To the bookkeeper, there was a 20-cent difference between the two. To the preacher, one gave something and the other gave nothing. To the teacher, it was a teachable moment for the students. To the rich man, it was loose change. To the widow, it was all she had.
On one hand, we are talking about money, on the other hand, point of view. You know the biblical stories. One is called the Widow’s Mite; the other the Rich Young Ruler. Both are examples to us about the priorities of a spiritual life. The widow’s story reveals the pride of the religious legalists counting out their offerings in front of the crowds, laughing at the poor, and congratulating themselves for being so good. Her story reveals her heart as one who sincerely gave as much as she had to God, in spite of the haughty onlookers and the meagerness of her offering.
The rich man’s story reveals the dilemma of a morally good person confronted by the fear of financial insecurity, the priority of stuff over relationships, and the expensive cost of discipleship. About the widow Jesus says, “They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything.” (Mark 12:44). About the rich young ruler, found in Mark 10, we see these powerful, descriptive words as Jesus clarifies the man’s choice, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (The only time this is said about Jesus as he speaks with anyone else in the Gospels!) In response to the man’s decision to turn away from sacrifice and commitment, Jesus says, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
I struggle with these stories. Where do I fall on the scale between the widow and the rich man, the disciple and the Pharisee? I believe that tithing is the clearest starting point for the offerings to the Lord. It’s proportional. I believe that the tithe goes to the Lord’s work through the local church and that gifts and offerings to other good causes and ministries are over and above the tithe. What do you believe? What is your commitment? What is your point of view?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Give the Lord your best. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
If you were to ask a couple of our grandsons “What do you want for Christmas?” they could name some things fairly quickly. They have seen some kid-targeted commercials and have probably been discussing this subject with their friends at school. If you were to mistakenly give them a catalog and ask them to pick two, just two, items, they would each circle twenty-five or so of the latest, coolest, flashiest stuff around. It is hard to stop at just two when your choices seem endless, and haven’t you seen Santa’s workshop/warehouse/factory with thousands of elves in all of those movies? I need to change the question.
What are you going to get for Christmas? This turns the subject slightly. This question presumes they remember what they received last year and can make a reasonable comparison. It also assumes you can lower their expectations and the ever lengthening want list. It’s funny how they never list any new shirts or socks.
The problem with Christmas is the materialistic self-serving, self-interest that we have perpetuated over these last fifty years. Decade after decade as consumers, we have demanded more and more stuff. Everyone wants the best bargain for the latest, coolest flashiest stuff at “Door Buster Prices.” I’ve seen the Black Friday videos. I need to change the question I ask of our grandchildren.
What are you going to give for Christmas? Let’s make a list. Okay, it is Jesus’ birthday that we are celebrating. What are you going to give Jesus for Christmas? Who else do you think needs a gift?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Change the question. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I received a telephone call last May telling me that “Mr. John” would not be needing any more Meals on Wheels dinners. His daughter said that the family was taking over his care. Mr. John, a kindly grizzled man in his 80’s, had been dealing with cancer and its side-effects for a number of years. For all of those years Mr. John had been receiving a hot nutritious meal delivered three times a week by different volunteers working out of our church kitchen. On some occasions I delivered the meal to him. He was usually alerted that his meal had arrived by the loud barking of his neighbor’s dogs. He would meet the volunteer at the door with a yellow basket in hand to take his meal, milk, bread and dessert back to the table.
We have been serving together with our neighborhood churches as Eastside Meals on Wheels since 1978. Last month representatives from all five churches gathered together at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church to celebrate our 34th anniversary. The pot luck meal brought salads, vegetables, meats and desserts from Will Rogers Methodist, Our Savior Lutheran, as well as Yale Ave Presbyterian and Braden Park Baptist. Our own Waneta Reynolds told of how our first organizational meetings came about. We shared funny stories about unusual experiences delivering some of the meals. And we then heard the story of Mr. John.
It was after the Memorial Day holiday that we were asked to stop his meals. A couple of days later Mr. John protested and asked that we might deliver at least one more time. We made the arrangements and a volunteer showed up with his meal. Mr. John was propped up with his basket. He told the volunteer he wanted her to “Thank all those people with Meals on Wheels. They were so nice.” He died four days later, but he had said thank you.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Say thank you. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Black Friday starts on Thursday this year. The signal bell will ring Thanksgiving evening, two hours earlier than last year for some of the national chain stores. Some people are protesting this, especially the already hard-pressed employees. But let’s be realistic about this – would you rather “shop ’til you drop” starting at 10 p.m. or 4 a.m.? Next year, of course, starting time will be 8 Thanksgiving night.
According to the Universal Book of Common Knowledge (Wikipedia), the title “Black Friday” first shows up as a term used by the police to describe the traffic and shopping nightmares created on the sale day after Thanksgiving. In the 1980s the term, which had been associated with things like Friday the 13th and stock market crashes, was massaged to infer that it was the day retail businesses moved from red-ink losses to black-ink profits for the year. In 2005 shop.org first advertised “Cyber Monday” as the day to go online and order over-stocked/out-of-stock items from the internet. I have a suspicion, though, that some of the frantic Black Friday buying is not for gift-giving at all.
I would like to make a suggestion. Instead of rushing out to buy the latest, cheapest gadgets/toys/clothes ever made in the history of the world, why not buy some local goods/services/products to bless others? If the holiday season is the time when most businesses begin to show a profit, then local shops need our business even more. Other gift suggestions might include three months of lawn care, four oil changes and car washes, a manicure or pedicure, gift certificates to local restaurants, a computer tune-up, you understand. This is a season for giving to others.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Give local. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
The main difference between an encourager and a discourager is generosity. There are probably other factors that distinguish the two. From my unscientific viewpoint, generosity makes a world of difference in the dispositions of most people. Once when our daughters were young, I came to an understanding that I was very inconsistent with my “yeses.” For instance, they might ask permission to watch a certain TV program, but I might say “no” sometimes and “yes” at other times. Those were in the days before remote controls, so I would have to actually get up off of the couch to change the channel. Part of my “yes” or “no” depended on what mood I was in or whether it was convenient. I found that just saying “no” to most everything is an easy habit to learn. Then, in the voice of one of our children came the question, “Why do you always say ‘no’ to us but do whatever you want?”
My dilemma became, won’t I be spoiling them if I say “yes” to most of the inconsequential things they ask for? Probably, maybe, sometimes—but then this became a time for us all to learn the lessons of responsibility. I could not carry out of the mall all of the things that our daughters might want me to buy for them when they were teenagers. But the response became, “Yes, you can have the pink Guess jeans, if that is what you really want. We will pay for the jeans part, but you will pay for the Guess label.” It was a “yes” with a dose of personal responsibility. I found that this Principle of the Responsible Yes, as I came to call it, caused me to want to develop a more generous spirit, even if it was a bit inconvenient at times.
I have never known an encourager who was not generous with time, money or “yeses.” Encouragers want to be the first to support a person or an effort. Encouragers want to be the first to give of their money. Encouragers want to be the first to give the responsible yes. Discouragers, on the other hand, are content to be the first to say “You can’t.” “I won’t.” “N-O.”
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be generous. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
It’s turned cold and rainy here in the midst of November. After such a mild September and October, the chill seems more biting and harsh. The call of winter is in the air. It’s time for sweaters and blankets, and cozy cups of tea and coffee. Christmas carols are now on some radio stations 24 hours each day. The advertisements of specials and bargains are coming at us like blowing snow. It’s holiday season, and the never-ending push to New Year’s Day has accelerated the pace of daily pressures. Lists and lists of things to do, and less and less of the money with which to do them.
Some of us are preparing for company to arrive; others of us are preparing to be someone’s company. Some are facing Thanksgiving day and the Christmas season very much alone away from home; others are looking through tears at that empty chair across the room. For some our lives seem up-side down; for others hearts have turned inside out. As the days grow shorter and the nights grow darker, this can become a season of depression and gloominess, underscored by the pressure to be ever “merry and bright.”
This would be a good time to shine a little light. Why not pick up the telephone and call someone you have not talked to in weeks. Maybe send a “thinking of you” card to friends or loved ones who are not sick or in deep distress. Tell them a little about how you are managing. Ask about how they are doing. Thank them for their influence on your life. Offer a prayer on their behalf.
So I give you a little word puzzle to think about tonight. Just rearrange the letters of each word to complete the sentence:
FI OUY ILFL OUYR AEHTR TWHI SGREERT FO
ESERTYYDA NDA ETH SRROIEW FO OOORWTMR,
UYO AEVH ON AYODT OT EB HNTFKUAL OFR.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Shine your light. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Sixteen tons and what do you get? Anyone born before 1955 can tell you the answer to that question. Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version of the song “Sixteen Tons” sold two million copies in less than two months! Americans identified with the tale of a coal miner so deep in debt that he could not afford to die.
You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go; I owe my soul to the company store. . .
When I was in college I served a church that was built for the employees of a lumber mill. It was named for the mill owner who also had built all of the workers’ little houses. The company store sold all of the groceries, dry goods and liquor the people wanted. The costs were deducted from their paychecks, and so was their rent. They could also get paycheck loans and advances. Yet most of the church people tithed, so the church could have a fulltime pastor and part-time music/youth director. They gave to missions, bought Sunday School literature for everyone, mailed out a newsletter and had wonderful potluck dinners.
Sometimes we forget that the “good old days” were a whole lot like today, only with less stuff. The preachers railed against a growing materialism that was leading us down a path of greed, selfishness and heartache. When our gods, they said, are money, prosperity and things, our dreams will sadly miss the mark. “Fly now, pay later” revolutionized advertising and introduced credit cards. More than 50 years later, the dreams of millions of our neighbors seem to have fallen short. The company store has been replaced by predatory lenders, corporate greed and too easy credit. The Biblical vision of simplicity and generosity still holds, even in the toughest economic times.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Honor the Lord. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.