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Supply-Side Faith

I was talking with a friend of mine just a few weeks ago. He’s a Christian missionary and, as a result, he receives his salary through the charitable support donations of many churches and families that want to enable his work.

He shared with me that it’s interesting to look back over life. He has previously worked jobs that had a more traditional salary, where he wasn’t so obviously in need of soliciting donations from others.

It would seem to me that having a regular salaried position would in every way be preferable to living with the uncertainty and burden of enlisting donors and hoping that they send in their checks each month.

But his reflection was otherwise.

When he had his regular salary, he knew exactly how much he would get paid each month. Some months, it was obviously enough to support him and his family, and even to enjoy some non-essentials in life. But in other months, huge expenses loomed on the horizon, or unexpected emergencies arose, and all of a sudden that fixed salary was no longer sufficient. He knew how much he was getting, and he knew how much financial demand there was, and the two did not balance out. It took faith. Given his amount of salary, God would have to do something to decrease the demand, or the expenses couldn’t be covered.

Now, in living on support, he saw a different dynamic. He could never guess exactly how much would come in each month. Some people committed and gave faithfully each month. Others sent in larger donations less frequently. Still others had the best of intentions but the funds rarely appeared.

And the burden on his faith shifted. Whereas before he felt the income was guaranteed and the expenses were a challenge of faith, now he found himself having to trust God for the supply-side of things. He knew that rent was due. That visas would have to be renewed. Taxes would have to be paid. Would the funds be there? Would they come in this month? Next month? Next year?

Whether it’s supply-side faith or demand-side faith, it’s a question of faith either way. Whether the direct deposit amount from our employer seems solid and trustworthy, or whether our commission check or the charitable donations of others remain an open question from month to month, we all live in a place of needing to trust that God will provide.

Sometimes, He provides extra funds. An unexpected gift. A timely bonus. A rejoicing raise.

Sometimes, He reduces the demand. The kid gets a scholarship. The hurricane leaves the house untouched. A car warranty kicks in.

I find myself currently in a situation of needing to exercise some supply-side faith. God has recently, several times, demonstrated His ability to reduce the demand. His provision in this way has been good, lavish, and timely. But now, I feel the question of supply-side hanging over me. Where will the money come from? Will it be enough? What else should I do? Where else can we squeeze the budget?

I’m not alone in these questions. The economy of the last few years has been hard on many. Some people that never felt much pressure for either demand-side faith or supply-side faith are suddenly finding themselves needing to grow in both.

And I’ve been down the supply-side faith journey before. But God has brought me back to it again. Time to learn some more lessons, I guess. Time to experience His goodness once again, to grow in seeing just how big He is, how He truly holds all things–both my bills and my bonuses–in His hands.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Life

 

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Words of Beauty?

I wasn’t sure what the Thanksgiving holiday would be like.

One thing I might’ve guessed is that I would get asked to say the prayer before the meal. I often times am asked to serve in this way, perhaps because people know that I have a religious education or because I’m relatively comfortable in front of a group of people.

Or maybe it’s because I have such a nice sounding, loud voice.

Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that my prayers sound so good.

No, seriously, having offered a prayer aloud in front of a group, I often have people say to me, “That was such a beautiful prayer” or “Very nice” or even “Good job.”

I’m never quite certain how to respond to this, and frankly, sometimes it worries me–on a number of levels.

We talked recently about the idea of prayer being a form of entertainment. Apparently, prayer can also be thought of as performance art, like oratory, drama, or maybe even slam poetry. So, by being asked to say a prayer before the meal, was I just another item on the evening’s entertainment agenda, sandwiched between televised NFL and some rousing rounds of Balderdash?

Even worse, if people were prepared to offer me a compliment after the prayer, were they actually praying, or were they just interested in hearing some obligatory words offered with a bit of elegance?

After the number of compliments I’ve received over the years, perhaps I should consider entering myself into competition on American Idol, X Factor, or maybe even Dancing with the Stars.

Can prayer be a thing of beauty? Absolutely. Just as love letters and poems (and also prayers) from history have come down to us as works that we enjoy, that move us, I think a conversation with our heavenly Father can be a beautiful thing. But it is not, at its core, a thing of beauty: it is not a work of art to be refined, honed, and put on display for public critique (or enjoyment).

My marriage is a beautiful thing, but I do not advertise it as such and sell tickets to others to witness its beauty. At times, others do offer compliments or encouraging words about how they perceive our marriage, but we do not pursue a deeper connection of mutual love and service with one another in hopes of receiving these compliments. The joy of marriage goes much deeper than public perception.

And so I wonder about public prayer. Truly, there must be a check in my own heart, to make sure that I’m not simply offering up words that will sound nice to others, not just offering up a speech that will display my powers of extemporaneous oration.

But then I wonder about those with me. Does my praying aloud lead them into a place of greater personal intimacy with God? Or do I just fulfill a ritualistic holiday duty: saying grace before the meal? Am I an entertainer? Though some may see me as especially qualified to pray in public, I really have no such expertise.

Just willingness…and a desire to dialogue with my heavenly Father, both in public and in private.

I do not know what other think, what they experience when I pray aloud. But for my part, I must keep asking myself: are these words of authenticity and relationship, or words of beauty merely?

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in Life, Prayer

 

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A Holiday of Intentionality

This will be my first time celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S. since 2004.

It’s been interesting celebrating this holiday while living in two other countries, where Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday at all. It takes an extra degree of intentionality to celebrate when the culture as a whole is not on board.

We had to make special arrangements for someone to send us canned pumpkin from America. We had to negotiate with the local butcher shop to see if there was any way to special-order a whole turkey (turkey isn’t necessarily a common meat in some places outside the U.S.). We had to sometimes celebrate on a different day because Thursday isn’t a day off of work or school.

Intentionality. A desire to celebrate and a willingness to make it happen, to be counter-cultural, to do what needs to be done even if society isn’t supportive.

One year, we read Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation. The final portion was especially meaningful as our group of American ex-pats gathered together.

“I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”

Lincoln called all of us, whether at home or abroad, to set aside time for thanksgiving, praise, repentance, and intercession. It wasn’t intended to be a holiday of convenience (try getting a whole turkey while on a ship in the middle of the sea!), but rather a holiday of intentionality that all Americans would choose to invest themselves in, rightly acknowledging the Creator, Sustainer, and Healer of all the world.

What will this Thanksgiving be like? Will it be easy now that I’m back in America? Will it be too easy? Will it just be a table filled with food, a television screen filled with football, with a living room empty of true thankfulness? Will it be gourmet desserts, fine China plates, and snoring bellies unable to remain awake in the midst of the gastro-strain?

Or will there be thankfulness, praise, repentance, and intercession?

Will this be a holiday of intentionality?

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Life

 

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