Forged in Fire

My youngest son, Aidan, is obsessed with the TV show, Forged in Fire. He refuses to miss a single episode and has programmed the DVR to record EVERY show. Then he binge watches episodes for hours on end! Recently, I began watching a few episodes with him, just so I would have something to talk with him about. (If you have ever tried to pull conversation out of a teenage boy then you understand my plan!) To my amazement, I am actually quite enthralled with this show. Honestly, I am as shocked about this as you are as bladesmithing is not exactly in my wheel house of interests.

Forged in Fire chronicles four bladesmiths competing against one another to create the best usable knife. They are given ten minutes to draw out a design and then three hours to take a lump of metal and turn it into a beautiful and effective tool. You ought to see these guys (and gals) as they run around heating the metal in the forge, then pounding out the shape that they want with blow after blow of the shaping hammer. Then reheating and reshaping, on and on until they get the blade just the way they want it. It is painstaking, back breaking work that takes total concentration and enormous patience as they fight to mold and shape the lifeless lump of steal through precisely timed exposure to the fire and meticulous shaping.

Once they have the size and shape of the blade hammered out and they are ready to “set the metal”, they pop the blade back into the forge one more time; heating the metal to a blazing 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Then comes the trickiest part of all, they must pull the glowing orange-red blade from the forge and quickly plunge it into a vat of oil. This causes a fire ball to shoot up from the vat and at the same time instantly hardens the steal. I honestly do not know how they keep from setting themselves on fire when they do this. It is amazing and frightening to watch! If I were to ever try this (and I won’t as I have difficulty even lighting a gas grill) I would no doubt burn my eyebrows off within the first five minutes!

After the oil bath, the bladesmiths closely inspect their blades for straightness of edge, and hardness of metal. If they detect the slightest roll or dull edge, or if they realize that the metal did not harden completely, they will start the process over again; forging the blade in the fire and hammering out the shape…again and again and again until they have just the blade they had planned.

While watching yet another episode with my son last week, I begin to think about how my life, on more than one occasion, has been “forged in fire”. It is painful to admit, but there have been many times when I have been held to the relentless flame of difficulty and trouble. Some of these fires I made for myself; heaping sin upon sin on the open flame, raising the heat to insufferable temperatures. Some were made by people and circumstances around me; bringing intense sorrow and agony. At times, there have even been flames of righteousness that God has stoked in my life.

Yes, there have been some fires.

Thank goodness my heavenly father is a master bladesmith! You see, in every fire, he has known just how long to keep me there. Always long enough to make my spirit pliable and ready for shaping, but never so long that the fire rendered me useless. He has again and again pulled me from the flames at just the right time, and then applied his hammer of mercy, grace, and righteousness to shape and reshape, work and re-work, until the outline of the life he had intended for me began to form.

Don’t get me wrong, I would have preferred for there to have been another way for God to mold me to the purpose and plan he has for my life; but I am ultimately a pretty hard (stubborn) lump of metal. However, I know for sure that each time I have faced the forge, God used it to mold me anew and harden the steal within.

Do you feel as if you are being forged by fire right now?

Do you despair of the flames that are raging around you?

Fear not! God never allows us to face the fires of life, the forging of our spirits, alone. I believe that it causes him great pain to see his children in the blaze of their own making, but he never turns his eye away. He is vigilant; watching all the while. Deliberate in his desire to turn the despair of the flame into the victory of a purposeful life. What unfathomable love he has for us that he plucks us from our rightful hopelessness and plunges us into the vat of his mercy. Stealing within us the ability to be a purposeful tool for his kingdom.

At the end of the day a knife, no matter how beautifully crafted, is a useless instrument until wielded in the hand of a master. I pray that as we become the creation that God planned for us to be that we will allow ourselves to be wielded in his mighty hand. Useful and focused on bringing glory and honor to our Father; the master bladesmith.

 

 

 

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Auto-correct…the bane of my existence!

A few years ago I finally gave up and joined the texting band wagon.  Ultimately it was the only way that I could consistently communicate with my teenagers. It is a mystery to me why they will spend 10 minutes in a text conversation with me, but won’t answer their cell phones for a 30 second conversation.  (Insert eye roll and loud sigh here.) So, out of necessity, and now I will admit, expediency, I joined the texting band wagon.

I figured it would be easy.  I can type at blazing fast speeds thanks to my high school typing teacher who strongly instilled in me proper hand placement over the home keys! (I will give you a minute to sit with the fact that I took TYPING, on a TYPEWRITER, in high school!)  Sadly, I was completely wrong in my assumption that superb typing skills would equate to even adequate texting skills!  Seriously ya’ll, let’s talk about this.  Who in the blue blazes came up with the notion of typing with your thumbs?  Your thumbs!  My kids make it look like an art form.  Their thumbs fairly fly across the phone screen, nimble and wicked fast, as if they were born with extra dexterity in their opposing digits.  How do they do that?  I, on the other hand, can barely eke out a coherent sentence in less than five minutes.  My stout thumbs lumber from letter to letter, striking wrong keys as often as correct ones. It is PAIN-FUL-LY SLOW going and takes extreme concentration on my part.  My kids say that it would be much quicker if I wouldn’t insist on using proper capitalization and punctuation, but surely they jest! Then, as if all of that isn’t frustrating enough, there is autocorrect!  Why in the name of Pete does my phone INSIST on deciding for me what word it is I am trying to use?  I have never, not once, wanted to ask my child if he had a “sand witch” for lunch! AUGH! Don’t distort the message!

About a year ago I thought I had found the answer to all of my texting problems when I discovered the talk to text feature. No more painstakingly pecking out what I wanted to say, and no more autocorrect…or so I thought. WRONG! My phone obviously does not understand the Southern dialect and my spoken message is never typed EXACTLY as I dictate it.  On more than one occasion I have hurriedly hit send on my message before carefully reading over it, only to find that I have sent something that in NO WAY was what I had actually said. The message had been completely distorted!  To my horror, one of these text fiascos actually happened with a text I was sending to my MOM!

Picture the scene…

I was in Hobby Lobby around Christmas time trying to decide on some decorations to use for my son’s upcoming wedding rehearsal dinner.  I wanted to get my mom’s opinion on a specific wreath, so I took a picture of the wreath and sent it to her in a text.  I then used the talk to text feature to add one simple question to my text message, “What do you think about the flocking on this wreath?” Well, let me be the first to tell you that your I-phone does NOT recognize the word flocking!  Nope, it sure doesn’t.  Instead, my phone, in all of its autocorrect wisdom, substituted another word that sort of “sounds like” flocking into my text.  I didn’t even realize this had happened until I got my mom’s response, “The wreath is fine, but watch your mouth!”  Huh?  I scrambled to reread our text conversation and discovered the autocorrect error. I thought I would die right there in aisle eight!  I had just sent my mom, my mom folks, a text with a very dirty word in it!  I thought I may have to take myself to the bathroom and wash my own mouth out…but wait…that is NOT what I said!  I said FLOCKING…FLOCKING!  Once again, the exact word that I had intended to send was distorted, leaving the message completely inaccurate.

Unfortunately, I think sometimes we do this with God’s messages to us.  God has very clearly sent us a powerful message, exemplified in his creation, clarified through scripture, and justified through the sinless life of his precious son.  And yet WE feel the need to autocorrect these messages where we see fit; ultimately distorting the intended message.

This is a very dangerous thing.  How can we possible share God’s love with others if we are distorting his messages to us?  Do we really think that God needs for us to supply words, thoughts, or reasoning for him?  What makes us think that we could, or should “autocorrect” his word with OUR ideas and thoughts?

His message has always been specifically clear:

I love you.

Live your life loving me first and foremost.

Love one another.

And yet, too many times people, in the name of religion, in the name of self-promotion, in the name of ego and pride, have used their own version of autocorrect to distort this most precious of messages.

I love you becomes

I love some of you more than others of you.

Love one another becomes

Only love people who look and think like you.

Love me above all others becomes

You can only love God, if you follow MY man-made prescription of religion.

I can just see God standing on the edge of heaven horrified, shaking his head vehemently; “That is NOT what I said!”

Darling friends, I am not normally one to come out swinging such a forceful club, but more and more I am witness to the specific distortion of the message of our Father in order to promote personal opinion and twisted ideology.  This could easily become a ponderously long blog discussing every nuance of how Jesus was the very word of God in flesh; bringing a pristinely clear message of love and hope to all, and how that message is pervasively and continuously corroded with individual versions of autocorrect. Instead, I will just beg you to be careful.  God’s message is clear, and we should be scrupulous not to distort his divine and life giving words.

If your relationship with your fellow man is not one of love, you have distorted the message.  If you promote YOUR ideology over the clear and definitive teachings of Christ, you have distorted the message.  If you are declaring God’s love is conditional and only for a select few, you are distorting the message.

The message is clear.

The message hung on a cross and gave his life to make sure that you could never misunderstand exactly what was being said:

I love you.

Love me above all others.

Love one another.

No need for autocorrect.

Don’t distort the message.

 

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They Are Here!

This year our family vacation is a true FAMILY vacation.  EVERYONE is here!  My ENTIRE family, all in one place. My parents, my siblings and their families, all of our children and even our soon to be grandbaby, snug in its mamma’s womb.  EV-ER-Y-BODY is here!

Trust me when I say it is like troop movements to get this crew anywhere on time and in any presentable condition.  When we do end up somewhere we completely take the space over (Yes, that is a party of 17!). It is raucous and LOUD; but mostly it is just wonderful to be together!

It is the waiting to all be together that is the most difficult when we begin a family vacation.  There is a constant air of anxious anticipation as we wait for family members to arrive, and the clock is consulted continuously. Even if the majority of us are together already, it just does not feel complete until everyone has arrived and been accounted for.

For the last few summers we have vacationed at my parent’s house on the beach. My parents live in a gated community and it is a strictly enforced rule that when you arrive at the gate you MUST call and let mom know.  The call from the gate triggers an immediate reaction something akin to a declaration of Defcon 1.  Chants of “they are here” accompany a scurry to drop what you are doing and race for the parking area to welcome the new arrivals.  “Put down that sandwich hon, they are here! They are here!”  Frantic waving begins the minute that a car can be visualized on the road.  Sometimes it ends up not even being the right car, but we are undaunted in our early and enthusiastic waving!  To accompany the waving, we immediately begin to call out greetings.  Never mind that the road weary travelers can’t even hear us as they aren’t within shouting distance yet AND their windows are rolled up; that is not the point!  The waving and hurled greetings continue right up until the moment the car comes to a stop and we swarm the new arrivals with a frenzy of hugs and kisses mixed in with declarations of growth; “Well, look at this, when did you get taller than me?” and rapid fire questions and comments about the trip, “Looks like ya’ll made good time.  How was the traffic?”  The boisterous greetings continue as we strip the arriving car clean of passengers and luggage, and carry it all in to the house on a wave of laughter and hugging.  This ritual is repeated with the same level of excitement and vigor until EVERY.LAST.ONE of us have arrived and we can officially feel like the family is together and complete! (It should be noted that this same raucous welcome can be extended to family arriving by air or train!  We have caused many a person to stop and stare in the baggage claim area and the train station!)

Every year, no matter what, this is the way we greet each other upon arrival.  It is as if all of the months that we have been apart build up and overflow in this exuberance of greetings and love.

If this is the way we greet our earthly family, what must it look like when a member of God’s family is welcomed home to heaven?  It must be a GLORIOUS affair!

Can’t you just see it? Jesus pacing back and forth in anxious anticipation; excitement building at the idea that one of his children is almost home.  Then the call from the gate with the news of an arrival, and the ecstatic cheer bursting from his heart, “They are here!” “They are here!”  I believe that there is a race down the golden streets, with greetings being hurled into the air (who cares if the new arrivals are still too far down the road to hear them!)  I believe that there is hugging and kissing and riotous rejoicing as the family gets one step closer to being complete. I believe that this happens EVERY.SINGLE.TIME that another one of God’s children makes it home.

I know that one day I will be welcomed home by my family that has gone before me and my Father who waits for me with great anticipation and open arms.  Then I will get to be a part of the welcoming party for all of those that come behind.  If I get there before you, I will watch for you.  I will most likely ask my Father each day if you are coming soon.  I will listen intently for the call from the gate and then wave at you like a crazy person, shouting greetings as you make your way into that heavenly city; laughing and rejoicing as you are wrapped in the arms of your Father.  And unlike family vacation; no one will ever have to leave because we will all be HOME to stay.

 

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Runaway Mine Train

When I was a little girl one of the things that my brothers and I loved to do was to play Runaway Mine Train with our daddy. The game was simple; daddy would load all three of us into the little red wagon and run all around the yard, yelling, “Runaway mine train! Watch out! Runaway mine train!”, pulling us in this direction and that direction until ultimately we were “tumped over” into the grass. This crazy game was an odd mixture of heart pounding fear, and laughter producing joy! Let’s be honest folks, I grew up in the days of metal wagons and no helmets. No smooth plastic wagons molded to cradle and protect its cargo; nope, our little red wagon was metal and rusted; and if you didn’t get in just right you were sure to skin your shin on the metal lip that ran around the edge. It was perfect! Sometimes daddy would even put our big old sheep- dog – mutt mixture of a dog into the wagon with us. If the ride got too rough, the dog would bail out one way and send us kids soaring out the other way; fur and laughter flying in the air.

We loved this game! We would sit in the wagon, clinging to the side rails and to each other with a combination of anticipatory dread and gleeful delight; never knowing what was coming next. You would think that daddy was going to zig, but he would zag! You would brace your body to be thrown out on the left, and most assuredly get “tumped over” to the right. No matter how long daddy ran us around the yard, the game wasn’t over until we got turned out into the grass in a wriggling, giggling heap of pointy elbows and sharp knees. Then before any one of us could catch our breath, including poor daddy who had been doing all the running and pulling, we would call out, “Do it again!” And just like good daddies do, he would pick us up, brush us off, and load us back in for another wild ride.

Sometimes, when daddy was at work, we would try to play this game on our own, but it was never as much fun. None of us were strong enough to work up any real speed, and most of the time we just got tired of pulling each other around and called it a day. Once there was even a feeble attempt at harnessing the dog to the wagon; but she was having none of that and just sat unmoving in the yard until we released her from the harness contraption that we had made. Nope, without daddy the game was a complete failure.

We must have played this game hundreds of times during my childhood; and never once was I truly afraid of getting hurt. Don’t get me wrong, I was overwhelmed with the unpredictability of it all. For that matter, I always tried to outguess my daddy as to what would come next…he will run left next and then right and then around the house…but I was always wrong, and I always was left reeling from trying to right myself in that little red wagon that was out of control. But no matter what, I ALWAYS knew that daddy was in control. I knew, like you do when you are certain that you are loved beyond reason, that no matter how many zigs and zags he put us through, no matter how hard we hit the ground, he would ALWAYS pick us up, brush us off and set us right back in the wagon for another ride. Even when I couldn’t determine which way we were going and had no ability to maintain my balance; daddy knew. He always knew. He was always in control.

All too often, our lives feel like a runaway mine train. How many times have I been fully prepared to zig when out of the blue a zag came along and knocked me completely off balance? So often I have found myself clinging to the sides of the life wagon, desperately trying to see what is coming up next; only to find myself “tumped out” into the grass in a place I was not expecting to be.

Divorce: Zig

Career change: Zag

Raising children: Zig-Zag- Zig

Cancer: Side-of-the-wagon -clutching-Zag

Stress and Strife: Zig

Confusion and Pain: Zag

Debt: Zig

Friends who weren’t friends after all: Zag

On and on and on…unpredictable direction changes that I was ill prepared to handle and utterly unable to predict.

There have been times in all of it where I stoically determined that I was going to take over in directing the wagon of my life. With focused resolve, I picked up the handle and set my face to a smoother more predictable route; all to no avail. I just wasn’t strong enough to work up any real speed when pulling on my own. And even if I could, the path ahead was never as clear as I thought it would be.

Zig

Zag

Zig

And yet, my heavenly daddy knew where I was going all along. He always knew. He was always in control. No matter the number of times that I found myself flung far from the path I thought I was to travel on, he was in control. When I was prepared for a zig and faced instead a life tumbling zag; he lifted me up, brushed me off and set me back in the wagon. Just like all good daddies do.

Here is what I know to be true; this life will always be a crazy combination of heart pounding fear and laughter producing joy. We will never be able to predict the zigs and zags, or keep our balance when the ride gets crazy rough. But if we will just trust that our daddy who loves us beyond reason is in control, if we truly learn to walk by faith and not by sight, we will be able to trade our fear and dread for unfettered delight! We may even find ourselves in joyful laughter at being “tumped out” into the grass, gasping out a gleeful plea to do it all again!

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In my Father’s Arms

My husband is a conundrum.

Standing at six feet six inches tall, with broad shoulders and a no- nonsense-I-am-not-amused countenance, he has more than once caused folks to think twice before approaching him. Perfect when you want some young buck that wants to date your daughter to take a moment of pause, but not so great when trying to meet new people in a social situation.  “No, my husband isn’t upset…that IS his happy face!”  The conundrum is that he is also a KID MAGNET!  Seriously, kids love this guy! Toddlers especially gravitate to him and delight in the big teddy bear that they seemed to instinctively know is behind that big, scary frame.

One of the things that kids love best about my husband is that he is happy to pick them up and hold them.  All that any wobbly- legged toddler has to do is lift chubby little arms in my husband’s direction and he will scoop them into his arms and lift them up, up, up into a snugly embrace.  Yep, my husband has a gooey nugget center that is exposed by the babble of a toddler, or the smile of a child.

Our own children found in him an immediate play-mate and silliness partner in crime; and someone who always had space in his arms for them.  In one form or another he has been holding his children for many years.  He has given countless piggy back rides and pick-me-up snuggles. He has taken a thousand steps through malls, and theme parks, and vacation strolls with a child who was too tired to walk one more step balanced on his shoulders.  He also comes in very handy in the event that we are stuck behind a crowd at a parade.  From the high and secure perch of his shoulders our children have always been given an unobstructed view of all that was going on around them.

Just recently I was reminded again of how kids are drawn to my husband and how he delights in them.  My daughter was having a graduation party and during the midst of the celebrations I saw my husband with an armload of kids.  A sweet brother and sister had scaled up his body and were firmly nestled into his arms; babbling away and planting sticky wet kisses on his face.  And what was my husband doing during all of this?  SMILING!  I have never seen him, not once, refuse to pick up any child that approached him with uplifted arms and a look of pleading on their faces.  He has never, not once, told a child that was pulling on his leg trying to reach the nest of his arms to get down or go away.  He has never, not once, told a child that they were too heavy or a bother.  He ALWAYS opens his arms and enfolds them in his strong and tender embrace.

I know another father that is like this.

God, our Abba Father, delights in holding his children.

On first glance, you may see God as an imposing figure.  He is after all, King of all creation…and slightly bigger than six feet six inches!  Look closer.  In your awe of his mighty presence can you also see his father’s heart?  Like any good father, he cannot resist his children with uplifted arms and a need to be held.

We can lift our arms in worship and praise.  We can lift our arms in desperation and pain.  We can lift our arms in gratitude and humility.  We can lift our arms in rejoicing and thanksgiving.  No matter the reason, when we lift our arms to our Father he NEVER fails to respond.  He has never, not once,  refused to pick up his children.  He has never, not once, looked at us as we pull on his leg and plead to be held, and told us to get down, or leave him alone.  He has never, not once, told any of his children that we are too heavy or too much of a burden to carry.  He simply lifts us into the safety and comfort of his embrace.

Are you tired of walking alone?  Do you feel like you can’t take not one more step.  Lift your arms to your father.  Let him hold you close and then boost you up onto his strong, solid shoulders.  Let him show you the world over the heads of the crowd, over the hustle and bustle of it all. Let him remind you of your preciousness as he tucks you in close and let him fill your spirit with joy as he gallops you through highest mountains and lowest valleys.  Oh how it delights him when we snuggle in and shower him with our love and praise, babbling on and covering his face with wet, sticky kisses.

How lucky we are to have such a wonderful and loving father!

 

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What’s in a name?

On Mother’s Day I got the most wonderful gift; my oldest son and his wife shared with us that they are expecting a baby!  Our first grandbaby!! We are excited beyond words about becoming grandparents.  Seriously, if we had tails we would be wagging them like a puppy waiting for a treat!  Can’t wait to welcome the newest member into this crazy family! (Bless his or her little heart!)

As you can imagine, with this wonderful news came many discussions of all things baby!  Ok, maybe it was just me who went into overdrive with questions, but one of the questions we all wanted to know was, what are you going to name the baby? For that matter, and maybe more importantly, what will the baby call us? What will our “grandparent” names be?  Let’s be clear from the start, I staunchly refuse to be called Granny or Grandmother. It is certainly not that I mind that I am going to be a grandmother (see the first paragraph), but those names just do not work for me. Maybe we will go with something like Nana, or GiGi, or MiMi, or anything fun and repetitive so the baby can say it soon… and often! It’s a work in progress.

All of this talking about names has me thinking about the fact that the names we use for people demonstrate the relationship that we have with them.  Let me explain what I mean.

On any given day I can hear any of these names:

Mrs. Burnette

Ms. B.

Ashleigh

Ash

Baby Ash

Mom

Momma

Momma B

Aunt Ashleigh

And the list goes on. (I am sure there are other names that people use for me, but that is another blog entirely!) The point is this, the name that someone uses for me directly shows the relationship that they have with me.  My colleagues call me Mrs. Burnette, while my friends call me Ashleigh, and my husband calls me Ash.  My kids call me momma, my kid’s friends call me Momma B and my students call me Ms. B.  And my daddy, for my entire life and for as long as I live, calls me Baby Ash.

Names.  They demonstrate relationship.

Maybe this is why there are so many names for Jesus.

Maybe all the names we have for him show our desperate need for relationship with him; and more importantly his innate and perfect ability to fulfill every relationship need that we have.

Jesus, the name above all names!

Yet, he is so much more than one name can define. In all of his majesty and glory we have had to apply numerous names to his holiness, just to edify ALL that he is.

His disciples called him Mari, which is an Aramaic term developed to demonstrate the relationship that Jesus had with his followers.  Mari translates to more than just teacher, more than just Rabbi; deeper, closer, truer…Mari.

To us he is:

Lord and Savior.

Prince of Peace

Emmanuel

Christ

Messiah

Master

Son of God

Lion of Judah

Lamb of God

Light of the World

The Alpha and The Omega

Jehovah Jirah – our sacrifice

Jehovah Rapha – our healer

Jehovah Shammah – our present Lord

Jehovah Shalom – our Prince of Peace

Jehovah Nissi- our banner, our power

Jehovah Raah – our Shepherd

And one of my personal favorites, Friend.

 

What relationship do you need today?

Do you need a healer?

A savior?

A provider?

A protector?

Do you need a light in the darkness?

A banner to go before you, or a strong tower to run into?

Do you need a lion to roar of his love for you, or a sacrificial lamb to show you how precious and valuable you are?

Do you need the assurance of the one that has been there from the beginning and who firmly holds the end of the story in his nail scared hands?

Do you need one that will be closer than a brother, closer than the truest friend?

There is not a relationship that we need, not a single one, that cannot be defined and delivered through the precious, powerful, and perfect name of Jesus.

As I await the birth of our first grandchild, I anticipate the day that they will look at me, and with knowledge of who I am, call my name.  I believe that Jesus stands in the throne room of heaven, listening intently; just waiting for his children to recognize him for who he is, for all that he is, for all he wants to be in our lives and to simply call his name.

His beautiful, wonderful, powerful name.

 

 

 

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THIS is NOT a gift!

Only 246 shopping days until Christmas!

Oh sweet glory, even the thought of having to do Christmas shopping right now gives me a hairy ache between my shoulder blades!    Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those bah humbug folks; I really do love the Christmas season!   The minute the turkey is off the Thanksgiving table I am decking the halls and singing Christmas carols! (Ok, so maybe the Christmas music really starts in October!  Don’t judge!)  There is however, one part of the Christmas season that gives me rampant anxiety: selecting just the right gifts for people. I adore GIVING gifts, but I AGONIZE over every purchase.  What if they don’t like this?  Is this her color?  Would he be able to use this?  Do they have one of these already? 

Maybe it is because of this gift-giving-anxiety of mine that I drummed into my children from the earliest ages, no matter what the gift is, when you open it you will smile and thank the person who gave it to you.  And I am not talking about some fake- looking, strained smile; I want to see teeth! 

Sadly, this expectation has not always been followed.  Take for example the Christmas that Aidan was five years old.  There we were, all gathered around the tree.  Gifts were being exchanged, good will and glad tidings were in abundance, and all gifts were being received with great excitement.  You should know, we are THAT family that takes turns opening gifts one at a time.  All eyes are on the person opening the gift and once opened, a minimum of five minutes will be spent exclaiming over the gift, talking about the gift, showing off the gift, and hugging all around.  It takes us ALL DAY to open gifts!  It was finally Aidan’s turn to open a gift and he tore into the wrappings with gusto and pulled out… a gift card.  He turned it over once or twice, looked back through the wrapping paper as if he were missing something and then looked straight into the eyes of his uncle (who had purchased said gift card) and proclaimed, “THIS is NOT a gift!”

My mortification was swift and complete!  What happened to graciousness?  What happened to smile and say thank you?  Come swiftly, Lord Jesus!

Fortunately, Aidan was cute, and his Uncle loves him beyond reason and thought the entire exchange was hilarious! It has actually become a running joke, continuing to this day, that whenever anyone in our family receives a gift card as a gift they loudly profess, “THIS is NOT a gift!”

You know, we do this a lot to God.

We do.

We open a gift that he has given us and we look at it in confusion, or we search for something MORE in the wrapping.  THIS is NOT a gift!

How it must hurt our Father’s heart for him to witness our lack of gratitude.  Where is the smile?  Where is the Thank You?

Now before you begin to tell yourself that you don’t ever do this, let me point out the splinter in your eye while adjusting the enormously large log in my own.  WE. DO. THIS. EVERY. DAY!  Every single day our heavenly Father pours gifts out on our heads, and we accept them with the demeanor of a toddler in need of a nap…IF we even notice them at all!

Good morning!  Here is your gift of another day to worship me and to live your life to the fullest.

Ugh.  It’s morning.

I am sending you rain today because the ground is parched and my flowers need tending.

It is RAINING!  Seriously!  RAIN!  I have too much to do to deal with rain!

I have provided a job for you. 

I hate my job.  The people here are the worst.

Your car will run this morning and get you to where you need to be.

Did you see his new car!  Must be nice.

I have provided you with health, food, shelter; provisions in abundance.

I am not thin enough. My house is too small.  I don’t have the things I want.

I have gifted you with the ability to teach.

I wish I could sing!  Why couldn’t God give me the talent to sing?

I have given you a testimony of my faithfulness and love.

I couldn’t tell people what God has done for me.  No one wants to hear it anyway.

I created you in my very image.  I have loved you before I even formed you.

I am a failure.  I am not enough.  I will never matter to anyone.

I sent my son as a sacrifice for your sin.  I do not want you to be separated from me.  I love you so.

God couldn’t possibly love me.  He couldn’t possibly forgive me.

On and on and on.  Every. Single. Day.

But here is the good news!   We can start seeing our lives as the gift they really are! We can begin to see our lives through the lens of love and purpose that God created them to be. We can begin to count it all joy! We can begin to believe that God’s plan for our lives is perfect, and that his dream for us is more than we can fathom!  We can begin to see his gifts for what they truly are!  Each and every perfect gift!

Thank you Father.  Thank you for the gifts that are so abundant in my life.  Forgive me when I question your intent, or ignore your gifts all together. Help me to recognize how carefully you have selected and given gifts that are exactly right for me.  Let me learn to say, “Thank you Father, THIS is a GREAT gift!

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