Tag Archives: Generosity

What I learned in week one

7 Jan

scrooge-mcduckRegular readers of my blog (hello mum) will know that my New Year’s Resolution was to undertake 52 weekly challenges in an effort to get a bit closer to God. Since making it, the shape has changed somewhat – lots of people wanted to join in, so I’ve launched this separate site which is full of blogs from other people.

The first challenge was to ‘commit an act of radical generosity.’ I deliberately started with something that I personally would find difficult; we have three children and a fairly modest income, and in the context of that, generosity hasn’t always come naturally to me (my wife is wonderfully generous). Still, I thought one radical act would be perfectly doable, even if I then went back to watching the pennies.

So I started to look for the opportunity for that one act of generosity. In the meantime, other people started to write humbling blogs on how they’d been given a car, or in one case, a house. I began to wonder what on earth I could do to compete. Could we cope without our car, I considered briefly? Probably wouldn’t have been wise…

A couple of days passed, and I was starting to think about generosity all the time. I went for a beer with a friend and made sure I bought all the drinks. Hardly radical, that. I did various nice things for my wife. But surely that’s part of what I should be doing as a half-decent husband anyway. I bought someone a coffee. Big deal. I became frustrated by my apparent inability to give radically, and wished I’d used a less challenging word in the first place.

Eventually I settled on something which didn’t involve financial generosity, but did mean committing to giving an awful lot of time away (and I have even less of that). Challenge completed.

But then I had an epiphany (funnily enough, on the actual day of Epiphany): I realised that while those various un-radical acts of generosity had been small, there had been a lot of them, and I’d enjoyed myself at the same time. In fact, more than that, I’d felt a little shift in my default settings. This week, generosity has begun to feel natural, rather than forced. In searching for that one big radical act of generosity, I’d become predisposed to committing lots of little ones. And perhaps a change of heart is actually much more radical than one big action.

This week I feel like I’ve tiptoed just a little way towards the heart and character of God. But it’s only week one. If I can keep going – and crucially, if challenges like this make a lasting, rather than a temporary change – then maybe by the end of 2013 maybe I’ll have made a few bigger strides toward Him.

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Guest blog: A life well lived, by Ashley Vaughan

6 Jan

As the first week of God52 draws to a close, our final guest blog is an alternative look at generosity, from Ashley Vaughan. (This and the previous blogs have been inspired by this week’s challenge – there’s still time to do it!)

ashleyvIt was 1996 when I first emerged into the world. To begin with, I carried a pulchritude and elegance that stood me out as unique, but my physical allure soon faded and I became purely functional and efficient. Though age and wear took their toll on my outward appearance, I never lost the unique charm or character with which I was created, but it was a full 12 years before I really discovered my purpose in life.

I was of German origin, small, neat and stoic. I fitted in equally well with flash corporate types and those of a more quirky, individual nature. I moved around a lot, was faithful to all those whom I served, but I always longed for something I could call my own; a calling; a vocation. I dreamed that I would one day make a difference in the world, bringing hope and light to those in despair, acting as a conduit through which a message of love, kindness and generosity could be bestowed.

In the summer of 2008 everything changed. I was taken on by a man who was looking to start his own business. I was to be involved in his first deal but, as it turned out, it was no ordinary deal. My role was to serve another man, relatively unknown to the man with whom I was registered. After the dust had settled following a brief foray into bewilderment and questioning, it became apparent to me that my time had come. I was to be called upon to assist in the labour-intensive, often thankless but hugely rewarding and vitally important world of youth work.

As my allegiance transferred to the man who was to become a loving and grateful recipient of my service for the next two years, I embarked upon my new role with relish and commitment. I drove the youth worker around from place to place, meeting to meeting, school to school. Mine was an unsung, unheralded but no less salient and meaningful job and I knew that now, more than ever before, I was fulfilling what I had been created to do. His accomplishments were my accomplishments.

Four years on, I have now been retired for several months. I was transferred for a time to another family, to serve them before they, in turn, released me back to my former role. The last four years of my life have been better than any that had gone before. I am 17 now – old for a car – and have travelled a lot of miles, but my story will always be typified by the generosity of not one or two, but three different keepers at four homes that became the key to the door of God’s kingdom. Generosity is the currency of the Kingdom and the radical approach of God’s people towards the resources they had when in possession of me and other commodities has perhaps, enabled desperate, unloved and wayward people to hear of the zealous, wild and unconditional love of a benevolent creator who made them with a clear purpose in mind, to snuggly fit within a definitive place in the world and the unfolding of His purposes in it.

My story is not unlike that of many other God-given resources that, properly applied and generously proffered, have provided their recipients with a vehicle to participate in the work and mission of God. What are you holding onto that will help someone fulfil their calling? How will your obedience help someone else to be obedient?

Ashley Vaughan is a husband, dad, musician, blogger and former youth-worker from Worcestershire. What he lacks in logic and pragmatism, he makes up for in creativity and affability. He loves Jesus, people and puns. Follow him on twitter @ashleyv_3 or visit his blog: http://www.ashleyvaughan.blogspot.co.uk/

Guest blog: Su Johnston on generosity… and suspicion

5 Jan

This week, we’re running guest posts from various people on the subject of radical generosity – inspired by the first God52 challenge. Today, gardener Su Johnston writes about how sometimes generosity can cause us to question the giver’s motivation…

NI know a boy who recently, at 16, gave almost all of his possessions away to his friends. Not just any old rubbish, I’m talking PlayStations, sound systems, TVs, branded clothes…even shoes. He said he was doing it for God.

Now I regard myself as an ‘all-out-for-God’ Christian. If the Holy Spirit is involved, that’s where I want to be. Bring it on. On the outside I may look like I may be 50, female and middlish class (whatever that means now), but on the inside I’m a radical, a game-changer, a friend of God.

The reason for telling you all that is only context…if anyone understands doing things for God, I’d like to think it’s me.

Yet I was deeply suspicious of this lad and his apparent generosity. I resent it when Christians act oddly: we need all the good PR we can get don’t we and this type of thing just doesn’t help? I found myself offering a silent prayer that he would steer clear of my two daughters – the last thing we need is another nut in this family. Really.  Lord, can’t we have some NORMAL young men among our Christian youth?  I started to watch him a little more closely in church, alert for any more signs of odd behaviour.

And as I watched I started to notice something. It took a while for my prejudice and pre-conceptions to ease so that I could see clearly (thanks for your help with that Lord – boy did I have to pray). Over time I came to realise that this boy was authentic. He was sincere, truthful, honest. He really was on fire for God, all the time, not just for show. Once I had that I started to be more interested about that generosity of his and waited for the chance to find out more. I’m sure I could have asked him but actually I have found it’s not always easy for a 50 year old woman to chat with a teenage boy even, maybe especially, in church. I choose to believe that God gave me that opportunity when the time was right.

Chatting with a small group one day about how being a Christian affects the way we behave, this lad explained clearly that, for him, it was vital that God was at the very centre of everything. He had found that the only way to maintain that closeness was for him to be vigilant – and ruthless – with anything that displaced Jesus. He volunteered that he had once found his life to be cluttered with ‘stuff’: things that took his time and stopped him reading, learning, loving God. He took the decision that it would be better for him to ditch the distractions before they robbed him of the thing he prized most dearly – his budding relationship with God. At first it hurt (he had worked and saved hard for his PlayStation) but he told me that as each gift bought him closer, he quickly changed his attitude and started to love giving things away. It made him smile.

Amazing how the young can teach us so much. I think I now have a greater understanding of what radical generosity is and what it can bring. The impact is in the human and the spiritual transaction, the way it frees the giver, and the way that it sparks and inspires other interactions. It’s viral.

I’m not quite there yet – I’m older and have more ‘stuff’. I’ve also got more excuses. I’m working on that. Radical.

Follow Su on Twitter @graceandflavour, or visit her website:  http://www.graceandflavour.org

Guest blog: Eddie Arthur – “We’re going to buy you a house”

3 Jan

Eddie Talking 2

This is the second guest blog on the subject of this week’s challenge – an act of radical generosity. In today’s post, Wycliffe’s Eddie Arthur shares an incredible story of being on the receiving end…

It was sometime in the early summer of 1986. We’d given up our jobs a couple of years earlier to train as Bible translators and money was in very short supply. The flat we were living in gave special low rents to Christian workers, but it still cost ten pounds a month more than our weekly income!

We’d gone out for a walk and finding ourselves near where some friends lived, we decided to go and scrounge a cup of tea. As we sat drinking their tea, our friends told us that they had decided to support us financially. We were overjoyed; we’d been finding it really difficult to get people on board with what God was calling us to do. Then came the surprise…

“We’re going to buy you a house.”

Talk about gobsmacked. We couldn’t pay our rent and here were friends saying they’d buy us a house. And they did. They gave us enough money to pay for a deposit and then a monthly gift towards the cost of our mortgage. It was brilliant!

Don’t get the wrong idea, our friends were not filthy rich, far from it. At that point, they were in their late twenties, lived in a modest house and drove a really beaten up Transit van. They had pretty good jobs, nothing spectacular, but they decided how much they really needed to live on and put the rest into a bank account to use in God’s service. They could have had a bigger house, foreign holidays, or a car that didn’t need fixing regularly, but they had none of those things. Instead, we had a little ex-council house.

Not only were our friends extremely generous, they were also strategic. We didn’t know if we could pay the bills each month and certainly weren’t thinking about buying a house. But they saw beyond our current situation. Thanks to them we had a base in England while we lived in Africa; somewhere that the kids could recognise and return to. We also had a foot on the property ladder, so that when we came back to the UK and house prices had exploded, we could afford to stay here!

Years later, that one generous act is still making a huge difference in our lives.

Eddie Arthur is the Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators (www.wycliffe.org.uk). He and his wife, Sue lived in Ivory Coast where they were part of the team who translated the New Testament into the Kouya language. Eddie is a passionate speaker on issues relating to the World Church and Mission, he blogs at kouya.net. Eddie and Sue have two grown up children and are owned by a Springer Spaniel.

Guest blog: ‘Anon’ on adoption

2 Jan

One of the unexpected ways in which this ‘thing’ is developing, is that naturally it feels like a diverse group of people are going to contribute to it. So here is the first of many ‘guest blogs’, inspired by this week’s challenge…

Tithing – check. Dropping a few extra quid in the collection – check. Giving to mission organisations – check. All very comfortable and middle class. All a bit… easy?

As shiny, unblemished 2013 gets underway, my wife and I are embarking upon an act of generosity that will affect the rest of our lives. We are adopting.

In a fortnight, two small people will bound enthusiastically/kicking-and-screaming (we know not which) into our home and our hearts.

We’ve not met them yet, nor do they have any inkling what is about to happen. We have no idea how they will respond to yet another change, or how we will be able to satisfy needs and mend hurts that they are probably unable to express.

The ‘journey’ has already been long. Adoption is our first choice – we have not attempted to create a family the conventional way. This makes us Very Strange Indeed in the minds of social workers and anyone else who might wish to offer a view – which is a surprisingly large subset of the British population, as it happens. Many adoptive parents have been through cycles of failed IVF and it is pretty much par for the course that grieving for the children-that-weren’t should be part of the process. Electing to adopt when we (presumably) could procreate makes us Very Strange Indeed in their eyes. Meanwhile, taking on somebody else’s children instead of making our own mini-Christians makes us Very Strange Indeed in the eyes of church-goers who take the biblical mandate to ‘go forth and multiply’ very literally. Many have questioned our motives, our methods and our very sanity. Perhaps they are right to.

Yet it’s what we want to do. Scratch that. It’s what we believe God wants us to do. James 1:27 says ‘religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’.

True, we could respond to that by increasing our giving to appropriate charities. We could react by giving up our time to volunteer at a toddler group, children’s club, youth programme or elderly care home. Or to pray for people who do all of the above. It’s all good.

But the Jesus we worship is a hands-on, practical kinda guy. A radical. Extravagantly generous. He didn’t mind where people had come from, but he cared deeply about where they were going. We want to be like him, whatever it takes. That means getting in at the deep end.

And so we will give the two children we’ve been matched with our time, our attention, our love and care. We will provide for them. We will nurse their bruised knees and wipe their tears (and no doubt cry our own). We will help them to forge an identity for themselves and try to address the demons that may ravage their minds. We will play with them and we will pray with them. We will share our entire lives with them. And we will expect nothing in return. (Except for may be a crayon-based masterpiece or two to stick on the fridge door – that would be nice.)

An act of radical generosity? Check. Pristine 2013 is about to get messy.

The author of this article has asked to remain anonymous. Find out more about adoption at: adoptionuk.org 

God52 – Week One (1/1/13)

1 Jan

52HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Here goes then. For the next year, I’ll be taking practical weekly steps to try to better live out my Christian faith. My New Year’s resolution, such as it is, is to become better at practicing than I am at preaching (which if you’ve heard me preach, isn’t a huge stretch). If this is all new to you, catch up on the original idea here, and see if you want to join in and make this your New Year’s resolution too. (And here are five ideas to make it really work for you)

Each week, I’m setting myself a challenge, each one designed to draw me closer to God, to get involved in His mission on earth, and to take a few risks along the way (no, I haven’t worked out all 52 yet!). I invite you to join me – if you like – and if you feel so inclined, to blog, tweet and talk about it along the way. There’s no cleverly-thought-out strategy behind this; I’m simply excited to see what God might do in and through me, and through anyone else who might choose to get involved.

The challenges will be largely based around three areas: the spiritual disciplines (in which I’ve become increasingly interested), practicing a Christ-like character (based on what I understand of the Jesus we find in the Gospels), and personal evangelism (something I’ve felt very challenged about recently). So it’ll be part spiritual formation, part missional adventure and hopefully, part fun. Who knows where the lines between those are anyway?

Anyway – enough introduction. Here’s the first challenge I’m going to undertake:

1: Perform an act of radical generosity.

One of the things that made the early church so remarkable was that they shared everything they had (Acts 4: 32-37). One of the things that makes us – the modern church – so unremarkable is that we’ve neatly forgotten this aspect of what it means to be a fellowship of believers. I know that I am the worst of all sinners in this area. I get so worried by my own bank balance, that I tend to ignore Paul’s reminder in 2 Corinthians 7 that ‘God loves a cheerful giver’, and either give sparingly or with anything but cheer. So this week, I’m going to ask God for an opportunity to be radically, and cheerfully generous. After all, he’s given a lot more for me than I could ever hope to give in return.

If you’d like to join me, then I’d suggest you identify the thing with which you find it most difficult to be generous – be that time, money or something else – and make that the focus of your action.

I will blog about what happens throughout the year (and tweet using the hashtag #God52) – but obviously on challenges like this one I’ll be more vague about the details!

That’s it then – we’re underway. I’m excited about the potentially life-changing year that lies ahead. If you decide to join me, then I trust God will move beyond all your expectations. And if not, I hope you enjoy watching me stumble through a year of doing what I can to grow closer to Him.