Posts Tagged ‘significance’


Need some ideas for gifts this Christmas? In your quest to find that “perfect gift” for someone, you probably won’t find these in a store or in your online shopping cart, but they should be on everyone’s list nonetheless. I hope these six gifts give you a ton of ideas and most importantly, I hope they will add JOY and SIGNIFICANCE to your Christmas season.

1. The Gift of Simplicity. 

Americans are in the habit of trying to out-PACE, out-SPEND, and out-DO each other. We are in the habit of extravagance. Most of us are over-extended in both time and money. This is why the holidays are often a more stressful time for many families. Maybe it’s time to shift gears this season and practice a simple Christmas.

To know what a ‘simple Christmas’ looks like, I suggest taking your family on a missions trip to Mexico (or any third world country). You will certainly gain a new perspective on ‘needs’ vs. ‘wants’. One year in Mexico, a woman broke down in tears because we gave her a solar-powered light for her home. She had never had “light” at night before! She was ecstatic because they could extend their day by several hours. Most mission-trip experiences will teach some important lessons: 1) a newfound appreciation for the things we HAVE (contentment). 2) You CAN be truly happy/content with LESS.

Remember, we “set the pace” for our children. If we are continually busy, if we are  overly-extravagant gift-givers, they will be too. (Our values are more caught than taught). Sometimes, we are so hurried and hustled, we don’t even enjoy the family events we’re doing in the first place. We are grumpy. We are tired. Instead, take time to relax & savor the season. Enjoy the moments. Soak it up. Create some margin in your calendar and with your finances. Try not to get caught up in trying to ‘outdo’ yourself year after year. Don’t get caught up in ‘comparing’ with other families and their spending habits. This can be overwhelming and exhausting. Here are some questions you can ask yourself on keeping it simple:

  • Will I regret this (purchase, appointment, event) later?
  • Will this deplete or return my energy?
  • Will this stretch/stress my finances?
  • Will this tax my schedule?
  • Is this good timing (or are we forcing it)?
  • Will this create more/less margin for my family?

If we’re not careful, we crowd so much IN, that we unintentionally crowd Jesus OUT. Keep your FOCUS and keep it SIMPLE this Christmas. Fewer gifts. More ‘experiences’. A less-hectic schedule. Remember, to truly capture the “reason for the season”, sometimes ‘less’ is ‘more’. Oh and by the way, this IS NOT A POPULAR practice! Your family and friends will think you’re nuts. But chances are, you’ll get more sleep, more joy and more fulfillment from the holiday season than ever before. (and it won’t take nearly as much time to clean-up afterward). Here are some ideas for a ‘simple Christmas’:

  • Limit the number of gifts you exchange to three per person. (Jesus received three gifts from the Magi)
  • Tell extended family members you will forego exchanging gifts for this season.
  • Limit your decorating to ONE TREE; and only one box of items for the inside, & one box for the outside of your house. (sorry, Clark Griswold–take this season off)
    • Or, ONLY put up a tree and a Nativity set.
      • (read “The Reason for the Season” in this blog for another perspective)
  • Set a boundary for the number of evening commitments you make as a family & stick to it! Learning to say NO takes discipline (you can’t get time back)
  • Whatever your budget was for last Christmas, cut it in HALF!

I recommend the book Simple Christmas for further resources on this subject.

2. The Gift of Generosity.  

Christmas is known as the “season of giving”, but sometimes that gets lost in our consumer-driven culture. Nobody wants to be selfish, but sometimes we need a little help when it comes to thinking of and prioritizing others first. What are some ways you can be generous? What are some ways you can focus more on giving than receiving? How can you instill the core value of giving to your kids? How can you intentionally think “outward” vs “inward”?

Here are some suggestions on adopting generosity this Christmas:

  • Set a standard that you will spend more to bless another family than you do on gifts for your own family. (this may radically change your perspective/priority on spending)
  • As a family, save your change for a year and give it to help someone at Christmas.
  • Give each child a budget & and have them buy a gift for their siblings.
  • Sponsor a family through Angel Tree,
  • Sponsor a child through Compassion International.
  • Start a “pay it forward” chain at a fast food restaurant for lunch or at a Starbucks (pay for the person behind you)
  • Pre-pay for someone’s groceries or go to a store and tell the cashier you will pay for the next person’s entire bill. Go to the layaway department at a toy store and pay for the toys set aside anonymously.
  • Write Christmas cards and deliver them to a Senior Care home.
    • Go Christmas caroling at a Senior Center (pick 2-3 short songs and go room to room–they don’t care if you have a good voice or not)
  • Sponsor a foster family/Group home
  • Ask your church if there is a family you can bless anonymously.
  • Serve at a local food bank or homeless shelter

Every year, we set aside a sum of money and choose a family to ‘bless’. Usually, we give the gifts and/or money to the designated person or family sometime in late November or early December. Then, we set a sealed envelope on our tree and before we open ONE gift on Christmas morning, we will open the envelope and read to our family how we were able to help someone. This is one of the kids’ highlights every Christmas! Last year, we chose to sponsor a child from Compassion International, so we read her biography and wrote letters to her on Christmas morning. Since Christmas truly is the ‘season of giving’, giving the gift of generosity will keep this principal at the forefront of every Christmas.

3. The Gift of Recycling.

For some reason, the art of “re-gifting” gets a “bad rap”. But for families on a budget, this can be a lifesaver. One year when our kids were little, we knew we weren’t going to be able to afford many gifts. So in October, we took some of their toys that were a little ‘worse for wear’ out of their room. Over the next month, we cleaned them, replaced missing/broken parts, put in new batteries and put them all under the tree on Christmas morning. They had so many toys, they didn’t even notice a few were missing! On Christmas morning, they walked into the room amazed and excited to see all their shiny ‘new’ toys under the tree! Here are a few other ways to stretch your dollar this Christmas…

  • Have a garage sale (de-clutter) & use the money to buy gifts
  • Shop for your family gifts at a second-hand store
  • Look for household items you can ‘repurpose’ & re-gift. (Pinterest has tons of ideas)
  • Use your craft skills to ‘make’ all your gifts (nothing beats that personal touch)
  • Sell larger items on OfferUp or trade for items you want.
  • Buy gifts a year in advance (after-Christmas sales) this takes extreme discipline and forethought 
  • Give a hand-made coupon book for services around the house (washing the dishes, folding the laundry, taking out the trash)

4. The Gift of an Experience. 

When you give a gift, the joy is temporary, but giving an “adventure” will last a lifetime. They will tell stories about an “experience” for the rest of their lives. And, you will have given them the most precious gift of all: a memory. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Polar Express
  • North Pole Experience
  • Build a snowman or go sledding
  • Zoo Lights
  • Glendale Glitters
  • Drive around & look at Christmas Lights
  • Go to a Hockey Game
  • Go to a tree farm and pick out/cut your own Christmas tree (this is a big deal for those of us raised in the city)
  • Go to Top Golf or Bowling together
  • Take a ‘road trip’ around town for a holiday themed ‘progressive dinner’
  • Do a family 5k or ‘fun run’
  • Go to Disneyland for Christmas
  • Rent a cabin in the woods and have Christmas ‘away from home’.
  • Grab a group of friends and have a Christmas character costume contest

One year, we rented a limousine with another family and drank hot chocolate, watched the movie “Elf”, and drove around looking at Christmas lights. Our adult kids still talk about that! One year, we took a road trip to see my wife’s family back in KS and got caught in a blizzard. It took us 23 hours of driving, but what an adventure!  The point is to try something out of the ordinary. Unpredictable. Give them a story to tell. Nothing draws a family closer than an experience.

5. The Gift of Presence. 

The best way you can spell “LOVE” to your family is T-I-M-E. This year, give them the gift of complete, uninterrupted, undivided attention. Put away the mobile devices and engage with your family. Enjoy rich conversation. Laugh. ‘Notice’ each other. You may simply call a family member you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Surprise them by just ‘being there’. True happiness requires deep and significant interpersonal connections. That’s a fancy way of saying, just do stuff that intentionally draws you closer together as a family!! Here are some ideas that have worked for us:

  • Complete a puzzle
  • Play a board game
  • Giant Jenga
  • Giant Connect Four
  • Giant Sequence
  • Dominoes
  • Bop it!
  • Corn Hole tournament
  • Play “Rudolph & Friends Scene it”
  • Make Gingerbread houses
  • Bake/decorate cookies
  • Watch your favorite Christmas movies
  • Make/decorate ornaments together
  • Nerf Wars

One silly thing we do every year is our annual…NERF WARS. It started one year because we gave our kids some nerf guns early for Christmas and the idea just took off! This is a hilarious melee of running around and pelting each other with nerf darts from an impressive arsenal of nerf weapons. It’s goofy, but our entire family gets in on the action and we go all out! It promotes fun and togetherness in our house (but we’re a little crazy sometimes). The point is to find something that draws your family together and do it. Give the gift of presence this Christmas.


6. The Gift of Tradition. 

A “tradition” is the transmission of customs from generation to generation. They are consistent and replicable. They can add tremendous depth and significance to your holidays.  What are your favorite family traditions? What do you remember most about your childhood?  What customs would you like to repeat (or establish) for your family?

  • Christmas Traditions

The ‘ambiance’ we create is part of Christmas tradition around our home. Holiday candles (smell is the strongest scent tied to memory), decorating the house inside and out, baking holiday goodies and Christmas music–all help create the ‘atmosphere’ of Christmas.  The annual family photo, visiting out of town relatives, watching our favorite Christmas movies together, and attending Christmas Eve services at our church, are also on the list every year. Opening one gift on Christmas Eve, singing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas morning are also a few of our favorites. As I grew up, my dad always gave me a ‘kid-gift’. He always wanted us to approach Christmas with the “joy and innocence of a child”. The last three years of his life, he gave me a bluetooth-controlled flying saucer; a remote controlled truck; and virtual reality glasses. I looked forward to his goofy gifts every year (and YES, I played with them!!)

We also try to coach our kids on other popular Christmas traditions and where they come from. We’ve found the book, Why Does Santa Wear Red? to be helpful in our discussions of Santa, why we exchange presents, the origin of the Christmas tree, etc. We love to have fun and embrace the “awe and wonder” of the season in all kinds of ways.

  • Family Traditions

Simply put, a tradition is something you do that creates anticipation. By far, the most significant tradition that creates anticipation for our family each holiday season is ADVENT. The word “advent” literally means to “celebrate the arrival” of Christ’s birth.  This ensures that Christmas isn’t just a one-day celebration, but rather, the entire month of December is counting down the days to the most significant date in history: the birth of our Savior. It is something that we look forward to every year.

We start by making an ‘Advent calendar’ (there are a gazillion ideas out there). Our calendar has little doors for every day in Dec and inside is a piece of paper. On the paper, there is a reference to read from the Bible, a reference to a book about a popular Christmas tradition, and a family activity.  Here are some examples from our family Advent calendars over the years…(there are several similarities from year to year)

Our format is simple: every day before school, we gather 15 minutes for our family ‘huddle’. We rotate who will do the day’s reading. The kids actually get ready for school ON TIME in anticipation of what we’re going to do that evening! Some events are more elaborate. Others involve ‘life events’ that we simply do together (kids sporting events, etc). There are dozens of books on this subject, but these are the ones we have found most helpful in shaping the Advent season in our home over the years:

Advent has been so significant over the years, that our married adult daughters have all talked about starting that tradition with their families. A tradition can be a rallying point for a family. It is part of your legacy. Remember, it doesn’t need to be extravagant, just consistent. The sights, sounds & smells of your house around the holidays…all help create an atmosphere of tradition. It’s something to look forward to again and again, year after year.


What’s the GREATEST thing about these GIFTS? They LAST A LIFETIME. I hope these SIX GIFTS are on your list, because I believe they will add JOY and SIGNIFICANCE to your Christmas celebration. I hope this has been helpful, and I hope you have a Merry Christmas!





Do you have a mission statement?  I do. I know why I get up every morning.  This is what drives me.  This is what I’ve devoted my life to:

Romans 10:13-15 (NIV) 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

I found this verse when I was in junior high, but never really took it seriously until I was in high school.

The truth is, it’s bothered me since that time. Not “bothered” like a fly you want to shoo away. Not “bothered” like the kid on the plane that makes you shift in your seat.  Not “bothered” like the hair in your mouth you find annoying.  I mean, “bothered” in a way that it haunts me.  It altered my life course.  It caused me to ACT.

First, I noticed the progression.  It starts with the result of someone being saved. But they can’t be saved unless they believe in Jesus. They can’t believe in him if they’ve never heard about him. They can’t hear unless someone preaches to them.  And if no one goes, how will they hear?  I knew early on that I wanted to be a “bringer of Good News”.  How many people fail to deliver the message?  How many people stay silent?  How many people never go?

2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV) 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Second, I noticed the power.  When the good news of Jesus Christ takes root in someone’s life, the result is transformational.  It turns wimps into warriors.   It changes criminals into crusaders.  In fact, did you know that most of the Bible was written by murderers, whose lives had been transformed by God? (Abraham, David, Paul) God is in the life-changing business!  In fact, Paul (ex-murderer) put it this way when he wrote to the church in Corinth:

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

He knew what he was talking about!  I am excited to be a part of an organization dedicated to creatively communicating the Good News!  I am proud to live it out loud as a Christ-follower.  In fact I hope that my life alone is able to speak loud enough.  St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach at all times. If necessary, use words.”

A little commercial break…

Interestingly enough, the word “Gospel”, in the greek (Go-spel) means “Good News”.  That’s why the first 4 books in the New Testament are called “Gospels”. [The gospel of Matthew, Mark, etc.]  These are 4 different eyewitness reports of Jesus’ arrival, life and teachings.  Here’s how one historian Luke (a physician) starts his account:

Luke 2:8-12 (NIV) 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 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. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

The angel was announcing the good news was that Jesus, the Messiah (Savior) had come.  God came to dwell among his people!  Coincidentally, the word given to describe one who shares the good news with others is the word evangelist = comes from the greek words “eu” = good; and “angel” = messenger.  Which means, when we share the good news of Jesus Christ, we are “good messengers”. We join in the same mission and carry the same message as the angels.  That rocks!

Finally, be careful when using this verse!  

a. It has radically altered my life course. I originally set out to be an English teacher and coach soccer at a high school.  Now, I pastor a small church in one of the wealthiest areas in America!  I’ve been offered management positions in corporate America from time to time, but I feel that God has me where He wants me.  Where will this verse lead you?  It’s led people out of the business world into vocational ministry. It’s led students to start a Bible study on their campus.  It’s caused a man to start an Accountability Group in hopes of reaching his whole Firehouse.  It’s caused a mom to rejoin the workforce as a nurse because she felt God calling her to reach that profession.  It’s caused an office manager to leave the US and start an orphanage in Peru with her husband.  It’s caused a mom to leave the workplace to spend more time with her kids. No matter where it leads your life, stay on course!

b. It will cause unorthodox practices.   I have two tattoos:  A Cross on my right ankle and an Icthus on my left ankle.  I’ve had these since college when I accepted God’s call to go into full-time ministry.  I know in the Christian community, there is some ‘controversy’ over the issue of tattoos, but before you’re quick to judge, I’ll tell you why I got them:  1. It reminds me of my God-given ability to excel in athletics.  I was fortunate enough to be blessed with the ability to run. I was a 3-year letter winner in track and cross-country in high school.  I won a National Championship in collegiate soccer, starting all 4 years at midfield.  I was blessed with speed and endurance. Many people are disabled, so I want to make sure I never take walking, running, playing sports for granted. I will always give Him credit for my success on and off the field.  2. It reminds me of my mission: to carry the Good News with me wherever I go.  “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

c. It will make your faith come alive.  Did you know that’s a guarantee from Scripture?  If you’re a Christ-follower and you’re NOT sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in some way, you are MISSING OUT.

Philemon 1:6 (NIV) 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

d. It requires a team effort.  You DON’T have to be a preacher or work on a church staff to be an EVANGELIST.  You don’t have to be outspoken to ADVANCE the GOSPEL.  God can use you just the way you are, right where you’re at to MAKE A DIFFERENCE and to share the GOOD NEWS.  Will you go?  How can they hear?

Statistics:  (according to Street Level Evangelism by Michael Parrott)

            99% agree that Jesus Christ commanded all Christians to advance the Good News.

Yet 95% of all Christians have never won a soul to Christ.

And 80% of all Christians fail to live a consistent witness.

            85% of unchurched people would go to church at least once if someone they know invited them.

Yet only 2% have invited someone to church in the past year.


I invite you to join me in bringing the good news.  Sharing the good news.  Being the good news.