Thankful for Waiting

by Katie Delp on

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It’s that time of year. There’s finally a little chill in the Atlanta air. Thanksgiving nears on the calendar. And people banter about whether it’s too early to begin playing Christmas music. But I’m thinking about Thanksgiving, reflecting on thankfulness.

When I was asked the traditional “What are you thankful for?” question, my mind immediately kicked into overdrive. I don’t feel thankful in the moment. I’m waiting. Waiting to hear back on a few things. Waiting for a few people to follow-through on their plans. Waiting for days on the calendar to pass. Once those things happen. Once those details fall into place. Then. Then I’ll be thankful for all of it!

Have you ever seen the movie Evan Almighty? A modern twist on Noah and the Ark, Steve Carell plays Evan Baxter, an ambitious politician who God (played by Morgan Freeman) instructs to build a boat. But before this happens - when his family moved into their new, beautiful home after his election win - his family prays. Evan’s wife, played by Lauren Graham, prays for their family to become closer. But as the movie progresses and her husband’s boat-building behavior becomes more and more bizarre, she takes their sons and leaves Evan for a short period.

It’s then that God comes to her. And in a poignant scene, he suggests that when we pray, perhaps God doesn’t zap answers to problems. Rather, He creates opportunities for us to grow deeper.

So I’m thinking about thankfulness, and I’m waiting. I’m finding I am thankful for these opportunities to wait, to develop patience, to notice things I might have missed if everything I’m waiting on had fallen into place right away. Where is God at work in the waiting? I’m thankful for the chance to look around and see.

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The Elusive Joy of Giving

by FCS on

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I can’t remember when Mary Phillips came to live with us. Somewhere along the journey of my father’s itinerant pastorates, Mary had attached to our family. She was like a live-in grandmother to me. I called her MeMe (a name that stuck with her the rest of her life). I remember watching out our front window for her to get off the evening bus.  When I saw her coming I would run to the door to meet her, get my big hug, and wait expectantly for my “surprise.” MeMe always brought some little treat home to me. She would reach into her coat pocket and, glancing around to be sure no one else would see, slip me some little trinket or stick of gum or piece of candy, pretending that no one else in the world knew. It was our special secret.   

I remember like it was yesterday (though I was only four) the day MeMe stopped giving me those daily surprises. I had run to the door to greet her as I always did, got my hug, and waited expectantly to see what she had brought for me. But for some reason on that particular day she had nothing in her pocket for me. I immediately threw a temper tantrum, creating quite an ugly, tearful scene. MeMe was obviously distressed by my behavior and vowed that she was not going to bring me any more surprises. I assumed, of course, that this was her way of warning me to control such outbursts in the future. But the following day when she arrived home from work, her pockets contained no treats. The next day was the same. And the next. Her daily surprises never did resume. It wasn't until many years later that I understood why she had so abruptly stopped her daily treats.

Seven decades later, the painful lesson I learned from MeMe’s decision remains vivid in my mind. It has sensitized me to the ways joyful giving can turn ugly when it becomes an expectation. I saw it happening in our inner-city ministry at Christmas time. We received many offers of food, clothes and toys from caring friends around the city who wanted to share their abundance. I asked Zack, an emerging young community leader, if he would assume responsibility for identifying needy neighbors and distributing the donations to them. He accepted the role with eagerness. The first year was an absolute delight as Zack delivered unexpected blessings to struggling families. He felt like Santa Claus, spreading joy and good cheer. The second year, instead of receiving joyful greetings from families, Zack felt pressure from recipients for specific gifts and special favors. His enthusiasm diminished. By year three, Zack was ready to quit. Recipients grumbled about their lack of choices, made accusations of favoritism and claimed priority rights based on their longevity in the program. What began as a joyful sharing of unexpected gifts had turned into a litany of entitlement.

MeMe and Zack figured out what it takes charities and churches much longer to learn. Giving turns toxic when the recipient comes to expect it. Gratitude turns into presumption. And the benefactor, with all good intentions, ends up creating unhealthy dependency – the very thing benevolence hopes to abate. But there is a corrective to this dilemma.  Reciprocal exchange.

We discovered it when we opened the Christmas Store. When a customer and a merchant meet at the bargaining table, each brings something of value to exchange. Both stand to gain in the transaction. Parents find bargains; FCS generates needed revenue. Jobless neighbors are hired; the store gains a workforce. Both enter the exchange with worth; both exit with dignity. That’s why we named our Christmas Store promotion “Pride for Parents.”

Reciprocal exchange. It is a fundamental principle of healthy relationships. It assumes that everyone has something of value to bring to the table. The responsibility, then, of the stewards of resources is to develop those systems that create the opportunity for fair and authentic exchange.   

Bob Lupton

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Pride for Parents: Give Giving this Holiday Season

by FCS on

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When did you last watch a loved one open a perfect gift? Remember the gleam in their eyes, the squeal of delight, the beaming face of the person who gave it?

 It’s this gift that Pride for Parents offers for families in South Atlanta each year. Our neighbors know that giving truly is better than receiving! Each year, parents, grandparents, and siblings on a budget lovingly select brand-new toys at a drastically reduced price in our Christmas store.

 For the past three years, the average toy has cost just $4.50 - giving family members the chance to be generous toward their loved ones! Each year, close to 500 parents shop in our store in early December to prepare for Christmas.

 Want to give the gifts of glee and dignity this holiday season? We could use your help, and now is the perfect time to start! The Pride for Parents store will run from December 8-22, and we want to stock up before then. We receive toys from three main places:

 1) Toy Drives that collect new toys. Schools, churches, Sunday school classes, offices, and more organize and run these within their own communities to spread the generosity of the season!

2) Our Amazon Wishlist - which enables supporters to go online and buy toys directly for the Pride for Parents Shop.

 3) Financial contributions that go towards helping us to buy toys for the store.

We will stock our store with all of these contributions and watch the magic unfold from there! Our store has featured up to 5,461 toys thanks to the generosity of people like you.

 If you want to spread holiday cheer with us, reach out to Pamela Stringfield to get started! Thank you for giving the gift of giving to our neighborhood in South Atlanta!

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