Tag Archives: Treasure

Casing the Joint

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon.Nothing will be left, says the Lord.
Isaiah 39:5-6 (NIV)

Over the past handful of years, I’ve twice had the experience of being robbed. Thieves broke into our house at the lake and took a lot of things with them. Then my hotel room was robbed while on a business trip and the thieves got away with a lot of my electronic gear.

I learned in being robbed that some things are easily replaced. Televisions, computers, and electronic gear can be quickly acquired, set up and functioning as normal. The things that I still think about are personal items with sentimental value; The things that can’t be quantified for your insurance company.

As I read in today’s chapter about Hezekiah showing the Babylonian envoys all the treasures of his kingdom, I just knew in my gut that this was not going to end well. Perhaps being victimized has made me a tad more cynical, but I didn’t need Isaiah’s prophetic word to know the dudes were essentially casing the joint.

I’m reminded this morning of Jesus words:

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”

This morning I’m thinking about the difference between possessions and treasures. The further I get in my journey the greater desire I feel to rid myself of the former and be more discerning in my definition of the latter. I’m thinking it might be time for me to case my own joint, with an eye towards emptying what is unnecessary, unimportant, and not useful. One of the quotes that has stuck with me through adulthood comes from the artist and designer William Morris: “Do not have anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

chapter a day banner 2015

 

Meaning-Full Gifts

Wendy, Suzanna and I have been blown away by Apple’s Christmas ad this year. In the ad, a young lady discovers a 45rpm record her grandmother made for her husband who was away in World War II. The granddaughter spends some time on her Apple computer editing the song, adding her own voice and instrumentals to it. On Christmas morning, the grandmother finds her granddaughter’s iPod on the kitchen table along with memorabilia from that period of her life. Perched atop the stairs, her granddaughter watches her grandmother put in the ear buds, push play, and begin to cry. Then it’s kleenex all around at our house every time we see it.

This year, our entire Christmas seemed to be one gift card exchange. I get it. Our family is spread out, Wendy and I are in transition, our folks don’t really need anything, yada, yada, yada. But, I have to admit that the exchange of plastic cards at times seems boring and silly. This year we gave our brother Lucas a Target gift card, and guess what he gave us? Yep, a Target gift card! Feel the joy. God bless us, everyone.

This year I did give my parents one extra gift that cost me nothing but a little time. Utilizing the existing software on my MacBook, I pulled family photos I have taken and scanned over the years and put them into slideshow. It really wasn’t that difficult. I mixed old family photos of previous generations to photos of our own nuclear family through the years, and added a song from my iTunes library as background. I burned it to DVD and, after the gift cards had been exchanged, I played the DVD for my folks. The best gift I received all Christmas was watching my parents as they watched the slide show. I did feel the joy as I watched them light up at the sight of old family photos and calling out the faces and names of people they recognized from previous generations. Before it was over they had both began to cry. My mother’s tearful hug when it was over was priceless.

Wendy and I have talked a lot about this concept of meaning-full gifts this year. We have become so focused on the consumption of goods, that we are often blind to gifts that will be truly valued. A few Christmases ago our dirt-poor college age daughter gave me a simple candy tin on which she painted a colorful design. Inside were some of her favorite photos of the two of us and a couple of colorful magnets. I could take out whichever photo I wanted, attach it to the front of the tin with the magnet, and sit it on my desk. I don’t remember anything else I received that Christmas. I still remember that.

Wendy and I received two meaning-full gifts this Christmas. Suzanna, our dirt-poor college age, live-in sister, spent time sequestered in her room upstairs working on two drawings for Wendy and me. Her own pencil portraits of Charlie Chaplin and Lucille Ball, with “Merry Christmas” hidden in Charlie’s hat ribbon, and Lucy’s necklace. It was unique, original, and made with her own hands. We will treasure them. The other meaning-full Christmas gift came from my dad who made a stained-glass piece which will hang in a prominent place in our new house (I am choosing not to show a photo of it at this point. We’ll let you see it when it’s installed and the sun is shining through it!). We can’t wait to add it to our collection of family artwork displayed in our home.

2014 suzannas christmas drawings

You don’t really need a ton of creativity or artistic ability to make and give meaning-full gifts. Here are a few suggestions for next Christmas or an upcoming gift giving holiday:

  • A playlist or music mix provides all sorts of possibilities. Share music that is meaningful between the two of you. Share with your children or grandchildren the music that you listened to as a kid, what songs bring back memories, and what those memories are. Share with your parents the music you remember from your childhood or the music that your parents taught you to appreciate. Don’t forget to add some liner notes describing why you chose each song.
  • Memories are always meaningful. What family treasures or heirlooms can you utilize to honor those special moments of the past? Still have that trove of love notes/cards your spouse gave you when you were courting? How about a simple treasure chest box from the local art/hobby store in which you place all of those special notes, along with a brand new love note to add to the horde.
  • Old family movies on 8mm film or VHS videotape gathering dust in the attic can easily be transferred to digital formats which can be edited or played on almost any media. Most computers today come with built-in software which allows you to take the digital video and make your own home movies. You don’t even have to edit. Most family members will love watching the raw, unedited footage of years past.
  • In this age of e-mail, a hand-written letter has become rare, and in my estimation more valuable. I have always believed that our handwriting, sloppy as it may be, is an original work of art. A handwritten letter that’s signed, sealed, and delivered is a welcome surprise amidst the daily pile of junk mail and bills delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Write a letter thanking your parents for all they’ve done for you (give examples), tell your children how proud you are of them (give examples), say “I’m sorry” to a loved one you’ve hurt, say “I forgive you” to a loved one who hurt you, or take a trip down memory lane and share with a loved one a meaningful memory the two of you share.

A big “thank you” to all who gave me gift cards this year, including my wife. I will enjoy using them on special treats for myself, and am truly grateful. I hope you enjoy the piece of plastic I gave you in return. I hope we all realize that meaning-full gifts are gifts in which the value cannot be established by a magnetic strip on the back.

Dear Diary,

1977 07 06 Vander Well Everdina Diary Entry“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow,without hope.”

David son of Jesse was king over all Israel. He ruled over Israel forty years—seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor. His son Solomon succeeded him as king.
1 Chronicles 29:14-15;26-28 (NIV)

Wendy and I have begun to declutter our house. It’s interesting the accumulation of “stuff” after nearly a decade. I find myself increasingly willing to get rid of things that, for some apparent reason, I felt I really needed at one time. I find it interesting what your heart labels as “treasure” and what you consider “junk.” Yesterday I came across a tub which contains my grandmother’s diaries, which I still treasure and hope to catalog more thoroughly some day.

For over twenty years my grandmother faithfully recorded the events of her day. I must be honest. The diaries are, for the most part, very boring. The entries are not the least bit introspective. Grandma was not one to write about her feelings or insights or to wax eloquent about her perspective on anything. Her entries read like a mundane grocery list of activity:

Thursday, June 19, 1969 – Got up late. Slept good. We did a big wash + ironing. Went for a ride this eve. Sure enjoyed it. Dad drove car. Hot day.

On a whim, I picked up the diary from 1977 and navigated to one particular entry:

Wednesday, July 6, 1977 – We did odds + ends today. Took Don and Dan to Jackes for supper this eve. Had a shower early a.m. + a little shower this eve.

It was the last diary entry my grandmother would make. After writing this entry, she and my grandpa went for a walk “up town” and were struck by a car while crossing the street. My grandmother died that night. My grandfather picked up the daily duty of writing in the diary and continued the practice until late in his life.

How easily we forget life’s fragility. In our hearts we all plan to live to a ripe old age and hand off our accumulated “stuff” to our children just as King David did in today’s chapter. And yet, there is always the possibility that we are just an evening stroll and a distracted driver away from making our own final entry in this life’s daily diary.

I found it interesting that in his advanced age, and in the moment of his giving away the throne, King David recognized that everything came from and belonged to God. It’s easier to give away what was never yours in the first place, and the further I get in this life journey the more I recognize David’s realization in my own heart.

Today, I’m grateful for what I’ve been given. I’m seeking to let go of the notion that I can lay claim to anything and think that it is mine; not even this beautiful summer day in July.

Spiritual Cardiology Exam

source: trcpella.com
source: trcpella.com

They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. 2 Corinthians 8:2 (NLT)

Our local church began a series of messages yesterday on treasure. We’re not talking the Jack Sparrow, Black Pearl kind of treasure, mind you. The premise of the series comes from one of Jesus’ teachings:

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

In yesterday’s overview, the teacher explained his premise that our culture has placed its treasure in three basic things: money, sex, and technology. In the weeks ahead we’re going to explore how these three things affect our heart on a day-by-day basis.

I found this morning’s chapter dove-tailing with the message I heard yesterday and the conversation Wendy and I began on the way home. I love Paul’s description of some of the believers in Greek communities, that while very poor they had abundant joy which overflowed into being sacrificially generous with what little they had. I observe that the heart attitude determined their willingness to give up what little material possession they had for the benefit of others.

On this Monday morning I wake with head spinning from the long week ahead. My mind is already wrestling with a long list of priorities and seemingly little time to accomplish all that is on my plate. I am undergoing spiritual cardiology examination in the pre-dawn hours as God’s still small voice whispers pesky questions in my soul. Where is my treasure? What do I say I value? What do my words, thoughts, actions, acquisitions, task-lists, and priorities prove that I value?

The Call to Contentment

Not that I was ever in need,  for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Philippians 4:11-12 (NLT)

Jesus never told poor people to seek after earthly riches.
Jesus told certain rich people to give up all their earthly riches.
Jesus told all people to seek after heavenly riches.
God’s Message tells us all to learn to be content.

I have come to believe that God’s call to contentment is one of the most critical spiritual concepts we have most consistently ignored.

Chapter-a-Day Deuteronomy 26

Laughing couple.
Image via Wikipedia

And today God has reaffirmed that you are dearly held treasure….” Deuteronomy 26:18a (MSG)

When I teach customer service skills to my clients, one of the skills I talk about is the importance of using the customer’s name in your conversation. Names imply relationship, and you want your customers to feel that they are more than just another “customer,” “account,” or “call” you have to deal with that day. They are a person who is known. You communicate that by calling them by name.

The truth of the matter is that as a relationship grows and becomes more intimate we not only use each other’s names but nicknames and pet names emerge that speak to an even deeper level of knowing and being known. The opposite is also true. As a relationship breaks down, people stop using one another’s names and refer to each other with simple pronouns like “they.” Then, derogatory nicknames emerge that communicate our negative perceptions of the person.

In today’s chapter, God tells Israel that they are “dearly held treasure” and it immediately reminded me of my own dearly held treasure: my wife, and my daughters. In fact, “treasure” is a special word between Wendy and me; It has incredible depth of meaning in our relationship. What makes it special I will leave between the two of us, but suffice it to say that when I read that God affirms that His children are “dearly held treasure” I feel something very deeply because of the connotations that “treasure” make with the most intimate human relationship I’ve ever experienced.

Today, I am thankful for dearly held treasure. I am thankful that I can treasure my wife, my children, my family and my friends. I am grateful that God treasures me.

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