Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is that what tithing really means?

(Originally written Sept 10, 2010 - I just found this in draft/unpublished form. These considerations are still very much on my mind, even as Paul is now an associate pastor of a church)

When you grow up in church, as I did, you learn that tithing means giving 10% of your income "back to God." And, if you are in a "normal" church (as I was) then that means giving to the general offering - which funds the pastor's paycheck, janitor, electricity/gas, telephone, etc. I do not remember EVER questioning that this form of tithing is truly giving back to God. But, lately I have been doing some thinking (always a dangerous proposition...), and I am a little frustrated with what I see.

Please know, before I continue, that I am writing this from my limited experience. I am NOT writing this to bash the churches I have been in. Nor is this a post about paid clergy. My main goal in writing this post is to make you stop and think. This post is not intended to make you stop "tithing," but rather to help you make sure that your money is going where you want it to go.

Lately Paul and I have been frustrated with how little of the money given in tithes actually goes to win the lost, feed the poor, help widows and orphans, etc. Now, most people will jump all over me for this, because most people would say something to the effect of "we are paying to run the church, and that reaches people." I see what you're saying, truly I do. But, I also see the flip side of the coin. The money given to the church in this manner usually stays in the church to support the building (and perhaps the bureaucracy of the church). I realize that every church is different, and I am speaking in generalities. But, overall, most of the money given to institutional churches is used to keep the institution going.

Not only that, but most people give money to the church instead of missions, the poor, the helpless, the orphans, etc. These would be considered as "offerings" above and beyond your 10% tithe (at least in the churches I have spent most of my time in). But, when you look at Scripture, the emphasis is put on these latter considerations.

"Pure religion" is not how good you maintain your building, or that you have a paved parking lot and a central air conditioning. I am not suggesting that you abandon all of these comforts, so much as I am saying "let's take a step back and re-evaluate."
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 NASB

I will admit that I am not the best at this either. I am still learning about how to care for widows and orphans, and I acknowledge that I should be doing much more.

It just seems like if your "church" is a home fellowship, where you do not have to collect an offering to pay the bills (or the pastor) then you could use your money to bless people for the sake of Christ.

I am just putting these thoughts out there to make you stop and think. I do NOT want you to stop tithing to your local church. But, maybe we need to do more...

Remember when???

Before we moved out of our old, moldy farmhouse (in Oct 2010), we filled holes and painted the school room (the kids had used Sharpie on the walls!).

We had not used the Spackle since that time.

Last week, when moving last minute items from our more recent rental Paul opened the can...
the insides were COVERED IN BLACK MOLD!!!

Be careful when you have black mold, my friends! It is toxic stuff and it is super hard to get rid of!

Convictions and Trials

(Posted from a draft written on 9-23-2010 about a year ago. This post was originally written while we were looking for housing to get away from our moldy old farm house.)

Trials have a way of testing our convictions!

As I share my trial, I am not trying to "judge" anyone else. I am just thinking out loud. Each family needs to come to their own convictions after much Bible reading and prayer.

Paul and I have a conviction that a mother's primary job and ministry is to take care of her husband and  children. For our family this means that I do not work an outside job, and I homeschool our children. I am being brief today, but I have written about this topic before - here.

Today's post is about how, because of our present trial by fire (in the way of looking for housing on a very limited income), our convictions are truly put to the test. There have been many times in the past when we have considered sending me to work in the evenings, when Paul could stay with the children. But, each time we decided that we could make due on Paul's income. We have given up many luxuries (except for internet). And, we eat a lot of oatmeal, rice and beans. But, our consciences were satisfied.

But, now we are facing a new trial - finding a safe home on a very small income (while at the same time repairing our credit by paying off past debts). We have written a budget that is based on Paul's income. And, we allotted ourselves 30% of that income for housing needs. But, in our price range we are hard-pressed to find a safe home in a quiet neighborhood. Paul leaves for work at 3 am, and he wants to be able to do so with peace of mind that no one will be breaking in. We are oh-so-tempted to raise our budget number just another $50, or another $100 per month to be able to have many choices of comfortable housing within reach. And, I have thought on many occasions, "If I would work waiting tables at night, we could have any house we want."

BUT, when would our family have time together? When we would have family worship? When would I see my husband?
These are the questions that keep our convictions in place... though it might mean living in a place much smaller than we like... in a neighborhood louder than we like... with less luxuries than we like...

I want to honor God with my life. And, I truly believe that He intends for me to stay at home with the children and care for them. And, when Paul is home I am to care for him - not leave him to fend for himself and the children.

(Added: One year later... we ended up moving to a much nicer home in October of 2010. I never did have to work outside of the home. God provided for our needs... though Paul often worked LONG hours!)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Moving Forward

This blog has always been very authentic (some would say "to a fault"). But, Paul and I have a passion for reaching out to others in the trenches by sharing that we too have been there.

Yet, as I re-read my posts I see bitterness in some of them. I wish to apologize to those who hold convictions that I recently mentioned with an unkind tone. I did not see how my comments were so ugly at the time. I am not deleting anything, because these posts are part of our journey and the attitudes/honesty I expressed have actually ministered to others who feel the same way. BUT, Paul and I wish to keep moving forward. We are not stuck in bitterness. I am no longer writing/talking in such a cynical way as I did in a few of my previous posts. I truly believe that cynicism and sarcasm generally reveal a bitter root. I wish to dig up all these bitter roots and replant grace bearing plants in their place!

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Phil 3:13-14 (NASB)

We will keep pressing forward! 

Josiah - in August


Nothing like toddlers in the dirt in their pajamas! 

I will try to get some more recent pics uploaded this week.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Busy Days - An Update

Housing - We moved to a new home last Saturday. We have been quite busy getting settled in. If you are a "real life" friend and you are out of the loop, send me an e-mail. I can send you updates and address info.

Also, we have home internet again now. I have not been using the smart phone internet much at all. The smart phone (especially internet usage) made me sick. So I had to cancel my phone line. You might think I am crazy, but the EMFs (radiation) made me sick with headaches and made me irritable and panicky. So, we canceled my cell phone. (Glad it's gone!!!)

Paul's job - He is still part-time at UPS and has decided not to pursue full-time. It would be too much time away from our family. Shortly after making this decision, an opportunity came up for Paul to minister at a small, local church. It is a long story how it all came about... let's just say, GOD DID IT! Paul is the associate pastor. I will likely write more about this later.

Budget news - we are radically cutting back our budget. We decided to take a HUGE cut in food expenses. We will no longer buy the luxury items we are so accustomed to: coke (I say "coke" for any kind of soda), bottled water, snacks, etc. And, we will cut out about half our meat (again) and get back into the healthy habit of cooking with rice, lentils, noodles, beans, etc. I will probably be posting updates on this food journey, because it is so important right now.

As for the pregnancy - I am very tired, but not sick. I will be seven months along on Oct 4th. The baby measures 2 weeks too big, but we are certain of our due date (Dec 28).


Pics will be posted soon!!!