One question to ask if you’re wondering “should I buy this?”

One question to ask if you're wondering_One of the big challenges for me as a believer, living in the world that I do, is trying to figure out how to manage the stuff we own. Words like stewardship, financial planning, wisdom, investment, generosity, living debt-free and justice are all bandied around within the Christian community when the topic of money is raised.

20131018-224122.jpg

Often, I feel that “wise counsel” about money gives very contradictory advice. Should we “give generously to those who are hungry now, and trust God for the future?”, or should we “invest wisely for the future so as to not be a burden on our children?” Should be live simply, so as to avoid the meaninglessness of possessions; or should be enjoy the things that money can bring and just make sure we give a nod to God in thanks for His good gifts? Buy a big house and use it for ministry? Should I buy new clothes at all or embrace the life of thrift store shopping? Or is the Christian halfway point to commit to only buying things on clearance at Target? Should I listen to Shane Claiborne or Dave Ramsey?

Is anyone else confused?

My mind reels with those kinds of questions. Rich or poor, what does it mean to be “rich towards God” (Luke 12:21)

I have lots of questions about these issues, and thus far very few answers. But early in our marriage, my wise hubby did suggest one principle when it came to managing our belongings, and it has been the start-of-an-answer for me.

His Our rule of thumb when buying something is: if we’re not willing to lend it out, we shouldn’t own it.

This one little rule has helped me keep some perspective in both acquiring and using our belongings: they are for USE. If the car is too fancy to lend out to a friend in need, then then car is too fancy for us. If I’m not willing to lend out the dress, to offer our guest room, to say yes to a request to borrow the camping gear or to host a meeting for malodorous people – then I need to rethink the dress, the guest room, the camping gear, the sofa. People always need to trump possessions.

True- we try to be discerning. We don’t lend our car to unlicensed drivers. And sometimes things get returned damaged or with piece missing (anyone seen the straps for our thermarests?) But that’s okay: those possessions gave us an opportunity to love people, and so they did their work admirably.

It’s our simple attempt to apply Matthew 6:42 – “Do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

I still have a lot of questions, but it’s a start.

photo credit: reluctant femme.com

The pros and cons of having kids

Once upon a time we were a young, married couple.

Young, married couples in the 18th century knew that a decision to get married meant you were signing up for the marriage -> sex -> children package. The three came together.

But these days, the decision to get married, the decision to have sex and the decision to have kids seem to be regarded as three separate (and not necessarily related) decisions.

Being in the Christian camp, we knew that marriage and sex ought to go together. But what about whether to have kids?

And so this young, married couple did what we had been taught to do when making hard decisions: we made a pro and con list.

20130717-101404.jpg

The con list looked something like this:

* we haven’t been married for very long.

* we have almost no money.

* we know nothing about raising kids.

* what if I don’t LIKE my children?

* what if that means we won’t be able to do ‘ministry’ anymore?

It was a scary list of cons. Looking at the list, it seemed that perhaps all we had heard from other lets-wait-to-have-kids couples was right: to have children would be irresponsible and unwise.

But as we thought and prayed and thought and prayed, this one thing appeared in the list of “pros”: God says children are a blessing.

“Children are a blessing and a gift from the LORD.” – Psalm 127:3 (CEV)

I was undone.  Who was I to be making lists of pros and cons, when God had directly said they were a “pro”?

When I revisited my list of pros and cons, it began to look suspiciously like a “fear” and “faith” decision:

Cons (i.e. Fears):

* A fear that we would have less fun and miss out as a married couple (i.e. an underlying belief that children DETRACT from fun and fulfillment)

* A fear that we wouldn’t have enough and that God would not provide.

* A fear that we wouldn’t know what to do and that God would not give wisdom.

* A fear that ‘ministry’ as I saw and valued it, would be lost…

Pros (i.e. Faith):

* Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.

As I stared at my list again, Mark 4:40 came to mind:

“He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

We scrapped the list, took a deep breath, and threw away the birth control pills.

And you know what? Six years down the line we could fill that “pro” list up with 500 things and still keep counting. Children are a blessing. Indeed.

You may also like:  The first year of marriage…  and  You know you’re a mom if….