NovelSisters

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Giving Tuesday

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Well today is Giving Tuesday, where lots of nonprofit organizations really push for donations. Several places have matched donations for today only, so if you give, the gift gets doubled. It’s funny to me how so many days surrounding the holiday season have come to have new titles: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and now Giving Tuesday. But of all the days, this one struck me. It might be because I’m currently working on a Lesson about Giving vs Getting for my middle school students, but I thought I’d share my thoughts.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about getting your Christmas shopping done early and saving money. It’s a great thing for a lot of people even though some shoppers can go a bit overboard with their enthusiasm. But Giving Tuesday focuses in on giving things that matter. That new TV would be great and whoever you’re buying it for will probably be very happy to receive it, but it isn’t a necessity. Most of the organizations promoting Giving Tuesday are seeking to give people around the world, things they really need: like food, clothes, clean water, education and the list goes on and on.

There are a million things on this planet that you could buy, for yourself or for others, but some things just keep their value longer. And I don’t just mean physical things. When we give to God, our gifts count for eternity and store up treasures in heaven. Treasures that never fade, or rust, or break, or get lost.

But for me, that is not the main reason I want to give to these non-profit organizations. It’s easy to have the mindset of what am I going to get out of this, even when we’re giving. I’ve done this plenty of times, like giving gifts to my siblings so that I could play with the game or take part in the gift myself. It was almost like I was really giving the gift to myself. So I don’t want to give because I’m thinking about a mound of treasure waiting for me in heaven. Especially when I’ve been learning that what God calls treasure or riches usually has to do with people and relationships, not more stuff.

You may have noticed the picture at the top of this post. It’s from a mission trip I took to Haiti about 4 years ago. While I was there, I got to hang out with some kids and I ended up making some little drawings for them of different animals. It wasn’t a huge gift, but they were so excited to get one. Their faces would light up and they’d laugh and dance around. And I got to see a glimpse of the joy of giving.

So, here’s the reason why I’ll be participating in Giving Tuesday:
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

When I give to the poor, I’m giving to Jesus. And Jesus is the One who loved me when I was selfish and broken, who took my place on the cross and gave up his life for me. His love is more valuable than anything I own, and He’s given it to me freely. I want to love Him back, to give back to Him, to treat people the way He has treated me and show Him how grateful I am for his gift.

So, if you would like to join me, here’s a couple of the organizations that I’m giving to today:

Austin Disaster Relief Network

Giving Tuesday

 

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The Shirt Off My Back

One of my favorite shirts

One of my favorite shirts I’m wearing while in Mozambique

Have you ever heard the expression of “giving someone the shirt off your back”? I have and I think that when I heard it I smugly thought yeah I’m that kind of nice person, I’d totally give someone my shirt if they needed it. But as I was reminiscing today about a mission trip I took last year at this time, I realized that I have actually had an encounter with just such an opportunity and I haven’t been as generous as I thought I would be. In fact this wasn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. Twice now, both while on a mission trip no less, someone has asked me if they could have my shirt. And it threw me off both times.

The first time I was in Haiti and a little boy with not much as far as possessions go sparked up a conversation with me in Spanish, since I know a lot more Spanish than Creole. And as we were parting, he asked if he could have my shirt. I think he knew that visiting Americans often left their clothes for the village children at the end of the trip. I can’t remember now if I said yes or no or that I was planning on leaving some shirts but not that one in particular. But the short of it is that no, I did not leave my shirt in Haiti for that boy. I kept it. And you know why? Because I was attached. I really like that shirt, it’s soft and reminds me of a lot of cool moments from my childhood. And you know what the ironic thing is? It has a cartoon that explains the gospel on it; how Jesus died for us and gave up everything so we can know Him. And I wasn’t willing to give it up. Yeah… so turns out I can be a hypocrite.

Well fast forward in time to last year and as we were moving through the airport in Johannesburg the lady in the airport security uniform suddenly said she liked my shirt and asked if she could have it. She said I could change into a different shirt from my bag. I was thrown off, partly because I didn’t know where I could change in an airport security line, and also because this lady who obviously had a job and seemed to be able to provide for herself was asking for my shirt. I said I didn’t have another shirt and went on my way. (I meant another of the kind I was wearing, I had plenty of other T-shirts, just not one that looked and felt like the one I was wearing). For again someone had asked me not just for an old shirt I didn’t want anyway, but for one I treasured and valued and didn’t want to give away.

So now I’ve been reading a very compelling, and convicting book called “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. He writes a lot about how Christians give to charity or even go on mission trips to help themselves not feel guilty for not loving the poor. But he says that what’s really needed is for us to know and be friends with poor people. Because then when there is a need, we want to meet it, and we’ll sacrifice to help our hurting brothers and sisters, instead of living for ourselves and our own comfort and merely giving to charity the things we don’t want anyway. One part in particular really hit me, he wrote “I heard that Ghadhi, when people asked him if he was a Christian,would often reply, ‘Ask the poor. They will tell you who the Christians are.'” It struck me that a true follower of Jesus should be known as someone who joyfully gives away what they have.

Through all of this God has been teaching me that He doesn’t want my stuff or my things, He wants me. He wants me to give Him everything: my time, talents, treasures and heart. So I’ve discovered one of my treasures that I tend to value above Jesus and above the people He’s asked me to love, are my clothes. And I don’t want that to stay true of me. So that’s part of why I’m writing this. I want to change, to be okay with giving away things that are precious to me, and to do it joyfully. So hopefully the next time someone asks me for the shirt off my back, I’ll be able to say yes and give it with a smile.

Well there’s my thoughts for the day. I highly encourage you to read Shane’s book too. I haven’t finished it yet but it’s really good.

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Ten Things a Christian Should Try

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I’ve seen a lot of blog posts or quizzes where we’re told places we should see, things we should try, or something we have to experience before we die. There’s food, landscapes, movies, books. Just ask and you’ll get hundreds of suggestions of what you should do. But I was thinking about this the other day, and a lot of the suggestions you get of what to do before you die are… empty. You do them and it’s fun, or yummy or pretty. But then it’s over, and that’s it. I started thinking through what things can we do that have eternal significance, that actually make a difference. So I started making a list of suggestions I would make to other Christians of things they should ‘try’ and hopefully continue to do. Anyway, it’s not in any specific order, but if you’re following Jesus maybe you should try some of these things.

1. Give Sacrificially

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Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/hands-suit-give-take-offer-462296/

Or in more plain terms, give till it hurts. Try giving money or time or possessions not so you feel good about yourself or don’t feel guilty, but actually for someone else. Give in a way that is hard, maybe more than you think you can give. It’s surprising what can happen when you do, and how freeing it is. It can also help remind you that your security comes from God and not what you own.

2. Pray for Everything

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Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/girl-praying-hands-eyelashes-15599/

 

I mean this not in a greedy way but in actually praying for things even when they seem trivial or impossible. Like ask God to help you find your lost car keys or pray and ask Him to restore a broken friendship, or heal someone of cancer. I won’t promise that He will say yes to every request, but He knows best how to answer your prayers and He loves it when you ask Him. You may be surprised with how He answers.

3. Read the Whole Bible

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Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/bible-hand-designate-read-1089968/

I know some people struggle with reading their Bible at all, or prefer to read favorite sections over and over. But I can honestly say reading the whole thing has been so good for me. Sometimes reading a passage that isn’t quoted often brings new insight to me, or a little surprise, and spending time in God’s word is so refreshing and good for me. It reminds me what is true and important and often puts my life’s problems in perspective.

4. Serve at Church

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Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/church-buildings-christian-clergy-157216/

Many people at least in America can view church as a place to get their needs met, to be taught, and encouraged and in some cases, entertained. But the Church is meant to be a body with everyone helping each other. Even if it’s passing out bulletins, or hanging out with children, if you get involved with a church and seek to serve and not just be served, there is so much blessing!

5. Share the Gospel

Clasped Hands, Comfort, Hands, People, Adult, Friends

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/clasped-hands-comfort-hands-people-541849/

Share the Gospel with a friend, a coworker, a neighbor or even a stranger. There’s nothing like telling someone about what has changed your life, made you who you are and given you hope and peace. Not only is it a command but it brings so much joy and purpose into your life when you step out and share the Good News that Jesus saves sinners.

6. Rest on the Sabbath

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Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/girl-sleep-child-feather-1041019/

I know it’s hard to stop, especially in this culture, but we all need a break and God gave us the command to rest for a reason. Actually taking a break, even from good things like work or serving others, is needed. Otherwise we get burned out. Plus, changing up our routine and taking a break can help us listen to God more easily.

7. Fast

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Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/rigatoni-pasta-noodles-food-meal-569072/

Or more specifically fast from something that’s hard to let go of. It may be food, but it could be your cell phone, or television, or internet. Take a break from something that controls you, let go of it and don’t let it dictate your life. Often when we let go of something that distracts us constantly, and consciously choose to ignore it, it is much easier for God to speak to us.

8. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

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Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/woman-girl-afraid-frightened-933488/

This could be as simple as talking to a neighbor you hardly know, or driving to that part of town that you don’t like, or even going on a mission trip across seas. But the point is, when you follow God into uncomfortable situations, it forces you to rely on Him and not yourself. And it’s a constant reminder that it’s not about you but about God. And even though it’s uncomfortable, you don’t have to worry, because God’s in control, and you might find that it’s quite fun to see God work in your uncomfortable situation.

9. Care for the Poor

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Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/people-homeless-male-street-850097/

Jesus constantly told us to care for the poor, but it’s easy to forget. However, what if you actually did it? What if you packed extra water bottles in the car to pass out to the homeless, or spent a day serving at a soup kitchen? There is great blessing in obeying Jesus and caring for what He cares about. Why not try and see what He does?

10. Worship God

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Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/person-human-joy-sunset-sun-110303/

Worship everywhere, not just at church. For me singing is a way to worship God and I can do it by myself in my room, or along with the radio as I’m driving, but it always reminds me of what’s important, who God is and who I am and I need that reminder more than just on Sunday mornings. Maybe you’re not a singer and staring up at a night sky, or at a beautiful sunset inspires you to praise God for His handiwork. But no matter what your preference, take time to worship God, and refocus on Him.

Well there’s my list, I hope you get a chance to try some of these, or do them again if you’ve already done them. But more than that, I hope you grow closer to God through them and become more like Jesus, because that will last through eternity.

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