by Terry Magness
Personally, I love giving, particularly at Christmas, so much so, that purchasing generally begins in August. I put away in a special place little things I find for my family and friends. By October, I have a list of charities and ministries to which I would like to give a special year-end gift.
Our church presents us with yet another opportunity to give. Wednesday evenings in December have been designated December Ministry Nights—a time when church classes are suspended and the congregation reaches beyond church walls to bless others.
As I peruse our choices from the three sign-up sheets laying prepared ready for signatures on a foyer table, I see the first alternative is to serve a traditional Christmas meal and share warm fellowship with those who have no place to call home. In the past, I have found this to be a particularly fulfilling experience, yet admittedly, a bit uncomfortable one.
My eyes move to the second option: singing carols for elderly residents in a nursing home. I have always enjoyed visiting with people in their later years, and since I love to sing, this has been a natural fit repeatedly enjoyed.
The final sign-up sheet is for those who would like to help paint the restrooms of a nearby rural school our church has adopted. I used to paint a great deal, but not so much anymore. It's too hard to get up and down these days. Even so, I did volunteer last winter to help paint the classrooms, carefully cutting in paint around the woodwork and trim. It was fun, especially with all the chatter between volunteers. I felt a nudge in my heart, picked up the pen, and signed my name. Paint the restrooms it is!
Within only a few minutes, my sense of anticipation quickly faded as the man who supervised the project informed me my job would once again be cutting in...around the toilets and stalls!
"Seriously? This isn't what I signed up for!"
I envisioned myself kneeling on a nasty urine-soaked floor, crunched up between a dirty elementary school bathroom stool and probably just as germy stall wall. I could visualize myself with my head leaning against a nasty toilet rim, my body twisting to reach behind the stool to paint wall instead of porcelain.
Suddenly, shaken from my thoughts, I remembered something I have said to the Lord…actually many times over the years. "Lord, I will go anywhere and do anything you want me to do. I will clean toilets, if that is what you ask of me."
Wow! There it is...in just an instant, my heart is exposed!
I heard myself breathe a deep sigh of sad recognition. My shoulders slumped in resigned surrender. I clearly saw my stinking attitude and shallow motives. How did I swerve off course? Yet in just a brief encounter with the Way, the Truth, and the Life, my heart was recalibrated.
Giving has never been about me, but rather, about the Lord and how He chooses to show His love and grace to people through me, a vessel.
"Lord," I cried, "please forgive me. I do want to do whatever you call me to do and do it with all the love and grace You have given me."
Immediately, my thoughts were of the school lacking in funds and teachers, although not paid nearly enough for the great job they do with our kids, using their own resources to provide supplies for the students. I could see the clean bright restrooms they would soon have because of people who give of themselves so they and their teachers can live out their school days in pleasant surroundings.
Joy and the true love of giving filled my heart.
Amazingly, when I arrived at the school to paint, I was given a new assignment--to cut in the baseboards and around sinks. The floors and toilets were sparkling clean. The wall behind the stools? The supervisor had already painted them.
In no time at all, we had two restrooms shining with fresh new paint awaiting the beginning of a new school day.
Isn't God good?!
Terry Magness is author, speaker, and founder of Grace Harbour Ministries, a Biblically based teaching and discipleship ministry to the nations. Terry is passionate in helping people to know God and the hope, healing, and power He offers for overcoming the challenges to victorious Spirit-filled living through Jesus Christ. As an ordained Assembly of God minister, Terry is called to undergird, encourage, and empower the church and its leaders. Her years in Biblical study, pastoral counseling, and more recently, coaching, have equipped her for this unique role.
Terry enjoys writing, photography, art, and fishing with her husband, Don. They share with joy two adult children, Greg and Valarie, and three beautiful granddaughters.