Move Mountains

During January the COMPASS blog is sharing space for financial new year’s resolutions. The series continues as regular contributor Matt DeBall, shares some thoughts about January being “A new beginning,” and about praying, saving, giving, resting, and community. 

January. A new beginning. A fresh start. In this first month of the year, we have the perfect opportunity to take stock of lifestyle habits, try new patterns, set goals, or even chart a new course altogether. For Christ-followers, it only seems natural to also consider how to love God and neighbor in new ways.

credit given to Glenn Riegel

Majestic Mountains, a photo by Glenn Riegel

In seeking to respond anew to the movement of God, I can’t help but think of our recent celebration of Christmas. The prophet Isaiah shares, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low…. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” (Isaiah 4:3-5).

While this scripture is traditionally used in beautiful Advent liturgies and alludes to the coming of the Christ-child, it is also a call to continually make way for the Kingdom of God in our world. Our God is coming, and we need to move mountains to make the road ready. This challenge from the prophet also reveals the way in which God, as our sovereign Lord, desires for us to be prepared for the Holy Spirit to make bold moves in us and through us every day.

Changing geological features as Isaiah describes certainly seems like a daunting task, but as Jesus shared with his disciples, faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). By trusting in our Savior, we have enough faith to raise any valley and flatten every mountain. With Jesus, every roadblock to God’s Kingdom is removed.

As we begin this year, here are a few ways we can make room in our lives and world for God’s kingdom.

Pray – Whether at home with others or alone on the go, there are many “in between” moments where God is present with us. By using some of these seconds or minutes for prayer, we can be refreshed by God but also be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in every encounter of our day. Making way for God happens not only in action but also in attitude. As we make room for these reflective moments with God, we are made aware of how we can better love others and serve God.

Save and give – Money is an important resource related to almost everything in life, and as people of faith, it is essential for us to be good stewards of it. Though we may not compare making financial changes to “moving mountains,” we can be comforted in knowing that small changes also make room for God. You may consider:

  • Putting aside dollars in relation to what week of the year it is (Week 1: $1, Week 2: $2, …). [Catch up by putting aside $10 before the end of January.] Before next year, you will save nearly $1,400 to give to your church, put in savings, or some of both. OR
  • Collecting spare change and dollars in a jar until it’s full, and deciding before it’s counted how it will be divided for giving and saving.

Regardless of what method you use, imagine how that money could be used to further God’s kingdom in your community and make way for the peace of God’s kingdom in your own life.

Rest – It can be so easy to pack our schedules full with (mostly) meaningful activities. But if we put too much on our weekly calendar, a lack of energy or attention may dampen our effectiveness. For ourselves and for those whom we serve with at work, at church, or in our community, we must be good stewards of not only our time but also our energy. To make way for God’s Kingdom, consider scheduling more time for restful and re-energizing activities.

Community – As we make room for God in new ways, both in our own lives and wherever we go, we cannot do it alone.  Whether a personal goal or a communal change, teamwork is essential to consider. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Whether before or after setting goals, consider whom you might invite to join you on the journey.

May the Holy Spirit reveal how you might move mountains and raise valleys to make way for God’s kingdom in your life and in the world. And may we all experience grace and peace as we strive to fervently love God and neighbor in the year ahead.

Matt DeBallAbout the authorMatt DeBall currently serves as the coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He is pursuing a Master’s of Divinity from Northern Seminary, and enjoys running, reading, and napping. He and his wife, Chelsea, live with their Welsh Corgi, Watson, in northern Illinois.

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.