“Where’s the Gift I Got You?”

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January is always a scary time to be asked that question. It’s long enough after Christmas that you ‘should’ have used the gift by now. It is unfortunately long enough as well to have forgotten what you actually got.

We’re given and receive gifts for various reasons. Some gifts are given out of appreciation for no reason at all (especially is your love language is “gifts”). Other gifts are given out of obligation (“they got get me something so I better find something to give them”) or because of the expectation of the routine (Valentine’s Day, birthday, Christmas, etc…). Some come with no strings attached. Some do.

But let’s imagine for a moment that you are given a gift… out of trust. Like a “I thought it best that you have this” or a “I was thinking of you when I saw this and knew you would like it” kind of gift.

I bring this up because of something I wrote in another blog about the fact that our church views each person that comes through the door as a “gift”. So as I was thinking about that very thought, it was like God asked me, “Craig, what did you do with that gift I gave you?”

It is important to note that we need to understand the difference between “gift” and “gifts” and why I believe it mattered so much that God’s question to me was asked in the singular.

I think that churches / pastors / PIPs (people in pews) worry too much about the amount of people that are there / not there each and every Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that a healthy church grows… in various ways; and so attendance can be in itself its own language. But some people are more concerned about the amount of gifts under the ‘tree’ (the local church) than the care of every gift under it. A tree with lots of presents under it looks way more appealing than one with only a few… even if the boxes are empty and just filler for the social media status update.

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What if we took the time to actually care for each ‘gift’ that came within our four walls? What would happen if it wasn’t about the ‘gifts’ (plural)… but each ‘gift’ (singular)? Do you think that God would entrust us with more gifts if each ‘one’ was given the attention, care, and purpose that God intended it to have? Do you think that perhaps, per chance, the ‘amount’ of gifts under the “tree” would increase not simply because we got more… but because we lost, broke, or forgot less?

Last Sunday we did something we periodically do called “Name Tag Sunday”. As the sadistic pastor that I am, I love when we plan them because the people who come have no idea we are going to do it. After a time of singing and worship and right before they are seated I have the ushers come down with name tags stickers and markers and ask them to put their names on the tag, stick them on their shirts, and then mingle for the next five minutes.

I know that the initial reaction of many is “are you kidding me?” – (all the introverts). But once I say “go” it is like trying to corral cats… they go everywherePeople are craving to be noticed and appreciated. They simply need an opportunity to let it happen.

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I think I’m onto something and God’s words have been echoing in my heart for a while now. For me, I know that I can only handle caring for so many gifts. We all have a limit. But imagine, for a moment, if every one of us cared for “each” gift that God gave us? Oh, we wouldn’t need to worry about fitting all of them under a new tree… we would need to look into buying a forest.

At least that’s how I see it,

 

C

 

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People Are Always READING You!

Stay Out1

I have no idea what ticked this guy off so much but I got the message LOUD and CLEAR! As I walked past his house, with no intention of going to it, I knew that I would not be welcome anyway (I’m going to be honest… I was kinda shaking as I stood in their driveway to take the picture in case some ravenous dog came running after me).

Strange that I would have such a drastic reaction… simply to some paint on a piece of wood. No one ‘said’ anything to me and nothing was happening around me to set off my Spidey-senses… but as I stood there, camera in hand, taking a picture of someone’s obvious desire to not be disturbed… I knew my presence was not welcomed at all.

I am always fascinated to hear stories from people who come to our church after attending other churches first. For us, we want everyone’s experience to be just like ‘home’. Home is where you feel most comfortable, most vulnerable, most accepted. It’s where ‘love’ doesn’t need a reason and forgiveness doesn’t need probation.

Home Quote1

I think that churches and organizations can often be caught ‘saying’ that everyone matters while the ‘signs’ point otherwise. At our church we believe that ‘each person’ who walks through the door is a gift… regardless of how many weeks, months, or years they’ve been coming. And so if we ‘believe‘ it, our actions should line up with it.

Tomorrow is Sunday… and many of you may be going to church somewhere. For those who plan on going to church, may I suggest that you make every effort to leave your ‘signs’ of isolation, judgment, callousness, and indifference at your house… tucked somewhere deep in the recesses of your closet. Remember that you may be the deciding factor tomorrow on whether someone feels like they have finally come “home”; where love and forgiveness should always be found in excess.

At least that’s how I see it,

 

C