Gratitude Day 123 – Finances

Wed., Sept. 18, 2018

Mark 12:41-43 – Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury.

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Recently, a few people have asked about our financial situation. Why is this? Are they being noisy? Or is there another reason?

Since stepping back from serving two churches, my income has changed. While I have a part-time job, our disposable income has declined. Inquiries about our finances refer to whether we have made significant financial changes since we no longer have this income.

The short answer? No, we haven’t.

How is this possible? Because we developed an attitude about finances long before I stepped back from serving the churches.

I am not a financial planner. Nor is Hubby Rick. We are comfortable, but I would not classify us as rich. There are a lot of people with more resources than we have. I also know a lot of people who do not have the financial security we do. Was there a time after I stepped away from the churches when I questioned if this was a sound financial choice? Yes. When I turned back to our basic view about finances, my soul quieted.

Rick and I look at finances from a rather simplistic view. At earlier times in our lives, we both did not felt the financial security that we do now. Implementing a few guidelines have helped us move to the position we are today. Let me share these simple guidelines.

  1. Everything we have has been “loaned” to us by God. While we may say it is “our” house or car or retirement account, we believe all of our possessions are really God’s. God has entrusted us to be caretakers of them. This allows us to hold a little less tightly onto the things in our care. We want to be excellent caretakers. We are thoughtful and often consult with God before making a decision. We want to leverage things in our care for the glory and honor of God’s kingdom. If someone has a need and I have the ability to provide for this need, I share. Have there been times we have been burned? Honestly, yes. But the joy we receive from assisting someone outweighs the negative feelings when a situation doesn’t turn out well. Remembering that God has entrusted us with many resources makes us appreciate our ability to bless others with them as well.
  2. We follow a statement coined by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement: “Earn all you can, save all you can and give away all you can.” Rick and I work hard and dutifully earn our income. We manage our resources for today and the future. We have funds available for current expenses and choices. We also save for the future. One of the best financial decisions I personally made was starting to plan for retirement in my mid-20’s. Sharing with others is not an afterthought. It is expected.
  3. We give to God first. Before I was married, I discovered the joy of tithing. Yes, the joy. I began giving a percentage of my income to God first, before other expenses. My focus shifted from giving what I had “leftover” to blessing God first. Once I began tithing, the rest of my resources did not disappear as quickly. Rick and I have continued tithing. The principle of tithing encourages people to give 10% of their income back to God. For some people, 10% is impossible. For others, 10% is not enough of a challenge. I encourage people to pick a percentage and stick with it. There maybe a time when you should decrease this temporarily or increase permanently. Determine this in a discussion with God.
  1. Know the difference between a “want” and a “need.” We need a roof over our heads, vehicles to drive, food to eat and clothes to wear. Almost everything else is icing on the cake. Do Rick and I have more than our basic needs? Certainly. Is our house larger and improved beyond what we need? Without a doubt. Every time we venture into “want” choices, we try to be thoughtful. Will this “want” to be a way to leverage the resources entrusted to us for God? Do we do this perfectly all the time? Absolutely not. Yet, we try to be thoughtful.
  2. Develop financial guidelines and habits, especially if resources are tight. Often, people say they will get their finances in order when they are in a more stable situation. I felt it was imperative to be diligent when I had less, so I could maximize the few resources I had. It becomes easy to think, “When we have just a little bit more, then …” Yet, it is never quite enough. So many people spend more than 100% of their income rather than a number less than 100%. Make choices now. Let your guidelines become habits that you simply live every day.
  1. Monitor your resources. We don’t follow a budget. We follow our guidelines. Once a month, I do a quick evaluation of our finances. This provides a snapshot of our finances today, which become part of a larger historical trend we follow. I handle our finances. This means Rick is not as familiar with the day-to-day situation. I make sure Rick is aware of our financial trends over time, which drives our choices and decisions.

While I could add to the list, these are the most important financial guidelines we follow. Following them have provided us with a sense of financial security and knowledge that God is part of our financial team.

What are the most important financial guidelines that you follow? How have they influenced your choices over time?

For knowing that God provides guidance to our family financial resources, I am thankful.

It was the woman who gave everything financially she had who Jesus acknowledged and applauded. Lord God, teach our hearts to see what we have as a loan from you. May we discover ways to leverage the resources we care for, so they bring glory and honor to your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 61 – Have a Good Summer, Mr. Jeep

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Fri., June 8, 2018

Galatians 6:6 – Those who are taught the word should share all good things with their teacher.

We watched as our 2004 Jeep pulled out of the Kwik Trip parking lot. Internally, I thought, “Have a good summer, Mr. Jeep.”

At times, the street by our house could be mistaken for a used car lot. Lately, we have had four vehicles playing musical parking spots. Some on the street. Some in our carriage house. Four vehicles for two drivers. I know. A wee bit of overkill.

Hubby Rick and I knew we needed to reduce inventory. For a couple weeks, we talked and prayed about options. Then my friend Mary Ann visited and saw all these vehicles. The next day, she emailed a possible solution. Her granddaughter is participating in a summer ministry program. College students visit communities and hold bible school programs. The program needed two vehicles for the summer. Could we loan one of our vehicles?

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Quickly, Rick and I committed our 2004 Jeep. Yes, it’s an older vehicle. It has over 200,000 miles. 204,994 to be exact. But, the college girls could use it for the summer.

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This has been Rick’s “work” vehicle. It’s also the “farm truck.” It had a few quirks. Last week, Rick tweaked some things that needed tweaking. The front windshield was replaced. It had cracked when Rick tried to squeeze in a little-too-long 2×4. Sometimes, it has electrical issues. While the driver’s window now works, the other three still aren’t working. Thankfully, the air conditioner works like a champ.

We arranged things with our insurance company. I lined up a time to meet someone to hand it over. Everything was ready to go.

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But then, Rick began to wonder out loud if this was a good decision. Over the years, we have loaned out many vehicles to lots of different people. We do this because we feel everything we have is really God’s. As joint caretakers, God “loans” us things. It is our responsibility to use these things for God’s glory. Letting the girls use the Jeep falls into leveraging our possessions for God’s kingdom.

Sometimes when we have loaned a vehicle, something has happened outside of our control. What would happen if the Jeep broke down? What if it stopped working? What if …

Finally, Rick admitted that he is taking over the worrying mode his father often embodied. Either, we would have faith the vehicle would help the girls on their mission work. Or we wouldn’t.

This Jeep is the only new vehicle I have ever had. As I drove it to make the exchange, I remembered how a few weeks after we purchased it, I took a group of kids with it on a mission trip. When we got home, Rick was surprised there was paint on the upholstery. Why had I not been more careful? While I wanted to respect this, we had been using it for God’s work. Paint can be removed.

Faith is looking into the future and not knowing what exactly is going to happen. And being OK with this. I pray that our Jeep will help the college girls who will be using it this summer. I am thankful to share in this ministry, if only through our vehicle.

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Have a good summer, Mr. Jeep. We’ll be anxious to hear stories of your great adventures.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for bringing forth this opportunity to share within your Kingdom. We pray the girls who drive the Jeep, those they minister to and anyone they meet will come to love you. We pray this ministry will make a difference in people’s lives this summer. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.