Monthly Archives: October 2017

Extravagant Stewardship

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Image result for images of she has done a beautiful thing for me“She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you will always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them.  But you will not always have me.” Mark 14:7

In this passage of Scripture, an unnamed woman anoints Jesus with the costly ointment called nard.  Many of the people around him complain, finding this to be a waste of money.  After all, couldn’t the nard have been sold and the money given to those in real need?  Jesus rebukes them.  Evidently a grand gesture is sometimes appropriate.  Sometimes we’re called to give a gift simply to show our love for a particular person.  A gift like this is pure grace.

It doesn’t need to be monetary — it might be the gift of forgiving a friend or relative for a great wrong;  it might be giving time to take over a task that is burdening a neighbor;  it might be an act of kindness to a complete stranger.  The point is it’s good to sometimes give what’s unexpected, and  even unnecessary.  After all, doesn’t God give us gifts like this every day?  Don’t we get not just the things we need, but things that make life beautiful, interesting and fun?  God’s grace rains down on us, and we should spread that love and grace around!

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of Gods’ varied grace …” 1 Peter 4:10

What are some gifts of grace you’ve received?  I’d love to hear those stories.

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A Stewardship Hymn –Take My Life

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One day in 1873 hymnist Frances Havergal received a little book entitled “All For Jesus.”  It stressed the importance of making Christ the king of every corner of one’s life.  Soon afterward, she found herself visiting with a group of ten people, some of them unconverted, others not yet fully devoted to Christ.  She prayed, and went to work witnessing, and before she left all ten were yielded Christians.  On the last night of her visit, she wrote this great hymn about allowing God to own and control one’s entire life.  In the years that followed, Frances often used it in her own devotions.

 

Stewardship of My Reading

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“All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”  1 Corinthians 10:23

Anyone who reads our blog regularly knows that I am an avid reader.  I read all sorts of things:  suspense novels, historical fiction, novels that address ethical questions, legal thrillers, nonfiction books about the brain, mental illness and other medical issues, spiritual autobiographies, books on prayer and other aspects of Christian living, the Bible (of, course) and more.  None of these books are “unlawful” and sometimes I use my reading time to just relax and take my mind off my responsibilities and the stress of everyday life.  Of course, we learn something even when we read books that seem merely escapist — we increase our vocabulary, travel to foreign cultures, grow in understanding people very different from ourselves, etc….I’m sure you could add to the list.  However, it is also true that some books are more edifying than others.

Gracious Uncertainty: Faith in the Second Half of LifeMost of the time I am reading two books at once:  one that is just for fun, and one that builds me up in some way.  I read my serious book for a bit first thing in the morning (when I’m fresher) and the other one throughout the day and before bed. Right now my morning book is called, Gracious Uncertainty: Faith In The Second Half of Life by Jane Sigloh.  In the forward, Jane is described as a “wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, poet, vintner, cook, gardener, and story keeper.”  The book is a serious of short essays, starting with a memory about her spiritual life, many from her childhood and youth.  It has inspired me to look back on my own spiritual journey and consider writing some of those memories down for my children and grandchildren.

I also try to do my Bible study early in the day.  I’ve been reading through the book of Acts (that’s what we’re studying in our Tuesday morning class at church) and parts of 1 Kings (our Sunday School unit this quarter is called ‘Kings and Prophets–we’ve been using material from Concordia Publishing, if anyone is interested).

My point in all this is simply:  if you’re a reader, like I am, be a good steward.  Read to relax, but also try to also spent time with things that are truly worthwhile.  Don’t have much time?  Pick a book like the one I mentioned or a devotional that has short chapters or essays and read one a day.  Read through the gospels in small bites.  Read a Psalm each day.  Then think about what you’ve read.  Write down quotes or verses that strike you.  Talk to others about what you’ve been reading. Build yourself up.

P.S.  The Lutheran Ladies recently signed up to be B&H/Lifeway Bloggers, and review new books.  Look for our book reviews on our blog and B&H Publishing website.  Hopefully our reviews will point you toward some edifying reading!

Generous Words

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Image result for images of luther's small catechismMy granddaughter is currently in her second year of confirmation classes.  In looking over her copy of Luther’s Small Catechism,  I came across this explanation of the Eighth Commandment:

The Eighth Commandment You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

What is this? or What does this mean? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.

I added the bold highlighting of the final words, because they really struck me.  How generous am I in the thoughts I have about others, and the words I speak about them?  I may refrain from telling lies or spreading gossip, but am I generous enough to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially when their actions seem questionable or even wrong to me? Do I refrain from speaking about something that may be true, but is still damaging?  I have to admit that no, often I don’t.  This isn’t right and it isn’t how God expects us to behave.  Nobody knows everything about another person.  We don’t know what trials they are going through;  we don’t know if they are dealing with mental or physical distress;  we don’t know what kind of childhood they had or what pressures they’re under.  There is so much we just don’t know, and so we should always try to be understanding and generous in how we judge others.

Here’s another good piece of Biblical advice from the book of Matthew:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”  Matthew 18:15

Instead of stewing about what I think is wrong with someone’s behavior, or mouthing off about him to another person, I need to go directly to him and confront the issue.  Maybe I’ll find out that I’m the one in the wrong because I misunderstood;  maybe I’ll give him a chance to apologize;  maybe he’ll even change.  Maybe I’ll just be glad I gave someone the benefit of the doubt — don’t we all want someone to extend us the same generosity?

 

Stewardship of Our Life #2

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“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.  And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’  For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. ”  Mark 6:30-31

Jesus sent the disciples out to proclaim that people should repent.  They also cast out demons, and anointed and healed the sick.  They were busy doing important things for others.  However, when they returned, Jesus knew that they also needed to take care of themselves.  They were worn out and the crowds around them were barely allowing them time to eat!  Jesus told them it was okay to take a break.

All of us sometimes need a break from ministry, as well.  I grew up in a home where the worst sin was being lazy, so I tend to overdo and over schedule myself.  I know there are many other people like me, especially in the church.  We are so intent upon doing a good job for the benefit of others, that we neglect ourselves.  This isn’t good stewardship.  We need to eat right;  we need to get enough sleep and exercise;  we need to take some time to relax.  In fact, if we don’t do these things, we may burn out and find ourselves unable to do anything.  That’s not what God wants.

We need to maintain our own health and well being so that we can do our best for God and others.  Here’s how Robert Fulghum describes it in his book, All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten :

Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.

Are you maintaining your balance?

 

Give — It’s Good For You, too

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Image result for images of giving is good for youBecause I spent many years working for a hospital (as a buyer), I became interested in health issues.  Many Christian virtues have a positive effect on our health.  For example, patients who are prayed for do better after surgery than those who are not.  Gratitude helps lift depression.  Here’s what all found out about giving:

We all know giving helps others, whether we volunteer for organizations, offer emotional support to those around us or donate to charities. But studies show that giving is also good for the giver — boosting physical and mental health.

Studies find these health benefits associated with giving:

Being a Good Steward of our Pain

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A couple of our authors have blogged in the past about pain, both emotional and physical.  Henry Nouwen, who was a Dutch Catholic priest, writer and theologian believed that pain is something we can use.  He said:

“Your pain is the concrete way in which you participate in the pain of humanity.”

According to Nouwen, we have two choices when it comes to pain.

  1. We can focus on the specific circumstances of our own pain, which can easily lead us into anger, resentment and even vindictiveness.
  2. We can move from my pain to the pain. We can realize that our particular pain is only a share in humanity’s pain.  This view allows us to forgive and enter into a truly compassionate life.  It makes our suffering easier to bear.

The second option is the way that Jesus took when he prayed on the cross:

“Father, forgive them;  they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34

If we are good stewards of our personal pain, we will come to understand and appreciate the pain of others.  We can let pain teach us to be more like Jesus.  He suffered pain to save us from the ultimate pain of separation from God.  How are you using your pain?  Have you let it make you bitter?  Or better?