The Giving seasons are upon us. First we’ll focus on the Giving of Thanks. Then we focus on Giving Tuesday. And then there is the great push, pressure, panic of Christmas Giving. I wanted to share what God is brewing in my heart about His kind of giving.
Giving of Thanks. Sunday at New Wine Church we just released God Stories. My heart was so full after spending time bragging on our strong, healing, loving Father. Be sure to spend some time with someone you love and count your blessings. I mean it. Make a list and say them out loud. So good for your soul.
Giving Tuesday. I have an abundance of ministry emails and letters flowing into my inboxes. My own letter is going out shortly. There must be a better way to navigate all the needs. Here is one thing to try. For every “asking” letter we receive, or social media fundraiser we read, let’s stop and pray for that ministry. Each group really does need the fullness of Holy Spirit to do what they are doing.
Christmas Giving. Maybe, just maybe, the Grinch had it right. “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.”
I have been pondering what it means to… slow…down… a… bit… and let the Spirit teach us about how to be generous.
One of my favorite passages on giving comes from 2 Corinthians. The whole chapter is amazing. But for now let’s look at verse 7.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
This word fraught with freedom. We get to choose. Decide. Determine. We get to decide: who is important to us, what issue is moving us, who is feeding our soul and spirit, who is in need? Obviously God cares THAT we give, but He also cares HOW we give.
Not Reluctant or Under Compulsion
“You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” NLT
God loves a person who gives cheerfully. Let that sink in.
Are we more concerned about how we look? Do we feel guilt or pressure to give? Or, are we motivated by love for the One who loves us, and loves that we give willingly, happily, trustingly, even cheerfully?
We love it when our kids share happily and cheerfully. I think God loves it when His kids do too.
Here is the beautiful equation about generosity. We give because God gives. We give because we trust God to refill our cups. We give because it pulls us out of unhealthy Me-syndromes. We give because we know that God does miracles with our two fish and five loaves. We practice “hilarious generosity” because it reveals that we are overflowing with the same hilarious abundance that God has.
What do we give?
Money. Sure it’s a real thing. Giving can be a real thermometer for how well we are trusting God financially. No shame here. Just a reality check. It all comes from Him. And He never runs out. So do we feel the freedom to share our money because we know God will replenish? Just sayin’.
There are other resources that God asks us to share as well.
• Our God stories. They are like seeds that reproduce once they are shared.
• Our food, clothes, possessions can be shared. Do we really NEED all that stuff?
• Our wisdom and skills. Others may need what we carry but we have to be willing to share and to sacrifice the time, effort and comfort to give to others.
• Hope. Peace. Grace. Love. More than cheesy Christian-ese these are tangible resources that we store up and give away to others.
I keep hearing in my spirit, “Am I willing to be hilarious generous all these things?”
Everyone is tapped out during the holidays. So it makes me question if we’re tapping into the overflow of Heaven and giving out of His abundance.
“Yes, God is more than ready to overwhelm you with every form of grace, so that you will have more than enough of everything—every moment and in every way. He will make you overflow with abundance in every good thing you do. “
Listen. I get the squeeze. I am just really confronted with “God loves a cheerful giver.” So what if we give a little less out of obligation and pressure but we give a whole lot more with honesty and hilarity?
Here is more of this passage out of the Passion Translation. Enjoy it. And ask the Spirit how you are doing with generosity. May all your Giving Seasons be full of cheer and overflow.
6 Here’s my point. A stingy sower will reap a meager harvest, but the one who sows from a generous spirit will reap an abundant harvest. 7 Let giving flow from your heart, not from a sense of religious duty. Let it spring up freely from the joy of giving—all because God loves hilarious generosity!8 Yes, God is more than ready to overwhelm you with every form of grace, so that you will have more than enough of everything—every moment and in every way. He will make you overflow with abundance in every good thing you do. 9 Just as the Scriptures say about the one who trusts in him:
Because he has sown extravagantly and given to the poor,
his kindness and generous deeds will never be forgotten.
10 This generous God who supplies abundant seed for the farmer, which becomes bread for our meals,is even more extravagant toward you. First he supplies every need, plus more. Then he multiplies the seed as you sow it, so that the harvest of your generosity will grow. 11 You will be abundantly enriched in every way as you give generously on every occasion, for when we take your gifts to those in need, it causes many to give thanks to God.
(Quote from Dr Seuss book The Grinch)
First. I am shocked by the long stretch since I blogged. Two. I HAVE been writing and developing material (more on that later) but it just hasn’t made it to this particular outlet. Three. I am so blown away by the power of God to answer our prayers. 2017 was a year of dreams and visions and revelations. He blew me up in May with a crazy callout to “go for more” and then He started pushing and pulling and leading me into More. Even if my knees were knocking. And 2018? Well this is the year that all that good, juicy stuff between He and I gets poured out. Whew. I may need a nap.
Here’s my overarching song for today. You know what beats the blues? You know what “fixes our eyes on Jesus”? You know what keep giving us energy to get up day after day, heartache after heartache? Our dreams, especially the dreams that He himself has revealed to us.
I tell you what..He’s relentless. I was doing this dream exercise in one of our groups and I asked the women to just listen with Holy Spirit and write down 2-3 things they heard. As I was waiting quietly, the Spirit nudged me and said, “you too.”
So I listened and heard. The answers came pretty quickly but the writing it down took a little more effort. The dreams were too big. Too much. Too audacious. Too embarrassing. Just TOO, dang it. The Spirit just kept pressing.
“Write them down.”
“Okay, I’ll write two of them. Happy?”
“No. All three.”
I sat there waffling between faith and doubt. I wanted what He said. I just couldn’t see how what He said could come to pass.
“By faith.” He whispered reading my thoughts.
I finally wrote all three down. And I finally got all three out of my mouth when it was my time to share. A funny thing happened. Every time I spoke out the dreams the Lord shared with me, my faith grew and my doubts diminished. I was prophesying over myself and agreeing with Heaven every time I repeated what the Spirit said.
It’s been almost 8 months. God has been pulling the pieces into place. He is the Dream Maker. My job is be the Dream Keeper and stay in step with Him as He does what only He can do.
So with that said, do you know what His dreams are for you? Are you keeping them well? Are you paying attention when He starts pulling pieces together?
What a ride. Just start speaking them out. He will do the rest.
Please and Thank You are still magic words. I saw this on a FB post and smiled and agreed. Wholeheartedly. Please, by all means, be courteous. Thank you. After spending years trying to fight my way through the world, I learned that saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ opened doors and hearts in a different way. Ever so slowly, the Lord made me aware that every person is having a hard time, most of the time. So a little courtesy goes a long way. And…
Never sacrifice the truth for the “Being Nice” Game. This game breeds dishonesty more than it fosters compassion for others. Instead, speak the truth in love. But how?
Through the Holy Spirit’s characteristic of Kindness. It is truly the mark of greatness. And it is not automatically acquired but chosen.
For me, it began with an Amanda Cook song called “Kind.” This song haunted me actually. It’s a calming melody, but eerily charged. Like a war cry ringing out of the shadows at dawn.
Then God used it to rock my world.
My daughter worked late night hours at a job I was not crazy about. I was in turmoil over what I sensed was happening in the spirit. And she and I were doing our then-typical dance of silent and suspicious. One night she texted that she was on her way home. It was 2 a.m. and I was furious over the breach of curfew but the Spirit brought this song back to mind:
“Kind” (click to listen)
You are not a tyrant King
You do not delight in suffering
Your power doesn’t compensate for insecurity
‘Cause You are not a tyrant King
You are not an angry man
You do not treat us with contempt
Your voice is sure, Your eyes are soft, Your smile, confident
‘Cause You are not an angry man
You are kind
You are kind
Your love is a fury all its own
Sweeping the dust and turning feet towards home
Carrying the orphans and resetting broken bones
Your love is a fury all its own
Your love is powerful enough
Without the fear of punishment
I cried as I listened to it over and over. I was struck by the comparison, hearing the Spirit ask after each line:
Become larger to carry more. The idea of capacity may seem so obvious, but I find it often trips people. Growth comes through discomfort. Our capacity expands through deliberate stretching.
The Lord has shown me many pictures about this. The nautilus outgrowing its chamber. A balloon swelling, taking shape as breath fills it. A pregnant woman’s incredible transformation as she grows a new life. In all these examples there is effort, change, pressure, even labor to see the fullness revealed.
God’s primary goal is to breathe His life into us like holy balloons. He desires to expand in us, expand His love, His image, His creativity and wisdom. His kingdom.
Think of Joseph saving the nation of Egypt and even his own people. Mary delivering the Messiah. Peter addressing the Sanhedrin. They had to each be pushed out of their idea of enough so that He might reveal His life through them.
We must be willing to be uncomfortable so that He might increase. So when we see circumstances outside of our control, what is God expanding in us?
Faith instead of fear.
Worship instead of whining.
Healing instead of sickness.
Kindness instead of gossip.
Be mindful of obstacles that would deter this divine renovation.
People lose touch with God, or don’t experience His presence, because they have crowded their lives with “foreign wives.” Solomon was the wisest and richest man on earth, yet he lost his soul because “his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord” and he was led away by his foreign wives.
“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” 1 Kings 11:4
Make an effort to let go of lesser habits, affections, ideals to make room for greater revelation. Then, allow God to heal and test the revelation. He wants to be sure we own it, to have authority in the revelation He has given.
Pastor Bill Johnson tells a story about repairing a flat bicycle tire. He explains the process of repair is to first hold it under water to find the hole. Once the hole is detected, the tire is taken out of the water, dried and patched. Here’s the kicker. The tire is not put back on the bicycle. Instead, the tire is again held under the water. Why? To see if the patch held.
Bill says some of our circumstances reveal defects. They need to be patched. Some of our circumstances are us being held under the water a second time, as Bill says, “to see if the work of God held.”
It’s a valid question as you go through seasons of stretching to ask God, “are you repairing a hole in me? or are you testing to see if Your repair held?” It will help you so much to know that He is always working for your good. His main goal is that His life and Love will fill you and then flow from you.
We have to be fit to carry the Kingdom. We were born to become like Him.
I love this song as a great reminder. He is always working for us to be fully revealed in Him.
“C.S. Lewis Song” (click here to listen)
If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined I’m compared
Speak to me in the light of the dawm
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan
as I wait for hope to come for me
Am I lost or just less found?
On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
is this a soul that stirs in me,
is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?
Cos my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become
For we, we are not long here
Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it
And I, I was made to live,
I was made to love,
I was made to know you
Hope is coming for me.
Hope, He’s coming
My first born, Salem, began her college adventure on Saturday. I have to tell you, as some of you mamas already know, this whole season of packing and preparing has stirred my heart on so many levels. I feel like a kaleidoscope of emotions. Turn the wheel ever so slightly and my emotional mosaic shifts into another beautiful picture of memories, regrets, sadness, excitement, pride, and hope.
I find myself remembering the smallest details about her childhood.
I find myself grading myself as a mom over the last 18 years.
I find myself recalling my own teen years, and college years.
I find myself missing her in the oddest of ways.
Walking in her empty room, still takes my breath away. (Yes, I smell her pillow.) But there is, deeper than all these feelings, an overwhelming sense of joy and gratefulness.
God is so big. So kind. So amazingly faithful. He will continue to be that. To her. And To me.
Believe it or not, I didn’t cry as we drove off. We didn’t understand it necessarily, but we were ready. All of us. And there was a very real peace that passes understanding.
Before the big day, God laid on my heart to capture some of the pearls He had given me. I kept getting a holy ping of “have I told Salem _____ yet”? It would wake me up at night.
These deposits, these pearls of wisdom, are aptly named since pearls are something very beautiful created out of great anguish and agitation. They had come at a high price. And although most teens get tired of hearing “one more thing” from their parents, I wrote her letters anyway. Smile. But then, I felt compelled to share with you the modified versions. His pearls are for us all.
The first Pearl was about our gifts poured out on the feet of Jesus in the same way the woman poured out her best from the alabaster box.
The second pearl is about Pressure.
When I was in college I was broke. And alone. And eager to please an incredible professor. I am not sure which of these factors clouded my judgment. Maybe it was the combination of all three. But I took on the formidable role of the editor of the yearbook, the editor of the newspaper, taking full time classes and working at least 30 hours to keep my tuition discount. Don’t be impressed. The story doesn’t have a happy ending.
My family and friends were at a restaurant playfully bantering, as is our custom. We are a lippy sort of crowd with (mostly) good-natured jokes and jabs flying often. After one such mother-daughter volley, my Very-Ready-To-Go-Senior turned to her friend and said, “Only six more months. I only have to listen to this for Six. More. Months!” The whole table erupted in a knowing laughter. Including me. Except as suddenly as we laughed, tears started falling from my eyes. I mean, falling. Like rats jumping from a sinking ship. The laughter turned into this weird, awkward “Mom are you okay??”
I looked to Chuck for rescue. I didn’t even know what had happened in this blink of a eye. His eyes softened and he put an understanding hand on my arm. “Mama,” he said in a tender voice, “you gonna be okay?”
Oh, now I see why the rats were jumping! The ship WAS sinking. Sinking. “Sure, sure,” I choked out and immediately excused myself from the table to go cry in the bathroom.
Six months. My girl was going to be gone in six short months. I sat in the stall snorting and snotting and tried to remember the last time I felt this out of control of my own body. Oh that’s right. When I was pregnant. Then, like now, there was a human being inside of me wrestling to get out, and I was trying to maintain my own mental stability while someone else was literally trying pull the life out of me.
I just want to say, very kindly for the record, the parenting books lied. At the very least, they lied by omission. They never forewarned us of the painful parallels. No one ever explained how the birthing process didn’t end at delivery and this grown up launching hurts every bit as much as labor. Liars.
They neglected to tell us that the incredible tension between “within you, a part you” and “outside of you, a part of you” never leaves. Did you hear me? It never leaves. Remember the internal battle? How the warm fuzzy “I love creating new life” feeling warred against the “get this kid out of me” reality. I experience this same supercharged battle every day with my woman-child who is now kicking at the wall of my heart and home the same way she kicked at the wall of my womb.
I catch myself just looking at her like I did when she was a newborn. Of course she won’t let me hold her like I did then. But I try to soak her in, to capture every detail of how she has grown and changed, fully aware she is not done growing and changing. Only from here on out, I won’t have a front row seat.
Whew. There is that lump again. The out of nowhere lump in my throat that keeps catching me off guard. It beckons just like a contraction, a painful reminder that an inevitable life-change is on the horizon. And we are never going back to the way it was. The other day, I was making work plans for the fall when the “contraction” hit. I had to stop and swallow down some maternal wail because, for the first time in 18 years, my plans would not involve my daughter.
Here are a couple of God kisses for you mamas on the same heartwrecking roller coaster I am, and a little heads up for you mamas following close behind.
“There’s No Magic Formula.”
“God is good,” I said in class Tuesday night. “Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” I said. Why? “Because I am with Jesus and Jesus is the Good Shepherd,” I said. I went on to explain that God is trying to build our confidence that His Goodness impacts every area of our life all the time. And then it snowed.
Enough snow to postpone an event that I have been planning for months. Ugh. My heart is busting with revelation. My team and I are all prayed up and armored up. We are chomping at the bit — and, the event is postponed. Really?
I wanted to whine. Or be sad or complain. But the Spirit kept repeating a line from a song we did in worship Tuesday night. “You are good, good. Yes you are good. You never fall off of your throne. You are good.”
God is so good that He is sometimes preemptive. I see that He gave me the cure before the need. The answer before the question. Instead of a “whhhhhyyyyyyy??” I am looking for His goodness. He has raised a better question, “Lord what do you want me to do in the meantime?
Here is a short run list:
• Enjoy my kids in the snow. My final prep crunch time has turned into a crafting, cooking, laughing with my family time.
• Take a deep breath and let go. Again. He whispered ever so sweetly to me, “there is no pressure here.” Oh that’s right. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. This conference was about Him. He can move it if He wants. I can trust Him in the details of getting the word out and rescheduling. (By the way, New Date is March 4-5!)
•Take a step back and review. I can say a little extra time to pray, sort and refine really is a gift. He knew I needed that, I didn’t.
In the long run? More time to worship, to listen, to get the word out, to move out of snow windows. Who knows what else He has up His sleeve?
But He is good. All the time. So this weekend, I am going to snuggle up with the Good Shepherd and enjoy His snow. Hope you do the same.
If we aren’t careful, we will peer into the darkness and lose our hope. The mind-numbing pain of the death of a child or a parent. The squeeze of finances, even debting for Christmas gifts. Dreams not yet realized. Faith not yet rewarded. Healing not yet completed. World issues that rattle our core so that we break down borders or build up borders. The prophet Isaiah said it well, “Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.” (59:10)
But God. With us. In the very breath-crushing moment of your day, in the ache, the groan, remind yourself, “A great light has come into the world and the darkness cannot put it out.” This moment, your moment, is why Jesus came. Your hopeless, helpless, overwhelming moment is why God sent His Son. His compassion made manifest through a baby.
A Woman’s Rightful Place in the Kingdom. Women are asking questions about Undaunted. No, it’s not like Unhindered. Yes, it’s for women only. Audio will be available to share with your men No, this isn’t the standard party line about submissive roles. Yes, it honors God’s image of men. No, it’s not for wimps. Yes, it will challenge you, make you uncomfortable and just might rock your world.
Sounds audacious, I know. But sometimes God blows me up spiritually to such a degree that I know He means business.
Undaunted is a message that God planted in my spirit years ago and He now says is finally ready to be released. It is about freedom. It is about daring to follow God into the most oppressive environments, even the church. It is about taking up God’s divine weapons to live fully gifted, fully loved, fully seen in the world today.
It’s about what happens globally when women rise up to God’s ordained place in the Kingdom. So many social issues of the day are linked to the missing voice of God’s women. This is not feminism. Not a militant posture. This is an invitation, permission, to discover God’s heart for women. And how we all, men and women, will be better when we are in our rightful places.
Come if you are spiritually dying for more. Come if you are curious, doubtful, or leery. Come if you want to spend some time in the presence of God.
Let the Spirit speak to your heart about who you are, why you are, and where you belong.
January 22, Friday Night, 7:00 – 9:30 pm
January 23, Saturday Morning, 9:00 – 12:00 pm
Fuse Church, Kirby Road, Knoxville
Love offering event.
Beverages and light snacks served.