Tithing – The Touchy Topic

I realize the very word – “TITHING” – generates strong emotions. And I get it; not every TV preacher is honest.  If a pastor of a church preaches on the subject, parishioners think he just wants more money. Or, in this economy, who can afford to give ten percent?  Then there’s the argument – do you give a full ten percent before or after taxes?  Do you tithe to your local church or can you give it elsewhere?  I can’t afford to give if I won’t get a tax deduction.  Fill in the blank.  I know there are more objections than these.

Frankly, I don’t even feel like addressing those questions.  I could.  But that’s not where my heart is.  What really beats in my chest is the longing for people to know that they are cheating themselves when they don’t tithe.  Yes, the Bible says if we don’t tithe we are robbing God.  And in my opinion that’s a very big deal.  But I long for people to know that God is not a cheapskate.  He is not stingy, nor miserly.  And He is a debtor to no man.  It’s impossible to out give God!

A couple years ago, a very precious friend asked me if I tithed. I responded with a laugh. “I can’t afford NOT to!”

And I really meant it. I’ve been tithing for over 40 years and in that time the Lord has never, ever failed to take care of our finances.  We’ve not always had a big surplus, but He has always met our needs. Always.  And we did it on one income at a time when society insists that both parents must work to make ends meet.

Not only did our Heavenly Father provide so we could pay our bills consistently, He also did things for us that to this day do not compute on paper. How in the world did a family of five, living on one blue collar income, manage to take vacations – sometimes flying?  We still laugh about it.  It was pure delight to see how God came through for us.

One time, he gave us a “two for one” vacation. Because of an overbooked flight, we surrendered up our seats, which garnered our entire family flights for another vacation the following year.

I could go on and on about how God took care of us because we faithfully tithed. No, I’m not patting us on the back because we did it. How can I? Tithing works for anyone. God doesn’t play favorites. I even know of a business man who was not a believer, but he knew that tithing worked so he did it. And God blessed him. A lot.

When I see people struggle with finances, the first question I want to ask them is, “Do you tithe?” I never say it. But I think it. And I feel sorry for them because I know they’re experiencing a tremendous amount of angst that isn’t necessary.

I’d like to offer a challenge to all people who do not believe in tithing. Here’s how I’d set it up: In one column, I’d have them keep track of their income – their full income before taxes. In another column, I’d have them record the amount their tithe (ten percent) would be, before taxes, if they DID tithe. Every entry would be dated. In a third column, I would have them record any unforeseen expenses, car and appliance breakdowns, furnace malfunctions, air conditioning going on the fritz, sick pets, anything that isn’t a predictable expense. At the end of a year, I would have them compare their totals – the amount it would have cost them if they HAD tithed – and the amount they paid out for “disaster expenses.”

I’m not saying people who tithe never have unexpected expenses. But I am saying that God PROMISES that if we give what belongs to Him, the ten percent (minimum), He will “pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” God actually invites us to test Him on this! He promises other things, too, but I’m not telling you here. Read it for yourself! It’s in the Bible – Malachi 3:8-11

I dare you to take the challenge. If you’re not ready to trust God yet, then start keeping track like I suggested. Let me know in a year which column is bigger. I’d love to hear.

But seriously, I hope you’ll take God’s challenge instead. There is no greater thrill than interacting with the God of the Universe – the One who loves you more than you can imagine – and discovering that He cares about you…and your finances!

Let’s Play “What If”

This evening while out for a walk just before dark, I started asking myself a lot of “what ifs.”  I played “What If” for myself and also for other people, asking questions like…

…What if the reason my life feels like it’s “on pause”…

…What if the reason I’m not seeing answers to certain prayers…

…What if the reason certain young ladies I know, who want intensely to be married and who are now in their thirties still waiting for their prince…

…What if so many couples are having difficulty conceiving a baby…

…What if getting that new job or that raise seems to never happen…

…You fill in the blank – “What if _______________________________________”

Is because Jesus is coming back soon?

There are certainly many signs.  Everybody knows it.  Even Hollywood is prophesying the end is at hand in its movies.  So…

What If He is?

Does this change my thinking? My priorities?  Do the questions I’m fixating on matter if they’re asked in light of His imminent return?

What if my life feels like it’s on pause is because the areas in which I want to go forward are a waste of time, a misuse of my energies?

What if certain answers to prayer seem delayed because my Heavenly Father knows that they – and many of the other issues mentioned above – will soon not matter?

Are my priorities straight?

What if I ask Him to help me understand what really matters?

What if I focus on Him?

Put away the Cell

Deer Stand - June 2, 2013“Can’t you even put away your phone long enough to take a walk?”  Those weren’t the exact words but it was something to that effect.  Because of unusual circumstances at this stage of life, I am alone a lot. Much of my connection to the outside world is via internet, TV, and my cell phone – upon which, I admit, I’ve become far too dependent – to check email and Facebook connections.

This became far too apparent when I went out on the trail this afternoon.  I made my way through the trees skirting the canyon and came out on the paved walking trail. Immediately, my first instinct was to log on and check FB and email. That’s when the admonition sounded clearly in my thoughts.  Seriously?!  Can’t you put it away even for a walk?

I immediately shut off my cell and forced it into my too-small back jeans pocket.

I looked up.  And out.  And listened.

It is late afternoon. The marshland thrives with life.  A Mallard drake and his hen leave gentle ripples as they lazily glide along the pond. Frogs – by the hundreds, thousands? – signal their presence.  The familiar trill of Redwing Blackbirds remind me of a rusty well pump handle squawking in protest. I feel frustration because I can’t identify many of the multitude of other birds songs calling across the canyon.

To the right of my path, a cotton-tail freezes, hoping I won’t notice it, while on the other side and a little ahead another bunny high tails it into a thicket.

I walk on. Scurried motion in shrubbery on both sides of the path reveal the presence of other creatures rushing for their camouflaged cover. It works.  I know they’re there but I can’t see them.

In the distance at water’s edge, I see more movement and wish I’d brought binoculars to identify either the wild turkey or pheasant taking a drink.

I walk on. The path curves and I make a mental note to keep my mouth shut as I forge through the local swarm of gnats.

Ahead is one of my favorite landmarks – the gnarled tree with weathered strips of wood nailed to its trunk – once a ladder to the primitively constructed deer stand in its overhanging branches…

I reach in my back pocket and wrestle out my iPhone, no longer interested in logging onto anything.  I simply want to capture – document – savor – this walk.  This balm to my soul.


When It Comes to Hurts

I realize that blogs are for writing essays, pithy commentary, etc.  Sometimes, though, I only have a specific thought on my mind, one which doesn’t need paragraphs to communicate.  So, since this is my blog, I am taking the poetic license to, from time to time, sum up my blog entries in one or two sentences.  Today is one of those days, and here is my thought:


When it comes to hurts and offences, if I had to choose, I would rather be the one to suffer the hurt, than the one who causes it.





My Dream Garden

     When I was a child, ours was not a family of “means.”  I was very aware that other kids in the neighborhood, and at school, seemed to have more than we did.  It still amazes me that I can say that not once did we go on a family vacation.  Nor did we ever eat in a restaurant.  Not once.  But what we didn’t have, and what we didn’t do, is not what this post is about.  It’s about what we did have.

A fence separated our back yard from the neighbors’.  Along that wire border grew lilac bushes which, every spring, filled the air with a fragrance that planted itself in my DNA. Also along that fence grew a few stray purple iris, and further down the fence, at the other end, stood a mulberry tree, perfect for climbing.

On the other side of our back yard, along the fence that protected us kids from our other neighbor’s ferocious (and I’m not kidding) chow, was another, smaller mulberry tree.  This one yielded berries every summer, and we joyously ate them.  We also delighted in sucking the nectar from the tips of columbine blossoms, which grew around the base of the tree. 

Because this fence was on the north side of the yard, and because of the tree, it provided the perfect spot for other shade-loving plants as well.  Such as fern; their unfurling fronds were endlessly fascinating.  Every spring, nestled in this same semi-shady area, bloomed exquisite “bleeding hearts.”

There wasn’t more than about five feet between our house and the brick four-plex to the north.  It was almost always shady along that side and lilies of the valley grew in great profusion.  We knew the chow was locked up when his owner was at work so we dared to edge into that small “alley” to pick stems of those little white bells.  We brought them to our mother who displayed the diminutive bouquets in a juice glass.

At the base of the steps from our back porch, hollyhocks bordered the sidewalk in vivid pinks, fucias, yellows and coral.  (This photo is not from that time.  These were grown from seeds three years ago – a gift from my sister who knows how much, to this day, I love hollyhocks.)  

Following the path around to the front of our house, framing our screened-in front porch, grew great bushes of, what we called, “bridal wreath.”  Their tiny, lacy white flowers bloomed for a time, and then the petals fell, coating the sidewalk and grass like snow. 

All of these gardening wonders appeared in our yard every spring and summer without my mother’s tending.  We children took them all for granted.  It is these memories which are so precious.  A part of my childhood that I long to re-create, it is these flowers I covet most for my Dream Garden.   



R – E – S – P – E – C – T


Respect:  1.) To have deferential regard for; esteem.  2.) To treat with propriety or consideration.  3.) To regard as inviolable; avoid intruding upon.  4.) Regard for and appreciation of worth; honor and esteem.  Courteous regard…

          Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about respect.  Who deserves it?  Who doesn’t?  Why or why not?  And mostly, what has happened to it?  A fairly recent experience initiated my pondering…

          A few months ago, I accompanied my husband on a business trip.  I looked forward to meeting some of his out-of-state employees because he speaks highly of his people and treats them with amazing regard.  During the course of the evening, one of his female employees approached and, turning to my husband, asked, “Is this your wife?”  He answered by introducing us.  I smiled and greeted her.  I don’t recall her saying anything to me in return, but she turned to my husband and said, “She’s just a little thing!” 

          I was astonished not only by her disrespect for her boss’s wife (me), but for him, her employer.  In thinking about it the next day on the way home, I had a flashback.  This had happened before.  The exact same statement… in a different state.  Again, it came from one of his female employees.  When he introduced us, she had blurted out, “She’s just a little thing!”  The only difference being that time, while talking to him, she looked me straight in the eye.  It didn’t take any imagination to understand it was a statement of disrespect and detain.

          I am very comfortable with my size me so it wasn’t her reference to my petite-ness which stunned me.  It was her complete lack of manners and knowing it was a deliberate choice on her part.

           Like purchasing a yellow car and then noticing all the other yellow vehicles on the road, the flashback and the more recent occurrence triggered me noticing manners and, in general, respect. 

          It promoted introspection as well. Is it me?  Do I not deserve respect?  Am I arrogant?  How respectful am I to others?   

          My conclusion:  Respect has little or nothing to do with the person receiving or being denied it, and everything to do with the person who gives or withholds it.  It totally reflects on their character!  For example:

        Mother Theresa was known for her respect for the poorest of the poor.  She did not place value on people based on anything but that they were God’s children.  Her reverence for each person, regardless of their station in life, caused her to be one of the most beloved and revered people in the world.

          Another example is the late Princess Diana.  She, too, was known for giving respectful, undivided attention to each person with whom she spoke.  She had a way of making them feel special, important.  It’s unnecessary to reiterate how well-loved Princess Diana was.

          I realize this post easily calls for a Part II, but here’s my summary for now…

          Because being respectful reflects on character, I find myself wondering:  What is the rampant disrespect in our children, ourselves, our leaders, our society, our country, saying?






There’s Valuable and Then There’s Irreplaceable


          When my husband and I were newlyweds, one of our first homes (i.e. places to live) was a little rented abode (I would call it a cottage but honestly it wasn’t that picturesque), which had electricity but little else.  It had no running water and we heated it with a wood stove.  Our 2-B, 0-BA, house did not even have an outhouse.  With the help of my brother, that was built later and, when it came to temperatures of -40 below zero F, we quickly learned that a styrofoam seat atop the wood single-holer was a great luxury.

           Now, 30 years later, we live in a 4-B, 2 1/2 BA home.  In a sense, the kind of houses we’ve lived in has nothing to do with my topic for this blog except to point out that along the way I have discovered that some of my most valuable material possessions have little to do with price or market value.  

          After furnishing our various homes with everything from Garage Sale to brand new, and after raising three rambunctious boys, I’ve learned that broken antique plates, stained carpeting, broken vintage plate glass windows, and various other ruined “pricey” items, have never devastated me.  But, over these many years, there are certain  that I would be genuinely upset (i.e. freaked out) about if anything were to happen to them.  To list a few:

          * My kitchen scissors – Break a piece of my dinnerware and I merely blink.  But, if someone dares to borrow my kitchen scissors and fails to return them to the proper drawer…I   can   not   function.  I don’t even remember when I first got them; as far as I know, I’ve had them my entire marriage, maybe before.   I use those scissors   all   the   time.  They are one of my irreplaceables.

          * Another is a good nail brush.  Yes.  A nail brush.  For scrubbing toes and fingernails.  The one I had was wonderful.   I don’t remember how long I owned my beloved nail brush.  But one day, I finally had to throw it out after nearly all the bristles had either broken off or fallen out.  Little did I realize how hard it would be to find a replacement.  Seriously.  Aren’t nail brushes common?  I thought they were.  Until I started searching for another one.  Maybe I just didn’t know where to look.  I searched what I thought would be obvious places, like Bath & Body and the Dollar Store, with no luck.  I hunted for over a year and was without one until only recently when I found a wood nail brush with I-don’t-know-what-kind-of-bristles…at a little antiques shop in Amana, Iowa.  (BTW, the brush is new.)  Paid $2.50 for it.  It is now one of my invaluables. 

          *  My Melaleuca Vanilla Bean Sun Shades Lip Balm.     Do.   Not.   Touch.   It.  Actually, I mean them –  I have two – keep one on a little tray in my bathroom and another in my purse.  (I don’t even know the monetary price because my dear sister keeps me supplied.)  But, I come unglued when I misplace that little stick of lip stuff.  …Oh, Nancy, I am so sorry!  I just did a web search and discovered a tube of that is $14.99!  Are you serious?  That really is pricey!  And, it’s one of my irreplaceables.

          * My aluminum hair clips.  I’ve had them since I was a teenager…which was a while ago.  Okay.  I’ll give you a hint.  I suspect I’ve had them since Buddy Holly was alive.  I still use them.  Daily.   Have you ever noticed that some products just aren’t made with the same quality as they were years ago?  My hair clips fit that category.  Trust me, I’ve looked for new ones.  When I travel, I take crappy newer clips because I don’t want to take the chance of losing my good ones.  Monetary value – likely far less than five dollars – but to me, my retro aluminum hair clips are irreplaceable.

          Naturally, this is only a partial list.  Now that I think about it, it might not be a bad idea to make a complete list and take photos, and store the info in a fireproof strong box.  For insurance purposes, of course.

          What are some of your Irreplaceables?