The Giving in ThanksGiving.
I watched this video a few weeks ago and was really touched by it. It's relatively simple...a boy asks a few people to share their food and they immediately say no. Then the boy asks a homeless man to share his pizza and he does. It is just such a real example of how a giving spirit should work. Nothing fancy, just a true spirit of giving.
In a few days most of us will celebrate Thanksgiving and while we usually focus on the "thanks" in the holiday, we forget to acknowledge the giving in "Thanksgiving". The holiday is not only about being thankful but also about having a spirit of giving. And honestly, I've learned an awful lot about giving this past year--a lesson I wasn't really ready to learn but God had different plans. If you would have asked me a year ago if I thought my year would have been characterized by giving, I would have thought you were crazy. I was still picking up pieces of my life and living with very little. The beginning of last December I moved into a house without a single piece of furniture...okay I"m lying, I had a $99 desk from Target I bought 4 years ago when I started grad school. So I was living in a a newly rented house, with a desk. If you told me I would be spending my year "giving" things away, I would have said, "just what am I going to give away?" Oh me of so little faith. Even when we think we have nothing...God finds things for us to give.
And through many acts of giving, I learned an interesting lesson...it's not about what the receiver does with the gift, it is the act of giving that matters. I've heard stories where people didn't give because of a distrust in what the receiver was going to do with the money or gift. For example, the street beggar that claims to need money to feed his/her children and instead uses the money to buy drugs. Well I promise, if you feel led to give you aren't going to be held accountable to what the beggar does with your offering. When we stand before the LORD someday, we are held accountable to our own actions. Not the actions of those we gave to. So if you feel led to give, give without reservation. Give without stipulation. Give without commitment from the receiver. Just give.
This past year I have been blessed with many opportunities to give to others and it has left me so incredibly humbled and feeling nothing but blessed. For the first time in my life, I have truly felt what Jesus described in the act of giving:
"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus how he himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
When people think about giving, it is usually in the context of giving money. And there is often a question of how much do you really need to give to obey God? I listened to a pastor answer this question once saying, "give until it hurts and then keep giving until it stops hurting." How brutally honest and profound!
2 Corinthians 9:7
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. "For God loves a person who gives cheerfully."
My context of giving expanded WAY WAY WAY outside of money this past year. The things I felt led to 'give away' are still outside of my realm of understanding. But as I look back on the various opportunities I've been blessed 'to give' this past year, I feel absolutely no loss. The empty spots from the things that used to exist (the things I've given away) are filled with warmth. I cannot even begin to describe the feeling...I can only challenge others to give in order to feel it.
2 Corinthians 8:2-5
They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.
So this year, as we celebrate ThanksGIVING...remember the giving. For it's in the giving that we truly find Thanksgiving.
Giving, receiving and blessing,
The Dark Place.
Last week my kindergarten teacher was murdered....three through and through bullets in her torso. Her husband got three to the torso and one to the head. After a week of searching for their son (alleged suspect--a year younger than me), police found him during routine traffic stop...just seconds before he took his own life. A few days ago, I found out a high school classmate was found dead in her apartment. And two friends of mine are mourning the loss of friends....one lost at sea after a diving trip gone wrong and another hit by a car crossing the street. And we've all had a rough week at the hospital...the holidays always seem to bring sad times in pediatric intensive care units. I remember very few holiday seasons that weren't filled with tears at work. It's a dark place.
And yet, I can't imagine the dark place a child has to be to kill his/her parents. I can understand not obeying parents...I can understand being angry at parents...I can even understand hating parents. But I hope I never understand the dark place one has to be in to kill their parents. (or to kill anyone actually!) Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a church in North Carolina and oddly enough the message was about God's commandment to honor your parents.
Honor your father and mother.
The pastor did a fabulous job explaining God's commandment to honor our parents....not love, not respect, not like. Just honor. It was an interesting spin on God's understanding that parents aren't perfect and some parents aren't even likable. But God commands us to honor our parents because they are our parents. Honor is the least you can do when you have great parents and the most you have to do when you have horrible parents. Anyway, it was a great reminder of God's understanding of the parental role in life. And it continued to magnify the darkness a child must be in to take the life of his/her parents.
And it caused me to reflect on the darkness people feel in their hearts especially around the holidays. Life is tough...I mean really, really tough sometimes. And unfortunately, we all have to endure it until we meet our maker someday. He gets us through it...but it's still tough sometimes. God doesn't promise an easy life. He just promises to be there. But some people either don't know God and His amazing, incredible ability "to be there" or they forget. Because it's really easy to forget He is there sometimes. When you are trying to understand why people get lost at sea or die crossing the street, it's hard to see God there. But He is. And we just have to keep reminding each other every day. And we need to remember we are all at different places in life. And the people that are living in the dark places, they need a little light sometimes.
So as I go about my business this holiday season, I am going to do my very best to make it part of my business to shine light in the dark places. Instead of letting the traffic and long lines and angry people get me frustrated, I am going to remember some people are in dark places. And what they need most is a smile, a friend, love and patience. I'm going to do my best to remember that it might be the littlest thing that keeps a person for retreating further into the darkest of places. And I pray those around me will shine light on me if one day I am ever heading for darkness.
The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
A kindergarten teacher, the Son and light,
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.