Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Like Thank-You Letters


I struggle understanding why tithing for some people is so hard. God said He would always provide.  So as a child, I'd tithe, and even now when I have procrastinated on my giving and the check has turned out to be enough to afford another month of rent, with a sad wallet and even sadder bank account, I'd do it anyway.  It's a non-negotiable for me. I could adjust anything else on my budget but tithing had to stay.  Now don't get me wrong, as a kid I'd see my friends around me pull out handfuls of change or dollar bills to place into the basket as it tumbled through the pews, I just thought they were crazy and that giving that way was pointless. Shouldn't you actually be aware of how much you're giving God and not just throwing in random numbers?  Isn't tithing supposed to be an act of worship?

I see it as a thank you letter. In this case, the thank you letter my first elementary classroom gave me.  Stepping into the classroom halfway through the school year, my fifth graders were very thankful to have a new teacher willing to take on the job.  I saw them passing notes that first day of class, but decided to look away and pretend I didn't see. Why? Because I noticed they were writing letters. At recess time, my children presented me with 3 hand-written letters welcoming me to their class and thanking me for being there for them.  They had drawings and rhinestones! One even had a Legacy Loot (their classroom money), a scented marker (for grading), and a real $1 bill. 

I never asked for money, or for anything really, but the kids gave me these gifts anyways. 

They did, because they were thankful.

That moment I learned more from my students, than I could probably ever teach them. They showed me what God wants from us.  He's not asking for our money cause He needs it.  God doesn't need our money.  He asks for cheerful givers. Not givers who feel obligated, but givers who are happy to give their money because they're so full of gratitude! The same way my students excitedly presented their letters and precious dollar bill because they were thankful. 

God blesses us with so much!  Our problem is we think that what we are given is ours. We think that every penny we "earn" is ours, and ours alone, without realizing that God was the one who provided that job and continues to provide for us every single day. Our time, talents, finances, bodies, everything is His. When we look at our lives that way, I just wish I could give God back more! That I could give Him everything I earn and live in His love alone.  But life doesn't work that way. We need money to pay bills, have food to eat. Everything revolves around money in our culture.  It's almost impossible to spend time with other people without something costing money: internet, coffee, gas.  Maybe we don't struggle with the "love of money" but I sure LOVE the freedom that comes with having money!

I'll be the first to admit that lot's of times I don't tithe in thankfulness. Many times I tithe in pure selfishness! because God promises to bless us:

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, 
that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” 
says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not 
throw open the floodgates 
of heaven and pour out so much blessing 
that there will not be room enough to store it."
Malachi 3:10

But my goal is to let tithing become an act of worship. Being aware of what I am offering back to Him--learning to give back to God out of gratitude and not just for His blessings.  He will bless us, and He will provide. But our tithes should be like thank-you letters. We don't write thank-you letters because we hope that person will give us more next time, but because we are thankful for what they have done, whether or not it will happen again. 

Coincidence or God?

Throughout life there have been many things I have pondered whether were truly just coincidences or something more.  Like back in college, it never rained until after I arrived at work.  I'd walk to work almost everyday, but never in the rain. Would it be too much to say "that is God"?  Are there things that truly are from God?

Over the past few weeks, since I started attending a new women's Bible study and diving in the Word so many things have been happening.

It started a little into our study of "Blessed Is She" based on Luke 1:45, "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"

I like to consider myself to be someone with strong faith and courage, like Esther. But I find myself being more of a Thomas--a doubter. One week during our study we wrote lies we sometimes believe onto the back of 3x4 cards, and then the truths on the other side.  My lie was: "God will not follow through on His promises."  It didn't take long for me to forget what I had written and just move one, but I find that lie still lingering.

Every week, we elected a different girl to be prayed for, and despite being new to this group, I was chosen rather quickly.  We would pray for the person and the Bible passage they had chosen as their promise from God for 2015.  Mine was Micah 7:5-7, "Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with her who lies in your embrace be careful of your words... But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me."  I felt so blessed to hear the girls' prayers, words, and pictures God brought to their mind for me.

A week later, I visited my friend's charismatic church.  (Just know, if you ever visit a charismatic church, you WILL hear from God. lol.)  Sometimes I feel skeptical of prophecies, and tongues can make me feel uncomfortable at times, but I also believe in a God of miracles and that nothing is impossible with Him.

Anyways, I missed the whole worship set because of traffic and taking the wrong exit... whoops! And mid-sermon got distracted by a text message from a very good college friend of mine who happened to be in town at that exact moment and wanted to meet up.  I was enjoying the lesson thoroughly but couldn't pass up the opportunity to see a close friend I hadn't seen in over a year. The service had just ended and the prayers were calling up people they believed God was speaking to that night.  I was waiting for a last text to tell me where to meet, when suddenly one of the girls pointed straight into the pews at me.  I had to disconnect myself from my phone and listen to what God wanted to say. Wandering up to the front, I felt afraid and nervous. In the moment, everything was a blur.  There were so many distractions: my phone I left on the pew, the hands on my shoulders and back, the dizzy and light sensation I was feeling, the occasional person praying in tongues.  When I returned to my seat, my phone had a missed call and text. My friend's phone had died.  I had almost missed God's reason for me being there that night. After the service, another girl approached me and gave me another word.  It's hard to explain what exactly were her words and what happened, but it touched my soul and cut through fears I was holding onto tightly.

Growing up in a conservative non-denominational church, the Holy Spirit and supernatural was kind of a subject swept under the rug. Nobody really mentioned it, but there was no denying this and saying it was all made up.  These people did not know me at all and yet spoke into my life about areas that I needed to know that God had not abandoned. The craziest thing was that the words aligned perfectly with what the girls at my Bible study had also prayed and spoke over me. And many of the words overlapped with things God had been telling me individually as well.

I wish hearing from God made things easier.  But it hasn't, it just gives hope. It still is hard to hear when God blesses others and my dreams seem to be rotting away. It fills me with jealousy and anger, things I don't want to feel, like abandonment, like I'm being lied to. Can God? Will God really follow through on His promises? I recalled to my father today everything the pastor spoke during the sermon that Saturday, how we are made strong in our weaknesses, so that God can be exalted, rather than ourselves. I then handed him the old set of house keys my mother had randomly just given to me. They came with a key chain reading, "God keeps his promises." We both quietly chuckled over the coincidence. When I opened up my daily devotion minutes later, 2 Corinthians 12:9a was written at the top, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'."  

Coincidence or God?