Posts Tagged With: Wealth

Don’t I Just Feel Like a Camel?

Last weekend, I went to a baby shower for my oldest friend. We’ve known each other since kindergarten, and it’s so wonderful that she’s having a baby girl next month! We don’t get to see each other very often, and I hadn’t seen the house she and her husband bought before.

It was nice.

I loved how the kitchen had two entries, one from the hall and the other from the dining room, which was roomy and cozy all at the same time. I loved the bathroom with the big jet tub. And the walk-in closet that was bigger than my bathroom, and had room enough for a vanity. I wasn’t fond of the tile in the bathroom, but whatever. I like color and no one else does. That kitchen was just perfect, though.

I immediately started looking at houses online, and thinking about how horrible our house is. Granted, if I would just take a few days to do the touch-up painting, it would be much improved, but why settle for improved when we could buy something nicer.

Covet, covet, covet. And what’s worse, I thought nothing of it. “It’s just what people my age do,” I told myself. What? It’s what people my age do? What does that even mean?!?!?!? Despite the nonsensical nature of my quest, I continued exploring more expensive houses

My reality call came a few days later as I was reading Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthot on my lunch break. The first few chapters have gone by at a break-neck pace, running down the societal conditions, the philosophers, the publications,  everything that created American-style Christianity. As we move into the rise of the prosperity theology, Douthot points to (naturally) the story of the rich young man we also read about in Sunday’s gospel this week. I suppose God knew I needed a double dose of this story this week.

And when he was gone forth into the way, a certain man running up and kneeling before him, asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may receive life everlasting? And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? None is good but one, that is God. Thou knowest the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, bear not false witness, do no fraud, honour thy father and mother. But he answering, said to him: Master, all these things I have observed from my youth. And Jesus looking on him, loved him, and said to him: One thing is wanting unto thee: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. Who being struck sad at that saying, went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.  Mark 10:17-22

It’s one of the pillars of Christ’s message here on earth. Sell what you have to benefit the poor. When the disciples don’t get the picture, Jesus gives one of His most famous (and famously misinterpreted) analogies:

Picture courtesy of my mother-in-law. No seriously.

And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus again answering, saith to them: Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches, to enter into the kingdom of God? It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. –Mark 10:24-25

I read a few years ago, that Jesus most likely actually said “rope” instead of “camel” just then. Makes a heck of a lot more sense. In Bad Religion, however, Douthot points something out about this story that I hadn’t thought of before..

 Who wondered the more, saying among themselves: Who then can be saved? –Mark 10:26

This message wasn’t something they smugly accepted, given their lack of riches. These guys walked away from what little fortunes they had. They walked away from comfort to follow Christ in poverty and yet when they heard this, they got worried. Whether it was a rope or a camel or a piano, they heard Jesus talking about them, not some rich guy. Why were they worried about it? Because they understood the message. It’s not about having money, it’s about desiring it.

For the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and have entangled themselves in many sorrows. –1Timothy 6:10

Once again, it is not having wealth that stains our souls, it is seeking it. I could be doing something worthwhile. Reading a book, watching a mass, cleaning the house–Scott would love that! Instead, I’m sitting at the computer, looking at houses, slowly increasing our maximum price range, because I want what everyone else has. What I have isn’t poisoning me, it’s what I’m chasing after.

I keep banging my head up against this wall. One minute I’m not concerned with material things, the next, I want to burn every possession I have and replace it with something “nicer.” For every time I push these desires aside, they rise up again 100 times. Sometimes I think I just can’t get my head straight.

And Jesus looking on them, saith: With men it is impossible; but not with God: for all things are possible with God. –Mark 10:27

Here I am, big clumsy camel, trying to work my way through the eye of the needle. Not because of what I have but because of what I want. God’s love is stronger than that. We forget that. We may say it and say we believe it, but at the end of the day, we let ourselves believe that our weaknesses are stronger than God. Every time we say, “I can’t help it. There’s no getting around it,” we are disbelieving the promises of grace.

Pope Benedict reminds us that God’s love is stronger. 

Jesus, however, understands the deep desire that exists in this person and, the Evangelist notes, turns a loving gaze on him: the gaze of God (cf. v. 21). However, Jesus also realizes what the weak point of that man is: his very attachment to his many possessions; and so he proposes that the man give it all to the poor in order that his treasure — and hence his heart — will no longer be on earth but in heaven, and he adds: “Come, follow me” (v. 21). But, instead of accepting Jesus’ invitation joyfully, the man went away sorrowfully (cf. v. 22) because he can not break away from his riches, that will never give him happiness and eternal life….. The history of the Church is full of examples of rich people who used their possessions in an evangelical way, even attaining holiness. Let us only think of St Francis, St Elizabeth of Hungary or St Charles Borromeo. May the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom, help us to accept Jesus’ invitation joyfully, in order to enter the fullness of life. –Pope Benedict XVI

Aren’t we fortunate, that despite our many temptations, we are given, not only the fullness of grace, the very spirit of God to guide us, but also such a multitude of examples, of people who lived the gospel. They walked in the footsteps of Jesus to make it easier for us to see those footsteps and follow after.

With the election approaching and everyone talking about the economy and what’s in it for their checking account, let’s all pray that we may be invested in what really matters and not distracted by material wealth. Once again, I’m renewing my commitment to love and share what I have, and to truly be thankful for what God has given me, rather than being envious of what God has given someone else.

And I will try to remember that too many accessories clutter a camel.

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else, Meditations, What the Catholic Church Teaches | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eat Better: Lessons Learned So Far

The primary purpose of this project is to be better stewards of what we have, to stop throwing food away. It would also be nice, I must say, to save some money and be able to give more to the Regional Food Bank. The message I keep getting is to SLOW DOWN. I throw things away without thinking twice, or even thinking about it at all, leading me to believe that perhaps we throw away a lot more food than I thought we did.

Money Matters

I thought I had slowed down and shown careful consideration. I suppose I was wrong. I made a meal plan, I went to the grocery store, and I quite painfully submitted to not getting anything that wasn’t on the list. Despite not buying any meat, aside from a package of bacon, I was shocked that my total was still $110. No bags of chicken breasts, no giant pot roasts, and still $110! And that’s on top of $30 I spent the night before at Walmart. Upon consulting my meal plan, I was even more shocked. I only planned 12 simple dinners and some soups for my lunches. Maybe it will just take a while for the savings to catch up with me.

The Tortilla Situation

I found a recipe online for Chicken Tortilla Soup from Souper Salad, a restaurant that used to be in this area and hopefully will be again! The recipe called for corn tortillas, which I considered replacing with chips, but decided to get the tortillas instead. The smallest pack of corn tortillas I could find was a 30 pack. I knew I wouldn’t need 30 tortillas but without a second thought (of course) I threw the 30 pack in my cart.

After fixing my soup and portioning it out into 7 freezable bowls, I started thinking about those leftover tortillas. I only used 8. That meant 22 were going in the trash. I kept telling myself I could freeze them, but would I? What else was I going to make with them? I have a few recipes, but that would involve getting a lot more ingredients. Within the first few days of my Eat Better Project, I’m already wasting food. I felt horrible.

I wandered around the kitchen, hoping inspiration would hit me and….taquitos! I could cook up some chicken breast, roll some taquitos and freeze them myself! Scott would love to have them in the freeze for quick lunches when he’s home alone.

My first round of attempts was very poor. It turns out, you do have to wrap corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and put them in the microwave for a few minutes before rolling them. The instructions on the package speak the truth. So, 7 tortillas went in the trash anyway. But we ended up with 15 taquitos! And since I didn’t have any taco seasoning on hand, I made my own. Without all the sodium.

Brisket Stew

I’ve had half a brisket in the freezer for some time now, and I decided to go ahead and fix it up in the crockpot and chop it up. I left some meat out for our meals for the next few days, but froze a few pounds for later. I figured it would be handy for days when I just don’t know what to cook. Once I was done chopping, I was left with a crockpot full of….flavor! I had filled the crockpot with water and boullion, which was now mixed with the stock from the brisket. I was a little antsy about all the chili powder I’d thrown in, but I grabbed a spoon, had a sip and after some debate decided it would be suitable for stew!

Potatoes, carrots, corn, peas, parsley, tomatoes, and about a cup of the brisket meat, and it made for one spicy stew! I was very heavy handed with my brisket seasoning when I put it in. I ended up having 2 bowls for supper, though! It was fantastic! And I had 7 more bowls of soup in the freezer for my lunches.

Stretching it Out

So, I’m on day 11 and I’ve still got 9 meals left from my original meal plan. We’ve been very good with leftovers and have found that we can get an extra meal or two out of a dish just by eating all of it. If there’s not much left, chop up some extra salad or put a slice of bread on the plate. We’ve also had a few suppers out of the soup that was supposed to be for my lunches. However, after making a batch of Potato Soup and Pumpkin Bisque (Yum!) in addition a few leftover bowls of Chicken Tortilla Soup and Brisket Stew, we still have about a dozen bowls of soup in the freezer. I did have to make a grocery trip for $30 because we we low on milk and bread and a few other things. While I was disappointed, if we continue to be diligent about not throwing food out and eating what we have, we should be able to make it until the first week of October before we have to do a full shopping trip again.

So far…

I’m slowly getting into the proper mindset. Rather than throwing something out (like the broth or the tortillas) I’m starting to see what I can do with it. But that’s not enough! As I learned with the tortillas, I need to have a plan for every ounce of food before I buy it to make sure nothing goes to waste. It was good fortune that I had everything I needed to make the Brisket Stew and the taquitos. Otherwise, I would have wasted it!

I actually started this post about a week ago. What I said about saving money at the beginning of the post? Here’s where the savings come in: we haven’t eaten out in 11 days. I wanted to get our eating out down to twice a month. We are well on our way! In July, we spent over $220 eating out and in August we spent over $130! August really hacks me off because we were trying so hard to save money for our trip and we still let $130 slip through our hands when we could have spent much less to eat at home. And while we were out spending that money, groceries we had bought were going bad at home and had to be thrown out.

Finally, I’d like to say how happy I am with making my own soups and freezing them rather than buying canned soups. I may get a pressure canner, or ask for one for Christmas so I can can my soups. I love being able to control what goes in. My recipes may need tweeking, but they don’t have to be perfect the first try, they still taste wonderful and I’m not picking out the things I don’t like. I’m also getting a lot less sodium and other preservatives. Well worth it.

Categories: Eat Better, Everything Else | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Meditating on the Beatitudes: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

This is the first in a series of meditations on each of the Beatitudes. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? I’ve been thinking a lot about poverty and extravagance. Sts Clare and Francis seem to be helping me along in my journey. I hear a lot of churches preaching the gospel of “health and wealth” but I find it difficult to believe that God would have us so consumed with something as uninspired as money.

In the rosary meditation, The Rosary is a PlaceFr. Groschel reminds us during the 3rd Joyful Mystery that God chose for His Son to be born poor, and to remain poor for His entire life. Jesus was born with the barest of necessities on hand. Throughout His ministry, He carried nothing with Him. He had no great home or carriage. Jesus lived in the lowest poverty. When Jesus preformed great miracles to feed the multitudes, did He provide an extravagant feast? No, simple fish and loaves. The example we were given is a simple life without extravagance.

Most of us remember the parable of the sower:

The sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And other some fell upon a rock: and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And other some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it, choked it. And other some fell upon good ground; and being sprung up, yielded fruit a hundredfold. –Luke 8:5-8a

Something remarkable about this passage is that there is no judgement made about the seed itself. There is no good seed, no bad seed. All of the seed is the same stock, out of the same bag. It’s where the seed lands that determines its fruitfulness. Bad seed? No such thing. The problem is bad soil.

The meaning of this parable isn’t left up to interpretation. Jesus spells out exactly what each fate represents. I want to draw your attention in particular to the seed that fell among thorns:

And that which fell among thorns, are they who have heard, and going their way, are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit. –Luke 8:14

The seed that fell among thorns is not merely distracted by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, they are choked. This is why we fast, to distance ourselves from excess and overindulgence so to we might breathe. It is not evil to be comfortable or to have money, but to make this the cornerstone of one’s life is, to use the words of our Savior, to plant yourself among thorns.

For they that will become rich, fall into temptation, and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires, which drown men into destruction and perdition. For the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and have entangled themselves in many sorrows.   –1 Timothy 6:9-10

I don’t know how so many of our flock have the notion that God wants nothing more than to stuff our checking accounts. Don’t get me wrong, God will provide for our every need, to be sure. However, it is the idea that God’s will for us is wealth that I take issue with. This idea is treacherous. It creates an idea that we should seek money instead of the Kingdom of God. This is a very grave lie. If our lives are caught up in seeking wealth, we are not seeking after God.

Earthly riches are like the reed. Its roots are sunk in the swamp, and its exterior is fair to behold; but inside it is hollow. If a man leans on such a reed, it will snap off and pierce his soul.  –St. Anthony of Padua  

Letting go of the things that seem to give us comfort, gives us no choice to to fly into the arms of Christ for our comfort. Giving up the things of this world reminds us of the things our souls truly long for. It’s so easy, so dreadfully easy to get caught up in chasing after things that pass away. Oh, I wish I had a nicer car, I wish I had a nicer house, I wish I had a newer wardrobe, I must have new shoes, I’ve got to get a bigger diamond, I want, I wish, I need, I must! These are the things that feed “self” but starve the soul.

And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.   –Luke 9:23

Today, rather than going to God with a list of what I must have here on earth, perhaps I can ask God to give me what I need for Heaven and nothing more. Today, rather than tying myself to the earth chasing after things that will rot and choke, I will spend time just being with God and not asking for anything but the grace to live with less.

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else, Meditations | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Back to Business: The Eat Better Project

It took me a little longer to recover from vacation than I had expected, but I’m back! Arrival back at the real world has been rough, but it’s actually a relief to get back on budget. Hawaii is incredibly expensive. When you’re used to pinching pennies, spending $50 on cheeseburgers for lunch or $20 for hotdogs, plus the constant purchasing of souvenirs…let’s just say, I felt like my checking account was hemorrhaging all week! When we got back home on Saturday, we still had some frozen and pantry items, so I didn’t have to go grocery shopping until Tuesday. However, as soon as we got home, I remembered a pledge I had made a few days before our trip: No more throwing away food.

Poor Stewardship

It all started when I read that Americans throw out an average of 40% of our food. I was appalled. This is very poor stewardship. So many people go hungry, while those of us who have enough to eat throw out almost half of it. At this point in our lives, we certainly don’t throw out nearly 40% of our food, but there was a time when we probably got close to that. We worked long hours and planned to eat at home, but ended up eating out almost every day instead. So a lot of the groceries we bought ended up in the trash. Currently, I would say maybe about 15-20% of our food goes in the trash. The jar of queso we opened but never finished, that last helping of spaghetti neither of us wanted, the last tomato out of a pack of 4 that went moldy, etc. It’s just a little bit here and there but it adds up quickly!

Poor Eating Habits

I lost about 30 pounds from January to June. However, with quitting smoking and vacation, I’ve managed to rediscover 10 of those pounds. But it’s not just about losing weight. I want to feel better. I’m tired of being tired, of dragging through the days. Just a few months ago, I was eating fresh salads, fresh fruit and veggies, and grilled meats. Now what are we eating? Boxed dinners, canned soups, frozen lasagnas, and it’s all stuffed with sodium, sodium, sodium! Why did we deviate from eating fresh? Oh, right. Things didn’t get eaten. Veggies went in the trash by the bagful. Ugh.

Gluttony

It’s a big problem in America. We don’t like to think of it as a sin, but it is. It’s an excess, a deadly excess, and it’s something else I’m putting between myself and God. We need to be better stewards of what is given to us: our bodies, our money, our food. We need to exercise the virtue of temperance:

Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.” Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.” In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.

CCC 1809

When I first converted to Catholicism, one of the things that really stood out to me was temperance. To know when to stop. For me, gluttony seems to touch everything I do. When I smoked, I would smoke 2 or 3 cigarettes in a row. Sometimes, I’d have 4 or 5 just getting around in the morning while I drank coffee. If I like a show on Netflix, I’ll watch 4 episodes in a row, every night until I’ve gone through the entire series. More, more, more. But the most stunning excess is what I’m willing to waste. How many times have I thrown food away just to make room in the refrigerator, when it wasn’t even bad? How many times have I lit a cigarette, knowing I could only have a few puffs on it before I had to throw it out?

According to our annual income, we’re middle class, but according to our excesses, we’re flipping filthy rich. It has to stop.

Eat Better Project

No, this blog isn’t going to be all about eating right and under budget. But I’ll probably check in about once per week with an update about my Eat Better Project. The rules are thus:

  1. Avoid throwing food away as much as possible. This can be difficult, because sometimes things just end up going bad before we get to them. Proper preparation and planning… I’m not hoping to drop our food waste to 0% by any means, but I’d like to bring it down to a minimum. I think I’ll keep track, even.
  2. Reduce canned meals, frozen meals, and boxed meals (veggies and fruits are okay canned). One exception on the frozen meals: if I prepare the food myself and freeze it, it’s okay.
  3. Eat breakfast!
  4. Reduce our grocery bill by at least $20/week (it’s currently around…$80-$100/week). Give at least half of that saved money to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. Ideally, I’d like to get our grocery shopping down to once every 2-3 weeks. Depending on the expiration date on the milk, I suppose.
  5. Reduce eating out to twice per month.

Lofty goals? It can be done. It can certainly be done. Not on my own, of course, but God gives us grace to overcome every sin.

Categories: Chasing After God, Eat Better, Everything Else | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Invocation of Wealth: Dear Reader, yes you DID come to the right place!

 

 

WordPress is ever so helpful. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the traffic stats, I get all sorts of information about what people are reading on my site and what search terms bring them here. After seeing a spike in traffic, I decided to check out the search terms. As usual, prayers were the top searches, but there was one that baffled me.

“the invocation of wealth.”

Now that’s something you don’t see every day. Something I don’t see every day, anyway. I googled it.

“for all those people who want to be rich and live a luxurious life”

“This invocation invokes the angel of wealth. You become his master. He will bring to you money, wealth and richness in an instant”

“You will role on the bed of wealth, gold and riches. I cannot even explain to you how powerful this one invocation is. “

How in the world would someone who typed in such a thing end up here?

Do NOT by any means feel that your search for riches has gone off track or that you’ve somehow ended up in the wrong place. Oh, no. Have I got news for you.

I’m filthy stinking rich.

I live in a 1400 square foot palace. This equates to about 130 meters, which is above average for most of the developed world.  I eat. Every day. Whatever I want. I have a deep freezer full of food, plus a refrigerator. Beef? Chicken? Turkey? Tomatoes and corn? Fresh onions and peppers? Even if it’s not in season, I can find any old fruit or vegetable that I want. As I gaze around my cornucopia of food, food, food, if I decide, for example, that I want cheddar cheese on my sandwich and all I have is pepper jack, well, by golly, I can go down to the grocery store and every food I could ever want is available to me.

Open until midnight, no less.

I can complain about how expensive clothes are, but I can go down to Walmart or Target or Dollar General and get a complete outfit or two for less than a day’s wages. Ready to buy and in my size.

When I want to get more information on a particular topic, I can flip open my computer, type in my query and within seconds, I get results. If I want to go all out and read a book by an expert on the topic, I can grab my kindle and start reading within 30 seconds.

I have electric lights, so I can work all night if I so choose. My house is secure, with locks on the doors, so I’m safe at night. I have central heat and air, so even the weather can’t hurt me.

I have shelves full of little baubles, any pretty, shiny thing I want, I have. My closet is bursting with clothes for work, for play. Shoes for comfort, for sport, for work.

I have a car. It also has a heater and air conditioner. It’s very reliable and rarely has any problems. When I do have a problem, I take it to the mechanic and have it taken care of immediately by a professional who knows what he’s doing.

Sometimes people look at my car, my house, my ratty purse, and they sneer at me. What I have doesn’t meet their standard. What I have is poor. Well, I’ve got news for you, I’m not poor! I am wealthy! But so much of what I have I don’t need. I have so much I ought to get rid of because it’s just a distraction.

I have everything. But I want less!

If things were the secret to happiness, Americans would be falling in the streets, delirious for joy! But there is nothing material that will give you lasting joy. Chasing after riches is fruitless and void. If you’re a middle class American such as myself, despite what others may have told you, you already have an abundance, beyond what is common in this world. Beyond what the wealthiest citizens had 100 years ago. You already have it all. More isn’t going to make you happy.

Don’t believe what the health and wealth preachers tell you. Jesus had NOTHING. He told us not to lay up earthly treasures for ourselves, but to seek the Kingdom. St. Clare and St. Francis are two wonderful examples of real people who turned away from riches, took in lepers, and turned to God. In sickness and poverty, they had unspeakable joy because they knew God and lived the Gospels. Their lives forever point to Jesus.

Well, I’ll stop rambling and let you have it. Without further ado, the Invocation of Wealth:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God. Have mercy on me, a sinner.

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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