Category Archive: Generosity

GIVING FOR RELIEF

Two large auctions raised funds for domestic and international relief efforts this weekend. The larger was held at the State fairgrounds in Hutchinson, Kansas. That was a bit far for us to go.

But Don and I got up early Friday and drove to Fresno for the West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale and Auction on the grounds of my alma mater, Fresno Pacific University. Sale and auction items ranged from handmade crafts from third-world countries, a plethora of food choices, art, quilt, toy, and children’s auctions, a traditional Mennonite meal, and more.

The sale, held every Spring by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), is a wonderful place and time to meet old friends, watch a fabulous quilt auction, listen to live music, and buy traditional Mennonite foods like zwiebach (airy two-bun rolls), and vereneki (lip-smacking good cottage cheese dumplings).

Preliminary sale totals from the Fresno sale are at $185,000; while the larger Hutch sale was expected to raise about $500,000. We met my two older brothers, Melvyn and Arnold, and sister-in-law Carol; cousins of Don’s; school chums of mine as well as people I grew up with in our home church. I’ve always admired Professor Edmund Janzen, and was happy to meet Edmund and his lovely wife Mary in the food purchase line.

Here are a few photos of significant parts of the Sale.

We stood in line Saturday with poet Jean Janzen (no relation to Edmund) and Janet Kroeker for a vereneki lunch – cottage cheese-filled pockets, boiled and then fried and topped with a delectable white sauce, served with German (what else!) sausage and salad. Yumm! Effort-intensive, delicious. 

The quilt auctions are the highlight of the weekend; I heard the one on the right sold for almost $5,500. A beautiful quilt, with money going to help those in need. Couldn’t be better!

MCC was founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1920. While its original goal was to provide food for Mennonites starving in (and also emigrating from) the Ukraine, the organization soon realized its reach needed to extend beyond only their Mennonite brothers and sisters. MCC began to help anyone in need.

Its focus includes relief efforts, clean food and water, health and education, migration, peace efforts, and restorative justice.

While Don and I weren’t in the market for quilts, typewriters or toys (although Don was admiring that John Deere child’s tractor!), we were happy to be a small part of this event, fundraising for a worthy cause.

May you have a blessed Easter week as we thank our God for the greatest of all gifts, salvation through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

John 3:16-18, THE MESSAGE

Resting in the Father’s Love

In our morning devotions, Don and I read II Cor. 9: 6-15 today. These verses express that God loves a cheerful giver.

“Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

II Corinthians 9:6

I confess that I often think of my needs, my desires, first. And yet, when I do give generously, there is real joy in knowing that what God has given me is going beyond me to the service of others, and of the Kingdom of God.

As I read the passage, Don held our little Paigey in his lap. Her chin rested on Don’s elbow. Her big brown eyes watched me intently. Her forelegs hung loose over Don’s hip. Totally relaxed. No effort whatever.

What a picture of trust, of security, in the arms of her “daddy”.

And isn’t that just what God desires from us, whether in giving, trusting He will also supply our needs; or in walking through the ups and downs of life. He is in control. He loves me unconditionally. He is trustworthy.

Hebrews 10:23 challenges us to “ hold resolutely to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Why then is it sometimes so hard to trust, to let all the air out of my proverbial tires and rest in Him as Paige did with Don? Is it because our culture has taught us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, to make our own way, to be independent? Or is it inherent in our natures to want to succeed (or fail) on our own?

I want to remember the beautiful picture Paigey gave me this morning. I want to rest in my Father’s arms, trusting His love and faithfulness in all the circumstances of my life.

Is it hard for you to trust this way? What helps you relax in Abba’s (Daddy’s) arms, rest in His heart?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”


Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

Hope for Women and Children in Crisis

Glass walls surrounded from floor to ceiling. With a 110-foot high domed ceiling above us, Don and I climbed the stairs to the mezzanine where h’ors d’oevres and drinks were being served. With a view of downtown San Jose all around the City Hall Rotunda, we met our friends Bonnie and Bill Fitzgerald, who had invited us to the Hearts of Gold Gala for Cityteam’s Women’s Ministries.

Following a delicious dinner and auction of donated experiences, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo spoke about the linkage of government and the faith community. San Jose has a homeless population of 4300 persons. Of those, about 1500 are women, often with children. These are among the most vulnerable, and he thanked Cityteam for their significant role in bringing hope and healing to many of these women and their children.

Cityteam President Glen Peterson also shared that the San Jose Cityteam Board just voted to add another 150 beds for women in need to the fifty currently available in their two women’s programs, Heritage Home and House of Grace.

Heritage Home helps pregnant women with both immediate needs and long-term solutions. Its structured program provides “housing, meals, clothes, strollers, car seats, and diapers in addition to mentorship, education, parenting classes, Bible studies, AA meetings, life transformation classes, and career workshops.” https://www.cityteam.org/san-jose/programs/

We heard the story of a young mother who has learned how to parent effectively and is very excited about raising her daughter with lots of love and an understanding of who Jesus is. This young woman has gained the tools necessary to move forward with hope. “My daughter never has to see me high, or stoned, any more … I can’t believe how much I love her,” she beamed.

House of Grace provides a “long-term, life transformation program” so that addicted, abused or homeless women can rebuild their lives while keeping their young children with them. The program “addresses chemical dependency, abusive relationships, and other self-destructive behaviors … women are mentored and taught how to rejoin the mainstream of community life and become productive citizens supporting themselves as well as their families.” (*) And their onsite nursery provides a safe and caring environment for newborn to five-year old children.

Both Don and I were deeply touched by the stories of lives changed because of the love of Jesus Christ and his people. Gala attendees were generous with their bids and gifts to help women in crisis find meaning, purpose, and life skills to help them reenter mainstream society.

And as Cityteam Vice President of Development, Michele Ruby, told us, each section of the Rotunda’s dome must be interlocked with its neighbor to provide the structural stability needed to hold the roof up. A beautiful analogy of the body of Christ. As Pastor Tim Wood said this morning, the shields of the Roman empire were not meant to protect only the soldier behind it; those shields interlocked so that a phalanx of guards could move forward in battle together, much stronger than any one of them alone. So when scripture talks about putting on the whole armor of God, it’s not just referring to what I do individually, but to how I am connected to others in the family of God for added strength and stability.

So last night we joined our shields together with Cityteam to serve women and children in need. May God bless them, every one!

Question: where are you linking your shield with others for added strength, stability and effectiveness?

On the Road Again

Thirteen hours on the road Thursday, traveling from California, through Nevada, Oregon and into Idaho for Noah’s high school graduation. We’ve made this trip three times in the past four years for four grandchildren’s grads. The road has become quite familiar. Our “regular stops” along the way included the Donner Summit Rest Area; a Shell station off Hwy 80 in Sparks; the small, smoky casino in McDermott on the Nevada-Oregon border; and the Sinclair station in Jordan Valley, Oregon.

Snow-capped peaks reflected sun back to us in northern California. Enormous, stunning granite rocks lay beside the road.

In Eastern Oregon we could see the road ahead, perfectly straight for over fifteen miles.

Fascinating Oregon Clouds

We traveled through deserts of sage brush, sandy soil, rolling hills. We looked down onto a beautiful green and tan valley. I saw animals in the shapes of the beautiful clouds. Sometimes we could see the road ahead of us clearly. Occasionally a big truck inhibited both view and speed as we exercised patience and slowed down.
So in life we face beauty and obstacles, clear paths and blind turns. For many years, one of my big blinds was my singleness. While I knew God had a purpose for me right where I was, my heart’s desire was to marry and share my life with someone. Sometimes I wept, lonely for a heart connection. I told God “I only need one man, Lord. Only one.” (And in His grace He’s given me two wonderful husbands.) But trusting Him didn’t always come easy. Giving my desires, my needs back to the God who created them within me was an ongoing process.
Along our drive trees provided some shade from the noonday heat. Sometimes there was just sage brush and sun. In the same way, at times God has covered me with blessing and joy in relationships and ministry; at other times there was just loneliness. But He has been there with me through it all.

Don with Victor’s family (minus the grad) and Dan, prior to graduation

This week I traveled with two companions, my beloved husband and his oldest son. We engaged in both conversation and quiet; both were welcome.

My high school graduation was memorable.

My college grad was even more so. My boyfriend broke up with me the night before (yeah, that was a bummer)! But I was determined he would not spoil this significant day. I walked across the amphitheater stage to receive my diploma, head held high. When my brother Arnold came up to me afterward, knowing the pain I felt, he picked me up and whirled me around in congratulatory love. A special moment. And God’s plan for me was so good, better than what I anticipated at the time.

Now Don and I were in Idaho, anticipating grandson Noah’s graduation and transition into a new season of his journey.

I look forward to another graduation too. At the memorial service for the mother of a dear friend, the pastor spoke about how Gerry had graduated, reached her goal, completed her race. As Jesus followers, our goal is to be with Christ forever; and transitioning from this life to the next will be my greatest graduation, with unimaginable surprises on the other side.

My father, my late husband, a nephew, and friends I love have all preceded me into Jesus’ presence. And I expect you have loved ones waiting for you too. Can you imagine the reunion we will enjoy? Not only with those who have gone before whom we love, but also with Old Testament saints, with the apostles Peter, John, Paul and the rest. With John Newton, who wrote “Amazing Grace” after being redeemed out of a dissolute life of slave trading to a life of service to God. Probably with many we didn’t expect to be there. But that’s God’s grace, freely given to all who trust in Jesus’ atonement for us.

What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see

When I look upon his face, the one who saved me by his grace

And he takes me by the hand,

Leads me to the promised land.

What a day, glorious day that will be. (James Hill, 1955)

 

Generosity … of Life and Spirit

I walked into her home, my mind and tummy anxious, swirling with confusion, a decision needing to be made. The last thing I wanted was to visit someone I’d never met. And yet, as Ilene greeted me at the front door, I felt a sense of calm settle over me. There was something about her, something I couldn’t even define, that spoke peace. I think it was generosity of spirit, a warmth that took me in right where I was, dark thoughts notwithstanding, and helped me to feel at home.

Have you met anyone like that? Someone whose very presence stilled your soul?

In talking about living a richer life, our church has focused on generosity. So often we think of giving in terms of finances–and that’s important. There are a myriad of needs that go far beyond what I can help; but I can help. I can give to the Food Bank or purchase a gift for a child of a parent in prison; I can contribute to special giving projects, or hand out small food packets to men and women asking for help along my routes to and from the grocery store. I can give to a fresh water project in a third world country; a goat or chickens for a family struggling to make a living to raise something that can bring in income as well as food products for themselves.

And generosity goes beyond that. Ilene’s extension of her peace to my heart was a tremendous gift at that particular time in my life. There is something about a generous spirit, especially one that radiates the love of Jesus Christ, that shines light into the darkness around us. The prophet Isaiah promised that “People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; Sitting in that dark, dark country of death, they watched the sun come up.”

What’s your life purpose? Mine? I love how THE MESSAGE expresses this in Matthew 5:13-16.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth … You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?Shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

Generosity stems from recognizing the free gift of God, celebrated in this holy season when the true light exploded into the darkness with the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior of all mankind.

  • He gave us His Son, a gift of unconditional, overarching love from the Creator to the created.
  • He gave us forgiveness through the Cross.
  • He gave us eternal life that starts the moment we receive His free gift of salvation.
  • He gives grace, day by day, for the challenges we face.
  • He gives joy that goes much deeper than happiness, joy that is rooted in knowing Him.
  • He gives peace that stems from knowing He is in control and has our best at heart.

So at those times when resentment creeps into my heart because someone may take my generosity farther than I intended, I want to use the opportunity as a thank offering to God for all He’s done for me, and for stretching me beyond my comfort zone.

Let’s SHINE this Christmas with the light, life, and giving heart of our God.

Question: Is it easier for you to give money or practical help, or to give of yourself with time and presence? I’d love to discuss.