16 March 2016

Getting it Wrong

One thing both the old and new testament share is the idea that god is constantly calling the people back into relationship.

In the Old Testament we have several examples of the people not only falling away from their relationship with god, but becoming whiny and entitled and complaining about things that they used to be thankful to have.

Today's Old Testament reading is one of those moments-- only this time god is fed up and sends serpents in to bite the people.

I have a hard time with this story on a literal level. It is difficult for me to believe that an all-knowing god would think that poisoning the people would bring about the attitude change god desired.

However, on a human level, I can understand the impulse represented in this story. I know I've at least day-dreamed about showing someone who was being (to my mind) whiny and entitled what a really bad day looks like. Sometimes when I hurt all I want to do is hit back at the world.

It helps me understand this story if I think of those times. The times when anger-- especially anger at someone I deeply love-- blinded me to the long term consequences of my actions. For in this story, god gains short-term control over the people. He has Moses make a poisonous serpent and set it on a pole and says that everyone that looks at it will survive the poison and live and they do.

I say short-term control because just a few chapters later in Numbers the people drift away again into the worship of other gods. They feast and worship and lose interest in their relationship with their god.

God feels this loss even more keenly and things get messy in a very Old Testament way quickly. I can't help but think that it is in part because the people were wondering if they really could trust a god who would poison them to make a point.

We all do rash things from time to time. We are imperfect, limited beings. We are carried along in the stream of time and anything from fear of loss to exhaustion to growing pains can cause even saints (maybe especially saints?) to lash out.

This story shows me that giving in to that impulse to share pain by inflicting it damages relationships and it damages me. It destroys the trust needed in deep relationships. That is even more true when the power in the relationship is unbalanced. God to people, parent to child, boss to worker-- if I have the power and I use it to strike out at those who depend on me then I shouldn't be surprised if they wander off and find more fulfilling relationships, or at least more interesting idols.


Bible references are from the NRSV on Bible Gateway.

12 March 2016

Another Shamelss Plug

I made another blog.  I've been cooking and baking a lot recently and decided to collect my recipes in one place where I could share them easily.  I'm an economic vegetarian and housemate is an ethical vegetarian but I eat can't onion, garlic, tomatoes, or most beans so I thought it might be helpful to folks with similar issues if I posted the recipes we've come up with over the years.

The blog is called Ceramic Episcopalian Cooks and I'm excited to share my recipes with others and have them handy when I travel. I've put a copy of the link in my links list.

Right now there are only a few recipes up, but I hope to keep adding from my backlog as well as from new recipes I try.

08 March 2016

Shameless Plug: My Brother co-wrote a book

Since I have spent substantial time on this blog talking about the importance of planning for one's mortality it might be apparent that I value financial literacy.

I am thrilled to share that my brother has turned his talents into helping write a book aimed at helping kids develop financial literacy.  It is aimed at 10-14 year-olds and is from the creators of Biz Kid$ and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

How to Turn $100 into $1,000,000: Earn! Save! Invest comes out April 5th and is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.*

I have pre-ordered my copy and am excited to see it when it comes out next month.


*Not an affiliate link 

05 March 2016

Facing Mortality: Using Tax Time for Estate Planning

It is that time of year again here in the United States. Time to round up my documents and pay my annual income tax to the Internal Revenue Department.

This year my husband and I decided to use a tax preparation service because many things changed in our income/expense stream in 2015 and it seemed like a good use of funds to have a professional help up sort things out.

As a part of using a professional service, I had to be more organized than usual this year. Normally I do the bookkeeping and household budgeting during the year and my husband does the taxes. So our normal document round-up process is very informal. I start gathering documents from banks, employers, and charitable organizations as they come in the mail. When my husband is ready to tackle the taxes, he gives me a list of the other information he needs to finish up and I dig through our (mostly) electronic files and come up with the needed numbers.

This year, since we wanted to try to make the best use of the tax preparers time, I made a checklist of the doucments we turned in and the date we handed them over. It took two tries to get all of the documents together, but now I have a handy list I can use in future tax seasons.

As I was looking at my list, I realized that it could serve a dual purpose. Much of what is in the information gathered for my taxes is also information that should be in my estate planning documents. Data on sources of income, banks, credit unions, investment services, addresses of current employers, retirement savings accounts, mortgage & home equity loans, and information about side or primary businesses are all important for my personal representative to have and to have quickly.

I'm going to sit down with my freshly filed 1040 and supporting documents and my copy of Erik Dewey's: "Big Book of Everything" and take advantage of the work I had to do for the tax man to start filling in the blanks in my estate planning documentation.