Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mission Accomplished

Today was a good day. We got a late start in the garden because of an after Church activity. By the time we had some lunch and got home it was already three o'clock. But in the last 4 hours, we've managed to clean up last years earth boxes and buckets and plant a good number of bell pepper, jalapeno peppers, habaneros, Ghost peppers and even a poblano. We also planted some summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, cantaloupe and green beans. I even had time to plant my black currant plants just as I had hoped. Brittan was a huge help and while I was watering everything in, she put the netting over our strawberry bed. As an aside, we are beginning to get a very nice number of strawberries. I didn't expect this many our first year. We're beginning to get some blossoms on our golden raspberries, too. Gotta love it.

We still have quite a bit to plant, but by this time next weekend, we should be done. I love this time of year.

Is it the Economy Turning Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde?

They are calling them, "Familycides". According to the press, it seems there has been an increase of them lately. The typical script goes: a man kills his wife and children, then kills himself. Neighbors, colleagues or family members discover the grisly scene and the authorities try and unravel the mess while the newswires feed the tragedy to the world.

Underlying an overwhelming majority of these familycides are serious financial issues. Usually a mountain of debt and often there is a hint of financial impropriety somewhere in the background.

We expect suicides to go up during economicly challenged times. In 1932, the height, or depth, of the 'great depression' suicides dramatically spiked. I remember at least one suicide that resulted from the Enron scandal a few years back. And just this past week, a leading financial officer of Freddie Mac, the troubled mortgage company, took his own life.

But now, we have these extremists, who not only kill themselves in a moment of shame and distress, but take those they love with them. How could anyone sink that far down the pit of depravity?

The media would spin this into a demonstration that we 'are in the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression'. I say, "Poppycock!"

First, we are NOT in the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression. So far, it's not even the worst in my lifetime. I remember some pretty bad times in the 70s and 80s, when interest rates and unemployment rates were considerably higher than today. When we leave emotions and hype out of the mix and put our present situation into historic perspective, we see an entirely different story.

One of the differences now is the amount of debt held both individually and corporately. Never in our past have so many owed so much to so many more. America and the world have leveraged ourselves to the breaking point. As the old parable reminds us, when a house is built on a foundation of sand, it will never withstand the strain of stormy weather, regardless of how lovely it might be. And for many families, businesses and nations, our financial houses are built on just such sandy places.

Back to our premise, for just a moment; it is not the economy that is turning peaceful family men into mass murderers. In Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, it was a potion that brought the evil, decadent Edward Hyde out of meek Dr. Jekyll, but the potion was just the catalyst. Henry Jekyll knew, or at least suspected, that he (we all) had a dark side. What surprised him was the immensity and strength of evil inside.

In the same way, financial crashes are not the root of familycides, or even suicides, but are merely the potions consumed that allow an inner dark side to emerge.

I would argue that the way to fix our economy is quite simple. Not very easy, but quite simple. We do it the same way we fix our personal economies, we spend less than we earn. We live within our means. There will be pain, embarrassment and frustration involved, but that's how we get there. I say no institution is too big to fail. In fact, for us to regain sound footing, some instutions MUST fail.... or reorganize and live again.

But we'll address that another day. Today, let's examine a solution to the rampage of murder and suicide that fills our daily news reports. First, not all of them are financially related. Many have to do with broken relationships. But all have one common denominator: despair!

Often there is anger, depression, fear and panic. Then hopelessness takes over and Mr Hyde is loosed. He inevitably leaves devastation in his wake.

The individuals who perform these dasdardly acts, have one piece correct, in a twisted sort of way. The only way to eliminate Edward Hyde, is to kill him. But that doesn't mean Dr. Jekyll must perish as well. And it certainly doesn't mean that the entire Jekyll household must be exterminated.

The Bible calls our Mr Hyde, "the old man". And he truly does live in all of us. When left to our own devices we are all capable of great corruption. Fortunately most don't take things to the ultimate extreme that family killers and mass murderers do. But we all have ugliness inside. The Bible reminds us that the "old man" must be put to death. He cannot be controlled, tamed or domesticated. He must be destroyed.

We do that by handing over the keys of our lives to Jesus of Nazareth and letting Him drive. It's called, 'repentance.' Repentance sounds like some kind of a demand, but it's really an invitation; Jesus said it this way, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."

An economic turnaround will not repair the darkness inside us. But Jesus can. Just like we need to build our finances on new foundations, we need to rebuild our lives on a new foundation. It won't always be easy. And the stormy weather will still come, but just like in the old parable, a house built on the rock, will STAND.

My heart aches for the millions in fear and despair right now. I know the answer. I've experienced it. It works. HE works. I encourge you to read the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. If you don't have a New Testament, go online to and read it there. Talk about becoming DEBT FREE! It's even better than IOU NO MORE.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Garden Update

Finally..... some good weather and some progress. First, Brittan planted all the tomatoes this week. That's like, 200 or so plants. Amazing. Some of them have shocked pretty hard, but I do believe most of them will make it.

Last night I planted the corn and some green beans. Today things just got a good drink of water as we spent most of the day shopping for items for our basement. Tomorrow I plan to plant my black currant bushes, some hot and bell peppers, some squash, zucchini, cucumbers, cantaloupe and maybe a few carrots and garlic. I just want to at least get a little of everything in the ground before the weekend is over. Then we can spend next week, completing the project.

Our fruit trees are looking pretty good. Especially the fruit cocktail tree. The apple tree has come on well after looking for the longest time like it wasn't going to live. We lost a few raspberries and a blackberry plant to a freeze in March, but the rest of them are doing great.

Our tangerine, lemon and fig trees are coming on nicely as is our blueberry bush and our banana tree. I hope to start adding some pics to this space once I get the garden in. I think that will help in understanding the scope of the project. It should also show that anyone can do the same thing, with a little creativity and sweat.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Town Hall For Hope

Tonight at 8 p.m. eastern time, Dave Ramsey will present his live national simulcast, "Town Hall For Hope". Thousands of Churches across the country will serve as hosts. Dave intends to address the economy then take live questions from audience members. It looks to be quite an event. I expect it to calm a lot of fears and make quite an impact, nationally. You'll find a link to Dave's website on the side panel of this blog. Check it out.

Due to other extremely pressing commitments, Brittan and I will not be able to attend the event, but we're fully supportive. Dave is one of the Good Guys.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How Typical Millionaires Manage Money

As you know, from time to time I enjoy passing along links to articles I find interesting. This is one of those times. Yahoo Finance has a fun little article about how ordinary millionaires think about money. Hmmm...... "ordinary millionaire" sounds a little like an oxymoron, but here's the link anyway.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My Heart Hurts Tonight

It sure is quiet here at Recession Proof Central. Too Quiet. Brittan is away this weekend at a Church sponsored women's retreat and I'm here doing the all alone thing. Oh, don't worry, I shan't be bored. Mrs. B left me with a nice list of chores to complete while she is away bonding with people and renewing her spirit. If I get the list complete, it will be a miracle. See, from my perspective, weekends were made for naps. But apparently I'm wrong. Apparently they are for getting the basement ready for the contractors who arrive on Monday to turn it into a living area. I believe the correct expression is, 'a finished basement.' Finished bank account, more like. But at least the contractor is someone I can trust. He's married to my sister, so chances are, he'll do the job right, cause I know where he lives. And his work crew is one of my younger cousins, who I haven't seen in about 11 years. I'm quite excited about the project, actually. And both my brother in law and cousin are good eggs. They will stay with us through the week and return to their wives in Florida on weekends. I'm looking forward both to the finished basement and the 'fellowship' time.

But the main reason my heart is hurting is because of the spike in very sad emails I'm receiving from men and women who are struggling during this difficult economy. Sure, most people simply write and say, 'here's my money, send a book.' or, 'please send the free spending plan form'. But several have poured their hearts out regarding the difficulties they are facing. While I wish I could make their pain go away, I am honored that IOU NO MORE can be there to help others go from where we were to where we are now.

If you have beaten debt and are living debt free, make yourself available to assist others. If you're struggling now, fear not. The future is bright.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Major Power Outage

We've been without internet here at Recession Proof Central for about 40 hours. It's good to be connected to the world again. Got nothing to write about. Just wanted to share the good news that we're on line again.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Reports are True! The Nazarene is Alive!

Blogging isn't a modern thing. It's only the technology that's new. Men and women have kept journals for centuries. Ships' Captains have kept logs since Navies first set sail. The only difference is, now we have computers for storage and the internet to allow the whole world, if they like, to see our rambling.

I was wondering last evening what a blog from the centurion in charge of Jesus' crucifixion might have looked like as his world turned upside down over the course of a long and interesting weekend. Perhaps it went something like this:

Centurion's Log: Friday: Today, I played a role in a very great mistake. Today, we executed the Son of God. I didn't think so at the start, but now...........

It began as a quite ordinary event. There were three scheduled for execution today. Two had been on the dockets for a while. One was hastily ordered only this morning. I am assuming the Governor did so to try and avoid a riot. My, how he hates this Judean assignment.

It's festival season here in Jerusalem. People are everywhere. It's some part of their religion. They swarm the city every spring to celebrate. And it goes on for two months. How do they ever get any work done?

The streets are quite literally teeming with bodies. Crowd control is difficult at the best of times. Pilate worries constantly this time of year. Today things got out of hand. A Galilean itinerant teacher, called Jesus (He is so much more) was arrested by the local temple police last evening and charged with all sorts of crimes against the Jewish religion. I have little understanding of their beliefs or traditions. But I do know the Priests and Clergy hate this Jesus with a great passion.

This morning came early as the High Priest led a contingent straight to Pilate's hall of judgment demanding immediate prosecution and execution of the Galilean. The Governor is not a strong man. He is sometimes wise, sometimes prudent, but rarely shows strength of leadership. After some attempts to settle the matter peacefully, even enlisting the help of Herod, the 'king' of these Jews, Pilate eventually yielded to the request of the Jewish leaders, out of fear of the crowd. As the morning progressed the scene had indeed become most unruly.

I was put in charge of the executions. It's part of my job. I neither like it nor am particularly repulsed by it. It is the duty of the Roman military to meet out justice swiftly and effectively. But in all my years of service, I have never seen a sight like the one I saw today. Crowds lined the streets, watching as we led the already severly flogged and bloodied Jesus towards the execution site. Blood loss, pain and exhaustion had stripped him of most of his strength, so progress was slow. Eventually, I was forced to conscript one of the bystanders into carrying condemned man's cross, or we might still be on the road.

By the time our procession reached the execution site, which these Jews call, "Skull Hill", the other two prisoners were already crucified. The soldiers with me were nervous, as was I, because of the sea of humanity that came to watch Jesus die. Why are people so fascinated by public execution? What morbid curiosity drives them? As a soldier, I have seen enough death to last me three lifetimes.

We nailed Jesus to the cross and lifted Him into place. I have chronicled the details of crucifixion elseswhere as have the historians, but I still shudder when I see and hear the bodies convulse as the cross is dropped into it's support hole. If ever a practice should deter crime, it is crucifixion.

Apart from the slowness of the march, the day had progress more smoothly than I could have hoped. Until the bodies were hanging, that is. It seems like only moments after we lifted the Galilean into place that all hell broke loose. Though it was mid day, it suddenly became darker than mid night. There were no clouds, only darkness. No stars, no sun, no moon only black. Frear gripped the crowd, but still they lingered. For hours it looked like the world might end. Terror gripped us all. And yet the people continued to watch the dying men, fixated with blood lust.

He died quicker than most. It's not surprising considering the torture he'd endured prior to execution. But it's what he said that has changed me to the core of my being. What he said, and what happened at the end. While the crowds mocked and insulted, Jesus carried on a conversation with one of the men beside him. He comforted the dying man with promises of forgiveness and eternal life. Rather than focus on his own agony, he aided another. Who behaves that way? He even forgave the crowd for their insults and insistance on his death.

At the moment of Jesus' death, the very earth shook. It was as severe and earthquake as I've experienced. All Jerusalem was rocked. It will be tomorrow before we can assess the damage, but I have heard that even the Jews' precious temple was damaged. An expensive, ornate curtain of some sort was destroyed. There is some commotion about it being torn fromt the top down. The significance of that is lost on me.

It was at that moment I realized the mistake we were making. The darkness, the earthquake, these were not coincidence. I pushed my way past the soldiers, with every intent of rescuing the Galilean. This was no ordinary man. I screamed at my men to help me. I begged the crowd to help me end this madness. "This really is the Son of God", I shouted. And I belive I am correct. But by the time I reached him, the man was dead. What have we done?

Centurion's Log: Saturday: I slept poorly last night. I am haunted by yesterday's events. It's much quieter today. I led a team through the city to survey the damage caused by the earth quake. Fortunately, there was very little. Apart from the temple, the only obvious damage is in the local burial yards. There are open graves everywhere. And dozens of bodies are missing. Perhaps vandals ransacked them in the night. Perhaps wild dogs went on a feeding frenzy. Perhaps both. But it will take weeks to find the remains and get them back into the ground. And these Jews with their odd customs and repulsion of corpses will bemoan the entire project. No doubt my men and I will do the lion's share of the work.

I can't get the Galilean, Jesus, off my mind. I've never seen a man like him. I've certainly never seen one die like him. Pilate ordered his tomb sealed and placed under guard. I guess that's one body that won't go missing in the earthquake's aftermath.

Centurion's log: Sunday, The body of the Nazarene, Jesus is gone. I have seen the gravesite myself. The stone that covered it is sitting nicely beside the empty cavern. The burial shroud is inside, but there is no corpse. There is no sign of forced entry and no sign of scavenger activity. The shroud is not damaged, nor is the head covering. There was no earthquake last night. Something is going on here, that I don't understand. Or do I?

Jesus' followers are all claiming that the man is alive. How can such a thing be? I was there, I saw him die. I oversaw the entire crucifixion. But there are more than 500 people who claim to have seen him.

And there is more. According to reports, many of them eyewitnesses, a great number of the former inhabitants of the burial yard, have been located..... alive and well. They walked as a group into the city this morning, claiming that Jesus, the Galilean had raised them. This is extroardinary. But it is undeniable. I have interviewed eyewitnesses and have even spoken with some who were dead and are now alive.

But what does it mean? How do I respond? Who will believe it? If I hadn't been present, I might wonder myself.... One thing is certain, today I must search the city. At all costs, I must find Jesus!

Note: While the 'centurion's log' is fiction, his story and the other events recorded here may be found in the New Testament accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Read them for yourself. Then go look for Jesus. He's not hard to find. Happy Easter.

Friday, April 10, 2009

First Things First

It the definition paragraph of this blog, I openly admit that this space will, from time to time pursue musings on faith matters. This is one of those times.

Today is Good Friday. I do not have the words to express what today means to me. On this day we remember when Jesus of Nazareth was tortured beyond measure and brutally executed, though innocent of either crime or sin. Over the years volumes have been written about who actually killed him. Was it the Jews? Was it the Romans? Was it Judas Iscariot? Was it a conspiracy?

Let me end the debate once and for all. If you need to find a villain behind the most heinous crime of all time, you need look no further than the author of this blog. It was me. I am guilty. I am responsible. For reasons I can't explain, other than an outrageous love, He took my place on the torture rack and on the cross. I should have been crucified. But He refused to allow me to pay my own debt. He knew I could never do it.

How do you thank One who would make a choice like that? How can you ever really demonstrate your appreciation? I owe Him everything. Every smile, every sunrise, every bird I hear sing, every joy I experience is all because of Jesus, the Christ. Sometimes I let Him down. Sometimes, maybe I make Him smile. But let all the world know this, I love Him beyond measure. He is my strength and my hope. Someday He will wrap His nail scared arms around me and I will hold him tight and thank Him personally. Until then, I'll just remain content to tell you about it.

Have a blessed Good Friday. And.......... Sunday's comin'. I'll can't wait to tell you bout that.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Revolution Is Especially Valuable To Churches

I still enjoy listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio. My favorite part of his show is his sign off, "The only way to financial peace is to walk daily with the Prince of Peace." I must have heard him say that hundreds of times over the years, but I'm still on the verge of tears each time I hear it. That message is so very true.

While IOU NO MORE was written for individuals and families, I have always been sensitive to the fact that Churches will, and should benefit from the principles as well. If Church members are debt free giving usually increases dramatically. If giving increases, the congregation can be increase outreach and service.

But taking the concept further, in Churches followed the same principles, avoiding debt and living on less that you earn, there is virtually no limit to the things we could accomplish in the world.

Brainstorm with me for a minute. Churches often build a worship center first. Then as they grow, they realize they need more classroom space or a gym or offices or...........

So they go into debt to build this extra building hoping and believing that the increased attendance will translate into increased offerings and the debt will be covered. As a result, 'overhead' is the single largest line item in the budgets of most churches. I find that tragic. Something just seems messed up to me when God's people spend more Kingdom money on upkeep and real estate than on actual outreach and missions.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not against Church buildings. I'm just not convinced that we shouldn't rethink the whole process before mortgaging our children and grandchildren, possibly at the expense of world evangelism opportunities.

I think more congregations could find strip malls and closed up movie theaters and former "Big Box Stores" to convert. I also see great wisdom in building the multi purpose center first. If I were planning a building program, that's what I'd do. I'd look at a metal kind of structure that could serve as gym, fellowship area and worship center. I'd take a page out of the public school systems and put a stage on one end. Or I'd have a sectional stage that could be set up and taken down as needed.

A plan like that would minimize expenses and provide great functionality. And I'm all for both.

Well, that's about enough thinking out loud for one evening.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Big Day in the Garden

Finally, sunny and warm on a Saturday. We made the most of it. First thing, we pulled all the tomato and pepper plants outside to get some real sunlight and breeze. For those who don't know, tomatoes need their leaves ruffled to help them thicken up. Nothing does that better than a breeze. When they are very small in the house, we would run our hands over the upper leaves a few times a day to simulate the wind. But I love seeing them soak up the sunshine and and mother nature's own gentle breath.

After that, we got to work completing some of our raised beds. We got three finished and topped off all the others that had settled a bit. I shoveled three cubic yards of dirt today. I assure you, that's a bunch.

Following the raised bed work, I took the weed eater and ran it around all the raised beds and around the perimeter of the back yard fence.

I had hoped to mow as well, but ran out of time. Besides, Brittan and I wanted to go to the movies.

Tomorrow, after Church, we'll get the stain for the raised beds. They were built last spring and the wood has aged and has that gray look that I don't like. We will stain them to give the garden more visual appeal.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Debt Help Scams on the Rise

It seems you can't turn on the radio or television (or internet) anymore without seeing a half dozen adds for programs that will teach you the 'secrets credit card companies don't want you to know' about not paying your debt legally. Poppycock! There aren't any 'secrets'. There is a great deal of common sense we can apply. And part of that common sense is avoiding these scam artists like they were carrying the plague, which in a way they do. These are hucksters who are preying of men and women who are in dire straights during difficult times and I dislike them very much. They are taking advantage of desperate people. They will charge enormous, sometimes hidden, fees for less valuable information than is available in IOU NO MORE for about $11 (including shipping).

I found a pretty good article about these groups on Yahoo finance. While I disagree a bit with the author's chosen strategy for dealing with debt, I fully agree with what she says regarding these dirt bag scam artists. You can read the article HERE.