Control

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Okay, so I admit I’m obsessive-compulsive about some things. Like where the pots and pans go in the kitchen, and some of my daily routines. But I’ve never forgotten what a speaker said years ago: when we’re obsessive, the key is to choose what to be obsessive about. Instead of trying to control our boss’s behavior, for example, we can focus on controlling our attitude or keeping our living space clean.

And yet there are very few things we can actually control, in terms of what happens to us externally. Countless situations involving illness or loss, work or family, life or death, all happen without our permission. But what we can control is our internal response to what happens to us.

When people control their inner response, the result is amazing resilience. Some children I’ve met who had witnessed horrendous family violence or abuse have actually grown through that suffering into healthy adulthood. At the same time, some who have lived through far lesser traumas have become hard and brittle. So what makes the difference?

Maybe it comes back to choosing our obsession. We can decide to obsess over our response to the Really Big Issues, like “God is in charge,” “God loves us and will carry us through,” and “Trust in God’s mercy.” All the rest is just details.

Your partner in ministry,
Betsy Schwarzentraub

ESC Resources

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I was excited this week to meet with the Resource Editorial Team for the Ecumenical ESC logoStewardship Center (ESC), which provides outstanding materials for cultivating stewardship and generosity in the local church. As a pastor and then as a consultant over the years, I’ve used almost all of their material resources for annual financial commitment programs and have appreciated the substantive articles on year-round stewardship education.

The Ecumenical Stewardship Center has 19 denominational partners from the U.S. and Canada and sponsors at least two major events each year for stewardship leaders. Attending their events, I’ve gained hugely from the richness of Christian approaches from kindred participants as well as the presenters. They include Canadians and Americans, from Disciples of Christ and Church of the Brethren to American Baptist, from United Methodist to Reformed and Evangelical Lutheran, from Mennonite and Moravian to Presbyterian and United Church of Canada.

Every year ESC puts out an issue of “Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation” with a center section that is a complete leader’s guide for an annual financial commitment program. They also create companion resources (bulletin inserts, etc.) and yearly theme materials. It’s an honor to be able to join the half dozen folks who serve on the editorial team to design the materials. But even before that, I’m grateful for ESC and the wisdom of churches that use them.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

 

Estate Planning

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Why would we want to do estate planning? For a start, we may have questions like these:

+ How can I be sure who will care for my children if a tragedy strikes me?

+ How could I best care financially for my aging parents?

+ Is there a way to give a gift to charity and still provide something for my grandchildren?

+ How can I increase my retirement income for the rest of my life and provide a gift to the church at the same time?

There are a lot more questions that we may have at various stages of our lives. Thankfully, there are people with our welfare at heart who can help us find the answers for our unique situations. The best place to connect with these people is the United Methodist Foundation in your Annual Conference.

Estate planning often begins by unlearning what we think is true. For example, I used to think people had to have a “big estate” (read: be really rich) to need estate planning, but that’s not true. It’s also not true that people should wait until they’re middle-aged or elderly to start making their estate plans. Guardianship of young children is a huge issue for parents just starting out, for example. People of all ages can make plans to empower generations beyond their lifetime, whether the beneficiaries are future family members or children who could be touched by the future church.

Planning now for the future can make a lasting impact on many levels. Colleen Crook, a Certified Life and Leadership Coach, says estate planning is the result of “a purposeful life, focused on taking action around your values, passion, mission and vision. It provides a sense of deep meaning, and can be a catalyst for positive, long-term change that continues beyond your lifetime.”

But making an estate plan can help us be more mindful of how we live now, as well. Our greatest inheritance can be the influence of a great example as we give to others, witness to our faith, and care for one another in times of decreased health. In these ways and many more, we can use our possessions to help others beyond our own personal needs.