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“GET REAL… with your budget!”

A lot of us are spending more than we make in a month, purchasing items we can’t afford, and will be paying on these items for years to come. We are spending money we haven’t even earned yet, and if we continue in this habit, we will never catch up! So we must start the good habit of setting a budget and sticking to it. We need to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with and also be prepared for financial emergencies that may arise. But the initial step is creating a REAListic budget.

Step 1 – Track your expenses for one month and summarize them in the following categories: Housing, Transportation, Food, Healthcare, Loan repayment, and Other. This is the starting outline for your budget. Compare your total spending to how much you earned during the month. Begin trimming unnecessary expenses where you can.

Step 2 – Determine the percentage of spending for each category (divide the amount in each category by the total spending for the month). Compare your budgetary percentages to those in the pie chart across. Use the pie chart as a guideline as your redistribute and reduce your total budget.

Step 3 – In a realistic manner, trim those final expenses so that your spending is below your monthly income (leave room for saving). Remember that your budget is not etched in stone. Some months you may have to spend a little more in one category, but try to offset that by spending less somewhere else.

Remember to review your budget on a regular basis. The more you do so, the better chance you will have at sticking to it. Then your budget will not be a sad attempt to control your spending but will be something REAL that you live in to.

twimsArticle by Tamara Wims, chairperson for the Conference Young Adult Council, member of Mid-Town Parish UMC of Philadelphia, and accountant for the Eastern PA UMC Conference Office. This article was first published in the Summer 2014 issue of THE PRESS, a Young Adult Newsletter.

“Provide the Way”

Matthew Davis and Andrew Smith

Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (ESV)

I have recently transitioned from active young adult ministry to youth ministry. Definitely a change!  In a culture that is losing its foundation and becoming more and more actively secular, my heart is crippled with the stories from both my suburban and urban youth.  There is a gap and lack of connection in many churches on the premise of creating a community that provides a way for youth to find Christ, to provide a way for youth to connect to Christ, and to provide a way for youth to remain in Christ (Fusion Youth Ministry Goals).  What then must we do?

I was speaking to one of my youth and they reported to me that here in Lebanon, PA we have multiple pregnancies in the 8th grade and drug dealing in the midst of dances and other school events.  This is where we developed our first goal, “to provide a way for youth to meet Christ”.  When youth from the church, community, streets, friends of friends, etc. step into our doors on a Fusion Youth Night, we want them to experience the joy and hope we have. We want youth that come from broken families, are stuck in addictions, or are in the most difficult circumstances to find comfort in all of the mess.  We provide a fun, exciting, relationally, and Christ-centered night so someone might come to believe and know Christ as their Savior.

Since we all know that when we make that commitment to Christ, our baggage always finds a way to remind us where we’ve been and what we’ve done.  This is where we developed our second goal, “to provide a way for youth to connect to Christ”. The moment a youth starts a relationship with Christ, the enemy desires to entice them and immediately destroy it.   In the youth ministry umbrella we provide Bible study groups, Monday morning devotionals, Fusion Youth Night lessons, and it continues to grow.

These two goals are what developed our last goal, “to provide a way for youth to remain in Christ”.  I made a goal for myself that I will never let our youth give up on God and their faith walk without a fight with the enemy.  The youth of this generation and the generations to come, need to have grounded believers ready to walk them through trials and temptations.  We need to provide these ways so they can walk in the Way.

by Aaron Smith (photo: right), for the young adult newsletter, The PRESS

“Courageing”

Jordan Harris speaking

Nelson Mandela once said that “courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who confronts that fear.” To speak out against the oppressive Apartheid system and stand up for what he believed in, he spent 27 years in prison, then participated in creating a better nation for himself and his people after all he had been through. I think it is safe to say that Nelson Mandela was a man of great courage. Yet, I think it is easy to romanticize the story and forget that Mandela lived his life day by day and decision by decision, just like we do. Yes, those big things like the non-violent protests and anti Apartheid campaigns take courage, but it also takes courage to simply wake up and be ushered to breakfast… on the 856th day of a life imprisonment sentence.

Jordan Harris in woodsCourage is connected with taking risks. Jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorbike, going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, or crossing the ocean in a rowboat- these are called courageous acts because people risk their lives by doing these things.  But none of these daredevil acts capture what courage actually is. Because courage can also be picking up the phone and calling someone to share some bad news, allowing yourself to be seen eating alone in a public place, or getting out of bed and going to a job you are not happy with  knowing it is only Tuesday morning. Don’t be mislead, these things take courage to do, as well.

In his writings, author Henri Nouwen says that the word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means “heart”. So, a courageous act is an act coming from the heart.  A courageous word is a word arising from the heart.  The heart, however, is not just the place where our emotions are located.  The heart is the center of our being, the center of all thoughts, feelings, passions, and decisions. And the heart is the place within us where God dwells. Courage is both an universal trait of all humanity, as well, as something that is unique to each and every one of us.  You have to listen to your heart- listen to that place within you and above you where God dwells.

Courage is speaking and acting from that place within you where God dwells, not from that place of self rejection, or guilt, or fear, or anger, or jealousy. Speak and act from the place within you that knows what is the right thing to do, that accepts and loves you for who you truly are, that place where grace and hope live.

Courage is connected with taking risks, but daredevil acts do not capture what courage actually is. Courage is speaking and acting from the heart- the center of our being. Bene Brown in her book “Daring Greatly” says courage is more than a virtue, it’s a habit, just like we learn to swim by swimming, we learn to courage by couraging.

I truly believe that Nelson Mandela knew true courage. Both in the public stands against the oppressive forces of the world and in the daily living that presented him with countless opportunities to speak and act from the heart. So we too, can practice living courageous lives. Not lives filled with risk seeking or danger, but lives lived from the heart, listening to the still small voice that is ever present and calling us to courage.

By Jordan Harris, who is attending Boston School of Theology starting in the fall and is a member of the Young Adult Council. Devotional published in the summer issue of The Press, our young adult newsletter.

“More Grace”

“But He gives more grace…”
– James 4:6

My most admired, effective, and Christ-centered professor Dr. Boucher stated these words in one of the first lectures, “Every morning I pray to God for more grace, more grace, more grace.” At that moment, my inner being felt an impact almost as if it grabbed those words so I would never forget them. Fast forward about five months and I am in my basement, kneeling at the fire stove, the lights off and weeping in prayer to God. The next day comes by and I am in chapel at college partnered with seven other students and at the end of our discussion we prayed for each other. One of them asked if there were any other prayer requests and I quickly raised my hand. I will never forget that moment.

There is a time in our lives where we all come to our knees seeking a savior of some kind.  How many times have you been to that point where your satisfaction is temporarily filled with snide remarks to your accuser, evil comments to a friend, a material item that destroys your body, or a gift and treasure that you only have one time to give away? My fulfillment was chosen to be Christ and the grace given through the cross.

I have tried to fill that empty space so many times with so many things, all but one have failed. There is a great pain when you take in something that satisfies you for a while but then turns to destroy you in the long run. These cycles will replay and replay until you forget who you are. I thank God that as soon as I turn to Christ the enemy’s power ceases and I am overcome by the presence of God and filled with the Spirit and ever since that moment, I’ve been living in freedom.

That day when I knelt, I was running on my own fuel for quite a while and forgot how to pray for more grace. 2 Corinthians 12:9 writes, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” The strength you are looking for that is sustaining, everlasting, and fulfilling is found in your weakness and humble reverent prayer for more grace through Christ Jesus. His grace is sufficient!

You need it. You cannot live without it.

By Aaron Smith, Youth Pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd in Lebanon, PA and member of the Young Adult Council. Devotional published in the summer issue of The Press, our young adult newsletter.

 

“Diary of a Camel Rider”

Photo of saddled camels

The camel: one of the most revered animals in Arabian culture.  And this is the animal I found myself unsteadily sitting on a month ago in the deserts of Jordan, the location of my college study abroad program (specifically Amman, Jordan).

I remember feeling so uncoordinated trying to get one leg propped over one side of the huge animal and then after I succeeded in doing so, letting out a tiny scream as I held onto the hairs of the camel as he (or she?) stood up.  A camel, at its full height, is a majestic creature indeed, and I felt powerful sitting on top of such an animal.

Now what exactly am I doing you may ask?  So my study abroad program organized an overnight trip for my fellow participants and I to trek through a desert called Wadi Rum.  This is the same desert that T.E. Lawrence crossed and the same desert where the film Lawrence of Arabia was shot.  In other words: one magnificent desert.

Prerna Balasundaram on Camel

Prerna Balasundaram

So back to our trek: at one particular point, we turned a corner into an expanse of desert between the two canyons walls.  The most beautiful part, riding through this section of desert, was looking up and seeing how the setting sun kissed the top of the canyon walls.  I remember looking up at the soft sunlight touching the canyon walls, looking straight ahead to the majestic silhouette of the mountains in the distance, and finally looking down at the sandy desert floor that stretched on for miles and thinking, “WOW, God created this all.”

One of the most exhilarating moments of that journey across the desert was the realization that not only is God so Great that He created the vast desert that stretches further than my eyes can see; but also, God is so Loving that He sent His Son down to Earth in the form of a simple human.

I think of the verse from Philippians: “[Jesus Christ] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2: 7-8).

Personally, I think that contrast is astounding.  God, the Maker of the colossal desert I trekked through, is the same God that came down in mere human form to not just be with me, but to forgive all my sins and give me eternal life with Him.  Hallelujah!  What a beautiful message!

So if you ever get the chance to ride a camel across the desert, four wheel across the plains, hike through a forest, climb a mountain, or simply walk in a park, think about the power of the contrast between one God who is not just Creator but also Friend.

Written by Prerna Balasundaram, a member of the Young Adult Council. Article can be found in the June 2014 issue of The Press, a young adult newsletter.