Monthly Archives: December 2011

Serve Just Because or Because It Will Have an Impact

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Traditions: How to Get Past the Meaningless to Find the Meaning (devotional for women’s Christmas party)

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Who are you going to meet for face-to-face time this week?

Who are you going to meet for face-to-face time this week?

Yesterday I met with two friends at Jericho’s coffee house. We went to Western Seminary together. Over the past year we’ve had plenty of Facebook time but hardly any face-to-face time. I am surprised so much time has passed since we’ve seen each other. And I am a little sad about that. Do you have friendships you haven’t put much time into lately?

We shared our lives. One friend is dealing with a catastrophic loss and the other is dealing with the challenges that come from running your own business. Right now my life looks and feels pretty good compared to theirs so I did a lot of listening.

As we left each other one friend said, “This has been an oasis for me. Thanks.”

That word oasis kept running around in my head. I finally went online and looked up the definition of “oasis.”

Spending time by the water is always as oasis for me.

Definition of Oasis

An oasis is “something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast to what’s happening in your life” (Merriam-Webster).

Additionally an oasis is “a pleasant or peaceful period in the midst of a difficult, troubled, or hectic place or situation” (Oxford dictionaries).

What or who is your oasis during this season? If it’s a season of glad tidings or bah humbug will depend upon your natural perspective, how well your expectations are being met, and for me, also upon that time of the month.

What brings you back to a sense of balance, makes you feel safe, and helps you get through the hard times?

Some ideas for oasis include . . . 

  • (obviously) time with a loved one
  • alone time
  • reading (especially Scripture)
  • an outdoor activity like walking along the river
  • prayer
  • creating

What are some “things” that have provided an oasis for you? 

I’d like to add traditions to our list of oasis. One definition of tradition is as follows: “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior such as a religious practice or a social custom (Merriam-Webster).”

And another definition is “a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present with origins in the past” (Wikipedia).

What are some traditions y’all do at this time of year?

Making time for traditions in our lives gives us an oasis in two ways.

1st. Tradition helps anchor us to other people. The laughs, love, and meaningful moments build strong bonds and memories. These positive bonds and memories help the relationships to deepen and to maintain cohesion during hard times.  These bonds of tradition are an oasis because they give us refuge, relief, and a pleasant contrast to the hard times.

2nd. Participating in traditions also gives us a sense of belonging. Traditions identify who “my group” is. The following are some unconscious thoughts/feelings we have regarding traditions and sense of belonging.

  • “My group celebrates this way.”
  • “It makes me feel happy and secure when we spend time together doing our family or friend traditions.”
  • “Because I am part of these traditions, I know I belong to this group of people and I would be missed if I didn’t participate.”

Traditions are an oasis. Tradition is “a pleasant or peaceful period in the midst of a difficult, troubled, or hectic place or situation.” It helps us refocus.

But as you all know, there is a downside to tradition. In fact there are at least 2 of them.

1st. Traditions can become legalistic. This type of tradition says, “this is something we HAVE to do.” And legalistic tradition says the activity “can only be done THIS way.” There is no room for growth or change in the routine even if it is better for all concerned.

2nd.Traditions can become rote. We do the traditions out of obligation. They become non-thinking actions. We do them just because that’s what we’ve always done. Rote-type traditions become meaningless at this point.

So what can we do to make sure our traditions are not legalistic or mindless rote activities?

Here are 3 ideas for us to focus on so this doesn’t happen.

1st. Focus on the meaning behind the tradition. Answer these questions.

  • Why was it originally started?
  • What made it so meaningful in the first place?
  • Why do you want to continue with it?

2nd. Focus on the moments while doing the tradition. Pay attention to what’s happening.

  • Observe the sights, smells, sounds, feelings that are going on.
  • Put away your to-do list – physically, emotionally, and mentally.
  • Be present for the moment.

3rd. Focus on the people you are with.

  • Think about how you can serve them.
  • Live in such a way that others feel noticed by you.
  • My sister Jenny Arnez wrote these words on her blog, Your Story Matters, which I think pertain to focusing on people. “I truly see you. . . I am listening. . . I appreciate you.”
A Tradition My Family Observed

When my family lived in England, several times my children participated in a village Christmas tradition. The children put on the Christmas story as told in Luke 2. The people of  Levington village would gather on Christmas Eve in the our one room church  which is about the size of Rudat Hall. Those children spoke the living words of history and truth dressed as angels, shepherds, and the Holy Family.

Although we won’t dress up, today we are going to also partake of that tradition. As a group we will read about how All Mighty God did the unthinkable, He became a helpless, humble baby and entered our world with flesh. He became Emmanuel, God with us, so that we could have eternal life in the future and God with us now. My prayer is that as we read Scripture together, you’ll find that it becomes an oasis.

NOTE: The above is the devotional I gave at our annual women’s Christmas party.

If you’d like your group to read the same passage we did, go to this link, Luke 2 The Birth of Jesus. I divided the passage, Luke 2, into seven parts: Readers A, Readers B, Readers  C, Angel, All Angels, Everyone, Shepherds.

Your Turn . . . Be sure to answer (in the comments) the questions asked in this devotional. 

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