The Gift We Need

The Gift We Need is a short story by Pastor Paul Goedert

It was a time like no other. Christmas. I was nine years old and the magic was still very real to me.  Santa, reindeer, chimneys and everything that goes with it. December was a month filled with family, love, joy, and presents.

OH THE PRESENTS! It seemed like Santa knew not just the things I had asked him for, but all of my secret desires for toys, games and candies! I believed, I wanted, and I got. Christmas was a time of receiving for me. But all of that changed the summer after I turned nine.

My Father was a very important man in our city. He served on the city council, was General Manager of our local bank, and he also taught Bible study at our church. But none of that mattered that summer.

Just like every other July my family went camping over the 4th of July. This year we camped at a state park that we had never been to before. We had a great time, spent nights around the campfire, except for the night that my Dad took us out on Lake Michigan in a boat to watch the fireworks from offshore. It was the best!

A few days after our return my Dad stayed home from work, he told us he had a nasty summer cold, he just needed rest. By the end of the week he was in the hospital, by the end of the month he was gone. The doctor’s told my Mother and older siblings what happened, I couldn’t make any sense of it. All I knew was that he was gone.

School started and things were tough. I missed him terribly, and it showed in my behavior and academics. If I could fight over it, I did. Many days I returned home from school with cuts, scrapes or a fresh black eye. I made sure the other kids did too.

Halloween came, I was uninterested. Thanksgiving came, I didn’t care. But December was approaching, and although I missed my Dad, the thought of all the lights, snow, and Christmas magic gave me a little hope.

Things weren’t just tough for me, my Mother had gone back to work to try and keep us afloat. My Dad’s life insurance had paid off the house, the car and had kept us able to survive for few months. Even I began to notice that things were changing, and not in a good way. Mom’s great meals were being replaced by frozen dinners and fast food. Trips to the movies or the mall got fewer and far between. I could feel the pinch, even as a nine year old boy.

After Thanksgiving my Mom sat me down, told me she needed to tell me something. She began to tell me about how tight our finances were, that we were spending most of what she was making on electricity, heat and groceries. She told me that Christmas would be different this year. She broke it to me that Santa wasn’t real, and that all those gifts had come from my parents. I was devastated, she cried with me. No Christmas this year.

My new reality hurt, and my Mom was trying to make things better. That Sunday we went to church for the first time since my Dad’s funeral. Except it wasn’t our church, we went to the little church down the street from our home, not the church I had always been in, my Mom called it a fresh start, whatever that means.

In our kids lesson that day we learned about Jesus being God’s gift to us. All I could think of was the gifts I wasn’t going to get that year. I knew my Mom would try, but I knew it would fall short of what I had in the past.

Than the hammer fell. Our furnace died two weeks before Christmas, during a record setting cold snap. The last of my Dad’s insurance money and part of what my Mom had saved went to pay for a new furnace. There went Christmas, although my Mom jokingly added that Christmas can’t be fun if you freeze.

Christmas Eve came, the meal was small and unsatisfying. My Mom explained there simply wasn’t enough to splurge on a big meal. The answer left me as empty as the meal. I yelled that I wish Dad was still here,  that he could fix anything, that we would’t be in this mess and Christmas wouldn’t have been ruined if he was alive. As I stomped off to my room for the night, I was the first of what I now know to be many tears that fell from her eyes that night.

My body woke me up at 6am, just like every other Christmas morning. I almost jumped out of bed to run downstairs. But reality flooded back to me and I rolled over. A good three hours later, I finally got out of bed and went down to have whatever breakfast I could find.

To my delight, there was a breakfast of thick french toast, bacon, eggs and strawberries put out for us. My brother who had arrived late had stopped and brought some groceries for us to celebrate. I ate the food hungrily and thought that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. Than I walked into the living room. Disappointment swept over me.

Under the tree, instead of wrapped presents, there were cans of vegetables, fruit, boxes of baking mix, and even some spaghetti noodles. I didn’t understand. My Mom was sitting in my Dad’s chair and she smiled at me, wished me a Merry Christmas, and asked me to sit with her. I sullenly complied.

My Mom opened her Bible and began to read the Christmas story from Luke to me. As I listened, it felt like every Christmas before. This was a tradition and I felt normal for the first time in months. When she finished, she handed me a small wrapped box. It was the only wrapped gift I received that year from her. She looked at me and said “I hope you like it, I know its your favorite.”

I tore into the box, and quickly confusion set in. It wasn’t a toy, a video game, or candy. It was a box of corn muffin mix. Jiffy corn muffin mix to be exact. She was right, it was my favorite, we always had it with chili, fried chicken, and with whatever I could convince my Mom to make it with. I loved corn muffins. But it wasn’t what I wanted.

My Mom looked down and saw my confusion, but she didn’t shed a tear, she simply said “Sometimes the gifts we want, aren’t the gifts we need. I know you want toys, and sports equipment and candy. But right now those are only wants. This box of corn muffin mix is something you need. Not just the food, but the memories, the goodness, the positive feelings that go along with it. I wanted to give you something you needed this Christmas.”

“All of these cans and boxes under the tree, these are my gifts to you this year. Just like God gave us Jesus, to show us love and light, to bring us hope. That is why all this is under the tree. What we need is always greater than what we want.”

I looked around, what I had discounted before became clear to me now. These just weren’t cans of vegetables and fruit. There were cans of sweet corn and green beans, my favorite vegetables. I saw peaches and pears! My favorite cereal was there too, as well as my favorite meal, spaghetti! My Mom had gotten me all of my favorite foods for Christmas. I looked at her with a new understanding.

That Christmas I learned something, it’s not the gift we want that brings us joy or peace or even love. It’s the gift we need. With this new understanding of Christmas and God, I soon gave my life to Jesus. All because of that box of corn muffin mix.

Every Christmas after that, even now as I have children of my own, there is one small box for each. There are still toys, game, and candy. But one box for each gets opened before all the rest, that box is always corn muffin mix. To remind us of the gift we need, family, love, hope, the gift of Jesus.

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Use It or Lose It – October 2017

This October in GL First Kids we are talking about stewardship and all the ways we can take care of what we have, and why. It starts with everything beginning to God, and we are working with the kids on learning how they can use their time, things and money wisely. We will tying it all together by focus our last week on the importance of living our life focused on what really matters.

The other big news this month is the launch of our GL First Kid’s small groups at 9am on Sundays. We have three groups broken up by grade; K-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-5th. The small groups will be reinforcing and introducing the concepts that we are teaching in the 11am GL First Kids church service. Make sure you check out whats happening!

Bible Story: Matthew 25:14-30
Memory Verse: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Luke 16:10a, NIV
Life App: Stewardship: taking care of what you have because it all belongs to God.
Basic Truth: I need to make the wise choice.

As a cook who has worked in restaurants it can get very boring. People for the most part order the same dishes over and over. There is very little change in your job. I love cooking when I can create my own flavors and dishes. That is exciting, making 27 grilled cheese sandwiches in a day, not so much. That’s why I love watching the show Chopped.

The excitement of not knowing what’s in that basket is one of the best parts. But the very best part is finding out how those crazy ingredients are going to go together, and if it is actually going to taste good.

In our story this week a wealthy man went away on a journey. He gave instructions to his three most trusted servants . In the story Jesus says that the man gave one servant five talents, the second one two talents, and the third servant one talent.

Now a talent is a unit of money, like a dollar or a quarter, except that for a common worker in that time a talent was like 20 years of wages. So all three servants were actually given a large amount of money, even the servant who received only one talent. The two faithful servants doubled their masters investment, while the other dug a hole and buried it.

Now “talents” are a metaphor for the abilities and gifts that God has given each and everyone of us. So of us have received many gifts, some it may seem we have received just a few. But all of them have great value, and we have all received gifts from God. Here is what we can learn from the two faithful servants.

You have to learn that you have to…

FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU HAVE

Before the two servants could do anything, they had to figure out what their master had given them.

We have to do the same thing, God has given each of you a unique talent, gift or passion. The best thing that we can do is to figure out exactly what we have right now.

Some of you are gifted creatively, you sing, dance, play an instrument, maybe you paint or draw. Some others of you have been given practical gifts, you could be mechanically or technologically gifted. All of us have traits in our personalities that are a gift. Maybe your compassionate, a great listener, or the best, maybe you can make people laugh. The ability to bring a smile to someones face is one of the greatest gifts.

After you figure out what you have, you have to…

FIGURE OUT HOW YOU CAN USE IT

The two faithful servants invested the money their master gave them, and each doubled the amount they started with.

They knew what their master had given them was something of great value, he had given them something that had been his.

In the story of our lives, God is the master, and He has given each of us something born of who he is. Creativity, compassion, complex thinking, love and even humor. All of these things and more make up who God is. His gift is not just a talent or ability, it’s a spark of His very own life.

Even if it only feels like a little gift, we are still supposed to do something with what God has given us. Burying it in a hole and never using it is not good enough. Keeping our gifts and talents inside the church is also not acceptable.

Let’s talk about the third servant, he did nothing with what the master gave him. And as a result the master took his talent from him, and gave it to the servant who did the most with what he had been given.

You have lots of hopes and dreams for your future. But a has as you try to plan every detail of your life – you can’t. But what you can do is make sure you are taking care of what God has given you. That means doing the best with what you have.

Respect Your Leaders

Bible Story: 1 Samuel 24 – David spares Saul

Bottom Line: You respect God when you respect the people He’s put in charge.

Memory Verse: “Show proper respect to everyone.” 1 Peter 2:17a, NIV

Life App: Respect—showing others they are important by what you say and do.

Basic Truth: I can trust God no matter what.

We wrapped up our month talking about respect this week. We’ve talked about respecting God, having respect for all people, regardless of their situations, race, economic status and popularity. Last week we talked about the importance of respecting our parents.

Throughout all this month there has been one common thread tying it all together, respect for God. It starts and ends there.

Our final week we focused on showing proper respect to the leaders that God has placed in charge of our lives. The need to focus on respect for our leaders is just as important as any of the others we have learned, we respect our leaders because God has put them in charge. If we don’t respect them, we aren’t respecting God’s choice for this time of our lives.

See, if we are to respect God, which is the ultimate goal, than we need to be able to respect the things that God has done (create people) and is doing (creating families and establishing leadership).

We don’t always agree 100% with what God does, because we don’t always 100% understand what God does. But we still need to show respect for those God has placed in authority in our lives. Pastors, teachers, government leaders, parents, and all of the other people God has place in our lives. They are worthy of respect because God has put them there, and by respecting them, we are showing our respect to God.

Here are a few ways we can learn to respect our leaders.

  1. Pray for them. Don’t pray they see your point of view, pray that God would guide them, pray that God would keep them healthy, bless their families. Pray for the person, not the position.
  2. Don’t talk bad about them. So you don’t like them or agree with them. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. This is also a good time to pray… for our own attitudes.
  3. Remember who is really in charge. David had a chance to kill Saul, but choose not to. Instead David relied on God’s plan to make him king, and respected the person God put in charge. David was able to do this because he recognized that ultimately, God is in charge.

Thanks for reading! There is downloadable printout for this weeks lesson review you can share with your child. I am looking forward to our new series in September; Lunchroom, which will be focusing on friendship. See you soon!

Pastor Paul

GL Kids Parents Week 4

You respect God when you respect your parents.

Bible Story: Ephesians 6:1-3; Deuteronomy 5:16

Bottom Line: You respect God when you respect your parents.

Memory Verse: “Show proper respect to everyone.” 1 Peter 2:17a, NIV

Life App: Respect—showing others they are important by what you say and do.

Basic Truth: I should treat others the way I want to be treated.

Respect isn’t always easy. Even when we know we are supposed to respect everyone, situations come when it makes it difficult to make that choice. Especially when it comes to kids and parents.

School is coming, which means your children will be spending less time with you, and more time with other kids. It also means you have less time to parent and correct behavior and help disciple them as they grow in their spiritual formation.

My advice is this… slow it down. Take time to respond, don’t be reactionary. Moments will come, situations will pop up, things will happen that will test you kids respect towards you. Don’t be discouraged, don’t be enraged… breathe.

These are frustrating moments, but they can be teaching and discipling moments too. Use them to point out behavior problems, Biblically, not just opinion. Remind them of the bottom lines for respect that they learned this month in August.

  1. Show respect to God because He’s in charge of everything.
  2. You respect God when we respect the people He made.
  3. You  respect God when you respect your parents.
  4. You respect God when you respect the leader’s He’s put in charge.

Respect is something that is learned, it can’t be forced or natural. Don’t just demand it of your child, embody it. You can’t expect your children to model behavior that you do not. Show respect to others if you expect you child to.

Pastor Paul

Click on the link below for our Week 3 home worksheet!

Drumline – Week 3

 

 

#day1: A Gift

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A child is born, a son is given… a gift. Jesus was exactly that, a gift from the Father to all of humanity. The perfect King to rule and reign over an imperfect world. The prophecy that Isaiah wrote was meant to show us all that God wants for us, fairness, peace, to be our Father, for all eternity. How exciting to think that this one little baby, unremarkable, just a normal human baby, would hold such power,  majesty and mercy in it’s tiny body. God was showing us that you don’t have to be mighty, don’t have to be of proud state, that even the greatest gifts can come from lowly, small beginnings. A baby, wrapped in clothes, the fulfillment of a promise God made… a gift to us.

 

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Red Cup Heart

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Two things you need to know about me. One, I love coffee. Like really love coffee. I used to drive 35 minutes in traffic to get the best cup of coffee I could find. LOVE coffee. 

Second, I have worked my entire adult life, 18 years, in the retail and service industry. I have seen some pretty rough Christmas shopping seasons. But I still love Christmas, and coffee.

At the beginning of November an alarming thing started creeping across my social media feeds. The Starbucks holiday red cup had come out, and to much dismay it was exactly that… red.

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No snowmen, no snowflakes, not even a cheery holiday phrase. Just red. The Christian twitter-verse exploded. People were upset at the lack of holiday cheer, some people were upset at people being upset at the lack of holiday cheer.

It made me stop and think for a moment. Do we as Christians truly display a spirit of thanksgiving? Even if the red cup controversy didn’t upset you, think about how many day to day trivial things we get fired up about. I would daresay that many of us have had our spirit of thanksgiving replaced by a spirit of offense and worry.

I am guilty of this too. As I enjoyed my latest Starbucks skinny peppermint mocha, in all of its offensive redness, I made a choice not to be offended. Not to be upset over things that don’t matter for eternity. To not be upset when lost people act lost.My worry, angst and graceless response to things needs to change and be gone.

Thanksgiving cannot just be a holiday, it has to reflect in the condition of our hearts.

The Apostle Paul says to us,

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!

It says in The Message for to “revel in Him”. That tells me we should be singing, dancing and shouting for joy! But we can’t revel if we are too busy worrying. This is not just Paul’s suggestion for a holiday. He is telling us to live a joy filled life;  so full of the joy of the Lord, that it splashes out and touches those around us.

But how? Rejoice? In a world full of violence, anger and fear. We should rejoice?

Yes. Even in the midst of fear, hatred and sorrow. Rejoice. Why?

Because it is NOT rejoice in the fear. Its NOT rejoice in everything. We are not to rejoice in the positive, or in spite of the negative. BUT we are to rejoice in the Lord, because He is the unwavering constant love in a world full of fear and hate and worry.

Back to those red cups. My local Starbucks gave me a few to play with. And I got a great idea. How we respond depends how our problems and offenses look to us. Check this out.

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View things through a lens of love. Our offenses, our troubles our issues. A few cheap stickers on a cup added some Christmas flair. But when we look at things through the joy of God, our problems also appear smaller, not gone, but under His control.

I want to challenge us all this season of joy and everyday after, to rejoice in the Lord. Choose to respond in the Spirit, in love. Let all fear and worry go, rejoice in the unwavering love of God.