Thursday, September 16, 2010

How do we give?

As a "gift officer," I realize that I am supposed to be a pro on how to be a faithful giver, how to be a good steward of the monetary gift one receives, but in reality, I have no freaking clue.

I just got off the phone with an angry gentleman. Angry about who knows what, but angry enough to say things that put me down and caused me then to return the anger. But amid his rude comments, he said something along the lines of "I know it says somewhere in the Bible that you're supposed to give I figure if I give 10% I'm all set, right?" I flippantly said yes, but I'm not sure I did anyone a favor by answering that way.

Money is so sticky. Money is something that we all work to accumulate. It is something that we think about probably more than most things in life, and something that causes us more stress than other aspects of life. Yet we still don't feel like we can talk about it.

Let me put it into perspective. A young woman finds out she is pregnant. She goes around telling everyone once she can and it begins to dominate conversations just as her belly begins to dominate her clothes. Once the baby is born, that little bundle of joy continues to control most conversations, basically until the day he moves out (or the mother dies, to be more realistic).

But money is something that is always there, always looming, always peering over our shoulders. I'm in no way trying to say that money should hold an equally important spot in conversation as a baby, but I do think we allow money to permeate our thoughts in an unhealthy way because we don't talk about it.

Look at the financial crisis. I blame much of the problem on lack of communication. Looking at my own debt from student loans and friend's debts, I also think this was lack of hard conversations.

As a fearful flier, I have read book upon book about ways to conquer my fear. Many of them suggest that "naming" the fear is the only real way to release its power over you. I wonder if the same can be said to our fear of money...

So yea, I ask people for money. And it is awkward. But I think it shouldn't be. This gentleman on the phone today offered me a very valuable opportunity to challenge his beliefs that his 10% would get him to heaven. I do not think that ensures a person a "spot" in heaven, and I think it is unhealthy when a person thinks they have earned anything in relationship to grace. Money is something completely humanly constructed, therefore it can never have anything to do with our relationship with God. It is also so deeply connected with humanity that it is almost constantly sinful, so we should get rid of it. Not spending it on junk that breaks in a few years, but spending it on things that can in some way touch the kin-dom of God. Donations to charities and those in need are a few options, but there are many.

And if you don't give what? I'm pretty sure you'd still be a lousy sinner even if you gave 99.9% of your money away (yes, people, I think everyone, including Mother Theresa was a lousy sinner, and I thank God for that). But we still must try. And if we ever achieve that goal, like this man did, we set higher ones.

Talking about money is only uncomfortable because it reminds us of our addiction to it. And that's embarassing...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Meaning of Life

During my lunch hour yesterday, I rushed home to get my car cleaned. I was stressed because I had a time constraint and stressed because there were many other things I needed to get done in that hour long respite from work. I had to stop by my apartment to grab something and hustled up the stairs. I saw an Amazon package sitting on my porch and I was totally perplexed. I didn't think I was expecting anything from Amazon, but here was this package. Something felt weird about it. Then I looked at the sender.

The sender was none other than the family of Eric Obermann, whom I mentioned in the previous post. I caught my breath as I realized that whatever was in this package was going to render me emotionally heavy for the rest of the day. Then I knew exactly what it was.

I opened the box with the usual excitement one gets from opening a package that contains an item you already know and expect, and there was the book. The book was titled "The Meaning of Life" which is a collection of essays by many different people regarding what is truly meaningful and what makes a life worth living. This was the book I read with Eric. This was the book I left behind half on accident/half on purpose. This was the book I loved but had made peace with losing about a year ago.

Along with the book was a card from Eric's mother. It was a truly beautiful card written during a time of immense grief (I don't know how she did that), and at the end she said that life is made up of those moments where you show tiny acts of love.

Tiny acts of love.

Such wisdom from such a woman who has lived such a life. By sending me the book, the newspaper from the day Eric died when he was on the cover, and the copy of the memorial service, she showed me love beyond all words. In her time of grief, she continues to love. She continues to show her tiny acts of love which truly do make up a full and meaningful life.

So I went on with the rest of my day, but Eric and his family were not far from my thoughts. They have been near me almost every minute over the past few weeks, and their love for each other and for humanity truly inspires me.

What a blessing...
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