Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Graduates

Some of you may know, and some of you may not, that Rick and I have been taking a class at a local church for the last 13 weeks. The class was Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and last night we celebrated our official graduation. God is so good!

Over the course of the last three months we have paid off about $1500 in debt, including one of my student loans and our furniture. We have our van and one other student loan to pay off and we will be DEBT FREE!!! Well, with the exception of our mortgage. Though the average family pays that off as well in 6 to 7 years.

We have also been able to build up our savings, save for things we need (like a new car), pay cash for everything and basically just change the way we think about money in general.

We were not in horrible financial shape to begin with. We have no credit card debt-we don't even have a credit card. But I was always worried about money. Frantic even. I know, big shock, seeing as though I tend to be fearful about many things. But one thing is for sure, I was not walking in faith in regards to our finances and it was taking its toll physically, emotionally and spiritually.

There were two things that came out of the class that I had not anticipated which are just absolutely amazing to me. Being in the class has given us many, many opportunities to share with people in less fortunate circumstances, but also with those who don't know Christ. I can't tell you the number of times I have been asked in the grocery store about my envelope system. God has really opened the doors for seeds to be planted where I never would have imagined. I am so glad He has a better and bigger imagination that I do. Only makes me wish we had taken this class years ago.

The second change the I did not anticipate was how it has radically altered our marriage. Most of you who know us would probably say we are a pretty solid couple, and we are. But I had no idea how much the tension over financial issues was eroding our communication. It is amazing what happens when you get on the same page. I wasn't even aware it was happening until it changed. And while it was hard to go through this together, we are all the stronger because of it.

So I can say with confidence that God is SO good! If you're not sure about that, talk to me, please, so I can share more with you about this journey He has had us on for the last couple of years.

Also, if you want any more information about the class, please let me know. I would be glad to give you more information and help you get into one yourself. Trust me, you will never regret it.

The class is not just for those who struggle financially. Like I said, I thought we were doing pretty good. We don't make big bucks but for a family on one income, paying all of our bills on time and no credit card debt-well, that is just about unheard of in America (so sad, another post for another day). But, it changed our lives and continues to change our lives every day as we relate with each other and manage our money (GOD'S money) in a godly and biblical way. And it is so much fun-who would have thought? Anyway, whether you are a single mom struggling to make ends meet, or you make six figures year, trust me your life will not be the same after you take this course.

Giving God all the praise and glory!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Consecrated

I have always been fascinated by the idea that God has a special name for each of us.

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." (Revelation 2.17)

Throughout the Scriptures God places a significant emphasis on a person's name, indeed on His own name. A person's name is demonstrative of his or her character, who God has created them to be. God's name is synonymous with His character. God uses many names for Himself, all which highlight a different aspect of who He is.

Repeatedly, throughout the Bible, being obedient to His name or submitted to His name means nothing less than being submitted to Him. Examples of this can be found in both the Old and New Testaments, here, here, here, and here-just to list a few. In fact, in doing a simple search of the word "name", you will find it used over 900 times throughout the Old and New Testaments.

A couple of weeks ago our pastor, preached a sermon about Jesus' calling of the first disciples. He talked about how Jesus called Simon, whose named referred to a reed, being tossed about and blown in the wind-unable to withstand the storms of life. Yet, Jesus renamed Simon. He called him Peter, which means rock. Jesus gave Peter a name which was wholly different from his given name. It was significant and demonstrated the kind of man Peter would be. Sure he had his mishaps along the way (which is why identify with him the most, lol), but Peter became one of the most powerful and effective evangelists of all time. ROCK!

There are many other stories like this one where God changes the name of a person in the Scriptures. The name always describes something significant about that person or about an event in their lives. The name always reveals something about the character of the person.

I like to think the name God has chosen for us does the same. I have often let my mind daydream about what it will be like when I hear Jesus call me by the name He has chosen for me. What will it reveal about me? I imagine that it will be the most wonderfully intimate and private moment with my Savior. I imagine it as a perfect name, one which when I hear it I nod my head and say "yeah" and become overwhelmed at the way God sees me, at who I really am. I imagine it is beautiful. I pray that it reveals my character to be that of a woman who was set apart to her God, a woman who followed her God passionately and devotedly, a woman who dedicated her life to service of her Savior.

This year I decided I wanted to read through the entire Bible. Right now my Old Testament readings come from Leviticus. Yeah, fun stuff. Leviticus is full of the ceremonial laws and ancient Jewish customs that are mostly no longer practiced today. To be honest, it's kinda boring. And there are some things in there that when I read them I wonder, "what was God thinking?" But not today. Here is what I read today:

" 'Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy. (Leviticus 20. 7-8)

A few years ago, I discovered that my name means "consecrated". I just love that. I often fall short of what my name means, but for some reason it gives me so much hope. I am not sure at what point in my life I became fascinated with this idea of names and their significance but I think it has to do with this discovery.

I looked up "consecrate" in the dictionary and here is what I found:

verb (used with object)
1. to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity: to consecrate a new church building.
2. to devote or dedicate to some purpose: a life consecrated to science.

Just the thought of that sends chills down my spine. How beautiful would it be if I lived up to the meaning of my name? I pray for nothing less than that.

Jesus, consecrate me unto you today. I want to live for you. I know I will fail and mess up, like Peter did, but Lord I want to show you that you were right when you called me "consecrated". Help me to love you above all else.