others were just trolls. Another reminder to use skepticism with what you read on the Internet.

9) Some people will get louder as they try to persuade the other ‘side.’

This is like yelling at people from other countries who don’t speak your language–utterly unhelpful at either communicating the information or teaching them your language. I may have told one friend that it didn’t matter how emphatically she insisted it was blue and black, that wasn’t going to make me see it that way. (Okay, I *did* say that. I publicly apologize. I should have been kinder – and this interaction is what started me thinking on these things instead of the actual dress so thank you!)

And 10) Some people will let this disagreement ruin their relationships and some won’t. You get to decide which you are.

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Holiday Planning – Step 4 – Break It Down

771865_86700035Introduction to Holiday Planning

Step 1 – Let’s Get Real

Step 2 – List It All Out

Step 3 – Express Yourself

This step is going to be the hardest for some of you, but if that is the case then it should also be the most freeing!

If, like me, you aren’t someone who pays a lot of attention to details, you will have spent years rushing out at the last minute to buy things you were missing for that big meal, or that last minute costume or craft.  Every year someone in my life will describe their gift buying experience by referencing the Friends episode where Joey and Chandler got everyone’s gifts at the gas station.

Take your list of Have-To’s, and your list of top 3-5 Want-To’s and write each “to” at the top of its own sheet of paper. Now, break it down.

What is actually involved in doing each thing? This includes: the things you always remember and do early and easily, the things you forget until you start and then remember that you really do have to do X or Y, and the things you forget every single stinking time until when/if you’re in the middle (near the end? up late trying to figure out why it isn’t going right? ), and the things that someone once told you would make it even better.

Be thorough (however thorough you need to be to actually have a list that will help you). That should be enough to keep you busy for a few days, while I’m off playing in the snow and attending services and a wedding  

I’m hoping to work on my list and the break down this weekend 

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Holiday Planning – Step 3 – Express Yourself

706601_16153446Intro to Holiday Planning

Step 1 – Let’s Get Real

Step 2 – List It All Out

This step has a few stages. If you find it overwhelming, take a few days to work through it.  Stop if you feel overwhelmed and take a break.  Just make sure you come back to it!

That list you made, however long it is, go through and somehow highlight all of the things you HAVE to do — by HAVE to I mean you literally have to.

Does your office do a gift exchange? That is a have to.

If your children are school aged, what events do they have to attend?

Is there a show you need to be at so that they feel valued and loved?

These are the TOP of your list!  This is what is there before any of your want-to’s are even considered.

If you normally feel stressed at the holidays, you may find that this list is extremely long and that is why you never have time for the things you want to do.  This means it may not be your poor planning and you aren’t a failure!  Feel relieved at this revelation!

The good news is, with some planning you should be able to get some “want to” events on the list and you can have more joy!  When you get stressed and want to walk away from the process, let this keep you going.

What’s really important to you?  

Now, after you highlight the HAVE to events, go through the list and STAR the most important want to’s. 

If something is a “meh, that would be nice,” or even a “but we always did that growing up, shouldn’t we do that?” just leave it without a star! This is only a list after all — no one will be arresting you for not starring that thing you resent but have always had on your list.  You don’t need to confess to your parents that their tradition of making cookies you hate isn’t going to be part of the traditions you pass on to your children.  

Now, and this may be the most important part of this step, transfer all of the starred items to a new list and RATE them. Rate them most important to least important and use whatever criteria you want.  If you’re struggling with how to rate things you can step back and think about the things you determined are important to you.  If something is a want to but it doesn’t meet any of the goals for your holiday, rank it lower. 

You aren’t saying anything is unimportant.  You are just putting out there how you feel about each of them (which ultimately indicates how much energy you are willing to put into each of them being pursued).  You already think and feel these things — you are now giving yourself permission to and you are going to only keep things on your list that you are willing to invest your limited energy and time into including.

What you now have is a list of the things that you MUST do at the top of your list AND all of the things that you want to do — ranked in order of importance. This is your new holiday list!

The rest of your planning will involve working towards this list.  As you work through the steps for planning, you may find that some things don’t actually fit. You may need to remove some things from your calendar.  This step is where you work through all of the emotional baggage about events, so if you something needs to be cut for more practical reasons you can do it without so much angst.  If you are still going to be overbooked, go back to the list and see what ranked lowest.  Remove that!

Remember to rest

But don’t move on to that yet, take a break, that was a lot of emotional work!  Do something that keeps you feeling good about this process and remember that this is about being better to yourself in 2015 than you were in any year past.

One last note . . . just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  Some will be tempted to fill every space with something they are doing, thinking that being organized in the scheduling means you should be able to do even more.  Please fight this urge.  If this is a strong urge for you, or you feel guilty not doing this, please add “rest time” to your list and make sure you include some set aside time for resting every day.  You might even want to give yourself 1 or 2 days off each week —  Sabbath and an extra day that is just not about being busy.  It is at these times you will be able to enjoy the hard work you are doing.  If you have decorated your entire home every year and then felt like you turned around and were taking things down the next day, it’s because you never gave yourself time to enjoy your decorations.

Worst case scenario, if you have any hiccup in the planning – let’s say, for example, a child gets sick with one of the many things going around every December, and you don’t get something done at the time it’s scheduled, this is a time you can move it to and still get it done.  If your schedule has no wiggle room, all of those things you can’t plan for will throw off your entire plan. We certainly don’t want that!

I was surprised to realize how loved I felt as I unburdened myself.  Please share any revelations you are having as you work through these steps!


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Thoughts from the Sukkah part 3

sukkah 1I hate to give a spoiler to my “How I got here” series I’m doing — you’ll have to check it out to get the details and the bigger story — but Sukkot is special this year.

In this last year I confirmed my Jewish DNA and began to uncover the ancestry through which it came.

As I stand in the sukkah and wave the lulav, I am imagining generations of men, women and children doing the same — all the way back to those who dwelled in sukkahs for 40 years.

I am thinking of their lives.  Of the places that I have traced them.  Of the regions that my genetic code revealed to me.  I am thinking of the times and seasons throughout history that they walked, survived, learned and did things that are stored in my very own DNA.

Jewish or not, of course God knows us intimately!  As He palpated us in the womb (Psalm 139:13), He was very aware of the history of our genetics. He sees inside of our being back a thousand years to those who loved Him.  He also sees those who did not, those who were His enemies.

Recently I spoke with another friend who has been looking at his genealogy and we marveled at how certain lines are so interesting — righteous people who only open (backwards and forwards, although every so often there are 3 or 4 generations that give you pause) into more righteous people.  One line I followed traced back to the Puritans and included all sorts of amazing stories of the pastors and church founders. (Also, one of the first couples to be publicly scourged in Plymouth for indecency — I can only imagine they looked at each other. Held hands?  Maybe she showed her husband her ankle.) Farther back, in medieval times, there were men and women who retreated to monasteries near the end of their lives — learning that validated how I’ve always known I would have been a mystic!  Something in my soul connected to them when I learned about them.  How unsurprised I was to reach a point where the family crest included a Star of David.

I realize that beyond a certain point there is no way to prove the names of the lineage. (Some records go way back, but some don’t. Since I’m not looking into my genealogy in a vain way, or to name drop through history, I’m okay with that.) I actually began the genealogy part rather skeptical that I would find anything.  As I expected, most lines that open up go back one or two generations, if that.  As my friend so aptly put it, the poor didn’t keep records.  The few lines that I have been able to follow that go back much farther have been interesting to me – even where none of the names are anyone you or I would recognize.  Considering how often children from adultery were folded into the family and how rarely records of baptisms contain the same date as records for births, etc., I hold much of the information loosely.  But so far, it has all matched what I know of my DNA and that is exciting.  It means that the information is more likely accurate, more likely revealing to me people from whom I come.  It means, at the very least, I’m not off on a wild goose chase.

God knows all of these things. He knew them when I didn’t. He purposed them!

He knows what each of us will be ready to start out doing because He knows the level of our branch and whether it is currently attached to His tree or not.  Will He need to call us back to Him? Or are we all ready to go as soon as our feet hit the ground? He knows what we are capable of and what we will be willing to be capable of.  He knows the depth of our faith and the intensity of our hope.

He knows us.  Intimately.

As I stand in the sukkah this year and look forward with wonder and hope to Messiah’s return, I am aware that we are on His timeline and not ours.  I pray that I will be one of the people in my children’s children’s (should He wait that long) ancestry who have righteous stories attached to them. I pray that from me will come a thousand generations who God remembers because of me.  I am so grateful to those God remembers when considering me.

When a prayer begins, “God of our Fathers, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” it is asking God to remember them — to not just consider us, standing before Him as individuals who have confessions and requests.  It is saying, “When you look at me, when I stand before you, please remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob too.  Please see them standing here with me.  I carry their DNA and they were found worthy.”

That shouldn’t bring arrogance — as though that makes us more important than someone standing before God who cannot invoke righteous genealogy.  That should bring humility.  It should bring gratitude. It should bring perspective that left to ourselves who knows where we would be.  And it should bring hope that, even with all they did wrong, they are counted by God as righteous — God can turn the weeping of our lives to joy and hope as well.  That’s what He does!

In case you missed them . . .

Thoughts from the Sukkah Part 1

Thoughts from the Sukkah Part 2

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