Saturday, November 10, 2007

A New Perspective on Toys, Tools, and Treasures

For a while now we've taught our kids that most things can be grouped into three categories: toys, tools and treasures. You only play with toys, not tools (the computer, the car, dad's hammer, the blender, etc.) or treasures (our china, the quilt made by Great Grandma Scribner, our marriage license, the necklace my Granddad gave me when I was a little girl, our photographs, etc.). You don't use toys as tools. You don't even touch some one's treasures without permission, because those things have special value to the owner. Etc. We are to be good stewards of all of our things; toys, tools and treasures and use them for the purposes they were intended. It's been an effective way of having the kids think about the things we have and how we use them.

In Bolivia it is interesting to see things that I'm sure used to be some one's treasure (or at least status symbol) used as tools. Things here are more often used for the purposes they were intended. Things don't tend to be status symbols like in the States...especially 'name brands' although unfortunately there is some influence sneaking in from western cultures in the more professional class. Let me give you some examples. Cars are used as tools to drive. They are to get from one place to another. As I said there are beginning to be exceptions, but for the most part cars are tools not status symbols. Not something to be used to make someone feel better about themselves. Take mahogany wood. It's used for tables and chairs because it is a hard wood and makes good furniture in even the most humble of houses, not because others will see it and comment on how nice is. Another example is clothes. Clothes are used to clothe your body, not to give you a sense of self worth because they have the 'right' tiger or horse on them. For instance the little girl I saw who lived on the street the other day didn't know that she had on a $200 Laura Ashley dress. All she knew is that she had something to cover her body. Some one's 'treasure' had become the 'tool' it was intended to be for a little girl in South America. I find it interesting and even amusing that things that were purchased as status symbols in the US are then discarded at a yard sale or to a thrift store because something newer or better has come out or because the person has too many things stuffed in their storehouse/closet already. Then those items end up getting shipped here and used for the purpose that they should be used for.

It's liberating to use things for the purposes they were intended. Think about it. Do you ever buy something because of the image you believe it projects? Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that we should only buy things we need. I am saying that we often blur the line between 'tools', 'toys' and 'treasures'. Our 'tools' and 'toys' have become 'treasures' because we have so much money invested in them. Our phones, computers, dishes, cars, and clothes become 'treasures' instead of 'tools'. I once knew someone who wouldn't let their own children sit on the sofa in their house because it was white and it's purpose had become for decoration, beauty, and status not for use. Again, I'm not saying we shouldn't have beautiful things, but I believe the things we have should serve us not be our master. How much time and energy to I spend maintaining, storing and caring for all the things that I bought to serve me? Are they now my master? Have my things become more important than people? Do I spend more time, energy and money on things that will eventually burn than on people or the kingdom of God? The things I struggle to accumulate and strive to have will they be thrown in a dumpster or sold to a bargain shopper at a yard sale for a dime by my children when I die?

I know how the line between tools, toys and treasures can be blurred. It's happened to me. Sometimes I still find myself grieving the loss of some of my things that I rid myself of in order to come to the mission field. For instance, last night I was crying....yes, crying....over the loss of my Christmas tree. Yes, it did have special sentimental value because it was a fixture of our holiday celebrations and tradition. Yet, it was just a THING. Sometimes I blur the line between stuff and the memories I have with the stuff. It's the people and the memories that are important not the THING. Certain clothes or other items were much harder to let go of than others because they had found a 'treasured' status in my heart. When I had to get rid of the things that wouldn't fit into our 2 bags each that we were able to bring with us it was a good lesson to me in what is important and why. I want to continue to guard my heart against having tools creep into treasured status.

'Treasures' are important. Some things have sentimental value to us because of who gave them to us or who made them for us. Some things we buy because they are beautiful and we enjoy looking at them. We buy other things that can help us do things better, or faster, or more comfortably. That's not wrong. It's a matter of the heart. Are we buying the new computer, oven, furniture, car or shirt because it can be a tool for us to use or in order for others to think better of us? I've found more and more that I want to use even the treasures I have. I want my kids to grow up remembering sleeping under Grandma's quilt and eating on our good dishes. It's not the stuff that's important. It's the people. I remember when I was a little girl on vacation with my family we came across a car accident in the mountains that had just occurred. A man was lying in the road likely dying. My dad and mom did what they could to help him and ended up leaving him wrapped in a quilt that was given to them as wedding present years before. Now that was a good purpose for that comfort a dying man. I'm sure the ladies that put their time and effort into quilting it would have been pleased. It wasn't meant just to be kept in a box in the attic. It was to be used and to be enjoyed.

The Bible teaches that where your heart is there your treasure will be. Are my treasures here being stored up in bigger houses and barns or are they in heaven? Am I investing my resources in the lives of others, in the people He gave His only Son for, and in the kingdom of God? Or am I simply treasuring the tools He's given me to reach this world for His glory?


Angie said...

I really enjoyed reading this. What a good reminder to keep an eternal perspective about the "things" around us.

Shelly said...

Thank you so much for so eloquently putting how I have been feeling lately. I have been wondering how many of the tools we have that have become treasures or even idols instead of what they were intended to be. Thank you for sharing and inspiring us to take a deeper look at ourselves. I miss you and love you dearly.

The Lucky One said...

Thanks for sharing that. What a great idea of making it so simple to grasp for the little ones. :) Will share. And loved catching up a little on your blog/life. :)

huascar kim said...

Amidst googling "caedmon's call" I managed to run into this blog.
I just spent the last hour or so reading every single entry you wrote, and call it God's purpose or a strange coincidence but this blog moved me very much.
Let me explain.
My parents (Korean) moved to Bolivia over 30 yrs ago and at one time spent about 5 years living in Cochabamba (this is where I was born- 24 years ago). My family moved to La Paz shortly after my birth and that's where I was raised until age 14.
I moved to the U.S (New Jersey) and eventually attended and graduated from Rutgers University 2 years ago. It is upon moving to the U.S that I came to find salvation by grace through the gospel of Christ.
Now I'm working for a consulting company called Accenture and still residing in NJ.

Anyways, I'm sure you'd never imagine that "strangers" would come across and actually read your entries but I guess God works in mysterious ways. Well, your entries brought back very sweet memories of my childhood in Bolivia, so much so that I could literally smell, taste, the sights/sounds you describe.

I'm incredibly blessed that Christ has called you to build upon his kingdom (in my place of birth no less!)

I'd love to help your family out in any way I can (prayer, advice, physical needs - I have a couple contacts in UPS - so maybe we can finally get this package issue resolved). More or less I'd love to partner in your ministry.

I know I'm young (24) but lately the Lord's been tugging at my heart regarding missions/missionaries so I can't help but see this as something God has intended for the both of us.

Please send me an email if you'd like huascarkim(at)gmail(dot)com

or you can just continue writing this blog.

God Bless.

Annie said...

I came over from Angie's blog.

Good distinctions! I think that may help me! :)

The Holmans In Bolivia said...


I´ve seen your comments at times on Angie´s blog. Nice to ¨meet¨ you. Thanks for reading and for the encouragement.