Pursuit

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Walking along Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee you get to see pursuit of a dream. As we meandered about what I call night clubs and what they call Honky Tonks, I listened to the music streaming from each door until we found a sound we liked.

We stepped inside this place and listened to the music. It was about 3 pm and the band was wrapping it up as the new band was arriving. I became fascinated with what happened next and to be honest paid more attention to people watching than to the music itself.

The band came in each carrying their equipment. They set their equipment down by the stage and grabbed some bottled water the establishment had for them. It was hot. Over 100 and in Nashville there is extreme humidity as well. They walked back and forth to their cars hauling all of their equipment including a seat for the drummer. They were happy and talking and in full roadie mode. Only they weren’t roadies, they were the musicians.

As the band that was playing wound down to their final song I wanted to see the transition. A bucket was passed around for donations for the band. I was told it was how they get paid. The band quickly went into wrap up mode, grabbing their cords and instruments and walking them off of the stage. Their audience who I guess knew the drill, were asking each of them, “Where are you going to next?”, to which the bassist replied pointing, “I’ll be at such and such in about an hour playing with so and so.”, and so on. These musicians were in pursuit of a dream.

I looked at my husband and said, “Do you see that? They left everything behind and are hauling their own equipment and playing wherever they can find a gig for whatever amount is in that bucket in the hopes of a bed, food, and the chance to be discovered for their talent.” My husband smiled, ever the Pastor, and said, “I know how that works. I left a business making just over $200,000 a year to go to a place I had never heard of called Los Banos, CA, to reach the lost for whatever was in that bucket each week. When you have a calling you pursue it no matter the cost. I left my parents, my comfort, my home and went to preach the gospel. The Lord provided for us. Once I didn’t have enough money for groceries and diapers and a stranger at Walmart paid the bill for me. I will never forget those early days.”

The band finished loading their equipment then came back in and sat behind us at a table and divided up the money in that bucket and rushed off to their next gig. The new band set up and began to play and I discovered a new admiration for those who are willing to go the distance and do whatever it takes in pursuit of their callings trusting that somehow things of the world will work out. It was humbling to say the least.

 

Too Poor To Date

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Couple Receiving Their Check

Here’s an excerpt from Heather Jensen’s article on Relationship Deal Breakers that for some reason popped up in my newsfeed:

If you can’t afford a cell phone bill, rent or even a dinner out, you really shouldn’t be in a relationship. Guys, this goes for you too – if you can’t take your lady out, that can definitely be a relationship deal breaker! You don’t have to be rich, you just have to have enough money for savings and not to be completely broke all of the time. 

“Of course!” I thought, “Except college students who are generally poor while studying but yes, anyone over 30 shouldn’t be dating if they have to spend every dime they have to do so. This should be a Dave Ramsey blog.” Then I did a search on too poor to date and article after article talked about how we shouldn’t be dating if we can’t pay the bills. One man said that because he had student loans, and a car debt, he considered himself undatable because financially he couldn’t offer much yet. One woman said, she had an IRS debt and until that was paid she would not be dating. No surprise there but what was surprising were the comments.

Generally speaking most women said they agreed with the concept of not dating until you can afford to do so. I wasn’t surprised by that response because a woman’s number one need to is to feel secure in a relationship. What did surprise me were the men. Generally speaking the men disagreed. They felt that a woman should pay her portion of a date and that it was archaic to expect to ask a woman out on a date and then be expected to pay for her portion of the date. In fact, a survey concluded that 51% of men want to split the bill on a first date.

Here are a couple of comments I read:

“I can afford going out to grab drinks and eat a reasonably priced restaurant but only if she foots her own half of the bill.”

“I’ve never once taken the full bill for a restaurant. Coffee or something yeah, but not full meals. Is that something that’s still expected?”

So I went to my resident expert my Southern Bred Husband.

“Baby, I’m reading about being too poor to date and most men feel that since women fought for equality that we should be paying for our half of the bill when a man ask us out on dates. What do you think about this?”

“Well, you did fight for equality.”

“So you think we ought to pay for our portion of a date?”

“Darlin’ I’m a Southern Gentleman. I would never think to go out to eat where I couldn’t pay the bill and I would never allow a woman to pay for a date.”

Which is true because even when we go out to eat and it’s the same debit card coming out of the same joint account, he always grabs the bill and doesn’t let me pay, except a couple of times when he apologized profusely because he left his wallet in his briefcase when I picked him up for lunch and that’s after being married over a decade.

So what do you think? If a man asks a woman out on a date does she need to bring her own money? Is there such a thing as too poor to date?

 

 

A Good Life Always Start With A Vision

 

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The family game we played last night sits left over on my dining room table this morning. Last night we laughed until we cried, we came up with a team name that shall not be repeated out of the circle of those who were there. I sit here and write this post on the day after Christmas as google reminded me with a ding on my calendar this morning. Those of you who know me know I write a vision statement each year. I make a list of things I want to accomplish personally and professionally. Then I write ideas for vacations, home improvements, a budget, a savings plan. Yes, I know it sounds too hard and it doesn’t sound like there is any adventure or spontaneity in it does it? Oh, but there is! Life takes twists and turns that you can never plan for, and some ideas need to be tweaked midway, and some ideas although great in December in June you can see aren’t going to cooperate. The point is to have a plan that can keep you on course even in the midst of chaos. It sounds complicated but it really is the key to freedom! Knowing exactly where you stand and how you can proceed in the current conditions takes a big worry off your mind. You don’t find yourself in a car lot, excited about a new car if the budget isn’t there because you have a plan in mind and on paper. Instead you may find yourself at the mechanic’s shop getting a quote on a transmission fix which is much cheaper in the long run.

So as you can see by the picture, I look back at 2015 and write down what went well and what didn’t work. I make determinations on whether I am going to try again or scrap the idea. I look at what projects aren’t quite finished and if my time was used effectively or is it just taking a little longer. Did I squander too much time or did I have just enough rest? What old habits never died? Where did I need more discipline. Where is this going in the New Year?

I used to brag that I started writing vision statements back in my 20’s and I would always accomplish my goals by October-ish. I used to pat my self on the back and say to myself, “Girl, you are just that good at getting things done.” However one day I heard a still small voice within me say, “You get your goals met each year because you don’t dream big enough. You play it safe.” OUCH! I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to go deeper and to be more daring. You see, I thought I was just that good. Now I am older than my 20’s, much older, and I have learned to set up bigger dreams. I have learned to set dreams that will actually take 2-3 years to complete, like the two week trip we took to Hawaii that required us to save up rather than charge it. Or the one where my husband announced he wanted a Camaro in 2011 but it took us until 2014 to buy it because there were plans in motion that had to be completed first.

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So what is your dream for this next year? What are you planning to accomplish and what will take some time to fulfill? I pray you have been thinking about it and I hope you are working towards your destiny!

Take your time. Make it clear in your head and then advise your heart because honestly, if your heart isn’t in it, it won’t get done.

The Hireling and The Called

The Shepherd by Julien Dupre (1851-1910)
The Shepherd by Julien Dupre (1851-1910)

Sitting in the hot tub after a long day of ministry my husband and I were laughing and talking about a 4 year-old who was discussing the state of the world with me. Then it got quiet.

My husband quietly said, “You really shocked me a few days ago.”

Not knowing at all what he was referring to my mind began to think of what could be so shocking? I couldn’t put my finger on a single thing and yet I knew this statement was important as he’d been mulling it over, so I said, “What did I say that shocked you?”

“Well, when we began to budget for Project X you said we could take your salary and put it towards it and you didn’t hesitate.”

Trying to make this moment lighter, and being sarcastic by nature I replied, “Hey, there was a time when I had to pay to be in ministry, giving up a salary is a new level.”

We laughed and then it got quiet again and I felt I had to explain myself.

“Look, it’s not as self-sacrificing as you’re making it seem. I walk in the realm of big faith. I believe that God will take care of my needs and provide for them. I don’t doubt that for a minute. He has never let me down.”

My husband just smiled at me and said, “That’s why we’re here. We’re called. It’s not about what we can get, it’s about what we can give. Others might have given up if it was about a paycheck but because it’s a mission it becomes a lifestyle.”

John 10:12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. ESV

I thought on this conversation over the last couple of days. What makes one shift from the money aspect, which let’s face it, is a real issue and one that needs to be discussed, to the aspect of the calling? The calling is a place where you could take your education and experience and turn it into a money making proposition and sell it to the highest bidder only you wouldn’t be comfortable with yourself. It wouldn’t sit right. You’d feel a missed opportunity, you’d long for the day when you’d be called back to the ministry. Honestly, there is that space between God and reality where the bills come in and the hesitation starts. Only for me, and I don’t profess to know what it is for others, the faith that while I may not have it all, I have all I need, is the sustaining force that keeps me steady when the waves of doubt come crashing in. When the promise of being all in when the stress of ministry and the expectations of what we are called to do are overwhelming, I stop and tell myself that I promised, and more importantly, I trust my Lord.

I pray that wherever you are sitting and reading this post right now, that you are sitting under a pastor who is called and not a hireling. You will know the difference when life hits. I pray that pastors who are truly called never give up.

 

Swimming In Perspective

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Perspective – noun – a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

This year our vacation took us to Honduras. I have traveled to many countries and I have seen poverty but it never ceases to smack me in the face. It was especially striking this time. I expected Honduras to be like Mexico. It wasn’t. It was much worse. I didn’t bother to look up facts before I went there, I like to go with an open mind and not a preconceived notion of what to expect. The GDP of Honduras is about 18 billion. the GDP of Mexico is over a trillion. That’s a huge difference.

I live in a small town who just experienced its first homicide of the year while I was gone, and I don’t diminish that whatsoever, but it’s important to mention it to show where I live versus where I visited. Honduras had cars filled with bullet holes driving down the road, children unattended everywhere, people lingering in the street. We hired a driver to show us around. He was excited to tell us that he was married with two children, 3 years and a 5 month old. He was happy to be working and he said that tourism brought him a job for half of the year. That afforded them to rent a small home and if they were very careful with their money, they could live there all year. If not, they had a home for six to seven months. It’s important to note that their homes were not what we call homes here. The area we visited brings many tourist as it has great diving and snorkeling because of a beautiful barrier reef. We had been on a private island just the day before enjoying the sights of the reef. Our driver told us that many Americans live there. I asked what they did for work. He said they own businesses that cater to the tourist who come to dive or they are divers who are retired. There are big condominiums going up and when I asked about it he said the Italians were coming in and building time shares. This had brought jobs to those who can do construction. Drops in a bucket but drops are better than drought.

I asked about missionaries and churches. He said the Mormons are there and the Evangelicals most people are Catholic. There was a group of doctors who have opened a clinic and they treat people for things their local hospital can’t take care of. Their hospital wouldn’t even be considered an urgent care center here in the U.S..

Upon coming home I wanted to make a Mexican dinner so I ran to the Mexican market in town. On my drive I remembered I had given all of my cash to my husband. Lulu the Wonder Dog was with me and I said, “Lulu, I have no cash. I hope I have my bank card.” I was met by a homeless man who asked me for change or food. I said, I would bring him food since I didn’t have cash. I ordered a super steak burrito at the counter. As I waited I thought, who buys food for the Honduran homeless? If no one has money then who buys food? I grabbed the burrito, walked over to the cold drinks and bought a large water, grabbed the few things I needed and got in line at the checkout. Two checkers. One lane had a cart full, one lane had six things. I got in the six item lane. Yes, you guessed it, the person had WIC coupons. I thought, the mom in Honduras doesn’t have WIC. The mom in Honduras probably doesn’t have a hospital. I wonder if this woman knows she is blessed?

I paid for my things, went to the homeless man and gave him the burrito and water. Behind me a woman brought him groceries. I got in my car and before I drove off I thanked God for provision. I thanked Him for open eyes. We throw words around casually, “I’m starving”, when we haven’t eaten in a few hours, “I’m broke”, when we’ve spent our money, “I have no cash”, when we have a bank card.  It’s a matter of perspective. Tonight I am examining my thoughts and words carefully. I’m grateful but I want to also be aware. Fully present and fully aware. Lord, help me.

When Does It Become A Disservice?

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I read this today and thought about how hard this decision is to make. On the one hand, you want to help those in need. On the other hand, when it becomes a perpetual thing you tend to get resentful. I think there are some clear cut boundaries that need to be set in place. I also know that these types of posts make people angry and so it won’t be popular. You see, most people think you need to be generous with your money, but they should get to spend theirs any way they choose. It’s human nature. I get it.

So when is it mismanaging your money to loan money to misbehavior?

When you begin to enable the person to live frivolously.

 

I remember a story of a brother who made two to three times as much as his brother. The brother who made more didn’t control his spending and when it came time to pay for rent, he would hit the modest means brother up for cash. It made the modest means brother feel puffed up that yes, yes, despite his brother’s success, he was still more successful.

How does the loaning of money to a person who mismanages make you feel? If you’re honest and generous by nature, you feel pretty good. There’s a measure of satisfaction in it. They need your help and you’re in a position to help. There is a danger in these feelings in that you become their source. They no longer look to God for provision they look to you. You begin to build an idol of yourself.

What happens when it’s month after month? A feeling of resentfulness creeps in. You begin to count their money as if it is yours. You begin to judge their spending habits. It also begins to form a wedge in your relationship because both of you begin to feel awkward.

Proverbs 22:7 says

the borrower is servant to the lender.

 

The lender begins to demand repayment, or secretly seethes, and the borrower doesn’t like the pressure and begins to withdraw. It makes the borrower look ungrateful and dodgy and it furthers the wedge. This is where offense so easily comes in and before you know it, people are not speaking, judging is taking place, and teams are being set up depending on whose story is going to be believed. It becomes a mess.

So what boundaries need to be put in place?

1. Don’t lend money if you can’t afford to lose it. If you can’t be at peace with giving it and never seeing it again, then don’t loan it. There is a chance that the borrower may not pay it back.

2. It’s okay to say no. If you don’t feel right about loaning it then don’t. Don’t however, be a miser. Generosity is a privilege and you should do what you can. This is heart check time. Examine why you don’t want to lend it.

3. It’s okay to go buy groceries for a person rather than give them money if you are unclear how it’s going to be spent.

4. Watch patterns and behaviors. Sometimes a person is going to need to take on extra hours at work or a second job for a season to make ends meet. If they are unwilling then you need to think about your role. Conversely, if they have learned to depend on overtime, they need to cut back their spending. Overtime is not salary. It’s extra. It should be saved actually but that’s another post.

5. If they are wasteful spenders be careful. This doesn’t have to be lavish but what if they don’t have money for food and gas but when they received a few hundred dollars extra they went and got a gym membership rather than catch up? Don’t fault them for buying essentials. If they received a few hundred dollars and bought shoes and clothes for their kids, I don’t in any way consider this wasteful. If they caught up on bills, or made an extra payment on a bill I don’t consider that wasteful. Be careful how you are judging.

6. If they are consistently borrowing, get them in front of a financial planner. Sometimes, the best money you can help with is some professional help. If they refuse then so do you refuse to be part of their mismanagement.

7. If they don’t know where their money is going, they won’t know where yours is going either. Every dollar should have a name. If they are people who live broke then that is their lifestyle, be aware of that going in.

Disservice by definition is a harmful action. Use wisdom. Some people get used to being rescued and it becomes an expectation.

 

 

 

Parents Shouldn’t Be A Financial Burden

 

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Proverbs 13:22A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.

We’re a nation of consumers and that isn’t news nor is it going away. Reverse mortgages, check-cashing loans, credit card debt are rampant means of getting extra cash. Gone are the days in which we live within our means.

Have we stopped to consider our children in these situations?

Your average 21 year old comes out of college with a debt of $32,000 in student loans and $4,000 in credit card debt, according to the Dave Ramsey crew. How is that student going to pay that off when an entry level job isn’t going to pay anywhere near the money it will take to make a dent in that amount? As parents if we are not set up to help take care of these costs, we must rely on loans, grandparents, and family members to foot the bill.

With these statistics it is imperative that we should not take from our children nor be a burden to them. We need to begin wherever we are to save for our child’s education and their future. My godmother and I were talking recently and she said to me that as soon as I find out I am having a grandchild, I am to put $20 per week aside for that child’s future. So that ends up being about $20,000 with just simple interest. if I invested it, it would be more.

Do we even comprehend that $20 is one fast food meal skipped per week? 

I don’t profess to be a saver. I love a sale as much as anyone, but we have an emergency fund and funds set aside for our future. I don’t want to be a burden to my kids. The bible says we aren’t supposed to be. Could it be that this is why the Lord makes such archaic statements in the bible?

Save! Don’t consume all that you have.

Proverbs 21:20 There is desirable treasure, And oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man squanders it.

Give freely but don’t be a borrower.

Psalm 37:21 The wicked borrows and does not repay, But the righteous shows mercy and gives.

We have to set this thing up better for the next generation or they won’t be afforded the life we were. We have to begin to look at the consequences of the whole picture and not look at what feels good right now. We love our children, and I believe that we do love our children, but are we looking out for them or are looking out for ourselves? Are we leaving them with a legacy of slavery to a system and a life of indebtedness or are we teaching practical principles like delayed gratification? We have got to do better for our next generation. Setbacks happen to everyone but there is a difference between a person who can’t recover and one who won’t.

Work and savings aren’t ugly words. My grandfather worked three jobs to give his kids a leg up. My parents both worked to give us an education. We worked to give our kids the things they needed. We didn’t always have new stuff but we had what we needed and we didn’t work a system, we worked to be free to make decisions.