It doesn’t take a lot to make me happy.
Walking outside and seeing the sun reflecting off snow on the mountains after days of rain …
Dog smiles …
I could go on, but much of the list would include things like that. I suppose such happinesses come from humble starts: my parents worked hard and did their best to provide for my well-being. I am fortunate that while they didn’t necessarily foster my whims, they didn’t squelch them either, which meant I was able to foster them on my own.
I’ve always had big dreams.
You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.James 4:2-3
I pray, I don’t wish. I believe in a Creator, greater than I, who made the things. All the things. I do not believe I could have survived, lived, accomplished on my own. It’s too much for me, an only child who grew up as wild as the feral cats who lived under my Nana’s porch that we fed daily or the stray dogs I longed to pet that my parents corralled me from. There is no way I’ve done these things by myself and so I am grateful that I can still draw breath and do what I do.
I have prayed for plenty of things to get my way, to bring joy to myself. As I reflect back over the thousands of days I’ve walked this rock, I can say with humility that I’ve recognized the real purpose in prayer: to ask for that which I would like in order to bring joy to another.
If I ask for food, may it be in abundance that I can share with someone who is hungry.
If I ask for finances, may it be in abundance that I can share with someone in lack.
If I ask for health, may it be in abundance that I can serve someone dealing with infirmity.
If I ask for peace, may it be in abundance that I can bring comfort to someone with many stressors.
I can’t give if I don’t have and if I don’t have, I may have been too selfish to recognize that I did have and didn’t share, which could be why I didn’t have as much as I would have liked.
Call it karma, call it just comeuppance, but I call it reality.
There’s a thing: the more you give, the more you have.
There’s another thing: if you hold tight with a closed fist to what you have, you won’t have an open hand to receive anew, or to receive more.
So I ask with other in mind. I ask so I can give.
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!Malachi 3:10, NLT
I prayed to see changes in my life this year. I could see lots of amazing things around me, many blessings already. However, I wasn’t full of joy: I didn’t have it in abundance.
I struggled to take care of the responsibilities that are mine and because of that, my areas of philanthropy, however small, were nearly nonexistent. I wasn’t giving as I should. So I prayed.
I prayed for more joy.
I prayed for humility.
I prayed for new territories.
People often get turned off by faith community, particularly when those communities seem to take and not give. The financial tithe gets eaten up by heating and air conditioning cost, electric bills, structural repairs, parking lot upgrades, and salaries. The poor and hungry outside the walls of the sanctuary walk by, reluctant to hear the word ‘no’ when they ask for alms.
The visuals of faith leaders living in palatial mansions, walking into arena-sized sanctuaries surrounded by security forces that rival the military power of a small country, or driving one of a fleet of cars they own is enough to wrench my stomach.
I get it.
I’m grateful that my faith community isn’t like that, which is part of what drew me there in the first place. The groceries and hot meals, the bills paid for local residents, the bus passes handed out, the shelters opened, the lives changed … there are records of where our financial giving goes. Sure, there are heating and air conditioning costs, electric bills, salaries, and purchases, but those aren’t what are highlighted. My faith community opens its books to show how much is done in our city and I respect that. I am humbled to be part of it.
I’m not afraid to give in this way, to bring the financial tithes to the house of worship. Because of my own hermit-like nature, I feel led to give in this way, rather than in other ways like serving on one of the many ministries like Adopt-A-Block, watching the children, handing out food at the food bank, or being an usher. I’ve done some of those things, but as my days advance, I know it’s not where I’m suited anymore.
The problem though that can arise is when I take what I should give and pay a late bill with it. I don’t want to do that.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.Romans 7:15-19, NIV
I don’t want to think of myself only. I don’t want to earn more, just to horde it or spend it on myself or those in my immediate span of care. Yet, in the heat of the moment, my sin — my selfish nature — takes over.
My Creator understands and knows my prayers, my asking is to not be selfish, that I want more so I can give more.
And the Creator opens those windows and pours out. There is also in the pouring an overflow for me, where I can find a reason to smile that is just for me.
I have seen already this year the answer to my ask and the most recent big blessing I received was an extra shipment of soft pretzels.
Now, that may not seem like much, or even like a blessings to many. However, as a person for whom the west coast is where I live but the east coast will always be home, particularly the bumpy byways I know by heart in and around the Philadelphia metro, little brings a smile more widely than a good pretzel. I ordered some for my birthday and they got lost in shipment. I let the company know and the rep I was in touch with sent out another shipment. I then received a message from a different rep, who let me know he was going to overnight me a new package. At the time, I didn’t realize the conversations were about two different packages, until two boxes of soft pretzels arrived today. I sent an immediate message to both reps and was told to keep the second box for free.
A big to me blessing for my birthday, you see.
When I thought I would be pretzel-less, I received a double portion, and early at that.
I see the signs of more big to me blessings on the horizon, and I am ever so grateful.