Sunday, December 15, 2002

Christmas Giving

by Blake Cromwell

Christmas roars upon us with its demands and joys. Kids will be out of school seeking adventure and the latest PlayStation game. There will be Christmas parties and family gatherings. There are gifts to buy and special Christmas programs to attend. Every year there is a tremendous pressure to keep alive the real meaning of Christmas.

Giving gifts is an expression of our desire to do as Father God did and give to others. It is always a delight to bless family and friends with an expression of love for them. But to increase the Christmas miracle we must give to others less fortunate than ourselves.

The simple and profound message of Christmas is that God gave what we all needed and couldn’t obtain for ourselves. His gift was His Son who provides salvation for whosoever will trust in His birth, death and resurrection.

Adopting a family in need, giving to a orphan or working at a soup kitchen are all ways to bring the spirit of Christmas to others who are not as fortunate.

Recently I told a true story of giving to our church and I’d like to share it with you in the hope it will inspire you to be like God and give to others that which they cannot get for themselves.

Joel Morgan planned to visit missionaries in Eastern Europe. So he asked some friends what to pack. They said snacks for yourself because there isn’t much to eat in the rural villages of Eastern Europe. As he walked through the grocery store, he prayed “Lord, what might make it through customs.” He picked up Reese’s peanut butter cups, some tapioca pudding, some hard candy and gum, and some malt, some small cans of fruit cocktail. When Joel arrived in Romania, he stayed with a missionary family who were living in very harsh conditions, often without heat and electricity, they enjoyed a very good evening of conversation and prayer together. And as Joel started to leave, he remembered the snacks he had brought for himself and he had an idea. He thought, you know it is only October, but why not use these snacks to celebrate an early Christmas? So he got out his backpack and began to play Santa Claus in their living room. He asked the missionaries’ two teenage daughters, if you could have one thing from the U.S., what would it be? In unison, they said “candy!” “What kind?” Joel asked. The mother chimed in, “the girls love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. But they are not available here.” With a lump in his throat, Joel pulled out the king size package and the girls began jumping up and down laughing as they held their gift.

Wiping away a tear, Joel asked their mother, “Well, what item from back home would brighten your day?” Now, this was a big risk. I mean what if she asked for a side of beef? She said sheepishly, “I miss fruit, especially citrus.” Reaching into his bag, Joel pulled out a can of fruit cocktail and mandarin oranges. Now everybody was laughing, and everybody was wiping away tears.

After a time of celebration, Joel turned to the father and he thought about pulling out the few remaining items left in his bag and letting the dad make the decision, two out of three miracles ain’t bad. You know, why press your luck? But something deep down inside Joel shouted, “Go for it!” And before he could argue with God, he heard himself ask, “Gary, what is your favorite dessert?” The dad smiled and said, “you know, it’s something nobody else in the world likes…tapioca pudding.” Joel nearly injured himself pulling out the snack pack of tapioca pudding that God had prompted him to buy seven days earlier and 4,000 miles away.

In reality Christmas giving should be a way of life. Love is seeing a need in others and helping to meet that need. The Pastors in the Kings County want you to know that God loves and has a plan to bless your life.

Monday, December 2, 2002

Shooting Up Christmas

by Blake Cromwell

Christmas morning was ruined. In utter disbelief, my parents surveyed the damage my brothers and I had created. It might not have been so bad had my parents not planned to sell the house just after Christmas.

As I viewed the hundreds of tiny holes in the sheet rock of my bedroom wall I realized Christmas Dinner wouldn’t be pleasant for any of us. At the not so tender age of ten, it was certainly going to be the worse Christmas of my life. Now Dad was sending us to his room to lay over his bed and wait for you know what.

As I lay waiting, I rehearsed the morning’s events. My brothers and I had awakened very early that Christmas morn to quietly whisk our Christmas gifts out from under the tree and creep back to our rooms for closer inspection.

With great joy, we unwrapped three of the most beautiful Red Ryder BB guns you ever did see. Just weeks earlier our dad had told us that BB guns would make fine gifts since we would be moving to Hanford just after Christmas. Year after long year we had begged for BB guns only to hear that LA wasn’t a good place for them. We ripped them from their thick, protective cardboard packaging and hoisted them into the air in triumph —three “Great White Hunters.” Discovering that the BBs served as that year’s stocking stuffers, we commenced to fill our rifle chambers.

To be honest, I don’t remember whose idea it was to set the remains of the cardboard packaging against our bedroom wall for target practice, but I am very sure that once discovered, I told Dad that it had been my brother, Steve. He was the oldest and still to this day I blame him because I can’t face the fact that I was just so stupid. Stupid, to think those boxes would stop a BB. We lined up all three boxes side by side and began to blast away with glee. It wasn’t until we were almost out of BBs that Dad appeared.

As Dad moved one of the targets to reveal the damaged wall I could feel the tears begin to flow. We really did feel bad because we knew that we had let Dad and Mom down. Dad never did spank us that morning, but he told us something that has stayed with me to this day. He told us that he forgave us and that he would fix the problem. That ten-year old boy just couldn’t see how the wall could ever be fixed. For the next week, every morning I awoke to see the results of my actions on the bedroom wall. But Dad was true to his word. Within two weeks the old sheet rock was removed and replaced. The wall was painted over and all evidence of that terrible Christmas morning had vanished.

That sight was a better Christmas gift then my BB gun. It showed me that a bad situation could be turned around. All one needed was the help of someone like my dad.

All these years later I have found that in the Bible we have a Father who will help us in our hour of need, just like my dad did that Christmas. The Bible refers to God as “Father” hundreds of times. In one place Scripture declares, “If you, as earthly fathers, who are imperfect, know how to give good gifts to your children how much more will your Father in heaven give the help of the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”

At ten I didn’t understand how my dad could fix that wall, but he told me he could and he did. Now at fifty I still don’t know how God can fix some problems I get myself into but He has promised to answer when I call. If you are facing difficulties, even impossible situations, why don’t you call out to your Father in heaven to help you. Romans 8:28 declares, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” One version of the Bible quotes this verse like this, “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives is worked into something good because we love God.”

During this Christmas Season the Pastors in the Kings County would love to tell you how much your Heavenly Father loves you and that He can work something good out of a bad situation. We want you to know God’s greatest gift to you is His Son Jesus.