Archives for posts with tag: gifts

drummer boy

Of all the beautiful Christmas carols, Little Drummer Boy has always been my least favorite. I find the repetition of “pa rum pa pum pum” irritating. But today as I listened to it, I discovered profound truth in its words.

In the story of this song, the little boy with a drum is taken to the manger where he is told the baby is a king. He recognizes the significance of that moment. The baby’s parents are clearly not rich, but the little boy senses the holiness of that place where God has come to earth. The boy wants to give something to the baby, but feels he has nothing of value to offer.

Isn’t that true for most of us? We want to serve others; we want to show God how much we love him, but we feel inept. Other people’s capabilities and talents look far more glamorous and impressive. Others can inspire with their words or touch deep places in our hearts with music or art. Others are so confident or so gifted. We want to be significant and appreciated; we want to do the right thing and have it work out well. But too often, our best efforts look more clumsy and unprofessional than impressive. So we come to the manger again this Christmas, with patches on our disappointments, hiding our brokenness and frustration, desperately seeking to see the face of God in the midst of the mess and strife of this earth.

The drummer boy had nothing tangible to offer this holy family. But the God who created all the earth and has all power and majesty…didn’t want a gift that man values. What this God values is His people. The boy took what he had in his hands and used it the best he knew how. And the innocence and effort of the child brought a smile to the face of the King of Heaven. This was not about the best drum solo ever; it was about a pure heart offering its best to God.

Does your Christmas include seeking the face of God, or have you allowed our culture to devalue this holiday into frenetic activity? Do you withhold what God has given you because you disdain it or dismiss it as insignificant? Or will you offer what you hold in your hand, trusting that God will see the desires of your heart and transform your best effort into what brings your good and His glory?

What is your drum? The finest gift you have may not earn awards or praise from men, but it can bring a smile to the face of God if you offer it to bring Him pleasure. This Christmas, may you find yourself in the presence of the one who desperately loves you, who left heaven to come and be where you are. With all of your heart and soul, offer him whatever is in your hand…that is what he values most.

Come they told me, A new born king to see

Our finest gifts we bring to lay before the king.

So to honor him, when we come.

Little baby, I am a poor boy too.

I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give our king.

Shall I play for you on my drum?

Mary nodded; The ox and lamb kept time.

I played my drum for him I played my best for him.

Then he smiled at me and my drum.

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gift

Gift wrap matters to me. Wrapped presents under the tree increase the expectation for Christmas morning, and are part of the decoration in my home.  Somehow the color and beauty of the wrapping and bows and the process of peeling them away escalates the anticipation of the gift inside.

Sometimes gift wrap can be deceiving. My dad used to put a box in a box in a box until a tiny gift loomed large under the tree. My Sunday School class does white elephant gifts at our annual Christmas party, and the silliest, ugliest presents are often hidden beneath the most beautiful paper. There were times when my boys were small that the wrapping on their precious gifts for me used more tape than paper.

Wrapping is scriptural. David described God as “wrapped in light”. (Ps 104:2) God took the holiness and divinity of his son and wrapped him in human flesh when he sent him to earth for that first Christmas. Mary wrapped that baby in cloths and placed him in a manger. Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus from the cross and wrapped him in linen before placing his body in the tomb.

The gifts under my tree represent planning and shopping that I hope will bring joy to the recipients. But the bottom line is that the wrapping is just the presentation. By the end of Christmas morning, crumpled paper and torn ribbon will be stuffed into trash bags and thrown away. It is the gift itself that matters. What determines the importance of a gift is not whether you like the wrapping; it is what you do with the gift once the wrapping is gone.

Christmas is our reminder that God loved the world so much that he gave us the incredible gift of his son, wrapped in the form of a human baby. (John 3:16) What will you do with the meaning and purpose of Christmas once the celebration and wrapping are gone? Let God’s gift that became Christmas bring you new hope and joy as you chose to celebrate his presence, throughout this season and until you see him face to face.

give thanks

Giving anything is done intentionally. When we give a gift or advice, when we “give a hand” or “give a break”, we contribute something on purpose. Giving thanks works the exact same way.

It is easy to be thankful for things that bring us joy. Gratitude is an easy, natural response when we get what we want. Being thankful results from an understanding that something has been given to us. Many of us will gather with family and friends this week to celebrate all that we have been given. But celebrating what we’re thankful for is not the same as giving thanks.

In order to give thanks, we must acknowledge that what we have is a gift. There are countless gifts that God has given each of us, some of which we actually recognize. He provides for us and blesses us, and our response to those good gifts is thanksgiving that is almost effortless. It is easy to be grateful for the things that bring us joy.

But what if we don’t like what we’re facing? What if we are in the midst of a season of trial or suffering? What if our circumstances fuel our anxiety or bring us pain? What if God doesn’t obey us and gives us what we specifically asked to be protected from? Sometimes we are unhappy with what we are facing, and we have good reason to be anxious or afraid. Gratitude seems out of place. “Giving thanks” seems insincere when we don’t like what we’re facing. And yet, the Bible says we are to

1 Thess 5:18  give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’ will for you in Christ Jesus.

Over and over the Bible says we are to give thanks to God. We are to enter his gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4), we are to be watchful and thankful (Col 4:2), and be thankful and worship God with reverence (Heb 12:28). He even goes so far as to require that we refuse to be “anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil 4:6)

I don’t think God necessarily wants us to thank him for the things that bring us fear or pain; I believe he wants us to thank him in spite of them. When we focus on our problems, we can lose sight of God; when we focus on God, we have better perspective on our problems.

Heb 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise.

A sacrifice, by definition, is costly. It may cost us financially. It may cost our expectations or our comfort zone. It will cost us a focus on ourselves. I believe that being able to thank God in the hard times is a “sacrifice of praise”.

 Sometimes our thanksgiving is a natural response to our circumstances because we are thankful for what we have. But sometimes our thanksgiving has to be a sacrifice of praise. It would be easier and far more natural to complain or stage our own pity party; it would make much more sense to be outraged or disgusted or disappointed or hurt. We would have to sacrifice our outrage and disappointment and pain in order to be thankful. Are you willing to trust God with the things in your life that do NOT bring you joy? That cause you pain or suffering? Can you place them on his altar and entrust them to his care…even when you don’t like the results?

Are you willing to sacrifice your control and desires and praise God for what is, rather than what is not? When you enumerate all your blessings, will you be able to place your unfulfilled expectations and disappointments in God’s hands as well? Is your gratitude based solely on the things that make you happy, or can you offer him a sacrifice of praise?

This thanksgiving as you recall all the wonderful gifts you are grateful for, remember to be thankful to God himself – for knowing the details of your past and loving you through them, for his presence in the difficulty and pain of your present, and for leading you into all that is to come in your future.

Roses and Frogs

There is something beautiful and elegant about roses. The softness, shape, color, and even the thorns set them apart from all other flowers in creation. We use them to express our love for others and as a gift for celebration. I’m blessed to be married to a man that brings them home for me on holidays and on ordinary days when my circumstances rob me of beauty and elegance. Roses don’t change the circumstances of my day, but they can remind me of the things that can restore my joy, despite my circumstances.

I have three precious children living next door to me. They bring me joy and laughter….and they bring me frogs. I find nothing beautiful or elegant about frogs. We have a creek that runs through our yards that is a gathering place for the children on our street, and the kids next door know that I have a pond in my backyard. They believe that the frogs in the creek would be happier living in my pond. The first time I opened my door to find their faces aglow with anticipation and they said, “Ms. Bev, we brought you something”, I had no idea what I was in for. Gratefully, I did not reach out to take the gift they had hidden between their muddy hands.

That was our first frog. Since that day, many have been added to the pond population. They range from as small as a quarter to as large as my fist. We’ve become so used to each other that they rarely even jump in the water when I sit next to the pond. Some summer nights their croaking is loud enough to be heard through closed windows. I don’t particularly love frogs, but I’ve come to love those kids next door. And because of those three precious children, frogs now bring me joy.

In my house both frogs and roses are gifts. Both indicate that someone has made an effort to bring me joy. Both do. One I’ve always admired. The other I had to learn to appreciate.

Sometimes God gives us gifts that are anticipated and welcomed. Sometimes his gifts require a change of perspective before we make peace with them and can call them “good”. It is the desire of his heart to give us gifts. May we never deny ourselves the pleasure of celebrating only the gifts that meet our preconceived notions. May this day bring you both “roses” and “frogs” that will give you joy and remind you that you are loved.

Matthew 7:11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.

Much Ado about....what?

So much of life, especially the big events, takes so much longer to get ready for than it does to actually do it. Christmas pageants and concerts have tens of hours of rehearsal for a performance that usually lasts only one. Unwrapping presents takes a tiny fraction of the time it took to plan and shop and wrap each present and craft beautiful wrapping and bows to decorate them. I may spend hours in the kitchen preparing a meal that will disappear in 20 minutes. Months go into planning a wedding that usually takes no more than a few minutes. The women’s ministry team at my church is hours away from our 10th annual Christmas Tea. This year we will have 248 women. Months of endless details and hard work by so many go into planning a tea that will be only a memory two hours after it begins.

Is it all worth it? What is it about the preparation? Is all this “Much Ado About Nothing”, or is the preparation as important as the event? God thought it was. He spent six days preparing the place he would give to man. Whether you believe that was six 24 hour periods or six spans of time, he took the time to make it perfect before he created humans. He promised to “go before” his people into the Promised Land and into their future, and Christ has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us.

The time we spend preparing for what is to come really does matter. Anticipation of the event can be as exciting as the event itself. Rehearsals build relationships and memories, and hopefully lead to a performance that draws those who come to watch into the truth and beauty of what is presented. Each gift under the tree is evidence that someone is loved and special. My boys work and are rarely at home for dinner, so when we can all gather around the table, it is an increasingly rare pleasure. I want the meal to be delicious, but mostly I just want us to savor our time together. The details of a wedding may fade or become fun stories, but that wedding is the start of a marriage and love story that will hopefully last a lifetime. The vast majority of ladies who will attend the Tea have no concept of the complicated, time consuming details of tickets or door prizes or logistics of food preparation. They don’t see the chaos of the kitchen and the near misses of the servers. They just see an exquisitely decorated dining room and most think all the details were perfect. When family and friends find gifts under my tree, a meal prepared just for them, or a seat at a wedding or the Tea just for them, what I hope they understand is that they are loved and belong in this place I have prepared for them.

God is never hurried or frantic. He doesn’t stress or express irritation over details that just won’t seem to fall into place. Adam was created when Eden was ready. Jesus came in “the fullness of time.” (Gal 4:4) And in his great mercy, Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. When we get there we will find gifts specifically designed for us individually. There will be a wedding and a feast. Your invitation is in your Bible. He wants us to know what is to come, so that we may joyfully anticipate its coming. The details will be magnificent, and we’ll have all of eternity to celebrate and share fellowship with our God, and with each other.