WAY # 11
WE ARE GENEROUS WITH WHAT WE HAVE, SHARING FREELY WITH OTHERS.
"Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
In the news, we see tragic headlines of devastating world events that can discourage us. Often, it seems that we only hear of bad news, horrible deeds. Yet, it is heartening to me to collect stories of encouragement to read and collect to share when I find them. I love stories of people who give, love and serve--and it happens every day, whether reported or not.
In an isolationist culture where, often, we do not know anyone on our block, we sometimes wonder how we can be generous to those in need. Not knowing the personal needs of my neighbors means I am in a vacuum for meeting those needs.
We are presented with opportunities to help people far away--the starving, the young prostitutes in other countries, to help with disasters. Yet, it is in giving of our own time, our own money, our own service when we are filled with the blessing that comes from giving our life away to others personally. Looking for opportunities to personally give as a family has kept us more humble, more compassionate and helped to model and train our children to think of themselves as "givers."
Two years in a row, Colorado Springs had devastating fires. Many houses were destroyed but it also placed us in a community to see generosity expressed in amazing ways. Mitch Slate, a modest man, decided ahead of time that he wanted somehow to do something personally for those who had lost their homes. Even though he lived on the un-evacuated side near the fires, he spent four hours handing out more than six cases of water to residents waiting to be escorted into the Black Forest burn area Saturday, June 15, 2013. Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette
This thoughtful man did not sit home and wonder what to do. He took initiative to go out and buy gallons and gallons of water to give to those who had been waiting and waiting to see their beloved homes.
Others in the area showed the kind of community support that I have not experienced on a regular basis in our area. An estimated 1,000 people lined the streets outside of the Black Forest Fire command center that night to say thank you to the heroic firefighters, national guardsmen, police officers and sheriff's deputies working long hours, without sleep, to protect their homes as they changed shifts. Many had lost their own homes, but wanted to be a part of the community that thanked the fire fighters for risking their lives to save their homes.
Thousands of people were affected by the fire that occurred with the most homes lost in Colorado History. (460 homes totally destroyed.) How amazing it was to see this gathering of people support one another, help generously, pray together, and show love in countless ways. photo Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette
Members of First Baptist Church on Black Forest Road prayed Sunday, June 16, 2013 over church members who lost their homes in the Black Forest fire northeast of Colorado Springs, Colo. The church, which is just outside the evacuation area in Black Forest, held a community prayer and praise worship service Sunday. At least eleven church families lost their homes to the Black Forest fire. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette (Photo credits given to The Gazette)
Generosity expresses the way we perceive ourselves.
Giving our time, love, consideration and thoughtfulness to those surrounding us in our lives is one of the ways people are able to perceive the love of Christ, expressed through us. Yet, when one comes to Christ, it is not just to receive forgiveness and entrance into heaven. Humility and bowing our knees before the creator of the universe, must cause us to understand that our lives are not our own. When we give our lives to Christ, we give him our all. Everything we have belongs to God. Our possessions are not only for us to use, but what we possess is to be used for the service and provision of others. God entrusts us with resources because He wants to believe that we will be good stewards of his provision in order to help others.
Generosity, then, flows from a person who perceives himself as a steward of God's gifts.
However, the attitudes that are swirling around in our hearts, will most likely show and burst to the surface when difficult circumstances squeeze our lives. Devastating fires, so near our home, effected all of us in our community two years ago. Disbelief that a fire could come so quickly and devastate so many homes in such a short time left us all breathless.
Yet, as with many disasters, we witnessed an outpouring of generosity from those who had already decided that giving of themselves was one of the ways to most model the sacrificial life of Jesus.
As we housed sweet family friends whose house was at times right in the center of the infrared map, we watched them as they lived what they had practiced believing--the joyful and humble trust of God.
One morning, as they heard of family friends who lost their home, their first response was not fear of losing their own home. But, immediately, they pondered, "What would most help this family? Let's give a gift card to Target, get their kids some new clothes, and go visit them to cheer them up. They probably need a lot of support right now."
The heart of Jesus is to give whatever it required to save his beloved children. In our case, He had to give His all.
Generosity is caught when taught and modeled. It is learned when practiced. It plants seeds in the heart when, out of great thanksgiving to God, for all that He has done, we give always out of our resources to His kingdom causes and to others who are in need.
When we capture the reality of God's nature being extravagantly generous on our behalf, this character quality born in our lives and trained into the lives of our children, reflects a wordless picture of a love that will reach hearts.
No wonder God loves a cheerful giver--it is a true reflection of His children behaving like Him.
Practical ways we practiced giving as a family included:
*Serving meals at homeless shelters
*teaching children's Sunday School classes as a family or caring for children while single moms did Christmas shopping
*Helping with work days to serve elderly, single moms and those who were unable to mow their lawns
*Hosting missionaries in our home when they were on furlough and helping them gather goods to send back to the country in which they lived
*Gathering money weekly from the kid's giving and storing it in a jar and turning it into a check at a bank to send to the cause our family voted on after a period of time
*Making meals and decorating "love" cards for neighbors and those who were ill, in the hospital or had a loss in the family.
*Baking plates of cookies for new neighbors and visiting their home to say welcome.
*Stuffing shoe boxes full of toys and books for overseas friends who did not have material goods.
There are so many ways to give, but making it a habit, taking the time to plan it is the key to seeing the root of generosity grow in the culture of our lives and our family's lives.