Monday, 29 December 2014

My Journey to Relational Prayer Part 1

Every year I choose a word to be my theme for that year. In 2013 that word was contentment and I used Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts to launch me on that journey. It was successfully life-changing and I"m grateful for that. I continue to count my gifts - from the minuscule to the great. It is a beautiful practise. Last year my word was prayer. I've felt a distance from my Father God lately that is not comfortable and that is very different from the closeness I once had with Him. Instinctively, I seemed to know that prayer is necessary to bring that closeness back. I started reading a book I had purchased some time ago by Larry Crabb called The PAPA Prayer. I didn't get far in it last year. Not that it is incredibly academic making it difficult to read - I wouldn't describe it that way at all. It is a more intimate conversational type book but also explanatory in order to give the reader understanding of what true prayer should be. No, it's not the style that held me back from reading deeper, it's fear.

I know that relationship with God is life changing and, frankly, I'm a tad comfortable with my life the way it is. BUT (and it's a big, important but) obviously I'm not entirely comfortable or I wouldn't have this unquenchable desire to draw closer to God.  So my word for this year, 2015, is once again prayer (as a side note, I will also be adding hospitality to that this year - tackle two areas outside my comfort zone in one year ... a huge goal!). I will continue my reading through this book and will not let fear overtake me.

The PAPA prayer is about relational prayer. A true prayer must start with relational prayer because relationship with God must be at the centre of everything. Really, it's what differentiates us from others who acknowledge there is a God but don't believe, right? Like the demons for example!

This is my blog and part of me longs to write profound essays that inspire people, or creative tutorials that help people in their creativity, and so on. And, it being my blog, I should be allowed to do that!! But I don't think that's being authentic to who I am. So, I'm doing things differently. I'm going to be vulnerable. I'm going to leave my comfort zone, one toe at a time.

This journey to relational prayer terrifies me. I know it will change my life because I know God will change my life. I have to trust that the changes He brings will fit with the life He has me in - married and a mother to 2, almost 3, children. I am afraid of new things. I am afraid of failure. I'm afraid of change. I like to be comfortable and change is not comfortable. But I know that this change will better me. I know it is for my good and, quite possibly, the good of my family!

A huge part of relationship with God is also spending time in His Word (the Bible) so I will also be including snippets of that adventure in these posts. I am attempting to read through the whole Bible, using the ESV Reader's Bible (that my lovely in-laws gave me for Christmas) following the advise give in this link from The Gospel Coalition: How to Change Your Mind.

So this is the start of my terrifying, life-changing, beautiful journey to relational prayer. I document it for my benefit - so I can look back and see what changes have occurred in my life, to see how God has been working in me; but I invite you along for the ride if you want to join me. I might not be profound and inspiring but I will be honest.

I can't guarantee any regular type of posting but, hey, hold me accountable and post a comment or drop me a note if you want to know how the journey's going! :)

The launch page for all posts in this series can be found here.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Is Santa Real? or Why Do We Celebrate Christmas?

It's the season of Advent, more commonly known as the season of Christmas. It's my favourite season of the year. I love everything about this season: the music, the treats, the decorations, the colours, the traditions, the excitement that fills the air so thickly it's almost tangible! :) But mostly I love how each of these things serve as reminders of why we celebrate Christmas. I love this season because it reminds us that, in a suffering world, in a world burdened by sin, sorrow, war, etc., God sent His on and only Son to be Immanuel - God With us - to redeem a lost world, to save us from the sin that enslaves us and to grant us life everlasting!

But where does Santa Cluas fit in into all of this? Because, lets face it, he's a huge part of the Christmas celebrations and traditions we see around us. And, in our home, with a very aware 4 year old, it is a conundrum that has come to the forefront and requires an answer. Our oldest daughter is very inquisitive and is not content with the simple answers people usually give to young children. She wants to know and understand!

Recently, she and I had a really good discussion about Christmas ... or at least the start of one:
"Mom, does everyone celebrate Christmas?"
"No, sweetheart, not everyone does."
"Why, Mom?"
"Well," I ask her, "why do we celebrate Christmas?"
"Because it's when Jesus was born so that He could die for our sins and be our rescuer."
"That's right! And does everyone believe in Jesus?"
"No, not everyone," she answers rather sadly.
"Right! So there are people who don't celebrate Christmas because they don't believe in Jesus."
"But some people don't believe in Jesus and still celebrate Christmas."
"Right, and those people celebrate Santa Claus and gift giving and enjoy those things."
... pause as she ponders this ...
"Mom, is Santa real?"
"Well, dear, sort of ..."
This led to me briefly mentioning Saint Nicholas but I changed the topic because I wasn't ready to go in depth with this ... mostly because I was driving at the time and this is the type of conversation I'd like to have face to face without distractions. :) But it still requires explanation. Who is Santa? Is he real? How does he fit into Christmas?

We have a Christmas tradition in our home where we wrap 24 different Christmas books - some Christian, some secular - and the girls get to unwrap one each day as a way to count down to Christmas Day. One of these books is called Santa, Are You For Real? (and will be opened this year on December 2 ... click on the book title to find it on Amazon). It explains, simply, the history of Santa Clause in a way a kid can understand, all the way back to Saint Nicholas. Briefly, saint Nicholas was a Christian man who lived a very long time ago and ministered to the poor, giving gifts to them in secret. It was in his memory that the tradition of gift giving developed and his name eventually evolved (devolved?) to Santa Claus. This is what we will talk about with the girls tomorrow - especially the oldest.

Yes, Santa is sort of real, because of who he represents. And I think it's ok to include this in our celebration because Saint Nicholas also points us to Christ. It was in honouring Christ that Saint Nicholas ministered to the poor. I want my daughter to understand (and it helps that she wants to understand).

Currently, she understands why we celebrate Christmas but she also believes in Santa. She understands that we buy the gifts that go under the tree but she also believes that Santa is the one that fills the stockings. When she saw the gifts (the books) under the tree this morning, she asked who put them there. I told her Mommy and Daddy did. She asked if we also help Santa fill the stockings. I took the opportunity to talk more about who Santa/Saint Nicholas was.  Is this bad that she believes Santa is real? I'm not sure it is - as long as she understands why we celebrate Christmas and why Santa Claus is sometimes included in Christmas celebrations.