A Shocking Gift

When my dad, Chuck Swindoll, was a kid, he found under the Christmas tree a pleasantly wrapped package with his name on it . . . and he did what every kid does. With no one looking, he quietly picked it up, smelled it, took a good look at its wrapping, and shook it—hoping for a clue to its contents.

Photo by mattbuck [CC-BY-SA-2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

As a kid, Dad loved to play sports. He had always wanted his very own bright orange basketball. The wrapped present was just the right size. (He had measured to be sure!) A basketball was the only thing on his wish list. My dad’s imagination skyrocketed: in slow motion just shy of the free-throw line, the ball glides through the air in a perfect arc, and—SWOOSH!—nothin’ but net. The buzzer rings, the crowd roars, game won.

Christmas morning finally came. My dad raced into the room, ripped open the present, and found a bright BLUE world globe . . . I kid you not. A WORLD GLOBE. It was thoroughly shocking and terribly disappointing. What part of his one request had his parents missed?

The Unexpected

Like my dad years ago, most of us have had disappointing experiences a time or two. Handling those experiences with maturity means getting past disappointments and adjusting our expectations . . . which is much easier to do with Christmas gifts than it is in the Christian life, isn’t it? How many times have I had one simple request? How many times have I wondered if God was paying attention? After all, my one simple request was a good, great, helpful, healing, even heavenly-focused request: just for starters, how about relief for my son’s pain?

Yet, God has chosen differently. There’s more pain, more difficulties, more disappointment, and—like receiving a world globe when a basketball was asked for—more questions: Where’s the return receipt? Where’s the customer service? I’m outta here. Let’s be honest: I’ve thought, Where are You, God? You’ve thought it too, I bet.

The Reality of God’s Christmas Gift

For a moment, set aside all the holiday hoopla and consider the most unexpected and unlikely conditions surrounding the birth of Christ—the Christian’s ultimate Gift celebrated at Christmas.

Let’s start with Mary. Her circumstances were a bit less than celebratory. An unknown, young girl, engaged to an unknown, hardworking guy, showed up pregnant. She told people that an angel told her the “Holy Spirit” was the father of the baby she was carrying—and oh, by the way, the baby was going to be the Savior of the world. Mary was pregnant but had never had sex . . . and she was hearing voices and seeing an angel! Even the most empathetic listener would be a little concerned, right?

Then Joseph, who had the customary right to toss her to the wind or have her stoned to death said he also was visited by an angel, who told him to believe Mary. He did. “Birds of a feather” . . . even today we would think they were crazy. But instead of pleading for a better gift, Mary sang praises to God in the midst of profoundly life-threatening circumstances. And it got worse. She then had to travel on a donkey days before her due date. When she arrived at her destination, she delivered the “Gift,” our Savior, in a foul-smelling, animal-filled, cave-like stable and laid Him in a feeding trough.

God’s gifts often come to us in ways we’d never expect—as world globes when we’re looking for basketballs.

God’s Gifts

What is your “world globe” these days? What “one simple request” have you lifted to our Lord, just to find in the torn wrappings an answer more different and difficult than you ever expected? How do you deal with less than ideal circumstances that might be life-threatening or life-taking? In Mary’s story, her Son died—don’t forget that part.

Sometimes God allows things to die in our lives: good dreams, cherished possessions, loving people. Death is never easy—but God is good. We don’t know what good may come of God’s will; we have to trust the end will be heavenly . . . and it will.

Let Me Hear from You

Who would have known when my dad was 9 or 10 years old that his voice would one day ring around the world, offering truth and hope to the hurting? That world globe no longer represents an unmet desire; it represents a life God has used in miraculous ways all around the world.

So it is with you. Your world globe is a gift from God; will you trust in the One who gave it to you? Are you praising God or pleading for another gift? Don’t let this year pass without recognizing that sometimes God’s gifts are different than we expected. For a moment, look to God—the Giver of the gift—and not the gift; there is a purpose for what God’s given. What “world globes” have you unwrapped lately? I would love to hear from you.

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  • VickiHD

    Colleen,
    This is such a wonderful story and a gentle reminder, especially at Christmas time, that God’s gift are sometimes much different than what we wanted, expected and wanted. But it’s usually exactly what we need…all though we may not understand or see that at the moment. I guess it’s up to us how we deal with and handle those unexpected gifts. Wow, such a timely message and reminder to trust in the LORD and to lean on him.
    Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year.
    Blessings,
    Vicki

    • Vicki,
      You are so kind to reply and comment…and with such great wisdom. My apologies for not replying sooner…it’s the season to be jolly…and extremely busy for us all! I so enjoy hearing from you and all that the Lord is doing in your life. Yes, so often those “gifts” from our Lord come wrapped in difficult and uncertain ways; yet if we could do it on our own, we wouldn’t need Him. So, there’s much hope and grace for us all. Let me know what books/workbooks you chose to pursue…I am so delighted and love to walk along side those who choose the growth process. Probably because there were so few who understand how chaotic it could be…it’s nice to know you are loved and accepted just as you are. May the Lord be near to you this season and comfort any sorrows you may have. In the name of our Savior, Colleen

      • VickiHD

        Colleen,
        I have been checking out the book list you gave me and I’m excited to tell you that I’ve ordered a few; The gift of Imperfection, The Zippered Heart, Secrets of your Family Tree. I have to say I am excited to start this process and I think it’s a great time to starting since the New Year is right around the corner. I’m looking forward to tackling some of these issues and to see what God has in store for me in the coming year.
        Thank you again for your support and all your suggestions.
        Blessings,
        Vicki

        • Vicki,
          Oh my gosh….I’m so excited for you!!! Just think, God who loves you more than you can imagine has brought you to a place of desire…desire to grow, to know Him, to heal your soul in areas only He can change, and for a purpose that only He knows right now. I cannot wait to see how this year unfolds for you. Oh it’s wonderful news and I would love to hear with you think of the works. They are all so very good…may this new year be the best one yet! SO delighted for you…and Merry Christmas my friend. Colleen

        • Vicki, just wanted to wish you a very Happy New Year. May the work you are doing bring you joy and peace; may our friendship grow in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I’m so delighted for you…I hope the books do bring healing as God does what only He can do. Many blessings and once again, Happy New Year! Colleen

          • VickiHD

            Colleen,
            Thank you for your sweet email. I am looking forward to the New Year and I’m waiting for the books to arrive so I can dig in. Thank you again for your support, friendship and encouragement with your emails and thought provoking blogs. Your words of wisdom have really helped me during this past year. May the New Year also bring you peace, blessings, and laughter to you. I mention laughter because sometimes we just need to laugh at our circumstances. Happy New Year my friend !!!
            Blessings,
            Vicki

          • Vicki,
            Happy New Year a few days into it. You are so welcome for the suggestions; did any of the books arrive? I am so excited for you as I know God is working in your life and it’s wonderful to watch one grow and bloom. Have a great day. Colleen

          • VickiHD

            Colleen,

            Hope your New Year is off to a good start. Yes, yesterday finally all my books arrived. I am leaning towards The Zippered Heart to start the year off with. It’s funny….over the holiday we painted our home office and I redecorated a bit. Fresh paint job, new lighting, rug etc, simple changes but overall it has a new feel. So I am excited to spend time in there digging into the books. Thanks for checking in.

            Blessings,

            Vicki

          • Vicki,
            What fun … new year, new you … how’s that! I’m thrilled for you and what you will learn, how you will grow, and the new freedom and grace you will experience. Marilyn is one of the finest communicator’s and a very compassionate person; her knowledge in many areas supports her writing and speaking. Her road hasn’t been easy as you know if you saw the interview. But from that, what wisdom she gained by choosing life and change. I would love to know what you find interesting, challenging, and simply great about the book. I would bet she has some stories of my Aunt Luci tied in somewhere and you will crack up. Enjoy my friend. Looking forward to hearing from you. Colleen

          • VickiHD

            Colleen,
            I will definitely will share my thoughts about the book with you. Can’t wait to get further into the book. Yes, I did see your interview Marilyn and she seems absolutely delightful. So I really am looking forward to reading her book.
            How’s your working out & running going??? We talked awhile ago to hold each other accountable, so I just wanted to check in. I’ve been spending time with my treadmill (dreadmill) and by keeping track of my time & miles it seems to be helping me stay motivated and most importantly consistent. Have a wonderful weekend.
            Blessings,
            Vicki

          • Vicki,
            Okay girlfriend, I just laughed out loud…”Dreadmill”…that is the best! Well, I also got a 15 min workout book that is kicking my tail. It’s a training book that offers exercises that can be done in 15 min…they are hard and some I can’t even do yet but I’m working on it. I am on the treadmill more than in years. I love it, my husband notices a big attitude change as my ADD and tendencies towards anxiety and depression are noticeably more positive and calm. The hardest part is finding the time because I hate working out after work but it’s the only time that seems available. The 15 min idea gets me going though. Also, my husband and I are trying to get into yoga…ever tried that? Oh my heavens! Since we both have joint and back injuries and issues, it’s good in helping reduce pain. HOWEVER, I will say we look like two ducks on roller skates. My son just cracks up!! In fact, some of the positions I can’t even get into…it’s been very funny and fun for us to do together. So, thanks for asking. My goal is 4 times a week, then hopefully up to 6. That all being said, how are you doing? Our treadmill now has officially been renamed…DREADMILL…love it. Love hearing from you too and can’t wait to hear about your reading. Colleen

          • VickiHD

            Colleen,
            Now you have me cracking up at the visual of ducks on roller skates 🙂 I would look the same way!! Good for you about the yoga. No, I have never tried…looks really difficult but it is suppose to be so good for stretching. I think it’s great that you and your husband is doing that together. Having that support to get you going and through the workout is so important. It sounds like you are really on track with your workouts and on the beloved dreadmill. I’m glad you are noticing the positive effects of it.
            I’m doing well on the workout front…..I’ve started a official training program for my next 1/2 marathon. Along with that I’m participating in a “challenge” where you do a 10K the day before the 1/2. Mentally I really needed a new challenge like this and I’m really excited about it. I’m more than motivated and dedicated to preparing for these two race that takes place over Mother’s Day weekend at Disneyland. I am really loving my time too on the dreadmill…..also watching TV on the ipad helps the miles and time go by faster.
            I’ve got 4 miles to do tonight and I’m looking forward to it.
            Have a wonderful Sunday !!
            Vicki

          • Vicki,
            Training…girl you are way ahead of me! I’m not there yet but maybe one day. You have to let me know how training is coming along. Interestingly, I wrote a blog post on running the LA Marathon years ago. Man, hitting that wall was a bummer but I finished and that’s all I wanted to do…crawling, walking, whatever…just finish. The yoga is still in the painful stage…we’ve not hit the body mind benefits but we’re working towards that. They say it may take months. I had no idea the body and mind were so interactive if one slows enough to listen. Hey, that sounds like another good post idea. Stay in touch, you’re a great encourager of the mind, body, soul connection and the need for play and exercise. I LOVE the accountability! Have a great week. Colleen

          • VickiHD

            Colleen,

            Oh I would really like to read your post on running the LA Marathon. And congrats on FINISHING !!! They say, and I believe it, running is 10 % physical and 90% mental. It’s so true and the battle of wills that can go on in your head can really do a number on your confidence and belief in your training to finish. But you can overcome !!!!

            Sometimes, it just the matter of putting one step in front of the other….just like we do in life.

            Just think…if we keep on track with our workout/exercise/training plans, I think we will be pleasantly surprised in a few months with our results.

            Keep up the good work.

            Vicki

          • Vicki,
            I just edited it so it’s out soon. You will get it because your a runner…that’s all I will say to leave you wondering. = ) I hope I notice changes…my age has not helped. Having been so active, then not active for years due to working full time, hitting some life changes; the body isn’t what it used to be let’s just say that. So I think I’m trying to kick start my metabolism as it seems to have resigned. BUMMER! And, I have low thyroid so that affects the endocrine system and metabolism which means I need to be on the ‘dreadmill’ all the more. = ) Do tell me how your training is coming along…it’s very motivating!!! Thanks! Have a great afternoon. Colleen

  • Ann Holmes

    Great post, Colleen! Thanks!

    • Ann,
      What on this earth….so sorry for the delay in my reply! Thank you for your kind and affirming comment. I continue to enjoy getting to know you over this social media/blog page and hope one day we will be able to meet. Until then, may you be warmed by this season of celebrating our Savior, Colleen

  • Carrie

    Enjoyed your story, and have from time been given a world globe, and didn’t know what to do with it. However, have learned that the gifts we think we don’t want are exactly what we need. Thanks so much for bring that to mind. God Bless and have a great year.

  • Carrie,
    I think we all have had a few through life. It’s how we choose to see them that makes a difference and sometimes that takes time doesn’t it. I Would love to know which was the hardest for you and how you finally saw its value. That would be a cool story if you feel like sharing. I bet there is much wisdom in it. Thanks for connecting and I hope to hear from you again sometime soon. Colleen

  • Sandra

    Hello Colleen, this is so well written and so real and true as always a joy to read your work. This is a good true and honest reminder that we all experience similar disappointments, we are not disconnected from the whole world, it happens with us all at some level we share expectations and disappointment individually. I enjoyed your message as the focus on the Giver of the Gift not the gift ,and the greater purpose in God work behind it all.I love and value your and your Dad work, so glad you both have listened to your calling,both so similar in heart, wisdom, and approach that bring us the truth so naturally with amazing grace through our Lord work.
    Thank you,
    Sandra

    • Sandra,
      You have the gift of encouragement and I so appreciate your kind words. Thank you. Yes, it was not the most desired gift at the time but it came to represent something far greater and for that, we thank the Lord. So it is with us all…at the time, something may seem hurtful or insignificant but as our Lord works, so he reveals His plan in later days if we keep our hearts open and our minds free from this world’s clutter. Have a blessed day…what happened with those little critters? Hope that was taken care of! Colleen

      • Sandra

        Hello Colleen.I look forward reading more of your work , including those we have spoken of that will be posted soon. I also thought maybe this encouragement that is natural part of who I am will be something I will be able to offer when I have neen healed…for the Higher calling we speak of
        Thank you for your kind and supportive thoughts. I hope you are well and rested this week .
        With Gratitude
        Sandra