Friday, March 20, 2009

Affliction may be too strong of a word

One of my favorite parts of Scripture is when Paul shares his heart about the churches in Macedonia in 2 Corinthians 8:1-3...
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord...
That's what came to mind when the girls gave us their gift. They were so thrilled to do it...truly bouncing with happiness. And it wasn't just at that moment. They asked us at the beginning of January to see if there was a weekend we could block out this semester and not have any plans those days. Why? we asked. We're not telling, just block it out, okay? Well, we agreed, but have wondered for weeks what the deal was.

Then came the secret meetings in Cassie's room...followed by huge grins as they came out. The almost daily giggles as they'd whisper to each other. But what really touched my heart about all this happened over the weeks of preparation. To give us this gift took hundreds of dollars...from three girls with no real money. Cassie has a job at the church which pays her for about 3 hours a week at minimum wage and babysits when she can. Aisley and Brennan both babysit sporadically. But it's not like they just gave a little off the top. Every time they got money...any money...they'd rush to Cassie's room...laughing, grinning, happy as could be they they could contribute to whatever it was they were planning.

I can't tell you how that blessed me week after week. And to say that it was a "severe test of affliction" is probably overstating it just a bit. But I promise you that it wasn't easy. They don't get allowances...never have. They have lots of wants, mostly aimed at tech stuff which is very expensive. And because we live off of a single paycheck from a public school, there's lots of daily stuff that they live without that a lot of their friends have or places they can't go because there's just no money for it. Which means that every dollar they make is usually pre-spent in their minds. But they gave it all up for bless us. And they didn't do it begrudgingly. They did it with joy...with generosity...with blessing.

What a lesson for me tonight. What am I hoarding for myself because I have no greater vision than how I can throw it away on myself? Isn't there anyone out there that I love more than myself...for whom I would count it a joy...a give to them instead of keeping it for me? Isn't there any gratitude in me that would serve to fuel giving? Can't I be like my girls? It's a good, challenging word for me.

Because that overflow didn't come out of their good, little if they've got that little something extra. Notice how Paul put it when he wanted to spread the news of what happened in Macedonia. When giving like this occurs, it's because God got involved and poured out grace to them. And He did much more besides give to us...they told me that one of the amazing things about doing this was that they still have money left over. Somehow...some way...and they're not really sure how...God gave them abundantly more than they could have asked for...or even imagined. What a God we serve! I love that in giving this to us, He also gave them a really good lesson in how generous He can be when we pour out our lives for others. They all spoke in wonder that it happened the way it did.

How I praise Him tonight for His care of us all as Wayne and I make plans. I love that He put this in their hearts. I love that I'll be getting away with Wayne for the first time since our honeymoon almost 20 years ago! (The girls thought that was pretty pathetic...funny moment...I think they're resolved to do a couple of things differently in their own marriages!) I love that through it all, He reminded me that He owns everything and can move everything...we need only obey with joy. I love that He loves my girls enough to give them this message this early. I pray for this good seed to bear much fruit for them in their lives. What a difference three women who love to give away their lives can make on this world for the Kingdom. And if they'd like to do it by sending their Mom and Dad on vacation every now and then? Icing. Really, really sweet icing.

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