Last Saturday night Norma Jean and I enjoyed an evening attending the Florida College holiday concert,.
In addition to all the musical groups at FC performing, my friend and preaching colleague, Ralph Walker, entertained the audience with some wonderful stories and a reading of “The Night Before Christmas.” Among the stories Ralph told was about a big mistake he made last Christmas.
Ralph said that he decided last year instead of buying Christmas presents for his 9 grandchildren, he would give them money.
So, he bought 9 lovely cards, and wrote a check to each of them. On the card he wrote, “Buy your own Christmas present this year.”
On Christmas morning as the children are opening gifts, they came to Ralph’s card. Opened it. And showed no excitement. No “thank you.” Nothing. In fact, Ralph said they seemed to be avoiding him the rest of the day.
A few days later when Ralph was sitting at his desk, paying some bills, he noticed a stack of checks in the drawer. The 9 checks written to his grandchildren. They all had received a card that said, “Buy your own Christmas present this year.”
Now, if you know Ralph, you know that story is…well…just a story. A joke told to illicit laughs.
What’s not a joke is that gift giving is sometimes difficult. Trying to find that perfect gift requires thought, effort, and diligence.
However, here are 5 gifts you can give. They’re in fashion, not just at Christmas but year round.
#1 The Gift of Praise.
Praise builds up. It lifts spirits. Brings smiles. Recognizes accomplishments. Restores confidence. And gives hope. George W. Adams expressed it this way: “Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.”
The Bible says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thess.5:11).
We may offer praise either verbally, or in the form of a note. An email. Text message. Or phone call. Look for opportunities to praise others for their success, a job well done, or selflessly serving the needs of others.
#2 The Gift of Understanding.
Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, offered this advice. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Deep down everyone desires understanding. How many times have we heard young people cry, “My parents just don’t understand”? Or a wife lament, “My husband doesn’t understand me.
The apostle Peter exhorts husbands to “live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Pet. 3:7). That’s not only a good practice in marriage, but in all relationships.
Dale Carnegie observed that “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
George Bernard Shaw put it this way. “The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.”
Give the gift of understanding year round.
#3 The Gift of Gratitude.
The ancient Roman philosopher Cicero is credited with saying, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
The Bible often exhorts us to “be thankful” (Col. 3:15). To show apprecition, not just to God, but to other people. Paul in his letters frequently expressed his appreciation for the people he was writing to and his gratitude for their support.
Don’t take people for granted. “Even the strongest feelings expire when ignored and taken for granted,” observed an unknown sage.
Show appreciation and gratitude in your family. Your church. Your school. Your neighborhood. Among your friends. And even with those you chance to meet daily who serve your needs or show some act of kindness.
#4 The Gift of Concession.
Briefly stated, you don’t have be right all the time. You don’t have to win all the time. You don’t have to have your way all the time.
The Bible teaches the spirit of mutual submission (Eph. 5:21). William Paul Young, author of “The Shack” was right when he wrote, “Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect.”
Are you willing to concede your rights for the good of your friends, family, or brethren?
#5 The Gift of Attention.
“Attention is like a daily bouquet of love,” opined the prolific author anonymous. Giving another person your time, your respect, and your undivided attention is a great gift.
The Bible urges us to “pay attention to the interest of others” (Phil. 2:4). And to make the most of our opportunities, as we wisely use our time (Eph. 5:15-16).
Motivational speaker and author Jim Rohn was on target when he wrote, “Wherever you are, be there.” Pay attention to people.
Well, that may not help you with your Christmas gift list. But wouldn’t it be sad to spend a lot money on your family and friends, yet fail to give them the very gifts they need the most? Not just on Christmas day. But year round,.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
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