On Friday after work, I went to the grocery store and picked up the last couple of items I needed to put together some baskets for extended family. Whew, I was done – just waiting for the items to come in, then I can put them together and wrap them up. As I was driving to the store, this verse popped into my head: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) I have done some intentional things this season to make certain that I was keeping my focus on Jesus — to keep myself from being polluted by the world. And then two friends popped into my head, both widows and neither who have a lot to spare (goods or money). I decided pick up a couple of Kroger gift cards to send them in a Christmas card this year. I don’t normally exchange gifts with them, nor do I send out Christmas cards – but I felt the Lord calling me to do that – to put forward His love to others. The following devotional from Lysa TerKeurst at FaithGateway also discusses what is really important this season.
Last Christmas, I was rushing about, frustrated.
Every year I say I’m going to get better about scaling back so I can really keep my focus where it needs to be for the season. I have moments where I do this well. But I have other moments that are just plain pitiful.
Honestly, I can be an utter nincompoop.
I went to Target for wrapping paper and somehow left the store having spent ninety-seven dollars on who knows what. Then got all the way home before I realized I left the wrapping paper on that little shelf underneath the shopping cart. At checkout I didn’t remember to grab it and purchase it. So all my moments of trying to match this and that to keep up with expectations in this Pinterest-crazed world were all for nothing.
Now I’d be using recycled Happy Birthday bags — wrinkled and well past their prime — for the gifts that needed to be wrapped right this second or we were going to be late for the Christmas party. And then — oh my, glory heavens — I remembered I was supposed to bring cookies to said party.
A–M last names were supposed to bring appetizers. N–Z last names were supposed to bring desserts. Desperation found me digging in my pantry, emerging with some Easter chocolates shaped like eggs and wrapped in pastel foil. I’ll call them chocolate ornaments, I rationalized.
While all this was happening, my husband, Art, kept saying something to me about wanting to give money to one of his employees.
“We’ll have to talk about that later,” I snapped back, aggravated that he thought this moment of rushed panic was a good time to bring up giving. My brain went off on this tangent of thoughts about how I give and give and give and give and sometimes just get sick and tired of giving. So now I’m bringing Easter candy to a Christmas party I don’t even want to go to with presents wrapped in birthday-balloon-covered bags.
“Mom, why did you wrap the gifts that way?” The teenager with her hand on her hip had no clue how close I was to seriously canceling Christmas.
“Oh, you don’t even know the half of it. We’re also bringing Easter candy for our dessert. And if you say one critical comment about my obviously brilliant party-attending skills, we won’t go. Now go get in the car, and let’s pretend like we’re happy to be going to this party.”
And then my husband said something else about not being able to wait to talk about the money needed to help his employee, and I snapped back once again, “I don’t want to help.”
You know that wonderful feeling of conviction that says without a doubt you are the worst human on the planet? Like if they were handing out certificates for “worst person,” you would own the title for this moment in history? That would have been my moment.
I was so caught up in the rush of superficial things in my world that I missed hearing the cries for help in someone else’s world. God had been prompting me to listen, really listen, to my husband, to stop and focus and give him just a few minutes. But I refused. I rushed past. And I acted like I was perfectly justified in doing so.
My husband was requesting money for a precious family I hadn’t met yet. The wife had just started working at my husband’s restaurant. They were from another country and didn’t speak English. This made it difficult to let others know about their need for help. They didn’t have many friends here. And they had just been through the most tragic event of their lives. They’d had a daughter born in late spring with many complications. And just that morning she’d lost the battle for her life.
While I was stressed about leaving my wrapping paper at Target, a friend of this mom called my husband to ask for help to pay for a funeral.
When I finally clued in to what my husband was talking about, I felt so horribly convicted. It wasn’t just about being too busy, it was also about my closed-fisted reaction when I knew he wanted to talk about giving money.
Just that morning I’d been praying and asking God to show Himself to me. I asked the God of the universe to intersect my life with His revelation, then got up from my prayers and forgot to look. Forgot to seek Him. Forgot to keep my heart in tune with His voice and His invitation.
All because of the chaotic rush of my day.
Psalm 39:6 tells us that “all our busy rushing ends in nothing.” I’m so challenged by this. It was certainly true for me that day.
When all of life feels like an urgent rush from one demand to another, we become forgetful. We forget simple things like where we put our car keys or that one crucial ingredient for dinner when we run into the grocery store. But even more disturbing, we forget God. We say with our mouths that we are trusting and relying on God, but are we really?
A quick check to see if this is true is our ability to notice what God wants us to notice and our willingness to participate when God invites us to participate.
So how about you? What is God trying to show you that your rush is causing you to miss out on this Christmas season?
Ask God to reveal Himself to you today, and then remember.
Remember to slow down and pay attention in the middle of the rush. Remember your prayer. Remember to look for God.
Dear Lord, I don’t want to rush past the assignments You’ve given me. Help me to see Your hand in everything as I learn to fully rely on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Excerpt adapted from The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.