Why Do I Give Thanks?

20151110_141047This month the COMPASS blog is sharing Thanksgiving-themed reflections, especially those that dig deeper into thinking about why we give thanks.

It’s only fair that I should answer this question since I am inviting so many others to share their thoughts here with you. For me, my honest answer is simply, what else can I do?

I’m reminded of the themes of Thanksgiving found throughout scripture, such as this paraphrased passage from 2 Chronicles which has been used to shape a number of song and hymn lyrics on the subject:

Give thanks to the Lord, “For God is good, for God’s steadfast love endures forever.” (based on 2 Chronicles 5:13)

For me thanksgiving and gratitude are a response. I believe that the gifts of God which I have come to believe and understand through Jesus Christ – such as life, love, hope, promise, and reconciliation—are  just that: gifts. There is nothing I can do to earn them. There is nothing I can do to warrant them. Rather, they are gifts freely given by a God who creates, loves, sustains, calls, and invites us to be part of God’s acts of love, mercy, and creation.

I can thankfully respond to these gifts in at least three ways:

  1. Give thanks and praise to God,
  2. Live an abundant life, sharing this good news of the love and gifts of God for all people and creation,
  3. Participate in God’s work of love, hope, and reconciliation, as I believe God calls us all to do in our lives and vocations.

Giving thanks is all about living joyfully and gratefully for gifts beyond measure which I cannot do anything about but be thankful for. I give thanks for this love, and for all who have helped me to grow in my understanding of it. I give thanks for everyone who has shown and continues to show me such love, and hope that I can share this love with others.

My wife Allison

I give thanks for my wife Allison

I give thanks for meaningful work, and life-giving relationships. I give thanks for a loving and supportive spouse, and for my family full of people who also live out their vocations in thankful response to gifts far too numerous to count. I give thanks for friends, colleagues, peers, and mentors who live out their lives to the fullest and, whether they know it or not, provide inspiration for me and others to live fully like them.

My family

I give thanks for my family

 

Today, I particularly give thanks for a loving God, for the most supportive parents and grandparents I could have ever hoped for, for the most amazing life partner in my wife Allison, and for the supportive and exciting work of my siblings.

Who are you thankful for? What are you thankful for? And why do you give thanks?

Please join the conversation with COMPASS as we continue to reflect on why each of us gives thanks.

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.

Frugal Fall: Why be Frugal?

“Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” – Philippians 4:11 (NRSV)

All this month COMPASS blog post writers have shared thoughts about being frugal, but we never necessarily pondered why to be frugal. I think that’s a fair question.

community of friends

Being frugal for my wife Allison and I allows us to be able to share time and resources together with friends, in community together, like gathered here for a potluck.

On the practical side, being frugal gives you more opportunities to save and more flexibility with all your resources, which I wrote about earlier in October. That can be especially important in this holiday season time of year, when expenses can be higher. (In the coming weeks we’ll share some ideas about how to be frugal around Thanksgiving and Christmas.)

Today though, I want to think more about the biblical and faith reasons for being frugal. For me, it’s really about being content.

Sometimes being frugal is a necessity because of life circumstances: a lack of income or unexpected expenses. But being frugal can also come from a desire to be generous. My wife and I try to be frugal by living on a budget and using coupons when shopping. We do this not to be stingy, but to be able to give more to our faith community and concerns and needs in the world that we are passionate about. We do this also to have resources and income to provide gifts to family and friends, and to host and welcome people into our home for an occasional meal or experience. Granted, our current income limits these possibilities, but we still like to do this.

An example of being sports fans, gathered with our friends to root on the Seahawks in the Super Bowl (Feb. 2014) against the Broncos.

An example of being sports fans, gathered with our friends to root on the Seahawks in the Super Bowl (Feb. 2014) against the Broncos.

Allison and I are sports fans, and have found that we can create some times to gather with friends (new and old) while watching our favorite football team, the Seahawks, or even a good baseball game, as we are now in the midst of the World Series. During these sporting events, potlucks are our best friend. Instead of going out to a restaurant to watch the game, we invite people over and each shares a little for the food and beverages. The game is fun, but what really is great is that we are having a good time with community, while being frugal.

We do this because we like to be with others and because it’s something we can do within our means to be generous, to share, and be content.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming soon, how can you be frugal while still being generous, and living abundantly? Or, if you’re feeling called to be frugal, what’s your next step to do so? What’s a step you can take this week live more abundantly?

The answers to these questions will be unique for each individual person. For me, abundant life—a life I believe is a gift and really life (1 Timothy 6:19, NRSV)—is a life full of meaning and purpose in work and vocation, and a life in relationship with loved ones and neighbors. This is a life of community, and at least for Allison and me, by being frugal in some ways, I think we’re able to make our resources stretch a bit more to create community with others.

What does being frugal mean or look like in your life?

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.

Frugal Fall

The leaves are turning colors and are beginning to fall. The days are getting shorter, and the temperatures are gradually falling. School classes are all back in full swing. The baseball season will end soon, after the World Series. Of course, we’re a month into the football season already too.

Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Patch

As we leave the warmth of summer behind and inch toward the chill and frost of winter, the COMPASS blog is giving space this October to questions of how to enjoy this season frugally and faithfully.

What do you love most about the fall? What things do you do to have fun, on a budget particularly at this time of year?

My wife Allison and I love this time of year. It can be fun to enjoy a crisp autumn afternoon out at the pumpkin patch, looking for the perfect pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern or to make the first pumpkin pie of the season. It can also be a lot of fun to go and pick some apples out in the apple orchards. These outings have proved to be fun dates for my wife and I the past couple of years. They are very affordable, and usually the only cost is to get to the patch or orchard, and the cost of the pumpkin or apples. We have also found that they are quite popular activities among many Millennials. Why not invite some friends and make it a fun day with them enjoying the outdoors?

If you live in a house and not an apartment, turn a chore into some frugal fun. You’ll probably be spending some time in your yard anyway raking the leaves before the start of winter. In the midst of this chore, take some time and remember your youth by jumping and playing in the piles of leaves. Just be sure and take a shower afterwards so you don’t have some little creepy crawlies stow away in your hair.

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves

You can use leaves to make fall decorations for your home or apartment. They are really useful for Thanksgiving themed scenes around cornucopias, or other fall themed décor like a wreath for your front door. This can take a little time, but it’s a fun and very affordable project for this time of year.

By being frugal in the fall, you may be able to create some extra savings for other things. For example, by cutting back spending in the fall, you might be able to save more for Christmas gifts or, put some extra money away in your savings account, or pay more on your student loan payment.

As the days do get shorter though, the fall is also a good time to give thanks as we celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada in October and in November in the United States. Give thanks for this time of year, and take a little time to see the blessings around you and share them with others. In place of perhaps a more routine meal prayer, take time before meals to share something you are thankful or grateful for each day as you pray. That sense of gratitude will make your days this time of year even richer. I for one am grateful and thankful for continued meaningful work, new opportunities, and the love and support of my wife, Allison, and God’s gift of these beautiful days of fall. What are you thankful for?

Now it’s your turn. What do you enjoy about the fall? How do you live frugally this time of year? What stories, tips, and examples can you share with others about how to live frugally and faithfully during the fall?

Image Credits: Pumpkin patch and Autumn leaves.

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.

Talking About Faith and Finances: Pursue Contentment

During September, the COMPASS blog is digging deeper into the topic of conversations about money by sharing different perspectives, questions, and approaches. Today we welcome Dori Zerbe Cornelsen, from the Mennonite Foundation of Canada, back to the blog. Join Dori in thinking about contentment. As Dori mentions, First Things First and many other resources on the COMPASS website help pursue living with a deeper sense of contentment. See what you think and please join the conversation on Facebook or here on the blog by leaving a comment.

10 Million

“Which would you rather have – 10 kids or $10 Million?”

“Which would you rather have – 10 kids or $10 Million?” 

During a presentation I once asked the group, “Who comes to mind when you think of the word contentment?” Someone said his grandfather used to ask this question. Without much hesitation, I said, “I’d choose the $10M.”

“Wrong answer,” the person said.  “Because if you have $10M you are never completely sure you have enough but if you have 10 kids… you know you have enough!”

Contentment probably does have something to do with having enough.  In studies that test the link between money and happiness, one consistent observation is that the association of happiness-to-money plateaus when people have enough money to meet basic needs, have good health care and safety, etc. – any increase in money above this level does not predict the same increase in happiness.

We live in a culture that promotes being discontent.  Spending on advertising in North America is projected to be more than $200B in 2015 all to remind us that we should be dissatisfied.

So, can we be content?  Way before people did studies on money and happiness, Paul wrote a letter to Timothy in our Bible that includes pretty much the same observation:

“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:7-8).

Paul goes on to warn Timothy that unchecked dissatisfaction can lead to pretty grim consequences.

I mentioned the study guide, First Things First in my last blog.  “Contentment is a choice,” writes Edwin Friesen:

“True contentment frees us to enjoy our gifts in the present.  To be content does not mean that we don’t work for better tomorrows or plan for the future.  It does mean that we do not let our dreams and concerns about tomorrow rob us of fully enjoying the gifts we have today.” (p. 35)

How are you choosing contentment?

dori-zerbe-cornelson-220x220About the Author: Dori Zerbe Cornelsen works with Mennonite Foundation of Canada encouraging and inviting generous living.  She and her husband Rick live in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

 

 

Image Credit: Money

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.

Why I Give: some personal Christmas in July reflections

During July the COMPASS blog is sharing reflections on giving in the spirit of “Christmas in July.” Many of the most frequent posts have been more practical in nature about finances and choices. This post is a bit different, and is a reflection about some of the reasons why I give.

Hi! My name is Timothy and this is my wife Allison.

The picture of my wife Allison and I that introduced you to us a year ago on this blog.

I began working with the Ecumenical Stewardship Center as Communications Associate a year ago. In my first post here on the COMPASS blog I reflected on “Why Do I Give?” Given this month’s theme, I thought it would be a good time to revisit that post and see what (if anything) has changed in explaining why I give.

1. I give because of the Good News.

My giving is part of my response. Deep down my giving to the church and ministry is part of my joyful response to what I believe is the good news of the Gospel. My giving to causes, relief organizations, and other agencies is also part of this response. I deeply believe that I cannot earn salvation, but rather that is God’s work and has already been done for us. All I can do with that good news of love and grace is to live joyfully in response to it: sharing that good news with others, living life fully and abundantly, and giving thanks.

2. I give because there is a need.

My giving is also usually initiated by being moved to act in response to a need in the world. When I see someone hurting or not being cared for, I wonder, “What can I do to help?” If my wife and I can give a financial contribution, that is wonderful. If our budget is constrained, we can still give through volunteering and helping in other ways. (In a practical sense, this is where the idea of “Time, Talent, and Treasure” is made real through giving.)

3. I give because I want to.

There is no greater joy in life than the feeling of helping another person, or bringing a smile to someone’s face.

4. I give because it’s part of God’s work.

I believe that the way I serve and give are part of God’s work in the world and that we all are called to share in this work. Our vocations and God-given gifts, strengths, and passions aren’t meant to be hoarded, but are to be used in service to our neighbor to build up the Kingdom of God.

5. I give because I grew up in a family of givers.

A family of givers

A family of givers

I give because I grew up in a family of givers. My parents talked about money, not as a way to intimidate us or make us worry, but because they knew that sharing their understanding about money, finances, and stewardship would make those subjects more comfortable for us when we were older. As part of this, I grew up receiving an allowance and started a savings account at a very young age. The only stipulation my parents gave us with that allowance was that we would give a portion of it to God through offering at church or to non-profits. Over time, I learned and came to believe that this giving to God was a returning of some of what God had actually entrusted to my care. I credit my desire to give especially to my parents.

Those are five reasons why I give. Now it is your turn. As we continue to celebrate “Christmas in July,” why do you give?

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.

Christmas in July- Gift Giving

 

As we move from June into July, we cross the half-way mark of the year. We celebrate the heart of the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, including Independence Day celebrations in the United States and Canada Day fun in Canada. We also inch ever closer to Christmas.

Christmas in JulyFor those of you who give gifts at Christmas, by being in July now means that you now have less than six months to do your Christmas shopping. However, if you are like me, you are less focused on the consumer aspect of purchases and more on the act and importance of giving. Hence, our theme for July is “Christmas in July- Gift Giving.”

During this month on the COMPASS blog, we will be sharing stories, tips and reflections all about gift giving. You will hear perspectives from different writers on topics like:

  • Giving gifts to organizations, non-profits and congregations
  • The importance of planned giving
  • Frugal tips for gift giving
  • Advice and ideas for budgeting for gift giving,
  • Reflections on the faith and theological motivations for giving

As a planner, I believe it is never too early to plan one’s budget and spending for the months and year(s) ahead. If you like to give, like my wife and I do, that means it takes some serious thought about the realities of our budget and planning months ahead by setting aside a certain amount that can be used throughout the year on the purchase of gifts. You’ll hear more about that as well.

I am excited for this conversation, and I hope that you will share your perspectives, ideas and reflections as part of our shared learning by engaging these upcoming posts in comments on the blog, on Facebook, or even through Twitter conversations.

I would also like to invite you to take a more active role in the conversation. If this topic sounds of interest to you and you have a story or perspective to share, please share their wisdom and experience through the writing of a guest post in this series. If you are interested and willing to write as part of this series, please email or comment as soon as possible.

If July is not going to work for you to write, but you are interested in sharing a guest post, we also need more writers for our August theme, “Stewardship for Young Adults- Ideas for faith communities starting in the fall.” I will share more about that next month, but if you are interested in being part of that topic as well, please let me know and I can give you more of an advanced invitation and explanation.

I am looking forward to our conversation! Happy Summer, and Merry Christmas in July!

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.

One For the Road

During June, COMPASS has shared ideas, experiences and stories about how to have fun on a summer budget. Today’s post was adapted from a past edition of Simple Living, a monthly column by Amanda Garcia and published in the Messenger magazine, the denominational magazine for the Church of the Brethren. 

On the Road

On the Road

When I was a little kid and our family minivan trekked from the Midwest to Gramma’s house in Florida, there was no greater road trip treat than chicken nuggets and orange soda. When I got older, it was a cold, chocolaty, coffee beverage with whipped cream. But these days, my idea of a “treat” while traveling looks more like a salad that’s not in a plastic box.

Fresh, healthful food can be a challenge to come by on the road, which makes eating well a challenge. Cost is another factor—when French fries cost 50 cents and an apple costs 3 dollars in an airport terminal, it can be difficult to weigh your choices. Wisely spending money and making nutritious food choices are two very different stewardship practices that need to be considered together while traveling.

In the name of simplicity, savings, and wellness, I’ve experimented with travel-friendly foods that I thought I’d pass along. If you have suggestions to add to this list, please share!

Happy trails.

  1. While driving, stop at roadside farm stands whenever possible (especially when they have homemade apple butter).
  2. Instant oatmeal packets require very little space in suitcases and make a quick, cheap, and nutritious breakfast almost anywhere (including hotels with in-room coffee makers).
  3. Hardboiled eggs are a great way to add protein to a meal on the run, and are especially easy to eat if they are peeled ahead of time.
  4. Slices of carrots, celery, and broccoli are tasty replacements for chips alongside a store-bought sandwich. They also don’t require refrigeration for several hours.
  5. Apples, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits (pineapple, apricots, golden raisins, cranberries, bananas) are full of fiber and all natural sugars, and also require no refrigeration.
  6. Whole grain crackers travel well in a small box or bag and go perfectly with your apple butter.
  7. Almond butter and honey will also top your crackers well, and are good for stirring into oatmeal—just be sure to pack them in your checked luggage if you’re flying.
  8. Dry cereal and granola are filling and great for snacking, as well as breakfast.
  9. It’s always important to drink lots of water while traveling, so if you’re flying, pack an empty bottle and fill it with water after you get through security.
  10. If you’re traveling with a cooler, freeze bottles of water or juice for an efficient way to keep food cold instead of ice. When the liquid melts, drink it!

Amanda GarciaAbout the Author: Amanda Garcia is an Ecumenical Stewardship Center board member and a freelance writer and designer outside of Chicago. Her undergraduate degree is in Communications and Worship Arts, and she is currently pursuing a Masters in Business Administration, where her interests in strategic planning, dynamic leadership, and good financial practices merge with her background and expertise in communications. Amanda and her husband, Dan, are avid gardeners and prioritize healthful cooking and seasonal eating all year long. They are active members of Zion Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Elgin, IL.

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.

Image Credit: On the Road