Monday, February 20, 2017

What's In Your Cup?

We've all heard the biblical term 'My cup runneth over'. Even secular people use it to define that life is good and everything is running smoothly. But have we thought about what having a 'full cup' really means, and what, exactly, is in our cup?

A cup overfull with blessings is a good thing. God wants us to have 'runneth over' cups, so we can share the overflow with others, hence filling their cups. In fact, the more we try to empty our cups of blessings, the more God wants to fill them!

But a cup that is full of hate, anger, and resentment is like a cup full of that gooey stuff from the coffee machine in the movie Monsters Inc.- kinda hard to fill a cup with blessings when it's already full of gunk.

My cup has both blessings and gunk in it. There are people I haven't forgiven (yet), people I need to ask to forgive me, as well as fear, anger, and resentment towards life situations. This gunk hinders more blessings from pouring in and taints the blessings already swimming around in there, so I'm better off cleaning out my cup and washing it before letting God fill it again. 

I've gotten so used to the gunk in my cup that I forget it's there- until God gives me a taste of His pure water- then I go back to my cup and wrinkle my nose at the gunk I didn't truly see before.

That's when the good stuff is supposed to happen.

Yet sometimes it doesn't. Forgiveness on either the giving or receiving end is hard, because God says to reconcile with the person- yes, you heard me, reconcile, as in go to that person and talk to them; It's the world that says forgiveness can be found in a room by yourself, but the biblical way is to go to the person and ask for forgiveness- or give it. It's in Matthew 5:23-24. In fact, God says to do it before you go to Him to ask for blessings.

Yikes!

I don't know about you, but I know some of the people I need to forgive (and ask forgiveness from) are not gracious people. One of the reasons I haven't asked them yet is because I expect confrontation or a snarky response! 
But that's also why my cup has gunk and why God can't fill it with His blessings as much as He'd like to. I'm my own hindrance.

What's in your spiritual cup? Is there more gunk than blessings? When the blessings overflow, do you share the runoff with others? Do you share the runoff with others who aren't in God's will yet? Ooh, that last one has to be the toughest!

Yes, there's still gunk in my cup. But I've had a taste of God's water, and I want more. But I have to want it more than the gunk in my cup- all I have to do is forgive, be forgiven, and let go of the fear and anger I've gotten used to. Only then can God let the blessings runneth over!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Hospitality Gift

My husband and I are hospitality oriented. I'm a more homey, welcome-to-my-fridge type, while my husband is more the let-me-be-your-butler-for-the-evening type. But there are ups and downs to having this gift.

We love making others happy. Seeing someone who is clearly enjoying themselves is the best part of serving. We like feeding people our homemade goodies, but we also like the anticipation of hosting an event. We might have to make five-hundred hand-made meatballs, but we are grinning our faces off as we make them, knowing people will like them at the first taste. We like decorating and preparing for guests as well as serving them!
And guess what? There is no greater compliment to me than someone who is clearly exhausted who falls asleep on my couch! That tells me they feel safe and comfortable enough in my home to do so!

We miss a lot of events. Whether it's a community or church event, hospitality people are in the thick of it. We are there setting up, decorating, preparing and serving food, breaking down and cleaning up afterwards. Most of us are doing at least two items on this list, most times more. Who has time to listen to the speaker or engage in great conversations when there's people who need a place to sit and eat? Most of us forget to get something to eat ourselves, and wind up falling over after the event because there weren't enough 'leftovers' for the volunteers. 

No, I'm not kidding.

I saw this happen at the many churches I visited. When it happened at my church, I made sure to state that feeding the helpers first is key to keeping everyone going- not to mention it will attract more helpers! Once fed (before the crowd comes in), people will be much more congenial when serving others. It took a while for them to get used to the idea- it went against the 'serving others first' mindset- but when I explained that eating first is a better blessing to the attendees than being served by grumpy, starving, and fainting servers. They relented- and never looked back.

Hospitality conventions don't exist. Why, do you ask? Ever try to serve those who love to serve? You can't. We're too busy trying to help. "Sit down while I get you something..." "No, you sit down and let me get you something..." "No, you.." "No, you!" 

99.99% of the time we are the party hosts. Why? Two reasons. One, we love serving people in our home, and the second the evening is over and everyone goes home, we can just go upstairs and collapse. Two, no one invites us anywhere because they're afraid we'll judge them on their hospitality skills and lack of homemade everything-must-be-from-scratch foods. 
Yes, people told us this! 
For the record, we don't judge anything that we're eating for free, and it's nice to have take-out or store-bought instead of home-cooked meals once in a while.

We have trouble not helping. The host tells us to relax, but we see the chips are low or the Stove Master looks a little overwhelmed and we want to help. No, we need to help- and they won't let us. This is exactly what we do when we have guests, but when the slipper is on the other foot, it drives us crazy not to be able to do something. Anything

On the opposite side of that particular coin...

We are never guests at a party. Oh, we might get invited, but either we volunteer to come early and help with the event, or we're asked to help at the last minute, 'because we're so good at it'. The former is self-imposed, so it's our own fault for asking, but the latter can be quite problematic when we need some down time to be fed instead of being the feeders.

We bring too much. Hospitality people try to think of everything when it comes to potlucks. We don't just make enough potato salad for the ten people you invited, we make enough to feed twenty-five, just in case someone invites a friend or you get raided. We also bring enough plasticware, napkins, and plates (just in case you run out) and we keep a plethora of dressings and condiments in the trunk in case the host forgot to buy something. 
This usually sparks us to have a party at our house the next day because we have a lot of extra potato salad and party goods!

These are the triumphs and perils of being hospitality oriented. If you see many of these happening in  your life, you're one of us, if not, that's okay, I'm sure you know at least a few people around you who are. Be kind to them- they are a tired bunch! 
Perhaps I should write a book called The Care and Feeding of the Hospitality Oriented, but it might not be out in print for a while. I have to make dinner for my family and at least five next-door neighbors for the next month or two!

 might even make extra. Party, anyone?




Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Dollar Dilemma

Ever notice that those TV evangelists are starting to sound more like Monster Truck Rally announcers?

Iiiiit's Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Now you, the faithful listener, can have unlimited cash flow! All you have to do is give me a dollar, and God promises He will give you back one-hundred fold- guaranteed! One dollar nets one-hundred dollars- and it's all guaranteed by God! 

Oh wow- all I have to do for unlimited money and blessings is to donate as much as I can to their church? That sounds awesome! After all, if I give a dollar, I get one-hundred dollars back! How incredible is that?

Remember folks, the more you give, the more you get back! Do it now! Send your money to....

Wait. The more I get, the more I get back...right? But why isn't that church giving away their money as well? Wouldn't the same rules apply to them?

Apparently not. They have upkeep, after all. Someone has to shine the silver cups and communion plates- and keep those one thousand windows shining and sparkly. 

But isn't that what tithing is for- upkeep of the church and staff? Why do they need the extra?

Perhaps to keep the preachers' three corvettes from falling into disrepair. 

I look at my handful of dollars. All of my liquid cash flow. It isn't much, but it keeps gas in my run-down little car. Does God want all of my money? Will He really give me one-hundred dollars for every dollar I give away?

God doesn't give a hoot for our money. He wants us. The giving of money is only one means of giving ourselves to Him, especially if we treasure that money more than our own worth. That's the only time God wants us to give up our worldly riches. Tithe is different; those monies are for the church expenses and upkeep of God's place of worship. It's the extras that they ask for that makes no sense.

As for that one-hundred fold payback, The bible never said it would be cash- he said it would be repaid one-hundred fold- meaning it will come back to you in a form that might not necessarily be monetary. Oh, He could send you money (and sometimes does), but He'll also send you other blessings! Remember finding that secret sale when you bought your favorite outfit? Or that break that got you a promotion? Or even that phone call from a friend that inspired you in an unexpected way? All of these are paybacks without price tags. One time I was gifted with a professional deli slicer!

Blessing others in turn blesses us. Many churches have forgotten that lesson. 

And there's nothing wrong with having money. It's what you do with it that counts.

Before I became a Christian, I had money. Not a ton mind you, but I was considered upper-middle class in my early twenties. I had no debt, money in the bank, and had a good job. But I was bereft of Spirit, as I didn't give to others as often as I could have. Not just monetary-wise, but time-wise as well. 

I became a Christian. I went through a lot of financial trials. To this day twenty-five years later, I'm still going through things financially. I panic when the bank balance drops too low. We live week to week and month to month. We have debt due to a dead car, bad windows in the house, and unexpected, uncovered funerals. God isn't trying to make me suffer, He's trying to teach me something. Depend on Me- not your stupid bank statement

The lesson is finally starting to sink in. 

If you had given me a million dollars twenty years ago, I'd have bought myself a house, a car, and gone on vacation. Any leftovers would go straight into the bank and stayed there. Not a bad plan, but a worldly one.
If someone handed me a million dollars now, once the debts were paid and some was invested so my husband could 'retire' from the factory, I would donate to renovate our church (we're only using 1/3 of the building right now- not enough seats and no kitchen), and use that renovated church kitchen to start community programs to teach low-budget cooking and feed the hungry. My husband could start full-time ministry, or start that dream cafe and do part-time ministry. The rest would go into the community itself, Helping people in need and supporting the local library and recreation center- possibly with a new playground.

Which seems like a better investment to glorify God?

I admit, I like money way too much. I can be very generous when money is plentiful and the bills are paid, but I think God wants me to see things His way- He wants me to give when I'm financially struggling. It's not a dollar dilemma, it's heart handling.

Don't fall for the hype that spouts guaranteed God money. God cherishes us. That's all He cares about. And His hundred fold blessings will be worth more than any monetary windfall we could ever get, because those blessings change us as people; He gets into our heads, our hearts, and our souls. He changes us so we can change others. He qualifies the called.

And that's something money just can't buy.