Clock on the living room wall at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Giving your time to get more back

2014 is shaping up to be a busy year. Maybe I shouldn’t say that because it’s not even halfway through January yet, but the way certain aspects of life seem to be coming together tells me that I’m going to be running crazy this year. Yes, I know, I’m always running crazy. So believe me when I say 2014 may be “worse” than any other year before it.

So as I’ve been making my plans and prioritizing my goals for this year in the last week or so, I’ve been trying to find God’s wisdom in dealing with a schedule that I can’t possible tackle on my own. I’ve always lived by a schedule I couldn’t handle, but in the past I’ve allowed myself to be stressed out and stretched thin. And I don’t want to live like that anymore. But at the same time, I don’t want to turn away from opportunities that God has given me, especially when He has made it abundantly clear what I’m supposed to do.

My question to God: if I have limited time, focus, and energy, how can I get more? And this is the verse that keeps coming back to me.

Clock on the living room wall at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Clock on the living room wall at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Luke 6:38.

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.

I know I’ve blogged on this verse before, probably many times before, and maybe even about this very topic. But I need a refresher this morning because I struggle with this. It doesn’t make sense to take the limited time, focus, and energy you have and give it all to God because you have things you have to do. There’s only so much you can do, isn’t there?

I’ve already mentioned I started watching Dr. Who. I got really sick just before Christmas and was down for about three weeks, and I discovered Dr. Who on Amazon Prime. So I just curled up with my Coke Zero and cans of soup and watched episode after episode until I got through all seven seasons. It’s brilliant. It really is. And there’s something just fun about it. Who wouldn’t want a sentient time-and-space machine? You can go anywhere, anytime, do anything, and you never run out of time. For someone with limited time, that’s appealing.

I have so many things I want to do. I have so many goals I want to accomplish. And while I do believe I’ll still be able to do those things when I get to heaven, I don’t want to wait. The dreams I have can be useful here, if I can only do them. But how do you accomplish everything you want to do when you work 40 to 50 hours a week? When you have a house you have to keep up? When you have responsibilities to your church that take up time? When you have responsibilities to friends and family?  Just surviving life as it is takes most of my time, energy, focus and doesn’t leave me anything left to chase my dreams.

So how do you get more? If this verse is true, God gives back what you give to Him. And I’ll be the first to tell you financially that’s true. I remember the days in college when I was living on ramen noodles and bean burritos, and I refused to stop tithing because I trusted God would provide. And He did. But what about time? What about energy? What about focus?

Well, what if I give my time, energy, and focus to God? Instead of taking those three things to do my own thing, what happens if I give them to Him? Do you think He’ll give them back to me in greater measure?

I trust God, and I believe His Word. So I’m okay testing Him on this one. And 2014 will tell if this works or not. I hope it does because I don’t have a time machine. My abilities are limited, even if my dreams aren’t. So it only makes sense to trust my time and resources to Him.

Wheat and blue sky at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Investing

Why does the Church always talk about giving? Have you ever wondered about that? Granted, some churches talk about it more than others. My church doesn’t talk about it very often, but my pastor doesn’t hesitate to stand in front of the congregation and ask, especially if there’s a need. But I know of a church in Wichita that absolutely refuses to talk about money. Ever. So which approach is right? Is it right to talk about money in church?

Well, what did Jesus do? Jesus talked about money frequently, whether it was paying taxes or giving to the poor. Money and finances have always been a point of contention with people, and I don’t think it’s necessarily because people are selfish when it comes to giving. More likely, it’s that people aren’t sure that their money is going to be used well. Or that they just feel like they don’t have it to give. After all, in this current economic climate, who has spare change to give the church?

Wheat and blue sky at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat and blue sky at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Luke 6:38.

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.

Money isn’t the root of all evil. Money itself is just a tool that we can use to help bring people to Christ. That’s how we should look at our finances. And some people have more of it than others, but just because you have a lot of money (or just because you don’t have much money) doesn’t determine your effectiveness for God.

Actually, many times, the less you have the more effective you can be because you aren’t trusting your money to help you through. You have no other choice but to trust God to help you.

But I’m not going to focus on whether or not you should give. If you are a believer, it’s your responsibility to give, whether it’s to an established church where you attend or if it’s to a personal fund you use to bless others with when God tells you to. Ten percent of your total income belongs to God. That’s a principle that Abraham started, I believe (I need to check for sure, though, but I’m pretty positive).

What people don’t really think about is that the entire concept of giving stems from trust.

Can you trust God with your finances? Think about it. Do you trust Him enough to give Him ten percent of what you earn?

When I was just starting out working, this was a difficult question. When I made minimum wage (back when it was $5.15 an hour) and worked part time, it was difficult to agree to giving ten percent of my hard-earned money to God (through the church that I trusted to use it wisely). And even as a college student, when I had gotten a marvelous $.25 raise, it was still difficult. Ten percent doesn’t sound like a lot until you don’t have money to buy groceries.

But I made a decision back then to give God what He asked for. He’s given me so much, how can I back up and tell Him no with this? And if He really is who He says He is, He can afford me. If I give Him what I’ve earned (that He gave me the strength and opportunity to earn in the first place), that just means that I have to trust Him to take care of me if I don’t have enough to take care of myself. And He’d never let me down in any other situation. Why would He start now?

I can tell you that this isn’t a difficult question anymore. I have always given to God, and He has always given back — more than I bargained for actually and not just in money. In friends. In family. In time. In the intangible blessings that are too priceless to put a monetary value on.

If you don’t think you can do ten percent, do what you can. Just do something. Just trust Him a little and let Him prove to you that it’s not about money. Giving isn’t about money at all; it’s about trusting Him with your resources. And if you want to give but don’t think you can, ask Him. Ask Him to give you something extra so you can.

God’s a better bet than the stock market. If you’re going to invest in something, put your money behind God’s initiatives because they have eternal payoffs. What’s better? Using your money to stockpile possessions down here that you’ll eventually have to leave behind? Or investing in a church that will help people come to Christ, who you will get to spend eternity with together?

Think about it.

Wheat almost ready - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Who needs a paycheck?

I’ve been praying for my neighbors because we are hovering on the edge of one of the most amazing harvests I can ever remember. The wheat has never looked so beautiful. The photo for today comes from a week or so ago, and since then most of the fields around my home have turned almost completely golden. There’s no sight like it on earth.

Now if we can just hold on for a few more weeks with no major storms, no major floods, Kansas could have a very good year. And about time too. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good harvest in these parts.

I think farming and writing are very similar in some ways, especially when it comes to harvests. Because in both professions you can pour your heart and soul into what you do and never see a positive financial return. You can farm and farm until you’ve planted acres and acres of every crop, and (at least in Kansas) one bad storm can wipe it out. It has nothing to do with your dedication; it’s just life.

Writing’s the same in some cases. I realized the other day that I’ve been writing for almost 20 years, and I have yet to see an actual return on any of it. Granted, I only started letting some of that writing out into the public eye in the last five years. But still. If you run the numbers, you can get discouraged pretty quickly. And then you stumble into a verse like today’s?

Wheat almost ready - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat almost ready – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Luke 6:38.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

How does that work? I can honestly tell you that I’ve worked my fingers to the bone writing since I was a child. My dream since childhood was to be a published author. And I haven’t cut corners. At all. I’ve never expected a free ride, and I’ve dedicated every free moment to it. Even my vacations have been an opportunity to pursue writing.

So according to this rule, the rule of sowing and reaping, I should get back what I invest. And I should get back more of it. This is a law of nature that God created when He made the world. Newton figured it out too; for every action there is a reaction. Cause and effect.

So where does Jesus get off telling me this today?

Farmers plant fields and harvest crops, unless you live in Kansas. Then, generally, you plant crops and harvest dust. Much like writers write books and harvest disappointment when no one wants to buy their work. Am I wrong?

I’m only being partially facetious.

I would be right, yes, if Jesus were only talking about financial returns. I can’t really speak to farmers because I don’t farm (unless you count weeds), but when it comes to writing there is something more satisfying than being paid for your work. And that is when your work touches someone else.

No, I haven’t published a novel yet. But you’re reading this blog post, aren’t you?

No, I haven’t received a financial return on anything I’ve written, but I didn’t really start writing to get rich and famous. I started writing and telling stories because it was an outlet where I could share what God has done in my life. And so much more important to me is communicating that truth to other people, whether it’s in blog posts or articles or short stories or novels. And maybe I haven’t written anything that’s made money. And maybe I never will. But if you count up the people I’ve been able to share my story with through words, that vastly outweighs a paycheck of any kind.

I’ve invested 20 years of my life in writing, in learning how to tell stories, in sharing what God has taught me through words. And I can tell you, the returns I’ve seen, while not financial, are greater than what I originally invested. I’ve given my life to writing, and I’ve watched God take that and make it into something bigger than what I could have imagined, not only being a blessing to people but encouraging others to start sharing their story too. And that’s worth more to me than almost anything.

So whatever you’re doing in your life today, remember that the whole principle of sowing and reaping applies. It really does. It just may not pay off in the way you’re expecting. If what you’re doing in your life honors God, you will see a return. That’s a promise. So don’t give up.

Who needs a paycheck anyway, right? … Like I said. Partially facetious. =)