choosing the the gift wisely…..

“A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover
as the love of the giver.”

Thomas à Kempis


(the tiniest treasure found amongst the debris / Julie Cook / 2017)

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else.” Daniel 5:17
Daniels friends let it be known that the God of heaven was their King.
Daniel himself kept his windows open and prayed in defiance of a king’s decree.
Later in his life, Daniel refused the king’s gifts because his faithfulness
to God didn’t have a price.
He refused to be bought.
By gifts we mean the goodies of the world that stand in the way of the
greatness of God’s kingdom.
They come in any form of fame, fortune,
or promotion promised by getting along with the world.
Daniels life didn’t have a price tag.
His services weren’t for sale.
No amount of worldly gifts for kingly accolades could deter him from his mission.
He was a man of deep conviction, dedicated commitment, and undeniable courage;
the grace of heaven was far more important to him than gifts of men.”

Living Among Lions; How To Thrive Like Daniel In Today’s Babylon.
David and Jason Benham

I really do have a great deal of disdain for this time of year.
I’ve written about it before.
Not because it is Christmas mind you, but rather because it is Christmas.

Huh??

Yes, I know, you probably don’t understand that last bit of redundancy.
Yet I would lay money that many of you actually do.

Yesterday a title to a post from a wonderful blog I follow,
jumped out at me from within a computer screen

“Keep your gifts”

Keep Your Gifts

There was a sense of defiance in the title that I found to be almost
exhilarating….
“Exactly!!” I practically shouted as I recalled just how much
I’ve been fretting the ticking of the impending season’s gift giving time clock.

I’m having a really hard time getting “into the spirit of the season….”

Be it this balmy weather, the heaviness of loss, the overwhelming worrisomeness
over this world of ours or the madness that is currently besetting our nation…

Ho hum is apparently beating out Ho, Ho, Ho….

Our family has drastically declined this past year,
leaving more names than I care to actually acknowledge as MIA from our
Christmas list.
Yet there are those who remain who do deserve a little something
under the tree…this as we look forward to a family addition come February.

But within all of that…those who are missing, the list of names, the cards,
the baking, the cleaning, the shopping, the wrapping, the working, the tree….
which by the way I have no idea when it’ll go up as it seems like it was just
June when my husband and son finally manhandled the thing
down to the basement.
And whereas it takes two to haul the blasted heavy thing
anywhere it must go, I in turn must wait upon strong abled bodies to
happen by my door in order to assist….yet I digress….

So in a nutshell this is a season of tremendous expectation.

And not in the notion of expectant as in the anticipation of waiting but rather
in a societal demand of what is expected.

There are those who fret how they will afford a gift for those they love.
There are those unable to physically seek out a gift for those they love.
There are those who will be away from those they love.
There are those who are simply alone with no one to love,
as they find this time of year so very difficult.
And there are those who go overboard while there are those who take
the path of Scrooge.

It’s just really gotten to be so much more than it was ever meant to be.
And I wonder when it will all finally explode, taking most of society with it.

So it is good, perhaps even life saving, to be reminded that Christmas
is not what the world keeps telling us it is…

As this world and her culture gods and the gods of commercialism and materialism
call out to us like a haunting and enticing siren…
singing a luring and hypnotic call coming from within a television,
or from the myriad of computer popups, from the endless shiny billboards
bedecking the roadways, to the festive sounds from the radio or the
the endless sea of periodicals and catalogs…
all singing the song of falsehood, greed and emptiness.

The quote from the book Living Among Lions, which I must confess I did just order,
sums all of this up so wonderfully—-Daniel offered us the best example—
“keep your gifts or give them to someone else….”
because Daniel neither needed nor wanted these earthly gifts offered by man.

Simply put, Daniel’s gift was God and God alone.

So as you peruse those catalogs and fight the endless throngs at the mall,
or sit glassy eyed and glazed over while staring at the computer as you endlessly
surf and search for that which is to be deemed special and perfect….
all the while as those credit card totals rise and those debit card totals shrink….
be mindful that nothing bought will ever fill the need of both the heart and soul.

For all things bought will eventually break, be outgrown, fade, get lost, or become
quickly outdated.

For the only true “gift” that really matters to any of us is the priceless
gift of Salvation…
Found in a lonely little corner of the world in a forgotten time and place…

In all of my years of service to my Lord,
I have discovered a truth that has never failed and has never been compromised.
That truth is that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability
to out give God.
Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him,
He will find a way to give back to me much more than I gave.

Charles H. Spurgeon

Expect. . .

Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.
Henri Nouwen

DSC00757
(a wet quince bloom / Julie Cook / 2015)

Driving on Atlanta’s notorious “top end perimeter, otherwise known as 285. . . the oddly shaped loop which circles around Atlanta proper like a cowboy’s lasso around the neck of a steer, is to any driver, the coming together of the perfect storm.
From stopping suddenly, to herkyily jerkily bolting like a bullet en masse along with tractor trailer trucks, buses, motorhomes, dump trucks, pickup trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, cars and emergency vehicles, all dodging and weaving in a precarious dance between speed, traffic and death is unlike any high stress experience imaginable.
And sadly, it seems as if it is indeed a near or complete death experience, on any given day, for any unfortunate motorist. A sometimes unavoidable necessary evil to traverse.

If it’s not the typical snarl of Atlanta’s Rush Hour, which begins around 5AM or better, lasting until around, say the lunchtime hour, only to ramp back up around 2:30 and lasting somewhere between 7 and 8 PM. . .throw in an accident and the constant ongoing road construction or frustratingly the added construction of the Braves brand new state of the art baseball stadium, any time spent on this particular interstate is truly a white knuckle adventure to say the least.

So imagine my double take this morning as I was barreling making my death defying peaceful morning commute into town to Dad’s when glancing, ever so quickly, over at one of those large electronic roadwork signs perched over the interstate which flashed, not the speed limit, not the travel time between the next conjoining piece of interstate but rather flatly reading. . .
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

WHAT? I quickly glanced back over to the sign but the sign was now about a mile behind me as I was keeping up with the manic flow. . .
What a novel thought.
Pertinent information such as weekend hours of construction, lane shift dates and times, road fatalities are the usual fodder for these giant roadway signs. . .not exactly the place for philosophical waxing and waning. . .yet truly not only a good piece of wisdom for the harried motorist, but for the average person simply trying to navigate throughout their day.

Was God trying to tell me something as I made my way to the awaiting and ongoing loon factory at Dad’s?
Expect the Unexpected. . .hummmm

For good or bad, thinking ahead to what could be either figuratively or literally down the road is a good piece of wisdom.
Take nothing for granted, be prepared, think ahead, anticipate, take no prisoners, go forth, keep going and no matter what, go forward, don’t stop and never go backwards. . .

As I continued on my raceway drive to Dad’s, I considered what lay ahead–of me, of my day and of my life. . .
What would be waiting?
Who would be waiting?
How would poor ol Dad be today?
How would the caregiver be fitting into their lives?
What of the loons flying about, laying in wait with those haunting sounds. . .
Thoughts of what could be, what would be. . .
Yet one thought remained. . .
No matter what was down the road, what was around the corner, what was waiting for me at Dads. . .
God was already there. . .
He knew
He knows
And that’s okay by me. . .

I will always expected the unexpected
I will keep a vigilant eye out for what waits down the road. . .
All the while knowing that God is with me, behind me as well as ahead of me,
as I travel to whatever that may be. . .

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:2