Sunday, January 1, 2012

The search for a more meaningful 2012

I've recently taken up more of my somewhat lost pastime of journaling. I journal thoughts, I make lists, I pray, I tell about my day, I vent my feelings, I collect recipes and cut out projects and just generally have this space for whatever comes to me that day. And so here are some of my thoughts I've scribbled down (paraphrased) the past few weeks:

1. Spend more quality time with people I love.
 So I know this is hard when it comes to family, but my family up here in Alaska are my friends and the people of Hospitality House. As I was reminded all too well on Friday, there are people that come into your life and are only there for a short time - so I need to make the most of those times before the Military decides to move them away (or us away). And so for this year, I would like to invest more in my friend's lives. My friend Sarah lives in Chugiak and I know she wants to take a belly dancing class in Eagle River this winter to help keep her mind off her husband's deployment (he just left and will be gone for 10 or so months). I've been getting to know the Powell's and the Worrick's and the Ovel's better as well.  This connects into...

2. Connect/be more involved with the Women's Ministry of Hospitality House.
I've been put on the planning committee because I hosted a girl's night at my house back in October. And now that Amy is gone, I feel the need to step up into the committee even though I don't feel like I am a spiritual leader. But I already have some ideas.

3. Take advantage of low-cost to free activities offered on base, plus in and around Anchorage.
There is a pretty cool monthly activity Anchorage does called First Friday. The first Friday of every month, various businesses downtown host gallery displays and many are opening nights for artists. The Anchorage Museum offers free admission to most of the exhibits. In the summer, there are concerts in the Town square. Plus, the First Friday allows us to experience restaurants and shops we may be looking at and wanting to go to, and we don't have to feel obliged to buy anything. For this upcoming one, the Anchorage Press's Black & White Photography Contest gallery opening is being presented at Indigo Tea Lounge downtown and I really want to check it out.

4. Be more spontaneous, creative, intuitive, interactive.
Relatively self-explanatory. Actually start and finish the quilt I promised Andrew in 2010. Spend less time watching television and more time reading books, playing board games, working on projects.

5. Invest in a couple of high-quality items.
There are a couple of items I've been eyeing/thinking about for the past couple of years and I think this is the year to invest in those. Some examples would be a little black dress (never owned one) and a fancy dress watch (I've been looking since graduation from college) or replacing my glasses (I've worn the same frames since the ninth grade).

6. Be financially sound.
It's no secret that this year we've had our fair share of savings-draining incidents with car repairs and then having to buy a used-new-to-us vehicle to replace the totaled Maxima. We have another trip to take in July - to Seattle and to Boston right after one another and both for weddings of which Andrew is in. My hope is to put aside 10% of my paychecks every month into our Nest/Emergency fund. We would like to have the Maxima paid off by the end of the year (so we can finally get it out of the extra spot in our driveway!), along with a good chunk of the Impreza paid off. This leads into what is my last one for now...

7. Giving to God what is God's.
Something that has been on my mind for the past year to year and a half is tithing. I grew up tithing because my parents instilled it in me, the church taught it, the Bible mandates it, and it is something I have enjoyed doing. And then I got engaged. All monies had been channeled into the wedding expenses. I figured I was still okay because I was sponsoring a child through Compassion. Andrew and I got married and I was still sponsoring a child. But then things got really tight financially and I prayerfully decided that I would have to give up on sponsorship in order to meet our own basic needs here. Looking back, we were not as bad off as I may make it seem. But nonetheless, I stopped sponsorship.

But not tithing has still been bothering me.

Based on my previous experiences, I have been taken care of financially when I've given my tithe. There have been times in my life when I am so stretched thin financially and yet everything works out. Bills are paid on time and in full, basic necessities are taken care of, and I am even provided a way to go to a conference I'd been looking forward to, or be able to attend a birthday party for a friend because $20 is found and I can put gas in the car. Everything seems to work out perfectly when I am relying on God to provide.

So I've been looking into what the Bible says about tithing. Her's what I've found (NIV):
Deuteronomy 15:7-11
If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

Proverbs 3:9
Honor the LORD with your wealth, 
   with the firstfruits of all your crops

Malachi 3:10-12
 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

Matthew 6:1-4
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
   2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

2 Corinthians 8-9
1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
 10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
 13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”[b]
16 Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 18And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. 19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.
 22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

 1 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

 6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
   “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
   their righteousness endures forever.”[c]
 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

And so, it has been laid on my heart to give back. I have been praying about where my giving would be most beneficial -  to a woman who is on fire for God and incredible strong in her faith, currently serving in Boston MA with Charles River Church or investing the monies into the women's ministry here at Hospitality House? More prayer is needed on my part. But I think I am closer to an answer.

Welcome 2012.

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