One thousand gifts sounds like a lot. If you had one thousands gifts listed on your Christmas shopping list, you’d have to start in July to shop for everything, wrap it all, and then deliver or mail the packages on time.
Currently, I’m challenged by the study we are doing in the women’s ministry at my church, Northwest Fellowship, to list one thousand gifts I’ve received from God. The study is excellent and the teaching videos that accompany it are soothing and bucolic, narrated by the study’s lovely, soft-spoken author Ann Voskamp.
As I consider this challenge and begin my list of one thousand gifts, I’m beginning to think there may be that many gifts bestowed on me by the Creator in one day. Each day. And inside each gift is another gift, and if I take the time (a whole other topic unto itself) to examine each gift, I can began to see these many other gifts inside.
If I could take one of God’s gifts into my hand and slowly with purpose unwrap it, I would begin to see more gifts. I would turn it around, look at it closely on all sides, I would see that each of God’s gifts are multi-faceted like a perfectly cut gem, affecting me and changing me in the ways I need it most. The gift I received and unwrapped today solidified that thought.
The first gift I’m unwrapping in this series of counting one thousand gifts is the gift of God’s word. In the study guide for the Bible study aptly titled “One Thousand Gifts,” I was instructed to read Matthew 14:15-21, which describes a miraculous feeding of over five thousand people. With the concept of God’s gifts still rattling around in my head, I read the passage. It correlated perfectly with many facets in my life right now. It’s a gift. A gift that calls for unwrapping.
I read about how a large group of people followed Jesus and He had compassion on them. He healed their sick, as I personally have experienced Him doing, and daily ask Him to do for myself and for others.
It was evening in the story, as it is now, as it is just about every time I write.
Their need was great, as is mine. The hour was late and the place was desolate. The Amplified Bible lists the setting as “remote and barren.” Exactly how I’ve been feeling as of late. Night after night during my writing time, I stare at the pesky little blinking cursor on the Word document that houses the latest novel I’m working on. It flashes impatiently waiting for me to type out some witty and entertaining yet spiritually insightful stream of consciousness to “feed” those who would read it and be satisfied of both head and heart. Blink, blink, blink. Nothing comes. Desolate, remote, barren. And the hour grows later.
The disciples told Jesus (mistake #1 – telling Jesus what to do as if He didn’t already have an awesome plan. I mean, didn’t they just see Him heal a bunch of sick people? But I digress…) to tell the crowd to go away so they can get fed somewhere else. It’s like me and my whining, “Lord, I can’t do this. I don’t know what to write. I’m too desolate…tired, empty and missing my beloved husband who is out of town on business.” As if to say to Him, give this task to someone else.
He says to the disciples--and to me, “You give them something to eat.”
Like the disciples, I point to the fact that I have nothing to give, except, maybe this little bit of desire to tell stories to get people to think about God and knowing Him better. I see it like five loaves of bread and two fish. Hardly enough to satisfy five hungry souls, let alone five thousand.
Five loaves. My twisted mind flashes to a photograph I once saw that was taken by my one of my favorite photographers, Robert Doisneau. The picture was of Picasso sitting at a dinner table. He had two sets of five tiny loaves of bread spread out in front of him perfectly placed as if they were his chubby fingers resting at the edge of the table. It was hilarious.
I look down at my hands hovering over the keyboard. Scarred and purple from bouts with Raynaud’s Syndrome. A finger on one hand is a struggle to straighten; another digit is recently healed so now I can type with it.
Two fish. I think about the other necessary tool for writing, the mind. Two halves of a brain, filled with thoughts swimming about randomly. Thoughts that are wildly creative and others not so much, like, “did I turn my flat iron off?”
Like the disciples, I admit that this is all I have. So when the Lord commands, “Bring them to Me,” I do as He says.
He ordered the people to sit down on the grass. So, instead of roaming about my house distractedly performing little tasks, I stay seated on my rhymes-with-grass, at my desk in front of my computer. I sit still and pray, giving Him my hands and all of my mind.
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them. And broke them. And He gave them back to the disciples who then gave them to the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied, and there was even bread left over, twelve baskets full.
He received, blessed, broke, and gave back, and gave back in abundance. I need to receive His blessed breaking of my reliance on myself to create, and use it to give out to others of what He has given, knowing they will be satisfied abundantly because of what He did.
I look down at the left-hand corner of my screen and notice that I have written nearly one thousand words, and will probably be slightly over that amount when this is finished. Each word a gift of His giving, proof of His working in me. One gift of a Bible verse to me contained one thousands gifts in it. One thousand gifts in one day. In one sitting. With the blessing and breaking and receiving from God, this gift will in turn, God-willing, be a gift to someone else. (1,068 words, in case you’re wondering.)