Book Reviews

Book Review: The Bible

Title: The Holy Bible 
Authors: 40+ men over 1500 years  
Genre: Non-fiction  
Publisher: God  
Release Date: 1535 
Pages: 1,200ish

 

Simply filling out the specs I’m picking a fight. My choice to label The Bible non-fiction communicates:

  1. Ignorance to secular scientists (Gah! Join the 21st century!)
  2. Intolerance to other religions (god wrote our book too)
  3. Combativeness to atheists (your god is what’s wrong with this world).

All that, over genre. No wonder the reviews are either 1. mocking or 2. pertain to the version and/or ergonomic design. No one reviews The Holy Bible for substance. Enter, me. 🙂 …little ole nobody gonna review God’s letter to humanity.

Authorship of the Bible is attributed to some forty bearded men and God. Hand-in-glove is the way it’s described, the men being God’s gloves. I personally struggled with accepting the Bible as written by God. Here’s how it went down, an analogy because I love literary devices:

I was tired. This chair looked really comfortable, but I didn’t trust it. I’d been warned against chairs: they were fine for decoration, but one didn’t actually sit. That was taking things too far. But like I said, I was tired of standing, and the chair looked cozy. How could I know whether or not it would hold? Might there not be a sharp spike just under the upholstery? I was taught in school about chairs; People like Jim Jones and Jim Baker sat in chairs (a murderer and a thief, respectively). But I’d lately learned some great people sat in chairs too. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. I scrutinized my chair from all angles. I asked other chair-sitters how they liked their chair and did it hold? Everything one could do to ascertain the soundness of this chair, I did. Except, I would not sit.

Talking with a chair-sitter one day*, she asked, “Don’t you believe this chair will hold you?”

I said I didn’t know.

To my surprise, she said, “Then we’re done here. There is nothing more I can do for you until you decide to sit in the chair.” I thought she was going to convince me about the chair. No, the only way to know for sure was to sit. She left. I got desperate.

I wanted the comfort of the chair, so I made a conscious decision to trust it. This was a leap in my faith. I had read the Bible before, as a work of literature like Dante or Shakespeare. Now I would read it as the answer to my question: why am I here? I would trust what it had to say. They call it the trust of a child. If you’re new to the Bible you have a decision to make before you open it. Is it or is it not Truth? Pontius Pilate famously asked, “What is truth?” It is not enough to ask. One must pursue truth like a lover.

A pursuit is not a meandering stroll or a meme search. It’s not a glance or a nap or an infusion. Think, stalker.

This image may help (warning: literary device #2): imagine you’re digging for buried treasure. When you’re digging, you sweat. You grunt. You’re not having much fun sometimes, but you’re convinced there’s something worth it, so you keep on digging. You want the treasure more than you want to rest. You throw up a prayer or a curse for your aching muscles, but on you press. This is how the Bible can be. Before you even open it, you must believe there is treasure in those pages. Proverbs 24 advises: seek [wisdom] as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures. 

Post-hole-digger

Not that there aren’t strategies. One can dig for treasure with her bare hands (not recommended). One can use a spade (better). Or one can use a post-hole-digger. Here is your complimentary Bible post-hole-digger:

  1. Start with the book of John in the New Testament. I didn’t listen to this advice and began with Genesis– digging with my bare hands. Thing is, the Bible is also a sort of ledger of Jewish history. There are verbose lists of family lines and architectural instructions and how-to de-germ people and/or your dwellings. Lots of sifting to get to the treasure. I should have listened, story of my life.
  2. As you read, write down questions or observations. One of my husband’s observations was the following insult: “…whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matt. 5:32b) Here was God, it seemed to my husband, rebuking him for his willingness to marry a single mom, adopt her baby girl, and love her as his own. Some people would’ve shut the book then and there or tossed it out the window. But my husband believed there was something worth pressing for, so he kept at it.
  3. Watch expectantly for God to answer your questions through His Word, through “random” people, and through “coincidental” events. Make one small step toward Him, and He will run to you.
  4. Record what happens.
  5. After John, read the other gospels and then the rest of the letters of the New Testament.
  6. Read the Psalms, one-a-day as you do this whole exercise.
  7. You will most likely find yourself undone at some point. The Bible is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) It pierces your heart to be convinced God suffered and died for you. Head knowledge is not the same as heart. We can read about Syrian refugees, but only pictures seem to enter the heart.

This is what happens when you pursue faith. If a human photographer can capture a moment that so awakens our compassion, imagine what God can do if you fix your eyes upon Him.

Trusting the Bible is like sitting in that chair. What I didn’t realize until I sat, was that this wasn’t just some stationary chair in a heavenly lounge. I found the chair to be that of a co-pilot, in the cockpit of some marvelous engine that has taken me places I never would have imagined. I don’t mean exotic earthly places, though I’ve been to those as well. The Bible, my faith, my Lord, the friends and family He’s given me, the meaningful whole that is my life– have taken me to emotionally beautiful places.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44

Usually I rate books numerically according to readability and merit. Because I consider the Bible to be outside the realm of ordinary books, I would not dare assign it a number. None is high enough.

But read it, I challenge you… and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7

*The can-I-trust-this-Bible? conversation happened with a lovely woman who shared her faith with me, Debbie Spink. I remember being stunned she didn’t try harder to convince me the Bible was true or cajole me or debate with me. Her dismissal made me realize I wanted peace more than I wanted to win a debate. After I stewed for several months and gulped down the New Testament several times over, I met with her husband, Pastor Ken Spink. He fielded my gazillion questions and/or objections to the Christian faith.

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Personal Journey

Be the Gift You Want to Get in This World

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“Be the change you want to see in the world” was one of Gandhi’s famous quotes.

Of all the people turned off by Christians, Gandhi is my favorite. Gandhi was perplexed that Jesus’ followers were little crazed antitheses of Him, buzzing about the world scattering judgement like pollen, condemning, wearing the cross and forgetting its dictates.

Though he was turned off by Christians, Gandhi didn’t discount the Man himself. Imitation is not an exact science: if it flatters, it also falters. We are works in progress untill the last breath. My imperfect attempts at being Jesus may be received with misunderstanding and, sometimes, offense. You’re taking this Jesus thing too far has been applied to me. Still, others would say I don’t take this Jesus thing nearly far enough.

Depends who you ask.

People are turned off by a pilgrim taking it too far because a zealot acts unpredictably, often perpetrating heinous acts against humanity: the least of which is discomfiting strangers by talking about God and the worst of which is bringing God’s judgment down upon them– literally, in the form of passenger plane bombs, explosives, etc.

I was taught a catechism of fear– not for God– but religion. Religion makes people weird at best. I learned this in social studies when we discussed Jim Jones (in early elementary school). I learned it analyzing The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter in middle school. I learned it from the nut cases dressed as Jesus, dragging huge crosses along city streets and chanting, “The end is near!”

What I learned was all true. I wasn’t told any lies. But– think Star Wars– I experienced only the dark side of the force and not the light. Half the truth is the best lie because it precludes skepticism. If my cultural experience impressed upon me a fear and loathing of impassioned religion, then did I not receive a broken bowl for a paradigm? Certainly it had the shape of usefulness, but not the essence. No wonder when I tried to pour my life experiences into it, everything leaked out and I was left holding air.

At age 27 I got desperate and decided, against the teaching of my youth, to take this Jesus thing too far. What did that look like? Did I have to renounce logic, sacrifice a chicken, or roll around the altar babbling unintelligible oaths? Hardly.

I picked up a Bible and began reading the book of John. I’d been church hopping, a spiritual Goldilocks searching for a fit. I sat through many a pep talk, incantations, scripted kneelings and standings, services full of buttoned up people whose goodwill didn’t even last into the parking lot. One day I met a man who genuinely, ardently loved his god. Here was a thing I’d never seen before: the other side of the religion equation. It goes without saying you can’t just walk into any church and experience true faith, but walk into enough, and you’ll eventually strike oil.

That is, if you really want to. I hope you do. Don’t let the imperfections of Christ’s followers dissuade you from seeking Him. For who is perfect at anything? I’ve gotten my Jesus step wrong enough times, and those are moments I’m stepping on toes. If I think it’s pollen I’m spreading, it’s my duty to double-check every now and again. The easiest error is thinking we help by spreading a loveless message of judgment. It’s not pollen when I forget to love. But in those moments I am definitely a B—-.

If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:2.

Gandhi and I disagree on what the message should be, but on this we find harmony: My life is my message. As the year draws to a close and our minds are on gifts, it’s a great time to ask yourself if you’ve been the gift you want to get in this world.

Don’t believe the lie that says: If God is any more than a trapping, he’s a trap. Don’t believe religion should be used as the ancients did their spice: to cover the fact that the meat’s gone bad. Jesus made a lot of people uncomfortable when He said he should be consumed. Jesus can’t be taken too far. He is meant to be the main course (John 6:54). Be a pilgrim. Take Jesus too far. That’s not what will actually happen though it may be said of you. If you merely hold out a hand, Jesus takes you too far. And it’s a lovely country.

 

 

Personal Journey

Heal My Soul – Testimony Part III

Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee. – Psalm 41:4b

My memory in the months before I acquiesced to Jesus is hazy. I know I was desperate. I know circumstantially I had everything– as far as the American Dream goes, anyway. Although I had married my prince charming, I was disappointed that I had not become a princess. Like the frog in reverse, I thought his kiss would make me into something beautiful and worthy. When I stayed me, things eventually got ugly.  My twisted thinking went like this: if I can make him bleed emotionally, I can know he loves me.  So that’s what I did.  Yet for all that work and drama, I never felt satisfied that I was loved.  I was ever-grasping at some elusive feeling, some fullness or contentment that always slipped my grip.

stained glassSome Christians I knew seemed to glow.  I don’t mean in the figurative sense; I mean literally glowed– like the stained glass images of old, the sun-shape that seemed to mat the faces. I understand if you don’t believe me.  God gives us each just what we need to make a decision.  I guess I needed that.

Thomas.  Remember him?  He was a contemporary of Jesus and still he wouldn’t believe without digging his fingers into Jesus…

On the outside I was brazen and witty, sarcastic, athletic, in-control. On the inside I was screaming for peace and attention. I wore the slippery mask of confidence, but craved a heart of it.  Like the cowardly lion who wished for a transformation, so I wanted to trade my unstable, flimsy insides for something reliable. But there was no truth. The postmodern lie was nearly my undoing.  I remember reading a book that gave the nuts and bolts, if you will, of all the major religions of the world. One of them has to be right, I thought. When I read it… nothing. More head knowledge. How can there be so many versions of truth? With so many followers of every rendition? It must all be lies, all spins off the main lie that there is something beyond us…

What finally reached me was a man who seemed to be genuinely in love with this person, Jesus. How he addressed his God was both reverent and familiar. It was authentic and lacked the scriptedness I was accustomed to getting at church. My heart melted when I heard– straight from the Bible– who Jesus was and why He came to earth:

WHO has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of a parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. – Isaiah 53:1-6

And this, written about Jesus, hundreds of years before He stepped foot on earth. That wasn’t mentioned in my nuts and bolts religion book. And there’s so much more inexplicable prediction in the Bible. I challenge anyone who hasn’t thoroughly checked out the prophecies on Jesus to finish Isaiah 53 and read the book of John.  What we holiday churchgoers were taught in our brief catechism is the tip of an iceberg so majestic and irrefutable, that, once uncovered, will forever subject us to its awesome power. That is what occurs in the heart of one who comes face to face with Jesus. That is what happened in my heart.

After church, the pastor’s wife came over to me to say hello. I apologized for the blubbering wreck I was. And I’ll never forget her deadpan answer.

That’s the Holy Spirit.

She believed that God’s Holy Spirit was responsible for making me cry, that a physiological reaction was the result of something beyond me, beyond the natural realm, even. Wherever it was from, this brokenness was new and bitter.  It was the beginning of my journey’s end as far as the search for meaning was concerned. The journey was uncomfortable; I had to come to terms with  my own limitations and inadequacies, and accept– as a gift– that God provided a way for me to be right in His eyes.  It is the greatest gift, accepting that Christ died for my sins, that He loved me enough to withstand such humiliation on my behalf.

The love of Jesus: I used to spurn it, used to mock and maul it, but now I embrace the gift we celebrate every year when we stop our freeway-style Christmas season and consider what the essence of Christmas has always been to those who keep it:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people,for today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10 -11

theWordwasmadeflesh

Personal Journey

God Loves Even the Meanest Person – Testimony Part I

There was a time when I did not take God seriously.  But no matter.  He took me seriously.

Of my early memories, this one stands out– my husband and I at age 16 were climbing on a jungle gym, talking about the meaning of life, and blithely dismissing God’s hand in parting the Red Sea because, thanks to advances in technology, we could do it ourselves.  He was into Scientology; I into the Tao of Pooh or Danse Macabre, whichever suited the moment. The deep questions of life I thought could all be solved with reason and logic. I ridiculed faith wherever I saw it and in all its forms, considering it absolutely equivalent to stupidity.  Once, in what I intended to be an act of malice, I sent my sister and her friend to a booth at the county fair that had nearly wasted more than five minutes of my time trying to shepherd me into its folly with a logical question: What is the #1 cause of death?  Bob and I watched, full of venomous giggles, as Heather and her friend listened– it seemed to us, in rapturous attention.  I kept waiting for recognition to register on their faces, to see surprise and annoyance that the booth was a swindle, that big sister had pulled a good one on her little. None came. The joke was on me.

That was interesting, she said when she came back.  Seriously?  Interesting?  How about baloney?  How about gentle people who are off their rockers?  How about being mad that they suck you in with a scientific question and then bait and switch for faith?  I was beside myself.  And confused.

Fast forward ten years.  My husband and I were buying a used car.  We took it for a test drive and of course blasted the radio, which was the most important feature (because we were in denial that this minivan would suck out whatever cool we had left in our souls, and we hadn’t even come to grips with the fact that loud noises of all kinds would be poisonous to us as we advanced in years and had to share our eardrums with little people and all their natural audio).  But what should come pouring out of the speakers?  Jesus music.  I nearly threw up my hand in protest.  I couldn’t turn the station fast enough.  WMMS, please.  And we left it there for them, turned way up so they could get at least a few seconds of good music.  That was the present we left them.  Nice, huh?

I was the kind of person you’d think would never, ever come around to God.  To say I spoke in the dialect of sailors would be an extreme understatement.  I used expletives more liberally than article adjectives and offended anyone misfortunate enough to be within reach.   Here’s an example.  Chrismas shopping at a mall with half the number of parking spaces it needs.  My little sister chats happily next to me about what stores she wants to visit, and my 1-year-old gibbers in her car seat.  Neither one seems to notice or care that I’m in parking hell.  Every time I see an open space it’s taken before I can even shift up into first gear. Stupid stick shift… I am swearing, and not under my breath.  Wait.  Up ahead. An open spot.  As I fumble with the clutch, lurching into 1st gear, a woman sprints by my car.  That’s not surprising, but what is, is that she bolts past my very obvious turn signal and plants herself in my spot, hands on hips, feet wider than hip distance apart.

Brazen.

I politely tell her to move with my teeth clenched and a face not unlike Jack Nicholson’s in The Shining.  I’m here.

“I’m saving this spot for my mother,” she tells me.

“I don’t see your mother,” I say, “and I’m here, with a car. Right now.” The idea of saving a spot with your body broadsided me, I must confess.  I think I lost my head for a minute because I warned her that if she didn’t move I was going to run her over.

She, unlike my sister, didn’t believe me.

I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say I parked the car and commenced our Christmas shopping experience. This is the person God took seriously. When I say God can love the meanest person, I know.

Here is a trustworth saying that deserves full acceptance– Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. — The Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 1:15

Personal Journey, Politics

Hollow. Ween. A Zombie Tradition I Wish Would Just Die Already

GravestoneSkeletonPopsUpMore disgusting and mutilated than any front yard ornament or trick-or-treat costume I’ll see this year is the philosophy behind this “cultural tradition” we call Halloween. Yes, some of you will hate me when I’m done.

An impressionable sapling of a boy was riding in the car with his mom one day when he made this remark: What I like best about Halloween is that everyone gives away candy and you don’t  have to pay any money for it.

Wait.  What?  I nearly threw my computer across the room.  I thought I’d gotten lost in cyberland and was redirected to the democratic party platform or the Affordable Care Act website.  Everyone givesand you don’t have to pay any money for it?!?  I’m not very good at math, but even I know that if everyone is giving, someone is paying money for it.  Just not him– the recipient of the windfall.  But he’s just a kid, right?  He can’t be expected to understand that, can he?  That is the lie our culture perpetrates on young minds.  Thanks for stating it so succinctly, kid.

ZombieAttackUncleSamOf course someone is paying for it; Halloween candy doesn’t grow on trees.  But that’s precisely the problem with our culture and is laser-spotlighted by this boy’s dewy remark.  We teach, sometimes overtly and sometimes through our traditions that it’s possible there really is a free lunch out there somewhere, that it’s possible for everyone to give and for no one to pay.  Isn’t that what we were promised back in 2008 by a certain candygiver, our national SugarDaddy?  But I know many people who are paying for the candy now. And they’re not happy about it.

It gets worse.  His Mom writes:  We all agreed heartily and even as we said so it sunk in further how right he is.  Halloween may be the most givingest holiday we have in the U.S.A. Seriously. Candy is handed out to our friends’ children, our neighbors, and complete strangers all the same. And people who give out treats on Halloween expect virtually nothing in return.  Maybe just a thank you.

Then the coup de grace (again from Mom): Is there any other cultural tradition that compares when it comes to the spirit of altruism?

If Halloween is “the most givingest holiday we have in the U.S.A.” then we may as well build bunkers in the backyard because we’re doomed.  Seriously.  If our greatest act of selflessness, of altruism is to give fun-size chocolate bars to kids dressed up in disturbing costumes, we are an empty, vaporous people, valueless, clueless, and without a scaffold of truth on which to hang anything meaningful.  This is the Kool-Aid of the default culture; it’s the Common Core Curriculum of our moment-by-moment reality: the idea that there is no ultimate responsibility.  Everyone gets and no one gives.  And no one is ever wrong either. Don’t miss that. It’s the real pollution we breathe day in and day out.  It whispers to us in the sidebar ads, screams in the commercials, and lies seductively all throughout the show.  If we don’t step in front of the media tsunami that is our culture, we too will wake up and think the best thing to happen to us is hollow.  Hollow. Ween.  

The greatest act of altruism happened 2000 years ago.  Sorry.  I know it’s not popular right now. But it wasn’t then either.  It was so unpopular that it just might have killed you to sign on.  Now that’s a scary proposition.  But it didn’t deter them from signing on in droves.

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Other than that, I don’t hate anything about the innocuous holiday known as Halloween. Trick-or-treat until your heart’s content.  Dress up. Have fun.  Don’t forget to thank the person who did spend quite a bit of dough on your boon.  And learn as much as you can about the other altruistic days we celebrate.  Please.  Oh please do learn so you won’t think Halloween is the pinnacle of goodness on this earth.  Oh, and the word– holiday originally meant “holy day,” as in celebration of something holy, like God. Sadly, for many people, it now just denotes a hollow day.  There really was someone who didn’t stay dead.  And He didn’t look like a mutilated zombie either, which is probably why His story won’t die. Either that– or it’s true.

Personal Journey

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Taken & edited by my son
Taken & edited by my son

I want to tell you about someone who loves me.

He has loved me all my life, from the time I was in my mother’s womb.  He loved me when I was frail and helpless and messy and when I said silly or ridiculous things; still he loved me.  He did not abandon me when others did, even when doing so would have been understandable.  Caring for me was hard on many levels.  Sometimes I wasn’t loveable.   Sometimes I asked for all his time and attention, as if I were the only thing that should ever matter.  I was selfish.  I was 5, then 9, then 13, but always selfish.  Even when it was hard he loved me.   He is loyal and keeps his promises, even to his own hurt.

And as I grew I did hurt him plenty.  His boundaries for me, though set for my safety and well-being, were like prison bars and handcuffs.  I bristled against him and his love whenever I got the chance.  I reveled in rebellion, never considering how my behavior made him feel.  And still he loved me and provided for me all things, even beyond my necessities.  He even provided fun.  In fact, fun is what he loves best.  He loved and still loves laughing with me.

He loved me when I was not returning his love.  It was often a one-sided affair. The Bible describes this love: “There is not fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) For the longest time I could not fathom what it meant because I was always afraid of losing the love of this or that person.  How could love be fearless?  When all the while he was demonstrating for me exactly how.   He gave me love without concern for getting.  Anything.  Perfect love is not a deposit into escrow for later.  It is forgotten the moment it leaves a soul, bound for another, and its only concern is for the other.  Perfect love doesn’t need to fear because it is the origin.  I can send it like a letter and know that it got there, even if I don’t get an rsvp.  That is what he did for me.

Those of you who know me probably think I’m talking about Jesus.  Those of you who know my dad may have realized I’m talking about him.  My dad gave up his life to single-handedly parent me and my brother when we were 5 and 2, respectively.  My dad put up with the most hellacious, maverick, conniving child ever to crouch on a parent’s last nerve.  But enough about my brother…

Seriously, I was the bane of his existence in my teenage years.  He tirelessly taught me what it looks like to respect someone, to love selflessly and perfectly.  Today is his birthday.  Happy Birthday, Dad.  I love you.

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Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

does not act unbecomingly; is does not seek its own, is not provoked,

does not take into account a wrong suffered,

does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Personal Journey

Love, Wrapped Up

Me with Grammy's afghanIt’s Christmas time.   And as Scroogie as it is to talk about this, most of what my thoughts gravitate toward is… money.  I wish it weren’t true.  I am constantly planning how I can get awesome, appropriate, and unique gifts at the best prices.  A fourth generation bargain Betty, I can’t resist a thrift store and can lose myself for hours in the behemoth Salvation Army nearby.    I liken it to hunting.   You have to get there early for the best pickings.  You must be patient and meticulous, diligent, and only rarely do you come away with a prize (like this sweater I’m wearing).  Mostly it’s just  waiting for something magical that never actually materializes.  And just like hunting, it can be a messy or dangerous endeavor.   I once had a large black spider fall out of a pair of jeans I was trying on.  Now I shake them before slipping my leg into those dark places, and I pray I don’t get lice, scabies,  or any other icky bonus as a direct result of trying on clothes.     Although I enjoy picking through junk, it’s not exactly the place to get awesome and appropriate, (although you can get unique) presents.  So once a year I’m forced to pay full price.  Am I throwing up while keying in my credit card numbers?  You bet.

My grandmother gave us kids used gifts every year.  “Thou shalt not buy anything new,” was her mantra.  Her gifts were always unique, sometimes appropriate, and once in a blue moon, awesome.    Is it because they didn’t cost her much that I didn’t feel the love?  Sometimes gifts have a time price tag, crafts whose extravagance is the many hours spent fashioning them.   The afghan my grandmother gave me was absolutely delightful for the thirty deluded seconds I thought she had crocheted it.    The problem was that I pictured my Grammy squirreling away gifts and then indiscriminately passing them out as the need arose.   I wanted a premeditated gift, one pondered upon and deemed perfect for me, not just perfect for any kid; I wanted it to cost her.

Am I mean?

Don’t answer that.  It’s a rhetorical question.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I love my Grammy and her gifts, although opening them felt somewhat like playing the lottery.  I think I wanted it to cost her because love is proportional to sacrifice.    Or maybe it would be better to say love equals sacrifice.  They are the same thing when they are true.  Take love as described in the Bible:  “Perfect love has no fear.”  How is that possible?   All human relationships are subject to betrayal and thus a possible source of fear.  Add to that the fact that people are messy and used, and sometimes full of spiders, and the odds are significantly against not feeling pain in love at one time or another.  Still, we are loved by God.  His love doesn’t depend on our worth or our response to Him.  That’s why it’s perfect… and fearless.   If I love like He loves, my love doesn’t depend upon the object; no reciprocity necessary.  That is incredibly freeing (and incidentally, incredibly useful when raising teens).

God loves us by giving the gift of Jesus to anyone who will accept him.  I can say it’s a lovely gift under the tree, but it doesn’t become mine until I act.  Act in faith this season if you haven’t already.