We are the Rich Christians

Reading Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald J. Sider has really opened my eyes, more than I thought they were already open. Much of what he had to say felt depressing, until he talked about how we can help the poor and marginalized around the world.

One of the biggest things we can do is a micro loan. I had heard of these before with less detail. There are many charities that support adults and children in poverty, but micro loans are different. These are small amounts of money loaned to start a business. Sometimes it involves training and sometimes it means buying a sewing machine so a mother can support her family. The loans vary in amounts from $50 to $500 usually and are paid back. The family is given justice, dignity, and purpose. Opportunity International is one of the organizations brought up in the book.

There are also advocacy programs to help end hunger around the world. It can seem impossible to know how to help or what is needed, so it can help to look to these programs for guidance. Through them, you can find out ways to get your community involved, get help with dealing with politics and hunger, and donate to the right companies. An important step to helping others is to learn about the issues that matter and get connected to where you fit in with these programs. Bread for the World and The Micah Challenge are groups mentioned in the book.

As Deuteronomy 15:7-8 says, “If there are poor among you in one of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be selfish or greedy toward them. But give freely to them and freely lend them whatever they need.” All of us able to read this are rich compared to much of the world and it is up to us to help them. If not us, then who?

Where do you donate or volunteer that will help eradicate hunger and poverty around the world? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Linking with Holley Gerth

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I Surrender….All?

I’m a planner. I like to know what is going to happen in advance and be ready. To me, a curveball should stay in baseball.

Knowing I am not going back to my part time job next school year, I decided in the fall to start saving some money. I had built up quite a stash in a drawer. That made me feel safe and better about the unknown. This way, if the right job doesn’t come up in August, I am prepared, right?

Well, the other night I heard a voice in my head say to give that money away. Say what? It wasn’t a ton, but I had worked hard to save it. It made me less nervous about being jobless again. And besides, we are supposed to save and be prepared. I wasn’t doing anything wrong!

So, Sunday morning, I put all those bills in the offering at church, marked for our building fund. We are thisclose to paying off the mortgage at NorthStar and having money freed up for doing even more in the community. We can’t wait! Once this money was out of my hands, I kind of felt relieved. It no longer had a hold on me.

The reason I am telling you this is not so you think I am generous or that we are rich. It is to remind you not to put your trust in anything but God. There are many things in this world that can start out good but turn bad with the wrong intentions. When I started feeling more security from that money than from God, it had to go.

It can be easy to forget that God has done big things in our lives and wants to do more. Three years ago, He brought the right job to me at just the right time. Why do I think He won’t do it again? And if the right one doesn’t come at the beginning of August, He will take care of us way better than a little saved money ever could. If I don’t give God the chance to provide for me, He won’t get the glory.

1 Timothy 6 has a fantastic passage. Verse 17 says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”  As soon as I started putting my hope in wealth, it began to control me.

Speaking of control, when I think I have control, it is an illusion. Anything can happen, good or bad. This can be financial, job or health related, or involve my family. Really, things can and will happen in any area of my life. Building up my faith in God is the key to weathering any storm.

At the end of the day, it is more important for me to please God than be ready for a future I don’t know. It is more important to be in the center of His will than out on my own. It is more important to give what He asks than assume I have all the answers. I don’t, but He does. I have to be willing to surrender whatever is asked of me. Is there something you need to give up, so it doesn’t control you?

Linking with Holley Gerth

Children are More Important Than Adults

Every year, more than 400,000 children are in the foster care system in the United States. Let that sink in. Hundreds of thousands of children are removed from their homes. The reasons may be different, but the outcome is the same: confusion, fear, anger, and loneliness. Many kids go back home, but many don’t.

The foster care system has been on my heart for some time now. My heart breaks when I think of a child who wants love and stability. Maybe they had it and it was taken away, but maybe they have never had it. There must be an ache deep inside that they carry around. It must be brutal.

My husband and I have been talking about it and may decide to foster. For now I want us to go through the training so the girls and I can babysit foster kids. I know parents can’t just have anyone watch their kids, so that is one way we can help.

Our latest idea is one that we will need help to do! Birthdays should be celebrated for every one, especially children. We all have a need to feel special, seen, and loved. We want to know that someone remembers our birthday! People who choose to foster children have a burden on them and paying regular bills stretches them. Even if they want to spoil the child for their birthday, they can’t always do it financially. That must break their hearts. That is where we come in.

We want to serve foster parents by helping with birthday gifts. I know where we live there is help with school supplies at the beginning of the school year as well as assistance at Christmas. There should be at birthdays too. We should celebrate that these children came into the world! They should feel appreciated and wanted, especially if they never have before.

Our family babysits to raise money, so our new project is to help foster kids gain self esteem through their birthday. No child should wonder if anyone cares. We need your help though! We need to know of foster parents who need help with birthday presents. We also need people to help us provide those gifts. You can email me to let me know if you are interested in buying a gift or if you know of a foster family in need. You can mail the actual gift to me or a check to cover it, because I know fostering is a sensitive issue. I will be the only one to know the recipient’s address. My email is intentionalspending3@gmail.com. In the future I also plan on putting needs on our Facebook page. You can like it to start receiving notifications.

I believe we all want to help others. Many are worried about the state of the world and don’t know what they can do. I think we all have good intentions, but when all we have are intentions, nothing gets done. Let’s dig in and show these kids that they aren’t alone. Please help us reach kids who just want love!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Parable

 

A man invested in Home Depot and Apple stocks early on. Some people called him lucky-they were just jealous. The man was really smart and knew these companies would be successful.

Pride began to take over. He didn’t need help from anyone, and he was not about to help others with his “hard earned” money. If he had done this, they could too.

After a few years, the man quit his job and thought he would just take it easy. He deserved it! It was tough work managing his money and cashing those dividend checks. That was a full time job itself!

People would ask him for money, but he just scoffed at them. Everyone wanted a hand out. Well, he was no sucker! Slowly, he cut off the rest of the world.

The man decided to buy some land in the country and build a big house. He put a big fence around it and changed his phone number. He even stopped speaking to his family. They acted like they were concerned about him, but, really, they just wanted his money.

Over time, the man left his house less and less. He had groceries delivered. He ate all his meals alone at a big table meant to be used by family.

There was no laughter, no tears. There was no human connection, only silence. When sadness crept into the man’s heart, he pushed it away and reminded himself that people would just want his money.

After living like this for years and years, the man died and no one knew. All that money he worked so hard to keep was wasted.

Another man also invested heavily in Home Depot and Apple stocks. When it payed off, he realized how much he had been given and wanted to make the most of it.

This man helped out friends and strangers who needed it. He understood that this was a gift and he must be wise with it. He was given this opportunity to bless others.

He worked hard for many years and volunteered his time for causes he felt important. His family always knew they could count on him and knew he loved them.

This second man built a modest house for himself and kept investing in the lives of others. The whole community ate dinner at his house at one time or another. There was always room for one more at his table.

He had a wife who felt appreciated, kids who knew their father would always love them, and eventually, grandchildren to spend time with. He made them each feel like they were the most special person in the world.

When he died, thousands of lives had been touched. His funeral was full of hundreds of people who admired and respected him.

Which do you want to be like? Start now.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Linking with Holley Gerth

 

Choose to Help

Three days ago, I fell to my knees. I cried out to God to help me, but I am not sure I expected Him to. When I search, God finds me and yet I still doubt. One of these days, I will get better at believing!

My trouble is that it is easier to understand nonbelievers doubting my faith than other Christians. If someone doesn’t have Jesus in them, then they automatically won’t understand my beliefs. I get that. What I find happening lately is Christians going at each others’ throats. We keep arguing over issues that are hard to grasp. We tell others they must not really know God if they don’t think the exact same thing we do. We tear each other down in Jesus’ name. The whole thing gets to me.

On Tuesday morning, I couldn’t take it any more. It is hard to know how to respond to verbal assaults while maintaining my claim to Christianity. I don’t ever want a nonbeliever to see my actions and be turned away. None of us want that, but we still speak and act in haste. I poured my aching heart to God to help me stand up for Him in a way that brings Him glory. I felt despair at the world. After I finished, I got up to get ready for work.

My whole prayer to God that day was one of helplessness. I felt there was nothing I could do to bring people together and help show His love. We seem so fractured these days and it brings me such sadness.

Less than an hour later, I received an email that brought me tears of joy. Our family has had a project with Food for the Poor for almost 2 years. We had set out to raise $1,895 to provide a family in Central or South American with 2 goats, 1 donkey, 2 cows, 3 pigs, 20 chicks, and 1 beehive. The email I received congratulated me that we had just had our last donation and completed it. We did it!

As I recovered from crying for a second time in an hour, I felt God telling me that I actually am doing what I can to help. I am not responsible for other people’s actions and beliefs. I can only do as I feel led and let them see. When I do my part, it is up to them to do their part.

Helping those in need and showing them that they are seen and cared for is a huge part of what being a Christian is all about. When we get caught up in arguments with each other, it diminishes all the good being done. People on the outside begin to only see our bad side and not our love.

It is easy to feel discouraged in this world. There is so much pain and sadness and need that we feel useless. We can’t do everything, but we can all do something. We can look outside of ourselves and fulfill the needs of the hurting and helpless. We can restore their hope and give them something to believe in. Let’s choose to serve others!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Sugar and Spice With a Touch of Sass

My daughter continues to blow me away. She inspires me in ways generally reserved for much older and wiser people. She LOVES to give. The child is broke on a regular basis, but when she does get a dollar, she gives it away.

Recently I handed Lauren a few dollars for helping me babysit. She had been saying how she had no money, so silly me thought she might save it. Nope. We were at the register at Lifeway Christian Store (my toy store) and she took one of those bills and put it in a little donation box they had. She didn’t care where the money was going and just wanted to help.

The next week, we were at the beach. We ordered her a Shirley Temple and she loved it. When our waiter brought her a refill, she told me she wanted to tip him a dollar. I made sure to get his attention so she could (somewhat awkwardly) hand it to him. The look on his face when a ten year old tipped him was priceless! He ended up bringing her a container of grenadine. 🙂

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Two nights later, we were at an open air event. There was a man playing a guitar quietly in the background next to his guitar case. Lauren walked right up to him and put a dollar in the case. He was so shocked! He told me to have her take it back and that he wasn’t here for that. I told him she wanted him to have it. Lauren turned to me and said she likes to see people’s faces when she gives.

In case you think I am saying this because I think I am a great parent, know this. I have 2 children. The other daughter doesn’t give nearly as much as her sister. If you look at it this way, we are batting .500. They both have their strengths, such as Kaitlyn is good at making cat noises. All I can do is encourage them both!

This is also not saying Lauren is perfect. She loves to spend some money at Justice, the clothing store for tween girls. She loves anything “super cute.” I constantly hear “Mom, why do people think sassy girls talk like that?” when I mimic her. (For the record, I say it in my Valley Girl voice. I don’t know where this sassy girl thing came from. Do kids now not know about that? Sad.) She seems to have the right idea though. She loves to shop and loves to give. It appears to be equal.

Sometimes it takes kids to show us how to act. My daughter keeps me giving freely. She gives with true joy and just wants to make people smile. What can you learn from your child?

Linking with Holley Gerth.

Why Fair Trade Matters

Friday night we took our girls to the local high school football game. It is so hard to believe they will be there in 4 and 6 years! (Although that feels like a lifetime to them.)  We had a great time, but I took something important away from that night.

On the way out, we stopped to look at the shirts for sale. Lauren wanted something long sleeved, and they showed her a hoodie. The smile that lit up her face was so sweet. The total was a reasonable $20 and we ended up paying for half while she paid for the other half. The thing is an adult Small and swallowed that child up whole. The entire trip home, she kept giggling about how big it was and going on about how soft it is inside. Making her happy didn’t take much.

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But some people can’t give their children gifts like this. My husband and I get to see the joy on our kids’ faces when we surpirse them or give them what they want. We shouldn’t be the only ones who get to have that experience.

I have been a part of Fair Trade Friday and purchased from fair trade companies for over a year. Moments like these solidify why I do. I believe moms and dads should be able to provide for their kids. I believe there is nothing more that parents want than to make their kids safe and happy. If I can, I want to help them do just that.

Fair Trade Friday has 3 different options. The main club costs $31.99 a month and you receive a box every month that contains 3-4 high quality items like jewelry, bags, and household items. It is like Christmas every month! (Speaking of Christmas, if this sounds expensive to you, think of it as Christmas shopping all year long. Everything in the box would make wonderful gifts-if you can manage to give it away.) There is also a Bracelet of the Month club for $13.99 per month and Earring of the Month for $11.99 per month. All three options provide jobs for women around the world. Each item includes a card with either the name of the woman who created the item or the country it was made in.  When you hold each item, you can feel the woman’s joy and satisfaction.

If you are interested in joning these clubs or want to shop their fair trade site, check out their website. I urge you to think about the last time you made your child (or one close to you) smile, and decide that every parent deserves that honor. It truly doesn’t take much but a willingness to shop differently.

Linking with Holley Gerth.