Christ is unique


Christ is unique.

Consumerism offers the momentary satisfaction from a gift received.

Christ offers lasting joy in the midst of any situation.

Christmas parties offer a nice evening of fun and enjoyment with friends.

Christ offers permanent companionship with no concern over availability or unconditional love.

Christmas desserts offer a temporary delicacy that fill our taste buds.

Christ offers lasting fulfillment that never dissipates.

Christmas vacation offers a few days of rest with no work responsibilities.

Christ offers spiritual rest that restores our soul.

Christmas lights offer a festive mood to show our neighbors and friends.

Christ offers us the opportunity to be light of the world that can change a life.

Christmas sales offer the chance to buy some long needed things for our home.

Christ offers the ability to change our homes from the inside out.

Christmas meals offer the opportunity to enjoy our families with whom we don’t visit often enough.

Christ offers enduring fellowship through the promise to never leave us nor forsake us.

Christmas bonuses offer a sense of satisfaction over a job well done.

Christ offers that eternal validation that we are sons and daughters of the King.

Christmas music buoys our hearts at the thought of joy and peace.

Christ offers us eternal redemption which is true joy and peace.

Christmas traditions offer a sense of connection between the past and the present.

Christ offers divine purpose that we are part of something glorious in all of human history.

Yes, Christ is unique.



It’s Not Too Late


It’s not too late to celebrate Christmas.

I am not talking about the incessant shopping we are forced to do at this time of year.  In some respect, it is wonderful to buy gifts for someone else.  I like thinking about something special for my family – that open mouth and surprised look on the faces of my kids when they open something unexpected on Christmas morning.  Yet, the advertisers continue to blitz us with ad after ad regarding specials.  Deeper cuts, more discounts, end-of-the year sales that no one should miss out on.  It is easy to get sucked into shopping more and more because we don’t want to miss out on that great deal.  I for one have had enough shopping.  It is now time for me to reflect on the true Gift.

The calendar continues to remain full.  There are numerous activities still on the schedule.  They are fantastic events ranging from a Christmas program to serving the homeless.  I am looking forward to each of them.  Yet, it is easy to see these activities as things to do rather than events to enjoy.  December becomes a time of survival rather than celebration.  For many, this is the challenge.  They are trying to make it through the holiday parties and family obligations so they can get to that day or two where they can do nothing.  I for one have had enough surviving.  I don’t want to wait.  It is now time for me to celebrate eternal life in Christ.

Christmas is difficult for many people as there are small or even large family rifts.  Christmas is a dread as they think of making nice for a few days before retreating to their own home.  Or, there is a fall out with a friend or coworker.  Emotions of frustration or anger pop up as you think about the slights and hurts by someone you love.  Joy is sucked out as you replay the situation in your mind again and again.  Thus, Christmas is hijacked by someone else’s actions.  I for one have had enough drama.  It is now time for me to remember God’s grace through Christ in my life.

Christmas is next week.  December is slipping away quickly.  And there is a real possibility that we will find ourselves waking up in two weeks wondering what happened to the Christmas season.  We will be disappointed because we did not truly embrace the meaning of Christmas – the birth of our Savior.  It is not too late to celebrate Christmas – not the Christmas of gifts, parties and food, but the Christmas where Christ is central.  Christmas, where we marvel afresh at the amazing truth that God entered our world to provide hope and peace.  Christmas, where we find lasting peace and joy not found in presents and food comas.  It is not too late to carve out those moments of awe where we sit silently rejoicing in the glorious news that a Savior has come to us.

Mr. Grumpy


Grumpiness is contagious.

It is the one day you get to sleep in.  Your eyes open naturally after a solid night’s sleep.  There was no need for an alarm.  The kids were still sleeping so the house is completely peaceful.  You roll out of bed believing it is going to be a perfect day.  You stroll into the kitchen and make a fresh cup of Green Mountain Vanilla Crème.  You glance over at your phone fully charged.  It is such a perfect morning that you think, “I am not going to check my phone today.”  Habit kicks in.  You swipe it open and quickly check messages to see if anything important came in.  Your eyes scroll down and land on an unexpected email.  You quickly open it only to discover some frustrated comment from someone who decided to write an email in the middle of the night.

Ok, this is a scenario that we all face.  It might be a text or phone call rather than email.  But, it sets in motion an emotional downturn as you grow frustrated and irritated.  This one moment triggered a response in you that lasts for hours if not the remainder of the day.  You find yourself grumpy.  You become short.  The coffee does not taste as good anymore.  Duties for the day become a chore.  You are irritated at the slightest inconveniences such as the cold weather, the line at the store, or even the happy clerk.

We oftentimes don’t realize the ripple effect we have in life.  We are frustrated so we vent.  The emotions build up so we choose to air them.  It is our prerogative.  It is our right.  It is a common occurrence on social media as people frequently share their annoyances with anyone who will read, at times leading to a tidal wave of grievances by other people.

It is the highly unusual person who stops, takes a moment, and asks whether or not my mood will impact someone else.  But, we should.  Are there times where life is so frustrating that we need to share with someone?  Yes, of course.  However, it is far more common for us to become snarky at the slightest provocation.  And, in turn, it ripples into another person.  The other person becomes grumpy when in many cases there were not.  Our emotional frustration influenced that person or persons.  Thus, a string of grumpiness is triggered into other persons who woke up thinking it was going to be a perfect day.

Grumpiness is contagious but so is joy!

Rather than react to a comment what if we chose to leave it alone?  What if we took a moment and breathed?  What if we prayed for perspective and decided to not allow our emotions to be dictated by someone else?  What if we stopped the ripple before it began and determined to be an agent of joy?

Then, we offer up a compliment to anyone who is present.  We smile and tackle the day with enthusiasm and thankfulness.  Even though the line is long, we see a person with a dour face.  Rather than dismiss the person, we ask him how he is doing and say you love his jacket.  As you approach the checkout, it is clear that the clerk is having a rough day.  Hours of frustrated customers have worn her down.  You thank her.  You make a silly joke.  And you wish her an awesome Christmas.  Will she magically become joyous?  I don’t know.  However, it is certainly possible and far more likely than if we perpetuated grumpiness.

Is this not one of the reasons for the coming of Christ?  It is to offer us joy.  “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”” (Luke 2:10).  Yes, Christ came to give us a life of joy.  So today I can think of no better way to celebrate his birth than by choosing to make joy contagious by celebrating the gift of life in the lives of those around me.

Joy too is contagious.



Traditions are meaningful.  They provide a relational continuity from one year to the next.  These moments allow family and friends to look forward to an annual event to affirm and deepen one’s connection with another person or group of persons.  Looking back on them, they create nostalgia over sharing life with a friend or family member.  When a new year comes, traditions instill hopeful anticipation and excitement as we look forward to an event that will give us joy.  Traditions are good.

I enjoy traditions.  At Christmas our family has several meaningful traditions:

  • We decorate the home the weekend after Thanksgiving. Ryan and I enjoy stringing the lights outside while Penny and Ashleigh set up the inside decorations.  This year Ryan hung most of the lights by himself (with my supervision of course).
  • Several years ago we established the tradition of cutting down a live Christmas tree. Yes, we go to a farm not some random person’s home with an evergreen in their front year under the cover of darkness.
  • We celebrate a community’s holiday walk with dear friends. We laugh.  We talk.  We eat the samples offered by various stores.  And we affirm our friendship.
  • We choose an evening to see the holiday lights. We make a hot cup of coca, jump in the car, and see the homes in our neighborhood decorated with lights and music.
  • We go to Barnes & Noble and purchase some nice personal items followed by pizza and a Christmas movie.

It seems that our traditions are growing each year.  Soon we might have 25 traditions in December.  It will become the Gushiken Advent Experience.

Traditions are wonderful because they celebrate relationships, in this case our family.  They remind us of what is important.  These moments allow us to push back on the busyness and affirm what is most important in life.

Oftentimes, we do not purchase gifts, especially for birthdays.  Our practice is to choose an activity.  Usually, we find some experience that is new to us as a family.  The rationale is that tangible gifts are nice but in the end hollow.  They eventually get tossed in the corner, break down, or even returned.  Experiences grow fonder.  We look back at these experiences and smile at the laughter and joy in those moments.  These times have been true gifts, ones that I would never trade in, especially when the kids are older.

God knew that experiences are more meaningful and lasting whereas possessions are temporary and fleeting.  This truth is one reason God sent Christ to us rather than a physical, inanimate blessing.  Christ is the ultimate experience.  He always grows fonder as we reflect on His forgiveness and grace in our lives.  He sustains us in the midst of difficulties and celebrates with us in the highs of life.  And He knows the future, those moments where we will need Him most.   As we celebrate our traditions this Christmas, let us be reminded of the eternal relationship we have with Christ.