Tag Archives: simplify
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Bring on the Peace

27 Aug

So, yesterday was my first full day on my individual stewardship campaign in response to God’s question, “What will you give?”  As I mentioned earlier I have designed a task for each of the three “channels of giving”:  Time, Talent and Treasure.  Remarkably I did pretty decently.  Particularly if I get to count the partial day from before 🙂

Time

Initially when I considered that I was going to have to spend two and a half hours each day giving time to God, I had visions of myself kneeling on stone floors in meditative silence.  I imagined anyone who committed that much time to “God time” is worthy of robes and must have close ties to some monastic order.  After having started this challenge however, I discovered two and a half hours can go pretty fast.  In fact, I have been concerned that it came too easily.  I will be considering this over the next couple of days to be sure that I am being rigorous enough in my definitions.

In my two and a half hours I have included devotion/Christian reading time.  I have been reading Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  Ironically, this was already on my reading list before I began this quest to focus and simplify.  My concern is that I am enjoying reading it way too much.  Back to the whole monastic thing, my knees are really not sore enough to feel good about the book . The redeeming factor is that it is compelling in it’s message, we live in a culture that is wildly out of touch with the abundance that swallows to the point that we pity ourselves for what we don’t have while 95%+ of the rest of the world sustains themselves on a fraction of the resources of our low income families possess.  Naturally in this season of purge, the message resonates with me.  I have found myself sitting in bed reading, and as I read I peruse the room filled with overflowing shelves, bursting closets and drawers that can’t be closed.  It is like having my own personal cheerleader between two book covers encouraging me on my quest.  God was swell in giving me just the right reading at just the right time.

I have also found service oriented call-answering seems to come relatively easily.  In life, I am a doer.  If there is a job to be done (except dishes), I tend to volunteer.  My family grows concerned whenever I join a new organization, because in the end I will be in charge of something if not the entire organization.  I think the most difficult part with this aspect of the task is to consider what counts as “God time” and what is just me.  It is easy to classify many things into service, however, there is a distinct difference between serving in response to God’s call and doing something because you it sounded good to you.  One can still do swell things that have fabulous merit even if they aren’t things that God called you to.  However, there is an opportunity for growth and development in your relationship to God through answering His call.  So while both opportunities have merit, one offers a spiritual depth the other doesn’t necessarily.  Yesterday I completely lost myself in knitting a prayer shawl.  It is easy to allow your mind to become distracted and focused on so many other things when you are knitting.  I have definitely been known to watch TV, or more recently watch a football game (which explains the grass in the yarn, while knitting.  Yesterday though, I realized that this was one of those opportunities to focus and center.  I wanted this particular shawl to be covered with blessings, and I wanted to use it as an opportunity to consider the circumstances of the gal I was making it for.  I took the time to pray.  I consider the blessings I have and often take for granted.  I smiled as I considered the acts of kindness folks have done for me.  I was overwhelmed when I thought about the greatness of God, His faithfulness and the strength my faith offers.  Over an hour was easily passed without realizing it.  Over an hour without diversion … without conversation … without sound.

Despite all that was gained in these experiences, I have realized that my actual scripture reading could use a boost.  This tends to be a rough one for me, but like exercise, once I get started I find myself re-energized and looking for more.  I think that the days ahead are going to need a Bible injection, so if you have any particular insights on how you go about this with out picking random passages blindfolded, let me know 🙂

Talent

I am completely unsure if I have failed in this area abysmally or not.  I have challenged myself to work towards identifying and using my talents for the glorification of God.  At the end of the day, I am not sure how much progress I have made.  I considered my knitting earlier in the day, and asked myself, “Is this the talent I am to be including.”  Two things cause me to hesitate:  1)It is definitely not a unique skill or talent.  There are a plethora of folks who are “knitters”, and besides the doctor said cool it on the knitting.  2)I am not particularly fabulous at it.  I will allow a marginal check mark in this column in that I use my knitting exclusively for others.  In the years that I have been knitting, I have never completed a project for myself.  Oops, I lie, I have made some dish towels – and I do like them.  But I struggle, because it just doesn’t feel like it fits.

The other struggle with this area is just this overactive sense of modesty, but probably more aptly titled lack of confidence.  I feel so shameful and guilty for identifying talents.  This is further exacerbated by my second guessing as to whether I am actually as talented as I suppose I am, and perhaps I am on some poorly focused ego trip.  The only thing that keeps this whole thing from spinning out of control into a whirlpool sucking me right down to the therapist’s couch is a realization that I am one of God’s creations, and that in and of itself makes me special and blessed.

While in the book of Romans and I Corinthians we are offered a list of gifts that make anyone blush:  healing, prophesy, exhortation, miracle worker and such, I came across a verse in Exodus that illustrates some more mundane (albeit creative) talents that God has specifically placed within individuals for the purpose of His glorification.

The Lord spoke to Moses:  See, I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:   and I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft. Moreover, I have appointed with him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given skill to all the skillful, so that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the covenant, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent,  the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin with its stand, and the finely worked vestments, the holy vestments for the priest Aaron and the vestments of his sons, for their service as priests,  and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the holy place. They shall do just as I have commanded you. (Exodus 31:1-11 NRSV)

What I wonder when reading this, did Bezalel and Oholiab recognize their gifts as blessings directly from God?  When they crafted things, not just those things mandated, but lamps for their house or forks for friends, did they considered them a means of glorifying God or even consider God as the source of their skill?  I think about the things I accomplish in a day and wonder 1)how appreciative am I for the gifts I have and 2)if I use those gifts to point toward His Kingdom.  I talk all the time how glad I am that I can cook, because how much I like to eat good food.  I figured if I’m not going to be wealthy enough to go to fancy restaurants, it is nice that I can make some of the stuff myself.  I just don’t think I ever really think about that being a gift that God has given me, nor do I necessarily seek ways to build the Kingdom through cooking.

Oh so much to think about, but thankfully I have two months to ponder all of this. 🙂

Treasure

So far I have done pretty derned good with this, but to be honest I started in the bathroom.  I expect that I downsized my bathroom by 25% (if you don’t count towels, which I don’t  because none of them were clean nor in the bathroom).  Of course it feels a little like cheating.  I rarely bond to bath soap, hair products and perfumes.  It did feel good to show the man-person, Jeff, that I sent crud away.  I am actually pretty excited to dig into another room.  I so yearn for the peace that will come when I don’t see things everywhere.  I am hopeful that God will help direct me towards folks who will be blessed by my excess.  If nothing else it will help make amends for my squanderasness.  (Yes that is my own word – words have to start somewhere.)

An equally important effort, I had not considered when taking up this challenge is the intake side.  A friend and I are suppose to go thrift storing soon.  In my mind, I imaged it would be a great opportunity to drop off donations while I loaded up on some deals … hmm.  Thinking there needs to be a stipulation that my net reduction is 10%, because how much good does it do to downsize by 10% and then upsize by 12%.

I think for today I am going to anchor myself on this:  “ For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”  (1 Corinthians 14:33a)

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Giving

25 Aug

picasso quoteIt is rolling into fall soon.  Kids go back to school next week.  The days are getting shorter, and football is everywhere.  If you are a regular church attendee, there is one other thing that inevitably is associated with fall as well.  That’s right, it is soon time for the annual stewardship campaign.  Pulpits everywhere will be primed for “stewardship moments”.  Christians will be instructed on how their giving serves missionaries abroad and ministers to the needs in our community.  Letters are being proofed to be mailed to the homes of congregants everywhere.  Pastors dread it.  Congregants dread it.  The church finance team won’t sleep for weeks.  It is a special time of year that is set apart to talk about that nasty business of money and budgets.

The truth of the matter is that ministry cannot happen without money.  Somewhere there has to be a check writer.  I am such a John Lennon idealist and love the love, but hate the money talk.  One of my pastors, however, years ago helped me to see that there are a whole lot of not flashy expenses with the church … light bulbs for example.  However, I feel like each year, no matter which church you are affiliated with, everything to do with stewardship is REALLY clumsy.  At the core of this I think it is that we loose sight of why we give.  Giving is Biblical.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)

There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales (Acts 4:34)

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys (Luke 12:33)

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. (Deuteronomy 15:7)

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; (Proverbs 3:9)

So now that we have that out of the way – Hopefully we agree, that if we consider the Bible to be a source of truth and guidance, then it seem really evident that there is an expectation to be generous.  In that respect, as a member of a church, it is appropriate to give to and through the church.  However. the aspects that are frequently overlooked during the stewardship campaign are individual giving outside of the church, sharing of time and the use of our talents to advance the Kingdom of God.  What needs to be realized is that most stewardship campaigns are conducted for pragmatic reasons and are driven by the finance team.  The fact is the church is an organization, and like it or not, it must operate under some version of a budget.  Corporations do projections on sales and such, churches do stewardship campaigns to forecast giving.  Depending on who you talk to, you will have different takes on how appropriate this is.  Jeff and I tend to be renegades in this area.  We are sometimes literalistic.  If we learn in Sunday Sermons that we are to seek truth through prayer and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and follow that with the faith that God will provide the needs for what we are called to, we kind of figure the church should take the same leap of faith and budget based on what they feel the church is being called to and have faith that God will provide the means.  I do, however, get why it isn’t necessarily that way, despite my yearning that it would be.  I understand that there are mortgages. salaries, contracts and such to be dealt with.  Most mortgage companies aren’t cool with late payments, even if you tell them it is all part of God’s plan.

So. I have determined that I am not likely going to change the course of church tradition and the pragmatism that to some extent must exist.  I am however, going to raise the bar in my own personal discussion with God.  So, if you know me, you know that my “prayer closet” happens to be a shower.  Every great idea, or at least most of them, happened while taking a shower.  Over the last several weeks I have been feeling really convicted about the overabundance of “stuff” in my life.  There is absolutely too many things in our home.  It literally some days is impossible to find a clean surface to set something on because of the piles.  It sucks my energy … it weighs on my spirit … and maneuvering through all of this stuff takes a lot of time.  So, I was already determined that there needed to be a substantial purge.  One thing I did decide though was that I didn’t want to arbitrarily just heave-ho it in the direction of the nearest thrift store.  I wanted to be intentional in my giving.  I wanted to manage it in the same way I would if I was giving cash.  If you came into money and decided you wanted to give away $1000, odds are you wouldn’t give it to the first and easiest person/organization asking for money.  You would be intentional.  I felt that my years of accumulation, what was bad, could be made good through blessing others.

However. while in the shower, God started up His chit-chat again.  (I think it was the cool air reminding me that stewardship season is around the corner.)  He was asking me what will I give to build His Kingdom.  So I told him I was going to give Him all my old stuff.  One would have thought he would be delighted, but I’m pretty sure I saw Him roll His eyes and offer up a sarcastic “thanks…”  Realizing that in many respects the purge was for me as much as it might benefit others.  I began to consider what is often the call of the stewardship campaigns?  It is to give … To give of your time, talents and treasures.  This is where the Holy Spirit guided me to what God is calling for me to offer.

I have decided to put a time frame on the project, because “forever” is way to big for me to feel good about.  While, I am hopeful that these will turn into forever habits, I know that in order to take the first step I need an end date.  For me, this date will be October 29th.  This gives me a little over 2 months to be particularly Kingdom-minded.

My Time

I think in many ways our time is even more valuable than our money.  It is so limited, it can’t be regained and it is absolutely finite.  I know that my time is probably the thing I treasure most and regret misspending the most.  God has called me to spend my time in a way that will advance His Kingdom.  While I am hopeful that every moment I have is spent in a way that brings glory to Him. I know that most of my time is spent in ill-considered ways and is not necessarily Kingdom building.  There are three ways we are called to spend our time:  In study, in prayer and in service.  In reading the gospels we are reminded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37b-40)  So, for the next two months I will tithe my time.  10% of each day will be spent intentionally with the purpose of building His Kingdom.  Each day 2.5 hours will be spent on devotion and prayer and absolutely on service. 

My Talent

God has blessed each of us with certain gifts and talents.  While we naturally experience joy when we use them.  If you cook, you know how much joy you receive out of the sounds and smells in the kitchen.  If you are musical, the feeling of the music in your body soothes you.  If you work in the garden. the feeling of the earth under your feet rejuvenates you.  We are meant to feel blessed through our gifts.  Too often though we get busy with the day to day tasks that we forget to exercise and use our gifts.  It is through our talents that we glorify God, and it is through these gifts that we advance His Kingdom.  It is not vain to believe you are good at something. but it is sinful to neglect those gifts.  I often get confused on what I am good at, but I do know that whatever gifts I have are meant to be used for the glorification of God. and that can’t happen if I won’t acknowledge them.  So, for the next two months, I am going to dedicate myself to exploring where my gifts and talents are.  I will commit to exercising these talents each day in such a way they benefit others.  Frankly, if you guys have some thoughts on this one, share away 🙂

My Treasure

What a squanderer I am.  I often overspend money that will be needed down the road.  I buy things I don’t NEED … such a big difference between need and want, and they are so often confused.  My home if filled to the gills with stuff.  My excessiveness has brought heartache, and managing it has been the source of anger and pain.  My greatest blessings have been found when I have had the least.  Truly I have never been allowed to crash and burn.  So far, there has always been an 11th hour blessing.  I hold on to the things I have for fear that I will have a need.  I hold onto them as a source of pride – keeping up with the Jones you know.   I hold onto them sometimes because I am too derned lazy to deal with what I already have – “Whoops forgot to bring a knife.  Eh, I’ll just buy a new one.”  The next two months I am committing to get rid of at least 10% of everything I own.  I will do my best not to arbitrarily toss it, but will be prayerful in my disposition of these things.

I apologize for this very long-winded post, but I had to put it in writing.  I had to publish it.  Otherwise it is just another really good shower idea that I am held unaccountable for.  So, if you are a praying kind of person, say a prayer for me.  Hold me accountable and encourage me.  I know that if I commit to this stewardship campaign in my life, I will come out the other end wildly blessed.