Extravagant Gift

(Image not mine)We were challenged on Sunday to not just read scripture with a mind to understand…but also with a heart to feel the emotions behind the text. The text that day was Mark 14:1-11…about a woman who broke open an expensive jar of nard, or perfume, and poured it over Jesus.

My feelings and I aren’t the tightest of buddies…but as my mind reached into my heart I tried to imagine what Jesus might be feeling. He knew he was hunted and his life was in peril. He knew Judas would soon betray him to the Pharisees…and for 30 pieces of silver which is the price of a slave. “Feeling burdened” would be a grand understatement. Then this woman comes and anoints his head, like someone might anoint a new king, with the beautiful fragrance of nard. The scent would’ve hit everyone in the room within seconds. This woman, was boldly showing Jesus her devotion the best way she could. She saw Him as more than her teacher or friend. Perhaps she recognized His divinity and saw Him as her Savior. And so, a year’s worth of wages was poured over Christ. To this woman who had very meager means of saving up, this was her most precious possession, this was her life. I imagine as Jesus soaked in the scent, He felt comfort and deep appreciation and compassion for this woman. That too is an understatement for His crucifixion was only days away.

So when the others stood to rebuke her, harshly, Jesus defended her and bestowed on her an incredible honor, that her story would be told wherever the gospel was shared…which has just been done again. I imagine her anguish at being rebuked, but then comfort and love at Jesus’ defence of her. But a year’s worth of wages….what is my life’s treasured possession? Do I have the love and devotion to give extravagantly as this woman did?

My mind turns to the disciples….I bet some disciples were angry because they haven’t shown that devotion to their Teacher and now they were beat by a woman. I bet some never even thought of doing so…and they felt shame. Her action reveals everyone else’s heart & values. There could be feelings of indignation, bruised pride and the impulse to defend that they had a better way to spend that kind of money. “It could have been sold and money given to the poor!” Her extravagant gift to Christ was seen as waste.

Truth is, as the Story soaked in, I realize I’m barely generous, much less extravagant, in how I show love and devotion to Jesus….my Lord and Savior. He, who gave His life to buy me back from eternal separation from God, deserves WAY more than the stingy offerings I lay at His feet. I don’t give Him the best of my time either. I am humbled…convicted. This needs to change.

Lent starts today, Ash Wednesday. I must lay aside Slothfulness and take on Diligence…to spend with my Lord the first and best of my day. And, I’m going to fast from what creates some slothfulness: Twitter and Facebook. That’s just a starter. =) I pray God will teach me how to give of my life in generous ways as well as to make my time count for something. For what Christ has done for me, I owe Him my life. Maybe it will seem like a life wasted to some…but my treasure is Christ and I hope my life will show it.

There is enough

Recently an article came out that nearly 50% of food waste comes out of the average Canadian household. It translates into $27 BILLION worth of food. We buy too much and it ends up rotting in the fridge. We don’t know what to do with leftovers, so we chuck it out. (And this isn’t in the household, but I get angry when I see people at buffets leave plates full of food at the end of their meal. Or even just leaving unfinished plates at restaurants.) Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and our minds so saturated with the idea that more is better, so we always have much more than we need. And it gets wasted.

“According to 2011 figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly one-third of all food is lost or wasted, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of food per year.”

Meanwhile, about 860 million people in the world are malnourished.

It’s not right. And this is just the food aspect. How about our cosmetics and recreational costs? Or the luxury goods we try to collect in our homes as status symbols? Or even all the little gadgets that are supposed to make this life more convenient?

I’m convinced that this earth can produce enough so that every man, woman and child can have shelter of their heads and enough food & water to drink. That we can all live comfortably…without exploiting the earth…but we must give up living luxuriously.

I’m not saying we should all try to live at poverty lines in order to do this…or that we shouldn’t enjoy the fruits of our labour by treating ourselves now and then. But we need to see that a lot of what we have is LUXURY compared to the majority of the world. We cannot take it for granted and especially not see it as something to be entitled to. If everyone raised their standard of living to the luxuries of North American living, this Good Earth will be reduced to dust. (It’s just not sustainable to grow enough corn to feed enough cattle for everyone on the planet to have steak. Or to mine enough metal to make everyone a new car every two years. Or drill enough oil to fuel everything.) But if everyone who had plenty can share it, then we will ALL have enough. And no one will have to be in want. (We’d also have less of an obesity epidemic in the First World.)

Of course, the human condition as to why we don’t do this is a completely different can of worms. That’s for another post.

Crazy Birthday Parties

I recently read this article “Extreme birthday parties: How much is too much?” and then I remembered a conversation I had with some moms about the cost of birthday parties for kids. You have to invite the whole class or your child might face bullying from classmates (and you might face bullying from parents). And then each party needs to be something fun and extravegant…rent out a pool, rent out a movie theatre, rent out a Build-a-Bear room, have bouncy castles, ponies and live entertainment, etc. The swag bag can’t just contain gummy candies and dollar store pencils…they need to have a Barbie doll or Transformers action figure each. These parents are TAKING OUT LOANS to give their kids the “party of the year”….every year.

I raise eye brows, I balk, I face palm. Wow. First I can’t believe parents feel so pressured to please the whims of other parental peers they don’t really know and probably don’t want to know….to the point of going into additional DEBT to be approved of or liked by them. Second, why are parents so pressured to please their child? Now he/she’ll associate “love” with how much money is spent on them. (Mind you I grew up where “You have clothes, good food, and your own room, of course we love you” was the norm.) Third, these kids end up further taking for granted the LUXURIES (truly luxuries and nothing “normal”) they’re surrounded by and expect life to just get better and fancier with age. Not to mention if you’re a kid/parent invited to one of these parties you feel like you need to get a big present for the kid (and maybe a thank you gift for the parents for hosting) as to not look like the cheap/poor one of the group. So if every kid in your child’s class invites him/her, you almost need to take out a second loan for all the gifts you need to buy them through the year as well. It just creates one massive expenditure (and stress case) that most parents can do without.

Makes me want to family plan so that all my children will be born outside the school year. Hey…that’s actually my case. August birthday…and I only remember having one birthday party with friends over….at age twelve. (No wonder my younger sister had so many more birthday party events…her birthday is during the school year!)

I confess I wish I had more birthday parties with friends growing up. We always celebrated with family. There was always cake and sometimes we went out to eat. Just not a party with friends. Skywalker grew up with more birthday parties. He’d invite his best buds from school and from church. There’d be a delicious homemade cake, games and good food. Simple….but it looks like everyone had a great time from the photos.

Skywalker and I talked about this…unlike my experience, we’d like our future kids to enjoy birthday parties with friends. Though not until they’re old enough to remember them…and not every year. We don’t want other parents to have a reason for stress. We hope we’ll be able to teach our kids to value relationships over gifts…and see that the $20 worth of of a present they might get from someone can do so much more for another child in a much less fortunate part of the world. We also hope to show that love isn’t demonstrated in how much money is spent on a person, but in knowing their friendship and acceptance is secure. We’re going to buck the trend. Try to.