This is the view of the beginning of my 20 minute drive to work each day as I round the corner at Kreuzegg and head towards Wollerau on the East side of Lake Zurich. ….also a Cross on a nearby hill along the way!
A few nights ago we had some friends over for dinner and they asked my son a question in which his answer made me smile. The question was, “What is your family tradition? Do you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?” His answer was a quiet, simple (but profound), “Actually, this year we are giving away Christmas.” It was a memorable moment for me because his answer gave evidence that he’s getting an important value in life at Christmas that Tanya and I are being very intentional to try and pass on to our children.
As a family we’ve been having an internal discussion for weeks now (in continuation from last Christmas’ discussions) on how we should try to focus on others at Christmas, versus a “me attitude” of what presents under the tree have my name on it. Clearly, we’re not the perfect family (even if our last name is Best) and we will have one family gift that’s not exactly inexpensive under our tree, but overall, we are trying to figure out real tangible ways to “give away Christmas” with focus on others.
It’s not that it all started last year for our family with such a topic since we downplayed Santa Claus with our kids from birth and “up played” Jesus as the real gift at Christmas. However, last year we were challenged by another who went out of her way to do something for other families in our community who may not have a lot of means to really celebrate Christmas as a family, even in such a wealthy nation as Switzerland. I hesitate to share details of some of the ways our family is “giving away Christmas” this year, but at the same time, I hope and pray you may be challenged as well to look outward away from the presents with your name on them under your tree and think of others during Christmas.
First, it’s simply been an open conversation with our kids and seeking their input in practical ways we can “give away Christmas”. One way is that we will buy food baskets and take to our village’s social service office for them to give to families in need. We found out last year that there are a few (very local) families that are in need and they can anonymously take these baskets too. A catch in this is that we (each of us in the family) are finding ways together to set aside funds (giving up something) so we can purchase these gifts for others. There are a lot of creative ways to do this and we’re putting the saved money in a “Giving Away Christmas” box. There are a few other things involved in this family savings box, but you get the idea.
Another thing we did this year in particular was to sponsor a COMPASSION CHILD. This first month’s sponsorship is again a family thing that our kids have been involved with in setting aside support for it. Years ago we sponsored a child from Brazil while we still lived in the USA, and we are honored and excited to share in another’s life, this time in Togo. By the way, Ken N at LIFT is a Compassion “Advocate” who can provide you with more information on how you too can “sponsor” a Compassion Child somewhere in the world. Personally, I strongly endorse and have seen first hand the integrity of how Compassion International operates in a wonderful way of ensuring the sponsor’s finances truly makes it to those involved in a transparent and effective manner.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO SHARE ON WAY’S TO GIVE CHRISTMAS AWAY:
The world around us has made CHRISTmas into a spending frenzy and commercial business called X-Mas and I’m not one who desires for my kids to only know that kind of a world and the world of the fat guy in a red suit or only the Swiss version of Samichlaus and his cohorts “Schmutzli” from the “Waldhuus” (cabin in the woods). Jesus IS the reason for the season and CHRISTmas is called CHRISTMAS for a reason.
Again, my family isn’t “the model” family and we’re imperfect in many ways but I hope to challenge others to also be intentional to “GIVE AWAY CHRISTMAS”, just as God gave His Son as the original CHRISTmas gift to the world…..knowing Jesus would live His life to die for us, and GIVE us life through His death and resurrection!
I have a favor to ask of you and a challenge all at the same time. Since our family is still trying to seek practical ways to “GIVE AWAY CHRISTMAS” (this year and future years). If you, as a family, couple or single have found your own way of “giving away Christmas”, please click reply and share it with me? Preferably by next Wednesday. I intend to keep the names confidential, but would like to share various ideas that others out there may have found in giving away Christmas on next week’s LIFT update.
In His grip and grace…..because He first gave me the real gift of Christmas!
PS- A great friend of ours sent this link about couple days ago about “Giving This Christmas Away”- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2ulYpoNXC0
I’m back in the saddle with writing LIFT updates again after a wonderful vacation with my family!
If you recall, the last update was titled, “I’m just Corey”, sharing insight in that it’s not my titles in life, work or ministry that matter, but just me, “Corey”, living and giving my faith away as I go through life, which is true for you as well. This update titled “We’re just LIFT” is to give insight on how our name and identity (even when we use our full name LIFT- The International Church of Zug) allows us, within our Swiss cultural surrounding, to have real faith conversations and discussions that normally are stopped before they get started when one of two “religious” words are used.
Normally within the Swiss culture around us (or most all of Europe as well), when a conversation heads towards the topic of God, faith, church or Jesus, then the inevitable “conversation stopping question” is usually asked. This question is simply, “Are you Catholic or Protestant?” As soon as this question is asked, then within 30 seconds the conversation is over. Regardless if one answers protestant or catholic, the walls of religion and titles have already been poured, it’s just a matter of who stands on which side of the religion wall. Either both are the same, or one is the other, but as soon as they have classified each other there is no need to continue the discussion. Within the 30 seconds the follow-up statement is, “me too, or I am the other”. and there is no need to seek insight from another on faith from there. Even more interesting is that if the conversation is in German and someone tried to answer with another option than your church name and answers by stating “Ich bin Christ” (which means a Christian in German, not saying you’re Jesus Christ), then it is socially considered that if you’re not of the State Catholic or Protestant church, then now your label is more as one who belongs to a sect/cult, versus a real church, not the label you want in trying to share real faith in Jesus with someone.
But for us, we’re just LIFT and our church’s name is LIFT (The International Church of Zug) and this is a “conversation continue-er”, not a conversation stopper! Time after time, over the last 5 years since LIFT began, many of us have found this to be true in conversations with those who live in our community of Zug around us, Swiss and non-Swiss alike. When we say we go to LIFT, then “What is LIFT?” is the open door to continue the conversation. Especially by using English and saying that we are simply an International Christian church using the Bible and English to share the Gospel message in a relevant way (or something like that), then we’ve got their curiosity, not their preconceived religious label or title to attach to us. From there you have 9 powerful words that can do more than just continue the conversation, but give real life understanding and insight to what LIFT is all about, a relationship with Jesus Christ, not just about religion. The 9 powerful words are, “Why don’t you come to LIFT with me sometime?”
(Did anyone really count the words and then think it should really be 10 and not 9 because “don’t” technically represents two words?)
Clearly, I am one who normally challenges Christians to “GO” into their world and share their faith in Jesus with those they encounter, not just inviting others to go to church so the preacher can tell them about Jesus. That’s a given for me, but at the same time, “We’re just LIFT” within our Swiss context is a great way to help individuals continue the conversations with those around them. It’s part of LIFT, your church, partnering with you in sharing (y)our faith with those around you! If their first hand experience of a LIFT worship service is very different than that of the big churches around us with the spires and bells ringing and if it helps you continue the conversation, then let’s keep the conversation going together!
Of course, I am bias in my own opinion of LIFT, but many, many others (Followers of Christ and non-Christians, Swiss and non-Swiss) that have come to a LIFT worship service over the years have said that there IS something different about LIFT and the environment at LIFT that in other churches they’ve encountered. Even if they only came once and even if they were not receptive to desiring to hear about God, it’s often mentioned that the friendly environment of a so many Internationals together, with contemporary music and focus on the Bible, but somehow relevant to today’s issues is unique. Of course, being honest and transparent, there’s been those that haven’t come back and/or didn’t like LIFT either. Our heart at LIFT isn’t about where people go to church, it’s that people come into a relationship with God thru Jesus and know His love and grace for them.
In closing, I offer proof that LIFT is a unique name that can lead to very interesting conversations. This past week I got an e-mail of a dialog with an evangelist that may come to Switzerland and a “friend of LIFT” describing LIFT as this, “It is the Lift church in Zug. In this church, one has to sit in an elevator while the pastor preaches over a monitor…… We all sing “Lift us up Lord …just kidding” I had to smile trying to imagine a big elevator with a bunch of people standing scrunched together watching a monitor of Ken , Bedros or I sharing about Jesus, although in my imagination’s version we were singing Lord I LIFT Your Name on High!
Have a wonderful week and whether you attend LIFT (or another Christian church), be blessed and be a blessing alongside those at your church as we LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS in Living and Giving our faith away!
In His grip and grace,
Sorry for missing a few updates since 2009 started, but at least I have a good excuse! As most of of you know, our family has been blessed with the birth of our daughter Sarah Christiana who was born on December 31st 2008. On one hand, her birth and placement into our family is the wonderful blessing and somewhat completion of an amazing journey of faith and adoption. On the other hand, it is just the beginning of the overall faith journey in her life and our life as the Best family of five now.
Although, I am a future thinker, I just have to stop and look back and praise God for what He’s done for our family in blessing us with Sarah and the beautiful story that He is writing into her and our lives while at the same time also looking forward to life ahead! After having Livia and Silas and not being able to have more children ourselves, Tanya and I began to seriously discuss adoption in 2007 and during our Christmas break in the US last year (07 into 08) the Lord confirmed in our hearts (with the wonderful encouragement and real life example of my brother and his wife who had also adopted a newborn while already having older siblings) that adoption was an open door for us to walk through in faith.
Just before our return to Switzerland we met with a Christian adoption agency there in South Carolina. January and February of last year were a couple of months of prayerful consideration as a family with Livia and Silas definitely part of the overall conversation. By March, we chose to go with God in faith to grow our family through adoption. A couple full months of paperwork (a lot of paperwork) including a home study visit from a social worker and we were approved, but then in the waiting phase of the agency working to match a birthmother with our family. Obviously for us, this “matchmaking” process had little to do with the agency and everything to do with God working through the circumstances in that before Sarah was born and while she was still in her mother’s womb, He already knew her name and this is/was true for all of us.
Like any journey, there has been numerous experiences along the way, too many to note, but one special encounter was in July, while we were in the UK visiting my granny’s roots at the farm she was raised on. In the very room that my granny used to sleep in as a child (and the same room my mother stayed in while in 1st grade) we had a special first conversation with a woman named Christian. For me, a touching point of paths of my family past and family future crossing while looking out the window across that special family farm and speaking to the woman possibly carrying our future daughter. Sarah’s middle name is Christiana, intentional to carry a full meaning of the heritage of her birthmother’s name and the meaning of her adoptive parent’s spiritual heritage; both packed with love and giving life to Sarah’s own journey! Although we didn’t overly share too many details along the way this past year, we thank you – our extended family that we share life and faith with – for the love, prayers and support! We still have a few details to work out ahead, including an expedited passport for Sarah so we can return home to Switzerland, but clearly we are so thankful and praise the Lord for growing our family in such an incredible way. May Sarah’s birthmother be blessed for her incredible “offering” of love and life, an act of love we will honor and cherish!
His grip and grace,
Romans 12:4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
How cool it is to see the body of LIFT in action! If it wasn’t for faith and our God who can bless beyond expectations, I would think all that has happened in the last ten weeks would nearly be unbelievable……..and yet, I do believe and our God does bless in exceptional ways!
It’s not just that LIFT was able to find and reach a rental agreement to move into Ibelweg 18 in less than a two week process (a miracle itself in Switzerland, not to mention the prior 18 month search with no results), but it’s all of the rest of the ” LIFT BODY” working together around this move and so many other ministries all launching at the start of this school year as well that is so wonderful to see. LIFT isn’t about a building, it’s about people, actually Followers of Jesus, who love and serve God and one another as a light of hope to our community of Zug around us!
Instead of using names, I just want to thank the “LIFT BODY”, meaning our church congregation, for stepping up and serving (working) hard together to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time, and to think that we don’t even have an official church membership yet! In the last 2 months there has been a church outing, a men’s retreat with two renewed and strengthened men’s morning groups, a church relocation with moving stuff to the new place, cleaning of the old place, raising lights in the new place, ladies study launching, baby showers taking place, ladies potlucks happening, Moms & Tots group meeting, Sunday school and nursery re-launching, Club Lift re-launching, music team forming w/ practice session, a sound team forming and new equipment being sourced, a janitor team starting, volunteers setting up facility needs (cups, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc), sourcing of new chairs, physically unloading new chairs, setting up new sanctuary including new backdrop screen that was sourced and personally delivered, K-Groups organizing and launching with host locations and leaders, a new preaching study with three men team-sharing the messages through 1 Peter……and I am sure I am forgetting many other wonderful things that have happened, just in the last two months! It’s incredible and keep in mind these things don’t just happen by one or two people, but many, including the leaders of these ministries and projects who also spent planning and coordinating beforehand.
Way to go Jesus, whom we thank first and foremost and above all else, but also way to go LIFT and thank you all who have graciously helped serve the Lord and one another!
I’m so excited that from the beginning, and even now, LIFT’s essence is more of faith in action versus faith in structure. Sure, LIFT has accomplished some foundational structural issues this year by forming a broader leadership, the Servant Leaders (elders/deacons) and legally becoming a Swiss Verein including getting our own bank account and finance team in order, and these are important as structure and good stewardship is necessary. But it’s beautiful to see the heart of LIFT is that of active faith, and faith to trust that God will continue to bless and protect LIFT, even though the structure isn’t fully developed yet, as in official membership for example. Hopefully, LIFT intends to roll out our membership plan of action in January or at the latest February, as we started the process this past June and hit the summer holiday season and held it off. You might remember that we communicated that three things are desired, actually expected, from those that desire to be members of LIFT, what we call the LIFT BODY. First, that one is a Follower of Jesus; a true Christian who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ to receive God’s grace and salvation. Furthermore, that as a member one would give and serve in some capacity. Perhaps one is new to faith or coming to a church, and isn’t comfortable with officially joining? That’s understandable, especially in Switzerland where folks are often skeptical of churches, especially a free church that’s international and not part of the State Catholic or Protestant churches. Let me be very clear, ALL ARE WELCOME AT LIFT regardless of background and faith, however we are a Christian church and will teach the Bible unashamedly. So for all who simply want to attend, even regularly, or who may be attending a LIFT ministry such as a ladies or men’s study or K-group, they are welcome and can have a place to belong. We call this the COMMUNITY OF LIFT. So at LIFT, we look to Jesus as the head of His church and then we have the SL-Servant Leadership of LIFT (elders and deacons), the LIFT BODY (the Followers of Jesus who give and serve) and the LIFT COMMUNITY (the ones who attend and have found a place to belong). Welcome to LIFT The International Church of Zug!
Let’s see how things go after the new year starts with better defining the structure, but in the meantime let’s praise God and thank Him for doing great and mighty things through His church’s active faith here in Zug! There is something special going on and what a praise to be able to be a part of it and to see God the Father and the Holy Spirit working through us at LIFT for the Name and Glory of the Son, Jesus Christ!
We are so blessed and it is an honor to serve the Lord Jesus Christ alongside you here at LIFT!
In His grip and grace,