Third Place

Part of living a missional life with gospel intentionality is having a third place.  Often people hang out at home, at work and then somewhere else becomes their third place. My husband and I had dinner with a couple who have made a local restaurant their third place.  They go there almost every Monday night and they over time have built relationships with some of the staff and other regular customers.  There is something to going to the same place at the same time and over time you have established a bit of a community where you can listen to the stories of other people and bring Jesus with you.  Where is your third place?
 

Courage and Calling

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. . . . Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” Galatians 6: 4-5 (The Message).

 

Isn’t it interesting how generosity enlarges?  It expands the giver as well as the receiver; the spiritual along with the physical, those directly involved and the ones around them.

 

In Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential (call number 248.4 Smi in the church library), Gordon Smith proposes that our generous God gives each of us a reason for being on earth, a calling, as well as the ability to work with Him in carrying it out. God longs for us to experience the joy of giving by loving each other through our calling. But understanding our purpose as it matures through life, and discerning how to live it most effectively, is challenging. Smith’s book grew out of many conversations around these questions, and is a study for those who want to invest their talents for God.

 

The book outlines three ways calling can be understood:

  1. The call to be a Christian, to follow Jesus.

  2. A specific call: a reason for being, or vocation, unique for each of us, which may or may not be expressed in our occupation.

  3. Immediate calling: specific duties and responsibilities we are given by God at the present time, such as caring for family members or job responsibilities.

 

Specific and immediate calls flow from our first call, our identity as God’s children, and all three are “in play” at any given time. For example, we are all called by Jesus to love others. I might express that love by feeding the hungry on an ongoing basis. If I have young children, I will have less time to participate in a soup kitchen than when they are older, but I will be living out my entire calling by not ignoring any of the three at each stage of my life.

 

The primary focus of this book is on the second call, and discusses three aspects of vocation:  knowing ourselves, discerning the work we’ve been given to do in the world, and acting with intention to carry it out.  

Knowing ourselves: God calls us to serve Him out of who we are, not who we’re not.  What are your gifts, abilities and personality? What are your deepest desires? Where do you sense the needs of the world most acutely?

Thinking vocationally: Looking back to see how God has worked through the story of our lives, and paying attention to opportunities now, can help us recognize our vocation more clearly. Is there a thread God has woven through your life, a chord that has always resonated?

Acting intentionally:  Living out our calling requires action.

 

When we recognize how God has fitted us into the world, serving and giving to others out of His design brings joy – to us, to others, and to God.  What a great revelation as we reflect on Christ’s arrival here on Earth and the model He is for us, and as we begin to think about the new year!

 

How will you embrace the place God has carved out for you in the world this year?  

 

Generosity at Home

I have great excitement and anticipation as this holiday season approaches. It will be our first Thanksgiving and Christmas with a baby in the house, and I am eager to share this time of year with my family. It is also the time of year when we pay a little more attention to the idea of generosity and generous living. But what does true generosity in a home look like? I’ll admit I am easily lured into the idea that generosity means money and things. Already I am thinking about what presents to buy for Oliver and how we can shower our love on him in that way. (I am well aware he isn’t even one and won’t remember!)

 

God calls us to generous living. And, if our homes, centered on Jesus, are the epicenters of an active faith life, then that generous living should begin in our homes. How then might we begin to live with great generosity in our homes? Is there a way for me to be abundantly generous with Oliver without buying out Toys R Us? How did Jesus model a generous lifestyle? Here are some of the things that I noticed as Jesus lived life with generosity:

 

·       Jesus was generous with his TIME.

·       Jesus showed GRACE abundantly.

·       Jesus allowed ACCESS to himself and his whole life.

·       Jesus left a LEGACY of faith.

 

As I reflect on those things, I am left to ask myself the following:

·       Am I generous with the time (undistracted, fully present time) that I give my family? Or, do I let material things take the place of the time I should be investing in them?

·       Am I quick to show grace to the others in my home?

·       Do I allow Oliver and Micah full access to myself, or do I let other things have more priority?

·       What legacy am I leaving Oliver? Am I generous with how I teach and equip him to follow Jesus? Am I pursuing a faith life that I want my son to replicate?

 

Recently, the Jaeger family shared a story with me about an experience where they were able to practice generosity with their oldest daughter, Renata:

I had heard about the Blessing Ceremony from you and the All Pro Dad website and thought it would be a great event to help Renata mark a transition in her life. She was very excited about her ‘Sweet 16’ and we decided to have a party with all of our extended family and a blessing. Renata has shown great maturity and responsibility so we wanted to honor and recognize her for that. After everyone had arrived, we thanked them all for coming, had Renata sit in the middle of the group, and told everyone what a blessing is (Baruch) and why we wanted to bless her publicly. We wanted to mark this day as her official transition from childhood into young adulthood. We told her, and everyone, that we recognize that she is growing up and is well equipped to be the person God wants her to be. We acknowledged and recognized all the great things that God is doing her and the abilities He has blessed her with. We wrote a letter to her which we read, and then presented her with a ring with an anchor on it as a symbol of the blessing and that God is our anchor. Hebrews 6:19 says ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.’ Then we all prayed together, ate, and had a great time! I think it was a great way to honor Renata for the person she is and is becoming, to state that we see her as an adult and proclaim this to our family, and to show her that God planned and chose her from the beginning.”

 

Jesus’ generosity was an investment in others and in the Kingdom. His wasn’t an investment in earthly things that are broken and destroyed, but instead it was generosity that allowed for the growth and blessing of His people and God’s Kingdom. This Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am eager to let Jesus guide my generosity.

 

How are you practicing generous living in your home? What creative ways are you finding to invest in those in your home and in God’s Kingdom? Share your stories with me in a comment below, or at epowers@livelifetogether.com.

 

Attitude of Gratitude

 

 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise.

   Give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good.

   His unfailing love continues forever,

   and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

 -Psalm 100:4-5

 

Give thanks to him and praise his name!  I like the sound of that.  It is good to give thanks to God for all He has done for us, and the many ways that He provides for us and blesses us.  Especially as we prepare our hearts this holiday season, it is good to stop and reflect back on all we’ve been given, as well as to look forward to how we can share our gifts and the good news of Christ with others.    

It is good to stop and take time to name what we are thankful for.  To say it out loud or write it down.  Perhaps you have seen or even participated in the Facebook “Thankful Challenge,” when someone challenges you to write down three things you are thankful for every day for five days. Or maybe you have tried in the month of November to write down one thing you are thankful for each day.  These are good practices, not just at this time of year, but every day, to have a grateful heart and give thanks to our Father in heaven for the many gifts we receive.

 

As I read this passage from Psalm 100, it reminded me of lifeGroup. Especially the verse, “his faithfulness continues to each generation.”  We have seen several generations of lifeGroups since we began with just one.  And God has been faithful.  I am thankful for people who have agreed to meet weekly.  I am thankful for people who have said, “Yes, I will open up my home and share my life with others.”  “Yes, I am willing to discuss my questions and doubts and concerns with others.”  “Yes, I will ask others to help hold me accountable to follow through on what I say I want to do.”  I am thankful for people who invite those who are new to our church to join them in lifeGroup.  I am thankful for people who are willing to invite their neighbors to join them in discovering how to follow Jesus.  I am thankful for people who are willing to have difficult conversations and work through conflict when it arises.  I am thankful for families that are willing to bring their children to lifeGroup because they know the value of having other trusted adults invest in their lives.  I am thankful for a place to come to where I receive grace when I try and fail.  I am thankful for a group of people who help me be prepared to engage in relationships with friends who are far from God.  I am thankful that we have the privilege of living life together and the freedom to share the Good News with those in our circle of influence.

 

What are you thankful for?  Have you told God lately?  Have you written it down?  Try sending a note of thanks to someone, or writing out a thank you prayer to your Heavenly Father.  And would you tell me in a comment below how you’re choosing to respond?

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His love endures forever!  

 

Monona Giving Project

Hello (the) Church Family!

 

This summer the Church in East Madison was presented with an opportunity to share blessings in the Monona school district, through the Monona Giving Project. There is a fund that is used to help school district families in need, with needs ranging from getting a car fixed to help with bills or school supplies. There is a limit to what can be distributed to a family from the fund, and there is already a person in charge of that part. What they needed was someone to take ownership of really increasing awareness and raising money for the fund.

 

Since that’s one of our neighborhoods on the East side, and we’re connected to schools in general, we decided to take it on. What we’ve found is that many people are willing to help and chip in when it comes to their neighbors and their community. As much as I have a hard time with asking for money, when you tell people about a need in their community and something you are doing to help, an invitation to join and get involved comes pretty naturally.

 

Already the fund has grown to more than 4 times its size from last year, but it has a long way to go.  What a blessing it would be if that fund had money left over at the end of the year because all of the needs had been met.

 

Even though this fund is set up such that we would not personally be in contact with those it helps, we’ve already developed relationships with the person in charge of the program, many other people in the schools and neighborhoods, and other churches.  We’re excited to see what God will do with this opportunity, and how He will open more doors for us to engage with and be part of lives in Monona and our neighborhoods.

 

We are blessed to be on this journey together with all of you brothers and sisters. Thank you for your prayers, and know that we are praying for you as well.

 

It would also be a great encouragement to us East-siders to hear your ideas or experiences: how have you used (or how would you like to use) your energy and creativity for kingdom investment?