Linking Gratitude and Abundance: Engagement, Passion, Investment

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Stewardship
 
The Gift of Treasure
For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.
– Matthew 6:21
 
Why is this familiar verse so often connected with financial Stewardship? First, it resembles superb ad copy--it’s attention-getting and attention-grabbing. Second, it seems only natural to link “treasure” and “money” together, as being the same and then incorporating it into a sound-bite, or slogan, for any budget-funding stewardship drive. You know the catchphrase, “please give of your time, your talent and your treasure!”
 
On my faith journey, I discovered that blending these two words together and recognizing them as being the same thing, does not really work for me, as it relates to this stewardship-giving plea.
So, exactly what is treasure? How do I acquire it? Can I accumulate it? Spend it? Store it up? Give it away? Is it tangible? Does it have intrinsic value like currency? If so, can I then naively imply that treasure is just another name for money or, is treasure something entirely different? 
 
For me, treasure is not the same thing as money. My treasure resides in my heart; it is a very special gift given only by God; it is unique to me. I can feel this special, intangible gift when reaching out to others with kindness, compassion and love. It does not matter to whom I’m lending my helping hand to either. It could be family, friends, neighbors, as well as strangers in need. The more I give and share, the better I feel. I’m at my very best when this giving feeling comes over me, usually suddenly, and then I act without wavering. 
 
I discovered this treasure one Easter Sunday morning, several years ago, when Karen and I were visiting our son, Billy, in Chicago. Like all churches on Easter it’s standing-room-only so, get there early. We were among 200+ other churchgoers, all lined up on the busy sidewalk surrounding the church, waiting to enter. In the middle of the church courtyard, which we all had to pass by, sat a man holding a cup--not begging, mind you--just happily wishing everyone, “Happy Easter; God Bless You!” So here we are, standing on the sidewalk in front of a church, no less; on Easter Sunday, no less; on the “Gold Coast,” which is THE wealthiest neighborhood in all of Chicagoland, no less, so what does my treasure filled heart charge me to do? “Bruce, please step out of line; get off the sidewalk (the sideline?); get out your wallet and put at least a $20.00 bill (or more!) into his empty cup. Make sure you wish him a Happy Easter too.” While I cannot speak for anyone else, nor do I remember (or care) if anyone else followed my lead, my treasure--my desire to reach out with kindness, love and compassion to this man in obvious need--came straight from my heart; my act of putting the money into his cup--came out of gratitude, which followed and flowed through me during this treasure-filled moment.
 
So, I no longer connect treasure with money when I come upon this verse. These straight-from-the-heart, treasure-filled moments that take place, either individually or collectively with Ark & Dove, are the intangible treasures I want to continue to accumulate and store up in Heaven. But, while I’m here, I also need to share my tangible wealth--my money--along with my other gifts (time & talent), to continue to build-up Ark & Dove, who is not only good to my family and me, but also good for me. Our church, through its people and programs, encourages me, equips me and then leads me to act, in a more Christ-like way, so I can fulfill more treasure-filled moments. I’m grateful for Ark & Dove for providing not only me, but also you, with the means (missions) and opportunities (ministries) so we can all learn and grow, in faith and service, as we strive to become the disciples Jesus called us to be.
 
In just a few weeks, we’re going to be asked to make a new, monetary pledge. I plan on increasing our investment and stake in Ark & Dove and will vow to give more money. Why? Like you, I have a role to play and want to do my part and contribute more to make sure that we not only keep all of our promises, but also keep moving our venture-of-faith forward. And, when I give generously from the abundances God has so richly blessed me with, and with gratitude, I’ll continue on my spiritual journey coming across new treasure-filled moments, which is where my “heart also be”-longs. My hope, and prayer, is that I will see each and every one of you on this same path too. 
 
- Bruce Sanders, brusanders@aol.com, Serving on Ark & Dove’s Stewardship Team
Stewardship: March 1, 2019
 
Use Whatever Gift You Have Received
 
I realize minds tend to go straight to money when the word ‘stewardship’ comes up. This is a bit like thinking only of height when considering aptitude for basketball. Stewardship, at its core, is about what God equipped us with and what we choose to do with it. In other words, stewardship is about talent and our actions with it.
 
Let’s talk about talent. It’s one of the most intimidating things I can think of and often makes people deeply uncomfortable. Why? We’re unaware it exists, we doubt its value, and sometimes we desire what others have while ignoring our own gifts. 
 
Talent is a confounding thing. Society demands that we downplay or deny what we have in the name of modesty and humility. Discussion of our talents requires us to walk the fine line between truth and bragging: a trick so difficult we sometimes decide it just isn’t worth it. We shirk opportunities to engage. We deny our passions. We turn bright pink when someone generously compliments us (or that might just be me). Talent is awkward!
 
Yet, when we skirt around those conversations and deny our gifts, what are we doing? Whether our talent is in writing, music, dancing, a gift to work with children, a generous heart, or a real knack with numbers, it comes from the Creator. God deliberately gave each of us talents, and she’s pretty clear that we’re expected to do something with those gifts. The Bible urges us to acknowledge our gifts and use them to serve: Jesus’ parable on talent is clear. Romans 12:6 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
 
I invite each of you to take a few minutes this weekend and consider what you’re doing with your talents. Embrace the gifts the Creator of the universe gave to you. Allow yourself to squirm in the awkwardness of claiming your gifts, and thank God for your unique set of strengths and abilities. Engage with your passion and decide how you’re going to use it. Be a steward!

- Caroline Jones, carojones28@gmail.com
Stewardship: February 22, 2019
 
Offering Engagement: Giving the Gift of Time
 
I spend a lot of time thinking about time: how I wish I had more of it, how no matter how much I have, it never seems to be enough. It’s human nature to fill the space we have, so how we choose to fill it really matters.
 
In addition to pondering the consumption of time … I also clip coupons. I’m aware this may seem counter-intuitive, but I love a good deal and it’s important to me to get the most bang for my buck!
 
I’ve begun to look at the way I spend my time in the same way I look at how I spend my money. “Is it worth it?” I ask myself. Specifically regarding how I spend my time, I ask myself: “Does it bring me closer to a goal? Toward the life I want for myself and my family? Does it fit with my values and further my ideals for my community and beyond?”
 
I’m not always good at budgeting my time. In fact, it’s a constant work in progress. Identifying “the most important thing,” as a former boss used to say, helps me narrow my focus and stay on course when I feel overwhelmed and spread thin.
 
Though stumbling across Ark and Dove less than a year ago felt like a happy accident, my family soon realized “staying on course” and being true to ourselves and our values is what led us here, to a church whose mission is “[to foster] a community of disciples that embodies the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, so that lives are transformed and God's dream is carried into the world.”
 
We had been struggling to find our church home after moving from Oregon to Maryland three years ago and feeling like fish out of water in a cultural climate to which we were not accustomed.
 
We breathed a sigh of relief at our very first visit to Ark and Dove. It’s refreshing leadership and congregation of socially conscious, thoughtful and dedicated members felt so familiar and comforting, we knew we were home. I joined the choir that very week and the rest followed. Our family has become members of Ark and Dove and engaged with numerous church offerings and programs, among them: Choir, Logos, Stewardship and Bible Study.
 
Prioritizing Ark and Dove and its mission as one of our “most important things” helps us budget our time and purposefully allocate our gifts of engagement – from evenings and mornings rehearsing, singing in worship, clearing the dining area and doing dishes at LOGOS (shout out to my wonderful husband), helping plan, communicate and execute Stewardship goals, contributing to discussion at Bible Study, and more.
 
We consider this time well spent; engagement that gives us the most “bang for our buck.” These are efforts and energy that contribute to our goals of personal and spiritual development as individuals and as a family. This hands-on form of contributing to our church also enriches our fellow members and visitors.
 
Furthermore, we believe supporting and strengthening our church and its disciples translates to spreading kindness in our corner of the world, which emanates out – extending its reach to our greater community and beyond.
 
Working toward that priceless goal of a kinder community and beyond … for the low, low price of engagement, passion and investment in our church … now, that’s a downright steal, wouldn’t you say?
 
- Amita Joshi Dubois, amitajoshi19@yahoo.com, Stewardship Team
Stewardship: Februay 15, 2019
 
What is your passion?
 
February is a month marked with passion: the energy that we put into our relationships, our pastimes and our occupations. The passion of the Big Game has gone, but, this week, we celebrate the relationships that we have with our closest of soulmates, friends and family. In the coming weeks, we ask you to listen to our messages and respond to what you envision for Ark and Dove--with passion.
 
There will be conversations and stories of how our church family grows together in spirituality and stewardship. This growing together enables us to do the work that the soul craves. It is also the passion that we put forth, the time that we spend to hear the Word of God, to act as a disciple, and to be one of God’s children. Gratitude is not only something that we show toward others, but, more importantly, it is the feeling we have when we enable others to achieve their goals and aspirations so that we can all live with dignity and purpose and hope. 
 
When we think of stewardship, we must think about how we can combine our collective engagement, passion and investment to be something greater than ourselves: an abundance that is not easily measured by one single metric. Each of us is in a different place, and there is no single yardstick to measure what our impact is. The simple gesture of greeting our Winter Relief guests with a smile, a cot, the best of our meals, and some conversation may transform that life into a great disciple. We each need to assess what and how we are able to add in order to create the magic mix that makes Ark and Dove special. 
 
Yes, it takes money to have the facilities, pastors and staff that make many things possible. Money alone cannot buy the smile, or the training someone provided, or the time someone took to learn or listen, but a lack of funding can impede our ministries. We contribute by being present and intentional in what we do, be it attending worship on Sunday, a small group, or by managing our debts so that we can give generously to facilitate others in their contributions.
 
Our pastors and staff need a more than fair salary, and our volunteers need training and materials to do their best. They all contribute with equal burden to achieve the Ark and Dove vision. Perhaps we can use the Six Marks of Discipleship to be our barometer in our personal journey of spirituality and be open to mindfully listening to our stories of stewardship in the coming weeks. And then we can individually consider how we are each called to respond and bring passion to our stewardship, empowering us to find abundance and gratitude in all that we do. 
 
If you have any questions or suggestions, please speak with Steve Debus (steven.debus89@gmail.com) or Julia Kirby (maybe_soon98@yahoo.com). 
 
Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church 2019 and 2020 Budget Review