December 29

Bring It All Together

Well, you’ve nearly made it to the end of this experience, but we pray that it’s not the end of your journey of slowing down, fighting consumerism, and redeeming the true meaning of Christmas, as well as creating some new rhythms for the coming year. Today we want you to think through how you can crystalize what you’ve learned.

Take some time to come back together as a family and review how the experience was. Try to identify any themes that have come out. Maybe there are some really important shifts or changes you want to make as a family. It could even be as simple as how you want to support and pray for one another more. Brainstorm ways to remind each other to keep Christ at the center this next year. Here are a couple ideas to get you started:

  • Create a family motto that would be a great reminder of how and what you want to fill your life with in 2020. Maybe get it printed out and framed, placing it somewhere everyone will see it (or if you have an artist in the family, have them make something). It could be one of the themes of the week that resonated with your family most. For example, the week on slowing down might have meant a lot to you and your family, so come up with phrases like: “Slow down and be more present.” When things feel hectic and out of control, the phrase can remind you that, despite the constant message that you need to do more all the time, God’s counter-cultural rhythm is how we flourish. Saying it out loud can help reset you and your family back to that healthier rhythm and give you the confidence you need to actually live it out.  
  • If you have multiple themes that stood out, have one family member “bear the torch” for each theme. Let them own and choose the one that stood out most to them. Find a creative way for each person to be the bastion for their theme. You could each create a phrase or motto, but feel free to get even more creative. Is there a song, picture, diagram, or even a meme that captures a way to remind the family that 2020 will be different?

We hope these ideas spark some creativity! And remember, be encouraging, have fun, and let this be a time to enjoy each other as a family. You may even choose to do this activity to ring in the new year!  

December 28

Pressing into the God of Peace

Welcome to the final weekend of this 30-day experience! May it be one filled with the hope, joy, love, and peace of our Loving God. We hope these weekend experiences have been catalytic for you and your family to step into a different rhythm of life, one that is intentional and presses into the peace that only Jesus offers us. Remember that if we are meant to join God in bringing peace into this world, then the most likely place to start is in our own home. Above all, we must put ourselves in a posture to receive the God of peace in our lives.

Remember the 4 important shifts your family can make in 2020!

Today you will plan for conversations around these four shifts. You can split these up throughout the day or tackle them altogether in the evening. If you plan to go for it all at once, we recommend blocking out 2-3 hours. The purpose of this is to take your time and not rush through it. 

  • Shift from hurry to being more intentional/hopeful: Before you share in a meal together, use the following idea from the Fight Hustle, End Hurry podcast: Use 3×5 cards or sticky notes to write down all the things you want to fill your life with in 2020. Spread them all out on the kitchen table or on a wall so you can see them. You might be surprised at what you want to keep and want you are willing to remove. Use the questions below as a guide:
    • What are the most important things?
    • What brings life and joy to our family?
    • What drains our family?
    • How can we be intentional with our time?
    • Is there anything we think we should remove?
  • Shift from envy to more joy: This could be a great conversation over everyone’s favorite family meal. Feel free to allow your previous conversation to bleed over into this one. Brainstorm a creative way to remind each other how you can live this out.
    • How does envy get the best of us?
    • How do we shift and have more gratitude in everyday life?
    • How can we step into the abundant life and contentment that Jesus offers us?
    • How can we discover more joy in 2020?
  • Shift from apathy/indifference to love: Use these next discussion questions while everyone enjoys their favorite dessert.
    • What do you love?
    • How can we act more on our love, knowing true love requires action?
    • How can we learn to grow in our love of God and others?
    • What are more ways we can serve and love others in 2020?
  • Shift from worry/anxiety to more peace: Jumping into this final one in the same day really depends on how your family is doing. If you need a break, maybe tackle this last section tomorrow. You know your family best. 
    • If you haven’t watched the Conversation Kit to Anxiety as a family, use it to spark more discussion of how anxiety affects us. 

Otherwise, use these discussion questions:

    • How can we place ourselves in a posture to receive from the God of peace?
    • How do the previous 3 shifts help us as a family with our posture before God?
    • What does it look like to seek the God of peace more than the peace of God?
    • How can we be more open with our anxiety and worry to support and encourage one another?
    • How can we as a family be peacemakers in 2020?

Of course, feel free to really make this your own. These are simply suggestions for how this could go. You know your family best and how much you can tackle at once. Again, we hope that this is a starting point for these ongoing family conversations.

December 27

Recap

Welcome to the final Friday! Take today to catch up on anything you missed so far and prepare for tomorrow. Here are the key takeaways for the week:

  • Worry and anxiety can steal away peace. But we also need to have our focus on the God of peace!
  • Jesus gives us a different way to approach bringing peace into the world. Sometimes we must step into difficult circumstances and reveal the heart of God with love.
  • Peace is not void of conflict. Bringing God’s peace comes at a cost.
  • True peace is our eternal future but can also be a present reality when we step into joining God in His redemptive work.

Finally, as you prepare for tomorrow, remember the saying, “You cannot give what you do not have.” In order for us to bring and give peace, we must also be in a posture to receive it. Tomorrow is all about creating the space and conversation in our lives to receive the God of peace so we can live more peaceful lives. We have to work at eliminating hurry, envy, indifference, and anxiety. It’s not an easy task or one that can be solved in a weekend. It’s a process of reorienting our lives around God so that He can replace the former with hope, joy, love, and peace. Use tomorrow as the starting point, the catalyst that begins these ongoing conversations for your family.

December 26

True Peace

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.Isaiah 11:6

From the very beginning, God has been bringing shalom into and out of our chaos. In creation He brought order out of the void to form the sea and dry land. Through the prophets He foretold a day when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Peace is the enduring vision of God and of His people. And if peace is our eternal future, why would we not be about God’s business right here and right now? 

According to author and pastor Frederick Buechner, “Peace has come to mean the time when there aren’t any wars or even when there aren’t any major wars…But in Hebrew peace, shalom, means fullness, means having everything you need to be wholly and happily yourself.” The biblical concept of shalom implies not only a world free from violence, but a world full of flourishing relationships, flourishing economies, and a flourishing planet. “Shalom involves all members of God’s creation living in harmonious and life-giving relationship one with another.” 

It’s possible that we have allowed what our current culture says about peace to shape how we participate in peacemaking. Have we forgotten that we bear the image of the God of peace? We have within us the God-given capacity to live a life of peace despite the conflict around us. This peace is a much deeper and richer peace than what this world and our culture seeks. It is one that allows our souls, bodies, and minds to rest, trust, and fully embrace all this life has to offer.  

Most of us are not in a position to bring peace to the whole world, but we all have our own spheres of influence that we can surprise and disrupt with the peace of God. Think about how  you and your family can foster a peaceful presence in your home and community. Here are seven practical suggestions to help you and your family grow in your ability to be peacemakers: 

  1. Seek creative alternatives to verbal, emotional, or physical violence.
  2. Assert your own dignity as an image-bearer.
  3. Break the cycle of humiliation and shame that so often leads to retributive violence.
  4. Expose injustices without resorting to violence.
  5. Be willing to suffer instead of retaliate.
  6. Choose to not live in fear.
  7. Recognize your own ability to bring about change.

Action Steps:

  • Have each person in the family pick the top two or three things from the list above that they want to focus on in the coming year.
  • Get creative! If someone sees a way to bring about that’s not on the list above, share it with one another.
  • Create your own family list, adding clarity to or expounding on any one of the above suggestions in a way that’s meaningful for your family. 

December 25

False Peace

Peace without truth is a false peace.Menachem Mendel of Kotzk

Have you ever noticed that many of the greatest peacemakers the world has ever known seemed to stir up trouble wherever they went? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. confronted white supremacy and racial segregation by staging sit-ins, marches, and boycotts, disrupting the social and economic status in the American South. Mahatma Gandhi marched to the sea in defiance of British oppression and was executed by Imperial forces. Nelson Mandela spoke out against apartheid and was imprisoned for his stance against injustice. And then there’s Jesus, who was called, as we’ve mentioned, the “prince of peace.” Like it or not, conflict seemed to follow Him around His entire short life. As a child, Herod hunted Him into Egypt. At the beginning of His ministry, the religious leaders sought to throw Him off the side of a cliff. He turned over the tables of the money changers. And ultimately, He died a violent death at the hands of the Roman Empire.

The notion that Jesus was somehow a meek, passive figure just doesn’t fit with the Gospel narrative, nor does it mesh with our call to be active peacemakers in a violent world. Jesus confronted the oppressive order the Roman world called peace and exposed it as the violence it so often was. He refused to sit idly by and allow injustice to continue, but He overcame oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. And as His followers, we are called to do the same. 

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,

“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”1 Peter 3:9-14

This Advent, if we are to become peacemakers in a violent world, we must seek to resolve conflict without resorting to violence. It will take patience. It will take hope. It will require us to actively confront injustice and risk creating conflict in order to establish a just peace. As Dr. King reminds us, peacemaking “is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation.” 

Today we celebrate the most powerful force of peace that has ever entered this world. God chose to send the Prince of Peace to be born of a virgin in the most uncomfortable circumstances. The Prince of Peace came into this world at a high cost and, although victorious in the end, He suffered a terrible death at the end of His time with us. Let’s remember that peace doesn’t always come easy; in fact, it seems to always come with a cost. For Jesus, and hopefully for us as well, peace isn’t merely the absence of struggle, but rather the presence of love. 

Action Steps:

Sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, ask your family one of these questions. 

  • Where do see peace having a cost?
  • Why is it so tempting to “repay evil with evil”? 
  • What would it cost you to help bring peace to your environment?

December 24

The Third Way

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.Luke 2:14

The promise was there from the beginning. The prophets foretold it, the angels proclaimed it, and Jesus embodied it: peace on earth and goodwill toward everyone. Because of the birth of Jesus, we will eventually “beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.” But what about now? Most of us simply dismiss this promise of peace as either impractical idealism or an outdated, extinct appendage to the Gospel. Peacemaking just doesn’t work in our world of rising racism, global wars, and social media tantrums. Or does it?

Jesus was born into, raised up in, and killed at the hands of the most violent empire known to man. And yet, we hail Him the “prince of peace.” Why? Because He practiced the courageous and oftentimes creative task of peacemaking. He refused the age-old “fight or flight” mentality and offered the world a third way—the way of peace. Do you remember the scene in John’s gospel when the life of a defenseless woman was about to be taken? With stones in hand and a terrified woman at their feet, Jesus interrupts the plans of the self-righteous by interceding on her behalf. He didn’t sit idly by or meet the Pharisees’ viciousness with force. Rather, He placed Himself between the woman and her attackers and bore the brunt of their accusations. He met the Pharisees’ lethal force with an altogether different form of power, a power manifested in suffering love on behalf of the oppressed, which, when practiced, elevates the dignity of the downtrodden. Christ’s third way of dealing with evil is therefore not some form of negative pacifism that we can dismiss as superfluous in our attempts to meet evil with evil; it is active love and truth in the face of evil on behalf of the subjugated. 

For peace to exist in our homes, communities, or nations, we have to work for it. And remember, peace isn’t necessarily the absence of conflict; rather, it is the presence of love and justice. 

Action Steps:

Sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, ask your family one of these questions:

  • Does peacemaking seem practical to you? Why or why not?
  • 1 Peter 3:9 says to “repay evil with blessing.” What do you think that means?
  • What would peacemaking look like in our daily lives? 

You’ll also want to start planning today for your time together on Saturday. Remember, this all started with Saturdays being an opportunity to slow down and enter into a different rhythm (Sabbath). This Saturday will be the culmination and reflection of all the weeks and days so far. If peace is something we have to work toward, our own homes are a great place to start. So here’s what you’ll need to begin to prepare. 

Plan a meal that allows time for a longer discussion (approx. 2-3 hrs.). Below is a basic outline of how your Saturday meal/discussion time could go. (Don’t worry we will give you a more detailed plan on Saturday.) 

In order for the God of peace to rule over our lives we must first put ourselves in a posture to receive His peace. Here are four key shifts you can begin to make to be in the right posture:

  • Shift from hurry to being more intentional and living with hope.
    • Before your meal, come up with a creative way to eliminate hurry from your family’s lives. Get some sticky notes or 3×5 cards to write down what you want to fill your life with in 2020. (More details on Saturday’s email)

 

    • Shift from envy to more joy. 
      • Have this conversation over everyone’s favorite family meal.
      • We’ll give you discussion questions to go over during the meal. 

     

      • Shift from indifference to love.
        • Discussion over dessert. (More details on Saturday’s email)
        • Remember two weeks ago when you gave away your favorite desserts? This week have everyone actually eat their favorite desserts.

       

        • Shift from anxiety/worry to peace.
          • After the meal go over the discussion questions provided in Saturday’s email. 

         

          One final thought for today.  

          If our true identity is rooted is Jesus, then shouldn’t our lives reflect His life of peace? To take a deeper dive into our identity in Christ, you could watch our Conversation Kit to Identity tonight or sometime this week as a family.

          December 23

          Anxiety is the illness of our age. We worry about ourselves, our family, our friends, our work, and our state of the world. If we allow worry to fill our hearts, sooner or later we will get sick.Thich Nhat Hanh 

          A recent study by the National Institutes of Health revealed that nearly 1 in 3 children ages 13 to 18 will experience a significant anxiety disorder. Whether the culprit is social media, lack of sleep, increased scholastic pressure, or screen time, the verdict is simple: Our kids need help. But so do we! Anxiety and depression aren’t just limited to our children; mental health issues affect almost every home. Maybe that’s why the single most frequent command found in Scripture is, “Do not be afraid.” We read it several times during this season of Advent. When Gabriel visits Zechariah, Mary, and later Joseph, the proclamation is always the same: “Do not be afraid.” 

          As in their society, our society presents us with many opportunities for anxiety, posing questions to us like, What if I lose my job? What if our country falls apart? What if we’re ruining our planet? Alongside national, social, racial, and sexual issues, our own individual health problems, and suffering continue to define so many of our own lives and the lives of our loved ones. Christmas itself can easily turn into an anxiety minefield as family tensions, shopping, spending money, and expectations can put even the most mentally well-adjusted person on edge. 

          All this is why focusing on peace is so important during this fourth week of Advent. Jesus says in John 14:27, “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

          There it is again: “Don’t be afraid.” Yet, it’s often easier said than done. We all long for the peace of God in our lives, but maybe the reason we struggle to experience it has to do with the way we’re seeking this peace in the first place:

          But our attachment to this pure and simple peace of God can be too much about ourselves: we might find we’re more focused on the peace of God than on the God of peace.Alan Fadling 

          Anxiety and worry seem to fill the very fabric of our lives and can easily steal away our peace. However, we may also miss the peace that God offers us through His son when we take our focus off the One who is giving it. 

          Action Steps:

          Sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, ask your family some of these questions. 

          • What are the biggest causes of anxiety that you’ve seen? 
          • What do you think Jesus meant in John 14:27?
          • What’s the difference between seeking the peace of God and seeking the God of peace?