Often life is hard, but God is always good

Archive for June, 2014

Do I Pass the Generosity Test?

Image by © Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Corbis

Image by © Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Corbis

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:4 (NIV)

“Pleased to meet you”, I said as I shook Miriam’s hand. She was introduced to me as the math curriculum supervisor at the homeschool company I was touring. My personal connection to the owner brought me to the business and now I was seeing who worked there in addition to how it was all run.

Suddenly, Miriam’s eyes shone with tears: “You are Laure Liversidge, right?”

“Why yes, that’s my maiden name.”

“Your grandmother changed my life,” Miriam asserted with a watery smile. “I used to clean for her. When I confided to her that I wanted to become a teacher, she gave me the funds to go to school.”

I was flabbergasted. The grandmother she was speaking of was the socialite, the wealthy Philadelphian who wore her mink coat to cocktail parties and fed lobster salad to her friends at her spacious summer home in Maine.

My childhood memories of this grandmother included the vision of a lit cigarette dangling from the fingertips of her right hand while the perfectly polished fingernails of her left hand gracefully held a sweating tumbler of expensive scotch on the rocks.

I loved and admired her, but I realize I didn’t fully know her because she gave in secret and no one found out what she did because she didn’t announce it to the world.

What is the test of true generosity? I don’t think it is the amount of the giving; it is the heart of the matter. Not only did my grandmother not announce her giving with trumpets like the hypocrites of Jesus’ day, but I don’t believe she made too much of it to herself .

Matthew Henry commented on the part of Jesus’ teaching about how the”left hand should not know what the right hand is doing:

“That we must not observe it too much ourselves: the left hand is a part of ourselves; we must not within ourselves take notice too much of the good we do, must not applaud and admire ourselves. Self-conceit and self-complacency, and an adoring of our own shadow, are branches of pride, as dangerous as vain-glory and ostentation before men.”

I recently heard another touching story about my grandmother. Years ago, when our childhood nanny asked to have her wedding rehearsal dinner at my grandma’s home, she answered “yes”, and then donned an apron and served the guests herself, including the bride-to-be’s mother who had been her cook for many years.

The state of our heart is what is important. God looks at it and promises to renew it when we ask.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51: 10 (NIV)

 

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Have I Had Enough to Drink?

Photo Credit: Toni Frissell

Photo Credit: Toni Frissell

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord,
 they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’” Psalm 92:13-15 (NIV)

Salt water is fun to swim in. I love oceans and grew up visiting my father’s family who lived by the Atlantic Ocean in Maine. Every summer, we dove under frigid waves and fought the entangling seaweed as we waded back out to the rocky beach.

But this salt-saturated ocean is not the living water that we need so desperately to maintain life.

Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

We need fresh drinking water.   In contrast to my ocean visits, my mother brought me every summer to a spring-fed lake in the wilds of Pennsylvania where her mother had a cottage. This body of water was more like living water, fresh, cold, pure, and such a joy to swim in. I was streamlined and fast, with no resistance.

Our Christian living is designed to be like swimming in water, and filled with refreshing water that is fresh, drinkable – coursing down our throats, brightening our eyes and tingling down our limbs.

The voice that invites us to drink of His love and presence is not one of tyrannical authority. Jesus speaks because he cares for us and knows we are made of water and need it to fulfill our life purpose. The plan is always live near the source of Life, continually drinking, and then becoming life to others.

Jesus said: “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:38 (NIV)

We are also compared in Scripture to trees and plants whose leaves open and glow and whose flowers open, the buds bursting forth. Our stems stand upright, not bowed down as if with a weight. Jesus repudiated the Pharisees of his day, telling them they were laying heavy burdens on their followers, causing them to walk with difficulty or to give up, saying “this is too hard for me.”

Christian life is not rule following; it is not trying endlessly to be good, and then hiding from others because it is impossible to do.

When I feel thirsty or over-burdened, I know where to go. Jesus is the well that has tapped into purified ground water that is good for washing our minds, cleansing our sins, and strengthening us for service that is the opposite of heavy and full of self effort.

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation7: 17 (NIV)

Give me lots to drink!

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