On getting schooled by your 8-year-old on generosity

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I’ve read 4 books about generosity this year.

I meet with a team to discuss and plan for generosity.

I talk about generosity a lot in my work.

But you know who has taught me the most about generosity lately?  My 8-year-old son.

Last week, we were up at his school for open house.  We were standing in the hall as he showed me his work posted on the wall outside his classroom.  I was supposed to answer questions to see if I was smarter than a third grader.  (I’m happy to announce that I got my question right!  Whew!)

And then one of his friends walked by and I noticed it.  He had something on that was obviously Caleb’s.  I looked at Caleb.  Caleb looked at me.  I asked him about it.  He said he had let his friend borrow it.

It was something that I kind of have sentimental feelings about.  This item is something kind of special.

This kind of thing has happened before.

Years ago, Caleb was dying for some little toys that kids at school were getting through a fundraiser.  We were not doing the fundraiser, so he was not getting them.  Then one day much later, I was walking through Target and saw a box of them.  I don’t buy my kids toys very often, but I knew how much Caleb had been wanting them.  A wave of love for him flooded over me in the aisle, and I decided to buy them for him.  To surprise him with these small toys that he had been wanting for so long.

He took these toys with him everywhere.  He carried them in a little bag.  One night, we went to dinner with family and he left them at the restaurant.  On the way home, he realized he had left them and was freaking out.  I called the restaurant, but they said they didn’t see them.  I even left our phone number to call us back if they did turn up.

Months later, I found more of these small toys and bought them for Caleb.  They came in a pack of 12.  That same day, two of his friends came over to the house and he proceeded to give most of the toys away.

I’ll be honest.  I was hurt.  Buying him those toys had been a big deal to me.  It was an act of love.  It was something special that I wanted to do for him.  But he gave them away.

And I’ll be honest again.  Last week, standing in the hall at his school, I had him ask for this other special item back.

Later that night, I told Caleb how proud I was of him that he is so willing to give anything he has away.  No matter how special it is.  I really am proud of him.

But that night has haunted me ever since.

I don’t really know what I should have done.  Maybe I should have let the other kid keep the item that was special to me.  Or maybe I did the right thing to try to teach my son that sometimes things are just special and you need to think of what they mean to others also.

I really don’t know.

But I can tell you that I learned just how generous my son is.  And I should strive to be more like him.  I know for a fact he gives things away all the time.  If someone needs something or wants something, he wants to give anything he can.  And I know that because of his generosity, he is on the receiving end all the time too.  He comes home with things that kids from school gave him all the time.

These kids know how to give!

Over the last week, I’ve been wrestling with things.  I want to be someone who is extravagantly generous with all that I have.  I don’t want material things to have a hold on me.  I know everything that I have belongs to God.  I should be willing to give everything!

I want to be part of a church that is known for its extravagant giving.  A church that boldly gives money and things away to those that need them because it knows that God is not a God of scarcity…He is a God of enough.

I want to test God when He says, “Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

To do that, I need to be more like my 8-year-old son.

Overwhelmed and frustrated

I felt overwhelmed last night.

When I picked the twins up from school, Sadie hugged me and said I was the best Momma ever.  When we got home, she threw down on the front porch and had a fit.  I wasn’t the best Momma ever anymore. 🙂

Caleb does all of his homework on Monday nights.  And it takes all. night. long.  Not fun.

My house is a wreck and it’s driving me nuts!

Etc.

When it was the kids’ bed time, I was done.  And of course they were not easy to put down.  They kept getting up.  They used every stall tactic in the book.  So I was frustrated.

This morning, I could not get them to get up and get ready.  We were pressed for time and they would just not move!

Again, I was frustrated.

When we got into the parking lot at my son’s school, it was time for a little pow-wow.

I apologized for the fact that I had been so frustrated with them last night and this morning, but I also let them know that they are going to have to help me out.  We are going to have to get better about bed times, mornings, picking up after ourselves, not being so loud all the time, being nice to each other, etc.  Especially since Chris is at school 3 nights a week and is pretty much busy the rest of the time.

We’re in a crazy period in our lives.  I’ve learned to let many things go, so I don’t feel overwhelmed too often.  But when I do, the little things that the kids do frustrate me more than ever.  And I don’t like being frustrated at them.

So after I apologized for being so frustrated, Sadie immediately said “It’s OK Momma!  God is with you!”

Aww!  Yay!  Parenting win!

It was super sweet and cute for a few seconds, and then I was like “Thank you, Sadie!   You are right!  God is always with us and I don’t have to be frustrated.  But still!!  You guys have got to help me out!”

Here’s to hoping we have an easier night tonight!  And here’s to a God who is always with us!

Reading the Bible

I grew up in a Baptist church full of wonderful people. (I almost literally grew up there. We were there every time the doors were open and many times when they weren’t.)

My family now attends a Church of Christ church.

Both traditions love the Bible. They encourage their members to read and study the Bible so they really know and understand it and in turn know and understand God. They are both beautiful in their love for God’s Word.

Growing up, I thought that if I wasn’t reading the Bible from end to end in a year, I was sinning. So I read it like crazy. Really, it would take me about 18-months to read it most of the time. It’s a long book! 😀

As an adult, I have still felt like if I wasn’t reading 2-5 chapters a day, I was a Christian failure!

But recently, a friend helped me out. She encouraged me to just pick one verse to think about for awhile. And any time that I feel the need to read scripture, I go back to this verse.

Right now my verse is:

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:7

It’s been freeing to just think about, reflect on and sit with this one verse.

I don’t know how long I’ll be on this verse, but it’s been a good thing for me. I’m thankful for the chance to constantly learn different ways of interacting with God and his Word. And I’m thankful that it is living, breathing and impactful any way you read it!

Waiting

Lately, I feel like my life is a series of periods of waiting on God. Waiting for an answer. Waiting for clarity. Waiting and listening. Gut wrenching, soul-searching, waiting.

Anybody with me on this?

Saturday morning, my mom sent me the Bible verse “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Ps. 27:14

I wrote about this not long ago.

Below is an excerpt from an email that I replied back to my mom:

“It seems like life is a series of times of waiting on God. Seems like we’re always waiting on something. Constantly waiting to hear what he wants us to do next. At least that’s how I feel. It’s nice to know he’s in control because I don’t feel like I’m in control of anything. So I wait. But the thing is, he is faithful and good in the bad times, in the good times and in the waiting.”

I’m not sure I’ll ever really like waiting. In fact, I know I won’t.  I’m a girl who likes action.  I like to have a plan in place.  I like answers and certainty.  But now, after being given so many chances to wait, it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I have learned that God is truly with me. He’s always been there with me. I trust him.  And things may not go how I want them to go. (They already haven’t time and time again.) But I know that no matter what, I will have God’s love and presence. And that makes the waiting more bearable.

I have also learned that there is beauty in the waiting.  There is beauty in not having all the answers.  Beauty in giving up control and realizing you have to rely on someone else.

There is a whole heck of a lot of beauty in the moments of stillness.  In the quiet emptiness (however long it is) before God answers.

There is beauty in the searching.  In the asking.  In the pleading.

I believe God thinks times of waiting are beautiful too.  They are some of the times that mold, shape and transform us the most in life.  They are the times that I have clung to God and been close to him.  They aren’t fun, but they are precious times.

Our church is about to start an Advent class, and I’m excited. The waiting of Advent gives me a renewed sense of hope.  I’m excited to wait in anticipation. Wait with hope. With longing for the Son of God. That tiny baby who loves and saves us all.

Just wait.

When God Surprises You

This morning, I woke up frustrated about everything that I needed to get done this week.  I sat in my recliner last night and wished that I could just stop everything I have going.  I dreamed of what it would feel like to have no responsibilities, deadlines, etc. for a while.

Then in staff meeting this morning, we did our normal scripture reading at the beginning of the meeting and….BAM!!  God spoke to me and I was like “Crap, God!!  You’re not letting me off the hook!  Of any of this mess!”

But I love when God does that.  He meets us where we are and surprises the heck out of us.

Here’s the scripture that was read today: 2 Corinthians 4

4 1-2 Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.

3-4 If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.

5-6 Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

7-12 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!

13-15 We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!

16-18 So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

When was a time that God surprised you?  Through scripture, other people, etc?

Sabbath

“Because of our desire to succeed, to meet these ever-growing expectations, we do not rest.  Because we do not rest, we lose our way.”

“Sabbath is a way of being in time where we remember who we are, remember what we know, and taste the gifts of spirit and eternity.”

“We must have a period in which we lie fallow, and restore our souls.”

“Sabbath time is time off the wheel, time when we take our hands from the plow and let God and the earth care for things, while we drink, if only for a few moments, from the fountain of rest and delight.”

“It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true.”

“It was not Israel that kept the Sabbath, it is said, but the Sabbath kept Israel.”

“Once people feel nourished and refreshed, they cannot help but be kind; just so, the world aches for the generosity of a well-rested people.”

(All quotes taken from the book Sabbath: Finding rest, renewal, and delight in our busy lives by Wayne Muller)

Until recently, I thought the Sabbath was all about going to church on Sunday mornings.  That’s pretty much it.

I’ve always gone to church, but honestly, my soul has never felt completely at rest.  I have always rushed through my weekends just as I rush through my week.  I took time out of my schedule to attend church, and while I gained some great benefits from church, I would leave the church service each week ready to rush through the rest of my day in order to get ready for the busy week.

But lately, that has been changing. My soul longs for more.  It knows that more is out there.  A better way of being and living.  My soul has been tired, weary, thirsty and used up.  Looking for rest.  Needing to be filled.

The world of the Sabbath is opening up to me.  There is much, much more out there!  And I long to really, truly observe the Sabbath with my family in ways that provide rest to all of our souls, minds, spirits and bodies.  Ways that we can be filled with quiet, each others’ presence, the lives of friends, and filled by the Holy Spirit.

And I know that for this to happen, there must be a plan.  A set time where we stop each week.  A time that is sacred and holy to our family.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same time each week.  There just needs to be intentional time.

So, I’m wondering: what is your experience with the Sabbath?  How have you tried to set aside a time weekly, or even daily, to quiet your soul, spend time with God, listen to Him and allow Him to fill you back up?  I’d love to hear from you!

Leadership: Understanding our role as followers first

Two years ago, a friend at my annual Church Administrator’s conference showed me the video above.  I thought it was pretty good, so I showed it to our church staff in a staff meeting devo.  I still like this video.  It’s kind of funny, but it proves a great point:

Leaders are first (and foremost) followers.

We are called to first follow Christ.  To obey God’s commands and follow in his footsteps.  If we really love God, we will want to obey his commands in order to be like him and show him love and respect.

And if we’re truly followers of Christ and acting out of our love and respect for him, we will become servants.  Christ was the ultimate servant!  The best leaders are servants.  Not ones seeking position and authority but those earnestly seeking to follow Christ.  People who love and serve others.  People who aren’t looking out for themselves, but the interests of the larger group.

Who wouldn’t want to follow someone like that?