A joyful song

By Matt DeBall

Thank you for joining us on this musical and hopeful journey of “Hymns and Hopes for the Holidays.” Though our theme for November and December may seem natural for this season, you may still be asking, “Why are you doing this?”

worship-singingMusic (and singing) is an important component of faith. Hymns and spiritual songs allow us to remember the nature and promises of God, both in the present and for all of eternity. They lift our spirits and allow us to encourage one another. They lead us to and through prayer with God through all seasons. And overall, they move our minds with the melody of the Holy Spirit and guide our hearts to beat in synchronization with the heart of God. It is for all of these reasons that singing helps nurture an attitude of thankfulness and generosity.

As we continue to share beloved hymns and our hopes, we pray that you will be encouraged.

“I sing because I’m happy, (I’m happy)
I sing because I’m free, (I’m free)
For His eye is on the sparrow
and I know He watches me (He watches me)
And I know He watches me.”

Why do the birds sing and chirp with joy? Because they know that God cares for them. Since the beginning of creation, God has sustained all things. Through times of difficulty or comfort, God has walked lovingly with all that He has made.

sparrowsThe beautiful hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” by Civilla D. Martin reminds us of the words of Jesus on (at least) two separate occasions:
> “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care”(Matthew 10:29, NIV).
> “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26, NIV).

God cares about every bird and cares even more for us. This does not downplay the value of birds, but clarifies that God is intimately aware of all our needs and concerns and is able to provide for us.

In remembering that God sustains all things, we are freed to be happy and hopeful. We can think less about ourselves and more about others. We can be generous with all that God have given us because God will continually impart what we need.

As we continue through the holidays, may we be inspired by the birds and sing a joyful song of our own.

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.

Image credits: pixabay.com

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.

Give Something for Lent

Give Up Something for Lent

By Marcia Shetler

church-535155_1280-copy“For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes
he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.“
– 2 Corinthians 8:9

Last Wednesday you may have noticed people with a black mark on their foreheads. Or maybe you were one of those persons. March 1 was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season on the Christian calendar. Lent is the 40 days—not counting Sundays—between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The 40 days represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Ash Wednesday and Lent have been observed since the early days of the Christian Church. Ash Wednesday’s invitation to wear ashes as a visible symbol of repentance begins a time of a call to remember Jesus’s sacrifice, and to mirror that sacrifice through self-reflection in preparation for the Easter celebration. Traditionally, that has included spending additional time in prayer and study, fasting, and giving up something, like a favorite food or activity.

But what if we not only gave up something, but gave something for Lent? What if Lent was volunteer-1888823_1280more than a time to think about ourselves, but to find ways to turn our sacrifices into
doing good for others?

  • If you give up your Starbucks coffee, can you give the money you would have spent to
    your church or another worthy cause?
  • If you give up spending time online, can you invest it in volunteering?
  • If you decide to fast, eat less, or give up a favorite treat, can you buy some healthy food for your local food bank instead?

In the 2016 issue of the Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation magazine, Maribeth Westerfield shares her story about giving up something for Lent that blessed someone else. A Facebook post from her pastor-friend suggested that instead of giving up food or beverage for Lent, it would be good to clean out closets, garages, drawers, and the like and contribute 40 bags of stuff to a suitable recipient. Maribeth used this challenge as giving-volume-18-cover-5-x-7-150-dpian opportunity not only for giving but for jump-starting her goal of living a less consumeristic lifestyle. While she didn’t gather 40 bags of stuff together, her friend’s church was the recipient of three bags of shoes for their Soles for Souls ministry.

As Christians, our financial decisions should not be just about us:

  • As stewards of what God has given us, we live our lives in response to God’s bounteous grace;
  • We give generously and joyfully;
  • And we understand that our faithful stewardship and generous giving is an opportunity to be channels through which God’s generosity can flow and God’s love can be shared.

What will you give for Lent this year? Your thoughts could be someone else’s inspiration! Share your comments here on the COMPASS blog, or on Twitter or Facebook.

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 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

Talking about Faith and Finances during Life Transitions

During September, the COMPASS blog is digging deeper into the topic of conversations about money by sharing different perspectives, questions, and approaches.

Inside our car while moving cross country

Inside our car while moving cross country

Talking about money can be hard under what we might consider normal circumstances. But it can be even more difficult to do during times of life transitions.

My wife Allison and I have just gone through one of these times as we have moved across country and started new jobs. Allison is serving as a pastoral intern in a congregation and I am serving as the congregation’s mission developer. These are exciting roles, but their hours, expectations, and location are new and different.

Our new jobs have changed our budget for the longer term. But we also had other one-time expenses like moving costs, costs related to starting or ending services (like utilities), and insurance changes.

Because transition times can sometimes come unexpectedly, you may face expenses that you did not anticipate. Allison and I had to move before the end of our former apartment lease. That made for some hard conversations and choices. In order to make the leap into our new grand adventure, we had to pay to break our lease at our former apartment. Our budget and savings took a noticeable hit.

I believe it was the right thing to do, and I am grateful that Allison and I have done it. However, it was not an easy process. It helps knowing that we did this in part because of a call into new ministry roles. It helps also because of how welcoming our new faith community has been, and how doors have just opened to opportunities and relationships. All of these feelings are great, but they don’t solve the issue or challenge of talking about money.

How do you talk about money- especially when you are going to have to spend a large amount of it- unexpectedly?

Allison and I have found that the conversational practices we have developed for talking about money under normal circumstances serve us well during unexpected times too, such as:

  • When we are having breakfast, and can look at our budget and related spreadsheets.
  • When we are out for a nice walk around a lake or in a neighborhood we share and listen with care to each other’s thoughts about the possibilities and our hopes, fears, and dreams.
  • When after processing our emotions and budgets, we come up with a budget and a strategy, we revisit it every week or so to see if it’s realistic or not.
  • We talk to God about it. We pray, we listen, we hope, turn our fears over, and then trust.

Allison and I on a quick summer trip last year to see a couple friends of ours be ordained as pastors.

Allison and I will be fine. But this recent life change and experience has reminded me that these money conversations aren’t always easy. Thankfully we have found ways that work for us for talking about our faith and finances together.

What ways have you found in your own life? What questions do you have in talking about money and your faith in your own life?

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.