Fourth of July Features
Celebrate 'Beyond Me' Living During the Holidays
In the midst of an increasingly materialistic, secular, and busy culture, are we able to maintain a grateful attitude as we focus on the Source of all our blessings? Or do we give in to the clamoring voices that repeatedly chant to us: “I want it all—and I want it now”?
Even in the Southern California desert where we live, there is a chill in the air now—and after a long, hot summer, it’s a welcome one! But as we watch for an occasional red or yellow leaf (there aren’t many out here in cactus country!), our thoughts inevitably turn toward Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Of course, with stores beginning to sell tinsel and lights in August, it’s a natural progression to move from grilling hot dogs to planning a turkey dinner. And who doesn’t love the holiday season? As the year draws to a close, it seems an appropriate way to bid it farewell by celebrating a day of Thanksgiving to God, followed by the Christmas celebration of the greatest gift ever given. In addition, it’s the perfect time to draw together with family and friends and simply enjoy one another’s company by sharing meaningful activities.
But do we? In the midst of an increasingly materialistic, secular, and busy culture, are we able to maintain a grateful attitude as we focus on the Source of all our blessings? Or do we give in to the clamoring voices and grasping hands that repeatedly chant to us in the words of an oft-aired commercial: “I want it all—and I want it now”?
A few years ago I took Brittney, one of my granddaughters who was a pre-teen then, on our annual back-to-school shopping trip. We no sooner walked through the department store doors than she made a beeline for the cosmetic counter, where she spotted a new line of cosmetics designed especially for her age group and tantalizingly named “It’s About Me.”
I was stunned. Could the world’s siren call to serve self (and fork over the cash in the process) be any more blatant? And how were we as Christians supposed to combat this anti-biblical message with that of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, epitomized by serving others?
The more I considered the problem, the more I realized it wasn’t just children and young people who were taken in by this all-about-me message. Adults too—and yes, even many in the church—were also caught up in it.
Taking it to the next step, I became aware of the fact that it isn’t simply in the amassing of “things” that our self-serving attitude threatens to overwhelm our Christian witness; this is an ongoing problem in nearly every area of our lives. Out of that realization came my most recent book, Beyond Me: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World. However, I’ve learned that it’s often easier to write a book about a God-given revelation than it is to live it out. And nowhere is that more apparent than within our own immediate families.
I remember one December in particular when I reflected on the year that was nearly at an end and sought God for direction in the one about to begin. I was surprised to sense these seven words in my heart: “Somebody has to set up the chairs.”
What was that supposed to mean? Quite obviously it was a call to serve others, and I understood that much—but wasn’t I already doing that? What else could God possibly have in mind?
A couple of days later, it all came into focus. My almost-ninety-year-old mother lives with us, and I am her primary caretaker. I also work fulltime (often more than forty hours a week) as a writer, editor, and public speaker, making for a full and often exhausting schedule, with little time left over for myself. As I wrestled with my ongoing juggling act, needing to run an errand for my mom and therefore interrupting my already too full work schedule, I heard myself grumbling—and I didn’t like the sound of it one bit.
“Forgive me, Lord,” I whispered.
No sooner were the words out of my mouth than the reminder came to my heart: “Somebody has to set up the chairs.”
So that was it! God was calling me to servanthood right there in my own home, where it is often most difficult to maintain a servant’s heart and where the “all-about-me” attitude threatens to surface more often than many of us would like to admit.
I realized that with an effort of my will, I could change my actions, but only God could change my heart. It was the perfect partnership, and one I continue to practice each day of my life, reminding myself that “somebody has to set up the chairs” and that God will not call me to serve without also equipping me to do so.
What a wonderful starting place to keep us focused on what really matters in this holiday season—and throughout the year! And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could employ that “beyond me,” “you-first,” “setting-up-the-chairs” concept to help those closest to us? To move past that “all-about-me,” self-serving attitude of the world and practically and purposefully follow after Jesus on the road to humble servanthood?
I believe we can do just that. In addition to modeling that sort of God-honoring lifestyle through our own actions and attitudes, why not join our children (or grandchildren) in planning some hands-on holiday activities that will help them grow beyond self to begin to fulfill the limitless potential that is found only in serving God and others?
First, why not take advantage of the many opportunities to serve those less fortunate in our communities? Rescue missions and soup kitchens abound, often to overflowing, with those in need of a hot meal, a warm blanket, or a kind word. Could there be a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than to serve a holiday meal to those who might otherwise not have one?
What about ministries within our own churches, many of them geared to collect, wrap, and then distribute gifts to those little ones with whom Jesus so loved to spend His time on earth?
Hospitals and elder-care homes provide another avenue of ministry to those in need. Nothing puts a smile on the face or a song in the heart quicker than a group of Christmas carolers bearing plates of homemade cookies and fudge.
Where or how we set up the chairs isn’t nearly as important as doing so with a humble and grateful heart, one that has learned to reject the world’s message that “it’s all about me” and to adopt the message of a true disciple that “it’s all about loving Him, and serving others.”
May you and your family enjoy “beyond me” living—throughout this holiday season, and always!
Kathi Macias, popular speaker and prolific author, is an Angel-award winning writer who has published twenty-six books and hundreds of articles. Whether keyboarding her latest book, keynoting a conference, or riding on the back of her husband’s Harley, Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias is a lady on a mission to communicate God’s vision. Her insightful words—filled with passion, humor, and soul nourishment—refresh audiences from all walks of life. Her latest book, BEYOND ME: LIVING A YOU-FIRST LIFE IN A ME-FIRST WORLD, named “top pick” in the Christian Living category by Christian Retailing magazine, is available from our E-STORE.
Kathi’s website is www.kathimacias.com.