#blessed

I originally posted this Christmas of 2015 and it showed up on my Facebook memories today, so I decided to post again. Merry Christmas! -Shannon

Another Christmas season is in full tilt as I sit in the dark, with only the Christmas tree lights illuminating my family room. Like most mornings, I start with quiet and coffee. The past few days, something else has crept into these sacred moments. Shopping. That’s right…shopping.

My solitude quickly yields to the ever-increasing pressure to get the shopping done. I sift through emails, social media streams, and (gasp!) printed fliers, scouring for holiday shopping deals. Unavoidably, this process presents to me an array of gifting choices. Too many in fact, leading to the simultaneous feeling of decision fatigue.

Oh, better check Etsy too.

Where is the lady who crochets mini pugs? Ah – Instagram.

In all my searching, scanning and scrolling, I probably look at a hundred photos or more; photos of family, friends, dogs…cats.

Lots of cats.

And stuff. Because, you know, we’re #blessed!

More and more I notice folks posting images of what appears to be a life free of care and full of abundance, which makes sense. Most people I know wouldn’t post photos of their spouse crying after a quarrel, a “selfie video” shouting angrily at another driver or a snapshot of an overdrawn bank account. Nope. We typically post the glossy parts of our existence with filters to boot, carefully crafting a public life void of brokenness and deep pain. This life is exemplified through happy smiles, new houses, sparkling cars and an ever-changing wardrobe in this season’s hottest hue (its purple this year, right?).

They are #blessed…right?

But if we are blessed because we have all this stuff, then by default are those without…not? Have we ever stopped to think about what this says to people around us with little means? Or how about those around the world who will never have the luxury of fretting over how to spend their Christmas budget this year?

This leads me to two proposals I’d like to offer.

First, let’s attempt to stop equating wealth, material goods, status, etc. with God’s favor. It unintentionally communicates God is a respecter or persons. More than likely, your pricey, new car is because you have a good job or a generous grandma. It’s not because God favored you over someone else.

And what about our friends and family who do not share our faith? What does this mindset communicate to them? If you think it communicates that you “get more stuff” when you’re “on God’s team”…you’re wrong. It makes us look petty and materialistic and like we have completely and utterly missed the point.

Besides, Jesus also had a slightly different definition of being #blessed. Check out Matthew 5:1-12:

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One dearest to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.

When thinking about this topic, it was easy to begin wondering why everyone in the world doesn’t have the same advantages, access, resources and wealth as we do. This question is complicated and so nuanced, I don’t believe there will ever be a clear answer. And even if there was, would anything truly change? How long would change take?

And while I’m so glad there are those in the world working on those answers, there’s a different question you and I can ask…which leads me to my second proposal.

Instead of asking why, it just might be more productive to start asking WHAT. What can we do with these advantages, access, resources and wealth for those who have not? See, this question puts us in the driver’s seat. This question begs an answer, an answer requiring action.

So I encourage you this Christmas season and throughout the year, ask what you can do with your wealth, influence and possessions to benefit those around you. What can you do to move the needle for someone else? Not just with material possessions but with your love, your effort and your life. Merry Christmas!

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