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WAYS: What does it mean to live a generous life, to follow a generous lifestyle?

Several weeks prior to finishing each issue of Interpreter, we send a question to all readers for whom we have email addresses, asking them to respond with a short answer of 50-75 words. This issue's question brought some of the heaviest responses ever. We hope you will join the conversation.

We asked:

What does it mean to live a generous life, to follow a generous lifestyle?

You said ...

A generous lifestyle is where I realize just how greatly I have been blessed by God in so many areas that, in return, I seek to be just as great a blessing in his name to others. The Rev. Kevin Barron, Farm Hill UMC, Harrisburg, Arkansas

Living generously is living gratefully, offering from one's abundance without thought of recompense or expectation of return in order to enhance and enrich the lives of others. David Bowman, Hamilton UMC, Neptune, New Jersey

To be generous, you must make someone happy before yourself. You must give your time to someone who needs it even when you don't have time to spare. You must give your favorite belongings to someone who needs them. In short, to be generous, you must love the people around you more than yourself. It's a lovely irony that in the process, you will realize your own happiness, you will find your time well spent, you will find new favorite things, and you will find more love than you ever dreamed of. Matthew Bradke, First UMC, Bryant, Arkansas

Like a heartbeat, generosity is involuntary – it happens without conscious thought. It is the "without a second thought" showing love to another. Diana Braziel, Fairbanks UMC, Houston, Texas

A generous life follows John Wesley's admonition to "give all you can." Even in times of personal scarcity, a generous life looks to the interests of others more than self. Beginning with the "full tithe," the minimum standard of Christian stewardship for United Methodists, the generous life gives liberal offerings to church and charity. We are not generous to call attention to self. We are generous because we follow our Lord Jesus in the way of generosity. The Rev. Dennis W. Derr, retired, Harbeson, Delaware

A generous lifestyle is a way of living that reflects intentionally a life touched by God. It is actually simpler than it sounds. It is living with eyes opened for opportunities to give to total strangers, to give repeatedly, and to give often. It is gratitude in action. It's a way of living that takes the neighbor into account. Finally, it is living with thoughts of God on the front burner. Vincent J. Dominique, Warren Temple UMC, LaGrange, Georgia

I think "a generous life" simply requires a certain mindset. You make a conscious decision to live your life by loving your neighbor and yourself. Once this decision is made, God enables you to give freely. After all, we have Jesus as an example! While it's important to donate to good causes, it's not always about money. It's about relationship. Taking the time to listen, sharing your skills, lending a hand. It's so good for you! And for those you touch! Sharon Kimmel, New Castle (Delaware) UMC

A generous life is lived by one who has become addicted to gratitude and discovered the joy of giving. Judy Kline, Greenland Hills UMC, Dallas, Texas

What best describes a generous life? A life of freedom and yet as a slave to Christ. A person who regards others as more important than themselves – a selfless life. One that gives freely and without compulsion love, time, service, encouragement and the truth and grace of the gospel. A generous life is a life that gives oneself continually to the Lord and trusts God even when God doesn't seem to be present or acting on their behalf. Judie Lemons, White Mountain UMC, Show Low, Arizona

A generous life is a life lived with your hand open. Open to hold a child's hand crossing a busy street. Open to hold wrinkled, gnarled fingers twined in age. Open to give to the frightened, abused woman escaping to hope. Open to hear sighs of pain, smiles of love and tears of grief. Open to give money to fill a need. Open to give love so others might live. Mary Lou Luther, Kimberling City (Missouri) UMC

A generous lifestyle honors "sustainable" concepts of the 21st century along with unconditional loving tenets taught by Jesus the Christ. This includes respectfully loving self, others and "God made" (natural) life and resources with a discerning understanding and application when participating in human-designed organizations, structures and resources. It is fearless and faithful dwelling in love, forgiveness and grace, a gracious lifestyle devoid of greed and worldly seductions. Janet Florence McCormack, Zia UMC, Santa Fe, New Mexico

A generous lifestyle means more than being willing to provide funds and other financial and material support to others. It means being willing to give of yourself in every way, including accepting and loving others, and supporting and caring for those who may be different in any way. Lynn Moore, Christ UMC, Tulsa, Oklahoma

A generous life is living modestly and humbly, always willing to share and give what you have, be it money, food, time, skills, advice, etc. It is always having open arms, an open and loving heart. Laddie Perez-Galang, Laguna Country UMC, Laguna Woods, California

I think of a generous person as one who not only shares of her financial gifts but also shares of herself. The most financially generous people I know are often not actually giving of themselves. Often it is easier to write a check than to be in relationship with those we are helping. When someone shares with me a part of himself – his struggles, his joys, his encouragement, his love – then I feel blessed by a generous spirit. Jan Phelps, Christ UMC, Franklin, Tennessee

A generous life begins in gratitude to God, which radiates out to others. When we know at our core that we are all connected, we listen with discernment, kindness and patience. A generous life means being attuned to God's will and seeking inclusion. A generous person gives of herself and also cares for herself so that generosity comes with ease. Living a generous life offers openings to feel our belovedness and act in love. Pat Roundy, Mason UMC, Tacoma, Washington

It is within us to bless others when we have been blessed. God has instilled this desire in us to help others. Just as he blesses us out of his loving kindness, so we also bless. The more we lift our spirit to be filled, God can't help himself to commune back with us. It's a glorious thought to know we are so loved. Cynthia Saarie, Phoenix (New York) UMC

A generous life values all life, shares stories and builds community among all God's beloved children. Jackie Shields, Brentwood (Tennessee) UMC

A generous life is a continuous act of love, solidarity and dedication towards others. It is a pause to offer to others and bless them through your actions. Generosity comes from a thankful heart to God, which recognizes the needs of those in life and those around you. Generosity invites you to look around and model Jesus' lifestyle of walking with intentionality in his heart, knowing that he would find human beings whom he would heal, feed and support in the process of life. Generosity is love that covers, nourishes and heals. The Rev. Virna J. Ortiz Solis, Rev. José Espada Marrero Methodist Church, Puerto Nuevo, Puerto Rico

A generous life is one focused on Jesus Christ and serving the Lord by bringing the good news of redemption to those who do not know Christ. Steve Steiner, Gethsemane UMC, Lino Lakes, Minnesota

Some of the most generous givers I know reside in prison. To the world, these are some of the poorest people imaginable. In addition to losing their freedom, in many cases they have lost their families, lost any material wealth, lost their status in their community and church. But, in shining the Christ light in the darkness, they give him not only to their fellow residents, but to us volunteers who pray with them weekly. I went to prison to bring Christ – but I found that he was already there. Fred Thomas, First UMC, Milford, Ohio

A generous lifestyle is one that gives freely in all aspects of life - sharing time, sharing effort, sharing wealth, sharing attention with all regardless whether we agree with them or not, sharing the truth that the Holy Spirit grants us. This practice of sharing is done consistently and often enough that it becomes a habit. It gives these to itself as much as to others. Bill Wilkin, Spring Valley UMC, Dallas, Texas

Generosity is, and should be, a joyful experience – not just in material/financial terms, but in openness to new ideas and relationships. Sharing ideas, opinions, and resources can lead to joyful obedience. Thomas Wussow, Kingwood (Texas) UMC