Lent- Grateful

Gratitude is so important to a life of faith. We should, of course, be grateful to God, and this kind of gratitude inspires generosity. But we also should be grateful to the people around us!

Taking people for granted. It’s an easy trap to fall into, even if we think we’re genuinely decent people. Gratitude takes effort. It takes remembering. It takes serious, considered, wonder-centred thankfulness.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

 

Someone scared me once by asking, ‘What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?’ For a while this panicked me into praying a ‘thank you’ for everything I could possibly think of, but I was saying thank you for the sake of it, not because I truly meant it.

God tells us to be thankful for everything: ‘…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Gratitude isn’t just for when things are easy; sometimes it is hard to be thankful for anything at all, and this is when we need to stop and remember that God is with us in all circumstances. Life, and every good thing in it, is a gift from God – we have a lot to be thankful for.

However, we have to mean it when we thank someone. A casual ‘thanks’ is often a throwaway comment, something we say without thinking. But a genuine thank you has power; it adds value to an action, reflects kindness and even lifts our mood. If you are thanked you feel appreciated, just as if you thank someone else you are reminded of good things in your life. Saying thank you inspires and prompts generosity; the more someone thanks you the more you want to help them out. The more you thank God for the good in your life the more you want to praise him.

 

Imagine if by simply thanking someone you encouraged them to do something nice for someone else. The ripple effect of two straightforward, yet powerful, words has the potential to go a long way and make a lot of difference.

Today’s blog was written by Emily Owen. Find out more about her here.

Here are some options for how to respond to this Reflection. Green is for the simplest Act, Yellow takes a bit more effort and Red encourages you to branch out more.

GREEN:

Write down a number of people from your past who’ve supported and helped you. Commit to contacting each, to tell them ‘thank you’. P.S. Not all in one day!

YELLOW:

Write a letter thanking someone. This might not be the easiest thing for a lot of us. If you’re not prone to cracking out the fountain pen and writing paper, you can write a well-composed Facebook message – and sometimes, a few well-chosen words can mean more than a page of prose.

RED:

How about thanking someone who doesn’t usually get thanked in person: your bus driver, the local postman, the colleague who always puts on a fresh pot of coffee or empties the dishwasher. Appreciating these people will add a whole ton of value to their day, and being thankful is a great way to begin your week.

Lent- Date

As a church family, it is good for us to consider ways we can strengthen our relationships!

Lots of us – especially as we grow into adulthood – struggle making acquaintances into friendships. Building relationships takes time and effort. Today, put aside your busyness and agendas, and make the effort to cultivate an acquaintance.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”

Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

Have you heard the story of the professor lecturing on time management?

Letting actions speak louder than words, he fills a large glass container with several fist-sized pebbles and asks the room if it is full. “Yes” comes the reply. So he takes handfuls of smaller pebbles and shakes them in to the container. Still not full. A bag of sand follows. Surely full now. Finally, a jar of water is poured in and nothing more can be added. Point made.

The moral of the story? The big important things need to go into our life ahead of the small and trivial or it won’t all fit.

As Kevin De Young unpacks in his great little book ‘Crazy Busy’ many of us have “a pervasive sense of being unrelentingly filled up and stressed out”. Modern life can often be hectic and our busyness can sideline relationships before they’ve had the chance to begin. Without time, acquaintances will never become friends and the big things are lost.

My parents were experts at making time to build new relationships. As I child I remember them inviting people back for lunch every Sunday after church. Anyone new would get an invite.  Those on their own had a place at our table.

Building strong relationships needs thought too. It requires effort and energy to make space in our schedules and to be imaginatively creating places and doing things where they can flourish and grow.

Those Sunday lunches remain an abiding memory and have a huge impact on how Claire (my wife) and I view our home today. It isn’t a museum or playroom for our children but a resource God has loaned us for His purposes. Whether that’s hosting bonfire nights for our church family or inviting friends and their kids over to camp out for the night, we’ve discovered great joy in making what we have available to others in return for special memories that grow into lifelong friendships.

We haven’t always got it right and sometimes get the mix of people wrong but, hey, God knows who’s going to be there and why!

What are the big stones you need to be giving attention to today?

Today’s blog was written by Mark Heasman from Ormiston Families. Find out more about him here.

Here are some great ways to respond to this Reflection! Green is for something simple, Yellow takes more thought, and Red requires more effort!

GREEN:

Bring something nice in for whoever you’re with today – whether that’s in the office, gym, college, or school run. If you’re not going out, make a plan so that you’re ready for the next time you do.

YELLOW:

Invite a slight acquaintance for coffee/to watch the match at your local/for a walk – whatever works for them. Don’t leave it vague – make a date.

RED:

Make a date with the neighbours. Make it worth their time coming over. Don’t scrimp on effort – give your best.

Lent- Boost

We tend to notice faults before virtues, we tend to notice the one thing wrong rather than the list of things right, we tend to bring up complaints before compliments. Today’s Reflection and Acts encourages us to flip that around!

Most people don’t have a clue about their value. It’s true across the spectrum: culture tells men and women they’re only valuable if they look a certain way, upbringings leave people insecure, job prospects have many feeling down about their worth. These people are in your circles, too. How much longer can they go on not knowing their worth? It’s time to give them a boost.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

 

There are many great places to live in the world but to me there is no place quite like London. I love the pace, the diversity and the history. London continues to expand and because of that there are construction sites everywhere.

Now, I am no expert in the field of building but I have noticed two types of machines on building sites. Cranes, which lift things up, and bulldozers, which knock things down. If we relate this to the verse above, I believe Paul is saying our talk should be like a crane rather than a bulldozer. We should lift people up rather than knock them down, be constructive rather than destructive, be positive rather negative, so that we may give strength and grace to the people who hear us.

One thing I have come to realise is that regardless of age everyone deals with the issue of fear.

Over the last few years I have personally received courage through receiving encouragement from others. We all have the ability to give someone courage by encouraging them. Every encouraging thought we have about someone but fail to pass on actually deprives them of that blessing, strength and courage.

Let’s be fearless today and every time we think an encouraging thought; let’s share it in order to build that person up the way Jesus would. Let’s meet them, tell them, call them, text them, email them, Whatsapp them or comment on their social media. Whatever it takes, let’s be counter-cultural; let’s pass strength and courage on because, today, we are shaping the way the world sees the church – let others see us as those who build people up, rather than tearing them down.

Today’s blog was written by Dan Blythe from Hillsong. Find out more about him here.

Here are some great ways to respond to this Reflection: Green for a simpler Act, Yellow for one that takes a bit more effort, and Red for more of a challenge!

GREEN:

Talk about them behind their back. This one can be done really simply and still have a huge impact. Tweet at them telling them something they’ve done that meant something to you, spotlight them in an Instagram post, or casually mention in conversation at work how brilliant another member of staff is. Easy but profound.

YELLOW:

Put a word in. Maybe they’d be perfect for an upcoming position at work or in church. Maybe they’ve achieved something recently that deserves to be publicly talked up. If you can think of even the smallest reason why bragging about this person could lead to greater things, then don’t hold back.

RED:

It’s easy to spot ten ways your best mate is brilliant, but what about people you find difficult? What’s great about them? It’s easy to dig out the worst, but search for the gold. We guarantee you can find something. Take time to really consider them, and then be as brave and bold as possible, and let them (and those around them) know.

Lent- Refuge

With refugees crossing the Manitoba border from the, the issue of refugees is very relevant.

It’s not exaggerating to say the world today is a divided, polarised place. Attitudes to the ‘other’ and, frankly, anything outside of our own culture, have shifted positions of fear into the mainstream. Now is the time to counter fear with generosity and ask the question – who is our neighbour?

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me…”

Matthew 25:35–36 (NIV)

 

The Bible teaches us much about God’s heart for the poor and the ‘sojourner’ – the stranger living amongst us. Jesus himself spent time as an asylum seeker in Egypt where his parents fled from Herod’s genocide. There is a whole book in the Bible that tells the story of Ruth the Moabite ‘refugee’ who married Boaz. Have you ever wondered why Matthew lists Ruth and four other women in his genealogy of Jesus? Because quite simply the good news – the gospel – is for everyone whatever their background or past.

God calls us to love Him and to love our neighbour; these are the two most important commandments (Luke 10:27 and Matthew 22:37-39). Acts 1 tells us that we are to receive the Holy Spirit and then to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the world.

This was made very real for us at Jubilee Church Teesside when in 2000 we began to have visitors who were asylum seekers from the ends of the world. What was then a predominantly white British church was about to change. New friendships were spawned and the eyes of the church were opened to ways of responding to the many difficulties faced by the much wider refugee community living locally but made up of people from different faith backgrounds who had fled persecution and conflict and sought sanctuary in the UK. With the aim of showing the love of God to everyone seeking refuge, members of Jubilee Church got to work – a move that eventually led to the formation of Open Door North East.

One particular story really sums it all up. Kamilia (name changed) was a Muslim lady abused and rejected by her husband and then abandoned in the UK. She was sleeping in a shop storeroom when we first met her.

When she eventually got her refugee status she came to say thank you and these are the words she said to us without realising that she was quoting the very words of Jesus:

‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me.’

Today’s blog was written by Paul Catterall from Open Door North East. Find out more about him here.

GREEN:

Sometimes the most generous thing we can do is educate ourselves on the issues. Take time today to look into which newspapers spread fear about refugees, then write to the companies who advertise in them (major supermarkets are a good place to start), asking them to remove their funding from the papers. You could also do your own research into migrant groups in your area.

Note from Kristin: Not all asylum seekers are Muslim, and vice versa, but today there is a lot of misinformation being spread about both Muslims and refugees, and especially Muslim refugees. This week, on Thursday, March 30 at 7pm at ArtsForward (The Viscount Cultural Centre) Neepawa and Area Ministerial is hosting a speaker from the Brandon Islamic Centre to come and explain a little about his faith and culture and answer questions. It’s a good opportunity for us to learn something new and perhaps recognize that we have much in common, even with people who seem different.

YELLOW:

Make a practical difference today for those seeking refuge. Men, this is your time for a clear-out (groups supporting refugees often report low numbers of good quality men’s clothes). Or regularly donate tinned and dried food to those helping destitute asylum seekers or check out Welcome Boxes, a group who make arriving in a foreign land a little bit easier for refugees.

Note from Kristin: Welcome Place in Winnipeg is the place to support if you want to help the people who continue to cross into Canada at the Emerson border crossing.

RED:

Can you play a bigger role in reaching out and caring for asylum seekers and refugees who are far away from home?  You might be just the person to set up a new Welcome Box project in your town, or offer help to Home for Good’s work with refugee children, or support one of the many excellent The No Accommodation Network (NACCOM) member projects providing hosting and homes for asylum seekers left destitute and with no recourse to public funding in the UK.

Lent- React

Today’s Reflection is a consideration of how we are called to react to acts of violence in our world, like the terrorist attack that occurred yesterday in London.

Today is not beginning as any of us planned or hoped as we hit the midway point of Lent and 40acts. Yesterday, innocent lives were lost during a senseless attack in the heart of our capital. In these moments of terror and uncertainty we must never forget that we can control one important thing, how we react. Today we’re calling on you, the 40acts community, to double down on generosity and love for others.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

Yesterday started just like any other day.

It ended with an attack on innocent people and the home of our democracy.

The hours after followed a pattern with which we are all too familiar: shock, disbelief and fear followed by mourning, a deep sense of loss and resigning oneself to face tomorrow with courage and determination.

During my journey home on the tube I struggled for answers and for words.  And then I remembered the comment, widely reported at the time, uttered by an Amish man whose granddaughter had just been murdered while at school by a man intent on horrific acts of violence.

“We must not think evil of this man.”

Another member of the man’s Amish community had continued, “He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he’s standing before a just God.”

These men were living through an attack on their children, their community and their quiet and peaceful lives.

Hours after the horrific shooting that had left 6 people dead (including the gunman), members of this Amish community were comforting the widow of the man who had killed their loved ones.  It was reported that one Amish man held the father of the gunman in his arms for perhaps an hour while comforting him in his grief.

What motivated these people to such extraordinary acts of forgiveness, sacrifice and love?

The good news of Jesus Christ. It changes everything.

We’re halfway through Lent and 40acts.  As a community inspired by the single greatest act of generosity the world has even witnessed – the cross – we seek to live lives of radical generosity to our neighbours. All of them.

Before Jesus died on the cross He asked the Father to forgive those who persecuted Him.  He sacrificed His own life as atonement for our sins.

With this in mind, we must not think evil of this man. Nor must we allow fear to creep into our communities as a result.

We, who have received forgiveness, must be generous with our forgiveness for others.

We must rise above the temptation to hate, to marginalise, to alienate.

We must treat our neighbours as ourselves.

We must forgive.

We must love

Today’s blog was written by Michael O’Neill from Stewardship. Find out more about him here.

Today there are no “options” to Act, just a call to radical, generous love.

Wherever you are today, the most generous thing we can do is share the hope that is within us with those around us. How can you extend hope on a day like today to your colleagues, neighbours and friends?

A smile at the stranger on the bus, holding open doors, putting others first. Treating stressed out colleagues to lunch, a message of support to the emergency services or your local MP. Gathering together to pray for our communities.

Love and compassion today will take many forms.

Let us not grow weary of doing good.

Note from Kristin: This afternoon Neepawa United Church hosted a funeral, where many people shared hope and love- through music, through words, through food, through helping things run smoothly, through comfort offered, through donations made in someone’s name. It fills my heart with joy to see how our wider community takes care of one another in a time of grief. May you continue to generously share love in whatever way you can.

Lent- On Time

This is an interesting post about being on time. It’s a good reminder that we should think about the effect of our actions on others, and how not making others wait for us is a way of being generous. But I also think there are hints of being generous to ourselves, when we allow ourselves a few minutes here and there.

What does being on time have to do with generosity? A whole heap more than you’d think. Keeping others waiting starts with a belief – however buried – that our time is worth more than theirs. We can become expert in finding reasons why our lateness is justified but do we consider the impact it has? Time to consider the generosity of punctuality. Challenging a lifestyle of lateness is a simple way to start being generous in unexpected ways. Rally yourself up to the task of being on time.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…”
(Matthew 7:12 NIV)

 

When I was younger, I was a stickler for timekeeping. Perhaps as an unconscious effort to rebel against the concept of ‘African Time’ that I had grown up experiencing, I hated the idea of being late. As the editor of a magazine, I remain that little girl who will do anything to be on time – even if it means less sleep. As someone who has always wanted to be a journalist, I have grown up revering the Holy Grail that is ‘The Deadline’. Journalists are slaves to them. We thrive on the adrenaline that comes with an impossible deadline. If we fail to meet them, we feel our journalistic credentials are somehow tarnished. But it’s not just about our CVs. A reporter on a paper who fails to file a story in time holds up the whole production line – the subs desks, the printers and the delivery vans, which means the newsagents don’t get their stock and Mrs Smith isn’t able to read her paper over breakfast.

Journalistic deadlines aside, I’ve found that as I’ve grown older, and maybe more self-centred, I’ve become less punctual. Instead of a desperate scramble to make sure I get to an appointment early, I’ve become comfortable sauntering in two, three, five, or even ten minutes late. Maybe because I’ve stopped off to get a coffee beforehand. Maybe because I just had to have those extra few moments in bed. Maybe because I’ve essentially been thinking about what’s most comfortable for me, even if it means making others wait.

Being punctual is more than just good manners. It’s a mark of consideration for others and a demonstration of the Golden Rule in which Jesus commands us in Matthew 7:12: ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.’

Today’s blog was written by Chine McDonald from World Vision. Find out more about her here.

Here are some ways to respond to this Reflection today! Green is for a simpler act, Yellow means a bit more effort, and Red offers more of a challenge!

GREEN:

What and who needs you to be on time today? Make sure you arrive/deliver/respond on time. (And if you’ve arranged to meet a friend today, avoid the ‘running a few minutes late’ text by setting out ten minutes before you need to.)

YELLOW:

How about being early? Send what you need to send before the deadline, arrive early to greet your colleagues before work today, arrive early to catch friends when you hang out with them. And so on.

RED:

Early AND organised? Arrive early to that meeting or get-together, organise the room if it needs it, get the refreshments in, and sort out everyone’s favourite treat. You never know, you might make their day.

Lent- Generation

Even though we are a church family, and we gather with people of other generations weekly, this is still a great Reflection for us to consider, and see what work we can do to strengthen inter-generational bonds!

An elderly person sitting alone for days; a new mum on her own with the baby and no one to share the moments and the pressure with; a teenager struggling to make friends. We’re missing out if we only interact with our own generation, and we’re leaving others isolated. Today, generosity steps out of its box as we celebrate the richness of mixing with different generations with simple acts of presence, conversation, and touch.

“The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.”

(Romans 13:9-10 NIV)

 

My decision to take a sabbatical from work to do a ski season last year on the wrong side of 30 was not something I entered into lightly. When watching Chalet Girl beforehand, I knew it wouldn’t be exactly like the film (although, being totally awesome in a ski competition and meeting a hot, rich guy wouldn’t be too bad…), but I didn’t see how teenagers, most of whom would have just left home, could run a chalet and deliver quality service to hundreds of paying guests.

I’ll be honest, I expected chaos. I prepared myself for tears, drama and high jinx but looking back I can say I’ve shaken off the judgement clouding the experience. We had all of the above but it also helped me address some of my own issues. I’ve never been particularly good with failure and, as an adult, skiing was much harder to learn but, in the way that falling down does not prevent a toddler from learning to walk, I was amazed that the only person judging me for my spectacular wipe outs on the slopes was me. The thing is, when you’re young, you’re always learning, but as an adult we somehow think we have to have it all figured out and anything less than that is frankly embarrassing.

Our common purpose bonded us in a way no other situation could and acceptance plays a big part in that. I learned that I have much to give and receive from living with strangers, including the opportunity to channel my natural maternal instinct towards the support of others in the absence of their own parental guidance. I was the ‘Chalet Mum’ and I still miss my team today.

I remember thinking, as a teenager, that the world was my oyster and that my future held endless, joyous possibilities. As an adult, stone cold reality had sucked that out of me but spending time with my young team, all so energetic and full of life, reminded me that I can still chase those dreams. Even they didn’t see age as a barrier!

Today’s blog was written by Tola Fisher.  Find out more about her here.

Here are some great ways to respond to today’s Reflection through Action. Green is for the simplest Act, Yellow takes a bit more time, and Red is a more long-term Act.

GREEN:

Got five mins? Call your grandma, or your grandson, or your teenage cousin. Make a point of reconnecting with someone from a different generation.

YELLOW:

Got a neighbour you could go hang out with? More specifically, what about a lonely older neighbour? Or a young mum or dad who you could go and listen to and share your own experiences with? While you’re there you might find there’s something you can do with them over time – a shared interest, or a favour like mowing their lawn.

RED:

Feeling genuinely inspired? Find out how to become a mentor to a young person, or a young colleague. Look into joining a befriending scheme for older people who might not have much interaction with the world.

Lent- Influence

I like the comment in this Reflection about Jesus- it’s true he had little that our world values, and yet think of all that has happened over the last two thousand years because of his influence!

We all have influence, even if we’re not aware of it. It’s not something reserved for limelight seekers. Influence is simply the impact we have on others that changes how they feel or act. Think about the areas of your life where you have a voice that’s listened to. You might be naturally sociable and have a wide network of friends, or have a close group of those who trust you. Wherever your influence is, use it wisely and generously today.

“Do not despise these small beginnings…”
Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)

In late 2010 I sat in Café Rouge with the man who would become my line manager. “Where do you want to be in five years?” he asked.

I was 23; young enough to believe I could still change the world, old enough to know I couldn’t just sit and wait for it to happen.

In five years I want your job,” I replied, without skipping a beat.

Fast forward nearly seven years. I still don’t have my manager’s job, nor do I have the kind of influence I thought I’d have at the age of 30. I’ve grown in unexpected ways. My knowledge and experience have opened up different spheres of influence. And actually, I’m alright with that.

Having influence isn’t about the number of Instagram followers you have or the title on your business card. It’s about using what’s in your hand.

For me, that looked like this:

  1. Taking traumatic life experiences and using them to help others with similar struggles
  2. Using my love of digital media to help grow one of the most generous communities in the world (here’s looking at you, 40activists)
  3. Speaking out and then putting my money where my mouth is for causes that I’m passionate about, like domestic abuse, clean water and poverty relief

For others, that looks like using a skill in a selfless way every day, or being a dedicated parent, or climbing to CEO of a mega corporation, or being distinctly ordinary and yet still extraordinarily distinct because that is how each of us was created to be.

We all have influence, and it isn’t linked to our job titles or our following (Jesus started out with just 12 followers). Your influence is limited only by what you are prepared to do with the gifts, experiences and passions you’ve been given.

Consider them, today. And be inspired to use them generously.

Today’s blog was written by Alexandra Khan from Stewardship.  Find out more about her here.

Here are some ways to Act in response to this Reflection. Green is for the simplest Act, Yellow goes a bit further, and Red is more of a challenge!

GREEN:

Not sure you have much influence in other people’s lives? Think about who you interact with on a daily or weekly basis. How do you behave around them or on social media? Are there things you need to change? Could you make more of a conscious effort to engage with others more meaningfully?

YELLOW:

It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of large scale injustice or to switch off when it comes to national or international events. But you have influence that reaches much further than just those in your day-to-day. Take stock of what you feel passionate about. Can you write a letter, add your name to a campaign, share something on social media? Don’t file it away for later – do it now.

RED:

If you really want to go all out, publicise your cause/charity with an event. It may not happen today or this week, but you can get the ball rolling with inviting a speaker, and researching a venue. Make a big noise, and create some community memories to boot.

Lent- Boss

Some of you that are retired and don’t have a “boss” as such may wonder how to respond to today’s Reflection. The scripture reading from 1 Timothy tells us to pray for kings and those in authority, so remember these words can apply to those in our government or others with authority.

Your boss or leader tells you that you’re doing a good job and praises you for your hard work and effort. It’s just the way that relationship works – it’s their job to tell you how you’re doing, so you smile, nod, and get on with your day. But who’s encouraging them? Generosity goes in all directions: not just to the people next to you, but to those who are in authority too.

“[Pray] for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
1 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)

Power and authority. Lots of people have the power to affect our daily lives: traffic wardens, police, MPs, our kids’ teachers, the doorman at the club I’m desperate to get into… and, for many of us, the boss. Yours may be good or bad: a paragon of virtue, wisdom and excellence or an ogre of vice, bile and incompetence; but whatever the case, two things are true.

    

1.  God loves them.

 

2.  We’re meant to as well.

Right there is a challenge. Most of us, being human, don’t really relish having someone in our lives who can tell us to do things we would rather not do, in a way that we might not agree with, and to a deadline that seems unreasonable. So, ‘generous’ working involves honouring the authority God has given your boss (Romans 13:1), praying for them, and doing our work in a servant-hearted way that shows we care about their goals, their success and them as a person (Titus 2: 9-10).

 

And generous working also involves showing appreciation – even to your boss. It’s a potent gift.

Of course, praise can come across as sycophantic but as long as a compliment is tied to something specific it can be hugely encouraging – not least because they may not know that they did something well or realise that anyone notices anything. ‘The firm way you handled the client today really turned the meeting round.’ ‘Thank you for pointing me to Anna – she had all the information I needed.’ ‘You were right about turquoise – so much better than the cerulean I was going with.’ The occasional handwritten note has a similar power – after a big event, at Christmas, or just before going on holiday. In my case, a biscuit goes a long way.

Today’s blog was written by Mark Greene.  Find out more about him here.

Here are some options to respond to today’s Reflection. Green is for the simplest Act, Yellow takes a bit more thought, and Red is a longer term challenge.

GREEN:

Lots of us are quick to fire off that complaint email or letter, but how often do we send one that’s full of praise? It doesn’t have to be long or mushy – just something generous. Bless your boss, your kid’s head teacher or even the CEO of your local supermarket or council.

YELLOW:

How could you help the people in charge around you? Often, they’ll be facing time pressures. So what can you do to help? Run an errand, make tea, or walk their dog?

RED:

Make a conscious decision to honour your leaders on a long-term basis – even in difficult times. This could be an ongoing commitment rather than a one-off gift.

Lent- First Fruits

Money and financial giving is one of those uncomfortable topics. But, as I hope this Reflection makes clear, having a generous spirit is not really about how MUCH we give, it is about making giving a priority. Giving should be a spiritual act, not just a practical one.

“Jesus told him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” Matthew 19: 21–22 (NLT)
I have read Jesus’ instruction to the rich man countless times. Until recently, I never really applied it to myself. I’m a student – I’m not rich! I’m nothing like those bankers and footballers who fly around in private jets while people go hungry.

I couldn’t get the rich man out of my head though. Praying on this verse, I realised just how rich I am. I always have enough to eat and a warm place to sleep. I have many more clothes than I need. I have money for the odd take away coffee. In fact, my PhD stipend puts me in the richest 10% of people in the world. It’s time to admit that I am the rich man and I have much to give away.

The rich man walks sadly away from Jesus, because he does not want to give away his great wealth. Many times in my life, I have done the same. I don’t want to give up my coffees and my shoes. Furthermore, we live in a culture where giving substantial amounts of money to charity is seen as incredibly odd – the social pressure to spend my money solely on myself and my friends is very strong. Serious financial giving is just one of the ways in which Jesus calls us to live radical lives, and I know this is a goal we can reach with God’s help.

Today’s world offers many more opportunities for giving than were available in Jesus’ time – today, we can help people on the other side of the world without even getting dressed. So where should Christians give? This is a question that I believe merits serious thought – where will your charitable donations do the most good?

By giving generously, and by thinking humbly about where we give, we rich men and women can walk back towards Jesus.

Today’s blog was written by Francesca Day.  Find out more about her here.

Here are some options to respond to today’s Reflection. The Green Option is a simple Act, the Yellow is one that requires more thought, and the Red is more of a challenge.

GREEN OPTION:

This isn’t about the size of your gift – it’s more about whether you prioritise money as a gift. We all have something we can give (even if for some it’s not financial). Put a note in your purse or wallet reminding yourself that God’s inviting you to offer your best. Or put a reminder in your phone for payday.

YELLOW OPTION:

Who could you creatively gift today? Do you know someone who’s struggling with money? Put their need first and treat them with what you have. That could be dropping off some supermarket vouchers, or taking them out for a meal/movie on you.

RED OPTION:

Take stock of your finances: how much are you actually giving away? Could you think about opening up a Stewardship giving account to set up a monthly direct debit?

Note from Kristin: Neepawa United Church has PAR, or Pre- Authorized Remittance, which does monthly direct offerings. For more information, talk to Kristin or Bob Durston, or check out this link: http://www.united-church.ca/community-faith/get-involved/give-regularly