You may not know this about me, but I am, to use an unflattering metaphor, a pack rat. It is an inherited family trait that may well go back generations. By that I mean, of course, that I tend to save a lot of stuff, all the while chanting the pack rat motto, “It may come in handy someday.” If you are a fellow sufferer of this affliction or live with one, you know the motto well. You also know that things stored somewhere do come in handy just often enough to reinforce the truth of the motto.
As much of a pack rat as I am, I do not even come close to my father’s mother. Throughout her life, she saved everything! She never threw anything away! She had a couple of old trunks that were full of old papers. Now, to most people this was just a bunch of junk — not worth anything really. Certainly old letters and newspapers and bills and cancelled checks are worthless. They should have been thrown away years before then, but when I was ten or eleven years old, the old trunk that held those things was a treasure chest to me. I loved to sit and go through those old papers and ask my grandmother questions, like “What was this War Rationing Book used for?” or “What kind of car was this registration certificate for? What did it look like?” or “Who is the person in this obituary?” It probably will come as no surprise that I have some of those papers now in my own collection of keepsakes and memorabilia.
Of all the junk in that trunk, though, what I liked to look through most of all was the most worthless thing of all: the old cancelled checks. My grandmother had kept cancelled checks back to the first couple of decades of the last century. Some are a century old now. Now, that would seem worthless to anyone else because we all know the meaning of the little refrain: “There’s nothing left to me / From last month’s salary. / I live in memory / Among my cancelled checks.”
What could be more worthless than cancelled checks? But, to me they were a treasure because they told a story. There in those cancelled checks was the story of my grandparents’ life together: the amount that they spent on groceries, on the house, the land, the car — all the major purchases they made in their lives. It was a record of their hopes and dreams, their values and priorities. In those cancelled checks was the record of what they deemed most important in life. It reads like a book, chronicling what they deemed most important.
I have since thought about my own cancelled checks and the online register of my expenditures. Those records are like a book that tells a version of my life story — likely the only autobiography I will ever write. There is a record of my hopes and dreams. A record of my values and priorities. Nearly all of my purchases and expenditures are recorded in that autobiography which, in the case of the cancelled checks, has my signature on every page.
Consider your cancelled checks and your own ledger of expenditures. Think for a moment. What do they say about you? Your life? Your values? Your priorities? Your dreams? Your hopes? Your faith? Your commitments? If we were to leaf through just a month of our cancelled checks we would find out a lot about ourselves and what is important to us. When I think about the cancelled checks in the average household, I can think of several priorities that show up immediately. We can see pretty quickly what the average person or family believes in.
What kind of story could be written if an author went through your checks? I believe it would be compelling.
I fret every December wondering if we are going to meet our budget and fully fund the ministries and outreach programs of our church. Yet, each January I have been able to smile, shake my head, and chastise myself for not having more faith. Yet, in this new year I am once again asking you for another commitment, more significant than the last. I can do this because I feel strongly God’s call to make this world a better one as we give of ourselves and our resources so that as a faith community we can more effectively love God, serve people and transform lives. I can also do this because I first asked myself and my family to do more — and we did as we made our commitment.
So let’s resolve to write another good story in 2015 as we make our commitments to the ministry and operating budget in the worship services on Sunday.
Grace and Peace,