The Best Person for Our Possessions

I recently received a message in my inbox from a woman who received one of the books that I had posted on paperbackswap.com. In her e-mail, she gushed about how much her daughter was enjoying it.

Knowing that the letter art book that had been tucked away in our gift closet ever since I bought it 5 years ago was now being used every day served as yet another reminder that we are not always the right person for the resources God has entrusted to our care. And sometimes, the best way to benefit from our possessions is to give them away.

Making the Most of What We Have

Last month, Bill and I celebrated our eighteenth wedding anniversary with a four-day trip to Las Vegas. Wanting to make the most of our long weekend, we set a goal to attend at least one show every day. In addition to watching great entertainers like Jay Leno and Garth Brooks, we saw a Cirque du Soleil performance, attended a beach party where Will.I.Am was the DJ, and signed up for a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon.

The aerial tour was our anniversary gift to each other and one of the highlights of our trip. To mentally prepare for the flight, Bill was listening to the song “Danger Zone” from the Top Gun soundtrack as we waited to board our chopper; and I had to laugh when he walked up to where I was sitting and, in his best Maverick impersonation, leaned down to say: “Talk to me Goose.”

My husband’s excitement was justified. Flying over Hoover Dam and descending 3,500 feet into the Grand Canyon was an amazing experience that we will be talking about for years to come. It was also the first thing to come to mind when the cab driver asked about our stay while taking us to the airport. After mentioning the helicopter ride and our other adventures, the man confessed that in the thirty years he’s lived in Las Vegas, he and his wife had been to maybe five shows.

Knowing how easy it is to get discounted tickets, I struggled to comprehend such a low total. We had seen more in thee days than our driver had in three decades. Was I the only person who saw something wrong with this picture?

Living well is not about having the most, but making the most of what we have. Jesus made this clear in the parable of the bags of gold when he said: “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Verses like this one from Matthew 25 remind me of the time a woman at church told me about a childhood friend who had invited her family to visit them in Kansas City.

“When are you planning to go?” I asked, knowing how much her kids would enjoy attractions like Kaleidoscope, World’s of Fun, and the Crayola Cafe.

“We’re not,” she replied. “For now, it’s enough to know that we could go if we wanted to.”

It’s not enough, I thought to myself as I stood there in disbelief.

Sometimes I think we spend so much time weighing our options that we forget who placed them on the scale. I want to leave this world knowing that I have wrung every bit of good out of my circumstances. Don’t you?

God is calling all of us to “live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.”ˆ¹ Those who do will find that the greatest risk is not stepping out in faith, but never stepping up to see what God has planned for those who are willing to give His adventurous suggestions a try.

ˆ¹See Ephesians 5:15

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLP4ZYapAO8]

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9


The Perfect Community

Every summer I tell myself that I am NOT organizing the annual block party and every summer … I do it anyway. If someone were to ask me why, I’d tell them: Because I can’t find a reason not to.

Circumstances allow it.

My husband supports it.

And the hassle I go through to find a date that works for everybody pales in comparison to the sense of community it creates for the people who live on our street. Community in the form of children playing tag in the empty lot a few houses down from ours. And a driveway full of adults dancing to music provided by my neighbor’s son, who is in a band.

Knowing that the outcome is worth the effort I put into it should be enough but, sometimes I just want to enjoy a night out without first having to organize it. Event planning was something I did a lot of when we lived in Nebraska. Because our church and neighborhood were both relatively new, many of the programs that I wanted to participate in did not exist. And so I spent countless hours spearheading everything from fall festivals to summer field trips, childcare coops to supper clubs, and ministry fairs to marriage retreats.

I was ready to taking some time off from serving when Bill and I flew to Chicago to search for a new place to live. His company was relocating us to Illinois and I saw our move as an opportunity to find a church and neighborhood where I could feel like I belonged without having to create the camaraderie.

The problem with goals is that they don’t always agree with God’s will. When this happens, we can accept the hand that He has dealt us or attempt to force our own. I begrudgingly chose the former when the house that had everything we were looking for was on a street where residents barely knew each other’s names. I also acquiesced after it became clear that God was nudging our family to join a smaller congregation instead of the mega-church that I had so wanted to call my own.

As I look back on those decisions and how they motivated me to organize the block party on our street and a newcomer’s ministry at my church, it’s clear that the perfect place for any of us is not the one that has everything we want, but the one with needs that only we are gifted to fill. And what seems like settling is actually submitting to a plan that is better than our own.

Thinking of the ideal in these terms makes me ashamed that I ever considered not having a block party. It also makes me wonder: What the world would be like if every move was based, not on what the new location can do for us, but on how we can make it better for others?

God wants all of us to live on the perfect street and to belong to the perfect church, but it’s up to us to create it. I was tempted to pass this lesson along at our last block party when I heard a man from another suburb say: “I want to live in Elmhurst. We don’t have block parties like this where I live.”

“You don’t need to live in our community,” I said to myself. “You just need to bring a little of it, to yours.”

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 19:21