Archive for the ‘money and faith’ Category

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Let’s start the year off with positive news, shall we?.

Oprah has been talked about several times on this blog. But let’s applaud her for her end-of-year  $365,000 donation to the Ron Clark Academy an inner-city school located in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods in Atlanta. It’s a gift the school and its students will remember for a long time. The check arrived in a Federal Express envelope with a note from Winfrey to Clark applauding him for the “profound difference you’re making with your passion for teaching.”Winfrey’s gift to the Ron Clark Academy was only a small part of the 8 millions she donated to education projects in 2008.

Clark Academy

Clark and his students became overnight Internet stars during the presidential election when a video of the students performing a political rap song they wrote grabbed the public’s attention on YouTube. The children ended up performing the rap, called “Vote However U Like,” on national TV shows including CNN, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show.  Teachers at the school frequently use rapping, dancing and drumming to help students learn.

Here’s to women of means like Oprah Winfrey who use their money to effect change in the world.

A  study from ING, working with Essence magazine, explored black women’s attitudes toward money early last year. The participants, all black women, said they worried about finances more than their health, appearance, job, or relationships. Here are some highlights:

  • 47 percent of black women surveyed said it is difficult to have the lifestyle they want because of financial obligations to immediate family.
  • More than one third have loaned more than $1,000 to friends or family in the last year.
  • 71 percent said it was “very important” to donate money to their place of worship.
  • 41 percent feel guilty about how much they spend on expensive brands.2 in 5 reported total savings of less than $10,000.
  • 2 in 5 reported total savings of less than $10,000.

Women have been the biggest charitable givers for centuries. I love the story in Luke 8 which talks about 3 women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna, who followed Jesus’s ministry and contributed generously to it out of their means as working women and women of independent means.

Did you know that millionaires like Winfrey attend philanthropy classes that teach them things like how to give, when to give, and why they ought to (must) give.   And not just for tax purposes. Nor just out of obligation. They learn how to use their money to build a legacy. They learn how to use their money to support causes they believe in and to change society.  Put your money where your mouth is. But they also learn that money has a spirit. Oh yeah. You don’t have to be religious to know that. It’s a law of nature. Give and the universe notices. Give and it comes back to you. Give and it shall be given to you.  So, here’s to Oprah.

So, what did you give to last year? How much money did you give away? What do you believe in enough to support with substantial donations? You don’t have to have Oprah’s millions to donate this year to the causes you believe in. To put your money where your mouth is. To put your money where your heart is.  

The (Un)Holy Antics of Preachers

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Bloggers are ablaze this week over what many see as the buffoonery that passes itself off in the black church as heavenly revelations. Take for example, the bishop there in Detroit this past Sunday who parked three hybrid SUVs in the pulpit as backdrop to a sermon entitled, “The Hybrid of Hope.” And let’s not forget the bumbling preacher in Harlem whose tirades against Barack Obama (and every other black icon you can think of) never fail to get lots of hits over at  YouTube.

I think I’ll pass on trying to defend the black church and its preachers. It takes too much energy. Besides, these two incidents are not typical of what goes on in black pulpits every Sunday.

Rev. James David Manning up in Harlem is an imbecile. His ad hominem attacks against Obama are a misuse of the pulpit. And Bishop Charles Ellis of Detroit should follow Obama’s example and surround himself with people on his staff who aren’t quick to say yes to every lamebrain idea that pops up in his head, no matter how well-intentioned. (I don’t doubt for a moment that  Ellis’s intentions were good.). But once again we see that the antics preachers sometimes use to to drive home their messages don’t always translate well  on television. Not to mention that the wider public is not as forbearing and forgiving as church members are apt to be.

The lunatic ramblings of Rev. James Manning and the over-the-top, garish use of props by Bishop Charles Ellis of Detroit notwithstanding, more good happens in black churches than bad from Sunday to Sunday. For every lunatic Manning and unchecked Ellis in the pulpit there are thousands of other preachers who climb their into pulpits every Sunday with nothing more than a bible, a prayer and a humble sermon, trusting God to use their clay lips to proclaim a word that stirs hope in people languishing from despair and feelings of hopelessness.

cars and prayers

It bears repeating that the average church in America has less than 150 members Megachurches draw media attention, but they collectively account for less than one out of every four adults in church. On that same point, most preachers are dual career workers because most churches are too small to afford full time pastors. And if most churches don’t have full time pastors you can bet that those same churches lack the technology and know-how to broadcast their services on YouTube and StreamingFaith. Come to think of it, I can’t think of too many other churches in the country beyond Bishop Ellis’ pulpit there in Detroit with stages big enough to accommodate several SUVs along with a swirling, twirling mass choir.

So here’s to those churches and pastors this holiday season who try hard to minister faithfully and with integrity Sunday after Sunday to the needs of God’s people. They don’t always get it right, but I dare you to come up with another institution committed to shoring up hope, faith, and a will to live in downtrodden people and doing what the church does for as long as the church has been doing it.

Done Your Holiday Shopping Yet?

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Scores of emails show up in my mailbox daily from my favorite stores  promising holiday sales better than the ones they were offering yesterday.  Sur La Table. Nordstroms. Nieman Marcus. Peruvian Connections. Frontgate. Overstock.com. “Buy one get one free!” “Free Shipping! 30% off!” “Deepest Discounts ever!” ! I feel guilty about clicking the delete button.  But I can’t let myself talk myself into buying something I don’t need. (I know I’ll be sad come January when one or more of my favorite stores goes out of business, like several are rumored to do, because of projected bleak  4th quarter 2008 sales.)shopping

I’m one of the millions who have kept her wallet shut since the economic slide began last September.  Worries about the economy have folks like me  plan­ning this holiday to buy  fewer gifts and less ex­pensive, more practical items. Odd isn’t it: part of the reason the economy is in the tank is because Americans are in enormous debt; we spend more than we save. But part of the cure, says experts, is for Americans to open their wallets and show their confidence in the economy by shopping more and getting cash flowing again in the economy again. But with the jobless rate rising last month to highest we’ve seen in 15 years who can shop in December when you’re not sure if you’ll have a job in January to pay off your bills?

But the economy is only part of the reason why I haven’t started my holiday shopping.

Sheer laziness and grumpiness are the other reasons. If I didn’t have a child, I wouldn’t bother at all. But the teenager in my house won’t hear of it. “Don’t you just love Christmas” she asked gleefully the other day when we were in the car driving past homes decorated in festive lights. “Bah Humbug” I growled. Later that night she sat on the other side of the house in her room and emailed me her wish-list to the sound of Christmas music blasting from her computer.

The little shopping I’m going to do will all be done tonight. Online.This marks my fifth year doing most of my holiday shopping online. One good thing about shopping online, you don’t have to deal with standing in line for hours and shoppers trampling you to death for a few dollars off on a digital camera like they did a store clerk at a Long Island store this past November. I’ll venture out a little — to the cell phone store and my favorite perfumery– for my fix of Christmas cookies at the store door, holiday music blasting on the intercom, and shopkeeper well-wishes which can’t be duplicated on the computer.

Like millions of American my Christmas list is down to the barebones this year, so I expect it’ll only take an hour and I’ll be done shopping for everyone on my list. It’s a Christmas card for everyone else.

Okay, how many of you anal types are finished with your holiday shopping? Even got your gifts wrapped and under the tree already, you say?

Raise you hand if you’re like me and haven’t even started shopping? That’s more like it.

Now about that 10 feet Christmas tree standing naked  in my front hall since Saturday night. I guess it’s time to drag out the boxes of bulbs and lights and get started decorating it.

One thing I know for sure that will get me in the mood for decorating the tree and for shopping is a new Christmas music cd. Anyone has  a recommendation for great Chrismas cd that will make me climb the ladder and hang that first bulb on my tree?

Money, Honey

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Okay everybody, listen up. We are in trouble. The Empire is crashing. Investment company Lehman Brothers was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday, making it the biggest company in U.S. history to go belly up. Bank of America is buying Merrill Lynch, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed below 11,000 yesterday. And, oh yeah, let’s not forget Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac getting bailed out by the government last week.

Now I know they say that women don’t like thinking or talking about money. And I know that this blog post will probably not be a popular one and that very few women will bother to leave comments. After all, we’re all Christians. Right? Women of some faith. Right? Bible believers? “Our Father is Rich in Houses and Land.” “The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow.” “Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all of its righteousness…” Yes, I too believe.

While we’re on the subject of binding devils and believing God, I too saw the CNN story of the group of church people down in Houston who met in an open field next door to their church and prayed prayers rebuking and binding Hurricane Ike from coming onshore. “The Bible says that we have power over even the winds and the rain,” said one of them to the reporter. And so they prayed. They rebuked Ike. They bound Ike. And the rest is history.

Yes, I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.

What does the Lehman bankruptcy mean to you and me? More banks will be going out of business. (Probably the one where you keep your money.) Those banks that do remain in business will not be giving out many loans to any of us regular citizens (e.g, mortgage loans, car loans, home improvement loans, loans for college). Credit card rates will go up. Food prices will keep climbing (farmers are facing a credit crunch). Gas prices will go up more. More people will lose their jobs.

Okay, so now do you get the picture?

Women have a lot of fears and deep rooted physiological issues around money that stem from our relationships with it since we were children and how our parents addressed the issue. I admit that I do. Growing up poor has left me with a lot of scars when it comes to money. I know I’m a minister and am supposed to be a woman of faith. I’m supposed to trust God, and that settles it. Right? I do trust God. But I’m not stupid. And God knows I don’t want to retreat into denial. Looking back, it’s clear that Reaganomics was nothing more than an excuse to cut taxes for the rich, a policy that continued with his successors. Just as free trade was an argument for exporting manufacturing jobs to foreign nations where our corporations can pay much lower wages. And now there is something called “corporate responsibility” where the whole community (or a whole nation or whole generation) is made to bear the consequences for the sins of a few.

Did I mention that I was a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch in my other life and that I have an undergraduate degree in Economics? (That’s Economics, not Home Economics; although the latter would sure come in handy right about now as I try to figure out how to make things stretch around the house.)

mattress money

I don’t have any answers today about the economic crisis we face. Few people have answers right about now. Not even the presidential candidates, despite all their jostling. I just thought I’d put the topic of money and women’s fears around money on the table today. I’m just convinced that the more we talk about money openly the more we diffuse the complicated emotions that surrounds it. Fear, shame, embarrassment, envy, greed, or anger about money and what it represents tend to dissolve when we can share our stories and when we learn that other women, even other Christian women, also struggle with this issue. Lord have mercy on us all.

If there is an upside to this economic mess, perhaps we’re all evaluate our priorities and our spending, and really, really appreciate the people and the things in life that really matter most of us.