Joy Stealer

There are many joy stealers but the biggest one in our lives used to be money. When we were married in 1977 we received dozens of credit card offers. We opened accounts everywhere. We lived our young adult lives buying furniture and taking trips and making all kinds of purchases. Soon we had debt that was out of control. We began to have to use credit cards to pay for normal things. We were never late making payments but we weren’t gaining ground. We paid off our debt a couple of times over the years, only to end up in the same oppressed place.

My husband and I are at extreme opposites of the personality scale. He is my strong, steady, cautious, practical man. I am his free-spirited, off the cuff, spontaneous, joyful woman. He’s great at word pictures. When we had come to an impasse regarding our finances, the word picture he gave me was that he saw “the train” as bearing down upon us and I didn’t think there was a train at all! We came to realize that reality was somewhere in the middle.

We tried a few different “methods” over the years but always went back to our familiar habits: spending more than we made, no emergency fund, no plans for the future, no hope of ever being out of debt … just treading water.

Then we discovered a simple, effective way to connect all the dots for us financially. Here are the basics:

Baby Steps:
1 – immediately build a $1000 emergency fund (and cut up all credit cards)
2 – pay off all debt, smallest to largest
3 – build an emergecy fund to 3-6 months of income
4 – resume long-term investing @ 15% of total income (401k, mutual funds, etc.)
5 – invest in a college fund for your children
6 – pay off your mortage
7 – build wealth

I won’t go into the details in this post … I would lose you, for sure. Even if you never learned another detail about the steps above but put them into practice, those feeling financially trapped and hopeless would begin to see a huge surge of strength and resolve regarding the future. But let me add just a few more words of encouragement.

Having a $1000 emergency fund keeps “Murphy” of Murphy’s Law at bay. If you need a new set of tires or have an extra medical bill or car repair you weren’t expecting, you can pay cash for it rather than putting it on a credit card. There is no more pressure! It is very freeing. The trick is that when you have to use some of your emergency fund, you stop all other spending until it’s back up to $1000 again.

As you’re building the emergency fund, you develop a written budget, before the next month starts, so you can tell your money where it’s going to be spent rather than the other way around. One of the keys for us was that there was to be a “budget committee” meeting each month … you and your spouse. One is probably a “nerd” and one is probably a “free spirit.” Both need to come together so both have a full understanding of the household financial picture and so decisions can be made together. This affirmed both of our personalities as equally valued and needed.

There is SO much more to know, but these basic concepts gave us hope and excitement for our financial future! We have made great strides on our baby steps. We paid cash for our daughter’s grand wedding last year and we plan to pay off our car this year. We now pay cash for everything … vacations, car repairs, clothing, hobbies, gifts … everything we used to put on credit cards. My home-based business is also run on a cash basis now.

We certainly haven’t done this plan perfectly. But I know there are many hurting, frustrated, hopeless, angry people out there who are feeling that way because of their financial situation. And all you need are the tools and information to get off center and make some positive changes.

Debt seems to be the American normal, but debt wraps its insidious tenacles around families and sucks the life out of them. It doesn’t have to be that way. There is hope for the future!

You can learn more at

Breakthrough … the Short Version

My faith breakthrough … I call it “the swirling.” I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was a child and have always wanted to reflect Him by living a growing Christian life. But when I was 38, I became especially troubled spiritually and I couldn’t explain it. I had lost my peace.

I describe it by picturing a tornado swirling right in front of my face. I would see “issues” and “vague thoughts” come to the front so I could see them, then they would swirl away again before I could grasp them. I knew God wanted to teach me something.

After finally learning to spend time with Him on a regular basis, learning not to be afraid of quietness and solitude, reading the Bible, journaling my thoughts through to conclusion, learning to be still and listen, surrendering my selfish will to His purposes, being willing to make the changes that made me more like Christ, the swirling slowed and gradually came to a stop.

What did I learn? Consistently sit at Jesus’ feet, learn what His voice sounds like, it’s not all about me, relax in that loving relationship and reap the benefits of a joyful journey of faith.

Our Occupation for Eternity

“We must learn how to worship. It will be our occupation for eternity.” Dr. David Jeremiah

Worship is easily misunderstood today. Most of us think of worship as the music portion of a church service. “Wasn’t the worship great today?” or “We could never go to that church; we don’t like the worship.” We even have worship pastors. But it is so much more than that.

What is worship anyway? Here’s what the dictionary says:

wor·ship (wûr’shĭp) n.

The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.
Ardent devotion; adoration.
To honor with extravagant love and extreme submission, as a lover; to adore; to idolize.
Excellence of character; dignity; worth; worthiness. [Obs.] –Shak.

Here’s what the encylopedia says …

Broadly defined, the response to the appearance of that which is accepted as the holy-that is, to a sacred, transcendent power or being. Characteristic modes of response to the holy include cultic acts of all kinds: ritual drama, prayers of many sorts, dancing, ecstatic speech, veneration of various persons and objects, sermons, silent meditation, and sacred music and song. Also included in worship are acts of private response: spoken or unspoken prayers, silence, the assumption of particular postures, ritual acts and gestures, and individual acts of veneration of persons or objects.

Wow, if you look at all those things, you could conclude that one could worship almost anything. We can worship people, a hobby, sports, possessions, power, pets, money, a way of life. (Do you think some people worshipped Michael Jackson?!)

During a worship service we could possibly raise our hands, close our eyes, sing, listen, clap, sit, stand, kneel, give an offering, take communion … we may or may not have an emotional response.

But most often we walk into the sanctuary having given no thought to actually meeting God there. It’s what we do on Sundays. Our hearts and minds are filled with the details of life and the details of ministry instead of anticipating meeting God in the sanctuary.

Some lines from one of my favorite worship songs, The Heart of Worship …

“I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you have required. You search much deeper within, through the way things appear. You’re looking into my heart.”

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus. I’m sorry, Lord for the thing I’ve made it. When it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.”

This next Sunday, take some time on Saturday night after the chaos has settled down a bit and prepare your heart for the Lord’s Day. Break down the definitions above and ponder them. Don’t let the majesty of Almighty God get lost in the smallness of your humanity. Let God’s presence draw you into worship.

“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” Psalm 29:2

And when you walk into the sanctuary on Sunday, enjoy the new eagerness and expectancy that comes out of a heart prepared for true worship. After all, your life will intersect with eternity. You can never be the same.


 Candy blogs: Today all the electronic connections in the office went down, even the phones were down so we couldn’t even make an announcement that everything was down! The power was still on but we couldn’t connect to it. We all groaned and whined and bemoaned all the work that wouldn’t get done or would have to be crammed into the end of the day.

Some went home because they didn’t think they had anything to do. Someone else would fix this and office life would get back to normal. Some plugged into different connection sources on their laptops or Blackberrys that were outside our company network. Some were forced to complete tasks they’d been putting off … you know, boring maintenance things like scanning and filing and tidying or cleaning out the break room refrigerator. Things that had to be done but no one wanted to do them. It was either that or not get paid!

We can allow our relationship with God to become like this office disconnect. We wake up one day and find we have no power in our spiritual life. We have no joy, no motivation. Relationships seem bothersome; spiritual growth seems too hard; our church body “work” seems more like an obligation; our frustration level is high and our energy level is low; our anger flares more easily; we second guess ourselves; we don’t like who we are; we keep ourselves busy with activity; we have no spiritual focus … our spiritual mind tends to wander; we feel weak. Where is the peace?

We need to rest. But what about all the things that needs to be done?! What about ministry needs? What about time for nurturing relationships? What about being productive at work? The house needs cleaning. What about the schedule? What about sleep, for heaven’s sake?! We don’t have time to be weak …

Ah … it is at this exact moment of awareness that the Lord comes with His offering of divine peace and rest. Perhaps we’ve “gone home” or tuned out His voice in the busyness of life. We think God will somehow magically fix it so that we have a vital spiritual life. We may have plugged in to other power sources outside of the Lord’s “network”. He comes with an invitation to do some spiritual “maintenance.” You know, the stuff you don’t think you have time for … like reading the Word and two-way prayer (talking AND listening). Stuff that has to be done but most of us put off because we’re so busy “doing” instead of “being”.

If we will “maintain” our spiritual life, that ugly list above will shorten and become less intense. Our joy will return. Our relationships will be more fulfilling and our productivity will increase. Our perspective returns to us. We will hear His voice more clearly. We will have a sense of power and motivation. We will enjoy peace and rest in our spirits even in the midst of a busy schedule.

Which list do you prefer?

Eventually the electronic connections at the office were restored. What did it take? Pushing the reset button on the server. The good news about the office disconnect? The coffee pot worked the whole time!

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