April 30, 2009

Giving During Economic Trials

Steve Scalici, CFP, recently wrote a column in the Financial section for Crosswalk.com and I read it. That may be a common statement to you, but you must understand that I may be a person that has a naturally generous spirit and enjoys giving, but I'm not prone to balancing my personal checkbook, budgeting, and or wanting to get close to a work meeting for Profit & Loss statements. All that to say, it was a momentous day. I am reading a financial column.

The topic caught my eye - How do we give generously during tough economic times?

My hubbie and I have been fortunate to still have our jobs and able to make our house payment and pay our bills. But like the rest of the country, we fill the pinch. If you're not in dire economic straits at the moment, you want to do everything in your power to not be by tomorrow. I'm with you.
When money gets tight, I find the first thing to go in someone’s budget is often their giving. I believe this is a mistake. I’m reminded of Proverbs 3:9,“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything your land produces.”

In the Old Testament, farmers were commanded to give from the first fruits of their crops. This is important because as a farmer, you are never sure how the whole season’s crop is going to come in. When you give from the first crop not knowing what the rest of the season’s crop will bring, you are really taking a leap of faith and increasing your dependence on God.

That makes me think of our community garden and how this could apply. I never really thought about how FIRST is so important. Yes, I write my tithe check to our church the day I get paid, but it's not visible. I think I'll create a First Fruits Bucket for our group for harvesting days this summer and help us all apply this concept. I always enjoy a good visual!

If I'm continuing to look for opportunities to give and feeling the pinch, then according to Steve,
My generosity causes me to rely on God more than I normally would, which is actually a good thing. It’s important to remember that while financial generosity is important, it’s not our only resource to giving generously. We can be generous with:

1. Our compassion. When we know a friend or neighbor is hurting, we can offer supporting ears to listen, help with chores, or send a comforting note.

2. Our hospitality. Almost daily, we learn of those who need food and shelter that we could easily provide. Have others over for dinner. It’s a blessing to them and you will enjoy spending time with others.

3. Our stuff. Now is a great time to go through your stuff to see what can be shared with others.

4. Our faith. This current crisis may represent the greatest opportunity we have ever had to share our faith with others.

I am reminded of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea in Palestine. The Sea of Galilee is fresh and fruitful. However the Dead Sea cannot sustain life. It is bitter and barren.

Why the difference? They are alike in almost every way but one. The Sea of Galilee both gives and takes. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, has no outlet, so it only takes in.

We have a choice, we can either be like the Sea of Galilee, which has a continual flow of give and take, and can support other lives. Or, we can be like the Dead Sea and continue to harbor what we have, but never sustain others.

April 29, 2009

Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Dreams Really Do Come True

I'm sure most of you have been following Stellan's amazing story at My Charming Kids. If not, you need to check it out. It's amazing how the blogosphere has poured prayers out for this little guy. So glad to hear he's home and stable.

In a recent post of MckMama's (scroll down to the end), one of her readers mentioned an organization called Reece's Rainbow. On this site that is homemade with love, you'll find an amazing thing happening.

A couple of years ago we learned about the conditions and neglectful treatment of children in countries in Eastern Europe and many other countries who are disposed of in orphanages at birth just for having Down's Syndrome. We learned about an organisation that helps bring forever families to these precious children.

Reece's Rainbow is an International Down Syndrome Orphan Ministry and they have helped bring families for 176 (and counting) children in just three years.The reason this organisation became so important to us is that we were told our daughter had Down's Syndrome when she was born. The difference is our government did not force us to give her up. The children in these orphanages, if not adopted by age 4 or 5, are transferred to institutions where they live out their days being neglected and
never know the touch of a Mum and the love of a family. Their lives are admittedly quite short, once transferred. Roughly 85% die within the first year of being transferred from the baby homes to the mental institutions due to neglect and lack of basic medical care.

After reading some of the inspirational stories of this family and others that are making such a sacrificial and loving choice, I am confronted with my comfort meter - the little gauge on the odometer of my life that measures my needs and how well they're being met.

As I drive through life I glance under the steering wheel way too often. Not worried about being pulled over by the spa police ("You're not taking good enough care of yourself ma'am. I'm afraid we're going to have to bring you in for a complete makeover."), but more concerned about keeping up with the woman driver next to me.

And don't forget the other gauges on my dashboard - my emotions, my desires, my pride, and my needs. I can't seem to go anywhere or think about anything without checking my dashboard for MY stuff.

It's when I scroll through the photos and stories of the families that are trying to raise money to bring 'home' one of these precious children and make them part of their family that I realize I'm driving the wrong kind of car. I want to hop in one of their vehicles and drive down the yellow brick road awhile with them. Learn what it's like to be that giving, experience real love. I want to learn what it feels like to really live somwhere over the rainbow.

Will you help make one of these children's dreams come true?

April 28, 2009

Coffee for Sudan

I would totally lose on Jeopardy (I can't believe that show is still on TV!) if Alex gave me an answer about Sudan - much less find it on a world map. Don't tell my Grandmama that I'm so bad at world geography. At least I know how to tell a European where I live. . . always start with "Do you know where Texas is? My state is near there."

But that doesn't mean I can't help the war ravaged country - Sudan, not Texas.

A friend of mine at Annie Blogs is going to South Africa through the Mocha Club. It's so cool that I just donated two cups of coffee (well, I don't drink coffee, so make that two tall non-fat chai tea lattes, no whip) and am part of her adventure.

Most of our work will be in the township, Khayelitsha, outside of Cape Town. We will be constructing a Preschool Center/Sunday School for the mothers in the area who cannot afford to stay home with their children. This will allow the mothers to earn a living while having quality, free childcare for their children. We will also be spending time at the Living Hope Community Centre, which supports those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS and Learn to Earn, a job-training program.

I'm praying that God will use her in a mighty way. I know her words will be powerful when she blogs about it. You'll want to follow.

Can you give up 2 mochas this month?

April 17, 2009

Time of My Life

I can't see it.

I can't buy it.

I can't loan it out.

I can only give it, with no promise of it being returned.

My time, it's precious, and after writing those first four sentences sounds a lot like love. (Ouch. The realizations that hit me sting my heart, but are so good for my soul.)

I confess I have good intentions of spending time with those that need encouragement, mentoring young girls, and spending more than 20 minutes praying to my Father or reading about my heavenly bridegroom.

I'm stingy. I come up with excuses at the last minute to leave early, or to not go at all. I claim to be oh so busy, with things of MY life. But how I enjoy being loved with my admirer's time.

Why can't I willingly let the hands on the clock fly from my tight grip?

Loosening my fingers and feeling the flutter of little wings, within a breath, time soars to the clouds. My love goes with it and my heart feels free.

Consciously, generously I give the time of my life.

April 16, 2009

Generosity Party

I recently found a great post on Radical Womanhood. It's about giving out of your abundance but in a very creative way.

"Geneva Pearson had an idea to help people save money during the downturn. Pearson, who attends my church, First Baptist Church of Glenarden, recently coordinated a household item exchange. Women brought in fine china, cutlery, top-of-the-line crystal, small appliances, bed linens, comforter sets, and lamps, not to sell but to pass on.

"Sisters also came in with floral arrangements, towels, fine art, photo frames and accessories, wall art, window shades and curtains," Pearson said. "There was even a chandelier and a brand new toilet seat. It was wonderful to hear ladies as they exclaimed about items being an answer to their prayer or 'just what I needed.' "

During the giveaway, one woman was presented with accessories for an entire living room, another got a needed queen-sized bed. Someone moving into her first apartment got a television. "We historically have shared second-time-around clothing, food during the holidays, and coats during the cold months, but we hesitate to give up our good household stuff although we no longer use it," Pearson said.

I love what Pearson said about the event's vision. It was an opportunity for people to "share out of their abundance."

A good party, combined with cultivating a generous spirit? That's ideal! I’m thinking about doing this with women I know locally, maybe it will even be an official meetup.

Have you ever had a “Generosity Party?’ Have any ideas on how to make a success?

April 15, 2009

Community Garden

I like to get my hands dirty.

I like to plant seeds and be reminded - I am small and God is the Master Gardner. . . I have to go through some 'dirt' to be made new. . . God must break me to flourish. . . I need the Son to grow.

I like sun-ripened, organic fruits and vegetables.

I like to grab a bucket and head out my back door to pick the fixings for a salad.

I like juice dripping from my chin as I eat a homegrown tomato over the sink.

My mouth waters when I think about this summer and my mind turns to the calendar. Is it time to plant yet?

We had a garden last year and it was wildly successful. It was a 6x9 space of dirt in our backyard, but it produced so much food that we gave away sacks full at a time to co-workers, neighbors, and friends. It produced veggies until mid-November. God blessed us with a beautiful bountiful harvest of every color and flavor. He truly is a God of variety and creativity!

We're expanding the garden this year and inviting some friends to join us. Our first meeting for the Community Garden was last night. The space has tripled, the variety of seeds and plants has increased, and schedules of planting and picking are being created. The kids are involved and excited, too. It will be a group effort and so much fun to share!

One thing we decided as a group was to give 1/10 of all the produce to our local food pantry. During my times of service there, I've noticed that most of the food is packaged and processed because it's cheap. Unfortunately, those in most need of a healthy, filling meal don't get it. Well, that's about to change thanks to our Community Garden!

Even if it's in large pots due to space or an acre of "corn so high as an elephant's eye, and it looks like it's climbin' clear up to the sky," (thanks to my Oklahoma roots for that one!) I urge you to start your own neighborhood or community garden. This will be a good starting place.
Dig In!

March 31, 2009

Easter Basket Giveaway WINNER

Congrats, Kirwin! She's the winner of Resurrection Eggs! Kirwin has a lovely blog @ Graceful Creative where she's putting the Generosity Experiment into practice with her own kids.

She wrote: "I've been intending to start practicing random acts of kindness with my kids this year, and it's taken me this long to get started. Anyhow, inspired by these eggs, my children and I are going to put together 2 Easter baskets filled with pre-packaged candies and treats (read: tamper-safe). Then, we're going to go sit on a bench near our house, where many families take walks. Each of my children (hence the 2 baskets) will get to give their basket to anybody on the trail that they want to. It will be up to them and totally random. I am so excited!"

She also turned me on to a new blog by Christy @ Falling Around All Apart Me. I'm seeing a pattern, how about you? I'm loving that giving and generosity are in the forefront of others' minds, too!