Posted by: ritagone | September 1, 2010

Financial Ponderings

I’m trying to think of something funny to write about, but “funny” escapes me right now.  Because what I’m immersed in these days isn’t actually very funny at all.

Christian Associates is in a pretty serious financial situation, and that isn’t funny.  Each month we sink a little deeper into a deficit that is in danger of capsizing us if we don’t recover from it sooner rather than later.  The Board of Directors is concerned.  The Leadership Team is concerned.  And hopefully everyone reading will become concerned and begin to pray seriously about it, or we may be facing the most serious financial crisis of our 40+ year history.

These are tough times for many people.  If you are living on support, you are feeling the pinch, because many of your supporters are hurting, may have lost an income or a job.  You may have seen a reduction in your support as a result, so you know what it means to be cutting back yourself.  You can sympathize with the plight CA is finding itself in.  You “get it.”  We all know people who are re-grouping because they no longer have a cash flow, who have lost their homes, whose car has been repossessed.  These are no longer stories told about people “out there”; these are stories we are telling others about ourselves.

It’s no fun.  It hurts.  You go to bed wondering if the rent can be paid, if the mortgage will be covered, if there will be enough for food and utilities, and we’re not even talk about luxuries, you’re hoping to be able to pay for the necessities and not sure if you can do that.

In the midst of all of this, I’m studying and preparing to teach my church’s Thursday morning womens’ Bible study, called the Connection, starting September 9.  I’m doing a four-part series called Your Money And Your Life, and it deals with money, what the Bible has to say about it, particularly what Jesus has to say about it, and the acknowledgement that God is the source, we are merely stewards, and what it means to save and specifically what it means to give.  That last part is extremely challenging: GIVING.  Because no one wants to think about giving when you can’t even figure out if you have a job or if you have enough for the next meal for your family.

Back in 1975, Michael and I were six years into our marriage, with a two year old and a newborn.  We had just sold our first house for a whopping $33,000, and Michael was making a drastic career change: he was stepping out on faith to see if God meant for him to have a writing career in television.  He had never even thought of himself as a television writer, never studied for it, never even written a thing.  It was not where he was headed career-wise when God opened doors and closed other doors so that we had to make some decisions pretty quickly.  My feeling was, “Let’s go for it.”  If we didn’t do it then, when would we ever do it?  And so, we took our two small children and rented a house, lived on the proceeds of the sale of that first house we owned (the house I grew up in, as it happens), and for one year we waited to see what God had in mind.  It was the most terrifying year of my life.

And during that year, Michael collected unemployment checks.  It wasn’t much, but it was something, a few hundred dollars of “income” against the outflow that seemed to be neverending and constant.

And here’s the thing that drove me crazy: Michael insisted on tithing on that unemployment check, and tithing on the gross!  He was committed to that, and nothing I said could dissuade him. (I know, because I tried often to talk him out of it.)

Well, that was a horrendous year emotionally for both of us, but at the end of it, God gave him the job writing for a show called “Happy Days.”  I’d like to say that the rest was history, but there was another year, 1985, in which he was also out of work for another 12 months. (The television business is like that: feast or famine.)  But when that happened, I was literally a different person.  I had seen how God had taken care of us in 1975, and I never again doubted that He was there for us.  I was more than willing to give back to God in 1985 – because I had seen that God takes care of us even during the roughest financial downturns, even during unemployment, even when the television industry seemed to have abandoned us.

Remember when you were a kid and you were in the swimming pool with your dad and he was urging you to jump from the edge into his arms…and you were terrified to do so?  You just couldn’t bring yourself to take the plunge, but you wanted to, because you wanted so badly to trust your daddy…and finally, finally, you leapt into his arms, and he caught you, and you found that it was exhilarating and you couldn’t wait to jump again and again and again.  And you knew that something pivotal, something significant had changed within you because you had worried and you had fretted and then you had jumped anyway and he had caught you and somehow you would always now be able to jump?

That’s what 1975 did for me.  We had gone an entire year without a paycheck, we had tithed anyway (at Michael’s insistence, remember, not mine), and God had upheld us, God had seen us through and had never forsaken us.  From that time forward, it has always been easier – not always easy but easier – to give, even though finances may be difficult, strained, stressed, not what I’d like them to be.

Yes, Christian Associates is in trouble financially.  So I’m going to choose to see it as an opportunity for us to leap into God’s arms and trust Him to catch us.  I’m going to see it as a chance to give more generously than when things are rolling along smoothly.  Because during those times, it’s easy to give.  The test of our mettle is when times are tough, when, like the widow giving every last cent in her possession, we open our hand and throw it into the offering plate willingly.

So if you’re reading this, please commit to praying for CA and the Kingdom work that’s going on today and for the future.  I’m excited to see how God is going to work; let’s watch together and pray together to see what He will do.

 

Regards, Rita

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