The Little you that Could

0UTqVWN7-AlTsvZOEOne of my daughter’s favorite kid books is the Little Engine that Could. She loves trains like Thomas and all his friends from the show. But none compare to the Little Blue Engine from her book. She even calls this little blue toy engine Millie (from Thomas and Friends) the Little engine that could. Her eyes light up whenever we read it together or whenever she talks about it. Funny thing is, it was one of my favorite kids books growing up too. But now, it holds an even fonder place in my heart.

A couple weeks ago my daughter was doing something pretty new and difficult for her. She is wanting to be a ballerina and she has been accepted into a local ballet class. She’s had to practice a couple poses and moves that she had never done before her first class. Keep in mind, my daughter is only four years old so this is all brand new. One of the evenings, while I was helping her practice, she made a breakthrough. She had learned something new that she had been struggling to get for several days. She was ecstatic! She said, “dad I’m just like the Little Engine that could. I kept trying and trying and I got it!” I almost starting crying. But I kept it together and said, “that’s right my sweet girl. You just keep trying and you’ll achieve great things in life. I’m so proud of you.”

I read a story today about a girl, Katie Gallagher. She had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (high functioning Autism) when she was seven years old. That means she had a lot of struggles ahead of her in life. Her motor skills were not the best, relationships were difficult, and criticism was a near constant. As a child, her parents read her…you guessed it…The Little Engine that Could.

“I used to read Katie ‘The Little Engine that Could,’ and I would tell her she was that little engine,” said Gina Gallagher (Katie’s mom). “I told her, ‘You’re going to get to the same place everybody else is. It’s just a harder journey for you.'”

Today.com

While all of the doctors and ‘experts’ were saying she would never leave home, never finish high school, never drive a car, never go away to college, never get married, Katie’s parents were giving her hope. The now 22 year old Katie has been the Little Engine that Could. Despite her struggles, she drives a car, she is graduating from college, and she has held a part-time job at Macy’s for the past two years.

In the story ‘The Little Engine that Could’, there is an old rusty black engine who is known for saying, “I think I can’t, I think I can’t, I think I can’t.” I have known so many people who live their lives by the same motto. They’ve been told they couldn’t and they chose to believe it. Some have been told that their disadvantage will dictate their life, and they’ve believed it. Some have been crippled with fear because of something tragic that has taken place in their life. Others have been dependent on someone most of their life and now they don’t believe they can do it on their own. That is not living. That is not what God intended any of us to experience.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

God didn’t make any of us to live in fear and doubt. He didn’t make us to live in regret. We are made, fearfully and wonderfully made. My four year old daughter has this verse memorized. She believes that she is the Little ANNA that could. I hope she always knows that and knows the God who made her with purpose. Katie Gallagher was no mistake. My daughter is no mistake. You are no mistake. God made each of us out of His great love. We are all made to be that little ____ that could. Just plug your name in the phrase. Whatever you’re facing, you can overcome it in Christ. God’s image is on you. If you’re a believer, His Spirit is in you.  Live empowered. Refuse to believe the lies you’ve been told. Cast off your fears and run the race. Life is too short to cut yourself short. Remember who you are, and the God who made you.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The Man in the Arena Speech by Teddy Roosevelt, Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

 

Advertisements

The Cost to be Clean

cc926fdd04662d55d8abc03d73e651b3

I’ve been on a journey through the book of Leviticus the last few days. Anyone who has read the book knows that it has the potential to be a difficult book to read. To study the book, on the other hand, is way more impactful! Very few of the 66 books of the bible reveal the Holiness of God quite like Leviticus.

The book comes as a response to Israel’t blatant betrayal of God in the exodus journey. While Moses was on the mountain speaking with God, the people of Israel decided to go above and beyond in breaking the very first commandment that God had given them.

And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:1-6 (NIV)

Israel’s response was to construct a golden calf as a god for themselves and have a wild party celebrating it. It was probably the worst possible thing they could’ve done. Leviticus is God’s response to that betrayal. Instead of rejecting Israel and destroying the entire sinful nation, He provides a way. A way for them to still, yes still, be in His presence. That’s pretty amazing! That’s love! But it came at a major price.

In chapters four and five, a method of atoning sacrifices are laid before the priests and people of Israel. These sacrifices make it possible for a broken and sinful people to be in community with a holy and perfect God. When we stop and just consider that relationship with any deep thought whatsoever, we would realize that there is no cost too high. Here are some highlight verses from those chapters:

CHAPTER 4

“‘If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the Lord a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. (v.3)

“‘If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, when they realize their guilt and the sin they committed becomes known, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the tent of meeting. (v.13-14)

“‘When a leader sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the commands of the Lord his God, when he realizes his guilt and the sin he has committed becomes known, he must bring as his offering a male goat without defect. (v.22-23)

“‘If any member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, when they realize their guilt and the sin they have committed becomes known, they must bring as their offering for the sin they committed a female goat without defect. (v.27-28)

CHAPTER 5

“When anyone is unfaithful to the Lord by sinning unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things, they are to bring to the Lord as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering. (v.15)

Keep in mind, this is a small list of a rather large list of sacrifices for nearly every situation you might think of. What hit me the hardest while going through the book was how much, and how often, I would’ve had to make sacrifices for myself if I lived under this system. Every, and it says every, unfaithful act or sin committed required payment. When I think about my life, that’s a lot! That’s sacrifices every day. These sins don’t even need to be intentional. The verses above are sure to cover everything, intentional or not. That’s a lot of goats, doves, and pigeons that would have to die for my choices. Sin is so costly. My sin is so costly. And the price to be made clean is beyond expression or calculation.

While these sacrifices made it possible to remain in God’s presence, they never fully satisfied the sin problem that we are all plagued by. For that, God would take matters into His own hands as the one who made the ultimate sacrifice.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near…But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Hebrews 10:1-7, 10-14 (ESV) (my emphasis)

I was pretty overwhelmed by the price of my sin when I read Leviticus. I am even more overwhelmed when I think about the unimaginable value of Christ’s sacrifice. The lonely, the broken, the depressed, and the hurting, need look no further than the cross of Christ to see how loved they are and that there is a God who will never leave them.

Don’t forget my brothers and sisters…

  • To always be captivated by God’s unfailing love and desire to be with us.
  • To know, deep down, the cost of our sin and that we have a God who would spare no expense in paying our tremendous debt.
  • No matter how dirty and stained our life choices have made us, we can be made clean. And we have a God who wants to make that happen.

Come and wash in the love of His grace and mercy. It’s an endless stream.

I will sing to the LORD because He has treated me generously.

Psalm 13:6 (HCSB)

Forged in the Fires

07_TA_Steel

I’m a history teacher. You probably already know that. I also have a biblical worldview. So I can’t help but to see spiritual undertones wrapped up in historical events. A recent lesson in my US History class involved the Great Depression. We explored causes and effects of what would be considered the worst economic crisis in recent memory. The well accepted dates of the depression (at least for the US) was 1929 to 1939. It came on the heals of one of the most prosperous decades in US history; the Roaring Twenties. As we had been covering this topic over a couple of weeks, I had been considering other forces at work besides the economic ones.

Here’s what I mean. The 1920’s were regarded as a carefree era for many, full of parties, and absent of the dread of war and international conflict. Many Americans were making it big with the stock market and booming business. Some historians label the decade as America’s adolescent years.  When the economy slows, and the stock market comes crashing down in 1929, the adolescents comes to an abrupt end. Thus begins the depression.

I believe that God allows certain things to happen in our lives in order to makes us who we were created to be. The Bible is full of stories where God gives people over to their lifestyle choices, knowing the tragic effects it will have, in order to forge a new person. Just read through the book of Judges and you’ll see several generations that needed to be drawn back to God through the trials that they brought on themselves. Now, I’m not making the claim that all hardships faced in life are brought on by ourselves, but many are. I’m NOT saying that people deserve hard times. I’m saying we NEED them.

Many of those who’s lives were shaken by the cumulative effects of the economic depression had nothing to do with causing it. But the benefits could be gained by all. When we are in the process of going through hard times, it’s difficult to see the benefits to be gained. We can see our struggles. We can see pain. We can easily drown in doubt and despair. But that can’t be the end of our story. And for that to not be the end, we have to make a choice.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…

Romans 5:1-4 (ESV)

Those who fought in World War Two are often referred to as America’s greatest generation. That generation was forged out of – you guessed it – the Great Depression. Those men who fought on the front lines, and those women who worked as nurses and factory workers, grew up in the fires of the Great Depression. They knew what it was like to fight. In a time when unemployment spiked over 20 percent, a nation had to come together and had to persevere, or it would crumble. That generation took the lessons learned in fighting poverty, and applied it to fighting for freedom from Nazi and Japanese aggression. A people who grew up with nothing, knew how fragile it all was. A people who had to persevere are a people who value God’s goodness. A people who have suffered loss, know what humility is all about. A people who have had to struggle, know what it is to lean on God, and on God’s people. You can’t place a value on those lessons.

In another unit, I teach about how steel revolutionized America and Europe, paving the way for a major industrial boom. That became possible because William Kelley and Henry Bessemer developed a new process of making steel. In simple terms, you take the iron ore, melt it down with intense heat, and inject high pressure air into that molten metal. The combination of the heat, air, and pressure burn of the impurities. The end result is a much much stronger metal. Without purifying the ore like this, it would not be possible to build the expanded railroad system, skyscrapers, or the massive bridge networks that linked cities.

The trials of life are hard, no doubt about it. But trials are also helpful in making us more useful in life. Those who know what it is to struggled in life are the best equipped to help others who struggle. I’ve had a spouse commit adultery which led to a rough and hurtful divorce. I’ve lost my father, grandfather, and grandmother, all whom I was extremely close to. I’ve suffered physical challenges that caused me to give up something I love. I’ve held my children as they battled through illnesses. I’ve been broke. I’ve been turned against by those I care about. I’ve battled depression and addiction. I am no stranger to trials, and I’m guessing, neither are you. You have your own story of hurt, disappointment, betrayal, and loss. That is your fire. And it’s meant to make you stronger. Your fires give you a voice into the lives of those who are hurting. Your fires draw you closer to the God who made you. Your fires can make you burn brighter as the light of the world that you were created to be in Christ.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

2 Corinthians 4:6-11 (ESV)

I hope that you find encouragement in your time of need. Know that there is purpose in pain, and hope in your hurt. Don’t keep your story to yourself, whether your in the fires now, or you’ve come out on the other end. Your story is important. Feel free to share them here if you’d like. Your struggles are important. Don’t give up but take heart. God has not abandoned you, and never will.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Haircuts for the homeless

I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.

-Gandalf (J.R.R. Tolkien) from “The Hobbit”

heart-in-hands1-300x212Brennon Jones is a 29 year old, ordinary folk, doing his part to show love to those who rarely experience it. He is a former barber who spends a lot of his free time driving around neighborhoods known for high number of homeless people. He goes with personal mobile salon, his arsenal of love, that consists of merely a tray and hair cutting clippers.

It’s not complicated. Jones strikes up a conversation, gets to know them a bit, then offers them a free haircut. Jones is not wealthy. He can’t give everyone he sees a home, clothes, or money. But he has a talent. He has a heart of compassion. That combination is all we need to make a difference in anyone’s life.

The Lord is rewarding Mr. Jones for his service to others. Sean Johnson, a barber and business owner in Philadelphia, has given Jones his very own barber shop. That’s right; just gave it to him! Wow! For the full article check out Today.com.

How are you gifted? Do be falsely modest and say that you have no gifting. God has made each and everyone of us unique, with passions, and talents.

What resources do you have? Hey, I’m a high school teacher, so I understand being limited financially. But that’s not the point. No matter how little or how great our resources, we all have something we can share with those in need.

What time do can you spare? If we think about all the time spent on our phones, watching TV or movies, or playing around with our hobbies, we can all spare some time to be with those who have no one.

Look around your community, your school, your place of work, your church…anywhere…everywhere. People are going down all around us. People are people. No one deserves to be ignored or overlooked.

For who makes you different? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it…

1 Corinthians 4:7a (ESV)

We are all one step away from being in a desperate situation. We’ve all needed the help of others. No one has made it to where they are on their own. Behind it all is a good and gracious God who intends us to be good and gracious to others.

Generosity that costs nothing, can be absolutely priceless.

Check out this video and try not to cry.

Weeds and Roses

4bf7993cef7e6e71ba48e654c4c39b45--beautiful-red-roses-red-rose-loveWilliam Jennings Bryan, a former presidential candidate and outspoken progressive, once compared American society to a garden. Here’s a quote from one of his speeches:

In a garden, you don’t let the weeds triumph over the roses simply because the weeds are stronger. You protect the roses from the weeds. And if you want a society where you have good people, kindness, charity, and equality, you have to do some weeding.

The late 1800’s and early twentieth century in America saw many movements to reconcile a rather lengthy list of wrongs. Social inequality, in all of its various forms, was chief among them. That’s something I believe many of us can relate to, or at least recognize as visible in some ways in the 21st century. So his quote can be every bit as relevant in our day, as well as any other period in human history. So it begs the question, who are the roses and who are the weeds?

Roses are absolutely beautiful. I know that may be weird for a man to say, but I love flowers and roses are high up on my list. The rose has long been a symbol for love and friendship in many cultures, including our own here in America. A rose speaks of something of value and worth. To label something, or someone, a rose means that they are precious in your sight. Weeds…even saying the word creates a bit of anger and frustration in the hearts of anyone who has a yard to tend. Weeds are a classic reminder of the fall of mankind. I’m fully convinced that weeds did not exist in the garden before original sin entered the world. They are relentless, powerful, hard to kill, and they will choke the life out of every living plant in your yard if you let it.

So, with this less than eloquent description I lay before you, who do you think the weeds and roses are in the society you live in? Those that Bryan sought to endear our hearts to are not whom many would expect. They were the downtrodden, the outcasts, the homeless, the immigrant, the orphans and widows. Jesus would describe them as ‘the least of these’.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV) [my emphasis]

God loves everyone, that’s fact. Yes, even those you don’t like. God still loves them. God loves the superstar and the homeless man alike. God doesn’t show partiality with His love. For that, I am extremely grateful. For there were moments in my life when only He could love me. But tendered to God’s heart are all those who are helpless, hurting, lost, broken, and blemished. Societies have a funny way of determining the value of a person, and it’s not at all the way God does. Money means nothing to Him. Fame is futile in God’s kingdom. Who really cares what we drive or what the square footage of our home is? Do we think any of that lasts or has any eternal value? Zero. God’s eyes are fixed on His people. He sees the homeless man at that stop light that we pretend not to see. He sees all the abandoned or neglected children. He sees the abused wife and emasculated husband. He sees the exploited and abandoned. And to Him, they are roses. They are beautiful. they have unlimited value and worth. And so do those who take care of them.

Unfortunately, those weeds that are choking the life out of them are the one’s that popular culture loves to elevate. Lets not be guilty of that ourselves. Look into the eyes of the innocent child, the dust covered face of that man on the street, the newly arrived alien who does not speak your language, and know that they are roses in our garden. Life began with God, and all life has immense value to Him. It should be the same for each of us. All people need to know their worth, and we have an important role to play in that.

Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. Selah

jerusalem-old-city-view

The title of this post comes from Psalm 87:3 (NASB). It serves as a reminder of the importance of Jerusalem, then and now. A city that has been fought over for centuries yet who’s name means the City of Peace. It was a city created to honor and worship God. Not just any god. The God of the Bible. The only real God. And yet, the world believes it has dominion over this great city.

I am relieved that I live in a nation, for the time being, that is not following the antisemitic path that many nations are on around the world. At least I can say that under our current leadership. The eight years before…not so much.  I understand that there are many antisemitic people in the United States. But at least for now, we are restrengthening our ties with one of the freest and most democratic nations in the world. There are many things I don’t care for with our current Executive, but I am elated with his overwhelming support of perhaps our greatest ally.

The UN voted recently to reject America’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. On the positive side, 44 nations did not side with the UN’s resolution. On another positive side, UN resolutions mean little to nothing in most cases. It does however, reveal the anti-Israeli stance of many nations around the world. But that is no shocker.

While people are clamoring  over the decision by President Trump to recognize Israel’s capital as…well…Israel’s capital, there are many prominent voices speaking out in praise. I read several of these in an article today that I’d like to share with you because they brought me some encouragement.

– Douglas Feith, President George W. Bush’s undersecretary of defense: Writing in Foreign Policy, he said, “U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem might contribute to peace.” It teaches Palestinians, he wrote, “[t]here is a price to be paid for perpetuating the conflict: Life goes on, the Israelis create new realities, and the world in general adjusts to those new realities.”

– Amos Yadlin, head of the centrist Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, tweeted, “Trump was not intimidated by the threats from Ramallah, Amman, or Ankara,” referring to the Palestinian, Jordanian and Turkish capitals, respectively. “The refusal to bow to the threats or blackmail, together with the message that the Palestinians do not have veto power, [is] a very important precedent for the future of the peace process.”

– Shoshanna Bryen, senior director of the Jewish Policy Center, wrote in The Daily Caller, “The intention is to disabuse the Palestinians of the notion that the U.S. is neutral between them and our democratic, pro-Western, tolerant, free-market ally Israel. American support for Palestinian’s aspirations is not withdrawn, but hinges on Palestinian behavior.”

jvmi

In the face of this landmark, and long overdue decision, the Palestinians and some of the surrounding Arab nations are showing their true colors by speaking out in outrage. To make matters worse, Hamas (An Islamist political organization and terrorist militant group that has waged war on Israel since the group’s 1987 founding, most notably through suicide bombings and rocket attacks) has renewed its outward violence.

Despite what some say, this declaration did not bring violence and upheaval to the region. That was already there. Not because of Israel, but because of those who are precipitating it now. What the declaration did do, was to force the world to face up to reality. Israel is not going anywhere. Jerusalem belongs to Israel, not the UN. Unfortunately, this is a reality that not everyone can accept. Fortunately, God is in control of Israel, not the United Nations.

A vote against Israel is a vote in support of the radical agendas that seek to destroy her. Does Israel do everything right? Not at all. But they are light-years ahead of those who surround them. Please spread the word of peace. Side with democracy and freedom. Speak up for our ally. No matter how you feel about our President, join in this courageous move for truth. Make your voice heard because the same anti-Israeli sentiments that predicated the last 8 years, and have plagued other periods of our nation’s history, could easily rise again. Remember God’s promise that those who stand with Israel will be blessed. As for those who do not…I think you know the rest.

I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt…

Genesis 12:3 (HCSB)

As the debate is sure to rage on and on, lets not forget Who this city really belongs to and who He gave it to. The UN didn’t create Israel in 1947, they simply gave land back that was already theirs. Regardless of what bickering and protests continue to swell, this Jerusalem is only temporary, as is the rest of the world. What I can’t wait for is the new Jerusalem, adorned in glory. There, the nations of the world will be united, not under the banner of a UN, but in the presence of our God.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV)

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters

Dear Church, Stop Giving Your Crap to the Poor 

John McDermott is a Formerly Homeless Man Who Now Has Housing

Re-posted from faithit.com

I was getting ready to leave for a trip to Kenya a couple of years ago, when a church emailed and asked if Mercy House had any specific needs. I quickly responded and told them I wanted to give Maureen, our Kenyan Director, an iPhone, so we could communicate during (almost weekly) power outages. I told them if they would buy one instead, we could use the money for other needed items.

On the church’s Facebook feed a few days later, I saw an appeal that said something like, “We want to support a ministry with a used iPhone. If you have an old one you can donate, please let us know.”

 I was given an older iPhone a week later. On the ground in Kenya, I realized it wouldn’t hold a charge for more than 10 minutes. The phone was junk.

So, when I left Kenya, I gave Maureen my used one that worked.

The church contacted me after the trip and asked how Maureen liked her new phone? I told them it was useless and said, “Don’t worry about it. I gave her mine.”

“Oh, we feel badly, please let us replace your phone! We want to buy you a brand new one, an upgrade. You deserve it,” I told them I used my husband’s upgrade and already had a replacement phone. “OK. Instead we would like to write you a $500 check for the inconvenience.”

Give it to Maureen, I said.

And they did.

While the church tried to make it right, I was bothered by the fact they were more than willing to buy me a new phone I didn’t need. I have noticed this mentality permeates the church as a whole: The poor will be happy with our leftovers. They don’t know any better. They live in Africa or Honduras, they don’t need the latest technology or the best brands like we do. They will appreciate anything we give because something is more than nothing.

Why do we give others—often those in service to the poor or the poor themselves—something we wouldn’t keep or give ourselves?

Somehow collecting clothes for immigrants has become the perfect opportunity to get rid of stuff we don’t want and gathering baby items for new moms is the perfect excuse to toss out stained and worn clothing we wouldn’t dare use again. I’ve packed suitcases with beautiful donations, but mostly I’ve pilfered through piles of junk donated in the name of Jesus.

It’s time to stop giving our crap to the poor.

There’s nothing wrong with used or second-hand. It’s often my first and favorite choice. Many organizations and ministries depend on used gifts. But if we give used, it should be our best. I’m not saying when we clean out older clothes or toys or things we don’t use any longer and donate them—that this is wrong. I am saying if we give it away, it should be something we would use ourselves.

The poor may not have wealth, but they have dignity. I’ve met people without electricity or running water who swept their dirt floors daily, pressed their clothes neatly, walked miles to work on muddy roads, dodging sewage, and never had a speck of dirt on them. They value their own worth, we should too.

I’ll never forget meeting a woman in Africa who supported her large family by reselling used clothes from America. But when she held up clothes to show me what was for sale—clothes Americans had donated in clothing drives—they were tattered and stained. I was embarrassed.

Her best depended on our worst.

Just because our donation feels like we are helping, in reality, we could be hurting. Bales of used clothes are sold to African countries for resell and they end up flooding the market and often put local textile businesses and seamstresses out of business.

It’s time to think about not only what we give and how we give it, but also why we give it. Just because it makes us feel better (and cleans out our garage at the same time) doesn’t mean it’s the best for those in need. Perhaps we should look a little deeper into our hearts and wallets when we can say, I don’t have money to give to the poor, but I have a lot of stuff. Maybe we need to buy less stuff, so we have more to give?

“We’re not giving what we’re called to give, unless that giving affects how we live—affects what we put on our plate and where we make our home and hang our hat and what kind of threads we’ve got to have on our back. Surplus Giving is the leftover you can afford to give; Sacrificial Giving is the love gift that changes how you live—because the love of Christ has changed you. God doesn’t want your leftovers. God wants your love overtures, your first-overs, because He is your first love.” Ann Voskamp

There have been times over the years I’ve gasped and grinned at the beautiful items I’ve sorted and packed  for the impoverished. When we give our best, we are living our best. We are saying with our donation, you are valuable. We are whispering with our gift, you are worthy of the best. We have the opportunity to speak self worth when we give generously.

It’s a promise for them.

It’s a promise for us.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

Proverbs 19:17

The next time we have the opportunity to share what we have with someone who is in need, let’s give from the pile we want to keep, not from the one we want to throw out.

by: Kristen Welch