Thursday, November 7

extravagant generosity

It is with a big grin that I can tell you that I have, in fact, now finished my 8th book of 2013! I have a personal goal of reading 12 books that are not mandatory school reading/research books in 2013. And a mere 12 books seem easy enough...but I find myself in November with only 2/3 of my goal met! My husband and I just finished reading "Practicing Extravagant Generosity - Daily Readings on the Grace of Giving", by Robert Schase (yes, I can't help but to pronounce it like schnoz, as in a big nose). This book was recommended by our Pastor and church staff in an effort to ramp up the commitment of monetary giving to our church. Yes, I'm talking about stewardship month.

Normally, I *DETEST* stewardship month. Year after year, the month in which the church staff take turns imploring the congregation for more money has done nothing but make me feel like a jackass for not having much money. And also a frivolous human being for spending money on yet another pair of shoes, instead of putting it in the collection plate. No one likes to feel guilty, myself included. So in the past, I have kind of skipped out on church services when I knew they were going to involve asking for money. I'm certainly not proud of it, but it's the honest truth. 

This year, I cannot believe how successfully my church pulled off stewardship month! I've never seen anything like it! Instead of the guilt trips like I was expecting, the sermons were filled with inspirational stories about ways we can build up our church into a community that fulfills each member's hopes and dreams. In one sermon, the older population from the church were asked to reflect on memories they have from Hope United Methodist Church, and how their lives have been changed by having Hope at the center. In another service, the church's youth organized the service, and the theme was what the children's dreams for Hope were. The children of our church yearn for a place that is accepting, loves everyone, reaches out to the community, and sings loudly and proudly. That right there is beautiful. That is what every church should strive to be. Seeing the dreams that our children have for our church makes me want to give anything I can so that our church can be that safe haven in the future. 
In addition to these powerful sermons, the congregation was asked to read about what it means to practice "Extravagant Generosity." I want to share with you a quote from the book that sums up the message quite elegantly:
"Extravagant denotes a style and attitude of giving that is unexpectedly joyous, without predetermined limits, from the heart. People who practice Extravagant Generosity change their lives in order to become more generous. They become rich in giving. They do not wait to be asked. When they see a need, they step forward to meet it, offering their resources as a means of help...They persist in doing good...They pray and hope and dream about the good they can accomplish through their gifts...People who practice Extravagant Generosity change lives."
Never before has a stewardship month been so successful in helping me to see that what I'm giving today has lasting importance on the potential of what our church can be in the lives of those who need it in the future. I have always enjoyed donating my time, talents, and money to organizations who are doing wonderful things to help people in this world. I have no idea why it has taken me so long to see my own church as one of those worthwhile organizations to start donating to. Well, better late than never :)


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