I'm working on figuring out a private budget based on a 10% tithe. I've been so frustrated and bewildered by how on earth I can possibly save enough money for a tithe when, based on the arrangement we have for giving to charity, only a quarter of what I save will actually go to the Church (the rest is for savings and my husbands charities.) When I figured it out, (and it's very possible my math is wrong here) I'd have to save more than I spend. I honestly can't do it; it's not a matter of better budgeting. It's just impossible.
But I think perhaps I've been going about it backwards. I don't need to actually put that amount of money into the Parish envelope each month. I don't even have to actually save that amount. What I need to do is develop a lifestyle with the tithe at the base so that we live at a Godly means.
Instead of thinking, "I just can't do it," I must think, "What can I do?" If lowering my food budget by $100 a month gets me closer to that tithe, then that's something I can do. If buying a duvet cover instead of a new comforter for the guest room gets me closer to a thithe, then that's something I can do, too. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by my limitations, I need to concentrate instead on the small things I can do on my journey to full stewardship.
That mantra has hit home in a big way in regards to a family situation I'm encountering. Right now I am boiling over with indignation and my gut instinct is to cut off all communication with this one family member. Permanently. When I think about the Christian commandment to show love and compassion, I think, "I just CAN'T do it!" I absolutely cannot love this person now. Can. Not. Do. It.
So, what can I do?
1. I can pray for them.
I don't want to. This person has caused extreme suffering to those I love, entirely through their own weakness, selfishness, and poor choices. I'd rather pray for the soul of Natalia Estemirova and the situation in Chechnya. There are people dying from hunger who better deserve my prayers. My friend with four children and one on the way is moving this week and needs my prayers, as does another friend who's been trying to conceive for years, and another friend whose husband may quit his job. I'd like to pray for my online friends, whose situations are no less dear to me despite our never having met in person.
Unfortunately, I'm not a Carmelite. So I can't pray for everything I want to and also be present with my family. Wouldn't my prayers be better spent on someone who deserves it?
Short answer: no. Though that's how I feel, I know it's not the way God works. And it's a darn good thing He's rather more merciful than I, or we'd all be in a boat-load of trouble.
2. I can be kind to them.
There's no need to write angry emails. There's no need to trash them verbally in front of my kids or the rest of the family. I don't think I'll be able to have a conversation over the phone or anything, but if the situation comes up I can simply say, "Now is not a good time. I'll have to get back to you."
That's enough to start on, I think. Anything else seems beyond me right now. I can pray for guidance, wisdom and the intervention of the Holy Spirit for myself, as I've been doing. And in the meantime I can concentrate on eating down my pantry, because with this new budget it looks like my grocery shopping is pretty much done for the month except for milk, bananas and grapes. It's not at all a problem, though. Thanks to Costco I could probably feed six people on corn chips alone!