On my way down Lindsay in Gainesville this week, I stopped to let a donkey cross the street. Though I live in horse country and see donkeys almost every time I’m out and about, this doesn’t happen every day. This little gray donkey was accompanied by a woman with a lead rope and they were headed to the Presbyterian Church on the corner. Every year they have a live nativity scene depicting what the birth of Christ might have looked like, so, of course, they needed a donkey. Donkeys have been featured throughout the Scriptures, from Balaam’s ass to the colt that carried Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. A donkey, much like the one I saw, carried a very pregnant Mary to Bethlehem. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that must have been for her. Well, I can in a way. I remember how it felt to be nine-months pregnant. I’m sure glad I didn’t have to be riding a donkey being jolted over rough trails for miles in that state! In this wonderful season of remembering our Savior’s birth, let’s not forget the little teenage girl who was chosen to be his mother, and who accepted! Even on the cross, Jesus didn’t forget his mother.
I have a new name for God. If you remember, back in the Old Testament is the story of Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah and the mother, by Abraham, of Ishmael (Genesis 16). Sarah is sorry she ever brought up the idea of using a surrogate to bear her a child and makes Hagar’s life miserable. Finally Hagar can’t take Sarah’s abuse anymore and runs away into the desert. But Hagar is not forgotten by God. He sends an angel to encourage her to return to Abraham’s camp. In appreciation Hagar gives God a new name, El Roi or the God who sees me. Anyway, I figure if Hagar can give God a new name, why can’t I. My name for God is the God who gives before being asked. Think about it. He already knows what we need and what we’re going to ask before we ask. And he’s already set in motion his answer to our prayer. It’s a done deal. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask, of course. Jesus says to ask, and that’s good enough for me. But keep in mind, God already knows and is working on it!
How does one approach God when you really want to get his attention? Is it using just the right words, something like “Open sesame” or some other magic formula? Or is it like rubbing an enchanted golden lamp and having your wishes answered, if you could just find that treasure! I believe that’s how we think sometimes, at least I’m guilty of that. Let’s see, how long has it been since I’ve fasted? Have I prayed enough this week—on my knees? Will God still hear my prayer? Feeling this way, even asking the question, is showing a lack of understanding of who God is. God is not hidden away like some kind of genie or treasure we have a difficult time finding. God is always there for us. He knows what we need before we ask and he’s ready and willing to listen to us. Am I saying, we don’t need to fast or pray—no. But, we do that for the sake of us frail human beings, not for God. God’s love and concern is overwhelming! He is always there for us. He is LOVE.
“Give something you don’t need to someone who could use it.” That’s the matchstick suggestion for this week, and I know just what to give and to whom. One of my daughters needs a crockpot and I have an extra one. Why do I have an extra? Because after I had taken a load of stuff to donate to a church thrift store, I couldn’t find my crockpot. So, I thought maybe I had put it in with my donations. After I bought a new crockpot, I found my old one in behind an appliance I seldom use, hidden way back in a cabinet. Giving something I don’t need is not showing true generosity, but I consider almost any kind of giving better than no giving at all. I wish I could say I’m always a cheerful giver, but cheerful or not, I’m always going to be a giver. That’s the Jesus way!
This week’s suggestion is not too difficult for me: “Listen more than you talk.” I’m not a big talker. To some family and close friends I have been known to open up on occasion. And, when I’m giving a presentation or sermon I use some of my foibles and shortcomings to make fun of myself, but those are carefully chosen. I don’t think any of us tell all about ourselves. But talking is some people’s way to sort things out in their lives. They have a need to express themselves verbally. Talker or not, listening to others—really listening—is something we all need to practice. When someone is talking to me, I try to pick up on something they are saying and respond to it so they know I’m listening. Talkers or not, we have a real need to be acknowledged by others. Are you listening?
While drinking my morning cup of coffee I have my daily devotional and early time with God. I like to start my day that way. This morning I felt especially energized and full of thankful love for our Father in heaven. Then after I prayed, expressing my love for my Savior, I thought, does this love declaration of mine really count. Was it really love talking or just a caffeine high? I’ve learned not to trust myself when it comes to my emotions. I can feel overwhelmed with love one moment and concerned if God is going to answer my prayers (the way I want) the next. Then I remember, it’s not my love that needs to be perfect anyway, it’s Christ’s love. It’s my involvement in his loving relationship with his Father that is real love. Thank you, Lord, for this understanding!
Yes, I’m counting my blessings today. We have a loving God. (Can you imagine how bad it would be for us if he weren’t?) We have our wonderful family and friends. We enjoy way more than just the essentials of life. Yes, we also have difficulties, and we have differences of opinion, which, unfortunately sometimes tend to divide us. But, I’m hoping this day will inspire us to put our trials and differences behind us and to focus on how much we have been given. Give the stresses and concerns of life up to him and just breathe in his love. May you have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!