Thinking Out Loud

November 30, 2017

Short Takes (4): Alumni Association Appeals

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:20 am

You chose your college…
You selected a residence…
You paid your tuition…
You bought your textbooks…
You took the classes…
You wrote the exams…
You repeated the cycle for several more years…

And now they want money.

Even if you completed a one-year certificate course from a trade school, it’s possible that you’ve received a letter in the mail asking if you’d like to contribute financially to your alma mater.

But included in this mailing list there are people who attended that university or college for the express purpose of earning a sufficient income that would allow them to support very specific charities of their choice. In other words, people who do have a philanthropic bent; who do see themselves as among the givers; but who have other passions and world concerns that they would like to make the object of the charitable giving. Some people would simply rather build fresh water wells in Africa than have a first-world educational institution put a new wings on the library.

Chances are, the alumni appeals are among the few donation solicitation lists you can get on without having made an initial contribution. Furthermore, if my experience is any indication, while other organizations will drop you from the mailing list if you don’t give, alumni appeals will probably persist over the course of your lifetime.

If find the whole thing rather guilt-inducing. Furthermore, my life has taken me down a different path and having surplus income has not been part of that equation. When we are able to give, we give to Christian causes that, if Christians don’t support them, no one else will. Even so, any level of success or achievement I’ve felt in my chose career of being in parachurch vocational ministry has been due to other influences and wasn’t dependent on the courses taken toward my undergraduate degree.

If I had completed that MTh I always wanted, maybe I would feel differently about a Christian college asking for money. But — and I’m not saying this to be provocative — with the higher tuition that Christian universities and seminaries charge, it’s hard for some people to believe they need anything.

So what about you? Are you, as the Beach Boys would say, “true to your school?” Or do the appeals from your college end up unread in recycling?

 

 

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December 6, 2015

With Christmas Coming, Do Your Kids Feel a Sense of Entitlement?

We never gave our kids an allowance. Not once. Working for ministry organizations and then owning a commercial ministry where we don’t pay ourselves a salary may have precluded it somewhat. But at the end of the day, I just didn’t see the point. Some kids are paid for being good. Our kids were good for nothing. [Rim-shot!] I just didn’t want them to think that we owed them anything.

We rarely bought our kids much of anything when we went to the mall. Perhaps never is a bit strong. The general presumption was that we were going to look, that the mall was a recreational destination where we would also do some comparison shopping and if the mood hit us, actually make a purchase. There was never the expectation that we would emerge carrying packages. The kids never thought that they were going to come away with increased personal possessions.

As a result, I think my children have a balanced perspective when it comes to materialism. In their mid-teens, they learned to pick up the tab for the things they needed or wanted on their own. It helped that both had paying jobs in high school. A part-time job at that age in our town is nothing short of a miracle.

Now they’re in their 20s. Both have a VISA card, and are well-versed in online banking. My youngest told me he feels guilty when he makes a large purchase. Maybe we need to tweak that attitude a little.

I felt both of them had a head-start when it came to money given the part time jobs. Some start even earlier. I wasn’t ready for the young girl who came into our store with a debit card. I think she was about nine years old. Okay, maybe ten. Not much more than that. It was one of those split-second moments of seeing something almost comedic, like when little boys would dress up in their father’s jackets and ties, back when their fathers actually wore jackets and ties. Maybe the analogy today is wearing their father’s shoes. (Not sure what the girl equivalent is; can tell me?)

The other side to consumerism is that I’ve tried to do is encourage our kids not to waste, because I believe the issue of materialism and the issue of waste go hand-in-hand. Maybe rationing the squares of toilet tissue is a bit much,* but certainly there’s no need for the second glass of the expensive treat we bought, such as Welch’s Grape Juice — the real stuff, not the Grape Cocktail their flogging now — or even a second glass of the cheaper apple juice.

Mind you, they’ve inherited that from me. I see food on the table and feel this desire for more. I had no siblings growing up, yet I seem to be in this constant competition for my fair share. At church potlucks, I tend to position myself close to the food table. I have a sense that all the other people in our congregation are people who will eat my share of the dinner if I do not guard it carefully. Not sure where I got that. But like father like son(s); the kids don’t like to miss out.

My youngest, aka Kid Too, was usually the first to take a piece of chicken or roast beef from the platter, a luxury of choice I was always taught is reserved for the cook, aka Mrs. W. He chooses well. He has taken a culinary course and knows the good pieces. The tender pieces. I always complain at that point that he just took “the best piece.” I am not trying to cause trouble. I sized up the platter before we said the blessing and already saw the piece that I considered the finest, and he took it. More competition.

At this point, I’m thinking of the title of the book by Francis Shaeffer’s daughter, Susan McAuley Schaeffer, How To Be Your Own Selfish Pig. I have been mastering this art for years, but not through actual pigging, but by ranting about the perceived pigging of everyone else.

As I write, it occurs to me that I probably wouldn’t be so obsessed about portion control if my youngest had shown more gratitude during those years. Actually, he does this a great deal, but in other areas. If he were to tell me how much he enjoys the times we purchase the more expensive grape juice, I would probably lavish him with more. He is changing with age however. When he comes home at Christmas I expect his sense of appreciation for all we do to have matured even more, though I still feel I should be saying grace with one eye open…

Then it hits me. That’s what God is waiting for. He has many good things in heaven’s storehouse which have me in mind. But he’s waiting for me to say thanks for what I have been given. As the Biblical story of the ten lepers teaches us, the thank-you rate is about 10%.


 

*I don’t actually ration toilet tissue, though I have been known to do calculations as to the number of squares that — hmmm …too much information?

July 23, 2010

Can’t Buy Me Love

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:44 am

I don’t care too much for money,

Money can’t buy me love

~The Beatles

We spent the last few days looking at the St. Lawrence River from the opposite to our usual side. The place we’re staying in Alexandria Bay, NY overlooks Heart Island, home to Boldt Castle.

Construction on the vast structure was halted when the owner’s wife died unexpectedly. His heart was broken and the castle was never finished.

Living in Toronto, we couldn’t help think of Casa Loma, built again as a man’s gift of love to his wife, and never completed. What’s that saying in the Bible about counting the cost before you build?

Anyway, yesterday we were on a luncheon cruise on the river – it sounds posh but it wasn’t, the chicken was inedible – and learned of a third man who set out to build the perfect summer home on an island for his wife. He gave her a choice of any of the 1,800 islands in the Thousand Islands and she didn’t like any of them, so he built her an island, too.

In the end, she left him.

The marina outside our window is full of yachts and powerboats that are also momuments to vast amount of personal wealth that exists in the United States. But pause and listen to conversations and the people who own them are not happy. Their lives seem filled with tension and angst.

Yesterday, one woman suddenly took off in her SUV, and her husband walked out of their cottage surprised to see her gone. He got on his cell to her and whatever discussion precipitated their argument continued phone to phone.

People like us often look at the boats and the cabins and the “good life” at a distance and forget the fundamental happiness and underlying joy just aren’t in the picture for these people.

And so I end this with words normally spoken in the “fellowship time” in many of our churches…

…The peace of Christ be with you.

February 7, 2010

Move Your Money

Move Your Money.

It’s a simple, three word slogan that expresses the anger a lot of people in the United States feel right now towards their six largest banking organizations.  The result is a movement that started with an editorial from the founder of Huffington Post, is seeing both individuals and branches of municipal and state governments taking their money out of the large banks and “bringing it home ” to locally owned banks and credit unions.  [Check out this 4-minute promotional video on YouTube.]

Toward the end of the week, the campaign was gaining momentum across the U.S., but a check of the Church and Christianity blogs on Alltop showed very, very few Christian bloggers were commenting on this latest development in the ongoing saga of U.S. bank failures and subsequent recession.

That’s a mistake.   While no one believes more strongly than I in the need for  Christian blogs that will maintain a faith focus, when large numbers of people in our society are moved to collective action, we can’t pretend that it’s more important to write about predestination or baptismal regeneration or the parsing of some text in the ESV.   There is a groundswell of major economic activity poised to take place at the grassroots level in the next two to three weeks, and it’s important for Christians to be part of the overall discussion.

It isn’t easy to disentangle yourself from your bank.   There are all sorts of ramifications for automatic payments, debit cards, direct deposits, bonds, investments, home loans, mortgages, etc., that have to be undone at one end, and reestablished at another end.   There are fees and penalties for early withdrawls.  You have to be really, really convicted about your principles to actually do something like this.

While we’re instructed to do nothing out of anger, we’re also supposed to be people of principle, willing to do something out of conviction. It’s easy to comment on this living one nation removed from the action, in a country where both our banks and the system of check and balances that govern them is solid, and in fact no banks failed.    But what if I were living in the United States?

I think the payment of huge bonuses — the absolute squandering of government bailout money — is grossly immoral.   You can protest, you can write letters to the editor, you can post things on your blog; but the best vote a U.S. banking customer has is the vote they make with their savings and checking (Brit./CDN = chequing) accounts.   Not to mention VISA, MasterCard and all the various debit cards.

To “do justice and love mercy” means that every believer has the potential and the mandate to be an agent of doing justice in a corrupt and fallen world.    It’s wrong to do nothing.  It also raises the questions of the banks being used by Churches and Christian charities.   Ask your Church treasurer where the Church’s deposits are held.

So I would move my money, right?   No.   I would have moved it long ago.   I can’t believe it’s taking Americans this long to wake up to the need for collective action.

December 11, 2009

Entitlement and Expectations With Kids

Filed under: parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:46 pm

We never gave our kids an allowance.   Not once.   Working for ministry organizations and then having a commercial ministry where we don’t pay ourselves a salary may have precluded it somewhat.   But at the end of the day, I just didn’t see the point.   Some kids are paid for being good.   Our kids were good for nothing.  [Rim-shot!]   I just didn’t want them to think that we owed them anything.

We never bought our kids stuff when we went to the mall.   Not as a rule, anyway.   The general presumption was that we were going to look, that the mall was a recreational destination where we would also do some comparison shopping and if the mood hit us, actually make a purchase.   There was never the expectation that we would emerge carrying packages.   The kids never thought that they were going to come away with increased personal possessions.

As a result, I think my children have a balanced perspective when it comes to materialism.   And they are quickly learning to pick up the tab for the things they need or want on their own.   It helps that both have had paying jobs.   For the youngest, having a part-time job at his age in our town is nothing short of a miracle.

With one 15 and one 18, it will be interesting to see the consumer choices they make as they move toward greater independence.   My oldest, aka Kid one, now has a VISA card, and is already doing online banking.

That doesn’t scare me as much as the girl who came in my store last month with a debit card.   I think she was about nine years old.   Okay, maybe ten.  But not much more than that.    It was one of those split-second moments of seeing something almost comedic, like when little boys would dress up in their father’s jackets and ties, back when their fathers actually wore jackets and ties.   Maybe the analogy today is wearing their father’s shoes.   (Not sure what the girl equivalent is, maybe you can tell me?)

The other thing I’ve tried to do is encourage our kids not to waste, because I believe the issue of consumption and the issue of waste go hand-in-hand.   Maybe rationing the squares of toilet tissue is a bit much,* but certainly there’s no need for the second glass of the expensive treat we bought, such as Welch’s Grape Juice — the real stuff, not the Grape Cocktail their flogging now — or even a second glass of the cheaper apple juice.

Mind you, they’ve inherited that from me.   I see food on the table and feel this desire for more. I had no siblings growing up, yet I seem to be in this constant competition for my fair share.   Not sure where I got that.   But like father like son(s); the kids don’t like to miss out.

My youngest, aka Kid Too, is usually the first to take a piece of chicken or roast beef from the platter, a luxury of choice I was always taught is reserved for the cook, aka Mrs. W.   He chooses well.   He has taken a culinary course and knows the good pieces.   The tender pieces.   I always complain at that point that he just took “the best piece.”   I am not trying to cause trouble.   I sized up the platter before we said the blessing and already saw the piece  that I considered the finest, and he took it.

At this point, I’m thinking of the title of the book by Francis Shaeffer’s daughter, Susan McAuley Schaeffer, How To Be Your Own Selfish Pig. I have been mastering this art for years, but not through actual pigging, but by ranting about the perceived pigging of everyone else.

As I write, it occurs to me that I probably wouldn’t be so obsessed about portion control if my youngest would show more gratitude.   Actually, he does this a great deal, but in other areas.   If he were to tell me how much he enjoys the times we purchase the more expensive grape juice, I would probably lavish him with more.

Then it hits me.   That’s what God is waiting for.   He has many good things in heaven’s storehouse which have me in mind.   But he’s waiting for me to say thanks for what I have been given.   As the Biblical story of the ten lepers teaches us, the thank-you rate is about 10%.

*I don’t actually ration toilet tissue, though I have been known to do calculations as to the number of squares that — hmmm …too much information?

December 3, 2008

The Total Money Makeover Scam

Filed under: Christianity, economics — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:03 pm

dave-ramsey1Each day, I access data from Ingram International which tells me which books did the best in their Spring Arbor division, the Christian book side of the company.   On Tuesday (12/2) the book Total Money Makeover finished 5th for the day; one if its better showings.

It just occurred to me that in today’s economy, at $24.95 hardcover, the only financial crisis this book is aiding might be the author’s own.  Though published in 2003, there is still no scheduled paperback

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