Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Last Minute "Black Friday" Challenge, er, ah, Deal!

As of the time I'm writing this, we're mere minutes from "Black Friday": the most American of holidays. Once we've spent a day overeating, now let's get up really early to overspend on stuff we don't need!

OK, OK, snark aside, I actually appreciate Black Friday on some level.

OK, I lied. One more bit of snark: we call it "Black" Friday, but isn't it middle class white people that make this day so crazy?

I promise the snark is out of my system now. Pinkie swear.

As I was saying, I appreciate the concept of a day with lots of sales. Businesses need to turn a profit, and we can all stand to save some money in a time where the economy is down. If you're getting up early to take advantage of the savings (which means either you're up really late and not getting enough sleep tonight, or you're reading this on your phone while in line at some store), I applaud you for saving money.

I have one question: what are you going to do with the money you've saved?

If you're motivated enough to get up really early and go fight the crowds, chances are you have a pretty good idea how much money you've saved today. And chances are you've told at least one person how much that is. So I'll ask again, what are you going to do with it?

We live in a time when almost none of us has enough money, so I'm not going to ask you to do anything drastic (but, to be fair, Jesus did ask someone to do something drastic once). I'm simply going to ask you to consider a tithe from your savings.

Did you go out and save $500 on Christmas gifts today? Great! A tithe is 10%, according to a number of ancient sources. So if you saved $500, consider giving $50 to a charity. Any charity. It could be a local church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious center, it could be the Red Cross, it could be World Vision, it could be HEAL Africa (the benificiaries of the recent 30 till 30 Challenge), or any of the literally thousands (heck, probably millions) of worthy charitable organizations out there. I mean, you already saved all that money. Giving a tenth of it away isn't going to hurt.

So here's the challenge. Go take advantage of those great Black Friday deals. Figure out how much you saved. Then tithe 10% of it to any organization you feel deserves it. Then leave a comment on this blog and share what kind of good you did with your Black Friday savings. And if you choose not to broadcast it, then it's just between you and God, and Jesus had something very positive to say about that.

Personally, I'm not getting up early tomorrow, and I probably won't be shopping at all. Cyber-Monday will probably be a different story, however. But I'll be keeping a tally of what I'm spending and how much I'm saving in holiday gift-buying. I'll commit right now to giving away at least 10% of those savings. Will you join me?

If we all decided to tithe one-tenth of the money we save during all of these holiday sales, we could make a huge impact on the world.

What I'm Thankful For

among many, many other things, of course, but these two girls are a constant reminder of God's love and grace to me.

May you have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

30 years later

I woke up today to find myself no longer in my twenties. Thus far everything seems to be staying in place, but we're only a few hours in.

Just kidding. Actually, I feel pretty good. We raise a total of $1,230 for HEAL Africa in the 30 till 30 Challenge. Thanks so much to all who donated!

Jessica and I will be at the Flying Saucer in Nashville at 8 tonight, and everyone is welcome to come hang out, even if we just know each other online. I'd love to meet you in person!

As so often happens, Tim McGraw expresses what it feels like to mark a major life milestone better than I could

Monday, November 15, 2010

Unplugging for a few Days

Until Wednesday afternoon, I'll be on a retreat at the Merton Center in Kentucky, which is next to the Abbey of Gethsemani.

There's still a few days left in the 30 till 30 Challenge, and I'd love to come back and see some more donations.

May you experience God's peace and love in the midst of the stresses of your week.

Friday, November 12, 2010

30 till 30: One Week to Go

I'm staring down the last week of my 20s, and I'm very encouraged by seeing how many folks have donated to the 30 till 30 Challenge.

So far we've raised $980 for HEAL Africa ($730 through the site, and another direct donation), and our donations have already helped One Day's Wages (the site hosting the Challenge) surpass their fundraising goal for this worthy organization. I'd love for us to pass $1,000 or even hit $1,500 to help empower women in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be economically independent, allowing them to break generations long cycles of violence and abuse in this war-torn region.

To all those that have already donated, thanks so much for helping me turn what is normally a narcissistic event into a redemptive moment for people who have seen and experienced things we can't even imagine.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A tragic Loss

I was saddened this evening to learn of the death of Sarah Bayrd, my favorite teacher from high school. She taught AP US History, and she was an amazing person.

I'm still in shock, and I'm finding words difficult at the moment (a rare thing for me), but here is the tribute I sent to the Brentwood Home Page:

I am shocked and saddened at the death of Sarah Bayrd. A 1999 graduate of Brentwood High School, I took AP US History from Mrs. Bayrd and was honored to serve as one of her office workers when I was a Senior.

Plain and simple, Mrs. Bayrd was the best teacher I ever had. Not coincidentally, she was the hardest teacher I ever had. But no one ever disliked her for that. She was strict, but everyone understood what the expectations were from day 1. Many who graduated at the top of our class and were used to getting A's on everything felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment when we got B's on Mrs. Bayrd's tests, but we knew that at the end of the year we would ace the AP exam. Other AP classes during my Senior year at Brentwood seemed relatively easy because they did not have the intensity and expectation that Mrs. Bayrd's class had (incidentally, at Brentwood, no one ever said "I'm taking AP US History"- they simply said "I'm taking Mrs. Bayrd").

No class did nearly as much to prepare me for college as did hers. I was fortunate enough to receive scholarships to Butler University and Vanderbilit Divinity School, and in those demanding institutions I had to assume responsibility for learning a large amount of material on my own without being spoon-fed by teachers. I learned how to do that in Mrs. Bayrd's class.

Her teaching continued into my Senior year, when I was able to serve as an office worker for her. We took care of menial tasks, of course, like making sure that the coffee maker in her class room was always full and that the vanilla candles were always lit (I can still recall the smell of her classroom to this day), but we also got to put together her tests and take care of the occasional off-campus errand (without the explicit permission of the school). The trust she placed in us was not taken for granted.

I could go on for much longer. Sarah Bayrd was an incredible teacher who inspired and challenged untold numbers of students to work harder and achieve more than they ever thought possible. I am one of the many lives that is so much greater for her presence in it. She will be missed.

This world is a much better place because Sarah Bayrd was in it. May we all be so fortunate as to have that truly said of us at the end of our lives.