Tag: Giving

Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”
Mark 12:41-44 Message

I am sitting in the back of the room scanning the men in front of me. There’s a former teacher, an electrician, a business owner, panhandler, a day laborer. George was a jockey and Ken was a lawyer. The young ones were caught up in drugs before they knew who they were or what they could do. Jobs came and went faster than seasons change.

Their resumes are sketchy. There are gaps and blanks where there shouldn’t be and, for some, too many words to answer the questions about criminal background.

Regardless of degrees, titles, or resumes, today they are broken. They are empty. They are former construction workers and former office managers. They have nothing but what is listed on their property list.

But they are not without wealth.

The collection plate is passed each Sunday in our chapel. From the assortment of residents and graduates who return to worship with us more than $100 will be collected. The money will be sent to help support a children’s home in Haiti. Their small coins will become the bread and fish Jesus enlarged to feed the crowd.

It’s the broken who rush to help the wounded.

It’s the forgotten who take in the abandoned.

It’s why we have two dogs and a cat as residents. It’s why when one of the dogs got an injury requiring a $3000 surgery they wanted to give.

And they did. The amount collected doesn’t come close to paying for the surgery but their example shames my small offerings.

Like the story of the woman giving her small coins, they aren’t giving from their surplus. They are giving from their heart.

I’ve seen them sneak food to one sleeping on the sidewalk. The ones with cars take others to meetings or to Walmart. They encourage each other with their words.

They believe in second chances because they’re on their third, or fourth.

Gratitude isn’t always saying thanks. It’s about giving from all you have.

“…she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”

 

Linking up with Holley Gerth for a little coffee for your heart.

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faith hope recovery Salvation Army

I can count on one hand the number of times we saw grandma Durham. I remember visiting her and grandpa in California when I was 5 or 6. We drove from Louisiana or Arkansas, wherever we were living at the time, in a station wagon that I think we slept in at least one night.

My memory focuses on the cots spread out in the field behind their house, across the levee under nothing but the California sky. The cots were available to men. The times were different and so was the language. They weren’t homeless in those days even if they had no address to call home. Here in an open stretch of space they had a place to sleep and a bowl of beans served up by grandma. I think the only payment in return was chores around the property or grandpa’s used furniture store.

Years later they moved north to Washington state and this time it was a big house where they rented rooms to migrant workers. Rooms filled in the summer and empty come winter when the work moved south back to California. The men paid what they could, often bringing heaping bowls of cherries or other fruit they picked in the orchards.

 

This is who they were. People with little, but feeling they had enough and giving from their enough to others.

Mama told me about the man she bought stockings for. He came to church but didn’t quite fit in. A man’s body, women’s clothes and he needed stockings. Grandma bought them. He was in need. That’s all that ever mattered to her. If she could help, she would. She did.

Years after grandma had gone to be with Jesus, mama sat in our house in Memphis. She called home to check on things in her absence and I heard her voice tighten. I saw her eyes redden.

What happened mama? Someone died. Who? I don’t remember you mentioning that name. He was a drunkard. He was my friend.

A legacy, handed down from her mama, from grandma. The focus not on herself as God’s grace swept through her heart.

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.” Matthew 6:6 the Message

Maybe this is why I’m comfortable sitting in a roomful of addicts and alcoholics. Maybe this is why I’m fit for this work of victory and defeat, of relapse and recovery. The focus on self is removed as God shows his grace to me through these men. He shows me how desperately I’m in need of his mercy.

This is in our blood, my DNA that at its core has a cross.

faith family grace

“Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Philippians 4 The Message

It was a bonus Sunday. The year when Advent isn’t on the heels of Thanksgiving weekend and the two holidays don’t collide. Our bellies were still full from feasting on plenty but the advertising telling us “but wait, there’s more!” It’s a battle, that knowing of having it all and the wanting of more.

I need to speak the words and see them. Holding them in my mind isn’t enough if I am to live them. I need to name the thanks and share that with others. How can we receive if we’ve not thanked?

Borrowing something my cousin did last year at our family Thanksgiving we wrote our thanks and put them on display. Yes, we did. Right there in the open the words hang like ornaments adorning a dead branch. A branch clothed with gratitude.

It was an awesome sight. From their little they gave. Not just words but money to help with construction projects on the Bethany Children’s home in Haiti. These men wearing suits given to them, clothes once worn on another, these men gave. From little, God will multiply to much. In Haiti and in our lives.

 

 

 

faith hope Salvation Army

The cancer was taking its toll the doctor told him. He would have to stop work, his part-time job as an addictions counselor. The job he loved with his being. The job where he felt better when he was among these men whose addiction he understood. But the cancer, it wasn’t good. He needed to slow down.

But he is here this Sunday. Every Sunday. This Presbyterian who has found his home among a group of addicts, fellowship of the broken is where he feels home. A part of. So he joins us Sunday’s. He walks in looking for the new men and hands out canteen cards. He sits in the front row. Right down in full view of the pulpit. He’s already asked Henry to speak at his memorial. Those words are hard to write.

I hear the men greet Geoff. I hear them telling him he looks good, they’re glad to see him. He exchanges quips with him. His nature, always a joke, deflection.

Geoff with his "boys" at our Halloween festival

We miss Geoff. It’s hard for us to accept what his doctor has said. Hard to accept because it didn’t show. It hasn’t darkened Geoff’s smiles or hampered his humor or verbosity. (a word Geoff would use rather than the simple 😉 We would sometimes see the effects of chemo by his reddened skin. But his spirit? No, not effected. Not here. Not around the men he loved.

It’s the time for sharing in the Sunday service. Many have stood to tell of change in their life. Geoff stands and finds simple words to share as he talks about the gift of everyday. He is thankful for the gift of each day. The everyday. Those things I take for granted like fixing my breakfast and driving. I think nothing of doing these things for myself. But am reminded by one whose days are more measured that these things are gifts.

Yes, gifts and we are blessed people. I am blessed to know Geoff. To know a man in his 60’s that can still appreciate junior high humor on occasion, and has a passion for helping others. He loves his wife and their “boys” toy poodles Caleb and Jacob. Geoff loves life. Enthusiastically, vigorously loves life. A life he will lose on earth but gain in heaven. Thank you God for Geoff, and the gift he gives us. The gift of the every day.

recovery Salvation Army

Christmas day fell on a Sunday in 1994. It was our first appointment as Salvation Army officers, pastors with charge of the local church in Jacksonville, FL. The Christmas program had served thousands in the community. It was done. All was calm, all was bright.

It was shortly before the start of church service on that Christmas morning, an unfamiliar woman walked through the doors carrying a nicely wrapped present. As I greeted her, she held out the box, brightly smiling as she said, “Here’s the gift for my angel.” My mind raced with less than kind thoughts but the words that came out, were “Thank you.”

I knew her “angel” would not be receiving this particular gift. I also knew, the child’s name she had chosen and shopped for did not go without. That doesn’t happen.

After service was over I told Henry about the incident. I told him apparently people do believe in Santa Claus and it’s The Salvation Army.

Yes, I was miffed at this woman. I have no idea what she was thinking about the whole thing. I mean, really? Did she think we went around home to home to the thousands of families in that community that received toys for their children from The Salvation Army that year? Maybe she did. What she did believe was we, this civilian Army, would take care of this child. In that, she was right.

Things happen and some gifts for the names on the Angel Tree don’t get returned at all. Other gifts come in after the distribution has taken place. In preparation for those things, The Salvation Army buys a surplus of toys to fill those empty bags. Throughout the season some people will donate new toys for no particular children and these are also used. I always offered a prayer God would make sure it all worked out. I believe he did.

Now our focus is turned to providing Christmas to adults. There’s not a lot of difference. They need to know they’re cared for. They need to be fed with warmth and truth and joy. We’ll give them tangible gifts that will include a package of new boxers (a big hit!), a gift card for Walgreen (it’s close to the Center) and a Recovery Devotional and Journal. They’ll get a stocking filled with treats and a festive party that will be catered so even the kitchen will get the night off. Alumni will come to serve the meal. We’ll play silly holiday games and laugh at each other. We’ll create new memories of Christmas. Joyful memories. Hopeful memories.

All is calm. All is bright.

Salvation Army

Have you seen the Angel Trees? It’s not as universal a program as the red kettle is but it’s the program I coördinated and loved. In our appointments we worked it like this: families came in to register for needed assistance. We usually did this in October. (Christmas consumes a LOT of the Salvation Army’s time) Most local units have criteria that must be met, most often using the poverty guidelines. In larger communities, some units work as a clearing house for other social services.

Children age 12 and under would have their names placed on an Angel Tree. The tags hanging from the tree will have the first name only (we always used the real first name), clothing sizes and gift suggestion. Some will list a “dream gift”. This is also decided by the local Salvation Army unit.

Angels trees are most often in shopping malls but some businesses will sponsor them and their employees will adopt the angels. We had one company that did that every year. The Vice President assured us every angel would have a gift. They took 200 names and every child had at least one gift from the company’s employees.

My mother-in-law never cared much for this program as it’s inequitable. Some shopper’s get everything for the child: clothing and several toys. Some shopper’s get one thing. This bothered my mother-in-law. We could never make things exactly equal but we did what we could to add to a child who may have only received a basketball or Barbie doll.

As mama would remind me, we were merely auxiliary help for the families. That was good to remember but for a few families the Salvation Army is all they will have.

Toy warehouse for set up and distribution

These gifts are matched up with the families and put in family bags. It’s quite an undertaking but I enjoyed it so much. Days are set up for distribution and order is key for the day. I’ve heard horror stories about fights breaking out, police having to be called, because no order had been put in place for the distribution.

Here’s the reward for me: I will never forget the woman who sat in front of me registering for help. She had one child, a little girl. I asked her the pertinent information and then started asking her daughter’s sizes and what toy she would like. The woman looked at me with a questioning face. She sat silent until I asked again. “What toy would she like for Christmas? A Barbie?”, I said trying to prompt her. She still looked stunned and replied, “A jump rope would be nice.” I wanted to reach in my pocket and give the woman $2.00 for a jump rope. A jump rope? Really? Your daughter just wants a jump rope? I had heard too many times the request for video games, video game systems and even computers and this woman is asking for a jump rope. It still humbles my heart to think of her simple request.

That’s why we do this. Because there are a lot of little girls out there needing jump ropes and Connect Four games, and baby dolls. Trucks and basketballs for little boys. Skateboards and music c.d.’s.

Yes, some will take advantage of the system. Most years I would have to explain to a volunteer why we have to look past the fancy acrylic nails and nice cars some of the recipients drove. Actually, I don’t have an explanation for that. We are only responsible for our part and ours is to share in good faith. The rest is up to someone else.

Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth.

Ye, who sang creation’s story now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ the newborn King!

Salvation Army