Tuesday, December 28, 2010

God's $15

God’s $15 - Mari's Story

Knowing that I tend to over-think and over-analyze most everything I do, I decided to act, impulsively if necessary, in putting my $5 of God’s money to work. Nevertheless, as fine opportunities presented themselves, I found myself in the midst of contingency planning during the past few weeks, over-planning my responses to each.

Shortly after being given the $5, the on-line “Give to the Max Day”celebration of GiveMN.org occurred in support of the many nonprofit organizations in Minnesota. So, I donated my usual year-end contribution plus 50% more plus an additional $5 of God’s money to one of my favorite charities. Donations given above usual contributions were matched, so that incentive, in addition to the worthy work of the organization, provided an easy basis for giving. I called this opportunity Plan A because it felt great to double the $5 for a good cause...  But there was an aspect of passivity to the giving. I was satisfied with Plan A, but decided to be watchful for a Plan B opportunity.

Plan B presented itself when a friend, who is a special education teacher, told me of her plan for some of her senior students. To help celebrate and remember their senior year, she was starting a scrapbook project with them. Supplies were needed. So, I happily donated $5 to the cause. Plan B was just as satisfying, if not more, as Plan A. Still, I decided to be watchful for a Plan C opportunity because, although I’m willing to help friends when needed, it was her idea. (I told you I tend to over-analyze most everything.)

I began to wonder if a Plan C would present itself (and how much in $5 opportunities this project was going to cost me) - when it occurred in the most unlikely of circumstances.

The buzzer rang at the outside door to my work office area on a Friday afternoon at about 5:00 pm. I’m rarely in the office at that time, but I was finishing work from an all-day board meeting and preparing work for another board meeting scheduled for the next day. Tired, weary, working by myself in the large building, and not expecting anyone, I toyed with the idea of not answering the buzzer. After some thought, I did respond and a woman identifying herself as Evangelist Bettie requested time to discuss her very important version of God’s work. Now, I really wanted to send her away – I was tired after a long week and in no mood to talk with anyone.

For some reason, I let her in. She rushed past me to place a manilla folder on the office counter, and then handed me a simply-made flyer from the folder (which contained, I noticed, a few dollar bills mixed with the flyers). She breathlessly began her spiel of how her church organization of 25 people in Brooklyn Center is collecting money for holiday fruit baskets for a growing list of people in need – more than they could handle.

I was totally puzzled by her request, because solicitors are rare at the office - especially since my office is in St. Paul (not even close to Brooklyn Center) in a nondescript office building on a secondary street... I queried her about making cold calls and going from office to office to solicit funds and found myself admonishing her about being inefficient in her fundraising efforts. (Remember, I was tired.)

She responded by saying that she gets in her car and the Lord takes her to whoever might have $5 to spare. I looked at the flyer and noticed the request for $5 for a fruit basket for a family in need. It was as if the Lord was flashing a blinking neon sign saying THIS IS YOUR PLAN C!

I explained to her about the St. Paul’s UMC project and gave her $5. Evangelist Bettie was convinced that it was the Lord’s guidance that brought her to my office. She requested my business card so I may have further contact with her. (Maybe we will talk about fundraising tips – tips which she may not need.) She seems to have a Contact who knows much more than me about who has $5 to give.


Plan D: Get a $10 refund from God or St. Paul’s.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lewis House

"The St. Paul's United Methodist Men's group, during this Christmas season of 2010, made the decision to contribute funds towards the purchase of children's toys and clothes (pajamas) in order to provide these gifts to the children staying at the Lewis House over the holidays. 

The Lewis House offers a safe home for abused women and their children.  UMM sincerely believes that these children were likely not going to recieve any presents for Christmas and it is our thought that our gifts certainly can bring some joy to these children and their mothers."

Dick R.

And I have it under good authority that a LOT more than $5 per person was contributed!  Our Men's group has been a wonderful blessing to the Lewis House.  Wonderful job, Men!


"Mary's world was surely as turbulent as ours, and the future must have looked grim and foreboding.  And yet she brings this total offering of herself to God and to whatever God has in store for her.  She is a model for our time of one who demonstrated complete trust in God when the world around her seemed to be gripped by fear and uncertainty.  Perhaps she found this deep trust in God because she practiced walking in God's presence everyday.  Can we remind each other that we too walk in God's presence every day?"
--Reuben P. Job, "When You Pray"

Mary reminds us what it means to trust in God with our whole self - our whole life. 

We're not alone - we walk this journey together!

So as Christmas comes close... let us celebrate together!  Let us trust in the greatest gift of all - that God loves us and is with us.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Need Ideas?

"Here's another idea for those who have not yet spent their $5. It would especially help if a couple people want to put their money together.

The Sibley High School librarian could use $$ to help buy books for the Kindles she has in her library (very popular program)."

Check out the Mendota Heights Patch article about this cause!

Thanks, Carol, for the heads up!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Update

On eo four church members graciously used their $5 to provide a Christmas gift to a neighbor child (not knowing if they celebrate Christmas or not - but being sure to invite them to church).  Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, our prompts towards a life with God may not be taken...  But between respectful people, can still be the start of a relationship! 

Here was the response to the gift:

"Well, as I thought, my neighbors don't celebrate Christmas or any other holiday.  I know this as they did respond by typing out a short letter stating such. However, interesting statement at close.... "I pray that you understand and respect our beliefs. You are a blessing for reaching out to us." I find it encouraging that they took time to give me a personal response with a firsthand delivery and will continue to pray for their household and maintain whatever contact I am able."

Remember - all we can do is plant a seed.  We're just helping God out!  So don't be discouraged - rejoice in a new relationship!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


"We finally spent our $5. We even added some. It sounds like a worthwhile cause.
Merry Christmas!"

Beda and Tom L.

Here is the link to the Kiva.org microloan they sponsored:  Meloma Group.
Feel free to follow the progress!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fundraising Update

"I've been busy baking cookies this week, and I'm now up to $325 in donations. Thanks again for leading the effort at the church."

Jill E. and Family

They plan to donate the money to the Missions Team at St. Paul's UMC.  Nice work, guys!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gifts of Grace

"We long for a world where righteousness is at home. 

It is a world envisioned by the prophets and saints of every age.  It is a vision that is reflected in Mary's song and is still the prayer on the lips of the faithful everywhere.  We yearn for a world where justice, fairness, equality, goodness, integrity, and well-doing are modeled in industry, government, school, home, and individual life.  Deep in our hearts we know that it is a way of living that will result in a deep sense of well-being and peace for everyone. 

However, much as we would like to, most of us do not have the wisdom or the power to transform the world.  But we do have the wisdom and power to permit God to transform us.  In our lives, and now and then in the world where we live, righteousness will be at home. 

You and I can become those persons who carry these gifts of grace to the world."
--Reuben P. Job, from When You Pray

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Celebration Update

This past Sunday, following worship, many of us joined together in the fellowship room for peanut butter sandwiches (with ALL the fixins), cake, and a chance to share our "Living A Better Story" experiences.  I thought for sure our small turn-out, due to the snow storm, would keep people from staying and telling their stories...  But NO!  People were jumping at the chance to tell where God led them with their $5!

Let's see, here's some summaries of the cool things we heard people did with their $5:

Kristi A. bought wool socks for a homeless man - and was happy to hear him tell her the next day, "My feet stayed warm all day!"

Jo B. was buying mittens for her 'bell-ringing' granddaughter and in the process saw another bell ringer without warm gloves - so bought her some, too!  She was so excited, she wanted to know why Jo did such a nice thing and when Jo told her, the woman asked what church Jo was from!

Janet C. bought a bag of groceries for Neighbor's Inc - a hungry family will have a nice meal thanks to that purchase!

Carol R. bought a 95 year-old grocery bagger, at the store, lunch!

Corrine S. gave the money to a young girl (the granddaughter of a friend's care-giver) to buy her grandma a Christmas present!

Jeanette W. and her daughter, Maggi, decided to give theirs to Jeanette's office "Adopt a Family" project.  When Maggi gave money to the project, other office workers were inspired by her generosity and gave more!  The family they adopted would have a wonderful Christmas!

These are a few stories... and some of the ones already on the blog were told to the group as well.  What a wonderful sharing of so many acts of generosity - many of which included the story of why we were doing such things...  That we were inspired by our church and the love of God.

This week, we're going to take some time during the fellowship hour to tell more stories!  So if you missed last week, please plan to stay and hear more tales of inspiration and generosity!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Union Gospel Mission

In a typical year Yvonne and I make annual gifts to numerous charities and because of the Living a Better Story project we decided to look for something different.

As the days passed we thought and prayed about what we should do with our $5.  We soon found that almost on a daily basis we read or heard about people or groups of people who were in need of help.  Trying to decide which one to choose became increasingly difficult.

This year we were having Thanksgiving at our home and we were expecting upwards of 25 people for dinner.  While in the process of planning the meal we saw an ad in the Pioneer Press that caught our attention.  It stated that a gift of only $19.20 would provide thanksgiving dinner for ten homeless people at the Union Gospel Mission.

The more we thought about it the more convinced we became that because we were so blessed to have to much for our dinner it made so much sense to give to those who had so little.  Our gift included enough to provide 50 meals and other care for those in need.

Our thanks to St. Paul's United Methodist Church and to those who had the vision and courage to offer this opportunity to make our Thanksgiving so special.

Bob and Yvonne M.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Salvation Army

Dear Megan and Penny, you presented me with a 5 dollar bill and asked me to do something with it, other than dontate it back to the church.

After much thought and praying, I decided to donate it to the Salvation Army, who has a wonderful record of doing good with the majority of the money they receive. I also remembered that the bible said something about "10 fold" so I decided it would be more appropriate to donate a total of $50 which equals the "10 fold".

Here is how I did it. Dawn and I found an 80 year old Salvation Army bell ringer and I had Dawn take pictures of both of us after I explained what I was doing and why. Bless her soul! She kept ringing her bell even as I talked to her explaining how I got the $5 and why I was putting another $45 in the pot. She even told us why she was ringing the bell, and that she was a mother with 12 children (6 girls and 6 boys). Her husband passed away 6 years ago. I realize the pictures really aren't necessary to prove that I tried to do something good with the money, but here they are anyway.

Love, Chuck E.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Here is an update on the Edelmans' living a better story effort. I sent the email below to several friends.

Craving holiday cookies, but too busy to bake? Let me do the baking for you! Sugar cookies, spritz cookies, white-chocolate covered pretzels, peanut butter blossoms with Hershey's kisses, . . . anything you like.

I will buy the ingredients, make the treats, and deliver them right to your doorstep. The only thing I ask in return is that you make a small donation to our church's mission fund. Our church (St. Paul's United Methodist Church) is encouraging us to come up with creative fundraising ideas to support our missions during the month of December, and baking cookies sounded like fun to me. Jake and Tommy have also volunteered to raise money by shoveling driveways, so feel free to call them if we get any snow.

If you are interested in cookies or snow removal . . . just let us know!

Happy Holidays!


We've had a few snowstorms, but nobody has called the boys to shovel yet. (Tommy has been quite thankful for this. When the phone rings after a snowfall, he usually runs and hides for fear that someone will call looking for his shovelling services.) I've received several calls for cookies, and I've been happily baking away. So far, I've received $125 in donations to the "missions fund" of St. Paul's UMC. I have several more cookie orders to deliver next week, so I expect a little more money to trickle in. Also, much to Tommy's dismay, significant snow is forecast for this weekend, so the boys may also be earning some money as well. :)

Thanks for introducing this effort, it has made our Advent season very memorable!

Thanks, Jill

Friday, December 10, 2010


Just a reminder - this Sunday we will be celebrating all the amazing stories that have come from the "Living  A Better Story" experiment! 

Have you used your $5?  Come and share your story!  Incredible stories AND simple stories are welcome!  We want to hear ALL the ways God's money is reaching out in the world!

Haven't used your $5 yet?  Come anyway!  Hear what others have done - it might spark some ideas for you!  (I know I've had a couple of things sparked from some of the stories all ready told...)

I keep telling you I haven't used mine yet - well, I finally decided what I'm doing, and I'll be doing it this weekend!  But you'll have to come to the party to hear what I did...

And remember - we're going to continue sharing stories through January (or whenever you do use your $5) - so don't give up!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Letter

"I struggled mightily with this simple project! There have, of course, been endless opportunities to give to wonderful causes. But in the last couple weeks I realized I have been trying too hard to find THE PERFECT opportunity - something that would allow my $5 to grow exponentially...like feed many hungry families, change the life of a sick child or maybe even save the world. I had to stop the grandiose thinking. Then a week ago, I woke to God's message to me.

My story began a year ago when a good friend died, leaving an adult daughter. I had spent six years of my life with this daughter and her father, and came into their lives when the daughter was only 3 years old. When my friend found out about his cancer a year and a half ago, we met at a restaurant where we talked openly about his illness and decided we wanted to get together again, and this time include our children who had grown up together. Although I had seen the daughter several times over the years, it had been at least 5 years since the last time. So we tried to find a date that would work for the reunion with our children, but couldn't get it to happen before my friend died. After his death, I began putting together an album of the photos I had taken from "back in the day", and have been adding to it here and there. I saw the daughter at the funeral of course and we committed to getting together, but she hasn't responded to communication attempts. I let it go for almost a year now, but this photo album has been sitting in a drawer, and recently began calling to me. As I've been praying about the $5, this daughter and the album have continued to be present in my thoughts more and more in the past few weeks. One morning I woke up to a clear message - "Write a letter and send the photo album to her before Christmas." I wrote a letter to this woman who has meant so much to me. I marched over to PostNet with my $5 and mailed it off. I hope I will hear from her, but if I don't, it doesn't matter. I've told her what a gift she was to me and always will be."

Nancy S.

Thanks, Nancy!  It just goes to show - not all of our God prompts will lead us to strangers...  Some of us have people in our own lives that could use a reminder that they are loved!

Jumpin' Gifts!

"Well...I did it!

I took the $5 from church, $20 Mary G. gave me for the sign I made for her, and some of my pocket money and made up five gift bags for Good Samaritan Inver Grove Heights holiday gifts. Each bag had a 'jumping jack' or 'jumpin jill' wooden toy (the little wooden gymnast things that flip when you squeeze the handles---I make those), a book of 20 'Forever' stamps, and yummy chocolate bar, and a peppermint stick. Sandy B. gave me the idea. I told the woman in charge to give me a call if they still needed some gifts. (They get donations from the people in the community, and give a gift to each resident.) I walked out of there feeling warm and GOOD inside.

I still want to go together with people to give to KIVA. And Heifer International will also get something out of me. Chuck is going to multiply his $5 by 10, and give $50 to the Salvation Army.

Thanks for the great idea!"

Dawn E.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Neighborly Outreach

"Well, this was a unique opportunity. One should always think of our money as God's but this put an interesting spin on the challenge and the fun because it was specifically designated as such! In my first few days of prayer, I discerned that my growth of that money was towards that of God's kingdom during this special time in the calendar year, close to Christmas. This is the season when I focus on God and often - children.

I had heard of a new Christian value store opening in Knollwood Mall (and linked that with a 1 yr old in our neighborhood that I met at our summer picnic potluck.) I finally was in that vicinity and visited that store. Another serendipity was the fact that everything in the store was ........ $5!!! I found a nice but subtle child's prayer book about tucking in all of God's animals for the night that I thought any child would enjoy. Yesterday, I wrapped up that book, added a card that expressed my thoughts of God and children at Christmas, included a SPUMC 'business card', and delivered it to a neighbors' house. It didn't appear that they were home and I was also a bit excited that they would simply find the gift as a surprise, again 'soft-pedaling' the delivery and meaning to provide a more comfortable reception for them as I don't know if they have a church home so I thought this could be a good way to plant an idea with my prayers included.

Now, the fun part! Wait to see what God can do with our gift - with a reminder that we may be the last to know or may never know. However, I feel good to know that I have reached out on God's behalf to someone who may need to know him and honored to have been a possible vessel of the true gift of Christmas!"

Andrea L.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Just a Thought

I was in a meeting last week, and many of us were mentioning this "Living A Better Story" project.  Some mentioned what they had done with their money, others talked about how this little bit of money - a whole $5 - has reeked havoc in their life.  How they're treating it like it's $5000!

During the coarse of conversation, one of the people talked about a chat they had last week with a Salvation Army bell ringer.  He had asked her how it was going this year and she responded with more than a little disappointment.

She said that people were often very nice as they walk in and out of the store.  They often say "Hi" or "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" but very few put any money in her kettle.  She said that in discussing this with other bell ringers, everyone is seeming to have the same luck. 

As I listened to this story...  I thought, "I haven't put anything in yet this year, either!"  I'm usually pretty good about always putting something in.  The thing is..  I don't carry cash much anymore...  So I usually don't have anything to put in the kettle.  So I'm one of the people dashing our bell ringers' hopes!

I found some cash in a jar at home.  I put it in my purse.  The next time I pass a bell ringer, I'm going to put money in the pot.  And if I'm somewhere where I can buy them a cup of hot coca and say "thank you" - I will.  Somebody did that for me once when I used to ring the bell.

Have you noticed a person or a place that could use a little extra encouragement?  A little extra Christmas cheer?  What can you do to help this week?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Heifer International

"After praying and meditating on what to do with the $5, I was drawn to the idea that it should be something life changing. But how could just $5 be used as a life changing gift? It was shortly after that I saw the gift catalogs from Heifer International and World Vision. I thought maybe this is where the money should go, but maybe not. $5 won't buy even a chicken or a rabbit. So I prayed and thought some more without feeling any direction on how to use the $5. Then on Sunday December 5th the answer came as I was reading the church bulletin. Mike and Megan Adams were having an open house and the invitation stated: "No need to bring hostess gifts or goodies to share. Instead, please consider bringing a small donation for Heifer International." The pooling of funds just might get a chicken or a rabbit or maybe even a goat!"

Barb J.

Barb - I have your $5 set aside with a note: "Towards Barb's goat!"  Thanks so much for chipping in!  We'll be sure to update everyone on what we were able to purchase for Heifer International.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Santa's Toys

"Marge and I have given a $10 toy to Santa's toys. I am a member of the Northern Dakota County Golden K Kiwanis. Next Wednesday (Dec 8) at our meeting Santa's helpers will be at our meeting and at that time I will give them the toy for children who are less fortunate."

Ken K.

Thanks, Ken!  I'm sure some little kid will be over-joyed at their new toy!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Life in the Parsonage

I follow this blog called "Life in the Parsonage" - written by a mom and wife of a pastor.  Her post today shared about the craziness of how our culture tries to live up to Christmas, how it seems hypocritical to make the holiday about spending money on gifts, rather than just enjoying the gift that is Jesus.

It's not a judgemental post - just her struggle with the holiday.  I think many of us feel the same things at times.

Check it out - it's good stuff!

On another note...  I heard some more of your "Living a Better Story" experiences last night!  Be sure to send them in, so I can type them up and share them here!  Here's some hints:
*Christmas presents for abused kids
*A Thanksgiving turkey for a woman who realized, at the grocery store, that she couldn't afford it!
*Small gifts for lonely senior citizens
*Lunch money for a child

Keep 'em coming!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


If you have a moment today, please check out this blog post. I started reading her blog earlier this fall - and I think she is the kind of person we all seek to be. She lives her faith in amazing and generous ways - and humbles me each and every time she posts with humor and excitement about what God is asking her to do next.
If she had God's $5... I think she would change the world - with just $5.


PS: I've added her link on the side bar so we can follow her!