BESIDES HIMSELF, WE ARE God’s only audio visual here on earth.
Some people have a hard time receiving a gift. Especially, some men.
It’s hard sometimes to see that the gift being handed to you, from another person, is actually a gift from God.
We are His delivery system.
Maybe we have a hard time understanding that because we don’t actually see God. We only see His audio visual representative.
Every winter we would have a huge Christmas celebration in the projects. By huge I mean twelve hundred men, women, and children all sitting down to a fully proper Christmas dinner. Turkey, dressing, vegetables, dessert, sweat tea – all the traditional Christmas fixin’s. We had the whole enchilada.
By huge, I mean twelve hundred men, women, and children, each and everyone personally receiving a wrapped Christmas gift. This was a big deal for the neighborhood and for all the volunteers that staffed the day. One year I had the great idea to deep fry all the turkeys. It’s quite a site to see a dozen turkey fryers cranking at one time. We burned holes in three of them. It quite a site to see oil hit an open flame and shoot into the sky too.
It was awesome to be a blessing on that day and to be God’s audio visual tangible touch. It was also incredibly chaotic no matter our well planned efforts to keep the day organized with a purposeful flow. Chaos accompanied by moments of stress. It took me four years of trial runs before I could make it through an entire Christmas outreach without at one time letting the expletives fly…under my breath of course.
People would come through the doors sit down for a dinner and a Christmas presentation. If you can picture inner-city dinner theater you’re on the right track. Everyone would receive a ticket which they could redeem for a gift. We operated out of a cavernous 90,000 sq ft. warehouse which had four bays that opened up to the street, so in theory it should have been fairly easy to deliver the gifts. Get yourself in the proper line. Turn in your ticket. Receive a smile and gift.
Some people have no problem whatsoever receiving a gift.
Or, complaining about the gift.
Or, trying to work it to get more gifts.
Not all, but a good chunk of people.
We would have trash cans set up out in the street, because what kid is not going to rip open and tear off that wrapping paper right then and there and see they got? 99% of the discarded wrapping paper never made it to the said trash cans. 900 children’s gifts wrapped the paper torn into an average of three pieces equates to roughly 2700 pieces of Christmas cheer tumbling down the streets. However, this isn’t so unusual for children. I set out a little trash can myself in our living room on Christmas morning so my boys can dispose of their discarded wrapping paper. My boys tend to by-pass that little step too.
Inevitably it was always the men who had a tough time turning in their ticket. What is intended to be a joyful happy season always isn’t. These men would turn in their ticket nearly all of them with their head bowed low. The child inside them wanted the gift, yet the man on the outside was ashamed to receive it.
The men walked up slowly for any number of reasons I suppose. Perhaps they were simply out of money. Perhaps they were alone and without family. Perhaps they made some mistakes and felt like they didn’t deserve something for free, that they hadn’t earned the free gift.
Side note: people often feel the same way about receiving the free gift of salvation through the man Jesus. That’s the deal with gifts isn’t it? You don’t earn them.
The men that would always break my heart and still do even now as I write these words years later, are the men that would come after the chaos and mad rush for free gifts was over. These men would come to me with heads bowed often with the light shimmering off the water collecting in their eyes.
These were good men.
Men who were working jobs and trying to make it work.
Men who were playing by the ‘rules’ and still didn’t have enough left over to give their children what they so desperately wanted to give. Most parents they want their children to have better than they had as children.
Every good and true father wants to give his children the best.
“What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, you will give him a stone? Or if he ask for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” Jesus said that. Jesus also started out that last little bit by telling us, “Ask, and it shall be given to you…”
When you’ve worked with people your whole life you can tell when someone is trying to work you over. In all honesty most of the time I would just let them think that their rap was solid and sold me. What difference does it make? What I have to give was first freely given to me. In the end, I possess nothing of my own. In the process perhaps the game players hopefully discover the unashamed free love of Jesus.
One afternoon I had a woman come to my office and she was in tears. She was a game player. I had known her for years. She always had a story. She could act circles around Halley Berry. So when she came in with tears flowing down her face and emotionally worked up, I smiled and began wondering to myself what would be today’s story?
Something was different though. I had the impression that these were in fact very real tears.
She sits down and says, “I have something to tell you. Something I want you to know.” She is trying to collect herself. She is trying to look at me. She is having difficulty doing both. She continues to tell me that she’s had an encounter with Jesus, that she has given her life to Him. I tell her that’s wonderful and give her a little hug. I genuinely want to be ecstatic for her because salvation is the greatest miracle of all, but I’ve met a lot of people who have met Jesus if it gets them what they want. I am cautious, yet still sensing something is different. Either she really did meet Jesus, or she has somehow managed to get into acting school and has now perfected the craft.
This is what she tells me, “I really have truly met Jesus. For real….and I want you to know that all these years I’ve been coming in here and just telling you lies, telling you stories…I’ve been pulling fast ones on you and working you over. I want to tell you that. I want to tell you I’m sorry.”
I smiled. I took her by the hands. I looked into her wet beautiful brown eyes and I told her, “Thank you, but no you weren’t.”
“Yes I was. I was lying every time.”
“I know you were.”
“Yes, I knew. It’s okay.”
“You knew! And still you just gave to me for free?”
I smiled. I smiled deeply within. I smiled with the love that was given to me…for free.
“Yes I did. And isn’t that what you’ve now discovered that Jesus has done for you?”
She lost it right then and there. She grabbed me full on, hugging on me, sobbing on me, her noise dripping on me, and repeatedly saying, ‘Thank you Jesus’. Ain’t no acting going on there. That was real snot on my shirt.
These men. These good men. These men who were trying to make it work the best they could with what they’ve been given would come at the end of the party. When the line was thin. When no one else was around to see.
They came oh so humbly.
They would motion me over and they would me ask me something like this. “I don’t want this ticket for myself… Can you turn this ticket into two tickets?… Maybe one ticket for a five year old boy and one ticket for an eight year old girl?… I want to get my babies something from their daddy…” I would sometimes see a tear fall on to their boots as they stared down, before they wiped their eyes.
God multiplies fish and bread and Christmas tickets.
Before they walked away and slid into the night with arms full of presents they would say a soft thank you with head bowed down. It was a genuine thank you. It was a thank you that was hard to deliver.
Some people have a hard time receiving gifts. Especially men.
It is hard for some people to receive a gift from their heavenly Father delivered through His audio visuals.
It is innate for most men to want to provide for their families. That’s okay. God made us that way. It is incredibly difficult for a man when he is struggling to provide for his family.
It is hard to receive.
It is easy to give.
It feels good to give.
Serving the gravy is easy compared to eating it.
I’ve concluded that being able to receive is an art, a craft, a learned skill if you will. It takes some practice. The best way to practice receiving is to start practicing giving.
My wife and I were a single car family forever. We liked it. We spent a lot of time talking in that one single car. It was good. We like each other. Even today, now that we have three young never ending noisy boys along for the ride we still enjoy sitting in the front seats and just talking. It’s almost like having a date.
After our first child was born and our life schedules were changing, we came to the conclusion that it would easier all the way around if we had another vehicle. It seemed to be a needed practicality for our life at that time. The deal was however, is that we simply did not have the needed coin to buy a new car. Even if that car was an old high mileage vehicle painted in some horrible two toned paint sequence and stained seats.
So, we asked.
We asked our Father in heaven. We kept it simple. “Father, we may not need another car, but it sure feels that way. Father your Word says, if we ask it will be given. Not that you need any reminding of what Your Word says, we’re just sayin’…”
We lifted up that little prayer for a few nights at the dinner table. Note, I said at the dinner table. We were not fasting for a new car to fall out of the sky, or to magically appear while we poured out our morning Lucky Charms. We simply asked.
About a week later, some friends of ours who lived in Boston, MA and who we hadn’t spoken to for a good stretch of time called us out of the blue one evening.
They got right to the point. “Hey, we know this sounds crazy, but when we’ve been praying this last week, and every single night we both have been getting the notion that we were supposed to buy you guys a car. (Pause for dramatic effect…………) So we did.”
They weren’t joking. They did buy us a car. They bought us a very nice used Honda Accord Station wagon from a dealership in Tallahassee, FL. It was all one color and the seats weren’t stained. All that was required is that I drive down and pick it up.
My wife and I were ecstatic. I was flabbergasted.
I was having a hard time.
Our friends who bought us the car made my salary about 6 xs over. I was suddenly dealing with feelings of inadequacy. Feeling like I wasn’t able to provide for my family. These feelings came upon me instantly.
After we talked on the phone for a few minutes, after I told my friend thanks for the 100th time, I confessed to him that I was really struggling to receive this gift even though I had been praying for the very thing. My friend was silent on the other end of the line.
“What? Do you want me to cancel the purchase?”
No, no, I told him.
“What then? Did you think that car was just going to magically appear from a box of Lucky Charms?”
Besides Himself, we are God’s only audio visual here on earth.