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, 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

Returning to “Why,” in Hopes of Getting Off the Consumer Escalator

By Timothy Siburgwhy-1432955_1280-red

Over the past three weeks we have pondered about the ups, downs, and challenges of riding and being on the consumer escalator. We have recounted many reasons why we might want to rethink our spending and the way we steward our time and resources around Christmas and Thanksgiving. In the previous November posts, Marcia, Matt, and John have done a beautiful job of offering alternatives and insight into positive ways to reconsider consumerism.

This week, I want us to dig into the question of “why?” What really matters this time of the year, and how might focusing on that question make for a more faithful response and richer holiday experience?

For a Christian, the why can be found in the heart of the Christmas gospel in Luke 2:1-20, often read every Christmas Eve. Within that rich text, we hear the proclamation from the angel of the Lord,

 nativity-scene-1807602_1280-crop“Do not be afraid, for see- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
– Luke 2:10-11, NRSV

 It might sound trite to say that this is the “reason for the season.” And I am not exactly trying to say that. But if we remember that this is at the heart of the celebrations, festivities, food, fellowship, and all of the gift giving this time of year; if we remember that it is the fulfillment of the promises of the prophets which guide our journey through the season of Advent to the manger; we might just have a chance to get off the consumer escalator.

I am one who loves to give gifts. My wife Allison and I see that as one of our love languages. We also love to say thank you, which is why Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. But at the heart of our gift giving, joy, and gratitude, is a knowledge that we give gifts because it is one of our joyful responses to the pure gifts and good news of God who we know through Christ Jesus.

We don’t give gifts because we want to earn something in return. We give without the expectation of return. We give, because we can’t help but feel so overjoyed with the good news of a God who comes near, becomes incarnate, walks with us, is given for us, and loves us. In our joy, we can’t help but want to share our joy through the sharing of our stories, time, the giving of gifts, living fully in God’s abundance and love.

envelop-576252_1280 Of course, Allison and I don’t give without a plan. We always sit down and make our Christmas budget each year prior to Thanksgiving. We include plans for our annual Christmas letter and the costs associated with printing and mailing it, as well as our hopes for what we are willing to give to family and friends, our congregation, and other needs, nonprofits, and ministries we feel connected to and passionate about.

So, why do you give? Why do you do what you do this time of year- spending, wrapping, cooking, eating, decorating, gathering with friends, families, and colleagues? What part of the promises of God and the Christmas story motivate you and lead you into the way that you spend your days and evenings this time of year?

However you may answer these questions, I hope and pray that you have a meaningful journey to the manger, and are so caught up in the promises of the good news, that you can’t help but want to share it. And for those of you who feel like you are stuck on the consumer escalator, I hope that by thinking deeply about the “why,” you might feel comfortable and confident in your ability to get off it.

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 can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and on his blog.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Finding Your Enough: A Personal Reflection

By Timothy Siburg

Two and a half months ago my wife Allison and I packed up all of our worldly belongings- our countless boxes of books, dressers full of clothes, and our entire winter wear wardrobe. With the help of our family, we loaded all of it, except for one car load’s worth, in a moving container, and then watched as it was driven out of sight in early mid-August.

Now we’re in Nebraska. We know where we will be living, but can’t quite move in yet. We are excited to dive deeply into our roles and callings. And even though we don’t have our own home right now, we have been graciously welcomed by the local Lutheran camp, and two great friends who have been hosting and housing us.

small-wooden-house-906912_1920This past month, as we have lived without our own space in Nebraska, has been an “in-between time of sorts.” Or, perhaps as one of my favorite pastors likes to say, a wilderness time. It’s been a beautiful time to reflect, live simply, and be in community with those hosting us.

The other day, Allison leaned over and asked, “do you miss our stuff?” I said, “sort of,” and then proceeded to ask her the same question. Allison said, “nope. It’s been great.” Perhaps one day we’ll be a “Tiny House” family yet? Though we’ll definitely have to downsize our library of books.

This experience has been one where we have had to make do with less. And you know what, strangely, we have. And it hasn’t been bad at all. It’s been a chance for me to think about what indeed is my enough.

What does your enough look like?postergen-chalkboard-generator-i-have-enough-and-i-am-enough

Besides a sense of having enough stuff, there is the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual sense of being enough. Allison likes to remind me of the work of author Brene Brown.

Among many of the great quotes Brene Brown has shared, she has said that, “We are living in scarcity. If we want change, choose gratitude and joy over scarcity.”

For me, this means deeply knowing and being reminded that I have enough and I am enough.

Feeling called, loved, and affirmed, and helping others feel the same, that’s enough for me. Being able to help others grow and be better at what they do, that fulfills me. And knowing that God is with me, and being open to whatever that relationship and call looks like, is more than enough and opens up doors to experiences like the one I am having now in this in-between time of life, with more than enough.

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 has been called 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.

Image credits: pixabay.com, postergen.com/chalkboard-generator

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

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.

One More Resolution- To Share More Openly & Often about Money and Giving

January’s COMPASS focus is financial New Year’s resolutions. Earlier this month I shared some of my own, but today I would like to add one more to that list. My wife Allison and I would like to talk more openly and more often with others about money and why we give. Coincidentally, this past weekend we were asked to share a “ministry moment” about stewardship and why we give at the congregation (Messiah Lutheran Church in Vancouver, Washington) we serve. What follows is what we came up with, and what Allison shared aloud.

We are so excited to give and talk about money, that we are jumping up and down in the snow about it.

We are so excited to give and talk about money, that we are jumping up and down in the snow about it.

My husband, Timothy, and I are happy to be one of the couples sharing why we give as a part of this year’s focus on stewardship. In fact, I really like how Messiah has different people share their personal take on why stewardship is important.

But just to play devil’s advocate, I want to share why it might not be very smart to give:

  1. When you give to the church, it leaves less money for spending on fun stuff.
  2. It forces us to realize how much we’re actually spending.
  3. It forces us to realize how much we’re actually making.
  4. It forces us to sit down, with no cell phones, no laptops, and no TV so we can have an honest-to-goodness conversation about what we value, what we believe in, and what our dreams are.

Money does that.  So maybe there are some good reasons to give.

It’s true – once a month we make a chocolate chip pancake breakfast and talk about our finances and budget, partly because giving is so important to us, and we need to know how big or how little my coffee budget needs to be this month.

We ask each other: “What are the things and groups that matter so much to us that we want to give money to them?”

The first place we think of… is often not church. I’d love to say it is, but often it’s student loans from three different degrees that we’re not even halfway done paying, it’s paying for car expenses that helps us get to the grocery store, me to hospital visits, and helps us drive for an overnight once in a while to our families’ homes three hours north, which we haven’t been able to do in five years.

Yes, all of the things I just listed are things we spend money on that aren’t the church, but in all of this, God is at work using what God first entrusted to us.

At church we hear the message over and over again of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and the good news of God’s love which propels not just our work, but this whole community’s work of love and service in the world. It’s in the giving and spending our money intentionally that we’re giving our money and our lives over to God. That includes tithing and giving money to church, but also to organizations that align with our values like our alma mater Pacific Lutheran University, and money for coffee so I can learn your beautiful stories of struggle and joy and faith, and gas for our car and going to school, tuition payments, using our brains and gifts of compassion, empathy, and hard work.

So why do we give to the church? We give because we are only beginning to understand the depth of God’s love that is shown most potently through faith communities like Messiah shaped by the table, and by Christ’s living water. This stuff matters to Timothy and me.

As a couple, to discern where to give our money to, we listen to God through prayer, music, service, worship, our neighbors, and through each other. We continue to find out how God is at work, and how exciting that is to be a part of it.

Happy New Year's from Allison and me in surprisingly Snowy Washington

About the Authors: Timothy blogs regularly serves as the Communications Associate for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center with a focus on COMPASS. He also serves at Messiah Lutheran as the congregation’s mission developer. Allison also blogs regularly and serves as the Pastoral Intern at Messiah Lutheran, serving a culminating internship prior to being ordained to be a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

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.