I remember middle school well. I wish I didn’t- it was not a good time for 13 year-old Kristen, whose daily uniform included overall shorts, baggy GAP t-shirts, and Reebok tennis shoes. It was rough, to say the least.
The trends of attending middle school during the Y2K years still haunt me; jelly roll pens, butterfly clips (extra points if they glowed in the dark), power beads, and bell-bottom jeans from The Limited Too, may it rest in peace.
Life in the church wasn’t much different: we had the omnipresent W.W.J.D. bracelets, “Prayer of Jabez” paraphernalia, Christian POGS (raise a hand if you haven’t thought about POGS in at least 2 decades), the latest book from the latest Lifeway feature author, [insert album of favorite band here], and the list goes on.
In high school, it was Evangecubes and books by Oswald Chambers and John Piper that we were dense enough to believe that we understood fully. The children’s series of Left Behind was replaced by the real deal (and can we please discuss how bizarre it was that there was a children’s series of Left Behind books?)
At every level, there was some new “thing” we needed. It wasn’t just the coveted band letter jacket at school, it was the latest book, or CD, or Bible, or evangelism tool at church.
Today, in my neck of the woods, it’s things like planners and sticker sets aimed at the faithful, tchotchkes for every shelf in your home, wall decals, picture frames, decorative crosses (my personal vice), and a plethora studies/books for nearly any life situation imaginable.
If the church believes herself to be immune from the siren call of dollar signs, then she is gravely mistaken. This is a hard subject to talk about though, because there are worthwhile books, music, and creative endeavors that should be fairly compensated.
Perhaps the driving issue is that in seasons like Advent, when the church is actively setting herself apart from “the world” (which is a problematic concept in and of itself unless you live in outer space), she doesn’t behave much differently. Consuming is still consuming whether you are buying an iPad for your spouse or an inspirational coffee mug emblazoned with a poorly cherry-picked passage of scripture.
This Christmas season, some good questions to ask ourselves might be: Is this “thing” useful? Is it inherently beautiful? Did its creation have a positive impact on not only the recipient but also the makers? Who am I supporting when I buy this? What is its purpose?
Perhaps the most important question: does the recipient actually need this? Or want this?
If you can’t answer that question, maybe it is wise to put down that inspirational calendar based on the Levitical laws (I’m sure it exists somewhere) and instead think of other ways you can show love and appreciation.
If you are looking for some good gift-giving ideas that might be a little different this year, here are some completely unsponsored (and admittedly, a little biased) ideas that come to mind:
ZOE (Empowering vulnerable children to thrive beyond charitable contributions)
Rise Against Hunger (formerly Stop Hunger Now)
Family Promise (keeps families together during their periods of homelessness and works to get them back on their feet)
Gifts for a Cause:
Heifer International (Bonus: If you are gifting this for a child, there is a great book called Beatrice’s Goat that benefits Heifer and does a great job explaining to children what the project is about)
Threads of Hope
Mata Traders (Women’s clothing and accessories made fairly by textile artists and seamstresses in India in an effort to combat the fast-fashion/sweatshop culture)