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Jun 27, 2017 at 8:48 AM


Edward, dog and JohnI used to think acts of generosity were strategic or spontaneous gifts we give. Now I believe generosity is how we live. This has been coming to me for some time now, and I sort of got it right in Connected for Good. But this notion catapulted to my consciousness when my ‘adopted brother’ Edward tragically died after being thrown from a horse. Hundreds and hundreds were affected by this loss; friends, students, fraternity brothers and colleagues joined his wife, two adult sons and four grandkids to mourn. This loss has been the deepest sorrow I’ve ever felt, and therein lies the insight about generosity.

Edward, like his uncle, who was my stepdad for 45 years, was so tight he squeaked when he walked. He drove old cars and endlessly repaired them and delayed replacing anything until its warranty was long gone. He saved everything like his Depression-era dad because “you might need that someday.”

Edward was not a donor the way you and I look at it. Oh, he would make a charitable gift from time to time, but he was so loved because he spent himself on others…constantly. He was always available- for any chore to help anyone. Widow’s “honey-do lists,” unemployed friends needing a cup of coffee and a listening ear, grieving widowers who could not get out of bed to mow their lawns are just a few ways he gave of himself.

Here is the insight: We are wired to contribute, not consume. Lives of consumption isolate our souls from the true source of happiness. Contributing to the well-being of another turns out to be the most powerful and undervalued expression of generosity. This way of living is not strategic at all, and those who live like this would hesitate calling themselves generous…and never philanthropic. However, the lives they touch feel loved somehow, and the giver flourishes. And when the giver is gone we come to know that generosity is spending ourselves and not just our money.

Read my book, Connected for Good: A Gameplan for a Generous Life, to discover stories of others who have been, become, or continue to be generosity champions.

Jun 1, 2017 at 11:35 AM

Turning Lip Gloss Into Beautiful Generosity

woman of color with lip glossMiss Mary is a not-so-ordinary childcare worker at the YMCA who came to me for advice. We had no friends in common, no referral source…she just found me through Google. And she told me this story:

“A girl named Sarah and I were reading a book together and I pulled out some lip gloss. As I applied it to my lips, Sarah looked up at me and said softly, “I wish I could wear lip gloss.”
I asked her if her parents allowed her to and she said, “Yes, but I’d rather not, because my lips are ugly. I wish I had pretty lips like you.” Sarah said this because she has an unrepaired cleft lip.

I told Sarah that her lips were beautiful and that she, too, can wear lip gloss. When her mother walked in, I asked if It was okay for me to give her daughter lip gloss. As I applied it to her lips, I told her, “When people tell you that you’re not pretty, tell them with confidence that ‘I know I’m not pretty, I’m beautiful!’”

I pulled a compact mirror out to let her see how beautiful she is and how anybody can wear lip gloss, no matter the shape or size of their lips. She smiled, gave me a big hug, and said, “I LOVE YOU!”

The lip gloss that Mary gave to Sarah was no ordinary lip gloss. It was Mary’s own brand that she made at home, packaged, and marketed in a startup business called BU (Beautiful You).
After telling me this story, Mary asked me an amazing question. “How do I start a foundation so that I can help children like Sarah get the medical help they need for cleft lip and palate?”

This question came out of Mary’s instinct for generosity. She is hard-wired to connect with God and others, and her heart naturally formed a desire to help kids like Sarah who have little means but are beautiful. Mary herself is not a woman of means-she is working two part-time jobs while she starts her lip gloss business.

“Forming a foundation is premature; helping Sarah is not,” I told Mary.

To begin, she will ask her trusted doctor to build a relational bridge with a surgeon at Children’s Hospital and propose a partnership to get Sarah’s surgery done. Mary will sell lip gloss and donate a portion of the proceeds to cover the surgery. She’ll relationally engage all of her customers in Sarah’s life through a grassroots marketing campaign. Not that’s an amazingly ordinary Generosity Gameplan.cleft palate image

By all worldly mile markers, Mary’s priorities are disordered, but her courage, boldness, and innocence are inspiring and a lesson for all of us who are stuck in Generosity Gaps (as she was leaving the office, Miss Mary asked, “What’s a Generosity Gap?” I was happy to let her know that she’s definitely not caught in the Action Gap, the Accumulation Gap, or the Gratification Gap)!

If you were to ask me a question like Mary’s about how to act on your generous heart’s desire, what would it be?

Read my book, Connected for Good: A Gameplan for a Generous Life, to discover stories of others who have made generosity beautiful, in all kinds of ways!

May 3, 2017 at 8:54 AM

The Challenge of Engagement

multi hands raisedLast week I spent a couple of days in Indianapolis at the request of a new friend, Layne at Ron Blue and Company. Weeks ago, after having lunch with his colleagues and talking about generosity and ways in which the Generosity Gameplan could serve clients, Layne pulled me aside and wondered how what we had just been talking about could help his church. He is a member of the large evangelical Grace Church. They had just completed a two-year capital campaign and wondered, “How do we rethink generosity as a congregation?” Interesting.

Their lead pastor had preached on generosity for three weeks, and on the fourth weekend we showed this animation and gave away over 1,000 copies of my book Connected for Good. We then invited 100 people to follow their stewardship committee in creating their own Generosity Gameplans. The outcomes are still emerging, but it is clear that the stewardship pastor, Shane, and his team have fresh insights into these 100 folks, how they see generosity for themselves and how they wish to engage.

A great story emerged in a group discussion at one of their campuses. Folks were invited for a book discussion with the stewardship team and myself. During that discussion, a somewhat new member of the congregation sheepishly admitted that after spending herself at her health and fitness business helping women grow in spirit, mind and body all day every day, she has no capacity to “volunteer with her strengths at church.”

Shane lovingly opened his eyes wide, offered grace and filled her with this thought. “You are an example of a person living generosity with her whole life, not just on Sunday, or when you volunteer or make a contribution. You have fully integrated faith, life and work into a beautiful Generosity Gameplan. How can Grace Church serve you?”

On the drive back home I wondered, what else wants to happen with my book, Connected for Good, and more to the point, what else wants to happen with the Generosity Gameplan? Most people I talk to lament about engagement; businesses engaging customers, advisors engaging clients, pastors engaging their congregations. Since engaging people to sign up, show up, participate and finish is such a challenge, can getting clear and confident about how we want to be generous with our whole lives serve to help bring a little peace of mind like Shane did for this woman?

Where are you trying to get engagement?

Read my book, Connected for Good: A Gameplan for a Generous Life, to discover stories of others who have become generosity champions.

Apr 6, 2017 at 2:01 PM

Ice Cream Social’s CPA

ice cream coneI have a friend who is a CPA. She loves her work and is very successful in it. She also has elementary aged school children. When building her Generosity Gameplan it was clear to her that the strength she wanted to give when volunteering was strategic planning. But as a young mom she found little time to volunteer in this way and instead spent most of her available time as a volunteer at her children’s school. She has taken on chairing the ice cream socials.

So how can she reconcile this notion that I promote of only volunteering with her strengths and not trading time for obligation when volunteering? The fact is, volunteering at school is gratifying and she stays connected to her kids and other families. This is a good thing. I’ve encouraged her to see all of her volunteer activities as a portfolio in which some volunteering is helping organizations with strategic planning but other volunteering keeps her connected to her kids’ school family.

This portfolio approach has brought her peace of mind and she knows that when her kids are a bit older maybe more of her volunteering portfolio can be focused on her strengths. But this experience has brought another insight for my friend… she created a stop volunteering list. As Dr. Henry Cloud teaches in his book, “Necessary Endings,” some volunteer activities have run their course. Their season is past, especially when we are clear about our strengths, the stop volunteering list is easier to create.

I have attached a link to The Volunteering Inventory from the Generosity Gameplan. I’d love for you to take about 10-15 minutes and go through it. It’s an exercise to help you take a fresh look at volunteering.

Volunteering Inventory – Generosity Gameplan

Over time our generous intentions can become simply trading time for obligation. But when we focus on using our strengths, that is, when we volunteer and focus on giving away what we are best at, we win and the recipients of our generous volunteering win too. Chances are, when we only give away what we are best at we will do more of it.

What is on your stop volunteering list?

Read my book, Connected for Good: A Gameplan for a Generous Life, to discover stories of other generosity champions – like you!

Mar 7, 2017 at 1:39 PM

Guest post: Gary Hoag Lenten reflection – Sacred Struggles

Generosity MonkSacred Struggles

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Matthew 6:25-27

“Lent provides us with the grace-filled opportunity to reflect upon, and name our own sacred struggles. To recognize and accept that which we are most anxious about, that which keeps us up at night, that which prevents us from growing in our faith, hope, and trust…Are there any prayer intentions that you’ve been hesitant to name? Sacred struggles you dare not ask God to meet? Healings or forgiveness that you aren’t sure whether you are prepared for? What are you most anxious about now? As part of our commitment to be people of prayer and to embrace our sacred struggles, I would like to invite you to…jot down your Lenten prayer intention…your “sacred struggle” if you will, that is preventing you from growing and thriving in your faith.”
-from Father Tony Zimmer in his homily entitled “Sacred Struggle” on February 26, 2017 at St. Anthony on the Lake in Pewaukee, WI

As the first week of Lent draws to a close, I would encourage you to make the most of the opportunity to go deeper in your experience of prayer this Lent. With Fr. Zimmer, remember that it’s a “grace-filled opportunity” to lift up to God anything and everything that brings you anxiety. Such things become “sacred struggles” because we get stuck. We lose sleep. We worry. We start making other decisions that reflect the anxiety swelling within us. With Fr. Zimmer, let us give God our “sacred struggles” this Lent and see what happens to our faith.

How does this relate to generosity? When our lives our filled with worry and anxiety, we tend to hoard in fear rather than live open-handed, generous lives! Make the most of your prayer time this Lent, and I think your generosity will blossom along with your faith!

As a bonus for those who like to add music to their prayer time, click to listen to “Gracious God”Gracious God song by Jesse Manibusan. It’s a beautiful song that St. Anthony on the Lake is using this Lent. You will notice it speaks of the sacred struggle in the second verse.

Enjoy it in your time with our Lord today.