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2014 is the year of growing faith
2014 is the year of growing faith

Generosity is a gift

Every year in the lead-up to Christmas there is an increased focus on giving, but Jane Frazer Cosgrove says generosity is more than that.

When we think of “generosity” our thoughts usually go first to gifts of money, goods, and charitable acts. These kinds of giving are important to us all. However at this time of the year, when such emphasis is placed upon the giving of money or gifts, I think it is important to also remember the great value of other expressions of generosity of spirit.

Jane Frazer Cosgrove. Photo was supplied.

Jane Frazer Cosgrove. Photo: Supplied

I think of a spirit of generosity as closely aligned with “wholeheartedness”, in the sense of “singleness of heart” or “an undivided heart”.

Ezekiel 11:19–20 says, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”

I believe a spirit of generosity is a gift that we are called to develop in our relationships with our God and our neighbours. For me, being generous in spirit is very much about having “a heart of flesh”—a responsive heart. It is about relating with an open heart and mind. It is closely aligned to a listening heart, obeying the gentle whisper of grace and truth.

Author Anne Lamott tells the story of a little boy who is afraid of the dark. He tells his mother she needs to come into his bedroom with him, because he does not want to be alone. His mother tries to reassure him by telling him that God will be there all night. The boy replies, “But right now, I need God with skin on.”

I’m sure that we all have times when we need “God with skin on”. The gift of presence is among the most valued of gifts.

Henri Nouwen captures this very well: “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness. That is a friend who cares.”

Jane Frazer Cosgrove is part of West End Uniting Church. She is the volunteer facilitator for A Nouwen Network, a cross-denominational outreach to those whose lives are  affected by mental health issues. For more information visit nouwen-network.com

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