Archives for category: Religion

Looking for gifts with meaning this year? Want something under the tree that points to faith and joy?

Let me suggest 10 of my favorite things you can buy, a few items you might like to make yourself – and some ways to bring a spiritual focus to more typical gifts.

To buy:
1. For men or women: a scripture wallet sold by Treasured Word on etsy.com. The wallets, which range from $4-8, hold scripture cards and feature a see-through window in the front for the scripture you’re working on memorizing.
Scripture wallet
2. For a no-clutter gift: a standard pillowcase with a favorite verse. These cost $20 at local Christian bookstores and are made by people with barriers to employment.
Pillow
3. For those who like to host: a beautiful, modern kitchen towel with the scripture “They broke bread in their homes & ate together with glad & sincere hearts.” The towel costs $22 from maryandmartha.com. If there is still room in your budget, you could make your own soup mix or barbecue rub and add it to the gift.

4. For those who like to decorate: a lantern that reads “The love of Jesus is the light of the world.” Expect to pay $30 for similar lanterns at dayspring.com and at bookstores.
Lantern
5. For the young family: a daily devotional that’s perfect for reading at the dinner table. “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” was written by Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of my favorite storybook bible of all time, and I can’t recommend her work highly enough. The devotional is $17 – or you can buy a deluxe edition that comes with a set of audio CDs for $25.
HeartSing2
6. For the children: a nativity set that’s sturdy enough for the littlest fingers. Think felted wool, wood or plastic.
Nativity
7. For the slightly sarcastic among us: a T-shirt that has a picture of Jesus with BRB written underneath. They are $13 at SuburbanBasement on etsy.com.

8. For the art-lover: a watercolor painting or ink sketch by artist Michelle Palmer. Her nature-inspired work appears on everything from calendars and cards to fabric and flags. You can find her two stores on etsy.com and you can see glimpses of her projects and follow their progress by liking her Facebook page.
Michelle Palmer1
Michelle Palmer2
9. For the sailor: a coffee mug with a scripture and blueprint of a boat. Also, miniature boats with verse on their sails. Mugs are $10 at dayspring.com or find them at Christian bookstores and Hobby Lobby. Boats range from $19 to $30 at bookstores.
Mug
Boats
10. For me (and anyone else who likes silver jewelry): a ring with a faithful message. My two favorites are a band that reads “with God all things are possible” and a ring with a rose-colored crystal surrounded by the words “I am always with you.” Both are $80 at believebands.com.

To make:
Clothespins with a message: Add inspirational words like “hope” and “blessings” with inexpensive rubber stamps. (I bought my tiny alphabet set at A.C. Moore for $1.) Glue magnets to the clothespins or use them to clip on to gifts.
Clothespins
Clothespins2
Advent wreath: My grandparents had a huge black walnut tree in their back yard, and my cousins and I spent hours underneath those branches. When a storm took the tree, we saved some of the trunk and used a slice to create an Advent wreath. Is there something meaningful you could use to celebrate Advent? Maybe you don’t have a drill to make holes for a candle, but do you have bowls or teacups that could hold candles?
A tray that focuses on serving: Thrift stores seem to always have serving trays in need of upcycling. Why not add something related to faith?

To add a little faith in:
Binoculars: One of my favorite gifts to give children is binoculars. Why not add a note about the importance of exploring or enjoying God’s creation?
rainbowRainbow blocks: Blocks in the color and shape of a rainbow ($22, Grimm’s Spiel & Holz) are perfect for reminding people of God’s promises.
Books as themes: The book “Pirates on the Farm” ($13, Zonderkidz) practically begs to be paired with a pirate ship or a farm play set.
Pirates on the Farm

waiting for morning and new mercyIMG_7748It had started three weeks earlier with a loud thud, and by the sound of it, I wasn’t sure what condition I’d find my husband in when I turned on the lights.

Thankfully, he had just missed one step and hadn’t tumbled all the way down the stairs. But still, it was enough to send us to urgent care – and for them to send him home with a diagnosis of a fractured right ankle, which meant no driving.

Crutches for a stay-at-home dad who regularly grocery shops, cooks and cleans for a family of five. Orders to keep his leg propped up, even though we had planned a 2,400-mile road trip the following week.

And I was a mess.

I spent that weekend trying to figure out if we needed more toilet paper and what brand of sandwich bread we buy. I washed smelly socks, put away dishes and brought up board games so the littler boys could play gently with their dad.

We had almost made it to Monday when Benjamin started crying over a painful tooth. I went back to urgent care for a diagnosis of an abscessed tooth, a prescription for antibiotics and a directive to call the dentist. A couple of visits to the dentist’s office and one pulled tooth later, Colt tripped and fell.

This time I gritted my teeth when the woman at urgent care asked if I needed help signing in. I’ve got it, I said as Colt held his sprained wrist.

We left with X-rays and a brace – and with Benjamin complaining that his head and stomach didn’t feel right. This is the part where, if my life was a sitcom, the audience would start to laugh and the parents would rally and save the day.

Only I didn’t want to laugh. I just wanted to cry and hide until my life returned to normal. Instead, I cleaned the van, got the boys settled in at home and went to bed a little early.

Then, finally, morning came.

Benjamin’s stomach was better. Colt felt well enough to try to move his wrist, and I had a little glimpse of hope, a reminder that morning always comes even after the darkest of nights. It may take weeks, or months or even years, but light does break through.

And when morning comes? There’s fresh mercy and grace for all of us.

moving at God's pace

I didn’t mean to slow him down, but I merged into the lane ahead of him and I guess he wanted to go much faster than the speed limit.

He was trapped behind me for two, maybe three minutes and had to go 40 in a 35 mph zone until the car to our left moved out of the way. I saw his hands go up in frustration, saw in my rearview mirror the angry way he looked at me.

In a flash he was past me, probably driving at least 50 or 55 mph until he came to a red light and I came up beside him what seemed like only a few seconds later. He raced ahead again, zipping in and out of the lanes, only to be caught by the next red light – and only to find himself one car length ahead of pokey ol’ me.

All that work and all that angst, and he wasn’t much closer to where he wanted to be than I was.

I wonder how often I do the same thing. Push. Prod. Maybe even provoke. Only to arrive at the same place I would have without all the rushing.

I remember Mama reading to me about the tortoise and the hare but I think I may have packed that lesson away with the rest of my childish toys. I must have folded up the idea that slow and steady are OK along with the doll blankets Mama quilted for me.

I’ve little time for lingering now, little time for being still or even doing just one thing at a time, and I’ve fallen in love with efficiency at the risk of speeding past what is most important.

When the light turns green, maybe it’s time to ease up a bit on the accelerator and take life’s curves a little slower. Maybe it’s time to let God set the pace.

31daysoflovingyourneighborI started this 31-day series thinking that I would help everyone — myself included — see just how large our neighborhood is.

Turns out God kept bringing me back home.

I saw how my husband draws strength from me believing in him, not nagging him. I found I could be rigid with rules and with all the right things… and miss mercy for those I love most. I discovered that a friend needed to come to my messy home and sit on the porch and just be listened to while she talked through job options. And I thought about practical ways I can be a better neighbor to those who live near me.

I didn’t tackle world hunger or pack a shoebox full of gifts, but I feel like I learned important lessons this month — and I hope you did, too.

Thank you so much for following along.

May you be blessed and may you love your neighbor always.

Just this today… Are we fighting out of our fear or out of our love?

We have no shortage of battle ready Christians. That’s the problem. We need Christians who are ready to love.

– Ed Cyzewski, author of several books including “A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth,” “Unfollowers: Unlikely Lessons on Faith from the Doubters of Jesus” and “Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life.”

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