Tag Archives: christianity

Faith vs. Frustration

Great things happen in my life every day.  This blog is my counseling session.  You know how, when you have a counselor/therapist that you go to, you only go when you’ve got something to work out.  This is the essence of my writing.  It’s working out and revealing things that are sometimes hidden in the business of life.  Though we may be going through tough times, there is no doubt in my mind that God is in control.  In my heart, I have faith.  But, I have such a tough time wrapping my head around why, when I expect great things and financial blessings, I still get….well, met with frustration.

It’s been two years almost exactly now.  Two years since I stepped out on faith that we could make it on one full-time job that pays straight commission.  Shortly after, I got a part-time job working for my church.  HUGE BLESSING!  Though it’s no fault of God’s, we still have a lot of bills (1/2 of which is our house) and a lot of stupid debt from the past to cover each month.  One thing I can say is that I’ve come to HATE bad debt.  Bad debt is high-interest credit cards.  We have 3.  I’m sure that there are other forms of it, but for us, it’s the cards from our college years–totaling over $10,000 all together with interest rates at almost 30%.  I know, the stupidity makes me shudder.  Because we had a rental property that was foreclosed (it was a scam that we got hooked into about 3 years ago), the credit card companies hiked our rates when our credit scores went down and they won’t lower them.  We’re considered high risk creditors now.  Interesting that our good payment history is not taken into account.  Ah well, don’t know how I got off on that.

Here’s where my dilemma lies.  I know what the Bible says about blessings, tithing, finances.  We are as faithful as can be about tithing.  Inside, I fully expect each day when Jeff comes home to tell me about a big client or huge sale that he’s made.  I can see him getting sales awards.  He’s the smartest person I know.  He works harder than anyone I know.  So, it’s frustrating to me that we’ve gotten to this place.  My faith tells me that we’re blessed, but my circumstances continue to frustrate me.  (Again, let me insert that I KNOW it could be worse.  We’ve been kept from so much in these past 2 years.  But, I expect it to be BETTER right now.  I expected to NEVER miss a payment–NEVER not be able to pay for my house.)  We sold Jeff’s car. Used that up.  We used all of our savings.  We cut everything unnecessary.  We closed out my retirement account.  Used that up.  Now we’re here.  This place of TOTAL faith and no back-up plans.  Sadly, I’m finding that no back-up plans is scary for me.  I don’t WANT to be worried.  I don’t WANT to be scared.  But, I’m losing the mental battle.

A good friend had a FB post that said “What you expect is what you will get”.  But I don’t think I expected to be here.  Obviously, along the way, I have failed in some aspect.  I don’t believe that God makes mistakes, causes harm or could ever not fulfill a promise.  So, it must be me.  This week I am searching for how I failed at faith so I can fix it.

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Relationship Advice – unChristian

One thing I like about my job is that, as a staff, we read books together and discuss them and learn from them together.

Right now we’re reading unChristian by David Kinnaman.  This book is not for the faint of heart or slightly attention deficit.  It’s a deep one.  For one, it’s all about a research study.  Be prepared to get hit over and over with hard facts and data.  Personally, I love this book.  I don’t love how it’s making me feel, but that’s ok–sometimes change and hard truths can be painful.  No pain, no gain.  Right?

It’s really going well with the theme of relationship advice that I feel I’ve had in abundance through the books I’m reading and studies I’m participating in.  Might God be trying to tell me something?

David Kinnaman (with the Barna group) wrote this book to show Christians what non-Christians think of them.  And, not in a stereotypical way for the most part, but a real impression formed from relationships with Christians and experiences in churches.  He focuses on two age groups–the Mosaics (born from 1984-2002, I gen. behind me) and the Busters (born btw. 1965-1983, my gen.).  The older generations are mentioned and included, but not focused on.  This makes sense to me.  Folks that age, especially ones that grew up around here, have a much more traditional view of church.  They are going to go and “like it” because they were raised going to church and they can’t imagine their lives if they were not at least throwing attempts at church.

The first two chapters lay the ground work for the study.  The whos the whats and the whys.  I believe his main point is that we have strayed so far from what Jesus intended Christianity to be, that outsiders (his word, not mine) really view us as UN-Christian.  This is sad.  Heartbreaking, really.  Here are the top words outsiders use to describe present-day Christianity: antihomosexual (91%), judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), too involved in politics (75%), out of touch with reality (72%), insensitive to others (70%), boring (68%), not accepting of other faiths (64%), and confusing (61%).  My FIL picked this book up off of my kitchen counter, saw those findings and threw the book down with a huff.  “That’s what they’ve always said about us.  I’m not surprised.”  And I’m not surprised that they still are with that sort of attitude.  This something’s-wrong-with-them-and-not-us attitude.

I love that the book delves into what shapes these views and what sort of changes can happen so that a shift can begin to happen.  I’ve heard several smart people say, “If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always gotten.”  I don’t have any specific problem with any specific church.  I understand that we are all on the same team.  But, when I think that they may be perpetuating the struggles that outsiders are having with my faith, then my feathers get ruffled.  I feel the need to throw a french fry at their foreheads.  I’m sorry to say that there are still more churches than not who are catering to those who are already saved and WILL BE FINE on the other side of eternity because they are afraid to do something different.  They continue on with their Sunday school, hymns and pot lucks because it’s comfortable and expected.  If you have to spend a little to understand what will make that connection from someone who is far from Christ that will ultimately bring them steps closer to Him, then I think that is time well spent.  I’m not saying that the church I work for has all the answers, I am just saying that we are spending the time and having the conversations and asking the hard questions.  And, if we have to play music that they KNOW and can sing along with to get them to let down their guards and let Jesus begin to work on their heart–we are going to do that.

Believe it or not, the first 2 chapters were not my favorite.  It got better for me.  Each chapter following takes one of those negative perceptions and breaks it all the way down to personal stories, how we’ve set ourselves up as Christians to be perceived in this way, and a biblical perspective on what we can do to begin to change it.  Stay tuned for much more of Mandi on her soapbox.  As God fires me up, I’m throwing it out to you in hopes that it’ll be contagious.  Chapter 3 – Hypocritical.


What I Learned from Being Broke: Part 4

GOD IS NEVER LATE

When things are at their worst and the outlook seems the most bleak, it can be tough to get to a place of faith.  But, as I’ve walked through this financial journey God has taught me over and over and over and over that he is never late.

First, let me say that Jeff and I tithe.  We have been since the very first deposit into our account when we were married and we both were tithers before we got married.  Though we have been through 6 months of joblessness (in 2002) and this crazy recession, we have AL-WAYS tithed before we paid any bills.  If this isn’t something you do, it may sound flat out crazy.  But, I don’t think the Bible could be any more clear about God’s will for us in regards to tithing.  It isn’t an option or a when-it’s-convenient occurrence, the Bible says it belongs to God and that He is faithful to return it to us.  God’s work is done here on earth by the tithe and more of Christians.  And, when I see all He has done for me, it’s the least I could do.

And, let me say that we have never been late on a bill, even when it looked like there was NO way we could pay (and lately that comes at least once a month).  Jeff works on total commission and things happen at the right times for him.

A few examples:

Jeff took 3 days off to go to a ministry conference with our staff last March.  We were beyond broke at that point.  That night as we sat in the hotel room, I checked our bank account and there was an automatic deposit for over $900 from a company Jeff hadn’t done business for in over a year.  It was almost to the dollar of what we needed to pay all our bills that week.  This has happened more than once from different companies for different amounts, but this one stands out the most.

Though the financial markets are nearly dead right now, a client ALWAYS comes along who wants to invest in something that pays quickly when Jeff’s pay has nearly hit the bottom.  There are countless examples of this happening over the past year.

We are protected from unexpected and exorbitant expenses:

My car was knocking BAD under the steering wheel.  My brakes were barely working.  We were praying it wasn’t going to be a devastating repair bill.  Jeff checked it out and it was a loose screw.

Jeff’s been driving on 2 tires that have cracks in the rubber for over 6 months now.  Crazy?  Yes.  But, we can’t afford 4 tires for his car.  God makes those tires last.  Jeff also sold his nice car and bought a dump.  Other than minor repairs, the car has not had any problems.

My father and brother were over last week and I asked to help get Christmas decorations down.  While my dad was in our attic, he noticed that our water heater had fallen off the bricks it was sitting on and had fallen through the floor.  They fixed it.  If they hadn’t and it had drained any amount, the water could have ruined part of the attic/roof and the ceiling.  But, it didn’t.

We are blessed by the generosity of others:

We have been invited over, invited out and paid for more times than I could possibly list here.

Carter has been bought more nice, new clothes since he has been born than he can often wear.

As we were heading into the Carolina/Vanderbilt game a few weeks ago, we were told to step aside since we did not have a ticket for him.  We were going to have to pay $55.  A man a few spaces back in line screams “NO–take my ticket.”  He shoves it into the lady’s hand and runs off.

So, are we overflowing with financial means right now?  Not even close.  But, all our needs are supplied and, though it has been more like me to worry, I’m learning instead to trust.