Monday, November 29, 2010

Creating room to love God and love people

(Acts 4:32-35 tells about the believers sharing their possessions with those in need. It is in this spirit I post a reprint of an article originally published in Crown Financial Ministries June 2010 newsletter. All glory goes to God who richly provides so that we can share with others.)

"For there was not a needy person among them" (Acts 4:34 NIV)

Last October a friend's husband was diagnosed with cancer. When her family lost their sole source of income, we were in a position to help them financially. For this, I don't take credit.

Fifteen years ago when I remarried, my husband introduced me to the word "budget." At first, I balked. I thought that meant I'd have no money to spend. Budgeting would cramp my creative style and limit my ability to make a nice home for our family.

Learning to live within a budget required me to make an intentional home management plan. And making that plan led to a result I never imagined: I had more time to spend with Jesus and more resources, like time, money, and developed talents to go out and love my neighbor.

My husband and I share most spending decisions, but there are a few categories where I have primary responsibility, like food.

When I was a single mom, my three young daughters and I ate macaroni and cheese, canned soup, and bake-at-home pizza for dinner. As a new farmer's wife with a blended family of nine, I had to learn how to cook.

I bought fancy gadgets, cookbooks, and subscribed to gourmet cooking magazines. I constantly experimented with new recipes instead of providing simple, nutritious meals for my family. Food preparation became an expensive hobby.

Finally I realized I was not created to be Betty Crocker. I streamlined my kitchen cupboards and planned simple menus for dinner, company, and holidays. Now I only shop for what we need.

Some women are gifted to cook. For them, time and money spent in the kitchen is part of their service to God. For the rest of us, when we make food preparation a hobby, we consume resources we could use for others.

I'm also in charge of clothing (well, mine). Exodus 28 describes the priestly garments commissioned by God for Aaron and his sons as adorned with precious stones and made of "gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen" (verse 5). Apparently, God has a passion for fashion.

I like clothes, too. I like costume jewelry and trendy scarves. For years, I spent over budget in the clothing category because I bought too much. Then I started planning my wardrobe.

Each season I coordinate three dressy outfits for speaking engagements and church; four casual outfits for errands, meetings, and school ballgames; and two comfortable outfits to work in at home. I hang them assembled in my closet, and call it good. Planning my wardrobe also lightens my laundry load.

And I finally, as a homemaker, I oversee our category called "household." In man's economy, more is better. In God's economy, we are to be "rich toward God" (Luke 12:21). Yet most of us cram our homes with stuff anyway. We accumulate because we can.

As a military wife, I lived without our household goods several times—and survived. When I settled down in a farmhouse, I filled it up with stuff, wasting money and consuming time with the upkeep.

Finally I considered what our family spends time doing at home. Before making a purchase, now I imagine where it will go or what we will do with it. I ask myself, Do we really need this? Often, I put the item back.

Joseph managed his households well, whether as a slave or a prisoner. Then, when God was ready to use him during Egypt's famine, his skills were put to a greater use. His faithful administration blessed an entire nation. Genesis 41:49 tells us that the quantity of grain Joseph stored "was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure."

Recently, I pointed my friend's daughter to the above passage when she said, "Mom, tell them to stop sending us money. They'll run out."

Like Joseph, the Christian homemaker will be prepared for God to use her if she "watches over the affairs of her household" (Proverbs 31:27).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

People Will Talk

Over the years, people have said some pretty hurtful things to me like "He's marrying you???" That came from an older lady at my church when she heard that my husband, Jeff, Mr. My-Favorite-Pastime-Is-Balancing-The-Budget, Mr. Farmed-in-Lincoln-County-All-His-Life-Except-For-4-Years-Of-College-And-Two-Years-Of-City-Work was marrying me, Ms. Occasionally-Had-To-Sell-Clothes-To-Pay-Back-Gambling-Debt, Ms. Lived-At-30-Different-Addresses-Before-Moving-To-The-Farm. Yep, he was marrying me. And we're still married, 15 years later.

And this. "I don't like you because you always want to be up front to get attention." Yeah. Uh-huh. Right. I guess she didn't talk to the guy in the front row at church who could see me shaking head to toe every time I played piano. I guess she didn't see the Scriptures written all over my music, every page, because it was the only way I could survive being up front. I guess she didn't know that I only directed the VBS children's program at the end of the week - up front - because I was too lazy to bake cookies or play games with the kids.

And I could go on (and how I'd like to go on), but the point is not to tell sob stories about myself. All of us have had hurtful things said to us and, if we're honest, we know we've hurt others with our careless words too.

The point is to say that we must - we MUST - receive words of truth, positive words, affirming words, fresh words - from the Word Himself, Jesus. He tells us that, in Him, we are good enough. He tells us that, in Him, we were created to do good works, given gifts, personalities, and experiences to share with others. But how will we hear His words to us unless we take time to read them? Unless we shut out all the other competing voices?

Today in my walk through the Gospels, in Matthew 5, I stopped on the word "blessed." The Greek word for blessed is Makarios. It means that we, as children of God, have serene, untouchable, godlike joy that's independent of all the chances and changes of life.

And so today, if someone just happens to say something hurtful to me (I'm not anticipating it :) or you, we are still blessed. Jesus tells us that. In His Word.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Have I Got a Story for You

Sometimes God does something so amazing, so incredible, so astounding it leaves us completely in awe of Him even though we say we know He is capable. We know He loves us. We know He is at work in our lives. We know He orchestrates all things. But sometimes He does something that leaves us shaking our heads in astonishment.

Yesterday my daughter and her fiance were married at the county courthouse. It wasn't the setting she'd always dreamed of and definitely a new experience for our entire family. She looked beautiful, of course - like herself - with a bridal "do," French manicured nails, and a long brown and black floral dress. Tyler wore a new striped button-down shirt - and blue jeans, I think. (I guess I was focused on my bride.) The experience could've been sterile. Somber. Cold. Except that the judge who performed the ceremony was anything but.

Honorable Price opened our time together with relaxing humor, then warmly read their vows, and finished with carefully thought-out words of advice: don't try to change your spouse. He said that he had performed more divorces in the area than any other attorney (something he wasn't necessarily bragging about) and he wants to see marriages work. Elizabeth and I were so thankful for how he led their wedding. Both of us commented on how warm he was and that we each wanted to send him a thank you note. Honorable Price seemed very familiar to me, but I didn't know why - until this morning.

He was the attorney who handled my divorce in 1993. It was simple - no property - but he was so helpful and kind, I sent him a thank you note (snail mail). In response, he called my home and left a message saying no one had ever sent him a thank you note before and it meant a lot to him.

Amazing how God would use this man to once again be kind and sweet in what could've been a strange situation. I can't imagine the day having gone any better. Never, ever underestimate what God can do. I knew it was going to be a beautiful day - and God made it a stellar event!

(PS: Elizabeth and Tyler had a choice between two judges. They chose the higher priced one. In fact, he charged twice as much as a female judge. But they had "a feeling" he would be worth it. And he was.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Buy Less, Give More

Recently I contacted a fellow writer and told her I'd just read one of her articles in an old issue of Discipleship Journal. She replied, "Which one?" I laughed and said, "Really, if someone told me they'd read my article, I wouldn't have to ask that question. I'd know all my publications!"

Well today I received an email from someone who read my devotional in today's Upper Room. And guess what? I totally forgot that it was being published today, probably because I have something far more important on my mind - like the fact that my daughter is getting married at 5pm! (More about that next time.)

But I thought I'd share it with you who don't read Upper Room since "someone" just asked me to write more often. :)

Honestly, I don't think the writing is that great, but hey! They published it and the message is good. So read on! http://www.upperroom.com/devotional/