I Saw the Light. I Felt Loved. I Had Hope.

You’ve probably noticed that there’s been a theme in the last few weeks–giving/investing. The idea for the theme actually came from two places: the devotion I wrote, your comments, and an adorable woman I “randomly” met in the airport. (Make sure to read her awesome story next week!)

In the midst of all this, I want to share an opportunity to invest along with me. There’s an organization that has captivated my heart, it’s where I joyfully give my time, my talents, and my personal finances. It’s an organization that I can confidently say spends donations wisely and with integrity.

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Here are my top 5 reasons that I love P31 and am passionate about investing there:

  1. Our calling is to eradicate biblical poverty. That’s a goal I long to help fulfill!
  2. Measured growth is an important part of our DNA. As you saw in the video, our First 5 app was downloaded for the millionth time, and our devotions are now distributed to over 900,000 people world-wide. Our team plans for growth.
  3. I deeply love and respect the people I work with and follow. How many of us can say that about our work place? What you see online in social media, blog posts, and our website? That’s the real deal. No joke. These women love Jesus and each other. We’re not perfect, but we’re fully committed to follow Jesus.
  4. I know that there are eternal returns coming. When I read the comments left by the women who read and participate in our content, I see lives being changed and drawn closer to Jesus. Beautiful!
  5. We believe in the power of a community. Before Thanksgiving, I got the blessing of participating in our Thank-A-Thon. Our team called over 500 donors, and I did a small percentage of those calls. I hope you got one! It was amazing to connect with the women who do ministry with us. That’s the way we see it. You don’t pay for us to do ministry. We’re in ministry together–straight up!

There’s nothing that shows what God is doing better than a story. Please click here and take a few minutes to watch a beautiful story of the difference our ministry is making. I’m delighted that you get to see up close what I see in Proverbs 31 Ministries.

I’m proud to invest with you!

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Episode #25: Sticky and Prickly- Dealing with Our Tricky Holiday Emotions

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The holidays inevitably boil up some difficult emotions. Childhood hurts reemerge, too many people around fray our nerves, or loneliness leaves us feeling hollow.

Cheri and Amy process helpful ways to deal with our emotions instead of just pushing them down only to have them pop up later.

(Click on the graphic above to access the podcast and the free downloads. Prefer to read rather than listen? Download the transcript right here!)

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Episode #24: Alone But Not Lonely

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Every holiday image we see is centered around family, friends, and rooms full of smiling people.

Facing a holiday spent alone—or feeling alone—is hard.

Cheri and Amy talk about shifting our perspective so that a “silent night” isn’t a painful night but one filled with peace instead.

(Click on the graphic to go listen. Prefer to read rather than listen? Download the transcript right here!)

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Why You SHOULD Think of Yourself When You Give

I was a little surprised. No push-back from last week’s post on giving? Maybe it wasn’t as counter-intuitive to you as it has been to me.

In my reforming perfectionistic brain, there used to be 2 main rules for giving (my time, my money, my talents, my heart):

  • You should never expect anything in return.
  • You should never think about yourself. That’s selfish.

Those bad beliefs have been challenged in my life, and I invite you to process the challenge with me.

As I said last week, I believe we should expect to receive something in return, and I think we should absolutely think of ourselves when we give. As I said last week, we need new terms for thinking this way. From here on out, I’m going to switch to the vocabulary I used last week. When we give, we might not think of ourselves, but when we invest, we should be looking to how we’re affected.

Here’s why thinking of ourselves when we invest is crucial:

We should ruthlessly seek the good work being done within us. In the comments you left over the last few weeks, I’ve read a few with a longing to have your evident spiritual gift. For some of you, giving is like breathing. You can’t do life without it, and it’s part of your divinely given DNA. Giving is your gift.

I wish giving was my gift, but it’s not. Giving is a challenge for me. I lean toward selfishness and comfort, and I have to fight against those negative forces every time I do something for someone else. It’s an ugly part of me to share, but I’m just keepin’ it real.

When I give, I have to ask God to reveal my motives with His spotlight of righteousness. Am I investing with eternal purposes in mind, or do I have a hidden selfish motive? Am I doing truly investing for another, or do I have a secret motive for gain?

Investing always stretches me in the best possible way.

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How can we know our motives are pure so that God’s purifying work can be accomplished in our investing? It must be done from love.

“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” I Corinthians 13:3 (NIV)

Too often I’ve given so that I can boast. Sadly, that’s an investment with a negative return. I become more entrenched in self when I give this way, but love means that I gain God’s refining work in me. Let’s invest in love with an eye to gaining more of the fruits of the Spirit like thankfulness (Psalm 106:1) and to earning the blessing of more Jesus in us (Acts 20:35).

We should choose to be nothing, but we shouldn’t see ourselves as nothing. In Philippians 2:5-11, we read that Jesus chose a position of humility. He “made himself nothing”. He gives us a high example to follow in His humility. As I say in Breaking Up with Perfect,

“Rather than trading on His rightful position, Jesus intentionally gave up the perfection of heaven and chose a new position. ‘He made himself nothing.’ He isn’t nothing, but He chose to become nothing. Although He holds power and authority and is due respect, He elected to abdicate the rights and benefits of His high status by giving up the privileges He rightfully holds with His rank. Giving up perfection, He accepted an assignment in a flawed, broken, sinful world as a servant.” (p. 63)

It’s good to choose to become nothing because that reflects Christ-like humility. It’s not good to believe you are nothing.

Even though there were only the sounds of crickets chirping after my post last week, I’m sure that many of you have bought into the two bad beliefs I confessed at the start of this post. I heard it in the comments in the devotion and blog post I wrote several weeks ago, and some of your comments broke my heart in two.

I heard the echoes of what you believe about yourself in what you wrote. You. Don’t. Count. I want to set the record firmly in place on that belief. You, dearest one, do count. You matter.

There’s an equation that God the Father established in the Old Testament that Jesus the Son repeats in the New. When a man who wanted to test Jesus approached Him with a question, here’s how it went down:

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 36-40)

There’s an equation here with three parts:

Love God + Love others + as yourself= Greatest commandments

You are not a zero sum in the equation. Jesus put you there.

Perfectionists often get this wrong. We’ve stripped ourselves out of the equation for so long that we become convinced that we don’t count–To Jesus. To anybody else.

I love how some genius used one of my all-time favorite words, JOY, to make an acronym.

J-Jesus
O-Others
Y-You

Here’s the thing. Too many of us are only experiencing JO instead of JOY. See the problem? 🙂 Here are some questions to discern whether you’re leaving yourself out of the investment equation in a negative way:

  • Is it wearing you out and leaving you empty instead of building you up and making you filled?
  • Are others appreciative of what you give? I’m not talking about expecting gratefulness everyday or every time, but God cares about you. In asking you to invest, He’s not asking you to be prey for takers. That’s enabling, not investing. If you suspect that you’ve taken on the roll of enabling, put “you” back into the joy equation and see how the investing feels then.
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Episode # 23: How to Add WOW to Your Holiday Wardrobe

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What to wear? What to wear? With humor and practical tips, Cheri and Amy, along with special guest and professional stylist Kim Nowlin, attack the bad rules of holiday fashion and body image.

Don’t miss this one–dress yourself to match your inner sparkle this holiday season!

Click on the graphic to listen, access the transcript, and download some fun freebies.

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Episode #22: Truly Yummy

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Although it’s pretty funny to have a host and co-host who are challenged in the kitchen talking about the ultimate holiday meals, Cheri and Amy get to the heart. Food isn’t just fuel for our bodies; it’s juice for relationships too.

Click on the graphic to listen to the podcast, get links to some great resources, download some of their favorite recipes, and to access the written transcript too!

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Why You SHOULD Expect Something in Return When You Give

It brought me overwhelming joy to read your comments about giving last week. Truly. I was traveling and checking my email at every stop just for the great feeling of connecting with your generous hearts. I loved reading every word that you wrote!

There were are few comments mixed in that made my heart ache, though. These were comments that made me aware that sometimes we give based on misconceptions about godly giving.

I heard you echo something I’ve said many times–“I need to give without expecting anything in return.” I know exactly what you mean. You want to give without mixed motives. You want to give even though there’s nothing in it for you. I agree!

Mostly…

But I believe that sometimes we take that thought too far, and it causes us to give unwisely. Here’s a truth that I believe:

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Think about the difference between a gift and an investment. A gift may be given one-way with no expectation of any reward, but investing is done with the express purpose of a return or reward.

Think a little counter-intuitively with me for just a minute. We think of generous giving in terms of not expecting a reward, but I believe that when we give we should always expect a return or reward.

About now you may be thinking, “Where in the world is she going with this?” and you might even be ready to hit the “unsubscribe” button, but hang in there with me for just a few more minutes before you write me off.

First let’s define and separate the terms “giving” and “investing”. Let’s use the word “investing” to express times when we give to an individual or organization to help instead of just celebrating or treating someone.

Giving can be fun, spontaneous, and one-sided. It should be done without expecting a return, but…

Investing should be purposeful and should expect a return or outcome. What kind of outcomes should we expect when we invest in an individual or an organization?

We expect a work to be done in us. My whole blog post will be on this point next week, so hang on tight for this one!

We expect a work to be done in others. I can look back sadly on some times that I haven’t expected this, and I think now that it wasn’t truly godly investing. I’ve given to organizations willy-nilly based on my emotions without asking them to prove that the money was going to good work and that was producing good outcomes. That kind of investing isn’t generous at all. It’s squandering.

I think about times that I’ve given to people just because I thought I should without ever seeing any fruit in their lives. Maybe you’re in those shoes. There’s a family member who needs money from you every month, but they refuse to look for a job. There’s a beloved friend who is always falling short and needing help but always seems to have enough for the next pair of cute shoes. Or another who demands that you’re always there for her but is inevitably scarce when you’re hurting. There’s a child who is happy to cash the check but never has time to say “thank you”. I’m sure you could help me list more examples!

God is full of compassion and mercy forgives us over and over, but in His wisdom, there’s always a natural consequence for our sin or foolishness. This consequence is designed ultimately to teach us so that we don’t come to greater harm. We need to consider this part of God’s character as we invest as well as His generosity.

You can see that I’m not talking about a financial return, a return gift, or effusive thanks, but we should be keeping a look-out for fruit from our giving.

We expect an eternal “payout”. True investing, or godly giving, has divine rewards attached, but unwise investing often forfeits these rewards. Investing reaps abundance.

Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Proverbs 11:24, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.”

I want to be quick to say that I’m not peddling prosperity theology. No way! Most often than not these rewards are much richer than dollars. Our “payout” comes in terms of joy from being in God’s will, closeness with Him as we express more of His generous nature, forgiveness that’s in the context of the Luke passage, or a thousand other spiritual blessings that God has to distribute.

Do you see what I mean now? Godly giving is really investing.

This is a fresh way to evaluate our giving rather than pouring our time, talents, and treasure into a black hole of “takers”. Finally let me give you a few questions to ask as you evaluate your present giving:

  • Is it consistently draining you instead of building you up? (More on this next week.)
  • Do you see fruit in the other’s life and/or whether it’s an individual or an organization? Is it measurable in some way? (If you’re interested in learning more about this, check out the book Measuring What Matters: Accountability and the Great Commission by Dave Stravers.)
  • Do you see glimpses of eternity and God’s rewards?

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Note: I completely forgot about the giveaway from a couple of weeks ago, so I have two winners to announce today! Ronda (10.25.16 5:54 am), you’re the winner of a copy each of Breaking Up with Perfect and Taming the To-Do List. Courtney (11.4.16 2:32 pm), your’e the winner of Same Kind of Different as Me.

Congratulations to both of you! I’ve sent you each an email, so if you haven’t heard from me, please check your spam folder. I hope you enjoy your books!

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The Gift of Giving

To all of you visiting today from my devotion today, welcome! If you’re a first time visitor, welcome and a big, southern cyber-hug to you!! Would you leave me a comment to tell me where you’re from and a little something you think I should know about you? I truly want to meet you “personally”!

Your comment today will enter  you for one of my favorite books in the whole wide world, so make sure to read to the end and to comment whether you’re a new or old friend. 🙂

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Just to give you an backstage view of the Proverbs 31 devotions, we writers have a deadline for devotions two months before they actually run. Because I write devotions so far in advance (and because I have a terrible memory), it never fails that I’m surprised by my own words. In fact, many times my devotions run just in time for a fresh reminder in my life.

That certainly happened with this month’s devotion. Here’s the sentence that pierced my heart:

“Sometimes I was reluctant to give because I felt too consumed by my every day schedule. Other times, I felt the pinch of need in my own life. And occasionally it was because I’d become jaded toward the recipients of my help.”

Ouch! In fact, I’ve been feeling that reluctance just this week. I also could add some other reasons to be reluctant to give. How about…?

  • It’s really close to Christmas. I need to save that money for gifts for my family.
  • I have kids in college. God understands about tuition, right?
  • I’m already giving in other places. One more? Really, God?

I’m just keepin’ it real here. I’ll bet y’all are better people than me, but maybe, just maybe, you’ve thought some of those things too?

Even though I have reasons that seem legitimate and that would make others say, “You’re so right. I understand!” that hasn’t been God’s response. He has a giving project in mind for me, and He every-so-gently keeps tugging at my heart, pushing through my excuses and reminding me that…

I know it’s true not only because I’ve experienced it myself but because that’s the kind of God we serve. He’s a giver extraordinaire. He gives generously, and He loves to give. Scripture tells us those truths. God encourages us to be like Him.

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But there’s one big obstacle that has been keeping me from following God in His giving character. On top of all the other excuses I generate, there are a couple of questions that plague me. What if I give to the wrong place/person/organization? What if I contribute to more harm than good?

I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I want to share with you from what I’ve been learning as the Coordinator of International Initiatives for Proverbs 31 Ministries. It’s one of the most exciting roles I’ve ever taken on, and I’m immensely proud that our ministry is giving so generously. I have to share that it’s scary, though. My team and I feel the huge responsibility of giving wisely.

Here are some practical steps toward wise giving we’ve taken that you can take as well:

  1. Prayerfully make a list of your priorities. Ask yourself what passions God has laid on your heart? For example, at Proverbs 31, we know that God has given us a call to end biblical poverty. What has God called you to do with your giving? Address hunger? End slavery? Stop abuse? There’s usually not one thing, so make a list.
  2. Research organizations that match up to your callings. For Proverbs 31, it was important to us that we find an organization that prioritizes scripture like we do. That’s why we were so thrilled to be partnered with Mission India’s literacy classes this year! Find an organization that has a heartbeat like yours.
  3. Check your organization’s reputation. This is super-important.  A friend just had her heart broken when she learned that an organization she had been contributing to for years had been pocketing most of the money her family gave instead of doing the ministry they promised. You can look up your organization on these accountability sites: Charity Navigator and Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
  4. Ask to speak to someone on staff. This might feel awkward, but I believe it’s an important final decision-making step. Organizations should be happy to speak to potential donors to answer their questions no matter the size of the gift. If they won’t, I would count that as a disqualifier. If they will, pray that God will give you discernment as you speak with them. There’s a lot that websites don’t say, but a representative should be able to give you a clear vision of the work they’re doing.

After we’ve taken all those steps, we can confidently say as Rita’s mom said, “My responsibility isn’t in the receiving. My responsibility is in the giving!”

I want to give YOU some gifts today! First, there’s the giveaway. One of my favorite books both about the gift of giving (sometimes you become the biggest recipient before you know it!!) is The Same Kind of Different as Me, the true story of a friendship between a wealthy art dealer and a man who had been homeless most of his life.

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Denver Moore & Ron Hall

Leave a comment about giving to enter, or if you’re on the run, simply say “I embrace the gift of giving!”

I’m so glad you’re here today, and I’d like to personally offer some other things to you that I’ve built into my site as free gifts for you. If you’re looking for:

A community that wants to grow deeper relationships…                                                                                                                   Click here to receive an email from me a couple times a week by subscribing to the blog.

Free wallpaper for your screen to remind you that you’re breaking up with perfect…                                                   Click here and choose your favorite style.

Encouragement and information for fellow and budding speakers…                                                                                      Click here for my page that’s chock full of information for speakers.

A speaker for your next women’s event…                                                                                                                                                    Click here to watch a sample video and read about my heart. I’d love to serve your group.

A podcast to with refreshment for women worn out from following bad rules …                                                                  Click here to listen to my Grit ‘n’ Grace podcast with Cheri Gregory.

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Savoring the Gift of Giving

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There’s nothing better than seeing someone light up when they open your gift… until you open the new year bills.

Cheri and Amy talk about giving out of our abundance as a solution for the post-Christmas blues, and they give practical suggestions for great gifts you can give this year!

Click on the graphic above to listen, or if you prefer reading to listening, you can download the transcript of this episode.

And seriously y’all… Cheri and our staff of incredible interns have stepped up our resources game beyond imagination. Don’t miss out on the Show Notes links and the FREE Downloads section. There are so many amazing goodies there!

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