iPod Touch Down

Our seven year old, Carson, loves Angry Birds. He loves video games in general but he can’t seem to get enough of catapulting colored birds through the air to kill the taunting green pigs. I hate to admit it, but I like it too. There’s something so satisfying about shattering wood and glass and blowing up the TNT boxes to kill the pigs. If you haven’t played, I realize it sounds a little twisted but try it and you’ll see why so it’s so much fun.

Anyway, against our better judgment we bought Carson an iPod touch for Christmas because we didn’t want him playing Angry Birds on our iPhones anymore. Aside from some little stocking stuffers, the iPod was his main gift.

Carson played with it non-stop. so much in fact that we had to take it away at night because we would catch him under the covers playing when he was supposed to be sleeping.

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Last weekend Carson’s 16 year old cousin Cameron came over. He asked if he could play with the iPod touch. Carson was glad to share with him but after a while he asked if he could have it back. No one was there to witness it so we don’t know exactly how it went down, but we heard an argument ensue from upstairs and then some scuffling around. A few seconds later, we heard that unmistakable sound of glass shattering on the tile below. It was followed by fast footsteps down the stairs and then screaming. Even from the living room where we were visiting with friends, there was no question what had happened.

Less than three weeks after getting it, Carson’s iPod was broken. It took a long time to calm him, but once we did, we tried to have a logical conversation about the fact that accidents happen and this was just an accident.

Carson wouldn’t hear it. He said it was all Cameron’s fault and that he did it on purpose.

Although I was sad for him and I was irritated that it happened, there was an obvious opportunity to speak truth into our son’s life that day. We explained that bad things happen sometimes and that no matter how careful we are, stuff breaks. We reminded him that people are so much more important than stuff and that one day everything we have, our house, our cars, and our favorite things will be nothing but dust. (It’s the second law of thermodynamics. Everything in a closed system eventually breaks down.) Of course I didn’t say that part, but by the time we were done, he understood. Still, he was sad, and he was angry with his cousin.

We sat the two of them down together and asked what had happened. Apparently, there was a tug of war and when Cameron finally let go of the iPod Carson didn’t have a good grip on it. The iPod hit the carpet and briefly slid before making it’s exit under the stair railonto the tile floor below.

Eventually Cameron apologized and Carson forgave him.

Surprisingly, it was a hard day for us too. Not because of the broken iPod but because we realized that we can’t protect our son from things that hurt him. Loss is immanent in this life.

At the end of the day, it was just a toy. Carson learned that it’s not what we have that makes us happy knowing that Jesus loves us and putting our hope in Him is the only thing that brings true contentment.

Funny thing is, Carson hasn’t said much about his iPod since the incident. I guess he was a lot less attached to it than he thought he was. What he didn’t think he could live without is nothing but a faint memory now.

In Matthew 19:21-26
Jesus was talking to a rich man who had lots of stuff. He wanted to know what he could do to have eternal life. When he asked Jesus how he could accomplish that.

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

I hope that as we raise our son and we are given opportunities to teach him, we will help him avoid the pitfall of the rich young ruler who was so attached to his stuff that he couldn’t bear to leave it behind in order to follow Jesus.

As for me, I need to hold my favorite things more loosely. I thought we were teaching Carson a lesson that day, but as it turns out, he was teaching me one too. Sometimes we can lose sight of the prize and we are lured back into trap of materialism before we even realize it’s happened.

Here’s a challenge: Is there something you are holding on to that is becoming more important than it should? Are you willing to evaluate it and ask God whether it needs to go in order to make room for Him to inhabit the space it’s been taking up in your life?

 

Ringless in Christ,

Ali Eastburn
Executive Director
With This Ring

 

Parking Lot Detour

I was recently leaving a meeting with my assistant Kate when a Romanian woman begging for money approached us. Her name was Maria. She had two small children she was pushing in a stroller. One child was only three months old and the other was about three. She barely spoke English but from what we could understand she was hungry, and so were her children.

The three year old was eating a bowl of rice in her stroller and the woman looked very thin, especially considering she’d recently had a baby. Kate and I were both concerned so we dug into our wallets and gave her what we had. I am usually very cautious about giving money to people begging because I don’t want the money spent on alcohol or drugs. Instead of money I have always preferred to give food. In this case though, there was something so desperate that immediate action seemed necessary.

When we gave Maria the money she began to cry and kissed our hands. That was enough for both of us to want more information. We asked her where she lived and all she could tell us were the cross streets, that there was a 7-Eleven on the corner and her apartment number.

We decided to try and find her the next day and see how we could further help the situation.

We went to the area she described and as God would have it we found her apartment right away.

What we discovered was heartbreaking. She had another child and husband at home, and it turned out that she and her family were refugees from Romania. They were waiting on the court’s decision to grant them asylum in the US. The house was sparse, containing hardly any furniture, and as far as food, there was only a bag of pretzels, two top ramen packages in the cupboard, and a small piece of meat in the freezer.

Kate and I went to the store and bought them food and diapers and went back the same day to deliver it. When we returned the kids jumped up and down as they saw the bags of food. We couldn’t even unload all the food before Maria and the kids began to tear open the packages.

When we left we still felt like we should do more. I called Keith Giles, a friend of ours that runs a food bank through The Mission House Church, and he went to their apartment that night and brought even more food. Maria and her family are now receiving a weekly delivery from the food bank.

The story gets even better.

We first met Maria right around Thanksgiving but by the time Christmas rolled around, we started thinking about what kind of Christmas her kids might have.

Our friend Bruce from our house church, The Well, told us about a charity his daughter Carly started, The Twelve Kids of Christmas. The program sponsors needy children locally that would otherwise get little to nothing for Christmas.

Once again, as God would have it, that same week my sister Stephanie emailed her friends and family that come to her annual Hanukah party and asked if anyone had a good charity to support for the holidays this year. For many years she and her family have collected toys and clothes for less fortunate children in her area and this year she didn’t have a specific charity in mind.

I emailed her about the Romanian family and the Twelve Kids of Christmas and within a half hour, she got another email from a friend about the same program.

Needless to say, that sealed the deal.

She put together a list of all the kids that would need to be sponsored this year and emailed it out to her guests. As Hanukah drew close, the list was quickly covered.

In addition to the many children sponsored within her group, all three kids from the Romanian family got sponsored as well. Although I didn’t expect it, on the Sunday before Christmas, our friend Bruce brought us all the toys that were collected for the Romanian family and asked if we could deliver them.

When we went to Maria’s house to deliver the gifts, she invited us in. Her daughter was sleeping and her other son was at the park with his dad. But the baby was awake and she put him in my arms. Our seven year old, Carson, opened some of the gifts for the baby since he’s still an infant. He looked wide eyed at the colorful objects Carson held up for him and they both smiled at each other as if they had a secret language that none of us adults could understand. We spent about thirty minutes playing with the baby and then we got up to leave.

When I got up, I noticed that Maria was crying. She gave me a hug and  said, “Thank you madam.” Had she been able to understand, what I wanted to say to her was, “No Maria, thank you.” She gave my husband Ken and I and our son Carson a much bigger gift than we could have ever given to her.

Carson was affected so much by this experience that he has become more benevolent than he has ever been. He recently told me that he wants to use the money he’s been saving for his favorite Lego toward a clean water well in Africa.

I feel absolutely privileged to be a part of a community of people that unselfishly cares for the needs of others in tangible ways.

Thank you to Keith Giles, The Well, The Mission House Church, The Twelve Kids of Christmas and Stephanie’s family and friends for taking the time during the busiest time of the year to bless those in such great need.

Though my family and I made wonderful new memories this Christmas, having the opportunity to love on the Romanian family will go down as one of my most precious gifts this year.

Ringless in Christ,

Ali Eastburn
Executive Director
With This Ring

For more information about With This Ring, radical giving or digging clean water wells, please visit withthisring.org.