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On Valentine’s weekend, Debbie and I were traveling in the Northwest. We arrived very late (1 a.m.) at our hotel in Yakima, Wash. I was surprised to see, on the bed in the hotel room, a large red box with a white ribbon and a gift bag with assorted candles.

Debbie immediately grabbed the box and was just about to tear into it. She assumed that I had sent the gifts ahead of our trip. (I wish I had been that romantic!) I assumed Pastor Jesus De Paz, our host for the weekend, placed it there. When I pulled out a brown bag from within the gift bag, it was clear that our friend had not sent the packages—inside was a bottle of Kentucky whiskey. Somebody was planning a big weekend!

I asked Debbie to wait before opening the red box, while I called the front desk. They panicked, told me to not touch anything, and assured me that security would be right up to move us to a different room. Debbie still wants to know what’s in the red box—she had to make do with a late card from me (sorry, honey)! I made it up by taking her to Hawaii three weeks later. When we arrived in Hilo, guess what was waiting? You guessed it … a red box, gift bag with candles in it and a bottle of Martinelli’s (non-alcoholic). Alex and Berna Pacheco had heard me share the story and wanted to have some fun. Debbie loved it.

My wife was so blessed by their thoughtfulness and generosity. In the middle of a weekend where their family had much to be concerned about (Alex’s brother had recently died and they were preparing for his memorial service), they were thinking about someone else! I want to be a friend like that! While we often want to be on the receiving end of a blessing, it demonstrates a level of maturity when we bless others even at times when we ourselves are in need. The happiest people I know aren’t the ones waiting around to be honored, rewarded or blessed. Rather, the most content people I know are the ones who are constantly giving their lives away to others.

There are three things that can happen to your life:

  • You can keep it—but you should know what the consequence of that decision is.
  • Someone can take it away. Some people bear, for years, the wounds of betrayal, violence, etc.
  • You can give it away!

By the way, the next weekend, all of Alex and Berna’s family were in church together for the first time in years. Coincidence? Perhaps … but perhaps not! Sometimes responding in selfless ways not only will keep you from becoming a lifelong victim, but also will release some of God’s purposes and plans concerning you.

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” -Matthew 10:39 (NIV)

served as the president of The Foursquare Church from 2009-2020.