Taking a Census

Chapter 21 of I Chronicles is not one of the best known stories in the Bible. While some might have peripheral knowledge of it, not many have stopped to really think about what it means today in our modern lives.

I’ve shared with this blog previously about the fact that my husband is hoping for funding to come through for a startup that he’s involved in. Because my husband is a visionary who sees the big picture, and builds virtual cities for data to live in, he doesn’t do so well with feet-on-the-ground details. And so, in the negotiating of salary and such, there were a few gaps.

When the funding was delayed, my husband went back and renegotiated these issues, and the good news is that when/if funding becomes available, we’ll be paid retroactively for two distinct periods — one from when he began working informally several months ago, and one for full-time employment as of what should have been his hard start date of March 1.

What a load off my mind!

Now mind you, there’s no guarantee that this funding will come through. However, the business plan is solid. The guy doing the startup and meeting with the venture capitalists (VCs) is very accomplished and in a position of power and influence within his field. The numbers are fantastic for profit, and the revenue streams are not ad based — or selling advertising — but transaction based; the company would profit a small amount for each transaction. Good stuff.

I am, on the other hand, a very firm pragmatist. Feet-on-the-ground is my spesh-ial-i-TEE, and so I am very aware that many good ideas, many great business schemes, go down in flames if they ever get off the ground in the first place.

However, when Whitney told me that we would receive lump-sum back pay amounts should it happen, my mind went ZIIIIING considering all the possibilities! I was driving; otherwise, I’d probably have pulled out my trusty spreadsheet to run the numbers!

Fortunately, I had only started to mutter to myself, “Okay well at [insert annual salary here], if you divide that by twe…”

And, the words “David,” “census,” and “sin” popped into my head. It wasn’t a coherent thought necessarily; it was just a half-formed memory of the story, and I immediately remembered the mild confusion I’d always felt whenever I had come across the narrative.

Why in the world was it a problem that David ordered a census of all the fighting men?

Because I’m a planner, because I’m the budgeter of the family Walters, counting, assessing, and preparing make complete sense to me! It’s only wise to figure out what you have, what you can expect, and plan accordingly, right?

But, the story continued to niggle, and so I consciously put aside my financial musings.

When I got home, I looked the story up and read the entire chapter of 1 Chronicles 21.

Wow! Have you really read that story?! It’s pretty intense!

It starts out with the context that Lucifer, the roaring lion himself, incited David to take the census! Joab protested because he knew it was wrong, but when bullied into it, fudged the numbers.

At this point David, as was his habit, realized way after the fact that he had committed a sin and begged forgiveness.

Get this. God says (through a “seer”) basically that David has to pick his punishment: three years of famine, three years of persecution for the nation from their enemies, or three days of “the sword of the Lord” — or plague.

Woah.

David chose plague and 70,000 died.

That’s a pretty strong statement of how God feels about this census business.

And so, I’ve been pondering this whole question of what exactly a census is.

David counted his fighting men so that he knew how many men he could count on in a battle.

It’s almost as if David were saying that he needed to prepare because God’s provisions might not cover it all.

God won a battle with 300 men against a whole host. The Bible described it this way: “The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.”

Three hundred against tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands? More than a million?

How many times do we limit God by counting our “fighting men,” our dollars, our bonuses, our expected gains?

For the first time, I completely and totally understand the application of the story to my life. I get it.

You see, we just might get the funding. Or, we may not. If we get the funding, we may just get a nice raise and a lump-sum amount. Or, the business may go crazy and we get a fortune. Or, it may bite the dust and Whitney will end up having to find another job.

I’m still a budgeter. I still need to manage my family’s finances. But, I don’t have to run ahead of God. What I know for sure and certain is this. God’s provision will blow me out of the water. It’ll either be Him taking two mites and stretching it to cover exactly what we need. Or, it may involve financial blessings galore.

I’m not plugging anything into my spreadsheet. I’m not thinking about this eventuality or that. I’m thankful just for today for everything He’s given our family. He’s going to handle the rest. I will simply sit back and watch.

50 Ways to Show Jesus’ Love this Thanksgiving

I have gone through several pretty major transformations in my life:

I was physically limited or handicapped for most of my life. A hip replacement four years ago has been so freeing. I’m able to do things I never thought I’d be able to do — like hiking long distances with no pain and finishing a race.

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Most of my life I hid my unsightly teeth behind closed lips. When my braces came off I couldn’t wait to smile — but it was hard at first because I had never smiled with my mouth open!

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Becoming a mother was a difficult transformation. Two traumatic births and months of postpartum depression later, every rough moment was worth it.

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But by far, the most dramatic transformation I’ve gone though was not a physical change. I was raised in an atheist/agnostic home, and the day I accidentally stepped into a ministry of Walla Walla College, I began the hardest, sometimes very painful, and most beautiful transformation of my life. Little by little Jesus called me out of a world of sin and into a world of love and grace. During this time temptations were stronger than ever, and the devil tried hard to show me all the best of his world. But, one glimpse of glory and I couldn’t take my eyes off.

Today, even though I sometimes still struggle with the temptation of alcoholism, I give that desire to God in prayer, and I let Him be strong when I am weak. Even though I struggle with the temptation to voice negative thoughts, I go to Jesus in prayer and let Him renew my mind with His love. Even though I struggle with the temptation to dwell on the poor and hurtful choices in my past, I thank God for giving me a future with Him.

Oh God, you truly have made me a new creature. You truly have taken the hurt of my past away. You truly have healed me of scars on my heart, so deep I thought they would never stop hurting.

During the season of Thanksgiving I find myself wanting to share my many, many blessings and shout from the rooftops how thankful I am for the changes in my life.

Walking into that ministry wasn’t an accident — it was a calling.

And, today I am called still.

I often get asked how I went from being an atheist to a missionary, and I’m probably a little too eager to share my story. But, the short answer is always the same: From a life of sin to a life of grace, there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do than to share God’s love with the world. I wanted everyone to know that if God’s grace could cover my sins, which were oh-so many, He can cover yours as well.

Now a homeschooling, missionary mother of two, I work hard to instill in my children the goodness and grace of our loving God. One way we do that is by having service day once a week. During the fall season teachers and parents are often trying to find ways to teach our children to be thankful, and today I’d like to share my list of 50 ways to be intentional about showing Jesus’ love to others and meeting practical needs during the Thanksgiving season.

50ways

  1. Smile. Smile at every cashier, every stock boy, every cart retriever, every frazzled parent, every Scrooge. If you do or say nothing else, at least smile.
  2. Thankful game: In the car when you pass a house with a pumpkin on the porch, everyone say one thing they’re thankful for.
  3. Rake leaves for someone who cannot rake.
  4. Stop and listen — to anyone who is talking to you. It’s amazing what you might have missed if you didn’t stop and listen.
  5. Invite someone new in town over for hot soup.
  6. Leave a basket of tea or hot chocolate at someone’s door thanking them for something. Don’t sign your name.
  7. Pay for the person behind you at [your favorite place to get a hot drink].
  8. Take soup to someone who isn’t feeling well.
  9. Thankful game: Find a leaf that is falling, see who can name the most blessings before it hits the ground.
  10. Keep a journal and write down everything you are thankful for. Bonus points to keep a family journal as well.
  11. Tell others what you’re thankful for — and ask them about their blessings.
  12. Send a physical, paper thank-you card to 10 people. Don’t sign your name.
  13. Make a thankful tree/garland/jar.
  14. Thankful game: Go on a walk and for every neat rock you find, name something you’re thankful for.
  15. Invite a single mom over for tea.
  16. Every time something positive happens in your family, stop and talk about it.
  17. Instead of leaving a voice message, sing a song. You’ll feel silly, but it will make the hearer smile all day.
  18. Send someone fall flowers.
  19. When someone does something you appreciate, tell them how much it means to you.
  20. Thankful game: Everyone count as many kinds of pies as they can think of. Then say that many things you’re thankful for.
  21. Leave notes for your family complimenting them for things they might not see as awesome in themselves.
  22. Read books about being thankful and blessings.
  23. Join social media trends and post something you’re thankful for each day in November (or always — this could be good journal material).
  24. If someone asks you to pray for them, stop and pray right then and there with them.
  25. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  26. Shovel show for someone who isn’t able to.
  27. Thankful game: Pick up trash on your road and say something you’re thankful for for each thing you pick up.
  28. Spend quality time, without media, distractions, work, phone calls, etc., with your family.
  29. Host a game night and invite people you want to get to know better.
  30. Read about the plan of Salvation. Thank Jesus.
  31. Buy groceries for someone struggling financially.
  32. Concentrate on what you have — not what you don’t have.
  33. Start using the alarm on your phone as a reminder to pray for someone.
  34. Say “Thank you!” as often as you can. Better yet, say, “Thank you for [fill in the blank with something specific].
  35. Memorize scriptures about thankfulness.
  36. Volunteer at a school in the poor part of town. Get to know the students.
  37. Thankful game: In the car, everyone say their favorite color. Each person say something they’re thankful every time they pass a car that color.
  38. Print out pretty thankful artwork from Pinterest [search “free thanksgiving art”] and hang it.
  39. Spend $5 to get a small gift for someone to let them know you’re thinking about them.
  40. Put a chalkboard or whiteboard in your house and write something new you’re thankful for each day.
  41. Go to a thrift store and buy nice sweaters and coats. Take them to a homeless shelter.
  42. Make artwork for people.
  43. Thankful game: Sit in a circle and in turn each person name one thing they’re thankful for. See how many time you can go around the circle.
  44. “Adopt” a grandparent in your neighborhood or a retirement home who doesn’t get many visits.
  45. Take a meal to a family who is struggling financially.
  46. Offer to use your talents: fix someone’s car, take family photos, install a new garbage disposal, clean their gutters, etc., etc., etc.
  47. If a family you know has had a new baby, go clean their kitchen and bathroom for them.
  48. Thankful game: Buy a pack of thank-you cards and every person write a card (or two) and mail or deliver them.
  49. Leave a thank-you note under someone’s windshield wipers. Don’t sign your name.
  50. Take extra non-food items to share with children on a plane or train, such as crayons and paper, wiki stix, play dough, stickers, etc.