Sunday, October 21, 2007

Today's Lesson

This morning, my husband and I were scheduled to speak briefly during both services about our stewardship testimony. We have been studying, praying, reviewing our old Crown ministries workbooks and listening to Andy Stanley sermons online in preparation. We have talked through our "bottomline" on stewardship attempting to boil it down to a neat 3-5 minute message. We thought we were prepared. The early service was fine. We said our piece and felt like we could just 'tweak' a couple of things before the 11 service.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to the pulpit: Sunday School. The lesson was actually the testimony of a man who had just returned from a short term mission project in an incredibly impoverished area of Mexico. As he described the conditions...thousands of hungry people who lived in shacks and relied on the church for their one meal a day...our neat little picture of stewardship suddenly seemed so hollow and feeble.

I began to wonder how I in good conscience could stand before our wealthy congregation in my Sunday finest and speak about Biblical giving when I had just heard a true story of Mexican women weeping as they placed their best beans in the offering plate. It felt ridiculous, frankly.

Suddenly my mind and heart were so conflicted. I believe God owns everything. He is Sovereign. He is the Giver of all gifts. I am incredibly grateful. I long to live a generous life. I believe in giving of my time, talents and other resources. I try to be mindful of wisdom in spending (but mess this up a lot). Yet, I can compare myself to others and feel pretty good about my obedience.

But then there are those moments where reality is so clear and so convicting that you simultaneously wish the moment had never happened and yet cannot resist being deeply thankful that it did. A momentary glimpse of reality that strikes you to the core and changes your perspective. Like the lessons God can use a hungry, impoverished Mexican woman to teach an American housewife, even though they have never met.

The talk at the 11 o'clock service was different. Rather than sharing our 'wisdom,' we confessed that we are merely on the journey too. We are trying, but we stumble. The first step was to confess. Now, we are trying to process.

How can we keep a right perspective? It is so hard to stay above the pull and the fray of the world. How can we raise children who are aware of how blessed we are to live in the affluence of the USA?

Lord, thank you that I own more than one pair of shoes and live in a home that is cool in the Summer and warm in the Winter. Thank you that I never wonder if I will be able to feed my children the next meal. Thank you that I can drive my comfortable car to the grocery store on a whim to purchase things. I don't have to work the soil or pray for rain or wonder when or if the next relief truck is coming with more rice and beans.

I have more than I need Lord and, frankly, most of what I want. I don't say that to brag. I say it as a humble, grateful confession.

Father, help us to live this life gratefully, generously and always listening for your voice. Show us how to manage what we have wisely. May we be true examples to our children of obedience to your Will in every aspect of our lives.

18 comments:

Heidi said...

AMEN!!!!!

Room for Grace said...

You did such a great job of describing that tension. That is right where we are right now, & this so resonated with me. We went to China in Feb. to adopt, and I came home a different person. I just don't see all of my stuff the same as I used to, and we are still trying to figure out what God wants us to do in this area.
It's amazing how our perspective can change in an instant.

Krazy Klingers said...

That was so what I needed. Sometimes I find myself complaining that I don't have a better car or I can't stay home with my children, or my husband works 2 jobs and we still live paycheck to paycheck. I should be praising the Lord that we have a home, a car, healthy children, food to eat, etc. Thank you for sharing!

jean stockdale said...

Excellent post! We have traveled 5x to third world countried like India and Africa to teach a program on church planting called Pioneer Evangelism. Every time we go I do the mental gymnastics you just described. It is a divine mystery why God placed us in the USA with untold blessings and He ordained others, whom He loves just as much, in areas of poverty and pain. I have not answers other than God does as He sees fit and we are to serve Him and endeavor to enlarge His kingdom whenever and where ever He ordains. Blessings.

Fran said...

Oh that was so good. I am humbled with you and I pray that I can truly surrendar all I have to glorify Him and enhance His Kingdom. He is the giver of it all. Help me Lord to not be so selfish.

Thank you for this reminder and lesson.

Lisa@Take90West said...

I am grateful everyday.
The pictures of those that are poverty stricken are images that are not easily forgotten.
Beautifully written post. And a great reminder!

Kelly said...

Beautiful post. You expressed so well what many of us feel.

Cultivate gratefulness in our hearts, Lord. It's all yours anyway.

HW said...

My husband and I have been discussing this same topic lately. With teenagers, especially a teenage daughter, it is vital to us that we instill in them that "just because we can afford it, doesn't mean we will be buying it."
I could go on forever about this, but will leave it at that.
Great post.

Orderly Chaos said...

Thanks for that great post and lesson...definitely something I always need to be reminded of because it's so easy to forget how blessed I really am!

CrownLaidDown said...

So well said...I'm glad I stopped by today. A journey, indeed!

laurabeun said...

Amen, Sister.

Patriot said...

Thank you for that . .

Rachel Brooke said...

I am so thankful for your honesty. I have been struggling with feeling guilty for blessings I receive when I watch others suffer. But this has helped me to remember to give thanks for what I do have. i LOVE this blog :)

Aunt_Nette said...

I have been tithing on a more regular basis here lately. And after many years finally recieved a pay raise. And I have upped my tithing. However, earlier this year I was fighting with "covet" I wanted so many things that seemed to come so easliy to my brother. He had a big home, five car garage, two Cameros and then purchased a large screen HD tv. Well, he died this past May in a car accident. He now has a wonderful coffin and is spending time with our Savior. I am learning the verse that says be content with what you have, because I will never leave you, I will never forsake you. I no longer compare myself to my brother. And I am purging my house of clutter. All that stuff I accumulated to keep up with the "Jones". Plus, it was hindering my communication with our Savior.

Borbe Bunch said...

Thanks for you honesty and your heart in what you wrote....
God bless!

A Place For Ministry Wives said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Place For Ministry Wives said...

We must be soul sisters. :-)

I remember our first mission trip...coming home, looking at our front porch...and realizing that the furniture we had originally wanted to buy for it just didn't seem that important anymore.

And now we LIVE in a 3rd world country as missionaries.

It's difficult to look around me and see others "go without", when I'm perfectly content(ed) because I don't have to. There have been times when I've really come to the end of myself when I've actually thought, "It's okay for someone else to have to live that way, but not me." And that's honesty hitting you right in the face. What makes me any better than them? Why is it acceptable for me, but not for them? Can you imagine having to answer those questions and then deal with the answers? Even worse, before I committed to live overseas, I told my husband I had to have 4 things - just 4 - but I had to have them - time with my God, time with my family, exercise equipment and air-conditioning - and I have all of them...while others around me don't. Some don't even have food to eat...or electricity. It's extremely humbling to have had to come to a place where you have are forced to ADMIT what you are comfortable living with or without and what you will CHOOSE to live with or without - regardless of what others around you have or don't have...and then have to reconcile yourself with that decision.

I can relate to this post immensely.

And what's ironic...is that it knows no economic barriers. No matter how wealthy or poor you are...there's always someone wealthier or poorer...so it's something we all have to face on one level or another.

And did I just bring us all down? :-) I know...facing the truth isn't always pleasant. :-(

Bev Brandon said...

my missionary daughter works with children in thailand who live with no running water, no electricity, and 50 cents buys their meals for a whole week...such a privilege for her to be there and love these children into the Kingdom...touching post...