Taking Something on for Lent

By Timothy Siburg

sanctuary1-copyThis month on the COMPASS blog, we have been thinking about giving something instead of necessarily giving up something for Lent. As we are about half way through Lent now, I can say that I haven’t necessarily given anything more for Lent, but I have somewhat taken something on for Lent.

Getting to know “The Big Red” State

In my work and ministry, I have the privilege of getting to meet people across the state of Nebraska, my new home as of last fall. (I am not a native of Nebraska. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and spent a few years for seminary and work in Minnesota.) Traveling across Nebraska has allowed me the chance to get to know many new people, new places, new congregations, new perspectives, and in some ways, new cultures too.

This Lenten season I have been traveling quite a bit to meet with different congregations of all shapes and sizes. The one thing I have noticed myself doing even more though, is making room for conversation and especially making room for myself to listen. Listening to one another is a critical part of relationship, service, ministry, and leadership. And as I look at the larger communities and country I live in, it is something I believe is sorely needed.

With that in mind, I guess I have unintentionally taken something on for Lent– more deep intentional listening.

Our Lenten Journey

During this Lenten season, we journey to and through the cross. We return more intentionally in our worship to reflect on the insanity of such a pure gift of life for us, a gift that we can do nothing to earn. We are also confronted by our human frailty on Ash Wednesday, and again when we face death directly on Good Friday. During this season, no matter what separates us, we are each confronted by the realities of life and death which are true for every person.

Meeting a congregation-copy

Meeting a congregation

Every person faces questions of life and purpose. Every person needs to face their own mortality. Most people hope and dream that they can do something positive for their families, loved ones, friends, and communities, and leave a legacy.

I have been reminded of all of this so far this Lenten season by meeting with people across the state of Nebraska. By listening to them, by hearing their stories, I have seen their stewardship at work, but also heard how they are wrestling with their faith in their daily life. It’s a holy thing, this act of listening, sharing, and wrestling.

Some Faith and Stewardship Questions and Wrestling

It takes a level of trust and vulnerability though. Which, not to get too theological here, is probably only made possible because we believe in a God who is and was vulnerable for us, by coming into the world as one of us, growing and living, and then dying and of course being resurrected and ascended. To be willing to be human (both human and divine), our God took on our vulnerability to know us, and to know the good, bad, and ugly of life more fully.

A Nebraska sunset-copy

A Nebraska sunset

This Lenten season, we remember this. I am remembering this every day, when I hear stories of joy, but also of sorrow; when I hear stories of how people are stewarding that which God has entrusted to them; when I hear questions of “why,” or “what does this mean?”; when I can wonder with people about what God might be up to?

I don’t pretend to have any answers. But at least during this Lenten season, I am sitting, walking, and meeting my new neighbors across this state, listening, and hoping to grow in my understanding.

What are you giving as part of your Lenten journey?
Or, like me, what are you taking on?

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 attended college at Pacific Lutheran University, and graduate school at the Claremont Graduate University and Luther Seminary. Timothy can also be found on TwitterFacebook, and on his blog.

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: Timothy Siburg

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.

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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

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.

Talking About Faith and Finances: a bright side and dark side

During September, the COMPASS blog is digging deeper into the topic of conversations about money by sharing different perspectives, questions, and approaches. Today we welcome Dori Zerbe Cornelsen, from the Mennonite Foundation of Canada, back to the blog. She shares about “a bright side and dark side” to talking about faith and finances. See what Dori has to say, and please join the conversation on Facebook or here on the blog by leaving a comment.

money or God

What has more immediate power in your life- God or money?

What has more immediate power in your life – God or money?  When you start your day, what is most on your brain – your to-do list or a to-experience attitude?

I am a committed Christian who tries to live a Spirit-infused life in the way of Jesus.  I belong to a community of believers that cares deeply about faith impacting life.  At the same time, I often close that part of me when I open my eyes in the morning and think about everything that needs to get done that day, week, month…  And even before Monday morning comes, I definitely get the Sunday night blues.

It’s not about the money, I could tell myself, and that might be true.  But part of me knows that I do what I do to earn a living to have a good life.  When that’s the focus, I get drawn into a dark side of money that tells me the key to my happiness is having enough of it (and more).  Looking out for my security, I get more anxious.  Crazy.

In (rare) moments of clarity I get past lists and expectations to a brighter focus – the privilege of having good work and colleagues, and days when really amazing things happen.  When I start here, I bring the values shaped by my faith community into my day, becoming open to a different good life.  It’s not just about me, my performance or my money but receiving and giving enough for all.

My early mentor in my current work, Edwin Friesen, wrote a study guide connecting faith and money called First Things First.  He starts the book with the dark side/bright side rivalry we have with money and reminds us that we need to choose a side – all the time.

Sound too much like Star Wars? Or maybe just enough… 

You can find a link to First Things First on the Compass website – check it out!

dori-zerbe-cornelson-220x220About the Author: Dori Zerbe Cornelsen works with Mennonite Foundation of Canada encouraging and inviting generous living.  She and her husband Rick live in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

 

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: God or Money

Happy Earth Day!

During the month of April, the COMPASS blog is providing space for questions and reflections related to Earth Day and creation care.

earthdayapril22Happy Earth Day!

Previously on the blog we began to share some reflections about environmental stewardship, creation care and the way we care for the Earth. As today is the actual day that we celebrate Earth Day, here are 9 questions for reflection that I am using today, but perhaps you too might find useful:

1.) How do I actively find ways to “reduce, reuse and recycle?” For example, in thinking just about paper products, how many napkins do I use when I eat a meal? How many paper towels do I use when using a public restroom? Do I use both sides of paper before recycling it?

2.) How much water do I consume each day for daily chores and cleanliness? How much of it is used outside? In what ways might I reduce my water usage?

3.) In what ways might I be able to reduce my carbon foot print through driving less or using mass transit more intentionally?

4.) How might my asking questions and inviting conversation about the care of the Earth make an impact in a positive way?

5.) What does it really mean when we are reminded that all we have has really been entrusted to us by God? What are the implications of this on our daily life?

6.) In what ways might I be able to help clean and steward the natural habitats around me by volunteering or participating with local efforts to restore streams and watersheds?

7.) How can I make a positive impact in my own community in creating for the earth?

8.) In my travels and experiences, what is the most unique or ingenious way I have seen by someone of creatively stewarding natural resources?

9.) When thinking about the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth,” what images come to mind as you listen to the lyrics or sing them?

Oh, and for a bonus question, how might God be calling or leading me to respond to the needs of creation?

What do you think of these questions? How are you observing Earth Day today or this week?

Image Credit: Earth Day

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.