We are not what you would describe as “in to cars”, at least not if by “in to cars” you mean drive cool ones or have any idea what all those terms which describe the many parts under the hood. Yes, I am including Terrell who had to ask what a running board is the other day. We’re utilitarian when it comes to those four wheeled motorized gas guzzlers. Upon birthing babies, I had to leave my Jeep Wrangler behind for a minivan that ended up with about a crazy number of dents and scratches, unidentified interior stains and bad smells but awesome automatic doors…which worked sometimes. Then on Tuesday our good friends at Goodyear told us unless we lose our minds, we should not put another penny into this vehicle which now needs a new engine. So, we traded it in for a new car and I have been unexpectedly giddy over this new gift!
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 I was very aware that though this was not our plan for Tuesday, it was God’s. It was His timing and His plan and His provision. And I can enjoy it! And enjoy it I have!!! All the windows go up and down when I want them to, not just randomly when they feel like it. (: It doesn’t shake or double the impact of every bump. But more than that, it is actually a really cool car and fun to drive. Who would’ve known that a four wheeled gas guzzler could excite me so. And it is good. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Neh. 8:10 Somewhere along the way, it became easier for people to moan and groan, to whine and complain, to lament and reminisce than to delight and enjoy. I know for me, even though I am someone who really loves to joke and laugh, loss seems safer than gain. There is an odd comfort to hardship and there is a bit of guilt that comes along with pleasure…maybe it is a throw back to the influence of stoicism. It surely isn’t a throw back to Jesus. There is no increased righteousness for the person who had the harder day or the harder life. Yet, my pharisee’s heart tries to believe otherwise. He gives us tastes of the unbroken that we can enjoy, with peace, knowing that He is good and He is righteous. And then I received another unexpected gift yesterday: my neighbor Vivian surprised us by creating an outdoor room on our front porch with furniture and a rug from hers! It was like coming home on an HGTV show. Her gift was not merely a gift of stuff but of the labor of personally moving all that stuff up the street, arranging it and planning it all out in the first place as a way of saying, as she would phrase it, “Love you baby.” (Yeah, our neighborhood is really dangerous…you might not want to move here unless you want people giving you full room makeovers!) And I have been thinking so much about her gift and the spirit of a gift of love and why it is we don’t do that kind of bold giving to others more and why most of my gift giving is so lame and… And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 2 Cor. 8:1-5 Vivian has been generous to us since we first talked about moving to this street. She has offered us a warm welcome, hugs and on the mouth kisses (:, advice from the perspective of long time neighbors, and now materially with furniture and sweat equity. She did not give because it was Christmas, a birthday or a designated Hallmark holiday of any kind. She did not give to get from us, to earn our admiration or affection, because she does not have need of that. Her gift was purely a way of saying she loves us and wanted to bless us. And even though God has already done that in the most dramatic cosmic way, He does the same kind of gift giving to us in our everyday experience too. The chairs with weathered cushions and vague rust marks will not take the place of Vivian in our hearts. But they have already provided a wonderful place to sit with her on our front porch and hang out and get to hear about each other’s day. And with the Holy Spirit’s restraint, that new car won’t become something I clothe myself in rather than Jesus alone. But it will remind me to thank Him, to celebrate the many good gifts He gives and perhaps begin to become more comfortable in plenty as well as in want. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:12-13