Jerry and I have most of our gift giving occasions between October – December. That is the timeframe of both of our birthdays, our anniversary and of course Christmas. The following post was written late in December several years ago, but the truth of it remains in my heart and mind–especially this Christmas day.
My husband and I have this game that we play around birthdays, Christmas or any other gift giving occasions. It goes like this, “So what did you get me?” Sometimes it’s said once in passing, sometimes it’s repeated over and over in rapid succession to try to wear the giver down to sharing some clue. Yes, I know this sounds rather childish for two well
–adults to engage in, but I think it’s one of the
casualties of not having children – we sometimes have to play that role in the family.
The morning of December 23 I was having a delightful quiet time with my Lord. I finished my reading and my pondering, and was just about to put my pen down after recording the last word in my journal when I heard it . . .
“So what did you get me?”
I paused and listened to the voice –– but it wasn’t that of my husband. It was my other beloved’s voice – Jesus! As I tuned in to His voice I heard, “It’s my birthday soon you know, I’ve seen the gifts you’ve gotten for everyone else, what did you get for me?”
When I shared this with my husband his response was “Isn’t that just like God to speak to us in our own game and language?”
For the remainder of that day, and the next several days I spent time pondering what I would give Jesus for his birthday. The better question was –– had I even planned to give Him anything for his birthday? If I hadn’t, why not? And if I was, it was getting late, so I better decide quickly.
What do you get the Lord of the Universe, who owns everything and can create anything out of nothing?
The only response I could think of was “to obey is better than sacrifice.” I think what Jesus was asking for was more of me
. All of me in fact.
No need to spend time trying to figure out
the hottest gift to give Him but to “just do it!” To
surrender myself and obey what He has already shown me.
Funny –– several years later, I think this is still the gift He wants and the one I need to give.
So what about you? What are you giving to Jesus for His Birthday?
We often use puppets and role-play when communicating Biblical truth to students with intellectual impairments. On this particular Sunday, the students were re-enacting the story with puppets. At the end of the replay, as the students were relinquishing their puppets one of the assistants took the Jesus puppet and quickly put it in a cupboard. She knew one student would lose all focus if “Jesus” was still in view.
After class was dismissed the assistant opened the cupboard to put the Jesus puppet away correctly. Imagine her surprise when Jesus was gone! She began looking around for Jesus. A few minutes later one of the coordinators came into the room carrying “Jesus.” She also was aware of the one student’s difficulty focusing when the Jesus puppet was around. In an effort to reduce distraction, she slipped in and took him out of the room.
When my friend told me this story she began by saying, “I lost Jesus today.”
I snickered hearing the story. Then I started to think about my own life. How many times do I put Jesus on a shelf, or tuck Him away – whether mindfully or not?
Misplacing a Jesus puppet is one thing, but mis-placing Jesus, giving Him any other position in my life than as the sole holder of the Throne, is another.
Philippians 2:9-11 NIV
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Holy Week. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. This is the pinnacle of my faith. Jesus whose birth I celebrate at Christmas as Emmauel, God with us, took the ultimate step of being with me. He didn’t offer his life on the cross because it was easy. He didn’t carry my sin because it was light. He didn’t break his fellowship with the Father because he wanted to. He did that because he loves and wants me – and you – to be with him and his Father forever.
I can’t explain exactly how it all works in detail – that a sinless God-man died for me before I was even conceived, to forgive and destroy the penalty of the sins I would commit. But I don’t need an explanation. I only need faith to believe. And gratitude for this life changing gift.
I have been stressing in the last week about the living with one foot in Pennsylvania andone foot in Florida. Wrapping up living here while preparing for the life to be lived there. But whether I live in Pennsylvania or Florida, this world is not my home. This is not the home I was designed for.
This week as I remember and celebrate my Savior and King, may it reinforce my focus toward Heaven. Jesus carried my penalty and gave His life so I would never have to be separated from Him again. He rose again to prove he conquered death. He returned to Heaven to prepare a place for me, and for you. This coming move for us is temporary. Heaven is my forever home, prepared for me by my Lord. I sure am glad I won’t have to pack or organize transit for that final move!
In my part time work in a financial planer’s office I sometimes hear phone conversations between one of our customer service reps and fund companies. One of the questions that still catches my attention is when our rep asks the vendor if the particular product they are discussing has “an enhanced death benefit?”
I shake my head and smile. I don’t know how the vendor replies, but my answer every time wihtout fail is YES! I have an enhanced death benefit – and it is called Heaven with Jesus!
Occasionally when someone has asked how I was doing I would reply something to the effect of, “It’s been a hard day, but it beats the alternative.” One day it struck me how absolutely untrue that statement is for those who know Jesus Christ, so I no longer answer that way. The absolute best day of my life on this earth cannot begin to compare what I will experience upon entering the pearly gates and meeting my Savior and Lord face to face (or more likely face to feet as I fall on my face before Him!)
The reason I love and follow Jesus though, is not just because I have “an enhanced death benefit.” I also have an enhanced life benefit. Yes, Jesus took my sin (and yours) upon Him when He died, so I was no responsible to pay that penalty. By rising from the dead, and giving me His Holy Spirit as a seal on my heart and life, He made His life and power available to me each and every moment.
While the question my co worker asks a vendor strikes me funny, it is totally appropriate in the context of the office. What is really the silly sad reality is how often I, who know better, do not fully embrace the enhanced life benefits at my disposal.
. . . I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10b NASB
If this post sounds like crazy talk to you, or has left you confused, please leave a comment. I’d like to interact with you about this!
I am not a good swimmer, but I LOVE swimming, especially outside. Somehow the combination of the water and the sun doesn’t just motivate me to exercise, but it provides a form of therapy for me.
I start my laps by doing a variety of strokes (I like to call them “freestyle” but they are not in competitive swimmers world – they are my freestyle) that have me either on front or side. My “reward” at the end of my laps is to wrap up with back stroke for several laps.
I have no problem staying within the lane lines when I swim forward or on my side. When doing back strokes, especially if the sun is directly overheard, I tend to angle quite a bit and then self correct when I bump into the lane lines.
When I do my laps I choose a lane and I stay within the confines of that boundary. Even when I can’t see clearly where I am going I have some flexibility and freedom. When I bump into a lane line I have a choice – to correct my course to stay in the safety of the lane that is mine or to ignore the lane line and say it doesn’t matter and cross over/under the lane line which would likely lead me to impact (and not in a good way) my fellow swimmers.
I am grateful for those lane lines. Not only do they help me with swimming, but they give me a picture of God’s grace. It is not exact, and certainly not a theological treatise.
I think of the water in the pool as God’s grace. Once I enter the pool I am free to move around anyplace within the pool. When I am in Christ I have a great deal of freedom to live within the vastness of God’s grace.
As I get more serious about what I am doing in the pool I choose a lane. By choosing that lane I am agreeing to stay within the confines of that lane. As I become more mature in my walk with Christ and understand more of His plan for me I submit myself to the lane He designed for me. It may look similar to the lane my friend is in, but it is different. I still have a significant amount of freedom/movement within my lane, but there are boundaries. I can choose to override those boundaries, but my path is much more enjoyable for me and those around when I move within the freedom of my lane in God’s grace!
The saying “It takes a village . . .” can be true of much of life. Today as I was driving to Spruce Lake where we will host our first two weeks of Family Retreat for families affected by disability I was so thankful for those in “our village” who make this, and so many other parts of our lives easier.
People like Denise, who I asked to pick up a prescription that wasn’t ready yet before I left and bring it to us at camp when she comes.
Guys like Scott, Roger, and Gary who step in while I am at camp and Jerry is at home to help him get up each morning and to bed at night. Then there’s Ron who comes to camp (hauling much of our equipment) to help Jerry here so I can focus on my role.
Ginny, my sister who said dinner will be provided the night we come home exhausted from two weeks of camp.
Once I pulled into Spruce Lake there was Lucas who offered to carry my suitcase to my second floor room.
And the best thing about our village? They love Jesus, and they know by serving us they are serving Him. Can’t wait to turn some of that love around these next two weeks to serve other families affected by disability at Family Retreat!
“Behold! How they love one another.”
Want to get more of an idea of what happens at Family Retreat? Follow our hashtag #JAFjourney2joy for the next couple of weeks.
I was privy to a conversation this weekend that turned to cars. Sharing about his hybrid car, one of the men commented how his driving habits have changed since getting this car. The reason? The gauges provide constant real time feedback about how his driving affects his fuel usage. In fact his wife said sometimes she asks if he really wants to get to their destination, because he won’t drive more than 55 mph on the freeway! Apparently this is a big change from his driving style prior to the hybrid.
As I listened to the conversation I thought of the corollary to my life. How would my daily interactions, my choices, the messages I tell myself be different if I had real time consistent feedback that I could see on a gauge in front of me (or even an app on my phone)? I think I may be appalled at how I am not living my life as “efficiently” (translated obediently) as I would like.
My actions and self talk don’t always reflect my desire to live fully committed to Christ and His truth. I am not always mindful that the thought I just entertained opened a toe hold for the enemy, or how the scores of other “little” things that I may do or not do affect myself and those around me.
Though I may not always see a gauge right in front of my view, I have something (someone) even better – the Holy Spirit living within prompting and empowering me with the truth of God’s Word.
. . . .let me be revived by following your regulations. Psalm 119:149b NLT