One by one the prisoners filed into the small meeting hall. Each one wore the same gray outfit and had the same closely trimmed haircut, but their faces showed that each was an individual with his own story of what had brought him to this place.
“I am arranging for the most hardened and dangerous criminals to watch your program,” the warden had told us. “Many of them will never see freedom again. They are the ones who most need to hear what you have to say.”
Last Christmas my children and I teamed up with another family to spread Christmas cheer to children with physical disabilities. Our program consisted of music, clowns, and lots of personal attention. Because the children’s disabilities varied greatly from audience to audience, we never quite knew what to expect.
One show was hosted by an organization that assists disabled children from low-income families. When we arrived, one adorable toddler caught my attention immediately.
In the Philippines, the Yuletide season means everything—family reunions, commemorating Christ’s birth, celebrating love. Combine that with good food, endless parties, and halls “decked with boughs of holly” from September all the way to February, and you’ve got a pretty merry Christmas.
But several years ago, Christmas didn’t bring the same good feelings for me. Maybe that was because I was a 20-year-old single girl who was craving a different kind of love that Christmas.
2 Corinthians 9:7: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Deuteronomy 15:10a: Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart.
Exodus 25:2: Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.
While living in Gambia, West Africa, my five-year-old son Chris and I went on a trip to the village of Sintet, where our group of volunteers from the Family International was helping to build a school.
I had enjoyed the thrilling tales told by co-workers who had returned from there, so when I heard that a team needed to make a one-and-a-half-day trip to the village I jumped at the chance to go.
When someone asked Jesus what was God’s greatest commandment, He replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”1 As far as God is concerned, love is the supreme virtue. Love is the most important thing. God doesn’t ask us to be perfect; He doesn’t ask us to be free from mistakes; He doesn’t ask us to do great things that the world will hear of. He just asks us to love others.
For an increasing number of us, financial troubles are precariously close to home. With businesses and financial institutions failing daily, it’s no wonder so many worry that their own livelihoods or homes are at risk.
In such times of trouble and uncertainty it’s natural to worry about your own family foremost. If until recently you’ve been supporting your church or various charities, now, with gloomy future prospects, perhaps you question whether such giving makes sound financial sense.
The answer is that if you want God’s blessing, then giving is still definitely in! “God loves a cheerful giver”1 is one of the pillars of God’s financial plan. In fact, God’s way to plenty is to give it away.
Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.
—Attributed to John Wesley (1703–1791)
There is a wonderful law of nature that the three things we crave most in life—happiness, freedom, and peace of mind—are always attained by giving them to someone else.
—Peyton Conway March (1864–1955)
“Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”If there was anyone who knew all about that, it was probably Mother Teresa. After having lived among the poorest of the poor in India for nearly 30 years (and she would continue to do so for nearly 20 more), she was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She began her acceptance speech with the words, “Life is life.” She went on to explain that all human beings are special and of great worth, no matter who they are, and that only when we have learned to respect that fact can we begin to help them improve their lives.
Just one more day. Just one more day, I kept telling myself as I made my way down a dusty path to the hospital entrance. It was still early morning, but I could feel the sun beating down on the back of my neck. My arms ached from the weight of the large box of medicine and other supplies I was carrying. It was the fifth and last day of a free medical project in a rural area of Nigeria, where other members of the Family International and I were assisting a team of volunteer doctors and other medical professionals. After four very long days on my feet and with little sleep, I was irritable and ready to go home. Walking past the long lines of people who had come for treatment—many having arrived before dawn—all I could think of was taking a shower and getting a good night’s sleep in my own bed. Just one more day. I can survive one more day.