Living a Better Story

I really cannot express how excited I am about the content of this blog. I won’t beat around the bush, as I’ve done enough of that in the last two weeks thanks to a brutal lack of sleep! Last weekend when I was up in Nashville, I was fortunate (and awake) enough to get to the Sunday morning service @ Brentwood UMC. This is the church I went to most of the three years I lived in the Nashville area, mainly because they had a really neat Sat. night service that fit well with my work schedule. Anyway, the service this past Sun. was amazing–they’ve always had a killer choir, and the new pastor is following very well in the steps of Dr. Howard Olds, whom I adored as the pastor there before he died. To get to the point (see how longer-winded I am these days?!), the new pastor told us towards the end of the service that little did we know we were all getting paid to be there that morning. Of course, all our ears perked up, and the woman behind me nudged her husband out of his nap! Honestly, all else he told us before the ushers passed out the below envelopes is that an anonymous donor gave $25,000 to the church to make this project possible. And that we didn’t have to take an envelope if we didn’t want to, but rest assured that there were plenty to go around, for every single person in the sanctuary. Here’s what the envelope looked like:

After we watched a video which honestly just served to really hype us all up (esp. the little girl down the pew from me), he let us open the envelopes. This is what I found in mine…

Hopefully you’ll be able to zoom in on the literature to see exactly what the specifics are, but it boils down to this: each envelope had either $5, $10, or $20 in it, and you weren’t allowed to merely give it back to the church. The main point of the exercise, besides the accompanying Bible study (about the fishes & loaves), was to pray for three days before making any decisions for how to use the money we’d been giving to the glory of God. Let me just share some pics of the rest of the literature to make it simpler.

I was absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity, as it’s been heavy on my heart lately that I’m doing zilch volunteer work, no Bible studies, and the last money I donated was to Haiti, which was pretty much a given for most of us. The weird thing is that even before I planned this spur-of-the-moment trip to Nash, something made me think about this Brentwood church about three days before I even knew I was going, which made me realize that God wanted me in the sanctuary that morning. Not just to get the $10, obviously, but to be so immensely blessed by this humbling opportunity. I joked w/ my mom when I called her after the service that I thought Jesus was leading me to spend it @ the TJMaxx/HomeGoods right across Franklin Road, and she told me First Methodist in Valdosta did a very similar program about 20 years ago, which directly benefitted church missions there. Personally, I think either way the program is set up would be a win-win, but this one seemed more challenging since we were told that the church wouldn’t accept the money back if we told them where it came from.

So what did I decide to do w/ the money? Well, it was honestly just $10, so I was a little unsure, even after plenty of praying. Turns out the other night at work, they gave all of us @ the front desk a $30 Wal-Mart gift card (I won’t tell why…let’s just say it was past due, but still unexpected!). It pretty quicky dawned on me that God wanted me to use all this “surprise money,” which truly was His to start with, for whatever project He led me to. Even as of Wed., when the three days were up, I was still pretty clueless what to do.  After class yesterday morning, I went  to DollGen down the road from me which is closing up shoppe, and what was in the little home & garden section but a whole slew of stuff that was 40% off. Not only that, but it was whole sets of un-picked-over stuff! I knew then and there that God wanted me to buy some of the garden ornaments for my Granny’s retirement home; it would not only cheer up the ladies and the caretakers, but also all the family and friends who come to visit them. I might add that the Rachel House, as small as it is, has some of the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen. (There’s also a banana tree, which I think it’s safe to say is pretty rare for Cook Co., GA!) Anyway, here’s  pic of the merch I sourced @ D/G…

The rock in the front right was particularly amusing to me, as it reads, “I don’t remember planting this.” I won’t name any names, but there’s a certain resident there who pretty much commands the back porch with her slew of flowers and plants of all kinds, and her last name begins with T and ends with R. This stone made me think of her, bless her heart. She has so many botanical projects going that it makes me feel lazy…downright indolent, if you will!

I’ll do my best to get some photos when I’m home over Spring Break of the ornaments actually getting put out in the gardens. Raymond & Kay,the owners, will hopefully be tickled, but more importantly, I’m so grateful for this opportunity to do something small–yet hopefully meaningful–for the glory of God. Clearly, we can all do small things each and every day to help those around us who are feeling lonely, down-trodden, forgotten, and lost. I could’ve easily done something for the dozen ladies at the retirement home that wouldn’t have cost me a dime, such as a gospel sing-a-long or just spending time talking to each one of them (though that gets a little tricky since most of them can’t hear to save their lives!). But the point of the exercise was to use what God had given me monetarily for his glory and honour, and I feel like I’ve done that as best as I know how. BTW, for anyone who might want to call me out on a technicality, I didn’t run off to Wal-Mart to buy all this stuff b/c they were almost giving it away @ the D/G, and I figured I’d use the W/M card for something else. I’m honestly not sure what the total was for the above ornaments, but I’m guessing I came pretty close to the $40 mark. (The receipt was pretty jumbled w/ the discounts, not to mention the other hundred or so items I bought!)

I’ll end here, as I’ve already written a hardback book. There’ve been alot of things on my mind and heart the last two weeks, not just b/c of the mania and sleepless thoughts swirling around in my noggin’, but also b/c of life in general. Believe me, I could write a whole ‘nother blog, and perhaps I will on my Sat. off, but I wanted to share this project b/c it’s meant so much to me, and it’s not even over yet. I can’t wait to report back to BUMC about how I used to the money, and also to hear how others used theirs. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask me, or feel free to use the photos above as templates for your own church’s exercise. God bless, & a happy weekend to all!

brt

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