A Yellow Picnic Table

The yellow paint was drying just as this week’s chill blew in.    Our picnic table has served us well, but the paint was chipping and another winter buried under snow would have likely left scars that may have rendered it useless.

Cliff L. gave us that picnic table in 2010.  He was moving and couldn’t take it with him.   Cliff had been a part of the River of Grace family since he’d been released from NHSP.  Jesus had found him while he was doing time and Cliff’s life was never the same.    He was also one of the most generous people I knew.

Cliff didn’t have a lot of cash.  He dealt in junk cars and metal.  Often he’d show up to church with his pick up and trailer stacked full of valuable trash that he’d take in to scarp yards in exchange for cash.   Cliff made enough to live on, barely.   But he’d share what he could, especially his time.  He was always willing to volunteer, and when he came upon something in his travels that someone could use, he’d happily donate it.    He was marked by generosity.

Cliff died tragically in 2011.   I remember because his funeral was the same day as my dad’s so sadly I couldn’t attend Cliff’s.  Imagining Cliff and dad walking into heaven together still makes me smile.   As I painted our picnic table, bright yellow this time, I thought of Cliff and his generous life.

One of my privileges as a pastor is to help create a Jesus-centered environment where people from the most stingy state in the union become some of the most generous people in the world.   Generosity isn’t just about giving 10 percent, or making an annual GiG commitment at years end (Global Initiative Giving – more on GiG next month), or giving to RoG’s Benevolence Fund, or participating in the may charitable fund drives that happen around your community.  Generosity is a way of life.  It can be expressed in giving generously of your time, your attention, your body or your ability.   It can be demonstrated in a meal shared, an embrace extended or skill invested.  It means sharing of your abundance, even if you don’t have spare cash.

“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).  The Lord is generous, “abounding in riches for all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12).   Cliff’s generous grin still comes to my mind, reflecting his heavenly father’s generous heart.  Our yellow picnic table is an ongoing gift from a generous man who had come to know a generous Jesus.

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Why I preach to myself

My heart frequently condemn David Pinckney.  He is no good. Certainly not good enough for God.  He fails too often.  He can’t keep the good laws of God.  But when my heart condemns me, I preach to myself “there is now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus”  Romans 8:1 and “God is greater than our hearts”  1 John 3:20.    Some days i’m just overwhelmed by despair.  My mind is weighed down with problems.  I want to hide under the covers and pretend it will all go away.  But then I preach to myself, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest”  Matthew 11:28-29 and “Cast all your cares on the Lord because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7.   Yes, I need to hear the gospel over and over and over again.  I need to hear that Jesus has taken all my condemnation.  I need to hear he is a friend of sinners Matthew 11:19.  While I’m not a great preacher I do benefit from hearing myself preach the good news that Jesus is all I need.