#Christmas Playlist…. Joy to the World performed by Chris Tomlin @ChristmasCount @ChrisTomlin

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Christmas Playlist…. Joy to the World performed by Chris Tomlin

#Christmas Playlist…. Sweet Little Jesus Boy performed by Casting Crowns @ChristmasCount @CastingCrowns

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Christmas Playlist…. Sweet Little Jesus Boy performed by Casting Crowns

Living a Generous Life @ChristmasCount @goodmenproject

generosityI recently read, “The Genius of Generosity” by Chip Ingram.

Less than 100 pages in length, this book flipped the switch on a major light bulb moment in my life.

Told through a simple story of generosity, this true-life experience has the ability to change lives and create a movement that is often missing in our society.

The gist of the book is shared in Chapter One.  A new Pastor is given access to a secret checkbook with the sole purpose of being generous.  The lessons that emerge are profound.

As I read the book, it occurred to me that generosity is one of the simplest actions for us to partake in.  During this Christmas season, we think about the generosity of gifts, how generous will you be with your boss, the kid’s teachers and Aunt Edith?  Many of us look at generosity as a task that is expected on special occasions, “The Genius of Generosity” made it clear that true generosity is found in year-round service and giving.

In reading the book, I began to look for opportunities that I could be generous.  Through my time, talents, gifts and service, generosity allows me to shape the future in small and large ways.

In seeking opportunities to be generous, I found that the true reward has little to do with what I give, but more about the feeling I get in giving.  Knowing that my small gift helps make the life of someone else easier certainly is a blessing that far outweighs the gift.

As I search for opportunities that I can be generous, I find that often it is in small gifts of service or finance that makes the biggest differences.  It isn’t about the big gift, but the small token that allows someone to know that they are being thought of by a neighbor.

Generosity has nothing to do with size, it is all about heart.

As I have looked for giving opportunities, I have found them.  No big life altering donations or life changing moments, just small gestures that make a difference.

The rewards I have found through generosity have far more to do with my heart than the gifts.  Being generous simply feels good, there is no other way to say it and if 20, or 50 or 100 dollars can help someone, the feeling I get is 10 fold.

Most importantly I have found that generosity is best given quietly.  We hear stories of major gifts given by celebrities on a daily basis, but I contend that while those gifts are miraculous, they pale in comparison to those given quietly and without fanfare.

“The Genius of Generosity” is a testament to what can be done when we look for opportunities to serve.   The book highlights 12 “bright ideas” of generosity that are simple take-aways for the reader….

  • To be smart, spend carefully.  To be wise save, regularly.  To be genius, give extravagantly.
  • When your money goes, your heart flows.
  • Generosity is a gateway into intimacy with God.
  • Stewardship is the path.  Generosity is the adventure.
  • Generous givers make God and His purposes their highest priority.
  • Enjoy God’s generosity to you…. then share it with others.
  • Faith increases giving, and giving increases faith.
  • Those blessed by God become blessers for God.
  • Generous living is joyful living.
  • God measures generosity not by the size of the gift but by the size of the sacrifice.
  • Generosity isn’t an act.  It’s a way of life.
  • True generosity doesn’t stop with possessions.  It starts with them.

As I have sought out opportunities to be generous my life has found greater joy.  Don’t get me wrong, I want great gifts for Christmas and I still ponder how much to spend on co-workers and Aunt Edith, but I know those challenges will work themselves out.  My more important thoughts are on how I can generously affect someone’s life.

Ironically, the more you give, the more you want to give.  As I seek ways to be in service, I find greater peace and joy in the simple gifts of generosity.

This Christmastime my thoughts don’t revolve around brightly colored bows or snowflakes, my greater joy will be found in service and generosity.  Ironically, isn’t that what the first Christmas was all about anyway?

About the  author Chip Ingram is Senior Pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, CA and President of Living on the Edge, a teaching and discipleship ministry that provides practical help for everyday believers. He has a unique ability to communicate truth and winsomely challenge people to live out their faith. He has served as a pastor for more than 25 years and as president of Walk Thru the Bible.  The author of 12 books, Chip reaches more than a million people each week on radio and television worldwide.  Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four adult children and six grandchildren.

Patience for Prayer

My Pastor recently began a new sermon series entitled “Connected.”  The focus of the series is prayer.

During the first week’s sermon,  he made the point that prayer is a conversation with God, a conversation that is ongoing and can take place anywhere.

His viewpoint is that when praying we should “talk” with God.  It isn’t about the location or using “holy talk” but a genuine heartfelt conversation between you and God.

In talking with God, three points made up the focus of the sermon….

  • Talk authentically – talk like you talk with friends and speak from the heart.  Don’t worry about the “thou” and the “Oh, heavenly most gracious God, creator of all things on heaven and earth.”  Old Testament talk isn’t necessary, an authentic talk with God is the kind of talk we would have with our best friend or partner, after all isn’t that what God is to us all?
  • Talk often – a conversation with God happens often, even continuously.  Talking with God isn’t by appointment, we don’t have to pray in the morning or as the last thing we do at night, prayer is a talk that is available to us anytime, anyplace and anywhere.
  • Talk and LISTEN – possibly the most important of these three points is to LISTEN for God when we pray.  Many of us talk and talk and talk and then we wonder why we don’t get a response.  A conversation takes place between two parties, listen for God’s response.

As Pastor Todd was preaching, he wasn’t saying anything I didn’t already know, but sometimes it is good to hear it from a fresh perspective.  The message was simple, but powerful.

The sermon included points on being patient when praying.  We don’t always get a response when we want, but we get it in God’s time… God’s perfect time.  I thought about all the times I have asked God for something and didn’t receive it when I asked, some things I never received AS ASKED, but received as needed.

As Pastor spoke, I was taken back to my prayers as a youth for God to change me.  During those dark days of my life I couldn’t understand why God had allowed me to be something others told me he hated and I prayed for change.

I remembered the jobs I had prayed for that I didn’t receive.

I thought about the days I begged God to let my mother live and be free of pain, to no avail.

During that sermon I could feel emotions rise up in me that I had not felt for some time, I could feel God speaking to me.

As he was talking about conversations with God, Pastor Todd made general statements….

  • speak to God before your feet hit the floor in the morning
  • get up ten minutes early with the intention of talking to God
  • don’t say Amen, continue a conversation with God through the day

The examples continued and as he spoke, I knew what I had to do as I was warmed by God’s presence.

For me, my best “talk to God” place is the beach, at sunrise.

Two years ago I was working out with a trainer and those sessions were held on the beach at 6:30 AM.  Far more than the exercise, the sunrise each morning gave me a feeling a peace and brought me closer to God.

Long after I stopped the work-outs I continued the morning visits to the beach.  I posted photo after photo of my sunrise experience on my Facebook page and others would enjoy the scene and comment on the beauty of each one.

What I learned during those days at the beach was every sunrise was different, but each one was filled with beauty and majesty too.

Recently I moved and I stopped going to the beach for sunrise.  The drive is further and it isn’t as convenient anymore, so I just stopped.

I continue to get up at the same time, but instead of going to the beach I watch the news.  As you can imagine the feeling I get from “Morning Joe” isn’t quite like the one I get watching the colors of heaven explode onto the horizon.

As Pastor Todd spoke, I knew what I had to do…. I had to go back to the beach.

Monday morning came and as my alarm sounded at 5:55AM, I lay there for a moment and talked to God, without saying amen, I bounced up, took Lita for a quick walk and then got in my car and headed to the beach.

Driving to the beach, I was disappointed that the weather wasn’t that great.  There was a slight mist and the winds were brisk.  As I made my way out onto the sand, I was disappointed to find the skies overcast with no color to be found.

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On the beach, alone, sharing my thoughts with God, I began to pray…… no, I began a conversation.

I talked to God about my dreams, my desires for my life and prayed for those I love.

As I prayed, I listened for God, I listened for a response, impatiently I waited.

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I prayed, the clouds remained and the rain fell, but I stayed, I stayed on the beach and I prayed.

Scattered around the beach I noticed throngs of jellyfish,  like landmines just waiting to sting.   The irony of the jellyfish didn’t escape me as I thought about the landmines of life that keep me from honoring God on a daily basis, the landmines that keep me from reaching my true potential.

As I stood and prayed, my mind began to wander.  My attention was drawn to the screech of the seagulls, the lady walking her dog down the beach and the rain.

I started to leave in disappointment that the sunrise had been a dud, but I stayed.

Standing on the sand, I waited and began to see a small break in the clouds and a peek of colors providing a promise of greater things to come.

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As the clouds dispersed and a colorful sky began to appear on the horizon I thought about the times God has spoken to me.  How I have been nudged by God to write, how I have been blessed by friends kind words when I needed it most, how I have grown in faith.

I reflected on the week with my family before my mom died that changed my outlook on life and death and allowed us to find blessings during the most difficult of days.

I thought about the realization I had come to long ago that I am a child of God, made in HIS perfect image, filled with foibles and saved by grace.

I continued to talk to God, I thanked him for blessings and I listened.

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As I continued to talk to God, the hints of a beautiful sunrise could be seen in the distance.  As I watched the sun rise, the message of the sermon became clear.

God provides in perfect timing.  Sometimes we go through darkness, storms and land mines, but in God’s perfect timing prayers are answered for those who believe, ask humbly and listen.

While we may not find the exact ending we seek when we pray, the answer is perfect in God’s own way.  While the changes I prayed for as a child didn’t come, my own acceptance and understanding did.

I was passed over for jobs I asked for, but when the right job came along at the right time, it was mine.

My mom died, but  she was healed, her pain was gone and she now sparkles in the glow of magnificent sunrises that are available each day.

While I prayed I found it, while I talked to God it became clear, prayer requires patience.

Our prayers are often answered in ways we don’t expect, not always the way we had hoped for, but in the way God knows is best for us.

But sometimes, through patience, those prayers are answered with the brilliance of the Sistine Chapel and God’s greatest blessings shine for us helping us navigate another day.

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Sunday Playlist…. Revelation Song performed by Kari Jobe

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Sunday Playlist….  Revelation Song performed by Kari Jobe