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Sunday, May 25, 2014

AN EXTRAVAGANT GIFT

I Corinthians 13:12-13 (MSG) We don't yet see things clearly.  We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.  But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!  We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!  But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:  Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love.

I remember a time when my daughter, Audrey, had a birthday in Rio Hondo, TX.   Friends and family came to join us for the special occasion at my big old two story home there.  Balloons were blown up, streamers, a beautiful store bought cake, and a home cooked meal was steaming and ready to serve.

The only problem was that the little seven year old guest of honor was running a fever and I knew she did not really feel like getting out of bed.  Being in elementary school still, I knew how hard it was for her to be upstairs in her room while everyone else was downstairs mingling and catching up.  Audrey loved a social get together.  She was more the type that would watch all the goings on as though she was soaking it up to reproduce it all in a painting or a news article.  She engaged in conversations when she saw an opportunity, but she really just enjoyed standing back and taking in every expression, every detail.

Tonight though, she huddled under her covers and ate a small plate of food (probably to be polite),  since she really did not have an appetite at all.  Laughter and conversations were muffled.  She could hear the thud of glasses placed back on the tables.  The clinking of silverware against the plates carried upstairs to her ears, but none of this enticed her to join us. 

Until, it was time for cake and the gifts.  Now that was a different story.  I called and asked if she felt up to opening her gifts and a weak little, "Yes..." answered back.  Jennie ran up the stairs to help her down.  She was greeted by all and several brave ones came up and gave her a birthday hug. 

Audrey's eyes opened wide and so did her mouth at all of the gifts awaiting her.  She could hardly wait to open them, but I knew in her heart, she was just as excited that so many came and wanted to share in her birthday.  The love is what she enjoyed in that moment.

This week and last, I have been studying the gifts of the Spirit again.  As I read in I Corinthians 12 where in verses 4-11 the gifts are described, and then turn to chapter 14 where we are encouraged to desire spiritual gifts to strengthen and encourage those we encounter, I looked back again at the chapter in between.

I often wondered why it was that the love chapter, I Corinthians 13, which is read in so many weddings, was plopped right in the middle of these two.  I think of this as one of my favorite and most reread chapters as I walk through life, but I thought it was an interruption when I studied these spiritual gifts.

Tonight, as I looked these three over again, and ask God, "Why?" I suddenly saw chapter 13 in a new light in context to these other two chapters.  I now see that chapters 12 and 14 are merely the bread and chapter 13 is the meat.  They are the intro and conclusion, but the love chapter is the main story in a book for us to live by.  I see that the author wants to say that without love, all that I attempt to do all day is a waste of time.

The greatest gift that my little daughter those years back received was a gift of love from so many who cared to take the time for a little girl's birthday.  Her favorite food, the presence of loved ones, the hugs, all told her just how special she was. 

The greatest gifts of love rarely have a big monetary price tag on them.  It might mean a back rub or walking downstairs to get a drink for someone at bedtime.  It might mean that I rearrange my schedule, or it might mean for me to take a risk by reaching out to someone I ordinarily would not come in contact with or speak to.  By acknowledging the down and out, or a neighbor going through a tragedy, a simple act can bring honor to them and emphasize to them the truth, that they matter, someone notices them: They have worth.

I desire to follow the ways of love each day.  I ask God to lead me and open my eyes to be more present in the moment.  Let me see those opportunities each day, and then boldly act on them.  I plan to smile more.  Look into people's eyes and say, "Hi".  When I see a mother with a baby, I will tell her how precious her new babe is.  I will simply encourage her.  You get my drift. 

Looking at people through the eyes of love not only enlarges their own hope, faith, and happiness, when I interact with them, but it will enlarge my own heart as well and increase my sense of well being. 

LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY: THIS IS THE GREATEST GIFT DESIRED BY ALL



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