Some how, sometime ago, we became like Grinch – we don’t exchange Christmas gifts! Or else, I am just such a terrible shopper that trying to buy Christmas presents takes all my joy away! Actually, speaking for myself, I LOVE CHRISTmas! But we give few if any gifts and I wrestle with this every year, but even more this year and since Thanksgiving. I love to give gifts that I know will make the receiver leap for JOY! It is so special to see someone REALLY happy. So with that as my frame of reference, maybe we can figure out why we don’t give presents, or many presents anymore. Or am I just turned off by commercialism – but then who isn’t? But do we still get caught up in it?
The Tuesday before Christmas, I met with two dear friends (Brenda and Diana), Brenda for lunch and Diana joined us later for the dessert feast – but it was really a feast around our Lord! When Diana walked in, she had a gift bag and to myself I said “oh no!” Oh, no, I don’t have a gift in return! Diana has been my inspiration this year as she battled breast cancer – so she really deserves a special gift! She has given me more spiritual gifts in eight months than I could imagine in a lifetime! But she tucked it away and we went on to feast about our Lord’s goodness, the miracles we are seeing in our lives (and need in our lives) and how we see a great movement of spiritual renewal in our county and even beyond (we were still “high” from the Big Event featuring Chad Varga and NewWorldSon).
Diana knows all the struggles I have and have had. A current one is my quest for pure JOY in my life. Now, if you know me, I do seem to have a lot of joy, almost always a smile on my face! I love the Lord and He fills me daily with HIS joy and peace….but where I am lacking is in my ability to “have fun” which translates into complete joy! (I am pretty seriously minded. Maybe that was why I was a law enforcement officer!)
I have joy, but my struggles keep me from being totally FULL of JOY! The joy only God can give that permeates your soul and rolls off onto those around you! I just reconnected with a summer friend from 42 years ago on Face book! I read her bio and loved it…it was her essence I remembered! She had that special JOY when I met her, her bio stating: “People may or may not remember what you said or what you did but they always remember the way you made them feel.” That is what I am seeking!
So when it is about time to leave, Diana brings out the gift bag, it was HUGE, that said JOY! She said she had a bag of joy for me!!! A beautiful poem she wrote, Judah our Lion King (a stuffed toy), and a bag of hugs and kisses! So much meaning to each and so much joy to each! Oh, how it touched me and that is what I want to give with every gift, for it to be exactly what the person needs! As I left, praising God for these two special women in my life, God seemed to whisper to me, “Diana really listened to your heart. That was how she knew what to give you!” OK, guilty! I am so busy with business; I don’t take time to listen! Please, LORD, talk loudly to me so I can’t miss a word!
That Sunday, our Pastor was out recuperating from surgery (nothing real serious) so one of our Elders agreed to “preach” and preach he did! The sermon is what this blog is all about! MY STRUGGLE!!!
We were asked if we knew what we wanted for Christmas? Most adults take a lot of time to think before they reply, but children always seem quick to give an answer. The same with birthday gifts. Children always have a quick answer. So what is Christmas anyway? It is the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior! So it is really a birthday celebration, right? Why do we want to please others with gifts? Do we ever take time to ask our Lord, “What do you want for your birthday, Lord?”
We really don’t have to ask Him, because He has told us in both the Old and the New Testaments! How pleased I was when he said the first scripture is found in Micah – which is where my favorite scripture is located: Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you? But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” I had to learn this scripture the hard way and committed to memorizing it and praying for it to become a part of my being!
In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
I had hoped he had written the sermon out so I could just insert it, and of course, give him the credit – but he had it outlined in his mind, had the scriptures written down, but then more or less winged it as he so eloquently does every time he gives a speech (according to his wife!).
So instead, God gave me a new story this morning to write about! I want to be where HE wants me, to do what HE wants me to do, to be a willing listener, to spread HIS joy to all I meet!
While trying to write this blog, we are traveling, 850 miles with my husband’s 90 year old mom. I am in the back seat, using my Smartphone and after reading my Bible on it (Biblegateway reading plans, reading the Bible in a year), chatting it up on Face Book, playing Words with Friends (mainly with my daughter) when a new friend and author, Bill Myers posted on Face Book about his latest book, Supernatural Love, available on Kindle and Nook, for only $2.99.
My husband suggested I stop buying books after we downsized and I retired. Reasonable, I can use the library! But for only $2.99 and to help support this fantastic author! So I figured out how to download Nook on my Smartphone, bought the e-book and then read it in less than an hour! Easy read and you can’t stop once you start! It is the true story of a woman whose son was murdered and the supernatural love she was given for the man who killed him! (Bill describes it …”as a true and pretty powerful story about God’s love and His call for us to forgive.”)
So this morning, staying at a random hotel (that is another story how we stayed at this particular hotel) at 6:00 am, I went to the lobby to get some coffee and check out the breakfast. So it is just me and the night clerk. Being the joyful person I am, I wished her a Merry Christmas and asked if she had to work the holiday. She said no, but that today is a sad day for her. Her only son, Antonio, was born on this day and would have been 24, but he was murdered 3 years ago!
I don’t believe in coincidences! I just praise you, Lord, for giving me some words of comfort after reading Supernatural Love yesterday! Needless to say, she and I had a wonderful and uplifting talk. She thanked me for letting her talk, she said it really helped her to be able to share!
I don’t want to be remembered for the gifts I give (how do you top the greatest gift of all: “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten son…” John 3:26) but that “People may or may not remember what I said or what I did but they always remember the way I made them feel.” So I pray that I make people feel the presence of God in our midst whenever we are together. And that is the gift I want to give all my loved ones and friends! The gift of God’s JOY!