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

Starting Point: Community and Shared Stories

By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

mbchef76It’s the week after Christmas. In a cartoon sent to me by a colleague last week, we see a person at a store service counter, overflowing bags in hand, saying to the cashier, “I try to keep the Christmas spirit by having credit-card debt all year long.”

It’s hard to avoid the over-spending at Christmas when you get sucked into the vortex of shopping, even when it originates from a place of love and generosity for your favourite people. Maybe the new year is a time to blaze a new trail with others that can help remind us that we can show our affection to those we love without the hefty price tags. One resolution might be to find a support network, a community of people, with whom we can find a path that leads us toward God’s good news of enough for all.

In his book, Money and Faith: the search for enough (2008 Morehouse Education Resources), road-815297_1280Michael Schut writes in the introduction about the need for telling stories to ground us on our journeys of faith. He writes: “I believe that in telling and listening to our stories, we discover signs of God’s passing and presence – faith tracks, haunting harmonies, flickering images, unspeakable longings. Author Frederick Buechner… contends that each of our journeys through this life is sacred.”

Schut speaks of our own sacred journeys and their many layers, including those that expose our experiences with abundance and scarcity:

When we begin to plumb, poke, or peek into our relationship with money, that exploration often leads to… questions of trust, security, values, and to experiences of abundance and joy, as well as scarcity and fear. When we get in touch with those sorts of experiences, we need not travel far to discover moments of holiness, moments that deeply inform our sense of who God is and whether or not we feel we will be provided for in this life.

Our stories are meant to be shared in the company of others. In Deuteronomy 8, the writer tries to ground the people of God in their journey of faith by recalling the story they have lived. They were just about to receive the promise of the good land filled with streams of water, harvests of grains, fruits and honey, and extractable resources for wealth generation. Having sojourned in the wilderness for decades, this was good news! But their wilderness story wasn’t supposed to be forgotten and the writer reminds them:

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God… Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery… (Deuteronomy 8:10-14).

With whom can we journey this year, with what community can we surround ourselves, that calls us to remember God’s desire for us is not to depend on our own power and entitlement? With whom can we find a circle that encourages us to find the way of generosity together? We don’t have to do this alone – our faith isn’t just between us and God. Sharing our stories can weave us into communities of faith that ground our journey with money in God’s values.

About the Author

dori_zc-abundance-profile-pictureDori 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.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Meaningful Gifts- Stories Remembered While Packing

Today’s post is one more in the spirit of “Christmas in July,” the guiding theme for this month on the COMPASS blog.

Boxes, boxes, and more boxes... Packing, packing, and more packing...

Boxes, boxes, and more boxes… Packing, packing, and more packing…

I currently find myself in the midst of more boxes than anything else. My wife Allison and I are busy packing as we’ll be moving soon, leaving Minnesota to return to the Pacific Northwest so Allison can begin her pastoral internship.

As I have been packing, I have come across a few things which have been gifts to us over the years, and they have me thinking about meaningful gifts. Most of them aren’t special or meaningful to me because of their fiscal value (if they have any). The stories that go along with the gifts and the memories they have given have a value far beyond their monetary worth.

Here are a few stories and memories of my most valued gifts:

  • I am a pianist and vocalist. I love to work out my stress on the piano, and because of this I have quite a bit of sheet music that I’ve been packing. Last week as I was going through some of it I came across a song that had been written and dedicated to me by my good friend Tom. The gift of that song, a thank you for serving in leadership in a particular congregation, brought me to tears when I was surprised with it in worship a couple years ago. Finding the music again brought back many memories and joys from those years.
  • Christmas in JulyThis morning I was sorting through many of our holiday decorations, especially our Christmas ones. I wanted to make sure that our nativity scenes were all packed snugly and comfortably so that they hopefully will make the trip unscathed. I took particular care of our largest one, a crèche that was a wedding gift from my Grandma. It was the scene I grew up playing with, and when Allison and I got married my Grandma said I should have it. I’ve been taking care of it ever since because it brings back many memories.
  • Last weekend I was packing some of my jazz CDs and some baseball things. I credit my love for both in a large part to my other Grandma and Grandpa. The gift of great conversations about how the Mariners are doing, dreaming about what it will be like when they make it to the World Series (sadly, which definitely won’t be this year), and listening to the melodies and improvisation of Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and many others, are areas of interest which I share with my grandparents. And they bring back great memories.
  • It’s pretty easy to tell what Allison and I do for a living based on what we’re packing. Clearly the things we have the most of are books. We’re definitely life-long learners, and I am grateful for the gift of a deep understanding and appreciation of vocation which was instilled in me growing up by my parents. Thanks Mom and Dad!

As I write this today, I have to admit I’m grateful for many gifts which don’t fit in boxes like the ones I’m packing. Of course, many of these things help me remember the gifts of faith, hope, and love that we have in God. Gifts with the most worth in our lives are often holy moments in life that come unexpectedly. Just today I received an email and call expressing great news of a miracle. A family friend battling a terrible form of cancer just found out that thanks to prayers from all over, and her willingness to hit her pancreatic cancer head-on, her cancer mass is gone. It hasn’t just been reduced, it’s gone. That sort of thing doesn’t just happen. It’s a miracle, I believe. And for that, and so much more, I am giving thanks today.

What gifts with valuable memories stand out to you? What stories are attached to them? And for what do you give thanks today?

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.