Angels We Have Heard
Are High

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Cavalcade of Bad Nativities
it came upon a midnight weird

The Passion of the Tchotchke
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Stations of the Kitsch


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Friday, October 17, 2003

Whoo Hoo!

Life is good. Dennis got a full-time job. If I were picking the perfect place for him to work, it would be in a giant independent record store, and now he has been snapped up by the World's Greatest Record Store to do amazing things with their movie and video department. Yes! And right before he starts, he gets to go visit a friend in Chicago and see Gov't Mule (who seem to have forgotten about that thing called the 'West Coast') and have a grand time. Also, a weekly newspaper bought some of his CD reviews for actual legal tender, meaning he's now getting paid to write about music.

Pssst, darlin - this is the life you wanted. You're living it.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2003

and there was morning and there was evening, baby

The new job is not too bad. I worked Saturday and Sunday last weekend, which will probably be my usual schedule, along with one or two nights a week.

Sunday was frantic but fun- I had a store meeting at 8 (which was useful for figuring out who is and is not easily freaked out by things like where people leave their sodas in the back room), then I raced to St. Ned's to go to services, then I went back to work, and then I drove back to St. Ned's to go to the new Sunday evening Bible study class we have. It's based on the Bethel Series, which as far as I can tell is mostly notable for the Truly Hilarious Illustrations in the study binder. Seriously, the last time I saw artwork like this, it was on black velvet. I just want to shine a black light on them and call them groovy.
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It's stewardship month. We sent out the stewardship letters last week. Those bright blue pledge cards are out in the world.

I tithe at St. Ned's. I mention this because whenever I see tithing conversations come up in online forums and other places, people always say, oh, no one really does that. No one can afford to give 10%. Actually, people do it all the time.

Ok, I may be using some slightly Enron accounting to come to the conclusion that I tithe, since I'm not sure my last raise is factored in, so maybe it works out to 8.5%, but it is probably close to 10% if I throw in incidental giving and stuff I don't ask to be reimbursed for. I don't count those beans all that closely. Yeah, I'm justifying. But I'm working on a calculation for a straight 10% off gross for 2004.

It's kind of weird to be throwing a chunk of my paycheck back where it came from; I know a lot of lay employees of churches don't tithe. Our salaries are at least 10% smaller than they'd be in the real world already; it's not hard to make the argument that the disparity is a tithe. Except that if I decide I'm already doing enough, I lose the whole point of the exercise.

I watch people struggle with this issue every October. In order to get your head around the tithe, you have to rethink your entire attitude about money and that is just about the least comfortable thing you can do without one of those colonoscopy tools.

Look, it's not my money to begin with. It all belongs to God, just like I belong to God. Tossing a bit of it back out into the world to be a blessing to someone else is a really profound way of demonstrating that I believe this to be true. My faith really doesn't ask all that many measurable things of me. Love God - sure, how much and who gets to quantify that? Do I get a couple of demerits for the snide comments I made earlier today? Be kind. Ditto. Sell all you have, take up your cross and follow me. Um, I will get riiiiight back to you on that one. How big is that cross again exactly? Does what I have right now count?

Give the first fruits to God, in the form of check. Yes! That I can do. That is concrete, and easy to understand, and in doing it month after month I see the blessing of it. Which makes the rest of it a bit less scary and remote and impossible. It's a good thing, this discipline. It gets you ready for whatever comes next.

The hardest kind of giving is the open-handed type. I know this really, really well. There are some months when I feel myself holding on to that money a little too tightly, thinking about what it could mean to my lousy financial picture if I didn't pay my tithe. I've even given in to that temptation a few times, and what usually happens is I end up in the same crappy place by the end of the month that I would have if I had authorized the payment to St. Ned's. I have it set up on electronic bill pay on BofA; it's supposed to just go at the beginning of the month and be gone, but I haven't been able to bring myself to make it automatic. I'm not really at the Perfect Trust point yet.

The thing is, tithing never works on paper. It just doesn't. You can't decide to spend 10% less and give that to the church. You can't wait until you can afford it because...you can't afford it. You can never afford it. It's not like that. You just have to do it, and have a tiny little mustard seed-ish bit of hope that it's going to work out. I don't know why it works, it just does.

This is probably one of those things that is going to separate the believer-readers from the non-believer-readers. If you're reading this and thinking that I'm completely mad, or that the church sounds like Amway or something, don't worry. I'm not going to be coming after you with a pledge card.
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