Pepperonis as Quarters

Pepperoni Pizzas
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

In a different phase of life, my husband and I bought a pizza franchise and opened a restaurant in the little town of Orange, VA.  Our good friend, and pizza mentor, Jerry told us that we should look at “pepperonis as quarters.”  An individual pepperoni probably costs a penny or less–I never did the math, but I got the point.  Wasting food costs me money, and small wastes add up quickly and take money out of my pocket.  Little things matter whether you are trying to make money in your business or trying to live within your means on a tight budget.

In my current job, I am a consultant in a small business development center.  I meet with people each week who would like to start businesses.  Many of these dreams will be derailed or postponed due to poor credit and/or lack of financial resources to get a business started.  Often these people have plenty of income, yet they have failed to live within their means.  Some of them have made big financial mistakes, such as buying a house that they cannot afford, but many are in trouble because they have failed to control small expenses.  They forget that lunches out and $4 cups of coffee can make a big dent in their budgets.

As a Christian, I am a steward of all that God has entrusted to me.  When someone mentions stewardship, money management is probably the first thought that comes to mind.  Stewardship, however, encompasses all phases of your life, including how you use your time and how you use your talents.  We can relate the “pepperonis as quarters”  adage to time and talents, as well as to money.  Saving a few moments here and there throughout your day can add up and allow you more time to play a game with your child, read a book for pleasure, relax with your spouse, or start a new project.  Honing your talents little by little can help you gain speed and proficiency.

I Corinthians 4:2 tells us, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”  I hope that this word will encourage you to look for small ways to be a better steward of your time, talent, and money.

Preparing for the Holiday Season

We are a few weeks into fall, and the holidays are just around the corner. The holiday season will not be back to “normal” this year, as covid-19 continues to wreck havoc with schedules and supply chains.  It’s always a good idea to start early and have a plan.  This year, planning ahead is more important than ever.  Here’s some steps to help you have a blessed holiday season.
1) Savor time spent with family.  Many of us will feel a bit more comfortable traveling this fall and having guests in our homes than we did last year.  Make up for lost time.  Invite family and friends for simple meals, fellowship, and games.  Spend less energy planning the “perfect” event and more time enjoying being together with those you care about most.
2) Focus on the real reason for the holidays.  Take time to reflect on how God has blessed your family during the past year.  Even in challenging times, we are a blessed nation.  Thank God for the blessings He has bestowed on you and for the gift of His Son, whose birth brought hope to a darkened world.
3)  Avoid revenge spending.   Many people have put their spending into high gear this year to make up for fewer opportunities to indulge in 2020.  Economists have dubbed this phenomenon “revenge spending.”  This is not a good idea.  Spending more will not make your holidays merrier, and it might eat into savings accumulated last year.
4) Budget.  In the next few months, you will be shopping for food, candy, gifts, and decorations for fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  Plan now for spending, in accordance with your budgets.
5) Set aside time.  Plan to take a few days off from work or set aside some Saturdays to begin shopping, planning menus, and start decorating.
6) Delegate.  Share duties with your spouse, children, and family and friends with whom you will celebrate.  They may come up with great, new traditions to include in your celebrations for many years to come, and you will save a lot of time.
7) Plan ahead and be flexible.  The past year and half have taught us that we don’t know what the future holds from day to day.  Covid-19 has presented us with new challenges and obstacles.  Celebrations had to altered last year and that may be true again. 
8) Start early.  Covid-19 has played havoc with the supply chain.  We experienced shortages last year, and we will again this year.  Transportation of goods is taking longer.  If there are items that are “must-haves” on your list, order early and be prepared to accept substitutes.

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

This is reprinted from my new quarterly blog which focuses on helping you manage your money in ways that reduce stress and honor God. Click here to subscribe to my quarterly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/hG1VjT

I would love to hear about how you plan to celebrate the holidays this year. What will you differently to make this year special for your loved one?

Cutting Your Losses

As a business consultant, I occasionally counsel someone who has made an unwise decision in opening a business. The business is losing money, and the business owner doesn’t want to give up. That it admirable, and in some cases, with time the business can be successful. In other cases, the business owner is pouring more money into a business that will never be successful. It is time to close up shop and cut their losses. It is a difficult and painful decision, as they often invested time and money into the business.

I was thinking about this as I read the story of King Amaziah that is recorded in 2 Chronicles 25:5-9.

“Amaziah called the people of Judah together and assigned them according to their families to commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He then mustered those twenty years old or more and found that there were three hundred thousand men fit for military service, able to handle the spear and shield. He also hired a hundred thousand fighting men from Israel for a hundred talents of silver.

But a man of God came to him and said, “Your Majesty, these troops from Israel must not march with you, for the Lord is not with Israel—not with any of the people of Ephraim.Even if you go and fight courageously in battle, God will overthrow you before the enemy, for God has the power to help or to overthrow.

Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about the hundred talents I paid for these Israelite troops?”

The man of God replied, “The Lord can give you much more than that.”

Amaziah had invested 100 talents of silver to hire Israelite troops to fight for him.  In today’s economy, that is equivalent to about $1.65 million.  It is quite a lot of money to lose. However, the prophet tells him to give up the money and send the troops away. 

Old silver coins
Photo by Pratikxox on Pexels.com

The prophet also promised Amaziah that God could give him more than the 100 talents of silver he was giving up. To his credit, Amaziah obeyed the prophet.  In doing so, Amaziah secured God’s blessing and won the battle against his enemies. 

It is hard to walk away from money you have invested. Yet, if the Lord instructions you that it is the right thing for you to do, you need to be obedient. God will reward your obedience, and He is more than able to restore to you all that you lost.  Of course, it is best to seek the Lord’s counsel before investing in a business or making other major financial decisions.  Still, it is comforting to know that when you do make a mistake, you can repent of that mistake and walk away from it secure in the knowledge that God will reward your obedience.

Fulfillling God’s Purpose for Your Life

As I was reading 1 Chronicles recently, I came across a list of job assignments that God declared for the tribe of Levi. Some Levites were assigned to be musicians, some were assigned to be gate keepers, and others were assigned duties in the treasury. As I read the list, I had a moment in which I thought it was a shame that they didn’t get to decide for themselves what they wanted to do with their lives. The thought was immediately replaced by the realization that each of these Levites knew exactly what his purpose in life was. God revealed to them in no uncertain terms what purpose He had designed them to fulfill.

What a great place to be–fulfilling the purpose you were created to for. Many people struggle to find meaning and purpose in their lives. They move from one job to the next looking for more job satisfaction, a bigger paycheck, or more fulfillment. Unless we are doing the work God created us to do, we will never truly be satisfied.

Several years ago, Rick Warren published “The Purpose Driven Life.” It was hugely popular, and I have read it at least twice. The book is not a personality assessment test which provides you with a list of jobs for which you are suited. Rather it helps you assess the talents and abilities with which God has equipped you. I came to the conclusion that I am a Problem Solver.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pexels-photo-5668869.jpeg
Completing a job application

I have never seen a job posting for a Problem Solver; however, I have seen many job descriptions that listed problem solving as a desirable characteristic. In fact, the ability to decipher and solve problems is important for many different types of jobs. Some problem solvers are counselors who help people solve relationship or emotional problems, while others may find creative solutions to help businesses operate more efficiently, and still others are inventors who create the product needed to solve a particular problem. All problem solvers are not cut from the same cloth, and they don’t have the same purpose in life. Identifying as a problem solver helped me realize some aspects of the way God created me, but it didn’t point me to my next career decision. I had to pray and earnestly seek God’s direction to know where He wanted to place me for my next job. And, of course, that job was a perfect fit.

Fortunately, God has created each person with their own unique purpose. We experience the greatest sense of fulfillment when we are following God’s purpose for our lives. For most of us, our purpose isn’t spelled out as clearly as it was for the Levites. Discovering God’s purpose will require that you spend time in God’s word and prayer. As you do, God will reveal to you His direction for your life, or at least for the next stage of your life.

Assessing talents and abilities to find God's purpose for your life
Assessing Your Talents and Abilities

Knowing who you are in God is an important aspect of fulfilling God’s plan for your life. God has declared that His people should be faithful stewards of their time, money, and talents. To learn more about being a faithful steward of the financial resources God has blessed you with, you may want to read other blogs under the Finances heading or purchase my Bible study, Honoring God with Your Money.

Lessons in Money Management

My parents raised nine children on a single income, so careful money management was a priority.  I don’t recall them ever formally sharing money management lessons. Rather, they instilled good money management habits through their example and casual conversations.  One of the ways they taught us good money management skills was by a allowing my sisters to make some of our spending decisions at an early age. The lessons I learned include:

  1. Spending for one thing means less money for something else.  When I was about 13, my parents decided to give us each $20 per week allowance.  In 1972, $20 was a significant amount of money. In fact, it is equivalent to about $130 today.  The catch was that the money had to cover all of our discretionary spending.  We were free to pack lunches for school, but if we wanted to buy lunch, it came out of our allowance.  We were also responsible for buying our own clothes and paying for movie tickets and other recreation.  We learned to manage money and make hard decisions.  If I wanted a new pair of shoes, I might have to pack my lunch for a whole week.
  2. Shop the sales.  My mother was a master shopper.  She watched sales and clipped coupons.  I have seen her leave a department store with multiple shopping bags of clothes for which she paid less than $20 in total.  She loved to search the clearance racks for a blouse or sweater that everyone else had overlooked, and she loved the challenge of finding the perfect skirt or pair of slacks to go with it.  She would go to every clothing store in the mall in search of what she needed to ensure that she got the best bargain. Mom knew what month to shop for appliances or furniture, and she knew when the “white” sales (linens) would be going on.  She loved to shop the after-Christmas sales, and she often bought outfits in January which she would give to us the following Christmas. With four daughters born in a 4 ½ year span, she knew one of us would be able to wear the skirts and sweaters she bought.
  3. Buy quality and keep belongings until they wear out.  My mother believed it was worth spending a bit more to get better quality.  She bought traditional styles that would not go out of fashion, and she wore her clothes until they were worn out.  Similarly, Dad taught us to keep cars until the costs of repairs exceeded the car’s value.  He and Mom purchased a car when they married in 1955; my middle school principal purchased the car from them in 1974.  They added a second car in 1965, as I was starting first grade.  I drove that car until my junior year of college, when I was rear ended while driving it.
  4. Save up for major purchases.  I don’t recall my parents ever taking out a loan to purchase a car.  Of course, a new car was a true rarity in our household.  I do recall, however, a couple of occasions when my father borrowed cash from his life insurance policy to cover a major purchase.  He explained that the interest rate was very low, and he was, in essence, paying it back to himself.
  5. Balance your checkbook regularly and know where your money is going.  Balancing the checkbook before we had computers could be a time-consuming activity.  My mother always sat at the kitchen table to balance the checkbook.   Canceled checks were returned to the payer in those days. Mom would tape the canceled checks to the check stubs in a large, three-ring binder.  She would mark them off on the bank statement and determine what checks she had written that had not cleared.  Mom balanced the checking account to the penny, and she was never satisfied until it balanced.
  6. Count the true cost of debt.  My parents bought their final home in 1971 for about $35,000.  The monthly payment of $238.  I believe the interest rate was 7 ¼%.  Mom marked off each payment on an amortization schedule. When there was sufficient money, she would make an extra principal payment or two.  I remember her explaining to me that when she paid extra money toward the principal, she was saving more than one payment, as the balance went down and less interest accrued from then on.  I also recall multiplying $238 by 360 payment and realizing that, if they made each payment as scheduled, the $35,000 house would cost them about $86,000.  This was an eye opener and provided an ideal opportunity for us to talk about homes as investments that would increase in value, whereas a car would lose value over time.  My mother paid off the house in about 13 years.  While my father appreciated not having a mortgage payment, he did fuss more than once over losing the tax deduction of the interest.
  7. Establish credit early and manage it well.  When I graduated from high school, my parents bought me a sewing machine.  Mom then declared that I needed a sewing cabinet, which I would have to buy myself. We went together to the Singer store and picked out a cabinet.  I believe the price was $125.  She instructed me to put $25 down and helped me apply for a credit card.  When the bill came, I paid off the balance in full.  At the age of eighteen, I had established some credit of my own.  I never used that credit card again, but it was the key to allowing me to get a Sears card a few years later.
Calculator, currency, and note pad.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

These money management principles have served me well. Steve and I have tried to instill them in our own children. I hope that they will help you to manage your money better and have less financial stress in your life.

For more money management tips and information on creating budgets, please check out my other blog posts under the Finance tab. For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.   Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations. 

Seven Signs that You Have a Spending Problem

Many people grumble about not having enough money, when they actually have a spending problem.  If you make a reasonable income and have a mortgage or rent payment that fits into your budget, you should be able to adapt your lifestyle to your income.  If you routinely run out of money before the next pay day, you need to consider that you might have a spending problem.

Here are some the signs that you should look for in your life:

  1. You are unable to pay off your credit cards each month, and your balances are rising.
  2. You can’t meet your basic needs, yet you purchase new cars and technology because you want to have the latest upgrades.
  3. You can’t pass up a sale on clothes or household goods, even though you don’t need those items, because it’s too great of a deal.
  4. You hide your receipts and credit card bills from your spouse.
  5. You are regularly paying bills late and incurring late fees.
  6. You are bouncing checks.
  7. You lie to your spouse about your paycheck and your purchases.

If any of these signs apply to you, you need to make changes in your spending habits and your attitudes toward money. It is hard to change on your own. However, with God’s help and the support of your family, you can overcome your bad habits. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

God promises this in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” As you seek God’s help through prayer and Bible reading, you will develop a new nature that is more in line with God’s perfect plan for your life.

Steps to Becoming a Responsible Money Manager

  1. Repent of past spending mistakes.  When you sincerely repent, God forgives.  You must also forgive yourself. Don’t remain in bondage to past regrets.
  2. Ask God to change your nature to be a responsible spender and to help you have a Heavenly focus. Responsible spending will allow you to share more of your blessings with others and build eternal treasure in Heaven.
  3. Commit to tithing. God’s word tells us that tithing is not optional. God asked us to return ten percent of all that He has provided to supply the needs of the church.  This is an act of obedience, which God promises to bless (read Malachi 3:10).
  4. Develop systems, perhaps with the help of a financial counselor, for budgeting and accounting.  Set up automatic deposits and bill paying to simplify your life and make it less likely that a bill will be overlooked.
  5. Seek assistance in developing a plan to systematically pay off debt.
  6. Be accountable to someone, preferably your spouse, for how you spend your discretionary money each month.  Establish regular times, typically once or twice a month, to review all spending with your accountability partner.

If you have a serious spending problem, you might need to be Hyper Accountable to someone for several months or more who will review your bank and credit card accounts at least weekly to help you keep your spending in check.  This person should be someone who trust explicitly and who is willing to confront you when you begin to slip back into bad spending habit.

You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances tab on the right. 

If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.   Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.  For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

Your Credit Score is How Low!!!!

Are you one of the 16 percent of Americans whose credit score is so low that it is negatively impacting your life?  A very low credit score can make it nearly impossible to qualify for a home mortgage or a business loan.  You may be able to get a loan to purchase a car, but you will be assessed a high rate of interest.  Those with very low credit scores pay more for auto insurance than those with average or good scores.  If you are one of these people, it is important to take immediate steps to improve your credit score.  It will take some effort and time, but it is a very achievable goal.

Credit score ratings

I recently helped a man write a business plan and develop a cash flow forecast to open a restaurant.  He had many years of restaurant experience, along with some of his own money to invest, and other income to help support his family.  Everything looked good.  In our first meeting, I asked him his credit score, and he assured me it was in the mid-600’s.  A score in the mid-600’s considered to be Fair—not great but certainly high enough for him to qualify for the loan.  Unfortunately, he was quite wrong in his assessment. He applied for a loan and the banker pulled his credit report, which revealed a credit score of about 450. 

By any measure, a credit score of 450 is Bad.  In fact, a score of less than 579 is viewed as very poor credit.  The man was shocked and embarrassed by his low credit score.  He had qualified for a mortgage less than a year earlier, so it is likely that his credit rating was at least Fair at that time.  So, what happened?  I don’t know the answer, as he didn’t share his credit report with me. I did provide him with guidance in regard to reviewing his credit report to see if it contains errors, correcting any errors, and being diligent in managing his credit.  If you are in a similar situation, these steps can help you.

The first thing you need to do is review the report for errors. Any errors should be reported to credit report agency.  Most credit reports and scores are generated by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  You should check your report with each agency at least once a year and report any errors that your find immediately.  Errors might include information for someone who is not you but has a similar name, incorrect information about loans that have been paid off, and credit that you applied for but did not accept.  You should also check for evidence of identity theft.

Here are links for filing disputes with each of the major credit report agencies:

Getting any errors corrected can have a significant impact on your credit score.  Unfortunately, it will take a little time for the agency to investigate your dispute and correct any misinformation.

If your score is low due to poor management of your finances, such as late payments, missed payments, and charge offs, you should follow these guidelines to better manage credit and improve your score:

  • Be sure to make at least the minimum payment on all accounts every month.
  • Make payments by the due date.  Late payments and skipped payments hurt your score.  The later the payment, the larger the negative impact on your score.
  • Don’t open any new credit accounts–don’t buy a car, don’t refinance your home, don’t apply for any new credit cards.  Every new account increases your available credit and lowers your score, at least temporarily.
  • Don’t close any older accounts.  If you recently opened accounts you don’t need, you might want to close them. But, keep open your oldest accounts. Length of credit history improves your score.
  • Keep your credit card balances at 50% or less of the amount of credit extended.

Within a few months, you should see an improvement in your credit score.

The man above will have to put his dreams of opening a restaurant on hold for a while.  It is too bad.  However, if he can get any errors corrected, and if he commits to taking the steps above to improve his credit, he may be able to qualify the loan he needs in 6 – 12 months.  It will take a real effort and determination on his part; however, if he keeps his goal in his sights, I believe he will reach his goal.

God desires that His people pay their bills on time, honor their commitments, and don’t allow money to rule their lives.  If you are struggling to manage your finances, seek Christian counsel and pray diligently for God’s guidance.  You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances category on the right.

If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.  Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.  For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

Treasure in Heaven

I had an interesting conversation with my eight-year-old grandson this week.  He asked me what I was writing, and I told him it was an article called “Building Treasure in Heaven.”  He wanted to know why I would want to build treasure in Heaven.  The rest of the conversation went kind of like this.

Me: “How long do you think you will live on earth?”

Grandson: “Maybe 100 years.”            

Me: “How long will you live in Heaven?”

Grandson: “Millions and millions of years.”

Me: “So would it be better to be rich on earth or rich in Heaven?”

Grandson: “Can you do both?”

Me: “Yes, you can. God promised in the Bible, in the book of Malachi, that He will pour out riches on those who give tithes to the church. And we can build treasure in Heaven by giving more than our tithes to share the gospel.”

Grandson: “You should write a book about that.”

Me: “Actually, I have.”

My grandson is learning how to build true wealth, and my goal is to help many other people to come to this same knowledge. 

In Malachi 3: 8 – 10, we read, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”

God commands that His people pay tithe.  In Biblical times, the tithe could be paid money, animals, or grain.  Animals and grain that were tithed provided food for the priests, and money met the other needs of running the temple and supporting the Levites.  God told His people through Malachi that they were being cursed because they had neglected to bring their tithes to His house.  In the next breath, He promised great blessings to those who do pay their tithe.

When we obediently and cheerfully give back ten percent of the resources that God blesses us with, He promises to bless us extravagantly.  In fact, He promises blessings so great that we will not have room enough to receive it.  These blessings are promised to us while we are on Earth.

As we faithfully steward all the resources He gives us, we build riches in Heaven.  These resources include our time, our talents, and our money.  Ask God how you can be faithful to steward the resources He entrusts to you, so that you will be blessed on Earth and build treasure in Heaven.

My book, “Honoring God with Your Money,” will lead you through a study of what the Bible says about money. It discusses the purpose of money, appropriate attitudes about money, stewardship of money, paying off debt, and creating budgets. This is a great resource if you would like to become a better steward of the resources which God has entrusted to you.

Bible study on stewarding financial resources
Honoring God with Your Money

Seven Tips for Better Stewardship of Time

Stewardship is the word that God impressed upon me to be my focus for 2021. For me, stewardship involves not only managing our money and financial resources well, but also using the talents God grants us and the time allotted to us in ways that honor Him.

Time stewardship is the most challenging of the three for me. I tend to function best when my to-do list is very long and my time to complete it is short.  When my to-do list is short, it is easy for me to find get distracted.  But the pressure of a long list and little time give me focus and energy. I love making a long list of tasks to be accomplished and then crossing items off as I complete them.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

So, why don’t I make a list each day? That is a question I ask myself regularly, and the only answer I have come up with is that I haven’t found the right tool that works for me.  But, list-making tools is not the subject of this blog.  Rather, this blog is about strategies that I have learned and am attempting to enact to be a better steward of my time, so that I can accomplish the goals God has put into my heart.

  1. Make a List.  Your list should include tasks to be completed today, this week, and over the new few weeks.  A strategy that I learned many years ago is to include some “routine” tasks that you already do at the start of every day, so that you can quickly cross something from your list. Time management experts recommend “Making the bed” or “Showering” as the first task on the list. Crossing off tasks gives you a sense of accomplishment and will help you to accomplish more with your time.
  2. Stack Habits.  This suggestion is from Mark Batterson’s book “Win the Day.”  Mark suggests developing good, daily habits by stacking tasks together routinely.  Develop a routine to help you start the day off right, and you will manage your day better. For me, I have stacked exercise with Bible reading.  When I discovered that I could read books on my kindle while pedaling my exercise bike, my mornings improved significantly.  This works best when I get out of bed, grab my kindle, and get on the bike.  I start the day with God’s word, and I get my blood flowing.  I wake up more fully, and the day goes better.
  3. Prioritize Tasks. It’s not enough to have a list. You have to take some time to consider what tasks must be done today? What tasks can be put off until tomorrow or next week?  If you don’t prioritize what needs to be done, you will end of being distracted by emails, phone calls, and tasks that appear urgent but are not critical to you having a successful day.  Ask God for wisdom to align your priorities with His.
  4. Minimize Distractions.  Set yourself up for success by being pro-activate in minimizing distractions.  Timothy Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” is a master of minimizing distractions to accomplish more in less time.  One key tip is to avoid checking emails and responding to texts and phone calls throughout the day.  Rather, Ferriss recommends checking emails and messages at a few pre-determined times a day. Evaluate what your primary distractions are and take steps to minimize them.  For those who work in an office, an open-door policy might be a major distraction.  Consider closing your door and putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door for periods of uninterrupted work.
  5. Schedule Down Time.  No one should be all work and no play, and no one should spend too much time playing and avoiding work. Everyone needs time to kick back and read a book, watch television, or go out for a leisurely dinner.  Plan these times in your schedule to ensure balance in your work and leisure time.
  6. Seek God’s Direction.  Start each day with time in God’s word.  Pray for wisdom, and listen for His direction.  God will show you what is important for you to accomplish each day to fulfill His will for your life.
  7. Ask God to Multiply Your Time. As God multiplied the fishes and the loaves, He can multiply your time.  When we seek God’s will and use our time according to His purposes, He will allow us to do more in less time.  When you need to get somewhere quickly, and all the traffic lights you encounter are green—that is God’s blessing on your time.  If you get in and out of an appointment much faster than you expected, that is also God’s blessing. Make a habit of recognizing God’s hand in allowing tasks to be accomplished quickly and smoothly, and thank Him for those blessings.

There are many other time-management strategies. Which ones are your using?  Please share your best tips in the Comments.

Stewardship of God-Given Talents

Each of us have areas of creativity in which we excel and feel comfortable.  For me, knitting is my favorite creative outlet.  I love starting with a single piece of yarn, albeit a very long piece, wrapping it around a needle many times, and ending up with a blanket or a scarf or whatever I chose to make.  Knitting is relaxing and can be done while conversing, listening to music, or watching television.  It takes considerable time to knit to complete most items, so my knitting endeavors are generally gifts for loved ones.  It is a rare occasion in which I use knitting to share God’s love with others. 

Rather God has stretched me by having me delve into areas I would never have imagined.  As a high school math teacher, I was challenged to develop creative methods to make algebra and geometry interesting and instill lessons in my students.  Understanding mathematical concepts did not come easy to many of my students. As I prayed for direction, God gave me games and activities to bring the lessons home.

One year, however, I was assigned to teach kindergarten rather than math.  God took me way outside my comfort zone and used that year to open me up to new creative endeavors that I had never tried. One of the biggest challenges was creating an act for the children to perform in a school program.  The easiest thing I could think of was to write new lyrics for a common children’s tune.  It was simple but effective. The children enjoyed singing it in the school program for their parents, and I fulfilled an assignment that terrified me.  I have no desire to write songs, but the experience opened me up to trying new things to teach and delight children.  It helped me to be less afraid of embarrassing myself and more open to taking risks.

There are many ways to be good stewards of the natural talents that God instilled in you.

  1. Hone your skills.  As a child my grandmother taught me to knit very basic stitches.  When I was a teenager, she determined that it was time for me to take over her hobby of knitting Christmas stockings for the family, and she taught me the Fair Isle technique of seamlessly weaving different colored yarns to produce a beautiful image or scene.  Since that time, I have learned new techniques and new stitches, often with the aid of Youtube.
  2. Try new things.  Don’t be afraid to feel foolish or to make a mistake.  Working within your comfort zone is fine most of the time, but occasionally step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
  3. Use your talents to bless others.  Performance skills, such as singing and playing a musical instrument, offer many opportunities to bless others by performing in the church choir, nursing homes, and shut-ins.  But what if your talents are not in the areas of performance arts?  You can bless others by cooking a meal for someone who is ill, sewing clothes for a child in need, writing an encouraging note, knitting a scarf, arranging a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers, or sharing produce from your garden.
  4. Share your talents. Teach what you do well to a friend or a student. A few years ago, ladies in our church taught some Burundi refugees to cook on an electric stove; the refugees had only cooked over open fires before coming to America. I think our ladies were as blessed by the experience as the women they taught.
  5. Volunteer.  As you allow God to stretch you, look for ways for Him to use you to bless others.  I still don’t consider myself to be artistic, but I enjoy crafts.  This year, I will be the craft coordinate for VBS. Church youth programs and day care centers provide many opportunities to use your talents to teach children.

Thank God for the talents He has instilled in you, and ask Him to show you how you can use those talents to honor Him and share His love with others.

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hand.” Psalm 90:17