September 8 - 14 , 2008


Showers of Thanks

Blessed rain this past week quenched a dry spell that was beginning to cause trouble for the farmers and fruit growers in our central Pennsylvania county.

"I prayed really hard for rain," said one of the farmers in my congregation. He added, "Now I have to be sure to pray 'thanks' just as hard." 

It's certainly true that we pray hardest when we are in great distress, when needs press upon us in every direction. But my friend is correct in observing that it is easy to slip right back into the habit of  taking our everyday blessings for granted. It's something we have to watch.

In our country, which God has blessed with prosperity and education and health care and peace, we have much we take for granted. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves to give thanks continually for the things God gives us all the time.
-Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster
Reprint right gladly given to congregations for nonprofit, local use. Just include the following note: "Copyright (c) 2008 The Rev. Robert Blezard, Used by permission."

New This Week:

CRTalking About Money in a Small Membership Church
Imagine you are the new pastor of a church that does not have a campaign for pledging, does not pledge at all, and people don’t talk about money? That is exactly the situation Pastor Amy Mayo-Moyle encountered in her ministry. Her article tells how she turned it around – and how you can handle such a situation. Click here for “Talking About Money in a Small Membership Church,” from Circuit Rider, the United Methodist Church’s magazine for clergy.

The Episcopal Network for StewardshipFaith-Based Stewardship: A Fresh Perspective on Congregational Giving
Most pastors preach that stewardship involves how a disciple or a community of disciples uses all of their God-given resources for Godly purposes. But then the punchline is usually, “and give us more money.” So says this wise article that proposes a new approach. Click here for “Faith Based Stewardship,” from The Episcopal Network for Stewardship.

Tuck AakerIt’s in the Book
Time and again, congregations facing budget problems give more – and their finances improve! “It has happened time after time and still the majority of our congregations can’t summon the faith to overcome their fears of taking a new direction and trust the Lord to provide for their needs. What part of faith don’t they understand?” Click here for “It’s in the Book” from stewardship columnist Tuck Aaker in ELCA Stewardship Resources.

ToldeoDiscovering Your Gifts
In your annual stewardship campaign, remember to ask your people to take a spiritual gifts inventory. It may help them to discern how the Lord is calling them to serve. Here is a survey that is really comprehensive, yet short! Click here for “Discovering Your Gifts,” from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, Ohio.

“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus tells his cowering disciples when they see him walking on water (Matthew 14:27, in the Gospel reading for Aug. 10). It’s just one of many occasions when Jesus tells his people not to fear. And not only Jesus, but angels, too, throughout the Bible, tell God’s children not to be afraid.

Why do God and God’s messengers continually have to reassure us people? It’s because following Jesus and walking a path of discipleship occasionally gets scary. God pushes us out of our comfort zones, asking us to do new tasks, to see new things and — most scary of all — to look inside ourselves, change our ways of life and change our hearts. 

Fear keeps many of us from growing as disciples of Christ. If we let fear dictate our lives, we’d probably never read a lesson in front of the congregation, never visit a severely injured church member, never stand up against injustice, never reach out to the suffering. All these things can be scary at first.

In the same way, fear is a key barrier to generous financial giving. We fear we won’t have enough if we give generously. We fear there is not enough in God’s economy to satisfy our needs if we give ours away. 

What most mature Christians know is that fear is a normal part of our faith life. Fear helps us identify our growing edges. It helps us move beyond our previously perceived limits. We grow best by facing fear — and then moving beyond it.  When fear paralyzes us, we stay where we are and do not grow. 

This is the message Jesus and the angels give to people throughout the Bible. In saying, “Don’t be afraid,” they are telling us not to let fear get the best of us. Rather than be shut down  by our fear, we are ruled by our faith that tells us God is in control, God is with us, God has the situation well in hand, and God will keep us heading in the right direction.

If we want our people to learn to give generously, we need to encourage them to serve in situations where they experience a little fear, someplace outside of their comfort zone. As they learn to trust God in small situations, they will trust God with their finances, too.

So as we head into “stewardship season,” let us hear the words of Jesus reassuring us: “Do not be afraid.”


-Rob Blezard, webmaster and editor

Reprint rigths gladly given to congregations for nonprofit use. Just include the following notice: "Copyright (c) 2008, the Rev. Robert Blezard, Used by permission."

New This Week: 

Energy StarChange a Light, Change the World
Congregations used to work to save energy as a matter of “going green.” Now they need to save energy as way of saving “green.” The U.S. Department of Energy can help with its Energy Star program, which is now inviting congregations (and other institutions) to “Change a Light, Change the World. Click here to find out more about this program, along with details on Energy Star Congregations.

Planning for Year-Round Stewardship: A How-To
Stewardship shouldn’t be just that fall push at budgeting time, but something we encourage our people to think about 365 days a year. Here is a resource that can inspire and equip your stewardship committee and other leaders. Click here for “Planning for Year-Round Stewardship: A How-To,” from the Episcopal Diocese of California.


Sharron LucasFaithful Feet
Yes, feet are the most overworked yet overlooked part of the body, but so important to a, well, walk of discipleship.  “Perhaps it’s time to see our feet from God’s perspective through the lens of Isaiah and Paul: as tools of the messenger, as foundational to carrying the good news into all the earth.”  Click here for this latest essay by SOLI columnist Sharron Reissinger Lucas. Click here to read her archived columns.

IOC UMCStewardship of Relationships
A writer finds the “Golden Rule” is still the key to maintaining relationships, but it needs updating for today. “I am persuaded to alter my childish interpretation of how to act on this adage,” writes Anne Kayser. Click here for “Stewardship of Relationships,” from the Oregon-Idaho General Conference of the United Methodist Church.