Monday, October 25, 2010

What are you giving?

Now that we are almost into November, I feel like it is time to start making Christmas lists and getting ready to decorate. This being Cohen's first Christmas as a Raney I want it to be extra special for him. So how do you do that? How can I make it special and still make it all about Jesus?

Jace and I have discussed on many occasions the fact that this boy has everything he needs and most everything he wants (ok…I'm not giving him a cupcake for breakfast everyday!). It was only a year ago when this boy had nothing of his own. He had toys and clothes and a warm bed, but none of it was his, it belonged to the orphanage where he stayed.

When I look back at what life was like for Cohen when we first met him, he was happy. He had nothing of his own, but he was happy. I think we forget that kids can be truly happy without having to have a house full of stuff.

Three years ago, Jace and I had the chance of a lifetime to spend a week in Nicaragua. This trip truly changed my life. It's as if I had on some sort of rose colored glasses up until that point. I think I've always known that everyone doesn't live like we do here in America, but it never really hit home until I went to Nicaragua. There were entire families living in a small metal structure (I say "structure" because most of them were leaning on a tree, or another building, or setup like tents). These families had no running water, no washing machine, no refrigerator, no bathroom, and only a few had electricity (and they only had that when the government decided to turn it on). You would think these folks would be sitting in their homes pouting, but no, they were happy.

So why is it that we as Americans believe that the only way to make ourselves, our kids, and our family members happy is by giving them "stuff"?  Why do we think that our kids "need" the best of everything?

While we were in Nicaragua, we invited the local children to the farm where we were staying for lunch. The people that run the farm do this once a week. All these beautiful children come in carrying their own bowl. Most of these bowls are the size of an American cereal bowl. The workers would fill the bowls and then the kids sang songs to us. Not many of the children actually ate anything while they were there. They took the food home to their families and the entire family would eat on that for a couple of days. Could you imagine? Cohen would have scarfed it down before he made it to the singing. I'm not saying that we should stop feeding our children; I'm just saying that if we open our eyes, we would see that there are so many children out there who would love the chance to open a gift of their very own for Christmas.

Just think about it. If you decided to spend only half what you did last year on gifts, or to only fill the stocking halfway, or to only give your child 3 items for Christmas (that's all Jesus got!), what could you do with all that money you would be saving? As you can see, I'm not suggesting that you stop all your Christmas traditions and deprive your family of gifts; I'm simply suggesting that you cut back. Imagine what you could do with the rest!

There are several places in the Bible where God commands us to care for widow, orphans, and those that cannot care for themselves.

Deut. 10:17-18
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.  He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

Deut. 24:19-22
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.

Exodus 22:22-23
 "Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.  My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.

Romans 15:1-2
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

So I ask the question "what are you giving?" I would like for you to seriously consider what you are doing this Christmas and whether you are adding to the kingdom of God by adding to the stuff in your home.

Maybe this year, you could give something more. Last week in the mail, I received my Samaritan's Purse 2010 Gift Catalog. This is a very easy way to give. With all that money you are saving by cutting back on Christmas gifts, you could feed a hungry baby for a week, teach a child to read and write, give an orphan a month of loving care, purchase livestock for families in need, purchase fising boats or honeybees so that rural families can make a living, give mosquito nets to save children's lives, build freshwater wells….as you can see, I could go on for days with this.

If you would rather not give money, that's fine too. Samaritan's Purse has this really fun thing you can do with your kids called Operation Christmas Child. All you have to do is fill a shoebox and drop it off at one of the drop off locations. Our church, First Baptist Church LaPlace, is one of the drop off locations, but you can check around and find a local organization that will take the boxes.

Of course, I can't list off charitable organizations without mentioning one of my personal favorites, Compassion International. This is a great way to give year round! I sponsor a child from Nicaragua named Nicole. She's 6 years old and she loves to color. I get letters and pictures from her and Jace, Cohen and I get to send her things too.

So this year, I encourage you to give! Not only to the family and friends that you love, but also give to those that are in need. And when you are out buying gifts for your friends and family, think of ways you could cut back so that you can give more!

Matthew 25:40b
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for Me.

1 comment:

  1. Emily- Thank you so much for this post. I love this! I definitely think we will look at doing that this year and trying to downsize. What a great "tradition" of sorts to start with kids... the idea of giving at Christmas!