Lessons in Money Management

My parents raised nine children on a single income, so careful money management was a priority.  I don’t recall them ever formally sharing money management lessons. Rather, they instilled good money management habits through their example and casual conversations.  One of the ways they taught us good money management skills was by a allowing my sisters to make some of our spending decisions at an early age. The lessons I learned include:

  1. Spending for one thing means less money for something else.  When I was about 13, my parents decided to give us each $20 per week allowance.  In 1972, $20 was a significant amount of money. In fact, it is equivalent to about $130 today.  The catch was that the money had to cover all of our discretionary spending.  We were free to pack lunches for school, but if we wanted to buy lunch, it came out of our allowance.  We were also responsible for buying our own clothes and paying for movie tickets and other recreation.  We learned to manage money and make hard decisions.  If I wanted a new pair of shoes, I might have to pack my lunch for a whole week.
  2. Shop the sales.  My mother was a master shopper.  She watched sales and clipped coupons.  I have seen her leave a department store with multiple shopping bags of clothes for which she paid less than $20 in total.  She loved to search the clearance racks for a blouse or sweater that everyone else had overlooked, and she loved the challenge of finding the perfect skirt or pair of slacks to go with it.  She would go to every clothing store in the mall in search of what she needed to ensure that she got the best bargain. Mom knew what month to shop for appliances or furniture, and she knew when the “white” sales (linens) would be going on.  She loved to shop the after-Christmas sales, and she often bought outfits in January which she would give to us the following Christmas. With four daughters born in a 4 ½ year span, she knew one of us would be able to wear the skirts and sweaters she bought.
  3. Buy quality and keep belongings until they wear out.  My mother believed it was worth spending a bit more to get better quality.  She bought traditional styles that would not go out of fashion, and she wore her clothes until they were worn out.  Similarly, Dad taught us to keep cars until the costs of repairs exceeded the car’s value.  He and Mom purchased a car when they married in 1955; my middle school principal purchased the car from them in 1974.  They added a second car in 1965, as I was starting first grade.  I drove that car until my junior year of college, when I was rear ended while driving it.
  4. Save up for major purchases.  I don’t recall my parents ever taking out a loan to purchase a car.  Of course, a new car was a true rarity in our household.  I do recall, however, a couple of occasions when my father borrowed cash from his life insurance policy to cover a major purchase.  He explained that the interest rate was very low, and he was, in essence, paying it back to himself.
  5. Balance your checkbook regularly and know where your money is going.  Balancing the checkbook before we had computers could be a time-consuming activity.  My mother always sat at the kitchen table to balance the checkbook.   Canceled checks were returned to the payer in those days. Mom would tape the canceled checks to the check stubs in a large, three-ring binder.  She would mark them off on the bank statement and determine what checks she had written that had not cleared.  Mom balanced the checking account to the penny, and she was never satisfied until it balanced.
  6. Count the true cost of debt.  My parents bought their final home in 1971 for about $35,000.  The monthly payment of $238.  I believe the interest rate was 7 ¼%.  Mom marked off each payment on an amortization schedule. When there was sufficient money, she would make an extra principal payment or two.  I remember her explaining to me that when she paid extra money toward the principal, she was saving more than one payment, as the balance went down and less interest accrued from then on.  I also recall multiplying $238 by 360 payment and realizing that, if they made each payment as scheduled, the $35,000 house would cost them about $86,000.  This was an eye opener and provided an ideal opportunity for us to talk about homes as investments that would increase in value, whereas a car would lose value over time.  My mother paid off the house in about 13 years.  While my father appreciated not having a mortgage payment, he did fuss more than once over losing the tax deduction of the interest.
  7. Establish credit early and manage it well.  When I graduated from high school, my parents bought me a sewing machine.  Mom then declared that I needed a sewing cabinet, which I would have to buy myself. We went together to the Singer store and picked out a cabinet.  I believe the price was $125.  She instructed me to put $25 down and helped me apply for a credit card.  When the bill came, I paid off the balance in full.  At the age of eighteen, I had established some credit of my own.  I never used that credit card again, but it was the key to allowing me to get a Sears card a few years later.
Calculator, currency, and note pad.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

These money management principles have served me well. Steve and I have tried to instill them in our own children. I hope that they will help you to manage your money better and have less financial stress in your life.

For more money management tips and information on creating budgets, please check out my other blog posts under the Finance tab. For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.   Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations. 

Seven Signs that You Have a Spending Problem

Many people grumble about not having enough money, when they actually have a spending problem.  If you make a reasonable income and have a mortgage or rent payment that fits into your budget, you should be able to adapt your lifestyle to your income.  If you routinely run out of money before the next pay day, you need to consider that you might have a spending problem.

Here are some the signs that you should look for in your life:

  1. You are unable to pay off your credit cards each month, and your balances are rising.
  2. You can’t meet your basic needs, yet you purchase new cars and technology because you want to have the latest upgrades.
  3. You can’t pass up a sale on clothes or household goods, even though you don’t need those items, because it’s too great of a deal.
  4. You hide your receipts and credit card bills from your spouse.
  5. You are regularly paying bills late and incurring late fees.
  6. You are bouncing checks.
  7. You lie to your spouse about your paycheck and your purchases.

If any of these signs apply to you, you need to make changes in your spending habits and your attitudes toward money. It is hard to change on your own. However, with God’s help and the support of your family, you can overcome your bad habits. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

God promises this in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” As you seek God’s help through prayer and Bible reading, you will develop a new nature that is more in line with God’s perfect plan for your life.

Steps to Becoming a Responsible Money Manager

  1. Repent of past spending mistakes.  When you sincerely repent, God forgives.  You must also forgive yourself. Don’t remain in bondage to past regrets.
  2. Ask God to change your nature to be a responsible spender and to help you have a Heavenly focus. Responsible spending will allow you to share more of your blessings with others and build eternal treasure in Heaven.
  3. Commit to tithing. God’s word tells us that tithing is not optional. God asked us to return ten percent of all that He has provided to supply the needs of the church.  This is an act of obedience, which God promises to bless (read Malachi 3:10).
  4. Develop systems, perhaps with the help of a financial counselor, for budgeting and accounting.  Set up automatic deposits and bill paying to simplify your life and make it less likely that a bill will be overlooked.
  5. Seek assistance in developing a plan to systematically pay off debt.
  6. Be accountable to someone, preferably your spouse, for how you spend your discretionary money each month.  Establish regular times, typically once or twice a month, to review all spending with your accountability partner.

If you have a serious spending problem, you might need to be Hyper Accountable to someone for several months or more who will review your bank and credit card accounts at least weekly to help you keep your spending in check.  This person should be someone who trust explicitly and who is willing to confront you when you begin to slip back into bad spending habit.

You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances tab on the right. 

If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.   Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.  For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

Your Credit Score is How Low!!!!

Are you one of the 16 percent of Americans whose credit score is so low that it is negatively impacting your life?  A very low credit score can make it nearly impossible to qualify for a home mortgage or a business loan.  You may be able to get a loan to purchase a car, but you will be assessed a high rate of interest.  Those with very low credit scores pay more for auto insurance than those with average or good scores.  If you are one of these people, it is important to take immediate steps to improve your credit score.  It will take some effort and time, but it is a very achievable goal.

Credit score ratings

I recently helped a man write a business plan and develop a cash flow forecast to open a restaurant.  He had many years of restaurant experience, along with some of his own money to invest, and other income to help support his family.  Everything looked good.  In our first meeting, I asked him his credit score, and he assured me it was in the mid-600’s.  A score in the mid-600’s considered to be Fair—not great but certainly high enough for him to qualify for the loan.  Unfortunately, he was quite wrong in his assessment. He applied for a loan and the banker pulled his credit report, which revealed a credit score of about 450. 

By any measure, a credit score of 450 is Bad.  In fact, a score of less than 579 is viewed as very poor credit.  The man was shocked and embarrassed by his low credit score.  He had qualified for a mortgage less than a year earlier, so it is likely that his credit rating was at least Fair at that time.  So, what happened?  I don’t know the answer, as he didn’t share his credit report with me. I did provide him with guidance in regard to reviewing his credit report to see if it contains errors, correcting any errors, and being diligent in managing his credit.  If you are in a similar situation, these steps can help you.

The first thing you need to do is review the report for errors. Any errors should be reported to credit report agency.  Most credit reports and scores are generated by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  You should check your report with each agency at least once a year and report any errors that your find immediately.  Errors might include information for someone who is not you but has a similar name, incorrect information about loans that have been paid off, and credit that you applied for but did not accept.  You should also check for evidence of identity theft.

Here are links for filing disputes with each of the major credit report agencies:

Getting any errors corrected can have a significant impact on your credit score.  Unfortunately, it will take a little time for the agency to investigate your dispute and correct any misinformation.

If your score is low due to poor management of your finances, such as late payments, missed payments, and charge offs, you should follow these guidelines to better manage credit and improve your score:

  • Be sure to make at least the minimum payment on all accounts every month.
  • Make payments by the due date.  Late payments and skipped payments hurt your score.  The later the payment, the larger the negative impact on your score.
  • Don’t open any new credit accounts–don’t buy a car, don’t refinance your home, don’t apply for any new credit cards.  Every new account increases your available credit and lowers your score, at least temporarily.
  • Don’t close any older accounts.  If you recently opened accounts you don’t need, you might want to close them. But, keep open your oldest accounts. Length of credit history improves your score.
  • Keep your credit card balances at 50% or less of the amount of credit extended.

Within a few months, you should see an improvement in your credit score.

The man above will have to put his dreams of opening a restaurant on hold for a while.  It is too bad.  However, if he can get any errors corrected, and if he commits to taking the steps above to improve his credit, he may be able to qualify the loan he needs in 6 – 12 months.  It will take a real effort and determination on his part; however, if he keeps his goal in his sights, I believe he will reach his goal.

God desires that His people pay their bills on time, honor their commitments, and don’t allow money to rule their lives.  If you are struggling to manage your finances, seek Christian counsel and pray diligently for God’s guidance.  You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances category on the right.

If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.  Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.  For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

Treasure in Heaven

I had an interesting conversation with my eight-year-old grandson this week.  He asked me what I was writing, and I told him it was an article called “Building Treasure in Heaven.”  He wanted to know why I would want to build treasure in Heaven.  The rest of the conversation went kind of like this.

Me: “How long do you think you will live on earth?”

Grandson: “Maybe 100 years.”            

Me: “How long will you live in Heaven?”

Grandson: “Millions and millions of years.”

Me: “So would it be better to be rich on earth or rich in Heaven?”

Grandson: “Can you do both?”

Me: “Yes, you can. God promised in the Bible, in the book of Malachi, that He will pour out riches on those who give tithes to the church. And we can build treasure in Heaven by giving more than our tithes to share the gospel.”

Grandson: “You should write a book about that.”

Me: “Actually, I have.”

My grandson is learning how to build true wealth, and my goal is to help many other people to come to this same knowledge. 

In Malachi 3: 8 – 10, we read, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”

God commands that His people pay tithe.  In Biblical times, the tithe could be paid money, animals, or grain.  Animals and grain that were tithed provided food for the priests, and money met the other needs of running the temple and supporting the Levites.  God told His people through Malachi that they were being cursed because they had neglected to bring their tithes to His house.  In the next breath, He promised great blessings to those who do pay their tithe.

When we obediently and cheerfully give back ten percent of the resources that God blesses us with, He promises to bless us extravagantly.  In fact, He promises blessings so great that we will not have room enough to receive it.  These blessings are promised to us while we are on Earth.

As we faithfully steward all the resources He gives us, we build riches in Heaven.  These resources include our time, our talents, and our money.  Ask God how you can be faithful to steward the resources He entrusts to you, so that you will be blessed on Earth and build treasure in Heaven.

My book, “Honoring God with Your Money,” will lead you through a study of what the Bible says about money. It discusses the purpose of money, appropriate attitudes about money, stewardship of money, paying off debt, and creating budgets. This is a great resource if you would like to become a better steward of the resources which God has entrusted to you.

Bible study on stewarding financial resources
Honoring God with Your Money

Seven Tips for Better Stewardship of Time

Stewardship is the word that God impressed upon me to be my focus for 2021. For me, stewardship involves not only managing our money and financial resources well, but also using the talents God grants us and the time allotted to us in ways that honor Him.

Time stewardship is the most challenging of the three for me. I tend to function best when my to-do list is very long and my time to complete it is short.  When my to-do list is short, it is easy for me to find get distracted.  But the pressure of a long list and little time give me focus and energy. I love making a long list of tasks to be accomplished and then crossing items off as I complete them.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

So, why don’t I make a list each day? That is a question I ask myself regularly, and the only answer I have come up with is that I haven’t found the right tool that works for me.  But, list-making tools is not the subject of this blog.  Rather, this blog is about strategies that I have learned and am attempting to enact to be a better steward of my time, so that I can accomplish the goals God has put into my heart.

  1. Make a List.  Your list should include tasks to be completed today, this week, and over the new few weeks.  A strategy that I learned many years ago is to include some “routine” tasks that you already do at the start of every day, so that you can quickly cross something from your list. Time management experts recommend “Making the bed” or “Showering” as the first task on the list. Crossing off tasks gives you a sense of accomplishment and will help you to accomplish more with your time.
  2. Stack Habits.  This suggestion is from Mark Batterson’s book “Win the Day.”  Mark suggests developing good, daily habits by stacking tasks together routinely.  Develop a routine to help you start the day off right, and you will manage your day better. For me, I have stacked exercise with Bible reading.  When I discovered that I could read books on my kindle while pedaling my exercise bike, my mornings improved significantly.  This works best when I get out of bed, grab my kindle, and get on the bike.  I start the day with God’s word, and I get my blood flowing.  I wake up more fully, and the day goes better.
  3. Prioritize Tasks. It’s not enough to have a list. You have to take some time to consider what tasks must be done today? What tasks can be put off until tomorrow or next week?  If you don’t prioritize what needs to be done, you will end of being distracted by emails, phone calls, and tasks that appear urgent but are not critical to you having a successful day.  Ask God for wisdom to align your priorities with His.
  4. Minimize Distractions.  Set yourself up for success by being pro-activate in minimizing distractions.  Timothy Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” is a master of minimizing distractions to accomplish more in less time.  One key tip is to avoid checking emails and responding to texts and phone calls throughout the day.  Rather, Ferriss recommends checking emails and messages at a few pre-determined times a day. Evaluate what your primary distractions are and take steps to minimize them.  For those who work in an office, an open-door policy might be a major distraction.  Consider closing your door and putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door for periods of uninterrupted work.
  5. Schedule Down Time.  No one should be all work and no play, and no one should spend too much time playing and avoiding work. Everyone needs time to kick back and read a book, watch television, or go out for a leisurely dinner.  Plan these times in your schedule to ensure balance in your work and leisure time.
  6. Seek God’s Direction.  Start each day with time in God’s word.  Pray for wisdom, and listen for His direction.  God will show you what is important for you to accomplish each day to fulfill His will for your life.
  7. Ask God to Multiply Your Time. As God multiplied the fishes and the loaves, He can multiply your time.  When we seek God’s will and use our time according to His purposes, He will allow us to do more in less time.  When you need to get somewhere quickly, and all the traffic lights you encounter are green—that is God’s blessing on your time.  If you get in and out of an appointment much faster than you expected, that is also God’s blessing. Make a habit of recognizing God’s hand in allowing tasks to be accomplished quickly and smoothly, and thank Him for those blessings.

There are many other time-management strategies. Which ones are your using?  Please share your best tips in the Comments.

Stewardship of God-Given Talents

Each of us have areas of creativity in which we excel and feel comfortable.  For me, knitting is my favorite creative outlet.  I love starting with a single piece of yarn, albeit a very long piece, wrapping it around a needle many times, and ending up with a blanket or a scarf or whatever I chose to make.  Knitting is relaxing and can be done while conversing, listening to music, or watching television.  It takes considerable time to knit to complete most items, so my knitting endeavors are generally gifts for loved ones.  It is a rare occasion in which I use knitting to share God’s love with others. 

Rather God has stretched me by having me delve into areas I would never have imagined.  As a high school math teacher, I was challenged to develop creative methods to make algebra and geometry interesting and instill lessons in my students.  Understanding mathematical concepts did not come easy to many of my students. As I prayed for direction, God gave me games and activities to bring the lessons home.

One year, however, I was assigned to teach kindergarten rather than math.  God took me way outside my comfort zone and used that year to open me up to new creative endeavors that I had never tried. One of the biggest challenges was creating an act for the children to perform in a school program.  The easiest thing I could think of was to write new lyrics for a common children’s tune.  It was simple but effective. The children enjoyed singing it in the school program for their parents, and I fulfilled an assignment that terrified me.  I have no desire to write songs, but the experience opened me up to trying new things to teach and delight children.  It helped me to be less afraid of embarrassing myself and more open to taking risks.

There are many ways to be good stewards of the natural talents that God instilled in you.

  1. Hone your skills.  As a child my grandmother taught me to knit very basic stitches.  When I was a teenager, she determined that it was time for me to take over her hobby of knitting Christmas stockings for the family, and she taught me the Fair Isle technique of seamlessly weaving different colored yarns to produce a beautiful image or scene.  Since that time, I have learned new techniques and new stitches, often with the aid of Youtube.
  2. Try new things.  Don’t be afraid to feel foolish or to make a mistake.  Working within your comfort zone is fine most of the time, but occasionally step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
  3. Use your talents to bless others.  Performance skills, such as singing and playing a musical instrument, offer many opportunities to bless others by performing in the church choir, nursing homes, and shut-ins.  But what if your talents are not in the areas of performance arts?  You can bless others by cooking a meal for someone who is ill, sewing clothes for a child in need, writing an encouraging note, knitting a scarf, arranging a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers, or sharing produce from your garden.
  4. Share your talents. Teach what you do well to a friend or a student. A few years ago, ladies in our church taught some Burundi refugees to cook on an electric stove; the refugees had only cooked over open fires before coming to America. I think our ladies were as blessed by the experience as the women they taught.
  5. Volunteer.  As you allow God to stretch you, look for ways for Him to use you to bless others.  I still don’t consider myself to be artistic, but I enjoy crafts.  This year, I will be the craft coordinate for VBS. Church youth programs and day care centers provide many opportunities to use your talents to teach children.

Thank God for the talents He has instilled in you, and ask Him to show you how you can use those talents to honor Him and share His love with others.

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hand.” Psalm 90:17

Blessings of a Long Marriage

Today, Steve and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.  It sounds like a long time, but the years have flown by much more quickly than we could have imagined when we started this journey.  It really doesn’t seem possible that four decades have gone by since we stood before our family and friends and pledge to walk together through life until “death do us part.” 

This was a wedding gift. It has hung in our home for forty years. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing…” Proverbs 18:22

The years since we said our vows have been full, busy, and blessed.  We have had the joy to raise three amazing sons and watched them grow up and start families of their own. We are blessed with eight energetic and delightful grandchildren.

One of the greatest blessings is parenting and grandparenting together.  Nothing beats knowing that our union and our love has created this family.  The boys are our sons and their children are our grandchildren.

Another great source of joy is that we share the same memories.  The grandchildren love hearing stories of when their fathers were young.  Steve and I experienced these years together, and those memories become more precious as we share them with our grandchildren.

The Bible say, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22.    It is just as true that she who finds a husband finds a good thing and obtains favor.  Favor from the Lord has certainly come through children and grandchildren. But it has also come by having a godly partner as we journey through life. 

Steve and I have prayed together for wisdom on raising the boys and making important decisions.  We have supported one another during difficult times and taken grand adventures together.  We consult one another and the Lord about important life and financial decisions. God has blessed us financially, as we have tithed and stewarded the resources He has entrusted to us.  We have worked together and supported one another in our home life and our careers. This has allowed us to reap the benefits of being able to own a nice home, travel, and save for our retirement years.

Steve is my best friend and the person I trust most in the world.  He always has my best interest at heart and goes out of his way to make me feel loved and special.  These forty years have been an exciting journey, and I pray that this journey will continue for many more years and many more adventures.

Financial Impact of Divorce

As my husband and I approach our 40th anniversary in two weeks, I have been thinking a great deal of the blessings of a long marriage in both financial and non-financial terms. That will be the subject of my next blog. Today, I want to talk about the devastating financial impact divorce can have on both members of a couple. This was on my mind even before I read the sad announcement today that one of the world’s wealthiest couples is divorcing.

Photo by Caio on Pexels.com

Bill and Melinda Gates are ending their marriage after 27 years. Their wealth is staggering, and both of them will emerge from the divorce with more money that most of us can comprehend. Hopefully, they will amicably divide their great resources and continue to be generous in their philanthropic endeavors.

For most couples, however, divorce negatively impacts their finances and significantly lowers their standard of living. The costs of obtaining a divorce are staggering. In a relatively amicable dissolution, it is estimated that each partner incurs legal fees in excess of $10,000. Those costs can be much higher if the proceedings are hostile and protracted. Considering that the average household savings in the U.S. is about $42,000, a divorce can wipe out 50% or more of the savings accumulated by the couple.

With their savings significantly depleted and about half of the income they previously enjoyed, each member of the couple must strike out on their own. There are now two rents to be paid and two sets of utility bills. Each spouse winds up with a considerably lower standard of living. There will likely be additional childcare expenses, and perhaps travel expenses, if one spouse moves to a new city or state. Many divorced people struggle for years to achieve the standard of living they enjoyed while married.

Women are hit particularly hard, as they are often the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent typically helps with some of the expenses by paying child support. However, there is often resentment by both parties. It is very rare for either parent to be satisfied with the child support mandated by the courts. The custodial parent struggles to meet the needs of the children, and the non-custodial parent struggles to make the child support payment and provide for his or her own needs. This is not God’s plan, and it is not good for either the parents or the children.

Of course, the devastation of divorce is much more-far reaching than just the financial impacts. And the blessings of a till-death-do-us-part union are much, much greater than the financial blessings. God’s Word tells us that marriage is for life. When Jesus was questioned about divorce, He responded, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10: 5 – 9)

If you want God to bless you in both your marriage and your finances, it is important to make decisions that honor God. That includes loving your spouse and doing all that you can to have a long, prosperous marriage.

Miraculous Provisions

The story of the loaves and the fishes is likely the first story that pops into your mind when you consider how God miraculously multiplies the offerings we present to Him. It is a truly amazing story. A small boy offers his lunch of five small fish and two loaves. Jesus blesses the food and has the disciples distribute it among the thousands of hungry people who have come to hear His words. After all have eaten–five thousand men plus women and children–the disciples collect the leftovers and find that they have more remaining by far than they began. The disciples collected the broken pieces and filled twelve baskets. This story is recounted in Matthew 14: 13 – 21.

Photo by Cats Coming on Pexels.com

What makes this story even more impressive is that Jesus replicated this miracle sometime later. In the second instance, Jesus fed four thousand men, plus women and children, with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. This time seven baskets of food were remaining after everyone had eaten. (Matthew 15: 20 – 39)

These miracles took place in two different regions but likely within a short period of time. One can overlook the disciples’ skepticism in the first instance that they could provide food for such a large group of people. After all, they barely had enough food for themselves. However, on the second occasion, the disciples were again ready to send the hungry people away. Jesus actually set them up by stating, “I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” Matthew 15: 32. Rather than responding in faith, the disciples failed the test. “His disciples answered, ‘Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?’” (v. 33)

It is easy for us to criticize the disciples’ lack of faith. We think they should have learned from the first extravagant multiplication of the offered food that Jesus was capable of multiplying resources and meeting any need, no matter how great. How could have even questioned Jesus’s ability to feed the crowd?

Yet, we are guilty of similar lack of faith in God to meet our needs. God has met our needs time and time again, and we still doubt that He will come through for us in the next “crisis”. Our car breaks down and we fret about how we will be able to pay the mechanic for the repairs. Our hours get cut at work, and we worry about covering the rent. The list goes on and on–a medical test indicates a health problem, the stock market plunges, we hear rumors of layoffs at work, or we don’t get the promotion we had prayed and hoped for–and we fall apart. It feels as if our world has collapsed.

Like the disciples, we ask something along the lines of, “The need is so great. How can it be met?” We need to remind ourselves of all the times God has come through for us in order to increase our faith that He will come through again. God knew us long before we were conceived. He knows that our memory are short and that we have to remind ourselves daily of God’s faithfulness to us. That is why He commanded the Israelites to set up memorials to remind themselves and their children of how God had brought them out of Egypt and blessed them. “Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:19 – 24)

When you ask God to provide for your needs, take note of how He answers you. Record these answers in a blessings journal. Read the journal frequently to remind yourself of God’s goodness to you and to increase your faith. Share these blessings with your children and together thank God for the way He has provided for you and your family. God has never failed you, and He never will.

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Taxes Not Done? Don’t Panic!

It’s April 14. If you have not done your taxes, you might be in panic mode. However, the federal government has extended the tax due date this year, as it did last year. 2020 tax returns are due on May 17. So, you have 32 days until it’s time to panic. But, don’t!

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Don’t panic and don’t procrastinate. Do yourself a favor and block out some time in this weekend to file your tax return. When you do, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. The IRS has extended the deadline for making IRA and health savings account contributions for 2020 until May 17. Many states have also extended their deadlines. Be sure to check your state’s tax web site to verify their deadline.
  2. Covid-19, or economic impact, relief payments to families are not taxable, so don’t include them in your income.
  3. If you did not receive the full economic impact payments, you can claim the Economic Rebate Credit on your taxes. Your refund or amount due will be adjusted by the amount of the credit.
  4. The sooner you file, the sooner you will receive your refund.
  5. If you will owe taxes, it is better to know that now, so that you can make a plan to have the money by May 17.
  6. You can file your return now and schedule any payment to be deducted from your bank account on May 17. Be sure to deduct the payment from your account register now, so you won’t accidentally spend the money.
  7. If you earned less than $72,000, you may be able to file your taxes for free: https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free
  8. Filing your taxes now will relieve you of the burden of knowing your still have to file your taxes. Do your taxes, and then get outside and enjoy some beautiful spring weather.

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” Proverbs 12:25

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