Mother’s Day

Sunday is Mother’s Day—a time to honor mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, godmothers, friends who are mothers and anyone in our life who fills the role of mother.

The concept first originated in 1868, when Ann Jarvis established a meeting for mothers whose sons fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War. She wanted to expand this into an annual memorial, but she passed away before that happened, so her daughter (Anna) continued the task.

Due to Anna’s work, in 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation establishing the second Sunday in May as a national holiday to honor mothers. Only six years later, by the early 1920’s, Hallmark and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards, making the holiday as much about sales as about mothers. Even though Anna Jarvis was successful in making Mother’s Day an annual holiday, she soon became resentful that companies were using the holiday as a profit maker. She even tried to get Mother’s Day rescinded as a holiday.

Unfortunately, Mother’s Day has gone the way of many of our holidays and turned into a commercial enterprise rather than a way to reflect on the gift God gave us when he gave us mothers. The real purpose of this holiday is to show love and appreciation to our mothers by writing a personal letter, rather than buying token gifts or simply signing our names to pre-made cards. The day Anna Jarvis worked so hard to create was supposed to be about sentiment, appreciation, and love, not about profit.

I encourage each of you to return to the original purpose of Mother’s Day and thank your mom in a personal way. Tell her how much she means to you and what influence she has had on your life. Recall funny things that happened when you were young or special family memories.

Pray for her also. Ask that God will bless her and give her strength and good health to continue being his instrument of his love in the world. And if your mom is no longer alive, pray for the repose of her soul and in thanksgiving for the gift she was to you.

As my experience as a mother grew and expanded, it certainly gave me a greater appreciation for my own mother. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to thank my mom for all she taught me when she still had the ability to recognize me and understand what I was saying. I thank God for all the times I took a few minutes to send her a note, or write a letter or call to share a special memory or to tell her how much I appreciated and loved her.

Moms are quiet heroes working day-to-day in many small unnoticed, unappreciated ways that make all the difference in the world to their family.

We moms may never be able to bring about world peace, but we can plant seeds of peace in our family. We may never be able to solve world hunger, but we can feed the hungry by making meals for our own family. We may never make an impact outside of a small group of people, but influencing that small group within our family circle is all God is asking us to do.

When the kids are little it seems that there will be a day far into the future when they will fly from the nest and be on their own and you as a mom will be free. And that does happen (kinda.) But even when your kids are grown adults with children of their own, and they live far away from you, there is always a special bond between mother and child. You never stop being a mother. You never lose that special place in your heart where that child lives. And as a child, there is always a unique relationship with your mother.

Moms may get overwhelmed and they often do not get the appreciation they deserve. After all, who would willingly take an unpaid job that requires them to work 24 hours a day seven days a week with no breaks and no vacations? And even worse, any official holiday means even more work and stress. And mothers who have a job outside the home have twice as much pressure.

But then again, who could give up the sweet faces of trusting children who feel unconditionally loved. Or the macaroni necklaces. Or the handmade misspelled cards, or the sticky-fingered hugs, or the favorite book that has to be read over, and over and over?

For most Catholic children, one of the first prayers we learned is the Hail Mary. It is the most beloved prayer to Our Lady, our Heavenly Mother, and the prayer Catholics say most often. No one can count how many millions of Hail Mary’s rise up to heaven each and every day.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” is the Archangel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary at the Annunciation (Luke 1:28). “Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” is St. Elizabeth’s exclamation of joy when Mary came to visit her (Luke 1:42). These two sentences said together were the whole Hail Mary for over one thousand years.

Sometime in the 13th century, the words “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” were added. By the 15th century, Catholics had added the last half of the prayer, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Pope St. Pius V formally approved the complete Hail Mary in 1566, and Catholics have been reciting it this way ever since. This prayer developed from both the scripture as well as the lived experience of the Church.

If we want heavenly intercession for our role as a mother or if we want prayers for those mothers who touch our lives, who better to ask than our heavenly Mother, Mary, the Queen of Heaven and the most perfect example of a mother.

Finding a Financial Planner (part 2)

Last week’s blog was about the background work you need to do when you are looking for a financial planner. This week’s blog is about interviewing a potential financial planner. As a reminder, be sure to interview at least 3 people before determining which financial planner is right for you.

The first thing you want to discover relates to their practice in general terms, such as their investment and client philosophy and previous work experience. Most financial planners have a typical type of client and financial situation they like to work with, so it is important for you to understand how their preferences relate to you. You want to be sure the services they offer to match your needs.

After you learn the basics, find out more about their qualifications. Anyone can call themselves a financial planner, so be sure and ask if they are recognized as a certified financial planner. A CFP designation means they have passed a rigorous test administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. The CFP designation also means they must commit to continuing education on financial matters and ethics to maintain their designation. The CFP credential is a good sign that a prospective planner will give sound financial advice.

Ask for the code of ethics they follow. Certified Financial Planners are held to the CFP Board’s Code of Ethics, which requires them to act as a “fiduciary.” In short, this means the planner has pledged to act in a client’s best interests at all times. This point is critical and should be a deal breaker if a prospective planner is not a fiduciary.

If an investment professional is not a fiduciary anything they sell you merely has to be suitable for you, not necessarily ideal or in your best interest. The difference between ‘best interest’ and ‘suitable’ is an important fine line for you to consider.

Request a copy of the ADV form which is used by investment advisers to register with both the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and state securities authorities. These forms are available to the public on the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) website at http://www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/.

There are two parts to the form. Part 1 requires information about the business, such as ownership, clients, employees, business practices, affiliations, and any disciplinary events of the adviser or its employees.

Part 2 contains information such as the types of advisory services offered, the adviser’s fee schedule, disciplinary information, conflicts of interest, and the educational and business background of management and key advisory personnel.

After you have checked out their credentials, the next important fact to understand is how they get paid. Financial advisors deserve to get paid for managing your money and since you are paying the bill, you need to understand how it works.

There are several pay structures they may use. They may be paid based on commission for certain products. In this case, they could have an incentive for steering you to certain financial products in order to maximize their commission, which may not be in your best interest. They may not be the most unbiased source of advice if they profit from steering you into particular products.

The second method of payment is a flat rate. You might pay them a flat fee, such as $1,500, for a financial plan or their fees may be calculated on an hourly basis. If you’re young and don’t have a lot of assets, a planner who charges by the hour could be most appropriate as they are usually the best fit when your needs are fairly simple.

The third way financial planners make money is being paid a percentage of your portfolio. This fee may be calculated quarterly or annually. It is often 1-1.5% of all the assets—investment, retirement, college-savings and other accounts—they’re minding for you. This method means the more your money earns for you, the more it earns for them so they have an incentive to keep your portfolio growing.
When talking about fees, you also need to find out how you pay for their services. Are the fees deducted from your account? Are you expected to pay by check? How often?

As you learn more about their practice and qualifications, ask about the types of investments they would recommend to someone in your circumstances. This is a good way to match the list you made earlier (see part 1 of this blog) to what they actually recommend.
If they start bragging about beating market averages, run away – no one can do that on a regular basis. And anyone who’s trying to beat the market may be taking risks that you don’t want to take. Always be wary when you’re being pitched an investment by someone who stands to earn money from that investment. Where is that profit coming from? That’s why it is important to understand how financial professionals are compensated.

Ask how much contact they normally have with their clients. Some planners hold an initial planning meeting and then only meet with clients once a year. Others might have quarterly meetings.

Generally, financial planners cannot sell insurance or securities products such as mutual funds or stocks without the proper licenses. Nor can they give investment advice unless registered with state or federal authorities, so be sure to clarify who your main contact will be. It doesn’t give you much confidence if you interview one person and decide you’d like to work with them only to have another person handle your accounts.

You may want to ask for a sample financial plan. Financial plans will vary based on the planner and the company. You may get overwhelmed with 40 pages of facts and figures or you may think that amount of detail is not enough. Be sure that what they provide will meet your needs.
As the meeting ends there’s one last question you want to ask yourself: Did they seem interested in you or did they do 90% of the talking? If they asked about you, your life and your goals that’s a good sign. If they bragged about their qualifications and expertise, and how much money they can make for you, they may be more interested in getting your business than in helping you reach your goals.

When in doubt, do more homework and make sure that the person you choose to work with is right for you from a lot of different perspectives and angles. Don’t let someone con you into working with them just because they promised to make you rich. Nobody can make that promise and keep it.

While choosing the right financial planner is important, ultimate peace of mind comes from the confidence that all money is God’s money, and that God alone is our true provider and protector.

Black Friday and The Light

black-1271449_1280On Thanksgiving, we express our gratitude for all the good things in America: “spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties and brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” The last line of this beautiful song written by Katherine Lee Bates says, “Confirm thy soul in self-control….”

At midnight on Thanksgiving, we are faced with “Black Friday” which marks the beginning of six weeks of a general lack of self-control.

There are many reasons for the term “Black Friday” but in the world of retail sales, this particular day will make or break their financial year. A good day will put them in the “black.” A bad day will put them in the “red.”

Unfortunately for most American families, the very thing that puts retailers in the black puts us in the red. Too often experiences like Black Friday encourage us to buy based the pressure from society and we fall prey to overspending and going into debt for Christmas buying sprees.

We are over-run with a culture that pushes us into spending frenzies, and consumption in its highest form, which can press down upon us and darken our lives. We are constantly besieged to buy this or buy that in order to be successful, happy, or fulfilled. We focus on buying the latest fad for our kids, or they will be forever harmed, because everyone else is sure to have one under the Christmas tree!

Buying presents for Christmas is not necessarily bad and taking advantage of sales is a good thing, but like all good things, moderation is the key to success.

Answering the call of our culture, and getting caught up in the unending busyness, we can become immersed in blackness as the demands of the season press upon us. We are hurrying, but going nowhere. We are busy but not productive. There is no sense of peace and calm and joyful hope as we anticipate the birth of the Christ Child.

This year the first Sunday of Advent is the first Sunday after Black Friday. Our frenzied buying spree collides with our Advent preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who was born in a manger, worked as a carpenter, walked everywhere he went, focused on the plight of the poor and lame, and was crucified for his beliefs. What would a modern day Jesus think about all of the frenzy that accompanies the celebration of his birth or the debt that is created by our overindulgence?

Nowhere in our culture do we hear about Advent, and preparing ourselves spiritually for the arrival of the Infant Christ Child.

In order to appreciate the beauty and meaning of the advent season, let’s redefine the term “Black Friday” this year, and use it as a metaphor for the journey of our Advent preparations.

One of the definitions of the word “black” is “an absence of light.”

During Advent we await the birth of the Light of the World, so we are indeed in darkness, living in a world that seems very black because the light has not yet arrived. Yet, in 1 Thessalonians 5:5, we are reminded that the light is within us. “For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness.”

Even in the hurry and stress of Christmas preparations, we can shine the light of Christ into the darkness of our consumer culture.

Our Advent preparations can include giving to those in need, consciously and prayerfully. Proverbs 21:13 tells us: “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will himself also call and not be heard.” Make opportunities for the children in your family to hear the cry of the poor. Give your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or godchildren a list of adult approved charities and a dollar amount for each child to donate.

Then let them investigate the charities, weigh the relative benefits and decide which charity gets the money. Help them pray for wisdom and discernment in their decision-making. This teaches them to see there are many less fortunate people and encourages them to grow into generous givers. The important thing is to plan now so it becomes part of your Advent journey and an activity you can share with the children in your life.

Bring some light into Advent by simplifying and stop buying endless presents for friends, long lost relatives and other ‘obligatory’ people on your list. The recipients will probably be as relieved as you are. In Acts 8:20 “…Peter said to him, “May your money perish with you, because you thought that you could buy the gift of God with money.” No money can buy us the joys of family, friendship, and love. Find ways to celebrate with friends and family in a meaningful manner that does not include buying more stuff that nobody enjoys, wants or uses.

Use your Advent candles as way to anticipate the light and “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” Pray each evening as you light the Advent candles and ask for peace, serenity and harmony.
Black Friday can be turned into the first step of a continuum to experience the darkness lifting as we get nearer and nearer to the joy of Jesus’ birth.

The Advent season can be one hectic rush into what is supposed to be one perfect day, or it can be a time to spread light into an ever darkening world.

Worldly wealth is only important if it is used for eternal purposes. Reflect on this verse about the unfaithful steward from Luke 16:11, “If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest [worldly] wealth, who will trust you with true wealth [an eternal life with our Lord]?”

Advent can be a time of hectic buying sprees or a time to prayerfully and consciously wait for the arrival of the Baby in the manger.

After all, what does that hectic 24-hour day of shopping have to do with the Christ Child? Nothing – absolutely nothing.

Work

home-office-336373_640The first thing God did with Adam was to put him to work. We are all called to be workers. In the earliest part of the creation story God, the universe’s first worker, gave man the garden to “tend and keep” (Genesis 2:15).  Work was given to man not as a punishment but as a gift.

The United Nations 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians has established five different types of work that can be measured:

Own-use production work: production of goods and services for our own final use (such as farming).

Employment work: work in exchange for pay or profit (this is what most people do in the US).

Unpaid trainee work: work without pay to acquire workplace skills or experience.

Volunteer work: non-compulsory work performed for others without pay.

Other work activities: everything else.

This brief snapshot captures totally different types of work.  We all know that when we finish our day’s “employment work,” there is still much more work left to do. Think about your typical day before and after your job. There are meals to make; a home to clean and care for; lawns to mow, cars to wash and children and family members who need help.

There are many different types of work but the most common is employment work, which we do in order to buy the things we need and want.  But at it’s very core, a Christian approach to work is rooted in man’s relationship with God and creation. God has given us much more depth to our work than merely earning money.

Pope Francis stated that being a worker and engaged in business is a genuine human and Christian calling. He calls work “a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by the greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.”

When we forget that our work is an opportunity to use our gifts and our energies to help meet the needs of our fellow man, we forget that we are called by God to be a worker. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men—it is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

Realizing that we actually work for Christ, means it is important to integrate our spiritual life and our work life. If we are serving God with our work, then our work has a higher purpose. If we don’t understand the true nature of work in the world, then we will feel unsatisfied no matter what kind of work we do or how much money we make. And we will also use work as a status symbol, ignoring the fact that there is dignity in ALL different type of work.

We have a tendency to feel that the person with the big office and big paycheck has more value than the person who is emptying trash cans and cleaning the bathrooms. When we do this we fail to acknowledge that there is equal dignity in all different occupations. The CEO and the janitor have different tasks, probably different education levels and different sized paychecks. But what would the workplace be like if no one every emptied the trash or cleaned the bathrooms?

All work has equal dignity if done for the glory of God. Each of us is called to work as a duty to God. Pope Francis reminds us that work is fundamental to the dignity of the human person. He explains that “work ‘anoints’ with dignity,” and that dignity is not conferred by one’s ancestry, family life, education, type of job, status or salary.

Whether we earn a little or a lot, work allows us to support our family and it is how we get “our daily bread.” Not only does our work sustain us physically, but it also sustains us spiritually. It is clear that our wages provide the resources to physically support us. However, what is more challenging to understand is that our work (and how we accept, respect and support the work of others), is the mechanism that provides for the nourishment of our spirit.

Together, each human person, makes up the Body of Christ. Work honors the gifts and talents that we received from God.  We are all called to use these talents in proportion to our abilities and resources for our own care and benefit and for that of others. Depending on your approach to work in your life, you can spread the light of Christ or not.

Are you a frustrated worker always complaining and badmouthing your fellow employees and management? Do you constantly whine about what goes on in the office or your hours or your co-workers? Listen to your inner voice as well as the Holy Spirit to see if you need to rethink your attitude toward work.

Make a list of the gifts and talents God has given to you and if you don’t use them in your job, see if you might change your job or even make time for a hobby or a way to serve (maybe in your parish) which utilizes those God given gifts. Joy follows when you use your gifts and put them to good use.

As much as possible make sure that work is not interfering with your family life—your vocation as a husband, wife, parent, child, sibling or friend. If your work means you constantly miss important times with the family, then you may need to make some changes. Even if you work less because you are putting your focus on the important areas of your vocation, your work time will be more productive if your priorities are in the proper order.

It is important to remember that God is our Provider and he’s always faithful to provide for our needs. Obviously, our jobs are a big part of that. We need to be grateful to God for the work he has provided to us.  No matter how frustrating our jobs may be at times, they are still a blessing from God.  The most important way to stay grateful on the job is to always keep in mind that you’re working for the Lord. As Colossians 3 says, “It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

Happy Labor Day!

Evelyn Bean

Invictus

Invictus is a Latin word meaning unconquered.  It is the title of a poem written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley and it speaks to the unquenchable human spirit. The most well-known part of the poem is the last two lines:

“I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.”

Invictus is also the name of the international paralympic-style multi-sport event, created by Prince Harry, in which active duty and veteran armed services personnel who are wounded, injured or sick participate in sporting events. Sports include track and field; archery; powerlifting; road cycling; swimming; wheelchair basketball; sitting volleyball; wheelchair rugby and indoor rowing.

The Invictus Games were in Orlando this year (my hometown) so there was a lot of publicity on the local TV stations and news outlets. Although I had heard of the Invictus Games previously, seeing it every day on the news and watching snippets of the competition gave it a whole deeper meaning. And it gave me a profound appreciation for these brave warriors who have overcome so much mental and physical suffering.

Invictus (unconquered) is the perfect word for this competition. It embodies the fighting spirit of these athletes and what they can overcome. While you may never actually attend the Invictus Games to witness the competition in person, you can support these warriors through your prayers. Since this is Memorial Day, please join me in praying for all the brave men and women who put themselves in harms way. Ask God’s blessing on those who are in active service, the veterans, the ones who are healing from mental, physical and emotional scars and those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. 

Evelyn Bean

Friendship and Lifestyle

friendship-1081843_1920This week I received an email from a dear friend who lives in a village outside of Krakow, Poland. She is a beautiful example of a devoted Catholic mother and wife, and although I have only been with her a handful of times, we are sisters of the heart. She and her husband stayed with us when they visited Florida in January and we had stayed with them several times when we were on ministry trips to Poland.

I think they live a fairly typical Polish lifestyle, but by any American’s opinion, their lifestyle would be outside of a typical mainstream American lifestyle.

There is no TV in their home. For entertainment, the children do crafts, read, or play games with each other. Clothes are washed in a washing machine and dried outside on a clothes line, even in the coldest weather. She walks to the butcher and the market to buy groceries. Both of these stores are small shops about the size of a garage and have a limited supply of basic necessities. A lot of food like bread is made at home from scratch. And there is not a fast food place to be found in their entire village.

Their lifestyle does not have most of the things we consider to be necessary based on our standard American lifestyle.

If we moved to their village, it would be significantly different than the way that we live right now and it would probably feel uncomfortable. Can you imagine not having access to a modern American grocery store or walking to the store to buy from a limited selection of items? When I think about how they live, I can appreciate a few aspects, but overall it feels strange to me based on how I’ve lived my life in America.

That doesn’t mean that it is wrong. What it means is that it is so different from what I consider “normal” from what I am accustomed to, that it creates a sense of discomfort.

Being with these two beautiful people whose lifestyle is so much simpler—but not necessarily easier—than ours made me think about our lifestyles in America.

In many ways, we are all living a lifestyle that mimics what surrounds us. Our family, friends, choice of television shows, websites, magazines, and books all influence our lifestyle. On some level, these things show us how people in our culture live and we tend to incorporate that style into how we live.

Now, think about being removed from your American lifestyle and plopped down in the middle of a small village in Poland. Would you feel some level of disconnect between your American lifestyle and your Polish lifestyle? Will you start to fall into patterns of Polish life? Or will you continue a lot of the patterns of your American life?

The answer to how much you assimilate into a Polish lifestyle probably depends heavily on who surrounds you. Do you spend a lot of time with other Americans in Poland or do you embrace the local culture and immerse yourself in it?

If we moved to their small village in Poland, I am sure our friends would help us find suitable housing. They would refer us to the local Catholic church and introduce us to the priest. We would be introduced to their friends and included in some of their family activities. They would help us learn where to shop, what to buy and how to get around. In other words, they would help us change our lifestyle to be less American and more Polish.

Interesting thoughts, but how does that relate to our mission of Biblical finances? The answer is simple. If you want to follow Biblical financial principles, and be a good steward of God’s blessings, surround yourself with people who share those values.

The more aware you are about the people in your life, the things you read, the things you watch on television and the websites you visit the more you can mold your lifestyle to be a steward of God’s blessings.

Stop using shopping as a vehicle for entertainment and only shop for necessities. At home, turn off the television and read a good book, or play games with the children. Take up a hobby. When you are with others, disengage in conversations about all the ‘stuff’ people have and the things they bought and the things they want. In other words, find ways to disengage from the typical American consumer-based mindset where happiness comes from how much stuff you can accumulate.

As you make these subtle changes, you will gradually enjoy spending more time with those people who live a stewardship lifestyle and less time with those people who live a typical American lifestyle based on consumerism and debt.

It’s actually pretty easy. If you want to be a good steward, surround yourself with people who are good stewards. Seek out those people who live a life similar to the one you want.

As Catholics our friendships should be founded not only upon a similar lifestyle, respect, and love for each other but also upon the mutual love of Jesus Christ.

Jesus shared His whole life in a community of brothers and sisters. He fished with them, went to weddings and dinner parties. He prayed for them, and with them. He loved them and forgave them. He taught them the way of his Father. He even washed their feet.

This early Christian Community laughed together, cried together, and sang together. They shared in the agony and pain of death and in the joy of the Resurrection. Think about this—it is only when Jesus was alone that Satan tried to attack.

They knew that they needed each other to persevere in the Christian life, and so do we. There is nothing that can help you be a better steward than surrounding yourself with people who have the same goal, people who will love and support you and encourage you when things get tough. And most importantly pray for you.

So to end this blog, here are some Bible verses that reiterate the value of true Christian friendship:

Sirach 6:15 – Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth.

Sirach 37:5 – A good friend will fight with you against the foe, and against your enemies he will hold up your shield.

Proverbs 17:17 – A friend is a friend at all times, and a brother is born for the time of adversity.

Sirach 6:16 – Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them.

Sirach 25:9 – Happy the one who finds a friend, who speaks to attentive ears.

Job 2:11- Now when three of Job’s friends heard of all the misfortune that had come upon him, they set out each one from his own place: Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuh, and Zophar from Naamath. They met and journeyed together to give him sympathy and comfort.

Sirach 6:17 – Those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship, for as they are, so will their neighbors be.

Sirach 40:20 – Wine and strong drink delight the soul, but better than either, love of friends.

No amount of money or stuff can take the place of true friendships based on a mutual love of Christ.

Do You Care What Other People Think?

There’s a great quote on social media, a version of which is attributed to Will Smith: “People buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have in order to impress people they don’t like.”

So if you are one of those people who spends money trying to impress others, now is a great time to challenge yourself and start thinking about what is really important and why you should not care what others think–especially when it comes to the things you own and what you do with the money God has given to you.

Reflect on 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul.”

We are in this world but not of this world. As the verse says, we are only traveling through this world on the way to our eternal home, which is not here on earth. So all the stuff we have—the cars, clothes, house, shoes, gadgets, electronics, jewelry, sports gear and the rest of it—will be left behind when we die. We cannot take it with us. Putting any importance on having things can be the “worldly desires that wage war against the soul.”

So many of us feel pressured into buying stuff…to impress people…to just say we have it…to keep up with the neighbors…to make the kids happy…because it’s new…because it’s advertised…and any other reason you want to throw in here. But are any of those reasons really important?

When it comes to money, not caring what other people think can significantly improve your personal bottom line. Ponder how much more money you could save if you weren’t feeling compelled to buy the newest tech gadgets as soon as they come on the market. Or if you could stay away from dinner at the fast food places and lunches out at work in order to save for a more important goal such as a family vacation. How much would you save by using the ‘outdated’ but fully functional smart phones for a few years instead of turning it in every time there is an upgraded model? What would happen to your car budget if you drove a good quality used car until the wheels fall off instead of leasing a new one every few years? What if you cut back on the expensive activities for the kids and instead saved for their college education?

What would happen to your spending if you only bought what you really, really need in order to survive, instead of buying the stuff you or the kids want because “everybody’s got one?” What would happen to your bank account if you focused on saving not spending?

When you stop caring what other people think, and you stop buying things just because everyone else does, you can focus your attention on meeting your personal and family goals, and amazing things can happen.

You can put your needs and your family’s needs first — which is exactly where they should be. It will mean cutting back on the spending, telling the kids ‘No” more often, doing without some of the stuff you have gotten used to having and generally simplifying your life.

But it will also mean a sense of freedom when you don’t care what others think and you concentrate on only those things that are right for your family. Cutting the cable, getting rid of the gadgets and technology, opting out of constant activities with the kids means less financial stress, more personal time with the family, more smiles, laughs and fun together.

Put your family first and stop caring what others think. Recognize that all the name brands are just overpriced status symbols that stand between your family and your family’s financial goals. Teach your kids that they should not center their lives around trying to keep up with their peers, but rather doing what they love.

What people think of you cannot change who you are or what you are worth, unless you allow them to.

How other people spend their money may be totally wrong for you and your family. What is best for someone else may be your worst nightmare. If you are constantly worried about what people are thinking, you will never have the will to do what is right for you and your family.

I recall a situation where one of our friends got a job with a new company and there was an opportunity for the company’s stock to explode in value. Many of our other friends bought stock in that company, because our friend was so excited and encouraged us to do so. But instead of exploding in value, the company imploded and went out of business. Friends who jumped aboard the bandwagon and bought stock lost the money they had invested. This is a great lesson—you are the only one stuck with the consequences of your decisions. Your friends don’t have to live with your choices–you do.

Life is simply too short to try and live your life to impress other people– there are too many people and you will never succeed because most people don’t care as much as you think they do. “You wouldn’t worry so much what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” (Eleanor Roosevelt.)

If you are buying things to impress people, consider how many of those people will even be in your life a year from now or five years from now or ten years from now.

Being true to God, content with what you have and focused on the needs of your family are so much more important than caring if someone approves of your simple lifestyle.

Surround yourself with people who will support your efforts and help you achieve your goals. Counting on friends as a support system is important to your physical, mental and financial health.

So, figure out what you really want in your financial life–whether that’s getting out of debt, living a simple lifestyle, funding college for the kids, or retiring early and then pursue it with full abandon.

If people criticize you they were not your friends to begin with. Only those who love you as you are will support you when you are on a journey of change.

The Guide to Giving Part 1

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Managing your money God’s way means knowing how to wisely save, spend, and give the money that God gave us; that is the Catholic money perspective. Despite how important it is to be a steward many people do not understand the concept. It is vital to begin with the knowledge that God is the owner of everything, and everything we call our own is, in fact, a gift from God.

Our first act as a steward is to return to God the gifts he has given to us. Generosity has many forms and it can be daunting to figure out how much to give and to do so with an attitude of love and thanksgiving.

Below we explore two aspects of giving: attitude and advantages.

Attitude
John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The sequence of these words is important because it starts with love. God loved then he gave. Giving should not be an obligation but rather a love offering from our hearts. Our giving is an extension of God’s love for us, and we should remember this every time we give. Second Corinthians 9:7 tells us that “each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

It can be sad to see the way people act every Sunday during the collection at Mass. They scramble to get some change or act surprised as if this was the first time they have seen a collection basket being passed. If you have always looked at the act of giving as an obligation, make the effort to change your attitude and remember to give cheerfully to others. We are only returning to God what he has already given to us.

Advantages of Giving
The act of giving does so much more for the giver than it does for the recipients. Acts 20:35 tells us that we should “keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus Himself said, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’” When we give others the gifts that God gave us, we are sharing God’s love with the world and strengthening our connection with him. Giving is God’s way of raising people into the likeness of his son. It’s not about the money: it’s about the change in your heart.

Giving on earth will reap riches and treasures in heaven, something that will last us an eternity. Second Corinthians 9:6 says that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Everything that we give flows back to us in ways infinitely greater than we could possibly imagine.

Giving with a heart of love increases our intimacy with Christ—what could possibly be more important than that? Giving to the church continues Christ’s ministry in our communities, supports outreach ministries and spreads the word of God. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? It may take time to become a cheerful giver and give with a heart full of love and not out of a sense of obligation, but the journey is well worth the effort.

Next week, we’ll continue with the final two elements of giving. Until then, God bless you all and have a wonderful week.

With love,
The Beans

How Much is Enough?

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Watching commercials, browsing catalogues, visiting on line shopping sites, watching shopping networks on TV, reading advertisements and interacting with social media about different products makes you want it all now! We’re living in a society where folks feel they need that instantaneous fulfillment and everything in our culture encourages us to buy, buy, buy.

The constant quest for material goods is like being on a sugar rush that you can’t escape. A perfect example is craving the newest technology toy. What do you with the old technology after you have the newest version? Is it an investment you’re still going to use or is it sitting in your home collecting dust? Is the new thing the best thing only until the next new thing comes along?

So many times our accumulation of stuff is wrapped up in our quest for happiness and security—what the world tells us is important. Finding happiness and security will never come from buying or accumulating “things,” no matter what the world tells us.

If your closets are overflowing with clothes you don’t wear, and if the garage is so full there is no room for the car, and if the attic has no empty space, then it’s time to sit back and think. Pope Francis tells us “There is a danger that threatens everyone in the church, all of us. The danger of worldliness. It leads us to vanity, arrogance and pride.”

Get away from the danger of worldliness. Clean out those garages and closets and donate the items to a consignment shop, St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store or Catholic Charities. And once the clutter is gone, find some positive ways to remain grateful for what you have without the constant quest for more. Here are some ideas to help you be more grateful:

  • Start a gratitude journal and write what you’re most thankful for daily or weekly.
  • In your evening prayers, meditate about the good things in your life that day.
  • Stop using the words “my” and “mine” and instead use “the” to put distance between yourself and your possessions.
  • Each evening at the dinner table have each family member share three things for which they are grateful.

These suggestions will help you become more aware of what you do have instead of being so wrapped up in what you want. What if every day God only gave you those things for which you thanked him yesterday? How much of your stuff would remain if that were the situation? There is no such thing as being too grateful for all the blessings God has given to us.

“Command those who are rich in the things of this life not to be proud, but to place their hope, not in such an uncertain thing as riches, but in God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17)

Listen to our Compass Catholic’s radio show to learn more money-saving tips: http://compasscatholic.org/archived-radio-shows/

The Reason for the Season

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This time of year evokes sentiments of gratitude and joy for everything and everyone that has blessed us. The Advent Season allows us to pause and reflect on all the events leading up to our Savior’s birth as well as the people who were involved over the course of hundreds of years who were instrumental to God’s Plan. If your family has ever participated in the tradition of the Jesse Tree, you know that the ornaments hung each night tell the story of different events and individuals, ultimately leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. As the stories unfold, we are able to follow historically how, after the fall of Adam and Eve, God intended to bring a Savior to his people.

Similarly, we take certain events in our lives step by step as if each individual story feeds into some pinnacle event. Usually it looks something like going through school, getting a job, discerning a vocation such as religious life or marriage, having children, and so on. It would be nice if our lives could be as predictable as that, but sometimes life throws us a curveball or two and our story changes course unexpectedly.

Maybe we land that first job and things are going well. We anticipate that promotions and raises will happen year after year provided that we continue to perform at our best. With everything moving along according to our plans, it is easy to become comfortable in our lifestyle and maybe even push the envelope from time to time by charging a few things here and there because the next raise ought to cover it.

However, sometimes our plans don’t roll out the way we think they will and we find ourselves struggling to make ends meet. Despite our best efforts, sometimes the raise doesn’t come or the promotion is given to someone else even though we have been encouraged to believe we would be the best candidate. Sometimes hindsight will give us the explanation we couldn’t come up with in the moment, but usually wisdom only comes over time through various experiences. But, it is in those difficult times when we have to remember that life is a series of seasons—some according our our plan and some not. Granted, it is very difficult to evaluate our circumstances while we’re in the midst of these struggles.

Which is why, in those difficult moments, we can look to the Bible and take comfort in knowing that God has a plan for us, just as He had a plan for the birth of our Lord which took many years to unfold. While his plans for us won’t span hundreds of years (even though it might feel that way at times), we need to remember that he loves us and is prepared to help us in whatever season we find ourselves. When we rely on him, we have the peace and joy to tackle anything that life throws our way because ultimately we are exactly where God intends for us to be.

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12