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RICHES TO RAGS TO RICHESThe Power of Tithing
By HEIDI GUTTMAN
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Heidi Guttman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy financial troubles started many years ago quite honestly because I wasn't tithing. I could try making up excuses, but it is what it is. I was not tithing. At that time I was a believer but didn't know anything about the tithe because I hadn't been taught about the tithe. The church I was attending at that time, did not teach about the tithe in depth. Although my money wasn't going into God's house, (I didn't know I was robbing God by not tithing) my money was going into many other people's houses because I would spend my money on other people. At that time in my life I was living it up. I had the ability to buy anything my little heart desired because money was never an issue and I had a lot of it! I will be going into great detail about my spending habits and by no means am I boasting. At this point in my life I am not proud of my actions that took place back then. I was spending and spending, for me, for them, for us and I was not giving God one red penny as far as the tithe was concerned. Nada, nothing, zip. Thus the cause of my financial demise.
I had everything a woman could want materialistically. I had a big beautiful townhouse, awesome cars, expensive artwork, many gorgeous furs, a lot of beautiful diamonds and jewelry galore, an awesome Harley, a big beautiful sports yacht and many other extravagant materialistic possessions. Let me emphasize here the word possessions. That's something I want you to remember. The word possessions.
I would go on shopping sprees all the time. I didn't just go shopping because I needed to. I went shopping because I could. I wasn't even concerned with what was on sale. Who needed a sale? who needed a budget? I didn't need to save anything! Everything was at my fingertips. My shopping sprees were a habit. Shop 'til ya drop because the money wasn't running out anytime soon. Or so I thought. Although I was spending my money, my money had control of me. And here we see the possess-ions. Money dictated my life in every way. And definitely not the way God intended, for us to dictate money. God first, then shall all these things be added unto you. In Matthew 6:33 the NIV version says, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
The problem I was encountering was I was trying to fill a void in my life. Although I am not sure I knew it at the time, my Spirit did. This void's name was loneliness. I squelched my loneliness by shopping. It worked for a very short time. A sort of anesthetic. The next time I felt lonely, here came my fix. Some shopping mall or store yelling for me to come and shop, shop, shop. Come and find relief. Get your quick fix here. However, the relief was not to come from possess-ions, but it was to come from my Creator, God Almighty, the one who gave it all up for me, Jesus Christ.
When I was going through this my three kids were all small. what a perfect reason to go shopping! "It's for the children!" Oh brother. But unfortunately when my flesh screamed and my fingers found my wallet, off I went. I would go into the high end stores children's department. I would spend $800 in the girl's department on my two daughters. And of course that wouldn't be enough because now my son needed new stuff too. I wouldn't have wanted him to have felt unloved. So naturally, the only fair thing to do was to go to the boy's department and spend $500 in just a few short minutes. My kids were only allowed to wear designer clothes, such as Tommy Hilfiger, The Gap, and Gymboree, just to name a few, but you get the picture. Only name brands graced the closets of my children. Nothing was too expensive for them, because money was in abundance!
However, I was placing myself as God in their life. I was meeting their every need. They didn't need God. Mom provided! If I had continued on that path, my children would not be trusting God for anything today. Not only did I rob God of my tithe, but I would have also robbed Him of the devotion, trust, admiration and love from my children that God so deserves and most of all the joy God gets from providing for my children. I would have once again robbed God not only in one area of my life, but all areas of my children's lives as well.
One of my most very embarrassing moments, came during one of the spending frenzies. My husband and I had a high chair made out of white leather. Can you even imagine leather for a baby? Talk about wasteful and extravagant! And if that wasn't enough, almost on a regular basis I would take my kids into the toy store FAO Schwartz and buy them whatever they wanted. In Romans 12:1-2 the bible says, "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." I was my kids dream come true! I was my children's very own fairy godmother! Sadly to say, God wasn't anywhere to be found in my generosity.
I think back and am so ashamed of the fool-heartedly waste I succumbed to. Not only did I trudge willingly through the world's way, I dragged my children with me. I remember buying my oldest girl a huge bear for hundreds of dollars. It was never a problem. I used to take them to the American Girl Doll Place on Michigan Avenue like clockwork and buy them the latest doll, doll clothes and accessories. I even took the dolls to their hair stylist to get the latest hairdo. We would have tea in the tearoom every time we went! And for you moms who know of this store and the price tags that go along with this, you can see the out of control behavior I was exhibiting. Over the top doesn't even start to describe my behavior.
But the kids weren't the only ones to get spoiled. My husband and I would go to many art shows and buy whatever we liked without ever thinking about the cost. A painting for $1000? No problem. Buy it! A beautiful, acrylic, geometric sculpture for $8000? Mine! Buy it! Nothing was out of my reach. We would go out to eat at expensive restaurants with our kids all the time. We would live on our boat every weekend. Our home away from home. And here is the saddest part. We even skipped church on Sunday's because we were on our boat. Although I loved God, stuff was my life. I think of the amount of money we spent just on gas and I so wish I would have given that to God! we would spend around $800.00 just on gas for the boat for the weekend! This was not including dining out or shore excursions. Life was good. But, I keep asking myself, where was God in this picture? He wasn't.
Chapter TwoWhat you need to understand is that I loved God. I loved the lord so much. I remember as a child going to my maternal, German grandmother's house in Hannover, Germany on special occasions such as the holidays to visit her. She was such a caring and loving person filled with so much grace and elegance. Oh how I loved her and how I looked up to her. She loved God and Jesus with all of her heart, soul and mind. She led me to the lord when I was young, praise God! She always talked to me about God and the Bible. I remember asking her questions about God while I was visiting her. She would always say in the German language "we have a great and glorious God" (my mom and her brother said that a lot). When she would tuck me in at night at her apartment, she would tell me to repeat after her when she prayed and I did. She taught me how to pray in German. I continued to pray in the German language for many years. Praying in the German language always made me feel close to God (since that was the first language I ever communicated to God in). When I started praying in the English language it was kind of strange for me at first because I wasn't used to praying in English. Praying in German came so natural and easy to me. I could feel God's presence while I prayed.
My grandmother would always talk about my grandfather, who passed away before I was born, with so much love. I thank God for placing my grandmother into my life when He did. She was such a blessing! My granddad died in the war. During WWII my grandfather was in the city of Bordeaux which is in France. He spoke six languages and because he was multi-lingual he was forced to be an interpreter at the courts which were dealing with war crimes. This bothered him a great deal, since he was a Christian. Grandfather was later sent home to Hannover, Germany because the Nazis were letting some of the older soldiers, go home. He was then teaching at the middle school in Hannover. He was supposed to be the principal there, but because of his faith, as a Christian, he did not get the job. He then became an air raid warden in his neighborhood. His job was to walk down the streets and check on his neighbors to make sure that they were safe. At night, during the bombings, he would walk down the streets and make sure all of the lights were turned off, as to not attract any of the enemy airplanes that were flying around waiting to attack.
God is with us in good and bad times. This was true for my grandfather as well. And we also need to remember that bad things happen to good people. This too applied to my grandfather. The evening of October 8th 1943, 23 of my grandfather's neighbors were hiding in his shelter while the enemy was attacking by air. The shelter got hit by a bomb, damaging the door of the shelter. The people wanted out of the shelter but they couldn't escape because the wooden door was damaged and jammed. My grandfather was in the street when news reached him of what had happened to the shelter at his house. He went back to his house with a hand saw and started to saw the door in order to rescue all of the people. While he was sawing the door, another bomb came, hit the shelter and all of the 23 people died including my grandfather.
After this atrocity happened, the remaining German people in my grandfather's city did not do anything to try to find the bodies, since they were buried under rubble. My Grandmother's brother was a mayor in one of the neighboring towns and he sent in a special crew to my grandparent's house to try to find my grandfather's body. After three weeks of digging, they finally found his body. When they dug my grandfather out, he was still holding the square saw in both his hands. On September 29th 1943, my mom, her brother, two sisters and my grandmother were evacuated from their home. Nine days later the Americans bombed the town again, including my grandfather's house. Had they stayed around they would have been killed. God is so good. He was protecting the remaining family members. My family was evacuated to a small town where they stayed with another relative, they were allowed to stay in a very small room. You have to know that my mother's family was very wealthy before the war. They lived in a big house. And even though they had to share a small room, during this terrible time, they felt so blessed and thankful to God that their lives had been spared!
In 1957, before she met my dad, my mother went to Madrid, Spain to study linguistics. She was 23 years old. (Today she speaks five languages fluently. I have to brag a little! She takes after her dad.) My dad was in the American Air Force at the time, stationed at Torreon Air Force Base. My dad met my mom and they fell in love. He asked my mom to marry him and she said yes. As every young girl desires, she wanted her mother's blessing. However, when she told her mother, my grandmother became very upset and told my mom she would never bless the marriage of her daughter to an American because the American's killed her dad. But my mom was very persistent and would not give up, seeking the blessing from her mother. My mom told my grandmother that my dad was a good man, a man to be admired and that he would take good care of her. She told her mother it was not my dad's fault her husband had been killed by an American. What was the sense of my dad having to pay for the bombing that killed my grandfather? So as you may have already guessed my grandmother finally gave my mother her blessing to go ahead and marry my dad. Later, I was born in Madrid on the Torreon Air Force Base.
However, even with all of that history poured into me, and the love my grandmother showed me, as well as the stories she shared of how in love her and my grandfather were, there was nothing portraying God in my life outside of church. I didn't know the God my grandmother knew. I went to church as much as I could, when I could. When it was convenient. In the summer I did not attend on Sunday's because spending time on our boat was our family time. I remember hearing our wonderful senior pastor, Pastor Robb preach one time after boating season was over, on the topic of, When things are good and you are in abundance don't forget the ONE who provided for you. That made me think of what I was doing way back then. I had forgotten the giver of all good things. In Ephesians 5:20 the NIV says, "... always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, one who provided me the good things.
I don't think I realized what I was doing at the time. That is one of the most detrimental effects of stuff. It gets to be so big in your life you start to think that's just how it is. Now granted I was on the rich side of life, but this also occurs with those who don't have so much stuff. Their stuff is not materialistic in manner, but bad thoughts, bad situations, bad relationships and whatever else life at that level throws at you. But, the harm is no different. In either scenario, God is nowhere to be found because the stuff is too much. When my kids were very young I bought them a book with the title about, Too Much Stuff. I can't remember the exact title of the book which I used to read to all three of them all the time, but I clearly remember the message. The book was about how having too much "materialistic stuff" didn't necessarily mean it would make a person happy. It talked about how having God in your life would make a person happy instead of all the stuff and how we are not going to take any of that stuff with us to heaven. All three of my kids understood that, but yet I was not living that simple truth out in my life that "The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it." (Proverbs 10:22 NLT)
You might be thinking this was the beginning of my turnaround. Nope. I was still spending the money on "stuff". So although I was trying to teach my children the right way, I was not living the right way before them. It was not only evident to me, but it was very evident to my children because no matter what they asked for I would buy it for them. Honestly I cannot ever remember saying no to them, for anything. And now today it is the opposite! I say no a lot. If I don't think they need it or if I think it is a waste of money I say "no"! Or I tell them to buy it themselves since both of my girls work. And although my story is sad, I am so happy I have lived through this whole experience because it has strengthened me in the lord. I now realize stuff does not make me happy. I also know I will not be taking any of it with me to heaven, so, I can take it or leave it. I choose to leave it.
Excerpted from RICHES TO RAGS TO RICHES by HEIDI GUTTMAN Copyright © 2012 by Heidi Guttman. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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