Christmas Quiz – [an experiment in folklore]

Christmas Quiz – [an experiment in folklore]

How well do you know the Christmas story? If you’ve walked the aisles of Hobby Lobby among the nativity sets, or watched TV at all in your life, you probably have a decent understanding of this historic event. But how well do you know the details?

I’ve been in church for as long as I can remember.  My stepdad was the worship & youth pastor at a small Baptist church. My mother was a financial director at a larger Baptist church.  We sat on the third row every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and any other time the door was open.  Attending church was as much a part of our daily lives as breakfast. It didn’t matter if you felt like going to church on Sunday morning, you went unless you were sick — really sick. Even then, mom promised it was only for about an hour and let’s face it, a little old-time religion might do you good.

You’d think I would be well-versed on the biblical account of Jesus’ birth.  To my surprise, I found I wasn’t the Christmas scholar I boasted to be.  However, as a consolation, I learned my family didn’t initially perform much better on this quiz!  It’s a humbling activity that exposes how often we accept someone else’s version of the truth as the absolute.

Be careful friends. This quiz is tricky. Give it a try with your family this year! [Download the Christmas Quiz .pdf]

1. Joseph was originally from …
a. Bethlehem
b. Nazareth
c. Hebron
d. Jerusalem
e. None of the above / unknown

2. What does the Bible say the innkeeper said to Mary and Joseph?
a. “There is no room in the inn”

b. “I have a stable you can use”
c. “Please come back later”
d. Both A and B
e. None of the above / unknown

3. A manger is…
a. stable for domestic animals
b. wooden hay storage bin
c. feeding trough
d. barn
e. none of the above / unknown

4. Which animals does the Bible list as being present at Jesus’ birth?
a. cows, sheep, goats

b. sheep and goats only
c. miscellaneous barnyard animals
d. cows, donkeys, and goats
e. none of the above / unknown

5. According to the Bible, how did Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem?
a. camel

b. donkey
c. chariot
d. Joseph walked, Mary rode a donkey
e. none of the above / unknown

6. What did the angels say/sing?
a. “Glory to God in the highest”

b. “Joy to the world”
c. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”
d. “Alleluia”
e. “Amazing grace

7. What is frankincense?
a. precious metal

b. precious fabric
c. precious animal fur
d. precious perfume
e.  none of the above / unknown

8. What is myrrh?
a. Middle Eastern money 

b. spice used for burial
c. an easily shaped metal
d. a drink
e.  none of the above / unknown

9. How many wise men came to see Jesus?
a. 3

b. 9
c. 12
d. 6
e. none of the above / unknown

10. Where did the wise men find Jesus?
a. In a manger
b. In Nazareth
c. In a house
d. In a stable
e. none of the above / unknown

11. When the wise men found Jesus he was…
a. baby wrapped in swaddling clothes

b. a boy in the temple
c. a grown man
d. a young child
e. none of the above / unknown

12. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem…
a. to inform Herod about Jesus

b. to ask about the star
c. to buy presents
d. to find out where Jesus was
e.  none of the above / unknown

13. In which gospels do you find the birth of Christ?
a. Matthew, Mark, Luke

b. Matthew, Luke, John
c. Matthew only
d. Matthew, Luke
e. none of the above / unknown

14. Who told Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem?
a. an angel
b. Caesar Augustus
c. Herod
d. the Old Testament
e.  none of the above / unknown

Do you want the answers?  Sorry friend.  Taking someone else’s word for it is what got us into this clueless mess.  Crack open the Word of God and search the scriptures for the answers.  You might be surprised. I’ll give you this much: The story of Jesus’ birth can be found in Matthew 1:18-2:23 and Luke 2:1-20.)

How well did you do?

Christmas Quiz

Look at Me When I’m Talking to You – [an experiment in expecting]

Look at Me When I’m Talking to You – [an experiment in expecting]

Look at me when I’m talking to you!  How often do you say this?  I’ve said it 3700 times. Just this month.

Why is it difficult to get my children to look me in the eyes when I’m giving a (perfectly crafted, well delivered, and rhetorically magnificent) lecture? Perhaps they don’t expect what I have to say will benefit them.

Such was the lame man at the Beautiful Gate in Acts 3. (Hey friend, do not skip reading the scripture because you’ve “heard it 1000 times.” You’re already here, just do it.)

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms.  And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”  And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.  But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”  And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.  And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.  And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.  (Acts 3:1-10, ESV)

#hearditbefore. I know. The lame man carried by someone else, sitting at the gate, day after day, begging. Peter and John walk by, offer him nothing of worldly value. They simply extend a hand, look him in the eye and heal all the broken places in him.  Then he goes on his way, practically break-dancing in the streets. Right on, not-so-lame man. Dance it out.

Don’t miss what jumped out at me as I read this. Before he went into the temple, notice his location. He was plopped down at the Beautiful Gate. Not the Ugly Gate. Not the Mundane Gate, not the Impossible Gate.  It was called beautiful, and it was taunting him day after day while he sat close enough to see what he didn’t have.

How often do I sit at the Beautiful Gate of motherhood, envious of Instagramably perfect families, dreaming of what life with children should look like?  We all know sassy kids, rebellious teens and a sink of dirty dishes is the furthest thing from beautiful on a Monday morning. I’ve been known to accept a less-than-joyful day as the norm and wear my frustration like a permanent tattoo. I can see what I want, but too crippled to attain it. As much as we long to walk through the beautiful, we are often too content to sit — broken and lacking — and settle for the mundane life of the spiritually lame.  

That lame man sat at the gate, eyes cast downward, mumbling as he begged, passing time until he was carried home again. Same story, every day — a few coins in the can, a couple “excuse me” grunts as people tripped over him, a handful of pitied looks cast his way — just part of the daily grind of going nowhere. Peter and John, rather than simply stepping around him or ignoring his appeal, called to him, “Look at us.” Maybe Peter even raised his voice and called, “I said look at me when I’m talking to you!” A crippled man on the ground would have to look up and acknowledge such a charge. Then scripture says the man gave them his attention and expected to get something. Oh he was about to get something alright. A big something.

Go back to you and me, mothers sitting at the Beautiful Gate, begging for life to be amazing. It is Jesus who calls to us as we lament. Is this all there is to my life? I’m paralyzed with fear of how my kids will turn out.  I’m crippled with self-doubt and convinced I will always be fighting a losing battle. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ll never be enough for my kids.

Look at Me, Jesus says to all the moms reading this. Look at Me when I’m talking to you. Expect it. You’ll find what you’re looking for. Believe Me. I am the redeemer of inadequacy. 

Therein lies the answer. Look at Him when He’s talking. Expect Him to be the Master of the Unexpected. He leads us to be strong mothers, wise mothers, competent mothers – but we don’t receive it until we intentionally look and fervently expect. Look at me when I’m talking to you. We use the command to signal our kids we are about to say something critically important.  Don’t miss what the author of parenthood has to say:

“Look at me when I’m talking to you, mom. You have no ability to change a child’s heart. Your rules, your preferences, your words — they change nothing independent of Me. You cannot do in the flesh, the work that is designed for the supernatural. Show Me to your kids. Trust Me. Expect. I am more than enough to heal the lame places in your parenting. While you sit at the Beautiful Gate of raising children and worry yourself crippled, I am calling to you to look at Me, and expect to receive. It’s time to dance your way through motherhood, right through the Beautiful.”
 Look at Him, moms. He is talking to us.
My (Current) Favorite Book – [an experiment with Paul Tripp]

My (Current) Favorite Book – [an experiment with Paul Tripp]

I’m not a book pusher — most of the time — but this one…

When my sister texted me and said she has a must-read for me, I listened.  Her kids are younger than mine by several years, but she has often given some of the best objective advice for some of my toughest mom moments. (I’m tucking it all away to give back to her when her kids are in full unpredictable-teen swing.)

She recommended Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family.  I was skeptical because I’ve read a lot of parenting books.  Many have altered my view of motherhood, but radically?  I was doubtful. But she’s my sister, and sisters are generally trustworthy, so I purchased a hardback book. (Y’all, I don’t do hardback. I’m more of a discount/used/paperback kind of girl. Again, the #sisterfactor made me do it.)

I was engaged from page 1, and tearfully underlining and turning pages with the same intensity I have when eating a Little Debbie snack cake. It was that serious.

I’d like to interrupt this commentary for a sidebar to the author while it’s on my mind.

 

Dear Mr. Paul Tripp,

Your recent book left me a bit undone. I really thought I was nailing this motherhood thing. Four sons and almost 21 years of parenting  — through a lot of hard things reserved for a different post — and prior to your book, I thought I was doing the best I could for my kids.  <Enter flash of enlightenment.> Your words challenged me to examine my purpose as a mom. Every chapter held a mirror to my heart and I didn’t always like what I saw. Funny how a person can get slightly off track and  over time the margin of error is so much bigger. Thanks for wrecking perfect mascara and making my nose run uncontrollably. Your gentle truthfulness kept me turning the pages instead of dropping your book into the “donate” pile in my garage. My original goal didn’t change, but I saw how humanly flawed my plan to achieve the goal has been at times.  You probably saved me a few hours of family counseling down the road. You wrote that book for me.

Hats off to you, Mr. Tripp. That was a worthwhile read.

I want you to read this book. Read it only if you have any influence over anyone, anywhere, and only if you really want to see authentic life change in the hearts of people around you. Otherwise, waste your time watching reality TV or something.

There are too many takeaways to list, and I don’t want to spoil a perfectly good book by telling you everything in it.  I was reminded of principles I already knew — I’m parenting sinners, just like every other mom and dad. I can’t control them with my rules, even though boundaries and consequences are absolute necessities. Perhaps most importantly, while I read Mr. Tripp’s book in search of strengthening my parenting, I found my own heart needed some re-alignment.  I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit dropping condemnation on me as my shortcomings were revealed. There was a gentle nudge to move closer to Him, set my eyes again on Him, and let my will be conformed to His.  “There now,” I could feel the Spirit say, “this is how I need you to parent your little world-changers.”

I don’t know if my family will be radically changed as the title claims, but I know the Word of God changes everything and this message did not fall on deaf ears. As I am building future adults, the Father is building me.

Read.this.book. You’re welcome.

No Other Way – [an experiment in surrender]

It’s likely the last twelve months of my life have been harder than anything I’ve encountered in the last 18 years. I wasn’t sure I would emotionally survive to ever make sense of it. And only now am I beginning to see the beauty in suffering.

It doesn’t matter what my circumstances were. The drudgery of walking through challenging seasons that threaten to destroy our will to keep going is common to all of us. When our life is marked by chaos, trauma, or unforeseen events, and we can barely put one foot in front of the other, it’s not uncommon to want to hide in a closet somewhere until the storm of life passes. But we don’t have that luxury, do we?

A lost job
A life-threatening illness
A wayward child
A broken heart
What is it for you?

I boast of being able to juggle many tasks and roles at once. I generally have a clear plan for achieving my goals and I am rarely caught off guard. That prideful little resume is a recipe for emotional destruction when a series of arduous events is hurled at you. I had become very comfortable with the routine of my life, and quite idolatrous of the absence of heartache. I had forgotten John 16:33 and its reminder that in this life we will have trouble.

When things began to unravel, I felt myself taking a step into hopelessness and despair. I cried. I whined. I reflected. And then I cried more. Father, what are you doing in our family? Why is all this happening? Why does it have to be this hard? There was no answer I could hold on to, just the deafening silence of my perforating soul, drowning in a sea of senselessness. I read God’s Word. I prayed. I did all the right things. And yet I felt God was overlooking me. Have you ever felt like this?

One morning in my quiet time before the Lord, during my daily petition for Him to please show up on my calendar and put things back together, my spiritual ears heard His message. What if there is no other way?

(Picture me with a tiny pinky finger squeaking out whatever had seemingly muffled my hearing.) What if there is no other way? What are you trying to say, Lord? And then I understood.

It had been a long time since I felt this desperate for a work of God. For days and nights, I cried out to the Lord to radically move in the lives of the people I love most, begging Him to do a work so intense in my own heart that I would not, could not, be the same. I had abandoned all the worldly wisdom and just hurled myself at His feet. Desperate.

Suffering has purpose. Desperation has its mission. The hard things are producing a dependency on Him I may not experience in the happy-happy-life-is-easy moments; so suffering somehow becomes worth the tears. Perhaps there is no other way for the Lord to accomplish His purpose in my life – to bring me to Himself, and reveal the depths of His love and faithfulness to me. Maybe there is no other way I would’ve released my grip on the familiar to chase the unexplainable. And if there is no other way, then Lord Jesus, let it be.

You may find yourself in the same place, looking around and waiting for life to make sense. Friend, as followers of Christ, let us be willing to release our grip on things we cannot control, and open our hand to receive – fully and completely – whatever He is doing in us, despite the circumstances. His desire for our good is the only certainty. The chaos around us may not immediately subside, but we can endure hardships with the perspective there may be no other way for Jesus to make us more like Him.

Life Is a Ski Hill – [an experiment in near death]

Life Is a Ski Hill – [an experiment in near death]

I am a wife, a mother, a speaker and a writer.  I am not a skier.

This winter was my 14th time to suit up and brave the chair lift moving at approximately 88 mph. On the eve of our adventure I never sleep well.  It’s not from the anticipated excitement, but because I am terribly nervous and tense. I get nauseous, restless and sometimes I give myself an upset stomach just thinking about it.  I’ve been to ski school at least twice and I could probably write a lengthy article about the techniques of proper ski control.  None of that translates into practical application for me. My leg, knees and ankles are uncooperative with the truth in my brain. My body is weak because it hasn’t been trained for this activity.

Getting up the mountain is easy, once I master my illogical fears of the chair lift.  On the 9-minute ride up I watch the skiers below, effortlessly tackling the hard trails.  No one seems to be struggling and no one appears they have been up all night dreading this event. All you can hear is the gentle swoosh, swoosh of their graceful motion down the hill. I envy them.

There is something majestic as the sky meets earth when you’re on top of a mountain.  Breathing in the cool, crisp air and seeing the glory of God displayed in nature, I feel like I can do anything.  It’s possible I can do anything.  Unfortunately, making it down the ski run without crying, falling or saying things I’m not proud of isn’t part of the anything.

What makes a good skier? Preparation and practice, among other skills I don’t possess. (But I do have a new ski jacket so please tell me that counts for something.)

Every run is the same for me.  I look from the top, paralyzed by the knowledge I’ll need to get to the bottom before dark or risk being the subject of a search and rescue mission.  As I inch my way down, traversing the mountain in a calculated, awkward manner, I vow to myself next year will be different. Next year, I tell myself, I will be certain my body is more prepared…stronger leg muscles, more confidence, a better understanding of the terrain.  Next year.

When I finally make it to the SLOW zone, as if the whole experience wasn’t slow enough for me, I breathe a sigh of relief.  It only took me 2 hours to ski a trail that took the rest of my family 10 minutes. (I wish I was exaggerating.)  I look back up the mountain, proud I’m alive to tell about it. I made it, but I am worn and exhausted and have nothing left for another run. If I were more prepared, I could continue to ski, but in my current, unprepared state, I quit.

Our daily grind in this world is not much different.  We face mountains that are too hard to navigate in our own strength. Children, jobs, relationships, etc. can take more energy than we can muster.  However, if we are prepared and practiced in the discipline of walking with Christ, the “trail” won’t overtake us.  His Holy Spirit will give us grace, when we know how to hear Him. My heart’s desire is to face the hurdles of this world with a strong mind, a deep confidence in the sufficiency of Christ and a good understanding of God’s Word.  That’s how I get to the end without being worn.

Friend, it is time to prepare for the days ahead, because life is one big ski hill, full of rough terrain.  With Jesus, we can do it.  But let’s not wait until next year to begin training.

Keeping Up With Unrealistic – [an experiment in expectations]

Keeping Up With Unrealistic – [an experiment in expectations]

Lysa TerKeurst hurt my feelings. Oh yes she did.  And the Invisible Me actually slapped her. She didn’t do it in a fifth-grade-mean-girl-way. But she stepped on every last nerve I had and now my heart is soft and I’ve cried most of the day. Thankyouverymuch, Lysa. I wasn’t even wearing waterproof mascara. Way to go.

On a recent family vacation I took along her book, The Best Yes, to read in the car. (I’d highly recommend it for any woman who is breathing.) It was a message I knew I needed to hear.  Skipping across her words about the dangers of saying yes to everything that comes my way, I received her gentle warnings and instruction with ease.  Then she did something that made me consider throwing that adorable book cover out the window to its destructive death along Interstate-70.

She said “You won’t ever be able to keep up with unrealistic.”
How dare she.  
The context was in regard to trying to please other people.  I read that section a couple of times until I felt the familiar, gentle nudge of the Spirit tell me “And Kim, YOU won’t ever be able to keep with unrealistic either.” That’s when my perfectly applied mascara went awry.  I work very hard at keeping up with unrealistic. In fact, I wear myself out.

Boy, oh boy. That hurt. It hurt because I needed to hear it, in the same way an alcoholic needs to be told they need help.  I’m a pretty typical firstborn, complete with self-confidence, a love of structured routine, leadership and determination to get things done.  I also have a big need to please people and a huge fear of failure. Wow, don’t I sound so laid back and relaxed?!  Unfortunately, those things spin together to weave a tapestry of unrealistic expectations.  And I impose them on myself and others, albeit silently. Oh, and let me add…I sometimes offer little or no grace when a human falls short. Now, who wants to be my friend?! 🙂
I have unrealistic expectations for my housekeeping, my cooking and my parenting.
I have unrealistic expectations for my husband, for my children, for my friends.
I have unrealistic expectations about what I can commit to, get done and emotionally handle.
Having high expectations is not the same as having unrealistic expectations. One gently pushes you toward greatness.  The other pushes you toward insanity.  I had ignored the difference.
This familiar scripture comes to mind. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
I’d like a little of His sufficient grace to fill in all the gaps left from me trying to be perfect, and consequently demanding this of others. Sign me up for some of Christ’s power restin’ on me!
It’s a new year, and a good time to chill out on punishing people and myself for not living up to my unrealistic expectations.  How about you? Are you trying to keep up with unrealistic?  Like me, have you inadvertently punished the ones you love for not being perfect or berated yourself for not being super human?
I need to submit my sin of trying to keep up with unrealistic to God and let Him heal my heart.  For the sake of my call to Christ and for the ones I love.  And maybe so I can go back to liking Lysa Terkeurst again…