Monday, April 12, 2010

Tipping vs Tithing

As Tax Day approaches each year I'm always curious what that charitable giving line on my forms will show. Since being called to the ministry (ashamedly I didn't do this before), I've been a tither - 10%. But each year there are little things that pop up that I donate to that aren't part of my normal 10% and they add up quickly. Things such as "donations in memory of" or sponsoring someone to go on a mission trip.

I know that I'm opening up a can of worms here so that I'll get lots of shameless solicitations from people wanting me to donate to their cause and rightly so. If someone is passionate about a cause, they should be able to ask for a donation. Not forcefully, but a polite ask will always go a long way.

So when I look at that line on my taxes and notice that its above 10% I get giddy. I feel like I've gotten God bonus points and perhaps will get to go in the express security line when I get to the pearly gates. I KNOW that this is not the case but for some reason I just can't help but feel good about the good I've done.

But my main question for myself is - what did I do with the other 90%? I'd like to think that I give 100% to God in round about ways. 10% to the church. 10% to save for the future. 80% to live and raise a good family. But somehow those numbers just don't add up each year.

What happens to the new outfit I "HAD TO HAVE"? Where does the money for the kids spring fling fit into? What about when I was too lazy to cook and ordered in?

A few years ago I discovered the joys of a written, detailed budget. I have to give props to Dave Ramsey although as he points out - my grandmother told me the same thing. I put down on paper each month (before the month starts), what I'm spending my money on and its helped me learn a few things:

1) Play money is okay. God wants us to have joy and if I have the means to have joy with a price tag that is okay. If it makes me happy to get my nails done each month then that is okay as long as I make sure to give, save, and spend wisely in other areas. This makes for a happy Shannon and a happy Shannon is a better servant.

2) I'm accumulating less junk. Its amazing the junk one family can pile up over the years. I had a yard sale a few weeks ago and got rid of what would probably fill up an entire room of our house. It felt good. And ever since I've been more cautious of collecting something that will end up in a future yard sale.

3) Sometimes you have to renegotiate your terms. Just like the big companies, sometimes our family has to undergo budget cuts. Unexpected medical bills, car repairs, or job fluctuations cause us to have to re-examine our family budget mid month. We try to plan for the unexpected but sometimes we just don't budget enough and said play money listed above has to go into the new transmission. Its okay. Its not long term and I know I'll get through it.

I hope that you are one of the lucky ones either getting money back or breaking even. Spend wisely and enjoy using your 90% for the greater good.

Until everyone hears,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Run Forest Run!

Twelve years ago I got a "call from God". I put that in quotes because until you realize you've gotten one, you really think that a call from God is a bunch of baloney. But the reality is that God talks to all of us. Some of us are just smart enough to ignore the voice in our head, others are crazy enough to talk about them and have to seek help, and some are dumb enough to just listen to what's going on.

I'm one of the dumb ones. I've followed a call that has led me to ordination this June. For most people this call doesn't take 12 years. It is possible to do this in 6, but I've been running for part of the time. I like to run. Its good exercise and builds strength and endurance.

For those runners out there, here are my tips on how to run from God:

1) Wear good shoes. You can't really out run God so you need to take care of your feet. You'll be in this for a long time until you decide to run with God and at that point I hear Jesus is into pedicures so its not as important.

2) Get plenty of rest. This is really an exhausting process so be sure to re-energize yourself each night before you get back on the hamster wheel. Of course this advice works well when you decide to give into the call, but then its called a Sabbath.

3) Drink plenty of water. Water is essential for this kind of running. It keeps your mind focused on the task at hand - running from God. Plus its Biblical. Jonah was on a boat. Noah built a boat. Peter walked on water out of the boat. Andrew cast his net from a boat. You get the picture.

So I hope you all enjoy your training either running to the call or away from it. If you need any help deciphering which one you are doing, let me know.

Until Everyone Hears,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happily Every After


Parental Purpose:

I just finished celebrating Easter with the family and took the sacred Sunday afternoon nap and am now onto planning the next big family task: my oldest child's 10th birthday party.

Admitting that I have a child who is double digits is painful. I'm not old enough to have a 10 year old. When I signed on for the happily ever after part of the program, I never envisioned children being 10+ years old. I saw candlelight dinners, staring into each other's eyes, and playing house all part of the future but when I thought about children I only thought of snuggling babies or possibly helping with cute pre-school crafts on a rainy day. I never thought I'd hear these phrases coming out of my mouth:

1) "Call when you get there." I let John ride his bike ALONE to a friends house yesterday. I told him to give me a call when he gets there so I won't worry. As I watched him bike down the street, I had the same feeling in my chest that I had on his first day of Kindergarten. It was the happysadproud feeling that things will never be the same again.

2) "The Easter Bunny is real to all who believe." Okay this one actually came from my 8 year old who asked the other day, "Isn't the Easter Bunny just like someone you know, like you or dad or something?" For about two seconds I had the deer in the headlights look as I thought that "Santa is the spirit of love and peace at Christmas time" saying that my mom told me doesn't fit for the Easter Bunny, so I stole a phrase from my friend Mindy and from The Polar Express. The Easter Bunny is real in our house. I saw the baskets full to prove it.

3) "Because I said so." Everyone says they'll never say this to their kids. I swore that I was smart enough for my parents to give me a reason as to why I should or shouldn't do something so therefore I would always treat my kids with the respect they deserve and give them the correct reason for my request. The problem is that by the time they hit 10 years old, they should be smart enough to figure out the reason on their own. Somethings I tell them aren't "requests". They are commands and it doesn't matter if I'm asking them to run with scissors - there's got to be a good reason so just do it!

Spiritual Reasoning:

As I contemplate my (and my son's) maturity, I wonder if God thinks these same phrases about us:

1) "Call when you get there." God is with us on our journey and He wants us to check in often through our prayers so that He can help us if we take a wrong turn.

2) "I am real for all who believe" God is there whether you believe or not but God is REAL for those who do believe. God helps us to understand our purpose and lets us see the world in a whole new way. And if we look for it, we'll see evidence of Him in our "full baskets."

3) "Because I said so." God doesn't ask us to do anything that doesn't have a greater purpose. Sometimes we just have to take those leaps of faith and do something because God said so.

So now I'm off to party planning. We all get to live happily every after. Its just that sometimes the picture of happiness in our family and faith looks different than we anticipated. I know that even though my life sometimes looks like the above picture, I can find happiness through the love of my family and love of God. I hope that after Easter today, God looked down on us all and had that happysadproud-wearegrowingup feeling in His heart. And as they say in my husband's Ukrainian family "Khrystos Voskres!"

Until Everyone Hears,

The Trickster

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