Friday, October 31, 2008

Financial Planning Comparisons Continued

Scott Adams of Dilbert Fame as found on Motley Fool
  1. Make a will.
  2. Pay off your credit cards.
  3. Get term life insurance if you have a family to support.
  4. Fund your 401(k) to the maximum.
  5. Fund your IRA to the maximum.
  6. Buy a house if you want to live in a house and can afford it.
  7. Put six months' worth of expenses in a money market account.
  8. Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount broker, and never touch it until retirement.
  9. If any of this confuses you, or if you have something special going on (retirement, college planning, tax issues), hire a fee-based financial planner.
Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps
  • $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
  • Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
  • 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
  • Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  • College funding for children
  • Pay off home early
  • Build wealth and give!
Crown Financial's Roadmap
  • Emergency Fund
  • Pay off Credit Cards
  • Pay off Consumer Debt
  • Save for Major Purchases
  • Buy a Home and Begin Investing
  • Home Mortgage Paid Off
  • True Financial Freedom
John Wesley
  • We ought to gain all we can gain but this it is certain we ought not to do; we ought not to gain money at the expense of life, nor at the expense of our health.
  • Do not throw the precious talent into the sea.
  • Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then "give all you can."
I tried to put this in a nicely laid out table for comparison, but Blogger didn't like my table. Scott Adams makes it clear that he does not like stocks -- in fact this Motley Fool article says:
Adams' passion for personal finance is matched only by his utter disdain for stocks. That's right, this keen observer of business and management trends believes that most people, himself included, cannot beat the market buying individual stocks -- especially when the companies behind those stocks are run by drunk chimpanzees.

So that's what went wrong with AIG and Bear Stearns. Too many drunk chimpanzees.

Unemployment in Georgia


The green and blue areas are the areas of concern -- these are counties where the unemployment rates are 8 percent or higher. The average unemployment has gone up in the last few months -- from about 4 percent to 6.6 percent. There are counties in Georgia that have almost twice the average: Jenkins at 13.6 percent, Chattahoochee and Hancock at 13.2 percent, Ben Hill at 12.9 percent. Currently there are 11 counties that have greater than 10 percent unemployment. In face, 121 of Georgia counties are at a higher unemployment rate than the nation as a whole -- only 38 of Georgia counties have an unemployment rate at or below the national average of 6.1 for September 2008. According to the Georgia Department of Labor, there are 320,723 people experiencing unemployment this month with the largest group seeing loss of employment being Education and Health Services.

During the Great Depression, unemployment rate averaged nationally about 12 percent, with a high in about 1933-34 of 24.9 percent. Thus there are counties in Georgia who are experiencing "Depression like" unemployment.

Crown Financial has some suggestions on what to do if you lose your job. Dave Ramsey's baby steps are a little late at that point -- but still not a bad idea.

Here are my suggestions:
1. Don't get stuck in the denial stage. The loss of a job is something that you will grieve -- and you will go through the stages of grief. Don't get stuck; you don't have time. You are going to be in denial and then flip into anger and depression, you will do the bargaining thing -- sometimes with God, sometimes with your spouse or old boss. But just like you have to plan a funeral for a loved one, you have to get to planning. Yes, you will process your feelings -- make space to do so by...
2. Going into starvation mode. Start taking care of the money outflow. If you have automatic withdrawals from your checking account, stop them so that you can very deliberately choose in what order you pay your bills. Stop the cable, stop the magazine subscriptions and ask for a pro-rated amount back. Consider if you really need both a land line and a cell phone. Examine your phone bill to see if there are any services you can stop and save money. Look at your credit cards and make a list of minimum payments. In fact...
3. Make a list. You need to get a handle on exactly what you owe. Some people have done this; some have not. Make a list of everything you know you have to pay: and then make a list of minimum payments. This is the absolute minimum amount of money you will need for the next month.
4. Look around the house for purchases you have made in the last couple of months and see if you can return the items. Do you really need that electric guitar? or new pair of jeans? Consider returning them.
5. Look around the house for items that you can sell easily for cash money. You are now going to start operating on a cash economy. No writing checks except to pay house payments, utilities and minimum on your credit cards. Freeze your credit cards! Use cash and spend the minimum amount.
6. Eat rice and beans (and store brands). This is not a time to eat Fillet Mignon. Your diet is going to consist of fresh veggies, store brands, manager's specials and ramen noodles. No designer shampoos -- cheap is now your middle name.
7. Examine your medicine cabinet. Talk with your doctor to see if you can substitute $4 generics for any of your prescriptions. Surf to other medicine's websites and see if the company has any coupons or assistance programs. Prescriptions can get so very expensive. You need to get this spending under control. And don't forget your COBRA!
8. After you get your personal finances examined, look at your resume. Know that you are not alone in this boat; there are literally millions of Americans in this boat with you. Support networks are springing up as a response to this crisis. Network; educate yourself; get out of the house and pound some pavement. One expense you might make is a nice interview outfit. You will need to make a good impression; be neat, professional and on time. You can do it!

99 Balloons and Oprah



The Mooney family will be on Oprah Live this afternoon.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dave Ramsey's "My Total Money Makeover.com"

The LH and I are working on the Debt Snowball. One debt at a time. We have just decided to pay off one of the biggies -- which also happens to be a Margin Account linked to my portfolio. This is probably a bad time to have borrowed on the margin (ya think??) so we are paying it off.

We don't have as much consumer debt as most people do -- my largest personal debt is my student loans. I am paying them off on time from my portfolio (again) but using cash and not the margin. I figured at the time I set it up that way that the interest I was getting on my portfolio was so much larger than the interest I was being charged that setting it up this way was the wisest. Not so much now. I'll stick with it -- and pray for a Bull market.

So the LH and I are working our way through Dave Ramsey's baby steps -- and doing pretty well. We haven't purchased a new car in a long time -- only used. We also pay cash for the cars. In fact, we just bought the LH's "new" car this last month, because it gets great gas mileage. Yes, it's a "new" 1995 Saturn coupe with 123,000 miles. We have savings -- not a huge lump of savings, but more than the average bear. We have already done some work on several of the baby steps we are actually working on more than one step at a time. And I love to read Dave's blog and looking at the website to see what people are doing and saying.

So I was cruising around on his website called "My Total Money Makeover.com." I've not explored there much. I found the forums and was reading today's entries when I was intrigued enough to want to post something. Of course, it's set up like most forums and you have to join to post. Here's the catch: it costs money. Ten dollars a month.

I cannot help but be struck by the irony. Thanks, Dave, but no thanks. I think I'll put the ten bucks a month aside for something else.

Word!

John Meunier has a word for us today -- let's hurry up and get this election over with, already. To wit:
As the politicians try to organize the faithful in the interests of power politics, it seems to me, we preachers and pastors need to be reminding people of a God who is bigger than a checklist drawn up by the micro-targeting specialists of the left and the right. They are motivated - in the end - not by awe of God or a desire to hear what word the Lord has for us today. They are motivated not by what they can do for God, but what the people of God might be persuaded to do for them.


Word! Excellent posting John.

Thursday Theremin Video -- Thomas Grillo on a Burns B3 Deluxe



(Posted ONLY after washing 4 loads of clothing (so far today) and listing a couple dozen books. I'm now going to sort my mail that's been laying around. I wonder how long I'll be able to keep this up?)

Too Many Projects

I basically have too many projects right now. I've been meaning to do XYZ but end up doing ABC instead. To enumerate:

  • My LH and I have brought home box after box of vintage clothing from his grandparent's house. I am finishing up our laundry this morning before I tackle the pounds of clothing to wash before we can have an estate sale.
  • My living room has been taken over by books -- I have several boxes to list on Amazon. Now Amazon is slow right now -- glacial, even. But I will continue to list and cull until these boxes are taken care of.
  • I have some alterations to do: my surplice has LONG sleeves. They need to be hemmed. I am making my own Gi -- I'm tired of Gis that are made for giants. I am NOT male, I am NOT tall. I've done some alterations on the two I already own and they are OK, but I am going to take the basic pattern and make a Gi for a woman shaped like a meatball. I also want to shorten the sleeves of my new clerical shirt... so I'm sewing right now in between listing books and doing laundry.
  • I am also sorting at a minimum one box/bag/drawer a day in addition to the standard housework. I am tossing, selling, donating or putting away more stuff.

The theology behind this? I am good at mental discipline; I have my prayer time everyday. I am good at reading whatever I need to read. But my physical setting informs my body/mind balance. I cannot be serene in a chaotic environment. Thus I am concentrating on imposing order on the chaos (still). If you have been reading a while, you will realize that I have been doing this for a while. I have come to the realization that it is my most important task right now.

So, later, y'all. I'm going back to sorting/cleaning/laundry.

Bear of the Day



The market is still bearish. Thus, I will post the bear of the day. You might notice he is grumpy. (or is it a she? I'm not going to find out.) It's because his portfolio has lost 46% of its original value since January. Thus the bear is grumpy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I have this posted on my laundry room door

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.



because my life at times resembles this. Or that great big ball of laundry that flattens fences and lawn furniture in that GE commercial.

Time to do more laundry.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Waiting and Watching 2008

I feel this is the year that I am spending waiting and watching. I see the world changing all around; the economy, the ways we are spending our money, the ways that we are living our lives.

I've watched my portfolio drop. And drop and drop. Good news today -- the Dow looks as if it is closing 800 points up. Perhaps my portfolio will regains some if its lost value. Oil is less than $63 a barrel. That's amazing. I paid $2.35 for gasoline yesterday. I'm waiting to purchase a few items that are big ticket that I really will need to purchase sometime soon -- in particular a new mattress as the one we are on now is killing my back. But we are loathe to put it on a credit card; we will pay cash. We are talking about how we can save money by changing our eating habits -- less going out and convenience foods and more "home cooking." Less meat and more beans and rice. We did purchase a 3rd car -- one that gets better gas milege -- a 1995 Saturn Coupe with 123,000 miles. It's a good thing that the LH knows how to work on cars. We decided not to replace the 1998 Mystique, but rather to get it a good tune-up and take care of it for a while. We've parked the Expedition and use it only when there are 4 of us in the car.

I've also watched several people that I know and love lose their jobs. All sorts of companies are laying off employees -- and there are states that are running out of unemployment monies. What are they to do when the unemployment runs out? Shall we just sit and watch and wait? Or do we ask ourselves, "what can I do for my neighbor?"

Their basic needs:
Food
Shelter
Clothing
Medical
Education

I've been thinking all day about how to start a ministry cooperative in the county where I serve. I've been composing a letter to the clergy of this county -- and asking them to pray. Maybe I can't help all my neighbors -- but I can buy some food (or grocery cards) and help with utilities. Perhaps I can save a little by turning down my thermostat a bit and give a little to someone else.

Just thinking --

A Postscript and rare political statement: I support the Fair Tax and would lobby Congress to repeal the 16th Amendment.

How come I start thinking about politicians?

Matthew 23:1-12

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Friday, October 24, 2008

National Bologna Day?

You have to be kidding me. Bologna does not seem, well, celebratory.

I think I'll wait to celebrate until October 28, when it's National Chocolate Day. Now Chocolate is something to celebrate. After all Chocolate is a health food.

More Chocolate while blogging. It's good for you.

Thought for the Day

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

vs.

Harder, better, faster, stronger.

One says "less is more": one is "more is more." A clash of ideologies?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Eating out of the Pantry

The pantry, the freezer and the refrigerator.

With the "Economy Earthquake," I've decided to be frugal and eat what we already have (especially after that last run to Sam's where I had to get another printer cartridge...).

I've had Filo dough in the refrigerator way longer than I would like to admit. It was long past its "sell-by" date. I also had a really funky Orange Marmalade in there that no one really cared for. I also had a wheel of Brie, so I made a baked Brie this afternoon. The wheel of Brie had been partially consumed and I've never made Baked Brie without having the whole wheel, so I just cut what I had in half and used the very dry Filo pastry. The Filo took a little microwaving -- about 10 seconds with a wet towel to get it soft enough to form around the cheese. I used just a little melted butter to hold the Filo together, put a layer in the bottom of a Corningware dish, put in the half wheel of Brie, topped it with the Orange Marmalade and topped it with more Filo. I cover it up since the Filo was so dry and after the requisite 30 minutes at 350 degrees, I had a nice little snack. It was much tastier than it deserved to be.

I have many other mystery containers in the freezer. Maybe we will have "Mystery Dinner 3000" tonight. I wonder if that is Barbeque, Soup or Chili? We shall see...

Thursday Theremin Video -- Theremin build timelapse

theremin

Enough Already

I listened to or watched the majority of the debates. I've read the papers, watched TV and browsed the blogs. I'm sick and tired of the Presidential election campaigns. Enough Already.

I like what a fellow Methodist blogger said the other day (and I quote):
So let's just say: We elected all the correct people this year. We got it all correct, all the way from President down to dog catcher. Let's take it one step further and say that all those correct people implemented all the correct legislation and we all voted correctly for all the right referendums.

Will that usher in God's Kingdom? Will it make us better parents? Will it makes our hearts less hard towards God's will for us? Will it eliminate poverty and disease and natural disasters?

Uh, that would be "No." He was quoting from Leadership magazine -- and a thought provoking posting, it was. I looked on the website and found an article there called "Body Politics" that again, was quite though provoking. In this article I found this sentence:
I determined to renounce the temptation to bash those with whom I do not agree. It is one thing to poke and prod at an idea, another to attack the person who bears the idea. Too often I have failed here.

I am so very tired of the media, the pundits, the campaigns and their shadow sides. I'm tired of Campaign X bashing Campaign Y; picking every action apart to find a flaw -- at times putting such a twist on things that it is hardly recognizable.

To be frank, I'm not too fond of either candidate. Both have huge flaws. I will not enumerate them; what good would that do? Both, however, seem to be much better people that they are being painted in the press. Enough, already. The loser in this campaign IMHO is the media for failing to report whose these men and this woman ARE. I for one am voting with my "on/off" button and just not listening anymore to anyone but the candidate, themselves. Enough already.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In Light of the State of the Economy -- A Comparison of Dave Ramey and Crown Financial

Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps
  • $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
  • Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
  • 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
  • Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  • College funding for children
  • Pay off home early
  • Build wealth and give!
Crown Financial's Roadmap
  • Emergency Fund
  • Pay off Credit Cards
  • Pay off Consumer Debt
  • Save for Major Purchases
  • Buy a Home and Begin Investing
  • Home Mortgage Paid Off
  • True Financial Freedom
John Wesley
  • We ought to gain all we can gain but this it is certain we ought not to do; we ought not to gain money at the expense of life, nor at the expense of our health.
  • Do not throw the precious talent into the sea.
  • Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then "give all you can."
Of course, I like Wesley. He's the one who lived off of 20 pounds a year the majority of his life and gave away all that he earned or was given beyond that as soon as he could so that it could not grow close to his heart.

I like the way that Dave Ramsey lays out his Baby Steps. I like Crown Financial's online roadmap. I think basically it comes down to this: just do it. It doesn't matter which of these systems you use -- just do it. Dave Ramsey's and Crown Financial's plans are very similar -- you just have to do it. Dave does not stress the will of God or scripture the way Crown Financial does -- but you still have to just do it. Wesley's sermon strikes a chord with me -- but you still just have to do it.

Get the point?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

3 Simple Rules -- Online Resource List

(Picture is of Bishop Reuben Job from UMNS)

I begin teaching tonight on the book by Bishop Job, "3 Simple Rules." It's a short little book, not complicated, not hard to read BUT ... the life that these rules call for might be a little hard to LIVE.

What I think I'm going to do is put a compilation of the links that I have found here and also perhaps some of my reflections from our discussions. (I will regularly update this posting and let it reflect the date of the update as I gather more information. If you have blogged about the 3 Simple Rules, please leave your information in the comments and I will add the resource to the list. Thank you!)

Purchase the Book from Cokesbury
and (equal opportunity link) Amazon
The reviews at Amazon are interesting: the readers have noticed what I have noticed -- the dearth of illustrations and stories. Bishop Schnase's book is easier to read because Bishop Schnase includes real-life illustrations. People want to know HOW -- how do I put this principle to work in my life? How have others grown from this? How does this relate to me?

Beginning with John Wesley's Words
"The Character of a Methodist"

Background Information
Review of the Book from the United Methodist News Service
From the Book of Discipline
Journey of Faith, General Board of Discipleship (Steve Manskar)
WikiAnswers

3 Simple Rules Sermons or Sermon-like Reflection
Overview
Don Yeager
Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher
Rev. Ryan Bennett
Rev. Ben Williams
Joe Payne (scroll through Newletter to find it.)
Richard Hatcher
Rev. Laurie Haller

Do No Harm
Rev. Michelle L. Wobrak
Rev. Mark Dicken
Rev. Nancy Cushman
Rev. Paul Widicus

Do Good
Rev. Michelle L. Wobrak
Rev. Mark Dicken
Rev. George Cushman
Rev. Karen Graham
Rev. Paul Widicus

Stay in Love with God
Rev. Michelle L. Wobrak
Rev. Jan Wiley
Rev. Todd Gile
Rev. Carol Mumford
Rev. Paul Widicus

3 Simple Rules Bible Studies
Overview:
Rev. Bill
Rev. Bob Johnson

Do No Harm:
Rev. Bill
Rev. Bob Johnson

Do Good
Rev. Bob Johnson (There is a problem with the website; I've emailed for a correction)

Stay in Love with God
Rev. Bob Johnson


Reflections:
Entire book or Overview
Bob Johnson

Do No Harm
Bob Johnson

Do Good
Bob Johnson

Stay in Love with God
Bob Johnson

Reference Materials
3 Simple Rules DVD
3 Simple Rules Bookmarks
Not released yet:
3 Simple Rules Leader Guide (12/2008)

What's Next? (Where do we go from here?)
Bible Study on Personal and Social Holiness
5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Notes:
  • I've noticed there is no entry for the General Rules in Wikipedia. I suppose it's time to correct that. If you have time before I do, please be my guest.
  • I've also noticed that there are few "nice Bible Study Outline" for this book online. As I blog, I'll make up some worksheets for more variety.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Continuing Explorations of North Georgia


In my continuing adventure as a circuit riding Methodist minister, my family made a "little" (NOT) detour to Washington, Georgia in Wilkes county today. I've don't ever remember being in Washington before, but I know that my family has ties there: some distant cousins, I believe. I do know that in the 1970's my dad bought up a huge load of bricks from the old Washington ice house. It had been built before the Civil war and so you could still see things like hand prints in the bricks and know that they probably were made by slave labor. I would look at those bricks and imagine a life for that person. Daddy made a huge monolith of a fireplace out of those bricks -- 3 flues and 3 stories tall. There is a family story about how Jeff Davis' fabled Confederate Gold was stored in the ice house, but I don't know that it is really true. In fact, there is supposedly a vault under one of the buildings around the square that contained the gold. It is one of those things that the veracity will never be known. But it is still a thing to think about, to dream about, to imagine.

We passed by the Washington Wilkes County airport. I remember this airport well. One of my first solo cross country flights was to this airport. It just happens to be exactly 51 nautical mile from the old Stone Mountain airport. One of my parishioner's grandparent's house was used for the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) until just very recently. Directly across the road is Callaway Plantation. It is frankly beautiful. I found an old picture on the net and it's directly above. The city of Washington was given the property, has restored it and is now operating it as a living museum. I love the architecture. I think I will go back sometime soon and take pictures.

Washington's square is lovely. It reminds me strongly of Abbeville, SC. I can't wait to go back and explore more. I know these things are not new -- they are just new to me. I am sure generations of architecture buffs have admired the beautiful symmetry of Callaway Plantation's Greek Revival architecture. But it is indeed new to me. I still dwell in the thought of these hand-made bricks; of the glimpse of the slave cabins just behind this lovely brick building. I think of tabby cats and tigers: of how bricks can be used to build or be used to break glass windows.

What else are we just not aware of that is there for us to discover? Things that are old and beautiful, but are new to our eyes? Things of grace and wonderful proportion, with fearsome and awesome symmetry? Things perhaps frightening found within their beauty; maybe even vicious as was slavery; things that have hopefully found atonement and redemption?


What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?


What beautiful and gracious thing lays just around the corner?

Friday, October 17, 2008

An Essential Tension

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when He called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone, you are rejecting Christ's call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.... Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called -- the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Life Together"

There is an essential tension within human existence -- we simultaneously feel the pull to "Belong" and the pull to "Be Different." That is why in election years people will feel the need to say "I'm a Democrat" or "I'm a Republican" when in truth there is more that will unite this country that will divide. Yes, we differ in methods of BEING an American; we do not differ in the fact that we ARE Americans.

Likewise with denominations; many feel the need to continually point out differences between Denomination X and Denomination Y -- rather than pointing out the places we stand in common.

Within our own selves, we need to understand our own person-hood first; who am I as a person before we enter into community of any sort. On the other hand, we understand who we really are as we are in relation to a community.

This morning during his weeky conference, John Eudes made a remark about the relationship between solitude and intimacy that touched me deeply. He said, "Without solitude there can be no real people. The more you discover what a person is, and experience what a human relationship requires in order to remain profound, fruitful, and a source of growth and development, the more you discover that you are alone and that the measure of your solitude is the measure of your capacity for communion. The measure of your awareness of God's transcendent call to each person is the measure of your capacity for intimacy with others. If you do not realize that the persons to whom you are relating are each called to an eternal transcendent relationship that transcends everything else, how can you relate intimately to another at his center from your center?" Henri Nouwen, "Genesee Diary" from the entry for Sunday the 30th.

It is in the liminal space between darkness and light; the dark of the forest floor and the sunlight of a meadow, where most wildlife lives. It is balance between differentiation and conformity; solitude and community where life is lived the richest; in a very essential tension.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday Thoughts

Now I will be the first to admit that our family has a killer schedule. Between having two children in two different schools that start two hours apart, just getting up in the morning and out the door takes a real balancing act. Add to that Girl Scouts, Music Lessons (2 each child for a total of 4), at least two nights of karate, church, my church job and the LH's job and bowling league -- it gets crazy at times.

I've wanted to give things up and the question becomes -- what? What exactly do we give up? Girl Scouts seem to be next on the chopping block -- but the schedule will still be overloaded. Music? I don't think that's really good -- music is high priority for me because it helps the development of the brain, creating neural pathways that just can't be developed any other way. Karate is important because we all need the exercise and it is an activity that the entire family can enjoy together. Church -- well, it's a distance but that's not really a problem in that we more or less HAVE to spend time together as a family unit. We've had some really good bonding time, conversations and just plain fun on Sundays as we spend the day together.

But we are being pinched in the push and shove of all this activity. I suppose what is pinching the most is the lack of "personal time" for each of us. Plain old down time. The hours the kids have at home seem to be all taken up by the incredible amount of homework their teachers are assigning. It seems that on some days, the kids work continually from the time they get home to late at night at their homework. There have been days that Chaos has done 6 hours of homework after getting home after school. This is a ridiculous amount of work. In addition, I seem to have to reteach portions of the curriculum, especially the math bits. I ask what the teacher said during class and Chaos tells me that the teacher is usually tied up in trying to keep the classroom disciplined.

The 5:30 am wakeup time is killer. The 6:30 bus is killer -- she's home at 2:45 pm and she's so tired. Entropy doesn't get home until 5:00 pm. On most days (except Tuesdays) we have additional stuff -- karate or music. To add 4 to 6 hours of homework -- well, it's not pretty.

I taught Math. I usually gave a dozen problems for additional practice and most kids would complete them in class. I wonder about all this homework. Is it truly effective? I know that she's really particular about her homework -- is she stressing unnecessarily? Is the homework well thought out or is it the "shotgun" approach?

Chaos is home from school and she started her homework -- and has gone asleep across it. Maybe she'll learn by osmosis.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday

Matthew 22:15-22

22:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.
22:16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.
22:17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"
22:18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?
22:19 Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius.
22:20 Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?"
22:21 They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."
22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Notes: Herodians (followers of Herod) -- somehow I get the feeling that the enemies of Jesus are getting bigger and bigger. Normally, the Pharisees and the Herodians hated each other, but here they are united in hating Jesus. There is nothing that will unite a disparate group of people as a common enemy.

Earlier, the Pharisees had questions about authority. This is also, in a way, a question of authority -- does the Roman Empire have authority over us? It's also a trick question. If Jesus answers "yes" that we owe tax to Caesar, then the Zealots will go all flibberty on him, because Caesar claims to be God. If he says "no" then the Pharisees get upset because they fear upsetting the status quo -- as bad as the Roman rule is, the crushing weight of the full Roman army is to be avoided at all costs.

So Jesus answers their question with a question -- whose head appears on the coin (not the obverse of the coin where Caesar claims to be God, BTW -- Jesus phrases his response carefully.)

Then he tells up to "pay back" Rome what is owed to Rome.

Juxtapose this with all our American angst about taxes, national budgets, bailouts and talk about depressions.

According to Peter Slevin's Sept. 29 news story, 33 pastors gave sermons on Sept. 28 endorsing candidates. This is great news.

These pastors have traded in their tax-exempt status for the thrill of endorsing from the pulpit. Of course, they are familiar with this statement from Jesus: "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's."

Especially in light of the $700 billion bailout, the Treasury is going to need the revenue. -- from the Washington Post, letters to the Editor Tuesday, October 7, 2008; Page A20

Something grim from the Sydney Morning Herald:
This is what happens in times of great insecurity. As the foundations of our lives erode, we search for an anchor, and social politics very often provides it. When all else fails, we may still rally around old certainties: nation, culture, religion, race. We crave strong authority figures that can imbue us with certainty and articulate for us a sense of self. That often involves fabricating a scapegoat who becomes a mortal enemy.
Was Jesus the Pharisee's "mortal enemy"? What exactly is Caesar's? What exactly belongs to God? Jesus' example is that his very life belongs to God -- is ours?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Sarah Palin pictures

Morning Prayer -- Psalm 142, Micah 3:9-4:5

Psalm 142
1
I cry to the LORD with my voice; *
to the LORD I make loud supplication.
2
I pour out my complaint before him *
and tell him all my trouble.
3
When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path; *
in the way wherein I walk they have hidden a trap for me.
4
I look to my right hand and find no one who knows me; *
I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for me.
5
I cry out to you, O LORD; *
I say, "You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living."
6
Listen to my cry for help, for I have been brought very low; *
save me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
7
Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your Name; *
when you have dealt bountifully with me,
the righteous will gather around me.

Micah 3:9-4:5 (NRSV)
9Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob and chiefs of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, 10who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong! 11Its rulers give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for a price, its prophets give oracles for money; yet they lean upon the LORD and say, "Surely the LORD is with us! No harm shall come upon us." 12Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, 2and many nations shall come and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; 4but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. 5For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior.

O Lord my God, I bless thy holy name for this mercy, which I have now received from thy bounty and goodness. Feed now my soul with thy grace, that I may make it my meat and drink to do thy gracious will, through Jesus Christ my Saviour. Amen.

- John Wesley

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Thursday Theremin Posting -- Clara Rockmore , "The Swan"

Today is Rest and Blurbing

Today I am resting and editing my blog-book that I am making (by the year, so it's really about 5 books...) I am using Blurb's Booksmart to download the blog entries.

It's an OK editor -- you can't save it as anything but their propriatary file format, though. And the text editing functionality isn't so very great. But at least this way I can 'slurp' my blog into printed format and save the files on my computer.

Try it out -- www.blurb.com.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

More Pictures

Carlton, GA, Memorial Chapel at a cemetery off of Lexington-Carlton Road, Glade Baptist Church, Old Sanctuary at Glade UMC, the steeple at Glade UMC, our singer and preacher last night.













It's Raining

It's raining. A soft, quiet, gentle, beautiful rain. It's a day to sit on the front porch wrapped in a quilt in my rocking chair and just be.

There's a quiet music when it rains like this and a gentle graying out of the sharp edges.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

For QP


This is the front door at Simpsonwood in Norcross, Georgia. I love the fact that you have to grab Jesus' hand to open the door.

From my old camera -- I'm now used to such bigger pictures. I also am used to better and sharper pictures than the previous posting. My good lens was dropped and I haven't replaced it yet. Or perhaps I'm just a perfectionist.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Revival at Glade UMC

Last week we had revival at Burts UMC. This week, it's revival at Glade UMC. I'm glad that we opted to have guest speakers for two of the nights each week, otherwise I'd be preaching 8 days out of 10. That would be a tad much.

Here's some pictures.

Early Morning Drive on Highway 78. The sun is just beginning to rise -- but we've been up for more than an hour and a half.
Sunday afternoon exploring -- this is the old Sanctuary at Glade UMC, built as early as 1857. It's pretty untouched and I think it's pretty rare to find one this pristine. Beautiful.
Rev. Jim Spooner reading as the singers for the next evening practiced at the Baptist Church across the street.

One of Glade's member's store. It is just a bit down the road. She sold the store many years ago and the new owners have now died. The store is in probate, as I understand it.

Yellow flowers in the meadow next to the church. I don't know exactly what they are -- they resemble milkweed or a margarite. There is an entire field of them along with a purple flower that looks like a lantana relative.

On our first night we had a nice covered dish dinner followed by a concert from a band named "God's Law" -- appropriate because they all (mostly ) work in law enforcement. They are very good -- and we had really good attendance.

Look! Methodist CAN clap with the music. It's true!

Looking into the sanctuary from the front drive -- like a light beaming into the darkness. You can just see the bass guitarist and little Gracie dancing along.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Silent Friday

Don't feel much like talking or blogging today, so here's some pictures.

Playing in the creek

Wolf Spider near the water

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Today

Is the last day of revival at Burts Church -- next week, we have revival at Glade UMC. I've arranged for much of the same people to sing and preach (including moi).

One final trip for this workweek to Oglethorpe County. The gas situation is very so slightly better. We are surviving. It just points out once again the wisdom of ending our dependence on oil.

We used to have a rule to enter into Fernbank Forest -- Leave nothing there; take nothing out. Zero sum. We should strive to live zero sum.

And now for something completely different, here are some pictures:
This is Confederate Daisy -- the famed "Yellow Daisy" of Stone Mountain's Yellow Daisy Festival. It grows only in about a 50 mile circle around Stone Mountain and really is not that abundant.

It grows well in and around granite outcroppings -- along with a purple flower called Shooting Star. We have quite a bit of this pair around where we live, but I have not seen a single Confederate Daisy around Oglethorpe County.

This is a beautiful example of the Antebellum structures that can be found in Oglethorpe County. It's a wonderful example of Colonial Georgian architecture. Symmetrical, in the classic "Plantation House" style. I love this house -- one might say that I covet it somewhat. The owners certainly have kept it up well -- new roof, new siding. It's just beautiful.

An angel from the Lexington Presbyterian graveyard. It just captured my imagination.
Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Sarah Palin pictures