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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


Miriam said...

Thanks, Patty, I pray that I will always be seen as someone who is open handed...I strive to be just that.

Chris Godfredsen said...

Oh to live open handed, open hearted, all the time...

With eyes to see and ears to hear, God has gifted you remarkably, Patty. My prayer for you is that as you see and meet people - both open-handed and closed-fisted - that you will allow God to use you to bless them.

He already does, and you do, so keep on being all he has created Patty to be!