Archive for The Economy
A visit with old friends from Raleigh in their new St. Augustine, Florida home was a very happy one. This creative couple has begun a business making short videos for corporations and the state’s tourism division, and it’s going well. Our friends’ path to success was never from “nothing” to “something,” because the two already had plenty of talent and experience. He’d been a local TV news anchor, and she’d been the weather reporter. As well, they were experienced in camera work, writing and editing—all perfect for their new business. They had some savings to finance their venture. Oh, and they love to bicycle.
The name of their business? You’ll love it.
This couple is spiritually minded and knew enough to draw on the well of good qualities and experiences God has already given them for their new purpose and supply. They are grateful for today’s blessings and grateful in advance for future blessings. They have what it takes!
Centuries ago a woman needed to know she had what it takes. This woman faced economic ruin. A widow with two sons and no means of support, she feared her sons would be taken as bondmen by the creditor in payment for her debt. The widow sought help from a spiritually minded friend, a person of prayerful trust in God named Elisha. He asked her first, “What do you have in the house?”
The widow pointed out the only pot of oil that remained. He told her to borrow containers from her neighbors and then pour out the oil she had into them. The oil poured and poured into the new containers until she saw she had more than enough to pay her debt and live off the rest. (II Kings 4)
What did this woman “have in the house?” Plenty. But only a spiritual sense– a trust in God– revealed it.
What do you have in the house? Plenty. May you discover all the good you have to work with and so prosper like my friends from Florida and the Bible did. You too have what it takes!
A question for all Americans out there: how did you spend your Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? Did you catch any of the Inauguration of President Obama? Did you give any thought to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which was also being commemorated on this day? Monday, January 21 offered America a full plate of patriotism this year for sure.
As if these solemn events were not enough to think about, there’s the growing movement to volunteer for a day of service on MLK Day. So you have opportunities to do good and to make the holiday about more than sleeping and shopping. It’s time to regard our neighbor unselfishly and to live consistently with our prayer to be better. (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)
I decided that this day I would step out from my usual church work to reach a wider world, hoping to make a difference in my community. I’d been feeling stale about my activities and yearning for new friendships. So I signed up at my local Alexander YMCA as a Stop Hunger Now volunteer. I was to assemble food packets which would travel to Uganda and Haiti, among other needy places. It was fascinating to see what went into the packets (rice and dried veggies, among other non-perishables) and then to hear how many millions had benefited from this charitable work. On this day alone, volunteers would pack 10,000 meals.T
The day was a great success. In fact, because so many more kids and adults showed up to help than the 60 required, the organizers assigned some of us “leftovers” to pick up outside litter. We were to fan out to the several parking lots of the Y as well as some neighboring streets.
Equipped with bags and gloves, we set forth with teammates who started as strangers and ended up as friends. My two teammates were wonderful women and we discovered we had much in common. Our faiths were different in that one of us was Jewish, one a former Catholic who’d become a Presbyterian, and one a Christian Scientist—me. But our values were the same and we loved getting to know each other. I quickly made new friends, and a possible lunch date to boot. All this, over trash!
I feel very full now. I’m so full of gratitude that any trace of emptiness and ennui are gone.
I began this modest project hoping to feed the hungry and heal the hearts of others– those who needed nourishment and care because they had so little of either. But now I’m not sure whose hunger was fed, and whose heart was healed. I don’t think it matters.
*Title from a poem by Mary Baker Eddy
Whew. We just dodged a bullet here in the US of A. No fiscal cliff to fall off of, thanks to Congress. But trending thought says we may be kicking the can down the road going forward, so it’s too early to LOL. Not to be cliché about it, of course. Whatever.
I believe we can learn some lessons here, and I don’t mean in the national or governmental sense. I mean in the personal, or what is the take-away for me, sense. Here are two examples.
First, my friend Alice from years ago. Alice was facing a divorce, had small children, and had moved back with her parents for the duration. From what she told me, finances were tight. Alice might have been facing her own version of a fiscal cliff. But through her prayers for guidance, Alice seemed to remain calm. I remember her expressing deep gratitude for how God was providing for her little family.
Alice was so grateful, even in this fiscal emergency, that all she wanted to do was give more to the church which supported her faith and trust. She decided to give her church an amount that she didn’t seem to have at that time. Still, she wrote the check confidently. By the end of the day a buyer for her washing machine appeared, offering the same amount that she had just given to her church. Alice felt her prayer was being answered, and sure enough, other solutions became clearer. Soon she met and married a wonderful man, who not only depended on prayer himself, but was able to be a financial support for her children. I received a Christmas card with all their happy faces some years ago.
I’m also thinking of a man in my extended family who was once laid off from his professional position of many years. He was of a certain age which made a good new position seem unlikely. But this man also prayed trustingly that God would meet his needs. For three years a “regular job” did not come his way. Yet, in those three years his finances were secured by the sale of some property, an unexpected inheritance, two temporary and well-paying contract positions, and a modest but professional assignment of some duration. He even found his wife a better position! Finally, my relative found a permanent job which has lasted more than six years now. His supply remained constant and was more than adequate for his needs.
Two spiritual qualities were the basis of these stories: gratitude and trust. There was gratitude in advance, and trust despite the picture of lack. Each person turned to God for solutions and solutions appeared. These qualities of gratitude and trust are available to everyone today, whether a fiscal cliff looms or not. Perhaps the exercise of spiritual qualities like these will reveal more permanent solutions for our national, as well as personal, economy.
Political conventions dominate the media these days in the U.S. Whether Republicans or Democrats, wags, wonks and everyday folks debate the events in Tampa, Florida (Republican Convention) and Charlotte, North Carolina (Democratic Convention). Did Ann Romney manage to humanize her husband Mitt? Did Michelle Obama convince the base to stay the course with her husband Barack? Did each party make its positions so clear and compelling that a majority will vote for its candidate? These questions evoke little agreement and few tepid responses. Instead, reaction is apt to be passionate and purely partisan. Often, response is even angry and arrogant.
How can the ordinary citizen help and not hurt the political process? First, by making an intelligent, fair-minded choice. Second, by voting that choice. But more than this, by participating in the very peaceful good will for the other side that we’d like to see extended to our own. In other words, by maintaining the Golden Rule first in thought and second in behavior, which results from thought.
Centuries ago we were given clear and helpful instructions about how to think, how to pray really, about politics:
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for…all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (St. Paul’s letter to Timothy. I Timothy 2:2)
This calm and unselfish approach, replacing anger and extreme partisanship with good will, has been known to improve bodily health. Is it possible it can also improve the health of our body politic?
Really, it’s not right that Monday is called Labor Day, the very day when we Americans stay home from work and celebrate our day off. Rightly, it should be called Non-Labor Day. But there’s no confusion about the day after Labor Day when it’s clear that everyone returns to work. Nobody wants to celebrate IT, no thank you. But for all you Tuesday after Labor Day haters, think about it this way: you’re fortunate that you have work to go to at all, what with this economy of continuing lay-offs and unemployment.
If you don’t have a job and need one, here’s something to think about. Your faith can help. Specifically, your prayers can play a big part. Not only to keep your spirits up, but to sharpen your spiritual sense of gratitude in advance, and expectation that the right idea, the right opportunity, will appear and you’ll recognize it. It happened to me several times and to many others I know.
When I left the Northeast and moved to North Carolina, I needed a job. More, I wanted a new career, different from teaching but building on the many skills I honed when I taught English literature and writing. I did what I knew to do: I prayed. Believing in an all good God who loved me and cherished my abilities, I trusted Him to reveal next steps. I also wondered if that revered book of ancient wisdom, the Bible, would have anything to say about a job search. Incredibly, it did.
It seems that around 458 B.C.E. Ezra, a legal expert and faithful Jew during the Babylonian exile, wanted a job. He wanted to travel from his Persian home where he served king Artaxerxes to the Jewish homeland in Judea to help efforts to rebuild the temple and community life of the Jews living there. His prayer “had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel [Judea] statutes and judgments.”(Ezra 7:10) With this unselfish purpose, Ezra appealed to his employer the king for permission to take on the assignment. Artaxerxes granted it, sent a letter of introduction for Ezra to take to Jerusalem, allowed other Jewish leaders to accompany him, provided ample donations and offerings for the temple, and even urged Ezra to spend any leftover silver and gold in the ways he saw fit.
Wow, I thought. Ezra had the ideal job: a high purpose; a respectful, generous employer; congenial co-workers, and even an unlimited expense account! All this, and he even got to make a huge difference in teaching his fellow Jews about the law and the commandments of Moses, a wonderful outcome.
When I prayed to the God of Ezra, He answered me just as abundantly. After volunteering for many good causes, I found a job as director of public affairs for a large statewide non-profit where my background in teaching, writing and public speaking was valued and used. I was asked to study and share my new understanding of the laws of our state with others, and I too had fine co-workers as my teammates. My compensation was more than adequate. I felt like a modern day Ezra, and I was grateful.
Prayer puts us into a receptive frame of thought where unselfish purposes unfold, and we find our supply in opportunities to serve. My prayer today is for all to find their unique places in this world that has need of every one of us. Going back to work can be a blessing that includes all.
Is America’s corn crisis only about corn? Even with the few expensive ears that have already reached our markets, will the drought, extreme heat and parched earth recover in time for the crop to prosper? There’s more at stake than just your summer picnics here. There’s the underlying fear that we will not be provided for. That lack, hardship and more fear are ahead.
A simple ear of corn represents a whole field of ideas important to our economy and health. Corn creates fodder for cattle, alternative fuel for vehicles, and sugary flavoring for cooking oil and other edibles. Just one buttery ear of corn on the cob is a delight, but if corn crops fail, than transportation, food supplies and cost of living are adversely affected. From Illinois, Iowa and Indiana to my home in North Carolina, folks are worried. But will we be content just to worry? Or will we be willing to think about this issue more deeply? Consider this more spiritual approach:
Centuries ago an Egyptian man found himself in a position to help his family whose corn crop had failed.*There was a severe drought in the Middle East and one deeply religious father in Israel instructed his sons to travel to Egypt to buy corn; he’d heard the famine had not reached that nation. The Egyptians had wisely prepared for it by storing up the corn from the good years.
So the Israelites set off and came before their younger brother who by now held a prestigious position close to the Egyptian king, kind of a Commissioner of Agriculture and Emergency Response Czar all in one. And this man wanted to help. Problem was, many years ago those same brothers had thrown this Commissioner into a pit out of jealousy and hatred and then sold him to traveling merchants for a profit. They assumed he was dead. But Joseph had survived this human trafficking, and when he recognized his brothers, he not only gave them corn, but forgave them as well. His prayers had revealed that the famine had worked to reunite them and to give him the opportunity to do good for his family. Corn saved the day, but even more, what it stood for: spiritual qualities that were victorious over hardship and hatred.
Today I asked my local truck farmer from Lyon Farms in Creedmoor, NC, How’s your corn doing? She replied bravely, Doin’ OK. The sweet Silver Queen ears looked good enough, and tonight’s dinner proved they were indeed. Munching away, I said a little prayer for all the world’s corn, and for all the godly gifts of bounty, sweetness, generosity and forgiveness it represents. That’s a mouthful, for sure. But who’s to say there isn’t more at stake here than a mere ear of corn? It’s food for thought.
* The Bible, Genesis 42-45
David remembered his Sunday School teacher told him never to be one of those “tea bag Christian Scientists.” Say what? I said. These are the folks who wait until they’re in hot water to activate their faith, he explained. I was especially interested because David had just gone through an unusual financial challenge in having to close the bank where he was CEO and then having to find another job pronto. (See previous blog, A Bank Not Behaving Badly.) And now, over honey- baked ham and sides, he was telling us he’d found another fine job at a different bank in our community. We rejoiced with him. He had prayed and his prayers were effective.
We all know David’s no “Tea Bag Christian Scientist.” Long before the hot water poured down he’d been praying consistently over daily challenges. His very sick puppy was healed through prayer, and prayer brought about a remarkable recovery for his mother who’d broken a hip. His earlier bank problems were resolved ethically and harmoniously and he credits prayer for each step. Others were also praying along with him during these times.
Now I hear my friend Cindy, a practicing Christian of another denomination, has also been praying for a better personal economy. Her “hot water” situation was that she needed more income, and fast. As a self-employed housecleaner, Cindy needed more clients to replace those who’d found they could no longer afford her services. Cindy is a faithful churchgoer and constantly brings prayer to her concerns about family and relationships. She’s no Tea Bag Christian.
Soon Cindy’s prayerful, expectant attitude revealed practical, helpful ideas. She asked her son who was employed by a large automotive service if he could suggest any business people who might need cleaning services. He could and they did! One has already employed her to clean two of his buildings and Cindy’s excited about new ways to reach others.
What if you’re not a “prayer type?” Hold that thought. Your expression of gratitude for good already received, your humility, your careful listening for good ideas and willingness to act on them—guess what? That’s prayer! You don’t need to wait for hot water to bring out all these wonderful spiritual qualities. You can lean on them now.
“To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, Pref. vii) So lean.
Still, you know how good it makes you feel to thank Aunt Tillie for even the ugly sweater or the pink bunny pajamas, now famous symbols of Hated Gifts. But did you know what else gratitude can do? It can actually increase your own good, even to the point of enriching you in literal, tangible ways. (See disclaimer, NOTE TO SELVES*)
Try John Kralik’s approach in A Simple Act of Gratitude, as reported in Parade Magazine January 1. In the doldrums due to divorce, downward spiraling finances, and excess weight, Kralik turned himself around and began writing thank-you notes to everyone he could think of.
“I heard a voice. It said I shouldn’t focus on what I… had lost but should be grateful for what I had. This project [of writing thank-you notes] transformed my life. I saw how much I had been blessed by so many people…and acknowledging their blessings seemed to make them multiply. After I thanked colleagues for directing cases to me, they referred more. When I expressed gratitude to clients for paying promptly, they began doing so even more quickly.” In other words, the love he extended came back to him in tangible and much needed supply.
Kralik’s project lasted about a year, and his book tells all. His example illustrates a truth expressed beautifully in Christian Science, founded by Mary Baker Eddy: Our gratitude is riches, complaint is poverty. (Hymn 249 by Vivian Burnett)
*NOTE TO SELVES: This praise for the power of gratitude is not for the purpose of enriching our pockets. It’s simply an admission that any one spiritual quality blesses one and blesses all. When gratitude governs, everyone is included.
NOTE TO SELF: Express gratitude for your readers and the opportunity to write about what you love. Thank them for their kind and helpful responses to those efforts. Listen up, people: this is a thank-you note!
Banks haven’t exactly been everyone’s BFF lately. Does anyone even “like” them? According to journalist Nicholas Kristof, former banker James Theckston even admits that bankers are mostly to blame for the nation’s housing disaster. (New York Times) Since banks are today’s bad boys, wouldn’t some cheer to hear that one had gone out of business? Maybe, but not so fast. What if that one actually cared and proved it? What if that one put principle before profit?
Last week one North Carolina bank demonstrated integrity so strong it put honesty and accountability above its very survival. Finding it was in financial difficulties and engaged in unsustainable practices due to real estate lending, CEO David Rupp and his team saw that they shouldn’t even be in the business. Consequently, specialty bank Greystone put itself out of business after settling its loans and turning in its license. In so doing it modeled a unique and nearly ideal exit strategy. As Rupp puts it to journalist David Ranii, “(We) worked voluntarily and cooperatively with the Commissioner of Banks and the FDIC to liquidate (our) assets and pay (our) liabilities without loss to the deposit insurance fund.” (Raleigh News&Observer, December 3)
Rupp is a practicing Christian Scientist and turns instinctively to prayer for the solution to problems, including how to manage his bank ethically. At a recent testimony meeting in our local church he shared how this unorthodox solution —putting oneself out of business—was the right one for his bank. Prayer revealed the harmonious proceeding of each step toward the final outcome. Thad Woodard, president of the NC Banking Association, praised the bank’s actions as “a classic example of fulfilling their responsibility.”
Now David Rupp is a former CEO. He needs a job. Not to worry; he knows what to do. He’ll pray.