Rethinking How We View Hardships, Struggles and Challenges

I saw the following post this afternoon from Leonard Sweet on Google+:

19th century British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace tells of observing several cocoons, waiting for the moths to come out. One of the larger moths was beating desperately with its yet undeveloped wings to break out of the cocoon. After several hours, Wallace could not bear to watch anymore. so with a sharp knife he split the cocoon, freeing the moth from its desperate struggle. In the ensuing days, however, as he observed this moth, he discovered that it was not developing naturally. Missing were the beautiful tints and shades of color that should have come into its wings. The wings’ growth seemed stunted, underdeveloped, and in a few days the moth died, long before its time. Wallace discovered that his compassion was actually cruelty, since the struggle against the cocoon was nature’s way of strengthening and developing the moth’s wings so it could fly.

Wow. What a perspective on how we view hardships, struggles and challenges. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for certain hardships to pass quickly to save myself some frustration. I wonder how much more I could mature in Christ if I embraced these times of difficulty and allowed God’s will to be accomplished without putting up a fight or taking the easy way out. Rest assured, the crucified life in not an easy one. Following Christ is a rough, bumpy road that’s full of potholes. Let us submit our anxieties to the Lord and leave them in His hands rather than getting impatient and picking them back up again.

What are you thoughts on the above passage?

Rethinking Christmas – Part 1: What it has become in our culture

Please note that I am not a scrooge, nor am I saying all parts of Christmas are bad and evil. Also let me start this by saying that I love Christmas, it’s honestly probably my favorite time of year. My purpose in this series is to simply get us thinking so that we can create better ways of celebrating. Ways that are centered around Christ and community. That being said, I can never wait until the day after Thanksgiving so that we can start watching all the great movies like Elf, Christmas Vacation, The Santa Clause, Ernest Saves Christmas, The Christmas Story and so many others. By the way, it’s a rule for my wife and I to not watch any of these movies until the Thanksgiving meal is thoroughly digested.

I even think decorating for Christmas is awesome. Some people like to have themed Christmas trees but my wife and I prefer complete randomness. Anything we can possibly think of to represent us, our family and our friends goes on our tree. We hang the stockings and even have one for our dog Murphie. Driving and walking around to find all the cool house that are lit is always a blast as well. I even proposed to my wife next to a giant Christmas tree on the corner of Second and Main in our hometown after taking a carriage ride through The Fantasy of Lights, a local park turned winter wonderland.

As much as there is that I love about Christmas there are still things that really get under my skin. Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year really bugs me. Not just because I’ve worked retail on Black Friday before and can sympathize with what cashiers and stock workers feel, but because of the transparent greed that overtakes so many people, yes even Christians. People become so crazy on this day that they actually trample other human beings just to get a good deal on that camera they’ve wanted all year. People are literally killed on this day because of consumerism and greed. Remember the year of the Furbies? Ridiculous.

As soon Halloween passes everyone instantly gets into Christmas mode. Last night as Halloween was nearing its end I even started thinking about Christmas and how quickly it was approaching. We start making lists of things that we would like to have for Christmas to hand out to our family members in hopes that we receive that new device that we can more than do without. Sure, sometimes we get things that we really could use, but for the most part my wife and I didn’t need a single thing that we received last year. We loved it all and were very grateful for it all, but we didn’t need it.

Growing up I always got most, if not everything, that I asked for on Christmas. I would study the Toys R Us Big Book like my life depended on it, taking notes to carefully create my Christmas list. Just like Santa, I checked my list twice, maybe even three times before turning it in. Imagine if I would have been that careful about my work in High School, I could’ve been first in my class. But anyway, I rarely didn’t get what I wanted. I’ll be the first to admit that I was spoiled, maybe even more spoiled than my other friends that were spoiled. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were and still are great. They’re not just super giving to their kids but to everyone. If they have an opportunity to spend a ton on kids they’ve never even met then that’s exactly what they do. But even growing up in a Christian home I could still see how easily consumerism and the love for “stuff” affected  people. With that in mind I began questioning how our culture and the Church celebrates Christmas over the last couple of years.

I don’t believe that everyone views Christmas the way I did growing up, you may not do gifts at all and simply spend more time being with family and reconnecting around Christmas time. But I do know that without a doubt when Christmas is brought up many if not most people instantly think presents. We may love giving more than receiving but I think that by default we still love getting things that we want…and there’s always something more that we want.

The easy part is recognizing all of this in the culture around us. It’s even easy to notice it in ourselves and openly admit it with authentic conviction. The hard part is making a change. Perhaps the best way to allow change is to learn our history. I always heard growing up that if we don’t learn from history then we’re doomed repeat it. I always brushed this off as I didn’t care much for history class growing up. But God has used history in a big way to guide my wife and I in the direction we’ve been going for the last 2 years.

Now that I’ve given you a glimpse of what Christmas has been like at times in my life I want to explore why it’s been that way. I’m going to take a look at where many of our Christmas traditions came from and even how December 25th came to be the day we celebrated Christ’s birth. After exploring some history I want to continue by giving my opinion about how we can center Christmas around the living Lord Jesus instead of just a manger scene and a fat old man with a sweet beard and red suit. I’m honestly not sure how long this series will last or how long it will take to complete each part of the series, but I plan to continue it. In fact once this series is done I will probably put all the posts together into one essay to make it available for download.

What has Christmas been like for you? What are the positive and negative traditions that you’re use to, if any?

Please make your voice heard during this series, its purpose is much for my reading and learning as it is the readers of this blog.