Friday, March 18, 2005

Finances: A Love-Hate Relationship

Like most people I LOVE when I have it and HATE it when I don’t. Mostly, I don’t like the feelings I have when I don’t have money to do things for other people like I would like. I have known periods of both plenty and lack, though there has never been times when I have had mounds of dough. I think that is part of the job description for a teacher/missionary.

Growing up the daughter of a big hearted banker I have never worried much about money, not because I had so much but because I knew how to handle what I had. I even started practicing God’s principles of tithing before I was saved. I believe that is why I have never really lacked anything.

As I reflect back on my life in relationship to finances, my fondest memories are of those times that I experienced lack. They were difficult times, that stretched my faith and challenged my to reevaluate my behavior and attitudes surrounding money but most importantly they pushed me to test God’s faithfulness to his word and me.

I really don’t like those feelings of helplessness and dependency that come with a lack of money. I remember one (of a number of times) time when I was unemployed. I had been invited to a baby shower for a good friend who had been trying to get pregnant for a long time. I went to the Christian bookstore in search of a meaningful gift for a very limited budget. After searching the aisles for what seemed like forever, the only thing I could find that was within my budget was a card. I was almost in tears because my desire to find something really special was so great. Then the Lord spoke to me as only he can, and he asked me to trust him. My thought was, “Lord, have you lost your mind? It is just a card!” Like so often, all he said was, “Trust Me.”

So, in obedience I bought the card and went to the shower. There I sat with all those other women who had bought gifts that had “real value”. When my gift was opened I felt embarrassed. The Lord just reminded me, “Trust Me”. So, with everything within me I decided to trust him. The strangest thing happened. My card was so prized that my friend framed it and hung it in the baby’s room, for all to see.

I have watched God stretch, multiply, & provide resources to meet my every need. I have looked back on the ministry that has been accomplished on such meager means with awe and amazement. There are few missionaries that would be allowed to leave home on the support that I live on. Yet, I have lived on it for more than 8 years! Not only have I lived on it but I have traveled, ministered and blessed many on those same funds. Only God can do that.

So, today why do I find myself in a severe financial void? For the first time in my life I don’t have enough money to pay my bills. I have to ask myself what has changed.
· 1. God?
*I think not (“I the Lord do not change” Malachi 3:6).
· 2. My spending habits?
*Am I spending too much money on my wants and not budgeting for my needs?
*Am I paying for things that are not my responsibility so then I don’t have enough to pay for those things that ARE my responsibility?
· 3. Have the Economics change?
*Yes, they have.
+The dollar has lost at least 25% of its value in comparison to the zloty
+My utility bills have increased by 50% in the last 2 years.
+Gasoline has gone from being $2/gal to over $5/gal
+The income I generate in Poland is 25% of what it once was (with nothing between June & November).
+A $5000 medical claim from June 2004 that is stuck in some bureaucratic maze.
+My roommate who I split the bills with has been out of the country since November
· 4. Spiritually?
*Am I tithing? Yes.
*Am I giving offerings? Yes
*Is there a spiritual lesson I need to learn? Always
*Is there a spiritual lesson I need to teach my church? Definitely

It would be easy for me to look for and find someone to blame for this situation. Of course, it would be someone other than me. I could start with someone important like Pres. Bush. If he would get his act together and get the US economy going the dollar wouldn’t be so low. Or I could express my disappointment with the Polish people choosing to be part of the EU and thus increasing my utility bills. Then again, I could start into quite a tirade about the insurance company not dealing with my medical claim in a timely manor. This destructive thinking would follow with a sermon on how “PEOPLE/CHURCHES” are so tight fisted. If each person would give up one Starbuck’s a week and donate that money to “ME” all my financial woes would be cured.

Yet, there is a gnawing voice inside of me that asks, “Do you think that will really change anything?” If I were to answer honestly, I would have to say, “NO!”

Even though the economic changes are great and have put a huge strain on my finances, I know that God wants to use this situation to teach me something about myself, himself, and his kingdom.

I realize that in an attempt to show the people of our fellowship what is possible in God, I have made them dependent on ME and my resources/support/etc and not on God and his provision. Who am I that anyone should trust in me? What does that mean? What will happen to them if/when I leave? Will they be able to support themselves? Or will they forever be “looking” for a sponsor to save them from their financial difficulties? I don’t believe that is your way Lord. They need to trust in you and you alone Lord!

Lord, I’m so sorry for getting things out of order. Help me to make things right and to equip your people to be good and faithful servants of the resources you have given them

I need to teach them how to be content with what they have and to rejoice in God’s provision, even if it is only “MANNA”. Manna is your miraculous provision for our lives. It is an expression of your love and care for us. It creatively meets our every need though it appears to be nothing.

Biblical encouragement in times of financial challenge: Malachi 3:6-12, Hebrews 13:5-8, Matthew 25:21, Matthew 6:25-34, Psalms 37:34, Psalms 17:14b-15

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A 50 F degree day! Posted by Hello


It is amazing how in one week’s time everything changes or at least my perspective of it. Last week it was snowing and it felt like winter would never end. Sunday when I left church I discovered that my car was hidden not under a delicate blanket of snow but a pile. Today the sun is shining and the temperature is well above freezing, almost 50 F. Yesterday I heard birds singing.

It is a wonder how the human body reacts to such simple things like sun. Everyone seems to have a sense of new hope, that winter is over and live takes on a whole new look. Life itself and the situations of life have not changed just the weather. It’s warmer! (I decided to wear my new tennis shoes). There are still piles of snow all around but with each ray of sun those piles shrink.

In my heart I hope that this it truly the beginning of spring and not just a temporary respite from winter.

The way home Posted by Hello

A tunnel type exit from my apartment Posted by Hello

Friday, March 11, 2005

Weather is an interesting phenomenon.

For example, Snow! When I lived in Seattle snowfall was always a holiday. NO SCHOOL! As a teacher that meant no work as well. It was as if I would get an unexpected, unplanned day free. It was a day to relax, catch up on things I could never find time to do, and sometimes it even was a day to play; sled, snowball fights, show kindness to neighbors (shoveling their walks), etc.

I have always enjoyed the silence that comes with snow. There is a special quietness that makes me reflect on the storms the usually rage in life. It is at those moments that I notice how loud my world normally is. The blanket of snow that floats down to the earth dampens the chaos that can surround me and brings a certain calm.

Living in the mountains of southern Poland I have gained a new perspective of snow & winter. Last year it seemed to come and go, come and go, come and go from November through May, giving me the feeling that Spring was teasing me. It would be here one day and then gone as quickly as it came. I found my heart being filled with hope only to have it dashed.

This year is equally interesting. The snow itself was somewhat illusive, pretending or even threatening to not come at all. Then, almost out of nowhere it started to snow…and snow… and snow. I spent 2 weeks in the US and upon returning I discovered it had been snowing the whole time I had been gone. This meant that instead of a “holiday” I spent 30+ minutes digging my car out before I could put my luggage in and start the drive home.

Today as I write this it is SNOWING AGAIN! The roads resemble tunnels. There are no longer places to put the “excess” snow, let alone drive or park. Most everyone is resigned to the idea that Easter Sunday will be more WHITE than Christmas was. Oh, for a day to be able to wear “normal” shoes and a T-shirt. I vaguely remember such a day. My hope is that Spring will come and it will stay until Summer.

The frozen lake at Czorstyn Posted by Hello

A snow covered get away Posted by Hello

The Blanket of White Posted by Hello