Selling Sasha

Noah has a new-to-him car and thus it is now time to let Sasha, the venerable 2001 Saturn L200, roam to other parts of the world and bring joy and frustration to others. So I posted her on Facebook Marketplace last night and Craigsllist late this morning.

Scam Numbers thus far.

Within 10 minutes I started getting text messages from scammers on Craigslist. Thus far I been contacted by 5 scammers (4 “I’ll text you and then you email me at this non-craigslist email”, and 1 “hey buy this VIN check from a fake company and I might buy your car”). If the deal is too good to be true it probably is. If they will pay you a good bit extra for the trouble of shipping it to them, it is probably a scam. If they want you to send them a VIN check through a company you’ve never heard of, it is probably a scam. If they text you but then want to continue the conversation via an email address not associated with a Craigslist account, it is probably a scam. Basically be careful out their folks.

I remember a good friend of mine being scammed by the shipping/courier scam after asking me if I thought it was legit. I had not heard of the shipping scam at that time and therefore couldn’t warn them to avoid it. So they cashed the check and sent the “shipping” money to the supposed courier only to discover 6 weeks later that the check buying the puppy and paying for the expense of shipping was a fake. This was two decades ago and I still feel guilt over not knowing to warn them. Be careful out their folks.

Anyhow here’s the add. If you know someone who is interested let me know. I’ll work favorably with friends of friends.

Sasha (the car’s name) is an old cruddy, yet wonderful Saturn L200. She was a great car for both my boys but it is time for her to go to someone else.

The Good:
*She is open to a name change
*The speakers on the passenger side work
*Her insurance will be cheap
*She runs and just seems to keep running
*Her tires are in good shape
*She doesn’t burn oil, which is amazing for a Saturn 4 cylinder
*She has two sets of keys
*She has a spiffy UW-Eau Claire Blugold sticker on her bumper
*She has a crack in her back light trim that looks like South America is South America had been stretched a little width-wise.

The Bad:
*She has the typical early 2000s Saturn gas pump leak – it affects the mileage and you can smell it outside.
*Her rear suspension is noisy. Rides fine but it is noisy when you push on the rear.
*The air bag light has been on since I got her 9 years ago. Supposedly it is just the light but I don’t know that for sure because I never had it checked out. 
*Someone in a parking lot at UW-Eau Claire decided to customize her by keying the Driver’s Side of the car.
*The carpets are in bad shape from salt and a heater core leak that was fixed last year.
*The Cruise Control shorts out and blows the fuse if you push the “Resume” key. It works fine if you don’t press “Resume”.

$900 OBO.

Idolatry in the Modern Church

I don’t feel like the modern church does well with its own idolatry. The church points out the false gods of those outside of the bride of Christ but I don’t think we do a good job of pointing out our own false gods. This is partially because we have mistaken the role of the prophet. We tend to think that the prophet goes to those who are not followers of God and shouts “you are sinning and not following God.” That does happen. It is what Jonah reluctantly does. The beginning of the book of Amos is another example of a prophet doing just this. Amos looks to the nations surrounded Israel and says:

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Damascus,
even for four, I will not relent.
Because she threshed Gilead
with sledges having iron teeth,
I will send fire on the house of Hazael
that will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad.
I will break down the gate of Damascus;
I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven
and the one who holds the scepter in Beth Eden.
The people of Aram will go into exile to Kir,”
says the Lord. (Amos 1:3-5)

HOWEVER preaching about the sins of those who aren’t followers of YHWH isn’t the primary role that the prophet fills. Typically the prophet goes to the people of God and says “Hey you’re supposed to be acting like the people of God and you’re not.” The prophet primarily confronts those who claim to be the faithful.

Which is why I think the church struggles with its own idolatry. The church doesn’t confront its own false gods. We would rather preach against other people’s false gods. Here are some of the idols that I believe are inside the church being worshiped instead of God.

Celebrity – Celebrity is the cultural currency of the world outside the church, and unfortunately it is also the cultural currency of the church. The celebrity pastor is a pretty big thing and it isn’t even really a new thing. Of course, pastors aren’t the only ones being turned into celebrities. Bloggers, bible study leaders, and others are turned into idols that Christians flock too. We have established a culture within the Bride of Christ that lifts up celebrity status as the goal, we just say we’re going to use our celebrity status to tell people about Jesus. Therefore Pastors aim to be writers and speakers rather than pastors.

Power /Success – Just like the world around us we love success and power. Our love of success and power often leads to us idolizing them. Somehow a successful person must be holier than an unsuccessful person. If they are powerful God must have honored them with the power and if they are weak it is probably because of immoral choices. So we treat weakness as those it is the result of sin and power as if it is the result of holiness. You doubt this? When is the last time you heard someone demand drug testing of corporate executives before their companies could receive government subsidies (corporate welfare) versus when you heard the same request concerning the weak and the poor? We proclaim the weak messiah to be Lord but we lift up power in our churches.

Relevance – This one might be a stretch but I feel like many in the church feel the need to make sure that the gospel relates and connects with “real” life. So we lead parenting classes, financial courses, etc. etc. These are good things but they aren’t the main thing. Still we put our trust for church growth in our ability to show that the message of Jesus relates to better lives. Christianity isn’t about people living their best lives. It is about Jesus making the way inviting us to be a part of His kingdom of grace. We don’t shape the gospel to fit “real” life, we allow the gospel to shape our lives around it. I doubt the apostles lived “their best lives”, but they did live faithful, kingdom lives, which cost them everything.

Size – Bigger is better. We all know that. So many things in the world around us point to this. So we live it out in our churches too. If you aren’t growing then you aren’t being faithful. After all, healthy things grow. At least that’s the analogy we often use in the church, never stopping to think that it is actually healthy things mature, not necessarily grow. How many 10′ tall people do you know? If you met one do you think they would be very healthy or riddled with health issues because humans weren’t meant to grow to such height? Jesus’s ministry shrank from possibly 25,000 followers to around 300 at the point of his death and resurrection. Was His ministry healthy? I think so! 

There are so many other things I could mention. Money. Beauty (look at the beautiful people we put on our stages). Etc. Etc. We sing and talk a lot about being so different from the world but most of the time our churches live out the same values as the world. We trust in strength and power. We shout down and hate our enemies. We show favoritism to the rich and powerful. And so on and so on.

Our Lord won His victory on the cross through weakness, suffering, and apparent defeat. Maybe our churches should be more like that. Are you looking for a church right now, maybe consider finding a weak one.

Tapestry Fathers (and Mothers)

The image above is the verse of the day in the Bible app I use. Seemed appropriate since Father’s Day is Sunday. It also reminded me how thankful I am for the many parents we have in Tapestry. I say parents because while this Sunday the focus will be on Fathers the reality is that we have excellent Fathers and Mothers in Tapestry and I want to brag on all of y’all for a second.

Unfortunately I have known and know of some not so good Fathers and Mothers during my years of ministry. Sometimes it has been from first hand experience and other times it has been hearing of the pain inflict by such parents on their kids who were and are people who I love. The good parents do the things that are in the best interests of their kids becoming mature adults who can trust and are healthy enough to add to their communities and relationships, and show their kids the grace and love that are found in Jesus. The other parents are typically focused on themselves – even when they may say they are all about their kids and family, their actions say otherwise (often they seem to be the ones to say the loudest that they “would do anything for their kids”, that is, anything but whatever they don’t want to or isn’t focused on themselves). Grace and discipline are NOT separate for the parents that I admire. The parents I admire seem to recognize that when scripture tells us “Whoever spares the rod hates their children” (Proverbs 13:24a) the “rod” is meant for direction of the child, to point them in the right direction, and, therefore, don’t use such verses as an excuse to shout at or even physically harm their child and somehow think that causing such fear is good parenting.

I could go on but I won’t. What I want to say is that as of last week Tapestry has three new dad’s who this Sunday will experience their first Father’s Day holding their kids. I have no doubt that Elizabeth & Nathan, Bethany & Conor, and Ellyn & David are going to be incredible parents who will raise their children in the love and peace of Jesus. Part of my faith here comes from the fact that they are surrounded by such a “great cloud of witnesses” in Tapestry concerning what it means to be a good mom and dad. From couples together, to single parents, to foster parents, to blended families I am so thankful for the sacrificial way you love and the example your set for our young parents.

I am so very thankful for all of you.

Please Don’t Put Ranch on the Jambalaya!

Today was Tapestry’s annual jambalaya meal for the Teachers and Staff of Washington Elementary School. We do this each year to say “thanks” for putting up with us throughout the year and also for teaching the kids in our community. This year it almost didn’t happen because of the construction at the school. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen until this past Friday. This is why the meal was basically thrown together at the last minute and not as many “threads” as usual were involved in it.

Anyhow my heart was hurt today when one of the teachers grabbed a big ole’ plate of jambalaya and then began to cover the whole thing in Ranch salad dressing. It still hurts to even think about it. Almost makes me feel like I can never cook jambalaya again. Naw. I’ll cook it again. I just want bring Ranch next time. 😉

By the way, starting next week Tapestry will meet at the IDEA Center. We will meet here through the Summer due to the construction at Washington. We saw what they had started today and I understand completely why we can’t meet there during the construction. It is a big deal.

Trying Out Blooom

I kept hearing about Blooom on a few financial podcasts that I listen to (particularly “Stacking Benjamins which is one of my two favorite – the other being Clark Howard who I love – seriously Clark Howard is the best, if you aren’t listening to him you should, like right now, stop reading this and listen to Clark) so I thought I would try it out. I really like what they have recommended with my retirement account and the fact that it automatically re-balances my funds 4 times a year is wonderful. Anyhow if you go here and try it out you get a deal and I get a referral Amazon credit of $10 It is a win-win.

Blooom is a roboadvisor that manages your employer based 401k. They look at your funds and within your 401k provider balances your funds to to match your financial goals and comfort with risk while looking for the lowest cost funds within your 401k provider. A human advisor would take a percentage of your fund total. Blooom is a set fee.

Thus far I really like Blooom.

This World Has Nothing For Me … Except For This

Adam just introduced me to the Instagram account PreacherNSneakers which is basically just an account of the price of certain celebrity preachers’ (I can’t believe this is a category now) shoes and their various other clothes.

In Steve Martin’s classic movie “The Jerk” there is this great scene where Steve Martin’s character proclaims again and again how he doesn’t need anything. Well sort of.

When I see the photos and price tags attached on PreachersNSneakers I have a hard time not imagining these preachers singing a “Jerk” paraphrased version of anyone of a number of worship songs that basically say “this world has nothing for me”. I’ll mention “This World” by Caedmon’s Call because I believe it is one of the better ones.

Anyhow the paraphrase I hear in my mind when i see these photos goes something like this.

This world has nothing for me … except THIS.

Proud to be Paid in Full as of Today

I’m going to brag about a family accomplishment that took place today.

One of the things that has been very important to Pam and me has been for our boys to be able to go to college, if they wanted to, without accruing a huge amount of debt. I am not opposed to debt, I think Dave Ramsey goes a little wacko with his anti-debt thing (I’m honestly not a big Ramsey fan – he’s great for getting out of debt but I think much of his other advice is suspect). I am however opposed to bad debt. Good debt helps you accomplish good goals and therefore has reasonable debt ceilings. Bad debt burdens you and keeps you from being able to do what you want and feel called to do because you have to make a serious student loan payment each month. So it was important to us that our boys education be done in a manner that they were enabled to do whatever they felt called to do. If they felt called to work in job that didn’t pay much it would be much easier to do so if they weren’t burdened with a large student loan. So the whole family made sacrifices to make sure that they were both freed from large student loans as a result of their undergraduate degrees.

When I say the whole family I mean the whole family. Both boys were a part of this. They both worked hard to cover their own expenses and earn scholarships. Adam worked in the woods of Minnesota to earn scholarships from the Conservation Corps and Noah worked as a Resident Adviser to get free room and board. Both boys also understood that they needed to pick a good regional school for this to work. I know they both would have enjoyed going to flagship universities. We told them that we would pay for a good regional school and anything beyond that was on them, though we hoped they would choose to not have any debt. They both earned wonderful degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. They made wise choices and that made this possible.

Pam and I also have made choices that helped to accomplish this and sometimes we have also just been lucky. We both worked hard for the extra income to pay for tuition but we also got lucky with opportunities occurring when they did. For example, Pam worked as much as possible during the Summer semesters at UWSP and took up opportunities that provided extra income that enabled us to pay towards the boys’ school. She has worked extra committees and completed non-necessary projects to help us achieve this goal. In addition, my job with Corporate Chaplains of America popped up at a time when I was looking for some extra income to cover college expenses. A notice concerning it appeared on a friend’s Facebook page right when I was looking. Turns out that I love being a chaplain as much as I love being a pastor. I work hard at chaplaining and pastoring but I didn’t control seeing that Facebook Ad. That was luck. and the privilege of knowing people who would post such ads. I was just able to take advantage of the circumstances that occurred. The reason I say this is because while Pam and I have worked hard to make sure that the boys’ school has been paid for. We earned extra income and cut many unnecessary expenses. Still I also recognize that it hasn’t been all by our work and effort. Others, often, don’t have such opportunities. Much has happened for us because of God’s blessing and some has occurred because of some of the privileges that I have had that others have not had. We didn’t get here just by our hard work.

I need to say that our circumstances now are quite different than they were in the past. For most of our marriage and for most of the boy’s lives we have been a family with one primary income and, at best, a small side income, and often no side income, from the other spouse. This was a purposeful choice on our part. We went through many years of living paycheck to paycheck and not paying certain bills at certain times because our cash reserves couldn’t handle the payment. We had the opportunity to make this choice, while others don’t. I am thankful for that opportunity and I recognize that it was a gift. In addition much of our professional time was spent with the primary income being a traditionally low paying job. Televangelists, and some mega-church senior pastors, might make it look otherwise but ministerial positions aren’t typically high paying positions. The same is true with Pam’s position. She could leave her professorial position and receive a pay raise instantly. Income has never been our primary motivator. Still our circumstances over the past 5 years have been vastly different from our circumstances in the past, and that made paying for school possible. We made choices to put ourselves in as good of a situation as possible but we were also lucky that the extra income came at the right time and that we didn’t have catastrophe’s happen at the wrong time. Once again what we did with our choices mattered, but we were also blessed and privileged.

So why do I write about this today? Even tough Noah walked in his graduation two weeks ago he still has one class he needs to finish. He will finish it next Friday and be officially finished with his undergraduate degree. Today Pam and I paid for that class and therefore both boys will have graduated with their Bachelor of Science degrees without a bit of debt.

This is seriously one of the prouder moments of my life. I am so proud of our family. All four of us working together made this possible. I also recognized that so much of this has been freely gifted to us.