With yet more floods and storms set to batter our weather beaten nation, for many with school-aged children, the prospect of this February's half term can seem a bit disheartening. Before you batten down the hatches and resort to DVDs and computer games, check out Stewardship's ideas on how to put the 'Fun back into February'.
This school holiday coincides with Random Acts of Kindness Week. So why not set a family challenge to do as many random acts of kindness as you can in one week?
And don't forget Lent is coming soon on 5th March, so why not sign up for www.40acts.org.uk and be challenged to carry out more simple acts of generosity for each day of Lent?
You can sign up for 40acts as a family and receive free resources - a weekly child-friendly mini Bible study, a printable kid's wall chart to stick on the fridge and a great activity pack!
It’s January, it’s wet, it’s depressing. We should all be having the January blues. At least that's what I’ve been hearing when I’ve tuned into the radio, TV and social media in the past few weeks.
We hear the same sentiments every New Year: conversations about New Year’s resolutions, wiping the slate clean and starting afresh. For me at least, I start out meaning well and it all turns out to be a bit of a let down.
However this year, for me,is full of new beginnings.Our wedding is in April, then I’ll be moving into a new house but not before starting a new job. I write with some sadness as this will be my last blog for Stewardship as a member of staff. As I have been reflecting on my time here, in preparation for this new season, I realise how blessed I am to have come across some amazing generosity in action over the last seven years.
I remember those people I have seen time and time again giving so generously to anything from appeals for hurricane/typhoon disasters to missionaries working in the depths of the jungle in Burma. I have met people giving up their lives to work for God on the mission field whether it be working with the homeless in south London, or reaching out to trafficked women in Cambodia, all relying on people’s generosity.
I have to say, the people that will have the ultimate lasting impact on me are my Stewardship colleagues, past and present. Again and again, they have demonstrated Christ’s love and generosity to me and countless others. To be honest, I would have been lost without them. They have sown time, tears, laughter, joy and prayers into my life and I will be forever thankful.
I have never worked for an organisation that has remained so true to its values. It lives out generosity to its staff and clients. I am so thankful for my time here and excited for Stewardship’s new season this year and the impact it will have for God’s kingdom.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 says: Better is the end of a thing than the beginning of it. In order to start something new, there has to be an ending. I have come far since the start of my time here and certainly agree that the end is far better than the start of the journey. So, as I start my new beginning, I realise that new beginnings always carry something from the past. I carry with me this thread of generosity, and hope that it weaves itself fully into this new season.
What are you carrying with you into 2014? Could this be an opportunity for you to express God’s heart of generosity in a new way?
I love God’s mandate for us in Isaiah 61:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound,
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favour] and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion—to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit—that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
This passage is generosity in a nutshell. I really hope that I can be used for His glory in my new beginning.
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photo used under Creative Commons Licence by Keith Roper
The 40acts challenge is back! 40 days of Lent, 40 reflections, 40 simple acts of generosity.
Now in its fourth consecutive year, 40acts is the triple award-winning challenge from Christian charity Stewardship that invites people to do Lent differently. From March 5th to April 19th you will be offered the chance to give out rather than give something up. Over 15,400 people have already signed up to take part in 40acts 2014 and there is still plenty of room at the party!
"40acts began as a simple idea that asked, "What if Lent could be about more than simply giving up chocolate? What if it was a preparation for a lifetime of big-heartedness?" says Debbie Wright, head of content at Stewardship.
"Traditionally we mark Lent by giving something up, but for the past three years we've seen people awaken to a new idea: that we can reflect something of God's incredible generosity on the cross by creating a daily habit of generosity throughout Lent."
It may be talking to strangers, hugging a friend or giving away your time but for each and every day of Lent participants will be assigned a fresh and exciting challenge that will bless the people around them as well as a daily Biblical reflections from an esteemed Christian contributor to chew on.
Those contributing to this year's 40acts campaign include: Shaun King (HopeMob), Rob Parsons (Care for the Family), Mike Pilavachi (Soul Survivor), Krish Kandiah (Evangelical Alliance), Luke Smith (Fusion UK), Dot Tyler (Tearfund), Jonty Langley (Huffington Post), Caleb Meakins (My 40 Days), Sam Gibb (Sorted Magazine), Charlie Blythe (A21 Campaign, Hillsong) and many more.
New for this year is 40acts Together. Whether you're a family, church, small group, workplace, school or youth group, 40acts Together - in partnership with fantastic organisations - will provide you with the online and printable resources to guide you through your generous journey as a community.
There will be downloadable studies, prayer guides, event planners, kid's wall charts and much more to help different kinds of groups do Lent generously alongside the individual 40acts challenge.
Join in the fun, pouring out love to your neighbours while learning more about our generous and compassionate God.
Sign up here and you'll receive the daily 40acts challenges when Lent begins, as well as a unique link to download 40acts Together resources for your group from February 10th 2014.
Download the official press pack here.
I love The Message version- it says this:
'This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.'
photo from Pinterest
How do you begin a journey? One step at a time. You start with small steps; yet with the end in mind. Ecclesiastes 7 v8a puts it well: The end of a matter is better than its beginning. So, for the next 40 days let’s try five ‘bite-sized’ steps towards being more generous.
Let’s start with the endpoint:
1. Reflect: who are you giving to and why?
Reflection is the usually a last step on a journey and comes toward the 'end' of a project, major life event or a point of personal crisis. Reverse this. Start 2014 by reflecting: Who am I giving generously to and why? Write your response down in no more than two sentences.
2. Plan a small gift beyond your regular giving
Make a plan to give consistently even if it is £1 or 20p a day: be consistent. Keep track; tick it off and plan to do it daily. As a bright 11 year once told me about how she saves, 'take care of the pence and the pounds take care of themselves.' At the end of 40 days: give what you’ve saved away. Where? Go back to your reflection and give this extra to who you desire to give. This amount is the overflow – above and beyond your usual giving.
3. Plan a spontaneous gift
Take a small jam jar (after it has been emptied and cleaned of course) and put an amount of loose, end-of-the-day change in it. Any amount, every day. After 40 days, look for someone, a person or event that needs encouragement. Pray about it and then give the contents away (anonymously, if you can and maybe convert the change into larger denominations for the person’s convenience!). Add a brief note, like: ‘God asked me to give this to you.’
4. Give your time
Think of a way you can be generous in sharing your time with others. Every day, commit a chunk of time to someone else: phone a friend, speak to a neighbour, listen to a colleague, visit someone who is housebound, help with a chore – the list is endless. But don’t stop there – offer to pray for them too, for 40 days.
Last but certainly not least, write an encouraging email to 40 different people each day for 40 days. It doesn’t have to be long. I usually write a Bible verse but it doesn’t have to be a scripture. At the beginning of the day, a simple ‘I am thinking of you.’ or, I am praying for you.’ can be lift for another. Send it early in the morning, or at the end of the evening. Just be consistent, each day for 40 days.
Taking these small steps is like a daily exercise in generosity. Giving creates joy. Feel His love and his joy when you give in this way, for ‘God loves a cheerful giver.' (2 Corinthians 9 v7 b).
Consider: How many small steps will I take in 2014 and where might I end up?
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Thank you for journeying with us this Advent. We hope you found #adventwonder inspirational, challenging and motivating.
You can use the template below to map out your generosity journey for the coming year. Inside you'll find suggestions for structuring your finances and your time to enable you to live more generously this year.
If you liked #AdventWonder, take a look at our other free series' and resources:
The Gift is the birth of Jesus in our world. He came as a baby, born in a manger. He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we deserved. The apostle Paul in 2nd Corinthians calls this life an ‘indescribable gift.’ In light of such a gift, how should we respond? More specifically, what stops us from responding with purpose-filled giving? To help us with this question, let’s look at it through the lens of three very ungenerous creatures: a hobbit; some dwarves and a dragon.
Bilbo Baggins, the creation of J.R.R. Tolkien, is a hobbit. A usually quiet, sedate creature, he is caught up in a wild adventure along with the Wizard Gandalf and a troop of Dwarves to seek out some treasure. To prove himself as a burglar to the disbelieving Dwarves, Bilbo makes a bold move: he will steal treasure from Smaug the sleeping dragon. Here Tolkien describes the theft:
“Then Bilbo fled [with the cup]. But the dragon did not wake – not yet – but shifted into other dreams of greed and violence, lying there in his stolen hall while the little hobbit toiled back up the long tunnel. His heart was beating and a more fevered shaking was in his legs than when he was going down, but still he clutched the cup, and his chief thought was: "I've done it! This will show them. 'More like a grocer than a burglar' indeed! Well, we'll hear no more of that." ‘(12.17)
Bilbo steals for the approval of dwarves. This is what motivates him and drives him to perform. It is what Bilbo serves and risks his life for: he worships the idol of being a people/dwarf pleaser.
Dwarves, on the other hand, worship gold, treasure and earthly wealth. They risk their lives (and some will die on Lonely mountain by tale’s end) for these riches.
Smaug, the menacing and sleeping dragon, has still another master— greed: ‘Dragons may not have much real use for all their wealth, but they know it to an ounce as a rule, especially after long possession; and Smaug was no exception. He had passed from an uneasy dream (in which a warrior, altogether insignificant in size but provided with a bitter sword and great courage, figured most unpleasantly) to a doze, and from a doze to wide waking.’ (12.20)
Smaug is a hoarder, a counter. He knows the price and whereabouts of all his possessions. This is what he lives for: power in long possession. He can’t use the wealth. But wealth is his power source and what he worships.
Each of J.R.R. Tolkien’s creations seek life through power: power of approval from others; the power of riches and the power of possession. None can be generous as they are controlled by power. The Dwarf King Thorin and the Dragon Smaug die in their desires. Only Bilbo lives. How? Much later in his life he gives away his treasured possession—the Ring of power— to his orphaned nephew Frodo. It is only by giving earthly power away can Bilbo sail into the eternal life in the lands of the elves.
What are we to do in light of God’s indescribable gift? Give up power, or any desire for power, as Christ our Gift lived. Again, let’s look to the apostle Paul. In Philippians 2, The Message version, Paul writes,
‘if you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life…love each other …Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.’
What are you to do about The Gift? Become like the Giver: love, give and extend helping generous hands. This is the only way to power.
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It’s rare that South Africa contributes to the world stage. This week, though, South Africa is the world’s stage. From the UN General Assembly down to everyday citizens across the globe people are pausing to mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela.
In my heart, amidst the sorrow, I feel that this deep global respect is not just right but necessary. Yet my head asks “Why?” Why is it that Madiba should have carved a place so deeply in people’s hearts? It’s not that he led his people to freedom. Nearly all sub-Saharan countries can point to the man who led them out of colonial rule. It’s not that he was warm, witty and charismatic. Many politicians can claim that as can some second hand car salesmen.
Madiba not only freed his people from oppression, he forgave his oppressors. It is this forgiveness that resonates so deeply with the world. Understandably so. Forgiveness is as rare as it is valuable. We all need forgiveness. None of us in the quiet of our own reflection will claim to have treated everyone well. And we all need to forgive those around us. The reconciliation and wholeness on the other side of forgiveness is what we all desperately yearn for.
Yet forgiveness is hard. It requires a heart of extreme generosity. We all know how hard it is to forgive someone who has wronged us. Which is why we revere Nelson Mandela who forgave those who intentionally, systematically and brutally oppressed his people, his family and him. They attempted to destroy not only the fabric of his life but his very human dignity. They failed. “When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both” With a heart of extreme generosity he not only denied his oppressor victory, he shared his victory with them.
We will not likely get the opportunity to exercise such revolutionary social generosity. But people will hurt us, wrong us and fail us. In that spirit of generosity we too can forgive and offer reconciliation. And though we may not be people of Nelson Mandela’s stature, we have a God who was even more generous than Nelson Mandela. He was generous to us, giving us His son who gave up his life so that he could give us forgiveness. With that as a platform we too can be players on the world stage.
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photo used under Creative Commons Licence by tedeytan
Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. (Micah 7:8b)
This month we celebrate the fact that our glorious Lord came as a babe to redeem this world from darkness.
When we were in darkness, he sent His light. The light of the world.
As we enter in to the festivities of this season, the reality is that many around us sit in darkness. There are those that are lonely, those that are sick, those that are in debt… the list is endless.
Our God has called us to be the salt of the earth. How can we be a light to those people this Christmas? How can we show them that He who is the light in our darkness, loves them with an everlasting love and wants to reach out to them?
He came to be our light. Your generosity and sacrifice can be the demonstration of His light this Christmas.
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photo used under Creative Commons Licence by Wim Vandenbussche
"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3.
This past Tuesday, 3 December, was the second annual ‘Giving Tuesday.’ Bill and Melinda Gates sent out an e-mail that describes the day and their involvement: ‘Giving Tuesday, the idea is to take one day out of your holiday shopping and dedicate it to giving back.’
The Giving Tuesday website lists lots of great organizations that need your support, and although Giving Tuesday falls on December 3, you can donate any time. Remarkably, the first campaign in 2012 demonstrated a spike in online giving of up to 53%. This year’s numbers are not in yet. Except for Charlotte.
Charlotte, a four year old in the UK, made her donation before Giving Tuesday. Like Bill and Melinda, Charlotte sent out an invitation to friends and family. But here’s the difference: Charlotte wanted to give on her birthday. She had never even heard of ‘Giving Tuesday.’ Charlotte invited her loved ones to come to her birthday party bringing not gifts for her, but donations to and her Mum’s favourite charity, charity: water .
How did she get so inspired to give to others? Charlotte watched a video with her mum, Claire. That’s how she started thinking about giving generously on her birthday to others. Together, mum and daughter made birthday party invitations with the request: ‘Instead of presents, please visit Charlotte’s charity’s page.’
Claire used give.net to set up a fundraising page and asked people to donate in her name in lieu of birthday presents to charity: water. How did it turn out?
Her friends, classmates and family loved the idea and donated almost £200. (She also got some small personal presents, like a mermaid cup.) Charlotte’s goal was £100. But the best bit: a little girl from her class brought an envelope with £10 in it to the party. Claire said to Charlotte, ‘Honey, you met your goal. Why don’t you keep this bit for yourself?’
‘No, mummy, those children need clean water. I want to help give it to them.’
How can you be like a generous child this season?
A resource: I have a friend who on Boxing Day-after the business, excesses, and joys of Christmas-sits down with his three children and plans what to give from a special Christmas present: stewardship vouchers. Each child gets a voucher and chooses to give the voucher to designated charity. Why? Part of understanding generosity is in being generous. How can your family give in a planned and thoughtful manner after Christmas? Here are some simple steps:
Order charity gift vouchers and pass on the gift of giving this Christmas...
To request your gift vouchers (available in £10s or £20s), gift cards and envelopes:
2. Click the Donate button and choose 'charity gift vouchers' from your recipient list
3. Enter the total amount
4. Enter your order details in the 'Reference' box (e.g. no. of vouchers & cards)
5. Orders will be posted to your account address within 2 working days.
Please order by 13th December to guarantee delivery before Christmas.
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photo used under Creative Commons Licence by Official U.S. Navy
blogs by the Stewardship team and selected guest writers.