Rainstorms and a Thin Stillness


Rank upon rank of torrential rains has pummeled Northern California this winter — this latest with rainstorm-1wailing winds, thunder, and sheet lightning covering the entire night sky. When the Oroville Dam spillway broke up, 200,000 people were evacuated in all the towns downriver. The break in its lip was fixed, but the storms still are lined up out in the Pacific Ocean. And before these last two weeks of rain began, we were already at 200 percent of our normal average precipitation. Managing the runoff will be as major an issue when the snow starts melting this spring.

It’s not surprising that so many ancient Israelites experienced God’s dramatic presence (theophany) in great storms. This makes Elijah’s opposite experience that much more powerful, since God specifically came not in the thundering storm, but in “a still, small voice.” The Hebrew phrase actually is “the sound of a thin stillness.”

In reading this week, I’ve been reminded that God is not in nature; nature is God’s creation. But God has chosen to enter into nature in Jesus Christ, God’s human Incarnation (literally meaning “enfleshment”). Such divine greatness, coming into the lowest of human suffering, is astounding. It reminds me of Philippians 2:5-11, and also in C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, where the diver brings the “dripping, precious thing” up from the depths of the ocean into bright sunlight. God comes down into the depths of human experience in order to lift us up!

The rainstorms continue, reminding me of the power of the Creator. But it is the sound of a thin stillness and the lowly Incarnation that most often put a lump in my throat.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub


Components for Creating a Culture of Generosity


Developing a Strategic Plan — Notes from a presentation by Michael Reeves

What are the components of creating a culture of generosity?

  1. Clear statement of what you believe – This includes both your mission statement and your financial support [See “Attributes of a Biblically Generous Church”]

2. Leadership – Lay and professional; Boards; Wealth + Wisdom + Work; Define reality and express appreciation [Ex: Ask, Thank, Tell by Charles Lane]

3. Communication – Most churches need to rethink this area (ex: quarterly, not monthly)

4. Education – About both our mission and different ways to give

5. One-to-One Cultivation – Major donor development

6. Annual giving – Starting point for financial stewardship commitment; Communicate clear expectations / levels of giving; Say thanks

7. Capital giving – Major gifts; Segmented or campaigns; 1 Chronicles 29:1-9; Exodus 36

8. Planned giving – Endowments; Is your church really a candidate for receiving planned gifts?; Focus on wills and bequests; maybe charitable gift annuities

9. Fund raising events — Do a hard evaluation; Two purposes – Are the events for money? Or for community?; The fund raising ratio for the effort is often questionable

10. End-of-Year appeal – Not an “annual lamentation of desperation;” Say, “Look at what we have accomplished with your generosity!;” Say, “Look at what we anticipate next year.”

The Bottom Line:

NBC TV concludes its evening broadcast with a thematic story, called “Making a Difference” – Like the “End result” of changing lives – Our mission: creating a culture of generosity. It is a vital catalyst in “making a difference.”

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub