A card arrived in my letterbox today. Filled with words that overflowed from a generous heart, it touched me deeply. I felt seen. I felt known. I felt appreciated and I knew that I held in my hands a precious gift...
These are the words God impressed upon my heart when I asked Him recently what it looked like for me to live in light of His everlasting and indestructible Kingdom. And they've continued to reverberate in my heart on a daily basis ever since.
I am, by both nature and nurture, a generous person. Growing up with parents who despite their own lack, continually had open hands and open hearts, I learned from a young age the beauty of cultivating a generous spirit. Yet, it's an attribute that I have struggled to give full expression to at various points in my journey.
We have never been materially wealthy. A combination of some unwise decisions in our youth, coupled with our obedience to pursue a call to ministry, has meant that the budget has seldom balanced, and we have had to daily trust God for what we need. For whatever reason, God has also chosen to position us in some of the more affluent parts of our city, and consequently, I have found myself continually confronted by what others have the ability to do and to give. In the face of their apparent abundance, I have often allowed lack and my perfectionist tendencies to close my hands and my heart, believing the lie that I have nothing of value to give.
Christmas - the time of giving and receiving - can amplify these lies and the accompanying anxiety that I do not have enough to offer.
But here's the thing that God keeps graciously and repeatedly reminding me of: radical generosity, kingdom generosity, is not based on what we do or don't have, but on what He has. It lives rooted in the truth of His abundance and His goodness.
Every single one of us faces poverty in some area of our lives. Whether external or internal, we all experience the frustration of our own limitations. But radical generosity is not hindered by such lack. It takes what we do have and sees it as a seed to sow - a seed that when we release in partnership with Him, will be multiplied beyond our wildest dreams.
He multiplies the seed as you sow it, so that the harvest of your generosity will grow.
Fear would try to tell us that if we release the little we do have, we will not have enough. It tries to scare us into clutching at our time and possessions, into closing off our hearts. But God's Kingdom doesn't work that way - it knows nothing of lack. When we release what He has given us, he simply expands and multiplies it.
I've discovered that we don't have to wait until we feel like we have accumulated or accomplished enough to be generous. We can start right where we are, trusting in the goodness of the One who always has enough.
Scripture is full of acts of generosity. Some of them carried extravagant price tags like the perfume that Mary poured out upon the feet of Jesus or the thousand burnt offerings that Solomon sacrificed to God, while others could have easily been overlooked and seen as insignificant - like the few coins that the widow popped in the offering box or the young boy's lunch of bread and fish. What they all have in common is that God commended the heart with which they gave to Him.
You can't attach a price tag to true acts of generosity. Their worth has nothing to do with their monetary value. They are defined by the heart of the giver to minister to and bless the recipient.
In writing this, I have found myself reflecting on the generosity that I myself have been a recipient of recently. Generosity that has sprung up in spite of lack and limitation in the giver's own life.
Like the friend who gave me money to buy something to wear to an event I was running when I knew she needed new clothes herself.
Or the friend who often texts me about what she has been praying for for my children when I know that she is currently knee-deep in a crazy mothering season.
Or the friend who faithfully sows $5 out of every paycheck into this ministry when I know she is still waiting for her own financial breakthrough.
Or the woman who became a friend after reaching out to me when she heard I was writing a book and she didn't want me to feel alone in the process like she had.
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
Each of these gifts have given me an even greater gift - the gift of presence. Their acts of generosity towards me have been a statement that they see me and desire to identify with my need, with my season, with my heart.
Presence is the gift Christ offers you and I each and every day. It's the gift that we remember as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. The gift of Him dwelling among us and within us. The gift of Emmanuel, God with us.
And it's the gift that we also get to give if we will choose to push past the lies and limitations of our circumstances and simply open our hands and hearts to those around us.
Radical generosity is a spirit. It is the fruit of living according to the reality of heaven and not the reality of our circumstances. It is a pouring out of ourselves knowing that He will pour back into us all that we need because He never runs out. He never runs out of resources and He never runs out on us.
This Christmas, let's give the gift of presence. It costs nothing and yet everything.
What does radical generosity look like for you today?
I am not the greatest gift giver. I struggle to choose the ‘right’ gift for people.
When my husband and I started dating, he would buy me over the top gifts that I always felt like I could never live up to. One such gift was a custom-made surfboard. I’d watched the movie Blue Crush, a surfer girl movie and had subsequently decided that I wanted to learn to surf, so he thought he'd encourage my aspirations. Let’s just say I’m not a pro surfer now!
I always felt like I could never repay the outrageous gifts he gave me. I wish I had realised back then that his gifts were simply an expression of his love for me and that he didn’t expect anything like it in return.
I was reminded recently of a Christmas song I love, The Little Drummer Boy. A young boy has been invited to come and bring a gift to the king, a gift to Jesus, and his response is, “I have no gift to bring….that’s fit to give the king.”
Have you ever found yourself in the same shoes? I think the reason I love this song so much, is because it resonates with how I have felt at times, just like that little boy with no gift that is fit for Jesus.
But the song doesn’t end there - the little boy looks down and sees what he had overlooked, what was right in front of him all along and asks, “Shall I play for you, on my drum?”
Picture this young boy standing before Mary and Joseph, standing in the presence of the newborn king, Jesus. He’s been invited in to give his gift and I’m sure he is feeling inadequate, unprepared, and under-qualified to even be in the presence of this king. Maybe he doubted whether his gift would be enough, but his longing to offer something, anything, compelled him to offer what he had.
Mary nodded her approval, and the boy continues,"I played my drum for him, I played my best for him”.
The little drummer boy’s confidence rose a little and a smile appeared on his face as Mary nodded to him that they would love to hear him play. You mean I get to play my drum for the king?
My daughter Evelyn, who is 4 1/2 (and the sunshine of my life), recently sang to me one of the lines from a Christmas song her class is preparing for their end of year concert. The words were so precious, “The best gift I can give Jesus is me”.
What if, that really is the truth, that in all my exhausting, striving efforts to bring my best to Jesus, all he really wants is ME?
What if the whole point of this song, is that the gift that the little boy brought for Jesus, was just him? Him on his drum, singing to the king?
I don’t know where this Christmas finds you, or what circumstances you are walking through, but I do know that whatever your life looks like, God still wants you. You are the gift that He desperately wants to receive this Christmas.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”
As I present to Him myself, the gift He offers me in return is more than I could imagine.
He not only reminds me who I am, He offers me His love, grace and peace. That day, the little drummer boy left having encountered Jesus, and that changed everything.
Jesus invites me to come as I am - to let Him receive me into His family. But the beautiful truth is that in the coming, in the giving of myself, I am forever changed by the gift He then offers me. Himself.
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum.
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from the blogging team encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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