As I sat down across from my accountant this month, he greeted me with the usual, “Well, how did we do this year?” I slid the report across the desk facing him and he quietly and methodically reviewed it.
After punching my numbers into his system, he turned and asked, “How much did you say you put away for your April 15 taxes?” When I gave him the amount again, he looked back at his screen, then back to me, and stated, “That’s about exactly what you owe this year.”
I just smiled.
It’s tax season here in the good ole U S of A. At least, for many of us. (Some do their reporting later in the year.)
But for those of us who know the April 15 date all too well, it looms once January hits.
Over the past 12 months, I was thrilled that for the first time in my business I was at a point where I could actually pay all of my estimated taxes. Beyond that, during that same period, I was even able to set aside twice that amount in preparation for what I imagined I might owe.
The company had a good year. And, per our current tax structure, as happy as I was, I knew the day was coming that I would “pay” for that success. Sadly, the better you do, the more you owe. But I am not complaining. I was actually excited.
When I shared my accountant story with the #2 at my company, she paused and said, “That’s just creepy!”
I laughed. Then mused…No, it’s just God.
It reminded me of the story of Jesus, the disciples, a fish and a coin. If you aren’t familiar with it, you need to check it out.
Basically, it goes something like this: the religious Temple tax collectors came calling. Yes, you read that right…the men of the faith were asking if Jesus and his followers were going to comply with what they owed the place of worship. Now, Jesus did not agree with this practice. It was not a civil tax, nor was it even a tithe, but rather, a religious tax on the Jewish members. Sheesh! And I feel over taxed?
Here is how The Lord handled the matter—and directed his team: “…we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”
And so it was.
The point? A miracle transpired that met their current financial needs. It just happened. It happened for me this month, and many months and years prior in my life, if truth be told. And, it can happen for you.
If you are feeling the financial pinch lately, and a bit concerned, I hope this passage, and my personal story as well, will be an encouragement to you.
Others might see it as a bit, well, “fishy”, but when the money comes through, you and I will both smile, and nod. We’ll know what really went down.
Just my thoughts.
Similar story for those wanting more: click here.February 12th, 2017 by stephanie
While sitting at a business lunch, across from a gentleman who works at a university in the alumni donations space, the conversation turned to recent events in our country. Unless you have been living under a rock, there’s been a lot of unrest, to say the least.
That is when this particular college representative made a flippant comment. He seemed to feel very proud of his point, stating in regards to the current issue at hand, “What would Jesus do…?” This statement was to be an indictment on laws being debated on topics that pertain to immigration, free speech and more. He seemed a bit inspired that students at his very conservative university were even wanting to be involved in the protesting. (I wondered how his donor base might feel about that.)
What struck me at that point was a number of things.
However, to answer his question, if only in my mind and not aloud at the table, I instantly thought of the Scriptures that share of the story of Jesus being approached on the issue of taxes. Basically, Jesus told them to abide by the laws of the land. Obey the authorities at hand. (Ironically, when it came to religious laws, he and his disciples were known to break those left and right!)
It was at that point, I realized this individual, who is a representative of higher learning, was not only unaware of the laws of our land that are currently on the books (and not being followed), he was showing our table he truly didn’t know the depths of the Bible. His institution being that of Christian by name, left me very much wondering.
But back to “What would Jesus do?” The passage I referred to earlier may be familiar to you,”Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Basically, “If it’s the law—obey it.”
The New Testament calls on believers to support their governments, even when harsh or when they don’t agree. It NEVER encourages Christians to rebel, to destroy, or to tear down what is in place.
As my mind wandered, and as the speaker for the luncheon droned on, I kept wishing I could have discussion with this tablemate. But alas, sadly, in today’s climate, no one knows how to debate. They just scream, pound the table, demand their way or get angry if you don’t agree with them. My colleague sitting next to me pointed that out when we looked at each other after the lunch and had the same thought. How we wished for sober conversation for both sides. But, alas, that won’t happen. At least not in today’s climate.
I then mused about people who have security detail, or who live in gated or walled areas. I was surprised to think of how many of them are against a “wall” and are pro gun-control as well. Being that they themselves are personally secure at all times (or so they assume), the power of the issue for those who are left feeling not-as-secure—alludes them.
But let’s get back to ideal vs. real.
Idealism: My dog thinks the world is a great safe place. He doesn’t like it when I tell him what to do or thwart him in regards to his will or wishes. I keep a short leash on him, as they say. What he doesn’t understand is that dangers, and evil people, do, in fact, exist. Visit any prison, or hospital or vet where abuse has been clearly dealt upon a victim.
Realism: We have laws in order to be able to live in peace with each other and to live protected. Order is a good thing. Look at any third-world country, and I hope you can see that. If it is OK for me to hit you, break into your home, crash your car or steal from you, then you can’t live in peace. We can’t have lives of liberty and happiness with no rule of law, or order. That would be a life of fear and anxiety.
Fact: We do live in a wonderful country. It’s amazing, and if you have traveled at all, you know exactly what I mean.
But, reality is this: simply trying to believe that evil doesn’t exist if we don’t want it to, and that by thinking good thoughts, and believing people are good, will cause that wish to be so? That isn’t realistic. It isn’t truth. It’s just an idea. A thought.
That being said, we all know thoughts are indeed powerful. It’s important to think “good” thoughts and to avoid the negative and toxic. Climbing into a hole, however, isn’t the answer. Closing the door while the fire is burning in the front yard, is not going to solve the problem.
So, what’s a person to do?
Why….start with obeying The Golden Rule, of course! Do unto others as you would have them do to unto you.
And too—Follow the rules…It’s best for all of us.
—Just my thoughts…
S.January 29th, 2017 by stephanie
When I first moved to Nashville, in an attempt to meet more people and at the encouragement of my grandmother, I joined a club. Those people were a wonderful group who not only became friends, in time they became like family. We shared many happy and amazing memories together, and there were moments where we had the privilege of experiencing and witnessing some very historic events.
But to my point. I ended up on the board of this illustrious group and I must admit, many times their talents and abilities left me feeling quite inadequate. Not only could they debate, quite well, they knew Robert’s Rules of Order. Parliamentary Procedure was something I had heard of often in my life, but as to what it truly was, or how to follow it in a meeting? I had no clue!
At some point, during any of our meetings, there would always be a moment when someone would “Call the question.” For years, that term alluded me. We are sitting here discussing a decision that needs to be made and people are arguing both sides. What on earth is the question? I would think to myself. My brain just couldn’t seem to wrap around the meaning. Those were my thoughts. Until lately.
The power of that simple “rule” hit me recently. Isn’t it funny how years later, dots just seem to connect and things that once weren’t clear suddenly make sense? Yeah, that happened.
So, Calling the Question? It’s a moment in discussion that is truly a remarkable blessing given to civilized nations.
Basically: when discussing a topic, at some point, debate needs to end. You need to agree to end the debate and move toward the vote. You vote to end the discussion. Then, after the vote, that is when you ask the question: “Will we or won’t we do, or agree to, this or that?”
In regards to the topic at hand, you are asking which of the two options on the table are best. Unfortunately, when these rules aren’t followed, one person in the room usually ends up pushing their opinion and demanding their way. Or, pouting when they don’t get it.
These days, we could use a bit of decorum, or at least a return to structure, in our conversations or dialogues. It seems we have forgotten how to share our point of view in a pleasant or positive way. Protocol or discernment seems to be a way of the past. But more importantly, rather than asking questions, people just state their opinions. No one “asks” the other person to explain. Then, allows them the time and dignity to do so.
What has truly been lost is looking at an entire situation at hand, weighing the facts on both sides, having healthy debate, then, deciding what is the best decision…for the good of the order. “Should we go with Option A or is Option B best at this point in time?”
I’m reminded of situations in my life where I wish I would have asked for more facts before rushing to judgment, or where I wish the person angrily sitting across from me had acquired some truthful information before making their attack on me.
You may know what I’m talking about. You may even be in the middle of a situation at this time that drives this lesson home or at least brings it to mind.
With that, let’s commit this week to:
—let’s call the question.
The best answer, at that point, might actually surprise us.
—Just my thoughts.
S.January 15th, 2017 by stephanie
Imagine looking up only to see something you lost awhile back, coming up your driveway, arriving on a cart that’s being pulled by cows. Sounds strange, but that’s exactly what happened to the children of Israel after they once lost the Ark of the Covenant in battle.
Long story short, while at war with the Philistines, which was quite often, during one particular battle, the bad guys captured the Ark. During its stay in enemy territory, this coveted piece of temple furniture, began to wreak havoc on its captors.
At one point, they placed it in the temple of their god Dagon. The next morning, when they came in, the huge statue of their god was lying face down on the ground. Seemed odd, but they weren’t too concerned, so they propped it back up. When they returned the next day, they found the stone idol shattered in pieces on the floor.
That’s when they began to worry. Boils, plagues, and a few other uncomfortable issues later, the Philistines realized they’d bit off more than they could chew. They were up against a God who was on a completely different level. Basically, they were out of their league and playing with dynamite.
That’s when they began strategizing a plan to return the now despised trophy. Here’s what they came up with:
The result? It worked.
One day, some months later, the Jewish people looked up only to see their beloved ark coming up the drive with the cows “lowing as it went.” Quite a spectacle indeed!
Now of course, this is a very truncated version of the entire story, and you are certainly invited to do some careful reading on your own, but there truly is a point here to be noticed.
Maybe you made a mistake and you lost something in the process. Perhaps an enemy of yours was able to obtain something that was very precious to you. Or, on the flip side, let’s say you won a battle fair and square, but the consequences are now staring you in the face. Regardless of the situation at hand, you’re hurting and something that is rightfully yours is gone—or the victory isn’t working out like you planned.
Is it the end? Perhaps not.
If you feel that thing you lost can’t be restored, or what you won isn’t worth the cost…I hope this story will be an encouragement to you.
Let’s face it, the Israelites were beaten in their battle fair and square. What the Philistines didn’t realize is that they were tampering with God’s people. Not something for the faint of heart to try and do. God’s children are just that—his kids. And God protects his children. And if He gives them something and that He wants them to have, people who try to take it away from them should be careful. Life may not bode so well for the taker.
If you are the person with the loss here, again, may this story shed a new light on your situation and bring you a bit of hope. Battles between humans are one thing, but when a person throws a grenade at you and God steps in between? Buyer beware. Remember the god Dagon and his demise—the boils, the plagues, etc. Don’t be surprised if you find your tormentor one day saying, “Uncle. Here. Take it back. I’ll even send it to you.” Maybe it won’t return on a silver platter, but hey, if it were even to arrive via cows, I don’t know about you, but I’d take it.
Just my thoughts on a cold drizzly Sunday.
– StephanieJanuary 8th, 2017 by stephanie
I was listening to a story being told, and found myself drawn in with each passing sentence from the orator. It was a story of a boy who came from a home where the father was absent, and if the mother was not in a psychiatric ward, she was in jail, or with a boyfriend. Apparently, she even left her son at a bus stop one day to be with her boyfriend. Many times he was homeless and had to steal food to survive.
A school counselor began to sense the problem and took a strong interest in him. When he dropped out of junior high, she began praying for his return. Two years later, he walked through the doors again to begin 9th grade.
In time, he found a job mowing the lawn of an elderly couple. As they learned his story, they opened their home to him. When they discovered he had musical talent, they encouraged him to begin entering contests and more—the woman of the house was always present and in the front row with her bible.
What shocked me to learn was this person was country artist Jimmy Wayne, known for the hit song “Do You Believe Me Now”.
Stories such as these can truly put your problems into perspective, and too, encourage each of us that any adversity or problem, can, in time, be overcome.
If you’re struggling today with a situation or circumstances that seem impossible, perhaps this life story will be an encouragement to you.
January 1st, 2017 by stephanie
That being said, I had a dream last night—about grapes. Well, I had quite a few dreams, actually. My mind doesn’t usually stop much. But the final dream was of a ginormous cluster of purple grapes. They were the size of bowling balls. Each grape, that is.
When I woke, I was reminded of a story in the bible. The children of Israel had finally reached the promised land, and before they went in and took the land, they sent 12 spies to check it out. One man from each tribe.
While the men secretly scoured the area, they became increasingly dumbfounded by what they found. 10 of them returned with a negative report They carried on and on about the size of the people (there were giants in the land and cities with magnificent walls). Two of them, however, came back with a very different take. They couldn’t believe the size of the produce. To prove their point, they had cut down one cluster of grapes, put it on a pole, and carried it back between the two of them. It was that huge.
Now, I’d certainly love to think my dream was prophetic. That my year will be momentously fruitful…and who knows. It might be. But I am also old enough to know—life happens. And when it does, just buckle up and ride it out. You WILL get to the other side.
That being said, I decided to do some quick research on the subject, and found something interesting about grapes. I was reminded that most grapevines don’t produce fruit until their third season. Basically, saying, that grapevine in your backyard that you have been nurturing can take up to three years before you are able to pluck some grapes. Now, be sure to take into account environmental factors and the care of the plant. But those factors? They are: sunlight, well-drained soil and proper pruning. Selah.
Perhaps you have had some personal grapevine in your “backyard” that you have been working on of late. Take hope…with a bit of time and great care, you’ll see some fruit. Now, probably not like exactly like that species of grapes that came from the land flowing with milk and honey, but then, one never knows. If anything, you’ll certainly see something blossom and that will put a smile on your face.
With that, I’d like to wish you and yours a fruitful and productive 2017. May you drink the fruit of your vine, and may your year be blessed beyond measure.
November 24th, 2016 by stephanie
While listening to our pastor at church last night (Thanksgiving eve) I was interested to learn that a woman may have been behind our beloved 4th Thursday in November proclamation made by President Lincoln.
Apparently, Sarah Josepha Hale may be the “woman behind the man” in this particular holiday instance.
Hale, a native New Englander, grew up celebrating Thanksgiving each year and was known for writing published works about the holiday. However, you and I will remember her mostly for penning the children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,”—which in time became a song we grew up singing.
Yet her writing was not merely literary. She was so passionate about this concept of giving thanks that she lobbied state and federal officials requesting they consider passing legislation of a national day built around it. The impetus was in hopes that by doing so, the act would bring the country’s citizens together and help alleviate the cultural tensions of the day. Alas, a Civil War soon followed anyway.
You can read more about her story. (I am sure you will have some time to google it today.) But for now, just know you might have a fresh talking point to go with that pie and coffee.
Thankful for you readers, and wishing you a lovely, peaceful and restful day…
When I was a young girl, living in the San Diego area (Escondido, CA), my maternal grandmother was devoted to making sure I had a healthy view of the world. Not only that, she was adamant that I learn culture and that I be exposed to it. She was also extremely keen on my being politically aware. All of the above passions, I can proudly say, she passed along to me.
On one of our usual excursions, she took my mother and me to Old Town San Diego for the day. There I experienced a step back in time, to another era, and another America really. I recall being stunned by what I found. Not the room or the desks, but what was nailed to the wall is what burned into my memory and my mind. What am I referring to? The framed Expectations of a Teacher and the Punishment List which featured the exact consequences poorly behaved attendees would face.
Long before I would attend night school to become a credentialed teacher myself, I learned that educators of yesteryear, and our country, were now a far cry from the schools I knew of even my day. In that early pioneer environment, however, there was not a lot of flexibility or room for discussion, as we will see below.
It’s hard for us to imagine, when you review the 1872 Instructions for Teachers, that someone would commit their life to that standard. But they did. Inspite of what folks today might cry out as “horrific” or “abusive,” amazingly, we as a nation survived, and evolved, and the rural students who attended got some good educations.
It’s even harder still to imagine, in the world of today, that those mean, cruel teachers would actually carry out the punishments that were tacked to schoolhouse walls without parents screaming for them to step down or be removed. But they didn’t. They supported the teacher.
Now, that being said, I don’t condone the teacher who slapped my paternal grandmother’s hand with a ruler because she used her left hand! Thank the Lord we have moved past that bizarre mindset.
If you don’t know what I am referring to, and if you haven’t had a chance to visit a place like the Mason Street Schoolhouse, here is a quick sharing of what I am referring to….
1872 INSTRUCTIONS TO THE TEACHERS
1. Teachers will fill lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks each day.
2. Each teacher will bring a scuttle of coal and a bucket of water for the day’s use.
3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs for the individual tastes of children.
4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes or two evenings if they go to church regularly.
5. After ten hours in the school the teacher should spend the remaining time reading the Bible and other good books.
6. Women teachers who marry or engage in other unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
7. Every teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reasons to suspect his worth, intentions, integrity and honesty.
8. The teacher who performs his labors faithfully without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents a week in his pay — providing the Board of Education approves.
1. Boys and Girls Playing Together: 4 lashes
2. Fighting at School: 5 lashes
3. Quarreling at School: 5 lashes
4. Gambleing or Betting at School: 4 lashes
5. Playing at Cards at School: 10 lashes
6. Climbing for Every Foot Over Three Feet Up a Tree: 1 lash
7. Telling Lyes: 7 lashes
8. Telling Tales Out of School: 8 lashes
9. Giving Each Other Ill Names: 8 lashes
10. Swaring at School: 8 lashes
11. For Misbehaving to Girls: 10 lashes
12. For Drinking Spiritous Liquors at School: 8 lashes
13. Making Swings and Swinging on Them: 7 lashes
14. For Waring Long Finger Nails: 2 lashes
15. Misbehaving to Persons on the Road: 4 lashes
16. For Going to Girls Play Places: 3 lashes
17. Girl Going to Boys Play Places: 3 lashes
18. Going to School with Dirty Faces and Hands: 2 lashes
19. Calling Each Other Liars: 4 lashes
20. For Wrestling at School: 4 lashes
21: For Weting Each Other Washing at Playtime: 2 lashes
22. Scuffling at School: 4 lashes
23. For Going and Playing about the Mill or Creek: 6 lashes
24. For going about the Barn or doing any Mischief about the Place: 7 lashes
It truly is interesting to revisit and reflect upon our history. And too, to review it against where we are today. What parts of what we see are good and worth keeping, and what areas might need a refresher course or gentle reminder of things that are better or best? Whereas our country was more on the same page in those “olden” days, and seemed to fall in step, in today’s world, we have moved more to personal truths—not a core or foundational truth shared by the masses. So, I guess, this conversation would be more objective these days.
Whatever the case, taking stock personally is where it all should, and actually does, begin.
In the coming week, let’s challenge each other to view what part of this history lesson encourages us, inspires us or lights up our passion. If you would like to share, I’d love to hear….firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, just leave a comment!
With that, just my thoughts.