Not just an American Girl®

I have literally been stressed this Christmas. I don’t usually stress about trivial things so being hugely stressed over one toy on the list is mildly ridiculous. But I am. What is this toy? An American Girl doll.

My mommy heart wants my baby to be happy. I want to see eyes sparkle and feel love-filled hugs as she calls me the best mom ever! But my increasingly radical, compassionate heart just can’t see spending that amount of money on a toy! A toy that most likely will end up on a shelf in a few years time – forgotten and collecting dust like every poor outcast of Toy Story.

I’ve heard every argument that can possibly be raised. And I nod at their validity. I definitely don’t fault anyone for spending their money on an iconic doll for their daughters. But, I’ve researched the “knock-offs” and honestly… Imitations are getting quite good! Granted, there are no mega stores with play spots and tea rooms for these dolls, but they are quite beautiful, even more beautiful, in some cases, than the American Girl dolls.

But here is the thing, I’m not cheap. I see the value in good quality and want the best for my kids, only in the end is it an investment that will matter? In the past few months I’ve read some things that have me rethinking how much I spend and on what I spend my money. This quote from “God can’t sleep” by Palmer Chinchen pretty much wrecked me, “We must live generously, live simply… So that others may simply live.” That means living beyond iconic dolls with high price tags to meet more devastating needs, more life sustaining needs.

I want to leave a legacy, and I want my sweet, precious, priceless daughters to leave one, too. But, I don’t want it to be a doll. I want it to be a generous spirit, a heart that puts others needs before its wants, and a soul that understands that it’s not living to please itself… Quite honestly, dedicated selfless Jesus followers. I want to leave the legacy my ancestors left me, the one my parents worked to instill in me – The passion that made them stay on a mission field far away from the comforts of home for almost 30 years. That same passion inspired my oldest sister to volunteer in the Korean pediatrics unit as a teen instead of landing a high paying job teaching English, and gave my other sister the desire to get her Masters degree and mentor and teach kids with special needs, and has my parents still giving the clothes off their backs at times to meet the needs of those they come in contact with. That’s a lasting legacy. The one I want to leave my girls, and the one I desperately pray they leave to theirs!

So, after great deliberation and insight, I made a decision. We got the “knock off” brand doll. My daughter hasn’t unwrapped it yet, and I pray she isn’t disappointed. But, with the money I saved I bought one other gift – a goat. I’ll never see the goat, or milk the goat, or (thankfully!) have to touch the goat, but without really realizing who or where, we are going to meet a desperate need. And, hopefully with that small pittance of generosity, some family in a third world country will live to leave legacies of their own.

I’m not just an American girl. This land is not my home. I’m merely a traveler passing through, praying to leave the world a better place, and leaving a better hope for my children. For me, a doll brings temporary happiness.. A generous spirit ignites eternal joy.

You, too, can give a gift that sustains life. Go to this link: http://www.globalgiftguide.org and find out more about how you can, “Live simply so that others may simply live.” Happy shopping!

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It’s the little things

I’m concerned. It seems like God’s children are losing their purpose. They are getting so tied up with doing they are neglecting the gift of being. I have heard more often than I can let slide the words, “I feel like I’m wasting my time. I’m not sure I’m fulfilling my calling.” Okay, side-note: I have also had that thought. And, it bothered me. The truth is as we look around us, there is more and more to do. I think we get overwhelmed. Those of us that feel we need to take on every task or mission that is set before us are worn out, and those that are just dwelling in grace with an air of apathy are missing out. There is a balance. That balance is His Spirit.

I don’t think we put enough confidence in this gift, the gift of the Spirit. We are trying to do things on our own, when He does indeed have a plan and a purpose for us, and it isn’t some huge mystery that He has hidden and requires a treasure map and a key to unlock. More than that, it doesn’t necessarily mean fame and money and popularity. It’s absurd to think that, and yet we do, if we are honest, think that our obedience will bring about blessing in all it’s worldly forms.

Sometimes the simplest acts of obedience bring eternal blessing. I keep hearing “I need to show more love,” “I need to give more,” “I need to spend more time with my family,” and the same sweet souls that are saying this spend time dreaming up expressions of grandeur when it’s so much easier than that! Let’s break that down.

“I need to show more love.” Then make love the over-riding thought in everything you do. If you need a refresher on what “love is,” check out chapter 13 of 2 Corinthians. Love always requires compassion. Seeing others as more important than you. More love will require more of you, put simply. It will require sacrificing what you want for what they want. It will require more work not less. It will require giving when you are more comfortable with receiving. It will require becoming less as His Spirit in you takes over. If you want to show more love, make this your prayer: Father, today show me how to love like you love us.

“I need to give more.” Ok. So, do. The excuse is often that we don’t have the means or the time, well, that’s part of the gift. Instead of taking those clothes to the consignment store, find a family that lost everything in a house fire, or a church that takes up collections, or simply donate it to Goodwill. If you have been holding that pamphlet from World Vision or Compassion International in your hands and thought, “Maybe I should..” Do it. You will be surprised how quickly you get accustomed to that small amount deducted monthly. There are any number of gifts we can give…be creative, and make this your prayer: Father, today show me who I can help, and give me the willpower to assist them.

“I need to spend more time with my family.” This doesn’t require you to plan a 7 day cruise. This can be as simple as instituting a “family night.” Cook their favorite foods, or order them in for those that don’t like to cook. Pick out a game, a movie, or put up a tent! If that isn’t your thing, go out as a family to eat…no friends just family, and visit, talk, share. You will be surprised how much more inclined they are to talk when you are investing in them. Incorporate mother/father/daughter/son dates. These are great! My youngest loves this! She already gives me the stink eye because I married her daddy before she could… who better to show her how to act on a date and how she should be treated than her daddy? Sometimes these one on one moments of investment open up more communication and affection than you will ever discover talking over your laptop or texting to their iPods. There are a million different ways to show your love for them, to give them more attention and to spend time with them all at the same time! Make this your prayer: Father, help me to make time for my family. Prioritize my life to invest in them, and give me grace to deal with the drama. ☺ (Maybe that last part doesn’t apply to you as it does me.)

Maybe you are wondering, “But, what of our purpose, our calling?” This is our calling. God sets aside two things as the purpose of mankind in various forms and places in the Bible, but it boils down to basically two things: Love God and love others. In that order, and with intensity! Whatever gifts you are given – and there are any number of gifts that we each possess – He placed them in you to do these two things. And when you love others and share His attention and affection with them, this is an act of worship!

So don’t get bogged down in the world of “success” and wondering if you are missing something more. Instead rely on His Spirit inside you that beckons and impresses and inspires. Listen to that still small voice, and as you do you will realize that it is louder than you ever realized, and you will feel your life swaying with its energy, and as you give into the current and power you will find that you are doing better. You are loving better. You are giving better. You are spending valuable time with those that are your family. And, as a reward you will see that the world around you is doing better…your circle of influence is more peaceful, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling. One simple offering at a time, and your purpose will be made complete even if you never do anything spectacular! Who defines spectacular or grand, anyway? The God who came to earth in a feeding trough and died on a splintered cross, was buried in a borrowed grave and gave over the Good News to a ragtag bunch of fishermen and sinners. I think He knows better than us.

Little Drummer Girl

One of my favorite songs this time of year is “Little Drummer Boy.” I love the cadence of that song, the tune, and the story. But to be honest, I always felt sorry for the boy; he had nothing to give but a song, on his drum. Doesn’t seem like much does it? Or maybe that is how shallow I was or how little I understood until I met the little drummer girl.

To have nothing to give is honestly a foreign concept to me. Though I didn’t grow up in exceeding wealth, I was by no stretch of the imagination poor. Growing up on the mission field had its hardships, but worries about finances never seemed to get to us kids. Daddy handled it well, and he always trusted that God would provide. And, He did, over and above what was necessary to live. Somewhere, always, there was something extra…and charity often took the form of currency. I gave it willingly and freely…but not altogether sacrificially.  I gave out of abundance, but the little drummer boy gave out of necessity.

The little drummer girl I know can identify with the little drummer boy. Emancipated at the age of 16 and living on her own with the provision of God and only those He has faithfully placed in her path, she has lived in want before. She lives in want now…but her needs are met. I can see her, on that beautifully starlit night, gathering her courage to stand before the manger to take a peek at her Savior. With a shrug and a frown, but with eyes all aglow, I can hear her say, “I don’t have much, but I have this drum…and I will play it for you.” She would smile, and pause, and then she would play. It wouldn’t be some haphazard beat that would erupt, but a passionate piece, resonating from her very heart of love. She would play her drum for Him…she would play her best for Him. And, He would know it was the best she had to offer.

It is what she offers Him daily. In so many ways, for so many hours, she trains and practices and learns, not only so she can be better, but so that her offering can be the best. I love this about her. She plays her heart out! She has taken every blow and unkind word that life has thrown at her, and she has willfully pushed that into music for her Savior.  And it isn’t a gift to be pitied; it is a gift to be envied! She expresses more love and devotion with each beat than many will ever dare to express in mere words or thoughts. She sees the drum as His gift to her…and she has made that her gift to Him.

I can never listen to that song again and not think of her. Our little drummer girl…and if she reads this, she will throw her hands up and say something tough followed by, “Whatev,” but this chick is special. As special as they come…and her Father knows this…her heavenly Father…and He is blessed by her songs.

“Then He smiled at me…me and my drum.”

Getting my goat

Christians can be very proud. Have you deducted this? Have you seen any of this played out lately? One area that I find Christians particularly proud in is the area of charity. It’s kind of ridiculous, isn’t it? To brag about “good works,” isn’t that almost to negate them? It kind of leaves the message, “I didn’t really do this for you. I did it for me, but you get something out of it.” Or, this is the message that we are sending whether that is what we intended or not.

I was recently at the way too overwhelming local Chuck. E. Cheese when I saw someone with a t-shirt that read, “This shirt fed 40 people. What did your shirt do?” Okay. On the surface, I get the point. They gave some money or did some act of service or sacrifice, which was a good thing, to help feed starving people which is a very good thing, but the shirt portrays an attitude that negates the ambivalent nature of the giver. I don’t see a t-shirt that says, “I paid twice as much for my canvas shoes so that someone else wouldn’t go shoeless.” I don’t even think such a shirt will ever be made, or should be. And yet, I see Christians wearing t-shirts that make charity seem selfish. The argument could be made that it is to raise awareness for world hunger…well, wouldn’t a shirt that said, “Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger. How’s that burger?” That would raise awareness and address gluttony in America, and guess what? No one gets credit…and someone looks twice at the burger they are eating. Perhaps that person paid enough for that shirt that 40 people were fed, but it isn’t boasting. No one knows but that person and God…and perhaps the little guy that handled the order. And, that’s okay.

In the Bible, Jesus tells us not to let the left hand know what the right is doing. He instructs us to do our good deeds in private. But, then no one knows what we did, so how will we find reward? Well, He goes on to tell us, “Your Father in heaven will see your good deeds and reward you.” Oh but, Leslie, people’s rewards are much more instant…yes, and far less rewarding. Which leads me to my next point, we somehow think that we deserve something for our good works. For instance, I mentioned my frustration at seeing this t-shirt to someone the other day, and I expected this person to take up my cause, after all, we are both serious about ministry! Instead, the response was to smile and say, “Heck Yeah, I have that shirt! I suffered through 30 hours of hunger to get it!” Wait. What? I know that my jaw had to have dropped open! Since when is sacrifice about anything more than…well, sacrifice? But, this person isn’t alone in this. Recently I saw a campaign for a popular Christian music group to build wells in third world countries. I was standing in line as one of the spokespersons for the group was telling about their initiative and that if you gave X amount of dollars you would get a free shirt and a CD. Commendable…until the person in front of me asked, “So what is the least amount I have to give to get the stuff?” Wait. I think we missed the point.

I’m not a huge John Acuff fan, but I do like some of what he says. I will never forget the blog he posted on “fasters” – those people that observe the spiritual discipline of fasting…not to be confused with pastors that get you out of church by noon every Sunday. (Ba dum pum.) Anyway, he was talking about the ones that feel the need to announce to the world what they are doing, when God’s Word clearly says not to make a show about it because that’s what the religious folks do and their reward is found in the praise of man. He quips about possibly telling the next person, “Man that stinks. Now that you told me that your only reward is what I have to say…so, way to go, bro! You fasted for no real reward!” (Not an actual quote but that was the gist.) Really! What kind of reward is that? I’d rather keep it to myself and simply have the reward of knowing that I sought God and denied myself food or pleasure in order to understand His will in my life. I admit though, I have announced before that I was fasting, but not in an effort to make myself look good, but rather in a desire to see others join me. In my mind, if one fasting can bring clarity to a situation then all members fasting can put it in the sky on wide-screen and surround sound! But, that is neither here nor there.

The point is this. Let’s not boast about our good doing. Don’t post on Facebook that you and your family bought a herd of goats for a village in Tanzania. Don’t tweet about how many kids you sponsor. Don’t wear t-shirts that make people feel bad that they paid $5 for theirs at Old Navy and didn’t serve any purpose than to cover up a hairy chest or a muffin top. Don’t publicize your good works and make Christians look worse in the eyes of others…who might actually do more good and don’t expect a reward. There are things that you CAN do to promote help and support, like: Post links to great organizations and encourage donations and gifts for others. Wear World Vision t-shirts and then answer questions when people ask if it’s a world-wide Optical service. Support your local food banks and feed the homeless in your city, or even volunteer time at a local shelter, but don’t expect a t-shirt…or even a pat on the back…but I can tell you this: the smiles from those you serve, the looks of humble appreciation or amazed gratitude, or the profound look of relief that there is another pair of hands to bear the load, those are gifts from God…and no one can take that away, and unlike a t-shirt, they don’t shrink.

Check out these great links, and please help those that cannot help themselves.

http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/give/ways-to-give

http://www.30hourfamine.org/about/what-is-the-famine

http://globalgiftguide.worldconcern.org/category/animals/one-goat

And if you want to read more of Acuff:

http://www.jonacuff.com/blog/  (You’re welcome.) 🙂