(Image not mine; found here.)
This year my husband and I have been really talking about what we want our family holiday traditions to be. We are both in agreement that there should be a strong emphasis on giving and serving, rather than receiving. We are realizing that in order to implement that as a family when our children are old enough to serve with us, it needs to be our lifestyle right now. Don’t get me wrong, I am so looking forward to giving my little guy gifts for his birthday (which will always be around Thanksgiving) and Christmas! I’ve always been an excited gift-giver, I can’t wait to see the look on a person’s face when I’ve picked out what I think is the perfect gift for them. During this time of year though, I also have a tendency to become more materialistic and that is not the legacy I want to leave for my children. Daily I forget to be thankful that my basic needs of food, water, clothing, and shelter are met without a thought on my part. God is so GOOD!
DISCLAIMER: I am not sharing this to receive a pat on the back or any kind of praise. This is all God’s doing! I am just thankful that God loves me enough to wrestle with my stubborn heart and change me forever! My hope is that He will inspire you as He has inspired us!
For a few months Mark and I have been contemplating moving out of our comfortable suburban home. Initially this idea came out of necessity as I am feeling called to take on more of a stay-at-home mom role in our family. In order to make that happen we needed to minimize our living expenses, thus giving up our large mortgage and ridiculous property taxes (I mean we are paying the same amount for .3 acres as my dad pays for 60 acres!) So as we started looking at properties, we came to the conclusion that the houses we could afford without sacrificing space for our growing family, were in the inner city. I mean, we’re not talking cookie cutter houses here either. We’re talking beautiful Victorian style homes that have been around since the early 1900s so they obviously have good bones. The scary part–I’ve never lived in the inner city. My husband grew up there. He obviously survived. Driving through the inner city and seeing all of the rundown, boarded up houses makes my suburban/rural-raised skin crawl. Hundreds of worse-case scenarios ran through my mind. I mean there are gangs in cities, right? There are thieves and bad people that might want to harm me or my family, right? In the midst of this I heard God whisper, “There are good people too. There are broken people. There are sinful people that need me. Isn’t that you?”
On Thanksgiving, Mark had a heart to volunteer at Target Dayton, a church in the inner city for the poor and homeless. I am so thankful for his heart and perseverance in this. We dropped off our little boy with his Grandma (although I’m sure his sweet smile would be a service to hurting people, I think he might keep mommy a little distracted:). After signing in we sat down to listen for instructions. The pastor’s wife took the opportunity to share their testimony. It was eerily similar to what we were feeling called to do. Fourteen years ago they realized that their lifestyle was not fulfilling God’s commandment to serve the poor and the needy. They left their good paying jobs and their suburban home with a hot tub and pool, rented a house in the city and began the ministry in their home. They provided hot meals and good Bible teaching. They soon outgrew their house and rented another building, which they also outgrew. Six years ago they were blessed with a donation of a beautiful church building with room enough to serve over 250 guests! They have services along with a hot breakfast four days a week and dinners two days a week. You can only imagine the number of lives that have been changed through this ministry, ours included! God used two people to start it all! So excited to see what He has in store for us!
I could feel God doing His painful, yet beautiful transforming work in our hearts through out the day. We were witness to worship of a God who truly deserves all of our praise by people who, by our standards, have little to be thankful for. We were witness to those who are unable to afford homes and food, give an offering to the Lord. As a mama, my heart broke for the mamas that I saw there with their little ones. I can’t imagine how helpless I would feel not being able to feed my son. From the ministry staff we were witness to people who have given up the comforts of this world and their time to love on these broken people. Needless to say, it was a lot to take in!
As we were in the midst of these people I did not feel the temptation to judge these people once. Although, I am curious as to their stories and how they got to where they are, I did not once think that they brought this upon themselves and therefore they deserve not to have food or shelter. I did not see entitled people who think they deserve for their needs to be met. I did not feel my own entitlement to the things that I have because I have worked for them. For those few hours the Lord had changed my heart. Usually, I am ashamed to say, just the opposite is true. How often do I see neglected children and think “how could their parents do this?” never stopping to think that they may not have a choice. How often do I see people with their designer clothes who say they don’t have any money. I never stop to think that it might be their only outfit and it might be from a second hand store. I see people who think that they are entitled to others helping them get by, but I am blinded to my own sense of entitlement. And I feel entitled to food, shelter, water and clothing too! I am no different. All of what I have is the Lord’s. Therefore all of my money, time and belongings should be used to bring Him glory and carry out His will!
I am so thankful for our experience at Target Dayton on Thanksgiving. We left feeling like we got the better end of the deal. We served, but they served to teach us so much. We blessed them, but they blessed us more. This is the lifestyle that I want my kids to know. I don’t want their skin to crawl in the city like their mama. I want them to know that there are so many less fortunate, beautiful people out there and it is our job as the body of Christ to take care of them!
Lord, please continue your transforming work in my heart. Give me strength to put off this sinful heart attitude and start to say “YES” to your call. Remind me that I have nothing to fear when stepping out in faith. Any suffering that I face in this lifetime is “not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18, NIV) Thank you for your Word coming alive to us. In Jesus name, AMEN!
This call to give and not be consumed by materialism is real. These verses reek havoc on my way of life. THIS is what we want to instill in our children, especially around the holidays.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:17-18, ESV)
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27, ESV)
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:13-15, ESV)
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4, ESV)
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. …” (Luke 16:19-25, ESV)
And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” (Luke 3:11, ESV)
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. … (James, 5:1-6, ESV)
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17, ESV)
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20, ESV)
What are some family traditions that you have come up with to highlight the real reason for this holiday season? Please share in the comments!