December 24, 2012

The perfect gift

Yesterday, the family and I decided to head out to one of our local malls to finish our Christmas shopping. This mall is a bit on the larger side for our area – over 175 specialty stores and restaurants.  None of us are what you’d classify “a mall shopper”.  We are more of the ‘get in, get it, get out’ people.  …Did I mention this is the last shopping weekend before Christmas? Usually we are more of the early shopper type but it seems like this year time slipped past us.  So it was an experience!  I paired off with one of my boys, as did my husband and our daughter who was on a mission, left all of us in the dust as she set of to find the perfect gift for one of her brothers. 

The deeper into the mall child2 and I went, the more crowded and busy it got.  Child 2 looks over to me as we are pacing, dodging, and lunging through crowd spurts and says “I like the mall’. “we hardly ever come here buddy.  It’s easer to shop the strips by us – get in, get out” I reply.  He says ‘I don’t like shopping here – I like walking around and watching here.  The people are interesting.’

And on we walked.

I started to consider not the crowd, or the waves of shoppers, but the people.  They were fun to look at and watch – definitely interesting: goth teens leaning against a store front giggling about an older woman in one of the hipper stores; the dad corralling three kids while he was chasing to catch up with mom; the older gentleman sitting in a seat outside the woman’s dressing room waiting, and waiting, and..; the elderly couple holding hands as they went into the Hallmark store…There were many people in the crowd, this huge uncountable crowd, each with their own purpose – especially on this weekend before Christmas – the purpose of seeking that ‘perfect gift’.

I began to think… I know what it is like to be the one who’s found that perfect gift for that very special person.  This is a person I care so very much for and want to express my appreciation, my care, my love wrapped inside.  There is great joy in giving that perfect gift – especially when you see the great joy found when it is received.

That perfect gift… I’d bet an innumerable number of people shopping were striving for that “perfect gift’.

And then I smile – not because I already found that ‘perfect gift’, but because it hit me that I have been the recipient of “THE” perfect gift. 

It was given to me by my FATHER in a manager wrapped in swaddling cloth. I am reminded of this even by the signs all over the mall for Christmas begins with C-H-R-I-S-T.  I can proclaim with Paul “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”  Thinking on into the book of Ephesians I am lovingly told “for it is by grace you have been saved through faith – this is not from yourselves, it is the GIFT of God.”   I didn’t do anything to received this perfect gift – it was not my good dees or my being a good person –it was solely the grace of the  Heavenly Father and out of his great love and compassion that He found the perfect gift to give me.

Each person in this crowded mall, each person in this fear-filled, hesitant, defiant country – each person in this whole world has been given the perfect gift - His son, who would later take our punishment willingly and completely out of a very personal deep love.

It is my prayer as you search for or receive “the perfect gift’ you will reflect on THE PERFECT GIFT given for you – the FATHER’S beloved child.  It begins and is C-H-R-I-S-T-mas.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:22-23

December 14, 2012


As a nation this past week we have faced two more senseless acts of violence.  A young man went into a mall for the sole reason of killing – and just days later the same act was committed in an elementary school.  People were going about their day – working, shopping, going to school – and in moments life turns to chaos.  Then, chaos turns to stillness.  It is senseless (July 20,2012 entry). What are we left with now but unspeakable sorrow.  There is heartbreaking pain over the loss of loved ones.
Gone is the father, the brother, the son, the uncle, the coach. Gone is the mother, the daughter, the wife, the friend, the co-worker.  Gone are the promising lives of children.  One was said to have had “a great sense of humor and a zest for life; a vision and belief in others that brought great joy and value to many”. One was said to have been “everybody’s friend – a wonderful person who was very caring and put others first”. 
Grief and anger bare weight on so many.
Loss spreads and darkly covers those who hear what has happened. 
Sadness for those who are gone and for their families pours out. 
But Loss is indiscriminating – we all are experiencing it.  Parents shake their heads and worry each time children leave the house.  Many say they cannot listen to the news anymore. Many think twice about even leaving the house.  We all feel loss…. Loss of freedom and the ability to feel safe; loss of innocence; loss of joy and peace of mind; and loss of HOPE as people try to enjoy living in such a flawed and hurt filled world.
Fear and anxiety invade every aspect of our thoughts.  There is a realization that tragedy and violence do not discriminate – this randomness is capable of touching any of us personally at anytime…anywhere.
Confusion abounds in our hearts and minds.  Why? What goes on in the minds of people who so maliciously or numbly perform such acts?
Once again, answers are wanted. The cruel reality is that there are none.
The loss, the confusion, the fear and anxiety will only be compounded if we pursue the why’s, how’s and what if’s.  We will be left to live this life in anger and despair; discouraged.
Truth is we live in a world where evil not only exists but thrives.  This is an imperfect world that is filled with the irrational, the ludicrous, the callous, the mindless, the hurtful, the empty, the flawed…  Peace, joy and security will never truly be found in that of this world.
Life does not have to be lived in despair.
Our pain, our fear, our anxieties can be overcome if we pour it all out and open our hearts to the One who heals, comforts, and loves beyond measure. 
As I lay my thoughts, my anger, my fear and hurt open to the Father, my tears are wiped.  I am reminded through His Word to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you(1 Peter 5:7).”
We each need to Stand Still and know we are held in the palm of His hand, surrounded by His love.  This is the time to listen to Him for the answers that are so deeply longed for and needed. 
In this world we will live with darkness – but we can live in Hope.

“Peace I leave with you; MY peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27
“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” – Isaiah 66:13
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10
I “plan to give you hope and a future” – Jeremiah 29:11
I am your “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” –Psalm 46:1
You can be “convinced that neither death not life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate” you “from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” – Romans 8:38-39