Be Open to God

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JM Bertrand/CC-NC-ND

The best gifts I’ve received have been those that were unexpected or completely out of my control. What I mean by that explains a peeve of mine today where increasingly people feel an undue burden with pleasing others with what they give. We want people to like what we give them, but today we stress over how satisfied they will be if our gifts are not to their liking. Our charitableness must bow to lists of buying options or we give gift cards and money so there is no question that one got what he wished for. I’ve fallen into that trap, too. But that practice robs the giver of the joy that comes with presenting a particular item that has first filled their heart for the special one. Continue reading

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The Ghost of Christmas Presents

George, NC-SA

George, NC-SA

I entered the local Game Stop store to pick up a gift card for a young family member. There were people everywhere and a line wound from the checkout. I’m not sure why this surprised me.

Finally near the front, one of the cashiers caught my attention when he stepped back to the counter with a video game in-hand that had been under lock-and-key and addressed the customer.

“This video is rated ‘M’ for Mature,” he advised. The man stood there with his young son. “It has sex, violence, blood, and gore. Is this O.K.?” The man quickly nodded, gave a half-hearted smile, and replied, “Yeah.”

The purchase was finished and when father and son turned to leave, the young boy now held the video game and gleefully stated, “Thanks dad!” I left the store bewildered and then hoped that the gift card I had just purchased for my great-nephew would be used to buy something wholesomely fun.

My Favorite Christmas Gift

CC BY-NC-ND, sparkieblues, Flickr

CC BY-NC-ND, sparkieblues, Flickr

What was the best Christmas gift you ever received?

Mine is a set of Bible commentaries I wanted for about three years. I had desperately needed more study tools and was overdue for a commentary. So I subscribed to Christian Book Distributors and found a set I heard mentioned at a church conference.

The retail price for the 14-volume library was listed as $500, but the wholesaler offered it for $99! Over time I watched the price fluctuate between $129 and $79, yet I never had the extra cash, or guts, to do the deed.

Truthfully, I was trying to talk myself out of the purchase. The commentary couldn’t be as wonderful as the glowing description or as useful as the pastor had suggested. And the retail price: it probably wasn’t true—first $500, now $99? I went to my local Christian bookstore, which I knew didn’t sell the set, and had them price it. Indeed, it was $500 to purchase at face-value. Now there was only one thing for me to do: steal the deal or pretend to need something more.

I mentioned the set to my sister as something I’d like for Christmas, but only as a joke. I was certain no one would be interested in giving me books or wish to spend as much on a single item for me when there were several others to buy for; but I was wrong.

What Is This?

In the chaos of Christmas Day at my mother’s house, I was handed a heavy box from my sister and uncle, which was odd. There was no shaking this solid package. I opened it but it took me a while to figure out what I was looking at. But then I recognized that it was the commentary set, and I froze. My heart began to race and I lit up like the Christmas tree! I couldn’t believe it and felt like crying. As far as I was concerned, Christmas Day could have ended right then.

I am still asked these many years later whether I use the books, and the answer is absolutely and regularly. The volume—Barnes’ Notes On The Bible—has been one of the greatest enrichments to my Christian life. First printed in the mid-19th century, they are indeed classics on the scripture replete with academic study, reflection, and conviction.

Although the volume is still available for purchase, it can be used online free of charge—along with so many other classic sets and tools. This helps when studying and working from the computer, which I’m doing more, although I prefer books.

If there is someone you know who loves the Word of God, consider a gift that will help them study academically and develop an enhanced knowledge of scripture. It would be a gift that never stopped giving.

What was the best Christmas gift you ever received? Share your story.