What Really Matters

By Rev. Morgan Dixon

christmas-1856982_1280
Many of my earliest CHRISTmas joys involve the singing of hymns and the playing of special music. My uncle would play the piano and we would all gather around and sing along making melodies and memories that would last for a lifetime. These hymns were at the crux of my understanding of the CHRISTmas story. They helped to form my own personal theology and appreciation of the nativity and birth of Jesus.

Over time as I have lived through life, those words of assurance and intention ring ever more important as I seek to navigate in this world of confusion. The Advent messages of HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE during this commercialized season are ever the more needful. The hymns help re-member us to the body of Christ when feeling out of sync and distant. They help ground our faith and reassure our confidence in a coming Savior.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel. And ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear!

crib-1094317_1280Amid everything coming our way encouraging us to buy and consume, let us focus on the
simple things: things that cannot be purchased or wrapped and placed under a tree but have profound and lasting staying power. Recall the memories. Cherish the times with loved ones. Share Christ’s message of HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE through a simple smile or random act of kindness. Use this time to focus on what really matters.

Joy To The World, The Lord Is Come!

Lord, my prayer is that we are able to be good stewards of the CHRISTmas story and allow it to inform our Christian walk throughout the year. Inspire our hearts with each melody and remind of your reason for coming. Help us to bring Your hope, peace, joy and love wherever we go.

About the Author

Rev Morgan E DixonRev. Morgan Dixon is an Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves as the Church Administrator & Youth Minister at DuPage AME Church in Lisle, Illinois. She also works with the denomination’s district stewardship department as its Media Director.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Money, marriage, and faith

By Matt DeBall

When my wife, Chelsea, and I were preparing two-2042416_1280-copyfor marriage, our church asked us to
participate in a pre-marriage counseling course. This included meeting with a more experienced married couple who could mentor us. Many topics were discussed through seven learning sessions and four or more mentor meetings, but conversations that I remember most now were about managing money together. In particular, Chelsea and I learned about how each of us view money, and our mentors shared that the earlier we started to save money for the future, the better.

Because of how values, memories, and emotions surround money, it’s no wonder that managing money in marriage is important to get right—to care for one another and plan your lives together. Thankfully scripture offers at least three helpful insights for handling money together as a couple.

1. “For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NIV).
bicycle-1868162_1280-copy
These words of Jesus are important when considering offerings to the church, but are also relevant for personal finance. Do you or your partner enjoy reading books or magazines? These are likely to be included in your expenses. Do either of you enjoy biking, camping, fishing, or skiing? How about baking, painting, sewing, or woodworking? Money will surely be spent on items to carry out these interests. As a couple plans their financial present and future together, it is important to budget and plan for life-giving hobbies together. Talking regularly about money and special interests allows each person to feel loved and appreciated—both for being able to participate in desired activities and feeling respected by knowing about special purchases.

 2. Whoever loves money never has enough;… This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). There’s no doubt that money is essential in life, but it isn’t most important. Though conversations and planning may difficult for a couple that has one partner who is primarily a “saver” while the other is primarily a “spender,” at the end of the day, your love for one another will surpass your love for anything else, including money. Keeping your love for one another in focus while talking about money will help you work together and care for each other regardless of how much money is in your bank account.

couple-1838940_1280-copy3. “Be content with what you
have, 
because God has said,
‘Never will I leave you;
never
will I forsake you’”(Hebrews 13:5).
Finding contentment together and trusting God can improve any financial situation. Trusting God with your finances and regularly acknowledging that God provides for your family will help you keep money in the right focus.

Prayer is a good practice that reminds us to trust in God, especially when money is involved. You may consider praying the following prayer together before future money discussions:

Loving and generous God,
Thank you for all that we have. We are grateful that you have met all of our needs and continue to provide for us. Please bless this conversation about money and help us to be good stewards of what you have given us—for our good and your glory.
In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

What scriptures help you manage personal finances?

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

Seven Suggestions for Gift Giving

By Matt DeBall

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Gift giving is a hallmark of the holidays. God set the tone for this when Jesus was given to us as the savior of the world. Remembering God’s gift of love, we gather with family and friends for festivities and exchange gifts to express love to one another.

icmeelgsThough it goes without saying, loving one another, through spending time together and giving gifts to one another, is an important endeavor. However, with the distraction of flashy advertisements, we sometimes buy and give unsustainably. We might recognize our financial limitations, but feel pressured to spend beyond our means, and as a result, buy gifts with hesitation. We may also get carried away with holiday sales and buy gifts without much forethought. Whether we are more prone to reluctance or compulsion, neither motive matches the joy we should experience in giving. As you prepare for this holiday season, consider these seven practical suggestions for gift giving.

#1 Budget – Carefully plan how much you can spend on party preparations and gifts for family and friends, and take steps to stick to your budget. Be sure to include even small expenses as they can add up quickly. (Wish you could give more? Consider how you could better prioritize gift giving in your budget for next year.)

#2 Buy with cash – Purchasing gifts with cash will support your plans to spend within your budget, and by not using credit cards, you can also avoid added stress when you see your next statement (livingonthecheap.com/35-tips-to-save-money-and-time-during-the-holidays).

#3 Try a “secret Santa” or “white elephant” gift exchange white-304608_1280Especially for large families, these two methods of exchanging gifts can allow for cheerful, budget-friendly giving. “Secret Santa” allows for every person to give and receive a thoughtful gift, and “white elephant” can make for a fun-filled gift experience (www.wikihow.com/Organize-a-White-Elephant-Gift-Exchange).

#4 Create a thoughtful card – This is the perfect combination of a handwritten note and a decorative, one-of-a-kind card. Craft a card that will be appreciated by the recipient and write a heart-felt message inside. You may consider including a photo and a poem or brief story from an important shared memory from the last year (www.biblemoneymatters.com/100-frugal-creative-homemade-christmas-gifts).
Additional option: include a $10 gift card.

#5 Call for a potluck – This is another idea that can be helpful for large families. Invite everyone to bring their favorite dish or two to share for dinner. This both allows everyone to contribute to the meal and prevents one person from fitting the entire bill alone. Tip: Invite everyone to say what they are bringing in advance to better plan for a diverse spread of food.

#6 Make homemade gifts – Whether for cookie-1786885_1280stocking stuffers or regular gifts, consider what gifts you could make for your loved ones. Candies, cookies, candles, and crocheted (drink) coasters are a few creative and simple ideas. You could also give homemade coupons for a coffee or ice cream outing so you can spend time together. One other option: a cookie exchange could be used to supplement
or compliment an exchange of
traditional gifts.

#7 Remember what is most important – While everyone enjoys giving and receiving gifts, remember that the reason for gathering is to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to spend time together. Don’t forget the intangible opportunities of the season like singing Christmas carols, sharing family stories, and simply being together.

By considering these seven suggestions, you and your family can prepare for a pleasant gift giving experience and, overall, enjoy happier holidays.

Do you have any suggestions for saving money on holiday gifts? Share them below.

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 his wife, 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 see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Enough: a faith connection

By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34, ESV).treasure-chest-619762_1920

Jesus talks about the intimacy our hearts have with our treasure before he gets to reminding us not to worry. He encourages us not to store up stuff that that breaks, rusts, wears out and can be stolen. In other words, any stuff stored up is what captures our hearts and becomes what we love. It can take us away from what God intended in the good creation as abundance for all. Rather it becomes scarcity for ourselves.

How do we go from our hearts getting caught up with stuff and move toward the relational possibilities of abundance for all? Maybe it’s possible to journey into such an adventure of discovering enough with our friends, life partners, small group at church or dorm floor.when-you-have-less-stuff-j-becker

I keep going back to an inspirational story about finding enough in the book, Basic Trek: Venture Into a World of Enough: The Original 28-day Journey, edited by Dave Schrock-Shenk, Mennonite Central Committee. In this book Deborah Fast shares a story (Day 16):

Preparing for a three-year term of service in Kenya, my husband and I spent hours carefully packing. “If in doubt, leave it out,” was our motto, as we proudly fit everything into three boxes, two backpacks and various carry-ons. Almost three years later in Kenya, we helped a young Maasai man prepare for a year in Canada as an exchange visitor. We explained Canadian customs, food and weather. We also met at the airport to send him off.

We found Julius near the check-in counter. “Where is your luggage?” I asked. “Here,” he said gesturing to the small bag he carried. “That’s it?!” I exclaimed. “It’s not even full!” “It’s enough,” he said. But Julius also brought two vans, rented for the occasion, packed full of Maasai friends and relatives coming to say good-bye. Dressed in brightly colored traditional garb, they surrounded him with concern and goodwill.

This deeply moving experience has stayed with me. A young Kenyan man, carrying fewer possessions than I would consider “enough” for a weekend trip, heading off for a year in a distant, unfamiliar country. What Julius did carry with him was far more significant – the love, support and sense of identity embodied in the bright red, yellow and blue-clad throng of chanting, singing, and waving fellow Maasai.

Jesus knew that we would discover enough not by ourselves but in the company of others. The good news to which Jesus invites us is to imagine together what new and joyful options there are for living in the reality of God’s abundance. And as Jesus promises, when we put our efforts there “all these things will be given to you as well.”

About the Author:
dori_zc-abundance-profile-picture
Dori 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.