Wednesday, April 6, 2011

growing in generosity

At Grace in March our focus was on HUNGER and God accomplished some amazing things as our people responded generously (how cool!):

  • 14 people participated in the 30 Hour Famine, breaking their fast at communion during a Saturday night service and collecting over $1700 for World Vision. During the famine, volunteers made 300 sandwiches that are being delivered to those in need through the 363 Days homeless ministry in Minneapolis.

  • Grace volunteers helped to pack over 100,000 meals at Feed My Starving Children during three shifts the last two weekends of the month.

  • $900 was collected from the ELCA World Hunger boxes, and the funds go directly to World Hunger Relief.

  • God’s Global Barnyard collections from Sunday school offerings this month helped to purchase 70 chicks, three ducks, a pig, a goat and a COW!

  • Over 2000 pounds (a TON) of groceries were donated and delivered to local food shelves.

    • Friday, April 1, 2011

      On fasting, generosity, simplicity, serving & giving (and a great book)

      On Fasting: Most of you know that my wife Cathy & I gave up everything but 12 things (actually categories of food, etc) for our shopping fast during Lent. “So how’s it going” you ask? Well, it’s going pretty well, though we’ve tripped up here and there. Going out to meet with people has been challenging, though I’ve gotten adept at suggesting we meet at work for coffee or lunch. However, I had an interesting response to my public disclosure of our shopping fast. In late February, I received not one, but two $25 Caribou gift cards with the specific purpose to use them when I go out for coffee. Thank you. And, my ongoing challenge has been to keep focused on what I can be ADDING to my routine during this time of giving-up-ness. So, I’ve made a point of switching off the radio on my 25-minute commute and praying for whatever God places on my heart. This morning it was for the people of Japan. (we all could be doing that ALOT!)Or, it could be for a family member or someone struggling that you know. I also really want to grow in simplicity and generosity and joy during this time as well. This is not just about cutting out and giving up, but about growing spiritually in my walk with God. I mean, he owns it all; I’m just his “resource manager”!

      On Generosity: God blessed me about a month ago when someone came in the office with a contribution. They were a family who had received benevolence help from our church about a year ago and wanted to give back to help someone else in need, as they had been helped. It was a blessing to not only receive the gift, but even more of a gift to hear their story of struggle, faith, love, healing and God’s blessing in their life. It reminded me that generosity is about so much more than money and Jesus was right when he said it’s more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). It’s a matter of trust. It’s a matter of faith. It’s a matter of the heart.

      On Simplicity: We spent quite a bit of time in February here at church emphasizing simplicity and putting energy into living more simple lives. Well, "Make It Simple" is done with, but the journey continues, doesn’t it? The effort to simplify is almost a daily struggle, not just a once a year deal. So, evolving here to an effort I'm calling "Keep It Simple" and it is challenging to stay on the journey. And…it’s important to remember this is an integral part of spiritual formation and drawing closer to God. Frugality is one thing (and a good thing) but approached from a purely human standpoint, it can easily turn into a joyless experience, with God far removed from the process.

      On Serving: A great opportunity to connect with each other during Lent is a weekly supper we do here at our church. Not only is it a connecting point for people who attend but also is a great gathering juncture for those whose serve the meal. A couple weeks ago we had about a dozen guys giving joyfully of their time and talents, most notably some homemade soups. In addition, there were two guys who even took the day off from work to do preparation and ensure everything needed was there and ready to go. A great example of generosity on their part particularly, hey that's using up one of their PTO days from work, a big investment of time!

      On Giving: And finally, it’s tax time (like you hadn’t noticed) and many people might be getting a tax refund, or already have. Praise God and pass the US government check! If you do, take time to thank God for your good fortune and consult with him about what to do with that financial blessing. Hopefully, you’ll consider giving some of it for God’s work in this world. You choose, but follow God’s prompting.

      A great book: My friend Matt Bell just released a great book on a tough topic, money in marriage. And interestingly enough, it's called "Money & Marriage". Look into it & I'd highly recommend it. Just got it on Kindle (Android app) & of course it's available in book format, on Nook & other versions. Check it out when you have a chance!

      Have a great April!