Often life is hard, but God is always good

Posts tagged ‘Matthew’

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)

 

What Does it Matter Anyway?

Photo Credit: Zuki  -  Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Zuki –
Creative Commons

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

I confess I get discouraged and weary. I have turned over a new leaf at this time of my life – by God’s grace.  The result of a life of discipleship is a loaded plate – raising children, loving a husband, and reaching out to others with sincere caring.  Sounds good, so why do I feel sometimes as if what I do doesn’t matter much?

It occurs to me that I was an overachiever as a student, finding the kudos of high grades and successful coursework extremely rewarding.  Now I don’t have much back patting.  No high marks, no awards, no letters of commendation.

How do I live without all that?

Several years ago I attended my husband’s Christian counseling conference in Colorado.  On the last evening of the week-long event I arrived early at the entrance to the hotel before the special concert performance and saw a man in jeans, a ratty sweatshirt and an old baseball cap unloading sound and music equipment all by himself from the back of a trailer.  As I made my way past him, I took a second look at his face.  It was our special guest, Michael Card.  The poet-scholar of the Christian music world was schlepping his own gear.

That is reality – We do good because it’s good – valuable for its own sake – not for the praise or recognition it might bring us.

Jesus knew how this worked:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  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: 1-4 (NIV)

Remember that our Heavenly Father sees us, and will reward us in his way, in his time.

 

Do I Need Some Solitude?

Photo Credit: Dhoomakethu!!

Photo Credit: Dhoomakethu!!

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,…” (Matthew 24: 22, 23 New International Version)

Jesus was alone, but not lonely.  He knew his desperate need to be away from his disciples, the crowds, his enemies, his teaching, his healing.  He actively sent everyone away and walked up to a place of solitude to spend time alone with his Father.

As Mrs. Charles E. Cowman wrote in her 1939 devotional, “The man Christ Jesus knew this, too, and felt the need of being by Himself again, of gathering all His powers, of realizing fully His high destiny, His human weakness, His entire dependence on the Father.”  (Streams in the Desert)

In my life in suburban America, I don’t often hike a mountain to commune with God, yet, daily places of solitude are readily available to me – spaces and times when family and work do not distract.  I have learned to stop moving, stop doing and sit still, but once I am physically alone and paused, I still have the challenge of sending away another type of “crowd” – my thoughts.

Inevitably, I come to that outward silence – no people, no pets, no television, no computer – and my inward noise starts up.  My brain whirls with things I must do, worries about unsolved problems, and even thoughts of self-doubt or self-recrimination.  I certainly can’t hear the voice of my Heavenly Father with all that mental company, so I am learning to forcibly put aside these distractions – scribbling my “to do” thoughts down on a scratch pad I keep next to me and off-loading the worries and doubts as quickly as possible in prayer. Then I listen.

The wonder of silence inside and out!

“I love the lonely creative hours with God!”  Madame Guyon

My most dramatic listening moment came many years ago when I was faced with a fork in the road – stay in the U.S. or move to Israel.  When I finally stopped asking for advice, talking about the decision, and thinking in circles about the pros and cons, I waited a long time with quieted mind and surroundings.  God spoke audibly to me. “Stay!” he said, and I obeyed and discovered the truth of poet Robert Frost’s words:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Andrew Murray pleads with us:

“Would that every servant of His understood and practiced this blessed art, and that the church knew how to train its children into some sense of this high and holy privilege, that every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed himself alone with God. Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself, and to know that God has me all alone to Himself!” (excerpt from Streams in the Dessert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman)

God and me.

Me and God.

Holy solitude.

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