• The balanced life is elusive. I suppose it is a lifelong effort. When you figure it out let me know.

For over 30 years if you came to our church when it was raining you got wet. For the last several years if you played on our playground you got splinters. But recently we built a canopy that protects you from rain or snow when you enter our building. And we recently added a beautiful new playground.

Meanwhile, we are improving our foyer so it will be more inviting and guest-friendly. Also on the table is a columbarium, providing a more affordable way for our members to be interned.

Each of these projects will, in a variety of ways, enhance our mission of being the presence of Christ to people who are part of our congregation.

Our church has partnered with a church in Elaine, Arkansas. Elaine has a population of 626 and has three federal housing projects. It is a community stranded in a jobless peninsula between the Mississippi and White rivers. Last month, we took over 50 bicycles to the children of Elaine. We sang songs, made crafts, told Bible stories and, most of all, showed these children that they are loveable and special. The joy on their faces when they completed their safety course and took off on their bikes was a sight to behold.

The bicycle project was a lot of work, but it was not overly expensive. As a matter of fact, it was a fraction of the cost of drive-thru canopies, playgrounds and welcome centers. It raises the question about how we apply our resources. As a church we walk that fine line between discerning what is best for “us” and what is best for people in need.

Ultimately, each congregation must clarify their values and their mission. Somewhere between “let’s make everything that happens in our environment as good as it can be” and “let’s use all our resources for those outside our walls who are struggling.” I am certain that every church wrestles with, and prays about, the same issues.

But this is not just a corporate dilemma. It is a personal one as well. How much time, effort and money to I devote to myself and my family? How do I decide how much of my resources are spent on my family and how much of my resources are spent on people in greater need?

There are several factors at work in these decisions. But for the most part, as a father and a Christian, I seek growth in two areas. First, I strive to live simply. With a joyful and vibrant relationship with God, I am more likely to relinquish my need for “stuff.” Meanwhile, I let the compassion God has given me find ways to meet the needs around me. There is a lot of need in the world, so I listen intentionally for those moments when my heart is softened by cries of desperation.

Yes, we need to care for ourselves. But we also need to care for those around us. May God bless your efforts to achieve this balance.