Tag Archive: generosity


well, here we are – December 2 – WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?

yup, somehow December snuck up on us all again and pretty soon it will be Christmas – you know the time to celebrate gluttony and spend time, energy and money on buying things for people that they don’t need or often even want? wait, that’s not sposed to be it, right?

it’s Christmas – the time of good will to all mankind and a whole lot of Fah La La La La’ing…

let me cut to the chase – what excites me every year about Christmas is the stories of people who get creative around this time to reach out to others – the lonely, the old, those in hospital, those living on the streets – whose Christmas is not likely to look anything like worshipping the Fat Elf of Gluttony – and making even the smallest amount of difference in their lives [although i see Love, Joy, Hope, Community and Acceptance as huge big-ass gifts]

Christmas

tbV and i are about to celebrate our 5th Christmas together and before we let it run away with us, we decided to be intentional about coming up with some of our own new traditions that will help this holiday feel special to us… and that got me thinking about how we collectively [as the bigger community of us] can help each other to make this the best Christmas possible for the aforementioned ‘least of these’ and others…

This is what i want to invite you into. If you already have a tradition of doing something for others on or around Christmas day, then i would love for you to share it in the comments section. If you have ever been the recipient of someone else reaching out and doing something meaningful and life-transforming for you on Christmas day i would love to hear those stories as well. But more importantly, the invitation is to sit with your friends and/or family and come up with one new tradition to start doing this Christmastime that will help make someone else’s Christmastime really special [especially someone who needs it more]

Will this mean inviting someone into your family meal? Or volunteering with a group of friends at a local shelter Christmas meal? Will it mean getting creative in gift-making? Or sitting down and writing a letter, note or card to someone who is likely to spend this time alone? Or are you going to really hit one out of the park by taking this kind of inspiration and turning it into something that the recipient will remember for a long long time?

So, in the comments section of this blog, i want you to share with us all the idea you have that you are going to do this Christmastime. Perhaps you want to draw some more inspiration from these amazing stories of families who got creative in raising their young children as world changers. But let us know what you’re going to do – and the hope is that as we share ideas, we will be inspired by other peoples’ ideas and try out some of these things together…

Who is in?

giving2

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this is a clip with the passing-it-forward [Jesus kinda provided the inspiration with ‘Love your neighbor’, right?] idea that is powerfully dramatised and passed on to me by my friend Kevin Smuts:

 

and then a friend of Kevin’s posted this short and true story which is apparently the inspiration for the first piece.

while i hope our motivation for doing ‘random’ acts of goodness is never to try and one day get free medical procedures, these certainly are a great reminder of how generosity breeds generosity… and the best kind may be when you don’t expect to be rewarded in any way…

what is something generous you have the power to do today? 

 

car and car and car and car and another car

well, not really, but i think the permanent ADT guard who lives in a little wooden hut across from my buddy Dunc’s house where i stay may be suspecting that’s what i do…

purely for the number of different cars of all shapes and sizes that he has seen me drive into 2 Smithers Road over the last two months…

i am always friendly and i always wave at him [or hims, because i think there are a bunch of them] which is probably what they look for in terms of suspicious people trying to look unsuspiciousful…

from Val’s folks to my friend Linda, from my buddy Ross to Beth’s mom, and then of course both Dunc and Megs cars [who i live with, Dunc and Megs i mean, the cars stay outside!] and a lift from my mom and my buddy Rob and Reegs and Mandy  and i imagine i have possibly left someone out, it has been insanely beautiful to see and experience the generosity of friends and family.

[thank you all so very deeply!]

i call it the church being the church – some people see church as that meeting that happens at that place on that day… i tend to see it as a friend saying, “I’m going overseas for three weeks, please feel free to use my car” or as two separate friends buying tickets to the cricket for tbV and me, or my buddy refusing to let me pay for a movie, or countless drinks and meals and one friend lending me his hockey stick and another friend giving me his Meltz voucher so i can buy a hoodie…

i do also see church as that meeting which can happen at that place on that day [and am grateful for some amazing experiences of church and especially worship i got to have while i was here] but it can never stay there. if what happens in that place never spills out into everyday life, then it’s a joke and a mockery and a fake [and pretty much a spitting into the face of God]

but one of the highlights of being home has been reconnecting with people who really ‘get’ what this church thing is about [or more importantly who] and meeting some new inspiring people that are on the verge of doing amazing incredible practical things for the gospel which are often the surest sign of the Love of God…

i am so hopeful for church. God’s people doing God’s stuff lavishly… keep on church… keep on!

so as tbV and i are nearing the end of our time here at the Simple Way in Philadelphia, Americaland, we have had to focus a lot on looking forwards at the exciting times and opportunities that lie ahead, but i also want to be mindful of taking some time to look back – there is a lot to be grateful for…

Thank You Fish

there is a saying that ‘God owns the cattle on a thousand hills’ but i would go one further and add that for the most part He seems to have placed that cattle in other peoples possession and without a bunch of generous people coming on board, we would have really struggled to make it here as relatively easy as we did.

december 2010: having alerted the church where i worked almost a year previously as to my intentions, i resigned after 6 years at the Stellenbosch Vineyard church and Val and i were obedient to what i had strongly felt God telling us in terms of waiting on Him for the next move… for Val is was a huger step of faith in a sense as she had not heard from God but had to trust that i had. So we started 2011 with not too much money and relatively no income.

waiting on God for the next steps can be a daunting thing, especially when you have no income and it is not as if expenses have dried up – we still were renting an apartment and paying for petrol [that’s gas for you Americaners] and trying to eat on occasion. Val was finishing her Masters thesis and apart from some tiny TheatreSports show income [altho to be honest, petrol to the show usually exceeded money from the show so that was never likely to send us overseas] and then later some dictation work we did, there was not a lot coming in. i was salaried for January and then nothing.

and when you start writing lists of people to thank, you will always leave out some key people, but there are some names i do want to mention that stand out and trust that if you did not get a mention it is just because it is early morning as i type this and for a minute you slipped my mind – we are completely grateful for anyone and everyone who helped in various ways.

Tim van de Venter is one who comes to mind who ‘randomly’ during one of the months we didn’t have salary, called us up and told us God had told him to pay a month of our rent. That was the only time that happened in a couple of months of not having rent and it turned out it was the one time e really needed it. i do remember a specific time [and think there were more] of needing to pay something on the Friday and knowing we didn’t have enough in the bank and going online when i got home to find someone had mysteriously deposited just what we needed in our account.

my friend and ex youth guy Steve Legendwood and his wife Anne totally blew us away with a gift from London that far exceeded ‘hey, here’s a nice little gift’ proportions, at a time when we really needed to buy air tickets to get over to Americaland.

one of the faceless [to me, i’m pretty sure he has a face] recipients of the weekly ‘Thort for the Week’ messages i used to send out weekly, a man named William Bates,  suddenly appeared out of nowhere and decided to start blessing Val and i with R500 in our bank account every month for a year [and i am pretty sure that year ended a while back, while the support didn’t]

shortly after we got here, an old family friend who i had not seen for probably ten years or so, Lisa Pieterse and her husband Jacques, started sponsoring Val and myself a generous amount per month to be used specifically for date night money, which was an incredible way to give us a gift [as we were able to use it solely for that without feeling guilty or as if we should be spending it elsewhere] and so it was really great when we got to host them between midnight and i think 4am one night as they had a Philly stopover on the airport and catch up and meet them for the first time.

my buddy Duncan and his wife Megs and young son Connor ‘What’s that?’ Houston [of the clan Houston] who invited me and Val into their home for the last week or ten days before we left South Africa [despite my housesitting reputation of setting off pretty much every single alarm in any house i have ever housesat and, sure enough, at something like 1am the one morning…] and have just been crazy generous in a lot of other ways as recently as lending the money [that we have coming in from tax back home but don’t have yet] to be able to buy a ticket so i can fly home and once again daring to have us stay with them once more.

our friend Naomi Brooks from Scotland but really Stellenbosch and now Scotland again, who has been uberly generous in all kinds of ways and manners since we have known her, but particularly for opening her flat to us before we left and then keeping us supplied with cards and letters and chocolate stash and gifts while we have been here – there are still not many things that beat receiving fun mail in the post that you can hold [and eat!]

and then those who i lovingly refer to as ‘My Top Deck crew’ and my, there are a lot of you… a few years ago i was awakened to the horrors of ‘Americaland chocolate’ in the form of something called Hershey’s [which is not chocolate – i hate to use the word ‘vomit’ so i cannot tell you what i honestly think of it, but it is bad] and while there are some saving graces in products like Dove and Ghirardelli [and the free ball they give you every time you visit a Lindt shop!] that do exist over here, nothing Tops the Deck and at times the generous donations from friends and family back home have really lifted me emotionally and given me strength to face another day, moment or challenge. after years of research back home it was shown that melted Top Deck, accompanied on occasion by melted Smartie Eggs, is at the top of the chocolate food chain. for some reason ‘left in the sun’ [and drunk from the bag] beats out ‘nuked in nukrowave’ in quality of taste and experience, but both are great. so THANK YOU – you know who yous are.

as i said, there were more people and occasions than i can possibly remember – i just felt it important to highlight a few [and special mention must go to Dreadlocked Mike and formerly Emo Kev who took hours out to start off my dreadlocks a day or two before we flew over here, and my beautiful wife for setting that up] in terms of letting you all know how grateful and thankful we are for the provision of God’s cattle, whether directly from Him [and we had the sense of those times] or indirectly through people in many ways, shapes and forms – we literally, figuratively and metaphorically could not have done it without you.

we have met so many generous and loving people here as well and give much thankx to the friendships and encounters and experiences and hospitality God has placed in our paths and a special mention must go to our friend Jon Butcher, who within a week or so of knowing me had offered to buy me a new laptop in place of my ailing one and who introduced us to some really cool friends and had some great hanging out times.

we love and appreciate and thank God for you all and for the hundreds or maybe even thousands of you who have stayed in touch and been praying and taken time to find out how we are doing and those who have visited or skyped or written… thank you, thank you, thank YOU! we have felt extremely loved. and supported.

 

Proverbs 21 verse 25 and 26 read, ‘The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.
All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.’

Okay, so my hand is up again, but this time i think it’s a good thing.

Giving generously is a way in which we can show Love well. In fact when I read the words “without sparing” the idea that it conjured up for me is “pull out all the stops and don’t hold back when it comes to giving.”

What i have learnt in life is that generosity breeds generosity – i tend to be someone who is generous when it comes to money [maybe easier when you don’t have so much] and possessions, but when i look back, i think i am that way because i have had incredible generosity shown to me.

When my laptop went flying off the side of a mountain during proposal 1 [of 2] to tbV, my best friend Rob gave me the money he had been saving for his new laptop so i could replace mine. Our friend formerly Emo Kev [now dreadlocked Kev] gave us a sizeable chunk of his money to help us plan our wedding. My younger sister Dawn flew all the way from the UK to be with us on the day at much expense. When we were trusting in God for the next thing for our lives which turned out to be living and being involved at the Simple Way, our friend Tim phoned up one day and offered to pay our rent for the month. And my friends Steve and Anne gave us an insane donation that helped us to be able to afford the tickets to fly here. [and so many more stories and people, i can’t even mention them – generally what i have found, like with my buddy Reegs and others, is often those that have little or nothing are the ones who are the most generous]

i am reminded of the story of Cain and Abel in the bible and the idea that Abel gave of his best to God whereas from God’s response you get the impression that Cain kind of gives the left overs, and jealousy and murder quickly follow…

Paul continues this idea in his letter to the Philippians which reads:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

[chapter 2 verse 5-8]

And so we see that God, in Jesus, held nothing back, and we are encouraged to continue in the same vein.

When it comes to giving, i think we often think primarily of money, but time, energy and talent-sharing are all important things which we can offer unsparingly which can totally transform someone else’s life or day or even just moment…

And it makes me want to be generous. And hopefully if and when i am, that makes the recipients of my generosity want to pass it on all the more.

But when it comes to Love, i would say there is a further experience of this, and this is something i am hoping to get a lot more right. When you give in a relationship, and particularly in marriage, the temptation can be to keep score – i gave so now you must give and then i will give again – and this is not love at all [as much as Love should not keep a record of wrongs, it is an incredible thing for Love to not keep a record of rights!] And so i want to develop into a husband that outgives my wife… not because it is any kind of competition, and not for any kind of reward. Simply, because i feel that becomes a natural consequence of Love. If i Love you, how can i not give my best and want to give more.

Kind of like God, in Jesus.

as i give without sparing, may it encourage those around me to discover their own creative ways of being generous.

may we become better at Love as we embrace this idea and start to see it more at work in our lives.

do you relate?

[to look at the next part on Answering without Arguing, click here]

this year we got to be secret rooftop witnesses of this incredible act of Christmas mischief that Shane speaks about in this article and it was incredible hearing some of the stories from some of the people who had no idea where the money came from and yet for some of them it was a complete lifeline and life-changing moment for them:

So here is the start of the article shane wrote but click on the link to read the whole thing:

Critiquing the thick irony of the Christmas season is fair. It’s ludicrous that we celebrate the birth of the homeless baby Jesus by indulging in the biggest consumer spending of the year, scurrying around trying to find something to buy for people who have everything.

Nonetheless, there is something beautiful about giving, generosity and the contagious cheer that fills the world (not just the malls) during Christmas. We just need fresh imagination with how we celebrate amid the frenzy and clutter.

So we’ve started a new tradition here in the post-industrial concrete jungle of North Philadelphia … we call it the “Christmas Carol Conspiracy”.

You can read the rest of it here…

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