Thoughts on Giving & Meeting Needs

Yesterday my friend Corrine and I had the privilege of writing thank you notes to the people who donated to help her and her husband pay their medical bills (you can see more about that here). It was a great way to reflect on how the Lord provided for their needs through the donations and generosity of others. As Corrine, myself and my roomie were talking about the concept of giving and meeting the needs of others, we started discussing the series our pastors are doing at our church.

As I thought about the concepts we were discussing, this thought came to mind:

Giving shouldn’t be a matter of “should I,” “how much” or “when to,” but rather a matter of “what or who to give to.”

This thought doesn’t just apply to giving money, but to time, emotions and talents as well. The Bible calls believers to give sacrificially and to give when the need comes up, not when it’s convenient for us. Whenever an opportunity comes up to give the Lord often brings to mind Proverbs 3:27-28; “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you.”

I have to admit there are times when opportunities are presented and I miss them; sadly sometimes due to my selfishness and unwillingness to do good when I have the means to do so. When I think about selfishness and self preservation I realize that, at their core, they truly reveal a serious lack of trust in the Lord. So it wasn’t surprising to realize that the same chapter where the verses above can be found are the often quoted Proverbs 3:5-6; “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

These verses are life verses for me and I can recall many times when they’ve been dear friends to me in great times of despair. They have also been reminders to continue to look to the Lord in times of great blessings. And of course they have been exhortations in times of learning and growth. I just love how the Lord reveals new layers and truths through His Word over time and in different seasons of our lives!

Which brings me back to our  current sermon series, “The Practice of Giving.” I must say that I am BEYOND grateful for how our pastors have approached this topic. The topic of money is always a tough one to cover, but the topic of how to be kingdom minded with our money is another battle entirely. I’m proud of my pastors for how they’ve discussed these issues in their sermons and I’ve been challenged in many ways.

I’ve been challenged to approach this concept of giving from all angles, not just from the perspective of money. I’m challenged to ask myself how I’m giving of my time in prayer for others, in service to others and in making myself available to meet needs that come up. I’m challenged to ask myself if I’m missing any opportunities to meet needs around me because I’m so consumed with myself, with materialism, with “my time” and/or my “to do list.” And of course many of the opportunities that come up will be to help meet financial needs, so I’m challenged to ask myself if I’m trusting the Lord to provide when He presents an opportunity for giving financially -it’s His money any way!

Lastly, the Lord continues to challenge me to trust Him to provide for my current needs with moving to DC. As the date gets closer He’s revealing that these needs aren’t just financial, though it would be easy to be consumed with that aspect of it. There are needs of prayer, needs of physical help with moving, needs of encouraging words and even needs of  farewell hugs.

So often we think that the word “giving” only refers to financial giving, especially when mentioned in a church setting, but that’s not always the case. Giving means acknowledging the Lord in all we do and trusting Him to make our paths straight. Giving means trusting the Lord in all areas of life; whether that’s seeking Him to answer the question of “where or who to” to give to or surrendering our own needs to Him and trusting Him to provide above all that we could ask or think of.

I know it will continue to be a long road of progressive sanctification, but my prayer for you and I is that the Lord would create in us hearts that desire to give and surrender to Him in every way that He calls us to.

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The Value of an Inconvenient Event

Car accidents are typically inconvenient and unexpected events. This was just the case for the one I was involved in a little over two weeks ago. Of course there were some immediate inconveniences:

  1. It was startling. OK, it was a bit scary and really not fun.
  2. It happened on the way to work that morning and I was already running late.
  3. My car was so damaged that I couldn’t drive; I had to have it towed.
  4. I was faced with the reality of the human condition when dealing with the others who were involved in the accident. Self-defense, preservation and blame-shifting sure do come out in these circumstances and consideration for the well being of others doesn’t seem to be important.

Then there were some aftermath inconveniences:

  1. I was without a car for two weeks. Apparently when 2011 Jenn signed up for car insurance she opted out of the rental car inclusion fees; post accident Jenn won’t make that mistake again!
  2. I had to rely on others to take me places; so my normal schedule was a bit abnormal and shaken up.
  3. Learning the hard way how insurance is actually a game that needs to be played by the “game makers” rules or you lose – it doesn’t seem to matter what the facts support; if you haven’t done it their way you seem to get the short end of the stick.
  4. The costs of the deductible and repairs. Cars can be expensive, which is a given. But when you’re preparing and saving money to move across the country (actually to drive cross country), the expenses of a car accident are not your first choice of financial obstacles to overcome.

But in all of this there were valuable lessons, cherished memories made and confirmed blessings.

You see, I really have such great friends and co-workers. I’d like to thank everyone who helped me during the last two weeks. From my awesome roomie driving me to work most mornings, to my dear friends letting me borrow their truck for a weekend, to my wonderful co-workers and thoughtful friends who dropped me off where I needed to be and even stopped by the office with much needed coffee reinforcements – THANK YOU!

Though I most certainly wouldn’t have chosen to be involved in a car accident, I see how the Lord is using it already. I praise Him for the fact that no one was hurt; because we very well could have been if things would have occurred just a few seconds later. The past two weeks have made it very evident that there is great value in this inconvenient occurrence in my life; if for no other reason than it has pointed me to Christ in ways that can’t be qualified with words. It’s provoked more prayer and a deeper trust in my relationship with God. It also provided opportunities for me to spend time with people in my life who rose to the occasion to bless me by helping me in this very practical way.

The very definition of an accident is that it’s an “an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.” But in my experience this has been a blessing in disguise, even with the many inconveniences; both known and unknown at this time. I am happy to say that my accident, though unfortunate, has not resulted in devastating or irreversible damage or injury. On the contrary it has resulted in a greater appreciation for people I have in my life here in SoCal; people I love and will miss dearly when I move.

God is still good in the midst of stretching times and He will use cumbersome events in our lives to create opportunities to glorify Him and to see more of His faithfulness – doesn’t that make Him just the best ever

Video

Seize Every Opportunity to Share the Gospel: Especially the Unwanted & Unexpected

This sermon was timely, and in a way I didn’t expect it to be. I listened to it after some sudden and very unexpected events in life – both awesome and not so fun. To name a few of these life events:

  • Stretching family news – I currently live 3,000 miles away
  • Car accident – no car for two weeks
  • Exciting work related news – awards, acknowledgement and new developments
  • New prospects for housing in DC – two new roommates confirmed too
  • Unexpected expenses – car related and other

The point is that every blessing and every “curse” is an opportunity to be an example of Christ in my life. The Lord challenged me to consider the opportunities He has laid before me in so many areas in life right now and to really evaluate if I was taking advantage and “seizing” that opportunity to learn more about Him and to display Christ to those around me. I’ll confess that I failed many times to do so, but I also see how the Lord used just this past week to allow me to interact on levels with people I never would have had I not been in said car accidents, or known of said family news or even received said acknowledgement for a job well done.

I pray that I will see these opportunities when they come up; even in moments where I want nothing to do with them because of selfishness and pride. The most unlikely encounter could be the opportunity I’ve been praying for to act in obedience to sharing the Gospel truth – a truth full of kindness, love, justice, sacrifice, long-suffering, sanctification, providential redemption and grace.

Some of my favorite quotes from Matt Chandler in this sermon were:

“Obedience is always better than being unwilling to take risks.”

“Please do not buy into the lie that what you need to be in place for you to be effective at sharing the Gospel with others is a perfect life.”

“One of the brightest billboards of the sufficiency and grace of Christ is our weaknesses, not our strengths.”

Remembering a Brave & Godly Man

In 2009 I joined a Jr. High ministry team at Cornerstone SCV that was made up of people who would truly change my life. We helped start a new Jr. High ministry at our church and through that we became friends, confidants, and really a family. I am grateful to say that I am still close friends with several of those team members to this day and if the Lord wills we will remain good friends for years to come. Our time in ministry together was a special and cherished time and one of the most blessed times I’ve experienced serving in ministry thus far.

5029_100447011711_3604565_nToday I remember one of my dear brothers from that team. His name was Brandon Chandler. He was a kind, fun, and brave young man. But most importantly he was a godly man – he loved Jesus with all of his heart and he constantly challenged me to do the same. Today marks three years since he went home to be with the Lord and I’ll admit that selfishly there are moments when I wish he were still here.

ImageHis story is one of incredible faith, unbelievable challenges and deeply rooted JOY. The brief version is that he had three encounters with cancer throughout his 28 years on this earth and the Lord used Chandler to show what He can do with a man who would choose joy over any physical pain and emotional challenges that come with having a terminal disease – THREE TIMES! You can learn more about his story by watching the preview to a documentary called “Three to Six Months.”

Today I wanted to take time to reflect on the amazing person and wonderful friend that Chandler was. I still can’t believe how blessed I am to have been given the opportunity to serve in ministry with him, to spend Sunday afternoon lunches with him, to laugh for hours at games nights and to just call him friend. He was there to answer calls when I needed to talk about guy troubles, he was there to encourage me when I was down or anxious about things in life and he was there to cheer me on in the Lord when things were going well.

ImageI wish I could begin to express in words the kind of person he was, but my words and descriptions would never do him justice because he was such a beautiful and unique soul. But here is the kind of man he was in his own words; when Chandler received the news about his third cancer diagnosis he text a group of us and said “The doctor fouImagend tumors. Yes tumors in my lung. I’m not sure what happens next, other than God’s in control and He ALWAYS has a plan. Just keep praying. I love you all.” Even when I would ask him how he was during those last months of his life, he would encourage me to focus on the Lord and not his burdens and he would share verses for me to meditate on.

Though I only knew him for a little over two years my life will never be the same. I’ll always miss his laugh, his infectious smile and his generous spirit. Not a Sunday goes by that I don’t miss Brandon Chandler hugs, not a Wednesday goes by that I don’t miss playing crab soccer with Chandler and our Jr. Highers and not a week goes by that I don’t think “I miss Chan.”Image

I surely won’t forget the display of the Lord’s strength that he showed during the last months of his life. He truly believed and lived out the concept of “choosing joy” and I pray that I would follow Chan’s lead and trust God with a limitless bravery that doesn’t hold this life in such high esteem that I wouldn’t be willing to lose it to gain everything in Christ.