Thursday, November 25, 2010

Better Than I Deserve

John graduated high school by the grace of God and through the kindness of his teachers. One in particular walked him through that last year. A mentor, encourager, and solid example, Mr. Patterson gave John extra credit assignments to enable him to just-clear-the-last-hurdle.

It’s not that Mr. P’s life is easy. His wife is on the MS roller coaster, and wheelchair bound. He’s plagued with his own ailments. Their son is in the military, always in the thick of it. And since he teaches at a Christian school, he works a second job over school breaks to make ends meet.

So I caught him in the school parking lot a while back, and called to him. “How’re you doing Mr. P?”

“Better than I deserve”, he said.

How true.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Tree For Christmas

Just before the holiday one year, Dad pulled from his station wagon, a bare, lacy-branched deciduous tree. Victim of a construction site bulldozer. He cut off the roots, and stuck it in a tree holder. Mom layered it with clear twinkly lights, strung cranberries, candy canes, white paper birds, and popcorn balls wrapped in glistening orange cellophane. The combination was magical. Early Christmas morning we kids crept downstairs to the dark, turned on the tree lights, and lay on the floor just to watch the lights silently flash branch patterns onto the ceiling.

Long after the popcorn balls were eaten, the candy canes and paper birds put away, the tree remained. I’d still come downstairs on occasion in the pre-dawn morning to watch the branch designs. Eventually though, it became “just one more thing” in a fairly cluttered small house.

We came home one day from school to find the tree gone from it’s place. Dad had taken it, trimmed the fine lacy branches from it, cut down it’s trunk and suspended it from the ceiling upside down, in front of our porch window. Still beautiful, it was the first thing you noticed as you approached the house.

It was as if we had returned to our first love.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is Money Evil?

We welcome long time financial advisor, Gary Foreman, to this special early week edition of The Frugal Bohemian. Copy and paste the links below to access information, Dollar Stretcher article archives, and their friendly forum. Thank you Gary.

Is Money Evil?
by Gary Foreman

Can you be wealthy and still be virtuous? Or is it necessary to turn away from material things to become truly moral? Many people believe that by definition the rich cannot be moral people. That the only way to become rich is to take advantage of someone else.

I don't believe it's that simple. You can't measure a person's morality by the size of their bank account. Money is a very poor measure of morality. Here's why.

Money is a tool and a way that we have of exchanging things. Money has no value on its own. It's not good or bad. It's what people do with money that is good or bad, so the problem is with the way money is used.

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Tim 6:10) is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible. When we place our affection on money, we become vulnerable to troubles. So merely acquiring some wealth is not bad. It's loving that money (or what it can buy) that causes moral problems.

What does this have to do with achieving Financial Independence? Quite a bit.

First, to be financially independent, we have to be in control of our money instead of letting our money control us. Therefore, we need to be careful not to fall in love with money. If we do, we'll let money have too much influence in our lives.

Also, if we believe that money is bad, we could be sabotaging our desire to build wealth. We'll push it away from us and find it hard to do the things necessary to build a savings account or IRA. I've even heard people say that they have a way of repelling money or that they're allergic to money. Our subconscious has a large impact on what we do and say, and sometimes it even ruins our own plans.

What do you think about money? Do you have a good relationship with it? Or is it time to reconsider what you believe?

Gary Foreman is the editor of The Dollar "" a frugal living website devoted to helping people "live better...for less". This post originally appeared in Financial Independence. FI is a daily email designed to help people take control of their financial lives. To find out more check out the "" Financial Independence page.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Tree

While walking down a dirt path through a wood, I noticed a massive tree splintered at the base and laying on the ground. It was in full leaf and the trunk looked perfectly intact. The surrounding trees stood upright. I wondered what freak accident could have hit it that hard to knock it over without damaging it’s companions. Until I came to the other side. A gash split the trunk top to bottom. The inside was riddled with termite holes and sawdust.

How many of us who claim to be Christians, allow termites to chew out our spiritual insides? Our bark looks tight and even. Our leaves sprout green and strong. Until a sudden gust knocks us flat. I thought of all the times I’ve said, “The kids are driving me bazonko!” Or of friends who’ve cut loose from the narrow way. Tough circumstances don’t make or break us. They just reveal what’s already there.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Really Looking

The beat cops should have known better. They should have figured the kids making rubbings of an ancient sewer cover in the middle of Fifth Avenue were just art students fulfilling an assignment. What person in their right mind would have a buddy directing traffic around them as they squat in the middle of a swirling New York street unless they had to? I mean, they knew Parsons was just a few blocks down.

To avoid any unpleasantness, I worked on a wall plaque attached to an old building myself.
“Don’t you know what you’re doing is illegal?” I turned my head to see a police officer glaring down on me.
“I was just making a rubbing.”
“That’s defacing property.”
“You mean I can’t make rubbings? I’ve got to do it for school.”
He shook his head slowly. He probably thought our teacher was a nut case.
“Just don’t let me catch you destroying property.”
With that he walked away.

Maybe Mr. Norado was unconventional, but this exercise and others like it taught us to see, to really see what was around us. From these larger assignments and the filled black sketch books we got the pump primed for actual design solutions, William Golden style. (The guy that designed the old NBC logo after seeing display of branding irons in a Tiffany window.)

Sure, none of us are Sherlock Holmes. We don’t go through life collecting minute observations of everything around us. I suspect that much volume would make us mad through synaptic overload. But it doesn’t hurt to really look at something once and a while for the sheer joy of it. To see how beautifully hand drawn letters interact on an ancient enameled sign, or appreciate the seemingly airbrushed colors of a Cedar Waxwing.

So look, and while you do, savor it all.