What’s Possessing You?

Posted on July 30, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

earthly possessions

My wife is a big Dave Ramsey fan. She loves when he tells people that in order to pay down their debt they need to sell so many of their possessions that the kids think that even they can be sold for the right price. He definitely sees earthly possessions as simply tools to be used and not possessed. This is a tough, countercultural message for sure in the eyes of the average American. Too often, our self-worth is derived from our wealth and the items we own. The size of our house, the brand of our car, and the quantity of our belongings are all gauges of success in our world. For Ramsey, not only can you not truly own anything if you owe money to others, it belongs to God anyway and is only given to us as stewards.

Could you sell all you have right now? Could you walk away from all that you have amassed and be truly free? When Jesus speaks of the merchant who sells all he has to obtain a pearl of great price, he calls us to see the pearl as the kingdom of heaven. Nothing on earth can rival the value of the kingdom. If that is true, why is it so hard to surrender everything to God to obtain it? It can be fear that keeps us from stepping out in faith. It can be selfishness that prevents us from letting go. Whatever it is, we must face the fact that we are possessed by it. The good news is that God does not expect us to conquer this obstacle on our own. But with God, all things are possible.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

A Different Kind of Destiny

Posted on July 23, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

discerning god's willHow time flies! This coming year I will have one child graduate from college, one from high school, and one starting high school. I am exhausted thinking about it. My prayer for all my children is that they take the Holy Spirit with them in all that they do, and call on God to aid them in discerning their future. That is my prayer, but I know that it will not always be easy for them to follow this path. The key will be for each of them, if they choose, to be what God intended them to be, as opposed to trying to be what they want to be.

It sounds great to say to a child, “You can be anything you want to be.” But at the core of this statement is often the lie that true happiness lies in fulfilling your will for your life. I have seen many people in my life that reached their goals only to find an emptiness and longing for something more. The reality is that our ultimate fulfillment and joy is becoming the person, not that we wanted to be, but the person that God created us to be. This does not mean that we are stuck in some predestined situation. There are many ways we can live out our destiny and use fully use the gifts God gave each of us. But it does mean that we have chosen a path based on where God is leading us and informed by an insight of the distinct gifts with which we have been created. At the end of that path is a life filled with joy, peace, and contentment.

This is what I want for my kids. May they find their success by discerning God’s will and becoming the wonderful people that God intended.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

The God Who Is Not a Program

Posted on July 19, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: The God Who Is Not a ProgramFor Sunday, July 23, 2017
16th Sunday Ordinary Time

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Romans 8:26-27
Matthew 13:24-43 or 13:24-30

I have been working in the Church now as an adult for twenty-five years and I have seen so many things come and go. There were so many programs that promised to completely overhaul your parish and, in turn, change the world. There have been trends brought to us by conferences and workshops, buzzwords that seemed to either bring joy or tribulation to one’s heart, and book after book intending to be that last book you will ever need in ministry or in changing your life.

Today, I am full of hope because of all the talk about the new evangelization and a renewed emphasis on leading people to a real relationship with Jesus Christ. But at the same time, I see many of the same old traps that lead to cults of personality, blind faith in the latest idea or process, and the sin of feeling superior to others. If you are in a particular group that thinks a certain way, you are truly doing God’s will. If you are not, apparently you just don’t seem to get it. (more…)

Discerning the Seeds of Stewardship

Posted on July 16, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Green PlantsOver the years I have wasted a lot: a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of talent. Sometimes I didn’t realize I was wasting these things, but after reflection, I realized I could have done more and accomplished much greater things. Of course, I think that is part of our imperfect humanity.

It truly is easier for us to waste our gifts than grow them into something more.

The parable of the sower speaks about the Word of God that gets planted in our hearts. If the soil of our heart is rich, than the Word will grow and change us. If that soil is rocky or full of weeds, the Word will lie there without any impact, bearing no fruit.

This parable can be applied to living a stewardship way of life as well. As sowers, we have been given the seeds of our time, talent, and treasure. We have a choice of where to plant these gifts. As good everyday stewards, we are called to plant them wisely and prudently. Often times it is not enough to simply give away what we have.

We need to discern the best places to sow these gifts so the maximum harvest can grow. This takes prayer, reflection, and study. Without a solid discernment process, we can find ourselves sowing seeds endlessly without much to show for it. But joyful is the person who has used their gifts wisely, for the bounty of the harvest is great.

No One Before God

Posted on July 2, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

god first

It took five years of marriage before I was ready to have that first baby. Of course, now that I have three children I cannot imagine a life without them. After twenty-five years, I cannot imagine life without my wife as well.

And I know that I am lucky. I know those who have lost children or have been widowed. They couldn’t imagine life without their loved ones either. (more…)

In Awe of Creation

Posted on June 27, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

god's giftWhen I was a teenager, one year after a Homecoming dance I took my date for a walk on the Potomac in downtown Alexandria. The moon was out and I was struck by how the light shimmered on the water. I remember focusing to try to see all the details of the dancing rays on the ripples.

My date didn’t see it and didn’t really get it. She thought it was no big deal. It was a great date and a fun night, but for that one moment we saw the world from two completely different vantage points.

Two of the greatest gifts from God to each of us are life and time. Without taking care, we can easily miss the grandeur and beauty of both. Being mindful as an everyday steward means pausing to see the detail in all that exists around us.

God’s creation is not something created with a broad brush, but instead with the intricacies of a master painter.

God created all things with purpose and a complexity only the Divine could fully comprehend. Every single hair on our head has been counted! But when we take a moment to reflect on the beauty that is created by that complexity, we allow ourselves to revel in God’s generosity.

There is so much to give thanks for in this life. But you and I can’t give thanks to God unless we really stop to take notice. When was the last time you stared in awe at the moon?

Stewardship & the Eucharist

Posted on June 19, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for Feast of Corpus Christi

EucharistWhen I was a child, I can remember stopping by my parish or another local Catholic Church to just spend some time in prayer before the Holy Eucharist. We didn’t have exposition and adoration much in those days, but we were keenly aware of the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle.

I would sometimes stare at the lighted candle near it and know that Jesus was alive.

I had never heard someone speak about a “stewardship way of life” back then. If I am honest, the primary message I heard back in those days was along the lines of the need to be as good as we are able. Sacrifice was only at Lent, disciples were people in the Bible, and generosity mostly had to do with the collection basket and the poor box at the church entrance. I even went to Catholic schools!

Maybe the message of stewardship was there somewhere, packaged differently, and I just missed it.

It wasn’t until I was an adult, and after acquiring two theology degrees, that I understood both with my head and my heart what a stewardship way of life really meant. But I look back at those days and I realize that the groundwork was laid for me to understand these things.

It was those times before the Holy Eucharist that I began to understand true sacrifice. It was at those times that I began to understand how actions and realities that seem so simple to the human eye can be so profound. And it was at those times that I began to see that true love knows no bounds.

What does the Holy Eucharist say to you about stewardship? Maybe today is a great time to reflect on your answer.

Sowing Mustard Seeds – Your Weekly Offertory and Leading People to Christ

Posted on June 14, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Mustard Seeds 1We assume that in order for our parish to build a new church building or even for our community to make the budget, it will require much more than we have to give. What is the true value of our treasure?

Jesus tells us in the parable of the mustard seed, that if we have “faith as small as a mustard seed”[Matthew 17:20], we could move mountains. In stewardship, we oftentimes neglect to see that amazing things can take place due to the generosity of even the smallest gifts.

Let’s Face Facts

True Stewardship extends to all forms of gifts and talents, but how we view and use our money can be a key indicator of how we practice stewardship in all aspects of our life. The typical Catholic household donates 1.1 to 1.2% of their income. 1 In 2013, 24% of all parishes in the US were operating at a loss. This begs the question, how can we effectively engage our faithful in this important discussion?

Most of the parishes LPi works with use Mass attendance and offertory as indicators of their overall health. Unfortunately, both of those occur too late in the process of the parishioner deciding how to practice their faith. If attendance and offertory are declining, the real damage has begun and your parish is behind the trend.

We Are Called to Mission

Mustard Seeds 2

When a parish can demonstrate to its members that it has a defined a clear mission that reflects the Kingdom of God, people don’t need to be repeatedly pressured to give. LPi began offering our Sustainable Offertory Program, a unique approach to increased offertory programs, to affect a sustainable change to parishioner giving habits and create within them new patterns of generosity. The feedback from our partner parishes demonstrates three aspects of successful programs.

Think Positive

When we begin discussing a future campaign, the conversation is always about the positive aspects of the parish and how parishioners can change the lives of the people the parish serves through investment in ministry. A diocesan leader that has worked with us likes to say, “No one wants to give to the Titanic!” With a focus on the positive and the understanding that God is still in control, the message in an LPi Sustainable Offertory Program creates a desire on the part of the parishioner to invest in something that makes a difference.

Articulate Your Long-term Vision

This desire to make a difference leads naturally to a focus on the vision and mission of the parish. Parishioners want to know that their parish community stands for something important, and that parish leadership is leading them on a mission to make a difference. At LPi, we are seeing the parishes growing and engaging their people most effectively are those that have a clear mission articulated and invite people to become a part of something greater than themselves.

The Mission is the Main Thing

Often, as soon as money is mentioned, people turn off their ability to listen. LPi offers several forms of stewardship coaching that influence our approach to working with a parish on a Sustainable Offertory Program. In fact, we have actually advised some parishes that a financial campaign was not in their best interest at the time. In those cases, we begin their journey with visioning exercises, basic stewardship catechesis, or honing another aspect of their mission before embarking on the actual Sustainable Offertory campaign.

From Seeds to Pearls
Mustard Seeds 3

In a Sustainable Offertory Program, you gain the advantage of asking your parishioners to sow mustard seeds. If a parish is at the average weekly giving level of 1.1% of parishioners’ incomes, then with simple mustard seeds we can make a tremendous difference. We begin with small seeds in the hopes that one day each of us can possess nothing and be possessed by nothing other than the love of Jesus Christ.

1 – Catholic Parishes of the 21st Century. Charles E. Zech, et al. Oxford University Press. 2017.

Pentecost and Chuck E. Cheese

Posted on June 6, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Chuck. E Cheese BirthdayThere are some things I miss now that my children are older. Less snuggles, fewer moments of awe and wonder, and fewer crazy questions that make me laugh. However, if I’m honest, there some things I do not miss, especially the birthday parties.

I loved the aspect of celebrating my child’s birth, but most years the party cost too much, involved too much stress, and resulted in a lot of presents that ended up in my garage. Today, nice dinners with family and friends sharing time together have taken the place of the “birthday party” and that is fine with me.

Centuries ago, God moved in such a profound way and sent His Holy Spirit upon us, imparting to the Church gifts that remain with us today. That first Pentecost was a first birthday party of sorts with people gathered to celebrate their common faith in Jesus Christ.

Of course, that party had none of the trappings of a child’s event at Chuck E. Cheese, but instead, presented us all with generous gifts that could be used for the glory of God instead of the stuff children discard after a few weeks.

Every year I think it is important to really celebrate what God has given to us, the Church, on the Feast of Pentecost. The generosity of God knows no limits and the Holy Spirit is alive. It’s just that the gifts from this celebration need to be used or the celebration will be hollow.

The gifts are free to us even though they are priceless. It would be poor stewardship to toss them in the garage with all those toys that time forgot.

You Have Been Commissioned

Posted on May 26, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Feast of the Ascension

Go Therefore and Make Disciples of All Nations

I remember watching part of a college graduation address where the speaker said, “With this degree you are commissioned to go into the world and make a difference.” The imagery conjured up in my mind by the use of the word “commissioned” was pretty powerful.

I thought about the commissioning of military officers and the responsibility they took on for the lives of their subordinates but also the lives of those they protected. To me the word meant something very serious and solemn. It meant huge responsibility and expectation.

In the Bible, Jesus gives what we call the Great Commission:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” (Matt 28:19-20a).

The word commission makes this more than a suggestion or a hope. There is an expectation, a responsibility, and a mandate. Of course, did you wake up this morning thinking about how you would fulfill the Great Commission today?

Faith StorySharing the Faith is not just something we should do; it is something we must do. The key is that you don’t need to speak all the time to share. It will be through your life of stewardship that others will be able to see Jesus.

By giving of yourself, by always responding to the call, and by surrendering all to God, you will lead others to become disciples, to seek out the sacraments, and to observe His teachings. Yes, responding in full to the Great Commission, great things can happen.