I visited our library this week, and on the display table was a little book that caught my eye. It wasn't a book I needed - I had already checked out my reading material for the week - but it mysteriously drew me in. The little book was a collection of previously unpublished short stories written by Louisa May Alcott in the 1800's. It was titled "The Quiet Little Woman: A Christmas Story."
The editor, a self-proclaimed "literary prospector," had found Alcott's stories in an obscure magazine and republished them as a "new" literary treasure, more than 100 years after her death.
They took only an hour or so to read, but they were deliciously wonderful! And nestled into the first few pages was another treasure which I want to share with you here. It is a poem entitled "Little Things."
A spider is a little thing,
But once a spider saved a king;
The little bees are wiser far
Than buffaloes or lions are...
A little pen may write a word
By which a nation shall be stirred.
A little money, wisely spent,
A world of sorrows may prevent;
A little counsel, rightly given,
May lift a sinful soul to Heaven...
A little fault, if left to grow,
An emperor may overthrow;
A little word but spoke in jest,
May rob your neighbor of his rest;
A little selfishness and pride
The kindest household may divide.
Little vices many times
Out-Herod felonies and crimes;
And little virtues in the sum
Great excellencies do become.
_From the "Melodies for Children collection", circa 1800s.
Ironically, this sweet poem was not written by Alcott. It was written for a home-produced magazine by the 5 Lukens sisters, who were contemporaries of Louisa May Alcott. By the time Alcott heard of this self-published magazine (which so remarkably resembled the one she had created with her own sisters), she herself was a renowned author, having delivered her family from a life of poverty with her words. But she took the time to notice the "little things" this younger group of sisters was publishing, and by her encouragement they, too, published greater things.
Alcott's stories and the Lukens girls' poem illustrate an enduring truth: that it's the little things that matter most. Little stories or virtues, a little encouragement given in times of need, little steps towards faithfulness - all these grow and are rewarded in the end. We seek the grander things because we are human, but we often fail to realize how important the little things really are. A look back over time affords us the perspective that we need, to understand how God is putting our lives together, piece by piece, moment by moment, until His reach extends far beyond our own.
So this Christmas season, I want to thank each one of you readers for the "little things" you have done for me. Many of you have responded to my words with the same compassion that Alcott showed to the Lukens girls. I deeply appreciate your calls, your emails, and your encouragement along the way. And I pray that the little things I have written here will one day be made greater things in the hand of an all-encompassing God, who knows the end from the beginning, and who takes the little things of our lives and shapes them into wondrous stories for His eternal glory.
"If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones."
Luke 16:10, NLT
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. You can also follow Deborah on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins.
One of our family's favorite movies to watch during the holiday season is Home Alone. You're no doubt familiar with the storyline: 8-year-old Kevin is left behind by his rather large (and obnoxious) family when they travel to France, and ends up defending his upper-middle-class home from a dynamic robber-duo named the "Wet Bandits." Two hours of hilarious pranks and traps set by this tyke end with a Christmas day arrest of the bandits and a much-matured little boy.
What we love about this movie is the creative ingenuity of a child that outwits the "professionals." Using only the resources he has at hand, most of them commonplace in an 8-year-old's world, he masterminds a strategy that is so unexpected to the pros, it almost has to succeed! From the ice on the stairs to the toy cars in the hall, we watch Kevin outwit and - just barely - outlast the enemies, until he is reunited with his family. The cops don't show up until the boy has done his job protecting his home.
Speaking to me yet again in His unusual way, God drew my attention this week to His "Home Alone" story in the Bible. Luke puts it just after the "traditional" Christmas readings of the birth of Jesus, in chapter two:
Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.
And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.
And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus
stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,
but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey,
but then they began to search for him among their relatives and
acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem,
searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
And when his parents saw him, they were astonished.
And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so?
Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know
that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying
that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to
Nazareth and was submissive to them.
And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Luke 2:41-52, ESV
Jesus was a boy of twelve who, like Kevin, was left behind in His Father's house. Three full days went by before his parents returned to find Him quite peacefully settled in His temple, debating with the scholars. Like Kevin, Luke tells us he grew and matured after this, due in part, perhaps, to engaging His "enemies" (the religious leaders) who would later persecute him.
In the movie, Kevin listened to the robbers and learned the very hour they planned to rob his family's house, so he had time to prepare a strategy that would defeat them. In Luke's text, Jesus is said to have both "listened" and "asked questions" of His future tormentors. Their dialogue gave Him valuable insights concerning the scribes and Pharisees. It was these very same leaders whom He would "trap" with His own questions later in life.
The boy Jesus grew, matured, and learned how to defend His Father's house - the temple - from those would would defile it. His strategies were different; He used words, not toys, as His traps, but he successfully enacted His plan to restore to God what was stolen by the enemy.
Bringing It Home
Here's what's interesting about these stories. I believe God regularly gives us "home alone" moments in life, too. We are never completely alone, of course, but God gives us moments when our normal support systems - friends, family, or even the voice of God Himself - disappear for various reasons. We come face to face with spiritual or natural enemy forces, and we learn to defend what we love from predators who would rob us. Forced to draw upon inner strength and the resources we have at hand, we learn to stand our ground and fight back.
Like David the Psalmist, we may find that using the standard "grownup armor" isn't the best strategy. We learn that the resources most familiar to us at the time can be effective, no matter what stage of life we are in. Our unique gifts and talents are surprisingly adequate, in God, to overcome our enemy. In fact, it is what enemy is not expecting from us - like our slingshots - that yield the greatest results!
Be Who You Are!
My hope is that this simple analogy will encourage you to be who you are now at this time in God, and not to belittle yourself because your faith or your gifts are too small. The truth is, none of us is fully mature yet. The wonderful thing about God is that He takes our childlike efforts and multiplies their effectiveness with His power. As my spiritual dad always says, "We win!"
Are you ready to use your unique abilities to defend the Kingdom of God in your life? When you use your gifts, you do real and lasting damage to the enemy. Your confessions of faith set angels in motion. You overcome your fears and grow up a bit in the process. And God is gonna be impressed with your bravery and zeal for His house. I guarantee it!
c.Deborah Perkins, 2014
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. Follow Deborah on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins, or click here to subscribe to her blog.
‘Tis the season for lights and decorations, trees and candy, hot chocolate and presents!
Our children persuaded us to decorate the tree a few nights ago, just after the Thanksgiving turkey had been consumed. On went the Christmas music, the kettle was fired up for hot cocoa, and the children (please don’t tell them I told you this…) were dancing in the kitchen. Yes, my boys – at least the younger ones – were dancing. All was merry and bright.
Bright, that is, until we tried to turn on our pre-lit tree. You know the kind – the “unscented,” mess-free version of a Christmas tree that comes with lights attached. Unfortunately, certain sections of our tree failed to perform their “pre-lit” duties. The result was a Tigger-esque tree, a sort of half-hearted, striped effect. Not quite what we were looking for.
A search for the defective bulb yielded nothing, and replacing one empty spot with a bulb from another set did not work, since the extra bulb was made by a different manufacturer. This strand was only going to give off so much light.
So in the end, long after my dancing cherubs were dreaming of sugarplums, the only solution was for me to string a second set of lights through the bare spots, using an extension cord. The tree now complete, I joined my family in dreamland.
The next morning, I happened to be praying in the room where we had set up our tree. I also happened to be praying about the power of God to heal, to bring revival, to reach the multitudes with His power. As He often does, the Lord surprised me by connecting the ordinary stuff of my life to the extraordinary stuff of His.
Using the “Tigger tree” as a parable, He said this: ‘Tis the season to be connected to My power. Now is the day of salvation, now is the time (see 2 Corinthians 6:2). And it's going to take more than just one strand to light the world!
God is the source of all power, the “electrical outlet” we plug into when we are saved. That divine outlet contains unlimited power and resources, available to anyone who connects with Him. Like my pre-lit tree, our world automatically lights up and shines when we plug into Him. Our connection with the Holy Spirit gives us a measure of His light and power in our lives.
However, there are still areas of our lives where the light does not yet shine. There are areas of the world where His power has not yet been seen. To make sure we ourselves are shining brightly, we must appeal to our Manufacturer to restore any defects or brokenness we may have. But God also wants to extend our reach, just as the addition of an extension cord brought more light to my tree.
Believers are the “power cord” from heaven’s light to earth’s darkness. Several connected strands will bring more light to the world than just one alone. Where we need more power, God can plug us in with others who will help extend our reach.
Next year, I’ll be in the market for a brighter tree. And it’s my prayer that next year, we believers will be more connected than ever – to His power, and to each other. I pray that His power will increase throughout His Body so that we will have a greater impact on our world. I pray that He’ll help us radiate His glory in greater measure.
I'm going back to decorating my tree now. And I'm singing right along with the kids: May your days be merry… and bright!
In the same way,
let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16, NIV
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping people "connect" with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. Follow Deborah on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins, or click here to read more of her blog.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.