• Gifts from the heart come in many forms • Give simple gifts freely and daily • A child’s embrace and trust are to be treasured • Receiving gives others the opportunity to give • Material gifts, while nice, should not be overrated • Do not turn away what is needed when offered in love • Gifts of time and service express compassion and fellowship • Examine what you value most • Share faith, family, home, and strength of community • Be genuine in giving • See those in need, be present with the lonely, hear the hurting • Give quietly and without expectation or demand of personal return • Do not reserve gift giving for holidays, celebrations, or other remembrances • Give “just because” • God gave all because of the greatest of love
from “Reflections from the Everyday” – Charlotte-Anne Allen
“Yaaay!!!” I joined the mob of other kids streaming from the school. Faces were excited and energy was high. The beginning of summer vacation was a long-awaited event! Thoughts of free time, lazy mornings, and summer events filled our minds. Visits to relatives, camping trips, fresh garden food, and (for me) frequent travel to the local libraries to keep my summer reading stack replenished were welcome plans. I still look forward to the warm weather and the change of pace that this season brings. Each season in life is a time of new beginnings.
The Bible is full of stories of beginnings. Some of them were very hard and others were most welcome. What do I do with my beginnings? Times change and events impact our lives, with my family (births, farewells, deaths) … in my work (saying good-bye to a child I have worked with and their family) … my church (as I move from one area of service or commitment to another) … and in the changing responsibilities and seasons throughout the year. Endings mark beginnings.
What thoughts do you have about your own beginnings? As in the excitement of summer, resolve to enter with a positive attitude and assurance of God’s presence and guidance for whatever may come. Whether our beginnings are marked with anticipation or with anxiety, we can take courage.
Ecclesiastes chapter three begins with acknowledgement that “for everything there is a season,” times for beginnings and endings… and new beginnings, and so life goes on. The writer continues with,
“What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time. Moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds… I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live. Moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.” *
As we move with intent in our work and in our rest, I hope that we can look with anticipation and interest. My prayers are that we will take comfort, even excitement, and be strengthened as we face new beginning through our more challenging times. May we remember and know afresh God’s presence with us. As we come to Him in prayer and give thanks for His gifts each day, may we be blessed through our beginnings.
• Surround yourself with positive reminders • Those positive reminders strengthen hope • Decorations tell the story of God’s great love • Keep Christ’s star ever on top to light the way • Lights show the way and bring cheer and security • We pray for messengers bringing good news of peace • A safe place of rest is never too lowly • Shelter and care are sometimes taken for granted • The occupation of service is a universal call • Watch over and guide those precious ones in your care • Those who live humbly and compassionately are life’s greatest strength • Like newborn babes and children… we seek nourishment • Encourage each other and freely offer your all • The constant evergreen love of God for us is the greatest of gifts
from “Reflections from the Everyday” Charlotte-Anne Allen 12/12/2020
Hosea 14:8b(God said,) “I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.” NRSV … “I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.”NIV
Isaiah 11:1A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.NIV
When my daughter was very young, she would sometimes awaken at night, afraid and crying. I would go to her and hold her, pray with her, and just be with her until she had relaxed and was able to go back to sleep.
There is something about the physical presence of a loved one that brings comfort and joy. Whether a parent with a child, friends, or family, their nearness fills a deep craving and brings satisfaction through that companionship.
How many of us after long separation have spent hours talking and “catching up” or enjoyed activities together? In the case of illness or injury, the presence of someone sitting quietly close by can bring a sense of security or well-being. Words are not always necessary. What a gift one’s positive presence can be!
In the same way, God’s presence with us is a great gift. In all of life’s challenges, sorrows, and celebrations God is with us. His presence is strong, steady, and eternal even when our pain or busy thoughts and activities are unable to perceive Him.
The psalmist praised God and thanked Him for being with him.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. *
As David fled enemies and faced impossible odds, he was fearful, angry, and sometimes depressed. Where was God during all of this?! Later, there was guilt too, as he faced his own failures and wrong doings. When the prophet Nathan came to David after David wrongly took Bathsheba, David expressed his great need and desire for God’s presence. He pled with God, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” *
While I so greatly need my personal time alone to process and rest, the presence of others is greatly appreciated too. Throughout my life, I have welcomed the comfort, companionship, and support of my family and friends. What a gift it is to know that there are others praying for me and to have good positive relationships with people who accept me for who I am and with whom we can join in our journey to grow closer to God.
How humbling and awesome that God’s presence came to be with us, giving us the ultimate example and filling that need. “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). *
I pray that we may take comfort and strength from Him and faithfully reach out to others, even as they offer their own presence in times of need and times of celebration.
That’s wonderful! Yay! Great! Congratulations! I’m so happy for you! You did it!
We enjoy celebrating those noteworthy moments in life. Whether it be the result of long hard work, another year of life, a special anniversary, or a new life born… times of celebration express joy and excitement.
I remember the celebration of my mother’s 80th birthday. Friends and family worked to make this a special surprise. The church secretary asked my mom to stop by to pick up something and the plot was sprung! What joy shone on my mother’s face as gathered family and friends all wished her a happy birthday and expressed our love for her, to one who was so giving and compassionate. I treasure that memory.
I celebrate too, the quiet satisfaction of accomplishment… perhaps a completed task for work, a finished piece of writing, simple tasks around the house, or doing something for family or friends. These daily celebrations are as important as the larger occasions and are a source of contentment and affirmation of life.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the quiet of the night was awakened to joy-filled words of celebration! “Glory to God in the highest heaven,” the host of angels proclaimed, “and on earth peace…” When the shepherds found this newborn Son of God, they celebrated by spreading the news to all who would hear. * Can you imagine the amazement and excitement in the little town that night?
There were other celebrations in the coming days as well, the praise of Simeon when he recognized Christ and the thanks of Anna who shared the news of his birth to all of those who had been waiting for that day. *
When the wise men arrived at the home of the child Jesus, they celebrated through worship and through the giving of gifts. They too had been searching for the child who had been born to the world. *
Something which is especially meaningful to me is Mary’s quiet and strong celebration, simply stated in Luke 2:19. “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Her thoughts must have gone back to the earlier encounter with her cousin Elizabeth as they celebrated together. * After months of carrying this child, now came further affirmation. Imagine her awe and joy, and perhaps also the fear or questions about what this motherhood would bring in days and years to come. All the pain, discomfort, whispers, and exhaustion must have faded as she looked upon her son and saw the face of God.
As we travel through life, may we treasure those moments of celebrations. May we ponder deeply and long the greatest gift of all, Emmanuel, God with us!
* Luke 2:13-30 (Shepherd and Angels); Luke 2:25-28 (Simeon); Luke 2:36-38 (Anna); Matthew 2:10-11 (Wise Men); Luke 1:39-56 (Elizabeth and Mary)
I love to read a good novel! As I am drawn into that world, I see it in my mind’s eye, and I imagine the experiences the characters are going through. I too face the challenges, pull for the hero, and hold my breath as they face terrible odds. What a gift our imagination can be.
As we imagine, we form a mental picture or image of something. An anticipated event we are unable to attend, possible scenarios of actions or words we are considering, and creative projects all involve our imagination. Sometimes I think that I have too much imagination, especially when I get stuck on negative possibilities! Focusing on positive things seems to help.
What would the world be like without artists, musicians, inventors, scientists, and others? We receive so many benefits and enjoyment from each other which arise from our imaginations. I love to watch or join in with a child at play… playing pretend. Theatre and dance are favorite expressions too.
Does God have an imagination? I think He must! When God created the universe, He had an image in mind of this place, of what the world and its inhabitants would be and how it would look… an image of life. In fact, the book of Genesis says that humankind was created in His own image. * Our imaginations are a small but important reflection of His own as we allow Him to work through us. Paul said in his letter to the church in Ephesus that God is able to do so much more than we ask or imagine. *
Great things begin with a great imagination. May we open ourselves up to the possibilities. Imagine that!