Earlier this week we gathered at church to think about poverty and possessions, and our response. Or, rather, what our response should be.
One of the passages we examined is found in 1 Timothy 6:
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
I love this. I love it probably because it makes me laugh. I don’t think I have been content a day in my life. Not a day.
But the challenge to being content, for me, comes not from wanting possessions. I hold on pretty loosely to “things”. I don’t like clutter, I love to throw things away, I like clean, open spaces. I think this may be one of the very few concepts in scripture that I grasp, to a degree. I brought nothing into this world. And, when I go home, nothing will go with me.
No, my challenge comes in being content with where I am at. But that’s another topic, for another day. Maybe after I move to Montana. Or Nepal.
It’s funny though, that these verses got me to thinking about “things”. Yes, definitely from the perspective that we, as Christ-followers, need to wake the heck up and quit tsk-tsking the poverty of thee nations and start acting—meeting needs, living far, far less extravagantly, giving more, and working to solve the bigger issues on a global scale.
But also these verses, and a gift I received last night, started me thinking about the handful of things that I have, that are precious to me. Prized possessions.
Last night, I was given an enormous gift. A friend, knowing my love of books–particularly old books, gifted me with two bags of beautiful, beautiful old books–theology, hymns, philosophy, commentaries. I am still overwhelmed tonight, by the fact that I am the recipient of such beautiful books. I am eager to pour over them. I know they will become some of my most prized possessions.
So I got to thinking about the things I most prize, and decided to share them here. They probably will be of little interest to visitors of this page, but here’s the thing:
I kind of see them like markers. Like Old Testament Stones of Remembrance. It’s the stuff of Joshua 4, when God told Joshua to tell the guys to pick up 12 stones from the Jordan, so the Israelites would never forget where they had come from, or what God had done for them. That’s how I view the “things” that mean the most to me:
Every single letter, every single card, every single hand-written note that I’ve received since our world was turned upside down a few years ago, I have kept; in this yellow shoebox. It stays right by my bed. There are many nights when I’ve not been able to sleep, that I’ve grabbed this box. It has been a huge reminder of God’s grace to my crew and I.
A few years ago, for Christmas, my baby girl drew this picture of my absolute most favorite Sesame Street character—Grover. He has been my favorite since I was a child and I read “The Monster at the End of This Book.” She wanted to get me something for Christmas and didn’t have any money, so she drew this and made a paper “frame” for it. It stands right on top of my bookshelf, which contain some of my most favorite books. This reminds me of joy and laughter.
This picture is a bit blurry, but this is a necklace that came in the mail for me, from my boy, after he graduated Navy Boot Camp. It was such a surprise–a shock, really. He picked it out himself, to tell me “Thank you”. Whew. Wearing it reminds me to pray for all of my crew, but especially for my boy.
I can barely write about this one without it messing me up. This is the Moses basket that all four of my babies slept in. I’m not a sentimental mom, at all, in the least. But, there is something about this basket. It represents to me lives lived and lives lost. It reminds me that time moves quickly. And, it has an extra layer of meaning–God’s sovereignty. After my ex-husband was arrested, things happened fast. Not knowing where we were going to land or what to do, we packed up most of our belongings and gave them to Goodwill (at least, I think that is where they ended up). Fast forward 5 years–I went up to the church to help organize a classroom for our ministry to the homeless, and I walked in and sitting there on top of piles and piles of old curriculum and file cabinets and other various churchy stuff, was our Moses Basket. I must have put it in the church at some point so it wouldn’t get taken to Goodwill. Or something. Anyway, I snatched it up, brought it home in tears, and all 4 of my kids went crazy when they saw it. So, in some sort of funny way, this basket reminds me of God’s sovereignty.
I love books. I treasure books. I cherish books. And I like to keep my favorite books nearby. These are some books that I keep on a very awesome floating shelf, next to my bed. Lewis, Robinson, Yancey, Stott, Keller, and three books from when I was a child—a book about horses, The Best-Loved Doll and The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. Goodness, I love these books. They remind me that words are important.
A sweet friend bought me this not-cheap, leather-bound, ESV journaling Bible. She knew I am nerdy, she knew that I had been looking at it for a while (she is pretty nerdy, too), and as an extravagant and generous gift, it showed up at my doorstep via UPS one day. I love this Bible–I love the smell, I love the wide margins where I can make notes and notes and notes, and I love that it came from my friend, SaraBeth, whom I am so proud of. This Bible reminds me of the importance of cherishing God’s word as a treasure, not just something to study and pick apart.
This “thing” makes me laugh, because I don’t even like flowers. But I love this hibiscus. I baby it, hand carry water to it, research how to keep the beetles from eating the eggs, and weed around it every day. Yes, every day I check to make sure there are no weeds encroaching my flower. I love it because, while I was on a work trip, my kids went out and bought this for me, and worked together to plant it, and were so proud to show it to me when I arrived home at 11pm at night. My hibiscus reminds me of creation. And of miracles, because I haven’t killed the dang thing yet.
Lastly, my newest prized possessions. The books I received last night. This picture is just a tiny handful of the books upon books that are spread out right now across my bed. One very rare, very beautiful volume in particular was so thoughtfully chosen–a volume of Hymns with an Ocean theme, with an inscription by the author/compiler–which strikes me on two levels. First–it was given with thought to my Navy son, to assist me in remembering him and thinking and praying for him. Goodness. But secondly, and the giver doesn’t know this, but the ocean is important to me. It ranks right up there with the sky. While staring at the Pacific Ocean several years ago now, this thought occurred to me: “Could it be that a huge, creator God–a God that would create the vastness of this ocean, could it be that He would also know me? That He would know my name?”
These books remind me that I am so grateful for those God has brought into my life. These books remind me that many hands have held their covers, read their words, have sung the songs they contain, and have pondered the things of God and found Him to be faithful.
And the Ocean Hymns book reminds me that God loves my boy and will watch over him. And, it reminds me that the creator God sees. And knows.
And knows my name.