Sunday, November 30, 2008

You Cannot Live on Hope Alone...but you can't live without it either.

This video is from a speech by Harvey Milk shortly after he was elected to office in San Francisco. The video is about hope and today, Sunday, November 30 marks the beginning of our Advent season as we look forward and backward to the hope we have in Christ Jesus.

Today hope comes in many forms. We can look to Jesus as the source of our hope but then what? Is hope merely wishful thinking? Or, does it propel was forward into something greater? The hope in Jesus' first and second comings are meant to inspire us, not merely an assent to God. The hope we have believes a better world is possible. The hope we have motivates us to be better than we think is possible. And yet, it also reminds us that Jesus' hope for us is for us to rely upon him, trust him, and remain expectant in his ability to transform us, our community, and our world.

In some ways, its a dynamic tension--trusting God to care for the world and knowing that we have been empowered by God to work out the hope that God instills and inspires within us. How we go about doing that will be the recurring theme throughout this Advent season.

h/t Michael Piazza for the video.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

7 Ways To Recession-Proof Your Life

Here is a story written by Amy Fontinelle of Yahoo's Personal Finance that can help us keep our heads about us in our challenging economy. She writes,
Are you worried about how a recession might affect you? You can put your fears to rest because there are many everyday habits the average person can implement to ease the sting of a recession, or even make it so its effects aren't felt at all. In this article, we'll discuss seven ways to do just that.

No. 1: Have an Emergency Fund

If you have plenty of cash lying around in a high-interest, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)-insured account, not only will your money retain its full value in times of market turmoil, it will also be extremely liquid, giving you easy access to funds if you lose your job or are forced to take a pay cut. Also, if you have your own cash, it won't be an issue if other sources of backup funds dry up, such as a home equity line of credit.

No. 2: Always Live Within Your Means
If you make it a habit to live within your means each and every day, you are less likely to go into consumer debt when gas or food prices go up and more likely to adjust your spending in other areas to compensate. Debt begets more debt when you can't pay it off right away - if you think gas prices are high, wait until you're paying 29.99% annual percentage rate (APR) on them.

To take this principle to the next level, if you have a spouse and are a two-income family, see how close you can get to living off of only one spouse's income. In good times, this tactic will allow you to save incredible amounts of money - how quickly could you pay off your mortgage or how much earlier could you retire if you had an extra $40,000 a year to save? In bad times, if one spouse gets laid off, you'll be OK because you'll already be used to living on one income. Your savings habits will stop temporarily, but your day-to-day spending can continue as normal.

No. 3: Have More Than One Source of Income
Even if you have a great full-time job, it's not a bad idea to have a source of extra income on the side, whether it's some consulting work or selling collectibles on eBay. With job security so nonexistent these days, more jobs mean more job security. If you lose one, at least you still have the other one. You may not be making as much money as you were before, but every little bit helps.

No. 4: Have a Long-Term Mindset With Investments
So what if a drop in the market brings your investments down 15%? If you don't sell, you won't lose anything. The market is cyclical, and in the long run, you'll have plenty of opportunities to sell high. In fact, if you buy when the market's down, you might thank yourself later.

That being said, as you near retirement age, you should make sure you have enough money in liquid, low-risk investments to retire on time and give the stock portion of your portfolio time to recover. Remember, you don't need all of your retirement money at 65 - just a portion of it. The market might be tanking when you're 65, but it might be headed to Pamplona by the time you're 70.

No. 5: Be Honest About Your Risk Tolerance
Yes, investing gurus say that people in certain age brackets should have their portfolios allocated a certain way, but if you can't sleep at night when your investments are down 15% for the year and the year isn't even over, you may need to change your asset allocation. Investments are supposed to provide you with a sense of financial security, not a sense of panic.

But wait - don't sell anything while the market is down, or you'll set those paper losses in stone. When market conditions improve is the time to trade in some of your stocks for bonds, or trade in some of your risky small-cap stocks for less volatile blue-chip stocks. If you have extra cash available and want to adjust your asset allocation while the market is down, however, you may be able to profit from infusing money into temporarily low-priced stocks with long-term value.

The biggest risk is that overestimating your risk tolerance will cause you to make poor investment decisions. Even if you're at an age where you're "supposed to" have 80% in stocks and 20% in bonds, you'll never see the returns that investment advisors intend if you sell when the market is down. These asset allocation suggestions are meant for people who can hang on for the ride.

No. 6: Diversify Your Investments
If you don't have all of your money in one place, your paper losses should be mitigated, making it less difficult emotionally to ride out the dips in the market. If you own a home and have a savings account, you've already got a start: you have some money in real estate and some money in cash. In particular, try to build a portfolio of investment pairs that aren't strongly correlated, meaning that when one is up, the other is down, and vice versa (like stocks and bonds).

No. 7: Keep Your Credit Score High
When credit markets tighten, if anyone is going to get approved for a mortgage, credit card or other type of loan, it will be those with excellent credit. Things like paying your bills on time, keeping your oldest credit cards open, and keeping your ratio of debt to available credit low will help keep your credit score high.

The best part about these habits is that they won't only serve you well during times of recession - they'll serve you well no matter what's going on in the market. But if you implement these financial strategies, a recession is less likely to have a significant effect on your financial situation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Weekly, Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Great Relationship Advice

I was reading over at The Bilerico Project and discovered this wonderful advice column on relationships.

"Sometimes I wonder if something is missing from my relationship. How do I know if I'm in the right place or not?"

~ Just Wondering

Dear J. W.,

Did you know that it's not a good idea to substitute baking powder for baking soda when making chocolate chip cookies?

I learned the hard way; having to endure the most disappointed little cookie monsters imaginable. When faced with flat, dry, broken cookies that even our dog wouldn't eat, my son cried, "Mommy, these are Bisgusting." (That's not a typo - disgusting became bisgusting in our house when, as a toddler, Mitchell couldn't pronounce the "d" sound - so we all embraced the new, more powerful word, bisgusting.)

Like cookies, primary love relationships also have essential ingredients. And while substitutes for these ingredients may create a close approximation of a good relationship, the outcome can be equally flat, dry, and eventually broken.

What do you need? The answer to this question is 50% of the recipe for your particular relationship's success. We all partner to meet our needs.

Happiness in love depends on your ability to get core, emotional needs met. If unmet, most of us will ineffectively attempt to pacify ourselves with excessive sleeping, eating, working, drinking, or we may turn to others to meet our needs. We are more likely to pursue ineffective means to meet, or soothe, our needs than to accept they just won't be met.

Our ineffective attempts to meet unmet needs can lead to some of our greatest relationship struggles.

Seeking to feel loved by drinking, or trying to feel safe by sleeping, is akin to scratching my nose to ease the itch on my knee. It doesn't matter how many times I scratch my nose, if it is my knee that itches, then it is my knee that I must tend to. We all want to feel emotionally safe, secure and loved. We want to feel connected, valued, understood and respected. How we arrive at these feelings is different for each of us.

A chocolate chip cookie needs baking soda to rise, what do you need to rise in your life? According to Gary Chapman, there are five key love languages, (he is author of The Five Languages of Love). This book is a great introduction to the concept that we all go about getting our needs met differently. What matters is that we both have opportunities to experience the things that are important to us; not that they are the same.

Ask yourself these questions and start to uncover the essential ingredients for your relationship success:

  1. What are your core emotional needs and how are these needs best met?
    • Are you doing what YOU can to meet these needs yourself?
    • Is your partner able, and willing, to support you in getting these needs met?
  2. What are the core emotional needs of your partner, and how are these needs best met?
    • Is your partner doing what he/she can to meet these needs herself?
    • Are you willing, and able, to support her in getting these needs met?

While partners do not have to have the same language to meet their respective needs, we do need to have the ability to get our needs met to feel satisfied in our relationships. No one wants to feel trapped in a relationship where it is not possible to get their needs met. (Read this If you are unsure about the difference between a want and a need.)

I wish for you the perfect ingredients to rise in your life, and in your love.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Don't Give Up, You Are Loved

Here is a great video of Josh Groban singing "Don't Give Up, You Are Loved".

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Where the Heck is Matt?

Internet phenom Matt, a person who travels the world (as an airline attendant?) and documents each stay with a unique dance has captured the hearts of millions. He's posted his dance over the past year or so online. Here is a new collection of places and dances, this time accompanied by others dancing with him. I found it so inspirational. I hope you do too.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

If you discover the video taking too long to load, you can click off the HD feature.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Funny Sayings with a Twist

Church member Glenn Woertz sent me these funny sayings in an email. They're pretty funny!

Sometimes, when I look at my children, I say to myself, 'Lillian, you should have remained a virgin.' -Lillian Carter, mother of Jimmy Carter

I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: - 'No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.' -Eleanor Roosevelt

Last week, I stated this woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister, and now wish to withdraw that statement. -Mark Twain

The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible. -George Burns

Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year.
- Victor Borge

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
- Mark Twain

By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher. - Socrates

I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.
- Groucho Marx

My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe. - Jimmy Durante

I have never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back.
- Zsa Zsa Gabor

Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat. - Alex Levine

My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying.
- Rodney Dangerfield

Money can't buy you happiness .. But it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery. - Spike Milligan

Until I was thirteen, I thought my name was SHUT UP. - Joe Namath

I don't feel old. I don't feel anything until noon. Then it's time for my nap.
- Bob Hope

I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it.
-W. C. Fields

We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress. -Will Rogers

Don't worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it will avoid you. -Winston Churchill

Maybe it's true that life begins at fifty .. But everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out. -Phyllis Diller

By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he's too old to go anywhere. -Billy Crystal

And the cardiologist's diet: “If it tastes good spit it out.”

Computer Trouble

This is supposedly a real conversation. I doubt it though, it's just too funny. But who know, right?

"Ridge Hall computer assistant; may I help you?"
"Yes, well, I'm having trouble with WordPerfect."
"What sort of trouble?"
"Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away."
"Went away?"
"They disappeared."
"Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?"
"It's blank; it won't accept anything when I type."
"Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out?"
"How do I tell?"
"Can you see the C:\prompt on the screen?"
"What's a sea-prompt?"
"Never mind. Can you move the cursor around on the screen?"
"There isn't any cursor: I told you, it won't accept anything I type."
"Does your monitor have a power indicator?"
"What's a monitor?"
"It's the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it's on?"
"I don't know."
"Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?"
"Yes, I think so."
"Great! Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it's plugged into the wall."
"Yes, it is."
"When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?"
"Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable."
"Okay, here it is."
"Follow it for me, and tell me if it's plugged securely into the back of your computer."
"I can't reach."
"Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is?"
"Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?"
"Oh, it's not because I don't have the right angle-it's because it's dark."
"Yes-the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window."
"Well, turn on the office light then."
"I can't."
"No? Why not?"
"Because there's a power outage."
"A power... A power outage? Aha! Okay, we've got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?"
"Well, yes, I keep them in the closet."
"Good! Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from."
"Really? Is it that bad?"
"Yes, I'm afraid it is."
"Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?"
"Tell them you're too stupid to own a computer."

h/t to dalek spock

Monday, November 10, 2008

Prayer Station

Isn't this cool? I found this post on a blog written by a New Yorker, that I read often. Here is what he says,

Dr. Jeff sends in this shot of the Prayer Station he came across on the Upper East Side. It's an art installation. Dylan Mortimer’s work deals with how private faith functions in the public realm.

The interactive Public Prayer Booth is a synthesis of a telephone booth and a prayer station. The viewer can flip down a kneeler and engage in prayer. “My goal is to spark dialogue about a topic often avoided, and often treated cynically by the contemporary art world,” says Mortimer. “I employ the visual language of signage and public information systems, using them as a contemporary form of older religious communication systems: stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, church furniture, etc. I balance humor and seriousness, sarcasm and sincerity, in a way that bridges a subject matter that is often presented as heavy or difficult.”