“Giving Away CHRISTmas! Part 2”

Hello All,
 
I just got back yesterday from an event (a CHRISTmas party) with my company’s UK partner in Cardiff, Wales.  It was such a blessing that Tanya was able to come with me and we even slipped in a bit of time at the big shopping mall near our hotel.  Wow, it was like one foot back in the USA as this mall was not like the Swiss “malls” around Zug….or even Zurich.  While impressive and full of people as this place was only a few days before Christmas, it was a clear reminder again of what the world around us thinks Christmas (or X-mas as most of the signs indicated) is all about; shopping for gifts and the guy in the red suit named Santa.  We even saw several Santa’s around, one in particular giving away the “ISSUE” newspaper to all that walked by.  I’m not a Santa hater nor am I one who would desire to boycott Christmas, but I am definately one who’s passionate about reminding the world around me in a loving way that CHRISTmas is about THE ORIGINAL GIFT, that God blessed creation in a special way with His Son Jesus on that original Christmas day! 
 
Here’s THE ORIGINAL GIFT’s birth announcement as recorded in Luke 2:10-14
 
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
 

In continuation from the last LIFT update regarding “Giving Away CHRISTmas”, I thank the many that sent their great insight and ideas in how you or your family can also try to seek ways to bless others this time of year versus being focused on a gift under the tree with your name on it. Below in blue font is a selection of many of these responses with some minor editing (denoted with an *) to keep the focus on the ideas and not the people.   
 
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Hey man this was awesome.  We have three children* and we are going to have each one pick out a gift, wrap it, and try to deliver it to a family in need, or give it to a charity toy drop off.

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What a wonderful message! It did me good reading it. Two weeks ago we had a discussion about the chidren’s* “old” toys and instead of selling them on the internet* and getting money for it, we would like to give them to the Gemeinde  Sozialabteilung (local village’s social welfare office*).  We’re also discussing the food matter as we are sure that here in (our village*) there are families who have no chance to celebrate Christmas with some good food and to enjoy Christmas because they are struggeling with everything.

 
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We absolutely love and look forward to Christmas because it’s all about giving although the world has turned it the other way around. Our child recently celebrated with a birthday party with friends from his/her* current & former school. For the party, instead of having presents and all, our child* had all the guests make a donation to the school’s Ghana charity fund, which funds the running of a school in Ghana. I hope this will not end here, as I will create albums & info sites and send it with a thank you to those who came, so they can continue to be updated by the progress of the Ghana school and perhaps support it again in the future.

Being a child once myself, I can understand how important presents are to kids and as parent’s* were very pleased to see our child* give instead of take, and use the birthday party as a way to raise awareness & funds for those who need it. God is indeed great and church has played a great role in shaping our child* as well. My grandma raised me with a thought – “To be able to give – that’s the greatest blessing.” So I hope that this is passed on to my child*.

The other idea which we all had was to have a birthday party at an orphanage, where all the guests bring gifts for the kids at the orphanage instead of the birthday child. That doesn’t just stop there as the kids would be encouraged to continue their friendship and to really be a friend to the kids at the orphanage, so like writing to each other and all that. This too can be used for a Christmas party, where we can share the real Gift – Jesus.

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I used to work for a Greek shipping company and every Christmas, we send out Christmas greetings to all our partners, clients, suppliers and friends, and tell them we have donated to charities the money which we would have used to buy the cards & pay for the postage. That was quite a bit which would have been spent on cards and postage, so it was good to see that the money went to children’s homes and cancer charities instead… and the cost for sending out the thousands of greetings out – zilch. :) … oh yeah… less trees cut down too, so also protecting God’s creation.

 
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I love your words “giving away”.  I often hear our child* say these words.  As a matter of fact, she wrote a paper about a famous person* and in her opening paragraph she wrote something like this “this person* loved peace and gave it away….”
 
In our home country*, we, as a family always tried to do some kind of little family fundraiser and pass the money onto the orphanages in Russia.  This always was a big deal for us, but last year here, I had a tough time trying to figure out what to do and let our little family tradition go past us.  The last year we were in our homeland*, we had an art show.  one of our children* is a very good artist, but other made a bunch of pictures, too.  I put borders on all of them and hung them in our dining room.  We invited lots of neighbors and friends and collected donations for each “piece” of art.  We donated all the money to an organization that builds playgrounds in orphanages in Russia.  Now, our second year, here, and I’m still thinking about this and maybe will try to do something in the New year. 

 
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Cool message!   For several years in a row my siblings* and I were buying Christmas gifts for each other, and for each our spouses.  There are 6 of us in total.  We all attend the same church in our homeland*, and they often have various organizations in need around Christmas time.  About 5 years ago we decided we truly didn’t need anything material for Christmas, and that we would much prefer to take all of the money we would spend on each other (+ some extra), and we sponsor a family that is in need.  While I was there last we all* took a day and went and did all the shopping together.  We really enjoyed spending the time together, and we were so happy to do something that would make someone else’s Christmas morning special.  Obviously, I am now just a monetary contributor, but the “tradition” remains.  Our kids visibly see that we don’t have gifts from each other, and it a good opportunity to explain to them what we are doing and why.  We certainly aren’t “special” for doing this – as lots of people all over the world do it – but I have to say I don’t miss the gifts under the tree at all, and it is such a peaceful feeling to know someone else is having a special day.
 
That said we have struggled to find a way to really instill it in our kids – so I love the ideas you have!  Can’t wait to see the others.

 
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This year compassion international has a “what I want for christmas” program.  They send you a child that needs a sponser (at the end of NOv) for you to pray for during the holidays and try to find a sponser for.  We are doing that and the kids are really praying for (*our child we sponsor).  Also we do one of the toy programs for kids that wouldn’t get anything, each child fills a shoebox.  Also we have some Christmas books we read

 
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Working with and helping the mentally and physically challenged is a real blessing because they really appreciate the love. I use to volunteer with the Special Olympics * and continue to help out a workshop/day center.

Another things is to give to the Messianic Congregations in Eretz Israel. They have Arab, Jewish and others that have paid dearly to become believers in the Messiah. As you know both the Arabs and Jews families write their family members off when they put their faith in Jesus.

Recently some congregations have been firebombed, vandalized and have had the anti-missionary groups riot in front of their places of worship. They really need our prayer and physical support (even visits). Consider standing with them as they need to know that other believers care about them in their time of need. Especially now..

Keeping the light(s) in this world,

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A cool idea that we have used in the past is to give specific gifts from the Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog, in someone else’s name, as an honorary gift to them (SP sends an honor or memory card explaining the gift). This works well for grandkids to give to their grandparents, for example. See https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
 
e.g. 
$4 for milk for a child for a week
$9 to feed a hungry baby for a week
$10 for a mosquito net to prevent malaria
$14 for a dozen baby chicks
 
It’s also available in British pounds here: http://www.giftcatalogue.org.uk

 
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We’ve done Operation Christmas Child via ISZL for the past two years (isn’t that cool that the international schools sponsor such a Christian thing!? I wonder whether they realize!), and we also were able to do it through our homeland* as well. Have been blessed to sponsor Compassion children for 20 years this year. 
 
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Dad just came back from some ministry* outreaches where he was telling Hindu Indians about what Christmas is all about. Sharing our “Dad time” over the Christmas break is one way that we give Christmas away. Another way is that we’ve always had a stocking for Jesus. So there are 7 stockings at our fireplace: one for every family member, plus one for Jesus. We kids grew up putting poems for Jesus, letters for Jesus, and money for Jesus in the stocking. We then take the money to church as offering, or give the money to missions/the poor. We also bake traditional Swiss Christmas cookies for all of our neighbors. Some of them wait all year for our cookie bags! Most of these neighbors don’t yet know the Lord, but they all know that we are Christians, and they respect us for it… I think they’re glad we take Christmas so seriously because it means they get yummy cookies (hehe), but it’s also a nice way of reaching out to them and going to their homes to deliver the cookies… We have interesting conversations with them each time.
 
What amazing insight into “being CHRISTmas” and a blessing to others at CHRISTmas time! 
 
There are still a few days left, what might you do to still “Give Away CHRISTmas yourself this year? Taking gifts to others?  Serving at a food distribution place?  Adding “Jesus is the reason to the season” to your (work) e-mails instead of X-Mas?  Inviting someone to a Christmas Eve service (which LIFT is having one)?  Connecting with a long ago family member or friend that you need reconciliation with? Bringing a guest to your Christmas meal, even if they aren’t family?  (Contact the Eales if you want to join with the growing “Christmas Day meal with the Eales” for families/individuals around LIFT that don’t have extended family around!
 
In His grip and grace…..because He first gave me the real gift of Christmas!
Corey

“Growing FAMILY! Part 2”- Fellowship: Formed for God’s Family

Hello again from Greenville, South Carolina,

Thanks for the many words (e-mails) of encouragement and congratulations regarding our lil’ Sarah Christiana and our growing FAMILY! I don’t think it was a coincidence that after sending last week’s LIFT update out on Sunday, that on Monday, the following devotion was in my in-box.

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Fellowship: Formed for God’s Family
(a Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotion by Rick Warren)
See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are! 1 John 3:1 (NLT)

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You were formed for God’s family.
God is the One who made all things, and all things are for his glory. He wanted to have many children share his glory…” (Hebrews 2:10 NCV).
God wants a family, and he created you to be a part of it. This is one of God’s purposes for your life, which he planned before you were born. The entire Bible is the story of God building a family who will love him, honor him, and reign with him forever.
His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure” (Ephesians 1:5 NLT).
Because God is love, he treasures relationships. His very nature is relational and he identifies himself in family terms: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Trinity is God’s relationship to himself. It’s the perfect pattern for relational harmony and we should study its implications.
God already exists in loving relationship to himself so he’s never been lonely. He didn’t need a family. he desired one, so he devised a plan to create us, bring us into his family, and share with us all he has.
This gives God great pleasure.
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Yes, we are “formed for God’s family”, even via adoption!!

His grip and grace,

Corey

“Growing FAMILY!”

Hello All (from Greenville, South Carolina- USA),

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,

Corey

Jesus IS the reason for the season! – Part II

‘Twas the night before Christmas……
Hello All,

‘Twas the night before Christmas and in a nearby Swiss house,
Not much food or toys were present, but perhaps a lil’ mouse.
When the day of Christ’s birthday came to celebrate, 
The family found a way, but compared to others, it wasn’t so great…..

Perhaps you were expecting me to again announce the Christmas Eve service on the 24th that is from 6 – 7 pm as “‘Twas the night before Christmas” but I would like to share something a friend did a couple of weeks ago which challenged my thinking of the meaning of Christmas, for those around us in our community of Zug and perhaps for those of you reading this, wherever you are.  

This friend, comfortably blessed with a nice house, enough food, Christmas gifts for family, etc., did a wonderful “random act of kindness” in thinking of others who may not have so much.  This friend took grocery items down to the local “Amt” (gov’t office building) of their “Dorf” (village), which means a very small town here in Switzerland.  Not even sure it was the right place, my friend asked if there might be others in the “Dorf” who are in need.  As most “Amts” in the local towns of Switzerland have many functions under one roof, down at that town hall was a person who accepted the grocery items and said thank you for such a thoughtful act of thinking of others.  Furthermore, the office worker said, there were two families in particular that were having a very tough time right now that the town was aware of.  Tanya and I, who live near this same area, were touched by this act of kindness for others, and also were awakened to the fact that there are others who are in need, RIGHT WHERE WE ARE!

On one hand, I am so excited how part of LIFT’s core DNA is that of missions, especially 3rd world, in serving and ministering to others.   Each year LIFT’s missions giving has grown and recently we gave approx. 13,500 Swiss Francs to our ministry partners in India, South Africa, Belize and even helped support a local Swiss teacher serving in Sudan.  This IS a wonderful gift of love and our giving to others as a mission minded church will continue into the future. But on the other hand, I too often forget about the obvious that is right in front of my eyes, those others right near by.  Too often, I see Switzerland, and especially our Canton of Zug as an affluent place, even calling Switzerland a “rich country”.  As half the world’s 6 billion inhabitant live on less than 3 Swiss Francs a day, it’s actually true, but still, there are folks around me in need, very much in need of basic daily food and life supplies. 

I’m not trying to communicate that LIFT should change our focus. We are doing a wonderful job in being a light for Christ in our community and clearly our essence of LIFT is a church body that does take the Gospel message to those around us where we live, work and play and not just try to invite someone to church so the pastor can share the message. We’re an active body that is quite bold actually!  I guess what I’m writing is that for me personally, this random act of kindness really opened up my eyes to a need to look a little closer to those around me in my community, .  Those others that live nearby, those that have kids in the same schools or sports or club teams as my kids, those others that I recognize at the shopping market or town gatherings. Yes those others need the Gospel, in words from my mouth, in actions from my lifestyle and even for some in need, in anonymous random acts of kindness that only the Lord knows about and will bless as only He blesses!  

There’s still a couple of days left before Christmas and perhaps the Lord is about to bless a family or someone in need through a random act of kindness near you too? 

Thank You, God, for blessing us all on Christmas with your love, grace and the ultimate Christmas gift ever…..JESUS! 
Jesus IS the reason for the season!

In His grip and grace,

Corey

Unwrapping Christmas Traditions!

Hello All,

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord!  THIS IS CHRISTmas, Jesus Christ our Lord! 

As we’ve been “Unwrapping CHRISTmas” this month and reminding ourselves that Jesus is the meaning of Christmas, I can’t help but acknowledge that also Christmas traditions, especially those you’ve lived within your own family are part of Christmas as well.

For many this time of year is again a season of joy and celebration to be shared with family.  At the same time, this time of year can be very lonely for many whose Christmas memories aren’t so joyous or current life circumstances just don’t fit with the whole “celebration” theme.    

As the verse above states, CHRISTmas is about CHRIST the Lord, born to each of us……yes, YOU! 
I pray you are blessed, each of you with the love of God in Jesus and the Holy Spirit this Christmas!  Whether you realize it or not, we truly are blessed to have a Savior in the world! Whether we are with family or alone, Jesus IS there with us and in reality, we are never alone! 

What a testimony of Christmas as well in that the Eales are hosting a Christmas meal (Bring and Share/Potluck) on Christmas day for ALL that would like to join. Regardless if you are single or a family wishing to celebrate with others, you are welcome!   You have “family” at LIFT, even if you didn’t grow up in the same home together!  Remember the special Christmas Eve service at 5:00 pm at the Kirchgemeindehaus as well.  
So, about those family traditions……  Something Tanya and I brought into our Best family Christmas many years ago was simply including the reading of Luke’s version of the “first Christmas” each Christmas Eve with our children and family or friends or who may be with us.  Yes, we too enjoy the warm decorations, candles, baked cookies and having a Christmas tree in our living room, but we do make it intentional to include that Jesus is what Christmas is truly about, a real celebration and gift of life from God to us!    

Below is this Luke 2 passage of the first Christmas!

In His grip and grace,

Corey

Luke 2
2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
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.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.