December 2011


The whole reason Jesus came was to die…so, if Herod had succeeded in killing him when he was small, would it have been as redemptive as the cross? Was the redemption in the actual blood, or in the willingness to lay down his life? Because if it was the blood – which seems more theologically correct – in theory Herod could have succeeded and, redemptively speaking, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Also, with my son a full-blown toddler, I am curious to know what Jesus was like at this age. Since he was sinless, did he throw tantrums? If he did, that would mean that my son’s screaming and hitting and crying are merely a developmental phase, something to just ride out…if he didn’t, then I am dealing with sin in my child’s little heart and that requires a much more proactive stance. (It sounds silly but really, theology can strongly affect your parenting. I have some friends who don’t believe in depravity – basically, that everyone is sinful – and instead think that everyone is mostly good. The way they discipline their children is wildly different from how I expect I will discipline mine, because I do believe people are born with a sinful nature.) And if he didn’t throw tantrums, can you imagine Mary’s horror at her other kids’ behavior when they came along? When really, they were just being normal (probably sinful) kids.

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I was reminded this past week of an unfortunate event that took place in our area earlier this year. The original idea was grand – shoes would be donated for extremely poverty-stricken children in Central America. And some artsy people would decorate shoes and “auction” them and the proceeds would be sent to these children.

Then the event’s vision and purpose was re-directed. Instead of sending the actual shoes, all the donated shoes would be auctioned and the money would go to purchasing shoes locally for the children (this is a great idea, to support the local economy). Except…the idea became really muddled. I visited a women’s small group just before this event and was dismayed to learn that it was a crafting day for them. I am not opposed to crafting in general; I just don’t do it. Because I suck at it. Anyway so some of the ladies’ daughters had a party to “decorate” these shoes for the event, and this small group session was dedicated to “fixing” the “decorated” shoes. Basically you had a bunch of scuzzy flip flops with rhinestones and bows hot-glued on, with an ungodly amount of glittery puff paint. (Let me be clear: any amount of puffy paint is ungodly. Any amount of glitter is ungodly. Glittery puff paint is, by definition, ungodly.) And one of the moms cheerfully reassured us that “All the shoes that aren’t ‘bought’ (because let’s face it, some of these won’t be bought) will be donated to poor people here!” and I was utterly aghast because THESE SHOES WERE AWFUL. Awful, awful, awful. They were ugly and old and dirty…and that was before the rhinestones.

And you know what? Poor people deserve better than that. Because they are PEOPLE. And if you wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of shoes, you and your mother should be ashamed that you would even consider dumping them off on the less fortunate. Poor women want to be pretty just as much as rich ones, they just choose (hopefully) to feed their kids instead of reveling in the heavenly goodness of cashmere. Just after high school I participated in a tornado relief effort and part of that was sorting donations. And I almost threw up – which is saying something, I have a fairly sturdy digestive system – at some of the things people would donate. Like, disco outfits. IT WAS THE YEAR 2000. Disco had been dead for quite some time. But the worst, the absolute worst, was the used underwear. There I was, 17 or 18, with a few part-time jobs and fully cognizant of how scarce money can be at times…and I was furious that people would take underwear off their unwashed bodies and put them in a bag to donate. For just a few dollars, you can buy a 6-pack of underwear at Wal-Mart. Even I, at 17, could afford that.

It is disgusting to me that anybody – but ESPECIALLY Christians – think that recipients should be grateful for an item for the mere reason that they didn’t have it before. “Well, they should be grateful to get these worn-out shoes with rhinestones hot-glued everywhere, because they don’t have any shoes.” Shoes that incite shame are not much of an improvement over no shoes. Your attitude should be more like, “Well, I shudder to think of putting these on my feet so I can only imagine that everyone else would be just as horrified to wear them. Instead, I’ll give something I would like to receive.” If you are going to give to the poor, or a disaster relief effort, imagine that your best friend’s house just burned down and they have nothing. Now you may go to Wal-Mart, or Target, or wherever, and pick out the underwear and socks you would get for your friend who has none. If you are too good to shop at Wal-Mart or would be embarrassed for your friend to think/know that you shop at Wal-Mart, then go wherever you would go to clothe your friend in need. I don’t think God is very impressed when we say “Oh, I’ll get this to give away because it’s so cheap” (I have overheard some of this as people purchase things to donate for Christmas). But He probably IS happy when we say, “I would have LOVED to get this toy as a kid – heck, I would still love to get it – so I’ll get this one for my Christmas kid instead of the thing that costs $2 and will probably break before you can get all those maddening twisty-ties off it.”

Donating should be giving a gift. If you’re not proud enough of something to wrap it up and give it to someone who knows you, someone with a face and a name, then you have no business donating it to a poor family at Christmas. And if you are a Christian, you are called to give good gifts – because God gives good gifts, and you’re supposed to be trying to be like Him. Please don’t give trash to people and think you’re being generous and participating in “the spirit of the season,” and PLEASE don’t say you’re doing it in honor of Jesus.