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

How To Give More During Lent (and Beyond) – Part 1

By Matt DeBall

If you’re anything like me, you like to fill daysIMG_2941
as full as possible. Whether or not you carefully estimate how long a task or project will take, you begin the day ready to conquer a mountain (or two or five). Though some may call you ambitious, you’re ready to do your best, and if time runs out, there’s always tomorrow to pick up where you left off.

“This is a wise strategy,” you may think. It allows you to make the best use of your time. It brings results that exceed what you thought was possible. And it even means that you experience satisfaction and accomplishment by the truckload. What could possibly be wrong with this?

Imagine filling a cup to the brim with chocolate milk (you pick: 2%, skim, soy, or almond). Hurray! You’ve made the most of your effort and poured like a pro. You’re certainly going
to enjoy every extra drop of your sweet elixir. But how much more difficult have you made the task of carrying it across the room? Overindulgence aside, filling a glass until it’s full may seem advantageous, but it can present unintended challenges or consequences. Over-filling our lives can have the same results.

But you may be asking, “can’t God still use me even if my life is (too) full?” In short, absolutely, yes! Having a full schedule does not exclude us from being used by God to share love, grace, and kindness with others. Whether we have plenty of spare time or none, are refreshed or tired, God can still work through us to bless other people.

However, what’s most likely to spill out when assembling-a-bicycle-1727903_1280 copyGod tries to use us and we’re full to the brim already—our agenda, or God’s? And are we actually able to go out of our way to help people when we’re too distracted to notice their situation in the first place? Just like trying to quickly assemble anything complex, the more rushed we are, the more likely we are to make a mistake or miss something entirely. It is for this reason that, in order to give more, we must first account for things we can give up. Removing certain things will make room for new possibilities.

The season of Lent invites everyone—including all of us over-achievers—to slow down a bit and reflect on our lives as Christian stewards. Investing some time to assess how we currently use what we possess improves our capacity to give more. After doing a self-inventory this week to consider what you can put aside or change, we will explore next week how to take steps forward and give more.

Here are a few thoughts to help get you started:

1) Consider time. For the next week, take note oclock-2097537_1280 copyf how you spend your time. Is there anything unnecessary that should be reduced or eliminated? Are you allowing enough time to rest (both taking breaks during the day and sleeping at night)? Are you satisfied with how much time is spent with your family and those most important to you? With your faith community? Do you have enough time to do the things you most enjoy or from which you find the most satisfaction? Is there any allotment of your time, subtle or drastic, that prevents you from accomplishing your goals? If you don’t like the answers you have for these questions, consider small changes that will improve these areas.

2) Consider possessions. Take a look around all of the physical spaces in which you reside, work, or play (home, car, office, etc.). Is there anything you rarely (or never) use that you could live without? Do you have too much of anything in particular? Do you have any clutter that could be put away or disposed of? Are there any areas that currently distract you from accomplishing intended tasks within them? De-cluttering literal space can certainly lead to a less busy and distracted mind.

3) Consider your budget. How is your money spent each month? Is there anything unessential that could be reduced or removed? Is there anything important for which you do not currently put aside money for that should be added to our budget? If you have any debt, are you satisfied with your current plan to pay it off in a timely manner? Are you content with how much money is given to your church or favorite non-profit organization? Again, small changes can get you closer to where you want to be.

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: Matt DeBall, pixabay.com

A Word to all Recent and soon to be Graduates

Congratulations, graduates! You have studied and grown, and are now ready to be sent out or start new chapters. For some of you, this may mean your first full-time adventure in the working world. For others of you, this may mean moving cross-country. For others, it may mean the transition from one school and degree to another and further study.

Whatever your chapter and transition looks like, congratulations! Your hard work and dedication deserves to be praised.

graduatesMuch has been shared on this blog (and will continue to be shared) to spread light on thinking about faith and finances. COMPASS has and will continue to be a place and resource to think about student debt, the different challenges of finances, and yet the hope and promise of abundance that we share in our collective faith.

Today, I don’t want to spend much time thinking about these challenges and bills—some that you are likely already facing and paying—and others—such as your educational debt—which may become due after deferment in about six months.

Rather, today I want to encourage you to give thanks: to celebrate and be joyful. Give thanks for your focused study. Give thanks for your family, friends, and loved ones who have supported you up to this point. They may have helped buy you dinner, get your study food, be the listening ears to talk through the challenges of life away from home at school, or shoulders to cry on when things didn’t quite go as you had hoped. These people—your network and community—have been a big part of your journey to this graduation. Thank them. Celebrate with them, and allow them to celebrate with you.

Congratulations, graduates! May your discernment and transitions into whatever lies ahead be blessed.

A Personal Word of Thanks

In the spirit of giving thanks, I too wish to give thanks today. I have recently received an exciting call to serve as the new Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In my transition into this new chapter, I will no longer be serving as the Communications Associate for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC).

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in this way these past 2 years. I am tremendously grateful to Marcia Shetler, the Executive Director/CEO of ESC for this opportunity. I am also excited to share that though I will no longer be serving in this capacity; I will continue as a committee member for COMPASS and ESC and will continue to offer thoughts and perspectives on this blog about once a month as a volunteer contributor. I look forward to continuing the faith and finances conversation with all of you well into the future.

timothy headshotAbout the Author: In addition to these roles and news, Timothy Siburg also currently serves as a congregational mission developer, among a few other roles. He blogs regularly on his own blog as well.

Image Credit: Graduates

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 and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.