Denise’s BirthdayDecember 22, 2017
And be ye kind one to another….
— Ephesians 4:32
During the Christmas season each year, I always feel a little sorry for Denise. I always felt the same way about my father when he was alive on the earth.
Let me explain. Denise was born on December 22, and my father was born on December 25 — which, of course, is Christmas Day. Like it or not, their birthdays played “second fiddle” to Christmas. With all the other holiday celebrations that were always happening during that time of year, their birthdays often passed unceremoniously. Today my father is in Heaven — but Denise, thankfully, is very much still here, and she loves to have her birthday celebrated.
I’ve always tried faithfully to do something to make Denise’s birthday memorable, but the fact that her special day is three days before Christmas makes it challenging to include additional party events into our schedule. I never remember anything special happening for my father’s birthday except an acknowledgment on Christmas Day that it was his birthday. Mother gave him a gift, a birthday kiss, and that was about it. Dad and Mom were focused on making sure that we kids had a wonderful Christmas Day, so Dad’s birthday became sort of sidelined along the way.
Actually, for anyone born in December, it’s a challenge to have a meaningful birthday celebration. Efforts are put in so many other directions: church-wide events, smaller Sunday school parties, special Christmas outreaches to the lost, school activities — and, of course, decorating the house for the holidays, shopping for last-minute gifts, and lots of special cooking for the family. All of these activities can interfere with people whose birthdays are in December. There’s so much to do during the holiday season that it can throw people into a tailspin to add multiple birthday celebrations on top of it all.
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Our Renner family has multiple December birthdays to celebrate each year (including my dear mother earlier in the month!), and trying to keep up with them in the midst of everything else can present a challenge. But Denise’s birthday is very important to her, probably because her special day was “overlooked” when she was younger for all the reasons I just named. So on December 22, or as close to December 22 as possible, I try to take the immediate family to dinner for the sole purpose of celebrating Denise!
We live in Moscow, which is geographically huge and statistically has some of the worst traffic in the world in the month of December. Getting our family together for any event in December is a big deal. When I’m able to get us all together under one roof — in the same room breathing the same air — Denise sees the effort it took for us to all get together, and it puts a smile on her face and joy in her heart.
Most often we’re able to pull off this departure from all the bustle and stir of holiday activities. But there have been years when we haven’t been so successful. But whether we’re able to pull it off or not, there is one thing I always do that means the world to Denise. It seems simple, but it means everything to her. What is it? I buy her a birthday card and write her a special note. And if birthday cards in Russia are not to be found, I actually make her a card with my own pencil and colored pens, and then I write her a heartfelt note. I think the notes that I create myself mean more to her than the ones I buy, because she knows I really put my heart and a lot of thought into it.
Why do I put so much effort into making sure Denise feels especially honored on her birthday? Because I desire to show kindness to my wife and even to grow in the demonstration of my kindness toward her. Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be ye kind one to another….”
The words “be ye” are a translation of the word ginesthe, the present imperative middle voice of ginomai. Used in this way, it means be ye constantly becoming. It depicts a devotion to becoming something more than one presently is. Hence, it presents the image of one who is in the constant process of becoming “kinder.” The word “kind” is the Greek word chrestos, and it depicts something that is useful, good, worthy, or benevolent. Paul listed it in Galatians 5:22 as a “fruit” that the Holy Spirit produces in our lives.
This tells us that when the Holy Spirit is working in us, He is constantly working to change us, to transform us, to mature us, and to make us kind — that is, useful, good, worthy, or benevolent. We start where we are, but by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, He causes us to progressively demonstrate kindness more and more to others.
It may sound minor, but sometimes an act of kindness or tender attention is just what someone needs on his or her birthday. Your flesh might say, “There’s no time for that this year; life is too busy.” But the kindness of the Holy Spirit in me causes me to say, If it’s important to my loved one, I’ll do my best to make it important to me.
Becoming “kind” is not something you arrive at overnight. It takes a commitment — almost akin to an obsession — to be more like Christ, who definitely would give care and attention to someone on a day that is important to him or her. So rather than say, “It’s an inconvenient time for me to give my attention to this,” we need to say, “Holy Spirit, show me how to show kindness and to act in a way that is worthy of You. What would You have me do? That’s what I want to do on this person’s special day!”
If you will take this approach and “be ye kind,” whether it concerns someone’s birthday or simply the way you interact with others in life, you will never go wrong!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I’m embarrassed by how often I have failed simply to “be kind” toward others — especially those closest to me. I feel almost silly that I’ve overlooked it or counted it as unimportant. Help me start where I am and, day by day, become more focused on the special needs and special days in other people’s lives. I know this is what You would do, so help me to be more like You!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that God never overlooks any detail about our lives. He is Love, and He goes out of His way to show honor and esteem so others will know they are valued. I am determined to be thoughtful of others. I confess that I will work harder on this than I’ve ever worked on it before, and I will show care and kindness to people who have special days in the month of December.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Do you know anyone whose birthday falls in the month of December? Who is that person? Have you ever considered how overlooked that person may feel because of all the other events that are going on in the same month?
- Even if it’s simple, what can you do solely for that person to show that you’re thinking of him or her at this time? A birthday celebration doesn’t have to be a monumental event every year. Even a small but meaningful act of recognition would be deeply appreciated.
- How long has it been since you personally created a birthday card for someone you love? It’s easy to buy a card, but to sit down and create one and write a note in it shows great love and care. Have you ever considered doing this for someone for his or her birthday?