No Calculator Needed

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out” Matthew 6:1-4 (The Message).

Have you had times in your life when things seemed impossible, but you felt God speaking to obey?  If you obeyed, were there specific ways you saw God working on your behalf?  I would love to hear about them.

Several years ago, toward the end of the summer, my family put together an impromptu garage sale. We had been planning to hold a garage sale since the spring, but our schedules were so busy, there hadn’t been a good opportunity. Finally, toward the end of the summer, God opened up my schedule and I felt like He was saying, “Now is the best time…go for it!” Since I was sure God was giving me the green light, I obeyed. Humanly speaking, though, my schedule was still quite busy and I wasn’t sure how I would add a garage sale without going insane. God had taught me over the summer that when He speaks, He also provides…down to the smallest detail.

That point was proven multiple times all week. First, the weather was predicted to be gorgeous – not to hot, low humidity, and no rain. We don’t have a garage, so weather is a huge factor when scheduling the date. Second, my workload was lighter. That in itself was huge, and unusual, because it provided more time to organize, set up, tear down, and run the sale when I normally would’ve been working. Third, my parents and aunt willingly offered to come help set up and price so it was done in half the time, with more laughter and visiting than if I had the chore to accomplish myself.

It wasn’t a coincidence that on the first day of the sale, I finished reading a great book titled, A Blessed Life, by Robert Morris. Through that book as well as God’s word, I discovered far more than I had previously known about tithes, offerings, and sacrificial gifts. As a result of those teachings, which we’ll talk about in another post, God prompted me to wake up early and give Him the day – to put it another way, my firsts. I asked for two specific things: First, I wanted to sell a lot of stuff to make the garage sale worthwhile. We had some bills coming up, as well as a short family getaway, and a little extra money would make both of those more enjoyable, not to mention there would be less stuff to store. Second, in my desire to sell things, I didn’t want to be selfish, but instead I wanted to use this as an opportunity of service. I wasn’t sure how that would look exactly, but I wanted people who came to the sale to leave blessed.

In order to accomplish the goal, not well defined, I knew I needed God to fill in my outline. As had now become something I looked forward to daily, I circled our house, as well as the things we were selling, in prayer, asking God to be in charge of the day, the customers, and my schedule. Feeling peaceful, our family began to set up.

As I got the change ready in the cash box, I thought about adding a calculator. However, I decided with my new heart attitude, maybe a calculator wouldn’t be necessary and instead of adding every penny, we could look at ways to bless others.

The first indication to me we were doing it God’s way was that a full hour and a half before the sale was to begin, we were ready. Normally, especially if it was planned last minute, I was scrambling around finding things to sell, pricing, and setting up tables, while becoming more impatient, stressed, and sweaty each minute. That particular day, I had time to enjoy a second cup of coffee, eat breakfast, catch up on emails, and write to a friend (hoping to bless her as well) before moseying outside to start selling. We had a steady stream of customers and this year, I chose to look at each individual family as someone to bless – not what I could get out of it, but instead what I could do to bless them.

I loved how God accepted my attitude of service and used it to bless us as well, although that wasn’t my intent. I heard the word “blessing” being passed back and forth more during the garage sale that year than I ever had. I greeted most everyone with, “My goal today is to make you happy, make me happy.  Everyone leaves happy.” And, for the most part, I believe that goal was accomplished.

I found that when you have a heart not for “What can I get out of this?” but “What can I give to others?” the blessings overflow. One particular woman came looking for boy clothes and when I offered her a price for what she had picked, her response was, “Well, if they’re that reasonable, maybe I’ll get some more.” God spoke to the mother in me and I quietly asked my daughter to grab a bag, then told the woman to fill it up and “keep going.” She had tears in her eyes when she left, and I invited her to come back the next day as “none of this stuff is going back in my house. I can either bless you or I’ll be blessing someone else.” As I sit here writing this on the second day, both my daughter and I hope she’ll come back. We’re ready to bless her again.

Another mother and daughter came looking for baby items. The little boy they were anxiously awaiting to arrive was going to be the first grandson/great grandson in the family. When I told them the price of what they wanted, the first words out of the great grandmother’s mouth was, “What a blessing.” I smiled real big and replied, “That makes me happy. Being a blessing is our goal.” They left thinking they were blessed when in reality, I’m the one who received the bigger blessing.

One by one, as people arrived, my goal changed from making money to giving blessings. It was, by far, the most fun I’ve had at a sale yet. Our whole family got into it. And the best part? We didn’t worry so much about how much money we got from selling things. I definitely didn’t need my calculator at all.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018


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