What is your money, debt management, and generosity type?

By Beryl Jantzicards-161404_1280

 It’s been suggested that Americans fall into one of four groups when it comes to how we manage money. Maybe as you review these four models, you can identify your own, and decide what changes, if any may, be helpful moving forward. Here’s what they are:

 The Perfectionists: 19% of Americans

These consumers know the exact route to their financial goals, whether they developed the map themselves or sought a professional financial planner. Not only do they have a household budget, which includes retirement savings and insurance, but they work toward specific short and long-term savings goals.

The Dreamers: 38% of Americansface-2269319_1280

Most consumers fall in this category. They have some goals worked out and have an idea of what they’d like to achieve. Dreamers may have savings plans for retirement or education, but they haven’t pulled everything together to form an overarching plan.

The Procrastinators: 33% of Americans

These consumers put forth the bare minimum and might get to the rest of planning later. Most in this group have a budget or plan to address savings goals, but not both. Their comprehensive financial planning behaviors don’t differ much from wanderers, but some Procrastinators keep a written budget, and they tend to avoid racking up credit card debt.

 The Wanderers: 10% of Americanswanderer-455338_1280

In this group, people float from bill to bill without any intentional plan. They tend to live in the moment without much concern for the future. They may have debt but probably couldn’t tell you the total debt they have.

Knowing our predisposition for managing money is a good start to knowing what we may need to do to get to the next step. Most of us will need to move one step at a time rather than leap from a Wanderer to a Perfectionist.

Questions to ponder:

  • Where do you see yourself most closely identified
    by the descriptions stated above?
  • If you don’t like the label used to identify your style
    what different word would you use?

Your generosity will be most fruitful when you have a clear understanding about how God is calling you to share what has been entrusted to you.

Are you a generous wanderer? Is your generosity usually based on the whim of the moment?

Are you a generous procrastinator? Do you have good intentions about giving, but never get around to it?

Are you a generous dreamer? You give, but you could be more disciplined and focused with your giving?

Are you a generous perfectionist? Do you feel confident about your giving habits now, and have plans to continue to increase it in days to come?

In the book of Philippians, Paul writes,

“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12, NRSV).

What small steps can you take today to move from one money management and generosity type to another from the examples described above?

Source: Household financial planning survey 2013

Reprinted from a blog post on February 9, 2016.

About the Author

Beryl Jantzi and familyBeryl Jantzi serves as the stewardship education director 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.

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.

Photo credits: pixabay.com

How to Give More During Lent (and Beyond) – Part 2

By Matt DeBall

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We began this month with an introduction post by Marcia Shelter that invited us to 
consider how we can “give more” during Lent—taking a step beyond the traditional trend of “giving something up” for Lent. Two weeks ago, I invited you to do a self-inventory of your time, possessions, and budget to consider what you can put aside or change for Lent that could allow for the capacity to give more. Last week, Timothy Siburg shared a great reflection about how he has taken on something new for Lent this year. This week we will explore how to take practical steps to move forward and give more during Lent.

Taking a path of simplicity and generosity, especially in our world today, is not always an easy task. With many demands (some very important, some not so much) on our time, energy, and resources, it’s easy to get caught up in the ebb and flow of a busy life and miss the opportunity to live in a way that best honors God and shows love to those around us. The season of Lent invites us to intentionally consider all that is happening in our lives and to put some things aside to more fully focus on the work of Jesus through his death and resurrection as well as the work that God continues to do in us and in the world.

A helpful first step toward living a more generous life is considering how you spend or share your time, energy, possessions, and money. For help to do this, feel free to check out the first part of this post. After doing a careful assessment of these aspects of our lives, we can then move forward and make changes to be more generous. Here are a few thoughts to help you consider how to give more:

1) Give more time – Is there a member of your family, faith community, or neighborhood who is in a rough season? Is there a way that you could offer help or simply a listening ear to show God’s love to them? Is there a local charity or community group that does great work and whom could benefit from your service? Is there an initiative at box-18749_1280your church that you are passionate about but have not yet given a try? All of these are questions that can help you share more of your time.

2) Give more money – Have you noticed any purchases like drive-thru coffee, eating out that you could replace with cheaper alternatives for Lent (or longer)? Do you have a phone plan or TV package that is more complex (and expensive) than you need? These cost savings may not amount to significant savings, but every bit we can decrease in our regular expenses allows us the flexibility and peace of mind to be more generous. In cutting down non-essential costs, what ministry of your church or initiative in your community could benefit from your support?

3) Give away or share more possessions – Now is the perfect time for spring cleaning.
Are there any items which you rarely or never use (clothes, tools, non-perishable foods, books, or other lightly worn objects) which you could give to someone in need or share with a local charity? You may also want to consider selling nicer clothes to a second-hand store and donating the money you receive to an organization in your community. Does gratitude-1201945_1280someone
in your neighborhood attend the same church or community events as you? And could carpooling be
a valuable option for both of you? Considering these
ideas may help you become a better steward of what
God has given you.

4) BONUS – Give more of yourself – After minimizing non-essential drains on our time, energy, and money, we not only have more of these items to give, but in general, we have more of ourselves to give. When our schedules
are less full with non-essential fillers, our living spaces
are less cluttered, and our minds are less busy, we can be more fully present in our times of rest (whether alone or with family) as well as in moments of sharing and serving others.

Though making changes can be difficult, it’s remarkable how small adjustments can make a big difference. As you consider how God may be leading you to be more generous, we hope you will feel renewed in this Lenten season and beyond.

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

Money, Marriage, and Meaningful Conversations

By Belinda Bassene

FriendshipLife is busy. Calendars fill up fast.
To-Do lists are created. In the midst of the chaos, conversations with our spouses are happening….

When are we going to do the laundry?

Should we get a dog? What kind?

Are we ready to buy a house?

I don’t feel like making dinner; shall we get take-out?

As these exchanges are happening, we may find ourselves desiring more when it comes to our conversations. It truly is difficult to pause for meaningful chats, let alone around topics that are hard to talk about. Especially money.

If you find yourself having a hard time talking about money, you are not alone. According to studies, almost 70% of couples argue about money.

Let’s beat that statistic and create a new normal: one where 70% of couples are confident when having meaningful conversations about money.

Here are 5 tips to get you started:

1. Don’t Avoid Itlm_blog_3-things-to-do-when-saving-money

This seems like common sense. However, Lab42 conducted an online survey of 1,000 people in October of 2015 and discovered 77% of Americans actually avoid talking about money. And according to our Love & Money Project partner, Dr. Sonya Britt of Kansas State University, the risk of divorce for those who disagree about money frequently, increases by almost 70%. So, if we know money has the power to break-up marriages, let’s not avoid talking about it! Take a step towards financial strength and a happier marriage by beginning the conversation about money.

But where do we start?

lm_blog_5-ways-to-prevent-the-biggest-money-mistakes2. Ask Questions

It is easy to assume that we know so much about the person we are spending the rest of our lives with. Yet, as we work with couples we see that many have no idea what each other thinks about money. They don’t know their story. Here are a few questions to explore this topic together:

What do you believe to be true about money?

  • Whether they are actually true or not, we all have beliefs about money. These ideas were created before we even realized and we carry them with us through our entire life. Examine together how these beliefs play out in each of your lives individually, as well as in your relationship.

What is your earliest memory of money?thinking-277071_1280

  • Pause to learn this about one another, and reflect on how it plays out in your own life.
    You’ll be surprised to see how it continues to show up in your life.

How do you feel about money?

  • Take time to share what makes you feel confident or anxious. Share what creates a sense of freedom when it comes to money. As you reflect on this, you may find that you have more feelings about money than you ever realized.

3. Use “Yes, and…”

Implement a common communication and improv comedy rule by using the words “yes, and.” When we use “yes, and” instead of “yes, but,” we naturally begin to build solutions and possibilities together instead of tearing one another down. Try this tip out in your next conversation. You’ll be amazed where the dialogue can go!

4. Schedule Time to Talklm_blog_how-to-nurture-your-spouses-love-styles-and-money-styles_final

This will assist in not avoiding the conversation. We’ve already talked about how full our calendars can be, so hold a spot to make meaningful conversations a priority. You may want to check in quarterly, every month, or even every other week. Find the best cadence for your life together.

5. Offer Generosity and Gratitude Every Day

At some point in your day, take a moment to identify what you are grateful for and how
you’ve experienced or offered generosity. This comes in especially helpful when you are feeling lm_blog_what-the-bible-says-and-doesnt-sayfrustrated and it can completely change your conversations because it changes your heart. Crazy, right?! Try it. I dare you.

Tackle the money talk in a meaningful way. You’ve got this. Check out more to strengthen your relationship in love and money at www.loveandmoney.com.

About the Author

Belinda Bassene is a part of The Love & Money Project, an initiative of brightpeak financial helping couples and families grow stronger together by improving their relationship with money. When she isn’t passionately talking about love and money you may find her kayaking or planning a party. She resides in Minneapolis with her family.

bpf-LM-1409

Join us tonight at 8 p.m. ET for this month’s COMPASS Live Chat  led by staff from brightpeak financial. Join with the following link. stewardshipresources.adobeconnect.com/compasschat217

Photo credits: loveandmoney.com, pixabay.com

Starting Point: Community and Shared Stories

By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

mbchef76It’s the week after Christmas. In a cartoon sent to me by a colleague last week, we see a person at a store service counter, overflowing bags in hand, saying to the cashier, “I try to keep the Christmas spirit by having credit-card debt all year long.”

It’s hard to avoid the over-spending at Christmas when you get sucked into the vortex of shopping, even when it originates from a place of love and generosity for your favourite people. Maybe the new year is a time to blaze a new trail with others that can help remind us that we can show our affection to those we love without the hefty price tags. One resolution might be to find a support network, a community of people, with whom we can find a path that leads us toward God’s good news of enough for all.

In his book, Money and Faith: the search for enough (2008 Morehouse Education Resources), road-815297_1280Michael Schut writes in the introduction about the need for telling stories to ground us on our journeys of faith. He writes: “I believe that in telling and listening to our stories, we discover signs of God’s passing and presence – faith tracks, haunting harmonies, flickering images, unspeakable longings. Author Frederick Buechner… contends that each of our journeys through this life is sacred.”

Schut speaks of our own sacred journeys and their many layers, including those that expose our experiences with abundance and scarcity:

When we begin to plumb, poke, or peek into our relationship with money, that exploration often leads to… questions of trust, security, values, and to experiences of abundance and joy, as well as scarcity and fear. When we get in touch with those sorts of experiences, we need not travel far to discover moments of holiness, moments that deeply inform our sense of who God is and whether or not we feel we will be provided for in this life.

Our stories are meant to be shared in the company of others. In Deuteronomy 8, the writer tries to ground the people of God in their journey of faith by recalling the story they have lived. They were just about to receive the promise of the good land filled with streams of water, harvests of grains, fruits and honey, and extractable resources for wealth generation. Having sojourned in the wilderness for decades, this was good news! But their wilderness story wasn’t supposed to be forgotten and the writer reminds them:

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God… Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery… (Deuteronomy 8:10-14).

With whom can we journey this year, with what community can we surround ourselves, that calls us to remember God’s desire for us is not to depend on our own power and entitlement? With whom can we find a circle that encourages us to find the way of generosity together? We don’t have to do this alone – our faith isn’t just between us and God. Sharing our stories can weave us into communities of faith that ground our journey with money in God’s values.

About the Author

dori_zc-abundance-profile-pictureDori Zerbe Cornelsen is a Gift Planning Consultant with Abundance Canada, encouraging and inviting generous living.  She and her husband Rick live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where lots of generous, warm people live in cold temperatures for 6 months of the year.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Finding Your Enough: Some Practical Suggestions

By Marcia Shetler

In his book Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity, Rev. Adam Hamilton observes that contentment and simplicity go hand in hand.“There comes a point when we have ehamster-wheelnough stuff,” he says, “and everything above and beyond that level only creates stress. When I think of the stress created by our relentless pursuit of stuff, I think of a hamster running on a wheel. The hamster gets on the wheel, not knowing where it is going. It starts running faster and faster until one of two things happens: either it flies off the wheel into the side of the cage, exhausted, or the hamster wheel breaks. That is the image that comes to mind when I look at current consumerism trends. We are like a hamster on a wheel. We really don’t know where we are going, but we are sure everybody else does; so we run faster and faster to keep up. Eventually, something is sure to break–the system or us or both.”

Here are five practical suggestions from Rev. Hamilton’s book to help you transition from the hamster wheel to taking positive steps that will make a difference as you find your enough.

#1:  Reduce your consumption by setting tangible goals.

  • Reduce your trash consumption by using canvas bags when you go grocery shopping and to refuse any extra packaging.
  • Grab only one or two napkins, as opposed to a handful, when you eat at a fast-food restaurant.
  • If you are buying a new car, aim to improve fuel economy over your existing car by at least 10 percent.
  • Reduce your utilities usage by 10 percent by setting the thermostat back a couple of degrees when you are away during the day and asleep at night.

#2:  Before making a purchase, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” and “Why do I want this?”

  • Use the twenty-four hour-rule. When you see something you think you must have, wait twenty-four hours before making the purchase. If you still feel you should buy the item after waiting a full day, go back and get it.

#3:  Use something up before buying something new.

  • Wait until a replacement is truly necessary.
  • Take good care of the things you buy and use them until they are empty, broken, or worn out.
  • Buy things that are made to last, and, when buying things that have a short lifespan, spend your money wisely.
  • Take better care of your furniture, appliances, and other things around the house. Resole your shoes. Mend rips and tears and make repairs.
  • Remind yourself that you don’t always need to have new things. If you feel something is really outdated, keep it for an extra six months or year before replacing it.
  • Sell or donate things that still work.

#4:  Plan low-cost entertainment that enriches.bench-1031398_1920-cropped

  • Plan entertainment that’s simple and cheap.
  • Remember that a memorable vacation can be simply relaxing and fellowship with family and friends.

#5:  Ask yourself, ”Are there major changes that would allow me to simplify my life?”

  • If your car is already paid off, consider keeping it for another year or two before buying another one and re-starting another debt obligation.
  • Consider downsizing your home.
  • Get rid of intangibles you rarely or never use, like club memberships.

Rev. Hamilton says, “Remember, if you cannot do all the things God is calling you to do and you’re unable to find joy in your life, perhaps it’s time to simplify in some major ways.” Good advice for life in general, and especially as you find your enough.

About the Author

marcia shetlerMarcia Shetler became the Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center in March 2011. 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

New Engine, New Tires & Luke – Faith in the face of debt

By Timothy Siburg
car-1564300_1920

Student loans? Broken down cars? How am I ever going to pay this off? Those are some pretty normal reactions to debt, and ones we have heard a little bit about this past month on the COMPASS blog.

What strikes me though as I think about these questions, is a reminder of the way God is present even in the face of our stress, uncertainty, doubt, and fear, all of which can surface when thinking about money and debt.

The Gospel of Luke is full of stories and parables from Jesus about money, wealth, poverty, and debt. For example, there is the confusing parable of the Dishonest Manager found in Luke 16:1-13.

In this story we hear of a manager who has been called to account for his business. In the face of what sounds like the manager’s certain firing, he goes about reducing the amount owed by different individuals in the community to the manager’s master. This is something that certainly could be praised, in that those oppressed and marginalized by debt were getting some of it forgiven. Of course, the story is much more complicated than that.

It’s not as likely in our daily life that someone will come along and just because they can, reduce the amount of debt we owe. If you are assuming that is going to happen for you, I wish you well, but I wouldn’t advise you to plan and budget that way.

Debt is a reality of life. It doesn’t need to be a crushing one, however. It only has power, like money, when we give it that power. We can certainly live in fear of it, if we are not careful. And unexpected and big expenses can help lead us to be in fear.

hand-truck-564242_1920A couple of days ago, my wife and I faced one of the downsides of moving across country from Washington to Nebraska. My wife Allison went to turn the car on in the morning, and every warning light started to say hello to her on the dashboard. As we suspected, our car needed a new battery. That’s not all that surprising, since we have shared one car between the two of us for our six years of marriage, and it’s been a few years and a couple cross-country moves since getting a new battery.

Unfortunately, one of the other downsides of moving, wear, and tear is that your car might also need new tires, plus its next regular oil change. So, with new tires, fresh oil, and a new battery, we spent a bit more this week on our car than we like to do in one day.

This could easily have led us into despair and debt. Thankfully, we budget for such days as this, so it wasn’t that bad. But interestingly, there is another faith element to this.

A few days earlier we had received a refund check in the mail for the balance of Allison’s seminary cost, as she graduated from seminary and actually had money left on her account in her favor. We didn’t think much of the check at the time. The day after the car was running like new, we remembered that check. It was just about the exact cost of all of the car expenses. Sometimes I think God truly has a sense of humor. It’s experiences like this that remind me of just how much abundance we live in and have, thanks to our abundant God.

What makes confronting the reality of debt—whether student debt, housing mortgages, car loans, etc.—possible is the reminder that God is with us, and wants us to live life abundantly. Living abundantly doesn’t mean living irresponsibly. It means enjoying, giving, sharing, and using all that God has first entrusted us with to live our lives and steward them for the sake of our neighbors and communities. It also means responsibly paying off debt early or on time, so as not to be overwhelmed by the interest accrued from it, so that we can live abundantly.

As long as I can keep this in perspective, making those monthly student loan payments, and needed car expenses, for example, doesn’t seem to be as daunting.

Note: That check, in addition to helping our car expenses, will be stewarded in part back to the larger church in gratitude, and in support of other future seminarians.

About the Author
timothy headshot
Timothy Siburg is the Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and is a member of the COMPASS Steering Committee. His wife Allison is awaiting call to be an ELCA pastor, and the two of them reside in the greater Omaha area. Timothy can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and on his blog.


About COMPASS

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 or Twitter.

And join us this Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET for a Live Chat with Darryl Dahlheimer, Program Director for LSS Financial Counseling, for Conquering Your Debt: the Overlooked Key to Faith and Finances. It’s free! Register at https://stewardshipresources.org/compass-live-chats. People of all ages are welcome!

Image credits: pixabay.com

What is your money, debt management, and generosity type?

During February the COMPASS blog is sharing some Faithful Fun with Finances. Today, we welcome back regular contributor Beryl Jantzi to the blog who shares about and asks, “What is your money, debt management, and generosity type?”

It’s been suggested that Americans fall into one of four groups when it comes to how we manage money. Maybe as you review these four models you can identify your own and decide what changes if any may be helpful moving forward.  Here’s what they are:

The Perfectionists: 19% of Americans

These consumers know the exact route to their financial goals, whether they developed the map themselves or sought a professional financial planner. Not only do they have a household budget, which includes retirement savings and insurance, but they work toward specific short and long term savings goals.

The Dreamers: 38% of Americans

Most consumers fall in this category. They have some goals worked out and have an idea of what they’d like to achieve. Dreamers may have savings plans for retirement or education, but they haven’t pulled everything together to form an overarching plan.

The Procrastinators: 33% of Americans

These consumers put forth the bare minimum and might get to the rest of planning later. Most in this group have a budget or plan to address savings goals, but not both. Their comprehensive financial planning behaviors don’t differ much from wanderers, but some Procrastinators keep a written budget, and they tend to avoid racking up credit card debt.

The Wanderers: 10% of Americans

In this group, people float from bill to bill without any intentional plan. They tend to live in the moment without much concern for the future. They may have debt but probably couldn’t tell you the total debt they have.

How do you manage your money?

How do you manage your money?

Knowing our predisposition for managing money is a good start to knowing what we may need to do to get to the next step.  Most of us will need to move one step at a time father than leap from a Wanderer to a Perfectionist.

Questions to ponder:

  • Where do you see yourself most closely identified by the descriptions stated above?
  • If you don’t like the label used to identify your style what different word would you use?

Your generosity will be most fruitful when you have a clear understanding about how God is calling you to share what has been entrusted to you.

Are you a generous wanderer? Is your generosity usually based on the whim of the moment?

Are you a generous procrastinator? Do you have good intentions about giving, but never get around to it?

Are you a generous dreamer? You give, but you could be more disciplined and focused with your giving?

Are you a generous perfectionist? Do you feel confident about your giving habits now, and have plans to continue to increase it in days to come?

In the book of Philippians, Paul writes,

“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12, NRSV).

What small steps can you take today to move from one money management and generosity type to another from the examples described above?

Source: Household financial planning survey 2013

Beryl Jantzi and familyAbout the Author: Beryl Jantzi currently serves as Stewardship Education Director for Everence, a Christian-based, member-owned financial services organization which is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and other churches. 

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: Piggy bank.

Giving: A Practice in Joyfulness

During December, the COMPASS blog is sharing reflections related to giving, since this is an especially gift giving time of year. Today, regular contributor Nicole Brennan shares her story about a year of service in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and lessons she has learned from that experience about giving, in writing “Giving: A Practice in Joyfulness.”

A trend that is gaining steam in America is the practice of a “gap year.” A “gap year” is some length of time (usually a year) during which students take a break from their studies to live in the real world and do something fruitful. Many students do this after high school in between college, or like me, some do it following college.

Here I am in the homeless day shelter with one of the most memorable guests, John. I had the pleasure of witnessing his transformation throughout my year.

Here I am in the homeless day shelter with one of the most memorable guests, John. I had the pleasure of witnessing his transformation throughout my year.

To some, it isn’t a new concept. The Peace Corps was established in the United States in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy; AmeriCorps (the domestic counterpart) was established in 1993 by President Bill Clinton; and the volunteer program I entered, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, started informally in 1956. However, to me, it was a radical notion. I moved across the country without knowing a soul, promised a year of service, and was going to work with 700+ homeless people, mostly men, every day at a complex called Loaves & Fishes. I couldn’t have been more scared and excited!

My service year forever molded my life. I had many great experiences, including learning how to drive, living off $100 a month, and discovering the values of simplicity, community, and intentionality. I gave the gift of my time to the people who needed it. And believe me, I received far more benefits than anyone I helped.

A distinct lesson I learned during my service year was about giving and the true essence of a gift. Winter time in California is not as bitterly cold as it is in Chicago where I live now, but it is still cold when you are living on the streets. It seemed on every blustery day we were passing out gloves, hats, scarves, blankets, and if we were really lucky, hand warmers. But when you don’t have a permanent place to keep your stuff, you only carry what you can and it is easy to lose a glove.

We began passing out cold weather gear as late in the season as we could – only when the thermometer dipped below 40°F/4.44°C. Though people are very generous, the need is too great. We would run out of items very quickly, even though we had a strict policy of how many items people could have. It is heartbreaking to turn away a guy who just needs a pair of gloves. “I’m sorry Jason, but there just isn’t enough.” And it is even more heartbreaking to repeat that phrase to the twenty guys in line behind him. And more heartbreaking still, to repeat that phrase several times a day for weeks on end. (My heart hurt a lot that year, but it was also the most wonderful year of my life. I kept a blog of my experiences if you want to read more.)

Sometimes “you gotta do, what you gotta do.” Dirty dishes for 700+ was a one of those things.

Sometimes “you gotta do, what you gotta do.” Dirty dishes for 700+ was a one of those things.

I was lamenting about this heartbreak to my spiritual director, Sr. Claire. She wisely told me a story about Andora. Sr. Claire would run into this homeless woman often at the clinic she ran, and after a few years, an almost-friendship grew between them. Sr. Claire would always bring her hot meals, practical items, and a few dollars when she could. One day, Andora remarked about these gifts. She needed them, but moreover, Sr. Claire needed to give them. “Gifts are not so much about the person receiving them, but about the person who gives them.” Even though Andora needed these items, and the homeless gentlemen needed gloves, the true gift was the increased generosity in our own hearts.

I have to believe in the best in people – they gave what they could. And even though it was heartbreaking to not give out more, it was a joyful moment when the shelter had items to give away. Giving is a joyful event, and when you give, joyfulness and generosity pervade your life. Giving begets giving. When you know the joy that comes from giving, you want to duplicate that as much as possible!

profileAbout the Author, Nicole Brennan: Hello there! I’m passionate about living a stewardly lifestyle, while being adventurous and frugal. I currently live in community with six other 20-somethings in downtown Chicago and work as a Marketing Assistant at Barnabas Foundation, a partner of ESC and COMPASS. In my off hours, you can find me volunteering at a nearby homeless shelter, enjoying live music with friends, or watching reruns of Parks and Rec. Email me at nicoletbrennan@gmail.com or tweet me at @BarnabasFdn.

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 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.

Cultivating a grateful and generous spirit

Beautiful table with thanksgiving food

A Thanksgiving Feast

The calendar has turned to November. Some places have already received their first snowfalls of the year. Others have seen the leaves change colors and drop. In most of the United States and Canada, Daylight Savings Time has ended and it’s dark by dinner time. Even though the days are shorter, there still is much to give thanks for.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this month COMPASS will be sharing a multitude of reflections of thanks and why people give thanks. To start this month’s series, we are excited to welcome back to the blog COMPASS steering committee member and regular contributor Beryl Jantzi. Beryl shares some ideas for how to cultivate a grateful and generous spirit, a fitting place to begin a month’s worth of reflection on giving thanks.

A 2011 article by John Tierney which appeared in the New York Times stated how Thanksgiving has become the favorite holiday of psychologists who have studied the consequences of giving thanks. Cultivating gratitude has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners. A new study shows that feeling grateful makes people less likely to turn aggressive when provoked.  This November consider expanding the spirit of generosity with activities that lead up to and continue after November 26.

Here are 7 ideas for ways before and after Thanksgiving Day, November 26th, from Lindsay Holmes to help cultivate gratitude and generosity:

  • Journal – recount your blessings
  • Don’t ignore the negative but balance it out with the positive that is around you as well
  • Spend time with those you love
  • Mindfully use social media – use it to build others up and affirm the good
  • Value the little things in life
  • Volunteer and serve others
  • Get moving – exercise and re-creation is good for the mind, body and soul

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that in order to achieve contentment, one should “cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”

What and who do you give thanks for this month?

Beryl Jantzi and familyAbout the Author: Beryl Jantzi currently serves as Stewardship Education Director for Everence, a Christian-based, member-owned financial services organization which is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and other churches. 

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: Thanksgiving