The Season of Giving?

I’ve always been fascinated by the television crews who go out on the street and ask every day people, living every day lives, questions. I don’t know, I guess I’ve always wanted to do it too. So, I decided to go into areas where people do not know me and propose this question, What does the Season of Giving actually mean?

My first stop, Race Track in Gainesville, Georgia; perfect spot to find an answer to my question. I pulled up next to a guy in an F250 and started filling up my tank. “Sir, could I ask you a question?” I began. (It didn’t seem as smooth as the television guys, but it was my first shot.)

“Sure,” he responded, spitting tobacco juice to the side of his truck.

“What does the Season of Giving actually mean?”

“Christmas,” he said, quickly and a matter-of-factly.

I realized I needed to rephrase my question. “Can you give me an example of what the season of giving means?”

“Santa Claus,” he answered.

I decided to drive further up the road to a McDonalds off I-85. There were two older ladies having lunch, and they seemed please to answer anything I asked. “Can you ladies give me an example of what the season of giving means?”

“Gifts. Every year I bake cookies for families in my neighborhood and church,” one answered.

“For me,” the taller, more serious looking woman responded, “It’s time with my grandchildren.”

At The Home Depot, a man answered, “Jewelry for my wife. She expects it every Christmas and I work for it all year-long.”

In the Mall parking lot I heard:

“I don’t really think about needy people being necessarily poor. Like, needy people could be people who need attention. So, I try to spend time with lonely people.”

“Time when you focus on others and not yourself.”

“The season of giving is about finding the joy of the holiday.”

“Getting toys and lots of them…”

“I’m not really into Christmas, but if I were Christian, it would be about giving to other people and not about getting from other people. That’s why I’m not really into Christmas.”

“I’ve been hoping all month my parents get me PlayStation 4! Yeah! That will definitely be the true season of giving.”

“Christmas parties, family gatherings, greeting cards, and packages.”

“It’s the season FOR GIVING. Get it? Forgiving others.”

There were some workers – a construction crew – taking a lunch break just outside of downtown Atlanta. “In Mexico, in our village, we used to go from house to house. We would bring food and our neighbors would offer food. It was a time of celebration for Mother Mary and the Christ child.”

“It’s about remembering why Christ came to earth and thanking Him for coming.”

And my favorite answer, which came from a little girl at Chic-fil-A, “‘For God so loved the world, that He GAVE His only Son…’ That’s it! That’s Christmas in a package, tied up with a bow.”

So, what does “the Season of Giving” mean to you? Maybe we all need to stop and think about it and start implementing what it means to us.

 

Who are you pulling for?

Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

When I was in Elementary School, my class won the Tug of War game. We clobbered all our opponents. Our secret? My teacher would yell out, “Pull! Pull! Pull!” We would pull and release on her command, unified. We defeated people older and stronger than us because we pulled together and we won every time. The other teams simply pulled individually at different times. Our strategy worked!

I often remember those Tug of War days and our victory when I read this scripture. By carrying one another’s burdens, together we present a unified front against the struggles of the world. Together we pull! pull! pull! And burdens are lifted.

Jesus came to bear our burdens, to carry the weight of our sins, and to die on the Cross for us. It was His purpose so that we might have salvation. It was the choice He made for our redemption. We must do the same. If someone you know is in trouble, whether it be from his or her own sin or a trial or a difficult season in life, we need to do something. We need to help carry his or her burden. Don’t stand back and watch. Don’t allow them to go down a path of destruction. Come to their aid and come quickly.

I’ve often heard, “Well, it’s really none of my business!”

God didn’t ask us to meddle, He asked us to love and make lighter the burdens of others. He didn’t ask us to judge or punish, He is asking us to carry the burdens of others.

A few years ago, a lady in the church I serve was fasting for the salvation of her marriage. Because of infidelity, her husband was preparing to file for divorce. The lady became overwhelmed with grief and sickness but she wanted to be committed to her fast. Another woman in our church went to the lady and said, “I will fast for you.” She continued the fast for the lady. Miraculously, the marriage was saved.

In another incidence, a woman in our church worked for another woman for several months while she was out sick and gave her the pay-check. A man in our church kept up the yard of his neighbor when his neighbor fell off the roof and was bedridden for several months. I know of a lady who watches over a child with a severe handicap so the parents can go out every Thursday night for alone time.

God asks us to carry the burdens of one another. He is yelling down to us, just like my teacher did that infamous day of Tug of War, “Pull! Pull! Pull!”

The question is then, who are you pulling for? Today, be aware of those around you, those you love, your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers. Offer your help to them. Be consistent. Carry their burdens.

Messing up the Cosmos

1 Corinthians 13:5, “It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

I spoke to a young man recently searching for his soul mate. He gave me very specific characteristics he wanted in a mate. “The perfect woman for me,” he began and somehow my mind drifted off into 1 Corinthians 13 – the LOVE chapter. I’ve read it thousands of times at weddings and read it thousands of times more in marriage counseling sessions. There is nothing easy about love; but even tougher is living without it.

“I mean, how do you know if you are marrying your soul mate?” he asked. I realized I had left our conversation and quickly attempted to pick up where my mind exited.

I gave him a comical description I recently heard of the whole soul mate dilemma. “Do you realize,” I started, “if you choose the wrong person, let’s say for the sake of argument, and you do not marry your soul mate, then whose soul mate did you marry?”

The fellow stepped back a moment and crossed his arms. “Well,” I continued, “then the person whose soul mate you married will then marry the wrong soul mate because you married her.”

“Makes sense,” he nodded.

“Soon, the person whose soul mate you married, who married the wrong soul mate, who married the wrong soul mate, is forced to marry the wrong soul mate. Before long you are completely responsible for throwing off the entire cosmos all because you chose the wrong person. I don’t think God would entrust our ability to choose a soul mate for this simple reason.”

The young man laughed, “I never thought of it in that way. I was only thinking about myself and my soul mate.”

“Exactly. And LOVE is not self-seeking,” I answered. “You find the person who you can be the perfect mate for. Stop looking for the person who is perfect for you.”

The simple answer to love is to be who you need to be for someone else and stop insisting people be for you what you need them to be. Honor people. Treat people with respect and of value. Stop seeing what you can get out of a relationship and start seeing what you can give to the relationship.  When you have a conflict, pray with the person about it; if that isn’t possible, pray for God to help you resolve and forgive. And when someone hurts you, give it to God and move on. The lists piling up inside you are doing you no good. Don’t keep records of wrong, move passed them.

Today, pray about how you love people. Ask God to help you in your relationships. Honor God by loving the people around you as He asks us to do.

Too busy living it

Psalm 35:9, “Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.”

Take a moment today to stop and enjoy life. We are all moving on the fast track. Schedules are filled to the maximum with appointments and activities. We are so busy doing our list that we do not even realize if we actually like what we are doing.

When is the last time you stopped to notice which bird in your yard was chirping so beautiful. Do you even listen to them for any length of time? What about the stars at night, or the flowers blooming, or a butterfly passing by? When is the last time you really looked at your children? Noticed their eyes?

Time stops for no one and it is moving quickly.

Yesterday, I was running late for an appointment but as I was leaving the building, I noticed two children in a nearby park, playing.  It was their laughter that caused me to stop. I leaned up against my car and simply listened. The voices reminded me of my children many, many years ago. Oh, how I miss that sound! I can remember coming home and hearing the kids in the yard and how they would drop everything and come running toward me.

Don’t miss your life because you’re too busy living it. God created so many splendid things for us. Take the time today to really notice what is around you. Refresh yourself. Taste your food. Listen to the sounds surrounding you. Touch those you love. Rejoice in the God who gave it all to you. Fill your spirit with Him.

Today, delight in the God of your salvation.

Are you a good neighbor?

Mark 12:28-31, “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.”

Sometimes it can be confusing. Who exactly is our neighbor? And is it really possible to love our neighbor as ourself?

Steps to becoming a Good Neighbor:

1. Loving our neighbor means putting our needs aside.

When we love our neighbor as we should, we are showing a selfless act, an admittance that demonstrates divine love in ways nothing else can. Showing love to our neighbor is the best example of Godliness there is. When Jesus came to walk with us here on earth, He came as a servant to all mankind. We, in turn, are to be servants to others, demonstrating a Godly love. Whether or not the person to whom you are showing love accepts it or not, it is still our responsibility and duty as Godly people.

2. Who is our neighbor in God’s eyes?

When Jesus was asked this question, He told the story of the Good Samaritan. Once I heard a story of a Sunday School teacher who asked a group of Third Graders what they would do if they saw a person on the road beaten and bloodied. After some thought, a little girl raised her hand and responded, “I would probably throw-up!” And the Good Samaritan might have felt that way too, but he helped the man anyway. A neighbor is anyone close by to where you are. Regardless of how we feel, God asks us to demonstrate His love to them.

3. Love is the greatest witness of Christ.

Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

1 Peter 2:15, “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”

1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Be the neighbor God has called you to be to those around you.