Tag Archives: A Holy Experience

The Peril & Blessing of Gift-Giving and that Greatest Gift

2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 007 (2)

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

I am undone by Christmas gift-giving. Once upon a time, seemingly long, long ago, giving special gifts was something I did well. Not so much any more. The whole Christmas shopping experience has become quite overwhelming for me. If you give me a definite idea or suggestion, I am empowered. It will be done! To shoot in the dark for a gift that, just knowing you, I know you would love?…not so much.

What a blessing you are who just intuitively know what will please or what will be treasured…those gifts full of meaning, or thoughtfulness, or wonder – gifts that aren’t seeming burdens or requiring a return. You are a blessing to us all. I don’t even compare myself to great gift-givers any more…resigning myself to the writing of checks or the occasional joy of tripping over “just the right gift”.

This is my tribute to the great gift-givers in my life. Here are examples of late:

  • those old friends retiring and moving away who gave all of us, at their send-off, a rose and two marbles – a “shooter” and a “keeper”. So meaningful because he collects marbles and is always a great “shooter” in real life, and she is such a “keeper”. I will miss them. The marbles go in my work desk to remember them every time I open that drawer.2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 002 (2)
  • that neighbor who baked Christmas cookies with her kids and sent them with their dad around the neighborhood delivering their photo Christmas card and cookies. Such a sweet visit at the door as we talked about spelling bees, and sledding, and no Christmas travel because of work. Blog - Gift-Giving - Christmas cookies
  • those friends who show up with surprises (pictured at top of blog) – the wooden ball Nativity from Bizarre Bazaar (where she fought the crowds of shoppers for those special finds); the cross inscribed with “love”, from a friend (in major transition with what time to shop?!), a silver pillow with “Peace on Earth” in red letters (from a woman in full-time ministry). All working women with little time to shop but hearts so full of love, they do what’s necessary to lavish that love on those around them.

During December each year, before falling asleep, I try to read through my stash of Christmas books. One of those is Andy Andrews’ Socks for Christmas. It’s a shortish story about his growing up in the 60’s Christmas…and the hard reality that, for some children, socks would be a gladsome gift.Blog - Gift-Giving - Socks for Christmas - Book

Sometimes even the smallest of gifts like socks meets a great need.

What about the greatest of gifts – that of the Christ child? The greatest of gifts from the greatest of Gift-givers to meet the greatest of our needs – that need for a Savior.

Ann Voskamp, is a writer and blogger, homeschool mom and farmer’s wife. As she talks about daily trips to the barn, she paints a story about gift-giving. It’s so real, I can feel the cold of the Canadian winter and the musty smell of hay and animals.

“Too often we think that Christmas is something that we can buy or create or make by hand. Ultimately Christmas isn’t a product that we can wrap up but it’s a Person that we unwrap. Christ comes to the manger, that cradle, that trough. The mire and the stench [of that barn…of our lives]. It doesn’t end there. That manger is wood and it’s nailed together. That manger takes us right to the cross. We are saved only through another tree – the tree from the garden, the tree at the manger, the tree Jesus hung on to save us…From the beginning of time, we’ve been coming to this place – the Messiah coming to redeem us…In the cross is the white-hot burn of His love.” – Ann Voskamp

For you glorious gift-givers, thank you. You reflect the joyful, creative generosity of God. For those of us who struggle, we will press our way through that part of Christmas. We will be glad for you and glad for the One who knew exactly what we needed not just for Christmas but for always…and gave us more that we could “ask or imagine”.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

[P.S. Gift ideas that stretch across the globe to touch families in need can be found on the pages of the BGR Christmas catalog. If you can’t figure what to give to folks who have pretty much everything, here you can find plenty to give to others, in their name. ]

Jesus is the Greatest Gift – Christmas Gifts for Neighbors – Ann Voskamp

The Cross-Centered Christmas: An Interview with Ann Voskamp – Tony Reinke, DesiringGod.org

The One Thing Your Christmas Can’t Afford to Be Without – Ann Voskamp

Baptist Global Response – Christmas Catalog

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Socks for Christmas: A Child’s Discovery of the True Riches of Christmas by Andy Andrews

Yesterday’s News – Ramadi Has Fallen – What Do We Do Today? And Tomorrow?

Blog - May 18 2015 News - Ramadi has Fallen

At first I didn’t even see the headline story. For so many years now, Iraq has been in the news. We have read so many accounts of military skirmishes and resulting casualties, that, too often, we go numb from the details. Compassion fatigue is one more assault on humanity. When I glanced again at the paper, I realized this was a particularly sad day.

Ramadi, Iraq, is just 70 or so miles from Baghdad. It is the capital of the Anbar province, and once had a population of over 700,000 people. Families who could leave to somewhere had long since gone. For those remaining, they went to sleep Saturday night in their usual situation, but woke up Sunday to a very different world. The Iraqi military was gone. Ramadi had fallen to terrorists. Over the course of several hours, hundreds were killed, and thousands fled the city.

Ann Voskamp is an American mom, farm wife, writer, and Christ-follower. She visited Israel and Iraq this year and has written a series of blogs about what she saw and the stories she heard. Into Iraq #1 and #2 (linked below) will give you a view into the world of these peoples displaced by terrorism. Take the few moments you’ll need to hear the voices behind all the faces in Ann’s photographs. These women and children matter to God. The men, as well, although many of them didn’t make it out with their families.

We can’t just read the paper and discard it as nothing but rubbish, without sitting, as best we can, with these displaced peoples. They have lost so much and are grieving, hungry, and homeless. Ann, in her writing, tells of one helping organization – Preemptive Love Coalition. We give through another – Baptist Global Response.

Ann tells about how you don’t see nine-year-old girls because they are taken and sold in slave markets in Iraq. We can’t even imagine. In fact, I think this is why we don’t pray as we could. These realities are so unimaginable we try to think they can’t be true.

Over a year ago, 276 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from their secondary school by a militant terrorist group. Both Christian and Muslim girls. Taken. A few days later, an organization published a list of their names and encouraged people to pray for these young girls by name, committing to pray for one of the girls until she’s back home. I keep that precious girl’s name on my bedside table under my Bible and journal. Every morning, I pray for God to protect this daughter and to be near to her in whatever her situation is that day.

It’s a small thing…or is it?

When Ramadi fell to terrorists on Sunday, a chain reaction must follow. We will not turn away. We will pray. We will give. We will go, if we sense we must…as Ann Voskamp did, and so many others.

As we pray for those without homes tonight, we pray also for those who stole their lives from them. We pray for their enemies…as Jesus did and urged us to do so (Matthew 5:43-45). We are all in need of forgiveness. We are all in need of a Savior.

Let’s keep yesterday’s news before us – as real as are those little ones sleeping in tents or on concrete floors, wrapped in the arms of weary mothers, grieving the loss of their husbands…and as real as those children separated from those who love them, daughters and sons living strange lives imposed on them by others.

We will not turn away…

Into Iraq #1: Love in the Time of I***

Into Iraq #2: What the News isn’t telling You & Why We Can’t Afford to Pretend It’s Not Happening [Sozan’s Impossible Choice — and Our Very Possible One]

Chibok Schoolgirls Kidnapping, April 14-15, 2014

CAN Publishes 178 Names Of Kidnapped GGSS Chibok Girls

Names, Photographs Of Chibok Girls Abducted By B*** H**** Made Public

Nigeria Rescues 234 Women and Girls Kidnapped