'Roll out the holly.....cause we need a little Christmas right this very minute" are some of the lyrics in a song that is sung the musical 'Mame'. The last few weeks around the Hawkins' home have been intense ones. It was debated when and if we would even get our tree up this year. Needless to say, the gift giving and ready to celebrate any occasion gal was becoming frustrated.
Can You Squeeze In A Little More?
When you read my post The Table Is Set, I placed a picture of our family dining room table. This table also holds very fond memories of my Mom’s mom. Her name was Reba but us grandkids called her Rea. This table belonged to Rea and when she passed, I acquired not only the table but a table full of memories.
As we approach Thanksgiving Day, I would like to say thank you for stopping by and visiting my porch. It is your visits and comments that give me the encouragement to write and share my faith. I feel richly blessed for the people God has placed into my path through writing.
Social Media is a wonderful tool for us to share our thoughts, feelings and events in our lives. However, it is my prayer that tomorrow you will close your media down and enjoy time with your family and friends. I encourage you to allow it to be a time of reflecting on the past year of how God has been at work in your life.
May you have a blessed Thanksgiving and may God shower you with many blessings as we approach the holiday season.
Blessings and Peace,
My father-n-law is known by family and friends as "Mr. Fix It." If something is broken, he can usually fix it when no one else can. It is amazing what he can do with super glue, duct tape and even with a wad of chewing gum. He can make fixing things look so easy.
There are times in our lives when we see someone doing something we don't approve of and we want to change them to our way of thinking.
There is a reason I started this post out with the video, I Go Back by Kenny Chesney. It is when I hear this song I go back. I go back to some of the same scenes he mentions in the song. For example, the lyrics, The smell of fried chicken after church remind me of my family driving from Monroe to Athens every Sunday after church. My grandmother would have fried chicken and all that goes with it ready for us to enjoy Sunday dinner and family time.
This song takes me down a long road of wonderful memories of people I have met over my lifetime. Each appointment my dad served as a Methodist minister holds their own special memories and footprints on my heart from dear people. There are also those dear friends from my Reinhardt College days (now Reinhardt University). Fortunately, with the development of social media I have been able to re-connect with many of these special friendships.
It is good to look back now and then. Looking back gives us a perspective on life, the blessings that have already been received, the lessons learned, and to help you to see how far we have come. It also gives us perspective on the future. We see where God has brought us and walked with us and it gives us assurance that God is still walking and is with us.
I open my bible, I look back at the Old Testament stories. These stories give a perspective of where our Christian heritage started. These passages are reminders those who have influenced our heritage as God’s child from thousands of years ago and they show us that God is still with us! As I scan through the stories in the Old Testament, I see how God was already showing his grace and preparing his people for the Son that was to come.
It is people in the Old Testament receiving redemption and grace that formed the family tree of Jesus. His tree is full of redeemed people. In Joshua, we learn about Rahab who was a prostitute. She lived on the wall of Jericho. Joshua sent spies into Jericho before invading and Rahab hid these spies. She not only hid the spies but she lied to authorities about them being in her home and Jericho. Rahab had faith that God would protect her and her family if she protected the Israelite spies.
To God Rahab’s profession did not matter to him. It was her faith that matter to him. As we read on, we see that she is a part of the family tree of the lineage of Christ. She was a person who had received God’s grace. We can read on and see that Rahab was the mother of Boaz. Boaz is known as the kinsmen redeemer for Naomi. He marries Ruth whom is a foreigner. Ruth and Boaz have a son, Obed. Obed is the father of Jesse whom is the father of David. (Matthew 1).
Look back at David. He is known as the man after God’s own heart. Boy! Did he make some mistakes. If his life were put into a reality show, I am sure it would get top billing. He had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah murdered so that he could have Bathsheba for himself. He committed adultery with Bathsheba before he even had Uriah killed. He disobeyed God and turned a blind eye to the sins of his children. Yet, David is known as being the greatest king of Israel. Fast forward to Matthew 1 and whose name appears in the lineage of Christ, David. God used David in preparing the way for his Son to come to earth to let people know that no matter how much you mess up, God still loves you and he wants your heart. Again, if you read in between the lines you will see redemption and grace already taking place.
In the Old Testament, God was already showing to grace and redeeming people. He sent his Son to demonstrate that grace that is available to all of us. This morning as I thought about this my heart almost exploded with excitement just like it almost explodes from excitement from seeing an old friend. Going back to a special place and time.
It excited me to be reminded that even before Jesus arrived as a tiny infant in a manger on a cold starry night God’s grace was already at work. He just decided to send it down to us in the form of a baby who would grow up to be a man who demonstrated God’s grace. He demonstrated God’s grace by healing the sick, raising the dead, forgiving the tax payer, the prostitute and the list goes on. Then, one day he would be put on the cross to die for my sins so that I would have a place in paradise.
What takes me back? When I hear the old hymn, In My Heart There Rings a Melody I can see Mr. Mac Beggs leading the songs in a small country church known as Redwine United Methodist. There are songs like Meet Me In The Morning, Jesus Is Coming Soon, and I’ll Fly Away that remind me of Campton United Methodist Church. I also remember it was in that church parking lot I learned to ride a bike.It is when I see an old country store no longer in business I think of Mr. Baker’s store that was up on the corner from our home. Mom would let me walk up to his store after school to get a coke before doing homework. It is when I hear Kenny Chesney’s song, I Go Back I think of camp meetings under an arbor and beginning high school in Bowdon, Georgia. The place where I stood at many crossroads of growing up.
When I open a coke or eat a fried pie I think of Ms. Sara who was our neighbor and always had place on the porch for you to sit and visit. It is getting on my bicycle that I think of dear childhood friends, like Beth and Robert Rowland, LuAnn and Jeff Marlow and how we would ride our bikes all over the place. Our parents didn’t worry about us back then. I can order catfish at Cracker Barrel and think of Daddy Bill and his many fish fries. It is seeing the arbor from Shiloh on Facebook that reminds of the place and time I accepted Christ into my life.
Every time I say the Lord’s Prayer I think of the Heritage High School Band .Our band director, Mr. Dent would huddle us together to say the Lord’s Prayer before we took the field to do our show. When I see a barbecue taking place for a fund-raiser, I think of Union Church and the barbeques they had each Fall and Spring. The people that would come and the fellowship that took place as the food was prepared and served.
When I see news from Reinhardt or a posting from a Reinhardt friend, I go back to those college days. I can hear certain anthems played and sung and memories of singing in the Reinhardt choir and our travels. I think of the professors who not only taught me topics but taught me things about life.
It is in my looking back I see where God was using every situation to mold me, to teach me, show me his grace and that he was and still is with me. Yes, there were mistakes made along the way but it is in those mistakes that I learned. I learned lessons that would help me to see life in a better light and to possibly help someone else along the way. All of the experiences I mentioned along with a lot of experiences I didn’t mention are all a part of God’s molding me, allowing me to experience his grace in ALL that I do. Not only does looking back remind me of where God has worked in my life but it helps me to look forward. God has more plans for me, more people to come into my life and more grace for me to experience and share.
Looking back. I walk through the scriptures. I reflect on my life. What do I see? Grace. And, I stand amazed.
Until next time, may you look back and see where God’s grace has been at work in your life. I imagine if you do, you will stand amazed.
- Photo Gallery: Reinhardt University vs. University of the Cumberlands (nickvsuss.wordpress.com)
- The Varsity and Me (atlantatravails.wordpress.com)
Growing up I did not always see my grandparents on my Dad’s side during the holidays. Grandmother and Papa Hill always made sure packages were wrapped and mailed to us in time to be under the tree for Christmas Eve. Most years we got our Christmas pajamas from them.
Yet, there was this one Christmas where my grandmother decided she would send me a night-gown instead of pajamas. After going out for a Christmas Eve services, dinner and visiting with friends, my brother and I rushed home anticipating opening that first gift on Christmas Eve. Of course, Dad had to draw out the anticipation by acting like he could not find the packages and then magically making them appear.
As soon as these packages landed in our laps the paper was off in the blink of an eye and the box lids flew opened. Instead of pulling out the fuzzy footie pajamas like I had always gotten, I began to pull out this night-gown. As I began to pull the gown out of the box the more material would come out. As the night-gown began to unfold and unfold, the entire room become quiet. I know the looks on the faces of my family had to be inquisitive. If you have every seen the movie, Christmas Story, I am sure my family’s faces looked about how the faces looked when the bunny rabbit pj’s were opened and the leg lamp came out of the box.
In my package that had been wrapped and shipped with love and care came out a nightgown with the size in the tag that said; “one size fits all.” As I began to unfold and unfold this nightgown, we realized that the entire family could get into this gown. (You see, I am a petite size gal. When God was giving out height, I overslept and missed getting in that line that day.) The more the gown unfolded the more everyone was scrambling for words. Suddenly out of my dad’s mouth came; “well, Peanut, looks like you have a new tent for camping.” At that moment the entire family was laughing until we were crying. Today, all I have to say is “one size fits all” and laughter will burst out in my family. I had received a gift that I was not going to be able to use.
After opening Santa and eating Christmas breakfast the next morning, Dad kept with tradition and called Papa and Grandmother Hill to wish them a Merry Christmas. My brother and I would also get on the phone to tell our grandparents thank-you for their love, thoughtfulness and the presents. This is one year I had to show gratitude for my gift while all the while my brother was in the background making a fort with the kitchen chairs and this ” one size fits all gown.”
I share this story because it is becoming the gift giving season. People work hard and shop hard to find that perfect gift to give their loved ones. These gifts are given or should be given out of the abundance of love from the heart. The gifts also show that the person cares enough to think about the receiver.
Yesterday, in my post, Extravagant Giving I shared how we need to be extravagant in our giving by giving others God’s grace. I also shared how God gave to us extravagantly so that we can have eternal life. We give to others out of the abundance of our hearts.
There are times when someone has received a gift and I have heard comments being made to the giver like the following:
“What were you thinking? I don’t need this!”
“I can’t believe you spent (insert $ amount) on this.”
“I don’t like the color.”
“This is NOT what I wanted!”
I am sure in my lifetime of forty-nine years I have made an off comment like these at some point and time. However, as I have gotten older and hopefully a little more mature I have come to realize these comments are not needed and should be said. Just as the giver has given out of the abundance of their hearts, we should receive out of the abundance of our hearts. When we are negative about a gift that has been given we are stealing the joy of the giver even if they are not present when the comment is made. Instead, we should be grateful that the person took time out of their schedule to do something for us. We also should be thankful that they took time out to think of us.
The gift is a material thing but it is also language of “I love you” and “I was thinking of you today.” Thus, our response should be that of gratitude. In other words, be an extravagant receiver. Now, what you do with the gift after the person leaves is up to you. Hold on to the gift in case you should some time need it. If the opportunity presents itself where someone else can actually use the gift, give it to them. The gift is now yours and up to you to do what you want with the gift.
As I said earlier, God gave to us extravagantly because he loves us so much and wants us with him for eternity. God gave us his Son and it is up to us to accept his Son into our hearts. We need to be an extravagant receiver of God’s gift. It is up to us as individuals of what to do with his gift. It is my hopes that we share his gift with others. We pass it on to someone else who needs Jesus in their lives.
Not only did God give us his Son but he gives us a gift everyday. As the old cliché says, every day is a present and it is up to us as to what we do with it”. It is up to us to make the most of every day God wakes us up. Each day God has blessings for us. It is up to us to be aware of his presence at all times to receive these blessings. When we receive these blessings it is important to acknowledge them and say thank you just as I acknowledged to my grandparents that I received their gift and said thank you.
This year as you receive Christmas cards and gifts be sure to be an extravagant receiver. Tell the giver thank you. Remember, the person took time out to think of you. They are giving out of the abundance of their heart. May our response to the gifts we receive and especially to the gift God gave us be the following:
“Thank you for thinking of me.”
“You are such a generous giver.”
“ I didn’t realized I needed this blessing today but YOU did.”
I love the reminder we are given in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 about having a grateful heart;
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will
for you in Jesus Christ.
It is when we are an extravagant receiver that we will see the giver in a whole new perspective. We begin to see and experience joy in all things and we will become more open to see beyond the material gift and see the abundance of love the person has in their heart. May our receiving be a blessing to others this year as their giving is a blessing to us.
Until next time, give thanks for ALL things!
- Extravagant Giving (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- The Christmas Present Pile-Up: How Much Do You Buy? (motherhoodismagic.com)
- The gift of giving (fechaplaincy.wordpress.com)
When you hear the word, extravagant what comes to mind? Maybe it is the latest sports car that is on the front of Car and Driver. Maybe it is that featured house in Southern Living and how it is decorated. For some of us it may be a vision of that tropical vacation on some remote Island.
Extravagant is defined and perceived in many ways. The picture of the Taj Mahal is an example of extravagance at its finest. Shah Jahan ordered it to be built as a dedication to his late wife whose tomb is set within the building. It was said he did this because he loved her so much. It was built in the seventh century and it took twenty-two years to build. As I googled information on the building, it is said to be known as the most perfect building in the world. This building stands all because of the love one person had for another. In other words, it can be seen and perceived as extravagant giving.
Extravagant giving. What does it really mean? Does it mean we give the biggest and most expensive gift to someone? Does it mean we try to build something big like the Taj Mahal to show our love to someone? My personal answer to these questions is; no. Extravagant giving does not mean giving the biggest and most expensive gift or building something big just to impress or to show our love to someone.
When I think of extravagant giving the story in Luke 7:36-50 comes to mind. Jesus is invited to dinner at a Pharisee’s home. Social graces were that Simon should wash the feet of Jesus and anoint Jesus’ head with oil. Yet, Simon had neglected to do this for Jesus as he entered the home. As Jesus enters the home, a woman enters the home. The scriptures describe her as a sinful woman. ”When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” This woman gave an extravagant gift and that was her overflowing love to Jesus for the forgiveness and grace he had shown.
Yes, the alabaster jars were considered to be extravagant in that time. The perfume she used was said to be a very expensive perfume. In a material sense she one would say she gave extravagantly and the Pharisees would agree. Yet, the most extravagant thing in her giving was giving of herself and her gratitude to Christ. She gave out of the abundance of her heart.
If there were time and enough space to type, we could go through the gospels and see other ways people gave extravagant gifts. The little boy with the fish and the loaves, the widow who gave the last cent she had, and the list goes on. No matter the story, the theme is the same. These people knew what it meant to give in extra-ordinary and extravagant ways. They gave from their hearts the very best they had without complaining. They gave out of love.
The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. In a few weeks we will be celebrating Advent. Hanging of the Greens services will be taking place in churches. Preparations in homes will be made to get ready to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. It is a time of year where we celebrate the extravagant gift we have been given from God. We celebrate his Son, Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his ONLY begotten son-so that we may have life eternal” (John 3:16 paraphrased). It is God’s extravagant giving that we have received mercy and grace. It is because of his extravagant giving that life doesn’t end when we leave this world but we continue to live on in our eternal home with our Father.
The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. Commercials are running promoting the” have to have” product this year. People are making their lists for Santa and gathering shopping lists to shop for family and friends. The common statement you will hear this time of year is: “I don’t know what I am going to give_________(you fill in the person’s name) for Christmas.
How about this year you give not the “World’s Most Perfect Building.” In other words, it is not about the thing we give that shows our love but it is out of the over-flowing of love and gratitude from the grace that we have been given and shown. Maybe there is someone from whom we need to seek for forgiveness. Maybe there is someone who needs forgiveness extended to them.
Perhaps God has placed someone in our life who is longing to belong. They are searching for answers and we are the ones who can tell them about God’s extravagant gift, his Son, Jesus.
Yes, the Taj Mahal may be considered “The World’s Most Perfect Building” but there is no gift that is more perfect than the gift of grace that has been extended to us from the cross. May we give extravagantly this Christmas.
Questions for reflection:
Where have you experienced extravagant giving?
Is there a significant person who stands out or has shown you extravagant giving?
What are some things you can do this Christmas Season to demonstrate extravagant giving and the true meaning of Christmas?
As you go through the days ahead, keep your eyes, ears and heart opened to where God leads you to share his extravagant love and grace.
Memorial Day weekend always marks the beginning of a lot of travel time for Jim and me. We kick our summer off with meeting Jim's family in Gatlinburg for the Gaither Family Festival. This year was no different. Jim and I had boarded our black lab, Tori and packed the car on Thursday night. We wanted to get on the road as early as possible.