Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Was the Grinch onto something?

As I said in my last blog; “I can be a bit of a Grinch when it comes to Christmas.” Fortunately the addition of kids has made me much better, but I have a ways to go! This year, as I paused to reflect upon what Christmas meant to me, I discovered my heart had become somewhat cold and callous. My obsession with the commercialism of Christmas had caused me to overlook the joy that can still come from giving a gift from the heart. This was never more apparent than this year as my daughter Brynlee celebrated her third Christmas.

More than ever before I anticipated Christmas morning, not for the gifts I would receive, but rather the look on Brynlee’s face when she saw her new kitchen delivered straight from the North Pole. But, much to my dismay, the harder we tried to impress her with presents the more impressed she became with the wrapped presents under the tree, or “my present” as she so affectionately refereed to them! She stormed right through her gifts and moved right on to her little brothers! Kind of makes you wonder whether the emphasis should truly be on the physical gift itself or just the act of giving (or receiving for Brynlee). After all, the central theme to Christmas is both receiving and giving. How often do we lose sight of this?

Perfecting the art of giving should be a top priority in our lives. However, developing a giving heart seems to be secondary to greed and the lust for more. In this world of excess, today’s role models like Britney Spears, Adam “Pacman” Jones, Lindsey Lohan, and Michael Vick give more to the Department of Justice than they do to UNICEF. Just once you would like to find a positive role model that gives out of the kindness of their heart rather than obligation. But if we truly value what has been given to us one would believe we would want to give something in return. Jesus did say, “To whom much is given, much will be expected.”

Giving to others as a result of the fullness we feel from receipt of a gift is true generosity, not obligation giving. It's the natural process of recognizing what we have been given and then sharing it. The Christian knows to serve the weak not because they deserve it but because God extended his love to us when we deserved the opposite. In his second book to the Church in Corinth Paul explained, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (v. 7). He goes on to say “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (v. 12).

For me one of the greatest gifts I ever received was from someone that I did not even know. After speaking at a local church during one of my visits to Romania a generous couple invited me to their home for lunch. Knowing that Romanians are notorious for their hospitality and that they will sacrifice a month’s wages just to make sure you have a quality meal while visiting their home I kindly accepted their invitation. For almost two hours this Romanian family treated me like a king, feeding me more than I would normally eat in an entire day. With each bite my heart would break a little more knowing the sacrifices that were made. Though this gift of hospitality was far less valuable financially than many gifts I have received, the true value was worth more than a month’s salary to me.

In honor of this sweet Romanian couple I’m going to resolve to give more from the heart in 2009. This year I want to prove that I do believe that it is better to give than to receive. And why not? Even the Grinch realized this, right before his heart grew three sizes: “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”

Here’s to a productive 2009. Blessings to you and your family. Aspire to new heights!

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