Good Stewardship Means Saying No

choice

A few years ago, there was a newfangled notion that got a lot of excitement for revolutionizing people’s lives: saying YES to every opportunity.  If you felt stuck in a rut, this was the concept that was going to change your life!  Say yes to every business opportunity!  Say yes to every date!  Say yes to every invitation from a friend!

Magazine articles and books were written about it, and there was even a Jim Carey movie that took it to the extreme – Yes Man.  New doors would be open to you if you just invited opportunity into your life!

I am a person who has mostly subscribed to this theory.  I love taking on challenges.  I embrace responsibility and am excited by new opportunities.   But the unfortunate reality is that this also means that I can quickly get overwhelmed.  The one extra day a week I had that led me to commit to five different projects is suddenly not enough and I am running to catch up.

As a married person, I have had to put up some boundaries to protect my marriage.  Every hour away from my husband outside of work – volunteering, serving, happy hour with friends – is an hour that I am investing in other things than my marriage.  Before committing to an activity, I now ask myself, is this worth the time taken away from investing in my marriage?

Evaluating every activity this way has helped me make important decisions about where I put my time.  Yes, it is always uncomfortable to have to tell someone no – particularly if I had already said yes before – but people have been understanding.  My marriage comes first.

Even as I am writing this, I have a confession to make – I have been willing to put my marriage first, but I have not put my even more important relationship with God first in the same way.  What if I asked that same question for every activity that took away from investing in my relationship with God?

As a single person, the challenge is even greater.  People assume that if you are not married and do not have children, your free time is at their disposal.  I often felt guilty for saying no to activities, many of which were worthwhile.  I would instead run myself ragged and then be so exhausted on Sunday that I would stay in bed for most of the day.

Jesus, of course, knew how to protect His relationship with God.  The Bible tells us that even in the midst of His ministry, even when He knew His time on earth was limited, He still took time to invest in His relationship with God.  In Luke we read:

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:15-16)

Imagine that pressure!  Sick people from all around – people in real need of a savior both physically and spiritually – were coming to see Him and be healed!  But He recognized that His first obligation was to the Lord.

Good stewardship means setting priorities and remembering to put first what matters most.  Take a look at your weekly schedule and ask yourself, are all of these activities worth the time away from God?  Try saying no to some things and create a space for God to fill.

Practicing Compassion

love

The elderly woman looked at me with a big grin.  “I no English,” she said.  She appeared Chinese, but I had no way of knowing.

“Okay,” I said.  “I’m Joanna.”  I pointed at myself.

She just grinned and nodded.  I inwardly readied myself for a challenge.  This wasn’t going to be easy.

We were standing in my local food pantry last night.  She was a patron and I was about to help her shop.  The only problem was it was a choice pantry.  Meaning that while I could point her in the right direction, she had to make the choices and I had to communicate how many choices she could make in each area.

As we walked around the pantry, moving from area to area, I thought about the issue of communication.  So much has happened in the past week.  So many people in our country clearly weren’t talking before the election because it was such a surprise.  So many people aren’t communicating now.  There’s just anger and fear.

Here, though, communication was more basic.  Beans, one.  Meat, two.  Canned vegetables, four.  I pointed and held up fingers.  At the end, she gave me another big grin and left with bags full of food.

How simple was that communication.  She had a need.  I met the need.  We were both happy.  I wish it were always that easy.

The issues that we face are complex, but they are not unsolvable.  So much of the fear in my country seems focused on immigrants.  Weren’t we all immigrants at one time, I want to ask.  Aren’t we as Christians all strangers to this world?  But the fear continues.

I have felt within myself a huge call to in some way confront that fear, but I’ve struggled to know how. I wanted to say to the woman in front of me, I welcome you.  I accept you.  I acknowledge that wherever you’re from, we’re both human.  But I didn’t have the gestures to say that in a language she would understand.  For me, this act of service would instead be the communication.

As much anger and fear is felt, then that much more compassion do I want to practice.  Jesus has taught us to respond to attacks and mockery with love.  So today, tomorrow, and hopefully for the coming years, I want to be the embodiment of that love, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in service to my fellow man.

How are you practicing compassion to your fellow man?

Go To Jail

jailed

Taking a short break from our Proverbs study, I just want to share with you an article that I published today in The Mudroom, an online Christian blog/magazine!  

Ten years ago, I sat around a table with a group of six girls, trying to teach them creative writing. We shared poetry, short stories, and personal memoirs. I wasn’t that much older than them, and yet our worlds were oceans apart. For we sat in the library of a local juvenile correctional facility, and those girls were locked in.

Meet Pam. Heavyset with dirty blonde hair, she experienced mental illness and had been bounced from foster home to foster home. She had a substance addiction and nowhere to call home.

Read more here!