Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Beg, Borrow - Pray

While I was unemployed (through 2008 and much of 2007) I was at once panicked and unaffected about money concerns. Either I was too dumb to know to be worried, or too confident that I would be okay.

To be honest, I had a few thousand dollars in savings to live on - but let's be real here - $2,000 or $3,000 doesn't last 14 months. Not with a mortgage to pay each month.

Still every month I was able to make that mortgage payment, and buy groceries, and put gas in my car. Every. Month.

My friends thought I was some sort of genius with money - but if you really know me - you know that sure ain't true! Every month, I would look at my bank balance and PRAISE GOD. It was SO God providing for me. No other way to explain it.

When, after all those months I was finally in contention for a real job - I prayed and prayed. If you remember, I was one of three candidates that they took 3 weeks to decide between. I told the Lord that I recognized that I did all I could do. I'm qualified, I interviewed, and they are seriously considering me. It's out of my hands God, it's in Your hands. You know if this is the right job for me - so I will trust when I hear the news - whether I get it or don't get it - that it is Your plan.

After seeing God miraculously provide for me all that time, I was shamed into recognizing that I never, never in all my adult years took Tithing seriously.

A journalism degree does not beget loads of money. It doesn't even beget a sufficient living wage.
I always rationalized that I couldn't give up 10% of my income because I had to eat. Until recently I never put money in a 401k - not even when there was a 50% match - because I couldn't trust that I could get by with what would be left. And to be honest, things were always tight. I would borrow $100 or $200 bucks here and there from my parents just to maintain my car or pay my rent. No way could I put $100 bucks in the collection basket at church.

But I had 14 months to witness God providing for me and I promised Him, when I got a job I would give Him back 10%. It's definitely time.

Well, funds were low those first few months of employment. It took a few weeks to even get my first paycheck, then there was Christmas and traveling home. Funds were mysteriously thinner than when I was unemployed.

So January was my first month putting 10% in the basket.
I'll admit it was hard to write that check. I prayed over it, and I told God, "Seriously, this isn't easy." It was hard right up until I dropped that envelope in the basket.

Outside of insurance, mortgage payments and other bills, I NEVER drop that amount on anything.

I get paid this week, and this is the paycheck from which I write my Tithing contribution.

At the same time, I'm thinking about that plane ticket home for my niece's (The Champ) graduation in May. The rental car I'll need to drive the three hours from the airport to my hometown. My share of the laptop computer we plan to give her for college. I'm thinking about the tires I need on my car. The driver's side window that needs repairing. The credit card that paid for groceries some weeks. I'm thinking how much easier it will be to handle all that if I don't write the Tithing check each month. I think about how smart it would be to save all that money considering the economic crisis.

But then I think about how my job with the City is up for review in March. They could reduce my hours. They might cut my job. (although it's doubtful, they needed to hire three positions but only filled mine) Then I think about how God provides. And I think, probably wrongly, that if I commit to this 10% - maybe it's like insurance. God promises that what we give up will be returned threefold. Maybe God will bless me by insuring that the City doesn't cut my job despite the $56 million budget shortfall.

I have to write that check. But does it count if I do it begrudgingly? Maybe there is a grace period for getting used to Tithing.

Bloggy friends, please tell me how you do it! Inspire me. I beg you.

Then today, I am rattled to the core.

One of my favorite bloggy reads is Amy Beth at Ministry So Fabulous. She is just a young pup - 25 I think - and she has started a Ministry for young girls and teenagers. She was inspired to do this when she was in college - and now this young, beautiful woman is knee deep in an incredible ministry, teaching young women to love and trust God. Her ministry isn't glamorous. Dealing with young women, young girls she really gets her hands dirty with broken hearts, emotional and sexual abuse. This is a woman who I'm betting - is on dozens of young women's speed dial - she's a first responder when tragedy lands them in the hospital. Those girls NEED her. She is their witness to God's saving grace.

Her ministry runs on donations, and lately donors have been writing smaller checks, or pulling out all together. Today Starlite's biggest donor did just that. Dear Sweet Amy Beth is devastated and praying for God to provide.

And I'm wondering if my Tithing check should go to Starlite this month.
My church parish is on the wealthy side. They'll make it without my money.
Tonight I'm praying for God to give me some sign.

I'm also hoping Amy Beth puts together a button that I can link on my blog - so that if any of you are inspired to help her ministry - you might be compelled to do so.

She's so amazing and such a beautiful soldier for Christ - I want to see her ministry go national someday. She can't stop now.


Laura said...

Ok, here's where I get myself in trouble. There's a reason Mom always said, "never discuss politics or religion." But that's exactly what I'm going to do.

First, let me say, up front, that I am a Catholic Church Cynic. I have all the respect in the world for those who find solace and fulfillment in religion, but it's not for me. And that's partly where this is coming from.

I think you should give your money to the ministry. Why? I'm no Bible Scholar, but what I do know is this: The Catholic Church is the one who says "tithe". God says, "give of yourself to those who need it." As far as I know, God never said "give 10% of your funds to the church". He said, "give all you can to those who are in need", or something similar. He also said that we should take care of one another... and yes, it would be returned tenfold. And not necessarily in cash.

The church, and your parish, have enough money, and will survive. Your friend's ministry doesn't, and may not survive. Both are doing God's work, no question. But I firmly believe that God will "get it" if you give to a more needy organization...every month, if that's what it takes. And if the Church doesn't understand? Tough. It's not their decision. This is between God and You.

Ronnica said...

By no means trying to tell you what to do, but this is what I do. I give a minimum of 10% to my local church, and then give above that to whoever/whatever else I feel God is leading me to give towards. I feel that it's right and proper to give primarily to my local congregation, though there are several other ministries that I regularly support.

J said...

The scriptures about tithing talk about it as a kind of offering of thanks - and girl, it does sound like you have a lot to be thankful for!! So the joy of your heart should be to give to what gives you joy. Sounds like your friend's ministry gives you joy, so give there! I cannot recall a scripture passage that says that you have to give to your specific church. It mentions giving to those in need, and your friend is in need.

That said, I had the same problem with tithing in college. When I got out and had a recommittment to the Lord, it was much easier. I started out small, and now we have built up to 10%. It's true that it is our second largest expenditure next to rent. However, it is amazing how much the Lord has blessed us - we are never in need.

On a more practical note, it helped me when I was single to actually divide the tithe between two paychecks (I got paid twice a month) rather than just one. That way it wasn't such a large amount. I think it was a mental thing, but it really did help.

Tay said...

I was taught from pretty much day 1 to pay tithing. I have never known life without paying tithes, which has made it incredibly easier to pay through the rest of my life. My husband and I just pay it from the first paycheck of the month. We also have the mindset that all we have is given to us by God, so why can't we show Him our gratitude by giving 10% to help His work? We also look at our income as without the 10% in it in the first place. SOmetimes it is disheartening to see such a drop, but I know that God makes up the difference.

And while the Bible never says "Pay your tithes" it does have many references to tithing and how we rob the Lord when we neglect to pay it (ex: Malachi 3:8).

When my parents were first starting out, sometimes it was a choice, on paper, between going in debt to pay tithing and the bills, or just to pay the bills and not be in debt. However, the money was just always there when they paid tithing first and everything else second, and they didn't have to go into debt at all. No matter how many times my dad added it up, it never made sense, and yet the money was always there when he paid tithing first. It's crazy awesome how the Lord works.

And yes, I was a lurker, but i figured i'd come out of hiding now that i had something to say. :)

TRS said...

Wow. Thanks for your input ladies!
You all have such great insight and testimony.

I'll have you know that I had a great example in my parents - who tithed without fail.

I recall my mom reminding dad that she was writing a check for church. He would ask how much, and when she told him he would act all disparaged! (He's an antagonist - like me!!) But they always gave.

I guess they never really stressed the importance to me - but they did set an example. I suppose I let fear take over for most of my life. Fear that the ends wouldn't meet if I gave some up.

Just to be clear... this is not so much about where I should put my money - as it is about the struggle I am having learning to tithe.

J - you make a good point about giving from the first paycheck. See, I'm still in that fearful place, making sure I have enough BEFORE I give.

Laura - I appreciate your caution AND you candor! You can say anything you need to here - we're friends.
If someone were anonymous and bashing though, that would sting.
I'm happy to have your perspective.

Shannon from KY said...

I'm with Ronnica 100%.

I wanted to add something I've been learning recently: The Lord told the Israelite priests to step into the Jordan River and THEN the waters went down for the people to cross. See Joshua 4. So, we take the step of faith and then the Lord provides. He'll blow your mind if you give Him the chance TRS. He's pretty cool like that! You've already experienced it so allow those experiences to spur you on to greater faith.

I encourage you to always seek Scripture's one for this topic - Malachi 3:10.

debbie d. said...

I grew up in a home that taught tithing as something you do as a Christian and out of obedience to God and it wasn't an option not to...God only asks for 10%...

I used to think that the 10% HAD to go to the church..."bring your tithes to the storehouse..." BUT! what I have come to realize over the years that Jesus is being shared all over the place and so my weekly 10% travels around...I have a monthly commitment to my church...but other weeks my tithe heads to friends in Haiti and to friends who are Bible translators through Wycliffe or to my seminary alma mater for women's scholarships and to my sponsored child through Compassion International...

So, my two cents...I can't treat tithe like VISA & wait to pay it next month & in turn, I think/know that God will honor your obedience in tithing on whatever income you have coming in...finally...tithe to Starlite? absolutely! In fact, I think I'll join you this week.

I have friends who say, "you can't out give God..." and frankly, I want to smack them and say, "walk a mile in my broke/in debt shoes..." But God has always provided when I have honored Him with my tithe.

Krista said...

Tithing is hard. It pinches me like too-tight shoes. But maybe it's like an annoying knee brace and not too-tight shoes...maybe it's there to annoy me just enough to remind me that God really is the God of provision, and that he wants me to trust him to provide for all my needs. Cause if I tried to run my own show and live my live the way I want, I would not make it. So that's what tithing teaches trust the Lord's providence.

Anonymous said...

First, I tithe. I didn't in college and when I got my job nearly 5 years ago I felt compelled. No other word for it! I separate mine into two checks because I get paid biweekly and it is really hard some weeks. In the past when I wanted to support a mentor working overseas I did send part of my tithe. I didn't have a problem with that. I am thinking of supporting my sister overseas for the next year and am trying to figure out how I will do it as I have promised my church a set amount this year. If your church is not in need and you feel comfortable sending the money to Amy Beth then you should. When I read her post I wanted so badly to send her a check right then!
I guess it all boils down to praying about it and doing what you feel God leads you to.

TRS said...

Funny how this internet is an amazing community!!! Just see how you all bless me!

I'm so filled with joy that we can come together to share and support one another this way. Isn't it incredible! Power of God...power of GOD!

Debbie D - Whoo hoo! Bless you for embracing Starlite. I think that's a sign!

The moment I read your intention - the thought hit me about what to do. I think I'll up the ante a bit on my tithing this month... give half of the total amount to church, and the other half to Starlite. This month. We'll see what I'll do next month. I'll pray on it some more.

Gail and Keith said...

Just heard a financial analyst on TV say to keep an account of your expenses for one month, write down every purchase, even the pack of gum. See what is really necessary and what can be eliminated so you aren't living paycheck to paycheck. Perhaps doing without the Starbucks would be an option, or take the bus instead of the taxi, eat at home rather than out.... That extra cash could go to savings and gifts to missions over and above the tithe. We've tithed all our married life, 35 years, and have never been wanting. Sometimes we've given all to our local church, sometimes given part to missions God has led us to. It is a step of faith, an attitude of the heart. As Believers we give out of love and gratitude to God for His blessings, not out of obligation. then it becomes a burden. Gail

Blue Castle said...

Tithing is something that was ingrained in me since I was a little girl. That doesn't mean it's always been easy. My husband and I went through a few years where money was soooo tight, and I'm ashamed to say, we did not tithe. But, when we determined we were going to tithe no.matter.what, we saw God's hand in our lives in a very powerful way. He's provided everything we have ever needed - every time. The Bible does teach that the tithe is the Lord's. I would have to say that your tithe does belong to your local church. I know that sounds kind of harsh and this other ministry is very deserving, but, perhaps you could talk to your priest and ask his opinion? I do know, that when we give - even over and above what we are able - God does honor that and He will repay. So, if you are able to give, outside of your tithe, then give to other ministries and know that you will be blessed.

Thank you for sharing about this ministry. What a beautiful way to spend a life.

TRS said...

Gail & Keith,

I used to have a very strict budget and I actually loved having it because I'm very goal oriented. I liked the challenge of sticking to the budget.
I've been horrible about making one the past few years - even though I know I'll feel much better when I have one!

As for cutting out the little things... I don't drink coffee - so Starbucks is a once every 2-3 month treat for me (Chai Latte/soy) and I don't even have cable TV!

My extravagence is eating out... because I don't cook. I know I'm wasting a lot of money that way - but it's just not worth the time or effort to make a meal for one. That is something I am working on.
It will be a Lenten resolution to eat better and stick to exercise!

And an update... I'll decide my tithing this next week and put it in the basket on Ash Wednesday.