The Thoughts of Gunnar

Giving When You Don’t Have To
May 6, 2015, 3:44 am
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When i think of my step-father (and this is the only time I will use the word step, to me, he is my dad,) I think of the time we needed to get a tree removed from our front yard.  My dad lined up about 4 or 5 quotes, it was a rather big job.  He wanted the stump and everything removed.  I don’t recall what figure it was exactly, but the gentleman who had the lowest bid came in about 25% less than anyone else.  A difference of several hundred dollars.  With a family of 6 to feed and care for, dad gladly accepted this bid.
The gentleman who took down our tree not only did it quickly, he did an incredible job doing it cleanly, and was busting his tail to get the work done.  My dad knew what that was like, as he worked a very physically demanding job himself.  Being about 17 years old, dad was taking some time with me now and then when bills or odd jobs were being paid for to include me in on it, so as I could know how to do such things myself.  I recall the guy saying that the estimate was right on, and that was all that was needed.  My dad then cut him a check for $250 more than the agreed on price.  The guy had a smile a mile wide on his face, was beyond grateful, even checking to make sure that is what my dad really wanted to do.  Dad assured him it was, and thanked him again for an outstanding job and service.
At that time in my life, I had held a job for about 3 years.  I would take my income, and divide it into several different jars.  If I was saving for something, I had a jar just for it, say, a new pair of shoes.  So when I budgeted, I was way into following my rules, and very aggressive about it. Not necessarily a bad thing. While I would say I was a cheerful giver and even budgeted for that, what my dad just did blew my gasket as it took my paradigm of budgeting and stomped on it.
With a full on suddenly birthed inquisitiveness, I pelted my dad with questions on what kind of crazy pills he took to do that.  With sincere conviction and thought, he began sharing with me.  “Gunnar, that guy did just as good of a job, and for all I can measure, the best job of anyone else who bid.  It was clear to me when his bid was low, he needed the work badly.  He knew what the going rate really was.  And while he could have justified to himself doing a lower caliber job for the lower price he bid, instead, he hustled, he worked with excellence, and did a better job than I imagined.  That kind of work will really beat down on one’s body.  It takes fortitude and grit to do what he did for us.  I was thinking that it was going to cost more than it did.  Far be it from me to not give that guy what he was worth for that job if I can, even if we had agreed to less.”
Rarely am I at a loss for words.  But that is one of a handful of moments in my life that I was.  My dad rocked my paradigm, and I couldn’t argue with his heart on the matter.  For instance, we almost never went to a restaurant…we would order some pizza occasionally, but our budget was tight. The reason I had a job was to buy clothes, and do things I wanted to do because allowances were out of the question.  But my dad saw outside our family, saw this guy was trying his hardest to provide for his family, and wanted to make sure he got the going rate.  He took a radical step to treat someone else the way he would want to be treated…even if that was a far off, almost crazy wish!
My next entry, I am going to write how I think this act by my dad was able to bear benefit in my life that I will be grateful for.  Because of his sacrifice, I was able to benefit.


Receiving Part 6: An alabaster jar of perfume
February 28, 2015, 8:55 am
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This passage came to my mind about a week ago as I pondered the importance of receiving, as Christ receives.  Wow, how He humbled Himself in Matthew 26 and showed us some things.

In the past, I have perhaps made a mistake by focusing heavily on the deity of Christ while reading this passage, while being ignorant to the fact that He is all human flesh here as well.  Dwelling on that has really challenged me and opened me up to some things.  Here are some observations from Matt 26:6-13 I have made thus far. (Please, please feel free to comment or share any you have in the comments section as well!)

1. Obviously, this perfume was worth crazy $$.  Jesus knew his physical body was about to die.  So, practically speaking, one could say, what a waste…but Jesus OVERWHELMINGLY receives the gift, and defends the gift against opposition to boot!

2. The disciples had a great intellectual point: this could go a long, long way to serving the poor.  And Jesus, as God, AND AS MAN, receives it anyways.

3. Did Jesus absolutely NEED to have that happen? I would say that technically, no, He didn’t.  Yet He received it.

4. Did Jesus feel compelled to have a woman take what was likely her most valuable monetary possession,  and pour it out on Him, realizing SHE may have needed Him to give her the confidence she needed in her giving?  Hmm.  She went WAY out on the limb here…and Jesus meets her in it.  Despite the doubt of it from His own disciples, He then commends her greatly and lets her story take place in the cannon of scripture and her gift to be made known forever.  And she never knew it would leave that room!

5. Is perhaps part of why we have this story in scripture because at times we as well are called to give something extravagant, above and beyond, and in the natural, it may even seem wasteful to some, and not even make sense, and in our minds we could think of tons of different stuff we could do with it…but if we are honest with ourselves, our love for Him, our heart for Him, our gratefulness for Him overrides our natural thinking, and despite even well meaning folks, we lavish Him with such a gift.

6. What if that gift we lavish on Him takes the form of giving it to His very body, saints amongst us today?

7.  What if our reasoning says, “My goodness, I see NO practical, good reason to do that!” But the Spirit woos.

8. What if the radical faith you express through giving is being longed to be embraced and supported by Christ, and it would be a story that would be told for generations?

9 Note for Mark Champion: giving someone a bottle of Drakkar Noir is not the same as this passage, not even a really big botte. 🙂

10. What if God is preparing you (and us) to receive as He received this way? Could you do it? Could you decide to harbor Christ in you and express Him in this way? That one could lavish on Him through you? Even if you don’t deserve it.  Even if you think you don’t need it?  Could you enable and empower the faith of the person giving it to you?

11. Would like to end with this verse: John 21.25-“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” -and my thought, He is STILL doing incredible, gracious, good, amazing despite ourselves things amongst us today! Let it be!

Receiving Part 5-David Hanes
February 23, 2015, 2:00 am
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This next entry is from our brother, David Hanes, and some things he has learned recently about giving…and receiving.  Surely it is worth our while to read!  If you wanna just get an email when any blog on this topic comes up, press the follow button at the bottom of the page.  If you see my history, I RARELY blog, so other than this topic, I doubt your inbox will be getting too stuffed. 🙂

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.  The past 18 months in the Hanes’ household has seen it’s share of activity.  Most of this activity has brought us to a place of brokenness and neediness.

There’s something you learn when you’re in a “needy” space; it’s truly more blessed to give than to receive.  I stole that from Paul.

When the last thing on your mind is food and people show up at your door with dinner and groceries, you learn how blessed it is to give….

When a family you barely know sends you a check that pays your mortgage for the month, you learn how blessed it is to give…

When that guy you talked to once on the phone sits across from you at lunch offering to help you walk in the freedom he now enjoys…

When the cards and pictures come rolling in and fill the walls of the hospital room you call home for time…

When you drive a car for free because someone else can afford it and you cannot…

When people show up ‘just because’ with encouragements and hugs and hope when you’ve run out of reasons to press on…you learn how much more blessed it is to give than to receive.

Seems a little backwards, I know.  There’s something the Lord does when we are in a place where our need to receive supersedes our desire to give.  He teaches us how much we need each other.  He teaches us how important we are as a community and how insufficient we are as individuals.  For me, Jesus had to break down a lot of the self sufficient, self reliant, do it all yourself soul that had been established by my own pride and the culture we now find ourselves in.  He did that by giving me little choice but to rely other people.

In the past I knew it was to work myself out of a bad situation.  To get myself out of debt and into a good job and in with the right people.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those things, but I knew what it was to get those things done by myself.  And I could give a lot to others by myself.  When I had nothing to give, when it was all gone and I wasn’t going to make it without the help of others; that’s when I truly learned the value of giving.  It wasn’t by being able to give that I learned this.  It was by having to receive from others that the Lord taught me what Paul meant by these words:

It is more blessed to give than to receive

Because of my experience with life in Christ, I’ve come to see that in order to understand how blessed we are in giving, we need to know what it feels like to receive.  From divorce to homelessness to loss of a job to fighting debt and standing by my spouse as she fights cancer and relational struggles of all kinds, I’ve come to know the Lord as the truest giver.

He gives through the people that show up.  He gives through their love and bank accounts and skills and giftings and presence.  For the past 18 months, we’ve been in the “needy” space I first mentioned.  Praise God for the church in Nashville and abroad who have held us up and provided for us more than we could ask or imagine.  The more we receive, the more our hearts long to give

Receiving Part 4-Guest Heather Proctor
February 20, 2015, 2:00 am
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It seems we have a common theme here with people receiving cars. And this intrigues me.  I think there can be a lot of symbolism from the Lord when it comes to our home.  Doesn’t have to be, but oftentimes, I think I see it.  I think the same about a car to, a tool that helps us ‘get to where we are going, to get back and forth’ etc.  Heather’s contribution, while a wonderful gift, explains how sometimes, it can be very trying to receive! Yet HP stepped up! This is great, I love it!

She was always concerned about my car.  She always asked when my last oil change was and if I needed new tires.  I reminded her she just bought me new tires two months ago and that my oil change was due the next month.  My car would make the 12 hour drive to visit her for the holidays.

Cars age, as did my grandmother, and while it was still a great car that would get me around town, I started flying home because the 12 hour trip seemed a little to harsh on it.  She’d continue to ask me about tired and oil changes and if I had enough money for gas.

When she passed away, I flew home for her funeral.  My family celebrated her life by remembering her funny moments, talking about the things we’d miss and how do we make her tarts or lemon bars?  Did we have those recipes?

My grandmother left an inheritance for her daughters.  My mother told me she wanted to buy me a car, knowing that my grandmother was always concerned about mine.  After a few test drives and a lot “No, I want this.” and “But your grandparents always drove Buicks”  Buick came out with a new car.  The 2013 Buick Encore.  It is zippy and I love it.   But I thought it too much money.

My mother paid cash for this car for me.  She even made sure it had the sunroof I wanted. It was very humbling to see her write the check.  I realized that in all the back and forth we had went through, she wanted to give me the best.  I was willing to settle for something less than. She had a standard for giving that took me a while to receive.  She had learned it from my grandmother. – Heather Proctor

Gunnar here again…please share and comment if you have anything you think of that involved receiving something significant, that was hard to just receive.  What did God do in your heart on that?  I believe hearing and knowing these things are gonna help us all in this next season.

Receiving Part 3: Guest Post, Shanda Scherdin
February 16, 2015, 1:27 am
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This here is Shanda sharing on receiving some incredible gifts, in a timely way.  Enjoy, and of course if you like, leave a comment for discussion.

I have numerous stories about receiving from the Lord, through the generosity of saints. For the moment, I’ll tell you just one; though, I could honestly fill hours, maybe even days, with such stories.
When my dad passed away, I was 21 and had a year left of college. My brothers were 18 and 11. My mom was suddenly a widow, and a single mom facing some very significant financial burdens. Without asking anyone for a thing, thousands of dollars streamed into our mailbox. That in itself was overwhelming but it didn’t stop there. Some men from my mom’s church came and asked how they could help. She shared with them that, without my dad around, she did not feel safe driving her current vehicle (He’d been keeping it running, but just barely.) and was going to need to find something else. She told them she couldn’t afford much and asked that they help her look for something cheap but also dependable. A week later, they contacted her and told her that they’d been searching for cars and had negotiated a good deal with a seller. They were having the car checked out by a mechanic, and if he gave his stamp of approval and if she liked the car, 6 families in the church were going to be purchasing this car FOR my mom and also paying for a tune-up before handing it over to her.
Hearing that news brought such relief to our family, not only because a very real need was provided, but also because we suddenly felt so much less ALONE in our struggle. We knew we were more than cared for and loved. I was stunned by this very real display of the Church caring for widows.
A few days passed and I received an email from a friend/mentor at my University. She asked, “Will you have a car at school in the Fall?” I responded that I was trying to buy a friend’s old car, which she knew was run down. She told me, “Don’t buy that car.” I had no idea where this conversation was coming from until I saw her the following week. She asked me if I knew how to drive stick and when I said I didn’t, she said, “Well, I’ll teach you. You’re going to need to know because I just bought a new car, and I’m giving you my old one. You’ve blessed me with the way you’re responding to the loss of your father, and I feel led to bless you and your family by giving you the ability to go home and see them on the weekends in a good, dependable car.” I tried to pay her what I had, but she wouldn’t take it.
TWO CARS. The Lord provided my family with TWO cars in a matter of days! One car was overwhelming. TWO was… well, I still don’t have words for it ten years later.
Receiving so much from so many is very humbling, in the most precious of ways. It taught me, in a very tangible way, that nothing I “own” is really mine, but that it all comes from the Lord, in one way or another. Seeing Him provide in these ways and COUNTLESS others in my lifetime has made opportunities to GIVE, to share what the Lord has let me hold on to for a while, very meaningful to me.

Receiving Part 2-We May Need To Receive Outside of Our Box
February 13, 2015, 9:07 am
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I am guessing the majority of us have read this common story before:
A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.
A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”
The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”
As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”
The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”
The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.
A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”
Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.
When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”
And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”
While this picture may be a bit dramatic…I can relate from times I have basically done the same thing.  In my earlier Christian years, I used to often desire such an incredible showing of God, that I did not take the time to see where He was showing Himself clear as a bell, through fellow saints.
When I was about 24 years old, with huge ‘ministry’ ambitions on my mind, a brother in the Lord from my church approached me about a business offer.  He was in negotiations for the rights for a very famous dining chain for the area where I lived, with plans to have numerous units.  And he wanted me to run them all.  An incredible opportunity for such a young man.  Furthermore, this gentleman I knew had great means, but I loved his heart.  He funneled massive amounts of resources to the world’s neediest places, and would spend about a month a year staying and serving in a leper colony overseas, as a way of being reminded what he was to use his resources for.  As an older brother to me, he would have been an incredible guy for me to hang around.  Because this place hired lots of young people, and that was a huge desire of mine at the time-to help serve young people…it would have been enormous.  I felt I was called to have a rocking youth ministry at the time…but unwittingly, on my small understanding and terms.  My other dream was to see awesome acts of God all over, not just in church buildings.  This guy would have let me do anything I wanted as unto the Lord in those businesses.  While God is gracious and can restore, as I look back, I missed a powerful lesson on sometimes others and the Lord most certainly knows more about what I need than I do.  Sitting, pondering, and trusting the heart of the Lord in another would have served me well then.  But I was into ‘my’ voice and ‘my’ view a bit too much.
I’m interested if any of you would care to share a bit in the comments and relate.  Has there been times God brought something for you to receive that you may not have taken? Have you at times let your boxes and terms shut out provision God was bringing?  Our stories, I am convinced, will help us all see more clearly as we need to!  Your story is important!  Maybe recently learning from that, you have a huge breakthrough you’d like to share on heeding Christ as He shared through others.  Either way, share away!

Receiving Part 1
February 10, 2015, 1:39 pm
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And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.-Philippians 4:19

Going to be looking at the topic of receiving for a bit, as I feel it is actually a healthy anchor in our lives in the formation of us being able to give well and wholeheartedly. In the above verse from Philippians, Pau was finishing sharing on his joy in receiving from the Philippian church.  We are so blessed to have this rich passage!  I am excited to think of what some of us here in Nashville may think of while pondering the above verse.  Hoping to keep these blogposts short and digestible, and whoever would like, please comment and contribute. There is going to be a lot of life to be had from you all!
When I had first started out traveling full time sharing at churches, youth camps, and whoever would have me, an elderly lady came up to me after I had spoke, and palmed me $20.  I remember my pride kicking in immediately.  (I did not call it pride at that point.)  I complained to God, that He had an elderly lady, who I immediately labeled as likely poor, barely getting along, and living on rice and beans, needing that $20 bill more than me.  While I tried to convince her to take it back,  she would have nothing to do with it, and was quite upset.  It reached a point where I knew to push the matter any longer would cause my much larger at the time fear of man to kick in and I was worried about looking bad in front of people, so I thanked her and received it and walked away. #fulldisclosure
I wish I could have given a pep talk to that young Gunnar before hand.
I would say things such as, “You have no idea how much money she does or does not have.  She could have millions for all you know.” “What if God wanted to use her to bless you and see an older generation pour into a younger one as a picture of Father God, and you receive the blessing as such?” “Why did I have to take a stance to make it incredibly hard for someone to express faith?”  “Why did I have to shake down and attempt to judge the giver and not see the giver as Christ as opposed to (dis)respecting the person?”  “Why are you insinuating that she is foolish and wrong in giving, and you are so wise?” I could go on and on.
Several thoughts can springboard from this, and I am sure these ideas are far from exhaustive of the subject.  It is important to receive well, in order to express faith well in those giving.  Because if I am dead set on seeing Christ in all, I had better do it in a case like that, for sure! I am selfish when I feel the receiving is just about me, it has as much to do, and frankly, maybe even more to do, with that God is doing in and through the person who is giving! I want to be a conduit for the Lord’s life and receive their gift, not a roadblock!