Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Spirit?

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year, hands down. Many people would agree with that statement. But the true meaning of Christmas has been lost to a consumer-mad society that cares more about what sales are going on and what's the hottest toy out, than what really matters (and possibly going broke while doing that).

Most everyone knows we celebrate Christmas because it's a symbolic day for celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Giving gifts just makes it that much better. The wise men brought the best of the best before the feet of baby Jesus. He was given incense, gold, and myrhh. We give gifts to show our love to those closest to us. Personally, I love seeing people open their gifts; it brings me great joy.

Last week, I went Christmas shopping with my mom at Macy's. As we were paying, we were conversing with the employee regarding Christmastime. She was explaining how every year she needs to stash away extra non-gender gifts just in case she forgot someone. How true is that, but how sad that it's come to that. I was agreeing with her as we discussed how sad it is that you worry your gift won't cost as much as someone else's, or that the other person may not like their gift from you...etc.

Why has Christmas come to this??? Giving is supposed to be out of the kindness of your heart, not a competition of who can get or give better gifts. Especially in a tight financial economy, some people can't afford to get every single person on their "list" a gift this year. But there is so much pressure all around to do so.

If I want to give a gift to someone, there should never be an expectancy of receiving one in return, because then you're not giving with the right heart. For that, just get yourself a gift. You know yourself better anyways.

I've been reading a few articles on Christmas and here are some excerpts that stuck out to me:

"But to a growing group of Christians, this focus on the commercial aspect of Christmas is itself the greatest threat to one of Christianity's holiest days. "It's the shopping, the going into debt, the worrying that if I don't spend enough money, someone will think I don't love them," says Portland pastor Rick McKinley. "Christians get all bent out of shape over the fact that someone didn't say 'Merry Christmas' when I walked into the store. But why are we expecting the store to tell our story? That's just ridiculous."

I agree with Rick. My mom is one of those that gets upset when someone tells her Happy Holidays, but many companies don't permit their employees to say anything else. However, if you're the first to say Merry Christmas, I have found that most people reply with the same.

"It's not easy, says one youth pastor whose church is part of the Advent Conspiracy. "When you start jacking with people's idea of what Christmas is and you start to go against this $450 billion machine of materialism and consumerism, it really messes with people," he explains. "It takes a lot of patience to say there's a different way - Christmas doesn't have to be like this."

"I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your mother was wrong: It doesn't matter one bit if you were naughty or nice all year. Chances are, at some point in your marriage or relationship, your partner is going to give you a bad gift. And although it might not be quite as traumatic as the time you asked Santa for a Nintendo set and got a Boggle game instead, it's still going to sting.
It's one of the holiday season's unexpected traps: Just at the time of year when we're trying hard to be on our best behavior, the wrong gift can strain our marriage bonds." (The Gift That Needs Forgiving by Elizabeth Bernstein).

"Women tend to care more about gifts. They shop more, and think more about them. They attach more emotion to them. And they can be more demanding and less direct. (If I ask my husband what he wants for the holidays, he will say "nothing" and mean it. If he asks me, I will say "nothing," as well. And God help him if he believes me.)"

"Tom Valentino, who grew up in a large Italian-American family, blames his upbringing. In his parents' house, Christmas was all about religious values—and food. Gifts were an afterthought."

And this is a bad thing why? Don't get me wrong, I'm the first to tell you I love receiving gifts. But when the forefront of all our thoughts are making sure the right gifts are being purchased, I just see something wrong with the picture.

Let me reiterate, I am by no means against gift-giving. I'm completely for it. I'm against the enormous pressure to make sure you give the "perfect" gift or "we're in a fight" mentality. That last article was hilarious to read but at the same time, the motives for gift giving were incorrect. It was by obligation and not love. When someone really wants to get someone a gift (and not because society is telling them too), they'll try their best to be detailed. And whatever they give should be received with love. Because they didn't have to do anything...they wanted to.

I hope we treat this time of year the way it was intended: to celebrate the birth of the Savior born over 2,000 years ago and to bring joy to people's lives (whether it be through gifts or not).
Merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

For better or for worse...

These past two months, I've been on marriage advice overload. Between a women's conference last month and a marriage retreat last weekend, I have notes to last me until next year's retreat.

As far as marriage went, I had been reading books since I was in High School about how to be a Godly wife. This was something I wanted with all my heart and to do right. Well, we're imperfect, so really, "right" doesn't exist. There is no formula to make a marriage perfect. There is one thing that will help: Jesus. I always understood that in order for a marriage to work, Christ had to be the foundation for stability.

As I write, I am overwhelmed by information to share but in order to keep the attention span of whoever is reading, I'll narrow it down to five points for a strong marriage that was outlined by one of the speakers at the marriage retreat:

1. Your marriage must maintain a strong sense of God's presence.
2. Accept those character traits that you will not change about your spouse (Romans 15:7)
3. Learn to survive those incompatible moments ~ remember you're two different people (Colossians 3:12-15)
4. Avoid getting involved in infidelity (both emotional and physical)
5. Develop a friendship

Unlike what the media feeds us, marriage is not about making you happy! Shocking, right? You can only make a marriage work when you are unselfish (Philippians 2:3-4). Selfishness destroys marriages. I've always said that in order for a relationship to work, there must be love, trust, and respect. If one of those three is missing, it's a disbalanced and disfunctional relationship.

When my husband shows me unselfish, unconditional love, I see Jesus Christ through him. I see how Jesus wants to love me through Lucas. I've told my husband this many times because he truly is an amazing husband. This is why Christ is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride. This analogy is to show the depth of what this unity is for the Lord. Marriage was created as a special union. Not to make one another happy (even though that's a bonus), but to accomplish together the perfect will of God. As a result, it brings joy.

Marriage is a beautiful thing and I am truly blessed to have been married three years to my best friend. I highly recommend it. When Christ is the center of both individuals' life, it makes it that much better!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Live With Purpose

This past weekend, there was a concert at church on Saturday night. One of the songs performed, was a rap song by Egom. I'm not a fan of rap, and had the words not been up on the powerpoint, I probably wouldn't have grasped the entire song; however, the lyrics were available and powerful at that. I changed a few of the slang lyrics to make it easily readable and colored parts I loved.

Live With Purpose
By Egom
How many grew up in a happy home?
And never had to see their daddy breaking mommy’s nose?
Or never had to watch the TV to see happy folks
Because their family is a tragedy so they can’t be those?
You see a lot of us, we can relate
To being late home for dinner cause we found escapes,
Can’t wait to run away or get away,
Crying all the way, saying “God, meet me on this road cause I know that there’s a better way”

And the pain it will not let or stray, feel you have to medicate,
To dedicate a debt a day to the One who’ll set it straight
The One who’s crying for you night and day,
Dying for the day you cling to Romans 8 verse 28
So do not set a date to run away; do not throw your love away
Run and pray to Christ and put the blunt away
There’s a reason you suffered in your younger days
Cling to the Lord and He’ll bring you joy another way

“You’ve got one life on the Earth” is
The common motto. “Lets get drunk, forget the church’s
Model of a proper person. I’m going to work this
Life and still I’ll go to Heaven when the curtains
Close over me” is believed by most but the joke is
When they die they will see Jesus but be hopeless
Treasures stored on earth all rot and are worthless
So live your life for the next with a purpose
You’ve got a purpose

I’ve met a lot of people who think the earth is
their playground; but, in reverse, where they stay now
is betrayed ground, the product of lost souls long decayed now who felt the same way how
foolish will they feel when they on the same ground
As Jesus the judge and they on a stage now
Flipping God’s pages angels are now
And your face is so anxious, sadly you’ll bow

At the end of all days, amazed how u fell
To the depths of a place, a waste that’s called Hell
“Wait – those faces I know them so well
It’s those people that told me this place is not real”
He’ll yell – getting upset cause he failed.
He listened to the actors now acting so frail.
He listened to the flesh and the dark and that tale.
Heaven’s not for all, just for those who prevail.

In keenness, keep it your brain and in meekness
Preach it to those caught in pride and in weakness
The blind and facetious – even the teachers
Get out in the game; don’t just sit on the bleachers
People need to know that’s the truths in the Scriptures
And though a lot of dudes claim its not they are mixed up
On Earth you are a tool, and people need a fix up
Work for the Lord; this is why He picked you

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Proud of my heritage

I've noticed several of my blogs are written as a result of watching a movie. This one is no different. One of the few movies that provoke me to cry or get teary eyed without fail is "The Lost City". This movie is one interpretation/experience of a family during the Batista/Castro period where Revolution was prominent and on the rise. It shows how a wealthy family goes from having it all to losing it. If focuses on the journey that led one member of the family to the States (Andy Garcia) and the difficulty of leaving his country behind.

Every time I watch this movie, I appreciate what my grandparents did (both mother and father's side) for their children and future grandchildren. Each member in my family has a different story of their leave from a country they loved so much. Some went to prison trying to fight Fidelistas (Fidel's military), others worked the farms to earn an escape visa from the government for their immediate household, while still others could and would never escape and ended up dying in a country that betrayed them.

I love my Cuban heritage and I'm proud my parents and grandparents are Cuban, but I am so grateful that they sacrificed everything to come to a country where there was still liberty. My Abuleo (mother's dad) still doesn't speak English (which I'm not too proud of but he's stubborn =p), but whenever I've asked him about Cuba, he's proud he's from there but even more proud to be in the country that's blessed him with all that he has: America.

I don't understand when people are so proud of their country that they parade around in their flags everywhere and talk about how much better their country is than America....etc. My question to them is "why don't you move back if it's so great?" They're in America for a reason. This country is far from perfect, especially now, but it's still a great country that offers so much, which is why people die trying come here.

My children will learn both the Cuban culture and Puerto Rican culture (because my huband is P.Rican), but they will also learn that they live in a wonderful country and although their heritage is Hispanic, they are American first.