Stewardship Resource

Living on Purpose -- A Lent Meditation "Our Walk With God"

Happening  Happening
  • Author: Kristine J. Houtman is a member of St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church, Plymouth, MN who agreed to publically share she and her husband's faith statement.
  • Updated: 05/24/2006
  • Copyright: Kristine Houtman, a member of St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church, 17205 County Road 6, Plymouth, MN  55447 - 763-475-7128.

Different members of the congregation were invited to speak about their whole life mission statement during the mid-week Lent services.  This is one example. 

In Kristine Houtman's Lent Meditation she reveals how she and her husband participated in a walk with God in the construction of their faith statement

Their Faith Mission Statement is:

To seek God and serve others.
To live and lovely generously.
To celebrate the beauty of God's creation.
Waiting. Hoping. Choosing Joy.

Her meditation is a testimony to their experience and an interpretation of their mission statement.



Living on Purpose - A Lent Meditation
"Our Walk With God"

One of the reasons I like the Lenten services is that they feel contemplative and a little more intimate.  I'm counting on a little bit of that "intimacy." I hope you will be open to me sharing a little bit about my life, my family and my faith journey with the hope that it will be helpful to you in your life.

I'd like to share a little bit about my walk with God through the construction of our faith statement.  We started working on it after reading the book Living on Purpose through our Faithboosters Small Group.  Mike and Donna Sankey were wonderful to work with as we pulled key bible verses for those of us in the group and started "noodling" how this might go together.  My husband, Jim, and I worked on ours together.

I took some time going back to the Living on Purpose book working through what the authors titled "off ramps" times for jotting down some notes and allowing time for introspection.  Through the off ramps I got a sense of which areas of our life were "on track" and which areas we wanted to build into our faith statement that we desire to be different.  In following the guidelines for the book, we were also instructed to see which bible verses were particularly key to us and see if that didn't help us navigate this task.

Then we started chunking down some ideas, without trying to make it sound nice or fit perfectly.  We figured that would come a little later.  And it did.  It started out way too long. And yet there were things still missing about who we were.  How would we ever narrow this down?

Amazingly, God's hand is on such an endeavor, I believe.  And so with the guidance of the Holy Spirit; our faith statement was born last fall.

To seek God and serve others.
To live and lovely generously.
To celebrate the beauty of God's creation.
Waiting. Hoping. Choosing Joy.

The first line is: To seek God and serve others. 

"Seeking God" is from Matt 6:33 -- Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God.  It is where we start.  Everything else about who we are comes after that.  God wants to be first in our lives; and we want him to be even if we sometimes fail keeping him there.  So chronologically it is the right thing for the beginning of our faith statement.

But how many people have you met that claim to have a faith in God, yet are so self centered or egocentric that you wonder if their faith is real?  It is important that immediately after seeking God we put serving others.  Because we need to be open to doing things for other people that help meet their needs or their walk in life.  The great commandment was to love our Lord God with all our hearts; and love our neighbors as ourselves.  So the two thoughts are right to be together --  like peas and carrots, as Forrest Gump would say.  Over the years, the "serving others" that Jim and I have done has taken a variety of forms. None of them terribly elaborate.  In fact, usually quite simple things that anyone could do. 

I'd like to mention just three service areas that have helped us grow in our understanding of the world around us. 

The first is rather strangely, cleaning refrigerators.  Yup, you heard right.   But how can cleaning refrigerators be service to others you wonder?  How about at work?  My office has 8 refrigerators and no one wants to clean them.  And yet it is a job that must be done.  Organizing a group volunteers to take turns on the fridges allows us to share "Christian Fellowship" in emails at work.  And I can't tell you how many times an email has popped back to me asking for prayer for a family member that is ill -- "glad to have someone at work that they can turn to that isn't afraid to 'be a Christian' in the workplace."

The second came after I saw an announcement in our church bulletin when we lived in Illinois.  It was for a volunteer shift from 3am to 7am Friday nights at the homeless shelter at the church.  I chuckled, thinking who in their right mind would say "yes" to this request for help? And as as that thought crossed my mind, I knew that God was calling me to take that shift.  I did and found it particularly rewarding.  Sometimes, the things that we would never choose ourselves are the things that God asks us to undertake.

The third came last year when the 16 year old son of a co-worker of mine experienced spinal trauma from diving into the shallow end of a pool.  Quite a lot of us gathered at work and prayed together.  A few weeks later someone suggested that we "do" something to help - host a fund-raising event.  Because I am a professional event planner; they asked me to sit on the committee.  I could have said no.  I had three events of my own at work in the 10 weeks between the first committee meeting and the day we picked for the event.  But I didn't.  It was a valiant effort from many people; me the least; and yet together we raised over $130,000.  It reminded me that sometimes big things can happen when we let God use us for His purpose.

To live and love generously is the second line of our faith statement.

It is fun being generous!  Do you think that's true?  One can never out-give God.  Jim and I were lucky early in our marriage.  We lived in the Chicago area and had a church that was very serious about teaching stewardship.  They had to be - it was a mission church.  We'd get out of the gymnasium and have a building if we didn't all learn how to give proportionately.  One fall during the typical Stewardship Drive an older mentoring couple named Marv & Margaret Lennarson in our congregation held a stewardship class.  And one of the things they showed us was proportional giving.  They showed a chart that indicated X number of families giving so much a week.  I was shocked to see that there were families that were giving $200 a week or $300 a week.  I had never been exposed to that kind of giving.  We were young with our first baby and we were giving (I don't know exactly) say- $25 a week.  It seemed like a good number.  We didn't know what to give.  I wasn't working at the time, and Jim was just starting out in his career.  But we sat down and looked at his income and decided to give 10%.  Even 20+ years ago - that made for a huge increase.  We actually took the money out of his two paychecks each month in cash and put it in an offering envelope twice a month.  It was a methodology that allowed us to stick with our early commitment, until it became so routine and so built into our lives, that we didn't have to manage it in cash in anymore.  I remember someone in that stewardship class had said:  "Be a cheerful giver.  And if you're not cheerful perhaps you're not giving enough."  And we all laughed at that.  But it ended up being rather true.  The more we gave the more cheerful we got in the giving.  And no matter how much we've "estimated" to give at the beginning of the year; in hindsight we can give even more. God seems to just bless us with more! And so living and loving generously comes out of a desire to be givers as God has asked us to give in first fruits ... so that giving is never a burden but a joy. 

Have you known people that are stingy with their love?  Hold back on hugs, kind words or rarely say I love you?  I grew up in a family like that.  But I married into a family that was very loving.  It took me a little while to "warm up" to all that, but I soon realized the positives from being in a family that loves generously.  And so, over the 25 years that we've been married and raising our 3 children through families and friendships  -- we have learned to love generously.  It is a beautiful thing.  This section was revealed in the "off ramps" of the Living on Purpose book.  But it is also embodied in a key bible verse  from John 10:10, "I have come that you may have life and have it to the full!"  I believe God promised us, in Him, a life of rich abundance. 

To Celebrate the Beauty of God's Creation 

Welove to sit outdoors and enjoy the lake and the sunsets.  We've also enjoyed traveling and seeing wonders of the world; whether it is natural beauties like Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon or interesting man-made wonders like the Pyramids at Giza or beautiful Cathedrals in Rome or London.  These kinds of trips are quality time.  We wanted to make sure that we built this into our mission statement, because it is so important to us. 

Back in 1991 Jim and I both attended a Cursillo weekend.  Cursillo, if you're not familiar with it, is a spiritual retreat weekend.  Men usually attend on one weekend and women on another.  It may seem "old fashioned" in that way but in the long run I think it makes for a better growth experience. Well that Cursillo weekend did make a big difference for the both Jim and me in marking the beginning of a very personal relationship with the Lord. 

One of the snippets that I got at Cursillo was about "not forgetting to praise God." Sometimes in our prayers we get so caught up in our needs, or even selflessly praying for others and their needs (not that there's anything wrong with that!) that we forget to give God the glory for who He is.  One of the suggestions was to take a few minutes in the evening ... just step out onto your deck and look up at the stars.  Ponder for a moment how majestic and awesome the Creator of the Universe is.  Pray that prayer.  He is an awesome God and I think, appreciates it when we revere him and acknowledge him.  It is what we do in worship on Sundays or here on Wednesday nights -- but it can also be done within little moments in our day.  So I try to stay keenly aware  - morning, noon or night - to watch for a beautiful pink morning sunrise on my drive to work, or catching shimmering golden sunrays on the lake - or a wonderful fresh white snow that gives the world a bluish hue leaving everything in such a state of beauty.  Just stop and give God glory. 

Waiting.  Hoping.

This comes from my favorite verse from Isaiah 40:31, which was the theme verse of the Cursillo weekend I mentioned earlier.  Some versions or translations of the bible say, "They that wait upon the Lord ..." and others say "They that hope upon the Lord ..." I like them both.  Waiting is something we have to do in life.  Don't we quite often find ourselves waiting?  Clinging to hope?  For the God that we follow has promised us that his kingdom is a paradise.  I like waiting and hoping.  Sometimes beautiful things happen while you're waiting.  And you would have never experienced it without being forced into it.  We know we have hope.  For faith is being sure of what we hope for -- and certain of what we do not see. Which comes from another favorite bible verse:  Hebrews 11:1.  I don't mean to be glib.  I realize that many people in this room have open wounds -- some keeping vigil of a family member on their death bed; or waiting to hear about a biopsy to see if the tumor is benign or malignant; or a marriage that struggles.  I simply acknowledge that since we all have to wait, regardless of what it is that we wait for, that we wait in hope.  For our Lord Jesus called us to be hopeful because we can't see the other side and He can.  He asks us to wait & hope.

Choosing Joy

The last part of our faith statement is also very telling about us.  Because I want to choose joy even though I don't always.  I want to be an inwardly joyful person to all people at all times.  It must just be some grumpy German genetics that just gets in the way! Or is it just the sinful nature of self? Either way, I can not do it all the time.  Thank God I live in grace.  This isn't one of the areas in life about which I feel really good, but it is an area I really want God to touch us to be better.  Therefore, one of my goals is to try to show "joy" in my life.  Because as Psalm 30 indicates:  "You turned my mourning into dancing, and sorrow into joy."  Joyful people are wonderful to be around.  And what better way to witness the Holy Spirit in our hearts than an outward expression of joy. 

To seek God and serve others.
To live and lovely generously.
To celebrate the beauty of God's creation.
Waiting. Hoping. Choosing Joy.

Amen.


The congregation has made available an extensive number of resources.      You can access these resources by clicking on the following:
Living On Purpose - Index

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