Tag Archives: surprise

Her First Birthday Party


Each summer, I serve as the Bible teacher for a summer camp in Texas.  The camp’s mission is to create positive memories for abused and neglected children, ages 7-11.

Two years ago, we had a little girl who was at camp for her first time. Every time she would see me, she would remind me that it was her birthday during the week, and she asked me over and over not to forget. I promised  her each time that I would be sure to remember and that we would celebrate it together.

Confession: I knew something that she didn’t.  At the camp, we always throw a birthday party for ALL the kids on Thursday night.  Many of them have never celebrated their birthdays before, so we get a church to donate enough toys to fill up a large shoebox for each child, make a giant cake, decorate the camp’s mess hall with streamers, confetti and party favors and make sure it’s an event that they will all remember!

When the night of the party arrived, I was excited for her and hoped that she would be pleased with the celebration. Amazingly, none of the older kids had let on about the party, even though they had been to camp several times before. I did my part distracting the kids with some other meaningful activities while the party decorations were completed, and then I got them lined up at the door of the mess hall, ready to go in for their big surprise.

The door opened up, loud cheers and clapping emerged, and the kids bounded inside, high-fiving all the adults and teens that had lined up to greet them!  Once past the gauntlet of celebrating big people, the kids found tables and chairs set for the biggest birthday party they had ever seen!  Party hats, juice pouches, colorful plates, napkins and plastic ware, noise makers and balloons!  Everyone excitedly took their seats and began to explore their table settings while the adults brought them cake and ice cream and sang “Happy Birthday!” to them.

When I went to see the girl after the initial surprise, she caught me off guard. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she said, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Pastor Mike! You remembered!” Over and over.  She was quite undone by the grace of it all.

I was a little embarrassed that she thought I was the reason for the party when I had really done nothing except distract the kids while the preparations were being made, but I didn’t want to ruin her moment by saying anything awkward. To her, this was a promise fulfilled and an opportunity to celebrate her birthday for the very first time.

I often think about this moment.  It both breaks my heart (for a little girl who had never had the simple gesture of a birthday party), and it humbles me.  There were dozens of people more deserving of the credit for her birthday celebration, but God allowed me to be the one that received her appreciation.  What I’ve realized is that God often allows us to get the credit for good works that we had very little to do with.  If we are honest, He does 99% of the work most of the time.  We have little to offer, and we are often selfish about offering what we do have.

I think He uses these moments to remind us of the joy we receive from joining Him in His work.  They are an incentive for us to trust Him more with our time, our talents and our treasures, and they soften our hearts toward those in need.

So, in retrospect, I’m not sure if the birthday party that night was more for the little girl or more for me.  I suspect God made the appointment for us both.

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If you would like to know more about Royal Family Kids’ Camps (which are held in many places around the world), you can visit their website at http://www.rfkc.org.

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Filed under Abundance, agape love, christianity, generosity, grace, love, Service, Serving Others, unconditional love

Sex Talk: The Gift


Talking with my two oldest about sex and why they need to wait until they are married.  God gave me a word picture that has been helpful with both of them so far.

Sex is a gift.  It’s one of the best gifts you can ever hope to receive, and God is excited for you to have it.  He created this gift for you for three reasons:

  1. So that we could have children. God wants us to participate with Him on one of the greatest miracles we will ever know – the creation of life!  He does 99.9% of the work, but he saves a small piece for us to do so that we can have the joy of helping make a baby.
  2. So that we can be one with our spouse. God wants husbands and wives to be so close that they are like one person.  Sex allows us to be close physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  By making spouses one, it helps us understand a little bit of the mystery of God’s oneness with the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  3. So that we can have pleasure. God wants us to experience incredible pleasure during sex.  There is probably nothing in the world that feels as good as sex between a husband and a wife.  The pleasure we get from sex should remind us what a wonderful God we have.

God has some rules about the gift.  If we follow them, we will enjoy the gift to the fullest extent that we can.  If we break the rules, sex can become a powerful tool for Satan to use to try to hurt us and other people.  Because sex is such a powerful gift for bringing us closer to our spouses and to God, and because it allows us to bring children into the world who are made in God’s image, Satan absolutely hates it.  He has devised hundreds, maybe thousands, of ways to ruin the gift and hurt people.

One rule is that the gift is not intended for us to use for ourselves.  God wants us to give it to someone very special – our future husband or wife.  The gift is intended only for that person and for no one else.

How would you feel if a friend had a gift for you that they first gave to other people?  They allowed those people to keep the gift for a period of time and use it over and over.  By the time you get it, it won’t be new anymore.  Most likely, it will be damaged in some way, and it’s possible that the gift could be so damaged that it would even hurt you.  Would that gift seem very special to you?  Would it make you feel like you were the most important person in your friend’s life?

Probably not, right?

Another rule is that the gift should not be opened before the right time.  That time is the day you get married.  It’s very hard to wait that long to open the gift, because you’re going to hear from lots of people how great it is, but you have to wait if you really want it to be special.

Remember how tempting it was to sneak a peak at your presents under the Christmas tree?  They were all so neatly wrapped and exciting!  You almost couldn’t stand not knowing what was inside all that colorful paper!  But what would have happened if you had sneaked in one night before Christmas Day and peeled back the wrapping ever so carefully?  At first, you would have tried just peeling back a corner, but then you would have had to peel back more in order to see what was inside.  Before long, you might not have been able to stop yourself from unwrapping the entire thing.

Even if you had been able to rewrap the present perfectly (and what kid knows how to do that), wouldn’t you have felt miserable knowing what you had done?  Wouldn’t the guilt have ruined the anticipation of Christmas?  And when you opened the present on Christmas morning, you would have had to pretend to be surprised and excited.  Sitting there that Christmas Day, you would have felt robbed of some of the joy of Christmas, but you would have had no one to blame but yourself.

Sex is like that.  It’s beautifully wrapped and very attractive.  Satan will point that out to you over and over as you wait for your marriage day.  He will try to convince you to take just one small peak, but you’ve got to stay far away from the gift.  If you start to peel back a corner, it will be almost impossible to keep yourself from opening the entire thing.  That means that you have to guard yourself against the temptation to get too physically close to someone of the opposite sex.  The more you touch, the more difficult it will be to keep yourself away from the gift.

If you get too close and open the gift before it’s time, you will have done something permanent.  You can’t give a gift for the first time more than once.  It will only be as special as God intended if you wait for your wedding day to give it to your spouse.  God can restore most of the specialness of the gift if you make a mistake, but it will take years of hard work for both your spouse and you.  Your mother and I both made this mistake when we were young, and we have regretted it ever since.  We don’t want you to have to go through the struggles we have gone through to get back the specialness of the gift.

That’s it.  Those are the rules.  Any other rules you find in the Bible about sex are just different ways of saying these two rules, because people always want to make excuses for opening the gift at the wrong time and with the wrong person.

This gift is precious!  Don’t waste it on the wrong person, and don’t open it before it’s time.  Save it for a very special person on your very special wedding day, and you both will be thrilled at how good God is to give you such a gift!  I’m praying for both your future spouse and you that you will both save your gifts for each other on that day.

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Filed under accountability, christianity, delayed gratification, Instant Gratification, love, marriage, parenting, Relationships, sex, Sexual purity, Waiting for marriage