Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Money, Cards, Fools & Action

Take control of your money (or it will take control of you). Money is one of those necessary evils. It is "Necessary" because it is the currency of exchange and the way we trade our skills for food. It is "“Evil" because it becomes an all-consuming god. Eating up our time, longings, families and emotions. People get left behind when money becomes God. Those we love (including ourselves) get run over by money.

Money has a close connection to our spirituality. Awareness of how money controls us is vital for your faith. In a capitalistic culture, cash is king and it dethrones many good things.

So, here are a few of my thoughts on money.

  1. Do not carry credit card debt! Period. Pay off your credit card balances first and use them only if you can pay it off monthly. The interest rate on any credit card is horrible! It siphons off more money than you realize.
  2. Exist on LESS than what you earn. Seems obvious, but you have got to do it. Consider cutting your spending by 10-30 %. That means less expensive clothes, gadgets, services, movies. It also means living expenses are less than 70%
  3. Give some portion of your earnings away to a charity. Ten percent is a good figure. It seems high. But if you cannot give money away (living on less), then you will never be able to save money.
  4. Save at least 10% of your income. Start where ever you can. Even if it is $50 per month building up to 10% of your income. (Remember, that if you have credit card debt. Pay if off as fast as you can BEFORE you start saving. No savings account or mutual fund can recover the fees you are paying to carry a balance on a card).
  5. Pay off your debts (car, home, student loan, etc.)

I could go on and on, but I thought I might give you a few random tidbits. This year a law Congress passed goes into effect. You can view your credit report for free www.AnnualCreditReport.com. This is not a gimmick. There are three major credit agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. We used to have to pay for access to our report. Now you can get one free per year per agency. I recommend that you spread your three freebies across the year. Get one first. Look it over. Check for errors in your report. You might need to dispute some facts. Then later in the year get another.

Do you get tired of credit card advertisements? There is a phone number you can call to opt-out of receiving these credit card solicitations. 1-888-5-OPTOUT. When people check your credit (called 'pre-screening') they have access to your information and can send you special offers. This phone number allows you to call and permanently or temporarily opt out of these offers. It works! I tried it more than a year ago and they have almost disappeared. Please realize they will ask you for personal information (like your telephone number, social security number and date of birth), but it is only used for the opt out process. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/optalrt.htm

Can you imagine a world without telemarketing phone calls? The National Do Not Call Registry is wonderful. The Federal government made it easier for you to stop getting telemarketing calls you donĂ‚’t want. You can register online at WWW.DONOTCALL.GOV or call toll-free, 1-888-382-1222 (TTY 1-866-290-4236). Call from the number you wish to register. This is free!

Finally, I saved a fun one for you. The name is funny Motley Fool, the style is laid-back, but the information is seriously helpful. The website is www.fool.com. These two brothers (and now a huge staff) provide sound financial advice. Tons of free research is available on their website. They even provide free email newsletters depending upon your interests.

Make the money god bow down - before it breaks you in two! The spiritual consequences are devastating.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Bread Broken & Broken People Eat

The service was simple. No accompaniment. No fanfare. Simple stories were shared of three movements separated. Stories of communion tokens tossed aside. It was a setting that anyone from my community of faith would have been comfortable. There were 40+ people from my faith community who experienced this worship.

Sunday evening at a Dallas church building, Christians from the Disciples of Christ, Churches of Christ and Christian Churches came together for the first time in 100 years. These were once united by a clarion call to be "Christians only, but not the only Christians" almost 200 years ago. However, about 100 years ago these believers were divided from one another by their differences. Lost was the focus upon Jesus as the King.

On this Sunday evening, the name of Jesus was exalted over the differences. Will the differences disappear? No. But neither will Jesus disappear. Jesus will outlast our differences into eternity.

Different ministers from churches with different names stood together to share words of about the breaking of bread and friendship. Different scholars from schools with different affiliations read from the same Bible. Different believers with difference experiences sang the same songs. We all prayed through Jesus to one God, enabled by one Spirit. It was one special night.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Kids With No Doors

Tonight I tucked my son into bed. He was focused upon a Star Wars toy he got at Burger King. Earlier he talked about how many toys he had. My wife mentioned that some kids do not have any toys. He was stunned by this. He could not quite grasp it. We suggested that maybe he had some toys he would be willing to give away. He was not interested.

So, at bed time he was talking about kids with no toys. I again explained that some kids have toys and some don't. He looked at his bed room door (of all things) and made a comparison. "Some kids have doors and some don't," he said. I replied that most kids in the world do not even have their own rooms. Again, he was stunned. He asked if we could cut out one of our rooms and give it away. I was moved by his compassion - if not challenged by physically cutting off one of our rooms.

Our conversation continued and I explained that cutting out one of our rooms might not work well, but that we could give Mommy & Daddy's money or some toys to them. He again refused to give away any toys, but offered to give all of his money in his piggy bank to the parents of the kids with no toys or doors. This was huge. He loves his Piggy Bank. He understands that he can buy things. He knows about saving. But he offered to give all his money away. May God water this seed of generosity in his heart.

Out of the mouths of children . . . flows love for kids with no doors.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Late Night DJ

Last night I was coming home late from a meeting. NPR is normally my station, but I needed music not talking. Music soothes the soul. A DJ named Delilah was on. She is one of these new DJs who is a hybrid counselor-listener. People request music, tell her about some tragedy or triumph in their life and then Delilah has a one-liner or a comment before playing a song.

This particular caller was a woman who felt alienated. She was adopted. She tried to find and to contact her birth mother. The agency assisted her in locating her mom. Initially it looked like they would have some form of communication, but now it is up to the mother. No contact has been made -- – only silence and the passing of time. Now, it seems the mother will not contact this lonely daughter. The woman wondered why her mom did not want to talk with her.

Delilah'’s answer was on the mark. There is no telling why your mother will not talk with you. Maybe she is in a relationship with a man and cannot. Maybe she knows that talking to you would hurt you more. There is no way to know.

But (and here is where I was astounded), Delilah confidently assured her that God loves her. No matter what womb God used to bring you into this life, God is the one who created you. God can borrow a womb or borrow a parent, but the truth is God is your real parent. God loves you and will never leave you. God has plans for you. Seek God. Wow. Thank you Delilah.