Self-Storing Treasures

Recently two separate self-storage facilities have been built within about three miles of my house. One is actually within about 50 yards from one that has been in our area for several years. I keep thinking about those self-storage facilities as such a reflection of our culture and environment now. If you turn on your television, you can see it in shows such as Hoarders and Storage Wars. We want all the stuff and we want it for ourselves.

It’s even more apparent within us. We store up knowledge (not a bad thing), emotions, feelings and even Christ. We self-store thinking that if we keep it to ourselves, we are better off. If we store up the blessings and giftings from God that we are doing this life the right way because it’s how it plays out in our culture.

But we are so wrong…

What we define as treasures, they reflect where our hearts are. And what we do with those treasures, those gifts and blessings, well they also tell us where our hearts are. Time is a treasure to some…but how are we spending it? Money is a treasure to others….but how are you spending it? What about your gifts and talents? Are they being spent or stored up?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV)

For a long season I stored up my own treasure, in my own self-storage unit you could say. I pulled it away and packed it up thinking that was what I should be doing. Packing away treasure that I defined instead of spending it for what it was made to be spent on. When I took the time to break down and really examine these verses in Matthew 6, I found that my treasure is worth pulling out of storage because it has a better return on investment in heaven than by storing it away. My heart is with the treasure I spend for His glory and good…not the one I pack away in self-storage and keep for myself. It does no one any good to hoard my time, my talents…these treasures I have been gifted, especially me, but most importantly the God who gave them to me.

What today do you need to unpack from self-storage? What do you define as treasures of your life-where your heart is invested by time or money or your talents? How are you storing them up? Where are you investing your treasure, here on earth or in heaven?

The Gifts

It’s closing in on 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning. April in Tennessee has decided to be a snowy/rainy/wind-chill freezing kind of thing. It resembles more February than it does spring time in bloom. I haven’t showered and I have consumed two very large cups of coffee and one slice of toast. I am in my favorite winter pajamas.

I was thinking about how my singleness looks, about the contrast of life with my friends who text me photos of their kiddos or the friends I see posting about their babies sleeping through the night or husbands whisking them off to fun birthday weekend surprises. There are days, moments, times where I get that sinking jealous feeling of it all. I love seeing their lives, but there’s a small ache within of coveting, of wondering and of doubt that it will happen for me too.

But then there are moments like these, where I find the freedoms of my life to be quite nice. Where there aren’t plans for the day, or worries over planning around nap times. Singleness looks different for each person living it, just like marriage and parenting and pretty much every single thing about living life. One thing is sure though, is that this life and the time we are given for it is a gift.

This morning as I was choosing my time in the Bible I found the words of Paul to a fellow believer to be something I needed reminding of as well. Timothy was around my age as well, called to minister at the church at Ephesus at the time we read Paul’s words to him in 1 Timothy. And some of the people had taken to legalism in the church, things that were good and created by God were being used as a form of legalistic religion instead by the church to set themselves apart as more holy or more devout.

Paul works through identifying the issue and encouraging Timothy in the fourth chapter of his letter. There nestled in between how to treat church members and the mystery of godliness is a small paragraph on ministry, and this phrase: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you…” It reminded me that I too neglect the spiritual gifts given me by God, those that are specifically designed just for me by the Creator of the universe. He knew I would be the only one that could use them in such a way for His kingdom and His purpose in such a time as this.

He knew that the still-in-her-pajamas, unshowered single gal on a Saturday morning would use the gift given her for Him in the way He designed her to use it. Just as He did the friends who are married, who are parents, who are divorced, who are single too. He has given gifts that reside in each of us that I often forget and neglect, letting doubt fuel the misuse or nonuse of the gifts, letting the words of others cause my gifts to look like obligations or ones I wish I could return. But then I remember the words of James just a few pages over from Paul’s letter to Timothy:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

Gifts and Memories

I had a coworker recently ask me what my favorite Christmas gift of all time was and I had to stop and really think. What easily came to mind was a gift I got on my birthday instead. I was eight and it was a life-size Alf doll. My birthday party was in the park that summer, hi Southern summer birthday baby, and I had a Snow White cake. The cake was terrible-the bakery had decided to get the river effect on the cake they’d use gel toothpaste instead of food coloring in the frosting.

At 35 I still won’t use gel toothpaste, especially blue gel toothpaste.

Bur more than that, I remember getting that Alf doll. I carried that sucker everywhere. He was my dude. (and probably between he and MacGyver, my start of loving aliens and crime shows) If I am not mistaken, my mom has actually kept him tucked away in case he decides to make a comeback.

The longer I thought on my coworker’s question though, I had a hard time recalling these standout toys or gifts with the exception of Minnie Pearl, my gorgeous pearl Kitchen Aid mixer I received. When we are honest with ourselves, I’d say we all have a hard time remembering what we received when we were 10 that we begged to get…or at 23. We may be able to pick out a handful of things but more importantly I think we remember the people we were with, the feelings we shared, and the moments.

I remember the Christmas when my dad started getting sick and what would lead to six months of unknown and questions of his survival, hope for a liver transplant. I remember the first Christmas with a cute little 9 month old nephew, and subsequent Christmas with a three week old second nephew. Christmas spent mourning the loss of a beloved grandfather, and some spent dodging the awkward family interactions.

We wrap up gifts in pretty paper and ribbons, with expectation that this is something the receiver has wanted or didn’t know they wanted. The expectation of joy on their face and delight in their hearts. I do that too y’all, especially as the nephews get older.It’s about the memories and moments, some joyous and some difficult. But all woven into our Christmas story.

What’s a gift or story you remember at Christmas? What was a favorite gift you received or that you gave?

Doubtful…at best.

Doubt is a funny thing. If we aren’t careful it can creep in unawares and spread like a bug infestation. Recently I heard the story of Moses in Exodus 4 from a different perspective.

This was along about the time Moses was being called by God to do great things. We get the version that isn’t live, but “previously recorded” if you will, so we know the outcome. God calls him to do His work, Moses doubts. God calls him to action, Moses doubts again.

Here’s where it gets interesting for me…

God asks what is in Moses’ hand. He’s God, He’s all-knowing, and He never asks a question for His own need. He asks it for the one that is to answer. Right there, God is giving us something truly powerful. He’s giving us the assurance that what is within our hands He has given for use.

He has equipped us for His work, yet we continue to doubt. We don’t doubt Him and His ability to do the work (well maybe occasionally we doubt Him too). No we doubt our power, efficiency, ability and gifts. We are doubtful, at best, of ourselves to do what He is giving us as work, as life.

We wrestle, we fight, and we question, “Why us?” Yet He still pursues us with this call, with these gifts that are within our hands. He points to them and asks what they are, not for His benefit but our own. It is recognizing the true goodness and sovereign nature of Him that calls us as He has already equipped us. He knew we’d doubt, He knew we’d question Him-pointing to others. He provides the way for His will to be done.

But wouldn’t it be sweeter, wouldn’t it be joy-filled to find that our doubt gets set aside when we look at what is within our hands? When we see what He has made capable through us and in us, not by our own limited means. There will be failure, but there will also be glory to give to Him. There’s work to be done and calling’s to be followed. Hearts that desire to be fulfilled by affirming ourselves in the confidence of His creation-ourselves.

What is in your hands?

Gifts and Tools and Talents

For years my dad will talk about tools with me. It must be a tomboy thing. He will pull them out and show me what they do, or point to one in Home Depot and talk about all of it’s uses. In being a new homeowner I am relishing the information he has shared with me over the years, because when something happens (like the washing machine drain pipe coming loose) I know what I need to use to fix the problem.

It’s the knowledge that he has carried for years that I am thankful he spent time passing on to me. The same goes with my car. He educated me so that I would recognize when I was being had by a mechanic or when to take my car in when the alignment felt slightly off.

We all have these tools and talents, knowledge that we have ascertained or been gifted. This last year I truly doubted much of the tools I had in my own toolbox, and questioned any of the talents in which I felt I had. I didn’t put them to use, or I used them for something else in the hopes that would be the fix.

In the middle of Advent season, God showers us with our gifts by ensuring we see the talents we have in the midst of confusion, division, doubts and busyness. He gives us these gifts and tools to be used, to multiply again and again. I think know I have taken these gifts for granted, eschewing them aside because it didn’t seem like they were of use. I heard something yesterday that caught my attention:

That’s the thing with tools. When they are used for their purpose they work well. When they aren’t, well...”

Our gift may be a voice, a song, writing or baking. It could be mothering or leading. So often we doubt the good gifts given and they go unused. We turn into the man who buried his gold in the field because of fear. We see the others around us using their gifts given and we begin to skew our minds into thinking He hasn’t gifted us as well or with opportunity.

But look at how He gifts, each one according to their ability. I started thinking on that after hearing it in the context of my favorite people currently, Mary and Joseph. They were faithful in what they were given. They could have said no, but He knew their hearts, their talents, their faithfulness, and most of all, their ability to carry what He called them to do.

What would it look like if we started being faithful in the gifts He has given us? Instead of living in fear of not accomplishing it with what He has given, but rather rejoicing in what He entrusts to us to carry? Maybe they aren’t the best cookies in the world, but you baked them for that family you knew needed them. Maybe you only get to speak to kids for twenty minutes once a week, but you spoke to the hearts who would listen, who needed you to speak that truth into them. Maybe you don’t get as many views or likes on something you poured your heart into, but you were obedient to do what He impressed upon your heart. (Hi, that one’s me and I’ll dive into that ugly mess in a later post)

Be faithful in the gift given this year. If it matters enough to Him to gift you with it, then it makes an eternal difference that you use it.

The Gift Given

I love giving gifts. I laugh and call it a sickness sometimes, but when I am out, I find gifts to give others. I like giving to others.

One year when I was little I found this Norman Rockwell plate in an antique shop that I knew I had to get my mom. It had been made to commemorate his cover in 1981 of the Saturday Evening Post for Mother’s Day. I was about two months shy of coming into the world back then, so I couldn’t really celebrate my mom that year. But I knew I had to get her that gift years later when I saw it. I think I even had my sister or my dad take me back to the store to get it a few days later.

I’m not sure if my mom was into Norman Rockwell paintings or plates, but that plate was what I desired above all else to give her in honor of my love for her as my mom.

We get caught up this time of year in gift-giving I think. We weigh the wants with the needs, often stressing over budgets and shopping deadlines. Yesterday I stood in a warehouse helping fill family bags for the Salvation Army Angel Tree. I stood in the vastness of need and saw the hearts poured out to give. To give gifts so that others might feel love, recognition, compassion, joy.

I saw full families of eight children getting large sacks of warm clothes, toys…but they were stuffed with so much more. They were getting the very gift of Christmas. A Christmas where joy will fill a room, parents’ hearts will overflow with gratitude and children will see the love of others gift-wrapped just for them. They may get something they didn’t realize they needed or that they hadn’t asked for…

The very first Christmas we were given something we hadn’t asked for, something we didn’t bargain or bet on. It didn’t come wrapped in the world’s finest wrapping and it most assuredly didn’t come from someone expected. The world worried and groaned that it had been forgotten, yet He ushered life, hope, breath, a sigh of peace into this world through a woman who said yes to the Gift and the Giver.

Maybe this Christmas you are rushing to find the perfect gift, the one asked for and talked about for months. Remember in the busy of life during this time and then in the months ahead (in May when Christmas couldn’t be further from your mind and September when kids are in routine of school) that a gift was given in the most unexpected way, full of a Father’s love for us, in our busy pace and in our sickness, to give us joy and peace and mercy and grace.

He gave from His heart to save ours. That gift. That one gift. It is breathtaking.

For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be on His shoulder, and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

Gifting Awesomeness.

I give some pretty amazing gifts. It’s kind of my love language to others. I love giving to others, and I would probably go broke if I wanted to give everyone everything all the time. 545138_10101197064909215_417292584_n

For Christmas last year, I found something pretty stinkin’ cool for my nephews. They both are into the Star Wars animated stuff, with light saber fights and building battleships with Legos. A couple of years ago I got Toothless Wonder a Death Star lamp that projects constellations on his ceiling. (See, I am the cool aunt) This year I hit gold with the inflatable R2D2 that is remote-controlled. I figured they’d get a kick out of it over the holidays and then be done with it. I was on the phone with my sister on Sunday when I heard it in the background. Toothless was playing with it still. It gives me such excitement and joy to know they are playing with something I thought they would enjoy and would provide fun for them.

I am beginning to see that’s a small glimpse at how God feels when He gives us things as well. I’d like to think He has a similar reaction of “YES!!!” with a fist punch in the air and a little dance around. I could be wrong, but maybe He does do that. That joy that comes from giving is such a blessing. And the gratitude always goes back to the giver. It’s never to the recipient. It would sound weird to say “Oh! You got such a great gift, how thoughtful you are to receive it and play with it. You are so mindful of what you want and how you wish to be delighted in.” The thanksgiving and the praise always goes to the giver because the giver had the recipient in mind, putting so much thought into what to give and how the person would enjoy it.

So why then do we often times, myself included, want to give ourselves praise for things He’s given us? Why do we sit and say, “That was all me!”? He delights in carrying our burdens, telling us to cast it all upon Him (Psalm 55:22) and yet we celebrate the joy of the burden gone by saying we accomplished it. My prayer is that I would understand the thanks, the praise, the gratitude all belong to the Giver…and never the recipient.