November is here! I always love this season. The leaves have changed, the weather is perfect for jackets, and the thanksgiving season is all around. I love what thanksgiving represents, not the whole pilgrims being murderer’s thing, but the mindset of being thankful for the things in our lives. Family, friends, passions, dreams; all of it have been given to us by a God that loves us. Sometimes, life pushes against this mindset. The enemy attacks, we enter hardship, and find it hard to have joy in our lives. We have blessings, but choose to have bitterness of what we don’t have. We have a choice to make. Do we let what we perceive as failures and setbacks as an excuse to live bitter? Or do we let these propel us into our future? This is something I have been wrestling through; walking through these rough moments that make me question what God’s plan in all of it is. The truth is, and this is a truth for all of us, God has a plan, we just have to trust him with a grateful heart.
Well, Christmas is this week! Kinda crazy to think about how fast time flies when I look back at the year. Christmas really is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Whether it’s the music, the lights in the neighborhood, or the smell of a good ole pine tree in your house. I love it. I also love this time because we have the chance to give gifts to the people we love in life. Finding the right gift is always fun for me, trying to think about the person and what they would really enjoy. Oh and in case you are a last minute shopper, Amazon Prime is your friend (so you should jump on that!). Also, I’m not sponsored to say that, but if Amazon is listening, hello! Anyways, giving gifts is a great part of the season, and yes, receiving gifts is always great! It is a season filled with joy and reflection for me. I get to be with my family and loved ones and just share time with them, and there is no better feeling than that. Being generous doesn’t have to be the giving of physical gifts either. In Daystar Kids yesterday, I was able to lead the second hour service. The life app we have been looking at is compassion, and yesterday I shared the lesson about how Jesus was the greatest gift any of us have ever received. God sent his son to save humanity, humanity that is corrupt and is a fallen people. Humans that are imperfect, given a savior who was perfect. A savior that came in the humble form of a child. God gave generously.
God wants us to give, but he wants us not to just give a tithe, but he wants us to humble ourselves. We can give our time, abilities, and heart to others. When I think back on the memories of people who gave to me, its’ always been a time spent together, an empowering word, or just a real conversation about how we can change the world. Giving generously is simple, my fourth and fifth graders show me this any time I ask about how they can show love or compassion to people around them. One of the kids has a lot of siblings, so when they say things like, “I can help do the dishes,” you know they are giving generously. Another kid said they love doing art, so they could make cards for people. The best thing about working with kids, is that they are wise beyond their age at times. One of the students said they could sit with people at school who are alone, because they know what it’s like to be bullied and alone. That was a fifth grader. She knows how to give generously. Moments like this are the ones where I get teared up and probably look silly in this coffee shop, but it’s because I see the heart in each of these kids. In moments when we feel alone or that someone doesn’t care about us, we can give generously and change someone’s life. I’m writing with tears in my eyes because someone gave generously to me, and told me I was going to make a difference, that’s why we must give generously.
Give your time.
This is a hard one for most of us. It’s so easy to be self-oriented, that our agenda becomes more important than investing in the lives of others. I think about the times my parents would give up time for me and my sister. Each week we would spend time together, doing things like eating ice-cream and waffles for dinner, or eating under the table. There was one time where my mom and I went to see Star Wars when one of them came out, I love those movies, and my mom went with me even though she was confused about the story. She gave time. She gave generously. It taught me to live like that as well, I give up time to pour into students on my Sundays, and I meet with a couple high schoolers in the week, and I do it because I want to give generously in their lives. Sometimes Netflix binging can wait when those close to us need us. Something that many of us can learn. Give with your time, we aren’t guaranteed it anyways, so use it wisely to impact people in your life.
Give your abilities.
Last week I talked about how unique each of us is. You have been designed with incredible gifts and talents. I love working with the next generation because they see the value in using their gifts to create a better world and spread the name of Jesus. So why is it that when we get older we start to live like we can’t make a difference? That is so not true! Everyone is important, there has never been anyone who wasn’t special. If you are silently judging me and thinking I’m the kind of person that wants everyone to get a medal, you are looking at things all wrong (Yup, I just called you out). Too many people live with a cynical mindset, trust me, I can be very cynical. When we look at life this way, we miss out on the chances to take a leap or help someone chase their wild dream! All too often we tell people they can’t, and rarely tell them they can. I think that’s sad. I think it’s sad because God made us with a purpose, we make larger ripples in the universe than we even can imagine. I have a dream to reach the next generation and help people find their purpose, so I decided to start a blog. I told my sister that when I first started (She is wise beyond her years) and rather than saying that’s silly, she told me to do it. She gave me confidence to put myself out there, and I am so thankful for that. You, my dear reader, have been given gifts. No matter how old or young you may be, you can change the world. If no one has ever told you can do it, know that I believe you can do it. Give generously with your abilities because God will use your effort to change the world.
Give your heart.
No, I don’t mean donate your heart (you can’t live without that, silly!). What I mean, is that before we can truly step into what God has for us, we need to give our life and place our trust in Christ. The first step to opening up a door to the vision of your life. When you do this, your life will change. You will begin to look at the world differently. When you have a relationship with Christ, you begin to treat others the way you want to be treated. You start to speak life giving words over others, and hold back your tongue when someone crosses you. God has much for you, so give your life to him. When you live differently, people notice. You make a bigger impact when you give your heart. I’ll always remember a certain moment in my life where things clicked, where I knew that God had more for me. It was in a passing moment with my middle school pastor who would invite me to serve at a local elementary school in a not so great part of town. My pastor, Marshall Johnson, knew that I felt alone and not worth anything, and he simply said, “Joshua, you are going to do great things one day.” Now I know it may seem like I’m trying to humble brag right now, but far from it. I’m simply sharing a simple memory that altered my life. I’m sharing it, because we have the ability to use our words and change lives of the people around us whom may be struggling. Give your heart, because when we do, we accept the responsibility of changing lives for the better.
Giving generously is so much more than a present on Christmas. Giving generously means looking at the world around you and seeing how you can show love and compassion to another person. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose affair, it could simply be a text to that friend you haven’t seen in a while, laughing with the people you love, or sitting with the person who feels like they are fighting alone. Giving shouldn’t be a Christmas time feeling, it should be an everyday choice. A choice to give your time, abilities, and heart to grow closer to God and follow his vision for your life. You have dreams, and they may seem crazy, but God wants to use your dreams to impact this world. Speak life to the people around you, use your abilities to serve others, and give your heart each day to accept what God has in store for you. Live a generous life. So when you see moments where you can give to someone else, take hold of it. God gave his own son to save you. He gave the ultimate gift. So help your siblings wash dishes, draw a card for your friends, and sit with the person who may feel the same way you did. That is how you can live a life that honors God.
That is how you give generously.