Thursday, October 22, 2009

My new kick, along with a caution

I'm on a kick.

Personal finances. I find them fascinating. I love learning about budgeting, saving, debt, credit scores, credit card reward programs, on-line savings accounts with great interest rates, and personal finance software.

I have spent hours the last week or so following rabbit trail after rabbit trail through the briar patch that is the internets. It all started with What's Best Next, a blog by the senior director of strategy for Desiring God. The blog is all about how to best manage our lives and businesses, and is written from a christian perspective.

From there, I found This is where I really got going. Mint is an online personal finance service. Think of it as an online, and completely free, Quicken. I signed up this week, and have been playing around with it all week. It's pretty sweet. Check it out.

Through Mint, I found several blogs dealing with personal finances.,, and, along with's own blog. This isn't a ringing endorsement for any of those blogs, but I have at least found all of them interesting to some degree.

This is all interesting to me mainly for one basic reason. I am FRUGAL. Very frugal. I have never been a big spender, love to find ways to save money, enjoy thrift stores and garage sales, drive a car with over 200,000 miles, live in a small apartment with a roommate, demon-possessed cats (at least 2, who knows for sure?), and a 14-foot long sewing machine (that situation really deserves its own post), pay much more than the minimum on my student loans to save on interest, and almost always take the time to pick up pennies.

So there you have it. I'm on a personal finance kick. So where's the caution? I have a few. First, my goal in reading these blogs and using this software is to be more financially wise and independent, and "to make the most of my time, because the days are evil" (see Ephesians 5:15-17). But spending hours reading about personal finance can be a big waste time, and is not the same as implementing what I learn. I need to spend more time doing, and less time looking.

Second, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs," (1 Timothy 6:10) and "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."

I think we should be careful anytime we are dealing with money, even if it is for a seemingly good reason. If all of these blogs and software don't set me free from the constraints of money and allow me to serve the Lord more freely and have more resources and opportunities to be a gracious giver, it's all worthless.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

5 reasons I won't wear a Scottie Pippen jersey

I'm going to my first Timberwolves game today. Well, a preseason game anyway. My new friends Mike and JJ got four free tickets in a very sweet spot. They are playing the Bulls, and Mike, from Illinois, is a huge Bulls fan. He offered to lend me his Scottie Pippen jersey.

Not so fast, my friend.

5) Mike would never let me live it down. I'd always be a Bulls fan.
4) Even if I were to pick an NBA team besides the Timberwolves to support, it wouldn't be the Bulls. I'd have to think more about it, but I can think of several teams I'd rather support.
3) I'd rather antagonize Mike.
2) I am a moderate Timberwolves fan. Basketball is a fine sport. It's not my favorite, and I don't closely follow it, but I do like the Timberwolves and follow them fairly closely. They are currently not a good team, but they are rebuilding and have taken some encouraging steps in the past few months. I have no desire to cheer against them.
1) I am from Minnesota, and I support Minnesota sports. Once you cheer against a Minnesota team, there's no going back. Wearing the opposing team's jersey is a one-way street. The only time I will cheer against a Minnesota sports team is when NDSU, my alma mater, plays the Gophers.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Self-Reliance Issue

My brother-in-law Andy subscribes to Popular Mechanics, also known as perhaps the most interesting magazine ever. The lastest issue is titled "The Self-Reliance Issue." It's full of articles about disaster proofing your house, living off the grid, building a chicken coop, etc.

One of the articles is titled "The Soul of an Old Machine." It profiles several people who have restored old things such as a gas stove, circular saw, guitar amp, and lawn mower rather than replacing them with new.

I consider myself mildly handy. I can change my oil, build a loft, shingle a roof, change a tire, paint a house. Additionally, I am quite thrifty. I love to not spend money. Reading this issue and particularly that article inspired me to work even harder to be self-reliant. I would like to be more intentional about fixing things myself rather than throwing them away or paying someone else to do it.

Fixing something myself can have at least two important effects. One, I get to feel more manly. Two, I get to save cash. That's what I'm talking about.

The first step? I'm flushing my radiator. As soon as I figure out what to do with the used coolant...

Friday, September 11, 2009


I spoke at camp a little over a month ago (jeez, in some ways it feels like it just happened, in others it feels like ages ago). Laura asked over a week ago how it went. It's long past time for me to answer.

It went really well.

I loved it. Being a camp speaker is really fun. I've wanted to do it for a long time and feel blessed that the Lord saw fit to allow me to fulfill that desire. Speaking to Super Kids, I was convicted going in that I needed to be very basic and share the Gospel in a clear and compelling way. So that's what I did. I never spoke for more than fifteen minutes, I repeated myself often, and I tried to let the Gospel speak for itself. I know that I wasn't perfect, but for my first time speaking in that setting, I felt really good about how it went.

I was very blessed in that this was the most attentive and well-behaved group of Super Kids I have ever seen. I almost never had to tell them to pay attention or be quiet. I've spent enough time at Camp to know that it can be almost impossible to get some groups of Super Kids to focus. Glory be that this was emphatically not the case for the group I was given.

I went to the counselor meeting on Thursday morning (the last day), and the counselors were talking about how the kids had received my messages. One of the female counselors said that one of her campers told her "I understood what Josh said, I've been thinking about it, and I know what I need to do," and then she asked Jesus to be her Savior. I can't think of any possible reaction that could be better for a speaker. That was the best part of the week for me. God is good, and deserves TOTAL credit for that.

2 Corinthians 4:5-6 "For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

In sum, I got paid to hang out at one of my favorite places in the world with some of my favorite people and to tell kids about Jesus. Words can't describe how much I would love to do that a lot more.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's hard to be me

The best friendships have some of the strangest qualities.

I had lunch today with Guy. As we were discussing life, he sniffed out a mildly shameful secret of mine (this in itself is a great quality in a friend: their ability to figure out what you aren't telling them).

His reaction?

He laughed at me.

Coming from most people, I would have probably been a little hurt by his laughter. He had discovered one of my character flaws and proceeded to laugh at it.

Was I hurt?

Not in the slightest.

His laughter meant "Yeah, you're a fool. You know it as well as I do. But you know me well enough to know that I'm also a fool. I'm still in your corner."

At least that's how I interpreted it. He did apologize, saying he shouldn't have laughed. I told him he can always laugh at me. He said "Likewise."

One of the many reasons I'm also in his corner.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

He returns to the computer abashedly

A) Way too long since I last blogged. Sorry, devoted followers, I have mistreated you. Mea culpa.

B) A plan is in its infancy for a new blog this fall including me and a close friend and fellow blogger. Hopefully more to come soon.

C) I'm speaking at Camp this weekend for Super Kids 4. Pray for me. I need it. I very much want it to go well. Pray that I would speak the Truth clearly and that the kids would have ears to receive it.

I am trusting the promise of Psalm 139:4-5 "Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me." If that's true, and it is, I'm in good hands.

That's all for now, thanks for your prayers and for putting up with my nonexistent blogging.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Gospel, as seen in the Old Testament

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you."

3As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

5The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

7I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

11You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Verse 6 has been running through my head recently: "The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance."

This is a preposterous statement, and is not born of comfortable prosperity theology. Verse 1 starts with the cry "Preserve me!" Verse 10 demonstrates a confidence that the Lord will not "let your holy one see corruption."

Nevertheless, in the Lord's presence "there is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore." If this is true, and it is, then regardless of circumstance we are able to say that the lines have fallen for us in pleasant places, and that our inheritance is beautiful.

Mark 9:24 "I believe; help my unbelief!"