Friday, April 26, 2013

God and Mammon

As someone who has been putting her English Education degree to great use by working in the finance industry,  sometime I forget that it's rude to ask people personal questions about money.

What is your income?  How much debt do you have?  Do you save a percentage of your salary each month?  What does your budget (or non-budget) look like?  How much money did you spend on that?  Is that a wise financial decision?


Pair that with being the kid of a nurse, and nobody will want to have me over for dinner.  I also don't know where to stop with medical questions (bowel movements, family health history, pain, etc.).

I come from a fairly thrifty middle class family, mostly attributed to my three grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and my remaining grandparent (lovely Oma) who survived the horrors and aftermath of WWII.  Money was rarely abundant for them in the earlier days of their marriages. My parents naturally inherited a thrifty lifestyle, and it also has been passed to my sisters and me. So working for a financial investor who has clients with almost more money than God, it's been an interesting shift.

I've seen how money can be hoarded.  I've seen how families can be financially ruined by children who choose the path of alcoholism and substance abuse.  I've seen a very generous boss invest company money into employees and clients.  I've heard rich people (I'm talking legitimate millionaires here) complain that they are poor, and how they are upset that the government is trying to cap retirement accounts at $3 million (read the article here if you have that much money and are upset about it too).  As if three million dollars weren't enough--what are these people doing in retirement--buying yachts?! What else do people do with it? 

Oooooh, sweet Jesus, forgive me.

As all these things are being observed, I continue to turn to what Scriptures say about money:

  • That money is neither good nor bad, but the love of money is.  1 Timothy 6:10
  • That money is not mine or yours, but God's.  We merely are stewards of it.  Matthew 25:14-30
  • That not all giving is equal.  Mark 12:41-44
  • That the way we steward money shows what we really care about.  Matthew 6:19-24  
So far this month, I have cared about sushi with Justin, a magic bullet blender, a new pair of shorts, and concert tickets. Oh, and giving.  Yes, giving.  Has it become an afterthought or is it ever-present like the widow who gives her two mites?  Am I spending my money, or am I spending God's money?  Am I working to have money, or am I working to give it?

Ultimately, I think money (and spending money) displays our priorities.  We will spend (or save) the disposable income that we have on what we really care about.  Do we spend it to be able to stuff more junk in our closets, so that our nails can always be painted, so that our children will know the piano, French, and how to properly lay their forks when they are finished eating, or do we spend it by generously giving to the church and other organizations that provide for people's needs?  

I find that there are always ways for me to shift my financial priorities.  It's also much better for me to give right after I get paid.  That way I won't spend the money that I meant to give. 

"When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart."  John Wesley

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Whenever someone uses the term recently, I am always reminded of the scene from Snow White & the Seven Dwarves where the new (neat-freak) girl on the block asks all her new little boyfriends when the last time they had washed up was.  As they sheepishly look around at one another, one of them pipes up, "Recently!"  Yeah right!, I imagine Snow White thinking to herself.  She sends them out to the wash tub anyway.

Photo credits here.

Anywhoo, here are some of the things that I have been up to recently.  **And yes, washing my hands is included in that list of things.
  • My parents came to visit!!  SUPER fun.  They had an action-filled adventure packed with meeting the boyfriend, making me meatloaf, meeting my co-workers and other friends, going to Garden of the Gods (which my mother referred to as "those big rocks"), meeting up with my dad's cousin who he had not seen in 10+ years, heading up to crazy Boulder for the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory tour, etc.  We also went to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, which my dad said had the best dinosaur exhibit that he had ever seen.  High praise indeed!   I had asked them to send me their pictures from the trip for blogging and other purposes, and the only ones they ended up sending me (on the first round) were ones with me in them.  I did want the other ones, I promise! 

3/4ths of the sweet Custer Family--Olivia (with me), Fiona, & Scott.  Don't worry, baby Megan is sleeping safely in her baby carrier behind us.

  • I have been making LOTS of banana bread.  And eating lots of banana bread.  This last week, I didn't have any eggs because I had used them all making a vanilla bean custard or something like that. Oh gosh it was delicious.  Carrying on.  Banana bread.  No eggs.  Yes.  So I tried to do an egg substitute of oil, baking soda, and water...apparently that doesn't work at an altitude of 5,000 ft.  It was goopy and not baked well.  I ended up throwing it out, and then the next day, Amber made some after a trip to the store.  So our banana bread supply was not affected in the atrocity.  PTL.   
  • A few oddities:  In the past couple of weeks, I have been realizing how small my little pup really is. He's a pipsqueak!  Also, I have been dialing 9-1 before almost all new numbers I dial on my cell phone--clearly I call a lot of people at work, as that is the dial out code.  So much for leaving work at work. And on the subject of work, I have also forgotten my lunch at home three times within the past week and a half.  Gracious.

Ugh.   Overwhelming cuteness right there.    
  • Enjoying nice weather with a picnic on a Sunday after church...and then two days later going into blizzard mode. Not joking!  Sunday was a balmy 68 degrees with a little wind and some clouds, and then Monday night the snow rolled in.  I'm glad I didn't take off my (second) down comforter yet!
  • I've been listening to The Wailin' Jennys on repeat for the last few days.  This album in particular.  If you like folksy girls who have awesome and beautiful harmonies who don't sing about lame stuff, they are a band for you.
    Photo credits here.

  • Being SUPER convicted at church.  This past Sunday, one of our pastors, Dan, was speaking on Acts 1:8.
But you will recieve power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

 He spoke on how it is important to look at the passage with the eyes of the disciples--when they heard Jesus say the geographic locations, perhaps they did not see cities, but faces.  In Jerusalem, they saw faces of the angry mob who had Jesus arrested, beat, and crucified.  In Judea, they saw the faces of persecutors.  In Samaria, they saw the faces of half-breeds whom often were despised by the Jewish community at the time.  

Why was Jesus sending them to those places?

Ultimately, because He loves those faces.  He loves those people.  And He wants us to share that love with them.  He wants them to have new life.  He wants us, his followers, to love those faces and people as well.  I realized after church that I have believe the lie that my friend's and co-worker's hearts are too hard for the love of Jesus to handle.  Ummm, what?  Where did that come from?  Earth to Tamsen--if Jesus can raise from the dead, He certainly can handle a stony heart.  Does he not promise that to the Israelites in Ezekiel 36:26?

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your chest and give you a heart of flesh.