Inspired by Jon Acuff’s post #750 “Thinking the church is not wisely spending your tithe” , I thought I’d write a note about one of my peeves: When pastors, church staff, and “poor people” have to explain or justify a purchase or experience because someone might think its extravagant. I was going to ask Jon to write something on it if he hadn’t already then I thought, “Duh, you have your own blog, Joni.” So Jon, if you’re reading this, feel no pressure to express my thoughts.
So, you hear that your pastor, church staffer or a “poor” friend just had an awesome dinner in one of the hottest restaurants in the city and then saw a high priced show. How about a brand new car? House? Vacation? What’s your first thought? Try some of these on for size: “That’s a little extravagant isn’t it?” “I’m sure they could have found a better way to spend that money.” “How much are we paying our pastor again?” “He/She shouldn’t be driving a car like that. He’s obviously not stewarding his/her money well.” And they/you will say “stewarding” because its more spiritual than saying “spending”.
I had a former pastor who took his wife to the Caribbean every other year for vacation while the church struggled to pay its bills. No one knew that another couple gifted a week in their timeshare every other year so the pastor could vacation with his wife and actually relax and reconnect. Another friend super burdened financially and medically yet they managed to move into a bigger home. Oh, did I mention her parent gifted them the house? Things aren’t always as they appear and there is usually that one bit of information that puts it into perspective.
Do we need to begrudge someone a new car? I’m kind of tired of Christian bumper stickers showing up on beater cars. Would love to see “My boss is a Jewish Carpenter” slapped onto the backside of a BMW or Mercedes. Well, then they’d get in trouble for buying a foreign car. But I digress.
Then there’s this thought. What if there were no logical or spiritual explanation to justify or defend a so-called extravagant expenditure? Gulp. What if they DID spend more then we thought reasonable? What if? How about SO WHAT? Is it really our business? Go deeper. Why don’t we want others to have or experience extravagance? What’s the problem with enjoying another’s good fortune? Is Romans 12:15 all that important?
Went to a tax service and got our taxes filed today. I used to do them myself but when we had to deal with a rental property and subsequent sale of death rental property, I knew I couldn’t hang with the big tax dogs. This year we didn’t have as many forms to deal with but there’s just no way my brain can configure it all anymore so it is worth the fee. Especially since our refunds have doubled since I stopped doing them myself. No, really. I’ve tried tax software before but discovered that sometimes you need to know the questions to ask to bring up the right forms or deductions/credits. I didn’t know those. We will be getting a refund this year as we usually do, though smaller since we took the money upfront in the paychecks. Here are some things that our tax service clued us in on that we had not been paying attention to:
Medical miles-keep track of how many miles you drive each year to medical appointments
Charity miles-keep track of how many miles you drive each year to volunteer
Go to the Salvation Army and Goodwill websites to download valuation guides on donated items. You’d be surprised how much your garbage bags and boxes of clothing and household items are worth. And I just used the low end of the scale.
Public school registration fees
We also discovered tax credits we had no idea we qualified for. There are certainly many more things that apply to individual situations and (disclaimer alert) you would need to consult with your own tax preparer to see what is available to you. Oh, my favorite part included with our fee, is that we have the full assistance of the service should there be any issues with the IRS. WORTH IT.
I hadn’t meant for this to be a soapbox on using a tax prep service. I was just relieved we were able to get a refund even though I thought I’d made some mistakes throughout the year. I couldn’t have done it on my own. If you’re freaking out about filing your return, I kid you not, talk to an accountant or service and let them help. Sometimes peace of mind is half the battle.
Our kids are taught a new virtue each month in their Orchard Kids Wahabu class. This month the virtue is generosity. In combination with the grown up church, the kids are also learning about the clean water crises around the world. They talked in small group about what they could do to help whether it was give something from their piggy bank or maybe give up a Christmas gift and ask mom & dad to donate that money toward the clean water project.
So Doug gets a note from Maddie saying she would like to give up the Panda she was asking for and would we donate that money to the water project?
Of course we couldn’t have afforded the $60 Panda anyway but we will happily donate a portion of her Christmas gift budget.
I received a Christmas-themed email survey the other day. You know the ones where you copy and paste it onto a new email, type over the sender’s answers and forward along. I love those. Seriously I do. One question is nagging at me tonight. It was “Worst thing about this time of year”. My answer was “feeling guilty about the things I didn’t get done”.
Tonight, Maddie is having more insomnia. She and I talked in her room for about 30 minutes and along with discovering the source of her insomnia she informs me that she’d like to have a Barbie cruise ship. I believe “Party Ship” is the correct name. She says it has a pool on it, beds, and a buffet. A buffet? Really? Shoot. I’D get a Barbie party ship in that case. $70. Seriously $70. Plus also, she’d like the Alive Panda which is technically called the WowWee Alive Cubs Panda. Um, yeah $60. Aside from being monstrously out of our budget, I know darn well if we were to get one for Maddie, Annaliese and JD would want one too. Well, JD wouldn’t want the cruise ship. Just a missile system to sink it. That’s another story.
Let’s bring it back to our actual budget. If I get Maddie a Shimmer Princess Belle doll and Annaliese gets an Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) doll, they will each want the other’s doll even though I know Maddie has been obsessed with Belle for a year and Annaliese with Sleeping Beauty. I know full well that if I get JD and Annaliese a couple of Thomas and Friends engines, Maddie will want one — even if she doesn’t like to play with them as much as the younger ones. We can’t get 3 of everything and I get that they need to learn to like what they get(which, really they are always thankful).
What I’m confessing is that in these situations, I don’t want to be the mom. I want to be the fun aunt that gives and leaves. I don’t want to teach anyone about sharing or respecting another’s stuff. I’m tired of the whining. I’m tired of not being able to get everything they want even though I know it still wouldn’t satisfy them. Crap. Now I’M whining. And I know the kids will get over it and move on with their lives but I’m just that neurotic to mull this over in my mind for years about how I failed to give them the coolest toy ever. I can’t take that much guilt and pressure.
OK now that I’ve spewed that out, I will be praying for Santa to actually exist and surprise us all with cool expensive toys that will sit on my driveway some summer with a $2 price tag on it.
If you have $5, like the cost of one Starbucks Venti Double shot Mocha or something or other, than please go to 50000shoes.com and see how fast you can buy TWO pair of shoes with $5. Its part of the 50,000 pairs in 50 days challenge by soles4souls, a charity dedicated to providing shoes to those in need. You may have already seen this movement posted around blog and twitter world. If you haven’t bought your shoes, click on the above links and seriously, it only takes about a minute–less time and money than it takes to actually order and receive said Starbucks Venti Double shot Mocha frappe latte blah blah.
Then, post it in your own blog or twitter and pass it on. So far there have been close to 3000 pairs purchased in 48 hours. A good start but that means there are 47,000 left. Anne Jackson has a much more inspiring post than mine. Check this out for more info.
Our church community participated last year and it was a great experience for our family. I highly recommend.
Warning: stoner logic ahead…
I think that I will be ok in this volatile and recessed or depressed economy. I plan on using my credit cards as much as possible. With all the banks and financial firms failing, eventually the credit companies will fail and I won’t have to pay back a dime. Now THAT’S a bailout plan worth signing!
To increase short-term cash flow, I will flippantly visit Walk-In care clinics so that my Flexible Savings Account will reimburse me for the uncovered portion. I’ll deal with the doctor bill later. (Why do you think Doug has so many *wink**wink* hernia surgeries?)