Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worth of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
My knees used to be unnaturally dark because I would crawl around on the carpet at church and not know to wash my knees. My mom would make me wash my feet before bed, but never my knees. My home church back in Arizona used to meet in the basement of another church building. We rented it. As a little girl, I knew every nook and cranny of that basement from years and years of hide and seek. I still dream about it occasionally. I wonder if everything will seem smaller if I go back and visit it now. I’ve driven past the building once or twice when I’ve been back home for breaks, and it’s been abandoned, graffitied up - a critical piece of my childhood that’s just broken windows collecting dust now.
It must have been fifth grade when the adults asked me and three other friends - overconfident, overeager middle schoolers - to teach the Friday-night little kids class. Why they thought this would be a good idea, I still do not understand. I am mostly an adult now, and I definitely would not ask a gang of eleven year olds to supervise a room of five and six year olds.
My friends and I took our lesson planning fairly seriously. Every Friday after school, I would schedule out the evening’s activities down to the minute. We wove paper baskets for Easter and performed a play for Christmas. When we got to the story of David and Bathsheba while going through the Old Testament, we got mildly tripped up: ” - and he saw her and lusted after her.” “Teacher, what does ‘lusted’ mean?” “Uhhhhhhhh…” Actually, come to think of it, we got pretty tripped up over many Old Testament stories. Why are they so often considered children’s stories when most of them are hardly age appropriate? It was usually safer to pop the VeggieTales rendition into the VHS player and sit in the back of the room eating the prize candies we had bought for the kids.
One time a mouse appeared out of nowhere while we were teaching. It was the first time I had ever seen a real live mouse, and I was fascinated but also unsure of what to do. The room of five and six year olds immediately exploded into chaos. The mouse must have been pretty freaked out too because it scurried into a side classroom and hid beneath the carpet. A human adult was notified and came in with a broom which he used to beat the lump in the carpet until the mouse was pronounced dead. Another time, we put wet paper on top of a lamp to dry, forgot about it, and almost started a fire.
That all of us survived teaching with only minor cuts and bruises is truly a miracle. I cannot, however, say the same for the dead mouse.
If loving other people is a bit of heaven then certainly isolation is a bit of hell, and to that degree, here on earth, we decide in which state we would like to live.
People check in every now and then to see how I’m doing spiritually. Recently, I’ll mumble something back - “Oh, you know, it’s been hard to be consistent without the tight-knit Christian community on campus.” The bigger issue, however, is that over the last couple of months I’ve felt my heart grow cold to the city around me, to the strangers on the subway, to the beggars on the streets. In every small decision of disobedience, of silence, of inaction, I’ve quenched the Holy Spirit and pushed God a little further away.
Yesterday, at church, God thoroughly shook me up to see things clearly again. It was one of those moments where a simple truth that I had once understood was suddenly brought back and I was awestruck at the goodness of God for being so patient with me when I forget simple truths such as these.
Generosity is the heart of God
This is a passage that I’ve read so many times before, but yesterday, it blew my mind. In Matthew 22:15-22, the Pharisees try to test Jesus by asking if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus takes a coin and asks whose image is on it. ”Caesar’s,”they reply, and he says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
The word image that Jesus uses here is the same word from Genesis when it says that God made man in his image. Caesar may put his image on a coin, but God put his image on us! So render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give God what is God’s. WHOA. God has made his mark so clear on us! He demands and deserves our hearts.
Generosity is not about what I have but about how I think. Can I out-give the widow in Luke 21? Have I ever given out of what I don’t have? And the thing is, generosity is fun; generosity is life-giving; selfless generosity is God’s example to us.
"I believe that the Jesus in you is generous. Wouldn’t it be nice to let Him out?"