Advent – Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing.

I love Christmas.  I love everything about Christmas.  I love lights, stockings, songs, nativity scenes….

I digress for a moment ….My Mama Teetle and Papa Jay have the MOST AMAZING nativity scene.  The pieces are hard plastic and I vividly remember playing with them each Christmas morning over at their house.  When we started accumulating Christmas stuff, I lobbied for the same type of nativity scene and won!  Now we are getting pieces and the kids play with them a lot.  I typically enjoy adding princesses or non-traditional extras to the foray like dinosaurs or lego men….

I return.  Like I was saying I love Christmas.  We got married around Christmas, and at our shower and wedding, we received A LOT of AWESOME Christmas ornaments.  As much as I love Christmas, I think Amy may love Christmas more than me.  Cookies decorating, decorating the tree, etc. are all activities that are near to her heart.

I don’t know where we were last Christmas.  Why didn’t we observe Christmas here?  Maybe we were in shock of moving and adjusting or realizing that we were in fact going to have the 3rd child.  Or maybe Amy was pregnant, sleeping all the time, and we were just trying to survive (most likely) but THIS YEAR we have realized that Christmas is different in Belize.

Before you read any further: The rest of this post is not an indictment against the American Machine that results in consumerism Christmas, things like Elf on the Shelf and Santa (which spoiler alert, I will address later on). This post is merely a perspective the Lord laid on my heart while observing Belizeans this Christmas season.

Growing up Christmas was awesome!  I remember that Santa came and he spread out all the presents.  You know what I mean, didn’t wrap ANY of them.  They were just out.  Molly (my sister), and I each had our own spot.  I remember, vividly, waking up around 3 or so after Santa had left, tip-toeing out of the room just to take a glance of what Santa brought.   I remember as I aged, Santa began to wrap presents (sneaky Santa).  I remember as Amy and I got married all of a sudden she received presents “Love Santa” scribbled on the tags.  It was surely a time of joy, but what was my joy wrapped up in?

I am constantly seeing posts right now of creative ways to position each family’s Elf on the Shelf.  I think this idea would have blown my mind when I was little and I can’t imagine the joy of finding out where my Elf is for the day, as a child?  The investment of creative-thinking skills from the parents is quite amazing and applauded.  My prayer is that every parent is spending at least that much time in creatively thinking about how to make their family as excited about Jesus being born as they are about elves on shelves.

I was at the Primary School last Monday morning and asked the kids what is their favorite thing about Christmas.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Time with family
  • NO SCHOOL
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Turkey and Ham
  • Christmas Programs and Services
  • Jesus Birthday

Now I am not so slow that I think that they weren’t giving me the answer I wanted to hear BUT it’s the theme.  I didn’t hear Santa.  I didn’t hear presents.

I went home that night and read my devotion for this season and noticed what that it said “Are we doing what we sing in Joy to the world?  Are we really preparing Him room?”

Wowzers!  Prepare Him Room.  Why do we need to prepare room for Jesus at Christmas?  Well…it’s simple.  Before Jesus came, God prepared.

You see I have always wondered.  Why didn’t God just send Jesus after the first sin of Adam and Eve? If that was his redemption the plan then why didn’t’ it happen immediately?  God revealed the answer that Monday night in my devotion.  He had to PREPARE the earth, prepare us for Jesus.  He sent John the Baptist immediately before Jesus to prepare the way.

And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” – Luke 1:17

The devotion said “What John the Baptist did for Jesus, Advent can do for us.  Don’t let Christmas find you unprepared, spiritually unprepared

That spoke volumes to me!  As Amy and I were discussing packing, our schedule for people to see, presents to buy, stuff to bring back from the states, I realized Christmas is going to come and we are NOT going to be prepared.  We have NOT prepared Him room.

We doubled back started playing more with our nativity scene, talked about the greatest present, watched Veggie Tale Christmas movies instead of Disney Junior Christmas specials, and focused on reading Christmas devotions.  We are preparing our hearts for welcoming Jesus this Christmas!!

What about you?  As you prepare for parties, family gatherings, Christmas day, toys, etc, are you also preparing your heart for Him this Christmas?

My prayer for everyone is this Christmas is that we would all realize Christmas is an indictment against the world that we are all sinners in need of a savior, that God loves us so much to give us Jesus, and that we should be extraordinarily creative making our kids MORE excited about Jesus than Santa Claus this year.

Let us prepare our heart to make Him room and then “rejoice exceedingly with great joy”

May God bless you and your family richly this Christmas Season,

Our Christmas tree and homemade ornaments!

Our Christmas tree and homemade ornaments!

Everyone needs to hear the Good News about Jesus.

Everyone needs to hear the Good News about Jesus.

Christmas cookies to give out to Madeline's friends at the school Christmas party!

Christmas cookies to give out to Madeline’s friends at the school Christmas party!

The Ultimate Mission Trip Style Guide – a Man’s perspective

Introducing…The Ultimate Mission Trip Style Guide – A Man’s Perspective.

Here’s what you need to know before we begin. I love fashion.  Seriously, I do.  Odd, perhaps, but a skill that was vital to my courting of Amy.  In the beginning of our relationship and our marriage, I purchased all of Amy’s clothes for her.  It brought me and brings me great joy to see Amy LOVE what she is wearing and feel outstanding in it!  In fact, just the other day we were discussing the type / style of jeans that she was going to get back in the states.  The discussion hit all the high points, fit, color, stitching, etc.  Ya know??!  Right?

What’s up with your hat?

Anyway, my personal style has always been comfortable and eclectic.  At some point early on in my style journey, I realized that I would funnel most resources to Amy and her style because that brought me joy and I would focus on socks and hats, of which I have, well a lot.  (Note: Just the other day, I received an awesome pair of taco socks!).

In fact some of you may ask why on earth do you wear those things, especially at work?  I would answer that it requires me to be extra sharp, intelligent and productive for anyone to take me seriously when I am wearing an Ernie hat to a presentation I am giving or pink frog socks to an interview.  So there ya have it.

Bad Habits…Die Hard

Anyway, early on in the mission field as early as 2007 I realized the need for a unique and effective mission trip style as a guy.  One could chart back and ask my bunk mates on our first few trips to Belize about my habit of crawling into the bed without showering.  Not so bad except that you could figure I had been ringing out sweat from my shirt / shorts all day and probably could qualify myself as a salt block to salt meat in the evenings….GROSS.  I know.

Showering: Our Belize staff find it comical that I have gone a whole week without showering on a mission trip lets make that multiple trips.  Don’t you stink is the obvious question?  And the answer is no.  Seriously, I am not just saying this.  Amy can attest.  Really I don’t.  However, not showering for a whole week is a bit much, even for me.

Dental Hygiene: This summer I was in Dangriga and we were packing up at the end of the week to come home.  I said “wow there’s my toothbrush.” To which Andy my roommate said “wait have you not brushed your teeth all week?”  I just looked laughed and smiled….a smile that probably had something stuck between the teeth.  But hey when you have gapped teeth…the need for brushing diminishes quickly!

The Basics and the Not so Basics…

(Note: the rest of this blog will not touch on church wear, which is specific per location.  In Belize, I am wearing slacks, nice shoes, and a button up long-sleeved shirt every week)

  • T-shirt –  This is the quintessential outerwear.  T-shirts are multi-functional.  They absorb sweat are trendy in design, usually come free with a mission trip, and as a bonus are awesome surfaces for those paint or cement wars that are bound to happen during the construction project.  Seriously, I wear t-shirts all day every day.  In fact my mission trip t-shirt collection is growing at a clip that is alarming and may necessitate a mission trip t-shirt quilt here soon.
  • Athletic Shorts – Most people, myself included, as participants desire to wear athletic shorts.  Should a basketball or futbol game break out, you are already prepared.  They are also the most breathable for those tropical climates.
  • Alternate shorts – As I have begun to lead more trips, I find the cargo pockets with buttons quite resourceful.
  • Eye-wear – Let’s be clear safety first so protective eye-wear while on site.  BUT this is a style guide.  I am prone to wear sunglasses ALWAYS.  I do NOT recommend bringing your best pair of Oakleys or Ray Bans or other sunglasses over 15 USD per pair. They seem to either get paint on them, or fly off typically into a body of water.  But Sunglasses are a must! Ask those who I lead, I am usually wearing Amy’s sunglasses and bartering for a more extravagant pair.
  • Footwear – Tennis as they are referred to in Belize is the preferred shoe of choice.  Recently, since May, I have made the switch to Chacos and I must say, Chaco tan lines are quite nice!
  • Headgear – A well-worn hat is a must for any mission trip.  I had a hat that was getting into the double digits for number of mission trips worn on, then a sad sad day happened.  A delayed plane, arms full of kids and an untimely connection in Miami resulted in the hat flying off my head mid sprint through the airport.  Hence mission hat is no more.
  • Facial Hair – This is where we move into the more advanced style.  Facial hair can be a tool for ministry or a point of gawking by locals or both.  My good friend and co-worker Eric is working his Duck Dynasty beard. I personally have rocked Fu-Man-Chu and Mutton Chops.  My recommendation is that whatever you do be dedicated to it and own it.  It’s much more fun that way!

For the female readers, you are probably thinking to yourself, this stuff is worthless for me, which aside from entertainment value it is.

My real motivation for writing this post was that a group of my female co-workers and fellow mission trip leaders wrote a series of their ultimate mission trip style guide.  I thought it was brilliant!  And I thought the male voice was under-served!

They got some serious publicity and even are pinned on Pinterst.  Here is a listing of all their posts.

  • Hunger Games Hair – How to do and deal with Braids, Jamaican style – Read Here
  • Wet Hair Don’t Care – Do you or do you not blow dry your hair? – Read Here
  • Pretty Little Dresses – A focus on modesty with style in the mission field – Read Here
  • Stealing from the Boys – The multi-faceted uses of the white v-neck – Read Here
  • Make Down or Make Up – The perpetual battle of to wear or not to wear make up on the field – Read Here
  • Make it a Group Thing – Suggestions on utilizing group t-shirts – Read Here
  • A Chaco Tan Line, What every missionary needs – Read Here
  • You Smell Nice – how to stay dry and fresh – Read Here
  • The Heart Behind it all – The motivation from our staff on why we wrote these posts- Read Here

So there ya have it your ultimate mission trip style guide.  It is now complete with bad habits not to emulate, practical advice from the man’s perspective and several different (and more useful) posts from some of my female coworkers.  Now as you prepare for your mission trip in 2014, style in the mission field is a burden you no longer have to carry.  Refer back here, pack appropriately and serve on!

More VBS swag, the more ridiculous the better

VBS swag, the more ridiculous the better

VBS swag

More VBS swag

Typical church wear in Beiize

Typical church wear in Beiize

Owning the facial hair

Owning the facial hair

Oh my mission hat.  Notice the wear

Oh my mission hat. Notice the wear

the typical look

the typical look

A testament to my personal style

A testament to my personal style or dress up from Madeline.  It is a blur