Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cheerful Giving

I've discovered that I like two things to set the mood for blogging time. First, I light a candle. Somehow, a candle seems to acknowledge for the "sanctity" of writing time. Secondly, I slip in a CD of soft instrumental music. I always enjoy Enya, but at the moment I'm enjoying the brand new one from Jim Brickman. I'm not sure how to classify his style, but I love his simple, beautiful piano arrangements.

I'm at a rest stop along this road called "spiritual journey." Where am I? How far have I travelled? How soon before I reach a "destination?" What have I learned? Where's my map?

I'm grateful to have joined a women's Bible Study called "Believing God" by the always lovely, wonderful, talented internationally known and admired Beth Moore. Today we watched her presentation on a DVD. Does she ever rest? How many studies has she written? 100? This is my third Beth Moore study. Maybe I'll finish this one. I am pleased that this group seems focused and intentional. Oftentimes "Bible studies" can degenerate into social hour. I need the collective group energy to keep me focused and intentional.

The study is about actually believing God, not just IN him, or that he exists. It's about believing He is who He says He is. It's about believing I am who He says I am. It's about believing He will do what He says He will do. Yikes! Simple, yet profound. It's easy to claim to believe IN God. Not so easy to believe Him. At least not for me. At least not for today. Moore believes we have a tendancy to wrap God up in a nice little box with beautiful paper and pretty bow to represent how WE want Him to be. We want God to be completely logical and answer all the hard questions at the exact moment we want them. We want to completely define and totally understand everything about Him, because that gives us a sense of control, even though it could be an illusion.

Because we're made in His image, He imprinted into our DNA the desire to either know Him or search for some kind of truth, and yet, the paradox is that we aren't capable of ever fully understanding Him. Is it like trying to explain quantum physics to a three-year-old? But if we can struggle to wrap our minds around the notion that He is who He says He is, it seems to be a huge step toward "sort of" knowing him. And that is a huge mountain for me to climb. Moore points out that we've got to accept not knowing and not understanding as part of the process in getting to know Him better. It becomes an issue of how comfortable we are with varying degrees of uncertainty. Some people can tolerate uncertainty better than others. I can tolerate some uncertainty, but not much. As of this point, reading scripture does not help me move toward certainty, and I think I know why. I still have a couple bones to pick with this mysterious all knowing all powerful diety who fearfully and wonderfully made me. That's between me and Him.

The sermon this morning was about not giving. Giving is not about "giving." Confused yet? What I think the pastor was trying to say is that the act of giving is not about money itself or how much money we give. Our attitude about giving monetarily or in any other way is a direct reflectin of the condition of our hearts. God wants us to give with a cheerful heart. What exactly is a "cheerful heart?" I think it means giving with no thought or expectation of reward or a thank you. In my mind, I'm reversing this and asking myself this question: If we feel manipulated or unwilling to give for whatever reason, does that mean we should NOT give? Then I thought of this particular card from a collection I have from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, author of the "Power of Intention" that reads: Anonymously perform acts of kindness, expecting nothing in return, not even a thank you. The universal all-creating Spirit responds to all acts of kindness with the reponse: How may I be kind to you (or give you?)

Pastor focused more on all the promises God will reward us with if we can rise to the challenge of being cheerful givers, but I think reasons why we aren't always cheerful givers run deeper and need to be acknowledged. I think the reluctance that some of us may feel toward giving are rooted in fear. Aren't resources limited? If we give what we have, will we end up in soup lines and homeless shelters? Suffering? Losing everything we've put our security in, such as jobs? Have we been conditioned to fear not having enough money more than not having God? Then I thought of the miracle Jesus performed with only two fish and five loaves of bread. (Or was it two loaves of bread and five fish?) Obviously that small amount of food was not enough to nourish the huge crowd, but it was all one particular little boy had. We mere mortals are obviously not enough. Our resources are limited. But if we can climb that mountain of courage to believe He is who He says He is, if we can trust that He is a mysterious God of abundance and generosity, and if we believe that He alone has the power to multiply our small gifts, then perhaps we can come close to being cheerful givers.

1 comment:

manhattandoula said...

"I still have a couple bones to pick with this mysterious all knowing all powerful diety who fearfully and wonderfully made me. That's between me and Him."

I love that! You are so honest and funny!

You are wrestling with big things, as am I. I too would sometimes like to know where this journey leads. Even if I find a description of the end goal in scripture, that doesn't really answer all my questions. I guess acting even with uncertainty is faith?

I love reading your blog and am so glad that I finally have you on Google Reader so I don't miss your posts. :-P