Whatever is Pure - September 2007
What's A Poor Guy Supposed To Do?
Every year, I would watch with a mixture of pity and amusement as my poor father squirmed in his chair on three separate occasions: Christmas, Mother's Day, and my mother's birthday. He was given the daunting task of buying a gift that would be acceptable to his spouse. My mother always purchased the children's gifts and the gifts to extended family, wedding gifts and the like. As a result, she felt she was not asking too much in expecting someone else to buy her own gifts. Valentine's Day was easy as my mother was more than happy with the traditional box of chocolates and card; you see, she was somewhat of a chocoholic and even my shopping-challenged father could find the chocolate section of our local drug store.
In the early years of their marriage, my mother would reply. "Surprise me" when my father asked what she would like as a gift. After several 'surprises' that were the cause of much marital strife, my mother begrudgingly provided her hapless husband with a list of items that she would actually like. Over the years and after many disappointments, she further refined the list by promising the items from 'most wanted' to 'least desired'. Dishes, hand-mixers and other kitchen appliances usually fell into the 'least desired' position but they often found their way under the tree or on to the birthday table. My mother could not or perhaps chose not to hide her disapproval or disappointment upon opening gifts received from my father.
When I was around the fourth grade, my father figured I was old enough and brought me along on his annual Christmas shopping trip, perhaps thinking that a ten-year-old female would understand the mystique of a grown woman better than he would. When we pulled up to our local deep-discount department store, I knew my father had made his first mistake. When we headed toward the household section of the store, I whistled under my breath. Mistake number two, Dad! Looking up into my father's earnest, red face and then looking down at his white-knuckled hands clenched onto the shopping cart in front of him, I wisely kept my counsel as he loaded the cart with dozens of the cheapest coffee mugs he could find. Coffee mugs were indeed on the list my mother provided, the third or fourth item below clothing, books and bubble bath. I suppose he felt that if he purchased enough mugs during this one expedition, he'd never need to go through the torment of buying mugs again in his lifetime. The year he came home with a dozen huge ashtrays whose uneven bottoms scratched my mother's coffee table should perhaps wisely stay in the murky annuals of unfortunate gift purchases. Upon the dawn of easy access to gift certificates, my father's major gift buying trips slowly faded away.
My father was a very generous man and was the first to reach into his pocket or larder to give to a friend or family member in need, even if it meant giving the last dollar in his billfold or the last can of soup in the pantry. As I accompanied him on various gift-buying missions over the years, He never conveyed any resentment although it seemed that it didn't really matter what he brought his wife; she'd probably find some fault in it. I only sensed his anxiety -- he wanted to get it right, to please her, even if it was only once! His heart and intention was to bless his wife - even if it killed him in the process.
Having several male friends who are married, I have witnessed their struggles in the same area. Desperately wanting to bless their spouses with awesome gifts, these husbands may not be versed in the finer details and find themselves to be on the receiving end of looks of disappointment or worse.
I have been guilty of placing the same pressure on friends and loved ones, expecting them to provide me with the perfect gift, love me in what I perceived to be the perfect way, extend to me the perfect words, and bestow on me the most thoughtful of sentiments. Because of my inability to see the larger picture and see the heart of the giver, I became increasingly disappointed, resentful and hurt over the 'thoughtless' treatment towards me by those I held dear in my heart. A few years ago, the Lord gently exposed my ungrateful heart and I repented. The eyes of my heart opened to see the honest love that was behind every imperfect gift given and the generous heart behind every less-than-graceful worded blessing bestowed on me by my friends and family. Since then, I can happily testify that as I grow in the practice of seeing others through a grateful heart, the disappointment and resentment fade away and I possess a deeper awareness of the daily blessings that the Lord brings my way.
From the DCQ Archives:
We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?
A Prayer To You Lord GodDearest the Lord thy God,
I come to You on bended knee,
Giving praise, honor and glory,
And whatever else pleases Thee.
In the almighty name of Jesus I pray,
Thank You, Heavenly Father for another day,
It's not about the kind of weather outside,
But the spirit of the Messiah, Christ Jesus in my life,
Greetings also from fellow saints who trust and believe,
Through faith & patience Your promises we will receive,
Cheerfully spreading the Gospel with a consecrated kiss,
Exodus 23:25 by blessings sickness is taken from our midst.
It's only fitting that I start the day,
With an acknowledgement of spirit and grace,
For surely salvation has come my way,
Putting smile after smile on my face,
Making easier the sometimes stormy daily grind,
Because it is stated throughout the Bible many times,
Psalms 118:8 don't put confidence in man, trust the Lord, I am,
Psalm 31:15 & 38:9, my time & desire are in Your hands,
With sincere faith, belief and trust in the Son of Man,
Philippians 4:13, through Jesus Christ (all things) yes I can.
Your divine will is what I seek my Father,
When my plans are not blessed by You, why bother?
Woe be unto to me I would ask and receive,
Something I could get and not really need.
Gifts of a certain nature that I know all so well,
Tools to be used by Satan for a one way ticket to hell,
A prize that is not a prize for what it really should be,
Romans 10:9, confess Jesus is Lord, you’re saved & set free,
I ask in the name of Jesus, seeking strength for everyday strife,
My goal is to have the door open to Heaven gaining eternal life.
Well, my Heavenly Creator it's time for my day to begin,
To walk in the steps of Christ Jesus my protector & friend,
Till tonight comes Father God when I kneel once again,
Through the shed Blood of Jesus, thank You and Amen.
© 2004 by Luke Easter
Isaiah 45:3 NIV
"Let's go!" The captain of the small boat grinned ear to ear as he stood with one foot in the boat, and one foot on the dock. My stomach was churning with both uncertainty and excitement as our mission team headed out to a tiny island several miles away.
Thank you Lord, for all that goes wrong in our day.
"Find the most beautiful anniversary card you can and send it to Marilyn as a token of My love for you."
"But Lord," I sputtered, "you don't understand. Send Marilyn a card after what she did to me? Are you kidding?"
His velvet steel reply was unequivocal, soft but unbending: "I'm not kidding. And while you’re at it, send Sean a birthday card, too."
Wham. Double wham. Marilyn acquired the dubious distinction of "former friend" over a year ago. Now God was asking me to do something for her that Marilyn hadn't done for me. This latest oversight capped a year-long series of snubs, slights and woundings of varying degrees that eventually resulted in a crumpled, dead relationship.
Marilyn and I exchanged cards, gifts, time and attention to mark seasonal and special occasions for years. It was our way of saying, "You’re special. I care about you."I thought Marilyn and I were on the same page until my November birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all came and went unnoticed by Marilyn – for no discernible reason. Ditto Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, and my May anniversary. It was a sizeable shift in our relationship that was never explained. What changed? Was Marilyn sending me a message?
When asked, Marilyn mortared a high, thick wall of defensiveness and busyness: "I don't even have time to send cards to my own family." It was a small thing to Marilyn, a dust mote on the canvas of our relationship. To me, however, it was The Last Straw. I tried to tell her. More than once. Marilyn never had time to listen.
Soul-clarifying communication, consistent contact and expressions of caring are my Love Language. I have never gotten the hang of "drive by" friendships. You know -- someone occasionally flutters a hand at you out the car window and considers that "being friends." I don't. Never have. So when Marilyn slid out of my life with "too busy" and "otherwise engaged," I felt as lost as an F flat in the key of A. Even worse was her icy indifference, a dissonance that continued unabated even after I confronted her on it. They say that the opposite of love isn't hate, but apathy. Truer words were never spoken when it came to Marilyn and me.
Bewildered and baffled, I watched helplessly as the relationship crumbled despite my best efforts to shore it up. Eventually, I was as burned out as prairie grass after a lightning strike. Continued unresponsiveness and self-imposed isolation on Marilyn's part hauled me to the heart-wrenching conclusion that our friendship was over. I finally gave up, let her go. I don't think Marilyn ever noticed. She was perennially "too busy," too buried in "doing ministry" to remember my birthday or anniversary—or my phone number, address, or email. Hence, when Marilyn's anniversary rolled around, I resolved to let it go by unsung—a reprise of her tune. But Someone had another song in mind.
The sense of loss was still raw when I heard His lyrics. So much so that I couldn't respond. Everything inside me rebelled. Paralyzed, my frayed heart was too Lilliputian to manifest the kind of love and grace this seemingly small act required. So He enlarged my heart, pouring out His love for me in a million different tunes--until my "heart reservoir" overflowed with Him. The result? I couldn't refuse His command to "leak" His love onto Marilyn.
Both cards and a gift went in the mail. My hands shook as I dropped them into the blue postal box. Reaching out like this, taking a risk this big when I had been hurt so badly? What in the world am I doing? An Alaska-sized lump rose in my throat. This kind of vulnerability terrified me. What if they don't respond? What if she blows me off again?
Marilyn never acknowledged card or gift. I was disappointed but not devastated. Why? Because somewhere in the process of trusting obedience to a divine imperative I didn't understand, Jesus enlarged my heart. True, the relational spark I hoped my gesture might ignite never materialized. But I did what He asked me to do. I left the rest with Him.
Slowly and imperfectly, I'm learning that the hole in my heart left by the loss of a cherished friendship drives me closer to the only One who can fill and satisfy my soul. And when the Lord Jesus pours His love into me, stretching me beyond the limits of my small, weak self, the music He makes can be as breathtaking and as powerful as a Puccini aria. He's slowly—sometimes painfully--replacing my soul-shrinking solo with soaking splashes of Himself, orchestrating a duet as vast and immense as His endless, unfathomable Love for both me and Marilyn.
I was at a ladies retreat, and felt led to write a poem about that experience. As I was standing between my two sweet Christian friends, I realized that if not by the grace of God I would not be there and this little poem came to my mind. I wrote it on the way back from the retreat and my pen flew across the page.
As of May 2012, "WHATEVER IS PURE" ARCHIVES will no longer be seeking submissions. As most authors and poets now have their own blogs, we noticed a significant drop in submissions over the past year and felt it was best to move on to other endeavors.
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