Posts Tagged gifts

Share, Record Your Family Stories This Holiday -goodfaithmedia.org

A friend shared recently about how his grandfather and his pregnant wife escaped from Russia before the First World War.

I asked him if he had written the story. Writing or recording your story is so important because stories connect us. If your story is not preserved someplace, it will die with you.

Reading an autobiography by my undergraduate roommate at Furman University brought great joy and sorrow.

He had a distinguished career as a history professor, and it was a joy to learn more about his devotion to teaching. But there was also great sorrow because he has chronicled the end of an era. He is a gifted teacher who relishes the interaction with his students.

He guided them through many projects and arranged many field trips to historic sites. Students cannot get such experiences by looking at a computer screen.

The give and take between professor and student is so important to the development of young minds. Everyone who is present benefits from what they hear.

It is not just facts that are important but the process of developing critical thinking skills and learning to ask the right questions. He wrote his autobiography for his children and grandchildren, but I want him to publish it because it represents a time that will never come again.

The National Day of Listening is fast approaching. The Friday after Thanksgiving has been designated by StoryCorps as a time for recording stories. We are encouraged to get in touch with older family members and provide space for them to tell the family stories as we record them.

You can prepare a set of questions or just encourage her or him to talk. You can do the same thing with friends and within church and civic groups. The important idea is to capture the stories.

My wife, Liz, enjoyed shopping for Christmas presents throughout the year. She brought them home and tucked them away.

One Christmas morning, when the mayhem with our children, Suzanne and Michael, had run its course, she looked at my presents next to my chair and asked, “Are those all of your presents?”

When I said, “yes,” she walked away with a puzzled look on her face. Later that morning, she went into the laundry room. Hanging on the back of the door was the tweed smoking jacket she bought for me earlier in the year.

Liz is the only person I have known who actually said “balderdash” in ordinary conversations. Her most favorite line was, “It’s not out of your way if you are going there.”

Does anyone outside of our family care about these stories? No, but they are important to us. Even as adults with children of their own, Suzanne and Michael still quote their mother when we are out driving.

Stories bind us together.

We remember them better than anything else. Others can relate to our stories, and they keep our loved ones present after they have passed away. There is an old hymn, “Precious Memories,” that drives that point home.

Think about Lin-Manuel Miranda, who brought an almost-forgotten hero of the American Revolution back to life with the musical, “Hamilton.” It is a great story.

Jesus was a master storyteller. I learned his stories as a child. Decades later, I can recall those stories because they contain lasting values that have guided my life. Jesus taught by telling stories because he knew their power.

Write your story. It may not become a Broadway play, but it is important.

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Why gratitude may be the best gift under the tree this year – Jeff Brumley

If you’re reading this story on the new laptop or tablet or phone you just got for Christmas, be thankful.

But don’t forget also to be grateful, which, many spiritual leaders say, is not necessarily the same thing.

“We are taught repeatedly to be grateful when we have material gain, so it should come as no surprise that we wake up one day thinking people with more material possessions are more grateful,” said Joshua Hearne, abbot and director of Grace and Main Fellowship, an intentional Christian community devoted to hospitality, prayer and grassroots community development in Danville, Va.

“Our culture has taught us that gratitude is a bland cheerfulness that is all too often connected with financial security,” he said.

Rather, gratitude is a spiritual practice that, like other disciplines, requires daily attention. And its focus is on a growing awareness and experience of grace that may or may not be inspired by material blessings.

“In our experience, gratitude multiplies,” said Hearne, who serves as field personnel for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Those who cultivate gratitude, he added, “will not only be grateful for the thing itself, but they’ll be grateful for their own gratitude.”

Scarlette Jasper has seen that phenomenon firsthand.

Jasper is director of Olive Branch Ministries, which serves the homeless population, working poor and those experiencing medical crises, financial devastation and domestic violence in a 10-county area around Somerset, Ky.

The holidays always add a level of financial and emotional stress for most of the clients her ministry serves. It’s especially tough when children are involved.

“I had one call me last week saying the kids are asking ‘are we getting a tree?’” said Jasper, who also serves as CBF field personnel.

Likewise, there are more calls for help providing gifts and food.

“You just see the need increase,” she said.

But the gratitude also increases — even among the poorest people Jasper encounters.

Scarlette Jasper

“The families I work for are grateful for … the littlest things I do to brighten their day.”

It’s especially true for those struggling through medical challenges. People sitting with very ill or dying loved ones seem to be able to pull from a deep well of thanks for even the tiniest of moments of togetherness.

“They don’t have huge expectations,” Jasper said. “They are just appreciative … for the time they have together.”

Hearne said it isn’t necessary to feel sorry for people facing such challenges at Christmas. Doing so reveals a disturbing theology.

“This time of year it’s common to talk about how blessed we are and how sorry we feel for those who are doing without, assuming that material wealth is a mark of God’s favor or the value of a person,” he said.

Those who simultaneously experience poverty and gratitude, likewise, are not doing so despite their circumstances, Hearne said.

“It has little to do with their poverty. They just choose to practice gratitude.”

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A Cup of Cold Water* – Week One Devotional for Say Something Nice Sunday

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42 (NIV)

There is a member of our congregation who calls me regularly to share a great quotation or an especially meaningful devotional. She has taken the time to do this for years. She knows that I collect quotations. It is always a welcome call and seems to come just when I need it most.

Another church member calls almost every day to see how our day has gone and to see if we need anything. What a blessing. A third member calls just to inquire how things are going. We share our stories with one another because we are dealing with very similar circumstances and our calls strengthen one another.

The wife of a close friend is a fantastic baker. Two or three times a month her husband will bring us a loaf of her home baked bread or cinnamon rolls. Not only do these fill our kitchen with a heavenly aroma, but her thoughtfulness fills our hearts with gratitude. Of course, she has removed the calories.

These are blessing freely given and I am grateful for these expressions of Christian love, thoughtfulness and caring. I have chosen gratitude as my theme for the year. I held it over from last year. It reminds me that we are not alone and that we accomplish absolutely nothing without the help and support of others. I am convinced that God brings people into our lives when we most need them. They are gifts.

There is a wonderful Catholic/Episcopal benediction that says, “We leave as the church to go with love to serve God and one another.” It is a great reminder that we do not leave church, we leave as the church to love and to serve.

Prayer

Dear God, thank you for Christian friends who share your love with those around them. Help me to be grateful and to follow their examples. Amen

*These were published as an insert in the First Baptist Church of Charleston Builder June 4, 2017.

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I Need Help – Kris Wood*

I’ve been thinking a lot about how vulnerable it is to say, “I need help” or “I need you” to another person, especially when I feel overwhelmed or desperate. It’s often much easier to be the one who does the helping, right?

When I open up and share a need for prayer or for tangible help, or seek genuine companionship, I feel needy. But, I have discovered that it’s really an offer of a tremendous gift.

When I ask for input from someone who’s good at something, they are often encouraged and feel affirmed that I asked. Even if they’re not free to help immediately, it’s a chance for another to come alongside me in friendship and let a relationship come to life.  When I have my hands full, literally or figuratively, and someone offers to open a door or lend a hand, I have a choice. When I accept the offer, the seeds of kindness are planted and the sweetest fruit of trust grows.

But, it IS really hard to ask, because sometimes people say no or ignore the request and it hurts to be ignored or blown off. Still, it’s worth it to ask because the benefits to the helper often surpass the benefits to the one being helped.
So, what shall we do next? Let’s continue to look for opportunities to be a help like we often do. And, let’s ask for help, too. In fact, I dare you to try an intentional experiment and ask for help from someone and see what happens. This risk…this vulnerability… may end up being more powerful than we ever dreamed and more needed than we know.  It may just make someone’s day!

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*Kris Wood is a noted encourager and loves to write devotionals. Kris resides in Wisconsin with her husband Sam and is a champion of entrepreneurs, dreamers and other creatives.  She invests her days as a retreat coordinator, college internship developer, and distributes hope wherever she goes.  Contact Kris atMsKrisWood@gmail.com. You’ll both be glad you did! Kris coordinated the Christian Writer’s Conference at Green Lake this August.

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