Archive for the 'Thoughts' Category

“The Heart of Frugality”

Friday, November 19th, 2010

A friend recently passed on this article to me about frugality.  It is an AWESOME article that was very encouraging to me!  In it, Tim Challies discusses the true meaning of being frugal and compares it with the way the world, specifically Christian circles, have warped it.  I must admit, I like chasing a good deal, but I never really feel like I am pro at regularly getting a bargain.  Occasionally I can get jeans for $2 (ok, that happened once!) but most often I spend $50 for a pair.  Or sometimes I can get more cleaning supplies than I know what to do with, for $15, but that is a rarity.  I often times find myself looking at my grocery receipt wondering, “How come I can’t seem to get a weeks worth of food for a mere $30 like some of the bloggers I follow?”  I always think, “Maybe if I didn’t work, I would have more time to scour the circulars or search the sale bins or clip stacks of coupons.”  Peter graciously reminds me time and time again, “Some people God blesses with time and some people God blesses with money.”  We are so very thankful that God has provided for our every need and has allowed us to have great careers that enable us to live in a metropolitan area and own a house and still have money left over to use in service for His people.  But I must admit, the thought that I am not a “good” Christian has crossed my mind time and time again because I haven’t been able to pinch as many pennies as my Christian friends.  I was thankful for Tim’s article that reminded me of God’s provision and His care for His people.  Our God is an awesome God who is generous in what He gives.

The Heart of Frugality By Tim Challies

Over the weekend I came across some video of America’s self-proclaimed cheapest family. They got me thinking about frugality, a topic that is all the rage in Christian circles today (or at least in some Christian circles). I have discussed this issue once or twice in the past but want to return to it today. Why? Because a lot of people put a lot of effort into frugality and I think many of them do so without thinking deeply whether what they are doing is right or wrong. They are saving money and this must be good, right? I’m not entirely convinced. So hear me out.

One reality about frugality is that it is contagious. I think it can be especially difficult issue for women. When one or two women in a church emphasize frugality and talk of all the amazing deals they’ve been able to find—how they managed to find a lifetime’s supply of Baby Aspirin for $4 or how they’ve gotten 180 rolls of toilet paper for the cost of 18 rolls—other women may feel like they are being spendthrifts for paying full price. It is difficult to say, or even to believe, that there may be no inherent virtue in frugality. And yet I want to suggest that very thing: there may be no inherent value in it.

Frugality

What Is Frugality?

The Bible is clear that money issues are very closely connected to heart issues. Money has the ability to expose all kinds of idols of the heart. This is true whether a person is a miser or a spendthrift. Money can be an idol in want and in plenty; frugality can be done wrong and done right. When we discuss frugality, we must realize that we are talking about the heart more than the home.

The actual definition of frugality can differ from person-to-person. Some see it as meaning little more than economical so that a frugal person is a person who buys things at lower prices than another person might. I think this is what most people mean by the term and how most people live out their attempts at frugality. They feel they are being frugal when they buy things using coupons rather than paying full price and when they purchase clothes or other necessities at thrift stores instead of buying them at regular stores.

Of course there is certainly nothing wrong with saving money on life’s necessities and if such a thing is possible, it is usually wise. The problem with this kind of frugality, though, is that a person can still have an irrational or unbiblical love of “stuff” while trying to be frugal. Saving money can be a good thing, but it doesn’t matter much if we are saving money in one area so we can just spend it in another. By saving money on groceries a person may then just use his savings to buy more of other things—more than is unnecessary. Is it really frugal to save fifteen cents on a box of macaroni but to have a house stuffed to the rafters with things purchased at the local Goodwill?

I think the greater ideal with frugality, and something a lot of people miss, is the ideal of not just paying less, but buying less and thus avoiding waste and avoiding becoming captive to stuff. True frugality is not spending less but having less. A truly frugal person doesn’t buy just as much stuff at lower prices, but learns to live with less of it. If you find that your efforts in frugality help you spend less but leave you with a house that is equally filled with stuff, you are not being frugal. A kind of frugality that really hits the mark is this one: “It’s about a simpler, less complicated lifestyle, not about being cheap. While those who put a frugal lifestyle into practice do tend to be thrifty, there is a method to their madness” (source). It goes on to say “People who practice frugal living tend to look for ways to save time as well as money, and generally prefer a slower, more laid back pace instead of the hectic ‘rat race’ life so many others lead.” Now we’re talking.

So in this article when I discuss frugality, I am talking about it as I believe many live it—involving a great emphasis on saving money, not necessarily on living with less stuff. It’s about the deals and bargains, about the thrill of saving a few pennies here and a few dollars there. It is something that can go from a minor distraction to a passion to a lifestyle and almost to a way people define themselves.
The Heart of Frugality

The first thing I want to point to is the heart. There are few more accurate barometers for our hearts than money. Whether you are spending too much or pinching every penny so hard that it bleeds, your actions and attitudes reflect something in your heart. If you spend more than you have, perhaps you are reflecting greed or a bravado that rejects the fact that God expects us to be in control of our spending. If you pinch every penny, perhaps it shows that you live in fear or that you somehow think God will provide only through what may be excessive control.

The fact is, there is no guarantee that a frugal person is less addicted to money and less under the control of money than a person who spends all he has (and more). And this is really the main thing I want you to take away from this article. Frugal people can be every bit as worldly, as obsessed with money, as those who spend like it’s going out of style. Frugality is not inherently good. It is the kind of thing that can masquerade as good even while it is an idol.

Always we need to remember that it is God who provides for us and that he has promised us our daily bread. He will provide what we need and our confidence must be in him, not in our own efforts. This is true of the great issues like salvation and sanctification, but also of the smaller issues like finances. So always look to the heart! If you find that your frugality has extended too far—that you do not buy what you need even if you have the money, or if you find that you are reluctant or stingy in giving money to the church or to others in need, you can be certain that your frugality has taken you captive.

We need to live in that spot somewhere between confidence in God’s provision and the need for financial self-control. We do not want to presume upon his provision and neither do we want to act as if we do not believe it is true. All the while we want to make sure that we do not make an idol out of stuff and that we do not make an idol out of frugality. We can take as much pride in what we save as what we spend. Both reflect a sinful heart.

A second issue relates to the necessity of frugality. Many people who emphasize frugality could doubtless get along just fine without being frugal. For such people the amount of time it takes to scour the racks of thrift stores, to clip coupons, to read the frugal blogs and to search for deals online could be better spent in other more significant pursuits. The fact is that frugality is a significant investment in time and effort. Many of the most frugal people make a hobby (or more!) out of it.

Here’s the thing. A man who brings in millions of dollars a year probably doesn’t need to have his wife work at the local donut store to bring in $300 a month; her time is doubtless better spent in some other pursuit. The same is true for those who don’t absolutely need to be frugal. If God has given great blessing, the time it takes to be very frugal can be spent doing something else. Instead of spending days hunting for the perfect and perfectly cheap cake pan so you can bake a cake and have people over to share the gospel with them, it might be best to just buy it for full price and have the people over a couple of weeks earlier. The finances of some families dictate that great time and care must be given to each dollar, but I am concerned that those with lots of money make a mockery of God’s abundant provision when they pinch every penny. God doesn’t give us money so it can accumulate in bank accounts. He gives it to us so we can give it away and so we can use it to free ourselves up for other, better things.

God has graciously released some people from imminent concerns over finances. It makes little sense, then, for these people to act as if finances are still an pressing concern and that they must be frugal with each and every dollar. I have known people who, though so rich they could not possibly come to the end of their finances, worry about the expenditure of a single dollar on something that is good and necessary. Surely there is no good reason for a person with such money to be too concerned about one dollar. Is this substantially different from a person with no money using credit to purchase something frivolous and something that will sink him further into debt?

Frugality can have its place and for some people is good and necessary. But doing it well takes time and effort; it may be that for some people that time and effort is best used in other pursuits. Again, somewhere between financial self-control and trust in God’s sovereignty is a sweet spot where we spend not too much and not too little, always trusting in the Lord to care for us.

One more quick note. As I think about frugality I am always drawn to the biblical concept of gleaning. In the Old Testament God commanded that people who pick crops leave gleanings behind. Rather than picking the fields clean they were to leave portions that had fallen so the impoverished could follow behind and gather them. Of course the wealthy landowners would have wanted to pick these up and increase their profits, but God used gleaning as a way to provide for the poor. This makes me think of wealthy people who often pick through thrift stores or who line up first for the big sales and I wonder if the gleaning principles has something to say to us here. If we can easily afford $10 for a t-shirt, should we really take the last marked-down one on the rack when for another person this might make the difference between being able to afford it and not being able to? I realize I am on slightly shaky ground with this one, but it probably bears thinking about. Somehow all of this frugality can become a form of greed if we are not careful.

I guess it comes down to this: money can be as big an idol when you seek not to spend it as it can when you do nothing but spend it. Frugality should not be an end in itself but must be a means to a greater end of bringing glory to God and of serving others. Ever and always it is a matter of the heart.

count it ALL joy

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Singing Pots by Mark Altrogge from The Blazing Center

As an art major in college, I was required to take two semesters of ceramics. So the biblical illustration about the Potter and clay is very real to me. But another illustration I heard speaks powerfully to me about the need to rejoice in all things.

A potter was giving a man a tour of his studio. He explained that most of the time after clay has been formed into bottles, cups, or dishes he sets them aside to dry, then puts them into a kiln and “fires” them at very high heat, to harden the clay. After a set period of time, the kiln is turned off. At some point the visitor noticed the artist placed some particular pots into a kiln but did not set the timer. Curious, he asked, “How will you know when they’re done?” To which the potter replied, “When they sing.” When this particular clay reached a certain temperature, it would emit a whistling sound – it would “sing.” When the potter heard the pots “singing” he’d know the fire had finished it’s work and he’d turn off the kiln.

How often does God have to take us around the mountain one more time because we’ve failed to learn the lesson of rejoicing in all things?

I can imagine angels watching as Jesus takes me through some trial. “How will you know when he’s done?” they ask. And I can hear the Lord answer like the potter, “When he sings.”

We can know God has done an incredible work in our lives when we can worship him in the midst of trials, when our mouth is filled praise though our eyes are filled with tears. How that brings glory to God. It’s easy to praise him when everything’s going great. But when we offer a costly sacrifice of praise while suffering, it shows our confidence in his sovereignty, goodness and wisdom. It brings our Father great pleasure when we sing of his goodness when everything about our situation would call his goodness into question. It brings him deep joy when we sing that he’s in control when our circumstances scream there is no one at the wheel.

Without faith it is impossible to please God. Conversely, faith greatly pleases God. And what could please God more than our faith expressed by singing?

I’m not saying that God will end our trials if we start to sing. But worship will lift our eyes from our affliction onto our Savior. Anybody want to be a singing pot?

I am a visual thinker. I remember facts, details, and instructions better if I can see them or paint a mental picture of them. In college I too took a pottery class. I completed the class with a joyful appreciation for the mental picture of God and His children through the analogy of the potter and the clay. The above post by Mark Altrogge reminded me of that great analogy which gives me a glimpse of what it might be like to THE Potter as he deals with this “lump of clay” that is me. How often have I failed to rejoice and worship Him during the molding and firing times of my spiritual journey? How often has The Lord wanted to hear singing from me, but instead heard complaining and bitterness? Sadly, this has happened way to often.

What did you expect?

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

WhatDidYouExpect-CDCover

What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage
It won’t take long for you to realize that your marriage hasn’t escaped the reality of sin or the brokenness of the world. It’s what you do next that will make all the difference in the world in the character and quality of your marriage. The key to marital unity and love is not romance, rather, it is worship. It is only when I worship God as Creator, Sovereign, and Savior that I will ever love as I should. Have you ever wondered why some couples reach a place of unity, love, and understanding in their marriages while other couples seem trapped in the same struggles year, after year, after year? The surrounding culture would lead us to believe that a marriage of unity, love, and understanding is rooted in romance. Scripture would rather say that a good marriage is the result of worship. Does this confuse you? Then, this marriage conference is for you. Learn how practical these insights are for the everyday issues and situations of a real marriage; and, learn the practical steps that will help couples know how to get from where they are, to where God wants them to be.”

Here are two videos about the conference:

Peter and I traveled to Annapolis, MD over the weekend to attend this marriage seminar by Paul Tripp.  It was wonderfully enriching and humbly rebuking.   His principles are Bible based and God glorifying.  An amazing weekend focusing on God’s design of the marriage relationship!!

Click here to see upcoming speaking events and seminars.

Click here to purchase books, DVD’s, and CD’s.

Live in THIS moment

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Ashamedly I admit that this describes me (well, except for the iPhone part- I am still in love with mine!):

The future has such promise, and I’ve spent many hours pondering what’s to come. When I was single the future held the promise of marriage. Now that I’m married the future holds the promise of buying a house.

I longed for the day when I could purchase an iPhone. Thirteen seconds after I bought my phone it became obsolete, and I could look forward to getting a newer, faster phone someday.

When I was in high school I couldn’t wait to get to college. By week two of college I couldn’t wait to graduate.

If the quote above has any familiarity to you, please continue to read this post at The Blazing Center.

I struggle often with being content with where I am on the path of life.  I am always looking forward to the next big event.  From as far back as I can remember, my parents have reminded me to enjoy the NOW and not wish it away.  And now that I am married, Peter lovingly reminds me often that I need to be patient.  I thank the Lord for these gentle reminders from my family and pray that He will use them to steady my heart and help me to focus on doing His will one step at a time and not trying to race through life.

For any country music fans who read this blog, the song “You’re Gonna Miss This” by Trace Adkins speaks to this same topic.

Say NO to socialized healthcare

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

I am a nurse and I am AGAINST Obama’s healthcare plan.

Protect American Healthcare

Silencing the Opposition

It will be like the Post Office

League of American Voters

The Immorality of Taxpayer Funded Abortion

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Congressman Paul points out some of the disturbing elements of the administration’s health care plan. Particularly noteworthy is the public funding of elective abortions.

Read the full article here.

Curiousity got the best of me

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I proudly shop for my groceries at Wegmans, which is directly across the street from our apartment complex! (Talk about convenience!)  I will be very sad when our apartment lease is up and we move away from Wegmans.  On the Wegmans website there is this AWESOME shopping tool called “Shopping List”.  It is helpful in creating a weekly shopping list.  It includes prices and tells which department each item can be found .  I will be using it from now on for my shopping!  However, last night I used it to gather some info.  I made two lists with the same 18 items on each.  (Items that are usually on my shopping list.)  One list I made with only organic products and the other I made with non-organic products.  I then added up the prices to get a total amount.  The non-organic list came to a total of $34.16 and the organic list came to $60.93… a difference of $26.77.  (When Peter reads this post it will most definitely not help my case in wanting to “go organic”.) But  I wanted to know what the difference was, and I found out about a really cool tool in the process. To help my case, some of the items (ie:organic meat) were priced higher on the website then they are in the actual store. Also, some items (ie: milk and eggs) usually last us 2 weeks or more, so they wouldn’t be an every week expense.

"Organic"

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

3991strawberry_plant225

In an effort to eat healthier, more wholesome meals I have been reading articles about eating and cooking “organic” foods.  It sounds so pure and healthy to chose “organic” products, however, I am very aware that the USDA and the FDA allow various In-organic and possibly harmful chemicals into “organic” farming. (Click here and here) (The key is to chose items that are rated 100% organic, not just stamped “organic”.) Another consideration in this process of going “organic” is the cost: for example Bananas at Wegmans are $0.54 per pound, however their “organic” counterpart is $0.69 per pound.  I realize a mere 15 cents doesn’t break the bank, but if my average weekly grocery bill is increased by 15 cents per item, it might ruin my budget. So in an effort to figure out how to go “organic” without blowing the budget I have complied a list of various websites with advice on which food items contain the most chemicals, which food items are not necessary to buy “organic”, and ideas on ways to get the best deal.

Here is the list:

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Cardboard Testimonies

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

As I was watching this video I was brought to tears.

First, because my heart broke for some of the things those people have had to overcome or experience.  Second, because I have never struggled like some of those people have and yet I often have a hard time finding something to rejoice about.  Third, because I was rebuked by their statements of love and joy and contentment and peace and trust.

Please watch this video.

Ridiculous

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

This article makes me want to scream! Why is it okay to showcase other religious beliefs but when it comes to Christian beliefs or expressions of Christian faith, that is considered “infringing” on others’ rights? What about Christians’ rights to free speech and freedom of religion? I am offended by Demonic art and Hindu deities but no one would do anything about it if I start complaining that it is “infringing” on my beliefs!