Friday, November 28, 2008

The High Cost of Money

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Roots are showing. No. Not dark roots on a bleached blond. The roots I’m thinking about sprout from a love of money. Although misquoted often in modern times, Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy that, “The love of money is a root for all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Throughout the ages, that prolific love-of-money root has produced a variety of heartaches and misery. And the results aren’t so pretty. Friends bring me a flowering branch and tell me, “Oh, just stick it in some water-it’ll grow roots.” The love of money doesn’t even need a friendly environment to re-shape itself into very large global problems.

Try this experiment -- watch any newscast and see how many wrongs happen because someone adores money. Of course we can’t assume motivations behind criminal activity, but it’s pretty obvious in some cases that love of money effects harm, such as in drug cartels. It seems they have forgotten the damage and human suffering, and their goal is to get the drugs on the street and pocket the money.

Anyone who has money is subject to temptation. Gum chewing clerk or CEO can both fall prey to the talons of the fleeting dollar. Men and women, boys and girls can have wholesome hearts about money or be filled with greed. We’re all somewhere in the cash register between those two extremes.

Here’s a question to consider: Living in the economy of today, what if the only cash you had was two pennies? What would your attitude be toward your two cents? “I’m down to my last two cents” would certainly express relevancy.

When Jesus watched the widow walk toward the temple collection box, he didn’t need to see a bank statement to assess her worth. He knew that the two coins she had were the only two she possessed. She was down to an equivalent in our economy of two pennies, nearly nothing. She didn’t trust the two coins to absolve her poverty. She had lavish trust in God and left the details of her life fully in his hands. She didn’t love her two coins.

Jesus said about her fearless heart that she had given all “she had to live on.” To have that kind of faith in God’s care and his storehouse of provisions must be freeing, very freeing from a love of money.

I brought up the subject of money today because many will be spending it. Today is often referred to as “Black Friday” because this is when many retail stores begin to show a profit. The love of money has a huge price tag. Don’t pay it. Ralph Waldo Emerson knew the consequences because he said, “Money often costs too much.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

When the "I" is Mssng

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With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, I’d been praying and thinking of what to write in this column, and when I finally sat down at my computer to coax, wrangle, and create a column, a lesson occurred for me. After doing a bit of research online about the first Thanksgiving proclamation, I noticed that the “I” on my keyboard was not working. Do you know how many times an “I” is needed in a 500 word column?

If you keep reading, you’ll see what I worked out to get the “I” in the next few words. Since Hurricane Ike, my desk computer has not connected to the internet with any regularity or predictability. Of course nowadays, writers push a button and send off columns instead of handing in a hardcopy to an editor. Anyway, my wireless laptop has taken up the slack and has served me well these past few months, until today.

Home repairs sometimes work, so I flipped the plastic cover off the key that read “I”. Underneath, a tiny world existed that I knew nothing about and I saw a miniscule rubber cup lying on its side. It looked like the little cup should be turned upside down over the electronic circuit. Also, broken loose from the inside of the teensy cup was a piece of plastic two times larger than a grain of salt. I surmised that that gadget was what was supposed to touch the circuit and let it know that I wanted an “I” in a word.

I thought I might be able to put it back together, but by then other little pieces had come loose under the key pad, too. I didn’t know which tiny part went where. So, I flipped the cover off the “o” and promptly upset the tiny rubber cup under it. I did have the good sense to stop pulling off key covers. I know when I’ve been outwitted. I know when it’s time to get to the computer geeks, who can undo my home “repairs.”

So, I’ve written each “I” and “o” with the key covers off and by making sure the tiny rubber cups are over the circuit board and pressing ever so lightly on them, but they have a mind of their own and often bounce down to the spacebar or visit their neighbor “m”.

You can’t imagine how many times I’ve wanted to shout to Vanna White, “I’d like to buy a vowel. Give me an ‘I’. I’d like to buy anther vowel. Give me an ‘o’.” But still, I’m thankful for the other 24 letters of the alphabet who have behaved very well.

The thanksgiving point in all of this relates to the story Jesus told abut the ten lepers he healed. They all went away ecstatic, but only one got “I” out of the way and returned to say thank you to the source of blessing. When we quit focusing on “I” needs, it is easier to see all the bounty and good workings in the other 24 plus good thing in life.

Happy Thankgvng!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Packrats and Clutterbugs

I didn’t think I was a packrat. Recently though, at the back of closets, I discovered bits and pieces of the past in packets tied with string, banded boxes, and slightly rusted tins. In November, I usually write a column on pies, family and stuff. That column about holiday pastries -- making, eating, and enjoying them -- will come in the next week or so. This one is about stuff. So, Packrats, be warned.

We’re getting ready to move into a “downsized” home. The one we’re living in is not extravagant in square footage, but it’s comfortable. Now it’s time to undo over 20 years of living at this address. I don’t mind giving away plastic containers, extra clothes hangers, and glass jars, but other items might as well be shelved in my heart. While sorting items into piles for garage sale, family members, the trash, or the new farmhouse, I found a small cardboard jewelry box.

Inside were movie tickets and one of those photos taken in a booth, long ago, in the dating years. Inside the lid of this small box was this inscription, “Date to remember, September 19, 1965.” The whole box and contents would have been tossed by a junk dealer. I showed it to my hubby, causing us to reminisce.

One wouldn’t think that cleaning out house cubby holes involved so many emotions, but it does. Guilt assaults, if I throw away a tea pot, broken and no longer holding high teas — because it was a gift. I read a note from a friend who passed, and tears brimmed. Laughter bubbled when I saw funny photos of Halloween costumes.

This is a job I’d rather have delayed indefinitely, however my husband, David, and I made a firm decision to not only downsize the house but contents, too. Abundance doesn’t equal happiness. Clutter doesn’t equal coziness, it just equals clutter.

In the future, hubby and I want to have time for each other, not store and live with long defunct paperwork. We want to walk in the woods with the grandchildren, not mop more floors or dust more baubles. We want to dine with friends, not mow more acreage. We want to meet new people, not hang onto old stuff.

Jesus, who had few material possessions said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

We can even be greedy about clutter. Packrats, the kind with two legs, go through your home before Thanksgiving, lay out all the things you think family could use. Let them free-shop at your house after the Turkey dinner. A niece might love that old cracked hand mirror of Aunt Irene’s or maybe not.

That tiny box with the date inscription, we’re holding onto -- it’s the date of our first kiss.