Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A More Generous Heart (yes it's long, now you've been warned)

Yesterday, I was one of a handful of houses in my area that lost power in the frigid cold. Luckily, our gas logs did a fair job of keeping the basement warm, and we were no worse for wear.

This year, I'm making a resolution to be more thankful. And electricity is at the top of my Thankful List.

Followed by men who are willing to endure the 10 degree temperatures to work on the blown transformer in my neighborhood so that I could have my power back.

We all know the New Year brings about many New Year's Resolutions, full of promises to eat healthier, exercise more, spend more time with family, or save more and spend less. A full 45% (http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/) of us think it's exciting to look at a whole new year, full of promise and possibility, ready for whatever we can throw at it. But resolutions come with challenges.

The main one being that it's really hard to keep them.

January 1 we have a clean slate. January 23, we are struggling to keep the new resolutions and regular life in balance. February 2, old habits take over and we spend another year dejected and disappointed. According to this website, only 8% of us will actually stick with and succeed at the resolutions we make.

It is for this reason that I never make resolutions for a new year. The couple of times I've attempted, they've been lame resolutions and I never follow through. (Yes, I totally skipped the year resolution and went from never making them to making lifetime ones.)

This year is different, though. Not only am I making a New Year's resolution, I'm making lifetime resolutions.

I want to have:

1. A More Generous Heart
2. A Persistent Faith

And it is my goal to:

3. Take the Focus off of Myself

(Today I'll talk about having a more generous heart, and Thursday I'll talk about having a persistent faith, and Friday, I'll talk more about taking the focus off of myself.)

One of my goals in life is to have a more generous heart. I've read countless books, bible studies and articles about generosity, yet I can't seem to make myself just be more generous.

When we were younger, my sister and I were like polar opposites when it came to saving and spending money. My money burned a hole in my pocket and I spent it almost as soon as I got it. But only on me. My sister would carefully count and save, only spending money on things that she knew she wanted and could afford. She ended up with some pretty cool stuff.

I ended up with a whole lot of junk. And I couldn't even tell you what I had spend my money on. Besides the fact that it was only on me.

I've gotten smarter with my money as I've gotten older, but I still have a hard time being generous with it. And it's not about the money; there's an underlying issue that has nothing to do with cash. It has to do with the fact that I don't have a very generous heart. I am selfish and I hold onto things that are important to me. Like time. Like money. And other weird things. Like food. And I've been known to buy so many tubes of toothpaste/shampoo/razors because I have a coupon and can get them cheap that I don't have room to store them.

I know that might be a little odd. But it's true.

I've read multiple times from mulitple sources that when you really look at the things you think about when you let your mind wander, when you take a closer look at the things that disappoint you and cause you the most frustration, when you look at the things that you spend your money on and the things that cause you to get really excited--that those are the things that are you are committed to. Where your heart truly lies. And I just read this morning from the book of Matthew 6 this convicting message:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (19-21)

My "treasure", if you will, has been my house and my appearance. I think about room redo's when my mind wanders, I am eternally frustrated and disappointed by the appearance of my house, I spend money on decor, and decorating is my absolute favorite thing to do/talk about--followed closely by working out and nutrition.

Not that there is anything inherently bad about those things. But when they start consuming your thoughts, you may want to take a closer look at what your heart is truly committed to.
 

gen·er·os·i·ty

[jen-uh-ros-i-tee]  

noun, plural gen·er·os·i·ties.
1. readiness or liberality in giving.
2. freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character.
3. a generous act: We thanked him for his many generosities. 
4. largeness or fullness; amplitude.
 



Origin:
1375–1425; late Middle English generosite < Latin generōsitās, equivalent to generōs ( us )
generous + -itās -ity
 
The thing is, I can't just make myself become more generous. I know this because I've set my mind to do it and it hasn't worked. I think it's because I still put a lot of value in the things that I'm not very generous with, and so even though I've decided I'll be more generous with them, I can't. I still place more importance on those than I do anything else.
 
So I have got to start with asking God to change my heart.
 
It's not easy. Sometimes it's not even something I want to do. But I know that in order to become a more generous person (remember, that's a lifetime goal of mine), my heart has got to change. So that I'm placing more value on unselfishness--and frankly on more giving than receiving--than I am on the things I want to be more generous with. Like time and money.
 
Matthew 7:8, Luke 11:10, and Mark 11:24 all echo the same thought: ask and you will receive. For a long time I thought that those verses meant I could ask for any thing I wanted and I would get it, but I had totally missed the entire point of that verse. It doesn't have anything at all to do with stuff. It has to do with the heart.
 
So now I'm asking for what I really need: a brand new heart.

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