The difference between a gift and a talent is only this: on a talent, you owe a tithe; for a gift, you owe everything.
Tis the season for list-making.Well, for me that is pretty much all year. Things to do, in different categories for different purposes. I’ve got my “home” section and “business” section, my “writing” section and my “business writing” section. Just by the sections, you can tell I’m leaning a bit. Balance is something I tend always to be catching and rarely something I have settled into.
I do love checking things off my to-do list. Frankly, that’s why I make it. Partly, yes, to take note of what needs doing, but I do relish the checking off part. Drawing a line through each item and reveling in my accomplishment. I have even begun breaking bigger tasks down into smaller units so I can check each portion off. Feels so good.
But this time of year feels like the bonus round of the bigger game of life. Everything counts more. You get extra points if the boss likes your gift. You get double pay if you work the holiday. You get special kudos if you make the supreme meal or favorite cookies or get the cards out on time. You get extra credit for everything.
Problem is, this extra credit is not without risk. It’s more like the game show bonus round. “How much are you willing to wager?” Get it right and you go home a winner. Get it wrong and you lose it all. In a game where you can’t get it completely right, we all go home losers. Unless there is extra, extra credit available. For things that don’t make the to-do list.
Here’s a list I’ve started. Perhaps there are things on your “done” list that never make the “to-do.” Here are a few of mine:
- notes to folks who need a pick-me-up
- emails to friends
- getting the mail
- feeding the dog
- going to church
- helping with homework, when asked
- writing this blog
- Facebook – okay, being honest here
- planning meals and preparing them
- baking zucchini bread
- MANY OTHER THINGS
It is worth noting: there are good things we get to without being asked and there are things that steal our time without telling us. We probably would do well to exchange the former for the latter, but that is the struggle of work and play, meeting demands and taking time off.
And perhaps that’s the very tug of war going on this season. That many optional things all of a sudden become required things and our list grows and grows until it overwhelms and disables. Perhaps if we began with the sure knowledge that we get credit for it all, we could work this out. The world may not reward it. We may lose the bonus round and go home only with lovely parting gifts. But the counting continues and the credit accrues.
Except, this credit is applied to my account. Credit for the things I did without being asked, perhaps without being noticed. Those things count to God. In fact, God paid for them, without asking a cent in return. So I could give them as gifts rather than pay up when the bill came.
I’m not sure my time is well spent in making a “done” list but it is a good reminder that it all counts to God. Just like we all count to God. The world doesn’t excuse our failure to meet expectations, but the expectations He has are measured on an entirely different scale in an entirely different economy. And when I’m paying close attention I notice that the reward comes in the doing. My “yes, I will” becomes His “thank you very much.”
A gift that keeps giving. That’s perpetual credit. So what’s the big to-do about a list?
It’s a funny thing about the pace of life these days. It hurries me. I’ve got 24 hours just like the next girl, so why is it that I always seem to be running late?
It was Sunday and I was late for church again. Brushing my teeth and grabbing the earrings that were easiest to put on, texting my friend that I was “on my way,” I tear off my offering envelope leaving a ragged edge, scribble something on the check and pray for a few red lights on the way so I can fill in the date and sign the darn thing. Funny, isn’t it, to pray for red lights when I’m already running late for worship.
But God answered with a nice long red light a mere quarter mile before I reached the turn for the church parking lot. I exhaled, threw it in park and pulled out that check. Scribbled in the date, signed my name then moved my pen to the memo line. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the folks in the turn lane going. My time was running out. Quickly, and in a hand-writing no human could read, I wrote, offering.
And that stopped me cold. Really? Was this my offering? My rush to attend worship. My pushing the speed limit? My jockeying for which was the quickest lane to get me ahead in traffic. Really?
In writing that word, I all at once, came face to face with offering. Not with what I shoved in the envelope (Now I’m not sure I even wrote my name on the outside.) but with what I brought to worship. And, ironically, I did not feel the pointing finger of chastisement I certainly deserved. No. Gone was the hurry. It had been replaced with “be quick, on purpose.” Somehow that was something I could do.
I pulled into the church lot, all the way to the back, leaving the closer spaces for the folks who needed them. I even offered a few quick words to my Maker as I shut off the car, grabbed the cell phone and joined the others who were walking smartly from their cars toward the doors held open by greeters for the morning. I even engaged in a little lighthearted banter with the other guy doing what I was, dodging cars and traffic while trying to find the button to silence his cell phone.
“Trying to silence the cell,” I say sheepishly, falling in stride.
“Me too,” he says, as we both look up and move left to avoid the oncoming car.
“They’re probably going, oh those darn people on their cell phones!” I say and smile. Of course, that’s what I would be thinking.
“Yep, and here in the church parking lot, for goodness sake!” He says and we both laugh.
We both stash our phones in time to accept the handshake of the greeter, smiling from his open doorway. I have never met the tall, blondish man who greets me with the very welcoming smile. Really wish I could remember the name on his name tag because he offered me the perfect greeting, “You’re not late. You’re just on time.”
I walked in and glanced at my watch. Sure enough, 9:15. Just on time. I slipped into a pew, greeted a few people already in seats nearby, and found myself oddly prepared for worship ~ given the hurry that consumed me a half hour ago. Offering, on purpose, seemed even to trump time.
I do believe there are times when we are meant to move quickly. But it’s not for our own good. It’s because someone where we’re going needs us to be there. Those are times to move quickly, with a purpose. It won’t feel like hurry.
It’ll probably feel more like God’s pace. I expect it was the pace of my friend the greeter on Sunday morning, arriving early, so he could offer a handshake of forgiveness, that showed no judgment, just welcome. Just on time.