NOTE: On March 26th, the day I turned 50, I signed a publishing contract with Progressive Rising Phoenix Press for both The Epiphany of Joy and for Melted Clowns. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as Mary and I toasted this pivotal life event with not only Amanda Thrasher, co-owner of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, but also with my parents, who were in town to help celebrate my milestone birthday. Special thanks goes out to both Amanda and her business partner, Jannifer Powelson, for their trust and confidence in me. You ladies rock! We’re shooting for a September 20th release date for the two books, and my goal is to participate in the Writer’s Extravaganza, an author meet and greet and book signing held at the Barnes & Noble in the Parks Mall in Arlington, Texas, on 9/20. More information to follow.
Thank you all for your continued support, prayers, and interest as we take the next step on this incredible journey. Without you all, my life’s calling would be meaningless. With you all, the world is truly blessed.
And now, The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 12: Joy in Giving, part 1 of 3 . . .
All you need do is recognize that you have the ability to allow God to work through you and bring happiness to others. And the more you give happiness to others, the more you will have it for yourself.
–Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, page 117
One evening, a couple months after I’d left my steady job, I started to feel the pinch of our severely-diminished family income while balancing the checkbook. The three-figure tally at the bottom of the check register did nothing to assure me I’d done the right thing giving up my full-time six-digit income in exchange for the adventure of a writer’s life. I scrutinized the debits–mainly birthday party expenses for Hannah–and felt my blood pressure rising.
A couple weeks earlier, Mary had sacrificed her own birthday and anniversary gifts in exchange for throwing Hannah a big sixth birthday party, and she’d busied herself buying candy for the piñata, purchasing gift bags for the party-goers, and putting down a deposit to hold the professional magician. On top of all that, we’d caved in to Hannah’s persistent nagging for guinea pigs and ended up spending even more money on a cage and all the trimmings. And I knew Mary hadn’t yet finished: she still had to buy an assortment of colored sand for one of the party activities.
For months Mary had been trying to convince Hannah to relinquish her obsession with the purple Fisher Price kitchen she’d played with since she was a toddler. She’d outgrown the thing by a year or two, but whenever we broached the subject of donating it to the church, she’d whine about still wanting to play with it. So there it sat in her bedroom, taking up space and collecting a fine patina of dust. But when we revealed the guinea piglets to her on her birthday, we seized the moment to coax her into giving away the toy: “We need to make a space to put the cage,” Mary told her. Mesmerized by the piglets, Hannah agreed.
The next morning Mary happily loaded the plastic kitchen into the back of the car and headed to the gym with Hannah. After dropping our daughter off, Mary then drove to the church office and unloaded the toy. She’d intended to head into Fort Worth to purchase the colored sand for the birthday party activity, but she ran out of time and returned to the gym to squeeze in a homeschool session with Hannah between training sessions.
While teaching first-grade addition, Mary offhandedly mentioned to the other homeschool moms that she hadn’t been able to buy the sand she needed. Her intention was to make the 30-minute trip into town the next day. Michelle Lockhart, Hannah’s gymnastics coach since she was 18 months old, stopped what she working on and looked at Mary. “What did you say?”
“I have to go to the Hobby Lobby in Fort Worth tomorrow,” Mary repeated, “to buy colored sand so the girls at Hannah’s party can fill dolphin key chains.”
“Hold on one second,” Michelle said. She dropped the paperwork she was organizing and called her husband, Heath. After chatting a minute, she hung up: “Heath will bring you a box of sand and dolphin key chains we just got from our church,” she said. “They were throwing them out so we took them and brought them home last night. He’ll drop them off today.”
In that moment everything clicked: Mary had given Hannah’s plastic kitchen to the church that morning, and a huge plastic bin filled with play sand and dolphin key chains arrived on our doorstep that afternoon. Jesus promised in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38 NIV). That morning Mary had resolved to buy four different colored bags of play sand for about $10. She and Hannah then donated a toy worth not much of anything except to the hearts of the children who would now get to play with it. That afternoon our family received more than four dozen bottles filled with different-colored sand. We gave, and God poured about $140 worth of sand and key chains into our laps. In fact, we used only what we needed for the party and returned the rest of it. Thank You, Jesus!
I love to give! In fact, it’s one of my Spiritual gifts described by the apostle Paul in Romans 12:6-8. And the joy I receive from giving is truly worth the sacrifice of giving; the joy of giving is itself the reward. As Jesus promised, those who give with the right attitude will receive back what they gave, and more. Jesus’ allusion in Luke 6:38 refers to a basket filled with grain or flour which was first filled, compressed, shaken to settle it even further, then added to for good measure. A true abundance in return for a simple act.
Why do I give? First, I can’t help myself! Giving is my calling, even when it hurts–the reward, for me, is in the giving. But I admit I also give because of God’s promise to reward us in return. I have a heart of expectation, although what I receive may not be what I expected. God yells “Surprise!” to Mary and I a lot, and I’m completely convinced that because we faithfully and cheerfully donate our time, talents, and treasure, we’ve been blessed beyond blessed; God is glorified in our giving. The testimony alone is worth at least a few thousand denarii!
Mary and I also tithe, the Old Testament tradition of giving the first 10% of our income, our “first fruits,” to the church. We tithe to honor God, but we also tithe because, simply, it works as God promised. In Malachi 3:10, God threw down a challenge: test Him in this and watch what He does. Believe me, when you get your heart right, when you give cheerfully according to 2 Corinthians 9:7, when you drop dearth mentality, when you let go of pride, selfishness, and fear, tithing loses its potentially sour foretaste and produces the sweet fruit of God’s limitless abundance and “Praise Jesus” joy! You’ll end up wanting to encourage everyone to tithe as well!
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes