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10 days until Christmas…

Yesterday I was pondering my favorite Bible verse, Romans 12:2.  It’s so applicable to the Christmas consumerism and might just be another clue in finding the Christmas spirit.  Here is the verse in two popular translations.

NIVDon’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

The MessageDon’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

This one short verse floods my mind with vivid images, many of them exist as photo light paintings in a collection I’ve entitled “excessable”.  I was also inspired to paint this abstract rendition of Romans 12:2 earlier this year.

The details on this canvas were painted with cookie cutters and guitar strings.  I always start painting with brushes, but end up painting with my hands and three dimensional objects.  I guess I do that because I like the feel of the paint and the energy that goes into the painting by touching it.  I also like finding objects that produce intriguing impressions, creating a visual adventure on the canvas.  You can often find the ‘hidden’ eye candy in my art pieces if you look long enough.

The cookie cutters symbolize our current culture and represents the expectation placed on us to conform to our society.  The guitar strings could represent the ‘strings attached’ to us, but truth be told, I just love painting with them.  This painting was auctioned off last month to raise money for the Sons of Lwala benefit.

I’m thinking about Romans 12:2 lately because I desperately want Christmas to be different this year.  Does anyone realize that we’ve all been sucked into this vortex of materialism, buying things because we feel we have to, not because we want to?  If it’s the thought that counts, what does this say about how we feel and what we think of people?

The more I take notice of my surroundings, the more I see a contrast of rich and poor.  Also of good and evil.  However, I also see that people are slowly coming over from the dark side, doing random acts of kindness and serving mankind in very creative ways.

We have the ‘tinselectomy’ thing going on at the church and they’ve asked people to blog stories of helping others or stories of something nice that was done for them.  The problem is, this can’t be done anonymously, so most choose not to share their experiences.  They don’t want to be boastful or prideful about it, but we need to find a way to get their stories out there as an inspiration for others.

In talking to people and simply paying attention in my day to day activities, I’m witnessing so many stories!  People are doing wonderful things for their friends and for people they don’t even know.  I’m going to share some of these stories without using names.  There are so many, and I’ve tried to update my journal frequently to record all of them, but I know I’ve missed some.  I’ll just share a few of them.

The most recent story happened yesterday.  My friend called me to see if I needed anything, as I had a sick child at home.  I needed some Sprite and crackers for him, but I did not want to take him out of the house.  She brought everything he needed and also something for me.  All of my neighbor’s, together, picked up my other child from school and brought him home.

This friend that brought the supplies, whom has been out of work for several months, has a job interview in a couple of days.  To understand this situation a little better, her husband has also been unemployed.  She mentioned her coat being in hock at the dry cleaners.  She needed to get it out, but didn’t really have the money to do so.  Another friend overheard this, went to the dry cleaners, picked up her coat and brought it to her.

She didn’t get the coat right away, because she and several others were out serving lunches they had made for the day laborers, the guys standing in the cold, waiting for any paying job they can get their hands on.  These men sometimes don’t eat for a couple of days at a time.  We plan to make this an ongoing ministry once the Christmas season passes.

Knowing these men are standing in the cold, another guy I know, but not very well, bought a bunch of coats to give to homeless or impoverished people.  We have experienced some incredibly cold temperatures and I’m sure those coats are going to be much appreciated.

Many of these men have families they are trying to support.  Our church sponsored a party for the kids last week giving them some toys and an opportunity to talk to Santa.  Another friend, knowing many of these families don’t have cars, not only tried to arrange transportation, but she gave rides to anyone needing it.

I could go on writing stories all day, spanning from friends collecting money to buy a shower chair for a special needs orphan to paying for a person in line behind them at a restaurant.  Although these people have chosen to remain anonymous, their hearts are in the right place.  Are they experiencing the Christmas spirit?

Do you want to participate?  There are plenty of ideas available on the internet, or just try this simple exercise.  Look closely around you, through the lens of kindness and mercy, and you will see things you’ve never seen before.  Your mind will be transformed, as will your heart.

Also, if I peaked your curiosity earlier on the ‘excessable’ collection, here are some of the images.  Not really Christmas related… or are they?

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25 days until Christmas…

Only 24 more shopping days until Christmas!  Oh wait, maybe they’re actually going to open stores on Christmas now.  I feel awful for the retail workers.  Not only is this a crazy time of year for them, but they didn’t even get to enjoy Thanksgiving.  I know this, because I worked in retail for several years.  Doorbusters have been around for many years now, but as everything we do at Christmas, it has reached the point of ridiculousness.  If we can’t open earlier than the store down the street, than we’ll open the day before… Thanksgiving.

Let me just say I am all about getting a good deal.  Why can’t these stores just all give good prices and run some regular sales instead of creating mass chaos?  The stores are controlling people.  The stores decide when we shop, how we shop and what we buy.  And if Black Friday isn’t enough, we now have Cyber Monday.  UPS, get ready.

My 24 days left will be spent avoiding stores.  The few gifts I am buying were purchased at a local discount, hole-in-the-wall store.  Yes, they do still exist, but they aren’t easy to find.  I also made my one online purchase, the one gift my kids are getting besides their passports this year.  The gift was $19.95.  The rest of the money we would spend on Christmas?   It’s going to Casa Hogar Elim in Mexico, to the Sons of Lwala in Kenya and to some local compassion ministries in Frisco, Texas.  Have a tinselectomy!  I did.

Elizabeth and I found a new form of holiday entertainment, well, probably more like a hobby.  We went Santa shooting last weekend.  No, not with a gun silly, a camera.  We will be doing this throughout the ‘season’ and will share some photos with you!

This is our first find, and quite honestly, the most funny and somewhat disturbing.  I like to call ‘The Symmetrical Hazy Plastic People Nativity Scene with Flying Peanuts’.  Yes, because inflatables aren’t weird enough just sitting on the ground, let’s bungee it across the walkway so Charlie Brown and Snoopy can hoover over baby Jesus and hit people in the head if they come visit us.

If this is your house, and you’re reading my blog, just know that I also do some weird Christmas things, so don’t be offended.  We’re just having a little fun.  I use flamingos in my yard and I have a full size mannequin named Darla.

More Christmas fun tomorrow…


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