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: Halloween decorations

During October, the COMPASS blog is sharing thoughts, tips, and reflections about having a Frugal Fall. Today, we are happy to welcome Chelsea DeBall and welcome back to the blog, her husband Matt DeBall. Together Chelsea and Matt share some about what their family does to have fun decorating for Halloween while staying frugal.

pumpkinsDecorating for the holidays can be a cumbersome task that can also be accompanied by a hefty price tag. But just because you don’t have big bucks to spend on decorations doesn’t mean your house needs to go through these festive seasons looking sparse! We’ve found a few easy & affordable decorating ideas for Halloween and would love to share them with you. But first…

Why decorate for Halloween?

If you’re a person of faith, decorating for Halloween might seem like a waste of time and money. Why would any Christ-follower want to decorate their home for what some people call “the devil’s holiday”?

In John chapter 3, we find Jesus and Nicodemus talking about how someone may receive eternal life. Though the conversation is important and we find the iconic and well-known image of God’s love in John 3:16, the circumstance in which Nicodemus approached Jesus for this conversation was “at night” (John 3:2). Whether this conversation was actually at night or if the gospel writer was explaining the spiritual condition in which Nicodemus was in as he approached Jesus, either is fitting. As Jesus revealed God’s love in word and deed to Nicodemus, he did so by being available and having a spirit of hospitality.

So why decorate for Halloween? Because it is a way to show love to our neighbors and reach out into the community. Because having carved pumpkins on our porch and passing out candy to neighbor-kids is a way to make ourselves available. And most important, because in doing so, we follow in the hospitable footsteps of Jesus.

A few frugal tricks to treat your home to a Halloween make-over:

Pumpkins at the right price – Want fun & unique pumpkins but don’t want to pay the nursery prices? Check a local farmer’s market. At least one stand should sell pumpkins, gourds, or festive mums at a reasonable cost. Plus, what better way to show love to local farmers than buying fall produce? Don’t forget to grab some apple cider donuts as you leave!

Do-it-yourself ghosts – Have some old white sheets? Make friendly ghosts for your front yard! Simply cut the sheet in half (giving you fabric for 2 ghosts), then drape the sheet over a styrofoam sphere from the floral section of a craft store. Tie the sheet to form the “head” of the ghost, and then practice your art skills by drawing a face on the new ghoul. Hang the ghosts with fishing line or twine from gutters, shutters, or trees to quickly and easily spook-ify your lawn.

skeleton flamingos-squareFestive skeleton flamingos –Remember those plastic pink flamingos you were embarrassed to have as decorations? Well it’s time to go diving through the garage because there is a fun way to decorate these for Halloween. Grab black spray paint and white acrylic paint at your local craft store. Spray paint your flamingos with the black paint and cover all remnants of its pink past. Once it has dried, use a picture from the web (search for “skeleton pink flamingo”) as a guide and begin painting your skeletal flamingos. Once the white paint has dried, it’s time for them to haunt your garden!

Low-priced Halloween decorations – Want to decorate for Halloween but time or patience to craft eludes you? Make coupons your friend or find cheap decorations at grocery stores. Many craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Michaels have great sales on seasonal decorations. Have a little money left in your budget? Consider buying discounted decorations after the season has passed as stores significantly cut prices on “last season’s” décor.

As you prepare your home with do-it-yourself decorations for Halloween and your heart to be available for neighbors, be ready to save money and see God work in mysterious ways.

What do-it-yourself decorations will you try this Halloween? Is your church doing anything special for the community to celebrate this spooky holiday?

C&MDeBall-9-15About the Authors: Chelsea and Matt DeBall live with their Welsh Corgi (Watson) in northern Illinois. Chelsea works as an assistant for a Special Recreation Association, and enjoys writing, baking, and home-decorating. Matt serves as a coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren, is pursuing a Master’s of Divinity from Northern Seminary, and enjoys running, reading, and napping. Together, they love the fall and spending time with family.

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.