One sunny afternoon a few years ago, I zipped down a new bypass our city had just opened. The smooth blacktop reminded me of Mater in the Disney movie Cars. I might have even sung to myself, “Driving on the new road.” Until the blue lights lit up my back glass.[Read more…]
It’s official. I don’t understand people.
I’m having issues with people right now. No, not on whether they sneeze in my face, talk incessantly, wear tattoos or belly button rings, or kiss their same sex partner on the lips in public. My social judgement is much more germane. It’s all about toilet paper.
People have gone crazy over toilet paper. And I am not amused.
In response to the exponential spread of the Corona virus, shoppers are stocking up on toilet paper. Even after our local Walmart promised to restock overnight, the toilet paper row held nothing but barren shelves. One woman behind me at Dollar General had her cart stacked high with mega roll packages. A story on Facebook told of a shopper who defied the “limit 2” rule at Target by filling her cart then calling her family members to meet her so they could each go through the line. And no, the way it was worded, it wasn’t so she could share with elderly Aunt Jane. It was for her.
I shook my self-righteous head in disgust and proudly pushed my shopping cart with a single layer of produce toward the cash register. People! What is wrong with you?
“Yes, what is wrong with them?”[Read more…]
Have you bought all your Christmas gifts?
I don’t know about you but I have trouble with Christmas gifts. Maybe I’m too much of a people pleaser. I get stressed over whether the recipient will like it, whether it will fit, or whether the person needs it at all. I’d give up but I have to give something to that someone – right?
And then I chafe under the expectations. Feeling obligated to give gifts is not what Christmas is supposed to be about! We should give out of an overflow of joy, good will, love, and celebration, not because someone expects a gift from us or we expect that of ourselves. I truly do want to give my family gifts. Unfortunately, the busy-ness of the season, the frustration of shopping, and the inability to find what I had in mind corrodes my love of giving. I get frustrated with myself, fearing I’ve lost the “Christmas Spirit.”
All of us have certain social expectations, people we traditionally give to each Christmas. Yet finding the right gift year after year can easily slip into a sense of obligation. It’s hard to give freely with the same generosity Jesus gave for us when we feel under pressure to include all the nieces and nephews, our co-workers, and The Boss. Or we hear our mother’s voice from the grave saying, “Don’t forget to send a card to Great-Aunt Louise.”
Do you have trouble with Christmas gifts?
Have these questions ever run through your head?
- If I gave a gift to so-and-so last year, should I give to them this year?
- If I give something to one single mom in the church, shouldn’t I give to all single moms?
- Should I give a gift to all the cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters . . . I don’t want to leave anyone out!
- Should we send cards to everyone in the church or just post one card to everyone on the bulletin board?
How can we combat the gotta-give something blues?
Here’s what I’ve done. Each year, Preacher Creature and I discuss in a prayerful attitude who to include on our gift list. We select at least one person who is not expecting a gift from us. We then discuss what to give that person – what they most need and what will best communicate our love for them and for our Savior.
It is never anything big. It might be nothing more than a loaf of homemade bread or a knitted scarf. The important thing is what that gift represents, for we are giving because we want to, not because we have to. We’re allowing God to direct our gift-giving rather than allowing the expectations of others to motivate our generosity.
We also don’t focus exclusively on physical needs. Spiritual and emotional needs are just as important. It’s not so much about the actual gift but what it represents – that someone out there is thinking about you. Sometimes we choose a person who desperately needs to know the love of God. The fact that someone gives them a thoughtful gift with no strings attached can crack the door open to further talk about the best gift God wants to give them.
Who does God want you to give to this Christmas?
As you construct your Christmas gift list this year, check your motives. Do you give because:
- It’s expected?
- You hope to get something in return?
- You don’t want to leave anyone out?
- You’ll look bad if you don’t?
- You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings?
- You love the people on your list and want to express your love in a tangible way?
- You want your gift to be an encouragement, that someone cares?
- The gift is something the person really needs or life would be less stressful with it?
- Your gift has the potential to strengthen your relationship with that person so you can share your love of Jesus with them?
This all sounds lovely. But there’s still these family expectations. How can we break out of the mold?
- Start small.
- Start with one person.
- Choose someone not normally on your gift list.
- Do the unexpected.
- Give something of yourself in addition to the tangible gift. Stay and visit a few moments.
- Make your gift intentional and personal.
Who can you give to?
- A lonely neighbor
- A single mom
- A home bound friend
- A needy child
- A homeless man on the street corner
- A busy clerk
- A UPS truck driver
What Christmas gifts can you give?
- A bottle of water
- A cup of coffee
- A book
- A plate of cookies
- A sack of groceries
Remember to be:
- In direct contact
- Person specific
- Kingdom motivated
You can’t give something to everyone. But you can give one gift to one person. Yes, you might leave someone else out. Grace is like that. Sometimes grace is messy. Grace is messy because grace is personal. It gives to the need. And sometimes, our world won’t understand that.
But the Christmas gift wrapped in grace gives without restraint. Grace puts on parade the unconditional love of a Savior who expects nothing more in return than our heartfelt gratitude and our desire to have relationship with Him.
You still have time before Christmas. How can you give like Jesus gave?
It’s been a tough year!
And Thanksgiving is coming, the time of the year we look at our blessings of the past year and give thanks to God. We thank Him for health, family, and friends. We thank Him for Creation, our salvation, and our financial stability. But can we thank Him when the year has been filled with numerous tough moments?[Read more…]