Give Me Back the Wheel, Jesus.

MISCELLANEOUS

I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t drive for about 2 years while I lived in Spain, but for some reason I have slowly developed some pretty significant anxiety when I’m behind the wheel. I can remember vividly the first time I noticed it. I was driving to Ocean City, MD with my wife and two good friends for the weekend. It was the first weekend that The Dark Knight Rises was in theaters, so we decided to stop in Annapolis to see the movie before heading across the bridge. By the time we were driving to the Eastern Shore, it was probably around 10 or 11PM. I should take a step back here and explain this to anyone who isn’t familiar with the geography of Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay is the big chunk of water that cuts up through our state. The side of Maryland that is on the eastern side of the bay is called “the Eastern Shore”. (No one said it was creative.)

Maryland_map

In order to get from the main part of Maryland over to the Eastern Shore, you have to cross a pretty significant bridge. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is a tad over 4 miles long, at its highest point it is 186 feet above the water and it’s fairly narrow.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Ok, maybe it’s more than ‘significant’. Well I’ve probably driven over that bridge over a hundred times in my life. I had friends who lived on the Eastern Shore that I visited regularly. When I first began college I would go back and forth to my school in Philadelphia via the Bay Bridge.

Chesapeake_Bay_Bridge-1

This time driving over the bridge was very different. When I reached the highest point, I suddenly became ultra aware of how high up I was and just how close the edges of that bridge were. Looking back, I can only describe it as a near panic attack. I was really close to turning to my friend and saying “Umm… if I pass out right now you might have to take the wheel.” Instead, I held it together by trying to distract myself with discussions about the movie we had just watched. “So guys…. *GULP* ..h-h-how did you like the ending of the m-movie?” Not my best movie critic moment.

Ever since that night, I’ve noticed an increased anxiety when I drive. Even when I’m not on bridges, I’m sometimes overly aware of the fact that I’m screaming down the highway at 75 or 80 MPH and I can’t stop myself from imagining all these things that could go wrong. What if the tire blows out? What if a truck nudges me off the road? At that speed I would just end up flipping through the air and that would be the end. It’s not rational, I know. But the feeling that I’m out of control becomes very overwhelming and then it’s a vicious cycle where I can’t climb up out of my own head.

Last weekend I drove down to Roanoke, VA to meet up with a good friend. When I got out on the road, the anxiety started creeping in again. I was trying to distract myself through podcasts so I wouldn’t think about it, but it wasn’t working. So I turned everything off and just started talking/complaining to God. I complained about the fact that I used to LOVE road trips. It used to be so relaxing and liberating to just get out on the road, excited about the destination waiting on the other end. I asked God what happened to the days when I would drive down 95 while doing about 95.  It turned out that talking to God was doing a pretty good job of distracting me, so I kept it up. I decided to pray for as many people as I could think of and devote the time to fellowship with Him. I was interrupted by a necessary gas station break. When I got back on the road, I tried to pick up where I left off and started talking to God again. About 3 or 4 minutes later I stopped suddenly because I realized I was cruising at around 80 MPH and even feeling like I could go faster. Normally when I’m that comfortable driving it’s because I’m just distracted and not thinking about it, but this was different. I was fully aware of everything but feeling very much in control. I drove the rest of the way down comfortably and even made the 4 hour drive back home feeling relaxed the next day. I’m not saying I’ll never have to deal with it again, but I was so thankful to have that feeling back that I ended up just singing whatever random praise songs popped into my head for the next 45 minutes. It was time well spent with Jesus that day.

CROWNS THAT DON’T LAST

What a bummer that the Heat won last night. I don’t necessarily have anything against LeBron, and in my opinion he was spectacular in the game. I think I’m just like everyone else who likes the lack of flashiness to the Spurs’ game. Any time I’ve watched the Spurs play, Tim Duncan is always completely flat with his emotions. But last night when he had the chance to tie the game in the final minute and he tipped the ball just a little bit too hard, he was slapping the court in frustration and visibly upset with himself. It was a really entertaining game in that sense. There was a lot of drama, it was neck-and-neck the whole way and the passion was evident in all the players. Fun to watch.

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A Story from Film Class

LAMP OF THE BODY

This is a really random story, but it popped into my head while walking my dog about a week ago so I figured I would share it. When I was in college I took a class about the cinema of liberation. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up, but it was a study of the way that film is used to subvert authority and expose oppression. It was my least-favorite film course, to be honest. I hardly ever participated because I had a hard time entering the conversation. At the time I thought that was because the professor was clearly an angry atheist with an agenda, but looking back I can admit that the problem was it was a bit over my head. Even though I didn’t particularly enjoy the class, in the long run I think it has stuck with me just as much as any film class I took because of one particular film we watched. It took me until this past week to fully process the whole experience (maybe it was more than a ‘bit’ over my head). Since I can’t go back in time and discuss my thoughts in the class, I figured I would tell the story here.

As the course went and we were watching these films about oppressed people groups, the professor kept telling us that we weren’t angry enough. (In hindsight, maybe his own anger was due to the fact that he was teaching us how powerful film can be while simultaneously we were all relatively un-moved. I don’t know.) So he started threatening to show us a certain film that he knew would cause a reaction in us. Something about the way he described it, coupled with past experiences in film classes told me to expect something pretty raunchy. I think it was his obvious desire to shock us that caused me to pray about showing up to class the day he was going to show the film. I’d never done that before because I was pretty serious about taking film seriously as an expression and I figured everyone has the right to be heard. This time though, it was like someone saying to me, “I’d like to express myself by taking you into a room and just screaming vulgarities at you in order to purposefully disgust you. That cool?” I didn’t see a need to hear that or deal with the possible affects it would have on me to see whatever promiscuous stuff he was going to show us. I ended up skipping class that day.

The next class I came in and had already forgotten about the whole thing. The professor got up and said “Ok, today we’re finally going to get to the movie I’ve been telling you about.”  In my head: “….#$*%.”  So I was once again finding myself conflicted about whether to stay or whether to go. I decided I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ and make some sort of scene so I just prayed and stayed. What I ended up seeing was worse than I expected. Later, the professor proudly said that we would never forget that day and of course he was right. I sat at my desk with the distinct feeling that what I was seeing was the face of evil, even though I didn’t fully understand the feeling. I don’t want to give the impression that I was being dramatic, I wasn’t. I sat at my desk quietly and then left quietly and never voiced any complaint, but I was sure that there was something dark about the experience. Without giving too much detail, the shocking thing about the film, in addition to all of the purposefully (albeit skillfully) grotesque imagery, was that nothing in the film was suggestion. Nothing was simulated and this went far beyond pornography. Sometimes the fact that an actor is performing an action in reality becomes part of the story of a film, such as a Jackie Chan movie where the audience knows he is doing his own stunts. In the most shocking scene of this particular movie, the actors were given the direction to try and strip away all of their inhibitions until they became like children and to just improvise while the cameras rolled. The results were absolutely horrific.

So now that I’ve had about 4 years to process the whole experience, it suddenly came back into my mind and I tried to think about it from the perspective of a guy with 4 more years of wisdom and experience. I decided to research the film and the director a little bit. I read articles and reviews, including Roger Ebert’s. Ebert actually said what made the whole thing click for me. He said this about the director: “It’s as if he wanted to test himself; to see how far he could go with his notion that the fundamental human acts…provide the ways and moments in which we’re most alive, and that all the systems we lay on top of them (Marxism, fascism, any-ism) block the natural flow.” Perfectly said! The whole point of the movie, as well as the point of the class, was that all systems and “ism’s” are meant to give power to some while oppressing others. They stop us from living out our natural humanity. I finally understood what the professor and the film were trying to say and I finally understood why the thing I was looking at felt evil. As an atheist, my professor has a very different understanding of what a human being is than I do. I think Ebert was right that the director of the film was trying to test his own limits and expose all the ways in which he could defy oppressive social-norms by asking his actors to do unspeakable things. (‘unspeakable’ probably being an oppressive term used by people like me who live by an ‘ism’, according to the director) When everything was stripped away, the result was literally what I would call hell. It was people without dignity, without boundaries, without coherence and without value. I look back on that experience as a glimpse into the heart of atheism. Let me be clear, I’m not saying I saw the heart of the ATHEIST, I’m saying I saw the heart of ATHEISM. Human beings devoid of the value I believe they’re given by their Creator. If someone were to ask me why I believe in the existence of Hell, I would point to that film and claim that I’ve seen it. Separation from God leaves us confused about who and what we are.

The whole thing begs the question of whether or not this justifies the creation of the film or my watching it. Well, my understanding may have grown as a result, but I don’t believe I needed that film to get me here. In fact, the woman who played the main character was so upset by being subjected to such terribly humiliating things that she walked out of the movie and they had to change a lot of the story. I don’t think we can look at that as positive.

Hope you enjoyed my little journey back to film class.

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A Deeper Understanding

USPREPARATION

I am adding a new category to my blog in order to incorporate a new passion of mine. As I wrestle through the truth claims of the Bible, God has really pushed me to learn more about Christian apologetics. I’ve had the opportunity to take a course in apologetics here at Wesley Seminary, and I’ve never been so willing to actually do the reading assignments for a class. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term apologetics, it comes from the Greek term ‘apologia’ which means ‘a defense’ or ‘justification’. So it’s the act of defending and clarifying Christianity in the face of objections or questions.

As I’ve become fairly obsessed with different writings and videos of debates on the existence of God, I’ve started to wonder if the Christian faith is something that can really be argued out to the point that someone can become convinced of its truth. For me the simplest way to answer that is: no, it can’t. But, that doesn’t mean you must abandon reason in order to put faith in Christ.

The other day I sat down with a good friend over some beers. Typically when he and I do this it’s a sure thing that we will end up discussing/debating theology. We started with one of the more simple Christian ideas and talked about the Holy Trinity. I was trying to use my newfound love of apologetics to say that its possible to rationally explain these kinds of issues. He took me to task and by the end of our conversation it was clear that while I still believed it was logical, I could not put into words properly why I believed it.

In the next few days I did some casual searching of different explanations of the Trinity and found some very compelling ones. It occurred to me that even though I believe these explanations have merit and are logical, I’m not sure you can really make someone believe them simply through description. Then, I had a conversation today that really drove the point home. The newest trailer for the upcoming Superman film came out today and I was talking about how excited I am with another friend who is also a fan. The trailer clearly paints Superman as a Christ-figure and seems to be riddled with Biblical themes. They show part of the scene when Superman’s father must send his son to Earth and my friend commented that now that he has a son whenever this idea of a father having to leave his son comes up it really affects him emotionally. I was so struck by that. This friend and I have known Superman’s story since we were both tying towels around our necks and pretending to be Christopher Reeve as 5-year-olds. We’ve also always known the story of God sending Jesus to Earth. We’ve both heard the same words and seen the same movies, but my friend now understands this on a level that I cannot.

One of the metaphors that I have heard used to explain the Trinity is marriage. My wife and I are both separate persons in one unit, one marriage. I can’t explain that with words, but I can look at my marriage and attest to its truth. I think God also uses marriage in another way when it comes to understanding our relationship with Him. I know a lot of people that think marriage is a very scary idea. A lot of them don’t know why they should bother with it when they can look around and see there is no guarantee it will last. How can you know if the person is right for you? How can you know that you will be happy? We ask these same questions about God don’t we? In both cases, our intentions are what will lead to our answers. If you are waiting for proof in order to commit yourself to someone, it will never come. You make both decisions rationally, but in the end it becomes about humility and sacrifice. Once you enter into that relationship, the doubts go away and the questions change. I’m no longer asking whether or not it was the right decision. Now I’m asking how to continue putting both God and my wife before myself, which in turn gives me fulfillment. I’m not sure I could ever put that in words in a way that it would make sense, but I believe it’s rational and logical.

In summary: God has given me enough reason to put my faith in Him, but it will always require trust. Some things we can only understand by being inside relationships.

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Ashamed of Blessings: 5 Things I’ve Learned About Money, Part 5

GeorgeSLAVERY

This morning my wife and I did our daily bible reading and it inspired me to finally write my final blog about the things I’ve learned about money. We are reading through the book of Ecclesiastes and today we read chapter 5. For this entry I really wanted to address the tension that seems to be building around the subject of economic classes. There is a lot of public discussion about the responsibility that high-income earners have in society and I wanted to comment on it. The verses I read this morning seem like the best possible place to start. Here is Ecclesiastes 5:8-20:

Riches Are Meaningless

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.

10 Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.

11 As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
except to feast their eyes on them?

12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance
permits them no sleep.

13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:

wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,
14     or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when they have children
there is nothing left for them to inherit.
15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.
They take nothing from their toil
that they can carry in their hands.

16 This too is a grievous evil:

As everyone comes, so they depart,
and what do they gain,
since they toil for the wind?
17 All their days they eat in darkness,
with great frustration, affliction and anger.

18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

 

For me, this was a really helpful excerpt for understanding a biblical stance on wealth. Verses 8-18 have always been second nature for me, but 19 and 20 are more challenging. The key, in my opinion, is separating wealth from a love of money. The bible says the love of money will eat away your soul and most people I know would say they agree. We’ve seen some of our nation’s most wealthy become disgustingly greedy and cause a lot of pain. According to the bible, though, it’s not good enough to just equate wealth with greed. Doing so has led a lot of people to feel a strong sense of guilt over the blessings God has given them. For me, that feeling of guilt comes from the fact that if I spend $50 on dinner for myself, that’s $50 that could have paid for two people to have clean water for the rest of their lives.

I think the bible is telling me that it’s actually ok to enjoy my dinner free from guilt. It’s a gift from God that I am able to afford it and if I feel guilty about it, I’m actually disrespecting God and His gift. That DOES NOT mean I don’t need to do anything about the people without water. The best way to think about it is in terms of ratios. If I budget a percentage of my income to be given to charity, then I will end up giving so much more money throughout my lifetime than if I constantly beat myself up over the money I spend on myself. If I gave 100% of my money throughout all of my life, two things are guaranteed to take place: 1) poverty will still exist when I die and 2) my family will have zero money when I die. It’s common sense if you think about it: we must have money in order to give it away. It’s not surprising that the bible spends much more time speaking about the dangers of greed in this passage, but we can’t ignore the last part where it talks about enjoying the gifts God gives us. It’s ok to go out to eat and buy expensive toys when you are able to afford it. If I have $10 million and I spend $200,000 on a sports car, that’s a very small percentage of my wealth that I have wrapped up in my car. I could still give $1 million to charity which is far more than most people are able to do. We should try to enjoy our wealth without falling in love with it and we should DEFINITELY stop judging other people for their wealth. When we do that the real problem isn’t greed, it’s envy.

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Two People, One Budget: 5 Things I’ve Learned About Money, Part 4

GeorgeSLAVERY, ONE FLESH

As I went through the process of getting married, I heard from several different places the importance of money in a marriage. It’s a commonly held belief that financial issues are the number one cause of divorce. I think it might be too simple to say money causes divorce, but it makes perfect sense to me that money is somehow mentioned in the majority of divorce cases. Thankfully, Antonia and I both knew from the beginning that as married people, we would completely combine our finances. As I’ve been paying more attention, I’ve realized that a lot of people don’t necessarily agree with that practice. I hear a lot about couples that get married and just never get around to combining their bank accounts. Probably the most common situation that I hear about from listening to Dave Ramsey’s show as well as hearing stories from my dad (in his pre-marital counseling) is that both husband and wife maintain their own checking account and then have one joint account where they deposit money for the bills they have to pay. It actually makes perfect sense if you think about it. You are helping provide for each other by contributing your fair share to the rent, utilities and other bills. Then, on top of that you have whatever extra money you earn to buy the things you want as an individual.

Only problem is: that’s not marriage. That’s the relationship you had with your roommates in college.

I think that situation reflects our increasing understanding of marriage as an agreement that we enter into with the purpose of increasing our own happiness. We also tend to assume that a marriage is about fairness. If one person makes more money, then they should have more money in their bank account to spend, right? I could probably write an entire post about where that mentality comes from (Movies, TV Shows, etc.), but I want to focus on the fact that it’s crucial to have a healthy view of money within your marriage in order to be successful with money.

Marriage is about sacrifice. Period. That doesn’t mean that we don’t gain anything from being married, but like most things in life, what we gain comes through the sacrifice. The bible says that as a husband, I’m to love my wife the same way Jesus loved the church. What did Jesus do for the church? He died for her. Traditional marriage vows speak of giving ourselves to the other person as well as all of our worldly goods, which includes money. Anything I have also belongs to Antonia. WE have debt. WE have income. WE have financial goals. WE have a budget that we have to live by. Of course we have individual goals with money, and that’s part of the joy is putting our money towards the other person’s happiness. Why should I have my own bank account to buy things for myself unless I either don’t want her to know how I spend my money or I don’t want her to have a say in it. That isn’t marriage in my opinion. I should be choosing to give Antonia a say in all areas of my life because I trust her.

It’s a bit of a chicken vs. the egg situation when it comes to financial struggles and divorce. I don’t know if money struggles indicate problems that already exist or if money leads to problems in a marriage, but it’s very clear that it’s an important thing to consider.

LAMP OF THE BODY

Here are my thoughts on the movies I’ve seen in the last couple months in a few sentences:

ARGO- Incredible suspense that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It also made me really admire the bravery of people that go through those things.

The Hobbit- Tried to bring the weight of the Lord of the Rings to a story that couldn’t hold it. It was silly dwarfs mixed with over-played melodrama. The Hobbit has great themes that are different from the Lord of the Rings. Rather than exploring those themes, it tried to inject the themes from Lord of the Rings where they didn’t really fit.

Django Unchained- Tarantino is so good at gritty, interesting dialogue it’s ridiculous. The movie was very well done but I found myself feeling strange about all of the violence considering where we are right now in our culture. It’s a cathartic experience to watch disgusting racists get blown away, but is that really good for anyone?

Lincoln- Felt like spending a long weekend at your grandparent’s house. There’s very little excitement and everything seems to move slow, but every once in a while there’s a nice moment where Grandpa sits you down and imparts great wisdom and you feel like you learned something. My admiration for Daniel Day-Lewis also grew. That guy is so good.

Les Misérables- Several people around me were in tears at the end of the movie. The story is one of the greatest ever with powerful messages and I think they did well with the movie. But for some reason the music doesn’t elevate the story to the place where it really moves me to tears. Maybe I just don’t like the operatic way of singing every word. However, I was told that seeing the right actors on stage can totally change that since Hugh Jackman and definitely Russell Crowe didn’t totally do justice to the music.

PATIENCE AND A GENTLE TONGUE

There’s a lot of buzz about the inauguration on Monday here in D.C. I think God put it on my heart to pray for the President’s safety on Monday. I guess I was thinking about all the anger and hate in our country and I think the people who pray should be praying for peace, regardless of our politics.

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You Wear Your Heart on Your Wallet: 5 Things I’ve Learned About Money, Part 3

GeorgeSLAVERY

We’ve all heard the expression ‘He wears his heart on his sleeve’. We use it when someone’s emotions are so obvious that they can’t hide them. For example, take the other day when I clicked on a video someone shared on facebook of a flash mob singing Christmas carols at the mall. Well, if someone had walked into my office at that moment my sleeve would have screamed ‘I’m a big baby!’ at them while I would have tried to quickly wipe the tears and speak in a manly, over-compensatingly low voice.

Anyway, we know that only God can truly know someone else’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7), but Jesus also taught us that there are some pretty big clues that you can look at in order to take an inventory of your own heart. He says in Matthew 6 that ‘where you put your treasure, that’s where your heart is’. Jesus said that it’s not your sleeve that betrays the state of your heart, it’s actually your wallet.

I’ve pretty much always brushed over that verse with a “yeah, yeah, yeah, what else ya got?” attitude. Not to say I disagreed with it or something, just that I didn’t even give it enough thought to even disagree with it in the first place. It kinda has that feel of a fluffy, heavenly thing that Jesus said. But if you think about it, it’s actually pretty wise.

Like a lot of people my age, I’ve grown up with a pretty shallow ideology in terms of money. I think the simplest way to outline my financial philosophy would be something like this: ‘Don’t have? Complain. Have? Spend. Have too much? Spend more and maybe give some away.’ I figured that if I gave too much thought to money I would make it an idol in my life, so I tried to be as content as possible living paycheck to paycheck. (Ironically, looking back, that was only possible because I was bailed out by my parents all through high school and even in college.)

If we take the time to listen to what Jesus said, we’ll see that He was right. You know how forensic scientists can basically figure out if you’ve ever been in a place because everywhere you go, you leave a little bit of yourself behind in the form of a hair or a piece of skin or something? Well think about that in terms of money. Almost every move you make in the world requires some kind of cost. You pay for transportation, food, housing and having fun. If you’re not directly paying for things, every minute you spend not making money will eventually have to be compensated by a job if you want to maintain any kind of lifestyle.

If you look at things that way, start to think about the money trail you leave behind. A few years ago my money trail would show that my heart was in video games, Taco Bell and going to the movies. The funny thing is that I also would have said that it was a good thing to tithe 10% of my income, but I was always making the case to God that I didn’t have enough to do that. When I tried to ignore the importance of money, my natural outflow of money revealed what was really important to me. You could see that my heart was in the wrong place. If you say that you want God to be in control of your money, but then all of your money is spent on yourself, where is your heart truly? Money is a discipline, just like losing weight or exercising. You can say you want to lose weight or get stronger but if you never go on a diet or lift any weights, will people really believe that you care about those things?

Where your money is, that’s where your heart is.

CROWNS THAT DON’T LAST

Redskins > Ravens

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You Are Not Outsmarting Your Credit Card Company: 5 Things I’ve Learned About Money, Part 2

SLAVERY

According to creditcards.com, talking about credit card debt was ranked as the most taboo subject to talk openly about in a survey. It was ranked just as high as discussing the DETAILS OF YOUR LOVE LIFE!! Well, I guess I’m going to make people very uncomfortable in this post, so be prepared!

In my last post I brought up the fact that credit card companies are NOT afraid of your wheeling and dealing. Sometimes when you’re talking to people about credit cards, they will suddenly start speaking in a low voice and tell you their secret plan to defeat their credit card company by paying off their balance every month in order to get the points without paying any interest. They usually follow that up with their “evil plan laugh“. The problem with this is, the statistics don’t show that it’s working. Most credit card holders (including myself at one time) have the mentality that a credit card is a useful tool if used correctly, but it requires strong self-discipline. Ok. Now imagine you have a friend that is an alcoholic and they say to you, ‘Look, the bar is a really great place to make friends and have community. I just have to be self-disciplined when I go in there.” If you want to be a good friend, you’ll tell them they need to steer the hell away from the bar. VISA and AmericanExpress are cashing in on your logic. On the flip side, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are not going to tell you that they got to where they are because they had a few free flights from their SkyMiles. As a matter of fact, if you research the tips that millionaires and billionaires give for success, the thing they all seem to agree on is living within your means.

I want to throw a few important facts out there for everyone to keep in mind, especially as we go through the holidays:

1) Paying off your balance every month CAN STILL cost you money.

If you are very, very careful you can live that way without going into debt, but there is a really important factor that is left out of most people’s mindsets. There is a psychological factor in how we spend our money. When we use a credit card we are almost ALWAYS inclined to spend more money because we don’t feel the pain of money actually leaving our hands. That means that when you’re spending your “future money” with your credit card, you’re much more likely to say things like, “Go ahead and supersize it and throw in an extra hash brown.” Your cash is flowing out significantly faster with credit cards than it would be with cash or even a debit card. (And in that example, you’re also getting fatter.) As we’re developing even easier ways to pay for things like “the Square” and being able to swipe our iphones at starbucks, it will show in how much faster our money flows out. Source

2) Minimum payments are not designed to encourage you to pay down your balance, they are designed to DISCOURAGE you to pay down your balance.

This one isn’t hard to figure out. Your minimum balance tells you nothing about how much money you can actually afford to throw at your debt. What it really says is, “Give us this little amount of money and you can keep all your toys and you won’t hear from us for a whole month!” The credit card companies know this and it distracts people from the amount of money they lose in interest by only paying the minimum. Decide how much you are going to pay on a card based on how much you can fit into your personal budget, not based on their minimum payment. Source

3) We (myself included) criticize our government for going trillions of dollars into debt. Well, right now American consumers as a whole owe $11.38 trillion in debt. Households with debt owe an average of $15,328 on credit cards, $149,782 on mortgages and $34,703 on student loans. Not quite as much as the government’s debt, but it’s close enough for us to realize that as individuals we might be a part of the economic problem as well. Source

4) Credit card rewards programs do just enough to keep people believing in them. Most airline miles go unredeemed and in the end the rewards just aren’t worth any interest you might pay. Research the statistics on this and think about it from the credit card company’s perspective. Do you think it’s working in their favor or in the favor of the customer? If their customers spend more money by holding their card, they aren’t going to be upset about shelling out a few bucks here and there in rewards. In the end, we are not ‘beating them’ at this game. Source

Since this is apparently a taboo subject I want to say that I hope I don’t ever sound judgmental when I write about money. I started to learn about these things because I have made some major mistakes with money that I’m still paying for. Once I started to learn, I became pretty passionate about sharing some of the information so that other people might not make those mistakes. So I pray that you all make good decisions and experience blessings with money.

MISCELLANEOUS

A friend of mine has recently started a blog here. In one of his posts, he talked about the power of podcasts. I totally related to it since I’ve started devouring podcasts recently. It started with Dave Ramsey’s daily radio show about money (of course), but now I’ve branched out to Ravi Zacharias, Andy Stanley and a photography podcast. It’s such an underrated bit of technology. After a while listening to these guys every day, it starts to feel like they are actually mentoring me in some form. You can actually start to see your knowledge and wisdom grow by just listening to them while working out or walking to the metro. If you want to get better at something or understand something better, there are tons of free podcasts out there on almost every topic. Look into it.

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