Thursday, August 25

I'm taking a break from posting about food to discuss something that has been weighing on me for the last few days.  I'd love your input and advice if you care to share :)

Is tithing ever considered irresponsible stewardship?

Let me explain.  In Luke 21 we read the story of the widow who gave her last two coins as a tithe to the temple.

" As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  'Truly I tell you,' he said, 'this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on"  Luke 21: 1-4

This verse, in my experience, is generally given as a message of how we should "give until it hurts" or how even the smallest gift, if given in the right spirit, it glorifying to God.  I've always like this story because I feel it gives a nice picture of sacrificial love...we love God so much (and appreciate Him so much) that we are willing to give all we have.  However, now that I feel like I'm closer to being in the widow's position...well, I don't know how to feel.  Do I tithe more and depend on God to provide for things like bills, food, etc?  Or is God already providing for these things through the money we receive from the job He brought to my husband?

My inclination is to say that we should tithe and then God will provide for us, but is that being unwise?  Is that ever possible?  Malachi 3 gives us a story where God says that if the people will return to tithing he will bless them beyond measure.  Does that mean the same is true of me?  Was this specific to this group of people only who had made a covenant with God to tithe and then left their end unfulfilled?

And then there is the question of how much we should tithe.  Is it 10%?  More?  Do we give all we can or only a certain amount?  Are we falling through on our commitment to give less than 10%?

I know that much of this is personal.  And as Americans and Christians we don't like to discuss money...especially what we are giving to the church.  But the story of the widow comes to mind again.  Everyone saw what she was giving (or at least that's the impression I always have)....are we supposed to be giving in a more public way?  Should we be encouraging others to give without knowing their specific circumstance?  Should we expect "blessings" from giving and, if so, by what yard stick to we measure blessing?

I've never bought into the "prosperity gospel" hype.  The thought that if I tithe the way I'm "supposed" to then God will bless me with things like BMW's, wealth, a nice house, college funds for my kids, etc.  Where is that in the Bible?  Like I said, I've never bought into this line of thinking.  In Malachi God's blessings are considered extra food.  And when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God provided manna to eat.  Does that mean I should live off rice and beans and give more money to my church?  Do I measure blessings based on how our society does (which seems eerily similar to many prosperity gospel types like Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, and Joyce Meyer)...or based on the Bible?  Jesus didn't guarantee housing, money, food, or possessions to his disciples.  Should I expect more just because I live now and here (21st century America) or should we still evaluate our standing based on what these men were promised?

I certainly don't expect answers on here, but hope that this will encourage us all to consider how we view tithing.  I know that God is still working in me and my husband regarding this issue.  It's something that I think we all need to re-examine from time to time to make sure we are still in line with what God is calling us to.  I also think we need to all be more intentional about thinking about these issues and talking about them...especially with our church family.  If we can't be open and honest with our church family...then who can we be honest with?

Tuesday, August 23

Milestones and Memories :)

Yesterday my little monkey turned 2!  It was amazing to think back on the last few years and what a whirlwind they have truly been.  To see how much Carter has changed from the tiny NICU baby to the big boy he is now and especially with all of the things he has started doing in the last few weeks.

In the last few weeks he has grown 2 shoe sizes, started climbing (on everything), discovered that he can swing on the shopping cart handles, and has discovered what seems like an ENTIRELY new's amazing!  We've gone through our share of struggles over the last two years and it was odd to think back over them.  My mind kept returning to different issues throughout the day as we celebrated.  Also, I kept looking back over the journey I have been on in my relationship with God over the last few years.

God has brought me WAY out of what I felt my comfort zone was.  Being raised in an environment where divorce was something that was common, men were absentee in their kids lives, and *knowing* that I never wanted to stay home with kids.  From that God brought me to a wonderful husband who I trust completely, feeling now as if divorce shouldn't be an option except in the worst of situations, a wonderful husband who is an amazingly loving and present father to our children, and loving every minute of being able to spend every day with my beautiful boys!  It's so amazing.  And the work that God has been doing in me and my husband's hearts just in the last year has left us both feeling a bit raw yet renewed at the same time!  Our priorities and values have shifted somewhere over the last four years and we both now feel like we are truly giving ourselves to God to use as He sees fit.  I have to say that while so many people think Christianity is restrictive and full of rules, we have seen the opposite in our lives--truly feeling freedom!  It's funny to look back at the things that were important and now see them as trivial.  To be in a situation that you've been in before and have a completely different outlook and reaction.  God has been so faithful to my prayers for peace and in giving me the knowledge that we are headed in the right direction.

This peace has so seamlessly transferred into parenting that it shocks me sometimes.  When I go out with the boys I get a lot of stares and comments about how full my hands must be, but what I think (and rarely say) is how there is no way I could accomplish this on my own.  But through God's strength I can lead these little boys in the right path for them.  It may not look like what other people do or what other people think is important.  But I know that it is right and it gives me so much confidence as a mother!  Not to say that there aren't struggles or times (almost daily) when I doubt my decisions.  But when I offer those feelings up to God, He is always faithful to give me strength to know that I am doing His will and He is walking in it with me.

It's funny because watching my son on his birthday...the joy on his face when he opened his present (yes one).  It was like looking in a mirror at the joy I now feel with the gift that God has given me.  I am so thankful to be one of His children.  To know His love, kindness, faithfulness, and grace!  With all the changes Carter has made in the last two years, I'm reminded still of the changes I've made in the last two years (or rather the changes God has made in my heart) and I feel that same sense of joy.  I so look forward to seeing what changes will come in the next year in Carter.  I look forward to seeing how much he grows and, deep down, I also look forward to seeing how God will chose to shape and mold me in the coming year and how He will step up to help me through the coming changes :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MONKEY!  You are such a blessing in my life and I am so excited to see what you'll do in the coming months and years :)  I love you with all my heart and I hope you can always see that.

Thursday, August 4

Feelings vs. Duty

Our family is going through a transition...and it's come upon us more quickly than I had anticipated.  We are transitioning into a VERY busy time.  Not that our life is anywhere near placid, but now it's starting to look almost frantic.  My husband is applying for seminary for the spring, we are both taking classes this fall, I just got a part-time job one day a week, the Good News Club our church sponsors is beginning again, and our boys will be turning 2 and 1 in August and October (respectively).  Add to the heavy load the fact that our classes, my job, and the Good News Club all start the same week (coincidentally the week of Monkey's 2nd birthday) and you have a recipe for disaster!  Oh, and all this on top of our regular responsibilities to jobs/church groups.

It has become clear to me in the last few days that this isn't just going to least the transition won't be anything but horrible without a little planning and change of attitude for me.  I need to have a plan...a plan for how to accomplish my primary job as wife/mother/home manager without feeling too overwhelmed, plans for what we will eat on days I'm too tired to cook, and a plan on how to organize my days/weeks that will make this transition easier on my kids.

The other major change is something that needs to happen quickly, and I'm very lucky that God has already begun this work in my heart.  I need to change how I approach life.  Wow.  Writing it out makes is sound impossible, but I'm thankful that I don't have to tackle the task alone!

As a woman (yes, I am saying that men and women are different...please don't hate me) I have fallen into the easy task of allowing my feelings to dictate much of my day/life.  As a single lady, it didn't matter.  I could do whatever I wanted as long as I still was able to pay my bills.  As a married woman, there was a bit more accountability and responsibilities began increasing, but it wasn't a whole lot different.  Becoming a mother...well that changed things much more significantly.  I had a tiny person who depended on me for EVERYTHING..and that's a sobering reality.  I couldn't just sleep in because I felt like, I needed to get up or the baby couldn't eat.  I couldn't just lay around all day eating ice cream or watching tv or forget to eat all day because there was a little one that I was a) needing to provide nourishment to via breastmilk and b) I needed to set an example for my kids.  SO my life started to shift from being lived based on my feelings to being lived based on a sense of duty and responsibility.

This point hit home the other day when James and I were watching Mark Gungor talking about the feminization of men in our society (check out this article for his input and this article for more evidence).  Now while this argument is aimed at men, I felt that this was important for me to remember also...not to such a high degree as a man (because, let's face it, many women are improved by being attentive to their feelings) but it's important for me to remember that I also have a responsibility.  If I sat around all day online and didn't pick up after the kids, clean up messes, or go to the store and James came home and got upset that I had been home all day and hadn't accomplished anything...well it would be a little ridiculous for me to cry to him that I didn't feel like it and he shouldn't get upset about that.  It would be like your boss getting upset that you didn't accomplish anything all day at work and then you getting upset with him for yelling at you.  Don't you think you maybe deserved a little frustration on the part of your boss/spouse?

So I need to be more honest with myself.  While I may not *feel* like cleaning after I get off work, or cooking ahead when I have free time.  Doing so will make my days and weeks run much more smoothly.  Being aware that I have a duty to these commitments is paramount!  I think that feeling like doing these things will come after a while, and all the better!  But until that magic time comes...I'm heading into a time where I will be responsible because I have a plan ahead because that's what's best for my family...whether I feel like it or not.