Because He First Loved Us // GUEST POST: BROOK HENSLEY

As we enter this season of giving, it's so important to mediate on WHY WE GIVE?  When we think about sharing hope with a world in need, WHY SHARE?  Brook and Justin Hensley have become dear friends in the past 5 years, and it all when they shared a little hope with us when we needed it.  Barely even knowing us, they gifted us meals from their company Dream Dinners for years following my stroke.  This simple (and delicious) gesture communicated hope to us in a profound way.  It told us that the body of Christ would be there for us, to help us and to sustain us.  And further, as I was not even able to eat at that time, it tangibly represented a hope that one day, we would all gather around a table for that most ordinary but holy experience of breaking bread together as a family.  Praise the Lord, those hopes have been fulfilled, and we have found so much healing in the process.  We will never think of the Hensleys without first thinking of giving and giving lovingly out of the love they have first been given.  Thank you Brook for sharing today!

"Growing up I gradually learned from others about my father’s secret generosity.  From one friend I heard he unearthed a beloved old tree from her family’s front yard when they moved, and he re-planted it in front of their new house.   For other friends who were moving he cut out their children’s handprints in the concrete sidewalk and re-positioned them in their new patio.  He is in the highway construction business and he gives others what he has been given.  Sometimes it’s money, and sometimes he gives unique gifts from his very specific skill set (and access to heavy machinery).  He is committed to doing these things privately.  So when the Wolfs asked me to tell about how we met, I knew I couldn’t just say, “through mutual friends” or “it was the Lord,” though both are true.  The reason we met is that my husband Justin and I own a food shop that produces freezable family dinners and we gave the Wolfs what we had – dinners over the course of a couple years.  Please don’t tell my dad I’ve come right out and said that on the Internet.

Justin and I are on the rapidly growing list of Katherine and Jay’s friends who did not personally know them before her stroke.  We knew about it the day it happened through our couples’ small group and we prayed.  The more we learned about the Wolfs, the more the Lord softened our hearts toward them and prompted a tangible response.  We didn’t have much, but we did have food.  And we sent them boxes of meals through our mutual friends, first to Pomona while she was in brain rehab, then to their home in Culver City for anyone who might be staying with them for dinner.

It was months before we would actually meet in person and since that day, the Lord has knit Katherine and me together in a very special way.  Justin and I had no idea how that small act of obedience would blossom into an essential friendship for us, one that overflows with spiritual and material blessing upon blessing.  It’s a profound privilege to be Jay and Katherine’s friends, and to be called their friends.  To witness and participate in the telling of their story.  To see God so blatantly at work up close and personal.  We have received an embarrassment of riches compared to what we have given them.  Beth Moore puts it this way: “Nothing is free in the economy of God.”  Because what you offer in faith to others as unto the Lord, He multiplies and re-distributes.  Everyone benefits, especially the giver, according to Jesus, who said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”

We love because He first loved us, and we give because we have received so much.  That’s the impetus for the newest Hope Heals initiative, Token of Hope, which is really an opportunity to start an authentic faith conversation with someone – anyone – about the hope we possess.  This small, pocket symbol gives the heart permission to overflow and find words to describe the seed of hope Christ planted in us.  The benefits of faith are far too numerous to withhold, but I often lack the courage to share them with others if I’m not sure how it will be received.  The Wolfs have no such hesitation – their courageous faith is contagious.  So that’s why I plan to keep a few tokens in my purse and car, and challenge myself to give them all away this month.  And prompt my answer to the question, “Why do we give a token, or an encouraging word, or a gift in the first place?”  Because of God’s overwhelming generosity toward us.

I don’t know what my faith would look like today if the Wolfs weren’t part of my life.  The perspective Katherine’s story has woven into my heart and mind has given me a newfound sense of contentment, broader compassion and a deeper confidence in Christ.  I have heard her speak to many groups about her brain injury and recovery, and she often shares a beautiful story about Jay’s dad encouraging her just after her stroke with a passage in John 16 when Jesus promises, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  What she will not tell you, but what you will inevitably come to discover, is that Katherine embodies that command to take heart, which in some translations is “take courage,” “be of good cheer” and “undaunted.”  She has had trouble and she will likely suffer more, but her hope is based on the glorious conclusion of this story, not what sorrow this chapter may bring.  She personifies this paradox – some days are excruciating, but they do not have the final word over her or pre-determine her response.  In every moment, like no one else I know, she captures the essence of, “But take heart!”