OPM, Mom, Storm Clouds

OPM

Last month I walked downtown to pay a bill for renovations we had done at the house. I was a bit tense, partly because I didn’t know the amount due. The shopkeeper surprised me by forgiving the entire debt. It was an extraordinarily gracious gift, which I related in a previous post.

A few days ago I walked downtown again to pay another bill. This time I wasn’t the least bit tense, even though I didn’t know the amount. I walked easily into the store, pulled out the checkbook, and wrote a check. I didn’t feel the slightest hesitation or tension. There was zero pain.

What was the difference? No, it wasn’t that I had suddenly grown much more mature since last month. It’s more basic than that. This time I was carrying a different checkbook. I was paying a bill for the local clergy association. It wasn’t my money. I was merely a steward of their account.

There’s no pain when you spend other people’s money. Some financial advisors advise people to use other people’s money (OPM) when investing. I don’t recommend that, but it’s definitely less stressful to spend other people’s money. That’s why it’s important to remember God owns everything. We are merely stewards of his property. I remember Ron Blue teaching me that decades ago. It’s the first principle of biblical money management: “1. God Owns It all.” (Master Your Money, p. 20).

Everything we own really belongs to God. We are merely managers. If I adopt that attitude, there will be no pain in paying bills, or watching the stock market dive, or enduring a drought in the fields.

Every time I pay a bill, I’m using OPM. God owns my checkbook. The tension I feel when I pay bills reveals that I haven’t yet mastered stewardship.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. Matthew 25:14

 

MOM

Last night I was reconnecting online with an old high school friend, a PK (pastor’s kid) from another church. As we reminisced about our childhood, he asked if his memory was correct that my mother had been a church secretary. This was my answer:

Yes, my mother was the church secretary for 25 years. She was the classic “take charge” attack secretary. Actually, I think she ran the church more than the pastor in some cases. I know she clashed with some of the pastors. And she probably nearly got fired a few times for it, I’d wager, though I don’t know any details. She never spoke poorly of anyone. She was very good at what she did in the office. She was proud that her mimeographed bulletins looked like they had been printed. Sometimes we folded them at home on Friday night. She was very fussy that we folded them precisely and didn’t have greasy hands from popcorn. The president of Muskingum College once tried to recruit her for his office, but she wouldn’t change jobs because she still had kids at home. The church let her set her own schedule – and sometimes we would go to the church with her and play. I often played the organ while she worked. I know she counseled some people who had come in to see the pastor. She taught me things that have stuck, such as never misspelling people’s names and proofreading my writing until it’s right. It was much harder to make corrections in the old days, but she did it every time. She thought dictionaries were to be used. I still look things up if I’m unsure. She made me take typing in summer school after eighth grade. She said typing would be useful in high school. She was right, of course. She typed my master’s thesis – all 90 pages of it – in 1984, just before personal computers would have made it much easier. If she made a single mistake on a page, she started over. No white-out. She was the same at home. There were lists everywhere – cleaning lists, shopping lists, vacation plan lists, kids’ jobs lists. But it seemed like the house was always a mess. Go figure.

My friend said it would honor my mother to post this on my blog. Here it is, Mom. I love you!

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 6:20

 

STORM CLOUDS

The Clarkfield area is enduring a serious drought this summer. Recently there have been some good rains all around us. But most of the moisture has missed us. It the drought continues, the harvest will be seriously reduced, which would impact the entire town. To make it even more difficult, a couple times the sky grew very dark and threatening with the promise of rain, but it didn’t produce. Lord, please send rain!

Like clouds and wind without rain is one who boasts of gifts never given. Proverbs 25:14

 

The Clevenger Chronicles: A Bountiful Harvest

I participated in four funerals this summer within a two month span. The first was a relatively young man who died far too soon for the loved ones he left behind. The other three were all faithful patriarchs in their 90s, fathers of New Life Church members. One of them was Carol’s father Harlon Jennings, who passed away August 2, 2016, in Ashland, Ohio.

That’s a lot of deaths to process in a small church. We might call it a bountiful harvest by the Grim Reaper. It has changed the dynamics in our tiny congregation. All of us were helping elderly parents. Now all of us are going through the process of grief at the same time. We are finding hope and help in Christ. But it’s different.

This year saw an abundant harvest in our area. It was a second consecutive record yield for many farmers. Corn and beans are the lifeblood of our local economy. The yields in the fields were very high, but the farm prices at the elevators are very low. We might call it a bountiful harvest by the grip reapers. A few farmers can’t even sell their extra grain.

We’re used to experiencing ups and downs in rural Minnesota, but this year we saw them both at the same time. We’re hanging on tight as we trust God for the future. Come to think of it, for most farmers hanging on tight is just business as usual.

Another bountiful harvest we’re experiencing is the launch of a Good News Club in the local charter school last month. We’ve met only three times so far, but student attendance has jumped from five to 11 to 18. For a small congregation without any school-age children, that’s a bountiful harvest, or at least a good start. We are grateful to God for the opportunity to serve the community in this way.

The Harvest

The first frost of the season arrived last night in Clarkfield. It was a hard freeze, so the gardening season is officially over. Carol took the grand-kids over to the garden yesterday and salvaged what was left, which actually was quite a bit. What a summer it was! We raised lettuce and radishes, snow peas and onions, beets, tons of tomatoes, five or six kinds of beans, a million peppers ranging from green mild to red hot, broccoli and cauliflower, turnips, Brussels sprouts, spinach, carrots (most of which are still in the ground), and giant sunflowers. We also grew kale, which a website says is the healthiest food in the world. Well, the world can have it. Good health to everybody (else)!

The owner of the community garden (where we gardened) kept us supplied first with sweet corn and then squash. Another man from the church invited us to raid his apple tree. Carol canned, froze, dried, and gave away all people would take. And, of course, we ate and ate. I lost very little weight this summer, even though I was super active and didn’t eat much added sugar or dairy.

The other night I walked down to the elevator, which is humming 24-7 right now, and watched the golden corn pouring from the conveyor under the lights onto the massive pile, which is bigger than several houses. I thanked the Lord for the bumper crops the farmers are harvesting; in a broken world it won’t always be like this. I can empathize with the sugar beet farmers who are required to plow under a portion of their crop. The harvest is so huge, government regulations require them to destroy some of it. Apparently there are environmental reasons for this. But I feel for the farmers who can’t even give away their surplus.

It’s a moment for reflection. The farmers are still in the fields working hard to bring in their crops. As they say, it’s not all in the bin yet. But for gardeners, it’s time to thank the Lord for the harvest.

“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest?’ I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” (Jesus)