How to Keep the Holiday Spirit All Year Long
Updated: Jan 5
A Conversation with Steve Bowyer, Pastor of Munds Park Community Church
This article was originally scheduled for the December paper, but unfortunately, we had to cancel our last issue of the season because of the flu. Our conversation with Steve is timeless, even with mentions of the holidays, so we are moving forward with the article for our January paper. Enjoy!
As December pulls a frosty blanket over the land, we gear up to celebrate a season rich in tradition. Christmas, Hanukkah, and other cultural and religious celebrations throughout the month encourage us to reflect, be kind, have gratitude, and give beyond ourselves. It is a time to renew our spirit through our faith or spirituality... to be a better person today than we were yesterday.
In 1843, that is precisely what motivated Charles Dickens to write A Christmas Carol—to help readers reflect and gain empathy for those less fortunate. To become better people. The 19th century was a period of great economic and political unrest. The wealthy prospered in ways never seen before, and the growing gap between the rich and poor created tensions that led to rioting and despair.
While the struggles of the 19th century are different than today’s challenges, we are in a time of unrest. I won’t list the myriad of issues facing us today, but I will say that throughout history, there isn’t a single moment when the world was in total harmony. Not one moment when all the bellies were full and satisfied. Not one moment when all had what was needed. There is always a need. There is always conflict and unrest...somewhere. This is the nature of the world we live in.
The question is, how do we, no matter what life brings us, live joyfully and positively affect those around us? We do this well during the holidays. We gather to celebrate and rejoice in whatever tradition we follow and leave our differences at the door. It’s a time when we lend a hand, smile a little more, and think outside of ourselves. It’s when we are at our best.
In the spirit of Dickens and the Joy of the holidays, I thought Steve Bowyer, Pastor of Munds Park Community Church, would be a great interview. He is a leader in the Park who can help us carry the holiday themes of hope, peace, Joy and love throughout the year. We can’t solve the world’s problems, but we certainly can, by our actions, make our lives and our circle of influence a little brighter.
I initially asked Steve to talk to our audience from a spiritual rather than a religious perspective so he could speak to all our readers. Not long into our conversation I realized it was an unfair and impossible request of Steve. He’s a pastor. What was I thinking? It was nice of him to try, but his thoughts are worth reading and considering regardless of your religious views.
How can people live in peace and harmony with one another?
It’s pretty basic. Hurt people, hurt people. People who are conflicted, cause conflict. To have peace in your life, home, community and ultimately the world means people must first find their inner peace. It comes from within, and if you ask me, the only place to find lasting real inner peace is a close relationship with Jesus.
For example, Mike Huckabee, previous governor of Arkansas, talks about a time when he was a teenager going to high school. During hunting season, all the boys would load up the trucks, get out at five in the morning, and go hunting before school. They got to school on time, leaving their loaded guns in the truck along with boxes of ammunition. Nobody ever thought of taking a firearm inside and shooting their classmates.
Our nation and culture are walking further away from God and what God represents—A life guided by virtue and morals. A close relationship with God will give you inner peace and allows you to resolve conflict in your life and with others in a positive and lasting manner.
Love is the greatest gift we can give. How can we carry a loving mood throughout the year?
It’s easy to say I love you. It’s much harder to show it. Love is not just an emotion or feeling... it’s a verb.
Love requires action and grows from sacrifice. Whether it’s you and me as friends, me and Sara as husband and wife. It’s easy for me to say I love you. We do that a lot. But what communicates love and makes you feel loved by me is if I do something for you, that is a sacrifice for me that adds value to your life. You will also feel love for me. My loving actions will stir feelings in you. When we do that for each other, the bond is as strong as it can be.
Get up in the morning and think of something you can do for someone you love. It can be breakfast in bed, pick-up a favorite tea or coffee from Kota’s, or dropping off home-baked goods. However you choose to say I love you, it needs to be an action, not just words.
You will never know how much someone loves you until you know how much they sacrifice for you.
The ultimate example of love and sacrifice is when Jesus left Heaven and came to our imperfect world. Jesus was in the presence of God, surrounded by peace and beauty, and gave up those gifts to save us. That is the ultimate sacrifice.
Love is sacrifice.
How can one have hope even when times may seem hopeless.
Hope is a decision. To have hope is to have positive expectations about our future. It can bring us peace in the face of challenges and motivate us to envision a better life and take steps to make it happen. It can be hard to do in a society that fuels skepticism and negativity, but we can stay hopeful with conscious effort.
Christians have real and lasting hope. Because of our faith, we have eternal hope because we know whatever we go through on earth, Heaven is waiting.
How can true joy—the underlying peace that lasts despite life’s pressures be obtained?
Joy is a choice. Happiness is driven by circumstances. And circumstances change. Joy is something deeper. A deep sense of contentment regardless of circumstances.
Peace, hope and love all bring joy to our lives, and it happens with choice, action, and a close relationship with Jesus.
Jesus came to us and allowed us to have a personal relationship with God; when you do, you will experience these things in a profound and significant way.
In addition to your relationship with Jesus, count your blessings, and be thankful and optimistic. Instead of focusing on the things you don’t have, be grateful for what you do have. Changing the way you think about situations can have a positive impact on your life. You can make life more enjoyable by choosing to be thankful for the things that bring you joy. For instance, your relationship with God, a loving and supportive family, wonderful friends, good health, food in your pantry, a place to live, a job you enjoy, etc.
One of the best ways to connect with Jesus and grow closer to experiencing these things and more is by worshiping with a group of believers. We gather every Sunday at 10:45 am, and we would love for everyone in Munds Park to join us.
Practice Random Acts of Kindness
Enjoy the pleasure of spreading light within your circle of influence.
Enjoy quiet life in the Park. We’re always reading articles on how to slow down and enjoy life. Remember this as you roll through our forest, drive through our streets, and are served by our local businesses. Slow down, have patience and leave the hustle and bustle in Phoenix. It’s a gift to enjoy. We’re lucky!
Be kind on Facebook. We have many wonderful Munds Park specific Facebook groups to share information and photos. Practice kindness, and don’t engage in negativity and gossip. Let your words online spread positivity and kindness.
Share a smile. Smiles are contagious! We all know this. Whenever you’re talking to a stranger or a friend, show that you’re happy to be with them in that moment. Be present.
Volunteer. Munds Park is a volunteer community and functions best when our community pulls together. Look for the spring issue of the Pinewood News to learn about Munds Park organizations that would love your support, or contact us at Hello@ThePinewoodNews.com for more information.
Give thanks. We tend to forget about the more “invisible” people in our society who keep our lives running smoothly. Thank the person who provides mail service, the barista who prepared your coffee, the snow removal person or cabin cleaner. Write a note or say “thank you” genuinely in person.
Keep our town beautiful. Ensure your trash cans are closed properly and pick up trash even when it is not yours. Try not to get annoyed by the litterbugs. Just feel good about keeping the Park beautiful!
Leave no trace. When visiting our forest, stay on the trail, take your trash with you, and respect plant and wildlife. This act of kindness will be enjoyed by all who visit the forest and for generations to come.
All these simple acts of kindness will travel far and leave you feeling great!
Feel good and have a happy New Year!