Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that”—Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)
Dressing for a doctor’s appointment, I felt led to slip on a seldom-worn bracelet, a gift from a dear friend. The sparkling jewelry was adorned with the symbol for breast cancer awareness. As I drove to my appointment, the charm dangled from my wrist, reminding me of how blessed I am. My cancer was caught early and my treatment was minimal.
Before entering the doors of the cancer center that hot July morning, I glanced again at the bracelet. A still, small voice said, “Give it away.”
Walking through the center, I searched the faces of those who were there for treatment. I was there for my yearly follow-up exam. Again, I was declared cancer-free.
The comfort of faith
Others were just beginning their journey. Some of their faces reflected fear while a peace surrounded those who, like me, had been declared cancer-free or understood the comfort of their faith. My heart ached for those who appeared lost. I prayed, “God, you want me to give this bracelet away. Show me who needs it the most.”
I searched the faces, praying for the right person to receive the bracelet. I’d almost given up hope, thinking I’d misunderstood God’s direction, when I recognized an older couple seated in the hallway outside one of the exam rooms. I feared one of them had been diagnosed with cancer.
After hugging both, I asked, “Are you okay?”
Why all the Christmas stuff? We haven’t had Thanksgiving yet!”
You might expect these words from an adult who has become disenfranchised with the commercialism of Christmas. However, I overhead a boy, approximately 12-years-old, make this statement several weeks before Thanksgiving. I was attending a local charity event where some of the vendors had their booths stuffed with Christmas gifts and décor. While I tend to agree with the youngster, I understand the purpose of these events.
What I don’t like is seeing Christmas merchandise on display in businesses before the calendar reveals it is still September. I understand the “why.” However, I don’t have to like it.
What the polls say
A recent “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” story headline touted the following: “Nearly 7 in 10 Americans say they’d give up gift-giving this holiday season. Would you?”
According to the news article, a recent Harris Poll survey revealed that “69 percent of Americans said they would.”
The online U.S. poll, conducted over a three-day period, included responses from 2, 158 American adults, ages 18 and older, with 1,986 respondents saying they spend money on holiday-related items. However, 43 percent of those polled said “they feel pressured to buy gifts and spend more money than they can afford.”
The poll also revealed that with “the extra time and money saved by eliminating gift-giving, 60 percent of Americans said they’d spend more time with loved ones, 47 percent would save money or invest it, 37 percent would pay down debt and 25 percent said they would use the money on activities with friends and family.”
photo by Carol Round
Varying hues of red, gold and orange decorate my lawn. That’s why autumn is my favorite season. Watching the leaves change colors and drift to the ground is a reminder to count my blessings. If I couldn’t see, I would miss out on one of God’s gifts. I’m thankful for my eyesight.
Walking across my lawn, I hear the crackle of the shriveled brown oak leaves. While they’re not a thing of beauty, and the mess they create causes more work for me, they are a reminder of the blessings of hearing and an able body.
When I take a daily walk through my lakeside neighborhood, I continue to count my blessings. I love the scent of the neighbor’s burning leaves. I am thankful for the sense of smell.
Inhaling all God has to offer us in nature and being thankful each day for the simple things we often take for granted has made me more aware of how much He loves His children. When I stop by the cove near my house, I am in awe of the variety of birds He created. How could anyone not believe in a Creator God when viewing the diversity of wildlife, trees and flowers?
As I clipped and then filed her fingernails, I listened as my soon-to-be 89-year-old friend relived her past. Josie has been hospitalized or in rehab since May of this year. She was injured in an automobile accident, killing the driver, her husband Dave.
I’ve known Josie since 2001 when we became neighbors. However, there was much of her past I did not know, like the fact her only daughter is adopted. As my friend shared her journey from her first marriage and the adoption of Monica, I asked more questions. She readily shared, including the circumstances of her first husband’s death.
I held back tears as she described in details the adoption process and her fears of someone returning to claim her daughter, not born of her body, but of her heart.
“I was so afraid,” she said. “I wanted to hold her close and never put her down.”
The sound of breaking glass made me cringe. I’d just broken my favorite pitcher because I was careless. I’d paid less than five dollars for it a yard sale. Its beauty had drawn me to part with my money.
Frustrated by my carelessness, I sighed as I cleaned up the mess of broken glass and spilled iced tea. When I cut my finger on a piece of the glass, I almost cried. I was tired. A lack of quality sleep the night before multiplied the incident into a disaster in my mind, until I reminded myself it was only a pitcher.
Later that day, I’d forgotten the pitcher, already tossed into the trash and ready for disposal. Then, I broke something else. I was digging in the dirt in preparation for some stepping stones in front of my backyard gate when I hit something solid. I bent down to remove several rocks and also encountered some tree roots. As I was hacking away at them with my shovel, I hit something else. Upon further examination, I realized I’d just severed my Internet line.
“Just great,” I thought. After cleaning up the mess, I called my Internet provider who informed me it would be the following Monday before it could be repaired. While I’d have to wait five days for the line to be fixed, the other bad news was the cost of the repair. I cringed when the company agent said, “It’ll be $149.”
“Oh well,” I said to myself, “there goes the three-day road trip I’d planned for the following week with my sister.”
Ask anyone who knew Ray Wallis and they would tell you he was like King David, a man after God’s own heart. I’d only known Ray a little over eight years. Our lives intersected when my youngest grandson was born in 2009. My grandson, Cash, is one of Ray’s great grandsons.
Why would I compare Ray to King David? Paul tells us in Acts 13:22 why God chose David to become King. “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”
Yes, David was a terrible sinner. However, we can learn much about his character by reading the book of Psalms where his life was revealed for all to examine. David wasn’t perfect. Neither was Ray. However, what he had in common with King David is what God desires for all of His children. His heart belonged to the Lord. Ray, like King David, had a burning desire to follow God’s will and do what He had called him to do.
After battling cancer for almost three years, Ray went home to be with Jesus at the age of 86 on October 17. Even if you didn’t know Ray personally, you could pick up his Bible and read the scriptures he had underlined to learn more about this man of great faith.
Overwhelmed by my overstuffed closet recently, I felt the need to purge and organize. It was time to rid my life of clothing, shoes and purses and anything else hiding in the deep recesses of my walk-in that didn’t add anything to my life. Did you notice the irony here?
I needed less to add more, not more stuff, but to embrace the orderliness of a life filled with God and not more possessions. As I finished removing outdated clothing or items I’d bought on sale and had rarely worn, I wondered why we allow ourselves to accumulate so much. Why do we treasure things and not the life we’ve been given?
The acquisition of stuff doesn’t add anything to our lives. If anything, it detracts us from the joy-filled life we should be living. What do I mean? Each piece of clothing, each knick-knack on our shelves, each gadget we purchase, each new electronic device we embrace requires time and maintenance. The things we own can end up owning us.
But it’s not just material things we cling to. We clutch grudges and anger to our chests as if we were a selfish child refusing to share a favorite toy.