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January 2016


Follow the Leader


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one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids

by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists


The Gift Certificate


My daughter celebrated her 10th birthday in October 1987. At that point she had been taking piano lessons for a few years. Like any proud father, I thought she had made remarkable progress. From my purely objective perspective, I thought she performed better than any of the other piano students at every recital.

As December 25th approached, our family set aside a time to observe an annual holiday tradition—decorating our home for Christmas. I cheerfully retrieved the boxes of decorations from storage. The delightful aroma of freshly baked goodies filled the air along with the familiar sounds of music from the season. Looking back, it really was the most wonderful time of the year!

By the end of the day, the job was complete. The tree was trimmed. It sparkled and glistened as ornaments were hung with care. Decorations too numerous to mention were thoughtfully displayed throughout our home. Outside, the roof of our house was lined with clear white lights and the large mural of the nativity scene in the front yard stood as a testimony to the real meaning of Christmas. Ah, what great memories!

When Christmas morning finally arrived, our daughters excitedly rushed into the family room. There were squeals and screams as wrapping paper was torn away and tossed aside. Few things are more gratifying to a father than the grateful hugs and kisses from his children as they open their gifts.

Afterwards, when all of the excitement subsided, it was time for my wife and me to open the gifts from our kids. These often consisted of the usual items—potholders, house shoes, socks, and neckties. While I don’t remember the specifics of most of those Christmas presents, one is particularly memorable.

I opened an envelope from my daughter and pulled out a single piece of paper. On one side in large print were the letters—IOU. On the other side were the words:

This certificate entitles Keith Burden
to a lesson in piano to be taught by me!
Signed: Santa Claus

Needless to say, I immediately recognized the unique, special nature of that gift. That’s why it has been neatly tucked away in a “keepsakes” folder for the past 28 years. Today, it serves as a reminder of the gift God gave to each of us that very first Christmas.

My little girl had little or no money with which to purchase a gift for her father. Instead, she gave me something money can’t buy—a part of herself, her time, and her talent.

This year, as you try to decide what to give to your heavenly Father who has everything, consider following the example of my daughter. Give God your time and your talent. Give Him yourself. It really is the one gift that keeps on giving.


About the Column

One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.


©2015 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists