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Recently I received a very lovely compliment. After responding to a friend’s email with a long one of my own, she emailed again and began with the words: Thanks Jo-Anne. You always put such a lot into your letters. You write generously. I was so glad she felt that way, because I do love to let people know their emails have truly been ‘heard’ and taken seriously. Yes they do take time to write, but in my opinion it is time well spent. And of course I simply love writing anyway.

Her response reminded me of another writer friend’s comment when we first began emailing each other. She so appreciated my emails, she told me – she hated ‘those two-liner things’ and always felt ripped off by them! So while some, including myself, may think my emails are far too wordy and wonder why I don’t get straight to the point, others seem happy that I write ‘generously’.

But not all of us like writing, I know. For some, it is a chore to be avoided. But there are many ways to reach out to others with generosity. Perhaps you are able to share your finances with others who need a little help, just as Jesus himself urged us to. Recently, in gathering material for my current non-fiction book, I read through my old journals and noted the way God has cared for me over the years through the financial generosity of others. I was reminded of a young single girl who was convinced God wanted her to pay for me to attend a three week prayer ministry school, costing several hundred dollars. At first I felt terrible taking advantage of her offer, but I did – and I have been grateful ever since for the insights this school gave me. She knew God was preparing me for something during this school – and she was right. And I know she felt blessed by the way God has used that gift she gave me many times over since then.

And what about our abilities and expertise? It can make such a difference if someone will walk beside us and share the knowledge they have gleaned over the years. When I was first starting out as an author, another much more experienced author very generously helped me with information and introduced me to her own contacts. I valued that so much and now try to do the same for others. What a joy it is to do this and know I have saved someone hours and hours of trying to find out the same information I was able to give them so easily!

Then there is our time too – that most precious of commodities in our busy world. How special is it when someone is prepared to sit down with us and truly hear what is happening in our lives? In writing my current book, I have thought in particular of the many, many hours my special spiritual mentor spent talking with me over the past fifteen years. How generous she was with her time – and how much I owe her for the amazing impact she has had on my life!

In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul writes the following:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

I have found this so true in my life. And I am determined to continue being as generous as possible in my email writing and with whatever other resources God has given me.

How about you? Are you living life generously?

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I love Melbourne. Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I love its quirky, cosmopolitan, coffee culture. And the city itself always seems elegant and refined to me, with its wonderful old buildings and avant-garde shops. On a recent visit, I stayed close to the inner city – and it was there that I had my op shop experience.

You see, I have a sister who coordinates an emergency relief service in the Fitzroy area. Most weeks, on the two days it is open to the public, she and her wonderful team almost exclusively made up of volunteers look after somewhere around a hundred clients. Many are new to our country and need all sorts of help, but others have simply fallen on hard times or face other challenges that cause them to struggle to make ends meet. My sister and her workers can help with emergency food supplies, voucher assistance for some services and also in advocating with other agencies and government bodies on behalf of clients. All of this is carried out with great wisdom and compassion, whatever the clients’ backgrounds or difficulties. And alongside this, they also run a truly excellent op shop in adjoining premises.

One day I was let loose as an assistant there, sorting out bags of clothes donated by various churches and individuals and arranging these for display, as well as serving customers. And what an interesting assortment of people I met in the process! Migrants from various African nations and also from parts of Asia and the South Pacific; interestingly attired students from the nearby university, some of whom were freezing in the sudden cold snap so came seeking an extra jumper or coat; enterprising women with a keen eye for fabric they could recycle to create fashionable items for resale; and one or two down-at-heel, slightly inebriated gentlemen looking more for a listening ear than for any bargain. Word has got around across the social strata that this shop is worth visiting for a couple of reasons. Not only is it very well run, but most garments are sold for a mere one dollar or less!

So what did I glean from my ‘op shop day’? Firstly, I saw how well off our society is on the whole, in that we can dispense with so many clothes we own and still have more than enough. Admittedly, on the day I was there, we sorted through bags of children’s clothes which obviously were no longer needed, but for whatever reason, great adult clothes had also been discarded.

But secondly and much more importantly, I saw how each customer was treated with compassion and understanding. Prices were lowered further for some clients who could not afford even the dollar, while items were put aside for one or two known to my fellow-worker until such time when they would have the necessary funds. At the end of the day, I came away sensing strongly that God had been honoured in that place. Surely, as Jesus explained to his disciples on one occasion when asked about the end times, the King would say to these hard working volunteers in my sister’s organisation, as they sought to feed and clothe people:

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matt 25:40)

So did I meet the King that day in the op shop? Just maybe I did.

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