My Shopping List

define necessityDec. 10, 2015

Matthew 25:39-40

Jesus said, “When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

I always carry a notebook with me in which I make lists. Lists of things to do today, tomorrow, a shopping list, etc. A few days ago, I was waiting and opened the notebook to a new page and began a Christmas present list. I wrote down the people I think Rick and I should give a present to and what we might give them.

Since then, I’ve thought of a few more people that could go on the list. At a store this week, I decided to pick up a few presents. I found a small gift to send to my aunt in Arizona, hoping she would receive and enjoy it before Christmas. I picked up some things for the grandkids. I was shopping very hodge-podge, not at all planned; a terribly inefficient way to Christmas shopping.

One of the main reasons why I was even shopping was because of a conversation a couple hours earlier. The woman in charge of the local food pantry shared how a woman had been in that afternoon. She had just lost her job and was questioning about Christmas presents for her two daughters. While there are some toys at the food pantry for such situations, the children’s ages did not match with what was available.

I quickly told the food pantry woman I would take care of it. Rick and I do not buy presents for each other. Instead, we purchase presents for a family in need. I hadn’t determined a family for this year. Suddenly, there was a need. I could fulfill it. I knew only the children’s ages and genders. I wondered around the store trying to be inspired. Seeing other items, I began to toss items into the cart for people on my gift-giving list. As I picked up items these people, I questioned why I was purchasing gifts. Yes, I should get presents for our grandchildren. But what about the other people? I doubt they “need” anything. Am I buying just to buy? How does this fit in with what I teach and share with others?

Christmas presents are a challenge for me. I want to acknowledge people who are meaningful to me. But I struggle with what is appropriate, necessary and meaningful. It is seldom black and white for me.

When I got home, I saw this photo on Facebook, shared by one of my friends. I think the pictures speak volumes, especially how one photo is black and white and one is in color. Looking at the photos, I almost wanted to return everything I had just purchased, minus the food pantry family. The other presents I had bought are not necessities.

I will continue to struggle with this as Christmas approaches. I will do more Christmas shopping. I pray that I will carefully look over my list. Who might appreciate a gift to an organization that will help those who do not have necessities more than an item I picked out, not knowing quite what else to give? Let’s remember whose birthday it is and what present we’re giving him this Christmas. Because when we do something for the least of our brothers and sisters, it is as if we have given a gift directly to the King.

Almighty God, the magi brought gifts to Baby Jesus the first Christmas. We continue this tradition today. Help us to creatively think about who and what we give for presents this year. Guide us to think with larger thoughts about gift-giving this Christmas. Amen.

Blessings –


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Advent Calendar

reverse advent calendarDec. 7, 2015

Advent Calendar

Acts 20:35

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Growing up, we always had an Advent Calendar. It was made out of paper. Every day of December, you opened up the little paper tab with the day’s date printed on it. Underneath would be a picture related to Christmas.

Today, I saw this suggestion for an Advent Calendar on the internet. While I’m bummed that I didn’t come up with the idea, I think it’s a great one! It’s a great idea for the entire family to become involved. I think it’s important for families to embrace the idea that it truly is more blessed to give than receive. Here is a fun way to explore this!

Can your family do this between now and Christmas? Add a couple fun challenges. These are a few ideas. Come up with your own.

  • Only add things your family currently uses. This means not to include things nobody in your house would use.
  • Use only things found in your house. See how creative you can be!
  • Or, go shopping and let each person choose a certain number of items.
  • Every day, someone different in your family gets to make today’s “pick.” Rotate as necessary through your family.
  • Remember things like toilet paper, tooth brushes, tooth paste, paper towels, etc.
  • Around Christmas Eve, items can be donated to the Food Pantry, Salvation Army, etc. Another option would be for your family to personally deliver the basket to a family that would benefit from your giving.

I love the idea of an old tradition with a new twist. I’m going to stop typing and go find a box. There are many around our house, finally empty!

Lord God – in this season of which we often focus on receiving, may we creatively find ways to bless others through giving this Advent. Amen.

Blessings  –



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9 Months

9 monthsDec. 3, 2015

Luke 1:30

 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.

We often think of the Christmas story starting at the beginning of Advent. Actually, the story began nine months earlier when the angel visited Mary and she became pregnant.

When planning for a vacation, wedding or special event, nine months can seem like a ridiculous time in the future. Yet other times, nine months whizzes right by.

A little over three months ago, we moved into our current house. When we first moved in, I was optimistic that in a few short weeks, we’d be settled in and know where everything is because everything would have a home. We might not have the entire house remodeled, but we would have a chunk of it done.

Then, there is reality. Yes, we’ve made progress. But I’ve been without a kitchen sink for over a month. I’ve only unpacked one or two boxes of dishes. It seemed to make sense to wait until I could actually put them on shelves. Just this week, I begin to use my office room rather than a couple folding tables that had been moved several times before finding a semi-permanent location.

Nine months. How long did Jesus’ pregnancy seem to Mary? Did it go fast or slow? Shortly after Mary discovers she is pregnant, she disappears from Nazareth and visits her elder cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. After decades of longing for a child, Elizabeth is finally carrying a baby! Once born, Mary heads back to Nazareth, now visibly pregnant.

I think of how much our lives have changed in the last three months. Yet, I know the challenges for Rick and I pale in comparison to when Mary became pregnant. Here’s a teenaged girl having to quickly make difficult, grown-up decisions. Following God’s lead, Mary handled this seemingly impossible call on her life with great finesse.

The next time I’m complaining about the messy, unorganized house we’re living in, I pray I can remember my messes are not nearly as difficult as the 9-month situation Mary found herself if. I pray I have the same fortitude to follow God’s lead as Mary. And in nine months, look back and see where how things have changed.

Lord God – whether nine months seems long or short, Mary willingly allowed chaos in her life for our benefit. Her decision to accept the call to carry Baby Jesus forever changed the world. May we accept opportunities to change our world in the next nine months. Amen.

Blessings  –


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