Thursday, December 15, 2016

Life In the Slow Lane At Christmas

"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."
Luke 2:6,7
(KJV)


When I was growing up, there was this wildly popular song by the Eagles called, "Life In The Fast Lane."  My "Generation X" co-horts will readily remember it.  With all due respect to songwriters Glenn Frey, (God rest his recently-departed soul, and I do trust he is now resting in peace), Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and all Eagles fans, the lyrics to "Life In The Fast Lane" were very rebellious and downright vulgar and desecrating to anything God-honoring or spiritual.  To be brutally (and use an adjective from the first line of the song) honest, I detest the lyrics and always have.  While I find the coarse and indecent off-color and drug-glorifying parts of the song offensive, the absolute worst part of the lyrics is the blatant profanity in the third verse.  Anything that takes my Lord's name in vain and attaches the "D" word after it really makes me angry.  It was surely never the obscene and irreverent lyrics that attracted me, but the beat and the music and Joe Walsh's guitar riffs that used to draw me in.  Forgive me for talking about it here on a Christian devotional blog, and I certainly am not encouraging anyone to listen to this song.  I apologize if I offend anyone by the mention of it, but there is this one line in the chorus that resonates and came to mind when I began to write this post.  
"Life in the fast lane, surely make you lose your mind."

While we may or may not have spent portions of our lives living in such a "fast lane" as described in the lyrics of this song, many of us have lived most of our lives in some version of the fast lane.  We hustle, we bustle, we drive ourselves crazy trying to meet the impossible demands placed upon us by a materialistic, consumerism-driven society, and, yes, it can surely make you lose your mind to try to keep up with the fast-paced rat race.  We see ads and hear commercials and think we have to rush out and buy what is being promoted.  We work our lives away to keep up with the world around us.  We sacrifice time that should be spent experiencing life first-hand with our families upon the altar of climbing the socially-acceptable ladder and pursuing what the world deems successful.

As I look back over the past few years, I am amazed at the way God has slowed our pace...way down.  If I were able to insert a sound effect here, it would sound like an LP (remember those?) being played at chipmunk high-speed, then lowered down to the slowest-speed possible, until it sounds like a dragging, warped record.  That is how distinctly different our pace is from the fast pace we used to maintain while speeding through life at breakneck speed.  The dear Lord has directed us completely away from the maddening rat race of the "fast lane", over into a lane that requires a very simple, slow-moving pace.  Though it has cost us much and been an uphill, strenuous climb, it has been worth every, single, labored step to make the switch to change lanes.  We have learned to adjust to living on one income, to spending far less, to living totally within our means, to destroying every credit card we owned and not charging anything, to using what we have on hand until it is worn out, and to generously giving from a place of sacrifice and not out of abundance.  It is a beautiful life.  I have never been happier.  I can't believe what God has done, as we have launched by faith and walked forward in sheer trust in Him and His ability to sustain us, regardless.  

I find that we need way less than society tells us we need.  That we can be content with food and raiment and a roof over our heads.  That we don't have to hold the title to a big house or excess space or overabundance of possessions to be completely happy.  In fact, I have found that we are so much happier without all of that.  It feels incredibly good to just let go.  To stop trying to conform to the expectations and molds crafted by others.  To just focus on pleasing God and to following Him only, not caring what other people think of us or how we are perceived.  It is very liberating to stop obsessing over things like that.

As my family and I continue our pursuit of simplicity and refusal to bow to the demands of consumerism, we find that at no other time of the year is it more powerfully noticeable or harder to fight against being derailed from the slow lane than it is at Christmas.  Honestly, it takes more willpower to remain firm and not overdo and succumb to the pressure at Christmastime than at any other time of the year.  Because we love to give, and in order to do that, there is this temptation to veer way off-track and unintentionally regress to the point of having swerved back over into the fast lane.  It would be so easy to try to justify our actions by telling ourselves, "It's Christmas, and it's okay to take a break from sensibility at this time of year."  

Every time I think about minimalism, I automatically think about our dear Lord Jesus.  He left the splendor of Heaven to be born in the lowliest of circumstances.  His parents were poor, by the world's standards, but I can only imagine the pure richness of joy that filled their hearts the night Mary gave birth in a borrowed space!  Their focus was not on anything around them.  They didn't need things, owned possessions, wealth, or even creature comforts to be happy.  Nothing on earth could have made them more content that night.  They knew their treasure was based in and upon
something some One else.  
Somehow, the simple scene of the nativity is polar opposite to the maddeningly chaotic scene we see played out every December.

Our world tells us that it is impossible to live simple in this modern age.  They are wrong, my friend.  Not that it is going to be easy.  Nothing about it will be easy.  Because to live simple and minimal is going to go completely upstream against everything this world tells us.  It will take strong determination, ruthless intentionality, and steel resolve to resolutely stay in the slow lane, 
especially at Christmas, but it absolutely can be done.

In this post I talked about how minimalism has made Christmas more peaceful in our home.  We felt the benefits of this last Christmas, and we are feeling it even more so this season.  Because this is an ongoing process.  And, as we go along, we learn, and as we continue to shed excess, we become more wise.

Though we love everyone just as much as, if not more than, we always have, we have had to scale back our Christmas buying even more this year.  Not that we wanted to, but if we bought for everyone we would like to buy for, it would require us to use credit to purchase gifts. In order to comply with God's will for us, and in order to remain in this slow, simplicity-filled lane of life, we need to do everything within our power to eliminate stress.  To us, debt equals stress, and debt equals going against God's will, so we must refrain from elaborate spending, however well-intentioned, in which we used to indulge.  

The strong pull to the fast lane at Christmas doesn't just have to do with monetary spending.
At no other time of year is the pull of worldly conformity and demands upon our time more overwhelming.

There is no written rule that a certain number of cookies must be baked,
that we have to attend every party and event available to us,
that Christmas dinner has to be an undertaking that requires hours of standing on our feet,
that we must run ourselves completely ragged trying to create Pinterest-perfect Christmas ambiance.

I don't think Christmas was ever intended to be stressful at all.
The more we try to come in line with the mindset of Jesus,
the more we are enlightened to the simplicity of the life He lived.
From the manger to the cross, He was single-mindedly eternity-focused.

To be honest, and not to sound like Ebenezer Scrooge, I don't think Jesus is in the chaos of Christmas at all.
Oh, He IS the reason for the season, and He IS the heart and soul of the meaning,
and though I know there are some who don't agree, I happen to believe we should celebrate His birth.

But, I do not believe anything to do with Jesus Christ ever causes distress.
I don't think it makes Him smile to see His children rushing around like headless chickens,
maxing out credit lines, pushing past physical limits, and splurging to the point of excess, 
just to "celebrate" the commemoration of His lowly birth.

When we are so focused on doing everything within our power to satisfy the demands of the world around us, I think we have totally and completely lost touch with what Christmas is all about.

This Christmas, I am resolved to keep moving slow.
No matter how hurried and frenzied the world in the fast lane around me is hastening by,
by God's grace, I will stick to my guns.
I will not get caught up in the racket that has absolutely nothing in the world to do with that humble night in Bethlehem.

I am eternally grateful He came.
I long to worship Him with all my heart and soul...every, single day.
It is my utmost goal to please Him...to keep following Him...
to keep learning from Him...to give it my all to live the simple life He is calling me to live.

May we all remember the precious simplicity of that holy night so long ago,
and may we strive to maintain its integrity this Christmas season.

God bless each one of you, dear friends.

And, now, enjoy one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs with scenes from "The Nativity"!
Just beautiful.
Thank you, Jesus!


If video doesn't load, click here.

40 comments:

  1. A wonderful post Cheryl. This year has forced me to slow down and do more reflecting on the season. Although we have always refused to cater to the commercialism that Christmas has become. In fact, until Dennis bought me my sweet little trailer decoration last week, we haven't had a Santa decoration for years and years. We teach debt free living at church and believe by example we shouldn't use credit. It makes things so much more peaceful all year and especially at Christmas.
    Many blessings to you,
    Betsy

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    1. I saw your sweet, little trailer decoration! It is so adorable! Such a thoughtful gesture from your husband. I love the way you teach debt free living at church. You surely are a shining example to us all, dear Betsy. Sending you love and hugs this Christmas!

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  2. Cheryl, we too have slowed our pace and moved into that phase of our lives. I absolutely love the
    living with less, and enjoying what we have.. No need for all the extras that weight us down, and keep us in such a rush, we can't enjoy the day.. God is so good, He gives us peace and Happiness.
    Pray you and family have a blessed and Merry Christmas.

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    1. Amen, and amen, sweet sister! I love the way you think and live out your faith. Sending you love and many wishes for a Merry Christmas!

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  3. Hi Cheryl,
    I loved what you said about Jesus never intending Christmas to be what it is today because I had the same thoughts this week! All of the craziness of the holiday season (although some of it is nice) draws us away from considering the amazing miracle of his birth and his coming to the earth for us. I love how you've slowed your life down over the years to live more simply and do less, especially during the holidays! Thank you for these thoughts!

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    1. You are so right...it is so easy to get drawn away and so distracted by it all. Thank you for your kind words and sweet spirit. Merry Christmas to you, my friend. :)

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  4. This is such a wonderful post Cheryl. I long for the Christmases of the past that I experienced as a child. There were a LOT of children with me being the baby (8 in all) and my sweet mom never worked outside of the home. That meant, of course that there was not a lot of money to spend. I remember getting one toy and some of the bare essential items that I needed, lumpy socks filled with oranges, nuts and chocolate drops, we had a Charlie Brown Christmas tree...and so much love and joy which was the best gift of all. I remember the year I secretly snuck my mom's portable sewing machine up to my room so she wouldn't catch me making the apron and throw pillows I was creating for her from remnants of fabric that I found in the scrap drawer! I want to go back there...sometimes it makes me just want to cry that Christmas has become what it has today. I want to have those "Little House on the Prairie" Christmases again! We have cut back on our giving like when the kids were young but still spend more than we should. Yes...less stress please! Only we, ourselves, with God's help...if only we ask for it, are able to accomplish this. Thank you for this beautiful reminder of what I'd like to see Christmas to be like at the Ray house. Merry Christmas hugs to you, sweet friend!

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    1. Thank you so much, dear Debby! I so enjoyed hearing your precious words about your childhood. My heart resonates every, single thing you said. You are right, only we, with God's help, can make the necessary changes to align ourselves with the Little House on the Prairie mindset. God bless you and your family with a wonderful Christmas! Sending you love and hugs!

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    1. Thank you for visiting, Regine! Merry Christmas!

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  6. ha, ha, I was going to post something similar, but decided not to. I get so, so, so tired of the craziness ALL year long; but it's so noticeable at Christmas time! I send out my Christmas cards with an occasional gift to special friends; and it seems that a lot of times I rarely even get a thank you anymore, for what I can only assume is the person being "too busy". (Not that I expect anything in return...it's just odd that everyone is THAT busy. Does that make sense?)

    I basically had to start my life completely over, and this time I am NOT going into debt. Not on a house, not on a car...nothing. I own no credit cards (I've never had a credit card), and won't take out a loan. If I don't have the money, I don't buy the item. Period. I lived a poor life for many, many years. I can tell you what poor really is. Now I don't have much money, but I'm better off than I was before, and I am satisfied. Like you, I refuse to buy into society's way of thinking. Satan makes us all so busy that we lose focus. He tries to do that to me just in homeschooling and raising 4 kids. It's so easy to become too busy and live a hurried life. We have to stay focused.

    It saddens me to see people running the rat race; comparing themselves to others and trying to always look good. That's just not me. I may not have a lot of "friends" because I won't conform to this way of thinking, but I feel an inner peace that a lot of people lose because they're too busy running around.

    I'm rambling now...sorry. I just really felt this same exact thing in my heart this year.

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    1. It's okay, Ang! You can "ramble" here anytime! LOL! I am SO proud of you for your stand against debt and falling into the consumerism trap. You definitely have a level head, and you're doing a great job raising those 4 kids and keeping things simple. I appreciate you, sweet friend. Merry Christmas! Will answer your email soon.

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  7. Bravo my friend bravo!1 You've got it. I think you'll have a most wonderful Christmas this year. Ours will be meager by the world's eyes, but I thank God that my children are thankful and know the reason we celebrate.
    Be blessed my friend,
    Laura

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    1. Oh, my friend! It is SO peaceful to be able to let it all go and just breathe and enjoy what is right in front of us. I know you make your home so cozy and welcoming for your dear family, not only at Christmas, but all through the year. You are a shining example to us all. Sending you love and hugs and many blessings this Christmas!

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  8. Sound reminder of the Truth. It's so easy to get caught up and live that life in the fast lane. I've done it and yes, I think it does make you lose your mind. The things we seek to own end up owning us, defining us, which is idolatry. And putting anything before our Father is worshipping idols.

    This is encouraging and helpful for me to take a step back, a deep breath, and see this Season for what it is. Thanks, Cheryl.

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    1. Thank you, Floyd, for your encouragement and support. I am so thankful for your words and perspective. You are so right that things end up owning us, which is idolatry. This is so true. God bless you and your dear family this Christmas, brother. :)

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  9. Yes, we've all travelled in the fast lane at one time or another. We're often trapped in it by cisrcumstances, though. Being in business, having to travel long distances for long meetings with great responsibilities; all to keep a family together as one should.

    Wishing you a slow and happy Advent Season and a Blessed Christmas and Splendid New Year with your family.

    God bless.

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    1. You are so right. I have been in places where I was totally trapped by circumstances, and I can so understand what you mean. You are a good man, my friend, to do what you do to keep your family together. God bless you, my friend.

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  10. Dear Cheryl, your post is spot on! For many years now, we have resisted the racket that goes on at Christmas, and choose instead to worship the Lord in our hearts all year long, which is the far more important thing. For what He came to live and die for, should not be limited to celebrating just on one day, but on every day. I applaud your life in the slow lane, living, loving, and worshiping the Lord every day! May the Lord continue to bless your hearts for Him, and may we never forget to love and worship Him and give Him praise for his birth, his death and his resurrection every day that we live. Many hugs to you today dear friend!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement, sweet friend. Life in the slow lane is peaceful...so thankful you have found it, too. :) Sending love and hugs back to you today!

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  11. we all need to learn to do things less stressful, especially at this time of year. I cook for a large family during holidays, but with help from family...this yr, instead of making ALL my desserts homemade, I also bought a few when they were on sale...makes me able to draw a deep breath and be ready to enjoy the season more. My mom always had all homemade and I've thought for yrs that I needed to do it, too...not so...:)

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    1. It is amazing how we try to live up to so many demands, isn't it? So thankful for the freedom that comes when we learn that we do not have to do it all! Thank you for your sweet visit, BJ. God bless you, my friend!

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  12. Thanks for this challenge to live counter-cultural and to sink our roots deep into the Truth that makes this season meaningful.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and visit, Michele! Merry Christmas to you and your family, my friend!

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  13. Such a great read Cheryl and wonderful reminder to us all to embrace simplicity. It's amazing how much stuff can keep us bound to needless stress. I so admire your resolve. Hope you and your family enjoy a Merry Christmas.

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    1. You are so right...stuff truly does keep us bound to needless stress. That is a great way of wording it. Thank you so much for your sweet visit. Merry Christmas to you, too, my friend!

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  14. Loved your thoughts dear!!!
    since my early age i love to live in a simple and peaceful way which makes me relat to my God ,Nature and myself .
    i don't believe getting involve in RACE

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    1. Thank you so much for your sweet encouragement, Baili. May God bless you and yours with a Merry Christmas!

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  15. Your post resonated with me, especially this part: "May we all remember the precious simplicity of that holy night so long ago,and may we strive to maintain its integrity this Christmas season." May God's peace be with you this Christmas! Visiting from #soulsurvival linkup.

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    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! I so appreciate your sweet visit and encouragement. May God bless you and your family with a wonderful, peaceful Christmas!

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  16. So much truth, Cheryl. Less Christmas'y is more -- more CHRISTmas. We all love the season and the excited energy, but it's so easy to get lost in the middle of that as Christmas passes us by. Thanks for this encouragement this morning. :) Merry Christmas!

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    1. You are so right, Brenda! Thank you ever so much for your sweet visit and kind words. May God bless you and your family with a very Merry Christmas, too! :)

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    1. Thank you so much for your visit, Sarah! May God bless you with a wonderful Christmas!

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  18. Cheryl, The Lord has blessed you with such a gift of encouragement and insight.

    I never thought about the simplicity of Jesus' birth and all that He emptied Himself of and what a stark contradiction we have turned Christmas into with all the stress and running around.

    As I get older, each year I am trying to be more intentional to slow down and spend Advent truly reflecting on all that the incarnation of Christ means. This will be the first year I am not baking my traditional cookies and just baked for my daughter-in-law's cookie exchange. I have been much more laid back about Christmas in general and it has been a blessing.

    Thank you sweet friend for your consistent Christ-honoring posts. What a blessing you are!

    And thank you for sharing this beautiful song! What beautiful rich words.

    Happy Christmas Friend!

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    1. Thank you ever so much for your kind words, my dear friend. Your encouragement is a true gift to me, and it always means so much when you come by. I do trust Jesus to bless you and your dear family with a wonderful Christmas! Sending you much love and many hugs!

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  19. Thank you for sharing these precious words, especially these: " May we all remember the precious simplicity of that holy night so long ago, and may we strive to maintain its integrity this Christmas season." I have had to learn to move in SLOW during the past few years, because of chronic illness, and it was a struggle to let go of all of the things that felt like they "had" to be done. But Jesus brings such a blessing when we focus our hearts on Him first and most of all! I'm blessed to be your neighbor over at #TellHisStory this week! Blessed Christmas to you!

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    1. Thank you so much, Bettie. I so appreciate you sharing with us here. I am so sorry to know of your chronic illness and do trust Jesus you are feeling better now. So thankful to meet you today! Merry Christmas to you!

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  20. Thank you for sharing your lovely post about the fast and the slow lane with us here at tell me a story. I never hard that song, and I am glad I didn't. (smile)

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    1. I'm glad you didn't, either!! LOL! It definitely gets in the mind and is hard to get out, that's for sure. :) So thankful for the cross and for how it changes us. God bless you, Hazel!

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