Category Archives: Faith

Taking the Emphasis off of Gifts at Christmas

Christmas. A tree with presents piled underneath and stockings hung by the fireplace. Growing up, we’d always wake up early and try to whisper quietly for as long as we could stand it. Our morning would start with emptying stockings and amazing homemade cinnamon rolls. We’d then sit around the living room floor and go into the presents! So many great memories.

Is it Christmas without piles of presents under the tree? These are 8 great ideas to help your family take the emphasis off of gifts. Need to read this for this year!

We know you can buy presents on a budget, but what if you simply don’t want to have your focus on gifts this year? What if you want to take the emphasis off of gifts? What can you do to help your children know that Christmas is more than just presents?

I have come up with 8 ways of taking the emphasis off of gifts at Christmas.

Choose what works for you and take baby steps. If you uproot everyone of your traditions at once, your day might be spent with a lot of tears. Young children won’t understand your verbalization of why you are doing things differently.

Gift Less

This is a great first baby step. Instead of doing no presents, simply have fewer and then incorporate a few other ideas into your day. Christmas doesn’t have to be this big elaborate deal. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars and have stacks of presents for each child. Be selective about what you buy. Your children don’t have to have everything on their wishlist. They might even appreciate what they do receive more than when their attention is divided between so many new things.

Family Gift

Stuff a stocking with little goodies for each family member but forgo individual presents and instead buy something everyone’s been wanting or go someplace fun!

Purchase some new movies, video games, board games, a swing set, trampoline or something that the entire family can do together instead of tearing through piles of presents. Spend the rest of the day creating memories and enjoy the one big gift.

Experience Gift

Go to the movie theater, rent a hotel room and use the indoor pool. If you live where it’s warm, take a trip to the beach or park. There are a lot of options if you think out of the box. Trampoline Park, museum that’s always been a little too pricey to make your budget cut, ice skating. This will, of course, depend on the age of your kids and interests in your family.

Add in special snacks and treats you wouldn’t normally have and make Christmas about the memories instead of the rush of opening presents that’s over in minutes.

If the experience you select isn’t open on Christmas day, spend the day relaxing, cookie decorating, movie watching, or serving and go on your adventure in the next week or two.

Go Serve

The family gift and experience gift both downplay gifts but you can take it a step further. Look around your area and find a service project your family can be involved in on Christmas day. Maybe help serve a Christmas meal.

I can guarantee your family will bond and you’ll remember this Christmas forever. Growing up we spent several Christmases delivering Christmas meals that a local church put together to those that are home-bound.

Go Minister

Contact your local nursing and assisted living homes. Spend a little time on Christmas talking with the residents that are spending the day without family. Listen to their stores, sing  carols with them, let them enjoy being around your kids.


You can either skip gifts all together and maybe have your family pick out items from the World Vision Gift catalog to enrich the lives of others around the world or give the difference of what you normally spend to an organization you select together.

Open Your Home

Keep your ears open around your work, church, areas of activity etc for those that have no place to go for the holidays. Invite them into your home, let them spend time with your family, enjoy a meal together, bring out the games and have a great time.

Christmas doesn’t have to be a day that revolves around gifts for your kids to cherish. Select some ways to take the emphasis off of gifts this year, you won’t regret it. Focus on family, memories, serving, and others this year and it will be a Christmas you’ll remember!

Have you tried taking the emphasis off of gifts at Christmas in your home?

Is it Christmas without piles of presents under the tree? These are 8 great ideas to help your family take the emphasis off of gifts. Need to read this for this year!

If you are looking for more Christmas posts, check out these:

11 Tips for Christmas Presents on a Budget
Gift Ideas for a Teenage Girl
Gift Ideas for a Two Year Old
Homemade Gift Baskets (Food and Drink Themed)
Losing the Christmas Chaos
Look Upward
When Christmas Becomes a Joy Killer

Or if recipes are more your thing, I have a fantastic fudge recipe you need to try!

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Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

10 Easy Ways to Encourage Your Pastor! Great things to do during Minister Appreciation month. There's even a printable list of things to pray for your pastor.

Guest Post by Andrea

We are entering into the month designated for “Pastor Appreciation”. Today I have a great list of ideas of ways to encourage and bless your pastor. God’s Word exhorts us to “Respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work…” 1 Thessalonians 5:12

My husband pastors a small church in the Twin Cities, Minnesota.  We are blessed to serve a loving, graceful community of believers, and have often been overwhelmed by the love they have shown our family over the years.  Although we have a difficult job at times, we are honored that God has called us and privileged to be in such a loving community!

These simple gifts of encouragement will mean so much to your pastor, and we can all do them.

10 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

1. Write him a (detailed) note of why you appreciate him, and give a specific example of a situation where God used him to touch your life.

2. Pray for him daily and send him a note now and then to let them know that you were praying for them. (Want a copy of the 12 ways to Pray for Your Pastor? Keep reading!)

How to pray for your pastor?

  • Pray specific Scriptures over him and his family.
  • Pray for his spiritual life to flourish.
  • Pray that he will be strong in the face of opposition
  • Pray that he will flee temptation
  • Pray that he will be spiritually “wise” and equipped for battle (Ephesians 6)
  • Pray that he is sensitive to the leading and conviction of the Holy Spirit
  • Pray that he has wisdom to balance ministry, family and other responsibilities
  • Pray that he fixes his eyes on the eternal reward and doesn’t get discouraged
  • Pray that he humbles himself continually before God
  • Pray for he and his wife: that they would be unified, give one another support and understanding, and that they would fight for their marriage on their knees and with their time.
  • Pray for he and his children: that he would spend sufficient time with them, validate and affirm them and that he would be present and available.
  • Pray that God would grant him breakthrough in his ministry: that he would see lives transformed!

If you’d like to have a copy of these ways to prayer for your pastor to print off an hang on your fridge or put in your Bible, you can download a copy here!

3. Drop him a note during the week to comment on one aspect of his sermon that stuck with you during the week. It will encourage him to know you’re listening! During the sermon, interact: nod your head, smile, and pay attention!

4. Respect your pastor! We, more than anyone else, feel inept and unqualified for what we do but we remember that God called the stuttering Moses to speak to Pharoah. It’s not your pastor’s qualifications that should  earn your respect, it’s the call of God on his life. When you disrespect your pastor you are ultimately disrespecting God. One simple way of showing respect is to call him by his title. “Pastor.”

5. Part of respect is open communication. Don’t talk about your pastor: talk honestly TO him! Respect does not mean hiding your feelings, not asking questions. It means to prayerfully, wisely, discreetly and lovingly address them to him.

6. Another aspect of respect is not to participate in or listen to gossip about your pastor. If you hear gossip, have the courage to stop and address it. Encourage the gossiper to meet with the pastor to discuss. Or, tell the gossiper something positive about your pastor. Give a public affirmation of your pastor in this situation.

7. One more aspect of respect: don’t evaluate and judge how your pastor and his family spend their money. This is easy to do when “you” are paying his salary! Yes, they should be good stewards of their finances, but be graceful, knowing that this may look different for their family than it does for your family. Remember Samuel’s admonition to Jesse that God does not look at the outward appearance but at the heart.

8. Ask your pastor if there is any volunteer needs in the church. Be willing to step in, do something different, do something you haven’t done before!

9. Verbally and publically recognize your pastor. Ask your church leadership (elders) if you can share a testimony or appreciation of your pastor on their designated “clergy appreciation Sunday”.

10. Participate in the community life of your church. Attend small groups and potlucks and prayer meetings. Tithe. Volunteer. This is a huge encouragement for your pastor!

Next week, I’ll be sharing ideas on gifts for your pastor (even ones that are free) and how you can also encourage his wife and children. I hope these are a help to you as you try to bless your pastor during Minister Appreciation Month!

Don’t forget to download the 12 Ways to Prayer for Your Pastor:
12 Ways to Prayer for Your Pastor! Great resource to print off and put in your Bible. Could even give a copy to your pastor to let him know you are prayer for him.

Post by Andrea 

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Being Kind Counts

Being kind matters and the little acts that we do throughout our day really do make a difference. There is a campaign going on right now called Being Kind Counts, encouraging us all to be kind and spread the message.

Being Kind Counts! You can be kind and make a difference - even on a budget of $0.

It can be easy to become overwhelmed thinking that acts of kindness need to be big and glorious or cost money to mean anything. Sure, those things do make a difference and are a great way to show kindness but they aren’t the only way. Sometimes the small and heartfelt things can mean just as much to someone. Being kind doesn’t have to cost money! It can be done on a budget of any size.

There might be times when your act of kindness isn’t even noticed. That’s okay too. We don’t serve and give to be noticed and acknowledged.

An example of a small way to show kindness is doing something you shouldn’t have to do.

I’m speaking from experience here. Last week I had two such situations arise. There was a shower at our church Sunday afternoon. Two staff member spouses hosted the shower. That means things should be cleaned up well, right? Well, I walked into work (church) Monday morning and dirty dishes were piled on the counter, the sinks needed rinsed out of cake debris, and the counters cleared off. I ignored it. I ignored it all the way up until Thursday when I was fewer than 2 hours away from being done with work for the week. This campaign crossed my mind and I decided to be kind and bless the hostess of the shower (even though they’d never know it) and also bless the lady who would walk into church early Sunday morning to make breakfast for everyone. #beingkindcounts

The second time was similar, only it occurred in our home. My husband takes food for lunch everyday and typically brings home the containers everyday or two. The rule kind-of is, if you stock pile dirty containers for a week or more, I’m not going to be the one to clean them. They get gross and stinky so he washes them when he lets them pile up. Well, one night Shaun came home with a Wal-Mart sack full of containers and set it beside the sink and said he’d wash them. They sat there several hours, maybe even overnight. All I know is they didn’t didn’t even move out of the sack, instead they were taking up valuable counter space. I was cleaning up the rest of the kitchen and putting away dishes and was about to go and request that Shaun wash them but I didn’t. Once again I remembered this campaign and sucked it up and decided to wash them instead. #beingkindcounts

This week as you are going about your normal life, I challenge you to look for little (and big) ways that you can bless those around you and show kindness even if it will never be noticed. After you do your deeds, pass the challenge on to two other people and keep the momentum going! You can go to Being Kind Counts and submit your good deed and read about the others.

Being Kind Counts! You can be kind and make a difference - even on a budget of $0.

What good deeds have you done recently? Any in mind that you are going to do this week?

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What is Your Response?

What is Your Response? One of worship and trust no matter your circumstances or one of "woe is me"?

I’ve been reading the book of Ruth the past several weeks. I’ve read it numerous other times but something different jumped out at me going over the first couple of chapters.

Naomi is annoying. Yes, she suffered greatly with the loss of her husband and sons. She wasn’t near her friends and family. Life didn’t go according to plan. It didn’t make her response any less annoying for me to read. Her attitude turns to one of “woe is me”. She says, “don’t call me Naomi; call me Mara, God dealt bitterly with me. I went away full and came back empty.”

Compare Naomi to another individual in the Bible who also came up against some rotten circumstances: Job. His response to suffering was to tear his robe, shave his head, and fall on the ground and worship. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job make the decision to worship God and trust in Him even though his life was turned upside down. Even in the midst of his suffering.

Only when Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem and the Lord blessed Ruth’s gleaning from Boaz’s field did Naomi change her tune. She went from “the Lord has brought calamity upon me” to “His kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead”

How easy it can be for me to get caught up in life and issues and stuff. I worry about health, finances, family, decisions. It’s so easy to act like Naomi, feel sorry for myself and the circumstances and uncertainty that I’m going through.

I became annoyed with Naomi simply reading about her. How much more so do those around me get frustrated with me.  I imagine they are wanting to say “Just stop. Let it go. Remember who God is. Continue to bless Him even when it’s hard. Count on Him to help you.” They see the big picture as I’m caught up in my own little self-focused world. Not only is it annoying it’s also dishonoring to my God.

In Philippians we are told not be anxious about anything. Peter tells us to cast all our anxieties on him. In James it says to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds.

It’s not okay to wait until the trials and worries are over and I am looking back that I trust Him. That doesn’t require trust and faith. Instead, in the midst of the battle, in the midst of uncertainty, in the midst of pain, I’m called to trust Him and to let Him carry my burdens however heavy they may be.

What is Your Response? One of worship and trust no matter your circumstances or one of "woe is me"?

When life comes at me, I want my response to be like that of Job’s no matter my worry over medical results, loss, finances, decisions or uncertainty. I want to cast my cares on Him even while I’m waiting for the test results to come. I want my automatic response to be one of praising and blessing God.

It’s not easy. In fact, sometimes I may not even want to but how much better it is when I obey.

What have you found to help your response be one of praise in the midst of the unknown?

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The Right Thing

What is the Right Thing that God is asking you to do? Don't be scared to do it.

Does this statement from Mark Batterson in Primal relate to you as much as it did to me?

I wonder if we’re so afraid of doing the wrong thing that we never do the right thing.

Ouch. I worry about what I know or don’t know. I think I can’t do enough or be enough. I compare myself with those I feel are better than I am. I ponder and wonder if I should have done something differently. Feelings of inadequacy, fear, pride, caution can so easily rule my life and consume my mind.

Do you notice a common thread in those thoughts? Self. They are all full of me, my, and I. When we are self focused, we are proud. Yes, even thinking thoughts that put yourself down are prideful – they center the focus on you instead of God.

However, when we are believers and recognize and get rid of that pride, inadequacy isn’t the end of the story. When I humble myself, I see my sinfulness and God’s holiness. I know what He’s capable of and that it’s not about me.

Mark goes on to say,

Don’t let that keep you from giving what you have, being who you are, and doing what you can.

The moment you put your faith in Christ, the best you can do is no longer the best you can do. The best you can do is the best God can do.

God never calls us to do something we’re capable of. God calls us to do things that are beyond our ability so He gets all the credit.

What a reassuring thought. I’m not dependent on my knowledge, my strength, my ability. God wants to use me and work through me in spite of my weaknesses even because of my weaknesses.

My job is to trust. To follow what’s He’s asked of me with faith.

Does this mean everything I do is going to be a success? No. At least not according to my definition of success. Ideas might not go according to my agenda; my plans might even seem to fail. Business ideas might be less than successful; a blog might never grow like I’d want it to; a large non profit ministry might not come to fruition.

But do you know what? That might not have been God’s purpose. He might be teaching and growing me, increasing my trust in Him, preparing me for something I don’t yet know about. There might have been one specific person that I was supposed to minister to, not thousands.

Let’s not get caught up in what we are or are not capable of. Let’s not focus on what others around us are doing. Instead, let our focus be on Christ and the right thing He’s calling each of us to do today. May we rest confident in His ability.

Does fear sometimes keep you from doing the right thing?

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