“Live Free” Financial Commitment Program

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ESC Gvg Live FreeWritten for the CA-NV United Methodist Conference

Instant Connection, 7/30/2015

Live Free, the 2015 issue of Giving magazine from the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC), is now available. The center section, written by California-Nevada Conference minister, the Rev. Betsy Schwarzentraub, is the leader’s guide for a four-week worship emphasis on holistic stewardship that also helps fund local-church ministries.

Live Free is based on 1 Timothy 6:17-19 and Galatians 5:1. It offers four weeks of focus: Free from the Money Trap; Free to Be Rich; Free from the Uncertainty of Riches; and, Free to Take Hold of Life. The rest of the publication includes pieces on holistic stewardship, ranging from helping families gain financial freedom, to fueling mission giving and planned giving ideas. Persons can also order theme materials including printed bulletin inserts, separate commitment cards for children and for adults, letterhead, envelopes, bookmarks and posters.

The Rev. Dan Sturdivant, stewardship leader and pastor in the California-Nevada Conference, wrote four weeks of adult Bible studies, as part of the digital companion resources which can accompany this congregational emphasis. Additional electronic resources related to this theme provide a church with children’s stories, sessions for youth, calls to worship, prayers, and sermon starters.

Giving magazine is an ecumenically-based stewardship resource sponsored by nineteen North American denominations including the United Methodist Church. Schwarzentraub currently serves on its Editorial Board. To view or order this program, log on to www.stewardshipresources.org

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Local Church Stewardship Plan Guideline

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Stewardship bookWritten for the CA-NV United Methodist Conference

Instant Connection, 7/30/2015

The 2012-2016 U.M. Guideline, Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living, is now available. This nuts-and-bolts booklet, written by the Rev. Betsy Schwarzentraub, former California-Nevada Conference Director of Stewardship, is written for a local church stewardship team to build a generosity plan for the congregation. The forty-page booklet moves from three core stewardship practices, to ten possible plan components, to ways it can support other congregational ministries. To order the Stewardship Guideline, visit http://www.cokesbury.com.

Over-Busy Minds

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My email program went haywire recently, and I finally called our computer guru to do his wizardry. Other people’s servers had been sending emails to me but weren’t getting a message back that my server had received them. So they kept sending them over again. Likewise, the same thing was happening with my emails going out, in some cases flooding the receivers with dozens of copies! My IT person discovered that I had two firewalls in a “death grip” – battling each other for top possession of the same files – so my server was too busy internally to respond to anything outside of itself.brain 1

My mind does that sometimes, too. It gets so enmeshed in going over some past interaction or some dreaded future possibility that it cannot respond at all, whether giving or receiving. I suppose that’s another reason to honor Sabbath time: to let God clear out the self-entangled inner circuits that keep us from being present to others and even to God.

The Sabbath is the heart of the entire Jewish Torah. I know it is meant to be a big part of a Christian’s life, too. As a Type A, over-involved personality, I confess it’s the toughest of God’s life-giving laws to observe. Yet we all need to “reboot” our minds and hearts. It’s a good thing God keeps teaching us, giving us opportunities to rest, to learn, and to grow.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Contagious Generosity

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What an act of generosity! Our friends were coming up to this year as their fiftieth anniversary. Having lived in Australia and the United States over the years, they had formed strong friendships with a great number of people. So they decided to spend their special anniversary monturtles on logey, and more, on bringing the two communities together. If their friends could fly to Hawaii, the in-between point, they would host us entirely – all of us – for the five days there: providing lodging and locally-catered food and creating an itinerary for us to explore that part of the Big Island, with multiple opportunities to get to know one another in the process.

Just as they have built connections among people all their lives, now they have brought people together across two continents. No doubt many of these relationships, begun here at their celebration, will flower into lifelong friendships among the rest of us. And both of their adult sons seem to be doing the same thing – connecting people to one another – in different ways, each putting his own spin on the values by which he was raised.

“Generations of Generosity” was the theme of an issue of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s Giving magazine a few years ago. I love that phrase! We can be intentional about teaching acts of graciousness to those around us and in younger generations. But a life of generosity – modeling it in who we are and the decisions we make – is contagious in an exciting, attractive way. We reach out to give because others have given so deeply to us. It’s a joy to receive such generosity, and an invitation to pass it on.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Special Olympics

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B W woman runner, arms out

The televised segments of the World Special Olympics this week have related story after story of inspiration, persistence, and generosity. Some of the generosity was spontaneous, as when people chipped in to buy matching uniforms for one national team. But a lot of generosity was planned, for example by the thousands of volunteers who assisted individuals and teams from all around the world.

Another planned aspect that has changed lives are the hundreds of doctors who donated their time and tools to do head-to-toe health check-ups on the participants. They gave medical tests to 4,500 athletes, gave out 4,200 new pairs of shoes, performed major dental services, and freely gave away 600 pairs of needed glasses. Many of the national athletes had never had medical help before and had never even owned a pair of shoes in which to run.

But they had run anyway, making it to top levels in a wide range of sports despite huge obstacles. One young man who cannot walk crouched on his own two feet, than ran an Olympic foot race by using his two arms and legs, frog-style, to go the whole way and cross the finish line. One top golfer, despite the limited range his torso could twist, used a one-arm golfing style that hit astounding power shots down the fairway. And one bald, beautiful teenage girl paused her cancer chemotherapy treatments to be able to participate – and ran a stunning race to finish with the gold.

What was it all for? Helping these astounding persons realize their self-worth, overcome community stigma, and embrace their common value as gifted human beings. “I – am – an – athlete,” declared a Downs Syndrome medal winner, with tears of joy streaming down his face.

“People helping people, unity creating inclusiveness,” said the announcers, as they summed up the spirit of the world-class events. We could do as well in the church, as we encourage people on their faith journey – wherever they come from, whatever their limitations – to affirm, “I – am – a – child – of – God.”

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub