Monday, December 10, 2007

The Gift of Appreciation

Some things I just hate to admit about myself. One of the things that I really detest is how selfish I can be. Now, I have gotten better over the years. But, I was an only child and was never really in situation very often where I had to think about others. I was oblivious to the plight of others who didn't have "first choice" of virtually anything they wanted. That's not to say I had a silver spoon in my mouth - our family had tough times. I'm just saying I probably never truly appreciated much in my life as a kid.

Because of that, it has taken years for me to really understand the whole "putting others ahead of yourself" thing. And, even when you "get it," it certainly isn't easy to do. After all, I am me - not you - and it's a heck of a lot easier to satisfy myself than to mess with trying to please you. At least, that's what I used to believe. But, I'm beginning to find something pretty profound in this notion of putting the interests of others ahead of my own - of giving abundantly and unconditionally to others.

It's this: my soul is most satisfied when I give.

Now, this certainly isn't a novel idea. Jesus expressed this idea repeatedly, and modeled this for us throughout his life here on earth. But, quite honestly...reading about Jesus living this way is one thing. Doing yourself is a "whole 'nother" ballgame.

One of the many great ways we put others first at NorthStar Church is our
Adopt-a-Family program. Essentially, these are families in our area who wouldn't have Christmas presents for their kids without a little help. In fact, our church was so gung-ho about "showing God's love" that all the families who were available to adopt were gobbled up immediately. We had to put together a waiting list of NorthStar families who wanted to adopt a family, but didn't get to!

The past two years, our couples small group has participated in this initiative, and while I am certain those receiving gifts were filled with joy, we were the ones who were blessed the most. And, the greatest gift in giving wasn't that the kids got a toy they didn't have, or a pair of shoes they needed. It was the appreciation they had. That a stranger would care enough about them to go out of their way and pay for gifts for them - when they didn't have to!

Sometimes, we can give and it goes unappreciated. That can be tough. And, that's a blog post for another day. But, on those occasions when you know that something you have done has made a difference in someone's heart, you just cannot beat it.

Jesus had it right. You can't serve two masters. You can't be self-serving and also serve the Lord by making yourself available to help others. And, after you've received the gift of helping others, you won't worry as much about satisfying yourself. Because there's no greater satisfaction than when the Spirit is alive and at work within you!

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