Archives For generosity

When I was a kid, my parents gave me an allowance. A huge, mind-blowing amount of money that left me spoiled rotten.

$2.50.

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image credit: CreationSwap user Flip Ologenau

Even when I was a kid, that wasn’t much money. I remember my friends getting $5 per week. And other friends getting $10 or $20 for every ‘A’ they got on their report card. That made my $2.50 look puny.

But I loved getting it, nonetheless. I’d have my eye on a new video game, or a Reds cap, or a GI Joe, and I’d stash my money away in my top drawer and watch it grow. Ever. So. Slowly.

Every week, my dad would give me two $1 bills and 2 quarters. “Son, do what you want with this. But this (he’d say, holding up a quarter) is to give back to God.”

See, tithing is difficult enough. So my parents made it a bit easier by giving me money in denominations that were easily broken into percentages.

10% of $2.50 is $.25. Boom.

I’d take my $.25 and stuff it in the offering envelope, seal that thing up, and away we’d go. It became a habit, a regular part of my life. I grew to have a healthy understanding of money, and living generously. It was easier to give because:

  1. The money didn’t feel like it was “mine” that I’d earned or deserved…it had come straight from my dad’s hands.
  2. It went straight from my hand to the offering envelope.

Because giving became a part of my life from such an early age, even when I was older, and making money “of my own,” giving to my church was an expectation I had of myself. It wasn’t, and isn’t, easy (in fact, I’ve found in my life that making more money doesn’t guarantee that generosity is easier). But it’s much easier than if it hadn’t been built into my life from an early age.

I’m convinced that one of the major roles of parenting is teaching our children to learn to obey God. Not in an overbearing, exasperating, constantly hard-nosed kind of way. But in a way that is full of grace, mercy, and truth.

Obedience is hard you too, right? Whether it comes to obeying God in your finances, in your marriage, in your job, with the amount of food you eat or the kind of media you consume, obedience at nearly every level is difficult. We’ve got an enemy that prowls around like a lion, ready to devour us. (1 Peter 5:8) The same is true for our children. So let’s make it as easy as we possibly can for our children to obey us (and, by proxy, God).

Obedience isn’t easy, so don’t make it harder than it has to be. When it comes to tithing, our greed and proclivity to covet makes obedience especially difficult. Let your children see how easy it can be to give, helping them develop good, God-honoring habits early on in their life.

It is true:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. – Ephesians 6:1

But parents, let’s do our part to make that as easy as possible. Don’t stop with financial obedience! Remove barriers, crack strongholds, and clear pathways in more and more areas of their lives.

Our children will thank us later.

 

 

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I have said a lot of stupid things in my life. Many of which I’ve said right here on this blog. Things that have gotten me in hot water, cold water, and dry with no water.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the trajectory of my life, how I’m spending my time, and where I want to point. As I’ve thought back over the years, there are things I realize I’ve never said that have significantly shaped who I am. God’s changed me through generosity, community, laughter, my son, my church(es), and my own leadership journey.

Sometimes what’s not said is more important than what is said. And there are things you’ll never say, either.

I’m not a gambling man, but I’d put good money on the line that you’ll never say any of these things. And if you find yourself saying them, stop it.

10 things you’ll never say

I wish I hadn’t been so generous.

Nobody regrets being generous. Even when your generosity isn’t well received, isn’t thanked, or isn’t noticed, the act of generosity changes you as much as it changes others.

Truth: You’ll never regret generosity.

Life would’ve been better if I hadn’t joined that small group.

You will have less “free” time in your life, more heartache, more burdens to bear, more mess to wade through, and more people to pray for. Life will be tougher. But you won’t regret joining a small group, because you’ll have people to journey through life with.

Truth: You’ll never regret investing in people’s lives.

My best friends? They’re the ones I never laugh with.

Get off the boring train, and start recognizing that laughter is a gift from God. You’ll grow more spiritually with a group of people that you enjoy being around than ones you dread meeting with.

Truth: If you don’t enjoy being around you, neither will others.

I wish I had spent less time with my kids.

And your kids will never say they wish that you’d spent less time with them, either.

Truth: Time with your kids is not time wasted.

I love to drink mediocre coffee.

No you don’t. Nobody does. Which is why when I have people over to my house, I serve the best stuff that I’ve got. Or I go get my hands on the best stuff I can find. All coffee is not created equal.

Truth: 1 cup of my coffee just might change your life. :)

I wish I had been less regular at church.

Your church isn’t perfect. Neither is mine. But being where God’s people gather to worship and celebrate the work of God is healing and life-giving.

Truth: Getting plugged into a local church will change the trajectory of your life.

“Leadership” doesn’t really have any relevance in my life.

No matter where you find yourself, leadership is playing a significant role. Sometimes it’s affecting you positively. Other times, negatively. Sometimes by its presence. Other times by its absence.

Truth: Focusing on your own leadership development isn’t a waste of time.

My life is much more lovely because of my cat.

Nope. It’s not.

Truth: I hate cats. So do you.

I wish I had not gone on that mission trip.

I wrote about it here, but my life was shifted when I traveled to Costa Rica. Others’ lives were shifted because I was sick for part of the week, too. Whether you go on a trip out of your country or across state lines, you won’t regret the time away from work or the money it cost you to get there.

Truth: Going on a mission trip will mess you up in the best way possible.

Children’s ministry? That’s a waste of time.

If you say this, expect to not be a pastor very long. Or expect your church numbers to dwindle quickly.

Truth: When you invest in children, you are investing in the life of the Church. For today and tomorrow.

Anything you’d add? 

 

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How to Overcome Perceptions

Ben Reed —  October 27, 2011 — 16 Comments

image credit: CreationSwap user Rich Aguilar

Just the other day, I had someone tell me that all of my posts on Facebook are about food and parenting. “You must really love your food…and your son!”

Well, she’s right about me loving my food…and my son.

But she’s wrong about all of my posts being about those two topics. And I could’ve corrected her, but thank you very much Dale Carnegie, I just smiled and continued the conversation. Correcting her would’ve done no good. Why?

Perception is everything.

People can perceive you to be all sorts of things that you’re not. I’ve been perceived

  • Naive
  • Un-thoughtful
  • Forgetful
  • Unwise
  • Small-minded
  • Forgetful
  • Lazy
  • Unmotivated
  • Wasteful
  • Greedy
  • Self-serving

And in each of those cases, I could verbally tell you why I’m not that. Explain to you how I’m not lazy. Map out for you how I’m really not small-minded. Draw a diagram on the back of a napkin to show you how I’m not self-serving.

And in each of those cases, I would watch you walk away shaking your head in disagreement, firmly planted and confirmed in your ideas about me.

Perceptions aren’t often logical. They’re feelings-based. And feelings-based ideas aren’t overcome by logic and reason. They’re overcome by another feeling.

Instead of telling you how I’m not lazy, I need to show you that I hustle every day.

Instead of telling you how I’m not forgetful, I need to remember your name.

Instead of telling you how I’m not greedy, I need to demonstrate for you generosity.

Instead of telling you that I’m not self-serving, I need to show you what it looks like to serve others.

Perceptions of the Church

I know that, because of what we’ve stood against and how we’ve lived in this world, others have certain perceptions of the Church. Certain perceptions that aren’t necessarily true. Perceptions that, because of our history, people have come to believe. They perceive that we’re

  • Naive
  • Small-minded
  • Bigots
  • Deceived
  • Foolish
  • Stubborn
  • Boring
  • Lazy
  • Uncaring
  • Weak

I’m ashamed of the perceptions that the Church has gained. And I could lay out for you how our church is different. I could logically walk you through what we do differently. But most of the time, that’s not going to work. Perceptions aren’t logical. They’re rooted in feelings and emotions.

So I’m just going to show you. I’m going to let you see the Church in action through me. I’m going to serve and love and give and go and never expect anything in return. I’m going to be the Church and live the Church. Instead of just talking, I’m going to serve. Instead of just debating, I’m going to love. Instead of arguing, I’m going to give.

That’s what the Church does.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – Jesus, from John 13:34-35

*Image credit: CreationSwap user Rich Aguilar 

 

 

 

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A site you’ve got to visit

Ben Reed —  September 29, 2011 — 33 Comments

iStock photo user: Arakonyunus

I’ve done this before (HERE), and I want to do it again.

I want to help one of your friends pub their site.

In the comments below, tell us about a blog (or a site) that you read that you think we should know about. Tell us why you love it. Tell us what they’re doing to make a dent in the internet. Tell us why, if we’re not reading it, we’re missing out on some of the best that the internets has to offer.

Don’t nominate yourself. That’s silly and selfish. If you nominate yourself, I’ll delete your comment.

I’ll choose one of the sites you mention in the comments and write a full-length post about them and why the readers here at Life & Theology should immediately head over and join in that community.

Sometimes all a site needs is a little publicity. That’s what I want to do.

And I’m just trying to practice what I preach. I think that social media is at its best when people are being truly generous. (see what I mean HERE or HERE or HERE)

So go ahead and leave a comment. Tell us about a site we can’t live without.

To jump straight to the comments, click HERE.

*Photo credit: iStock Photo user Arakonyunus

 

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You and your gifts

Ben Reed —  August 26, 2011 — Leave a comment

I need you and your gifts. Because without you, I’m incomplete.

Without you, I look silly.

Without you, I look like a mouth. I can scream and shout, but I can’t hear anything. And do you know how annoying that is…the guy who talks but doesn’t listen?

Without you, I’m a hand that’s stuck in one place. I can’t move. I need you. I’m like The Thing. Just plain weird.

Without me, you’re a foot that can walk anywhere it pleases…but can’t pick anything up. Because…have you ever tried to hold a hammer with your foot? Ever tried to write a note with your foot? Good luck with that.

Without me, you’re a set of eyes that can do nothing about what you see. And I can’t even begin to fathom how frustrating that would be.

I need you and you need me. There’s just no getting around that.

And when we work together, it’s called the Church.

We’re better together.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? – 1 Corinthians 12:14-17

 

 

 

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Quit sharing

Ben Reed —  August 25, 2011 — 4 Comments

Retweeting to get a Retweet in return may be the most base form of fake generosity that social media has spiraled into.

image via PLR Internet Marketing

(if you’re not sure what a Retweet is, get a crash course on verbiage I wrote HERE)

Here’s what happens.  You notice that I have quite a few followers.  You want my followers to like you and follow you and read your blog. So you read my blog post, retweet what I said about it, and sit and wait.  Just hoping that I’ll return the digital favor.

Stop it!

Twisted Generosity

Generosity gives, expecting nothing in return.  True generosity doesn’t scratch your back so you’ll scratch mine.  And when you give expecting a retweet, you rip the generosity right out of the gift.

And you give expecting the return gesture, you completely miss the point of sharing.  The point of sharing is not to bless the writer of the post.   It’s to bless YOUR followers.  The ones who look to you saying, “What new stuff have you found lately?”

Imagine this crazy scenario.  I give you a nice new gift.  Let’s say I give you a new iPad.  But the whole time, I’m looking over my shoulder, wondering if Apple is going to reward me for purchasing an iPad.  And you’re left wondering, “Did he just use me?”

I like what Dale Carnegie says in How to Win Friends and Influence People:

Let’s cease thinking of our accomplishments, our wants. Let’s try to figure out the other person’s good points. Then forget flattery. Give honest, sincere appreciation. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise,” and people will cherish your words and treasure them and repeat them over a lifetime—repeat them years after you have forgotten them.

Instead of looking at social sharing as a way of gaining followers, look at it as a way of blessing those who have chosen to follow you.  Of sharing with the world what you’re learning, who’s influencing you, and what’s shaking your world.  The more generous you can be, the more people will cherish your words and treasure them.  But leave a hint of personal gain in your generosity and your followers will sniff you out.

I’m pursuing a more generous social media.

Will you join me?

 

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For any leader, creating trust is essential.

Merriam-Webster.com defines “trust” as “reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something : one in which confidence is placed.”  So creating that trust in relationships formed is crucial for the growth of the organization that you lead.  And when it comes to social media, trust is absolutely crucial.  Since you’re one voice among millions, you get one shot with potential followers.  One eye-grabbing tweet.  One game-changing blog post.  And if you don’t capture people there, you’ve likely lost them forever.  Hate it if you want, but that’s the game.

Without trust, people won’t follow you.  Well…they’ll follow you for a little while.  But positional leadership will only get you so far.  With trust, you can develop healthy, robust communities.

5 ways to create trust online

  1. Consistency – I’ve given up on trying to figure out which posts are going to do well and which aren’t.  I’ve resorted to this: post consistently.  I’m bound to strike a nerve with someone at some point.
  2. Quality – Add value, create discussion, spark interest, share an idea, encourage change, or share your story.  If it’s anything less, then why post?
  3. Honesty – people are looking for transparency and relate-ability…not just someone who has got it all together.  Don’t just tweet the good things…tweet the bad ideas, the failed initiatives, and ways you’ve struggled.
  4. Generosity – it’s not just all about you, promoting your stuff, making a name for yourself.  It’s also not just about giving products away.  Give away ideas, encouragement, and insights.
  5. Uniqueness – if you start something new, then you are, by nature, unique in that area.  If you’re jumping into an existing area, let your platform set you apart from the rest of the pack.  Your story’s not the same, your passions aren’t the same, your job’s not the same, and your family’s not the same.  Don’t try to be me, and I won’t try to be you.

Trust is essential in building any relationship.  Social media is no different.

What am I missing?  How do you build trust?  Jump in the conversation HERE!

 

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The Sunday experience

Ben Reed —  April 4, 2011 — 4 Comments

My wife and I ate at a nice, swanky restaurant recently.

We felt like we were eating food that could be served on the Food Network.  Which is a far stretch from what we normally eat.  I learned what amuse bouche is (I had a pan-seared sea scallop with a slice of grapefruit, in warm vanilla sauce).  I had rillette and risotto…both of which I had to Google to know what they were.  The food was unbelievably good.

And as impressed as we were with the food, we were equally impressed with the service.  5 things stood out:

  1. We made our reservations online.  We’d never made online reservations for a restaurant before, but this process was incredibly easy.  We felt served even before we arrived at the restaurant.
  2. Our waitress was cross-trained.  She served our food, and could also talk us through the complimentary flavors, the local farms where they purchase their meat, and the precise way that each of our dishes was prepared.
  3. Our waitress wasn’t our only server…when we needed something, any server walking by would attend to our needs.
  4. I got up to use the restroom, and when I returned, my napkin was refolded and placed back on top of the table.
  5. The chef was feeling generous, and gave us a free tasting of his newest soup.

In short, it felt like the whole evening was about serving us, like we were truly honored guests.  And shouldn’t we be treated guests like that on Sunday morning in our churches?  Do we really offer that same level of service?  Because there are lessons to be learned here, whether your church is strong or weak when it comes to your Sunday morning experience.

Principles for serving on Sundays

  • Look for ways to surprise your guests with generosity. We paid a lot for our meal, but the fact that we felt served made us think less about the cost, and more about the experience.  And if “time is money,” then the people visiting your churches are “paying” a lot.  Make it worth their time.
  • Cross-train your volunteers and staff members. Our waitress cared about our entire experience, not just getting her tip.  And healthy team members know that, while their area of service may be primary for them, there’s a lot more that goes into a given person’s experience on Sundays than just their one area.
  • Serve relentlessly and creatively. The whole refolding-the-napkin-when-I-go-to-the-bathroom trick was awesome.  And it only took them 10 seconds.  But it took intentionality.  All of their servers had to keep an eye out for people who stood up to leave their table.  And that’s what it’s going to take to serve people on Sundays, too.
  • Prepared in advance to serve well. Serving with this level of class takes planning.  It doesn’t just happen naturally.  You, as staff and leaders, must plan ahead if you want your teams to serve well.  Brainstorming, dreaming, and mapping out action plans, is key if you want your guests to feel honored.
  • Know that Sundays aren’t the first, or last, impression. Our experience may have technically started when we arrived at the restaurant, but it certainly didn’t start, or end, there.  Taking this into account is important as you’re thinking through the message your church is conveying in your community and online.

Think, “What would this look and feel like for a first-time guest?”  Let that question propel you to creatively brainstorm with your team.

We’ve become raving fans of this restaurant.

Are you creating raving fans of your church?

What are you doing to creatively serve your guests?

 

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A generous Christmas

Ben Reed —  December 20, 2010 — 2 Comments

(image by Dan Johnson)

Logan’s Roadhouse is running a holiday special right now.  Buy a $30 giftcard for a friend and get a $10 giftcard for yourself.

Great deal, right?!?

Great marketing, right?!?

It gets people in their restaurant three ways…once, for the person buying the gift card, once on their return visit (with their $10 giftcard), and once for the receiver of the $30 card.  Brilliant.  And I’m sure they’re going to sell lots of those this season.

I know why.  And it’s not simply because all of your friends love Logan’s.

It has to do with greed.

You see, it’s true that it’s more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  But our human hearts are dark cauldrons that are deceptive, even to ourselves (Jeremiah 17:9).  And if there’s a way that we can get a gift at the same time we give one, we’re going to do just that.

What’s motivating the sales of these giftcards is the promise that your money won’t be solely spent on someone else.  That the joy you’ll get in giving isn’t simply in serving someone else, rather it’s in  getting a slice of the pie that you’re giving away.  This is a great way to give, expecting something in return.  In that process, you rip the true blessing out of the gift.

I’m not upset with Logan’s in the least.  They have no reason to promote generosity…their goal is to build a successful business, and their principles here violate no laws.  Their practices just happen to play into the tendency of our hearts.  “Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy…” (Ezekiel 33:31)

The Apostle Paul said it well, “…what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)  As much as we strive for generosity, greed continues to creep in.  In subtle, seemingly insignificant, seemingly generous ways.  Like expecting something in return when you give a gift.

But I believe that it really is more blessed to give than to receive.  I’ve experienced it.  The joy in giving your resources to someone else who can never pay you back is unexplainable.  It’s in those moments that I feel as connected to my Maker as much (or maybe even more than) as any other time.  Because He’s done that for us.  He’s given (and continues to give) blessings “pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” (Luke 6:38)

So this Christmas, try being truly generous.  Give.  Share.  Sacrifice.  And don’t expect anything in return.  Not a return gift.  Or a returned hug.  Or even a “thanks.”

You’ll get your payment.  It’ll be in the form of joy.

Have you ever been given a gift, but known it wasn’t given out of a generous heart?

How are you serving someone this Christmas, expecting nothing in return?

 

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Generosity

Ben Reed —  April 27, 2010 — Leave a comment

Ever had someone come up to you at a stoplight and offer to wash your windshield?

I remember when I was a kid, and it happened to us when my dad was driving.  He politely declined the offer.  I said, “What?!?  A guy just offered to clean your windshield, Dad!  Why didn’t you let him?”  His response: “Because he was going to charge us.”

My cousin, Tyler, had a similar experience the other day.  While walking the streets of Rome, a guy approached him and made him a bracelet, making polite and engaging conversation the whole time.  My cousin, being a naive teenager, thought the guy was just being nice.  When he was done, the bracelet-making street guy said, “I did you a favor, now you do me a favor.  Give me 5 Euros.”  He pulled a 10 out, to which the guy said, “I’ll take 10!”

A gift quickly loses its appeal when the generosity is removed.

In fact, a gift isn’t a gift if there’s no generosity.  When a gift is attached with an expectation, it’s not a gift.  It’s a transaction.  Which is fine if I’m buying something.  But not if I’m receiving a gift.

When you serve your community, do you do so expecting nothing in return?  Or do you expect that, after you serve somebody, they’re going to come to your church?

When you give “selflessly” of your time and resources, do you secretly expect that there will be a return on your investment?  That, because you gave, they are obligated to give something back to you (in the form of a person visiting (or giving money to) your church, your organization, or your small group)?

It’s okay to hope that the love and generosity you show others will be reciprocated.  But making it an expectation strips a gift of its beauty.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  -Luke 6:35

 

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