5 Ways You Can ‘Breathe’ This Christmas

Don’t just believe…breathe

Even though Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, we sometimes forget to breathe. Mark Schultz penned it the best — “we’re running just to catch ourselves.” We may experience moments of rest, but at the end of the day, Christmas can end up becoming more stressful than helpful. As Christmas Day approaches, I want to share five ways we can all breathe.

5 Ways You Can Breathe During Christmas

As a Christian, I find myself reassuring our family that we make sure to “keep Christ in Christmas.” Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s impossible to focus on more than one aspect of Christmas. We can enjoy several aspects of Christmas that are outside of Christ, but we can only actually focus on one. Hopefully, we choose to focus on the mission of Christmas (Click here to read about what I mean).

When we learn to focus on Christ, we’ll learn how to breathe. Christmas will move from chaos to mission; from overwhelming to a blessing.

Based on Advent, here are five ways we can practically breathe during the Christmas season:

Continue Reading »

Where’s God in the Storm?

What God might be teaching us

Our climate is changing, and storms and natural disasters are becoming stronger and more frequent. Many are trying to understand why. I hear some Christians speaking of the ‘last days’ and God’s ‘message’ to us. I hear scientists screaming about global warming. I hear others who are simply confused and fearful of what’s to come. While we can present options, I’m not sure if we can definitively understand why this is happening. One thing I know for sure, however, is that we can trust God every step of the way.

Where's God in the Storm

One of the scariest things in the world is uncertainty. Many of us can face some wild things, but when we’re not sure of the outcome, everything changes. It’s the tension between status quo and something new. The more distance between those two realities, the scarier the experience.

But it doesn’t matter our situation, God is looking for us to trust Him. The truth is, when things are out of control and unimaginable, we don’t have a choice.

Continue Reading »

Faith and Doubt [Guest Post]

Kathy Stock Shares Her Journey of Faith

I’d like to thank Andrew for inviting me to participate on his blog. Andrew is a great writer and a passionate leader. I’ve read his interesting thoughts and teachings and have personally benefited from the discussions I’ve seen afterward between people on different sides of many different issues.

Faith and Doubt - Kathy Stock

I am a lover of conversation. As a flaming extrovert, I thrive off of the company of others. Drop me in a room full of strangers and I’ll leave with a long list of new friends.

This temperament of mine has served me well, especially as a musician and public speaker but it has its downside. I share a bit too easily, I care a bit too recklessly and I am dramatically affected by the thoughts and feelings of others.

Wearing my hungry heart on the outside of my sleeve has served me both well and negatively in ministry. I’ve been a Christian my whole life. I am told I came to know Jesus at the ripe ol’ age of two when I knelt beside my mother and wanted to do what my five-year-old sister did at church that day. So, at five and two, we surrendered our sin-laden lives to the Lord, knowing full well the gravity of that decision and went forth, sinning no more.

Just kidding.

We had no idea what we were doing!

Yet, I remained ingrained in Christ, and He in me, from then until now…sometimes fervently on fire for the gospel, sometimes gripping tightly with white knuckles while doubt all but swallows me whole.

Faith is a rough and beautiful sea of bluish, grayish waves that toss and stir and ebb and flow. Click To TweetWhat I have learned is that faith isn’t a black and white issue. Faith is a rough and beautiful sea of bluish, grayish waves that toss and stir and ebb and flow. It’s complicated and beautiful and terrifying and filled with unknowns.

I’ve done a lot of living for a thirty-three year old woman. I was married at twenty, a mother at twenty-two and again at twenty-six. I’m a published author. I have lived in two countries, three states, two provinces, and have changed addresses thirteen times in the last thirteen years.

I’m a musician who performs (unapologetically) secular music during the week and joyfully leads worship in a congregation I love on Sunday mornings (Spruce Hills).

I had cancer while my children were two and six years old and have been in remission for three and a half years.

I recently went back to school, where I sit in classrooms surrounded by other students who are closer to my son’s age than my own.

What has stayed consistent (outside of the love of my family) is my belief in Jesus. Click To TweetLife has been more interesting than I can properly articulate in one blog post and I have had some high highs and some low lows along the way but what has stayed consistent (outside of the love of my family) is my belief in Jesus.

Ironically, (and perhaps I’m over sharing here, in true Kathy form) I am writing this during an intense season of doubt.

Some do not believe that faith and doubt can co-exist but I am living, breathing evidence that they indeed can. I embody both. The disciples embodied both. John the Baptist embodied both, and he saw the sky open up and watched a dove appear out of nowhere, landing on Jesus and then heard God audibly say, “This is MY SON” and he STILL questioned who Jesus was from the darkness of his prison cell. If John the Baptist can doubt, and still be labeled by Jesus as one of the greatest human beings ever, certainly we can too (Luke 3:21-22; 7:18f).

This truth has brought an enormous amount of comfort to me as I navigate life, especially in my thirties. For the majority of my twenties, I lived in the Southern USA or the ‘Bible belt’ as it is sometimes referred.

I was so entrenched in church and church culture that I didn’t have one friend that wasn’t a Christian. I worked at church, sang at church, socialized at church…and the energy that I should have spent going out into the world and being Jesus to people was instead spent arguing about theology with other Christians.

My faith was very, very strong during that season but I wasn’t fulfilling the great commission. I wasn’t being Jesus.

When I was twenty-eight, my little family of four immigrated back to Newfoundland with nothing but the clothes on our backs and six suitcases in our hands. We settled swiftly and I quickly realized that I wasn’t in the ‘Bible belt’ anymore…and I was quite honestly relieved… so I set out to meet as many different people in as many different places as I could.

I began playing music at events and restaurants, eventually landing a permanent gig at a piano bar in downtown St. John’s (The Fifth Ticket).

After I finished chemotherapy and began my remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I set out to meet as many young adult cancer survivors as I could, and pour into their lives in a way I so desperately needed when I was sick. No hidden agenda, no bait and switch to evangelize…just living out love in the way that Jesus has asked us to and seeing what happens. Faith, usually, naturally comes up in conversation.

Through all of this, I have met so many different kinds of friends. People from varying spiritual, religious, socio-economic backgrounds, same sex couples, single parents, transgendered men and women…I’ve met ex-cons and CEOS, reconnected with people I knew from high school and been blown away by how we have all developed and evolved throughout the years.

There isn’t anyone you couldn’t have empathy for if you took the time to learn their story. Click To TweetAnd through all of these encounters I have learned one very valuable lesson: There isn’t anyone you couldn’t have empathy for if you took the time to learn their story.

Breaking through the Christian bubble that I had created for myself has opened my heart and mind up to a world of doubt and questions that challenge me on a daily basis.

They challenge how I raise my children and the words I speak behind the microphone on Sunday mornings…but it has also allowed me the powerful opportunity to be Christ to people who haven’t experienced Him in a real way. Not by preaching at or fighting with or segregating myself from them, but by doing life shoulder to shoulder with them and seeing what God does through relationship.

I’m finding the older I get, the less I can claim to know for sure but the more O.K. I am with not knowing.  As exhausting as it is, doubt is worth wrestling with.

There are many days when I wonder whether any of this is legitimate at all, but I rest in the words of John 6:68, when Jesus asked Peter if he was going to leave and Peter responded, “Lord, to what person could we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

When doubt creeps in...I choose Jesus with my head and my heart eventually follows. Click To TweetWhen doubt creeps in, or bursts the door down, I choose Jesus with my head and my heart eventually follows. When I am challenged by the non-sense that is grace, the arrogance that is self-sufficiency, the ridiculousness that is child-like faith, I cling with both hands to Jesus!

I recently heard someone say that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt.  The opposite of faith is certainty…because what do the certain need with faith? The Bible says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for,” and my hope is in Jesus (Hebrews 11:1).

There is no one else for me. None but Jesus.

Hope in the Ashes

A forest fire threatened Fort McMurray and has now heavily impacted the city. What hope can there be in destruction? Where is God when so much has been lost? As spectators from afar, we often wait for God to act – send rain and change the wind direction. But God has equipped all of us to respond.


God’s hope is found when we move into action.

My parents’ home was close to a forest fire three years ago, and anxiety naturally rose to the surface. It’s amazing though, how the things that mattered the most became my main concern. I didn’t think about their house or car, family pictures, or even my childhood items that I never did collect. My immediate concern was the safety of my parents and friends in the area.

As I look towards Fort McMurray, I’m astounded as friends, neighbours and acquaintances run for safety. Highways blocked with vehicles and dark smoke. I’ve watched videos of families leaving their houses behind to make homes in temporary camps and hotels. I can’t even comprehend the overwhelming feeling so many are experiencing right now.

What can I do to help?

I’m sure we all want to do something.  Some are able to volunteer, open their doors for displaced families, and help rebuild in the near future. From a distance, however, there are few things we can do.  But what we can do, can make a huge impact!

There are few things we can do, but what we can do can make a huge impact! #ymm Click To Tweet

Simply stated – we can pray, fast, and give.

We all know we can pray and fast, but sometimes we forget that every dollar makes a huge difference.  If we all helped according to our means, Fort McMurray’s residents would experience hope in the ashes.

But where’s God?

From the beginning, God has been at work.  The very fact that there have been no fatalities is a true testament to God’s mercy and hope.  Part of this hope is realizing that human life is ultimately God’s greatest gift. Possessions can be replaced or lived without, but we can’t replace each other.

Possessions can be replaced or lived without, but we can't replace each other. #ymm Click To Tweet

Moving forward, God is acting through His Church.  God is calling believers everywhere to step up and be the hands and feet of Christ.  It’s called being the body.  In talking about unity, Paul wrote:

25…there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together…1

That means by praying, fasting, and giving to those hurting, we are acting in unity with the body and therefore expressing God on this earth.  We’ll never be able to explain why bad things happen, but we can always choose how we will respond.

When we help those in need; those in need find hope in the ashes.

When we help those in need; those in need find hope in the ashes. #ymm Click To Tweet

Your turn…

Let’s pray and fast together! Prayer helps us speak to God, and fasting helps us hear God’s heart. You can read more about prayer and fasting in my previous posts (“Prayer: The Sincere and Authentic Heart” and “Fasting: 3 Reasons Why We Fast“).

Join with me in a practical way – give towards the crisis response.  The Red Cross has taken an active role and the Alberta government has partnered with them as well:

RED CROSS Emergency Appeal or text REDCROSS to 30333 to make a $5 donation.

The Alberta government is matching donations made to the Red Cross.2

Here are some other groups you can give through:

ERDO Fort McMurray Crisis Response

Samaritan’s Purse Wildfire Response

PHOTO CREDIT: CBC – The majority of homes and some vehicles were destroyed in the hard-hit neighbourhood of Beacon Hill. (Sylvain Bascaron/Radio-Canada)

References   [ + ]

Operation Christmas Child: 6 Reasons Why You Should Participate

Most of us would agree that helping Children in need is a high priority.  Sometimes, however, we downplay our role in this process.  Perhaps it’s because we don’t think we can make much of difference or that our budget isn’t big enough to make any real change.  I want you to know that there is a great opportunity for you to help in a meaningful way!  You can pack a shoebox. Operation Christmas Child has been operating around the world since 1970.  Since inception, they have distributed almost 10 million shoeboxes to children in more than 100 countries.  I want to offer you six reasons why you should participate in Operation Christmas Child this year.

Operation Christmas Child

1. You are helping children around the world.

Let’s start off with an obvious one.  Operation Christmas Child was created to help children.  Even more specifically, to give less fortunate children a taste of the giving spirit of Christmas.  Many of the children who will receive a shoebox this year have no concept of the commercialized Christmas we experience in North America.  These children will simply open a small box of loved-packed toys, hygiene items, school supplies and other small blessings.  These items not only bless children physically, but also bless them emotionally and socially as they quickly realize that there are people in this world that care about them.

2. You will partner with an organization who cares.

Samaritan’s Purse, the organization behind Operation Christmas Child, is a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization that has been meeting needs around the world since 1973.1  In 2014 alone, their efforts included providing over 76,000 households with Ebola infection prevention kits in Liberia and sending 60,000 shoebox gifts to ISIS-fleeing refugees in Iraq.  They also responded to disasters all over the world – helping 50,000 families in Nepal, 4,000 families in the Congo, and even relief for 800 flood victims in High River, Canada.2  While this is a Christian organization, and they care about the spiritual health of those they help, their primary concern has been meeting the needs around them.  Their finances prove this even further – 91% of their expenditures are directly related to their ministries.3  By participating in Operation Christmas Child, you’ll get to partner with this great organization.

3. You will bring unity within your family, group or work place.

Nothing else brings people together like helping others.  Whether you pack a shoebox as a family, group or work place, this project is guaranteed to bring you all closer together.  Families can include their children in the process of picking out items, groups can create a team project, and work places can pool resources to see how many shoeboxes they can pack.  The possibilities are endless.

Consider taking a photo of everyone who helped pack the box and place it inside the shoebox.  I’ve been told, by someone who handed out boxes to children overseas, that the children who receive photos are so grateful and overwhelmed to see the people who care about them.

4. You will teach your children how to give.

In a consumeristic world of want, want, want, get, get, get, Operation Christmas Child has the potential of teaching our children what it actually means to give.  Not only will children experience giving a gift to a child in need, they also get to experience giving, without expecting something in return.  It’s truly a selfless act that our society doesn’t usually promote.

Operation Christmas Child also teaches children the blessings they have.  No matter our economic situation in North America, we are beyond blessed when compared with many of the children who will receive a shoebox.  This project helps children have a deep appreciation for what they have and hopefully heightens their responsibility to help others.

5. You will be challenged to give.

Every year I’m challenged to do more.   Whether it’s to pack one more shoebox, volunteer my time with a local collection centre, or give an extra monetary donation to help the organization go further, this project challenges me every year.  Don’t think for a minute that learning how to give is only for children!

My wife had a great idea one year.  Instead of giving a regular gift to our family members, we packed everyone a shoebox full of smaller items (some needs, some wants).  For one thing, it was refreshing to scale things down for a change, but, more importantly, it helped us to focus on family and the real meaning of Christmas – Jesus, who is God’s selfless gift to us.

6. You will provide avenues of real transformation and hope.

Now that Operation Christmas Child has been in existence for a while, we are seeing real proof of transformation.  That transformation results in hope for many others.  Khin Khin shares a testimony of how she received a shoebox while living in a New Delhi refugee camp.  Years later, she’s living in Winnipeg, Canada where she helps pack shoeboxes to help bring hope to many more!

“Receiving the shoebox made me realize how a Christian should give for others,” she says. “Some children might not have people who care for them, so for them, it’s encouragement to know they still have other people who care for them and that God is always there for them when they don’t have anybody else.”4

Check out her story here:

In 2014, Canadians packed over 660,000 shoeboxes!  35,000 of those came from here, in Newfoundland, alone!  Let’s partner together and reach new heights in 2015!  Samaritans Purse is challenging Canada to collect 710,000 this year!  That’s only a 7.5% increase.  If we do our part in Newfoundland, we’ll need to collect 37,625 this year!  We can do it together!

By packing a shoebox we can join together to help kids around world, remind ourselves about giving, and help provide avenues of real transformation and hope!

Find a collection center near you…


If you liked this post, please take a moment to share on your social networks so others have a chance to read it as well!

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]