Why We Tithe 10%

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  — 2 Corinthians 9:7

In my career, I live and breath philanthropy. I have been the recipient of immense generosity in the past, and I work daily to connect donors to the causes they care most about.

Philanthropy: the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. 

TRUE philanthropy is cheerful and generous, and it is not something that comes naturally to everyone.

As Christians, my husband and I each feel that it is important to give our time, talents, and treasures wherever possible. But we are also human, and the reality is that we don’t always make the time or effort to pour into others. We can be pretty selfish, getting hung up on our own situations, and disregarding others’ needs. So when we first combined our incomes, we made it a point to put tithing in our budget. At the LEAST, we would give every month.

The “10% rule” comes up early in the Bible, starting in Genesis when Jacob vows:

If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house,and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.  — Genesis 28:20-22

The New Testament references giving MANY many times. It’s pretty clear that it is an expectation of us, not a request.

Look, I know the Bible tells us to do (and not do) a LOT of things, many of which I (and probably most of you) fail at on a daily basis. And there are plenty of months where one of us (usually always me) tries to justify why it just doesn’t make sense to give away that much when we have THIS and THAT and ALL OF THESE THINGS happening in our life. But if we go down that road, there is almost never a GOOD time to just give money away. Instead, we choose to joyfully give to the organizations that we care about and that are doing God’s work in their communities. We do occasionally use a part of our tithing budget to give to non-Christian causes that we care about, but generally speaking, tithing was asked of us in order to give back to God’s work. And honestly, we have reaped so many blessing from God these last several years, I have to believe it is in part, at least, due to our constant and (mostly) cheerful tithing.

PHEW that was a mouthful. I’m wide open for any thoughts or questions you might have. How do you give or tithe, and how do you decide when/ how much?

Changing Perspective {slow but sure}

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If you’ve spent any time milling around my blog, you know that I am constantly trying to discover new ways to improve my health and wellness through nutrition, fitness, faith, and general positive thinking. And slowly but surely, I’m noticing a change in my inner voice. It’s less harsh. It’s more encouraging. It’s more thoughtful. In OTHER words, I have been way kinder to myself lately. The idea that my body and mind and life is unique, and that God created my body and mind and life to serve Him and to love others is soaking deeper and deeper into my bones. I updated my kitchen chalkboard (above) to remind myself when I’m wandering around my kitchen aimlessly. Feed my body because I care about it. Workout for my body because God gave me only one to use while I’m here on earth. While I have a LONG WAY TO GO before everything I do is truly for the GLORY OF GOD, I am beginning to reap what I’ve sowed through years of studying The Word, being in a faith community, and surrounding myself with loving and Christ-loving people.

So whatever it is you are struggling with today – whether it’s health and body image, or something totally different – ask yourself if you’re doing it for the Glory of God. And then go dive into some good ol’ community!!

Going Clear: HBO’s Documentary on Scientology

Over the weekend, we had a free HBO/Showtime/Starz promotion with Direct TV, and you know what that means… record, record, record. We do indeed now have The Truman Show, Contact, and The Shining on our DVR list. You’re welcome.

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We also recorded the documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. We all know that HBO documentaries are top notch, and in fact this one is on pace to be HBO’s second-most-watched documentary. It has been seen by over 5.5 million people, second only to Beyonce which has been viewed by over 9 million people. Can’t compete with that, that’s for sure.

For many of us, including myself, scientology has been this non-Christian, mysterious, crazy sounding cult. I’ve never paid all that much attention to it, but I do remember when more information came out about the “levels” and how the whole thing was made up by one crazy man, and it’s all based on aliens and overlords and crazy CRAZY stuff like that. And I was all like, “woah that’s ridiculous. Who would fall for that?”

But you guys, this FILM. It’s chock-full of former scientology leaders who have since left the church and are truly, for the first time, being honest about the horrific and twisted methods and ideas that scientology is based on. They ALL talked about brain washing. They all talked about fear. They all talked about how ashamed they are now to look back at how much time they spent in it. I, for one, am so grateful they were willing to share their stories. I think the more that the truth comes out, the more people might be saved from potentially landing in the same situation.

If you have HBO (or your friend’s, brother’s, girlfriend’s, cousin does, and you have his password), I highly encourage you to watch this. You will be blown away by this cult. After watching, my husband and I talked about how sad it is that THIS is considered a “religion,” and that this monstrosity will make some people think that this is representative of all religion. Let me just say right here it is NOT. Religion, faith, belief can be SO BEAUTIFUL, and it is such a shame that a corrupt organization like this will likely turn people away from other, wonderful faith lives.

If you want to know a few details of the HBO, this Glamour article covers a few of the highlights. Again, highly encourage you to watch it, and remember that this is NOT how all “religions” work. Christian faith is a beautiful, loving family, and it hurts my heart to see people in pain the way they exhibited in this documentary.

Good Friday in the Gospels: HOPE

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My God, My God…Why have you forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34

It’s a mournful day, so it always seemed odd to call it “good.” But I get it – without this day, without HIS SACRIFICE, none of us would have the hope and the future that we do. Without this day, there is no Easter.

This week, I’ve been reading the stories of Jesus’ crucifixion in each of the four gospels. Let me just say honestly…it’s depressing. I have not read on to His resurrection, and without it, the story of His death is lonely and heart-breaking. I cannot wait to spend time on Sunday reading through the resurrection stories and reminding myself of the glory and hope Jesus’ death and resurrection have provided us.

I don’t know where you are at with Jesus today. I don’t know if you think Jesus-lovers are wacky, or if you wish you were one of them. I don’t know if you have a relationship with Jesus, or if you’re searching for one. Regardless, I encourage you to read the stories of Jesus’ death today. Even just one of them. And all of these stories have others leading up to them, and they jump into the story and different points, so if you have the time, I recommend backing up a little bit. But if you just want to read one chapter from each story, read these!

Matthew 27

Until I read this the other night, I did not know that Judas hangs himself…did you know that?! I guess they leave that out in Sunday School…

Mark 15

Here it says that Jesus cried loudly when He breathed His last breath…The other chapters portray it more gently, saying simply that He breathed His last breath, or gave up His spirit. This chapter just seems “louder” in general.

Luke 23

I love this story, because here we get the conversation with the criminals on either side of Jesus. It so clearly paints the difference between a believer and a non-believer perspective of death and heaven.

John 19

I love the image of Jesus taking care of His family (25-27), telling John that he is to be a son to Mary now. Our families should always be our first priority! Also, Jesus’ death is less dramatic in this story – it doesn’t talk about the darkness in the sky or the tearing of the curtain. He doesn’t cry out, “My God, My God…”

There are many more similarities and differences among these stories. I feel like all of these versions together truly paint the picture of Jesus’ death, even though they come from different perspectives. It really goes to show that our relationships with Jesus are all unique, but still have the same underlying story: Hope.

When Envy Creeps In

In an effort to be as authentic as Bonnie, I want to talk a little bit about envy today, how it creeps into our lives, and what God has to say about it.

As Bon points out in her post on authenticity the other day, we all KNOW by now that the things we see in social media are only representations of OUR BEST SELVES and OUR BEST MOMENTS. I don’t show you pictures of when I wake up in the morning. I don’t talk about what makes me cry (and let’s be real, I’m a Crier, with a capital C). I don’t talk about how I have no idea how to get our old claw-foot bathtub completely clean and it taunts me EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I don’t talk about real issues, like body image and marriage hiccups and finances. And if I do talk about them, it’s in a very general sense of “Sometimes people have body image issues…” Like, HELLO. I DO. You do. We all scream for ice cream.

So I found myself feeling very envious the other night, some having to do with social media, which I slap myself on the wrist for. But some envy coming from made up things in my head. Unrealistic expectations of how things SHOULD be. How I COULD be.

I took a step back. I dove into the Bible. Check out some of Galatians 5:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

I know it’s a lot, but READ it. Seriously, read it. How many of the “acts of flesh” are you doing? How many of the “fruits” are you NOT doing? For me, it’s oh so many. Of both. Okay, so, I don’t partake in witchcraft and orgies, but I get jealous. I get angry and have little temper tantrums. I’m DEFINITELY selfish. And I definitely get drunk sometimes, which usually leads to one or more of those other things I just named.

If I acted lovingly to everyone around me, ESPECIALLY myself, would I feel so envious of others’ accomplishments, or would I feel more satisfied with my own? If I practiced self-control, in my eating, drinking, prayer, and reactions to others, would I be less jealous of those who seem to successfully lead a healthy lifestyle when I struggle with it? If I truly gave my husband all of the love I have to give, and put his own needs above my own, would I be envious of other marriages that seem to go smoother? I remind you and myself at this point that we only know so much of what other people are going through, and we only see BEST sides represented online. But yet, we become jealous of what others have and do.

How to remove this envious feeling from our lives. If I could really complete that statement, I’d probably be super wealthy right now. But have you considered that maybe it has NOTHING to do with all those other people, and EVERYTHING to do with you? Instead of getting hung up on everyone around you, turn the focus to yourself.

Remember this goody in Matthew 7?

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

I constantly fail at looking at MYSELF when dealing with any issue, be it envy, anger, or negativity. So my goals are to continue to be introspective, something I seem to keep failing at. What do you do to improve yourself? Any tools for assessing your own struggles?

Add and Subtract {Lent}

It’s the usual…giving up sweets for Lent. Or elevators. Or facebook. Or alcohol. Whatever it is that grips your self control and messes with your head. We are SUPPOSED to give up something so that every time during lent we abstain, we remember the sacrifices Jesus made for us not just in those 40 days in the desert, but ALLLLL the sacrifices. Including The Big One.

In recent years though, I’ve tried to use Lent to add something to my life, as well. Something to help focus my life more on my relationship with Jesus. Recently, I’ve been reading The Power of a Praying Wife many nights of the week, but not on an entirely consistent basis. But I can tell that when I’m reading nightly, even just a few nights in a row, it’s impacting my heart. Maybe for you it could be listening to Christian radio in the morning instead of whatever you usually listen to on the way to work. Maybe it’s committing to church every Sunday. Maybe it’s joining a new bible study or church group. Maybe it’s volunteering. What is it you could add to your life that would improve your relationship with Jesus, and maybe even serve others??

So all of this to say, Happy Ash Wednesday. I’m giving up sweets. I’m adding in nightly devotionals with NO EXCUSES. Even if it’s only five minutes, I will spend time in prayer before bed every night. My hope is that every time I say no to chocolate or that I settle into bed with my bible, notebook, and devotional book, I take an extra moment to say, “Jesus, thank you. Thank you for your love and your sacrifices. Thank you for rising again on Easter. Thank you for reminding me that this life is only the beginning. Thank you for helping me keep my eyes on Heaven.”

If you’re reading this, and have gotten this far, and are thinking “well that’s all well and good but I’m not really into the Jesus thing,” I encourage you to use this time of Lent to really think about this. If you don’t pray, start. Just talk to God about the great things in your life, and about the many things you might be struggling with. Read my posts on the Gospel (part one and part two) and reach out to me if you have questions. Open a Bible and just read something. I’d suggest starting with the book of Matthew if you’re feeling like you don’t know how to begin. Ask people around you if they go to church, and where, and then go try one of those churches.

I don’t know you, but God does. And He loves each and every one of you. He formed you in your mother’s womb! He knew you before the stars were ever even made! I’m praying for you today. Peace to you today.