August 17, 2011

The Exterminator released today

Posted in giving, technology, video games tagged , , , at 7:51 am by weiszguy

5 teens in our church built an iPhone game. It’s called “The Exterminator”, and it goes on sale today in the App Store. All proceeds go toward the purchase of the old Rye high school, which we’re going to turn into a community center.

itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-exterminator/id451668182

Would you do two favors for me?

  1. Buy the game! It only costs $1. (works on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch)
  2. “Like” the game on Facebook. That will help with visibility.

FAQ

Was this game really written by teens?
Yes! I know them personally. They went to a teen retreat last winter, and the speaker there gave each group $100 and told them to make it grow and do something to benefit their communities. This is what our teens chose to do.

Are you really buying the old Rye high school?
Yes! What the Greenhorn Valley needs most is a place for people to hang out. Everybody has a “First Space”, their homes. Everybody has a “Second Space”, their work or school. What’s missing here is a “Third Space”, where people can hang out, chat, drink coffee, play basketball. That’s what we want to provide.

Where can I get more information?
148apps.com reviewed the game.
Our church has a page with a lot of detail.
The game has a Facebook page.
Here’s a YouTube trailer for the game.

May 17, 2009

good friends

Posted in debt, giving, money tagged at 8:08 am by weiszguy

We had some trouble paying the mortgage this month.  No, really.  I don’t mean that we didn’t have the money, I mean that the mortgage company rejected electronic payments from my bank — three times!  The first time I tried to pay was well before May 1st.  The second time I tried to pay was on May 1st.  The third time I tried to pay was at the beginning of this week, but still in time to arrive at the mortgage company before the May 16th deadline.  And all three times the payment was rejected.

To make a long story short, the payments were being rejected because my mortgage is going through the modification process.  And while that’s happening, all mortgage payments must be in certified funds.  For some reason, electronic money knocking on your electronic door isn’t good enough.

I guess this story isn’t getting much shorter.

My bank is an online only bank (INGDirect).  Normally that’s not a problem.  But this time it was a problem because I couldn’t get a cashiers check and send it to the mortgage company in time for the late payment deadline.

So, I called a friend and asked him for enough money to make my mortgage payment.  I would deposit his check in my local bank, which would write me a cashiers check for the amount, which I could overnight to the mortgage company, and then write my friend a normal check from my online bank to pay him back.

My point is, isn’t that a great friend?  How many people do you know who would loan that much money on just your promise that you could pay it back?

I wound up paying the mortgage company with a check-by-phone, which they previously told me couldn’t be done.  So I didn’t need my friend’s check.  But man, I’ll do anything for him and his family now.  Thanks guys!

January 22, 2009

don’t be so tight

Posted in giving, money, politics, stuff I think about tagged , , at 11:28 am by weiszguy

Here’s an article from Arthur Brooks about giving patterns among people across the political spectrum

People who said they were “very conservative” gave 4.5% of their income to charity, on average; “conservatives” gave 3.6%; “moderates” gave 3%; “liberals” gave 1.5%; and “very liberal” folks gave 1.2%.

The central point of this article is that conservatives give more of their income to charity than liberals do.  But although I’m proud that conservatives outgive liberals in general, I’m still a little appalled by the low numbers.  The most generous group in this survey still only gives 4.5% of their income.  There’s no reason this number shouldn’t be twice as big.  10% is not just a conveniently round number that happens to be espoused by most religions, it’s a significantly large enough portion of your income that you’ll probably have to give something up in order to give that much.  You’re telling the charity you’re concerned enough about their mission to delay a little of your own gratification.  Giving 10% is a stretching exercise that will help you focus on needs outside of yourself, help you learn satisfaction with what you have, and chip away at the greedy portions of your heart and soul.

Economists measure the “income elasticity of giving” to predict how much people change their giving in response to a particular percentage change in their income. It turns out the response in 2008 was dramatically different for left and right. For instance, a 10% decrease in family income for a conservative was associated with a 10% decrease in giving. The same income decrease for a liberal family led to a 16% giving drop. In other words, if this relationship continues to hold, the recession will almost certainly exacerbate the giving differences between left and right.

It stands to reason that when your income goes down, your giving (as a dollar amount) should also go down.  But giving a proportionately smaller amount of money just because you’re making less just sounds greedy.  Being generous and giving profusely doesn’t seem like an option to me. As human beings, we have a moral obligation to help those around us.  There is absolutely nothing to be gained by holding on to every last dime, except possibly some temporary material comforts and the smug satisfaction of an overly inflated bank account.

January 14, 2008

the ultimate gift

Posted in giving, inheritance, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged at 6:14 pm by weiszguy

There are certain character traits that are extremely important in life.  Traits like a strong work ethic, understanding the value of a dollar, and the importance of generosity and hospitality, for instance.  These qualities are far more important than skills like the ability to understand math or the ability to start a new business.  People who are nearing the end of their lives don’t want to pass on the knowledge of starting businesses, they want to pass on the knowledge of being a better human.  Skills are important, of course.  They are the tools that can help us reach our goals.  It’s just that our goals should be more others-oriented than self-oriented.  The goal should be to make the world a better place, not to start a business, but starting a business may be a valid method of achieving the goal.

I just read The Ultimate Gift, by Jim Stovall.  In it, a wealthy cattle-baron has just passed away and in his will he lays out a plan of action for developing strong character qualities in his grand-nephew.  The nephew isn’t excited about the plan, but as the book progresses he becomes a better person as he submits himself to his uncle’s plan.  The uncle has the nephew perform twelve month-long tasks, each task teaching him a new, and highly valuable, quality.  The nephew learns lessons about work, money, friends, and the thirst for knowledge, to name a few.  By the end of the year, the nephew has become a new person, having been transformed by the hard lessons he has learned.  Because he has learned all these lessons, he earns the ultimate gift, control of a $1 billion charitable trust.

Here’s the thing, I don’t have a $1 billion trust to leave my progeny.  And even if I did, I’m a long way from leaving it to them in a will.  But I desperately desire my offspring to understand and internalize all these lessons just like the nephew in the book.  How do I instill a strong work ethic in my children?  How do I get them to crave spending time with people and giving themselves away?  How do I instill any of these desirable character traits?

December 12, 2007

how generous should you be?

Posted in giving, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged at 8:57 pm by weiszguy

A question came to me while shaving today (questions have a way of doing that).  To what extent should we depend on others, to what extent should we be self-sufficient, and to what extent should we be helping others?

Depending on others for help is a virtue.  It teaches you not to place your hope in your own strength.  It teaches you that we are all connected and we all share one destiny (in this life, anyway).  But there’s also something unsatisfying and unsettling about leeching other people’s resources.  If they weren’t using that money for you, they could use it for something else.

Providing for yourself and your family is a virtue.  A primal urge for a lot of teenagers (and 20 somethings, and 30 somethings) is to cut the apron strings that tie them to their parents.  They want to be independent, to provide for themselves.  Society sees independence as a good thing, because then somebody else won’t have to provide for you.  The danger with self-sufficiency is forgetfulness.  It will be very easy for you to forget where you came from and that there are others who have not yet come as far as you have.

Helping out others in need is a virtue.  If you want to feel warmer this winter without turning up the thermostat, just give away a bunch of stuff to somebody who needs it.  They will be grateful, perhaps being able to do things they wouldn’t have done without your help, and you will get that feeling of nobility that comes from doing good without the hope of reward.  The downside of helping out others is arrogance.  You, in your beneficent magnificence, have condescended to provide assistance to those poor saps who are too stupid to do it for themselves.  This perspective is perhaps the most insidious of them all, so watch out for it.

Where are you on the spectrum?  Do you like where you are, or do you wish you were somewhere else?  Where is the best place to be, and how can you get there?

This post originally appeared in the December 12, 2007, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

December 5, 2007

envelopes of cash

Posted in giving, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged , at 6:47 pm by weiszguy

What would you do if someone handed you cash in an envelope? Would you laugh? Would you stare, dumbfounded, in disbelief? Would you ask for a little of what they’ve been drinking?

What would you do if they told you you had to use that money to help somebody else? Would you keep the money for yourself? Would you give it to someone in need? Would you try to grow the money so you had more to help people with?

A church in the Greenhorn Valley pulled a stunt like this last Sunday. Table Mountain Church gave each family an envelope with cash in it, and that cash is to be used to bless somebody else. That’s it. Those are the only instructions. The possibilities are endless, of course. Some might buy hats and mittens for children without any. Some might pre-pay the next ten customers down at the coffee shop. Some might bring meals to those too sick to cook for themselves.

I’ve heard talk of paying someone else’s utilities, of taking a neighbor out to eat, of buying footballs and Barbies.

You might be wondering, as I was at first, if the church has lost its marbles. Giving money away! Are they crazy? They’ll never see that money again. Money that could be used for “ministry” expenses is gone, out the door. Then, of course, some church-goers may be less than ethical and just keep the money for themselves. Now who is blessed? Not the church, and not a needy neighbor, either.

It turns out Table Mountain Church doesn’t want that money back. Their goal is two-fold: to be a blessing to the community by giving themselves away, and to teach people the joy of giving, so that they might continue to give. So be on the lookout for random acts of kindness in the community this week. Please send me any stories you hear of, I’d love to collect a big pile of these stories, and maybe publish a few.

This article originally appeared in the December 5, 2007, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

October 10, 2007

4 reasons why you should be generous

Posted in giving, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged at 3:30 pm by weiszguy

Generosity is a virtue that is largely undervalued by society as a whole. There are spiritual reasons for being generous, of course, which you can discover at your favorite house of worship. Today, however, I’d like to focus on the many practical benefits of being generous.

Being generous will free you a little from the burden of materialism. Have you ever noticed that the more stuff you have, the more it taxes you mentally? When you own more things, you have more things to take care of, more things to clean, more things to fix when they break, and more things to replace when they can’t be fixed. On the other hand, if you had fewer things, you’d have more time for relaxing or productive activities. Materialism will have less of a grip on your life.

At the same time being generous will cause you to feel better about yourself. When you give to another needy individual, you will have relieved them of a little of their worries. Imagine the pride of being someone else’s knight in shining armor! Or, perhaps you give to a volunteer organization that takes care of orphans. Even a meager gift can help out dozens or even hundreds of people who are less fortunate than you.

Another benefit of being generous is that your focus will necessarily shift from yourself to the object of your generosity. You will be less self-centered because you will be interested in the other person or charity. Because you’ve given them money, you’ll want to know how they’re getting along. Maybe your gift was a huge blessing to them, or maybe they could use a little more help. Because you want to know, you’ll spend more time worrying about them and less time worrying about yourself.

And finally, let’s just be honest and admit that being generous will have the rather Machiavellian effect of making people like you. You can consider yourself to be buying future favors. The people who receive your gifts will be forever appreciative, and they will be more likely to respond when you have a need of your own.

So be generous. Be so generous that you aren’t even sure how you’ll get by without all that extra money. It will be a highly profitable exercise.

This post originally appeared in the October 10, 2007 edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

September 24, 2007

generosity

Posted in giving, investing, money at 6:35 pm by weiszguy

I’m speaking at my church in two weeks on the subject of generosity.  With the help of a little book on generosity, I brain-puked everything I know into the following.  This is not the message, of course, but most of what I say will probably come from this list.  The Bible has much more to say about money than just this, but I’m limiting the message to just generosity.

God is the owner of everything, including all that you currently have or ever will have.  You don’t own it, you never did.  When we give to God, we are just taking our hands off what already belongs to him.

God is the provider of every good thing in your life.  Your rich uncle in Vermont didn’t provide it, your own creative genius didn’t provide it.  God provided it for you so you could use it in the best way possible.

Your role is to be the trustee, manager, and steward of 100% of what God entrusts to you during your lifetime.  Spend your time thinking about ways to maximize the impact of your master’s resources.  Remember, it’s all his.  You want him to be pleased with what you’ve done with his resources.

The Lord watches your giving.  Sorta like Santa Claus.  He knows when you’ve been bad or good.  The Lord rewards those whose hearts are truly his.  Be generous with what he has entrusted to you.

Don’t become prideful about anything God has entrusted to you.  Remember that it’s all his, including any growth you’ve overseen.  Give him the honor and glory for everything.

Even the poor are to give to God from what they have.  It doesn’t matter if God has given you a little or a lot; whatever he has given you, give some back.  Jesus considered the poor widow who gave two pennies to have given more than all the others because she gave out of her poverty, trusting God to take care of her.

Set up a plan to faithfully give 10% or more of your financial resources to the Lord’s work.  It might sound difficult at first, but it is God’s plan.  And he will take care of those who have faith in him.

Don’t trust in your riches, but trust in God.  Eventually, your riches will fail.  If not in life, your riches will fail you in death.  God has saved you and will bring you to heaven with him, but your riches will not be allowed entry.

Understand that riches can deceive you.  It is possible for your spiritual vision to be clouded by wealth, as well as a lack of wealth.  Keep your eyes on God, who promises never to deceive.

Train your children to be faithful and generous givers.  If you train them while they are young, they will never know any different.  Being generous will not be difficult for them because that’s just who they are.  Generosity will be ingrained in their spirits.

Focus on being content with God’s daily provisions.  Rather than whining about what you don’t have, or how little God has blessed you, consider all the ways he HAS blessed you.  Realize that what God has provided is exactly what you need.

You cannot serve both God “and” money, but you must learn to serve God “with” money.  The money God has given us can be a powerful tool when put to use according to his plan.  Instead of serving your money, make your money serve God.

There are dangerous consequences if you live for pleasure.  Chasing anything other than God’s will will leave you empty.  Trying to find joy by living for pleasure is like trying to catch the wind with a butterfly net.

Don’t live for this life, but for your heavenly home.  By investing in God’s kingdom, instead of this kingdom, we effectively send our wealth on ahead.  Storing up treasures in heaven will be more valuable in the end than storing up treasures on earth.

The desire for “more” can be a destructive force to your life and faith.  It can cause you to pursue more and more wealth at the expense of the things that will really matter in the end.  Don’t let your focus shift from God, to “more”.

In building projects a large gift and a group of leadership gifts can glorify God and result in great generosity and rejoicing.  Your reaction to God’s claim upon your resources might be what spurs others to be faithful with their resources.

Life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.  Life has nothing to do with possessions.  Possessions are tools to serve life, not the other way around.  In fact, possessions can weigh you down and cause you to be defined in ways you might not want to be defined.

Give in proportion to how God has blessed you materially.  How can you use your blessings to bless others?  Don’t be afraid to honor God as your income increases.

Women play a significant part in giving to God’s work.  Don’t think you have less to give because of your gender.  You may have more to give.  Remember to be faithful with whatever God has given you.

Beware of greed, hoarding or selfishness in your life.  Saving is a good idea, but there is a fine line between saving and hoarding.  Remember that the manna you saved from yesterday will be rotten tomorrow.

Give careful thought to your financial practices and never neglect God’s house and servants.  Churches and ministers depend on people giving to them for their survival.  Don’t forget to honor God by giving to the needs in the local community.

God has a high regard for a Christian in humble financial circumstances.  God is able to do amazing things with the gifts of people who think they don’t have anything.  God takes the humble and lifts them up.

God has good works for you to do during your lifetime.  You are here for a reason, not by accident!  Please don’t go to the grave without having done the job God has for you to do!

Some people are called to extravagant giving.  Like the early believers in the book of Acts, sometimes we may be called on to sell a major asset and give the money to God’s work.  If he calls you to do this, consider it an honor and a privilege, not a sacrifice or a chore.

God can do great things through one person or a group that is devoted to him.  The bible is literally packed with people who simply did what God said to do, and God did amazing things through them.  What could God do through you if you gave your life completely to him?

God blesses you financially so that you can be a blessing to others.  Many times God has a bigger agenda than just meeting a need.  Sometimes he wants to use the need to teach others how to be generous.  Thus, the donor and the recipient are both blessed.

It is appropriate to ask people how you can help them.  Often people are afraid to make their means known.  But a simple question can spur them to really be honest about their needs.  Many giving opportunities are right under your nose, if you can just learn to sniff them out.

God will reward you for your faithful generosity and diligent labors.  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

The giver and the front-line worker are equal partners in God’s work.  Some people are ordered to be soldiers, others are ordered to grow food to send to the soldiers.  Both are doing what their general wants, and both will be rewarded.

Your giving will be a great help and encouragement to others.  Some people may be materially blessed by your giving.  Others may be inspired to their own acts of generosity.  Some may be so awed by your material gift that they devote their lives to giving as much as they can to help others.

Your pursuit of God and a generous life will give you a fuller and richer life.  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Seeing the impact of your giving will cause true happiness and satisfaction inside your soul.

Realize that God will bring specific people into your life that you can truly help.  Sometimes the only purpose God has for them is to teach you a lesson about giving.  There will always be poor people, and we must never give up being generous.

Any wealth gained by the wrong means has serious consequences.  This wealth will gnaw at your conscience and cause you to loose sleep.  You will likely loose this wealth and cause irreparable harm to yourself and your family.

Realize God can use anyone and any resources to provide for his work.  God does not need us to be rich in order to accomplish his goals; rather, God needs us to be generous.  A poor man who gives 10% of his income is worth more to God than a rich man who gives 2%.

Your giving in this life will have an impact on your experiences in eternity.  You will be rewarded in heaven for your generous acts on earth.  The more you give, the greater the eternal reward.

When you help the poor and needy don’t do it for public recognition.  Remember, your reward is in heaven.  Don’t praise yourself, or glowingly accept the praises of others.  Remain humble, and God himself will lift you up.

Even your smallest acts of kindness will be remembered and rewarded.  A cup of cold water is pretty easy for most of us to give.  Giving a cup of cold water to a thirsty person is the same thing as giving that water to God.

A main focus of your giving should be your local church and ministry staff.  Much ministry happens in a church building, and much ministry happens at the hands of the church staff.  Supporting your local church is the primary way you can support God’s work with your generosity.

Building projects are worthy of your support.  You will feel a sense of pride in your building, if you have given generously to build it.  And although God doesn’t live in houses built by man, he is honored when people come together to praise him.  Help your building to be a place where God is praised.

God will show you other giving opportunities worthy of your support.  Maybe someone is ill.  Maybe someone is hurting.  Maybe someone has suffered financial loss.  Maybe someone is in prison.  God will lead you to numerous opportunities if you ask him.

August 22, 2007

to give or not to give

Posted in budget, credit cards, debt, giving, money, saving, spending at 7:36 am by weiszguy

Have you started saving for the holidays yet?  Believe it or not, they’re right around the corner.  And with the holidays come the crisis we love to hate – gift giving.  Although we save throughout the year, it seems like we never have enough money to give the gifts we want to give.  So we have some options: we could borrow the money we need to give the kind of gifts we want to give, we could limit our gift-giving to just the amount of money we have on hand, or we could not give anything.  We’ve tried all three options at different times, and all three have their pros and cons.

Borrowing money to give gifts is the easiest way to meet the social expectation of giving.  You’re going to receive a certain amount of gifts and you should give a similar amount.  Borrowing money from your credit cards allows you to meet that obligation without any social pain.  You look like a generous giver, and nobody has to know you’re now in debt.  And that’s the negative side – debt.  Borrowing money requires you to repay, and many people end up repaying well into the summer.

Or you could try limiting your spending on gifts to just the amount of money you currently have available.  The advantage here is you incur no new debt – nothing to repay!  The disadvantage, of course, is that you might not be giving as much as you’d like to give, or as much as you feel like you should give.

One year we didn’t have any money saved up, and we couldn’t borrow any, either.  So we ended up not giving anything to anybody.  Even if you’re at your counter-cultural, rebellious, anti-capitalism, hippie-loving best, I don’t recommend this choice.  We ended up receiving gifts from people we knew weren’t any better off than we were, but we gave nothing in return.  We felt ungrateful, unappreciative, and cheap.

So what should we do?  What do you do?  We have to give something, but don’t have the cash, and don’t have the desire to borrow.  The best solution I can think of is to be more diligent about saving larger amounts throughout the year, but that’s a plan best implemented in January, not August.  Does anybody else experience this dilemma?  How do you work through it?

This article originally appeared in the August 22, 2007 edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.