Manna

The highlighted verse in The Upper Room online this morning was Numbers 11:5-6 (NRSV), “The Israelites murmured, ‘We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing…but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

This speaks powerfully to me today.  As a family we’ve been discerning what the future holds for us.  Where is God leading us, how will God provide for us, what are we “supposed” to do???  So many questions surround these decisions and weigh on each of our hearts.

Over the past few months, Mike and I have transitioned out of a place that we loved and cared about and from a worship service that we helped create and foster and grow over many years.  There are definitely seasons for everything and I believe that to be true, but there’s also grief and loss as seasons change and it’s sometimes hard to see the daily provisions in that.  

As these changes have happened, that has meant a new economic reality for our family and I write about this not looking for some quick fix or answer, but because I think there are a lot of people in our churches and communities and families that are struggling in these economic times and are asking some of the same questions that Mike and I are asking.  There are friends’ facebook statuses that I see talking about eating peanut butter sandwiches at the end of the month and their couponing exploits and I know there are many people that are living wisely and practically, trusting not just in God’s provision but also being wise about what we’ve been given.  I had the pleasure of hearing my brother, Josh’s sermon series on Stewardship some this fall and he really brought to life all that it means to be a good steward as we give our time, our presence, our gifts and our service.

Sometimes we’ve become used to all of the extras of life – like that coffee from Starbucks or being able to get that skirt from Target or the luxury of cable tv and we forget the beauty and sustenance of the manna that God provides us every day.  Times may get tough and things might get real tight (how many ways can you use the whole chicken – a lot apparently) but God is with us providing for us each step of the way in big and small ways and giving us the wake up calls and the encouragement we need to move forward in wisdom and faith.

May we treasure these gifts and those that neither most nor rust will destroy.  May we trust that no matter where God leads, that God “gives us this day our daily bread” and that manna is not something for us to look down upon, but something that is a visible sign of God’s provision.  This manna is not just money, by any means, but it’s the daily sustaining through those beautiful ways that God draws us to God’s self each day.  What that means for us is that in the midst of that trusting, we must also be intentional and committed to our prayer life and to being open to God’s leading and promise in our lives.

This is one of my goals for the year, to see the manna as valuable and as grace given to me, not just as something to take for granted.  May it be so!

How has God provided for you? How do you see God’s daily providence? What does this manna also call us to do in our communities and how does it shape the living out of our lives and faith?

Thankful

It has been a long, long, very long day.  And yes, we are watching The Tudors again.  Can’t wait to see the Emmy’s tomorrow though…love Jimmy Fallon and definitely want to pull for some folks!

Worship was good this morning, but I admit I nearly choked up saying outloud our news about conference program money.  It’s good to say it outloud.  That makes it real and then we begin to work towards being proactive and not just reactive.

I finally worked up the energy to write to our board members and to some fellow alum and at dinner tonight I told the students about our new opportunity.  I thought I could make it at least the night without telling them – especially since this was our first worship, but at dinner I told them.  We had a good discussion about how we could cut costs and the things that they definitely wanted to keep and that was encouraging.  They were ready to help and all of us I think are ready to see what we can do.

I was also encouraged by a recent graduate who just entered grad school telling me, “I’m going to see how much of my paycheck I can give to Wesley every month.  Other students deserve the same experience that I had with Wesley.”  I was encouraged by the words of a dear, dear friend who was a part of Wesley when it was WNW with me.

“To the old Wesley Crew –

 Narcie – Thank you for sharing this unfortunate news with us all.  As we continue to struggle through this “recession” many nonprofits are losing support from their normal revenue streams.  On a positive note it is an opportunity to seek out new opportunities for funding and partnership.

After reading Narcie’s note I couldn’t help but reflect on my time at Wesley.  I think all of us on this list that are alumni think fondly of our time together.  Wesley gave us home away from home, a place to spend time with other students that were interested in grace and love.  I am forever grateful for the opportunities that Wesley afforded me as a student.  From the experiences of providing hope to those who needed it most to enjoying tons of laughs with friends, Wesley made an indelible mark on my life.

That being said I am pledging to make monthly donations to the Winthrop Wesley Foundation so that currents students can have the same opportunities that we did.  I want the students that are apart of Wesley now to be able to be fans of miracles, mercy, humility, grace and hope and they need our help to make that possible.

I do hope all of you will join me in true reflection on the importance of Wesley in your life and commit to making a monthly gift in support of its mission.”

I am thankful for the passion I saw in the students this evening around the dinner table.  I am thankful for my recent grads who are starting out but are already looking to help the next generation and I am thankful for the dear friends who like me, still to this day feel the forever imprints of our time spent in campus ministry.

Thanks to all of you for the prayers!  Tomorrow will be time for setting up paypal accounts, newsletter writing, and evaluating our budget and ministry! 

These Tudors really are crazy…

Money, money, money

I think it was in the first couple seasons of The Apprentice that they always played the, “Money, money, money” song that played at the beginning.  In looking at the lectionary texts this week, I actually liked them all.  But I’ve mostly been in Hebrews lately and I have never really preached it very much so I decided to stick with there.

The text is Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 and it’s a lot of instruction and wise counsel.  Mike and I have been watching The Tudors recently.  We’ve finished season 1 and have begun season 2.  Wow.  In so many ways times have changed!  It is amazing to me how far the rights of women have come from those days.  Mike spends much of the shows saying, “They were really like that?”  Sadly, yes.  There’s a ton of lies, betrayal, power hungry insanity, and since it’s on Showtime – sex.  Wow is it crazy.  We’ve been watching an episode a night and I think that’s the main reason I was drawn to this tet.

This passage is the absolute opposite of this royal debauchery.  It talks about showing hospitality to strangers, remembering those in prison, marriage being held in honor and then closing out with “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”  These are very different instructions than how the Tudors acted even though they loved to throw the name of God and what “God’s will” is around all over the place.

It speaks a great deal to us all.  In reading this earlier in the week and in thinking on it the past couple days, the part about money wasn’t something that leaped out to me anymore than the rest of it.  Then this morning I go to our biannual Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry meeting and I find out that not only will we at Winthrop Wesley Foundation not receive any program money for 2011 as we were told a week and a half ago, but now we are no longer going to receive any other program funds for the rest of 2010.  So no check coming in September in the thankful income column, but plenty of expenses still going out.  Eek! is about the most nice, censored thing I can say…

But then tonight I read this text again abd I see verse 5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.'”  I don’t know if I would say I loved the program money we received from the conference.  In actuality it only made up 15% of our program money receipts.  But I would definitely say that I depended on it.  In the lean months when nothing from churches or sweet giving folks is coming in, I knew that we would receive that money from the Annual Conference and we could pay the light bill.  And that is a very good thing.  So although I don’t know if I “loved” the money we got, I was incredibly thankful we received it. 

But you know times they are a changing, and we live in a different world and economic time.  So it is what it is and it’s now time to move forward and trust that God is with us and will provide for us.  We step out in faith and trust that God will provide.  The semester is planned and commitments made and we’ll see how it all works out in the midst.  I trust that it will.  No amount of stressing is going to help, but boy it’s time to shake the bushes and get some money raised!

Again, God amazes me in giving us the Word we need when we need it.  Even in the midst of the unknown and the uncertainty and the obvious fear, there are tremendous opportunities and new and bold paths to explore and step out in.  I am weary thinking about the work ahead, but I’m excited to see new partners in ministry and the chance to vision anew as we as always try to do more, with less.

Money.  Power.  Intrigue.  Definitely more the world of the Tudors than campus ministry.  But hey – we all need a little instruction and reminders about where our hearts need to be and who are faith is in.  Still not sure what I’m preaching about tomorrow exactly, but often this sound instruction speaks for itself.