First Fruits

God evaluates my generosity by what I keep, not by what I give away. (Pastor Allen Jackson, WOC)

Back in fresh-organic-fruits-basket_1426-486.jpg2007, our church was beginning a capital stewardship campaign. After much prayer and asking God to unify Scott’s and my hearts, we each came up with the same amount to give. It felt very ambitious for us, but we trusted that God was able to help us fulfill our commitment. Next we had to decide how much to give in that morning’s offering. Scott suggested 10% of our pledge—the first fruits of our promise. Gulp. There went the money we’d been setting aside for our daughter’s wedding reception. But, in faith, we obeyed.

Journal 2007. I’d like to suggest to God how He can replace those funds for us, but I think He’ll figure out how to care for our needs without my help! And, so dear Father, in faith I write our check this morning with open hand and heart and trust You to bless it and multiply it and use it for Your kingdom.

I recall years ago when God asked Scott and me to give Him our roof-repair funds that we’d been saving up. It wasn’t until after we obeyed God’s prompting that Scott’s aunt offered to pay for a new roof for us. That experience was a faith-builder.

On the way to church this morning, I laughed out loud as I tuned into Irwin Lutzer’s sermon that began with, “Today I’d like to talk to you about giving a sacrifice to God that seems extraordinary.” It felt like God’s handprint of blessing on our decision. God’s timing is delightful.

Fast forward three months. I know God was smiling as He gifted us with in-laws who asked for the privilege of providing a reception for Cindy’s wedding.

It really is a waste of time to wrestle with God. When He says, DO or GIVE or GO, it’s much more productive to simply obey and move on and leave the results to Him. It’s like storing up treasure in heaven. I want as much in that heavenly bank as I can put into it for my retirement from this earth.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

The Responsibility Backpack

Responsibility (n): a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of; a thing that one is required to do as part of a job, role, or legal obligation

Responsibility is a backpack. It’s light if nothing is in it. But if another person inserts a nature-climbing-backpack-mountain-cloud_1320-154load of rocks, it feels like there’s nothing I can do, except carry it. I may release resentment, but I’m still carrying the load because the person is unable to do so right now. Tired. Tiring. Willing—because I have no choice, but hard nonetheless.

Oh, I could take the backpack off and lay it down, but that’s not really an option. Remember: “He’s not heavy; he’s my brother.” But that thought doesn’t help. The rocks are still heavy on my back. “Let Jesus carry it” doesn’t cut it either. I believe He’s the One who put them there in the first place! It’s my responsibility.

Why do I feel like I need to bow my soul in sympathy when a hurting person bares her heart to me? When a natural disaster occurs? When someone is dying or sick or depressed? I don’t want to be blasé about it, but I also can’t carry the weight and the pain for another person.

But it’s when I feel something that I spring into action. If I don’t feel, does that mean I don’t care? If I don’t care, will I spring into action? Is it a trigger or a prompting of the Holy Spirit?

What am I believing? That I need to curb my emotions and inner joy when I’m working with depressed and wounded people? It would be like joking at a funeral parlor—disrespectful of the mourners. But in the process, I weigh down my own soul.

The Scriptures say, Carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) AND Each one should carry their own load (Gal. 6:5). So which is it: carry my own or carry another’s? When I’m praying with someone, I’ve agreed to take their load for a bit, but it can get heavy after a while.

So . . . when a person I’m ministering to hands me her burden, it’s okay if it’s only a backpack or a lunch basket. But when she hands me a boulder that I’m unable to lift, I can’t just walk away and say, “Sorry, that’s your problem.” Instead, I can stop, ask the person what she wants to do with her boulder, and then pray for God to lift it for her.

Or . . . if a person hands me her backpack, after a while I can hand it back to her and say, “I can’t carry it for you anymore. You carry it, because when it’s in your hands, you can then make the choice to hand it to Jesus instead.”

As soon as I come to the end of the trail, I can put this backpack down. But then I must pick up another and start down another trail. There’s no break; no rest in between. And not many rest stops along the trail.

Jesus says, “I can carry you as well as your backpack.”

And so, dear Lord, I ask today that You carry me. I am weary, tired, worn out, weak. I need a blessing today, a miracle, some cool clear water to refresh me.

Jesus says, “I am your Sabbath rest.” And that is enough.

(From my 2007 Journal)

Quote—End Quote

If the only relationship I had with a person was through the written word, what conclusion would that person come to regarding my character? What I say matters; but what I put into writing matters even more, I think, because it becomes a permanent record for future generations. (Can I get on my Tweet, Facebook, and email soapbox?)

Some people collect stamps or knickknacks. I collect quotations–45 single-spaced pages of them to be exact–mostly from books and sermons. Each quote resonates with me in some way, either challenging my thinking, affirming my own beliefs and conclusions, or reminding me to press onward and upward toward the Light. The Blue Parakeet–Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight is one of those wait-a-minute, let-me-think-about-that kind of books. Here’s a quote that caught my attention.blue-and-yellow-parakeet_19-111962

Words on a page are not just little squiggles of information on paper. Written words are personal exchanges, personal deposits of a person. Our words come from the depth of our heart and soul, and they extend who we are. That is why we care what others think of what we say.

(The Blue Parakeet, by Scot McKnight)

Here’s a challenge: read back through your last  dozen Facebook posts. What values or character qualities do you notice about yourself? Is it okay with you if no one responded?