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      The Perfect Gift

      I am strolling around the shopping center, taking my time, soaking in the sights and sounds. I am in no hurry. My Christmas shopping is done!

      Ah, a bench is open. I sit, lean back, and people-watch for awhile. I see a child, carrot-red curls tumbling down to her shoulders tugging at her mommy's coat with a serious case of the “gimme”s, about to erupt into a screaming fit. Been there. Both as the parent and undoubtedly as the child. I watch a couple stopping in mid-shop to check the list … and check it twice, for everyone on their list has been deserving and nice. But most people are just cruising along from one store to the next … some smiling … some not. And most, I suppose, are stepping along a traditional footpath that was pressed into the pavement by their ancestors.

      It's all good.

      I prepare my body for prayer. The lights and sights of the season fade into the background. I inhale slowly, deeply, releasing a long sigh, uncorking the pent-up stresses of the season. The aromas of peppermint candy canes and gingerbread cookies fill my senses. The giggles of children snuggle in around me. The angel at the top of the two-story tree in the atrium draws me into her gaze. I begin to give thanks for the countless gifts and blessings I have received from my King this year. Tears of thanksgiving bead up in the corners of my eyes and drip down into my turtleneck. There are so many ways I have been blessed this year. How can I begin to list them all? Where do I even start to voice the “thank you”s for the blessings that have overfilled my cup?

      I feel myself being corrected. I have all my shopping done ... except for one. What should I get my Lord for Christmas? Just the thought of it makes me laugh. Talk about a guy who has everything! Who has ever given to God something He doesn't already have? What store could I possibly go into to buy Him something He doesn't already have in abundance …

      ... or could create in an instant if He felt so inclined?

      He has showered me with gifts and love all year long. How can I show my love for Him? I have been into every store and can find nothing worthy of a gift back to God. Maybe it should be a charitable donation, or maybe an act of kindness. Every random idea that comes to mind falls flat. None of them light a spark in my spirit.

      In the search -- in the pause between options -- the words of my morning meditation on Romans 12:1 ripple gently through my mind.

      Truth whispers, “So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”

      The one thing God wants from me is not in any store.

      I won't find it on Amazon.com either.

      It is here ... sitting on this bench. It is the one thing God does not already have in abundance.

      Sure, I surrendered by spirit to Him when I became a Christian. But He does not have my body, my mind, my heart … not all of it … not yet.

      At times, I think I am so full of myself, my ambitions, my I-know-what's-good-for-you that I have no room for Him. Most times, I want MY hands on the  controls. I very seldom let Him drive. He only has maybe half my arrogance, half my pride, half my self-centeredness. Do I dare give up the rest?

      Oh, I know where the rest is. It's here.  It's the list of all the things I don't need to live a full life in His Kingdom. Could this be His Christmas list? Does He want all of this from me?

      The list is long, for it is a list of the ways I tenaciously grip onto my self. Can I really give all that up? Look at the cost! I can't afford that! No way!

      Becoming a living, continual offering to God means putting my body where my mouth is. Giving my self to Him is the one thing He wants from me for Christmas. This isn't like an altar call … not an act of the moment … not a one time thing.

      It is a commitment for the rest of my life.

      I take a scrap of paper out of my purse and write: “To: Lord Jesus. I offer you my self as a living sacrifice. It doesn't have any wrappings … no pretty bow. I hope it pleases you "as is". Take it all. It is all I have and it is yours to keep for all eternity.”

      I almost start to laugh for I imagine wrapping myself in ribbon and taping the words to my forehead.The little girl in me REALLY wants to do that! She wants so much to show Daddy that she is really serious about it ... this time.

      So there you go, Lord. Take me. Take all of me. Sneak in to my life, like a thief in the night and take everything I don't need to be fully human here in Your Kingdom. Oh Lord, please. Please take it all. I can afford it.

      ... and maybe, too, I can't afford not to.

      For my calling lies on the far side of selfishness. And that is going to cost me ... sacrificially. And what I receive in return for that cost will be priceless. Beyond measure.

      I picture myself, wrapped in a bow, seated at the feet of my Lord and Savior. I look up at Him and whisper, "Make me yours." Then (Why am I choking up?) I add with a smile, "And, oh by the way, Happy Birthday."

      Then I look back up to the angel at the top of the tree and very distinctly hear the Lord say with unexpected excitement, "Wow! Thanks! This is exactly what I have always wanted. This is the perfect gift. It is the one thing I have been waiting for ...

      "… for your entire life."