O Day Full of Grace

By Timothy Siburg

tower chapel PLU o day full of grace

I grew up in the choir loft of a Lutheran congregation in the Seattle area, where my mom served as music minister and choir director. I am also the descendant of generations of Scandinavian Lutherans.

One thing Lutherans historically have loved to do, is to sing hymns with four-part harmonies. One of my favorites, is “O Day Full of Grace.” Whether it was singing it in worship and knowing of its rich words, or singing it in choir in college in the moving arrangement by composer and arranger F. Melius Christiansen, the song always gets me.

There have been at least 8 different verses written for it. I will only include five of them. But the poetry speaks to- God’s work for us, God’s love and promises given for us; and the response of joy, hope, and praise because of what God has done and has continued to do. It’s a hymn that really gives my understanding of theology and stewardship a melody.

For example, “How blest was that gracious midnight hour, when God in our flesh was given…” God did all the work for us. Our joy is sharing that gift, and living in response to it through our stewardship.

O day full of grace that now we see appearing on earth’s horizon,

bring light from our God that we may be abundant in joy this season.

God, shine for us now in this dark place; your name on our hearts emblazon.

How blest was that gracious midnight hour, when God in our flesh was given;

then brightened the dawn with light and power that spread o’er the darkened heaven;

then rose o’er the world that Sun divine, which gloom from our hearts has driven.

Yea, were every tree endowed with speech, and were every leaflet singing,

they never with praise God’s worth could reach, though earth with their praise were ringing.

Who fully could praise the Light of life who light to our souls is bringing?

bird-2546438_1280
As birds in the morning sing their praise, 
God’s fatherly love we cherish,

for giving to us this day of grace, for life that shall never perish.

The church God has kept two thousand years, and hungering souls did nourish.

When we on that final journey go that Christ is for us preparing,

we’ll gather in song, our hearts aglow, all joy of the heavens sharing,

and there we will join God’s endless praise, with angels and saints adoring.

This hymn gained a new meaning for me ten years ago, when my maternal grandfather, a retired pastor passed away near midnight, the night before Thanksgiving (in the United States). We sang this hymn, a favorite of his, the day of his funeral. And since then, as both of my grandfathers passed away in November shortly before Thanksgiving, this hymn has always been a comfort, and a reminder that my Grandpas are with the other saints, joining in God’s endless praise.

As you celebrate this holiday season, whether it be Thanksgiving this week in the United States, or Advent and Christmas to come in the month ahead, I pray that you take the time to see what God might be up to. My hope is that as you celebrate and give thanks, you remember that which God has done for you and promises to do, like the words of this hymn remind me.

About the Author

timothy headshotTimothy Siburg is the Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), a Deacon in the ELCA, and is a member of the COMPASS Steering Committee. His wife Allison serves as an ELCA pastor, and together with their cat Buddy, they reside in the greater Omaha area. Timothy attended college at Pacific Lutheran University, and graduate school at the Claremont Graduate University and Luther Seminary. Timothy can also be found on TwitterFacebook, and on his blog.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image credits: Timothy Siburg, pixabay.com

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A joyful song

By Matt DeBall

Thank you for joining us on this musical and hopeful journey of “Hymns and Hopes for the Holidays.” Though our theme for November and December may seem natural for this season, you may still be asking, “Why are you doing this?”

worship-singingMusic (and singing) is an important component of faith. Hymns and spiritual songs allow us to remember the nature and promises of God, both in the present and for all of eternity. They lift our spirits and allow us to encourage one another. They lead us to and through prayer with God through all seasons. And overall, they move our minds with the melody of the Holy Spirit and guide our hearts to beat in synchronization with the heart of God. It is for all of these reasons that singing helps nurture an attitude of thankfulness and generosity.

As we continue to share beloved hymns and our hopes, we pray that you will be encouraged.

“I sing because I’m happy, (I’m happy)
I sing because I’m free, (I’m free)
For His eye is on the sparrow
and I know He watches me (He watches me)
And I know He watches me.”

Why do the birds sing and chirp with joy? Because they know that God cares for them. Since the beginning of creation, God has sustained all things. Through times of difficulty or comfort, God has walked lovingly with all that He has made.

sparrowsThe beautiful hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” by Civilla D. Martin reminds us of the words of Jesus on (at least) two separate occasions:
> “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care”(Matthew 10:29, NIV).
> “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26, NIV).

God cares about every bird and cares even more for us. This does not downplay the value of birds, but clarifies that God is intimately aware of all our needs and concerns and is able to provide for us.

In remembering that God sustains all things, we are freed to be happy and hopeful. We can think less about ourselves and more about others. We can be generous with all that God have given us because God will continually impart what we need.

As we continue through the holidays, may we be inspired by the birds and sing a joyful song of our own.

About the Author

m-deball-9-2016Matt DeBall is the COMPASS Communications Coordinator for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. He also serves as Coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary of Lombard, Illinois and a BA in Communication Arts from Judson University of Elgin, Illinois. He loves running, reading, and napping. He and Chelsea live in Northern Illinois with their Welsh Corgi, Watson, and attend the First Baptist Church of Aurora.

Image credits: pixabay.com

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Hymns and Hopes for the Holidays

By Marcia Shetler

Hello, COMPASS blog readers,

It’s a privilege to kick off two months of blog posts with the theme of Hymns and Hopes for the Holidays. COMPASS Steering Committee members and others will share their choir-305352_1280favorite hymns and hopes for a faith-filled holiday season.

“I’ve met Jesus. This is how I say thank you!”

A friend recently told this story about a man whose life was forever changed by the transforming power of the gospel. He and others like him in a disadvantaged neighborhood were welcomed and nurtured by a loving faith community. On Sundays, they were eager to give from what they had in gratitude for the love they received. The joy at offering time was palpable—and contagious.

During my teenage and young adult years I often worshipped at Mennonite churches. I loved the traditional a capella singing. One of my favorite hymns that I learned from the Mennonites is “Praise to God, Immortal Praise”. The melody, tempo, and many of the verses bring to mind the waving wheat and rural settings we might imagine when thinking about this time of year and this particular fellowship of believers.

Writer Anna Barbauld testifies that God is the “bounteous source of every joy.” But in the final stanzas, she writes that should these blessings disappear, she would still be thankful.

At Christmas we often see or hear the phrase, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But Jesus is the reason for the Thanksgiving season too. Jesus is ready to meet us during all the seasons of our lives: the seasons of plenty, the seasons of want; the seasons of joy, the seasons of sorrow.

My hope for these seasons—for you and for me—is that we remember the source of our blessings, and that we find ways each day to meet Jesus. May generosity always accompany our thanks, and be our joyful response to God’s love and grace.

Praise to God, immortal praise,
For the love that crowns our days;
Bounteous source of every joy,
Let Thy praise our tongues employ.

Flocks that whiten all the plain;grain-2914660_1280
Yellow sheaves of ripened grain;
Clouds that drop their fattening dews,
Suns that temperate warmth diffuse.

All that spring with bounteous hand
Scatters o’er the smiling land;
All that liberal autumn pours
From her rich o’erflowing stores.

These to Thee, my God, we owe,
Source whence all our blessings flow;
And for these my soul shall raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise.

Yet, should rising whirlwinds tear
From its stem the ripening ear;
Should the fig tree’s blasted shoot
Drop her green untimely fruit,

Should the vine put forth no more,
Nor the olive yield her store;
Though the sickening flocks should fall,
And the herds desert the stall,

Yet to Thee my soul shall raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise;
And, when every blessing’s flown
Love Thee for Thyself alone.

About the Author

marcia shetlerMarcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Four Guidelines for Financial Planning

By Matt DeBall

Financial planning is important, and it’s been great to talk about it this month. Marcia Shetler identified the new rules for financial planning for young adults in comparison to past generations. Jacqueline Painter of Everence highlighted the cost of making financial mistakes and led an awesome Live Chat about faith-based financial planning. Most recently, John Withum shared reorienting spiritual principles for financial planning.

As we conclude this month, here are four quick guidelines to help you with financial planning.

 Assess where your money is going

directory-235079_1280Do you have a budget? If not, consider forming one that reflects your goals and values. If you do have a budget, do your financial actions represent it well? Is there any way to modify your budget or spending habits to more closely put your faith, values, and goals into practice? Knowing how your money is used is a good first step in making changes and charting a course forward.

Ask a friend for help

It’s nice to be self-sufficient and learn new skills, but if you have a friend or family member who is well versed in handling their money, why not ask for help? There’s no reason to struggle on your own and you shouldn’t feel ashamed of asking for advice. (Note: rather than springing questions on your friend at a social gathering, ask if they would be willing to come over for dinner and talk about financial planning.)

Work with a professional

If you had a leaky pipe, you’d call a plumber. If you became very sick, you’d go to a doctor. These and other professionals have expertise and can help you more than you are able to help yourself. This includes financial advisors. If you’re in a difficult financial situation or anticipate one in the future, reach out to a financial professional and prevent current challenges from becoming worse.

Set one goal and stick to it

Financial planning can seem like a daunting task. Rather than trying to make many arrow-2886223_1280financial maneuvers all at once, set one attainable but challenging goal that will make a difference, and stick to it. Do you want to save more money? Consider where there is room in your budget to do so, and open a new checking or savings account to deposit that money after each paycheck. Improving your financial management one goal at a time is far better than becoming worn out or discouraged by trying to make many changes and not seeing much progress. Celebrate steps in the right direction and set new goals as old goals become habits.

About the Author

m-deball-9-2016Matt DeBall is the COMPASS Communications Coordinator for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. He also serves as Coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary of Lombard, Illinois and a BA in Communication Arts from Judson University of Elgin, Illinois. He loves running, reading, and napping. He and Chelsea live in Northern Illinois with their Welsh Corgi, Watson, and attend the First Baptist Church of Aurora.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you’ve read? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Reorienting Spiritual Principles for Financial Planning

By John Withum

car-768711_1280While planning a day off from school in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the titular character wants access to a vintage Ferrari belonging to his friend Cameron’s father. When Cameron points out his dad’s meticulous attention to  details of the car, including its mileage, Ferris replies, “We’ll just drive home backward,” with the hopes the mileage will reverse.

Financial planning, at least in the “conventional” view outside of the church, is meant to maximise the potential of our money to build wealth and protect the future for the investor. When the working years are over, this line of thinking says, money will provide a verdant pasture for retirement and golden years of relaxation and leisure.

But much like Ferris Bueller, we have to look at the whole situation backward. We are followers of Jesus, whose birth was an exaltation of the lowly, whose ministry cared for the poor and powerless, and whose victorious kingdom reverses the power structures of the kingdoms of this world. This alone causes us to think of all sorts of priorities in new ways. Our approach to financial planning, then, must be based around Kingdom priorities as well. It matters little whether we would be considered wealthy in this world or poor; our entire lives fall under the rule of King Jesus, and we should view how we utilise our money accordingly.

While not exhaustive, here are three reorienting principles around which we should consider financial planning.

First, financial planning gives us the opportunity to line all of our priorities up together. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that our heart will find rest wherever our treasures are (v 21). We are also told to seek the kingdom of God above all else (v 33). Even if we talk about Jesus, worship weekly, and participate in Christian community, our money could be living a different life than we are. If we are truly interested in offering our whole lives to Jesus, we need to stop viewing our money as a means to personal gain and instead as a means to further the redeeming and healing mission of Jesus Christ in our neighbourhood and world.

Second, having a plan allows us to utilise our stamp-2022899_1280
money instead of it controlling us. Spending can get out of control quickly, day-to-day necessities can overwhelm, and the urgent can take priority over the truly important. When we lack a plan to use our money wisely, to invest it properly and well, it ends up taking over our lives. No matter what our income, having a plan for how to manage our finances helps us to navigate both day-to-day spending and long-term saving. Most of us carefully plan how to spend our time; likewise, we must have a plan for how to use our money.

Finally, our money can do work for us in the years our bodies can no longer physically serve the Lord. Followers of Jesus should be devoting their whole lives—work, rest, time, and money—to God’s ongoing mission in the world. At some point, however, our years of work will end, and eventually (hopefully many years later) our bodies will not be able to continue the same level of participation or activity we once could offer. In those years, if we have planned well, our money will be able to continue bearing the fruit of our life’s service to Jesus. My education was funded by the financial legacy of several individuals who had given their lives to educating pastors and missionaries. I am blessed to be a part of their ongoing work.

The platitude “you can’t take it with you” is true, in the sense we give up personal control of our finances at the moment of our earthly lives. If we have planned well, however, our money can continue serving the Lord long after we are gone.

About the author

Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 presetJohn Withum is the associate pastor of the First Baptist Church of Aurora, Illinois. He also serves as the recess supervisor at a local elementary school. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary of Lombard, Illinois and a BA in Journalism from Marshall University of Huntington, West Virginia. He and his wife, Katie, live in Northern Illinois with their dog, Bacon.

Image credits: pixabay.com

The Cost of Making Financial Mistakes

By Jacqueline Painter

When it comes to our physical health, many of us regularly visit with and get advice from doctors, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists. And when we have concerns about doctor-check-uprelationship issues, we often talk with our pastors, professional counselors and therapists. We know we don’t always have the answers we need, so it makes sense that we seek out the wise counsel of experienced professionals.

But when it comes to our financial decisions, a lot of us avoid thinking about it or try to do it alone, instead of asking for help—and that can be costly.

According to a 2012 report by the Consumer Federation of America, two-thirds of middle-class Americans said they had made at least one “really bad financial decision”, and nearly half acknowledged that they had made more than one bad financial decision. Eleven percent of these people said these bad decisions had cost them at least $50,000, and 2 percent said their losses had been $200,000 or more.

It’s difficult for us to be able to view our money and other financial decisions from every thinkingangle to see if we’re making good decisions or about to make a costly mistake. One reason likely is because talking and thinking about money can be emotional. Those emotions can get in the way of making good financial decisions. On top of that, determining your financial goals—much less accomplishing them—is hard work, especially when you’re not sure what decisions to make or don’t have someone to help keep you accountable.

Responsibly handling your financial resources is a multi-faceted journey, and one that can be complicated to walk through by yourself. Working with a qualified financial planner to develop a well-constructed financial plan can help you gain control of your finances, and get a clearer understanding of your short and long-term goals.

In general, a wide-ranging financial plan encompasses your entire financial life, including:

  • Cash flow Does it ever feel like your money is controlling you, instead of the other way around? If so, then you might need to take a closer look at your cash flow.
  • Protection planning. What would happen if a fire were to destroy your home? padlockWhat would your family do if they lost their primary source of income because of a death or disability? Obviously, there’s no way to know what will happen in the weeks, months, or years to But you can take steps now to have resources in place for your family and loved ones in case the unexpected happens.
  • Tax All of us are affected by taxes. And whether your finances are fairly simple or really complicated, our tax system can be pretty confusing. Because nearly every financial decision you make can have tax consequences, it’s important to understand how your taxes work and know what you can do to impact your tax situation.
  • Investment From retirement income to college funding, there are a number of reasons why we invest our money. But in order to have that money for our future needs, it’s important to think strategically about the way we are investing. This includes understanding your goals, objectives and risk tolerance, and then finding investments that match your needs and values.
  • Retirement planning. The biggest fear that many people have about retirement is running out of money, which is why you can never begin too early when it comes to retirement The sooner you start, the more time you have to determine how much you will likely need in retirement and how you might get there.
  • Estate Effective estate planning gives you the ability to direct your assets and plans in the event of your death. It also helps you make clear who should be the custodial and financial guardian of your children or other dependents, should you die unexpectedly. Without an estate plan in place, state laws and/or local court decisions will prevail, and they may not be what you wish to happen.
  • Charitable Being generous is an important way to live out your faith and values. give-moneyDeveloping a plan for your financial affairs will help give you the freedom to be more generous, so you can make an impact on the missions and ministries closest to your heart.

The end result is a complete financial plan that gives you the big picture of your current financial health and helps you get on the right path for the future. Planning for your financial life may be one of the best gifts you ever give to yourself and those you care about. It’s a way for you to gain control of your finances and avoid some potentially costly mistakes down the road.

JJacqueline_Painter_2017acqueline Painter is an Everence Financial Advisor at 841 Mount Clinton Pike, Suite A, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22802. Securities offered through ProEquities Inc., a registered broker­ dealer, member FINRA and SIPC. Advisory Services offered through Everence Trust Company, a Registered Investment Advisor. Investments and other products are not NCUA or otherwise federally insured, may involve loss of principal and have no credit union guarantee. Everence entities are independent from ProEquities Inc.

Image credits: pixabay.com

New Rules for Financial Planning

By Marcia Shetler
team-spirit-2448837_1280

In 1992, William Strauss and Neil Howe wrote the book Generations: The History of America’s Future. They believe that while each generation is shaped by its particular place in history, they also have characteristics that cycle over the years. The Baby Boomer Generation, born from approximately 1943 – 1960*, changed the rules about many aspects of North American culture, and continue to do so as they enter retirement. Like the Boomers, Millennials—born approximately 1982-2004*—are doing the same, including financial planning.

(*Strauss and Howe’s generational definitions)

Millennials are writing new rules about housing, jobs, and relationships, based on their experiences as digital natives and growing up during the economic downturn. Many are ipad-820272_1280already saddled with more debt from educational and student loans than what would have taken their elders decades to accumulate. They value experiences over things, which affects how they live out their vocations. They treasure close relationships, yet have friends all over the world. They seek to build integrated lives of personal satisfaction and sufficiency.

Is there a place for financial planning in the world of a Millennial? There should be. Having an understanding of both the short-term and long-term aspects of financial planning may be more important for this generation than any other. Along with the need to understand the day-to-day aspects of financial management, Millennials may one day oversee the inheritances they receive from their parents and grandparents. Many financial planners are making new rules about financial planning to serve the Millennial generation well. For example, financial planner Joe Pitzl—a Millennial himself—uses social media, invites his clients to see him as a coach, and encourages looking at a variety of opportunities for building a monetary nest egg.

This month, the COMPASS Initiative focuses on financial planning:calculator-385506_1280

  • Get great insights every week on this blog and on our Twitter feed and Facebook page.
  • Join us for a Live Chat with Jacqueline Painter, financial planner with Everence, on Tuesday, October 10, 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, Noon Central time, 11:00 a.m. Mountain time, and 10:00 a.m. Pacific time.

I recently read a great quote from a Millennial about giving: “Do not just ask young adults to have the courage to part with their money. Encourage them to join it on its journey.” Good financial planning allows you to join your money on its journey and helps you live the integrated life of satisfaction, sufficiency, and generosity to which you aspire. I hope the information shared this month will help you demystify financial planning!

About the Author

marcia shetlerMarcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Photo credits: pixabay.com