Sunday, August 24, 2014

$425.26 -or- 4:25-26

In our "household" of two the finances are my job. We have our regular checking account, a regular savings account, and a "gift fund" that I normally keep balanced on my own spreadsheet. However, the tab on the spreadsheet that I use to balance our checking account actually includes credit card transactions as well as direct debits/purchases from the checking account - to ensure that we're only spending money that we actually have. I un-American. Though we're months away from this at best, my wife and I are having more serious conversations about buying our first home, which we haven't done because we've been focused on zero-ing out our other debts and paying for our recent trip to Europe. I probably sound like a yuppie but I assure you I am far from it - our combined income is well under the median income for an individual in JoCo and we had to spend months scrimping and saving for this trip; plus, we wanted to make it happen in our likely short-lived stage of life as DINKs (dual-income, no kids). But, I digress. This has led me to keep a closer eye on our credit. Thanks to the free services of I've learned that it's better (credit-wise, at least) to maintain a 1-20% balance throughout your lines of available credit than it is to maintain a zero-balance. Therefore, until we reach said milestone, I've shifted from paying off our credit card daily to paying it off monthly. As a result I've mostly been using bank statements and credit card statements only to reconcile purchases and purchase amounts, not balances, which I've exclusively tracked on my own personal spreadsheet...

...until tonight. I just paid off our monthly balance. The balances of our savings account and "gift fund" matched my records. We have only two purchases on the credit card since the billing cycle started over. So, I decided to do the easy math of subtracting the roughly $35 of credit card purchases from the checking account balance.

Compared to the spreadsheet, we have an extra $425.26 in our bank account.

Call it what you will but given the trip and what's turned out to be a summer of car repairs (and more to come!), on top of our lack of house (in our names, that is), all of which I've done my fair share of lamenting for, this was a breath of fresh air. $425.26 - that's several tenths of a percent down payment toward a home! Then my mind went a couple of places:

The church we currently attend has a non-traditional living-room atmosphere which allows for the sharing of "God-sightings". I haven't done well in that department lately, lacking the motivation to look for God while failing to find Him when I try. I'm honestly on the fence as far as how to discern which events are a direct act or intervention of God and which are more a by-product of the world we live in, which He created, and in which He is present in every fathom of everything, regardless of my ability to "see" or "find" Him. However, our pastor often shares stories of his "young married" days - sharing a small apartment in the ghetto with his bride, attending seminary full-time, and working for next-to-nothing. Yet, they faithfully gave their "tithe" to the Lord when they justifiably could've held onto it amidst their constant financial struggles. Somehow their "numbers" had them in the negative but every month they were actually in the positive. My pastor, like me, is exceptionally detail-oriented and arguably OCD (except x100) so I'm confident that he's sharing a true story.

Which is it? Either I fudged the numbers or God is the guilty party. I honestly don't have the answer but I'm convinced He was present in this either way. With that being said I wonder what His purpose was in this. Yes, I know God is my loving Heavenly Father and he wants to bless me and do things to make me happy as any loving father would, I'm sure, but He's God so there could be more to this, right?

People who chalk up everything in life to divine intervention annoy me, so I promise that is far from what I'm doing. However, just for fun, I played that role. Here's what came up when I searched Google for 4:25-26 - as in verses 25 and 26 of the 4th chapter of a book of the Bible, but not any one book in particular (out of context, I'm sure, but humor me):

Genesis: "And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, 'God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.' To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD."

Deuteronomy: "'When you father children and children's children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, so as to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but be utterly destroyed.'"

John: "The woman said to him, 'I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.' Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am he.'"

Was God trying to tell me something through this "divine bank error"? I'm doubtful, honestly. The three passages are quite disconnected from one another in their original contexts. All it tells us is that people called on God, He came, and when they left God it was to their own detriment. Well, I'm still here. I'm not in good shape by any means but I'm also not "utterly destroyed. That must mean God is here, too.

At the end of the day that's all we need to know or hear.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Organic Isolation

While I am very happy living where I am, for me a major criticism of life in a large city is how difficult it is to live near most people you love and/or care about. Because everything is so spread out, one is forced into a lifestyle of driving and more driving - to work, to shop, to have fun, and even to be with said loved ones. One cannot survive without a vehicle among all other basic necessities, therefore one must work to survive (though that is arguably more of a universal truth that applies even outside of a large spread-out Midwestern city with a poor excuse for a public transit system). This, among other things, lends itself to feelings of isolation - at least I've found this to be true for myself, but I'm also confident that I'm not alone.

One of my favorite things about being married to my spouse is that we equally value rest. We also share the conviction that God values rest even more than we do and that we are ultimately made for an eternal rest with Him and in Him. Therefore we are slowly beginning to practice honoring the Sabbath - what God intended as a day of absence from the things that wear us down, notably work (not including the life-giving variety, though I've personally found this hard to come by) and this Western lifestyle of useless busyness. We've chosen Saturday for our Sabbath as we feel it most closely lines up with the Biblical Sabbath and it's the one day of the week neither of us have any regularly-scheduled obligations.

Thankfully we were able to sleep in together for about 9 hours this Saturday morning, however we were still very disappointed that we had to begin our Saturday by facing the pre-Snowpocalypse 2014.2 grocery-hoarding mobs of our city - and at an earlier time than we typically prefer to begin "doing stuff" on a Saturday. However this adventure brought us a pleasant surprise as we ran into two friends and a family member among many from whom we normally feel isolated. Perhaps it was the Starbucks caffeine that we enjoyed along the way but this turned into one of the most wonderful experiences we've had in our time living here together. In a way, it felt like we were in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. In a way...we felt at home.

A few truths I'm reminded of as result of this experience:

1) God knows us, knows what it's like to be us, and truly cares for us. He's the only one who knows what we truly need when we need it and more often than not will provide for us when we least expect. I won't try to argue that every seemingly-random occurrence equals divine intervention but I am fully convinced that there is no coincidence that takes place outside of His grasp.

2) We are created to be in community with God and with one another. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs every single one of us desires to be known by others (though there are many who have yet to recognize this in their own lives). Nevertheless, community takes work, and if we're truly honest with ourselves we forsake gathering with others because we just don't want to do the work. Instead we become obsessed with our own respective family units and bent toward the American Dream (a half-truth at best). (Note: I am completely for the institution of the family and believe our world would be a better place if everyone truly valued and prioritized the family. My point is that we are made to interact with a variety of people and this can only happen outside of our own walls.)

3) The aforementioned events took place at our local Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Shop organic (local, if possible, is best). Aside from avoiding the risk of consuming food products grown/raised in fecal-infested conditions perhaps there are other benefits to doing so.

4) I almost became guilty of my own pet peeve: posting blog-worthy content where it doesn't belong - "the Facebook". Thankfully it crashed and I was given the opportunity to redeem myself. I am thankful that Jesus is full of mercy and grace for a hypocrite such as myself.