Surrender to the Flow of Generosity
I have talked and written before about something I learned from my Bishop, the Rev Margaret Payne of the New England Synod. She taught me that giving and receiving are not opposites. They are the natural flow.
The opposite of giving is not receiving. It is hoarding. And the opposite of receiving is not giving, it is refusing.
I address these issues today because I can talk about these things and write about them without always taking them to heart.
I wrote last winter about austerity budgeting after my boiler blew up. But of course when my daughter needed money I gave, and when families came to the church and the discretionary fund was empty I dug into my own pocket. So my austerity plan was leaving a little more for only others rather than for my bills.
But I still would be okay, even though it was tight.
I remember thinking in early spring as I gave money to a needy family, "What does one do if one are already on austerity budgeting and something else happens?" One does what they did -- ask for help. Yet I am a pastor, and before that I was a nurse. We help others, right? We don't receive help.
So maybe God wants me to learn firsthand the flow of giving and receiving. In the midst of illness, my medical bills are piling up, even with insurance. Someone offered to pay them. I was horrified, even though I had no idea how I would find the money. At best it will mean adding another year to digging out of the debt from the boiler and other repairs.
Someone said to me, "You are a powerful warrior on behalf of generosity. You can't tell people they cannot give."
That brought to mind 9/11. As soon as I saw the planes hit the towers and it sunk in what was going on, I got in my car and drove to the Red Cross. There were lines of people to donate blood, so I pushed past them and went in and offered my services as a nurse. They said they couldn't use me as a nurse, as I wasn't employed by them, but could I answer the phones that were ringing off the hook. People were calling wanting to donate anything from pizzas to feed the people in line to money, to a whole fire company wanting to come down and give blood.
I got really good at receiving that day. And after I heard another volunteer turn down a dozen pizzas, I said, "You do not say no to people who want to give. It is like turning off the spigot. I don't care if you throw away the pizzas, although it would be better if you asked if there was something less perishable they could bring that we could save for the next blood drive or the next. Or you tell them where to give money or you tell them to ask for donations at their pizza shop. You let them be part of the flow."
The local director of the Red Cross overheard my little speech and immediately I got a huge promotion to train the people answering the phones. The next day the National Red Cross decided that volunteers who were nurses could work as nurses, and so I switched roles. And yet I think my biggest contribution was in helping people learn how to receive. So perhaps now it is my turn.
As God's children we can be a part of the flow of life or we can dam it up or turn of the spigot and let it dry up. It becomes a drought of the spirit.
Lord, We never stop needing to receive of your grace. Help us to learn that all of the giving and the receiving that we do in this life are but part of that gift of grace. Amen
Copyright © 2007, The Rev. Dana Reardon. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Dana Reardon is pastor at St.
Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Warwick, RI. A lifelong Lutheran, she
came to ordained ministry after 21 years in nursing, mostly in pediatric
intensive care. She graduated from Lutheran Theological Seminary at
Philadelphia in 1998 and served 4 ½ years in Upstate New York before
becoming a New Englander. She is still trying to understand the
accent. While in the Upstate New York Synod she chaired the Stewardship
Team. That began her fascination with what makes stewards -- and more,
what makes for generosity. She has three amazing daughters: Pastor Reardon says much of what she knows of
life she learned from them.