We had dinner last week with Charlie, our pastor of worship & spiritual formation, and his wife Liz. On our way out the door, our 3-year old son Russell picked up a craft he had made in preschool and said, “I give Charlie?” We said, “Sure, you can give that to Charlie.” Upon our arrival, Russell handed his craft to Charlie and Liz as a little gift. They ooohhed and ahhed and asked Russell if he had made it.
A couple hours later, when we were getting ready to leave, Russell picked up that same craft and started walking out the door with it. I said, “Russell, I thought you gave that to Charlie and Liz,” and he frowned and said, “I miss it.”
Aren’t material attachments strange? That craft is one among 50 lying around our house, and we throw some away daily to control the clutter. But for some reason, Russell had a hard time parting with the craft he had given to Charlie and Liz. I can relate to Russell’s little dilemma. I want to be generous, but I also want stuff. I want to give, but I also want to keep. I want to live open-handedly, but I find myself with a tight grip.
Yesterday, we received a few coins in an offering envelope at church with these words written inside, “I gave what I had. May not be much at all but hopefully it will help. God Bless.”
This beautiful offering reminds me that spiritual power is released in and through us when we give. Christ modeled this through his ordinary interactions and astonishing miracles. May we follow in the steps of the One who gave freely and fully.
I’m heading to Israel this week for a tour of the Holy Land with 30+ other pastors. I’m absolutely delighted to be going and simultaneously dreading being away from Russell for a full 9 days. I know, it’s only 9 days, but I’m going to miss that little man! I remember my childhood pastor Stuart Briscoe telling stories about missionaries back in the day who packed their belongings in a coffin and sang the old hymn, “I’ll See You Someday in Heaven” as they hugged and kissed their loved ones forever goodbye at the boat dock and headed to the mission field.
I wonder if there is any modern-day equivalent of such total abandonment to God and calling? Leaving family, friends, comfort, home, and land to follow God’s calling when there was no Internet and only a slow boat in one direction seems to me now to be so single-minded, so final, so fully abandoned. Where are today’s examples, in the United States, of people who are “abandoning all” in surrender to God’s call on their lives? Maybe I’m just being nostalgic about the old-school missionary stories, but I wonder sometimes if we haven’t lost something since then?
What do you think? Do you have any present-day stories of people who have sacrificed very deeply to follow their understanding of Jesus’ mission for them?
As I say goodbye to my sweet Russell for the next 9 days, I remember and honor others who have gone before me and modeled gracious openhandedness with the people and possessions dearest to them.
My life is a little crazy these days. Here is why: Besides co-leading a church with Tim, my family and I are moving into the church parsonage in January. I am involved in running a small side business we own, we are adopting a child, I am mom to a boy who is straddling the line between baby and toddler, and it’s almost Christmas. So, I’ve decided to create a little list of instructions for myself to follow this month – just so I can be present and connected to God through Advent and keep everything in perspective when life is full.
Gentle reminders to myself for surviving the holidays:
- Go to your small group and tell everyone how you’re really doing, even if you sound stupid, or cry, or think they think you’re something other than fine.
- Avoid Pinterest for vague dreaming that only leaves you feeling inadequate.
- Use Pinterest only if you will actually implement a brilliant idea like removing some foul mildew smell in your towels. (http://pinterest.com/pin/260153315946229335/)
- End the phone call before walking into the house after work.
- Leave the phone on the counter when playing with Russell in his room. Sit on the floor with him, and whatever you do, do not try to multi-task when you are with him because you’ll be frustrated, both he and the task will suffer, and you might miss something so special.
- Walk the dog with Tim and Russell every morning, and wear warm clothes so that you can actually enjoy it.
- Let yourself cry when you see the kids in your neighborhood walking into school, and you imagine Russell being that big and independent some day.
- Call Mom.
- Don’t start thinking it’s a good idea to bake a lot right now when you read that foodie blog.
- When crazy kicks in, take a deep breath, put your feet flat on the floor, and deeply breathe in the presence of God here and now.
- Accept that there are only 24 hours in this day, relinquish the list, and trust that you are right where you are supposed to be. Then say your prayers, kiss Tim, and let the bed hold you up before falling asleep.
What gentle reminders are you giving yourself these days? I’d love to hear!