Bible Study | May 1, 2015

Lessons from gift giving

Gift giving can be a challenge. Some people enjoy it. Others tolerate it. Some simply resort to swapping money and gift cards!

I have said on numerous occasions that I need a plan in the gift-giving department. I am one of six children. All of my siblings are married. Twenty-one nieces and nephews have blessed my world. So if you want to celebrate, it turns into lots of dates and people to remember—not to mention moments of panic when Mom announces another birthday is on the horizon.

Last Christmas, I decided to make a gift of sleepovers at my apartment for my in-state nieces and nephews—that is, for those old enough to be away from their moms and dads overnight.

The most recent one was held near the end of February. It was for the youngest group. (So young that one didn’t come! Maybe next year, Katelyn.) My sister-in-law Jen had made a calendar for two of her children, Megan and Simon, so they could “X off” the days until it was time to come. They were so excited! Megan wanted to begin the sleepover days early. Signs of a good gift!

I arrived home on the appointed day with about an hour until showtime. There was a lot to be done: clearing clutter, putting up groceries, and preparing for a treasure hunt. With help from neighbors (my parents), I soon was ready for my guests.

Samantha was the first to arrive. She stood at my door wearing a little backpack while her father carried in the rest of her things. Then Megan and her mom came, reporting that Simon had woken up from his nap grumpy and would arrive at the party when he was happy. It didn’t take him long. We were playing the game Memory when he arrived.

Activities included reading several favorite books, playing Memory, putting together puzzles, sitting at the “cinema,” eating at the kitchen bar, hunting for treasures, clowning around and singing in the car, and sleeping. (I discovered it’s not so easy for me to sleep on the floor anymore.)

Samantha, Simon, and Megan are treasures. What gifts they are to me. I gave and, in turn, received.

Some lessons (if we are willing to be taught and willing to see) can be learned from a couple of 4-year-old girls and a little 3-year-old boy.

“I want to show Mom.” —Simon

We had just completed the treasure hunt. Their bags were full of treats, and Simon rushed downstairs to show his mother. (They live in the main house below.) I didn’t stop him. He was so eager to show what he had received.

Lesson: When blessed, do we rush to tell someone? Words penned by the psalmist read: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah” (Ps. 68:19, KJV). I love the word daily in that verse. It’s not just a special occasion. It’s day in and day out. It’s load after load of benefits. The challenge is that we see the blessings, that we run to tell what God is doing. Line up behind Simon and show off your God to others.

“I spilled my soda.” —Megan

She was sitting on the floor with root beer in her Tupperware jug. (Parents, hold on. No caffeine. But yes, sugar . . . let’s not talk about that.) In a pitiful voice, she told me she had spilled her soda. I looked and saw that some of the root beer was heading toward the closet door. Quickly, I grabbed the wipes and was down on the floor wiping and sopping up the sugar—I mean soda. Megan was sorry.

Lesson: Be willing to admit mistakes. If you live long enough, you will “spill soda,” too. Be alert to the problem, admit it, be sorry, move on. We are human. Why pretend otherwise? The Philippians were encouraged with words in a letter from Apostle Paul: “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

“What if grownups got spanked?” —Samantha

As Megan and Samantha were talking together, the subject of spanking came up. I pursued it further. And then Samantha asked her question about grownups getting spanked. I thought it would be good because some folks act like they need it.

Imagine, a time of spanking on Sunday mornings for all those adult Christians who were “throwing fits” about whatever situations. That might change a few things. I imagine that some of us adults would be in the line for a good spanking. Some of us more often than others.

Lesson: Good parents ask obedience from their children. So does God. How’s it going, child of God? Are you listening to God’s instructions? Are you obeying them? Is your will submitted to God’s? The writer of Hebrews proclaims, “. . . for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts” (Heb. 12:6). If you are being spanked— or if you need one—remember that God’s love for you is beyond knowledge. God “spanks” you because God loves you.

“It’s Samantha’s turn.” —Simon

We were in another round of playing Memory. Simon and I had started; Samantha joined in. For some reason, Samantha left the game a couple of times. Once she made it back in time for her turn. Another time she was still “missing in action.” I encouraged Simon to take his turn. He answered, “It’s Samantha’s turn.” I persisted. He relented. Seriously, it was a sleepover, not the Indy 500. I could have waited.

Lesson: Really? Are we in that much of a hurry? If you aren’t there, do we just zoom on without you? Too bad for you! How are we doing following Philippians 2:4? “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” Do we take the time to care about others, to consider others’ feelings, to tarry for others?

“Sometimes in life you have to wait.” —Samantha

We were traveling to BJ’s to connect with Samantha’s ride home. I wanted to take a right turn on a red arrow and remembered that I needed to stop and wait for a green light at this particular signal. I exclaimed out loud about having to wait, and a little voice from the backseat said, “Sometimes in life you have to wait.” It was Samantha, but it could have been God!

Lesson: I came across a verse in Psalms I needed. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord” (Psalms 27:14). The challenge: It’s God’s timing, purposes, plans, and paths, not ours. God knows what is best and wants us to trust God enough to be at peace, even in the midst of our storms. Don’t be anxious at the red light. Take time to rest in God.

“May I unbuckle?” —Megan

We were less than a mile from home, and Megan wanted to unbuckle her seatbelt. The law doesn’t allow it, although she may not have known that. I told her no, explaining that we weren’t home yet.

Lesson: We aren’t home yet. Stay in the saddle until you arrive. Don’t coast, grow weary, or quit. Remain strapped into the faith, stand fast in the Lord, serve the Lord with gladness. Run hard for the finish line, don’t hold back. May you unbuckle? No way, friend, not on your life! Run your race to win!

“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it” (1 Cor. 9:24).

You just never know what you will receive when you give a gift. Give, friend, give.

Melody Keller lives in Wales, Maine, and is a member of the Lewiston (Maine) Church of the Brethren