December Challenge Verse-Week 2

The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. (1)

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December Challenge: Generosity

hand-2597795_1920I have a confession to make: Christmas isn’t exactly my most favorite time of year.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love seeing glowing strands of colored light spiral streetlamps and draped around bushes. And sipping hot creamy drinks of sweet caffeine or chocolate from poinsettia red cups. Not to mention, listening to holiday music on the radio is a bonafide mood lifter.

But somewhere, in the past 10 years, my connotation of Christmas went from this lovely scene:giphy

to these not so lovely scenes:

giphy (1) giphy-downsized (1)

 

 

 

 

I’m sure my deteriorating holiday high has a lot to do with age. As an adult, the holiday I adored as a child became unfamiliar. I was suddenly mindful of prices and how much gifts cost and whether I should buy gifts for some people and none for others. Giving became disfigured. It had mutated from being euphoric to being exhausting.

But as I write this, I think about how much it cost God to give Jesus to His beloved but fallen world. He didn’t hesitate. He wasn’t too exhausted or overwhelmed to give Himself. And He didn’t give only to those He deemed worthy or meritorious. He gave His life and continues to offer the gift of new life to all. 

I think about that whenever I begin to feel weary this time of year. How the Lord gives so freely, richly, and without measure. And as His daughter, I should as well.

As we go into December and close out 2017, I challenge you to give to someone who can’t give back, an unlikely recipient. Maybe the next stop you get an Uber, thank the driver with a $5 gift card to Starbucks. Or give a thank you card to your waiter when you go out to eat. Call your local schools and ask to pay off overdue lunch accounts for kids.

We are all unlikely recipients of God’s love and grace. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let’s spread His love and grace generously this month and beyond.

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 33 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-).

In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin.

I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well.

I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

 

Grateful in Knowing that God Never Leaves Us Nor Forsakes Us

Timmie UK

Two weeks ago, I took a break for a trip to the United Kingdom for the baptism of my one year old goddaughter in Oxford, did the touristy thing in London, and a day trip to Liverpool where I studied for my degree.

Although travelling can be exhausting (14 hours flight!) especially the after effect of being jet-lagged and the change of temperature, but it is a trade-off for the experience to open up my mind to the culture, creativity and beauty of a city.

I realized that each city has its own dynamics. In London, it is fast moving as people are always rushing to commute their point of destination especially on the underground tube. While in Oxford it is slower in pace and has many beautiful parks and since it is a well-known place for academia, it definitely has an air of intellectual vibe. As for Liverpool which was the European City of Culture for United Kingdom n 2008, is a vibrant beautiful city full of energy.

The architecture of the buildings in London such as the Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London and Tower Bridge is simply astonishing. The capability of storing massive amount of books and data in the University Libraries in Oxford is mind blowing. If you are a fan of the Beatles, you should already know that Liverpool is where they first begun and collaborated.

While visiting these cities, it dawned on me how diverse and beautiful the human kind can be (assuming that we just focus on the positive, but also bearing in mind the propensity to be destructive). God has given us the gift of creating culture, buildings and governance. As the ultimate Creator, he has given us the ability to be creative.

In line with this, the baptism of my goddaughter reminded me that not only that He is a faithful God (as my goddaughter is the answer to many years of waiting and prayers by her parents) but when He creates and give, he does it marvelously. If only we take a moment of stop, pause and reflect, we would be able to notice his handprint in all of life.

That is why, in writing this article, I would like to reflect on be grateful for life in general (including the struggles) because before the beauty of the beautiful buildings stand in their glory were the toils and hours of labour. Before my goddaughter was born, there were many occasions of disappointments but silenced by continuous prayer and trust in God.

Life is a beautiful struggle, and I liken it as a painting or a building with incredible architecture. The painting wouldn’t be as attractive or mesmerizing without some dark colours in the midst of the bright or pastel colours. While the construction of the building prior to completion would have been dirty, messy and back-breaking. However, personally I am learning to be grateful for the bright colours as well as the dark, the process as well as the finality of an event in life. What I am grateful for is the sense of knowing that God is in the midst of all my struggles are – be it personal, relational, financial, or health.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 ESV)

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV)

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timmie-liew Timmie

Hello, my name is Timmie and I’m from Malaysia. I am a lawyer by profession. I am a charismatic, passionate person and enjoy beautiful things in life such as travelling to different cities to appreciate the culture. I love fashion and appreciate ‘coffee time’ with people to talk about life and build meaningful relationships. I’m passionate about the things of God, the Church and authentic leadership. My deepest desire is to embrace all that God has called me to be and be a blessing to whoever that God has placed in my life past, present and future. Our God is a GREAT God, and the best is yet to come !🙂

Ask MRP!

ask-mrp

Dear MRP,

I’m having a hard time understanding why people call singleness a gift. I have to say that I am not all that thrilled about having this gift. I’m in my late thirties and have been single for most of my adult life. I deeply desire marriage and children but am perplexed as to why God would give me a “gift” I don’t want. I try to trust Him but at the same time, I wonder if I should just accept what He’s given and not expect anything more.

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Receiving a gift is supposed to be a guaranteed moment that is packed with joy.  You expect to be happy, to have your heart gladdened by the sight of an unexpected act of love. So it is a weirdly somber experience to receive a gift that you don’t want. And this gift is from the Lord, which can make you feel disappointed and conflicted.  But I think the key to understanding God’s gift of singleness lies in the perception of the word “gift”.

The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 7:7 (The Message), “Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others.”

Paul wasn’t referring to “gift” in the sense of an object of delight given to someone. But rather, he meant as a skill, a capacity to excel or endure in a process. For the duration of our single season, God grants us what we need to flourish in that environment and handle all that may come with it. Author Tim Keller wrote in his book, The Meaning of Marriage, “In his writings, Paul always uses the word, ‘gift’ to mean an ability God gives to build others up. Paul is not speaking, then of some kind of elusive, stress-free state…Paul may very well, then, have experienced what we today would call an ‘emotional struggle’ with singleness…Consider, then, that the ‘single-calling’ Paul speaks of is neither a condition without any struggle nor on the other hand an experience of misery.  It is fruitfulness in life and ministry through the single state. When you have this gift, there may indeed be struggles, but the main thing is that God is helping you to grow spiritually and be fruitful in the lives of others despite them. That means a single gift is not just for a select few, and it is not necessarily lifelong, though it may be. It may be a grace given for a finite period of time.”

​And since this singleness may last for only a season, ​I ​don’t think th​at means you should ​stop ​cease seeking God for marriage. “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.” Matthew 7:9-10 (NLT)​ ​He is a good Father who knows the desire of your heart and desires to give you good gifts, including the gift of marriage.

And while ‘gift’ is defined as an ability in the Scripture,  marriage and singleness each come with their own brand of joys. Both states give license, creativity, and course to enjoy varying facets of the life God designed.

I hope this blesses you. Praying for you as you learn to embrace​ and value​ your gift in this season.

– Jen @ MRP!

Attitude of Gratitude

persistence

In my present circumstances, I am recognizing that challenges accompany blessings. Life now looks very unstable compared to my life last year. Yet simply because something is challenging doesn’t mean it isn’t good. In all of it, I am seeking an attitude of gratitude. I want to continue to see the goodness of each situation, even when the road is difficult. When I praise God for the blessings instead of focusing on the challenges, I am much more filled with joy. Focusing on the challenges brings frustration and negativity.

A mere text message a few weeks ago was impetus for me to reflect on my attitude. “What have you been up to?” An acquaintance texted me. My reply: “The usual: work and school.” “Sounds boring.” was his reply. Wait…Boring? “Boring” isn’t a word in my vocabulary! More than anything, I realized that I am grateful for everything in my life, and for life itself. I don’t count anything drudgery. In my eyes, it is all opportunity. True, school can be very draining and time consuming. Yet, not too long ago, I was pining to leave a job where I was more tired than fulfilled. I was more than ready for student life! Here I am, now in school and being stretched daily for a career that (God willing) will one day be fulfilling for me and bring healing to others. Not every person in the world has the ability to further their education or even to pursue a job that they are interested in. Even if my job isn’t what I would prefer to be doing–I have a stable source of income. There are so many who cannot say the same and would happily jump at a job offer! While to outsiders my life may appear burdensome or “boring,” I am very grateful for each situation. When I am grateful, my mood is much more upbeat. I have found that I am even more productive in my school work when I focus on the opportunity that is being in school!

An attitude of gratitude leads to contentment. Gratitude leads to greater awareness of the blessing that each situation in our life is. The challenges help us to grow. No opportunity comes without responsibility. Praise God for every blessing—even when it is challenging. I promise that it will lift your mood and help you to remember your opportunities! As I move forward into finals, I’m thanking God for the opportunity to expand my knowledge and further my career.

How can you praise God in the midst of your current blessings accompanied by challenges?

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.