generosity

THIS WILL MAKE YOU THINK ABOUT LIFE

Tank_hose

At one time or the other, we have had to use tanks or hoses. For example, in places where water supply is not always guaranteed, it generally makes sense to get a tank or some form of container to store water when it is available so that there would be water to use when it is no longer available from the usual source. We have also used hoses to water our lawns, wash our cars or even siphon fuel (sorry to remind you of the dark and frightful days of petrol scarcity). In life, the tank versus hose analogy might apply to the human experience and may categorize us.

A tank usually has a fixed capacity while the capacity a hose can produce is dependent on the source it is connected to. You cannot put more into a tank than it is built to hold but a hose can have an unending flow through it as long as it stays connected to its source and it has its other end open. The hose never has to bother about how much content it can hold. It never has to bother about having content for itself. As long as it is willing to serve as a hose, it would always have content for itself and for its recipients. Not a bad lifestyle. I heard someone say, Givers never lack.

A tank is usually stationary but a hose moves around. The hose has the opportunity to see more of the world as it serves its purpose. I can imagine a conversation between it and a tank at the end of the day. The hose would have several stories to tell of the places it has been while the tank has a lamentation on how boring life has been looking through the same window. Wow, the life of a hose seems more exciting than that of the tank. Who wouldn’t want a fun-filled life?

The content of a tank can quickly become stale because it is the same of the same! But a hose would always have new content flowing through it. So while a tank is stuck with the same content, a hose gets to have something different flowing through it per time.

A tank can easily retain residue, requiring it to be emptied to be cleaned. The hose always has fresh content flowing through it. It is cleaned by the same process as its use. That is, as liquid flows through it, it is also cleaned. When we live our lives as tanks, we can easily collect unwanted residue and become unnecessarily burdened. In fact, the residue and filth could get so much that our capacity for what we were meant to carry becomes reduced. The hose doesn’t have to bother about such accumulation of residue. For the tank, to get it cleaned, you would usually have to have it drained of its content. Then you can clean it out. At such points, the tank is out of season. Maybe sometimes we feel like that. We feel worthless because we have to be cleaned out. If we were hoses, we might not have such low moments.

A tank could be on its own but a hose is most useful connected to a source. If a tank is filled up, its source could be disconnected but for a hose, it must stay connected to its source to be of any use. The moment, it is disconnected from its source, it is drained of whatever was in it. Hmm, could this be a bad thing or a good thing? One might think that it is good because the tank can be independent. But from another perspective, the hose’s predicament reinforces the need to stay connected to the source. For us, that means staying connected to the source of life, God himself. This cannot be a bad thing. After all, what are we without God? We are alive and breathing because of Him. When we are connected, we can always be assured of fresh content, we can be guided to where we need to offload our contents, we can be sure that we would always stay relevant and we can be sure we would always remain wet. Blessed is the man who delights in the Lord… He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper (Psalm 1:1-3). So my question to you today is, “Are you functioning as a hose or a tank?”

OF TIME AND VALUES

I took some time to reflect on the passing of time and its effect on our lifestyle. I thought about the impact time has had on our values and how we have changed our preferences over the years. I realized that what was hype to my generation a couple of years ago is now old fashioned. And what we were crazy over a decade ago now has a distaste in our mouths today. What we built our lives around before has suddenly become an unwanted relic in our space.Pebbles

Material possessions come and go and even an insurance policy cannot keep them longer than their determined lifespan. At best, you would get a replacement. Take a look at your parent’s house and look through the things you find in the house. Now imagine you want to build a new house for your parents and equip it for them making it as comfortable as you would for them. I bet a lot of the stuff they had in the old house would be given out, sold or destroyed. Those stuff would have no place in the new house. You might consider such things an intrusion in the new ambience you are trying to create for your parents. Now, some of those things which are now unwanted were da bomb in the years past. It appeared there could be nothing better than those items. We held unto them dearly and acquired more and more. Remember the TV in a box with shutters in front that now has a broken tube or the lovely 1980’s suitcase we were eager to take on a trip because we thought it just showed class. What about the trending fashion styles of the 90’s you had in different colours? Now you probably would be ashamed of wearing them today. Of course, there might be similar styles because of the fashion cycle we are sucked into, but it would not be that exact item, if you get what I am saying.

Time also has its impact on values. Time can appear to strengthen values and it can also erode them. Over time, we have redefined the values of beauty, confidence, devotion, faith, individuality, love, truth, … the list goes on. But I have learnt (and I am still learning) to reinforce the fundamental essence of certain values, placing value on the things that matter most – my relationship with God, my marriage, my family and the relationships I have built with people around me. The wind of time would blow over the things we hold on to, to twist and redefine our values in varying ways. We need to hold on to the things that matter most – things that bring real benefits, the things that money cannot buy. Know that material possessions are temporal and we can always get better ones. But getting a messed up value system can wreak a future. So never have a heartbreak over the loss of a material item. God is bigger than it.

Focus on nurturing the values that define your life. For example, nurture the habit of giving and generosity. Let giving be a very convenient virtue and not an act of compulsion. There are things you really can do without. There are some things you really would not need in future, contrary to what you think now. Bless someone else with those items. They would bless you from the heart. Remember, what you give out has not left your life, it has just become a sown seed in your ground. Luke 6:38 in the Message translation says, Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.

Be generous with words of appreciation. Find good things to say about people around you. When you condemn, criticize negatively and put others down, you have not improved your own life and you have not blessed another either. But when you appreciate others and speak kind and positive words, you attract goodwill, you speak into your future and you bring a smile to the face of another – which is never a bad thing to do. Proverbs 16:24 says, Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. Everyone has the capacity to appreciate others and to do so generously. If you can have a conversation with anyone, then you can appreciate someone. You only have to make up your mind to be more appreciative than critical.

You would also want to place value on your relationship with God. You could determine not to let anything interfere with that relationship. This is one relationship, like the one with your spouse and family, which must improve with time. You should be able to look back and say you have become more intimate with God over the weeks, months, years… Are we reading more of His Word, are we spending more or less time in prayer and communion? Has there been a change in attitude and character? Or are we explaining away our shortcomings, taking our acquisitions as a sign of God’s approval? Dear friend, time must have a positive effect on our relationship with Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

These are just some values that time must strengthen. You can keep getting better if you focus on what matters most in your life. These would always be relevant to your world and would never go out of fashion.

Thought check: What are my core values? How important were they to me five years ago and how important do I think they would be five years from now?