Generous Praise

“I ask , but for a life made up of praise in every part” This is a wonderful desire and goal. One worth working towards with all the energy we have. If our primary focus is to praise the Lord of Glory, then this will enable us to be people of praise. We will take every opportunity to appreciate others and to praise them for what they are doing. We will become generous with our praise. So much is taken for granted each day. There are so many moments in our days when words of praise and appreciation would bring much encouragement, strength and joy to others. Such an attitude of praise can bring a freshness and brightness into each day.

One the most highly rated programmes on the BBC TV in the UK, is called “Songs of Praise”. An average of 4 million watch this programme of songs that bring praise to the Lord each weekend. The joy and majesty of historic hymns and contemporary songs is evident throughout this programmes set in ever changing locations, in a rural setting, in a famous cathedral, in a mega-concert hall, by the sea,  on a ship, or in an airport but always sounding the note of praise.

The first line of the hymn above is the secret…”Not for the lip of praise along, nor e’en the praising heart, I ask but for a life made up of praise in every part” Giants of Faith in previous generations have captured and understood this principle of praise. John Wesley was one of them. He taught “the sanctity of secular employment” – praise in every part of life. He often burst out into a song at several times in the day and sought to pray on the chime of each hour. What a focus on praise. In a generation with an emphasis on separating the secular from the spiritual, the reminder of the integrated nature of both is well worth considering.

The Scriptures are full to the brim of praise and the Psalms are indeed a “Treasury of Praise”. Some have found that reading a Psalm each day is a great strength and blessing.

“Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God

In every part with praise,

That my whole being may proclaim

Thy being and Thy ways”

Horatius Bonar 1808-1882

Global Nomad

26 July 2006

Generous Hospitality

The East is a region renowned for its generous hospitality. It is a very welcoming part of the Globe. Extended families and community-togetherness have been the hall-mark of this part of the world for centuries. Having travelled fairly extensively in the region for the past 30 years, I would certainly endorse this from personal experience. Papua New Guinea, which in some ways is my second home, taught me the finer essence of hospitality. It is not really possible in that country to be “stranded” or without somewhere to rest for the night. The location may be uncomplicated, rural and very straightforward but the warmth of welcome and generosity shown by sharing a home and meals with you are very special. Never to be forgotten memories.

Two incidents spring to mind, we had climbed up a 10,000ft mountain and just “crashed-out” as it were on the grassy bank in front of the village. Exhaustion had taken its toll. Although their food supply was severely limited, in fact a whole harvest had been lost through cultural pressures, when we awoke – we were surrounded with beautiful, tasty, refreshing fruits of all kinds. Generous gifts expressing their hospitality. Soon we were refreshed and strengthened ready for the a night of rest in their newly constructed bamboo, guest house, before descending the next day. We will always remember the fruit bonanza we had up among the clouds.

On another occasion, the public transport we were using,  a pick-up with tube-frame and canvas for shade, made it over a couple of mountain ridges and then stopped just before a bridge across a rapidly flowing mountain river. Stops are frequent and always fascinating. A variety of reasons precipitate them – in this case the owner-driver of the “bus” service had noticed some pigs for sale. Just the ones he was looking for over the past weeks. Thus our journey was interrupted, re-negotiated and terminated at that point. He needed to do a u-turn with his precious cargo. We needed to wait for an alternative service to appear at some unscheduled hour. It was near to sunset and the possibility of such transport was remote. The local village community welcomed us for a delicious meal and rest. Instant hospitality – generously provided. Later on, a government truck with some shift workers came by. I was able to negotiate with them to take me further along the road to their transit camp, where hospitality was offered for the night. The next morning I found a farmer taking a cow to market, it was a lifeless black cow – the most luxurious leather-seat ever experienced to that point. Soon we were hurtling along a dusty road to the junction at the foot of a huge mountain range, where I needed to change transport again. Such generous hospitality is a daily experience. You are most welcome, any time.

Africa is another continent where I have been overwhelmed by the generous hospitality. In Cote-D’oir, we were lavishly entertained to a lunch one Sunday after the morning service. The verses in an ancient travellers letter to friends in Corinth, echoed in my mind…” Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” Humbled, refreshed and enriched with appreciation, we made our way home. In another SE Asian country, the road in which the shipping agent was located became a special place for me. Several times a week I walked along it and each time I made new friends who showed me amazing hospitality in their humble homes. All along both sides of this narrow street were creative structures built of “redeemed-reclaimed” materials. Yet inside was a warmth of welcome I will never forget. Such creative initiative had been taken to make it “just like home” with pieces of local “designer-made” furniture and even carpet segments on the floors. I named it the “Street of Gold” after its rich hospitality. Along with a group of friends we spent an afternoon there bring gifts from our floating home to share with them. A street of generous hospitality.

In London, in the 60’s I used to stay overnight in a unique Guest House, the owner was in her 80’s and managed the 4 storey tenement house with dexterity and unbelievably generous hospitality, along with her two daughters. They sought never to turn anyone away and assured me there would always be room – I could come at anytime of day or night. A wonderful provision. The key was in its agreed location. A flask with hot tea and sandwiches near by would always be waiting inside. Then a note giving the room where I could find a bed. On one occasion, I was overwhelmed when I disovered the manageress had vacated her room and slept in her bookshop – on one of the shelves that had been creatively modified to double up as a bed – like a mobile home stackable bunk.

An amazing story I recall reading. There was a clerk in a hotel who was on duty one not so pleasant night. All the rooms had been allocated when an older gentleman came in rather late and weather-beaten. He enquired cheerfully if there was a vacant room. The clerk mentioned it had been a busy night and he thought that all the rooms were taken but he would check. Then he said. “However, I believe there is a small room available, if you don’t mind the simplicity.” The guest was most welcome. Generous hospitality indeed as the room was the clerk’s own humble resting place. He was really surprised when he was invited by the guest, as he was leaving, to visit him in a large city when next he had some free time. “I am sure you will enjoy the visit.” he said. Later the offer was taken up to visit this kind gentleman. The clerk found the area and then the address which was another hotel. He met with the older gentlemen who revealed to him that he was the owner of a chain of hotels and had been looking for a new manger for one of them. He then offered the position to the clerk. He said that he had known straight away when he met the clerk that stormy evening – he had found a person who understood the essence of generous hospitality.

Our aim should always be to seek to follow the encouragement in the Ancient Scrolls, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Let’s always be generous with our hospitality.

Global Nomad

16 July 2006

Thoughtful Generosity

Thoughtfulness is a wonderful quality and one of the most exquisite examples I saw in the mountains of Papua New Guinea. I was en route up a mountain one day, with a group of friends, we were visiting the parents and extended family of a young man who was serving overseas. As we hiked along, one of the local children, who always enjoy being part of such an expedition, offered me something – I wondered just what it was at first, then saw it was a handful of glistening silver leaves – she demonstrated how to use them on my face and hands. They were dew-drop drenched special leaves for refreshment. Soft as snowflakes. What a precious gift – so simple, so thoughtful. An action never to be forgotten.

You somehow notice straight away when you enter a shop or a coffee house, or a home, or a church where thoughtfulness is in residence. It wraps itself around you and says: ” You’re welcome, we’ve been expecting you, feel at home”. You are instantly at ease, somehow just when you think of a need it is there – as if someone is tracking your thoughts. This is thoughtful generosity at work. One of my favourite airports has this kind of atmosphere As you leave your restricted flying-tube, and start to walk through the telescopic aerobridge, imperceptibly the bridge expands and you are welcomed into an area of refreshing spaciousness. As you walk further and think of things you might need to action, notices seem to appear immediately from nowhere,  explaining how your thoughts can be implemented. Amazing!! Thoughtful research staff, with generous hearts, have walked in your footsteps before you. The fruit of their thoroughness is an airport of excellence and peace.

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth hosts Heads of State regularly throughout the year. Much thoughtful preparation goes into such occasions as you can imagine. In a film on a year in the life of Her Majesty, you are shown the intricate care she takes in having a special display from her archives thoughtfully selected to be of particular enjoyment to her guests. Her staff have studied the personal interests of each distinguished guest and thus a display of appropriate items is there for them to enjoy. On one table, tastefully displayed on a beautiful velvet-covered stand are individual gifts from the royal treasures – one for each guest. This is an example of thoughtful generosity.

Developing such a lifestyle of thoughtfulness requires the investment of time and care. Observation and alertness are part of the secret – scanning around to notice if someone needs help or assistance, looking for the “cup of cold water” situations that we are encouraged to consider in the Lively Oracles of God. One part of the ancient text reminds us to think about the needs of others rather than ourselves. We have such an incredible example from the Creator when we “……..consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place….” There is such a storehouse of evidence in the generous thoughtfulness of the Creator in everything created – the details, the wisdom, the immense diversity, the intelligent creativity…. it is wonder-making material.

Let’s determine to make thoughtfulness our lifestyle as our joyful offering of praise.

Global Nomad

14 July 2006

All for the Love of Him!

Ezra 9:8  But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage.

Ezra the priest is praying in Jerusalem, where some of the captives who had been taken to Babylon had come back with Nehemiah and the king’s permission to rebuild their temple and city. Ezra confesses the sins of the people to God, and expresses gratitude to God for this respite in the midst of all their suffering as slaves in bondage.

He says God has been gracious in allowing a few to come back, and giving them a firm position again in their place of worship. “Our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage.

You know, I think God does that for any of us when we are going through a hard time. What comes to my mind as a vivid personal example, is those long weeks and months when my Mom was dying and I had to stay nearby to run and fetch, or take care of her needs. There were times I felt really house-bound, and so limited. Yet, I had a big binder handy, which was my prayer journal, and dumped a lot of my emotions, questions, and cries to God for help into that journal. There were times I knew that was my precious oasis in a wilderness, and I found it easy to worship and thank God for the tiniest of blessings.

Although there were many from our church who stayed away, and even the pastor’s wife confessed that she couldn’t cope with going into a house where someone was dying, there were some who came faithfully and often. A retired pastor and his wife came often and cheered us all. Two young mothers, whom I had been mentoring and discipling continued to come every week for a chat and prayer time. Those times were evidence that God was very much present in that period of my life.

I think if you were to ask any other person who loves God and has been through hard times, you will hear such stories of a tender and giving and loving God in the middle of their worst experiences. We desire to be there for others in great need.

I can’t speak for others, but I suspect the most generous givers – those who give out of devotion to God – do so because God has given so much of Himself to them when they needed Him most.

Does this hold true in your experience? Have you observed this also in others?

Blessings,
Ruth

What if Empty-handed Before God?

Deut. 16:16b-17 No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed. Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.

Now there’s a different kind of giving guideline! Proportional giving – in direct ratio to how the LORD blesses us.

Not only once, but every time we appear before the Lord. AT least in this passage, God is instructing Moses to have the men appear before Him at three Feasts or Holy Days, and they were not to come empty-handed. Some sort of offering was required and it should be in proportion to how God had blessed them.

The ratio or percentage is not designated, that is left up to the worshipper, but think – what do you bring in your hands as an offering when You especially want to worship God?

I have often come empty-handed, but that was because I thought I had nothing but myself to bring. We do read in the Psalms that a broken and contrite heart, God will not dispise. So when that is all we have, that is enough in His eyes.

But what if He has blessed us with a job or business income? What if He has given us renewed health and strength? Or skills to do things others cannot? Perhaps a capacity to earn more income?

God is saying here in Deut 16:17 not to come empty-handed. He is not asking us to bring regular membership dues, but gifts that are signs of our worship, and these are to be proportional to how we have sensed God’s blessing on our lives.

I do desire to give generously but I see I need to check my motives from time to time, to make sure I’m doing it out of worship, and not for other reasons.

Like what reasons? Well, to maintain a reputation as a generous person, or out of habit, (albeit a good one), or with a subtle desire to trigger more blessings from God.

I think we each need to go aside to ponder our giving as a measure of our worship of God. Then we will have all the answers we need.

Blessings,
Ruth

Forgiving Generously

“Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven….” These are mega-words that capture complex processes of change. Each of them overflows with a rich depth of meaning which is difficult for us to comprehend. It is the last one that we highlight here. Forgiveness – such a precious gift, experienced by us all in many and varied ways. In some ways, the list could be reversed as the first three seem to be the outworking of the last. Forgiveness is at the heart of life and although it is often so difficult to forgive, the more we are a forgiving people, the more changed lives, healing and restoration will take place.

The total forgiveness of the Creator is beyond our understanding – if you read the powerful book: “Taming the Tiger” by Tony Anthony you will realise afresh the unfathomable excellence of the forgiveness crafted on the Cross. It is one of thousands of stories showing the powerful grace and mercy of the Almighty – “Father forgive them…..” rings down the centuries. In the book called “The Cross and the Switchblade” by David Wilkerson – I believe I recall him saying at one stage: “If you take my life and even divide up my body, each piece would cry out – “I love you”. Indeed, it is a reflection of the teaching for the One Who Forgave the most, that we should forgive not once or twice but seventy times seven – true generosity in forgiveness. This hymn sums it up:

“Man of heaven, born to earth

To restore us to Your heaven,

Here we bow in awe beneath Your searching eyes

From Your tears comes our joy,

From Your death our life shall spring;

By Your resurrection power we shall rise

We worship at Your feet,

Where wrath and mercy meet,

And a guilty world is washed

By love’s pure stream.

For us He was made sin.

Oh, help me take it in.

Deep wounds of love cry out

“Father forgive”

I worship, I worship

The Lamb Who was slain.

May we seek to follow in the pathway of generous forgiveness to all we meet.

Global Nomad

12 July 2006

Generous Friendship

The powerful imagery in the film called “Black Stallion” remains with you for years afterwards. One of the key phrases in the film is “I want to be your friend” – words well known and well respected throughout the Middle East and indeed wider still to the whole of the East and West Africa – worldwide. In the past 30 years of international travelling, I have experienced incredible friendship, expressed in a kaleidoscope of circumstances and by peoples of all ages and backgrounds. There is a real sense of connection when you make a new friend. At that pivotal moment, you do not know how the relationship will develop, will it be transient, passing like a cloud in the sky or will be for “such a time as this” or will it be for life – forever.

Recently, I met with visitors on a ship and they expressed their desire to be my “forever friends”. This phrase has been tumbling around in my mind ever since. What an beautiful desire and how precious if based on the foundation of Biblical truth and the presence of the One who is the same friend yesterday and today and forever. In many cases, we cannot remember how we first met special friends. The bonding is lost in the mists of time. Often we have friends whom we knew when we were at school, others at college, other in our various places of employment or service. Each is precious and brings back many memories. Each had its own dynamics, some were so natural you never needed to work to maintain them, others were in constant need of attention requiring generosity of time to maintain or repair or restore.

In one country I have visited this part month, they have a saying: “We do not have any enemies because we have turned them all into friends”. This is a fascinating philosophy and very significant as that particular nation has never been invaded or under any alien rulership. I met a secretary last year who shared with me that her daily aim was to turn every fragile-customer into a friend. What a wonderful goal, what a wonderful company that had envisioned her in such a way. A national airline has the aim for their check-in staff to welcome each new guest/ client as if they were a close family member. Being generous with our friendship takes time but is such a worthwhile and enriching experience.

As I travel, I seek each day to be consciously generous with friendship at least once and many times if I can. Thus meeting a smartly overall-ed mechanic in a lift, I enquired if he was the lift maintenance supervisor. With a broad smile, yes he confirmed he was indeed. Thus I was able to thank him for such an excellent job as I had used the lift many times each day for several months and it was always efficient. Then I asked if I might visit the mechanism room right over the top floor as I had never seen the working-technology of a lift before, in real life. He was so pleased to show me round and although greasy, of course, it looked well cared for like a neat treasured garden. Such simple examples can bring much joy and enrich lives.

Being genuine friends and not just “fair-weather friends” is another way of showing generosity in friendship. It requires much investment of time and real appreciation of the people concerned. They know that you are there when things are not so great. Such generous friendship has both depth and quality that speaks volumes and strengthens lives. Being available is a very key ingredient in friendship. May we seek to increase our level of availability as friends thus becoming more like the “…Friend that sticks closer than a brother”.

Thoughtfulness is also integral part of generous friendships, remembering friends’ special interests, hobbies or foods etc. A restaurant owner friend, the other day, cooked me a speciality that another friend had discretely suggested – as they knew I liked it so much and could rarely enjoy it. Just remembering such minute details, is part of generosity. As the ship was leaving a port after an historic inaugural visit , one of the officials stated: “When you arrived you were welcome strangers, as you leave you are our special friends”. Generous friendship had begun which we trust will grow and develop in the coming years.

Global Nomad

11 July 2006

Talented Generosity

Around the world, I have been privileged to observe amazing examples of “Talented Generosity”. People who are immensely talented cheerfully investing their talents in the service of others, enriching lives and communicating the generous heart of the Creator-Redeemer. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” Corinthians 8:9

Greatly gifted in analysing economies in order to recommend ways of improvement and enrichment, one friend travelled regularly, with groups of consultants, to study and evaluate emerging economies and to draft recommendations for a brighter future. What a generous investment and wise use of talents! I’ve met pilots, with undoubted skills and experience, leaving lucrative positions with major international airlines to fly small aircraft in  remote mountains of PNG or Africa. Yachtsmen have used their love of sailing to install character-building qualities in the lives of young adults, encouraging initiative and stamina. An agricultural lecturer and specialist is investing time, energy and his unique  talents in communication and writing into the rural communities of Africa, enriching whole families and shaping the agricultural policies at national and international level.

A property business manager shares his talents in communication of management skills with counterparts in a mega-emerging nation. Doctors, surgeons and other medical specialists are generously donating time and talents to bringing relief and hope to thousands around the world through medical initiatives especially with Mercy Ships International. Others are using their talents in the construction field to build homes, thousands of them through Habitat for Humanity – sharing their skills while using them by training others. Several professional photographers with undisputed talent have willingly volunteered with an international Education and Cultural project hosted onboard ocean-going vessels for several years, in some cases. Captains and officers have offered their maritime talents to sail these vessels over the past 35 years with generous professionalism.

An amazing example of Talented Generosity is shared in the book: “The Hospital by the River” by Dr Catherine Hamlin. It is the record of a husband and wife team who established and developed a specialist hospital in North Africa. Through all the challenges of their host nation’s history, they remained in action and have trained countless national surgeons, doctors and nurses. True generosity incarnated. You would be inspired by the book. Another wonderful medical “giant” was Dr Paul Brand, who made incredible advances in the field of leprosy restorative procedures. His story: “Ten Fingers for God” by Philip Yancey is well worth reading too. He used his talents to the full without reserve.

The field of music has also been one in which I have seen tremendous talent invested for enriching lives, rather than just increasing ones personal wealth. The New English Orchestra is one example and there are many others – a key example was Keith Green and his story “No Compromise” by his wife Melody  is the record of such talented generosity. Do trust that these few “thumbnail” reminders will inspire us all to be more generous with our talents in the months and years ahead.

All books available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/browse.html/202-0664921-5934210?node=468294

Global Nomad

10 July 2006

 
 

Generous Time Management

This is a millennium fascinated with micro-seconds, time is at a premium. Actually, there is exactly the same amount of time in each 24 hours as there has always been since creation. It is the way we use it that makes all the difference. Having the right perspective of and relationship to eternity, enables us to be good, generous stewards of our time.

A couple of years ago, a friend noticed I was about to walk to town and offered to drive me there. Once in the centre of town, he parked the vehicle and then switched the engine off. He was being graciously generous with his time even though his schedule radiates heat!! with its fullness. I found this very meaningful. It taught me a lesson to take/make time for folk. It means so much to be generous in this area of life. To actually switch off the mobile, to take a walk with a friend, to stop “completely” what one is doing and pay attention to another person’s need. This is not easy for us but so essential to learn. Multi-tasking is sometimes cited as an excuse to be fully-listening but is it really quality listening, I wonder?

There is a story of a translation-incident where the experts had been actively searching for the right word to include for “Listen” as used in the ancient Scriptures so often. Then one day, the son of the translator came bursting into the office and excitedly and intensely said, in their beautiful language: “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy…. roll out your ears like a sleeping mat and listen to me!!” What powerful imagery. Not only did Daddy do just that but on “his translation-track” he was sounding a note a praise. The phrase had been found – “”open your ears fully and pay total, uninterrupted, quality, generous listening-time to me – the All-hearing One””.

Yes, being generous with our time for others, is serving in tune with the heart-beat of the Creator.

Global Nomad

09 July 2006

Creative Generosity

At last……. I am back on line again with some news.

Hope you enjoy the latest entry.

Global Nomad

Creative, inspiring, fascinating were words that tumbled into my mind as I met up with four special people in Thailand recently. Their vision to bring hope and healing to as many as possible has been sustained through three decades by two of them and four decades by another!! What tremendous commitment and faithfulness. Each was serving generously in different fields of community care, education by radio, enrichment of living conditions and health care. The fourth generous servant was one whose mode of service has inspired me to share with others, who in turn may be ignited to creative service.

Currently on assignments of training and mentoring in Thailand, this “fourth wise man” has crafted a plan to generate funding using his professional background in Financial Consultancy. He spends a percentage of his year in financial advisory work in Europe and the funds generated through that business enables him to serve the peoples of Thailand. This principle of wise stewardship of time, experience, gifting etc is one that has always been a rich blessing to me. Having been involved in such projects myself overseas; I firmly believe that there is much mileage in such channels of generosity.

Over the coming weeks, I would like to share various examples with you, which I trust will encourage and inspire you too in considering such a direction in your life. We traditionally think of generosity in terms of finance but there are so many other areas also…will leave those till next time.

Global Nomad.