Cheerfully Give

by Becca Christensen

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. 2 Corinthians 9:7

I took Financial Peace University at Grace and I’ve recently finished paying off all my debts except for my home (which is going to take more than a few months of hard work). One of the concepts from Dave Ramsey’s program that I love is that he encourages you to be financially responsible and secure so you can give! I love the idea of giving as a motivation for why we should live below our means and be debt free, and I feel grateful I caught this vision at a fairly young age (26), granting me the blessing of living a generous life for years to come.

When I first determined I wanted the Lord of my life to also be the Lord of my finances, it was a rocky start. Picture my 24-year-old self in DSW saying prayers that went a little something like this, “Dear God, I know that I’ve been called to give my first and my best to you…but if I’m being really honest here, I’d like to spend your share of my, I mean your money, on these shiny red BCBG heels. I can think of at least ten outfits I could wear with them…But, I’m not going to, so you’re going to have to help me stick with this resolve. Oh, and I’m sorry that I’d rather buy shoes than give to your church. I know that’s a pretty crummy way to show my gratitude for all you’ve given me. But, I’m trying here, I promise.”

I have thought hundreds of times of all the “fun” things I could do with the percent of money I give back to the church. Selfish, shallow, non-kingdom promoting things that I would love and enjoy. Clearly, Satan knows I have a weakness for retail. Have you ever had the urge to “borrow” money from your tithe for “good things?” If so, you will find no judgment here. I’ve internally debated using my tithe on everything from goodies for my bible study to buying a non-Christian’s lunch because that’s working towards witnessing, right? 

I’ve figured out the root of this issue in my own life centers on my need to be in control. I am a control freak, through and through. For many years I believed only I knew how best to spend my money, so I kept control over it. But now I know I serve the God who created the universe as well as me, which should give me more than enough confidence to take a hands-off approach to how He handles and uses the money I give back. So why do I struggle?

I share this with you to encourage you that you’re not alone. But I also want you to be encouraged that the Lord does answer prayers. Throughout this experience, I’ve prayed that as I grew closer to being debt free that I wouldn’t just tithe and give a few offerings, but that I would look for opportunities to live generously. Ultimately, I want the Lord to change my heart and give me the desire to give even if it means going without something I want to meet someone else’s need.

It’s with great excitement that I say that God has been chipping away at my heart and has renewed my energy to live both generously and at times even sacrificially. God is good. I have continued to see the Lord’s provision in my own life and He has blessed me through the giving experience. I know the Lord is only beginning what will be a process (since I still want a new pair of shoes with every paycheck), but as I give my tithe faithfully, I know the Lord is hearing my heart and changing the desires of it.

If you are looking for God’s freedom in your finances, consider attending the Financial Freedom One Day workshop on Saturday, Oct. 22. The cost is $15. Click here to register.

 

Fun Friday – Asian Barbecue Chicken

 

Asian Barbecue Chicken
by Marilyn Hinders

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbls. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp curry powder
3 garlic cloves (minced)
8 chicken thighs skinned (you can use chicken breasts, if you prefer)

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in large zip lock bag…add chicken..marinate for at least 4 hours…turning occasionally
2. Prepare grill
3. Remove chicken from the bag
4. Place chicken on the grill…grill 20 minutes or until done..turning frequently
5. Serve with chicken flavored Rice a Roni and a green vegetable and you have a delicious, nutritious meal!

Beautifully Scarred

by Alexandra Honegger

What comes to your mind when you see a scar?  You know that mark that doesn’t quite blend in.  Something happened there.  Something hurt there.  It represents a wound but it also signifies healing happened.

Just like most physical wounds become scars, emotional wounds do too but many times, aren’t visible. They are easier to hide.   Just like physical scars remain as a reminder of the injury, our emotional scars don’t completely go away. They can heal and fade over time but neither your heart nor your skin can go back to the way it was before the injury.

I have experienced my fair share of wounds in my past. I struggled with feeling unloved and unaccepted so I looked to men for those feelings of affirmation. When those friendships or relationships didn’t go as planned I was left feeling unloved, alone, and even more unworthy than before. I was on a long unsuccessful road trying to fill a void in my heart that only God could fill. When I surrendered my life to God I finally gave Him the opportunity to help heal my wounds.

Although the scars on my heart remain, the journey of healing has been invaluable. The experiences in my past are the same ones that have helped shape me into the woman I am today.  Although society tells us to hide our imperfections and pretend we are “fine” God asks us to do the opposite. In James 5:16 God says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

“He said what?!?! He tells us to show our weaknesses and tell people about our mistakes and our pasts?” YES! God tells us not to keep our scars to ourselves because when we start telling others about our struggles it will bring light to the places we’ve tried to hide. The enemy likes when we keep things a secret because he can keep using it against us.  The bible tells us that God comforts us in all our troubles and when we release the incident or wound to God then He can begin His work in healing us.

I am a living testament to this.  God continues to bring such a peace and healing to my life and is taking away all the shame and pain I use to hide behind. I still have moments of struggle along the way but I have women in my life who help me.  I have been able to connect to some amazing people that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so if I hadn’t shared my past with them.

Imagine how powerful it would be if we allowed God to use our struggles to bring hope to those still in need of healing. When we invite God in, we can embrace the beauty that comes from our scars and know that God can bring something good out of it. 

 

Fun Friday – Black Bean Salsa

As part of an ongoing series, on Fridays A Beautiful Blog will bring you great recipes, book reviews, tips and ideas for making your life a little more fun. Enjoy!

Now that the weather’s cooling off, it’s a great time to be outside with friends and family. When we get together, one of my favorite things to make is this delicious Black Bean Salsa. It is super fresh and loaded with healthy veggies and great flavor. Try it with tortilla chips, serve it with tacos, or spooned over grilled chicken or fish. Or be like me and eat it straight out of the bowl! – Leslee Stewart

Black Bean Salsa
Makes 8 servings

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup diced red onion
2 minced garlic cloves
½ medium jicama, peeled and diced (about ½ cup)
½ cup frozen corn kernels, rinsed under hot water to defrost
1 medium avocado, diced
½ cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 small can diced green chili peppers
5 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 ½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix to combine. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving (can serve immediately). Cover and store leftovers in refrigerator up to two days.

 

Stretched

By Leslee Stewart

When I was a kid, one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons was Plastic Man. He was this superhero who could stretch his body into any shape. His body was flexible, bendable, Plastic Manmoldable, pliable. And while my physical body hasn’t done the splits since sixth grade, my emotional “body” has had to perform a lot like Plastic Man over the past few months.

This year, I’ve taken on some additional responsibilities that have stretched me. It’s been exciting and wonderful, but of course, my responsibilities to my husband, my kids, my family and friends still continue.  In taking on this new role, I’ve had some obstacles to overcome but God’s grace has been there to see me through every situation, decision and circumstance.

When God created woman, he gave us this amazing multi-tasking gift. It’s no big deal for us to be cooking, talking on the phone and vacuuming at the same time. Even though he gave us this gift, he never expected us to accomplish life without his help.

But when my life gets busy and I’m being stretched like Plastic Man, the first thing to slip off my “to do” list is time with God.  My relationship with Him gets put on the back burner and I find myself giving him “shout outs” throughout the day, asking for help, but never drawing close to him.

My grandmother used to have this needlepoint hanging on her wall that said, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” That perfectly describes my quiet time with God when I’m stretched thin.

In James 1:5 it says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask of God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

I’ve always loved this verse. To me it’s meant, as God’s child, if I need wisdom about something, I have the right to go to him and request that he give me the answers I’m seeking. And when I’m feeling stretched, I do a lot of asking in those shout outs.

This week God showed me that in this verse, there is a place God draws us to in order to receive that wisdom. The phrase, “of God,” essentially means alongside of God and depicts a very close, side-by-side position next to Him.  Picture it as sitting next to God. In this verse, it is saying; if we want God’s wisdom, we must come right up alongside of him in order to obtain it.

He wants a relationship with us. He doesn’t want to just freely hand out answers to our issues. He wants us to come to him. And the moment we get side-by-side with God, he opens his hand and reveals what we need to know about the situations we are facing and gives us peace in the midst of trials.  

But so often we are too busy with our lives – stretched too thin – to get intimate with God. We want God to meet us on demand, but we don’t want to take the time to meet God’s request that we first draw close to him. He created us to communicate, fellowship and spend time with him. He needs us to seek him, as much as we need him to find us.

So today, God, forgive me for rushing in and out of your Presence – making my demands and insisting on things I need but not taking enough time to sit with You. I’m making a commitment to include You in my schedule today. Not just a quick shout out, but a time of real connection. May spending time with You be the highest priority in my life.