December 9, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Rejuvenating a Christlike, childlike spirit

Last week, I explained why our family has an early holiday gift exchange on Thanksgiving weekend. However, my sister and her husband have had two such gift exchanges even earlier the past two summers. During an autumn visit with Beverley and John in our hometown, they explained these fun activities with grandchildren.

Why have summer gift exchanges? Because two sets of their grandchildren rarely can be together over the Christmas holidays. So, when the youngsters visited simultaneously during hot weather, Bev and John suggested gift exchanges with a different twist. Since they are veteran thrift shoppers, they gave each child $10 (to be raised to $15 next year) for buying an appropriate gift for each of the other seven participants. Several thrift stores later, they returned to the Thurman home for gift wrapping.

“It turned out wonderfully,” Bev said, “with each child learning how to choose the right gift and budget their money. In return, they experienced the joy of giving and receiving. I get tears in my eyes when I think of the truly happy faces when giving and receiving their gifts. This is a win-win situation.”

Not only did this interest me, but also I was doubly blessed during that visit when, with great enthusiasm, Bev gave me a book she had just finished, Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith by Michael Yaconelli (NavPress; Coincidentally, at the same time I surprised her with a seven-book collection by C.S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia, the first of which is now appearing at movie theaters. Bev and I read references to Lewis’ Narnia in our Bible commentaries and in Dangerous Wonder. (At the beginning of the year, she and I embarked on a two-year Bible-reading endeavor.)

Yaconelli’s book mentions another gift-giving idea that costs nothing but love and imagination, something my own daughters—and surely many other children—have done. They designed coupons redeemable for services relieving the coupon’s recipient of certain duties, i.e., “When you don’t want to do dishes, present this coupon and I will do them for you without complaining: Good for one time only.” Ideas are unlimited.

So, if pre-holiday preparations frazzle you—or your life seems all work and no play—or if “ho-hum” is replacing your “ho-ho-ho” during holidays—or, more importantly, if you feel at your wit’s end spiritually—then Dangerous Wonder is a must.

Every chapter energized my spirit, making me better understand Christ’s words: “Unless you become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Please read Matthew 18 and Lk 9:46-50.) Yaconelli’s book also validated my view of Christ’s sense of irony and playful humor. Even the provocative questions at the end of each chapter foster meditations, discussions and more Christlike behavior.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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