In HOPE 5.32                                  back to home                        David Timms

Ministry Resource

With the Christmas season in swing, you may find the same inspiration that I did in a short article by Barbara Crafton. Go to and type Crafton's name in the "Search". Her short piece entitled Living Lent is written for Lent but is very provocative for the Christmas season.             

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Hope International University is conducting a survey, as we further refine our Inter-Cultural Studies programs. If you have interest or expertise in this area, we'd be grateful if you'd take 5-6 minutes and complete the survey online at . Thanks very much.



Hope International University
Fullerton, CA 92831


"Theology divorced from geography gets us into nothing but trouble."  (Eugene Peterson)

Avoiding the Rush

For some folk, December signifies Christmas carols, nativity scenes, advent calendars, and familiar family traditions. For the rest of us, it's a shopping scramble - tired children in strollers, bleary-eyed buyers, long check-out lines, and rain-checks for out-of-stock items.

The license-plate frame humorously says "Buy, Return, Exchange ... The Fun Just Never Stops", but how many of us really share that enthusiasm? This shopping mentality, however, is not exclusive to Christmas or department stores. It pervades the church, too.

"Church shopping" can be as regular as Christmas shopping. With so many options, why not shop around for a bigger, better, or cheaper model of "church" too - especially if the sermons sound unprepared, the people unresponsive, or the programs understaffed where we are. 

Deep within many of us lies the assumption that a change of place will produce a change of heart. Different leaders will soothe our irritations. A different community will expunge our boredom. Another place will resolve our pain. Our response is to flee - to join the rush of "religious shoppers."

Any of us who have walked this path, know its folly. Just like Groundhog Day, the scenarios repeat themselves from one setting to another. Yes, some places breed such unhealth that we best move before the Grim Reaper's scythe strikes us, but places of such danger are few and far between.

We react to disillusionment in various ways. Some of us hit the road and look for another religious retailer. Others of us stay put, but fantasize about a better time, a better place, or a better program. And a few of us simply withdraw within ourselves and insist that Christian spirituality can be pursued on private, personal, and individual terms.

We fail to see that our own faith is best formed in a fallen community. We do not grow in "other places" or in isolation from "other people." The greener grass is sorely tempting, but it rarely holds more substance than a shimmering mirage to a dehydrated desert-traveler.

As we read Scripture, we discover that time and place are gifts from God. We violate them when we always long for tomorrow or yearn for a different location. Shopping for spiritual bargains will always leave us empty-handed.

The Christmas season reminds us powerfully that life - the good, the bad, and the ugly - is done together. The Babe in the manger came among us, not searching for the ideal but immersing Himself in the real. Perhaps we could still learn a thing or two.



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David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board of the institution. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.

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