Thursday, December 31, 2020

Give Careful Thought to Your Ways

I love reading and have been developing the discipline since 2012 when a group of ladies at my church decided to start a book club.  Though the group eventually disbanded, my reading continued.  As I read more, I try to push myself into genres that are less comfortable for me.  I have found over the years that I struggle with older books for a variety of reasons, but at the same time I love having read the classics.  So this year I set out to read A Christmas Carol.  I bought a copy which just so happened to come in a collection of Dickens' holiday stories.  Who knew there were others?

I did not read them all, but I read The Chimes, which was definitely more challenging to enjoy because I was more unfamiliar with the story than A Christmas Carol.  One character stood out, a man who wanted to make sure that all his debts were paid before entering the New Year.  Did I say "wanted"?  I mean he was piously obsessed with the idea and judged anyone who might not be able to do the same.  Convicted, I managed to come to terms with the fact that I have a mortgage that won't be paid off in 2020 and one credit card carrying a balance into the new year.

But another idea struck me, that there may be non-financial areas that I am indebted, and these matters could be tended to before the clock strikes midnight tonight.  So here I am, at almost noon on December 31, working through my To Do List.

This year was unprecidented in many ways, none of which I need to rehash here.  However, thinking about the last 365 days of my life, I can honestly say that I have seen God move in ways I never expected.  My 2020 goal was to give careful thought to my ways from Haggai 1:5. When I chose this focus for 2020, I had no idea what the year had in store.  I mean, come on, did any of us?  However,  I've give a lot of thought to a lot of things because of the significant challenges faced in 2020. Most of my thought has been in how I do things.  And from time to time, expecially in some of the earlier times, I thought of how I want to do things (as in, how I want to do things when all of this is over). To date, I’ve given little thought to how I used to do things.  In fact, I don't think I would have even begun to think about how I used to do things if it hadn't been for two unrelated people who mentioned the idea to me relatively close together.

In considering past behavior, I’m not advocating that people can’t/don’t change. However, types of changes and reasons for those changes may be insightful. For example, if your youth was filled with nature and exploration, but you no longer participate in these activities, you may learn that you’ve given up on a pastime that helped you relax and stay healthy. Alternatively, you may have developed allergies and decided it was no longer worth the effort to prevent rashes and sneezing. Theses two responses are markedly different.  In considering how you used to do things you give yourself the opportunity to measure your changes - for better or worse.

So perhaps, the greatest lesson I've learned this year when it comes to considering my ways is the necessity of a holistic approach when doing so. I cannot just look at how things are.  Some seasons are unavoidably challenging (hello, 2020?).  I could not have done anything to prevent this year from playing out the way it did globally, though I could make choices to impact the way it played out personally.  I don't mean in my health necesarily, for we all know that sometimes a person is careful and still gets sick.  Moreso, I mean that I can chose to put my faith in God and seek Him in every situation.

It's funny that the words of Haggai seem more fitting today than when I first read them.  There seem no better words to end this year with than the ones with which I began:
     Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
     This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.  Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands...”
     Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you...” (Haggai 1:5-11,13 NIV)
Indeed, God is with us.  In the temple. On the mountain top.  And in the drought. God is with us. Amen.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Advent 2020: Two Perspectives on Love

This post is part of a series of reflections on Advent.
You can read the first post here: 33 DAYS AND COUNTING.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
(Luke 2:7, NASB)

Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13, NASB)

How to love, as with most things in life, is part instinct and part experience.  From an early age we are taught ways to express love.  Some families are affectionate, and some are not.  Some give lots of gifts, while others put more value in spending time together.  (For more information on ways to express love, I highly recommend The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.)

My family was never especially affectionate. I don't remember cuddling or holding hands, and hugs weren't frequent.  In fact, my sister has reminded me more than once of the time I refused to hug her.  One Christmas, as we left my grandmother's house, I began the always awkward process of saying goodbye to my extended family with hugs.  These weren't the warm embraces I now give friends I haven't seen in a while.  To me, these hugs were just what we were expected to do; they were obligation.  As I worked my way around the room, I arrived at my sister, who instead of hugging, I told "I don't hug people I see everyday."  My comment, though out of place, was true.  We didn't hug everyday.  And in my early adolescent years, I could not make sense of why that day should be any different.

I've heard many people speak of seeing the variety of people as a testament to God's creative nature.  I understand this sentiment, but it's challenging for me.  Sometimes it feels as if we are a piece in a jigsaw puzzle, with each piece needing to connect in just a certain way for things to work out.  Those who have connected, or begun the process of connecting with other pieces, are optimistic.  They see their purpose or at least feel they have one.  Those who are still laying in the pile, though no less important, see things negatively. Could it be that our ability to love and be loved hinges greatly on this point of view?

The Christmas story, too, offers the opportunity to viewed from two different perspectives. The story most know begins with a young woman singing out "my soul magnifies the Lord!" (Luke 1:46). It progresses with a trip across country and culminates with the sweet scent of a new born baby and the star that shined so brightly.  The other reading of the story is very different indeed. It begins with asking God "why me" followed by months of rumors surrounding the unwed soon-to-be mother. An inconvenient census leads this girl to birth her child while the stench of a barn fills her nostrils with each deep, labored breath in the darkness of that night.  It is either the story of homeless refugees who fled for their lives or the generosity of the strangers who welcomed them in. We see either gold, frankincense, and myrrh or tears, blood, and dirt.

My younger son suffers from abdominal migraines.  His episodes have been intermittent over the past five years with more than one trip to the emergency room when the attack was more severe.  I thank God that they seem to be occurring less frequently.  He has only had one minor issue this year, but this morning I woke early from the bathroom light shining down the hallway and under my bedroom door.  It had been on for a while, but in my sleepiness I could not make sense of it until I heard the all too familiar voice at my door "Mom!  I feel lightheaded" as he dropped to his knees, crawling back to the toilet.  He had already taken his medicine and waited uncomfortably for the pain to subside. I sat beside him in the bathroom, rubbing his back and handing him toilet paper to wipe his mouth.  When the worst of it had passed (meaning, after he had thrown up), I got him some water to wash out his mouth.  I made the couch comfortable for him to lay down and watch television.  I got him crackers and sat with him until he fell asleep again. There was little I could do for him except lay down my plans for the morning for his needs.  And, ultimately, I was able to still accomplish the other items I needed in a timely manner.

In John 15, when Christ said that laying our life down for someone was the greatest expression of love, it is understood that He was speaking of His coming death.  Yet, we are only able lay down our life in that final way once, and quite frankly, many of us do not get the chance to approach our death with enough forethought to be that significant.  However, we have opportunities every day to lay ourselves down in our living. In so doing we teach others what true love.  Even Christ had been modeled this kind of love from His earthly beginning. When Mary laid Him in the manger, she was also laying down her own life.  It was not an obligation; it was an honor. May we be as wise.

Friday, December 18, 2020

FMF: Conclude

          At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”
(John 7:25-27, NIV)

          Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
          The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes."
(John 9:28-30, NIV)

We've all been there, playing a mental game of chess and we've move three steps beyond what is actually happening. We jump to conclusions so fast we should get a gold medal.  Please tell me I'm not the only one.  In the book of John an interesting juxtaposition exists between two groups of people who conclude who Jesus is.  In John 7, the people of Jerusalem decide Jesus is not the Messiah because they know where Jesus came from.  Two chapters later, in John 9, the Pharisees conclude that Jesus is not the Messiah because they don't know where He came from.  As it was in John, so it is for us.  When it comes to God, we rarely know the entire story.  Even when we know a lot, we may lack sufficient knowledge to understand its significance. God is up to something that we could not guess.  He does things bigger and better than we can imagine.  So as we conclude 2020, I tip my hat to God for filling this years with things that we couldn't have imagined, and I pray that He allows me to retire from my Olympic caliber spiritual high jumping career.

This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Empty Bank Accounts and Hearts Filled with Joy

I praise the Lord because he advises me...
You will teach me how to live a holy life.
Being with you will fill me with joy;
at your right hand I will find pleasure forever.
(Psalm 16:7,11, NCV)

It happened unexpectedly, as it usually does. I checked my bank balance and saw an amount significantly lower than I expected. With only $15 and four days until pay day, this was problematic. So I gathered all the cash I could find and warned my husband not to use our debit card. That was Sunday.

I must admit that the event came with a mix of emotions. I was already aware that we had been looser with our spending than we should have been, but I was struggling to make changes to improve our situation. A little less take out and a little more effort in our kitchen would have gone a long way. This knowledge brought guilt and regret. It was definitely humbling.

On Monday morning I made a plan for making it to Wednesday, using only the cash I had scraped together. Breakfast was easy. We already had plenty of cereal and oatmeal at the house. Lunch would also be easy - leftovers or sandwiches. We aren't very creative for daytime meals, but I like for dinner to be special. Don't get me wrong, we don't pull out our china.  We don't even have real china. In fact, dinner is often eaten sitting in front of the television, but the dinner meal is the one that warms my heart. Using a grocery store card with an unknown amount and a $20 gift card to a BBQ restaurant, I felt like God had provided, and I knew it we'd make it without an inconvenience to my family.

The grocery store gift card was for a store I don't frequent, part of the reason it had gone unspent. When I arrived at the store I was pleasantly surprised to discover it had a $50 balance. Again, I felt certain that this was God's means of provision. Not only was I able to buy the items needed for veggie wraps for dinner that night, I bought several sides for dinner Tuesday night to accompany the $20 of tri tip I would order from the BBQ restaurant.

On Tuesday I was reminded that God's ways are better than my ways (Isaiah 55:8). About 10am I realized I hadn't checked the mail on Monday. I opened my mailbox to find two small Amazon deliveries, a Christmas card, and two other envelopes I hadn't expected to come.  I knew the first envelope would come eventually but did not expect it to come that quickly. It was a reimbursement from my college for my Spring semester fees. My heart was filled with joy thinking about when I had discovered that this money was owed me.  I still don't know how or why it happened.  The fee waiver must be requested, and I had not made a request.  But at this moment of need, it was exactly what I needed.  I was reminded that God's timing is always right, even in hardship (Ecclesiastes 8:6).

But what about that other letter? I opened it and saw a refund from my insurance company for overpayment of my premium.  I have no idea why this money came, as I guarantee you that I paid only the amount requested when I renewed my policy.  It was the third of three Christmas gifts that would help to restore joy until me.  Those gift cards and fee reimbursements were gold, frankincense, and myrrh to my spirit.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Exchanging Sorrow for Joy

You changed my sorrow into dancing.
You took away my clothes of sadness, and clothed me in happiness.
(Psalm 30:11, NCV)

Since 2009 a group of my friends from high school have gathered each December for a cookie exchange. The first few years we gathered in the small apartment of my friends who host, but over the years as there have been more spouses, children, and friends of friends who attend, we have moved the gathering to their clubhouse. Though the clubhouse is sizeable, we tend to remain close together, huddled over appetizers with drinks in our hands. Thanks to the thoughtful nature of our hosts, there is always warm apple cider for folks like me who don't drink - and plenty of alcohol to pour into it for my friends who do.

If I tried to write about all the moments that have brought me joy through the years, I'm not sure a post like this would contain it. For four of the six first years I won the Miss Congeniality Awards: Most Creative, Best Decorated, and the like.  I appreciated those awards, but I wanted my name engraved on the platter, an honor only given to the overall winner.  In year six I came close, but ultimately lost to the very cookie I had voted for.  We still laugh about that. I did finally win in year seven with a Cheesecake Cookie that remains a family favorite.

Though the event is fun, the judging is serious.  There are rules that must be followed to make sure the event remains a cookie exchange.  That means that no matter how delicious or beautiful your entry is, if it isn't baked it won't win.  This has been a hard lesson, especially in early years.  Judges won't be fooled by store bought cookies. And a chocolate chip cookie - no matter how perfect - just doesn't have what it takes.  When a person joins us for the first time, there's just no way to adequately prepare them for what is about to happen.

If I'm being honest, there have been years that were tremendously hard to attend. More than once I've sat in the parking lot a few extra moments before I entered event to make sure that the tears I had just cried were well hidden. Yet even in the hardest year, something special has always happened. My spirits are lifted simply by being with people who accept me. I never want to leave, but when I do, my face muscles hurt from laughing so much. My tears of sadness have been replaced with tears of laughter. I am covered with the perfume of all the friends who have hugged me... and some frosting.

This year so many of us need this kind of exchange. I understand why we won't be gathering and even respect the decision. But it doesn't stop my heart from longing to once again feel that kind of joy.  Instead, I sit here in the early morning light with a strong cup of coffee and leftover cookies thinking of them.  This one's for you, girls.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Advent 2020: Two Bundles of Joy

This post is part of a series of reflections on Advent.
You can read the first post here: 33 DAYS AND COUNTING.

Christmas 2006 was especially meaningful for me. I connected with the story of Christ's birth in a way  I never had before.  Like Mary, I was "great with child" (Luke 2:5, KJV). The idea of traveling across country or giving birth in a barn, though remote possibilities, seemed less festive and more concerning to me. Fortunately, neither became a reality, and I gave birth to my 9 pound, 14 ounce, two-week-early baby in the place and manner we had prepared for. Every birth story is special, including the two that are part of the Nativity in Scripture. Rightfully, we focus on the birth of Christ, but His birth is actually preceded by an equally amazing birth: the birth of John. Why is it so amazing? I'm glad you asked.

It Reminds us of the Error in Human Judgement
Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. (Luke 1:6-7, NIV)

We are introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth with three primary pieces of information; they were righteous, they were childless, and they were old. All three are important to know about them because it sets the stage for the miracle that was about to occur. It was commonly believed that childlessness was the expression of God's punishment, as is similarly seen in John 9 when the disciples asked Jesus if it was a man or his parents whose sin caused his blindness. However, Luke's account makes it clear that their childlessness was not a result of God's wrath, instead stressing their holy qualities. Not only were they both from the family of priests, they had kept all God's laws - and kept them well. We read this story with the benefit of hindsight, knowing that, just like the blind man, "this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9:3, NASB).

It Reminds us that God Can Use any Tradition
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. (Luke 1:8-9, NIV)

My husband likes to tease me by calling me "Anthropologist Amie" when I share tidbits I learn about historical culture. Most of the information is useless, but it fascinates me. Anthropologist Amie would like to point out to you that the priests' tradition was drawing lots to decide who had temple duty. In my church's tradition we nominate leaders and let church members vote for key leadership roles. Is one better than the other? Voting is certainly more in line with our American culture, but it is clearly not the only way. This feels like a powerful fact in 2020, perhaps more than it has in any previous year.  Over the past nine months we have done many things differently in churches around the world.  Our traditions have swayed, shifted, and stopped, but God is not in the tradition.  The tradition is just one way to express our adoration to God.

It Reminds us of God's Timing
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John." .... Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:13,18, NIV)

How long had Zechariah prayed for a child?  Perhaps a more interesting question is, was he still praying for one?  Because Zechariah responds in the way he does, it sounds like he lost all hope of having a child. The Greek word that translates "be sure" in the NIV is GINOSKO, and it expresses a deep, intimate knowledge.  For Seinfeld fans, it's not too different than the Hebrew word YADA, as in He knew his wife.  In fact, in verse 34, Mary asks the Angel how she could be pregnant because she has never known (GINOSKO) a man.  I am not suggesting that Zechariah was asking the angel how to have sex with his wife, but instead, it shows the doubt Zechariah had that this would be something he would see up close and personal in his own life.  By earthly measures, his opportunity had passed, and Zechariah was well aware of that.  However, as the Bible models over and over again, God doesn't just do things, He does them at the right time.  If God had answered Zechariah's prayers at any other point in his life, John would not have been able to be who he was in Christ's life.

It Reminds of the Role we Play
After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (Luke 1:24-25, NIV)

Scholars can debate whether Zechariah played an active role in getting Elizabeth pregnant. Though God's miraculous power does not limit Him from enabling Elizabeth from getting pregnant without the help of her husband, scripture only tells us that one of these pregnancies (Mary's, not Elizabeth's) was by divine impregnation.  I choose to believe that Elizabeth got pregnant the old fashioned way. Zechariah and Elizabeth worked to see the promise fulfilled, but they gave credit to God for accomplishing it.

How many things in my life have I failed to give God credit for because I see the obvious work that I put into accomplishing them?  Too many to count.

So as I turn my eyes past Advent, to look at whatever may come my way, I choose to give God the credit now, even before life's next bundle of joy has been conceived in me.

The next post in this series can be read here: TWO PERSPECTIVES ON LOVE.

Friday, December 11, 2020

FMF: Beyond

Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure. (Genesis 41:49, NIV)

It's peace week here in the Advent* world, so it's only fitting that the Five Minute Friday prompt would be "Beyond." This week many believers have studied peace beyond understanding (Philippians 4:7).  It's a hard concept for many, myself included.  I often think that God's peace is for my benefit.  In part, of course, it is.  God loves His children and does not want us to be troubled (John 14:27), but God's peace is not like the world's peace.

In the story of Joseph, the peace given to him - through enslavement, imprisonment, and ultimately success - was not so that he had a fat resume or felt good about himself when he laid his head down at night.  In Genesis 50:20 Joseph reveals what he himself could only have learned from God: His difficulties and his successes were intended by God to save many lives.  Knowing that must have allowed Joseph peace.

If we, like Joseph, know that God intends good for us - even when others mean harm - we too can experience His peace.

This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit

*You can read my 2020 Advent reflections by starting with this post here: 33 DAYS AND COUNTING.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Servant Leadership

Jesus called all the followers together and said, “You know that the rulers of the non-Jewish people love to show their power over the people. And their important leaders love to use all their authority. But it should not be that way among you. Whoever wants to become great among you must serve the rest of you like a servant." (Matthew 20:25-26, NCV)

It's recently entered my mind that I'm not always a great leader.  I have a natural gifting for organization that I have worked to develop throughout my life, but when it comes to people - Lord, help me!  First of all, I'm frustrated easily.  I find myself wondering why a person would do, or not do, something the way they did it.  This is problematic because, as my husband has told me, I have a unique way of looking at things.  Sometimes my perspective is good, and sometimes it's not as good.  I don't understand people who are perpetually late, maybe in part because I am impatient. And I get tired of having the same conversation over and over and over again without seeing any change come of it. I clearly have a lot to learn.

Today I watched my boss walk away from the list of things he had planned to drive a forklift.  Keep in mind, my boss is a pastor. He does have many years experience as a forklift operator, but those years were also many ago. He set aside his plans to use the skills he has to get a job done - a job that few will know he did.

But I saw.

And God saw.

Inspired by his example, I did a job no one enjoys but everyone appreciates once done:  I cleaned the toilet in our office. Today toilets, tomorrow feet.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Advent 2020: Peace and Two Dreams

This post is part of a series of reflections on Advent.
You can read the first post here: 33 DAYS AND COUNTING.

Today is the second Sunday of Advent. Today we look for peace. Scripture tells us that peace is something we need to put effort into obtaining (2 Peter 3:14) but also something that is given to us by God (John 14:27).  Jesus is Prince over a kingdom of Peace which never stops growing (Isaiah 9:6-7), but when I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that I don't always feel the ever-expansive peace of Christ.

The inclusion of the wise men in our modern telling of the nativity is interesting.  Despite modern depictions, the wise men didn't present their gifts to the Christ Child while He was still laying in the manger.  When they saw the star that signified His birth, they travelled from the East, stopped in Jerusalem, and met with the King... all before continuing on to Bethlehem. In fact, because Herod called for babies under two years of age to be killed, some believe Jesus could have been almost two before the wise men came to Him. Regardless of when, Scripture tells us that they presented Christ with those now iconic gifts - gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The wise men had done what they set out to do, and they were ready to go home, "But God warned the wise men in a dream not to go back to Herod, so they returned to their own country by a different way" (Matthew 2:12, NCV).

Scripture seems to be full of accounts of people who received a message from God by dream or vision. In the next verse - literally, the next verse - another dream comes as a warning. This time, however, it is Joseph who is the recipient.
After they left, an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, because Herod is starting to look for the child so he can kill him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to return.” So Joseph got up and left for Egypt during the night with the child and his mother. (Matthew 2:13-14, NCV)
Why is it that God once spoke so often through dreams, but now it seems that He no longer does? First of all, we have something better than dreams.  We have the Spirit. We are taught that the Spirit teaches us (John 14:26), guides us (John 16:13), convicts us of sin (John 16:8), gives us power (Acts 1:8), and even tells us what to say (Luke 12:12). These are some of the things that were once accomplished by dreams. However, I think there is a second fact: we don't think that God speaks through dreams. Why would God speak in a way we are unwilling to hear?

What little faith I have! Of course God still speaks through dreams. Is my memory that short? I had a series of dreams about ten years ago that were unsettling. They weren't scary, but they shook my faith. I will admit, I don't think I responded in the way God wanted.  I suppose in that regard, the dreams did scare me because they required to do something that was well beyond my comfort level.  God, forgive me for not having more faith in that situation.

That brings me to this, and it may be just for me, but I feel like I need to write it all the same. If God speaks through dreams, historically and in my own life, I must respond appropriately to God-initiated dreams. A good friend and spiritual mentor recently shared with me a dream he had about me that he couldn't shake. He believed it was more than a dream, that it was a vision. The dream was too big, and would be too painful if I believed it and it did not come to be, so I pushed it away.

Peace is not always found where we thought it would be. The wise men went a different way. Joseph picked up his family and ran. What you or I will have to do, God only knows. We find peace in listening to God and heeding His warnings - sometimes from Scripture, sometimes from counsel, and sometimes from dreams.

The next post in this series can be read here: TWO BUNDLES OF JOY.

Friday, December 4, 2020

FMF: Present

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11, NIV)

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6, NIV)

On a table in my living room sit two pieces of art created by kids.  Last year, my older son presented me with ceramic bowls he made in a pottery class, and a few years before that my younger son presented me with a wire sculpture he made. They are both blue, and they were both presented to me as gifts, but they bear no other similarities.

In the old testament, believers were given precise instructions as to what they were to present to God.  Grain, oil, and animals were some of the items presented to God.  But even then, the law made allowances. If a person did not have one thing, another could be presented to God in its place.

Though the way we make offerings to God has changed, He still only expects us to present Him with what we have.  Like my children, God does not compare our gifts to others' gifts.  I would not have criticized my son's sculpture because it was not a bowl any more than I would have rejected my other son's bowl because it was not a sculpture. The beauty of giving to God is that He only asks us to present to Him what He has already given to us.

This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit