Keep Your Gifts

images

Happy post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas season! It’s full speed ahead from here on out people, so hold on to your Santa hats. I’ve lost count of how many “simplify the season” Advent reading plans or books I’ve seen this week. It seems like every year the stores come out with more “stuff” to help us simplify. It’s kind of ironic.

I thought I’d share a little excerpt from an amazing book I’ve been reading by David and Jason Benham called Living Among Lions; How To Thrive Like Daniel In Today’s Babylon. The kids and I have taken our time in this book, we’ve been reading bits and pieces since the summer, and I find I keep returning again and again to it as we navigate our way upstream in a world that wants to carry us downstream with the masses. If you’ve never studied Daniel in-depth, this is a great place to start. The parallels between his life in Babylon and our current culture of crazy are amazing. I’m fascinated by the ability he had to know and hold on to his identity in a world turned upside-down. As we plunge head first into the season of gifting and buying and just general ‘wanting’, I thought I’d share this:

“Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else.” Daniel 5:17
Daniels friends let it be known that the God of heaven was their King. Daniel himself kept his windows open and prayed in defiance of a king’s decree. Later in his life, Daniel refused the king’s gifts because his faithfulness to God didn’t have a price. He refused to be bought.
By gifts we mean the goodies of the world that stand in the way of the greatness of God’s kingdom. They come in any form of fame, fortune, or promotion promised by getting along with the world.
Daniels life didn’t have a price tag. His services weren’t for sale. No amount of worldly gifts for kingly accolades could deter him from his mission. He was a man of deep conviction, dedicated commitment, and undeniable courage; the grace of heaven was far more important to him than gifts of men.”

How are you ‘getting along with the world?’ Some of us are in deep. Most of us could probably stand to take a step back and think about it. Sometimes we need to tell the world, “keep your gifts.” This is the time of year where we have all the ‘stuff’ on our minds. We need to buy, we want to receive, the circle of ‘stuff’ is in full swing. In yesterdays mail, I received no less than ten shiny catalogues full of tempting things promising me nothing short of Christmas bliss if I would just place my order. All those things are great – until they aren’t. I think we’ve all been there when those scales tip in the other direction. The mall one week before Christmas. The credit card we should never have maxed out. The comparisons we make when someone else has what we want.

The thing I love about Daniel and his friends is that they were able to live and actually thrive in a world that was hostile to them at every turn. They never compromised with Babylon. They never idolized their gifts. There was a stubbornness about them that we would do well to have today – not in a hardness of heart/unkind way, but in a full surrender to what God wants over what the world says we need.

In this season of fancy packaging and gifts galore, lets take some time to evaluate just what we are seeking after. Contrary to popular belief, none of us really need the gifts from the mall as much as we need the security Jesus brings us. It’s almost cliche and that’s a sad thing, but can we please reel it in a bit starting in our own homes? No amount of shiny things, beauty treatments or perfectly decorated cookies is going to keep you sane or happy this season. The empty promises of the catalogues are just that. There are good gifts to be had and there are things we need to take a pass on.

Help us Jesus to value what is true and lasting over what compromises our heart and leaves us grasping for more.

Yada Yada Yada…The Best Response to Life and the Holidays by Ann Voskamp

I found this at Ann Voskamp’s blog “A Holy Experience”. It is so beautifully written, so timely and so needed as we enter this time of year.

And yadah, it’s Hebrew, and it literally means to hold out the hand in four ways:

1. to bemoan with this wringing of hands.

2. or to revere with an extending of hands.

And this too on the page of the Strong’s Concordance:

3. Yadah means to confess.

4. Yadah means to give thanks.

Yadah –   the whisper of Psalms 92:1:

It is a good thing to [yada] — give thanks – and sing praises to unto thy name, O most High.”

It is a good thing to yada: in the midst of the wringing of hands, to extend the hand.

It is a good thing to yada: hold out the hand — not as a fist to God, but in praise to God.

It is a good thing to yada: give thanks — to brazenly confess that God is wholly good though the world is horribly not.

You hear it — this scoffing yada, yada, yada — as if much and everywhere is banal, this aching meaninglessness that drones on and on.

And in the midst of genocides and suicides, the divorce and disease, the death and dark, we understand the yada all around us,  the holding up of fists at God instead of extending the hand in thanks and we empathize with the unbeliever’s confusion, because it’s our own confusion, and in this struggle to be grateful to God for always and for everything, we pray with humble earnestness for the unbeliever: because before a Good God haven’t we all been been momentary unbelievers?

And yet there it is, and you hear it now, at the cusp of the feasting, the yada, yada, yada, that sings relentless and bold:

We won’t stop confessing He is good and we won’t stop thanking Him for grace and we won’t stop holding out our hands — and taking His hand. We won’t stop believing that “God is good”is not some trite quip for the good days but a radical defiant cry for the terrible days.

That “God is good” is not a stale one-liner when all’s  happy but a saving lifeline when all’s hard.

And we will keep giving thanks, yada, yada, yada, because giving thanks is only this: making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God.

I’m holding the squash in hand. That’s what the mother had said standing there in her tsunami of grief: “I believe God is good. I believe that is all there really is.”

And every time I give thanks, I confess to the universe the goodness of God. I had touched her hand.

She had said it, her eyes so clear, like you could see straight into her, into all that remains.

The morning fog ebbs across harvested fields.

Thanksgiving in all things accepts the deep mystery of God through everything.

And there will be bowed heads around all the tables.

And there will be lights flickering brave to burn back the black, and there will be a believing in relentless redemption and a reaching out and around of all these hands,  reaching out in thisyada, yada, yada, this steady confessing of the goodness of God — come whatever.

And there are leaves fallen frosted across the lawn.

Their confession glinting on and on….

Image