We glory in our sufferings.
I woke to the plaintive calls of the geese on the wing, high overhead. Their cries touched my heart, reminding me of a time when I was full of sorrow. “I remember when I felt as woeful as they sound,” I whispered in the dim light of dawn.
“I was there with you,” God said.
“At first, I wasn’t sure. I felt so alone and forgotten. It took time for me to realize that the hardship I faced was actually a gift you were giving to me. It gave me the opportunity to mature and to grow closer to you. It took even more time, but eventually I not only recognized the gift, I felt your hands extending the gift to me. I touched them.”
“Yes. I remember,” God replied.
I reached for my robe at the foot of the bed, ready to start my day. The geese called out again, way off in the distance. “They’ll come back, just like I know that hard times will return again some day.”
“Life is full of ups and downs, that’s true,” God agreed.
“Next time, I’ll search for you hands through the gift right away,” I answered.
“They will be there,” God promised. “They will always be there.”
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”
~1 Corinthians 3:16
“Tell me about happiness,” I asked God in a particularly unhappy moment.
“Oh, yes, happiness. One of the most misunderstood emotions,” He replied.
“I don’t misunderstand it, I just miss it,” I grumbled.
“There, there, my little Sparrow,” God said softly. “I’ll explain happiness to you.”
“I’m listening,” I said, as I focused my attention on God’s words.
“People search all over for happiness as if I made it hard to find. They look for it in relationships, in their bank accounts, in the way their body looks. They even look for it in mac n’ cheese,” God chuckled. It’s not in any of those things. No, you don’t have to go looking for happiness. I made it easy to find. I put it inside of everyone so no one could lose it. But people don’t think I made it that easy. They don’t think to look inside of themselves. So, they keep looking outward,” God explained.
“But where is it inside of me? I can’t find it in me,” I said honestly.
“It’s in your heart, not your head. You can’t think your way to happiness; you must feel your way there.”
“How? All I feel is chaos today.”
“Take a deep breath. Can you smell the hints of spice from the cedar next to you? Can you feel the comfort of the sun on your skin? Listen. Hear the birds on the telephone wire singing? See the flowers in your garden dancing on the breeze? That’s happiness,” God said. “Happiness is life. It’s a beating heart. It’s breath in your lungs.”
“But…” I started to argue.
“No buts, Sparrow,” God stopped me. “Happiness dwells inside of you because I dwell inside of you.”
I took a deep breath as I put my hand over my heart and felt its steady rhythm. I exhaled into the moment. Finally, I understood. God put Himself inside of us and that is where our happiness resides. In Him. In the gift of being alive.
It’s better to give.
The handmade baskets in the store window lured me to go inside the funky little store. The display was gorgeous—there were baskets of every shape and size. I picked up one of the more exotic ones and turned the price tag over. It wasn’t cheap, but I wanted it, even though I wasn’t sure where I would put it in my little cottage.
“How do you spend your money?” I heard God whisper to me.
“Is buying a basket that you don’t need a good use of your funds?” God asked.
I did a quick review of all the financial responsibilities I have. “No, not really,” I said.
“It’s more than the math,” God said.
“What do you mean?”
“Spending your money in order to satisfy your ego doesn’t grow your heart. But giving to someone in need does, for giving is at the center of my Heart; it is at the center of Love.
I thought about God’s immeasurable generosity and put the basket down. “There will be better ways for you to part with your money; ways that share love—ways that grow your heart and soul,” He explained.
I walked out of the store emptyhanded but with a fuller heart, more conscious of the gift that comes with giving. I’d find better things to do with my money than to waste it on the desires of my ego.
“Lo, the day is coming to an end…”
A pale light is all that remains of the day, and soon, it shall slip below the horizon and be gone. The birds have abandoned their posts at the feeders for nests unseen. The squirrels, too, have disappeared into the woods, and the night animals have yet to appear. The only sound is stillness as I sit out under the pear trees in the garden.
“Thank you, God, for the gift of today,” I whisper, not wanting to disturb the quiet.
“You are welcome, Sparrow,” God replies.
I rise from my chair, my eyes straining in the dark to find the path back to the cottage. “I’ll walk with you,” God says, and tosses a handful of stars into the night sky to illuminate our steps. Together, we make our way back home so that I can ready myself for sleep, and for the gift of tomorrow.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…”
It’s interesting that the Christmas season begins with a tradition that seems so far removed from Christ: Black Friday. We stand in store lines in the early hours of the morning and stampede the doors once they’ve been opened. We argue and fight with others, grabbing products out of each other’s hands. I can’t imagine Jesus rushing the doors of Walmart to fight His way to the big screen TVs, pushing and shoving other shoppers out of His way, can you?
The best gift you can give someone doesn’t come from a store wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow. The best gift you can give someone is your time and attention; your love.
As we begin this holiday season, let’s be mindful of what Christmas is really all about; God so loved the world that He gave us His son who taught us that we are to love one another. Let’s make this year the year that we put aside our resentments, our differences, our judgments and be with one another the way Jesus commanded us to be; the way He was. He listened. He loved. He healed. He shared His Father’s love with everyone.