When we left England back in September we had to travel light. For the first three weeks we made do with the contents of our suitcases, so we had to be pretty picky about what to take. When it came to deciding, there was no debate about this possession – it just had to go in the suitcase.
From the photo this may look like a standard gift bag but inside there are the most precious of gifts. This bag contains letters and cards, and we have the pleasure of opening, one of them every Saturday morning. I opened the first one on 11th September and there are cards to open every Saturday until the end of December.
In the cards are words of encouragement, verses with beautiful truth and words that our friends sensed God wanted to strengthen us with. There have been cards from their children which have been so special to read and then, every so often, there is a fatter envelope with the bonus of some chocolate or a gift to go and have a coffee or grab a take away on them.
This ‘ordinary gift bag’ is a bag with precious gifts – gifts of courage and the gift of being seen.
The gift of courage
Encouragement is defined as words or behaviour that give someone confidence to do something. Encouragement gives you courage and it is no surprise that the Bible encourages us to give this gift away regularly and generously (1 Thessalonians 5:11 and Hebrews 10:23-25). The words in these cards, reminding us that God is with us and for us, have so encouraged and strengthened us at this time. They have reminded us of truth and of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us.
The gift of being seen
These cards from our friends not only encourage us but they also remind us that although we are out of sight, they still see us and genuinely care about us. They are a demonstration that we matter to them.
One of the costs of moving on from somewhere that you have lived for 25 years, is leaving a community where you are known. Back on the Corbett Estate in London, if we went for a walk around the block, it was not uncommon to bump into several people that we recognised or knew by name. When you move somewhere new all that familiarity is gone – you start from scratch.
Last week while we were out, for the first time we bumped into someone we knew – someone who knew our names. It was so wonderful and really helped in terms of somewhere new feeling like home. Being known, seen and noticed really is a very precious thing.
In the Psalms it talks about how God’s eyes saw our unformed bodies and how He sees us when we sit and when we rise. His eyes are always on us – He sees us. Then we see in the Gospels how Jesus often stopped and noticed people that others would have just passed by, often calling them by name.
When we ‘see’ people we reflect the heart of a loving God. All of us have the opportunity of giving a precious gift to people, of seeing them, of remembering people’s names, of stopping to say hello.
It’s not fun to feel invisible. So, this week when someone crosses your mind, why not pray for them, send them a message, give them a call or write them a card. Let them know you see them and encourage them – build courage into them. Who knows what that courage will lead to in their life.
Seeing people and encouraging people are two very precious and powerful gifts. Let's be generous in giving them away.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.