I like to talk. My husband will tell you that. And my best friends would tell you that, too. So it’s a good thing that God has called me to teach and preach because it’s the perfect arrangement.
Now let me share two things I know for sure about God. One of them is that he loves to just push us a little bit out of our comfort zones every now and then. And the other is, I really think God has a sense of humor! Both of those things were evident early in my ministry when I was assigned to an internship at a church called Cristo Reina Iglesia Metodista. That’s Christ Reigns United Methodist Church. A church, if you couldn’t tell, where everyone spoke fluent Spanish, except me. Let’s just say that my love for speaking was not my greatest asset anymore. The language barrier made things pretty interesting, especially when it was my turn to pray, read Scripture in the services, or carry on simple conversations.
I recall one time at church when we had a potluck dinner. I tried hard to ask questions of the two young men I was standing with in line. I asked simple questions in my rough Spanish. I asked questions like... Where do you live? Are you married? Do you have a family? Later as people were giving me strange looks, I found out that in their culture a single young woman (which I was at the time) asking men those questions amounted to some pretty forward advances. It turns out, I had been hitting on them without even knowing it. I think maybe that’s when the church leadership decided that the place that I would be best used would be to teach an English-as-a-second-language class. That opportunity would give me a chance to improve my Spanish even as I was helping others to learn English. But trust me, it was me that needed the most help.
A class met every week at the home of one of the families in the church—a husband and wife who were originally from Mexico City. And both of them were well known for being wonderful cooks. So each week they invited us to come early for that ESL class and to partake of a huge home-cooked and truly authentic Mexican feast. I realized later just what a labor of love that was when I found out that they were both cooks in a local restaurant. That meant that they spent all day cooking in a kitchen and came home just in time to whip up a huge meal for us. They had a gift for making people feel welcomed and special.
One week I even told them that the following week I had an appointment right before class and I would be a little late. I would miss the meal but make it just in time for our class to start. So when I showed up just in time to begin class I found a huge table set with a feast waiting just for me. They told me that the students would wait in the next room, but the family insisted that I sit down and eat a full meal. They wouldn’t mind waiting, they said. No matter that I had grabbed a bite to eat on the way there.
Each week their delicious generosity deepened our friendship. And I learned so much more from them than just a few Spanish vocabulary words. A lot of what I learned was about hospitality, about going the extra mile to serve someone. The hospitality they exhibited was all about not just doing the bare minimum, but going that extra mile to make sure their guests felt welcome and comfortable and very, very full. That was a blessing I will never forget.
Abundance and generosity start in our own homes, in the relationships that are closest to us, where we can be generous with our time, our attention, our praise, our affirmation, with our forgiveness.
Now, let me get this straight. We are not talking about giving to the point of exhausting ourselves, not having enough time and energy to take care of ourselves or our own family. That’s getting back to that mentality of scarcity where we give so much that there’s nothing left over. It’s not scarcity that we’re after. It is abundance, turning our hearts to the abundant God who has more than enough to give to us so that we can overflow to others. God has a way of replenishing us if we ask, of replenishing our generous hearts with his own abundance and generosity. And he gives us a chance to choose. We can choose to live out of scarcity, or we can choose to live out of abundance. You and I can be generous to others because God’s abundance, flowing through us, is what makes an impression.
Based on Broken and Blessed, Jessica's new Bible study on the book of Genesis. For ordering information, click here.
Jessica LaGrone is an Associate Pastor at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas. An acclaimed preacher, teacher, and author. Jessica enjoys speaking at retreats and events at churches throughout the United States. She and her husband, Jim, have two young children, Drew and Kate.