Kris Mares

Just a woman trying to love Jesus and others a little bit more…

The Face of Food Stamps February 11, 2011

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 7:56 am
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A friend of mine started a conversation the other day about people on food stamps. It all started because of a snow day. You see, when there is an “inclement weather day” at schools across the country, the children who are on free breakfast/lunch, don’t have that option for food those days. So in response, my friend and his church decided to see if families in that system needed food during the snow days.  Many children who receive free school lunch also receive food stamps.

As part of the conversation, we were asked what percentage of the people called (remember, these are families whose kids receive free lunch at school and are most likely on food stamps), accepted the assistance offered – as much food as they needed, no questions asked. What is your guess? 53%, 9%, 88% or 37%?

You see, so many of us have an idea of what the face of food stamps looks like. Some of us see people who are lazy and don’t want to work. Some of us see women who have more babies just to get more benefits. Some of us see drug addicts who sell their benefits to get money for drugs. Some of us see people just trying to milk the system and get all they can from whoever they can.

For some of us, we see the faces of people we love and know.

I see a woman whose husband lost his job 3 years ago. He’s been trying to find work, but in this economy in his field, there is not much. They’ve lost their home and moved in with parents. They are careful with their money, have cashed out any savings they had and there is just not enough to put food on the table.  They have a daughter.

I see a friend whose family has been dealing with unemployment so long that unemployment benefits have run out. Her husband has found work, but in this economy, it’s not steady and doesn’t have many hours. They are struggling to keep the home they love. They are slowly selling off their possessions in order to pay the bills. They have two children.

I see another family trying to follow the will of God in their lives. After leaving a job that was no longer healthy or good, they lived off savings and credit cards while looking for work and helping care for very ill family members. They have moved in with family and now four generations are living in one home. Work was still hard to come by and people needed to eat. They have returned to work and honestly reported that they no longer need the benefits. They have one child.

I know of another man who actually was selling some of his benefits. Not for drugs. Not for alcohol. He sold them so that he had money to pay his utilities – heat, water. He went to federal prison for selling his benefits.

I know of another family who uses some of their benefits to help out friends with food. These friends are struggling but don’t qualify for assistance. That family could go to prison for their generosity.

You see, these are the faces of food stamps. Honest families that have been hit with life circumstances beyond their control. Families that don’t want help, but have kids that need to eat. Families that are all colors of the rainbow. Sure, there are some that abuse the system. There always will be. Jesus told us “the poor you will always have with you” (Matt. 26:11). But let’s not judge those who we mistakenly think we understand.

Many of us are just one job loss away from food stamps. One bad decision away from losing the security we think we have.

So how does that snow day story end? From my friend…

“Tuesday, my secretary called the 55 homes representing about 200 people (mostly children) to ask if anybody needed food this week. They could come to the church and pick up as many bags of groceries as they needed. No questions asked.

Only 5 persons said they needed food. None of those other persons took the opportunity to come get food which they didn’t need. They could have. But they did not.

Just like when we had our sanctuary full of clothes for people to take… people only took what they needed. No more… no less.

This story is to dispel the myth that all these people are abusing the system to support their drug habits, etc.”

So the answer?

9%

Is that what you guessed? Are you surprised? What thoughts and emotions are tumbling inside of you right now?

Would you like a challenge? Here is the table of maximum benefits for the state that I live in (not all families receive maximum benefits). How does your family compare (include ALL food – eating out and groceries)? If you are over, see if you can live off that amount for a month.

FNSU
SIZE
130% MAXIMUM GROSS INCOME LIMIT
200% MAXIMUM GROSS INCOME LIMIT  MAXIMUM BENEFIT
ALLOTMENT
1 $1174 $1805 $200
2 $1579 $2428 $367
3 $1984 $3052 $526
4 $2389 $3675 $668
5 $2794 $4298 $793
6 $3200 $4922 $952
7 $3605 $5545 $1052
8 $4010 $6168 $1202
Each Additional
Member
(+406)
(+623) (+150)

I want to leave you thinking about the faces of food stamps. I want to challenge you to have more compassion next time you’re at the grocery store and the person in front of you uses that voucher or that food stamp card. What is your immediate response? What is the response of compassion and love? Think about what life circumstances brought them to that point.

Now what are you going to do about it?

 

Hope November 29, 2010

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 7:13 am
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Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent.  It was the Sunday focusing on Hope – hope that came in the prophecy of a coming Messiah.  Hope that comes through belief in a God greater than ourselves.  Hope that took its form in a crying baby and an empty tomb.  Hope that is still available today because of a risen Savior.

Each year, our family lights an Advent Wreath during Sunday evening’s meal.  We read scripture, light the appropriate candles and place some of the figures in a Nativity scene.  During dinner, the goal is to have a discussion about the particular scripture or “theme” for that week.  Yesterday, it was nice to have three grandmas with us to join in our Advent tradition. 

As we were eating, I asked everyone what their hope was for this Christmas season and the new year.  The little kids’ “hope” was mostly about gifts they hoped to receive.  Great grandma – in her years of life lessons – simply hoped for family with good health, safety, wise choices.  The other two grandmas hoped for more time with kids/grandkids, stability and good health. 

Blue hoped for days with less teasing from Racer and I.  That was eye-opening as I didn’t realize that Blue was bothered by our ribbing as much as maybe she is.  We rib her about little stuff as just a way that we interact in our family.  We don’t mean harm by it – it’s just silly fun.  I guess that’s not how it’s being received.  Her hope is one that Racer and I just might be able to help realize.

Racer’s hope was for God to help us realize our heart’s desire for our family home.  We have dreams like most young couples.  We have dreams for a house that is “just right” for our family.  We have hope that God will provide us with a family home that is “just right” for us.

My hope – for a plentiful harvest from the seeds and labor of the past year.  This last year has been a tough one for our family.  There have been many unexpected hurdles, challenges and struggles.  There have also been many unforseen blessings and joys.  As Professor asked me to explain what I meant this is what I said…

When you plant a garden, there is a lot of hard work in the beginning.  You have to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, weed, weed, weed.  You sweat a lot.  Sometimes your muscles hurt from all the hard work.  It’s not always that fun.  But then, after all the hard work, a time comes when you get to see and enjoy the flowers and then the fruit from the labor.

Professor understood that.  We’ve had a year of work, labor, sweat and tears.  My hope is for a year when we get to rest and begin to see more of the beauty arising from the work of preparing and planting.  I have seen many ways already that God has changed our family for the better.  I see many areas that we still need refining.  But my hope is that God isn’t done with us yet!

I just feel it deep inside that God has amazing things He’s going to do with our family.  This season is simply one of preparation and seed planting.  This season is one of hard work so that the beauty of God’s mercy, grace and love can grow more beautifully and plentiful in our family’s garden.  What that beauty looks like, I don’t know.  What I do know is that I have confidence in what I hope for.  I rest in the promises of scripture.

So this week, as we move forward in the Advent Season – a season of preparation, spend some time thinking about what it is that you truly hope for and where your confidence in that hope comes from.  Now share!  Tell me, tell someone, what is your hope?

 

My 2010 Top Ten November 17, 2010

If you remember this post, during the month of November, I am sharing one thing each day that I am thankful for (via Facebook).  Today, you are lucky.  Instead of sharing just one thing, I am sharing ten things I am thankful for.  Well, not things exactly, but people instead.  Please know that these people are not in any particular order (so don’t get excited or hurt for your order on the list).  Also, I am obviously thankful for Jesus Christ, but am choosing to exclude him from this list.  I am focusing on people who are alive and kickin’ and have had a great impact on my life during 2010 in particular (whether they know it or not).  So, here it goes…

Racer – Even though I’ve been hormonal and emotional for most of the last year (well, really 5 1/2 years?), I know that I could not do what I do without you.  We have grown together.

Blue – I have learned soooo much about being a better mother.  It’s been hard, but worth it.

Big K – A best friend that I didn’t expect to have.  Your listening ears, understanding mom perspective and your prayers have been my saving grace many a days.

Brother P – I have learned and grown because of your mentorship.  Truly a faith father to me.

Penny – An immediate connection that helped me feel welcomed and at home.  Something I definitely needed at that moment.

Coach and Mrs. Coach – Your strength, integrity and wisdom I admire and want to have more of.  Faith during fire that refines.

Prairie Mom – My unexpected friend.

AP – Surprise decisions, understanding and “freedom” for my family.  I am forever grateful for the gift I continue to have because of you.

RoRo – Never afraid to clean my coffee cups… or listen… or laugh.

Nursery Gals – I couldn’t have done what I did without trusting in those that take care of my kids.  My kids were loved like your family.

There are so many others in my life that I am thankful for – especially over this last year, Teacher C (both of you), the “Old Men of the Church,” the Landlord, CR Team, Mom and Dad, Racer’s Mom.  All of you are important.

When I think about the lessons I have learned and the ways that I have grown this year, some people stick out as having helped me get there.  You may or may not realize it, but you have impacted me.

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters,and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.  Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.  (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, NIV)

 

November Thankfulness November 3, 2010

November is a time when so many people really think about being thankful.  Thankful for what they have, thankful for family, thankful for friends, thankful for health.  I’ve heard of families who put up a “thankful tree” each year where everyday, the family members decorate a leaf with what they are thankful for and by the time the end of the month rolls around, there is a beautiful, full tree to reflect upon.  What a beautiful idea!

This year, I have so much to be thankful for.  Being thankful is really a state of being though isn’t it?  It’s a constant state of being in praise for who God is and what he is doing.  It can be, however, hard to live in thankfulness when life seems to be crumbling around you.

For almost 3 years, I was a single mom.  During that time, I learned to be grateful for the ability to pay bills.  I paid off my car, refinanced to own my own home, paid off a debt to my parents and continued to keep on the utilities, take care of my child and have some fun too!  Childcare was provided by Professor’s grandmother, so I always knew that he was well taken care of (and it was free!).  I was – and still am – thankful for the love of  my parents and close friends who got me through that time.  I learned during that time, how grateful to be able – especially as a woman – to have a job that provided for me well, how moving toward tithing builds trust, and that I should never dread paying bills because I CAN pay them.

During this season of my life, when uncertainty is in the air, I am constantly in awe of God’s provision for my family.  I am thankful for kindness of others, prayer warriors, church family and so many, many things.  I am thankful for family that loves and supports.  I’m thankful for healthy kids.  I’m thankful for Racer’s work and me being able to stay home.  I’m thankful for a marriage that, while not perfect, is become so much more than I thought. 

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  1 Chronicles 16:34

Above all, I’m thankful for a God that love me, teaches me, is patient with me and saves me – even though I deserve none of it.  Gratitude is not something that comes easy though.  So many times, I have lamented like many “Why me God?”  My response now is “How am I to grow from this God?”  Life’s uncertainties and struggles, teach us, shape us, refine us into a pure silver so that we can reflect the Light of Christ.  Being thankful for ALL that comes into our lives is a part of that process.  Gratitude must be learned.

I’ve heard of people, who each day this month, are posting on Facebook, Twitter, blogs or other media means, one thing each day that they are thankful for.  Will you join me in this endeavor?  Together, no matter what our circumstances, let us learn to be more thankful.

Start here.

Start today.

What are you thankful for?

 

Where to start… October 18, 2010

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 1:12 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I didn’t blog at all last week.  A family member reminded me of that last night – and I did have a goal of blogging at least 3 times a week right?  So, here I am sitting down, deciding where to start…  I have about 3-4 blogs rolling around in my head – great ideas that I just need to get onto “paper.”  I’m sure you’ll see them soon.  What I really want to write about, feel like I’m supposed to write about, I have fear about.  Fear because it’s out there, for everyone to see.  Fear because I don’t want to reveal too much about my life and deal with the repercussions.  Fear because I don’t know what will happen, how people will react, if I’m totally transparent and intimate about my life.  Fear because it’s not just my life, but I want to protect my husband and children too.  I don’t ever want what I say to reflect negatively on who they are.  If it reflects negatively on me – that’s fine, because you really do get the real me on here.  I may be reserved for privacy reasons, but for the most part, you get my voice and who I am.  When it comes to family though, the mama bear in me comes out and I can be fiercely defensive – realistic, but defensive.

So today, as I write and think and pray, I continue to reflect on the Sunday School lesson from yesterday – Psalm 46.  I got the privilege of teaching this lesson and in God’s great way of teaching me, I needed it more than anyone else I think.  Sometimes I need reminding that God is God and I am not.  When something is going on that needs “fixed,” I tend to be the one creating the plan and moving forward with the fixing.  Racer is the let’s wait and it’ll fix itself kind of guy.  I want to go in and solve the problem with my big ideas.  Racer waits to see and takes it as it comes.  I want to know what is going to happen and when.  Racer takes each step as it comes, not worrying about the next.

In all reality, God is the only one in control.  His timing is perfect and I don’t understand it and that creates fear in me.  (I know a counselor that would say I am choosing to fear, but I like to think that I would never “choose” fear.)  Yet, Psalm 46 reminds me that God is my ever-present help.  He is within me and He will be exalted.  This takes on even more meaning when I learned that Psalm 46 was written in response to a “last-minute miracle.”

You see, Hezekiah was king.  The Assyrians were attacking.  They were camped out around the city waiting for daybreak so that they could wage war.  I’m sure the people could see them waiting.  They people knew that doom was impending.  They could hear it, feel it, see it.  What fear they must have had.  I’m sure the faithful (and even the unfaithful) were crying out to God, asking for deliverance and protection.  Some had probably started creating plans on what they would do to protect their family.  Maybe some even gave up hope, thinking that if God hadn’t intervened yet, he wasn’t going to.  Yet some still held on tight to hope – hope that the God they know, love, serve and trust would keep His promises.

What happened?  Before dawn, while the Assyrian army was sleeping, and Angel of the Lord slay 185,000 soldiers while they slept.  When dawn broke – and war should’ve begun – the army instead retreated.  God protected His people.  Can you imagine a husband saying to his wife “See, all that worrying for nothing!”

Psalm 46 is most likely a response to that miracle – a people’s praise and worship gift to their God.  To my God.  To our God.  Psalm 46 reminds me of that too.  “God is OUR refuge… WE will not fear… Almighty is with US…”  I don’t function alone.  My family doesn’t function alone.  We are a part of a community of believers, strengthened, protected and loved by a mighty God.  The God that is my God, was the God of Jacob and the God that delivered His people (over and over and over again).  God is the same today, as He was then and will be in the future.

I don’t have to deal with my fears, struggles, challenges alone.  So as Racer and I make some decisions regarding our “old house” that we thought had sold but didn’t, as well as the current home we live in, please pray with us.  Please pray that we clearly hear God’s direction to take.  Please pray that we make a wise decision as we move forward.  Please pray that we will be united in our decision.  Please pray that we are in God’s timing and Will and not our own.  Please pray that the feelings overwhelming me (I am pregnant after all and hormones are taking their toll) subside and are replaced with a peace that passes understanding.

And to quote a dear old woman at a church we love, “I covet your prayers.”  I know we’re not supposed to covet, but I love that she says that and I think when talking about prayer, it might just be okay.

So, humbly I say thank you.  Whoever “you” may be, thank you.  I know God hears you and I trust that He is already answering.  I just need to be able to see and hear those answers.  I need to be still and know that God is God of all situations.

And please, if I can pray about something for you, let me know.  I will gladly carry you to the Throne as well.

 

Praying for Others September 23, 2010

Recently, an acquaintance spoke of praying for others.  The gist of the comment was that she no longer believe God hears her when she prays for herself, but that He hears when she prays for others.  My response was this:

And this is precisely why we all pray for others. Sometimes when we are removed from a situation – just a bit – there is some breathing room to listen and pray for the “right” things, not just what is so desperately wanted. When we are not in a fight to breath, it is easier to slow ourselves down and listen for our prayers to be directed and then hear the peace that comes from knowing they will be answered.

Now, I do believe that God is hearing her prayers for herself and her own family.  I believe God hears EACH and EVERY prayer that we utter – even the ones that we don’t utter and can only feel.  But sometimes, we are so entrenched in our own life situations, that we are not able to clearly hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit when we pray.  Sometimes, we are so caught up in the emotions of our lives, that we are unable to sense the peace and the comfort that God is trying to give us.  Sometimes, we are so caught up in our misguided attempts to “solve” our own problems, that we don’t hear God whispering “Just trust me, I’ve got it.”

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  James 5:16 (NIV)

Part of having others pray for us is confessing.  We have to be honest about our struggles, temptations and sins.  That means being honest with ourselves too.  And then, we have to trust that those praying will do as they say they will do.  There is something powerful and humbling about asking others to pray for our struggles.  There is a power that is released when we pray in the Spirit for the needs of others.

And God does answer.  Maybe not how we want (which is often why we don’t hear the  answer), but He does answer.  I know that when other people have prayed for things that I can’t seem to pray about – or if I do I hear nothing, silence – that my prayer partners have been overwhelmed with a sense of God’s Will, peace and love that will reign.  I can’t see the clearing – I’m still lost in the woods.  Those that are not in the woods with me are much better able to get God’s picture of where and am, the path out, and the clearing to which I am being led.  It’s a beautiful thing.

So, for those that are struggling, or have ever struggled with prayer – I UNDERSTAND.  I’ve been there.  In some ways I still am.  Yet I trust that even though I may not see the clearing, that God has it all planned.  I supposed that’s what faith is; “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

When life situations seem impossible, unbearable, without hope, we must cry out.  Even though we don’t feel like we’re being heard, we must continue to cry out.  God hears.  God knows.  God understands.  God’s got it under control.   

 

Teach Them to Your Children September 13, 2010

Filed under: Motherhood — Kris @ 1:05 pm
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Last night and today I’ve been thinking about how we pass our faith onto our children.  I was a part of a message board discussion started by a professed “non-believer.”  The question posed was aimed at Atheists/Agnostics and asked how to answer God questions that arise from children.  I weighed in on the discussion, not because I was trying to “save” anyone, but because I think the concept of how to pass along beliefs to children is fairly universal.  And how we explain differing beliefs to curious children – without being disrespectful or full of belief-bashing – can be fairly similar in approach. 

My thoughts about answering questions about differing faiths is this:  at a younger age, when general questions such as “Why do/don’t some people believe in God,” it is simply okay to answer with a general response like “Well, some people believe one way and other people believe in other ways.  I believe that…”  When the inevitable “why” comes, I think that’s the time to share an experience that is personal that has helped you form your beliefs. 

As children get older and ask more specific questions, we as parents must be ready to help find the answers they are looking for.  Whether that answer lies in faith, scripture, science, or nature, we must be able to help them see more specific reasons behind different beliefs.  It may feel uncomfortable.  We may need help.  We may need support from like-faith friends and family.  But I think it’s important to allow the questions to be answered.  If we as parents don’t help them find the answers, someone else may.  Someone else who is not respectful of the belief system from which I as the parent come.  For me, I would rather my children learn about faith from me and those adults that I trust to answer their questions in a way that is respectful, fair, truthful and as much as possible, in accordance with what I believe. 

So as I’ve continued to ponder this question of how to pass beliefs onto my children, I thought of this scripture –  “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:19).  The passage talks about how the children did not experience the God-moments that the parents did.  The children were not first-hand witnesses to the miracles, thus it is the parents responsibility to tell those stories and share those truths.  I’ve always thought that sharing our stories is vital to our faith.  But how do we do that with our children exactly?

Regardless of what we believe, we share our beliefs with those around us through the way we live.  Particularly for those who live life with us, who we are when no one is looking is vital.  For me, as a Christian, if I say that I believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit – and the commands that go with those beliefs – I should be living that out in all fabrics of my life.  Being a Christian is not just a “church building” thing.  It doesn’t start and end when I walk in the church doors.  The same can be said for those of other belief systems – Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Buddhists, Wiccans, Mormons, etc.  We can claim to be whatever we want to claim, but if we don’t live it out, are we really what we claim to be?

So how do I pass my faith along to my children?  I specifically teach it to them through reading Bible stories/scripture together and discussing it.  I teach it to them by incorporating Sunday School and mid-week ministry activities into our family schedule – trusting capable fellow believers to help me in the responsibility of discipling my children.  I talk about my faith with my children when we are playing, working and living life.  I don’t box God into Sunday’s, the church building or meal time prayers only.  As opportunity shows itself, I talk about how what I belive about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is infused into my daily life – our daily life as a family.  And as we go to sleep, I pray with my children – thanking God for the day, confessing wrongs and verbalizing any needs for that night or the next day.  As I go to sleep, I simply breath and meditate and know that my Creator knows my heart, my joys, my struggles and my needs.  It is like a conversation that continues throughout the day and through my dreams. 

For me, my faith lies in a Creator greater than myself.  For others, their faith may lie in their own inner-strength and the laws of science.  Either way, how we go about teaching our children that faith is very much the same.  We live it, we teach it, we infuse what we believe into the way we function and conduct ourselves.  Our children are going to learn much more from who we are than what we say we are anyway.

So tell me, how do you leave a legacy of faith to your children?

 

Friendship July 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kris @ 8:13 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Recently, Blue reminded me of this funny little poem by Shel Silverstein call Friendship:

I’ve discovered a way to stay friends forever —
There’s really nothing to it.
I simply tell you what to do
And you do it!

For a “bossy northerner” like me (a loving title bestowed upon my by my southern friends), this poem made me LAUGH!!  I can’t count how many times I’ve said to my husband and kids “Well, we wouldn’t argue so much if you’d just do what I tell you too!”  Yes, I realize how absurd that sounds.  If the people around us would just follow our directions, life would be soooo much easier wouldn’t it?

I for one, am glad I have a husband and friends who will stand up to me.  I’m glad that I have friends that will tell me what they really think about some of the crazy plans I cook up.  I’m glad that I have friends that are strong, opinionated and don’t let me walk all over them.  And this is why – if you let me, I will. 

I learned several year ago, something shocking about my “kind and loving” nature.  Don’t get me wrong, I can be kind and loving.  I can also walk all over you on the way to where I’m going.  The bad thing is, I don’t always realize it.  What I do realize, however, is that I need strong personalities around me to balance out my strong personality.  Yes, that means interesting discussions and “arguments,” but it also means that we have an understanding that it’s not personal and there is no love lost.  As hard as I can push, I need people to push back so that I don’t fall. 

So, to my “girls” who love my strength, my personality and the heart of who I am and who I hope to be – THANK YOU!  You have made me kinder, more loving and more beautiful.  My life will never be the same since you have been a part of it.  And while miles will soon separate our homes, know that our hearts are forever bound together in Christ.

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12

Two are better than one,
       because they have a good return for their work:

 If one falls down,
       his friend can help him up.
       But pity the man who falls
       and has no one to help him up!

  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
       But how can one keep warm alone?

 Though one may be overpowered,
       two can defend themselves.
       A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

1 Samuel 20:42

Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’ “

 

Waiting to move June 18, 2010

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 1:59 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  It’s been awhile since I’ve had anything that I felt was worth saying really.  My family is slowly preparing to move.  Our house is filled with boxes packed with things that aren’t necessities.  Christmas dishes, cd’s, books, knick-knacks, stuff.  Eventually we need to have a yard sale with the stuff that we don’t want but someone else might.

Stuff.

When packing it’s hard to decide what stuff is really important.  I have disagreements on that with Racer.  I’m a tosser.  He’s a keeper.  It’s often hard to compromise.  In the end, who is right?  Who is wrong?  Both of us.  Memories are important.  I have heard people say things like “I wish I had (such ‘n such) of my grandmother’s.”  It’s times like those that I know we should hold on to certain items.  But when we are moving college textbooks that have only gotten dusty for the last ?? years, maybe it’s time to bless someone else with those.  Or the collection of purses that don’t get used.  Or the magazines from years ago.  Or the cd’s that are never listened to.  Or the VHS tapes that will be obsolete.  How does one decide?  How much stuff is enough and when does it become too much?

In the end, I suppose all we really need  is a place to sleep, clothes to wear and food to eat.  And photos.  Yes the photos too.  (Although I’ll leave out the ones that were given to me by an elderly church friend that involve my mouth, open, ready to receive food.  Or the ones of my backside.)  I think that we “need” those things too and then I remember these words:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matthew 6:25-34, NIV)

I also think about the early Christians in Acts chapter 2 and how they sold everything they had and gave to those in need.  We could just sell everything and start all over.  That seems wasteful doesn’t it?  It also sounds refreshing.  Less “stuff” equals less clutter, less to clean, less to keep track of, less to think about.  Maybe it means a simpler life.  A life where we are forced to rely on God instead of the entertainment that is so readily available to us.  A life that is not defined by what we have, but instead, defined by who we are and what we give.

But even that doesn’t seem right.  It almost sounds as if what – how much – we give should define us.  That sounds like a life of works based philosophy to me.  Maybe, just maybe, our lives should instead be defined by who we are in communion with Jesus Christ.

It’s not the stuff we have.  It’s not the stuff we give.  It’s not how we live.  It’s who we are IN CHRIST.  That’s really, when you keep meditating on both of the scriptures above, what it is about.  It’s about living life in Christ, and Christ living His life in us.

So as we pack, maybe that’s our new standard of “keep” vs. “not-keep.”  We pick up something and ask “Does this help Jesus live His life in me?”  I have a feeling that so many times, I’d say no.  Sure I could “justify” the item, but really, most of my stuff is just stuff.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s what this move is about for our family.  Us fully relying on Christ and opening a new place for Jesus to live more fully in us.

 

Empty Wallets and the Empty Tomb April 4, 2010

Filed under: Money — Kris @ 4:51 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I have some “friends” right now that are in dire straights.  I say “friends” because I don’t know them in real life.  I only know them online.  I’ve never seen their faces, I know them by screen name (usually I can connect a real name) and I don’t even really know where they live.  Yet, we know some very personal things about each other.  We are all struggling financially in one way or another.  Most have experienced job loss due to economy, some are without employment for 2 years.  Some have made bad decisions in the past, have been paying “stupid tax,” were tight before the job loss and now with job loss are in a total bind.  Some have better perspectives, some don’t, most waver depending on that day’s circumstances.  What we all have in common are empty wallets. 

Most of my “friends” struggle with paying bills – credit cards they’ve lived off of when first unemployed, medical bills after having lost insurance from being unemployed.  Being creative with a food budget is a necessity and often selling household items brings needed gas money.  What I love about this particular group of women is that there is love, support and no judgement.  As different as this group of women is, we have one thing in common – we all have empty wallets.

Since today is Easter, I have of course been thinking about the empty tomb.  Without the empty tomb, there would be no hope.  Without our Risen Lord, there would be no redemption through the cross and eternal life through the conquering of death.  The empty tomb we celebrate on Easter Sunday is a symbol of hope – hope that our trials here on Earth are simply temporary struggles that will one day be gone.

I think an empty wallet can be the same thing.  I’m not talking about an empty wallet that needs refilling by a trip to the ATM.  I’m talking about wallets that are truly empty, along with the bank accounts that fill them.  I’m talking about wallets that are negative because the next $xxx going in are already allotted to bills that are past due.  When wallets are that empty, we can no longer live on our own accord.  There is no longer security in knowing that we can work hard enough to buy the things we need, think we “need” and want.  We can no longer live in a false sense of pride that we are somehow faster, smarter, stronger than the next and we are “blessed” more than others.  Being blessed is such a relative term.  When our wallets are echoing empty, we have nothing left but hope that our Father will provide for us. 

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?  Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!  And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.  But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”’  (Luke 12:22-31, NIV)

Let us rest in the hope of the promise through scripture that God knows what we need and will provide for exactly that.  Let us find the hope of our Savior in the echo of our empty wallets.

 

 
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