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Many happy returns

The Life Less Traveled

December 26, 2012
Now that Christmas has come and gone, it's time to grab those gift receipts and go get what you really want. Has the magic worn off of that Chia Pet reindeer your mom thought you'd love? Can't find room for your new solar-powered Thighmaster? Having a hard time getting comfortable in that Justin Bieber Snuggy?

No problem. Just swap them out for something better. Anything better!

Of course, if you don't have a receipt, you'll end up getting the lowest sale price that kicked in around five o'clock on Christmas Eve. That's when they mark all of this junk down to about 97 percent off. If that's your deal, you'll be lucky to walk out of Walmart with a stick of gum. Suddenly, the Chia reindeer isn't looking so bad.

That's the tricky thing about returns and exchanges, making sure you actually walk away with something better than what you're returning. Of course, with some of those bizarre gifts, it doesn't take much to trade up.

When it comes to spiritual stuff, however, it's far too easy to trade down.

The Bible says that we all have a tendency to make dumb exchanges when it comes to the gifts God gives us. We're designed to enjoy God as the center and source of our lives. That friendship with our Creator has a unique ability to satisfy our souls and give our lives meaning and purpose. And, yet, even those of us who have walked with God for a while often settle for cheap substitutes.

The Bible puts it like this: "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator, who is forever praised." The great theologian Homer Simpson says it this way: "Doh!" Both express the sentiment of getting ripped off, of making a poor decision or things just not working out the way you hoped they would.

Instead of enjoying the gift of God's approval, I do all kinds of crazy things to make people like me. Instead of enjoying the gift of God's rest, I fill my schedule with endless activity. Instead of enjoying the gift of serving others, I spend most of my time orchestrating my own comfort and pleasure.

When I trade worshipping the King of All Things Awesome for obsessing over my own petty agenda, I cheat myself out of the greatest gift of life: experiencing the presence and goodness of God.

Worship is focusing our time, energy and attention on whatever we consider most important in our lives. When that something is anything other than God, we totally and thoroughly rip ourselves off. My self obsession is chintzier than a Chia pet, tackier than a Thighmaster and sillier than a Snuggy. But this is what I settle for far too often.

Doh, indeed.

Like I said earlier, now that Christmas has come and gone, it's time to go get what we really want, the only gift that will satisfy our souls. When the magic wears off of our cheap substitutes, it's time to trade up and enjoy all that a friendship with God has to offer.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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