Saturday, February 27, 2010

Giving up Money for Lent

"During Lent, we fast from things sinful things that control us, freeing us from that sin so we can honor God. But we also fast from things that aren't sinful, things that may even be inherently good, but can in their own way also control us. We fast from these good things to reveal what controls our lives and turn the control back over to God."

I'm paraphrasing, but those words were the general idea of what Pastor Rick Edwards of Christ Community Church of the Nazarene in Olathe (TFC's Sponsoring Church) shared during last week's Ash Wednesday service. I hadn't given any thought to fasting something during Lent but Rick's words hadn't even fully traveled from my ears to my conscious mind before I knew what I needed to give up during Lent - money.

Well, not money entirely but the act of counting money. And not counting money the way Ebenezer Scrooge was counting money while dumping his childhood sweetheart, Alice but counting the money the way my financial planner and I do during our annual meeting. A meeting that incidentally, had just happened the day before.

Whenever Brian and I meet, he shows me a chart letting me know how I'm progressing in saving for retirement. If I put X amount of money away each month, I'll have X amount of annual income come retirement. I LOVE those types of graphs. While I'm not as fancy as Brian, I'm always thinking "how much do I need to put away each month to be able to accomplish this goal?"

I've been spending a lot of time thinking and planning lately because I've been thinking and praying about some big plans. I've figured out how much money I need to put away each month to be able to fund about 1/3 of a state university education for my son. I'm currently working toward a French degree. I'm just taking basic level classes this year at JUCO but I think I'll eventually transfer to KU. After looking through all kinds of programs at lots of different schools and running all the financial numbers - I'm pretty sure KU's program will be the route to go.
And the casual car shopping Erin and I have been doing caused me to stumble upon the perfect deal for a Honda CRV. We have the exact amount for that car in savings right now, so I've been running numbers to see how long it would take to build our savings account back up to a safe margin.

I've stopped all of that for Lent.

Yes, I still enter receipts into our monthly spending plan and Erin and I will sit down soon to go over March's plan. But I've stopped thinking, planning and just plain obsessing over our long term financial plans. And I have to say, it's been quite the relief. Let me say, it's hard to have peace when your brain enters the OCD mode brought on by long-term planning. Whenever my mind flitters over to some long term goal, I tell it I'm fasting money for Lent. It's really, really nice. And I'm learning some truth from scripture in a new way.

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. - Matthew 6:25-33

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. - 1 Peter 5:7

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
- Proverbs 3:5-6

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Magnetic Community

"Community can be built around a common self-righteousness or a common brokenness. Both are magnetic. People are drawn toward folks who have it all together, or who look like they do. People are also drawn toward folks who know they don't have it all together and are not willing to fake it." --Shane Claiborne

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Bald Eagle Speaks

Bald Eagle Tired Of Everyone Just Assuming It Supports War

February 1, 2010 | Issue 46•05

Bald Eagle

The symbol of American might called the 2003 invasion of Iraq "ill-advised at best, illegal at worst."

THE OREGON WILDERNESS—Frustrated by the widely held assumption that he unequivocally endorses the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a bald eagle said Monday that his thoughts on the conflicts were far more nuanced than many Americans might expect.

Speaking to reporters from his nest in the upper branches of a 175-foot ponderosa pine tree, the eagle explained that each member of his species was different and none should be taken for granted as a lockstep supporter of American military policy.

"I think World War II was justified, and I got behind the first Gulf War [in 1990]," said the bird, who has served as the national symbol of the United States since 1782. "But the recent war in Iraq, with its shifting rationale and poor planning, was clearly a huge mistake. Personally, I believe that these crucial, life-and-death matters deserve more honest and less politicized discussion than they get."

"I'm not a hawk or a dove," he added. "I'm an eagle."

The majestic bird of prey, who said he is not registered with any political party, admitted to having some ambivalence about the current mission in Afghanistan, lamenting that any argument one could make seemed to prompt an equally valid counterpoint.


The eagle said he would like to visit Iraq someday, but is worried it might cause impromptu firefights.

"Sure, I understand the reasoning behind the latest troop surge," the eagle said regarding President Obama's plan to commit 30,000 additional soldiers to the region to combat the Taliban. "Can we allow that country to collapse and become an al-Qaeda safe haven again? That seems like a disastrous outcome to me, but at the same time, maybe our continued presence is just creating more terrorists in the long run. Plus, how can we work with someone as corrupt as [Afghan president] Hamid Karzai and still purport to be champions of democracy?"

"You see, these issues are not so cut and dried," continued the Haliaeetus leucocephalus specimen. "And yet, every time I try to explain myself from atop a flag pole or the middle of a baseball field, no one wants to listen. They just cheer and chant 'U.S.A.! U.S.A! U.S.A.!'"

Sources said the eagle then excused himself and launched into the air with a shrill "skree!" sound, returning three minutes later with a glistening fish in his talons.

Bald Eagles don't actually make a "scree" sound, it's actually more of a sickly "croak." The "scree" we attribute to a Bald Eagle is actually the sound made by a Falcon. But we wouldn't want our national icon making a sick "croak" now would we? One more example of mis-truths used for the 'greater good' of nation building. - Donnie

"And another thing: We can't forget Pakistan," the eagle said as he used his hooked beak to tear at the flesh of the writhing rainbow trout. "We have to make sure that they're not so preoccupied with India that they neglect the terrorist threats within their own borders. Remember, Pakistan has nukes."

The eagle went on to tell reporters that, despite his attempts to individuate himself from the general public's perceptions of bald eagles, he could ultimately control his image only so much. He also admitted that he still had lingering resentment over the fact that someone had covertly photographed him crying on 9/11 and used the picture on a "Never Forget" dinner plate.

"I really hated being exploited like that," the eagle said. "Of course I cried on 9/11. Everyone did. But I guess that's the burden of being the symbol of a nation: People are going to use you in ways you don't always like. You step out of the nest to clear your head with a few minutes of soaring, and people automatically peg you as some kind of embodiment of American freedom worth killing and dying for."

"And, frankly, that's a little messed up," he added. "I'm just a bird."

Here's the actual link,

Monday, February 1, 2010

Some REALLY good news!

For the past year, we've been praying that Erin would get the opportunity for a job-sharing position. Basically, two teacher split a classroom and split a full-time salary and benefits. Well, this is going to be happening next year!

When you consider benefits, we can't live on just my salary. But Erin working full time is more money than we need and more stress than we can currently handle. So this job-sharing position is perfect. In fact, the other teacher doesn't need the benefit plan, so Erin gets the benefits in her portion of the salary. And to make things more 'perfect,' the other teacher offered to let Erin have the daily hour long plan time and the subjects Erin will be teaching are ones she really enjoys.

Erin will be working noon-four each day. Yes, we'll probably still need to get childcare a few days a week but this is an incredible blessing. We should be making exactly what we need to meet our basic needs!