People often ask me about the name of my blog... click here to read the story.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Open Hands

My parents stayed with us over Christmas.
They came early to avoid a storm that rendered us knee deep in snow by Friday.
One night, we sat discussing family values. Not like Murphy Brown/ Dan Quail family values, but spoken and unspoken values that each home lives by whether they realize it or not.
Spoken values are actively taught.
Like in the home I grew up in some of our "taught" values were: loving God, going to church, being kind to people. Some spoken values in my husband's home consisted of going to church, working hard, and eating supper together every night at 6.
But unspoken values are different. As a lovely friend recently explained, unspoken family values are like banners hanging outside your home that children choose to either adopt or reject. Things like being thin, having money, a squeaky clean home, being quiet in the morning (that was one of my mom's quirks that I definitely adopted) rank as unspoken values. One unspoken value in my home of origin was generosity.
My parents stood, in the middle of their lives, with open hands ready to receive whatever God gave them and just as ready to give it away to whomever needed it. This wasn't just monetary generosity, although that was part of it. Anything they had was for anyone in their life to use and benefit from like: generosity with time, energy, praise, intellect, smiles, laughter. Although never verbalized, this open-handedness was modeled day in and day out. Stinginess played no part in my home life.

Not everyone is so blessed to see it in their home.

Also over Christmas, I witnessed the extreme contrast between living life either open handed and close-fisted.
A good customer of mine routinely buys coupons for free coffees so she can hand them out to whomever she thinks need it.
My close friends' daughter married last week and people, out of their generosity, offered candles, lights, vases, name it...for decorating purposes.
We, as a family, received several generous gifts from people who know that's works' been scarce.
Both my friends in the real world and the blogging world (Chris @ Experiencing Grace and Peace and Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus) wrote about open handed giving in recent weeks.
Christmas itself, God sending His only Son so we can have free, unearned salvation, is the greatest act of open-handedness ever experienced.
Free, unconditional generosity from both God and man.
What a blessing.
On the flip side, I saw close-fisted selfishness at its worst. The greedy, selfish attitude of people fairly close to me rendered me both speechless and angry.

As I think about the people, the open handed ones and the closed-fisted ones, I'm struck with the contrast of demeanor. Since I know all the people I'm writing about, I can tell you that they share the same faith, and the same general values...yet one group gives and the other hoardes.
What does the hoarder gain by keeping what's his? When I look at this individual, I see resentment, bitterness, loneliness and deep suspicion.
What does the open handed giver receive for giving freely? I see joy, peace, friends in abundance and more generosity.

Oh, that my hands and heart would remain open to give and receive whatever God brings and that attitudes of selfishness, greed, and hoarding would be snuffed out.

Stop doing wrong,
learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

"Come now, let us reason together,"
says the LORD.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool." Isaiah 1:17

Friday, December 18, 2009


For what seems like the millionth time, I click "favorites" and check Facebook or this blog or my email. I just checked a few minutes ago...I'm sure nothing has changed...yet, I need to look again.

What am I doing....what am I looking for?
In all these various checks, what am I longing for?
Friendship? I have friends.
Information? I have Google.
Inspiration? I have the Bible, art, nature, music, & books.
God? I have God.
Since I was 7, I've "had" God or more significantly He's had me.
But knowing God, having God, doesn't mean the end of longing.
In fact, I think it means the beginning of longing...true, deep, passionate, yearning for more of the One True God.
And the more He gives, the more I realize I lack and the more I want. Frustration sets in as it seems like God gets more & more elusive the closer I get to Him...but that's another topic...

So, back to my incessant need for meaningful human contact, even if it's via electronics... I realized this morning as I kept checking my various modes of communication, that I am searching for God: searching for Him, longing for His love and His words to me, through His people.

Last week I read Romans 12...verses 4 & 5 say Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We are the body of Christ.
We are the hands and feet of Christ-a familiar enough phrase- but have you stopped to think of what you're saying and what that means?
It means you're desperately needed. Not just by the world, but by other Christians (Galatians 6:9).

A few weeks ago, a lovely couple visited our church. She's an occasional customer of mine, so of course I visited with her & her husband after the service. They loved it. And I know her well enough to know, they genuinely loved it. They felt at ease & at home with our informality and the spirit of community we have.
But they didn't come back.
Talking with a mutual friend, I realized that they (the couple) saw the need for community when they were hurting; when they needed something. But they didn't see how valuable they were to someone else's community. When have I done that? Underestimated what God wanted me to be to a certain group of people? Underestimated His presence in me and how it ministered to others?
We think we're being humble by deflecting praise or denying our worth, but we're actually being selfish...withholding something we're made to give.
"...we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10
You, dear reader, are needed.
There are things God has planned for you. Jeremiah 29:11, a beautiful passage, is quoted so often: "For I know the plans I have for you , declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future."
But how does He prosper you and give you hope and help you realize your future? Many times, it's through others. Yes, He wants to bless you and prosper you, but He wants to bless and minister and provide for someone else also and through you.
Someone in your life needs what you have to offer.