Sunday

4 Fun, Quirky Christmas Traditions

I’m a very intentional person, but I must admit that some of my family's nicest holiday traditions have evolved with no help from me. It's sad, really, since I’d like to get credit for some of the most smile-producing moments. I don’t know if you can intentionally recreate someone else’s holiday traditions, but perhaps reading my family’s bright moments will spark a few ideas of your own.


1. The stocking tradition. When our girls were young, we drew a line in the sand concerning how early they were allowed to wake us to open presents. I don’t ever remember having to wake them up because they’d slept past the magic hour. At least not until they were teenagers, and even then, they were usually more interested in presents than sleep.

But they were creative little geniuses, and while they knew they couldn’t open their presents until we were all awake, there was no moratorium on their stockings. Every year, one or the other, whoever awakened first, would haul her stocking into her sister’s room, and they’d open them together. Giggles, comparisons, and swaps while their parents slept on created a tradition that lived on even into adulthood.

2. The Pillsbury cinnamon roll tradition. Pillsbury cinnamon rolls are a magic food from my childhood. My family lived on a tight budget with no wiggle room for prepared foods, but when I spent the night at my friend Linda’s house, oh my. 

On Saturday morning her mom would crack open that magic can of deliciousness, pop the luscious treats into the oven, and amazing smells would fill the air. After slathering the finished product with sugary white icing, Linda and I were in cinnamon roll nirvana.If you’d asked me, I’d have unequivocally declared that heaven smells like cinnamon rolls. 

When the time came to choose a special food for our family’s holy day celebration, it was a no-brainer—Pillsbury cinnamon rolls—food of the gods. My children embraced them as eagerly as I did, and for many years the tradition continued.

Now that my girls are adults and more concerned about unidentifiable ingredients and preservatives, the special food pendulum is swinging back toward homemade delicacies. Some years I make my own cinnamon rolls, equally delicious and less likely to kill us, at least from preservatives. Our favorite hash brown casserole usually puts us in a carbohydrate coma, and sparkling cider or grape juice tops off our Christmas breakfast.

3. The White Elephant gift tradition. This tradition began before we had children as a means to liven up our family's somewhat boring, all-adult Christmas Eve gathering. Let’s face it, without the excitement wide-eyed children bring, adults-only gatherings can be a bit dull.

One year we suggested a White Elephant gift exchange. “Everyone bring a wrapped gift, something you don’t want, but is still usable. We’ll draw numbers, take turns choosing gifts, then swap and steal them from each other.”

My brother-in-law took the idea and ran with it. He’s the master of White Elephant gifts and loves shopping for crazy, silly, or unusual items. His signature newspaper or grocery bag wrapping paper only adds to the effect. One year I ended up with a can of mackerel and a box of crackers. My husband got a box of Good n’ Plentys, a coloring book, and a box of crayons, and my daughter bagged a month's worth of Ramen noodles.

One of our most memorable W.E. gift exchanges took place the Christmas before my brother-in-law died. He was in the final stages of lung cancer, and the realization that this would be our last Christmas with him hung heavily over us all. 

We gathered in the living room for the gift exchange, and my youngest daughter chose a pretty bag from under the tree. Inside was the book, The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, a delightfully skewed and quirky version of the traditional Three Little Pigs tale.

Sensing the heaviness of the evening and trying to introduce some levity, she launched into a dramatic reading of the book, complete with different voices and hand gestures. Before long we were all laughing uncontrollably. 


The White Elephant gift exchange had saved the day.


4. The chocolate-covered cherries tradition. When my husband was little, he saved his money and bought his mom a box of chocolate-covered cherries. He wrapped the box and proudly set it under the tree.

Christmas was still several days away, and one day he decided to open the box to check on the cherries. They were beautiful—creamy chocolate, gooey white filling, and a luscious cherry in the center.

Before he knew what had happened, he’d eaten one. He hastily wrapped up the box and put it back under the tree. The next day, he did the same thing, eating a cherry, then wrapping up the box again. When Christmas day finally arrived and his mother opened her gift, a single cherry remained. 

Every Christmas thereafter, he gave his mom a box of chocolate-covered cherries—with one missing.

Last year was our first Christmas without my mother-in-law, but the chocolate-covered cherry tradition continued. This Christmas Eve, we’ll open a box in her honor, and, yes, there will be one missing.

Family holiday traditions knit our hearts together, give us a sense of family unity, and express our heritage and diversity. Best of all, they bind the generations together. They're as personal and unique as we are, and really quite special.

Now it's your turn. What family traditions do you enjoy? Share your stories in the comment box below. And if you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online, scroll to the bottom of the post, and leave a comment there.



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Wednesday

Gossip - 5 Things You Need to Know

“Did you hear what happened with the Fredricksons? I suspected something was going on, but I never imagined it was this bad.”

Gossip is everywhere—break rooms, coffee shops, the gym, and, sadly, even in the church. Sometimes it’s obvious, like the example above. Other times it’s much more subtle.

“Jean, I want to share a prayer request. Did you hear that John’s fallen off the wagon again? We’ve got to pray for him and Chelsea. I’m so afraid he’s going to lose his job. And then how will they keep the kids in Christian school? I heard that they’re paying $20,000 a year to keep them there. . . and I think they had to take out a second mortgage to buy that new minivan last month.”

Google defines gossip as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”

Scripture has a long list of names for it: slander, backbiting, betraying a confidence, whispering, and tale bearing. However you define gossip, the Bible clearly warns us of its destructive power.

Here are five things you need to know about gossip: 

1. When we gossip, we break God’s greatest commandment, the call to love one another. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34-35).

2. Gossip hurts our witness to the unsaved world.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:25). 

Wounding other believers with our speech (gossipy “prayer requests,” whispered “I’m concerned about so-and-so,” and behind-the-back conversations in the spirit of “care and concern” doesn’t demonstrate an accurate picture of how sisters and brothers in Christ should act toward each other. The world sees this, takes note, and determines that “believers” are no different than unbelievers.

3. God holds us accountable for every idle word we say.

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mat. 12: 36-37).

If we’re true, born-again believers, we have the assurance that Christ took the punishment for our sins, even the ones we haven’t committed yet, on the cross. So when the Bible talks about being judged, it’s talking about a different type of judgment. This judgment may involve a loss of rewards (because gossip is certainly “wood, hay, and stubble” that will burn) or experiencing the natural results of being a gossip, like loss of trust and broken relationships.

4. Gossip will cause you to lose friends. 

 "A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28).

The most obvious way we can lose friends is to gossip specifically against that person. When word gets back to them, and it will, your relationship can be permanently damaged.

Another reason gossip parts friends is because sharing gossip, even if it’s about someone else, destroys our friend’s confidence in our trustworthiness. If Cara hears you gossiping about Shelby, then she’s naturally going to wonder what you say about her when she’s not around. Because trust is the foundation of any deep and lasting relationship, without it, our friendships will be superficial and stunted.

5. Gossip will find its way back to you. 

“What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:3).

The very nature of gossip requires passing along information. When that “information” makes its way to the person being talked about, rest assured, the tale-bearing breadcrumbs will lead straight to your door.

Now that we’ve examined these five scary truths about gossip, here are six questions we should ask ourselves before we speak:

1. Is it true? 


2. Is it kind?


3. Does it really need to be said? 


4. What is my motive in sharing this bit of information—to build someone up, or tear someone down? Look deeply into your heart and examine your true motives.


5. Would I say this if the person was standing here in front of me? 

6. Do I have a right to speak on this matter? Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?


One of the best ways to break the gossip habit, according to Chip Ingram in his Bible study, Five Lies that Ruin Relationships, is to listen more and speak less. This is sound advice, straight from the Bible: 

"When words are many,” Proverbs 10:19 says, “sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

I want to be known as one who uses my words to help others, not hurt them. I suspect you have a similar desire. As we pursue this noble goal, may the words of Ephesians 4:29 guide us:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Now it's your turn. Why do you think almost everyone struggles with gossip? What steps have you taken to help break the destructive speech cycle? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you're reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online, scroll to the bottom of the post, and leave a comment.



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Monday

One Way to Share the Gospel with Your Unsaved Friends this Christmas

Dear Hungry for God friends,

I suspect there are quite a few busy women on your Christmas list. Friends, co-workers, fellow church members, and your children's teachers, coaches, and babysitters, to name a few.

If you'd like to give them a gift that will draw them closer to the Lord, encourage them to spend time in God's Word, and think biblically, Hungry for God ... Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women is the gift you're looking for.

And what about those friends and loved ones who may not have a relationship with the Lord?

In the last devotion in the book, I share, in a winsome and non-threatening way, what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

If you give someone you care about a copy of HFG, you'll not only be passing along spiritual encouragement, you'll also be sharing the Gospel. Either way, you could change someone's life forever.

And that's what Christmas is all about.

I love the newly-designed, glossy cover!

For a limited time, Amazon.com has my book discounted from $10.99 to $7.95. That's a 33% discount!
Hungry for God . . . Starving for Time is also available at  BarnesandNoble.com, and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

If you live in the Columbia, South Carolina area, I'd love to autograph and personalize copies for your special friends. Email me at LoriAHatcher@gmail.com.


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Sunday

You Don't Have to Understand Everything to Believe

“Daniel’s a good man,” Catherine said, her dark eyes filling with tears. “He takes good care of his family, he works hard. But he doesn’t believe. Says it isn’t logical.” 

This mother’s heart was breaking for her adult son, and as we talked, I watched it crack open. Years of prayers, bucket-loads of tears, and nightly fears that her precious son would one day die and spend eternity separated from God spilled out in one frantic, slobbery, heart-breaking conversation. 

“He says it isn’t logical. . .” 

Tim, a college student at our Wednesday night Bible study, peppered my husband, our pastor, with questions—archaeology, science, biblical history. My husband is well educated and was able to present a sound defense of the Bible and its truths, but it was apparent that the young man’s questions were limitless.

“Faith doesn’t require us to set aside our intellect,” he finally said to Tim. “There are volumes of good, sound reasons and evidence for what we believe. But you’re never going to get all your questions answered. Ultimately, you’re going to have to exercise faith.” 

“Without faith,” the writer of Hebrews said, “it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6). 

The thought that we should be able to understand everything about God is ludicrous. And presumptuous. And prideful. 

Daniel and Tim would never expect to fully understand everything about Einstein, or DaVinci, or Aristotle. 

“It’s impossible,” they’d respond. “They’re geniuses. There’s no way we could even begin to get inside their heads.” 

Yet they and others like him expect to be able to fully grasp the breadth and depth of God? 

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” says the Lord (Isa. 55:9). 

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I am a passionate student of God and his Word. I believe God calls us to dig deep and ponder long in our pursuit of him. Yet the hammock in which our lives must rest is trust—even when we don’t fully understand. 

Lord, we pray with the psalmist, my heart is not haughty, 

Nor my eyes lofty. 

Neither do I concern myself with great matters, 

Nor with things too profound for me. 

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul. 

Like a weaned child with his mother; 

Like a weaned child is my soul within me (Psa. 131:1-2).

Quiet trust. Believing faith. 

What about you? Do you struggle with what you don’t understand about God, or is it easy for you to rest in faith? Do you think acknowledging the limits of our ability to understand God means we’re setting our intellect aside? Leave a comment below and join the conversation. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online, scroll down, and leave a comment at the bottom.



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Wednesday

From My Home to Yours, a Psalm of Thanksgiving




Our family will be sharing this psalm of Thanksgiving as we gather around our table today. May the psalmist's grateful words echo in your hearts as well. 

Happy Thanksgiving!




Psalm 138 

I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; before the "gods" I will sing your praise. 

I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. 

When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted. 

May all the kings of the earth praise you, O LORD, when they hear the words of your mouth. 

May they sing of the ways of the LORD, for the glory of the LORD is great. 

Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar. 

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. 

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever-- do not abandon the works of your hands.


To get your celebration started, here's "Thank You," by Hillsong United. Worship and enjoy.






If you're reading by email and can't see the video, CLICK HERE to hear "Thank You,"


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