Tag Archives: giving

Alternative Gifts?

The four gifts we most commonly hear around Christmas time in church are peace, love, joy, and hope.

The other gifts we spend our most time on are the things we give to others – toys, gadgets, computers, clothes, and goodies.

That’s why this year we are exploring the unexpected gifts of Advent.

Stuff like uncertainty, preparation, and surprise.

These are unusual and different gifts. Who would think in a difficult economic time that uncertainty would be a gift? What surprise could be in store for us beyond unwrapping pretty gifts beneath a tree? What does it mean to be prepared for Christmas beyond our shopping and decoration?

Each of us probably finds some struggle in this season as we seek to balance all of life’s pressures and yet leave some lasting memory. Advent challenges us to go deeper, to yearn to understand the gift God shares with the world – a gift of presence, forgiveness, and life.

I guess this is what an alternative gift is – one that makes us stop, think, feel, and dream.

Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, life abundant.”

Christ invites us to go deeper than the wrappings of our gifts and the lights on our trees – to wait in wonder for Emmanuel, God Is With Us, into our lives once again.

- In addition to our exploration of these alternative gifts through our worship together, we invite you to bring other alternative Christmas gift ideas to share with your friends at the Table. We already have some information from Church World Service, Heifer International, Threads of Hope, and others. Do you know of gifts that also seed hope and peace around the world? Bring your information to share this Sunday.

- Also starting this Sunday, we will decorate a Christmas tree with our prayers through this Advent season. Small cards will be available for you to write prayers, names, wishes, joys, and dreams. These cards will not be read by others.

- Finally, end your Sunday of worship by joining with others during our Advent Workshop and build care packages for our college students and men and women served in the armed forces. We will try to have some kits available immediately after worship to be put together in the Great Hall.

- Rev. Nathan

Love to Give

One of those great impacts of my life was growing up in Oklahoma during the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19, 1995. I was in high school and remember being glued to the tv sets as we watched rescue efforts unfold. The great gift in the midst of all of the pain and sorrow and anger was the outpouring of support from around the world.

People gave generously in that time of crisis.

When natural disasters hit or tragedies befall unsuspecting people, the world does indeed respond. Our giving becomes a sign of our similarity, our compassion, and our love. People are motivated to do their part, even if their part is a few bucks or signs of support.

I give thanks that I live in a culture and a world where we give so freely and graciously, in times of disaster and in times of peace. I am thankful for motivated people that respond to the call each day to love others and live out their vision for a better world. They have certainly made my life better and helped me come to know Jesus Christ who gave more deeply than some can even imagine.

A prayer for today might be:

Thank you for loving me. Thank you for the gifts of others who have blessed my life. May I love to give as much you do, O Lord. Amen.

Where does it all come from?

Gift of Hands

There’s this song we will sing Sunday with the line – “take my gifts and let me love you, God first of all who loved me.”

One of my professors in seminary told us about this guy that he met who left this lasting image on him. They were in line to get food in a cafeteria. The food wasn’t anything special, but this guy would just get so excited about the mashed potatoes, the bread, the ham, the pineapple, or whatever it was placed on his plate. He would exclaim, “Wow, this looks amazing. Thank you!” My professor finally asked him if he was trying to be funny, but the guy shook his head and explained that he knew even this food was a gift from God for today.

Another mentor told me about a director of a refugee ministry on the border of Mexico who had lived through a lot of tough times. For lunch, he was offered a fresh apple. The director was so moved and so thankful, that he prayed with tears before savoring every bite.

When I heard those stories, at first, I envied those feelings. Man, it would sure feel good to be so thankful for all of the things I have. How often do I take the abundance I have for granted? But on the other hand, I also felt like maybe those people were overdoing it a little – tears for an apple and excitement over cafeteria food? Come on.

But something kept nagging me about those stories. They began to remind me of how Jesus said that if God fed the birds of the air, how much more would God feed you who are his children?

It’s hard to think this way in life – do all things really come from God? When I bring home a paycheck, isn’t that from my hard work? Isn’t the food I prepare the fruit of my labor?

And yet – we know that food wouldn’t grow if it wasn’t for the gift of life, sun, water, and earth. Our job wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have health, life, education, opportunities, relationship, and energy. Even the people we love, was it really anything we did that convinced them to like or love us?

Perhaps the true beginning of humility and thanksgiving is to understand how fragile life can be and yet how great a gift it is.

We begin a new series on stewardship, giving, and thanksgiving this month. Join us and praise God with your breath, a breath that is even a gift from the Creator of us all.

- Rev. Nathan

Food Driving It

Starting this Sunday, which is World Communion Sunday, we’ll be joining with the rest of the church in collecting a variety of foods to go to those who are hungry in our neighborhood. This drive is in partnership with the North Texas Food Bank.

Janie says we should bring:

The following items are needed: 
Canned Goods:  Meats (tuna/ chicken/ham)  fruit and vegetables &  juice, soups, stew, chili, beans 
(dried/canned), baby food;  
Other  items:   Pudding  cups,  rice, mac and  cheese,  vanilla wafers, pretzels,   crackers,  cereal bars,  
hot/dry cereals, peanut butter 
Milk:   Evaporated/powdered milk; infant formula 

Bring your items and place them around our communion table as a witness and offering to your generosity and God’s goodness.

Change Month: Clean Water for Haiti

We all have a lot of pocket change laying around, right? Maybe not as much as we used to, since debit cards are pretty convenient in our lives. But we all need those quarters and dimes in our cars for tolls or some loose change in our desk for that midday cold beverage at work.

During the month of May, the Table and East Dallas Christian Church is being challenged to make some change with our change. We have plastic jugs loosely scattered over our campus and are collecting whatever you have in the depths of your pockets to go to provide clean drinking water for work teams and refugee camps in Haiti. The organization we are working with is International Action. They are fairly young non-profit but are doing some amazing work at an amazing pace.

Before the earthquakes in January, International Action was already on the ground, working to setup local and sustainable water systems. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and their water system reflected that. International Action brought in very affordable chlorination systems, worked to make the maintenance of the machines and distribution of chlorine tablets a small business opportunity, mapped the locations of their water systems, and even began to provide “de-worming” pills to children who got sick drinking local water.

The video below shows their work to get clean water distributed efficiently and quickly to thousands after the earthquake:

In this season of resurrection, we know Christ invites us to transform our lives and the world. By sharing something as simple as pocket change, our brothers and sisters in Haiti are offered a helping hand, and our lives are changed by blessing others with the gifts we have. See you Sunday – bring your change for change month!


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