When I was a little girl, I would make homemade cards to give my family members on those special occasions: birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day…you name it. Hey, when you’re a kid with no job and no money (or you aren’t earning a living wage with your allowance) you do what you can to make your loved ones feel special. Every scribbly hand-drawn picture, every jagged written phrase was carefully thought out and done with the upmost love and care. Sure, the cards didn’t look like much (I don’t have an artistic bone in my body); but my parents would always smile and gush over my latest creation. Why? Because it was a gift from the heart.

            Now that I’m older and can look back and realize just how cheesy my “artwork” was, I understand one thing: my parents must love me VERY much! Haha! There’s no way any picture I’ve ever drawn could earn an award of any kind. The only explanation for their praise of my measly efforts is that they have an incredible love for me. The gift itself didn’t matter so much, as long as it was given from the heart. There’s a story in the Bible that reminds me of this truth:

            After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.) Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money[a] to feed them!”Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” 10 “Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. 12 After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves. – John 6:1-13

As I read this story, I can’t help but wonder about the attitude of the young boy who gave up his loaves and fish that day. Certainly I don’t know if he was forced to surrender his lunch or if he offered it willingly, so don’t take this to the bank. But I’d like to think that he gave a gift from his heart that day. Children are so intuitive to the needs of others, and I can just picture this young boy holding up his lunch box as a gift, maybe even a little oblivious to the fact that it wouldn’t be enough to feed the thousands who were there that day. But it was a gift from the heart, and that’s all God needed to operate with that day. The food was blessed and multiplied, and not a single person went hungry that day. It was enough.

            Sometimes I feel like I don’t have enough to offer God. He has given me so much! He sent His only Son to die on a cross so that I could be forgiven of all my sins. How could I possibly give Him anything that compares to that kind of gift? I can’t. But there is something I can give – my praise. Worship is an expression of love for who God is and what He has done. It’s a gift from the heart. To the world, it might not look like much. Singing a few songs, spending time in His Word, talking to Him in prayer. All of these things are important, and yet none of them are extravagant (at least in the eyes of the world). But to our Heavenly Father, they are precious gifts because they are gifts from the heart. And He loves our hearts. It’s not about the gift. It’s about the giver. God’s love for you is so deep, you can’t even fathom it (Ephesians 3:18-19). So even if you offer Him an off-tune song while driving in your car, He loves it! No doubt about it.

            Offer what you have, even if it doesn’t seem like much. And as you worship, imagine your Heavenly Father receiving it with a big smile on His face as He looks at you – in all your mediocre stature – and He says “That’s beautiful! I love it!” By the way, my mom still kept some of those homemade Mother’s Day cards I gave her. I guess gifts from the heart are actually worth keeping.

Central Christian Church | Mount Vernon, Illinois