Today, I prayed.
I was leaving Kmart (again), after using my gift cards (not credit!), and met a woman named Barbara. As she approached me, I felt the same "Oh no" feeling. So many thoughts and feelings go through me at the same time. Is this person safe? I know she has a story but, is it true? I want to run away because I don't want to face the fact that this person could just as easily be ME but for the grace of God.
Then I remembered. I need to pray for her regardless of what I was feeling. I needed to pray for her whether her story was true or not. I needed to pray for her because I needed to pray for her!
I literally watched myself stand up straighter, shoulders back and took a deep breath as Barbara approached me and told me her story. Apparently she had several surgeries, she is living in a hotel with her two teenage daughters and just needed some financial help. I still couldn't tell if what she said was true or not but, I do know my heart broke for her and it turns out it really didn't matter if her story was true or not. What mattered was that she needed prayer.
So, to battle my fears, I sorta of pretended I was at work (Family Life Resources, Inc.). One of our specialties is that we take the time to hear a person's story and then, if permitted, we can pray for them. So, after hearing her story and giving her some money, I asked her if I could pray for her. She said "Yes! I believe in God and what He can do!" So, feeling compelled by her story and mine, I prayed for her. And, I prayed hard! I was reaching for God not only for her but for myself. I had to believe she (and I) really did matter in our little world in the Kmart parking lot. I do not know where the words came from but they came. I did not know what she did while I prayed because I closed my eyes and presented the two of us to the Father because our lives depended on it. If others were watching, pointing, wandering, well, I did not see them and for a moment, I lost self-consciousness and did not care. I felt so...strong. I know, funny word to use but it is true. I just knew God was listening. I just knew He would do something with this women's life. She had no choice now and neither did I. God was going to move!
When I finished, I opened my eyes and she was crying. She thanked me. We hugged. We both knew something was different. We talked a few minutes longer then, I watched her wander off wiping her eyes. She walked towards someone else. I smiled. Although I would have loved to see a car pull up (maybe Oprah or Steve Harvey?) and offer her a job, medical coverage, a house, a car, something, I knew that this was her life right now. I understand that. She would still have a hard time but I have to continue to believe with her and for her that her life was now going to change. Not just because I prayed but because I know that when I (we) pray, God listens and He is so willing to move on the behalf of all of us. For Barbara, it will soon be an improved life whatever that means for her as that is between her and God. I know that for me, I was made a little stronger and a little bolder. I am a little more satisfied with life. I know too, that my relationship with God is still as adventurous as ever!
Follow up to - My Christmas Letter - Remember to Pray
Yesterday, a women, who had lost her job a few days ago, called Family Life Resources, Inc. as if we were a life preserver that could save her from the credit sharks that would soon be circling at her door. What I could offer her were suggestions (for free) and a prayer (also free). The suggestions were nice but the prayer was the answer. When our conversation was over, instead of sadness and fear in her voice, I could hear hope.
Yesterday, at the post office, a young man asked me for change because his grandmother's car had run out of gas and...hadn't I heard this story before? I had no change and I had no heart for listening to his story. So, I shook my head no with an "I'm sorry" smile and he moved on. Moments later, I heard him ask another customer, telling them about his grandmother. I heard him give the guy some change and I heard the exchange of "Merry Christmas." Later, in my guilt and remorse, I prayed for the guy. I wish I had been braver (and more caring) and prayed for him at the post office. That was what he needed the most. Even though I had no change, I may have helped effect a change with a simple prayer.
Yesterday, my brother lost his mother. Unlike at the post office, I am quick to pray. Having lost my mother (we are half-siblings) I know the pain he is suffering. And, like most of his friends and family, I offered up my prayers of condolences. Although it can seem like a cruel joke to have your mother pass at Christmas, I pray that he would be able to eventually celebrate his mother's life every Christmas. That he would remember the best way to honor her in death is to be the man she taught him to be in life. What a joyous gift that is to her. But, the ease to pray here does not remove my duty to prayer elsewhere. I know I could easily find others suffering in the same way if I were to take a moment to listen to their stories and hear their need for prayer as well.
Yesterday, I ran away from home and went to Starbucks. Curtis, my brother, was getting on my nerves. You see, he is developmentally disabled and I am his caretaker. Regardless of this title, he is my brother and his disability is no excuse for bothering me, so say I! But I realize I need to remember to pray at these times too. Not necessarily for some healing miracle but instead prayers of thankfulness for his health, for his laughter and yes, even his teasing. I am fortunate that he is not a lot of trouble and that I have more freedom than many caretakers who daily struggle with the care for their disabled child or sibling with problems far worse than mine or Curtis'. I don't always remember to pray for them either. The other day I met a young man with his mother at the Kmart checkout. He was developmentally disabled and his mother was probably in her 60's. They are what make me realize how hard it can be (or may be). He chatted with me and the mother stood in line. But I also know the "corner of the eye look." She was making sure he was not being too bothersome and that he was behaving appropriately. I have that look. What if I had prayed for her? Or acknowledged our kindred-ness? Would the tiredness I saw on her have lifted a little? And what about the mother whose son killed her and 26 other people? What if someone had prayed for her instead of just talked about her and her odd son? Pointing fingers do nothing...praying hands do a lot!
Today is Christmas. Today I am reminded that we are all offered another chance. Most of us only remember to pray when we are at our tables and take a moment to remember to be thankful. These safe little moments are nice but they are a far cry from what I think God would have us to do. Yesterday, I lost inconvenient and uncomfortable moments to pray for the convenient and comfortable parts of my life. I wish I would have prayed with the guy in the post office and the lady at Kmart. We live in a world where it is so easy to shake our fists at God and ask why children die or why a mother dies too young. We are upset and unhappy in an unjust world. We seem to forget that one day, a Savior was sent to bring justice and peace and goodness into the world. We seem to forget that He gave us the power to bring goodness and joy to those around us by simply praying with them and for them. When we do, we see miracles happen. We see sadness turned to hope. We see misery turned to gratefulness. We see a future and a hope. We see lives changed.
Today, if you would, pray as you have opportunity.
His Mercy Is Everlasting!
Do you know what the meaning for mercy is? I didn't either so I looked it up. Mercy is defined as compassion, pity, clemency, forgiveness, kindness, sympathy, understanding, leniency, benevolence.
Wow! Meditiating on these words I think of Psalms 100:5 - For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting to all and His tender mercies are over all His works.
I like this verse, especially the part that states "the Lord is good to all." If He is your "Lord" then you can receive all the wonderful things He has provided for you through the redemptive work of Jesus' death, buriel and resurrection!
At this time of Thanksgiving, let's give Him EXTRA thanks when we gather together with our families and friends to share the great foods, fellowships, games and special movies. We are truly blessed in this country.
So in this time of Thanksgiving, don't forget the mercy. Don't forget the mercy He has shown you. Don't forget to show that mercy to others. Let His compassion, forgiveness and kindness overwhelm you and pour out onto others.
Remember "To be THANKFUL can be as simple as seeing the daily blessings in your life and helping others!" Rick Dillman, Founder of Family Life Resources, Inc. He also adds, "When you see a need, fill the need and be blessed!"
Yes, I think that about says it all! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!
Recently, I spoke with a client who stated, "You are an answer to my prayers! I have been asking God to help me with my finances and this (information) will be a great help! Thank you!"
Wouldn't that make you feel good too? It is a wonderful thing to be able to help others. It is a very wonderful thing to be that part of someone's life who has been calling out to God for help and to see it come to pass.
When moments like this happen, it reminds me to stop looking so hard at the big picture and the overwhelming (financial) circumstances all around us. Instead, I simply need to look at the snapshots of our daily lives and the positive effect we can have on each other. We can all be a part of helping others succeed not only financially but also spiritually.
We all wish to be out of debt. We all want financial peace. Unfortunately, it may take time. But, maybe not so unfortunate if we think of it on a spiritual level. Looking at the following scriptures we know our sufferings can teach us much:
Romans 5:3 - Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
2 Peter 1:5-7 - For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
I hear so many stories of financial difficulty but, instead of being depressed by them, I am actually encouraged by the people. Keep in mind, most people are suffering from more than one crisis. By the time I am called, losses are usually in two's and three's. Most have lost a home and a job. Some have lost a job and are diagnosed with a health issue and lost a loved one. The list of crisis goes on and on. However, I am always amazed at the courage the majority of individuals have, their endurance and their willingness to persevere. Many people could have given up hope in these last years of economic decline on top of everyday sorrows but they have remained hopeful and faithful to God.
And then come the miracles! That is, they receive little snapshot moments in their lives that help propel them forward. Snapshots that remind me and those around them of how good God is. They tell me stories of how they have been provided for when they least expected it. They have seen empty cupboards unexpectedly filled. The job they have been waiting for finally comes through and it is better than they had ever hoped. Or, an inner faith and strength comes through, that they didn't even know they had and, they just simply continue to trust that God is faithful and that He will continue to guide and show them the way.
As a Certified Credit Counselor, I have learned that solving financial difficulties isn't just about budgets, credit cards and cash envelopes. Although these are important factors in a setting goals towards resolving financial issues, certainly faith and trust in God is primary. And for those that are struggling spiritually, I can offer them HOPE.
In closing, here are my seemingly very simple suggestions towards reaching spiritual financial peace:
- Go to God first and PRAY - the minute you begin asking why or what to do, turn the question to God and ask for His guidance. His answers can come in many forms so keep a look out!
- Seek His wisdom - Find out where you went wrong, where you went right and how to move forward in your situation. Ask for advice from other who are trusted. Review God's word and let Him reveal His wisdom on how to handle your situation, financial or otherwise.
- Trust in the fact that He will indeed lead you and guide you towards real financial peace and that all will be well as you find the "peace that surpasses all understanding - Phil 4:7"
One more scripture for the road...Numbers 6:24-26 - May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
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ARE YOU FINANCIALLY PREPARED FOR THE HOLIDAYS?
It really should not be a surprise (because it happens every year) but, the various seasons of celebration are beginning again. They can be a lot of fun but, financial peace may be hard to find if we are not prepared for the expenses.
THE PLANNING AND ORGANIZING
Did you experience fireworks on July 4th? Not the rockets red glare kind but financial red glare. My AC Tech did. He said his son managed to (unexpectedly) spend $200 on fireworks! Wow! In everything we do, we always have to remember to plan (and keep an eye on what our kids spend). Our modern world tells us to go for it but our finances demand from us another way. It doesn't make us freaks, geeks or extreme couponers to begin thinking about what we are going to spend and how we are going to save. It makes us wise!
LET'S CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING...
Back to School - Not officially a holiday in its truest sense (but you will spend money) is the Sales Tax Holiday. This year, Florida will offer theirs on the weekend of August 3rd - 5th. Go to the website and check out it. You can begin preparing for your childs clothing and school supply needs and determine where you can save.
Halloween - Why wait until the last minute? If you are one to celebrate this festivity, whether it is Trick or Treating or Harvest Fests, at some point in September you will want to start collecting coupons, candy and costume prices. Some of the deals are only deals because you are buying in the last minute (unless you PLAN it that way). Ease it into your budget and include a weekly candy purchase into your budget. As a couponer, I know some kind of candy is on sale all of the time. Honestly, you will be much happier not racing around trying to find the cheapest prices, unless you enjoy this Halloween trick. Otherwise, take the gruesomeness out of the event and stock up on the treats BEFORE the 31st arrives.
Thanksgiving - The best of the food holidays has begun! We don't think about saving because it's eating, it's groceries. But we overspend. Take time to consider the many deals and specials offered around this time. COUPON! It is a great time to stock up on baking supplies, spices, condiments, etc. If your family already has specific plans and traditions, it will be that much easier to begin preparing now based on past years. If you are a "wing it" kind of family, don't do that with the budget. Decide the favorite dishes you will serve, whose house (or houses) you will visit, will you participate in Black Friday? Having a plan in place will make you and your budget much more thankful on that wonderful day.
Christmas - Only FIVE months to go. Yes, I said it. Now, close your mouth and let's think this through. As much as we may all love to give and recieve, your bank account may not hold the same uh...values. So instead of letting this holiday get the best of you, make some decisions now. How much can you realistically spend for the holiday? Who is on your priority gifts list? What about decorations, food, candy, travel? There is much to think about and you don't want to do it all on Christmas Eve day. If you haven't started now, GET STARTED! The truth is, you are going to spend (or try to spend) the money. It is not too late to start your own "Christmas Club" or savings account. Any money to go towards the presents, the Secret Santa parties, the food, the cards, the plays will help you to focus on what you can truly spend. So, as the song goes, make a list and check it twice. Check for prices, look on line for lower prices (I personally LOVE Amazon), start stocking up on gift cards. Let your imagination run wild on ways to save. The point is to START saving. Then you can enjoy the real meaning of Christmas.
THE OTHER EVENTS
There are other events that happen throughout the year - Labor Day, New Year's parties, Superbowl parties, birthdays, bridal showers, weddings, new babies, summer vacation...the list can go on depending on your family traditions and lifestyle. However, it is up to you to get the planning in place. Use cash envelopes, a savings club, or a shoe box. The idea is to not let your lack of planning spoil the fun. Go to our website and review our Spending Plan/Budget Workshop. Then, get organized, get planning and get ready to enjoy "the holidays" all year!
WHAT HAS GOD ENTRUSTED TO YOU?
Over the course of the next few months, these pages will be devoted to a new Family Life Resources, Inc. offering that we have tentatively titled THE LIFE BOOK. It will be a way of organizing your financial, legal and life-management issues in such a way that your loved ones can manage your family affairs after your death or incapacitation. The book will also be a way of helping you keep track of those assets and belongings that God has entrusted to you while you are still alive. It will greatly assist you and your family in carrying out your stewardship obligations.
THE ACT OF STEWARDSHIP
When Christians consider the term "stewardship" they often relate it only to giving to their church or--more negatively--to being hit up for a pledge to the latest capital gifts campaign. More experienced believers know that stewardship has a broader definition that encompasses the handling of money and assets in your personal life and is always rooted in the knowledge that God owns everything and we are merely caretakers of His assets. But these mature Christians often miss the point that stewardship has an even wider meaning.
OH NO! HE'S GOING TO REFER TO THE GREEK TRANSLATION
I haven't been to seminary, but any divinity student will tell you that understanding the Greek translations of scripture were the most challenging, but often the most enlightening of their studies. And so it goes with the term "stewardship." The Greek term closest to stewardship is the word oikonomos. Depending on the context it can mean the management of household assets and handling of receipts and expenditures. But in many other situations it translates into "organization, arrangement, administration, order, plan, training and dispensation." It also signifies the burden of a special trust. This is a much more expanded view of stewardship and it needs to be considered when evaluating our requirement to be good stewards.
THE LIFE BOOK: AN INSTRUMENT OF STEWARDSHIP
The Life Book will be an instrument in recognizing these wider stewardship obligations. It will help you organize, manage, arrange, administer, order, plan, train and dispense to your heirs those things that God has blessed you with and entrusted to you. You will use the book to organize your life, manage your finances, and administer your legal issues. It will assist you in arranging your affairs, planning for emergencies and training your loved ones in the process of good stewardship practices. Finally, it places an emphasis on dispensing God's assets to the next generation.
Stewardship is not ultimately about possessions and assets, but about the value of humans and their relationship with God. Putting your affairs in order is a chance to help others understand how God's blessings have enriched their lives and how those blessings need to be guarded and transformed into advancing His ministry and His kingdom. A special section of The Life Book will allow you to bestow to others the most important inheritance that we receive: The Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the writings of Paul the word oikonomos is directly used to charge us with the responsibility for presenting the gospel as a divine trust, as part of our stewardship obligation, even if we don't recognize it as such (1 Corinthians 9:17). Placing a letter to your family and a statement of faith in The Life Book will be a way to pass down that most important possession that God has entrusted to us...Him.
Image credit: Freedigitalphotos.net
Coming back into the house he was shaking his head and had a very serious look on his face. He reported the leak may be underground and that he may have to drill into the ground. I did not know what it all meant but, all I could see were dollar signs and a small savings and home warranty that would not cover everything.
Part one and two of this series centered around your finances. Now we will discuss putting your faith in motion.
Living by faith is a lifestyle. Just as you have a financial lifestyle, you also have a faith lifestyle. You get to choose the difference between a want and a need in both areas. The financial area is easy; what does it take to keep you alive is a need. But the same thing is true for your faith. What does it take to keep your faith alive? Without faith, we become responsible for keeping the earth spinning . With faith, we have a better understanding of our role and realize how much God is in control.
God has a plan for your financial and spiritual lives. Money is a necessary commodity to have in order to survive in today’s culture. For many it is also the single largest stumbling block that keeps us from having a close relationship with God. Deuteronomy 8:3 states: He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
If you had all the money in the world and did not have to work, what would you do with your time? Would you watch TV, travel, read books or build God’s kingdom. What are five goals that you want to accomplish before you die? What skills do you have that others have told you repeatedly that you possess? What are the passions of your heart?
Combining your money and faith is exactly what God wants you to do. He gave you work to earn an income to both support your family and support God’s kingdom. GOD owns it all but allows you to decide where to put it. Less then 25% of the people are giving 95% of the money with 50% to 60% not giving at all. And, it does not make any difference if we are talking money or time. The figures are the same.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
For a copy of our book: Money and Faith in Motion by American Center for Credit Education please complete the information form found on the side bar. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates.
Welcome to CARMEN'S CORNER on the FLR Blog. This is our way of giving you a break, at least for a moment, to meditate on the word of God. So, sit back, read and be refreshed!
ANSWERING YOUR CALL
Everything God calls us to do is impossible to men. Once you realize this, it will take the pressure off you and put it on God. Whatever God calls you to do, He will do it through you. It is His ability in you. Spend time in prayer, put His word into action and you will find out what He would have you do. Let's look at some examples.
JESUS WALKED ON WATER
One day, Jesus walked on the water to his disciples who had gone ahead on their boat (Matthew 14). Seeing the Master walking on the water, they thought they were seeing a ghost. They cried out in fear. Jesus answered, “Don’t be afraid it’s me." Bold Peter called back, “Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you on the water.” "Come," He said.
Walking on the water is impossible and Peter had no ability to do it. Yet the power of the word of Jesus took hold of Peter and held him up. Any time you take a step of faith in any area of your life, your faith is going to be tested. We see here Peter stepped out of the boat, walked on the water, but suddenly looked around him at the wind; he was afraid and began to sink.
"Lord," he cried out, “save me!" Immediately Jesus took him by the hand and caught him. He asked him “Why did you doubt?” And you know what they did? Together they walked back to the boat.
Let’s look at the Apostle Paul when he was faced with terrible circumstances. He was imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked and abused in almost every way imaginable for preaching the gospel. Did this stop him? No way! At the end of his ministry Paul said, "I have finished my course.”
You are probably thinking, “Yeah, those were great men called of God!" Well, if you are in Christ, you are also called of God (2 Corinthians 5:17). Don’t look at the circumstances or lack of ability, focus on Jesus and you will do greater things! Go ahead, it's your turn to answer your call.