I told all of you yesterday that I wanted to share something that touched our hearts deeply at church the other day. To get started, I have a question for you. What do you think this picture is?
When I look at this photo, I see faith, hope, & love. I also see a smile, relief, an education, Bible study, & clean drinking water. Of course, I can also see the obvious, which is $64 in change. Change that only took us about 5 months to save. That we didn't even notice was missing.
Our family went to church this Sunday & we were introduced to Katya. Not formally, just in general, in the service. Katya is an 11 year old girl that is going to make a change in the world. Like many organizations, our church had an Angel Tree full of opportunities for us, over privileged families, to provide a gift for a child who may possibly only receive that ONE gift this CHRISTmas. Katya noticed that there were quite a lot of tags left on the tree & she got really angry. Adults were just walking by as if the tree wasn't even there. She approached her mother & asked her if she could take all of the remaining tags. She told her mother that she felt that this is what God was calling her to do. Praise God! Her mother asked her if she had the money & she said yes. Can you guess how many tags Katya took? Not one or two, but 17! Her mother ended up buying three of the gifts & Katya purchased the other 14 with money that she had been saving from allowance all year, birthday money, CHRISTmas money, etc. She spent over $300 of her own money!! Every bit that she saved.
It doesn't stop there. Do me a favor, an exercise if you will. Go to your sink & pour yourself a nice, big, refreshing glass of water. Now, go outside & get a handful of dirt. Some really nasty dirt too. Maybe even some feces that was stuck on the grass. Put in your glass & take a look. (You can drink it if you want to go the extra mile, but I wouldn't advise it.) Does it look like this?
Looks yummy doesn't it? Katya heard Pastor Jeff preaching about the 1.1 BILLION people that don't have clean drinking water in the world. This sermon must have touched her heart in a big way because, Katya (remember she is 11 years old) has started her own non-profit organization. It is called Kids United. Here is a link to her Facebook page....Kids United. Her statement says that, "Adults can make a difference, but kids can make a change." How true! Her goal is to raise just $2,500 by the end of next year, 2010. Her father will match that $2,500 to total $5,000 which is how much it costs to drill one well to provide clean drinking water for so many.
Doesn't that look so much better? Much like the glass that you are so fortunate to have in front of you. Providing clean water is about so much more that just satisfying thirst. It is about saving lives, letting families know that God loves them & that they were blessed by our generosity. There is a quote by C.S. Lewis that really touched my heart on Sunday. I need to share it with you...
"I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare....If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, they are too small."
We have become very aware as a family over the last few months, that we need to provide more charity. Last month we sponsored Neema in Africa, on Thursday we will be delivering meals for CHRISTmas to the under-privileged, & this past Sunday we decided to donate our change. That sounded like a lot, until I just wrote it. Three whole days out of about 45. Only $30/month. Wow! These people suffer everyday. We are trying to re-budget to see how we can provide not only more money, but more time. Why haven't we done this before? Well, just like many of you are thinking, because we couldn't afford it. But why is that? Is it because I have a big mortgage/rent payment, because I am blessed to have a home. Is it because my utilities are so high, because I am blessed enough that have heat, TV, & the internet? Is it because our car payment is so high, because we are blessed to have a car? (do you know that your garage is bigger, floored better, roofed better, walled better, nicer, & cleaner, then most of these people's homes?) How many homeless people do you think could live in your storage shed or garage floor? Have we not volunteered before because we are so busy with our jobs, that we are blessed to have? Because we are busy taking our kids to activities that we are so blessed we can offer them? Why? None of these reasons seem good enough anymore. If we really take the time to think of why, hopefully we will all come up with, WHY NOT?
I know that this post has gotten much longer than I expected, but I am letting God drive my fingers right now. I feel like I have been hit in the head this CHRISTmas season & my light bulbs are turned on. I want to challenge you to think about your past Christmases. Which ones do you remember? Do you remember what gifts you received each year? Probably not. I don't. My guess is that you remember the ones that had value in another way. Such as through giving, tradition, or meaning. Not because of the gifts. I am very guilty of giving TONS of gifts to the kids when they were little. It was pretty disgusting when I think back on it. Ripping open so many gifts that you don't remember who they are from five minutes later. It is like piranhas going at those boxes. Give me, give me, give me. This year our money was much tighter. The kids have 5 presents each under the tree. (all clothes because that is what they NEEDED) There will be one more gift that is something non-clothing. That's it. Honestly, they learned so much about the true meaning of CHRISTmas that they are excited that they have so many presents. Just five! A family member asked what the kids wanted & Brandon said, "I already have so much. I don't want anything else." How awesome is that? So to satisfy our families need to give, we asked for Visa gift cards because the kids could do whatever they wanted with their money. Spend it, donate it, buy clothes, or whatever. They could save it for when they really need something & they won't have all this unnecessary excess right now.
Adam asked the kids an interesting question the other night. "Who gets gifts on your birthday?" You do. "Who gets gifts on my birthday?" I do. "Then who should get gifts on Jesus' birthday?" Jesus! Why are we getting gifts & not giving gifts to Jesus? So he challenged the kids to come up with a "gift" that they could give to Jesus. How amazing is that?!
I need to jump back to my $64 in change before I wrap this up. When we came home from church on Sunday, we had brunch, (a new tradition) & then counted up all the change that we could find in the house. Guess how much it was? LOL - $64. We told the kids that since Adam & I sponsor Neema, that we would divide the $64 between the two of them. They could decide on their where to donate their $32. It could be in two places, or just one. It could be anywhere. Brandon decided to give half to Kids United & half to the hospital NICU that Kayleigh was in. Allyson is still thinking on whether she wants to give all or half to Kids United. This was an awesome experience for them, & for us as their parents. They are both so excited to be "giving". We have the greatest impact on what our children learn & who they become. Pastor Furtick's 4 year old son, Elijah taught us all some great financial advice last month. He said it better than I ever could.
Elijah Offering Video from Elevation Church on Vimeo.
How cute & incredible at the same time!
In closing, I want to ask you all to consider something else this season. Maybe you can give your family another "gift" that you weren't planning on. The best part is, you don't have to fight traffic, the crowds, or your wallet. Do you spend so much at work that you are bankrupt when you get home? Do you give your family the best of you, or do they just get your leftovers? Do you give presents to make up for not giving your family your presence?
Adam & I are going to make up a coupon book to put in the kid's stockings this year. Oh yeah, we even told Brandon & Allyson the truth about Santa last night. I dreaded the day that they would find out the "truth", & you know what, they didn't even care.They were amazed by the things that we did to keep them believing for so long. It was an awesome experience to share with them & to once again remind them of what CHRISTmas is really about. So back to the coupons....we are going to give them tickets for a free day with us, each one of us, picking out their favorite meal whenever they want, their choice of what to do on family night, etc. Things that will bring us together as a family, & not push them alone to their rooms to play by themselves like they do on the computer, or when they play video games. Family times are the best times, the times that we will all remember, the times that our families NEED. (If you have ideas for a coupon, please post your comment & share with all of us.)
So this CHRISTmas...Love more, Spend less, & Worship fully!
Day Sixteen -
"And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." (Genesis 2:18)
God says that it is not good for man to be alone. But the way some women criticize their mates, the husbands may long for solitude. Be careful today not to criticize your mate, but look for ways to encourage him personally & publicly.
Speaking of communication, does your husband communicate with you? God has made you a companion & helper for your husband, & part of being "one flesh" with him is the privilege of sharing & discussing personal needs & concerns. Thank God for that wonderful gift. Thank your husband for communicating with you.
If your spouse does not communicate as you wish, look for ways that he communicates that are normal for him - smiling at you, nodding his head, even a pleasant "grunt" - & thank him for letting you know that he cares. Perhaps he needs to be lovingly taught how to communicate. Be patient with him....& listen when he does speak.
Day Sixteen Prayer -
Pray that your husband will speak words that build you & your family, & reflect a heart of love. Pray that he will not use filthy language. (Proverbs 18:21; Ephesians 4:29)
PS - I know that I didn't do Decode Your Husband - Part Three today. I will do that one tomorrow. Thank you for listening to my heart today.