Spend Less

By Erin Bird

With Christmas rapidly approaching, let’s jump back into our “Advent Conspiracy” series, conspiring together to make this the most meaningful Christmas ever. And to do so, here is the blog post from the Advent Conspiracy website on the topic of “Spend Less,” one of the four tenets of this “conspiracy.”

—–
Spend less is an ambiguous goal. Spend less than last year? Spend less than my neighbor? The truth is there is no formula. The challenge of this tenet is to be willing to ask more questions and then be open to hearing what God says in return. Some questions you could ask might be…

  • Is this something I want or something I need?
  • Why do I want to buy this?
  • What kind of company am I supporting if I purchase this product?
  • Can I afford to spend this amount?
  • How many presents do we actually need?
  • What did we do with the presents from last year?

You see, spending less requires us to plan. Instead of mindlessly shopping online and ordering more than we know what to do with, we take the time to think about each purchase. We strive to thoughtfully evaluate what we support with our spending, and allow our spending to support products, people, and causes worthy of being supported. By spending a little less on ourselves we are able to more joyfully give to others in need.

It is not enough to say “no” to the way Christmas is celebrated by many; we need to say “yes” to a different way of celebrating.

It’s important to remember that when we choose to spend less on Christmas presents, it doesn’t mean that we love our friends and family any less. In fact, for many of us, we’ve found that the creative, intentional gifts we give showcase our love – and perhaps God’s – more clearly than ever before.

More than just an invitation to say no to overspending, this is an invitation to a new way of celebrating. This year start a new tradition of spending compassionately and responsibly.

Some ideas to help you Spend Less this Christmas:

  • Make a Christmas budget and then stick to it. Don’t compare yourself to others; pray and do what is best for your family.
  • Research companies that are Fair Trade.
  • Pray for the people on your Christmas list before purchasing anything. Make spending a conscious decision that engages your heart.
  • It’s not just about the presents. Notice how much you’re spending on other Christmas activities (going out to eat, new outfits, wrapping paper, decorations, etc.). Find one area where you can cut back this year.
  • Write down five things you’re thankful for. Take inventory of how blessed you already are.
  • Set a spending limit as a family. Let everyone have the same amount to spend on each other. You’ll be surprised at how creative your kids will get!
  • Donate old and unused clothes, toys, and books to a local organization. Notice how much stuff you actually don’t use or need.

—–
By “Spending Less,” you set yourself up to “Give More” which we will talk about next week. ‘Til then, have a great week!

Making Christmas Meaningful

by Erin Bird

How are you doi…

What’s that? Oh, the topic. Yeah, um… about that. Yes, yes, I know, we just got through Halloween and barely are past the Election, but yes, we actually are going to talk about Christmas.

Ok, ok, simmer down. I hear you. I suspect by your complaining you are like me: no “Christmas” stuff until AFTER Thanksgiving.

Now, perhaps I’m wrong and you are of the I-listen-to-Christmas-music-beginning-in-August crowd, but I’m a fairly strict “no Christmas” kind-of-guy until I’ve had Turkey Thursday and spent the day with family thanking God for all He’s given. Then on “Black Friday” I whip out Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God” Christmas album as my family makes the annual trek to cut down a Christmas tree.

I’ve taken a bit of the same approach at Riverwood. We talk about Christmas during the season of Advent, but not before (excluding Operation Christmas Child). If you’ve been part of the Riverwood family for more than a year, you’ve probably figured this out. For the past two years, we’ve talked about the four tenets of Advent Conspiracy.

But as I talked with Christine Blessing (who edits these blogs) about upcoming plans for the future, it didn’t make sense to wait until December to talk about Advent Conspiracy when many of you will possibly have already begun your Christmas shopping.

And so, I want to be proactive and influence your Christmas purchases & choices ahead of time. And to do that, I want to talk about Christmas a month earlier than I normally do.

But why talk about the four tenets of Advent Conspiracy yet again? I’ll let the Advent Conspiracy team tell you:

“Advent Conspiracy isn’t a formula or strict set of rules; it is about reorienting our hearts back to Christ. It’s about letting go of traditions that actually take our focus away from God during Christmas. Things like overstuffed schedules, credit card debt, stress, and dread that have replaced the hope and peace the angels speak of.”

So, even though we’ve barely gotten the political ads out of our mailboxes before the Christmas catalogs start to appear, we are going to talk about Christmas to proactively make this Christmas incredibly meaningful. So join me next week right here as we dive into the first of the four Advent Conspiracy tenets – Spend Less.

Spend Less this Advent Season

Spend Less

For the month of December, we will be doing a series here in the News & Notes on three of the four tenets of Advent Conspiracy. We have looked at these four tenets in the past, but because of the cultural pressure around us, it is worth us considering again. So here is what we are going to do:

Each of the next three “Notes” will be a blog post from the Advent Conspiracy blog looking at one of the tenets. In case you aren’t quite familiar with Advent Conspiracy, here is a paragraph from their blog post called “Advent Conspiracy 101” that will quickly orientate you to their hope for Jesus-followers:

“We worship fully because Christmas is about Jesus. If we forget this foundational truth, everything else falls apart. Let our actions and our words come from a place of worship. We spend less because we know mindless consumption is not the way to celebrate our Savior. By spending a little less on ourselves we are able to joyfully give to others in need. We give more of ourselves because this is the way of Jesus. God gave us his Son and now it is our turn to reflect that same selflessness to the world. We share our time, talents, and presence with the people we love. We love all because we have been loved first. We believe that the poor and hurting of our world can be reached by God through the way we choose to celebrate Christmas.”

Even if you are thoroughly familiar with all four tenets of Advent Conspiracy, I strongly encourage you to read the next three emails so they can help you make the most of your Christmas season.

In Christ,

Erin signature
Erin


Spend Less
from the Advent Conspiracy team

Spend less is an ambiguous goal. But what does it mean? Spend less than last year? Spend less than my neighbor? The truth is there is no formula. The challenge of this tenet is to be willing to ask more questions and then be open to hearing what God says in return.

Is this something I want or something I need?

Why do I want to buy this?

What kind of company am I supporting if I purchase this product?

Can I afford to spend this amount?

How many presents do we actually need? 

What did we do with the presents from last year?

You see, spending less requires us to plan. Instead of mindlessly shopping online and ordering more than we know what to do with, we take the time to think about each purchase. We strive to thoughtfully evaluate what we support with our spending, and we allow our spending to support products, people, and causes worthy of being supported. By spending a little less on ourselves we are able to more joyfully give to others in need.

It is not enough to say no to the way Christmas is celebrated by many; we need to say yes to a different way of celebrating.

Christmas PresentIt’s important to remember that when we choose to spend less on Christmas presents, it doesn’t mean  we love our friends and family any less. In fact, for many of us, we’ve found that the creative, intentional gifts we give showcase our love – and perhaps God’s – more clearly than ever before.

More than just an invitation to say no to overspending, this is an invitation to a new way of celebrating. This year start a new tradition of spending compassionately and responsibly.

Some ideas to help you Spend Less this Christmas:

  • Make a Christmas budget and then stick to it. Don’t compare yourself to others, pray and do what is best for your family.
  • Research companies that are Fair Trade.
  • Pray for the people on your Christmas list before purchasing anything. Make spending a conscious decision that engages your heart.
  • It’s not just about the presents. Notice how much you’re spending on other Christmas activities (going out to eat, new outfits, wrapping paper, decorations, etc.). Find one area where you can cut back this year.
  • Write down five things for which you’re thankful. Take inventory of how blessed you already are.
  • Set a spending limit as a family. Let everyone have the same amount to spend on each other. You’ll be surprised at how creative your kids will get!
  • Donate old and unused clothes, toys, and books to a local organization. Notice how much stuff you actually don’t use or need.

Originally published at https://adventconspiracy.org/spend-less/

Love All

 

by Erin Bird

So how’s your Christmas season going thus far? According to the Christmas songs, this should be your favorite time of year.

But is it?

When you are at the office Christmas party, and Randolph has had a little too much to drink and begins to dance with the plant in the corner of the hotel ballroom, you begin to wonder if this really is your favorite time of year.

Or when Aunt Sally launches into another opinionated political tirade right as the family sits down for Christmas dinner, you roll your eyes and wonder why people say this is the most wonderful time of the year.

To be quite honest, it can be quite difficult to love certain people this time of the year. How do you show love to someone you would rather bash on the noggin with the elf on the shelf?

Well, if you don’t want to spend your Christmas in jail for assault, but rather truly Love All, here’s some advice:

1. Pray
It’s seems cliché and overly-Christian-y, but you really should try it. If you know you are headed into a situation where you’d rather deck someone than deck the halls, pray before you walk in. Ask God to help you love like Jesus loved. (Because some of those Pharisees that judged Jesus were mighty irritating, but we don’t see Jesus sticking those dudes on the cross, rather he died for them and their sin.)

Oftentimes when you pray for someone, you end up caring about them. So the starting point to Love All is to pray for those you struggle with.

2. Plan
Make a plan for what you are going to do when Grandpa starts ranting about some fringe theological viewpoint. What would show love to him and help him be emotionally healthy? Is it listening? Is it to calmly walk away? Is it to gently share an opposing view and help him see he isn’t nearly as right as he thinks? Prepare now for what would truly help the other person feel loved without enabling him or her to offend others.

In other words, apply Peter’s advice: “[I]n your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

3. Give
Last week, we looked at the topic of Give MoreWhat could you give to the “extra-grace-required” person in your life that will communicate the love of God to them without giving them continued permission to be a jerk? It could be a meaningful present, it could be something homemade, it could be your time, or maybe you could give a donation to a cause in their name.

As Proverbs 25:21-22 says: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

A Real Life Example
I remember a couple years ago, a friend of mine was complaining about her husband. They weren’t getting along. He was spending his time on things of which she didn’t approve, and he knew she was silently judging him. Even the kids were noticing the tension at home.

Because she knows I am a pastor, she asked me what she should do as a Jesus-follower. After we talked through some of what the Bible says about marriage and her role as a wife, I asked what her husband’s love language was. She said, “Gift giving.” So I suggested she get him a gift to indicate she still loved him and that he is important to her.

She glared at me for a moment, then grunted, “Darn it! You’re right. I don’t like it, but you’re right!”

Well, that very night, she was browsing a clearance rack and found some super-soft pajama pants at an amazingly low price. Immediately she knew her husband would love them. She told me she didn’t want to do anything nice for him, but she sensed God telling her to get them. So she prayed God would change her heart toward her husband as she threw the pajama bottoms into her shopping cart.

Well, guess what… it worked! Her husband LOVED the gift, felt incredibly honored, and then apologized for his behavior and decisions. She was overwhelmed that because:

  1. she had prayed about the situation,
  2. made a plan (reluctantly) to show love,
  3. then gave him something,

it helped to repair the breach they were both feeling in their relationship.

I can’t guarantee if you follow my friend’s actions, you’ll also experience immediate relational connection. But I do know that God calls you to love.

And yes, that includes your crazy Uncle Joe with his wacky conspiracy theories.

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