Thank you being the hands & feet of Jesus – in big things and in small things. And thank you for cookies! xo
About this same time last year I had lunch and caught up with a friend. The following is what transpired…
During the holiday season, like many of us, Berni’s schedule is pretty full. There’s the typical stuff – the gift buying, social events, preparations that go into planning the perfect family gathering…but for my friend, Berni, there’s more. She’s involved in a couple of outreach efforts in her community. We were talking about them and there was one that struck me. It struck me in its simplicity…and at the same time, in its great sacrifice. For the past few years, Berni has been going to a prison to help with a holiday party for inmates and their families. They spend a few hours together – sharing a meal and eating cookies. I think they may also exchange gifts. I don’t know. I was too distracted by the cookies. But not in the way you might think…
See volunteers, like Berni, are asked to bring several dozen cookies to this event. I don’t know about you, but I think I’d feel pretty good about myself for just sacrificing the TIME to GO to the party! That said, any store-bought cookies should do. In fact, the request is for such a large quantity, I might even try to find a good 2 for 1 deal or the mega party batch at Costco (I mean, these are prison inmates for goodness sake! They should be grateful just to get a cookie and a party, right?!). My ugly heart is just being honest.
Well, not Berni. She is terribly gifted where it involves anything sweet that comes out of the oven. She will make dozens and dozens AND DOZENS of homemade cookies for this event. See, Berni gets it. She will make these cookies as if she were baking them for family coming to her home. She saw the difference that first year…as she looked at the faces of those sitting around institutional tables in institutional chairs in – well – an institution. Something flipped in her spirit as she mentally noted the subtle difference in human reaction between receiving a store bought cookie vs. homemade. She said to herself, “I think Jesus may just be about to show up in a cookie.”
After Berni said this, I could not entirely focus anymore. It lingered – for days. It hung out there, just kind of on the periphery of everything I was doing during this busy holiday time. For one thing, I realized (not for the first time) that I am often incredibly selfish. While I might be willing to go and give of myself to an experience, I don’t know that I would be willing (definitely not quickly!) to sacrifice the time it would take to prepare all those dang cookies! I mean, why bother when there is a perfectly good grocery store on like every other corner? Isn’t my time worth so much more? And, really, are these people specifically – strangers…who I will never see again…in PRISON (who surely have done something horrible to deservedly end up there) – even worth the effort? What a crazy expectation – especially when I’m soooo busy. I have Christmas shopping to do, social events to attend, houseguests and travel to arrange and, of course, there’s personal primping to prepare for all that preparation!
The second thing I thought was this: could it even be that such a simple act of service could pierce a human heart? Maybe I’m a bit hopeful, maybe some people will just take two bites of cookie, wash it down with fruit drink and call it a day. But maybe, just maybe…even subconsciously…someone might think, “No one’s ever made me cookies. Why would someone take the time – especially this busy busy time – to make me cookies? Could it be because they care about me…just me – as a fellow human living on planet earth, not attached to what I’ve done or who I’ve wronged or who I’ve been?” I don’t know. But I do know this: Jesus said, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Berni and her group were invited to a prison with one of the highest level of inmates. While not all were even allowed to attend the party, each and every one was given clearance to receive a dozen cookies. I know that Berni was up until all hours that week preparing many that would be received. And she took the same care as if she were preparing and packaging them for a king.
This was my prayer for Berni on that Saturday: that as people received those cookies, they would pause just for a moment and note that someone had made them…and not only did someone make them, but they were, in fact, made FOR them! That they might get some revelation of what it means to be loved with an undeserved love and receive an absolutely unmerited gift…and that somehow, in that, they would get a glimpse of Jesus.
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matt. 25: 34-40