Over the years, it seems, the holiday season has become the shopping season with Black Friday and Cyber Monday matching Thanksgiving for our attention. But recently there has been a movement to bring our collective attention back to the holidays and more importantly to the spirit of season – thanksgiving, celebration and especially giving.
Following the shopping feast that is Thanksgiving weekend, Tuesday has officially become Giving Tuesday. It’s a day set aside for people around the world to give back, to contribute to those people and not-for-profit organizations that exist to serve others and better the world. Giving Tuesday builds on and expands the Christmas tradition of giving gifts to friends and family by encouraging us to give gifts which benefit people we may not know.
Now if you’re convinced that Giving Tuesday represents the right focus of our holiday season let me encourage you to donate to your favorite not-for-profit or ministry. If you’re not sure where you should give let me give you two places your gift will benefit kids. First, is the ministry I work for – SpringHill (click here) and the second, the Christian Camp and Conference Association’s Corner of the Fields camper scholarship fund (click here). By supporting organizations that work with kids you’re helping to build their future and the future of our world.
So please consider expanding the Thanksgiving weekend one more day beyond Cyber Monday and make Giving Tuesday a new tradition in your family.
I had the opportunity to share a few words during our son MD and his new wife Carissa’s wedding ceremony. The following is a vision of what I pray their marriage would become.
“Aaron, both Denise and I want to thank you for the investment you’ve made in MD over the last four years, including shepherding he and Carissa through their marriage preparation and officiating their wedding. We’ll be forever grateful.
MD, Carissa, today I don’t intend to share with you any advice about how to have a strong marriage or a healthy family, the reason is anything I would say in these few moments could never carry the weight of the two of you watching and living with us, your parents, over a life time.
Instead what I’d like to do is plant a seed in you of a vision for what your marriage can mean not just for you and your family but what it can mean for God’s Kingdom.
To do this we need to do a little review of redemptive history (you’re NMCS and Calvin grads so I know this is all ingrained in you). As you know there are three significant events in redemptive history – Christ’s first coming, his future second coming and then the horrific events centered on a fruit tree in Genesis 3. Everything changed in the world at this tree – literally history can be divided between life before and life after the tree. Before the tree we have a world aligned with God’s Kingdom, where there was no death, no pain, no tears, but after the tree, because of man’s rebellion against God, the world became shrouded in darkness and filled with all that darkness brings.
Yet the covenants God made with Adam and Eve before the tree are still valid and intact after the tree. One of those covenants as we’ve heard Aaron already speak about, and why we’re here today, is the covenant of marriage. So I’d like to take a moment for us to reflect this question.
Why would God call us to live out the covenant of marriage after the tree, in the midst of brokenness, evil and pain, when it was instituted before the tree in peace and harmony?
Well first, I believe marriage harkens us back to the world before the tree reminding us of what God intended life and marriage to be. And second, marriage gives us a taste of what life will be like when Christ returns again and makes all things new. So marriage gives us hope and a yearning for the restoration of God’s Kingdom. Therefore marriage should be a testimony, a vision of hope, and a light to others of something bigger and better and eternal here in this time of darkness.
But this only works if our marriage reflects these kingdom values, if people can see something different in our marriages and families, they then can get a glimpse of something sacred, something eternal that goes back to a time before the tree and points them to hope of coming of Christ’s Kingdom.
Mom and I, and Carissa I know your parents raised you for this purpose – to bring the light of Christ to every part of the world you’re called to – whether school as we’ve seen you do, and now in your new careers and in the communities you’ll live.
But here’s how, after today, you’ll do this – you’ll do it together, in the context of this sacred covenant of marriage. You have an opportunity to give the people in your lives a glimpse of what was and a taste of what will be in the Kingdom to come.
So here’s the challenge I want to leave with you, the vision I pray you’ll have for your marriage – that through the power of Christ, you’ll live out this sacred covenant of marriage in such a way that others will be drawn not to you but to the only person who can make marriage all that it’s meant to be – Jesus Christ – and by doing so, you’ll bring a little of the Christ’s Kingdom to the world you’re now entering.”
Last week the Perry’s had a family reunion at Camp Anjigami in northern Ontario, Canada. The trip was a result of our boys and I “taking a risk” by inviting our entire extended family to join us for our annual fishing trip.
It was a risk because going to northern Ontario means there’s absolutely no connectivity, and we had no idea how everyone would handle such a 5 day “technology sabbath”.
Well the consensus from the family was simply this – it was an incredible vacation. Our family said things such as
“The most relaxing vacation I ever had”
“I got to know my cousins in a way I never have before”
“It was so nice not having any distractions”
There’s no doubt that the lack of television, video games, cell phones, text messages, internet surfing and social media monitoring was a major contributor to this great experience (as well as being in God’s stunning creation). Why? Because all of these technologies add stress and distractions instead of eliminate them.
But it wasn’t just the lack of technology that eliminated stress and distractions, the difference was the lack of the temptation to use it (you can’t get cell service or internet in the Canadian wilderness). You see, we tend not to crave the chocolate cake when it’s out of our line of sight or reach. This is especially true when we’re immersed in so many other incredible things (people, nature, facilities).
So the lesson I took away from our family reunion? Take the occasional break from technology but do it in a place that’s beautiful, peaceful, with great people, and where there’s no possible temptation to be connected, then you’ll have a true sabbath (rest).
I remember late night debates with friends about which were better – the mountains or the beach? At the heart of the debate was the romantic calling of the sea and the laid back life on the beach versus the adventure and majesty of the mountains. What both have in common is that they show the immense size and beauty of God’s creation while often creating existential crises because they make us feel so insignificant in their midst.
When pressed in those debates I always landed on mountains as my choice. But over the last 15 years my preference has slowly shifted. As our family traveled down to Myrtle Beach for spring break I posed the question to them – mountains or beaches? After a bit of discussion they asked my choice to which I answered – neither.
You see a couple of years ago I realized that my answer was now “C. None of the above”, though I still love and appreciate both (especially the beach after a long Michigan winter), my first choice has become, what I call, the great north woods, especially the forests and glades around the Great Lakes.
There is nothing I love more than a summer morning filled with the sweet smell of firs, pine and poplar combined with the coolness that the natural air conditioning of the Great Lakes provide, or watching the sunset over a spring fed lake or over the coast of Lake Michigan. I still love to watch white tail leap a fence or catch a trout in a lake or a stream.
There’s just so much that I love about great north woods, but in the end, I find the same majesty of the mountains and the same romantic calling of the sea but in an environment that’s personal, intimate and accessible. They have truly become my sanctuary.
For over twenty years Michael Perry has made it his mission to bring young people closer to Christ through his Bible study publications, his capacity as the President and CEO of SpringHill, and his recent book, Experience = Everything. Over the last fifty years, SpringHill has changed over half a million lives—proving that it is more than just camp, or a place, SpringHill is a transformative experience.