Lindberg is the author of "Make It Simple," a new stewardship resource that helps congregation members embrace and communicate what it means to have a simpler lifestyle and to live with determined generosity.
For more information or to order "Make It Simple," available in mid-April, contact Christina Erban, ELCA Stewardship (800) 638-3522, ext. 2555.
What are you doing to manage your stress and use your faith as the economy sinks lower and lower?
I've been struck by how clueless we were that economic systems could change. Decades of acquisition didn't exactly tone us for leaner times. But those leaner times are here, and as painful as the situation may be, we're suddenly connected in a way we haven't been for decades. We face these changes en masse. So I know I can turn to you and ask: "How are you doing?" I want to know — I care in the way people care who know. I need your ideas and reflections about walking with God into the unknown.
Here are three ways that helped my family move from initial panic about the economy to a more creative quest for God's help:
1. Pour in the good news first.
Every morning my husband and I wake up to the clock radio. Recently we realized that before we were even conscious, our brains were hearing bad news: "Stock market down;" "Thousands more job losses." It's always hard to wake up, but this was ridiculous.
We talked about the percentage of negative news on the airwaves and knew we had to counter it with good news (or sink into despair). Now we wake to a music CD and save the news for a little later. We give each other a prayer or verse upon awakening. They don't call the gospel good news for nothing! Here are some verses to wake up to:
"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).
"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).
"Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread" (Luke 24:35).
2. Angel, I need you.
At Christmastime, stories of angels speaking to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds spoke to me: "Be not afraid!" How I needed that message! I tried to put on such a brave face for our children, not wanting them to worry about money and the future. Alone one day, I burst into tears. "I need you angel. I need you, angel," I sobbed.
I came away with a mantra that centers me: "I am afraid, but God is not." I repeat these words whenever anxiety creeps too close. "I am afraid, but God is not." It's an honest truth: a witness of how this faith thing works.
3. Use the examen prayer.
Do you use the examen prayer? The word examen is like "examine" — this way of praying means paying attention to each day and what it means. Our family prays this way every night. Gathered around a candle, each person tells their most joyful and most challenging times of that day. With the examen, one day doesn't just get swallowed up into another. We find out all kinds of things about one another. We see God at work in many ways. It's a bigger picture of God's world, where people rejoice and need help. At the end of the examen one of us prays, "God bless us in our happy times and light the way in our darkness."
Our current challenging times — painful and frightening as they can be — will show us what God is made of and what God made us to be. We're God's children — God looks at us with that same look of love with which we gaze at our children. And God wants us to know upon what and whom we can depend. God sees our potential, our roots, our support system — even when we don't.
May we know the gift of a common humanity and the power of shared faith.
Check out this week's articles:
Marked for a moment: (right) On Ash Wednesday we face death — and life.
Unprepared for suffering: We don't know how to handle this challenge to faith.
The calling of caregiving: Only a spiritual focus can sustain compassion.Now what? Age cutoff for pew snacking.
Also: Jesus is with us always.
Feb. 17-24: Join Lois D. Knutson (right) to discuss caring for others as a spiritual calling.
In her article, Knutson wrote: "... whether we become a caregiver gradually or suddenly, whether we live with or near our care recipient or provide long-distance assistance, whether we remain employed or have to quit our jobs — sometimes the experience is so stressful in body, mind and spirit that we are tempted to lose heart."
Consider reading "The calling of caregiving" before joining the conversation.
This week on our blog:
Kathleen Kastilahn (right) blogs about Abraham Lincoln, who never belonged to a church.
Sonia Solomonson blogs about price points and faith.
Julie Sevig blogs about Facebook.
Andrea Pohlmann blogs about "saying grace."
Tell us! Communicating hope
How are you communicating hope in these hard economic times? Pastors, are your preaching and pastoral care changing—and if so, how? Lay people, how are you caring for friends, family, neighbors and colleagues
in word and deed? Is there a silver lining to this dark cloud? Respond (300 words maximum) to firstname.lastname@example.org or to her at The Lutheran, 8765 W. Higgins Rd., Chicago IL 60631 by March 10. Please include your name, congregation, city and state.
Or respond online ...
The February issue of The Little Lutheran has arrived!
Don't let them miss another issue.
The Little Lutheran helps children 6 and younger learn about God's love for them and the world in which they live. It teaches them about Jesus, their friend and savior.
Adults, you will want this for the children in your life. Pastors and congregations, you will want this for education and evangelism. See how you can subscribe for nearly half the price.
Introducing The Little Christian
For grandparents, godparents and others whose little ones age 6 and younger aren't Lutheran, give a subscription to The Little Christian. Launched in January 2009, this has the same great content as The Little Lutheran and is available at the same price: $24.95 for a one year subscription, $45 for two and $59 for three. Or the low rate of $12.95 per subscription if you join with friends to order six or more (one billing but multiple mailing addresses). Tell your friends in our full-communion and ecumenical partner churches, too. Visit www.thelittlechristian.org or call 800-328-4648.
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For only $17.95 you'll receive 12 issues of The Lutheran magazine in your mailbox. You'll also receive access to back issues' articles since 1996 and unlimited study guide downloads (regularly $3.50 each) at http://www.thelutheran.org//.
(Congregational subscriptions begin at $7.95 and include Web memberships. Call Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, for details about our congregational plans. 800-328-4648.)
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