money

Review of Falling Free by Shannan Martin

Shannan Martin has the kind of personality that makes you feel like a friend instead of a reader.  

Just look at this photo she posted on Instagram this morning, the day her book Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted released.  She doesn’t have a pretentious bone in her body.  She’s going to set you down with a cup of tea and an fun, interesting conversation.

By reading Shannan’s blog and following her on social media, especially her dreamy Instagram feed, I keep finding these random things about her that make me say, “ME TOO!”

Number one is her infatuation with making salsa and late-night salsa binging.  Me too!  Number two is her love of vintage: dresses from decades past, the sweetly aged items that decorate her home.  Me too!  Number three is her addiction to gingham.  Gingham makes my heart feel warm.  Number four is her heart for adoption and her Jesus-fueled love for people.  Me too!  I could go on, but I don’t want to encourage a restraining order.

There is one important thing that I should mention that I feel I have in common with Shannan.  That is our life not lead.

Shannon begins her book with this phrase,

I’m suppose to be a farm girl. Right now I should be wearing a prairie skirt, traipsing barefoot to my gardens, staking my delphinium with vintage ribbon, catching raspberries in the bowl of my apron. That’s how I always saw myself. It was my secret dream, and I knew if I ever got there, I would have made it.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

It makes sense that the sub-tile of her book is “Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted.

That sub-tile has weight in my soul.  I feel it.  In high school I only dreamed of a big career.  I wanted a job that had a big paycheck.  I even dreamed of stressful deadlines, and knew that they would fill me with a sense of importance that nothing else could.  I watched shows set in offices and big cities and thought of all the professional clothing I would wear, lady suits and flowing blouses.  I picked the college major of accounting and set my sights on a big six firm.

As I was beginning school, God was writing another story.  My sophomore year of college, boyfriend’s dad, who would become my father-in-law, had a life-saving   liver transplant.  He had been a pastor for 25 years, and after coming so close to losing his life, he didn’t want to go back to usual ministry or normal church.  He moved into an old building in downtown Amarillo and started Citychurch, an inner-city ministry to children.

By the time I earned my accounting degree, God had changed my heart and called me to that ministry.  I never got to see what that life I thought I wanted looked like.

Shannan did.

SHANNAN MARTIN HAD THE PERFECT LIFE: A CUTE FARMHOUSE ON SIX RAMBLING ACRES, A LOVING HUSBAND, THREE ADORABLE KIDS, MONEY, FRIENDS, A CLOSE-KNIT CHURCH—A SAFE, HAPPY EXISTENCE.
But when the bottom dropped out through a series of shocking changes and ordinary inconveniences, the Martins followed God’s call to something radically different: a small house on the other side of the urban tracks, a shoestring income, a challenged public school, and the harshness of a county jail (where her husband is now chaplain). And yet the family’s plunge from “safety” was the best thing that could have happened to them.
— Nelson Books

Since I had already be rescued from the life I thought I wanted, I supposed that I had already learned all the lesson Shannan would share in her book.  As I read through the table of contents, I saw “Get Risky,” “Have Less,” “Unplan,” “Live Small,” ”Open the Door,” and other topics definitely related to.

I was wrong.  I may have lived through risky and small, learning heart-changing lessons as I transitioned from an ambitious college kid to a home school mom in urban children’s ministry, but Shannon had new insights.  She made me rethink things I had already wrestled through.

Shannan's stories draw me even closer to that every pressing goal of thinking, talking, acting, and living more Christlike. She shows the grey, the not easy, in the pressing on and pressing in. All of this idea-wrestling is done with lovely, kind, poetic, beautiful words. Her book is a friend that isn't afraid of the hard days.

Shannan's writing is relatable, kind, interesting, inspiring, and down-right challenging.  I know you will love it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that we all have lives that we thought we wanted that don’t line up with the better life that God has graciously planned for us.  God has a deeper, richer, more fulfilling life planned for you, and all you have to do is fall free.

God offers a better way: have less and do more. He inverts our plans, extending the option of total surrender like a May bouquet of decadent, gutsy, full-bloom peonies. It’s not some dreary prison sentence, meant for the poor souls commissioned to overseas ministry, or monks or nuns. It’s a hold-on-to-your-hat promise that life is actually far too long to risk squandering it on the wrong things. We’re offered the gift of becoming laser-focused on doing more for his kingdom.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

I’m recommending this book to you today, and I can’t imagine a day when this book will not be on my top 5 list of recommended books.  So either click this link to order it it or get in your car and head to the bookstore.  If you don’t, you’ll never hear the end of it.

Day 19: Money

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 19:  MONEY

God does’t look at money the way we humans look at money at all.

We see it as this special resource that is really the most important of all resources.  We look around at our world and see how money divides people into classes, into importance.  We see the privileges that come with money.  We see the destruction that can come with poor management of money.

We attach values to people based on money.  How much do they have?  How much do they make?  Even how much do they cost?

We attach value to objects based on money.  Cars, homes, a cup of coffee, Bibles, watches.  Nothing is immune to receiving a perceived value.

God doesn’t see our world this way.  To Him, money is just a resource, no more important or worrisome than other resources, like water or trees.

God isn’t defined by our constraints like money or even time.  He doesn’t have limited time.  He doesn’t have limited anything.

A few years after I finished my bachelor of business degree in accounting, an opportunity arose for me to begin a job as the bookkeeper at Citychurch.  I had experience with some of the duties I took on like payroll, payroll reporting, reconciling bank statements, and paying bills.  But there were some duties that were new, but not difficult to figure out.  I made deposits when we received donations, kept records of the donors, sent donors end of the year thank you letters for their tax records.

By far, being the money person at the ministry of Citychurch taught me more about the faithfulness of God than anything else I’ve ever done.

When I took over the bookkeeping, it was still a new ministry.  We had been downtown ministering to children for about four years.

When I began my job, we had $70,000 of bills overdue.  Within a month, God had prompted donors to send enough to cover all of the overdue bills and put a little into our savings account.

One month in, I had already been amazed by God.

That wasn’t the only time in which God provided exactly what we needed to cover our expenses.

During my time as bookkeeper, God never gave us a big pile of money or endowment to work from.  We would operate doing what we knew God had called us to do, and we would pray that God would send the donations to cover the expenses.

One day stands out to me as a great learning experience.  We had our insurance premium due for the insurance policy that included our building, auto, and liability.

It was the middle of the summer.  We had about a hundred volunteers downstairs packing lunches that would be taken out to deliver to kids.

I was searching the building to find Don.  I wanted to let him know that we were in a dire emergency.  I had panic in my voice and in my wording as I told him about how we were going to have our insurance canceled if we didn’t deliver $6,000 to the insurance company today.  I didn’t know how we were going to do it, since our bank accounts were empty, and summer is one our slowest times of donation income.  We were sanding in a building full of people that we were libel for.  What were we going to do?

Don was in the back garage, moving donations around.  He calmly said, “God will take care of it.”

I know my heart was not right.  I really didn’t think God was going to come through.  I really had a panic in my spirit.  I was treating it like I had failed at my job of managing donations and outflow of money, like it was up to me.

I walked into the front office with Don.  Wondering if our insurance company would even rewrite our policy when we finally did have the money together.  Would they fine us of letting it lapse?  What kind of mess were we in?

When we got to the front office, a pile of mail was setting on the desk.  Don begin to open the letters with his big, rough hands.  The first check he opened was $7,000.  The money was there.  God had made sure the ministry had what it needed, just when it needed it.  There were other checks as well.  In all, I had about $10,000 to deposit that day.

I was so ashamed that I had not trusted God.  I vowed to never again panic over God’s business again.  It is his ministry.  He can provide for it.  All I was there to do was the grunt work.

There is a trend in Christian culture to obsess over money and spirtualize it.  We make superstars of people who can tell us how to be good stewards.

Good stewardship is good, important, and the right thing to strive for.

But when you obsess about money under the guise of “stewardship,” I would remind you to be careful where your heart is placing value.

Loving money and treasuring earthly things is wrong with a worldly attitude as well as a “stewardship” attitude.

Where do you receive your value, from your Savior or your net worth?  Where do you find your accomplishment, in your ability to manage money well and eradicate debt or your ability to participate in where God is working in hearts in your community.

Where do you find your security, in your financial assets and good credit or in a God who promises to provide?

Are you more concerned with coins or people?  Because I will tell you what Jesus was concerned about.  And the answer 100% is people.

He loved well.  He made the greatest sacrifice that a man can make.  He gave his life for His people.

Money was absolutely not a worry to Jesus.

He did not even worry about paying his taxes.  He sent his disciples to go fishing, found a coin in it’s mouth, and paid to Caesar, Caesar’s coin (Matthew 17:27.)  That is about the most laissez faire you could be on money management.  Jesus wasn’t a property owner.  The son of Man didn’t have a place to lay his head at night (Luke 9:58.)

Many will point out that Jesus spoke about money often.  I’ve read books that love to point out how many times money is mentioned in the Bible.

I believe the reason for this is all about our “hang up,” not God’s.  He has to keep reminding us to give, to the church and to the needy, like widows and orphans.  He has to keep reminding us to not treasure earthly things.

A good example of our preoccupation with money is the misinterpretation of the parable of the talents. 

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
— Matthew 25:14-30 ESV

This is a story about the Kingdom of God.  This is a story about kingdom work, which involves people not money.

Jesus is using the illustration of money, interest, banks to make a point, not about money, interest, and banks, but a point about saving souls.

God in no way is going to evaluate our financial stewardship when this earth has passed away.  God will only evaluate one thing, our belief and acceptance of His son’s gift of dying for our sins and forgivingness.

Do I believe God would lead you to a place of disregard for money?  Yes.  Do I believe that God might lead you to place of having no control over your money?  Yes.  If you are lucky, God will do this for you.  Because you will realize that only God is in control.  And money has absolutely no eternal value.

I don’t mean to say that you should artificially create this lack of control over money.  Don’t empty your bank account and apply for every loan and credit card you can get your hands on.  That is not what I mean at all.  I know where that will lead you, and it is called bankruptcy.

What I do mean is that people who know that they depend only on God to provide for them are in a unique advantage to realize how faithful God is.

That is what Jesus is talking about when He says this about the rich man.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
— Matthew 19:24 ESV

It is not impossible, but it is harder.  We have some good examples of rich men who are disciples and followers of Christ.  The disciple Joseph of Arimathea was the rich man that allows Christ to borrow his tomb (the only time in history a tomb can be just loaned out for a few days.)  Zacchaeus was a rich tax collector (i.e. embezzler) who Jesus said this about, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

So I have some bad news for you after all of this good news.  We live in a fallen world that revolves around money.  There is no way to escape it.

After being a bookkeeper for Citychurch for many years, my goal became this, to look at money the way God looks at money, as much as humanly possible.

This means basically four things:

  1. Don’t overvalue it.  It’s a resource just like paper or coffee.  
  2. Don’t use money to place value on others or myself.
  3. Recognize that God is our provider and he can choose to provide for me and my family in any crazy way he wants to, from coins in fish mouths to amazing, multiplying oil.
  4. Don’t worry about it.  Jesus expressly tells us not to do this.  And it is such a struggle to not worry.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?‘ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
— Matthew 6:25-34 ESV

If Jesus expressly promised to provide for his followers, how much more will He provide for His ministry to children?

Worrying about a dime at Citychurch got us exactly no where.  Prayer and faith were the only tools I needed as an accountant for God’s ministry.

 

 

I love music.  It just makes me happy.  Something I share a song with each blog post.  This is from one of my favorite bands, Jr. Jr.

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