Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Every Day, Good Gifts!

"All sunshine and sovereign is God, generous in gifts and glory.  He doesn't scrimp with his traveling companions."
[Psalm 84:11 MSG, emphasis added]

Just before I left for “In the Steps of Paul” missions internship (June 12-24, 2011) – a fabulous combination of learning, outreach and sightseeing through Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey & Paris with a team of 70 wonderful people assembled by Global Celebration* – a friend who was praying with me said she felt the Father had gifts for me to “unwrap” each day during this trip, and encouraged me to remember that it gives Him joy to see us enjoying the gifts He has prepared for us.  As she spoke, I "saw" (in my mind) a wall of presents, all wrapped in similar paper but of different shapes and sizes... Wow!  I thought.  What an encouraging word!   :)

I believe God was giving me, in that "word picture," an analogy I could personally understand & relate to:  when I was growing up, my parents put a lot of effort into preparing a huge pile of gifts for each of their six children to open on Christmas morning.  They shopped for weeks in advance, with each child's specific desires and interests in mind, then stayed up most of the night on Christmas Eve - wrapping, assembling bikes, "quietly" carrying everything downstairs while we "slept" :) - then carefully locked the door of the family room until a specific moment on Christmas morning when we were finally allowed to enter, one by one, squinting past the bright lights of my father's 8mm movie camera, then diving in to our "wall of gifts" (each of us had a section of the room with our own pile of presents).  In retrospect, I realize how much my parents' enjoyment must have been wrapped up in watching our anticipation, excitement and delight as we opened and responded with joy to each gift they had prepared...

I have to acknowledge, that word about my recent trip was true:  each and every day, our team woke up in a new city or country (we stayed 2 nights in Athens & Istanbul, but spent each of the other 10 nights in different places), with wonderful new experiences to enjoy... I've included links to two of my photo albums below (representing less than 20% of the photos I actually took!  as I tried to capture so many delightful moments and faces of those we came to cherish), as well as a beautiful summary (with more photos) written by one of our extraordinary team leaders... hopefully, these express at least some of the joy we felt on this trip!  And it was truly a glimpse into our heavenly Father's joyful heart to experience His lovingly extravagant generosity in so many different ways over those 12 days...

Toward the end of the trip, I began to think:  what if we woke up every day, looking for the good gifts God has prepared for us that day?   Because, you know, God is just as good here at home as He is in Europe... it may be beautiful and exotic to vacation overseas, but - what if we learned to appreciate the beauty of so many simple yet wonderful things He has provided every day?  What if, instead of waking up with a sense of foreboding, anxiety or boredom at the start of another "ordinary" day at work or home, we began to enjoy and anticipate God's good gifts with the same kind of excitement and expectation with which my siblings and I used to enter the family room on Christmas morning?  :)

Interesting - on June 25 (the first day I woke up in my own bed at home after this trip), the daily devotional I've been enjoying this year - Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young (I highly recommend it!) - included the following, written as if from God's point of view:

"Open your hands and your heart to receive this day as a precious gift from Me.  I begin each day with a sunrise, announcing My radiant Presence.  By the time you rise from your bed, I have already prepared the way before you.  I eagerly await your first conscious thought.  I rejoice when you glance My way.

"Bring Me the gift of thanksgiving, which opens your heart to rich communion with Me. Because I am God, from whom all blessings flow, thankfulness is the best way to draw near Me...Remember that I take great delight in you;  I rejoice over you with singing. [Zephaniah 3:17] 

This is the day the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
[Psalm 118:24]"

So, wherever you are today... ENJOY!   :)

link to "In the Steps of Paul 2011" travel photos w/ captions

additional photos of Hotels & Meals :)

"Sweet Kisses from Europe" by Jenn Yesilonis

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
[Matthew 7:11 NIV]

"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"
[Romans 8:32 NAS]


* for more information on Global Celebration mission trips and conferences (which I highly recommend - I would go with them anywhere! :)) - click here

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