A friend shared a scripture at a recent prayer meeting: For God so loved the world that He gave . . .
And there it ended.
From billboards to Bible school lessons, most of us are familiar with the entirety of John 3:16. But in this season of gift giving, how interesting it is to end that verse with a verb.
In the atrium we just presented my favorite lesson -- The History of the Gifts. As I've written before, of all the materials and lessons we share, this is by far the one I love best, focusing as it does on the Kingdom of God as a history of gift giving.
We open a treasure chest that contains a sampling of God's gifts.
We crush nutmeg and ginger. We examine a speckled bird's egg lying in a nest.
We look at a lovely drawing of a baby in utero.
We pull apart a cotton ball and examine a lump of coal.
We ponder the mind and the heart behind the creator who fashioned this vast and diverse universe out of nothing.
We talk first about the necessities of life and then move on to the niceties. As I wrote last year:
What is the point, exactly, of a dolphin or a dogwood? Why is a sunflower both edible and beautiful? Why do we have cows which many of us eat, but also dogs which we simply enjoy? What is the purpose of a sunset or a rainbow or a lush snowfall? Why are babies so achingly lovely?
I often reflect that God is not a minimalist. This world of ours is full and varied and surprising.
For God so loved the world that He gave and He gave and He gave . . .
I sat in a meeting with a group of pastors last week discussing, among other topics, fatherhood. What unique role does a father play in the life of a child? How do we encourage fathers? What should fathers try to do or, more importantly, try to be?
A friend -- a father of grown children and an experienced pastor -- said that he tells young fathers starting out, "If you view fatherhood primarily as a police function, you're completely missing the boat."
Fatherhood, in his view, means bringing forth life. Human fathers should emulate God the Father and seek to bring life into their family, to bring fun, to bring adventure, to start with the necessities and to then move on to the niceties.
What a beautiful perspective this is. In all of this, I couldn't help but think of my own father.
Now, he's a character, my dad. He and my mom made a quick stop off at my house just a few weeks ago. We sat in the backyard, enjoyed a glass of wine and some munchies . . . and laughed. My father is a funny, funny man. Later we watched football, and Dad held Ainsley. We shared dinner and played chess.
I look back on my childhood and remember weekend after weekend spent boating and fishing. Some families are camping families or reading families or travelling families. We were a boating and fishing family. To my dying day I will remember 1975 for two reasons: First, it was the worst year of my life; second, my dad woke me up nearly every Saturday well before the sun came up and said, "Come on, Kel. Let's go fishing."
A bright spot in an otherwise grim year.
He gave. To this day, he is probably unaware of what he gave me.
He still gives.
As I sat with a crew of children looking at sharks' teeth and cinnamon, at a Praying Mantis and at a moth, I asked them what we can conclude about God based on this collection.
Which is but a meager, meager sampling of his gifts.
God is powerful, they said. God is creative. God is generous.
Finally a little boy with the face of an angel and the impishness of an elf, threw his hands up in the air and said, "He wants us to have an awesome time of it!"
For God so loved the world that He gave . . .