Category Archives: God Answers

Extreme Giving

So you guys, in my last post I talked about giving sacrificially.  Well, THIS is an inspiring model of giving radically. A story of someone who is giving when logic would say he should be saving every penny he can.  This is an example of someone living in obedience when it is risky, of  trusting that God is good–that He can be trusted even when we humans can’t see a happy next chapter just yet.   (Read more by clicking:  HERE.) Scroll to the bottom for the story

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Did you follow the link? Well, please take two minutes to read the story.  It’s short and worth the read.

This story is extra special special, too, because it’s related to our next step here in Atlanta.  A couple, Dwight and Zonya Gingerich have agreed to move to Atlanta to serve with Steve and I in our community and to start a church together.

Two weeks ago they found a charming house that is such a great fit for their family and is located within walking distance of our house. They were ready to make an offer, but there were a few logistical complications with the loan process. Some just-for-fun brainstorming online and lots of unexpected support led to the hatching of plan unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Um, what? Well, Dwight and Zonya are getting their loan by the collaborative effort of an incredibly generous network of friends, acquaintances and fellow believers.  That’s right, people are currently pledging a loan amount of their choice (currently ranging in amounts from $75-$5,000). Their goal is $80,000 and in just a few days they have raised nearly half of that amount which certainly speaks of their reputable character.

They could use your help. If you are interested in being a part of the body of Christ coming together to support each other through financial giving in an admittedly unconventional way, read Dwight’s blog post (HERE) where he describes in detail the story, the plan, and the legal considerations.

Here’s the Cliffs Christy’s Notes version:  Pledge to loan any amount. ($250 and $500 are two popular amounts.)  After at least 60K has been pledged, you will receive information for where to send a check. Dwight and Zonya will then make an offer on the house and will repay the lenders the amount loaned + 10% interest at random within 15 years. If you would choose to loan them, say $300, sometime within fifteen years you will have the fun of receiving a surprise $330 in your mailbox.

As you can imagine, they are on a faith journey as they wait for God to provide funding for the house. Even if you aren’t able to pledge a gift or loan, please pray that God would give them peace and courage as they wait and that He would provide for their housing needs.  We have confidence in Him.

 

How Trust Frees us to Give

If you’ve attended The Mission Church at City of Refuge more than a few times, there’s a pretty good chance you have heard Pastor Bruce speak these words

You can never out-give God

The group who gathers at The Mission Church is a mix of demographics with people living in large, two-story homes; in a nursing home; in a homeless shelter; and in an apartment plagued by gang activity–yet the message is the same: Give Generously. 

We are not only challenged to give when we have plenty, but to give when we don’t have enough. 

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There’s this story Pastor Bruce tells about a time when they had a few thousand dollars in their bank account and a big bill coming up.  He was speaking at a fundraiser for a fledgling mission start-up. Even though the City of Refuge’s funds would hardly cover the bill he needed to pay, he felt God was asking Him to offer to match the amount of funds  raised that night at the event.  He was expecting them to raise a few hundred dollars. In a surprising turn of events, the tiny group raised $2,500–more than what was left in the mission’s bank account and definitely more than he had been expecting to match.

Still, it was God who had inspired him to make the offer and it was also God who had always provided in the past. He had faith that if he followed through on the offer he made, God would provide the funds they were needing, too.

The following week he was giving a tour of COR to a local businessman.  At the end of the tour, the guy said he would like to make a donation and promptly wrote a check so large it covered the pledge and the bill with some money to spare.

This is not a one time story, but simply a pattern of giving Bruce lives through his family and through the mission. In the past few years, we have been inspired to give more, and to give even when it doesn’t always feel like the safest thing to do.

When finances are tight (and most of us feel like we just hardly have enough, am I right?), it’s easy to think we don’t have extra money to give beyond the obligatory 10%. I’m being challenged, though, to think less about how much I need and to focus more on how much I can give.

You know being good stewards of our money is a good thing, but we can also become so focused on saving money that we start to grip all the things we love, all the things we want, all the things we need so tightly it is hard to open our little fists to give. That was me.

I’m finding that is not the obvious lack of dollars in our bank account that stifles generosity in my heart, but a lack of trust in God’s provision. 

As we lived in a place of need, of literally not having enough money to cover our cost of living, we learned such important lessons of trust.  We watched God provide for our specific needs of groceries, size 5 clothing, or money for vehicle repairs. Even when I couldn’t see any way for our needs to be met, I started believing that God would provide–because He always did.

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Over and over again, He would provide–sometimes in the most unexpected ways. The last year has been a little easier for us financially. It has been so much fun to be able to give more, too. But last week was again one of those times when there was not enough money to cover all the bills. It wasn’t the best news considering that we would be leaving for a week-long vacation in a few days.

However, after five years of watching God provide for our needs I didn’t have any feelings of anxiety, but simply told Him, “I know you will provide for us.”

Three days later there was a package on our doorstep with a note from friends and a check that was more than enough to cover the remaining bill! Knowing that they had no idea we were facing a financial pinch reminded me again that God sees our needs and takes care of them with such creative flourish. We can trust Him.

I also felt a tinge of guilt. A few days before we got the package, Steve had been given a gift of $100 and wanted to give it to someone else. But I was like, “Well, we kind of need that $100 right now.” It might have been true that we needed it, but I see in retrospect that if we had passed along the gift, we still would have been covered.  Because we can’t out-give God.

Trusting that God will provide takes the scary out of giving.  (Obviously something I’m still learning.) Pastor Bruce has inspired me in this way as have so many other people who model sacrificial giving. I want to keep growing in trusting His provision and, in the context of obedience, giving recklessly.

As I have learned to trust His provision, I’ve noticed my fingers, the same fingers that once held onto security, are loosening their grip on things and money. I’m beginning to see them less as things we have earned because they are gifts–all of them.  When we walk in the freedom of trusting God’s provision, it is a joy to give to others. When we follow His voice in giving we can also rest in knowing He will take care of our needs.

Learning to See God’s Goodness in Pain

Life is a mixture of joy and sorrow. Sometimes they come at different times but so often we aren’t given the space to feel first one than the other–we’re grieving loss and enjoying beauty all at once.  We’re rich; we’re impoverished.

I’ve felt this intertwining of deep emotions so much the last few years.  There have been so many answered prayers, so many touches from God, so many times when His provision became unmistakable.  We’ve also lived with financial insecurity like never before, wrestled the demons of distrust and depression and faced significant health problems. That is only a part of all that was hard, and there were days I didn’t know if I could keep living–or if I wanted to.

These trials have the power to crush and break us. They could turn us into dark, bitter people who grumble constantly about life.  They can also push us in the most healing, redemptive ways when God’s grace is poured over the shattering of our hearts–when we recognize His goodness even in the middle of pain.

I have been broken. My world has been turned upside down. My life has been shattered in the past few years.15 June-4792-2

Yet, in a period of darkness, God has ministered to me in ways I can’t even describe with words. It is only His grace that gave me enough courage to keep walking because everything inside of me was done.

Little by little I’ve been learning that God is a safe place to run to. Of course I’ve been taught this my whole life. I’ve known that He is good. But learning to KNOW this truth from deep inside my heart has given me a deep peace to hold me during the hard times we face.

In our time here in Atlanta  I’ve felt a desperate need to lean on Him like never before.  It is because of this that I see God’s goodness in the pain.  I look back and can list one thing after another that has made life so hard, but because of the incredible grace of God I could can see the beauty in those trials.

What has surprised me most is the way phrases I’ve heard so often [and passed off as somewhat cliche] turned into keen reality. Statements like,

We feel your prayers.

God is providing for us.

We appreciate your support.

He is enough.

I knew they were true, but I’ve never before felt them so clearly.  Now instead of seeming glib or cliché they seem like a pathetic effort in expressing immense gratitude. Sometimes there simply are not enough words to describe the depths of our feelings.  I find myself saying these phrases to people and wonder if they could have any idea how much I mean those words.

I want to tell you some of the stories because God has answered so many prayers of mine, and I want Him to receive more of the glory He deserves.

And, yes, I’m totally aware that I often start a series, but only write the first one or two parts. This life changing belief, though, can’t be kept to myself, and I do hope I can tell you some of the ways God has shown me that He sees and cares about me. That He is good. That He is safe. That He is not silent.

Mostly I really want Him to receive glory. He deserves praise and honor. I also hope the new life He’s bringing to me can encourage you to trust Him more, too.

Satisfied: On Finding God to be Enough

Most years when we get to December I feel surprised how quickly the year has flown by, but not this year. It feels right that we are here. I’m happy, but I’m weary and it feels good to be pulling together the end of 2013.

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I looked through the stack of Black Friday sales papers in shock this year. It gave me this feeling of looking back on another lifetime–back to those days when I’d look through the papers, mark deals, make lists, then have a great big shopping trip the next day.

Now I look at the papers and feel the desire for more, but also a sadness that we want so much more than we need. Sorry that we have become so distracted from Jesus. Sorry that marketing has been so effective in convincing us that all that we have is not enough and that we need more.

It seemed funny that this big world of STUFF and people buying it, the rushing for deals, the smiles, the fun,the coffee for refueling was just miles away. It feels far away–another continent perhaps, as though I’ve left but the reminders have sifted to my mailbox. I remember wistfully the life that was, but mostly I am grateful for the contentment I feel.  

Looking through the pictures on the web I see things I want. Needs I didn’t realize I had suddenly arise. A shoulder bag, sandals, a belt, corduroys for Steve, adorable PJ’s for Paxton (he could use another pair!) Those slippers! That sweater is ADORABLE! I open them in new tabs, so I can find them later if I decide to buy them.

I walk away.

Several hours later I come back and close tab after tab realizing none of these are on my list of things we need. Knowing that while we could use them–yes!–we don’t need them.  We can live [happily] without them.

How many times have I come home from shopping on a high? Often. it’s fun! But I’m also finding that when I choose to live without things we don’t truly need I keep going back to finding God to be enough for me. It doesn’t always feel like a high.  Sometimes it hurts, but often there is also a peaceful presence. It’s the assurance that He has provided–that we have all that we need.

I’m learning to call His provision enough to fill my longings.

Note: I didn’t publish this when I wrote it in December because I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me.  Today I’m sharing it because I want to talk more about God’s provision and how He is shaping our hearts to trust Him fully for all that we need. (2/14)