Where does money grow?

This all happened just the other week.
It was just supposed to be a simple tune up. That was it. My truck had been misfiring for a couple of months, but I kept putting it off. Vehicle repairs are never cheap, but I wanted to have my truck running well before I traveled for Thanksgiving. So I gritted my teeth, put on my big boy shoes and made an appointment.
           
That night at my small group, we discussed finances, specifically giving tithes and offerings even when times are hard. I felt especially convicted, because I hadn’t given my tithe in about a month. I also owed another offering from a previous commitment I’d made to the church. It wasn’t that I didn’t have money, but rather I continually forgot to do it. As discussion wrapped up, I felt confident that God would provide enough money for my tithe and offering and still have enough to pay for the truck.
Then everything went sideways.
The initial estimate on the truck was hefty, but still payable. Then I got a second call from the shop telling me that the damage was worse than they first thought. The mechanic, Tim, tactfully asked me if I’d ever taken the truck in for a tune up, to which I grumbled “no”. Tim told me that it would be another day or two before the repairs were done. He didn’t know what the final cost would be, but he said he would “work with me on the price”, which I took as a bad omen.
All this bad news left me a royally foul mood. The guys at work asked what the news was about the truck and I replied with a grumble and a scowl. Aaron, my coworker, has seen me like this enough times that he knew the best thing to do was not to ask me about it, but get my mind on other things, so by the end of the day I was in a better mood. Not a good mood mind you, just better.
By this point, I’d forgotten the promise that God would provide me with what I needed for the repairs and my offering. At this point, I’d be content with God providing lunch.
Then my boss, Dave, asked about the truck. I politely said that it was a mess but it would work out eventually. While Aaron was giving me a ride home, Dave called me. He told me that he would gladly give me a couple hundred bucks to help pay for the truck. My exact response was “Wait, I don’t understand.” He explained again clearly and asked what I didn’t understand. “You don’t get it,” I said “I was raised Baptist. We don’t deal well with receiving charity.” Dave hung up the phone, not wanting to indulge my stubborn pride any further.
The next day, I was in an inexplicably good mood. I was joked with the guys at work about my pigheadedness the day before. Even when I got the final numbers on the truck (which had tripled since the initial estimate) I was able to take it in stride. I wondered if I was okay in the head, for being so joyous in the face of such a depressing financial situation
In the end, I had enough money for the repairs. Even with the money Dave had given me, my bank account was stretched thin and I had to take a good bite out of my savings, but it was done. I wasn’t completely broke and my truck was now running better than it had in years.
Then something occurred to me. The amount left in my savings was within a couple dollars of my tithe (which I’d yet again forgotten about). Not only that, but it was the same amount that Dave had given me to help pay for the truck. I’d heard of people emptying their savings accounts and giving it to the church but I never thought it would look quite like that.
So what choice did I have? God kept his promise. The only reason I even had that much money was because God nudged Dave to give it to me. So I gave my tithe, which all but emptied my saving account.
The following Monday, the week of Thanksgiving, Aaron and I were raking up leaves, when Aaron found a ten dollar bill in the pile. Suddenly we were meticulously scanning the leaves to see if there were any other surprises waiting for us. We were joking around, questioning the old axiom that “money doesn’t grow on trees”, when on top of the pile I found a twenty dollar bill. I picked it up, again thinking “Wait, I don’t understand.”
I wondered if I should put it back, because surely someone was missing this money. Then I thought “Denny’s for Lunch!” The more I thought about it, the clearer it was that this was God way of saying “I’ve got you, Andrew. I’ll take care of you.”
I still don’t fully understand. Winter is coming up, which means I won’t be getting a ton of work for a couple months. I have no idea when I’ll finally pay off the building commitment; I imagine God has something else exciting planned for that one. But in the end, I’m sure God will get me through. That’s what He’s done so far.

Crazy Love

Have you ever been scared of a book?
I am. Right now. I’ve heard a lot of friends brag on Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. My small group leader recommended it to me and told me how convicted he felt as Chan described the struggles of Christians in areas of the world that are hostile to believers; places where men and women have literally given up everything just to follow Jesus.
I borrowed the book from one my friends almost nine months ago. It has spent most of that time on the shelf next to a bunch of other books that I haven’t read. That was until a couple of weeks ago. I was looking for my next book to read. I was planning on reading Fathered by God by John Eldredge (another victim of my bottomless bookshelf), but my roommate started reading it around that same time. Instead of going through the headache competing bookmarks and splitting reading time, I decided to look for another book and felt nudged towards Crazy Love. It seemed like a good idea, especially since I’ve been holding onto it for almost a year.
Even reading the book’s foreward, I felt an uncomfortable heaviness in my chest. The writer (none other than Chris Tomlin) told me “This book you have in your hand, Crazy Love, may just be the most challenging book outside of God’s Word you will read this year (and for a few years to come for that matter.) The status quo and norms of the so-called ‘Christian’ life that so many of us are used to experiencing are in for a shock!”
A bit later, in his preface, Chan writes “this book is for those of you who want more Jesus.” This frightened me more than anything. I’ve been a Christian for long enough that I know what a statement like that implies. Following Jesus has always demanded a change of both heart and deed. t-hat we put to death those things inside of us that are in rebellion against God.
And death is never painless.
So here sits this very scary book about Jesus, across from me on the coffee table daring me to read it. I’m scared of what it will show me about Jesus and of his overwhelming beauty and majesty and the things that such a God requires of His church. I’m scared of what it will show me about myself; that it will test me and show what my faith is really made of. I’ll almost certainly discover that my faith is not nearly as impressive as I once thought.
But I know that I have to do it. I can’t step back from this cliff now. I’ve gotta know what makes this book so special. I have to see what it is that I am so afraid of seeing.
Francis Chan ends his prelude to Crazy Love with this: “Come with me on this journey. I don’t promise it will be painless. Change, as we all know, is uncomfortable. It’s up to you to respond to what you read. But you will have a choice: to adjust how you live daily or to stay the same.”
So here goes.
Chapter one…
           

"Speculate This!"

Before this year, I’d never heard the term “Speculative Fiction” (or SF). At a writer’s conference, someone briefly explained to the that it was “sci-fi and fantasy”.

“Cool.” I thought. I was raised in a house of Star Wars fans and always loved a story with a good dragon.

On Wikipedia SF is defined as “an umbrella term encompassing the more fantastical fiction genres, specifically science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, Utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction and alternate history in literature as well as related static, motion and virtual arts.

“Really cool!” I thought.

It’s always fun to discover the name of the “umbrella term” for the thing you spent most of your life geeking out over. (Also saying “I enjoy Speculative Fiction” doesn’t sound quite as hopelessly dorky as “I like science fiction and fantasy”.)

I’ve always loved stories that take time to ask “what if”. Journeys that take us outside our normal little world and a little bit outside ourselves.

And we all need that. We need to get away from our world of work, bills and groceries. Regardless of what we really believe, I think everyone wants to believe in a bigger world than the one we see in our daily lives. We’d all like to live in a world where the “what ifs” were realities.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that everyone seems to be yearning for something more. We all need a little more wonder in our lives. 

I believe that there is more. I believe that the Universe is vast with wonder and possibilities; that the God who made it is infinitely more complex and wonderful. So much so that His personality is bursting forth from the seams of our world, using stories, songs, poetry, food, laughter, nature,and everything else in an attempt to get our attention off of ourselves and make us wonder what else is out there. 

Regardless of where you are at, God has something amazing that He’d like to show you. I can’t tell you what that next thing is, but I can share what He has shown me; hopefully that will point you to what He wants to do next.

So I challenge you (and myself) to do that. Wonder. Speculate.

I dare you to see what else is out there.