In yesterday's book review I wrote that Lynn Austin is the author of Hidden Figures. That is an error. She is the author of Hidden Places. So sorry about that.
Friday, January 15, 2021
Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to remember the era, but this was one of the most compelling novels I’ve ever read. Written by the Lynn Austin, author of Hidden Figures, the story revolves around four women from disparate backgrounds who end up working as an electronics team at a shipyard during World War II.
Saturday, January 9, 2021
I love shopping for gifts, choosing just the right present for that grandchild that leased her own apartment, for that son who devours books like most of us devour cookies. And this year, shopping by Internet made me happy. I just Googled an age and interest and took my pick.
I also love unwrapping gifts. I’m amazed at how well my daughters-in-law and grandkids know me. (I know my sons are not the shoppers.) This year for Christmas one son’s family gave me art work by my favorite artist while the other gave me 100% cotton towels that replaced the ones I’ve trimmed fringes from for ages. And these new ones are the most amazingly soft towels I’ve ever used.
Epiphany on January 6 marks the visit of the magi to the manger. Did the wise men think long and hard over the gifts they offered to the baby Jesus? They couldn’t Google, so how did they choose gold, frankincense and myrrh? Tradition assigned names to the magi: Melchoir, from Persia; Gaspar, from India; and Balthazar, from Arabia. How did they get together anyway? We don’t know.
But we do know the significance of their gifts. Gold was a precious metal, fit for a king. Frankincense was a holy oil, fit for a priest. And myrrh was a substance used for embalming, fit for a suffering Savior.
How did these magi feel after visiting Jesus? I once saw then President Bush when he visited our area. I came away awed at seeing someone of such stature.
The magi somehow knew Jesus was a king, so they must have come away floating on air. They themselves were kings. But they had just met the King of kings.
Did the gift giving of the magi inspire our Christmas gift-giving? Or do we give gifts because God gave us the greatest gift of all—His Son Jesus? Probably both.
“Giving” actually is a gift to the giver. It really is more blessed to give than to receive. And the year holds plenty of opportunities for gift-giving—birthdays, holidays, spur-of-the-moment surprises. So what might we give that sparks joy in the receiver—and in us?
Of course, I give wrapped presents to those I love. It gives me as much or even more joy to watch them open their gifts than to open mine. These are gifts of gold. My family deserves the best.
I also give to charitable organizations and to the benevolent ministries of my church or community. It feels good to know I’m filling someone’s oil tank or helping them buy gifts for their children.
There are ways of giving that don’t require wrapping paper or checks. I give the gift listening whenever a friend shares a problem. That gift costs me nothing but is most precious to the receiver any day of the year. And I feel good about listening. I offer my opinion. I remind them God is with them. It blesses my heart to listen.
Temple visitors enjoyed the fragrance of the oil of incense, and so the fragrance of our gift of listening lingers with others after we part.
Then there’s the gift of myrrh, which represents suffering. We give as we suffer with others. We send sympathy cards. We attend funerals. We hug and share in another’s sorrow. And we come away knowing we have contributed to their healing.
But There’s More to Give:
We all have spiritual fruit to give as gifts as well: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. We distribute these through relationships. Don’t you feel good when you hold a door or pick up something for someone? When you stop an argument with a gentle response? Of course, you do!
And then there are the spiritual gifts. The gift of hospitality does no good if we never open our doors to others. But once we enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes after hosting a Bible study, we’ll do it again. And again and again.
And although hospitality in our homes is limited by COVID, we can be hospitable whenever we reach out to others to let them know we care.
The gift of teaching blesses others and surely blesses us as help others understand a concept. The list of spiritual gifts and blessings to the giver goes on. Can you imagine how blessed God feels when He sees us appreciating the gifts He’s given to us?
All that to say, giving is a gift in itself. It blesses others, but it also blesses our own hearts and our souls. So be sure to enjoy giving this year. It’s not a chore. It’s not a duty. The gift of giving is a privilege given to you and me by a Giving God.
Saturday, December 19, 2020
Raising a Rare Girl: A Memoir by Heather Lanier
A Christmas party changed my life. Many years ago, I pondered whether the activities at a party I had attended that night honored Christ. I concluded, they did not. And I decided then and there that I wanted to do better.
Bill went to bed when we got home, but I lingered in the glow of the Christmas tree. And that night I told God I wanted Christ to be Lord of my life. And God gave me the best gift of all. His peace.
Don’t get me wrong. I had grown up in a Christian home. My parents prayed with us and took us to church—faithfully! I had gone through confirmation, and I took seriously the profession I made before the congregation that I believed in Jesus as my Savior. And I did. As much as my teenage mind could comprehend. But I couldn’t quite comprehend why Jesus had to suffer and die. Couldn’t God have worked out our salvation some other way?
Now I was an adult, 30 years old, and I felt I needed to take my faith to a deeper level. I finally had come to understand that God is perfect and no imperfection can come into His Presence. I knew I was not perfect. I needed a Savior. An Advocate. So I told the Lord that I accepted Jesus as my Savior. And it was as though a Hand slipped into the glove of my life. That’s how I once heard the experience described by Max Lucado. And it certainly was true for me.
That Hand is the Holy Spirit, and He immediately began pointing out to me areas of my life that needed some work. For instance, (although I hate to admit this) when I was unhappy with Bill I gave him the silent treatment. It didn’t matter if I tossed and turned a whole night from being in a snit. I held out as long as I could.
But after that Christmas, we disagreed about something. I no longer remember what. But I knew—I knew—it would be wrong to give Bill the silent treatment. However, I wasn’t ready to talk. So I went to the kitchen and baked a cake.
In those days you started from “scratch,” so I had to measure the flour and the sugar, etc. By the time I had the cake in the oven, I was ready to go to Bill and say “Can we talk.”
I won’t say we never again had a spat (fortunately, Bill loves to eat cake!), but I never again tossed and turned a whole night because I was too stubborn to talk. That’s just one example of how the Spirit works. He gives you a sensitive conscience.
He also gives you a desire to learn and grow as a Christian. I’m 80, and I’m still reading my Bible and looking things up and praying and applying God’s teachings to my life. There’s always more to learn. If I dare to think I know it all, something pops up that reminds me I’m not as good as I thought I was. Just like that, the Lord hands me another issue with which to grabble.
God also gives you a desire to serve that’s just right for your age and stage. Right now my service consists of posting daily devotional thoughts on Friends of the Heart and my personal Facebook pages. “Tune in” daily if you want to follow my journey of reading through the Bible.
So what about you? Have you allowed God to be the Hand in the glove of your life? Or are you holding Him at arm’s length? Are you worried He might require you to deal with an issue you’ve struggled with? Might require you to go to Africa? (I did worry about that a bit.)
Well, do not fear. God loves us as a mother loves her baby. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15 NIV). God nurtures us and wants what’s best for us. He never requires something of us that He does not give us a real heart’s desire to do.
So sit by your Christmas tree tonight. By the twinkling lights, search your soul. Ponder your relationship. Maybe you need to ask forgiveness. Maybe you need to commit to learning more about God in the upcoming year. Maybe you need to ponder what Christ has done for you. No matter how near or how far you feel, take a step toward that Christ lying in the manger. And God will surely offer you the best gift of all: His peace. For now and for all eternity.