Dare to Think Differently – Part Two

Stuck in rush hour traffic, again! I used to hate it. That was before I developed the habit of intentionally thinking differently about my daily, 2 hours of commuting in bumper to bumper traffic. I used to complain about it until my little prayer warrior, my wife Lynn, reminded me about the power of gratitude. The next time I thought to feel grumpy while stuck in traffic I remembered I was sitting in traffic because I was blessed to be travelling to a job – a job that I love. I thought, how many people struggle every day just to survive and here I am whining about going to work! Wow, I should be ashamed. I instantly felt grateful. That slight adjustment in my thinking has forever changed the way I feel about the daily commute. Time in traffic is now an opportunity to spend some time in what Matthew Kelly calls the “classroom of silence”.  Rush hour traffic is a great time for prayer, and prayer changes things. It is amazing how the condition of our lives can be dramatically transformed, by simply changing the way we think!

 “A grateful heart silences a complaining voice!”[i]

The 2nd Stewardship Virtue – Gratitude

Gratitude to God has the power to unleash in us the kind of peace of mind and joy that nothing else in this world can even come close to providing. This Holy joy inspires a life that is lived well. The fruit of such a life is stewardship that has real impact! The impact is first and foremost felt in our own day-to-day living.

Gratitude

When we develop the daily habit of gratitude our eyes are opened to the abundance of God’s blessings in our lives, and all around us; and, this creates in us the confidence, and the intense desire to take care of it all, and to share a generous portion of it with others. Gratitude to God has changed my vision of the purpose and meaning of life.  In addition, when we cultivate the virtue of gratitude in our lives we are liberated from any feelings of want, envy, or dissatisfaction. This is very freeing and give us peace.

Gratitude to God inspires stewardship that flows freely and joyfully. When we are grateful to God it strengthens our hope because we know that our good and gracious God, the source of all our gifts, always provides for our needs, and even some of our wants. In appreciation for God’s gifts to us, the gifts we share are given without any fear of having enough; shared without conditions or expectations. Gratitude moves us to joyful generosity.

Gratitude to God inspires a transition from ‘giving to a need’ to ‘needing to give’.

Lynn and I began our journey in stewardship in 1992. We were under intense financial pressure at the time because of the loss of our business. Still, we recall that somehow, with God’s grace, we were always able to get by. We were so filled with gratitude to God we just had to give something back! Every Sunday we would write the check for our Church offering and place it in the basket with the thought “Here you are God, thanks for getting us through another week!” That is a sentiment we still hold fast to today. Gratitude to God has inspired us to make the transition from ‘giving to a need’ to ‘needing to give’.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” [ii]

A stewardship virtue that is enhanced by gratitude is simplicity. One of the joys of simplicity is that it gives us the freedom from being caught up in the excessive, and unnecessary, consumer debt that plagues so many people today. Good stewards know it is better to strive for meaning and purpose in life, rather than be caught up in the relentless, and exhausting, pursuit of the things our culture says will make us happy.

The abundant life is not about having what we want…

 It’s about wanting what we have.

Life-changing gratitude comes from recognizing God in everything, all day, and every day. Everyday gratitude to God creates the conditions for us to experience daily moments of awe. This forever changes how we experience and enjoy life!

Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think.

Romans 12:2

Three good habits to cultivate the virtue of gratitude in your life:

  1. Place a ‘Gratitude Habit’ white board on your fridge, or start a list on your smart phone, record 3 new things you are grateful for every day.
  2. Every night before you fall asleep reflect back on the day and give thanks to God for his gifts that day.
  3. Be on guard to catch yourself before complaining and look for something to be grateful for…we are all blessed in so many ways it will not be hard to find something to be grateful for.
Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa, Email: jdanielp@joppastewardship.com

 


[i] Bishop Eugene John Gerber (1931 – 2018)

[ii] Cicero (106–43bc) Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher

 

 

Dare to Think Differently – Part One

When we change the way we think, we can dramatically transform the condition of our lives.

This ten part series we will inspire you to ‘Dare to Think Differently’ about stewardship. Let’s dare to take stewardship outside of the time, talent & treasure box! We will ponder the joy and wonder of Christian stewardship when it is lived out each and every day through ten life-changing virtues.

The 1st Virtue – Humility

When you make a firm and conscious decision to follow Jesus, you will inevitably run into stewardship. Stewardship makes our discipleship complete and opens the door to the abundant life Jesus promised.

Happiness is the ‘Abundant Life’…Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

  • A life that adds value to others – who we are is God’s gift, who we become is our gift to God…and to others.
  • A life filled with the joy of recognizing and rejoicing in God’s goodness every day!
  • A life that enjoys peace of mind, the kind of peace that only Jesus can give. John 14:27

We live in a culture that encourages self-reliance. “If it’s meant to be it’s up to me” is a familiar mantra. While it is right for us to be confident and trust in our own abilities, we should never lose sight of the truth. Humility means that we acknowledge the truth about ourselves and about God. Let’s start with our opportunities, talents, and abilities for example. These human capacities that we rely upon have only one source…they come from our good and gracious God.  Sadly, many people today tend to forget this and that leaves little room for humility. The consequence is to live under the endless pressure of relying solely on themselves.

With pride out of the way, God is able to go to work in our lives and accomplish things we would have never thought possible!

At the heart of stewardship is letting go of any prideful claim that our opportunities, and abilities, and any income we are able to earn because of these gifts, are of our own doing. Everything we are able to accomplish or accumulate in our life has its source, and purpose and meaning, in God. This way of thinking gets pride out of the way and God is then able to go to work in our lives to accomplish things we would have never thought possible! “His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21)  

Humility does not require that we embrace an overly timid stance in life.

“Humility does not mean that we think less of ourselves…it simply means that we think of ourselves less.” 

Rick Warren

This is healthy humility!  A humble disposition like this puts God first, and it gives us the God-grounded confidence, and courage, to boldly develop, use, and share our gifts for his glory. Healthy humility leads to the fruitful stewardship of all that God gives us.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own power. Your self-sufficiency, your selfishness and your intellectual pride will inhibit His coming to live in your heart because God cannot fill what is already full. It is as simple as that”.

Humility

 

Humility is the antidote to the deadly sin of pride. Most importantly, being humble about the source of our gifts fills are hearts with gratitude to God. When we are grateful to God it increases the depth of our hope. That in itself makes for a much more abundant life!

 

 

 

Three good habits to cultivate the virtue of humility in your life are:

  1. Study, reflect, and apply everything the Word of God has to say about the virtue of humility.
  2. Each morning, take a moment to pray that you will recognize when pride rises in you in the day ahead, and call upon the Holy Spirit to take it away!
  3. Practice the habit of intentionally confronting pride in your day-to-day experiences for one month. Keep a journal of the results, recording how it has changed your life. You can use the journal for each of the nine other virtues in the months ahead.

Joseph Daniel Potvin

Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

Email: jdanielp@joppastewardship.com

The Joy of Stewardship – Share Your Hope!

Conversion & Knowing & Obeying leads to Proclaiming…your Hope!

This Sunday’s readings provide us with a unique opportunity to explore a most meaningful way to stewardship. Conversion – Knowing – Obeying – Proclaiming. Beginning with Peter’s speech, he invites people to repent and turn to God (Acts 3:19). This is a call to conversion, a call to see life anew. Stewardship likewise begins with a change of heart and mind. Stewardship inspires us to look at all that we are and everything we have through new lenses. It all comes from and belongs to God. Conversion like this leads to a greater desire to know God and his will. We seek what God wants, to know how he wants us to use and share our gifts. The gift of life itself and our faith. What about our relationships and the gift of each day? Our talents and abilities; our individual opportunities; and all the material goods that we have.  How does God want us to steward it all? Seeking God’s will and being obedient to it is the way to stewardship that has impact! Impact in our own lives and those around us.

Seeking God’s will and being obedient to it is the way to stewardship that has impact!

A person can be sure that you know God by the example of your life. To know God is to obey his commandments. Knowing him also means to be in relationship with him that involves intimacy and experience. The deeper our relationship with Jesus the stronger our desire to be obedient – to be the best stewards and disciples we can be! Born out of our love for Jesus, our obedience never feels legalistic or burdensome. The opposite is true, it is freeing and rewarding. Obedience in stewarding God’s gifts as he wants is always joyful!

Finally, in the Gospel Jesus commissions us to “proclaim in his name to all nations” (Luke 25:47). Conversion – knowing – obeying – these all instill in us a compelling desire to proclaim. The Church encourages us in our call as lay faithful to proclaim. “The laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and have their own share in the mission” (Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity).

We are stewards of the gift of faith that we have received.

In what ways are you joyfully proclaiming the hope that you have in the resurrection to the people you meet every day?

Radical Stuff

This Sunday’s reading from The Acts of the Apostle is Radical Stuff!

– “Everyone who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles” (Acts 4:34).

What was it that inspired the first Christian community to embrace such radical stewardship? None of the early Church members claimed that their possessions were their own. They understood the truth about stewardship – we don’t really own anything, it all comes from and belongs to God. One of the joys of stewardship comes from the confidence in knowing that God always provides for our material and spiritual needs (Matt 6:33). This belief frees us from uselessly worrying about of having enough!

“The kingdom is where God provides for all that we need. It is the realm of sufficiency where we are no longer pulled here and there by anxiety about having enough” (Henri J.M. Nouwen).

Armed with a God-grounded confidence, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, the first Christians embraced radical stewardship and shared everything they had!

Believing that everything we possess is a gift from God stirs up the virtue of gratitude in our hearts. Gratitude to God then inspires us to make a conscious and confident decision to share our gifts.  Stewardship is sharing in gratitude not out of obligation or duty. When grateful hearts inspire giving, joy always accompanies the gift. Imagine how grateful the first Christians were? They had just received the incredible gift of a new life in Christ. The first followers were “all in” and their stewardship was rewarded both personally, “God greatly blessed his followers, and no one went in need of anything” (Acts 4:34) and as a community of believers, “each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

The example of stewardship we see in the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that stewardship is not new. Stewardship is God’s idea. It’s radical stuff, God likes it.

The first followers were “all in” and their stewardship was rewarded!

The first Christians were responding to God’s goodness. A great way for us to respond to God’ s goodness is to consider tithing. God’s word on tithing remains valid today and we can trust in his word.  For someone new to tithing they may well see it as monumental leap in their giving. I recall the first time Lynn and I considered making the move to tithing. We thought how can we ever do this! However, we were encouraged to simply start…start small and work our way to 10%. It took a few years but we got there, and we have never looked back. Moreover, we have never been better off! We are better off not just because of the ten percent we give, but because of how we steward the 90% we keep. Stewardship is about how we care for 100% of our gifts. God wants it all stewarded well. The day to day choices that stewardship inspires us to make are what have contributed to us being “better off”. Still, there are those out-of-nowhere rewards that we can only explain as God-incidences. Seems he will simply not be outdone in giving.

What has been your experience with tithing? How or why did you start? If you haven’t tried it, give it go! It’s radical stuff, and God does indeed honor it, we have his word on that!   “I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing” (Malachi 3:10).

 

Dying to self…we can trust that it is good for us!

“Deny ourselves!”

Jesus tells us that we must be willing to “hate our life in this world to keep it for eternal life”.  Dying to self is an essential element of discipleship and we can trust that it is good for us! Elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus says we must “deny ourselves” to be one of his followers.

Dying to self is an essential element of discipleship and we can trust that it is good for us!

How does any of this play a role in stewardship? It’s simple; stewardship declares that my life, and my possessions, are not mine; they are gifts given to me by our good and gracious God. Christian Stewards deny any self-confident pride in their accomplishments in this world and give all the credit to God. Stewardship places Christ at the center of how I choose to share and use my gifts. Stewardship is living Christ-centered, not self-centered in this life to keep our eternal reward. Moreover, Jesus promised an abundant life here and now. (John 10:10) Admitting that I utterly depend upon God for all that I have and all that I am is very freeing. To be a steward is not to hoard my life, but to live it joyfully and generously! This is the abundant life we are created for.

Created to do Good – A Gift Shared is a Gift Multiplied!

“We are what he has made us…” St. Paul tells us in this Sunday’s second reading. All that we are ever able to accomplish and accumulate in our lifetime is all possible by God’s grace.

“All temporal and spiritual goods are created by and come from God. That is true of everything human beings have: spiritual gifts like faith, hope, and love; talents of the body and brain; cherished relationships with family and friends; material goods; the achievements of human genius and skill; the world itself.”

1992 USCCB Pastoral Letter – Stewardship A Disciple’s Response

Our good and gracious God is incredibly generous in his distribution of gifts. The big question is how are each of us going to steward these gifts? The first step in being good stewards of God’s gifts is to acknowledge that these gifts are not ours, and they are not for our glory. They come from and belong to God, and are for his glory. St. Paul gives us some direction, saying we are “Created in Christ Jesus for good works.”

There is much joy in seeing that a gift shared

is a gift multiplied!

What are the gifts God has entrusted to you? Each of us has unique talents and abilities that we can share in a life of good works. There is much joy in seeing that a gift shared is a gift multiplied!

“Do we have to go to Church dad?”

I will never forget the Sunday many years ago when our children first objected to attending Mass. They were teenagers at the time. I thought to pull the ‘obligation’ card, however, the spirituality of stewardship had taught me better. I reminded them of the many blessings they enjoy every week. For example: a warm bed; mom’s excellent cooking; their friends at school; and sports. Asking if they were grateful for it all, they responded, “Of course we are!” Then, I reminded them that it was all God’s gift and going to Mass was the best way to thank Him for it all. They never complained about going to Mass again. They still attend, with joy, today. Gratitude moves people much more than obligation; and they move with joy.

I thought to pull the ‘obligation’ card, however, the spirituality of stewardship had taught me better!

Secularism is removing the Ten Commandments from public places and policy. Secularists are ignoring that “God spoke all these words”. (Exodus 20:1) I like to look at the Ten Commandments through the lens of stewardship. For example, the Fourth Commandment – Keep the Sabbath Holy. Every day is a gift from God and something that we can always be grateful for. Gratitude inspires us to be good stewards of each day.

Gratitude moves people much more than obligation; and they move with joy!

In total, there are 168 hours in a week. Attending Mass every Sunday is a great way for us to give one of those hours back to God, in thanksgiving. And, we can do even better than that! Let’s reclaim the whole Sabbath. There is such joy in dedicating the entire day to God. Spending the day with family or taking some time for yourself is so rewarding – God has set it up that way. Being a good steward of Sunday is like imitating God’s own rest on the seventh day of creation. Moreover, putting God first every day of the week is the way to experience the abundant life (John 10:10) that Jesus came to give us.