Hope you have a Debt-Free Christmas!

By Sandy Crozier
box-2953722_1280
Christmas is a time for giving. It is a time for thinking of others. A time for expressing the
joy and hope we have inside because of God’s perfect gift to us.

Gift giving, holiday parties and family gatherings are all good things–but when they become the focus of the season, many people experience stress, guilt, and pressure to spend what they do not have–as well as the debt that follows. With the Canadian Debt-to-Income ratio hitting 150% early this year, many people are still paying off last Christmas (if not the one before too).

Somehow, we have bought into the cultural lie that we have to spend a lot for Christmas gifts to be socially acceptable. There are now guidelines on who and how much to buy for everyone from your boss to your mailman.

Sadly, many feel that even if they are completely broke, they can still spend thousands of dollars on Christmas gifts—and believe it is not only their right to do so, but that they are chain-1027864_1280obligated to do it. For those living on tight budgets, who have been as careful as they know how to be, and have a Budget or Spending Plan–the pressure to overspend at Christmas is still there.

And it is not just money that we overspend. There is also the mounting pressure to attend every event, party, rehearsal, and gathering. Saying yes to these will surely over tax our time and emotions. At the very time of the year when relationships could and should be of highest priority, over-activity and overspending combine to become a toxic potion that effect our relationships with God and each other.

The Christmas story begs us to see it as far more than a peak event in December that is soon followed by the reality filled with bills we cannot pay. We should be celebrating the greatest gift of all–God with us. But it should not come with any more debt–other than the debt of love to God and each other.

Tips to having a Debt-Free Christmas

  1. Make a commitment to NO NEW DEBT at Christmas – Overspending increases stress, not joy, to the season.
  2. Set a budget for your holiday spending and stick to it! Make a list of everyone you are buying a gift for and what you can afford to spend–and don’t go shopping without the list. You will be far less likely to buy on impulse.
  3. Save BEFORE you Shop – Many people find it is necessary to open a completely separate account for this purpose. You can set yourself up to have an automatic transfer of funds to a savings account and come Christmas time you’ll have money ready for shopping.
  4. Pay Cash / Avoid Credit – One of the best ways to stick to a budget is to pay cash for everything. Take out the total dollars you can afford to spend over the holidays. Put the money in an envelope and pay for all your gifts from that single source.
  5. Shop Early – Last minute shopping can be expensive. Stores may be out of the items on your list. When you are tired and frustrated, it is easy to make costly impulse buys just to cross that name off your list.
  6. Be Creative – There are a lot of ways to give without spending any or very little thought-2123970_1280money. Handmade crafts, cookies or jars of preserves are always appreciated. You can give your time/service (babysitting, cleaning, home repair, etc.) Use reward points gift cards (movie pass or restaurant). For those hard to shop relatives who do not need anything – consider giving a gift in their name of a goat or cow through World Vision or Samaritan’s purse or another mission that is important to them.
  7. Get out of the house & enjoy the season. There are lots of lights, community events, carol sings and more that you can enjoy for free with your family that focus on the season and not your wallet.
  8. Model a sane schedule – Avoid overtaxing your health and relationships by limiting how many commitments you make. And when you do feel stressed and pressured to do more – stop and take a deep breath. Do what really needs to be done and then choose to take the second deep breath of God’s Spirit. Take this moment to reflect on your perspective and ask God’s Spirit to guard your heart and renew a right spirit in you. Bill Bright used to call this “Spiritual Breathing.” Remember – Christmas is not about the gifts, it is about “The Gift” to each one of us – one that costs us nothing but cost God everything.


About the Author

Sandy CrozierSandy Crozier is Stewardship Development Director of The Free Methodist Church in Canada.

Image credits: pixabay.com

What Really Matters

By Rev. Morgan Dixon

christmas-1856982_1280
Many of my earliest CHRISTmas joys involve the singing of hymns and the playing of special music. My uncle would play the piano and we would all gather around and sing along making melodies and memories that would last for a lifetime. These hymns were at the crux of my understanding of the CHRISTmas story. They helped to form my own personal theology and appreciation of the nativity and birth of Jesus.

Over time as I have lived through life, those words of assurance and intention ring ever more important as I seek to navigate in this world of confusion. The Advent messages of HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE during this commercialized season are ever the more needful. The hymns help re-member us to the body of Christ when feeling out of sync and distant. They help ground our faith and reassure our confidence in a coming Savior.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel. And ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear!

crib-1094317_1280Amid everything coming our way encouraging us to buy and consume, let us focus on the
simple things: things that cannot be purchased or wrapped and placed under a tree but have profound and lasting staying power. Recall the memories. Cherish the times with loved ones. Share Christ’s message of HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE through a simple smile or random act of kindness. Use this time to focus on what really matters.

Joy To The World, The Lord Is Come!

Lord, my prayer is that we are able to be good stewards of the CHRISTmas story and allow it to inform our Christian walk throughout the year. Inspire our hearts with each melody and remind of your reason for coming. Help us to bring Your hope, peace, joy and love wherever we go.

About the Author

Rev Morgan E DixonRev. Morgan Dixon is an Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves as the Church Administrator & Youth Minister at DuPage AME Church in Lisle, Illinois. She also works with the denomination’s district stewardship department as its Media Director.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Abide with Me

By Daniel Hazel

The Christmas season is, to borrow the cliché, the most wonderful time of the year. It is filled with opportunities for families to reunite. It is a chance to break out of the drudgery of our everyday routine. The Advent season is a time when we are reminded of hope, joy, peace, and love, and that Christ is Emmanuel—God with us.

christmas-2919725_1280Christmas can also be difficult. It can be hard to feel welcome to express anything other than joy and happiness. Whether due to financial troubles, the death of a loved one (recent or long past), or something else entirely, the holidays can be discouraging and challenging. It can be hard to feel like Christ is with us.

I write this in the midst of the death of my grandmother. During this time, it is hard to find language for grief. It’s Christmas time, and Christ’s birth is on everyone’s mind, but the pain is real. However, the hymn “Abide with Me,” written by Henry Francis Lyte in 1847, provides helpful words. I love this sobering hymn with deep passages. It is a beautiful poem and has a wonderful tune. It was actually written and revised at the threshold of Lyte’s death. While this hymn is most often used in the church calendar around Lent or Pentecost, I believe it also has a place during Advent and Christmas time. It invites the worshiper to express hurt.

(The Brigham Young University’s men choir preformance of Abide with Me is a beautiful arrangement which allows for meditating on the lyrics and allows the listener to freely contemplate.)

“Abide with Me”

Verse 1
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens Lord, with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Verse 2
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away
Change and decay in all around I see
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Verse 3
I need your presence every passing hour
What but your grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like yourself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

Verse 4
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness
Where is death’s sting?
Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Verse 5
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies
Haven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee
In life, in death, o Lord, abide with me.

Lyte writes for an occasion like a family’s first gathering after hardship. It has given candle-2905395_1280language for grief as my family works through the death of my grandmother, and speaks to anyone who has painful memories or difficult situations arise during the holidays. No matter what is happening for you this Christmas, Lyte’s words can speak to you.

Take, for example, “Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou, who changest not, abide with me!” It is a line that is entirely destitute. There have been many times in my life when I realized that everything was different. The passing of my grandmother has certainly been one of them. It has affected everyone in the family, it has changed family dynamics, and it can be a hard reality to grasp, but a reality we have to come to terms with eventually.

The words, “The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide!” is a cry for help amongst grief and pain. It is a cry to feel the presence of God. Even if you aren’t dealing with having financial struggles, hurt among family, or a family member’s death, the holidays and Christmas is a busy time, and it can be hard to know and feel the presence of God. The hymn is a constant prayer for the Divine to be near and stand beside us.

What seems most important is how the hymn centers the singer with the Divine, and gives an assurance of faith. At the end of verse 3, Lyte writes, “Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.” Even though we are surrounded by death, heartbreak, and sorrow, we have assurance through Christ, our Lord. Through darkness, tears, and hardship, Christ stays the same. Through light, joy, and good times, Christ abides with us.

About the Author

Daniel_Hazel_photoDaniel Hazel is the Worship and Creative Pastor at First Christian Church in Aurora, Ill., where he lives with his wife, Emma, and their cat, Maisy. They enjoy reading together and escaping the city by taking day trips to hike and explore. To see too many pictures of their cat, you can find Daniel on Instagram at daniel.hazel and on Twitter at _daniel_hazel_

Image credits: pixabay.com

Gold, Myrrh, and Brokenness

By Mitch Stutzman
christmas-1333798_1280
The United States Thanksgiving holiday is behind us. Pumpkins, gourds, and
falldécor are being replaced with holiday wreaths, evergreen trees, and twinkling lights. In addition to the changing of holiday decorations and the increase in holiday specials on television, some radio stations have begun playing Christmas music 24 hours a day.

I have always appreciated Christmas music. Growing up in a Mennonite Church, I enjoyed singing 4-part harmony from the section of the hymnbook dedicated to Christmas music. I was disappointed that we couldn’t spend more time singing from that section of the book. After all, the themes and stories that are told through our songs and hymns are applicable throughout the year.

The Christian hymn “What Child is This,” set to the traditional English melody piano-2706562_1280“Greensleeves,” is familiar to many. The text paints a picture of the traditional nativity that we may have on our mantle at home. A sleeping baby, his mother nearby, angels singing, shepherds gathered around, an assortment of barnyard animals, and gifts being brought to his bedside. It describes almost exactly the assortment of figures that sits in a place of prominence at my house this time of year.

The song and the scene that it presents has become so familiar to me; almost routine. This song was given new life for me in college during my church music class. During that class I was given an unfamiliar songbook with a purple cover. My professor invited the class to turn to #26, “Helpless and Hungry.”

Together we studied the text, written by Scott Soper. This song opened my eyes again to the miraculous birth of Jesus:

Helpless and hungry, lowly, afraid, wrapped in the chill of mid-winter;
comes now among us, born into poverty’s embrace, new life for the world.
Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

Who is the stranger here in our midst, looking for shelter among us?
Who is the outcast? Who do we see amid the poor, the children of God?
Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

Bring all the thirsty, all who seek peace; bring those with nothing to offer.
Strengthen the feeble, say to the frightened heart: “Fear not: Here is your God!”
Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

After reading through the text, our professor led us in singing. The meter and tune of this new hymn can be layered perfectly on top of the familiar “What Child is This.” Our professor invited us to go back and forth between the two songs, singing a verse of one and then a verse of the other. In this way, these hymns worked in tandem; almost as a call and response.

For the third and final verse, the class was divided in half and was invited to sing both hymns simultaneously. While half of the class was singing about bring gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh, the other half of the class was singing about bringing all the thirsty, all who seek peace, and those who have nothing to offer. The juxtaposition that this posed, of bringing treasures along with our brokenness as a gift to our Savior, was a deeply moving experience.christmas-2914850_1280

This Christmas season, let us work to remember that while way may exchange gifts with one another, the gift that we have each already received came in the form of a child. A child to whom we offer our greatest treasures, our brokenness, and our pain.

Helpless and Hungry
Text and music by Scott Soper

Helpless and hungry, lowly, afraid, wrapped in the chill of mid-winter;
comes now among us, born into poverty’s embrace, new life for the world.
Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

Who is the stranger here in our midst, looking for shelter among us?
Who is the outcast? Who do we see amid the poor, the children of God?
Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

Bring all the thirsty, all who seek peace; bring those with nothing to offer.
Strengthen the feeble, say to the frightened heart: “Fear not: Here is your God!”
Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

What Child is This
Text by William C. Dix

What Child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping,
whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary!

Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian fear, for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word-made-flesh, the babe, the son of Mary!

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh, come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of Kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high; the virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy, for Christ is born, the babe, the son of Mary!

Layered text:

Helpless and hungry, lowly, afraid, wrapped in the chill of mid-winter;
comes now among us, born into poverty’s embrace, new life for the world.
Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

What Child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping,
whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary!

Who is the stranger here in our midst, looking for shelter among us?
Who is the outcast? Who do we see amid the poor, the children of God?
Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian fear, for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word-made-flesh, the babe, the son of Mary!

Bring all the thirsty, all who seek peace; bring those with nothing to offer.
Strengthen the feeble, say to the frightened heart: “Fear not: Here is your God!”
Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh, come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of Kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high; the virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy, for Christ is born, the babe, the son of Mary.

About the Author

Stutzman-Mitch_7580-2CMYKMitch Stutzman is the Stewardship Consultant for Everence, a faith-based financial services company of Mennonite Church USA, which serves all who are interested in integrating their faith with their finances.

Image credits: pixabay.com

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

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

Money autobiography

By Matt DeBall

knot-2114401_1280

Crossovers always have the potential to be energizing and enjoyable. Sometimes they happen on our favorite TV show or in a beloved movie series (special shout out to fellow fans of DC Comics or Marvel). Other times they happen in real life. For your edification, a crossover is happening on the COMPASS blog this week.

This month COMPASS has focused on our relationship with money and invited us to explore this relationship by writing a money autobiography. Marcia Shetler began unpacking this helpful tool and Beryl Jantzi helped us consider four categories that reveal our approach to money, debt management, and generosity. What follows in this blog are a handful of questions and answers related to my money autobiography (that can also help you write your own). A wonderful CROSSOVER has occurred because I didn’t answer these questions alone.

In February, COMPASS explored how essential it is to talk about money with loved ones, live-chat-wedding-rings-image-copyand Rafael Robert from Brightpeak Financial led a great Live Chat about money, marriage, and meaningful conversations. Connecting those conversations with our topic for this month, my lovely wife, Chelsea, has joined me in answering the money autobiography questions below. We answered these questions individually and talked about our answers afterward. While we have different relationships with money, it is our relationship with money together that shapes how we manage our finances. This money autobiography process proved to be meaningful for us, but also allows you to hear two different relationships with money that contribute to our money autobiography. We hope you will find this blog to be as meaningful and helpful as we did.

Question: Describe the role of money in your childhood. What was your attitude toward money as a child? Did you feel poor or rich? How did your perceptions make you feel?

Chelsea: Growing up, my parents didn’t have a lot in terms of money. But they never let us know or feel that strain. It wasn’t until we were older that we realized that we were somewhat poor for a lot of our childhood.

Matt: Money served different functions in my childhood. It paid for food at the grocery store. It was the two quarters that my parents gave me each week to put in the offering plate. It was how people supported my Boy Scout troop through buying popcorn. Money was just around. I didn’t feel like my family was rich or poor—just average. My parents taught us to be thankful for what we had and they didn’t talk much about money in front of us.

Q: What was your attitude about money as a teenager? What memories do you have related to money?

C: As a teenager I was obsessed with making money. I had two jobs through most of high dollar-1362243_1280school. I loved having my own money to spend on what I wanted.

M: Money was a means to have fun. It allowed me to buy snacks and games, and participate in activities with friends.

Q: In your current situation, how have other sources shaped your thoughts about money?

C: Nothing has really shaped my thoughts about money. I appreciate it more now that I am an adult with actual expenses to pay for.

M: Society at large and media has influenced me to see some debts as good (homes, college degrees) and other debts as bad (credit card). The church has helped me see money as a tool that God gives us to meet our needs and to carry out His purposes in the world.

Q: How do you feel about your present financial status? Do you worry about money? How does having or not having money affect self-esteem or sense of self-worth?

C: I do worry about money. Mostly because there are things I’d like to be able to buy (a new car) or do (remodel our home) but our financial status keeps us from doing that. Not having as much money as some of my peers does affect my self-esteem. I do find myself getting jealous of those who can buy nice houses, go on vacation, or stay home with their children instead of having to work.

M: I feel proactive and content about our current financial situation. I very rarely worry about money (only when large bills are paid right before a payday). Though I wouldn’t consider it a large factor in my self-esteem or self-worth, our money providing for our needs does have a positive effect on me.

Q: Do you spend money on yourself easily or with difficulty?coffee-1273147_1280

C: I used to be able to spend money on myself with no problems. But recent life events
have made me think more before I make a purchase for myself.

M: Somewhat easily for things under $10 (coffee, lunch, a book), but hesitantly for anything else.

Q: Do you feel generous or stingy with your money?

C: I am generous in terms of gift giving, but I know I am stingy with money. I would hesitate greatly before loaning someone money.

M: It depends on the day, but I typically feel more generous.

Q: Do you give to your church or other charitable organizations? Why do/don’t you give? How does this make you feel?

C: Yes, we give to our church. At first I was very reluctant to do so because I didn’t want to give away our money. But now I am more comfortable with donating to our church.

M: Yes. I like to give because it is an opportunity to show love to God and support God’s important work in the world. Giving makes me feel happy and like I am being faithful to God’s call to give.

Q: How do you feel about asking other people for money…for yourself, a worthy cause, your church community, etc.?gift-1278395_1280

C: I am very hesitant asking people for money. I never want anyone to feel obligated to
give to me based on our relationship and I wouldn’t want my asking for money to affect our relationship.

M: It would make me uncomfortable to ask for money for myself. For my work, I am a fundraiser, and because I believe in the ministries of our organization, I am comfortable with asking people to support them.

Q: Consider the following idea: how you handle money reflects your deepest values. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

C: I agree. What we spend our money on may reflect what we care about the most or what we consider a priority in our lives.

M: Agree because of Matthew 6:21, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When we spend money on anything, it reveals what is important to us.

Q: What future hopes or plans do you have with money?

C: I hope that we are able to continually support ourselves financially. Being independent financially is a great feeling.

M: I hope we can plan to pay off our debts, save for retirement, increase our savings for unexpected emergency circumstances, and increase our giving to church as we are able. I also plan to open savings accounts for our kids early in their lives to prepare for their needs and aspirations in the future.

In addition to answering these questions for your own money autobiography, you can learn more about this helpful tool on Tuesday, May 30 at 8 p.m. ET at our next Live Chat “Your relationship with money” led by Mike Little, director for the Faith and Money Network. Sign up while spots are still available at marcia_5.gr8.com.

About the Authors

C&MDeBall-9-15Chelsea and Matt DeBall live in northern Illinois. Chelsea works as office coordinator for a Special Recreation Association, and is pursuing a Master’s of Mental Health Counseling from Judson University. Matt serves as the COMPASS communications coordinator for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and as coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary. They enjoy caring for their Welsh Corgi (Watson) and being involved at the First Baptist Church of Aurora.

Photo credits: pixabay.com

Taking Something on for Lent

By Timothy Siburg

sanctuary1-copyThis month on the COMPASS blog, we have been thinking about giving something instead of necessarily giving up something for Lent. As we are about half way through Lent now, I can say that I haven’t necessarily given anything more for Lent, but I have somewhat taken something on for Lent.

Getting to know “The Big Red” State

In my work and ministry, I have the privilege of getting to meet people across the state of Nebraska, my new home as of last fall. (I am not a native of Nebraska. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and spent a few years for seminary and work in Minnesota.) Traveling across Nebraska has allowed me the chance to get to know many new people, new places, new congregations, new perspectives, and in some ways, new cultures too.

This Lenten season I have been traveling quite a bit to meet with different congregations of all shapes and sizes. The one thing I have noticed myself doing even more though, is making room for conversation and especially making room for myself to listen. Listening to one another is a critical part of relationship, service, ministry, and leadership. And as I look at the larger communities and country I live in, it is something I believe is sorely needed.

With that in mind, I guess I have unintentionally taken something on for Lent– more deep intentional listening.

Our Lenten Journey

During this Lenten season, we journey to and through the cross. We return more intentionally in our worship to reflect on the insanity of such a pure gift of life for us, a gift that we can do nothing to earn. We are also confronted by our human frailty on Ash Wednesday, and again when we face death directly on Good Friday. During this season, no matter what separates us, we are each confronted by the realities of life and death which are true for every person.

Meeting a congregation-copy

Meeting a congregation

Every person faces questions of life and purpose. Every person needs to face their own mortality. Most people hope and dream that they can do something positive for their families, loved ones, friends, and communities, and leave a legacy.

I have been reminded of all of this so far this Lenten season by meeting with people across the state of Nebraska. By listening to them, by hearing their stories, I have seen their stewardship at work, but also heard how they are wrestling with their faith in their daily life. It’s a holy thing, this act of listening, sharing, and wrestling.

Some Faith and Stewardship Questions and Wrestling

It takes a level of trust and vulnerability though. Which, not to get too theological here, is probably only made possible because we believe in a God who is and was vulnerable for us, by coming into the world as one of us, growing and living, and then dying and of course being resurrected and ascended. To be willing to be human (both human and divine), our God took on our vulnerability to know us, and to know the good, bad, and ugly of life more fully.

A Nebraska sunset-copy

A Nebraska sunset

This Lenten season, we remember this. I am remembering this every day, when I hear stories of joy, but also of sorrow; when I hear stories of how people are stewarding that which God has entrusted to them; when I hear questions of “why,” or “what does this mean?”; when I can wonder with people about what God might be up to?

I don’t pretend to have any answers. But at least during this Lenten season, I am sitting, walking, and meeting my new neighbors across this state, listening, and hoping to grow in my understanding.

What are you giving as part of your Lenten journey?
Or, like me, what are you taking on?

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

Give Something for Lent

Give Up Something for Lent

By Marcia Shetler

church-535155_1280-copy“For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes
he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.“
– 2 Corinthians 8:9

Last Wednesday you may have noticed people with a black mark on their foreheads. Or maybe you were one of those persons. March 1 was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season on the Christian calendar. Lent is the 40 days—not counting Sundays—between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The 40 days represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Ash Wednesday and Lent have been observed since the early days of the Christian Church. Ash Wednesday’s invitation to wear ashes as a visible symbol of repentance begins a time of a call to remember Jesus’s sacrifice, and to mirror that sacrifice through self-reflection in preparation for the Easter celebration. Traditionally, that has included spending additional time in prayer and study, fasting, and giving up something, like a favorite food or activity.

But what if we not only gave up something, but gave something for Lent? What if Lent was volunteer-1888823_1280more than a time to think about ourselves, but to find ways to turn our sacrifices into
doing good for others?

  • If you give up your Starbucks coffee, can you give the money you would have spent to
    your church or another worthy cause?
  • If you give up spending time online, can you invest it in volunteering?
  • If you decide to fast, eat less, or give up a favorite treat, can you buy some healthy food for your local food bank instead?

In the 2016 issue of the Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation magazine, Maribeth Westerfield shares her story about giving up something for Lent that blessed someone else. A Facebook post from her pastor-friend suggested that instead of giving up food or beverage for Lent, it would be good to clean out closets, garages, drawers, and the like and contribute 40 bags of stuff to a suitable recipient. Maribeth used this challenge as giving-volume-18-cover-5-x-7-150-dpian opportunity not only for giving but for jump-starting her goal of living a less consumeristic lifestyle. While she didn’t gather 40 bags of stuff together, her friend’s church was the recipient of three bags of shoes for their Soles for Souls ministry.

As Christians, our financial decisions should not be just about us:

  • As stewards of what God has given us, we live our lives in response to God’s bounteous grace;
  • We give generously and joyfully;
  • And we understand that our faithful stewardship and generous giving is an opportunity to be channels through which God’s generosity can flow and God’s love can be shared.

What will you give for Lent this year? Your thoughts could be someone else’s inspiration! Share your comments here on the COMPASS blog, or on Twitter or Facebook.

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