Out with the old, in with the new

I left my extremely stressful job last week and started a new one Monday. I don’t have a lot of time for detail this morning (groceries to buy, lawn to mow, fall flowers to plant, football to watch, etc.) but did want to update those of you who still check my blog occasionally.

I don’t want to disparage my former employer, so I won’t mention the name, but just let me say that my new company is a breath of fresh air. Or maybe I should say I can actually breathe at my new job – and take lunch breaks, and go home after eight hours. I loved the people I worked with at the other place, and the new job is somewhat a career switch (going from publishing to investments), but the new company is an extremely efficient, well-organized place to work. They seem to know what they’re doing.

The main thing is that I want to serve people by helping them with their finances (and I want to work at a place that doesn’t cause me insomnia).

I have been a volunteer with Crown Financial Ministries for the past few years, and that’s a little different from what the investment firm does, and yet the same. It all boils down to being good stewards of what God has entrusted to us.

So here’s to my new employer and 40-hour weeks!

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Give

Jimmy Pritchett, the homeless coordinator for the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock, wore this shirt Saturday at the Homeless Outreach Event, which he co-chaired.

Pretty much sums it up for me.

I believe I’m required to let you know that this photo is technically the property of Central Arkansas Newspapers. I took it on my own but later decided to write a story for the papers I edit, so, because we used it in two of the three papers I’m responsible for, my employer now owns the rights to the picture.
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Homeless

Our community is holding a Homeless Outreach Event this weekend. Click here to find out how you can help. And join us Saturday under the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock.

And if you want to look at being poor in a way you haven’t looked at it before, click here. When you’re finished, maybe it will make you pause the next time you’re tempted to think “we” are very different from “them.”

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Hawk

I’ve been meaning to introduce you to Sharon’s blog. She started it last week.

The rest of us write about silly stuff sometimes, but it appears that Sharon plans to use her platform as a way to call us to action. At least that’s how she has started out.

I’m sure she will write about light topics, too, but for now, in these beginning days of her blog, we get to see what a tender heart she has for those who don’t have homes, don’t have parents, don’t seem to have hope.

We serve a God of hope, and Sharon is tireless in her efforts to make sure the “less than” know that they are fiercely loved by their Creator. She is an advocate for the voiceless, faceless people we pass by every day in our busyness, sometimes without a thought to how we might make a difference in their lives.

Sharon is an educator with a servant’s heart. Let’s let her teach us.

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Your money counts

The way you handle your day-to-day cash speaks volumes about your money personality. So says this article from bankrate.com. And I agree.

I watch our financial accounts pretty closely. Not in an insecure way (although I’m sure some would argue that point) but in a way that says, “I don’t want this to get out of hand like I’ve seen happen with other people.” I’m a volunteer budget coach with Crown Financial Ministries. I’ve seen all kinds of money behavior, rationalizations and states of denial.

And I read lots and lots of articles on personal finance, debt, the evils of credit cards, you name it.

Being in denial will not help your situation, no matter how bad it is. In my reading, in my conversations with people in debt, and sometimes even in my own situation, I have found that not knowing is worse than knowing – even when the bottom line is lower than you had imagined.

I used to update our Quicken accounts almost daily. But with the busyness of life, that has fallen to the bottom of the priority list lately. And it is uncomfortable knowing the backlog is getting out of hand. When I finally get back to it, the updating can seem overwhelming. So I do what any normal person would do: I procrastinate even more.

But it doesn’t go away just because I ignore it. So when I buckle down and get the records current, it is so freeing. I feel almost euphoric, even when our balances are close to zero! At least I know where we stand.

One of the first things we do in our Crown counseling is encourage the counselees to write down every penny they spend for the next 30 days. Every penny. That requires keeping a little notebook (or a piece of paper) with them at all times. It is a nuisance at first, but it can make a huge difference. One woman I counseled came to our second session with the news that this practice had been revolutionary. “I was skeptical when you told me to do it, but I was amazed at how much I was spending without even realizing it. The little things do add up.”

Yes, it is amazing. When you see it on paper – in black (or red or blue or green) and white, it can be sobering. When you write it down, you are less likely to spend it the next time. My guilty pleasure is a Route 44 diet Coke or a cherry limeade from Sonic – with tax, nearly two bucks. For a while, I was buying one nearly every day. When I started writing it in a notebook, even though I didn’t have to show the notebook to my husband (he wasn’t in the Crown small group with me), I started driving to Sonic less often. It can be embarrassing, but financially empowering, to open your eyes to the areas where you are simply wasting money. It’s not like a diet Coke is good for me, other than as a “comfort food” that lasts only as long as it takes to drink it. Not a lasting treasure.

One Crown seminar leader I know still tracks every penny every day. This is someone who is not in debt. I’ve never asked him whether he keeps this up because 1) he feels a responsibility to practice what he preaches, 2) he thinks he will slip up and fall into debt if he doesn’t or 3) he is anal-retentive. The answer may be some combination of the three. Nevertheless, Dave has demonstrated that keeping tabs on his spending is a big key to financial freedom.

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, it’s not the amount of money you earn, it’s the amount you spend that determines whether you are in financial bondage or freedom. People who make tens – even hundreds – of thousands of dollars a year can be just as in-deep-doodoo as those of us with much lower salaries. And many “poor” people experience a freedom that some “rich” folks can only dream of.

Crown seminar instructors are not millionaires. In fact, I don’t know any Crownies who are. Crown co-founder Howard Dayton, who stepped down as CEO a few months ago, didn’t take a paycheck as the ministry’s leader. He isn’t “in it for the money,” as they say. His aim is to lead people to fullness in Christ through understanding the importance of putting their treasures in the right place.

The way to do that is to focus on what’s truly important in life, and it isn’t our money. Money is a tool for right living, not the key to happiness. Many people misquote the Bible, thinking it says money is the root of all evil. The verse actually says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. The love of it, not the money itself. 1 Timothy 6:10

How we handle it is the thing. How we abuse it, misuse it, misunderstand its purpose and deny our situation is how we get into trouble.

Proverbs 22:7 is my favorite memory verse from the Crown Life Group Study: “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” I have thought about getting it printed on my checks as a reminder.

Because we all need reminders.

Visit Crown.org to find:
Information about a Life Group Study.
A Money Map coach (budget coach) – online or in person.
Calculators for getting a handle on your finances.
Financial forms, pamphlets and articles.

By the way, can you guess my money personality? Tell me yours.

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ShareFest

ShareFest boy

My church participated in ShareFest over the weekend. I took photos and wrote an article for the church newsletter, focusing mostly on the fact that the adults weren’t the only ones working hard. Lots of kiddos showed up and got busy cleaning out the flowerbeds and the classrooms of the neighboring elementary school — work that wore the adults out.

The little boy in the picture belongs to a family I’ve known since his parents were newlyweds. Here is an excerpt from the newsletter article (with names changed at the parents’ request):

“Three-year-old Eric could be seen helping his dad, Tim, rake leaves in a flowerbed. Tim and his wife, Sarah, have taught their children to volunteer since they were tiny. Even before there was an Eric, there was a big sister, Annie, now 7, and her parents took her along on days when their community group gathered for its monthly service projects – picking up trash at Burns Park or visiting the elderly at a nursing home, for instance.”

What that says to me is that helping others is important to this young couple, so much so that they want to leave the legacy of volunteerism to their children. And they realize the importance of starting these lessons early, when the children don’t know any other way. Tim and Sarah are two of the young parents at my church who have gotten it right.

There are many others, and I am so proud to be a part of this group of pilgrims. I see them every Sunday morning, but also during the week, reaching out in so many ways.

When I get lazy and self-centered, it helps to remember these faces.

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