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

Blessings of a Long Marriage

Today, Steve and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.  It sounds like a long time, but the years have flown by much more quickly than we could have imagined when we started this journey.  It really doesn’t seem possible that four decades have gone by since we stood before our family and friends and pledge to walk together through life until “death do us part.” 

This was a wedding gift. It has hung in our home for forty years. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing…” Proverbs 18:22

The years since we said our vows have been full, busy, and blessed.  We have had the joy to raise three amazing sons and watched them grow up and start families of their own. We are blessed with eight energetic and delightful grandchildren.

One of the greatest blessings is parenting and grandparenting together.  Nothing beats knowing that our union and our love has created this family.  The boys are our sons and their children are our grandchildren.

Another great source of joy is that we share the same memories.  The grandchildren love hearing stories of when their fathers were young.  Steve and I experienced these years together, and those memories become more precious as we share them with our grandchildren.

The Bible say, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22.    It is just as true that she who finds a husband finds a good thing and obtains favor.  Favor from the Lord has certainly come through children and grandchildren. But it has also come by having a godly partner as we journey through life. 

Steve and I have prayed together for wisdom on raising the boys and making important decisions.  We have supported one another during difficult times and taken grand adventures together.  We consult one another and the Lord about important life and financial decisions. God has blessed us financially, as we have tithed and stewarded the resources He has entrusted to us.  We have worked together and supported one another in our home life and our careers. This has allowed us to reap the benefits of being able to own a nice home, travel, and save for our retirement years.

Steve is my best friend and the person I trust most in the world.  He always has my best interest at heart and goes out of his way to make me feel loved and special.  These forty years have been an exciting journey, and I pray that this journey will continue for many more years and many more adventures.

Taxes Not Done? Don’t Panic!

It’s April 14. If you have not done your taxes, you might be in panic mode. However, the federal government has extended the tax due date this year, as it did last year. 2020 tax returns are due on May 17. So, you have 32 days until it’s time to panic. But, don’t!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Don’t panic and don’t procrastinate. Do yourself a favor and block out some time in this weekend to file your tax return. When you do, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. The IRS has extended the deadline for making IRA and health savings account contributions for 2020 until May 17. Many states have also extended their deadlines. Be sure to check your state’s tax web site to verify their deadline.
  2. Covid-19, or economic impact, relief payments to families are not taxable, so don’t include them in your income.
  3. If you did not receive the full economic impact payments, you can claim the Economic Rebate Credit on your taxes. Your refund or amount due will be adjusted by the amount of the credit.
  4. The sooner you file, the sooner you will receive your refund.
  5. If you will owe taxes, it is better to know that now, so that you can make a plan to have the money by May 17.
  6. You can file your return now and schedule any payment to be deducted from your bank account on May 17. Be sure to deduct the payment from your account register now, so you won’t accidentally spend the money.
  7. If you earned less than $72,000, you may be able to file your taxes for free: https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free
  8. Filing your taxes now will relieve you of the burden of knowing your still have to file your taxes. Do your taxes, and then get outside and enjoy some beautiful spring weather.

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” Proverbs 12:25

Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

God’s Multiplication

I was asked in an interview last week whether a person in debt should postpone paying tithes until he had paid off his debt. That’s an easy question to which the answer is a resounding “No.” Although from a financial point of view, it makes sense to pay off debt rather than make charitable donations, we must keep in mind that God doesn’t operate within the limits of our economic circumstances.

Paying Bills; Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

If you’ve been a Christian for many years, you have likely heard a statement along the lines of, “God can do more with your 90% than you can do with your 100%.” It sounds like a cute cliche that a minister might use to convince his congregation to tithe. It is truth, however, and one that all Christians should take to heart.

God doesn’t need our offerings. He owns it all. God declares, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you. For the world is mine and all that is in it.” Psalm 50:12 (NIV)

God can meet all of our needs without our help. He asks us to give back 10% of the resources He has entrusted to us as a sign of our faith, trust, and obedience. And when we bring our ten percent, He multiples that to do the work of the kingdom, and He multiples the ninety percent that remains to meet our needs.

An great example of God’s multiplication powers is the story of the widow who meet Elijah’s needs, as told in 1 Kings 17. The widow had only enough flour and oil to make a cake each for her son and herself. She was going to prepare a final meal for them before they died. Elijah asked her to make food for him first. The widow obeyed God’s prophet, and God did not allow her flour or oil to run out until the drought had ended.

You may be experiencing great blessings today, or perhaps you are in the midst of difficult financial circumstances. Either way, offer up what you have to the Lord by following His instructions to give ten percent to the work of the church. Then observe how God blesses you. He has promised that He will “throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10, NIV)

My One Word of 2021–Stewardship

I have chosen “stewardship” to be the word that I focus on for 2021. Stewardship relates to how we care for the duties and possessions entrusted to us. Specifically, how we manage the resources given to us by God.

In Genesis chapter 1, God commanded Adam to care for the earth and subdue. There are many stories of stewards in the Bible–some good and some bad stewards.

Growing up in the Assemblies of God, I have been involved in Girls Ministries for nearly 50 years. One of the principles that was impressed upon my was that I was to be a good steward of my time, talent, and money. 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful,” is a verse that I learned at a young age. It has guided me throughout my life in how I manage my money and conduct my life.

Managing my time has been more challenging. This year, I will focus on displaying faithful stewardship more thoroughly in how I spend my time. I will also encourage others to be faithful stewards in how they handle their money and other resources entrusted to them by God.

Money stewardship is the theme of my newest book, “Honoring God with Your Money.” In it, I examine what the Bible says about money in how we budget and spend our money, as well how we give and our attitudes towards money. The book will be published in the coming weeks.

As I juggle being a full-time employee, a wife, and mother and grandmother, with other obligations that include working in Girls Ministries and church leadership and writing books, faithful stewardship of my time has been even more critical.

Throughout this year, I encourage you to examine your own stewardship of your time, talent, and financial resources. Are you honoring God in all that you do?

Supporting Entrepreneurship through Samaritan’s Purse

I have long been enthusiastic about the work that Samaritan’s Purse does to spread the gospel around the world. The organization is best known for Operation Christmas Child, which delivers millions of shoe boxes filled with gifts to impoverished children around the world.

Samaritan’s Purse also provides relief to communities impacted by natural disasters. The organization is less well-known for supporting micro-business entrepreneurship around the world.

Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog
Chickens from Samaritan’s Purse

This week I allowed my granddaughters to choose an opportunity to help a family establish a business. Brooklyn choose Baby Chicks. Our $14 donation will supply a family with a dozen chicks. Each grown chicken can supply up to 200 eggs per year. She is helping to feed this family and to earn income by selling their extra eggs.


Maddie selected beekeeping. The donation of $20 will help a family get starting in producing honey which can be sold, along with beeswax, to meet the needs of their family.

Honey bee hives provided by Samaritan’s Purse give a family with an opportunity to support itself.



Samaritan’s Purse has many other opportunities for you to assist a family in starting a small business. Business ownership enables a family to be self-sufficient and help to meet the needs of their community. I encourage everyone to pray about helping establish new, small businesses around the world and share the love of Christ.

To learn more about Samaritan’s Purse, go to https://www.samaritanspurse.org

Thank you, Colin Kaepernick

Thank you for breaking the hold that professional football had on my time and attention. Before you decided to use my favorite sport as your personal platform, I scheduled my weekends around watching college and professional football. Since then, I have stopped watching the NFL altogether. That has freed up several hours each week to do things that are, quite frankly, more interesting and far more valuable uses of my time.

Much of the Old Testament is the history of the nation of Israel. God called the Israelites to be His people–set apart to worship the one true God with all their hearts and their minds and their souls. The nations that surrounded them worshiped many false gods–idols.

The Israelites had a tendency to cast their eyes at their neighbors and begin to integrate their lifestyles and practices into Israel’s culture. Time and time again, we read that Israel built altars to false gods and turned their back on the Lord God Jehovah.

God would allow the Israelites to sink into bondage until a new leader arose who tore down the altars–the high places–and led the people back into worshiping God alone.

American Christians have allowed false gods, such as professional athletes and celebrities, to capture our attention and our devotion. It is time to pull down the high places–the NFL, the NBA, Hollywood, or whatever it is that has captured our hearts–and give our full devotion to the Lord.

These things no longer have my attention. And, for that, I am thankful to Colin Kaepernick for helping to break my fascination with football.

Creativity in Quarantine

I received an email this week that contained a tweet by @martinkl.  The tweet read, “In 1665, the University of Cambridge temporarily closed due to the bubonic plague.  Isaac Newton had to work from home, and he used this time to develop calculus and the theory of gravity.”  Wow!  That is a truly productive use of a quarantine.

There is little in the news this weekend other than the coronavirus threat.  Like many others, I have sought to protect myself by avoiding crowds and spent most of the weekend in self-imposed quarantine.  I do not have any reason to believe that I have been exposed to the virus, nor do I have any of the serious underlying health conditions that would make me an ideal candidate for catching the disease.  But I am in my 60’s and I feel no reason to take unnecessary risks.

The quiet weekend left me with time to reflect and time to write.  I have been ‘stuck’ in writing a novel for several years, so much so that I laid it aside.  Last week I picked it back up and continued to struggle with how to move the story forward.  Tonight I had a break through.  Some people would call this a burst of creativity.  I believe that I heard from God.  After I prayed for guidance, I quietly waited and the Lord revealed His plan for this particularly novel.  In just a few moments, the story line became clear.  Don’t misunderstand me. It won’t be easy.  I have lots of work to do, which will involve a major editing and rewriting of the work I had done.  But, I can see where this story will go now, and it is much better than the story I had intended to write.

Embed from Getty Images

 

 

I read a blog recently in which the author theorized that creativity blossoms in extended periods of quiet.  He encouraged people to block out 3 – 4 hours of interrupted time daily to do creative work. I concur totally. When I have uninterrupted periods of a few hours or more in which to write, I am more creative and productive than when I try to write in shorter blocks of time.  I believe that the blog author had discovered a Biblical principal.  God speaks to us when we are still and quite.   Psalm 46:10 admonishes us to ‘Be still, and know that I am God.”  In 1 Kings 19 Elijah seeks a revelation of the Lord, and the Lord appears to him as a gentle whisper.

Whether you go about life semi-normally for the next few weeks or you practice social distance and self-quarantining, I hope that you will take some extended time to be still and quiet.  You may find that this will be on of the greatest periods of creativity in your life.

 

Money Can Buy Happiness

There’s a famous saying, “Money can’t buy happiness.”  There are many studies that show that having and spending lots of money does not increase happiness.  Michael Norton, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University, disagrees with that statement, with a caveat.  He says that money can buy happiness IF you spend it right.

How do you spend it right?  By spending it on others.  He did experiments a few years back in which he gave small amounts of money to different groups of people.  Some were instructed to spend it on themselves and the rest were told they had to spend the money on someone else.  Regardless of whom they spent the money on or the amount of money they spent, all who used the money for someone else reported higher levels of happiness at the end of the experiment.

Embed from Getty Images

 

I love it when scientists, or social scientists in this case, prove the Word of God.  In Acts 20:35, Paul told the Ephesians, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” is really another way of saying that you can achieve happiness by sharing your money with others.  And, of course, giving doesn’t only involve money.  You can be blessed by sharing your time, talents, and attention with others.  Not all of us have the financial resources to give away large amounts of money. But we all have something we can give.  And, as this study affirmed, even giving small amounts of money can bless someone and increase your level of happiness.

Further more, generosity brings blessings.  Proverbs 22:9 tells us “Whoever has a generous eye will be blessed,” and Proverbs 28:27 says, “He who gives to the poor will not lack.”

I would encourage you to look for opportunities each day to bless someone else with your money, time, or talent.  In this way, you will ensure that your days are blessed and filled with happiness.

 

In God We Trust

This week the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ has been in the news.  Brevard County Sheriff’s department added decals with the phrase to their patrol cars.  An atheist group has challenged the sheriff’s right to do so, stating that it is “frightening and politically dubious for the local police department to announce to citizens that officers rely on the judgment of a deity rather than on the judgment of the law.”  Their words could be no farther from the truth.

Embed from Getty Images

 

I believe that it is frightening and foolish to put one’s trust in any person, organization, or institution rather than in the Lord God.  God created us, loves us, and provides for all our needs, the most important of which is our eternal salvation.   Trusting in the Lord not only makes sense, but comes with great benefits.

  • Trusting in God brings peace and joy.  Romans 15:13 tells “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
  • God protects those who trust in Him.  “As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. 2 Samuel 22:31
  • God directs the path of those who trust Him. Proverbs 3: 5 -6 encourages us to “ Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
  • God blesses those who trust  in Him.  “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

‘In God We Trust’ is our national motto.  It is printed on our currency.  It makes perfect sense that those who put their lives on the line every day for their fellow citizens would put their trust in God and would want to display the motto on their vehicles.

Where do you put your trust?  If you are looking for security, peace, protection, direction, and blessings, I highly recommend putting your trust in God.