What Do You Give From?
by Diane Cretin
What are some ways you give to others?
I thought about this a lot.
We have a tendency to think of giving as being generous financially. What money do we give to our church, missionaries, other non-profits, etc.? That is certainly important. All of those entities need money to survive.
Of course a well know Bible passage comes to mind, Luke 21:1-4.
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
So then the question becomes, what do we give from? Do we give from our surplus or do we give so that it may hurt a little? Do we have sacrificial hearts?
Many people may be struggling right now. They may be desperately trying to pay their rent or mortgage, buy food, and afford gas. But if you want another option on what you could give, how about your time?
I know one person who delivers groceries to people who currently test positive for Covid 19. I know others that volunteer at a food bank. There are so many options for volunteering.
You can also take the time to call or write to someone who lives alone or is not physically mobile. Caring Ministries mobilizes many people to reach out to others in an appropriate caring manner.
Now for some other Bible verses.
And then there is the verse we have heard many times. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
I came across an interesting article in Guideposts online titled "How Being Generous Helps Your Brain." Here is a link to the article: https://www.guideposts.org/better-living/positive-living/emotional-and-mental-health/how-being-generous-helps-your-brain
Here it is in text:
We don’t need scientists to tell us that being generous—from sharing what we have with those who are less fortunate to investing time to help others—is a good thing, right? Especially at a time when natural disasters have struck both our country and our neighbors, donating needed items, money or volunteer hours stands out as a positive response to frightening events.
Although we might not need another reason to give, a small neurological study conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich has something to add to the long list of reasons why generosity is a worthy pursuit.
In a nutshell, generosity changes your brain.
The study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications, gave 50 men and women a little money once a week for a month. Half of the participants were instructed to spend the money on something for themselves; the other half were told to choose someone new they would spend the money on each week.
At the beginning of the study, all 50 participants were scanned using fMRI technology. Their brain activity was measured while they looked at different possible scenarios for spending the money on loved ones—at a personal cost. They told the researchers how they would choose to respond to each scenario—whether they would give the money to others or keep it for themselves.
At the end of the study, participants were asked to report on their moods on a number of measures related to happiness. The findings showed those who had been generous in the month-long study reported greater happiness than those who had agreed to spend the money on themselves. Even those who had opted for generosity in the hypothetical initial fMRI test reported greater happiness.
The results were not only based on self-reported mood, though. Among those participants who chose the generous option in the scenarios, the fMRI scans showed greater activity in the temporo-parietal junction or TPJ, a section of the brain linked with altruism. More notably, it also showed greater connection between the TPJ and the ventral striatum, the “reward center” of the brain.
So the act of giving—or even the act of choosing to give—is an investment not only in other’s well-being, but quite literally in our own emotional health.
I also came across an interesting graph from YouGov, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (their spelling) in England. It reported the following:
Volunteers say the experience of volunteering has given them...
A feeling of making a difference 90%
A feeling of belonging 85%
Improved mental health 77%
More confidence 74%
New skills and experience 71%
A feeling of being less isolated 68%
Improved physical health 53%
A feeling like it is too much like paid work 19%
When you volunteer I think it is important that you truly want to benefit those you are serving. But isn't it cool that God wired us in such a way that we can also benefit as we serve?
I am back to thinking about how I give. Do I really give sacrificially? I have room for growth in this area. I do small things like give tomatoes, beans, and/or squash to friends. I also give beans and other produce that I did not pick in time to a friend with lizards and a tortoise. But those are surplus. I am not going hungry or really suffering to do it. I like doing it. I do get satisfaction from it as I know they enjoy the items I drop off. One of my friends lost her home in the fire and did not get back in her house in time to plant a garden this year. It seems like the least I can do is share produce with her. It reminds me how blessed I am to not have had to go through rebuilding a home.
So I need to spend some quiet time with God and talk to my husband about some ways we can give sacrificially.
Thinking about what I do with my surplus lead me to thinking about the traditional thing that many people have a surplus of - zucchini! This week I decided to try baking with zucchini. Although my zucchini plant is a champ this year, strangely enough I have had years where I could not get a zucchini plant to grow well and produce. So this year has been a revelation for me. Personally I think God is being kind. I am having by far my best year of gardening ever. I am home more but I think things I should be doing are brought to my mind at opportune times. And I get a sense of peace and being close to God while in my garden.
I am going to share two recipes. The first is called The Best Snickerdoodle Zucchini Bread with Coconut Oil. My daughter Casey asked in a mom's group for them to share their favorite recipes using zucchini. This recipe came highly recommended.
Since we are baking with zucchini, we have to process it. Every week or two I end up harvesting one or two zucchini later than I should. I have grown some monsters, especially as my plant has matured and leaves make some areas really hard to see. So I had two really big zucchini to process. Because of that, I cut out any heavily seeded areas from the center.
Once I cut up the zucchini, Olivia was happy to process it.
Here is the link to the recipe:
Gather the following ingredients:
For the Bread
· 1 cup coconut oil (in it’s liquid form - so fractionated coconut oil)
· 3 eggs
· 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 3 cups all-purpose flour
· 2 teaspoons cinnamon
· 1 teaspoon baking soda
· ½ teaspoon baking powder
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 2 cups grated zucchini (wet – do not dry it out first)
· ½ cup granulated sugar
· 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Coat two loaf pans (the recipe author used 4 ½“ x 8 ½“ pans) really well with the cooking spray of your choice.
- In a large bowl, beat oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until well combined
- Pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture and mix until well combined. The batter will be thick. Add the zucchini and mix again until your veggies are fully incorporated.
- In a separate small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar to create the topping mixture.
- Fill half of each loaf pan with batter and sprinkle ¼ of the topping mixture over each pan.
- Divide the remaining batter between the two pans and sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over each.
- Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Allow the bread to cool a bit before slicing.
A few personal notes:
I had to leave before they were done baking, so my husband took the pans out of the oven for me. Thus, I did not get a picture. Also, I assumed my metal loaf pans were the correct size and did not measure them. The recipe would have worked better if I used the smaller foil pans that you get at the grocery store. When I filled each of my load pans half way, there was only a few spoonfuls of batter left. I just went ahead and sprinkled the sugar mixture over the top. The taste was quite good; I was impressed with how moist they were. We will definitely make this again.
If you do not have coconut oil on hand, you can substitute one cup of coconut oil for one cup on canola oil. If you do this, you may want to increase the sugar to 1 3/4 cup as canola oil does not lend the sweetness that coconut oil does to recipes.
For the second recipe, I went with one from a trusted friend and former co-worker, Leigh Rodriguez. Leigh said she likes to make these frequently and will freeze them to have readily on hand. I plan to make a much larger batch next time. In my opinion, this recipe is healthier than the former one.
Zucchini Muffins - makes 12
Here is the link to the recipe:
You will need these ingredients:
Note - melt your butter right away so it has time to cool. Also, take your eggs out of the refrigerator early so they can get to room temperature.
· 2 cups all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour (I used all purpose)
· 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
· 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
· 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
· 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
· 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
· 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
· 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
· 1/4 cup canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil
· 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
· 1/4 cup granulated sugar
· 2 large eggs, at room temperature
· 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
· 2 cups grated zucchini
· 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on muffins
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or grease with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the zucchini.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Don't over mix.
5. Divide the batter equally amongst the muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin with turbinado sugar. Bake for 18 to 23 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and the tops of the muffins bounce back when you gently press on them. You can also insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin, if it comes out clean, they are done.
6. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin let cool another 15 minutes.
Since I did not have my little helper while making these zucchini muffins, I did not take a lot of pictures. I am not big on selfies. I will show you how the muffins looked through the process of adding the turbinado sugar at the end.
Since you use two tablespoons of turbinado sugar in all, I filled one tablespoon with the sugar and sprinkled that on six of the muffins.
Then I sprinkled the second tablespoon of turbinado sugar over the six remaining muffins. They baked for 20 minutes.
The finished product. Yum!
One other note from the recipe to answer the question - do zucchini muffins need to be refrigerated?
The author says this:
I wouldn’t recommend refrigerating because the muffins can dry out in the refrigerator. After you enjoy one (or two or three!) warm out of the oven, store them loosely covered on the counter, for up to four days. I like to store muffins under a glass dome because it prevents the muffins from getting too soggy since moisture isn’t being trapped in the container. If you use a container, loosely cover the container with plastic wrap or you can leave the lid slightly open.
I hope you enjoy making these recipes and give some thought to your giving. Are you happy with your giving or, like me, do you want to make some changes?