Friday, December 10, 2010

The Gift of giving

Hey all,
Its Friday. Today is my Christmas party.
For the last couple of years we have been doing the same thing.
We have been starting with a "happy hour". This is a place where everyone can get together and meet. It is usually a place in or close to the mall.
We have some appetizers and a drink and then we send the staff into the mall all with $100.
They have an hour and a half to spend every dollar....ON THEMSELVES.
No presents for their family allowed. These people are so trained to doing for others, here at work and at home it is such a rarity that they only think of themselves.
Then we all get together for dinner and show each other what we bought for ourselves.
Now if they don't spend the $100, I get it back.
It is a fun time and they love it because they don't get a toaster or a blender or a coffee maker, or something they have to return, from me.

Just a light blog today....
I am thinking because it is the holiday season I wanted to talk to you about giving.
My wife does this online devotional every morning and thought this one was particularly powerful.
(this is only part of it)

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NCV): "Each one should give as you have decided in your heart to give. You should not be sad when you give, and you should not give because you feel forced to give. God loves the person who gives happily."

One of my favorite authors, Richard Foster, writes, "Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed." God loves to see us give for no other reason than the joy of giving.

The true story is told of a self-made millionaire who had lived in New York City his entire life. Born and raised in a ghetto, he worked hard and achieved much. Anyone who knew this man would testify to the fact that he was generous--to a fault, some would say. One year, the man was disturbed by an attitude of selfishness and greed that seemed to pervade the Christmas holiday season and everyone around him. Not one to condemn, the millionaire decided that since he had been given so much, it was up to him to do his part in combating greed and came up with an unusual plan. Wearing a disguise, this man stuffed his pockets with $100 dollar bills and set out for a walk on the streets of New York City. When he saw someone in need, he whipped out one of the bills, pressed it into that person's hands and with a "Merry Christmas," made his way down the street. "It was the most wonderful part of my holiday season," the man reported, and he has been doing it every since.

God is much more interested in our motive for giving than in the gift itself. If that motive is tainted with greed, the gift simply does not count. A powerful way to guard against greed is to choose joy over greed. Giving with joy is Kingdom giving! Before you give, ask yourself, "What's in it for me?" If the answer is "nothing," then go ahead and give the gift.

There is a couple at our church that are two very special people. See I go to this white upper middle class church (and if you asked the pastor he would say the same thing....we want diversity but the general theme seems to be very WASP) and what makes them very special is that they are black and they have both have been homeless at one point in their life (the woman claims she has been homeless for 25 years of her life).
So the two of them started something that is starting to get traction at our church.
The woman has started collecting clothes to give to the homeless. Now I am talking homeless. Like she is going into the woods that she knows, from experience, where they sleep.
And in the winter this seems to be an even more needed ministry (it was 28 degrees here on Tuesday morning).

But one of the things that the men are getting behind is what her husband is doing.
He understands day labor. You know the place where you go if you are looking to do some work for a day. If you are an employer and you need a couple of laborers for the day, you just drive up and get a couple of workers (I am over simplifying it but you get what I mean).
Now the Day Labor place might only need 5 people that day and it is first come first serve. So the men will start to line up at 4am.
So you will have a crowd of people standing around the Day Labor place at 4am.
These are the men that this guy has chose to love on.
He will go to the local doughnut shop and has worked out a deal to buy a ton of doughnuts. Then they brew about 4 tanks of coffee.
Then he takes his doughnuts and coffee and sets up a table to serve...and oh yeah, he does it at 4am.
And that is what he does. He recognizes they are probably homeless and don't have food.
There are no stipulations, no questions, no strings attached.
He spends about a half an hour at each Labor Ready place and can usually hit four of them before the morning is over.
So a couple of my friends are jumping on board and going downtown with him and serving.
Now think about this for a second. A couple of very sheltered white guys going into some very different areas that they are use when it is pitch black out.
Talk about coming out of your comfort zone.
That is the type of giving and love Jesus talked about.

Like I said this kind of stuff is gaining traction. My family has been talking about how we can help.
We recognize that these men are hungry during the day as well and they unfortunately have to spend some of their money on lunch that day or choose not to eat.
My family is thinking about making the men lunches. Now this is something everyone in my family can do. We can make 60 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, put in a bag of chips and a bag of cookies, an apple and viola....lunch.
I imagine my kids having hearts for others and not just themselves. I know that is crazy talk.
But the more the world tells them it is all about them, I just try to show them there is more out there. A lot of need. A lot of pain.
So maybe you not getting an itouch for Christmas is not the end of the world.
And I don't want to make it a Christmas thing. I want to do this all the time, to continue to remind them, continue to show them.

Something to think about this weekend (as you are out shopping for that itouch).
Have a great weekend.
john


ps My father and I have done some talking about me buying the rest of the practice.
Can you imagine talking about selling or buying this large in these times. It is definitely a tough time to do this.
These talks have a tendency to get sensitive but this time it has been good.
I will keep you posted.

1 comment:

Hannah said...

That couple sounds amazing. It sounds like they're making an impact among the people they're specifically helping AND the people who are watching them.

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