Archive for the ‘generosity’ Category

50,000 Pairs of Shoes in 50 Days

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I wrote here and here about our barefoot experience at Grace Capital Church a couple of months ago.  Souls4Soles is an incredible organization that has set a lofty goal.  Over the next 50 days Souls4Soles is trying to raise the funding for 50,000 pairs of shoes.  By clicking here you can donate $5.00 which will purchase 2 pairs of shoes.  

Can you imagine what life would be like without shoes?  Walking around glass, rocks, metal, and disease with no protection?  Today, 300 million people look down as they walk from school, or to their jobs, or back home.  We can make a real life difference in their lives.  By donating just $5.00 to Soles4Souls we all have the ability to provide shoes for people who have never before owned a pair of shoes.  

This is a huge challenge to meet a huge need!

Donating is easy and takes just a click and a couple of minutes.  It requires no shipping, no wrapping and no trips to the post office. The monetary donation is small with $5.00 buying two pairs of new shoes.  Anyone can click and give, and all donations are tax-deductible.

After 50,000 pairs have been donated, one person (with a guest of their choosing) will be selected at random to deliver the shoes they purchased to someone in need on one of Soles4Souls’ trips to Mexico!

I just personally gave to this.  I challenge you to do the same.

Generosity and Presidential Candidates

With all the writing I have been doing regarding generosity and the presidential election just 4 short days away I thought this would be a good time to address the generosity of those running for office this year.  All of this information is public record (imagine if your giving was on public record – how would that change how you give?) and the links to my sources are all included.

Looking first at the Democrats we’ll start with Joe Biden.  Here is a chart of the Bidens’ giving for the years covered by the tax returns:

                    Adjusted 
                    Gross Income              Charity

1998             $215,432                      $195

1999             $210,797                      $120

2000             $219,953                      $360

2001             $220,712                      $360

2002             $227,811                      $260

2003             $231,375                      $260

2004             $234,271                      $380

2005             $321,379                      $380

2006             $248,459                      $380

2007             $319,853                      $995

Total             $2,450,042                    $3,690

Last year Joe Biden made $319,853 and gave $995.00 – a whopping one quarter of one percent of his income to charity.  And that was his BEST year of giving.  Looking at what the Biden’s gave over a ten year period it is the equivalent to what a family making a third of his income would tithe in four months!

On to Barack Obama.  Barack Obama wasn’t doing much better until 2005 when he began running for president. Prior to that time, his charitable giving averaged 0.9%. Since he’s been running for president, it increased to 4.7% in 2005 and 6.1% in 2006. Whatever his motive, I’m glad to see it increasing.

Bottom line here – if you think big government is going away with the Democrats you are incorrect.  Their personal giving record shows that they don’t feel giving to charity will make any difference.  Just send the government all your hard earned money and they will take care of all the problems in the world.

Now for a look at the Republicans.  The Palin’s gave 3.3% of their income in 2006 and 1.5% in 2007 (an average of 2.4% for the two years. Although this percentage is 19x more than Biden and 2.5x more than Obama (before he began his presidential run)…it is still disappointing to me. I realize that the average American family gives about 2% of their income to charitable organizations, but I expect more out of our leaders.  I expect even more from a leader like Sarah Palin.  The Palin’s are members of the Church on the Rock in Juneau, Alaska and have been attending since 2000 there.  Looking at the Biblical view on what a tithe (tenth) is I would expect more from them.

Lastly, John McCain.  John McCain gave more than 25% of his income in 2007 to charity. He and his wife believe so much in the concept of helping others that they set up the John and Cindy McCain Foundation to help manage their charitable giving. He didn’t just start doing this recently. He has given ALL of his book royalties to charity since the first book deal in 1998 (more than $1.8 million given to charity in ten years). In 1991 (yes, 17 years ago), he opposed a pay raise that the Senate voted for themselves, so he gave that pay raise to charity that year, and every year since, adding up to more than $450,000.

This stuff matters.  Who do you want leading the country?  Someone who believes that government is the solution to all of our problems or someone who will get the money into the hands of organizations that get the job done.  Remember this, when the Katrina hit the Gulf Coast it was the charitable organizations that hit the ground running effectively – not the government.  When the Tsunami hit Indonesia it wasn’t our government that ran to the aid of the people – it was the charitable organizations worldwide that came to bring the much needed supplies and care-giving.

When the next disaster strikes, and I’m not being all “the end of the world is coming, judgment and wrath are upon us!”   I’m just being realistic.  When the next disaster strikes, who do you want leading our country?

“I’m Kevin Twombly and I approve this post.”

Your Money and Your Generosity 4

This post will conclude the series on generosity and personal finance.  As I wrap this up today I want to look at an area that few people find connected to our finances.

Most people, when talking about money, can get very defensive about how they spend their money.  We feel as though we have to justify our expenses as true needs in order to feel better about our financial state.  The truth is, all of these posts have little to do with your money.  They have everything to do with your heart.  Jesus said this:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

Where is your treasure?  As a parent I love my kids.  They are my treasure.  I used to be in the school of thought that if I worked hard to earn a good paycheck I could provide all that they needed. If I provided for all of their wants and needs I would be doing just what I was supposed to do.  I now see that thinking as flawed.  Most times my kids don’t need stuff.  They need me.  My presence in their life is much more important to them than some toy that will end up breaking anyway.  I have become very intentional about creating memories with my family.  I want to be able to look back over the course of my life and see it filled with times of great joy with my family.  All that other stuff will rot, decay or break.  My memories can never be taken from me.

You may not have kids yet.  That only means that you have more time to get on track and set yourself up for the future that you desire.  Maybe you aren’t even married yet.  Here’s a hint guys – chicks dig guys who are responsible with their money.

By placing more of a priority on being with them than buying for them I reposition the condition of my heart.  I find a balance in my life and am no longer held captive to stress.  In the same instance I send the message loud and clear to my family that, besides God, they come first.  The joy that I get from watching my daughters play with my skateboards in the driveway is worth far more than the joy of seeing them unwrapping a present because it is something we do together.  Covering my girls in a pile of leaves makes us all laugh – feeling the pressure to buy the latest and greatest toy brings them joy and gives me stress.  By instilling in my kids the value of relationships over possessions I teach them a valuable lesson that will live far beyond my lifetime.

As a parent I must model to my kids how to be responsible with my finances and at the same time leave a legacy of generosity for them.  By instilling in them the value of generosity I know that they will always hold their personal finances loosely in order to give to those who have need.  By showing the condition of my heart towards money to my kids they will grow to have the same balanced respect for finances.  I love the Proverb that says:

Good people leave an inheritance for their children’s children

By living responsibly with my finances and teaching my kids to be responsible with their finances I have the ability to leave an inheritance for my children’s children.  That is my hope for you as well.  Why not take the steps that you need to get to that point.  Begin today by paying down debt, saving for the future, being generous, and living within your means.  You too can leave a legacy!

Your Money and Your Generosity 3

Continuing this series on generosity.  Today I look at what it would look like to live off less. And for this I refer to a post that a friend Brad Ruggles wrote about a month ago.  

 Give Yourself A Voluntary Pay Cut
This is probably the hardest principle for most people to live out. Many people in America are only a couple of paychecks away from losing their homes so how in the world do we live on less? Personal finance blogger No Credit Needed recently asked his readers:

What would happen if your boss came into your office tomorrow morning, and told you that your salary had been reduced by 15%? Furthermore, what if he told you that a new law had been passed and you couldn’t change jobs for one full year – and you couldn’t borrow any money, for any reason? What would you do?

Some people would have a very difficult time adjusting to a 15% (or other) decrease in pay, but the reality is most of us would find a way to get by. We would make adjustments, trim down on the extras and make it work. He asked this question to get people thinking about how much they spend vs. how much they really need to spend.

After we stop spending more than we make and learn to manage the money we already have in the bank better, the final step is to eliminate wasteful spending.

Make an agreement with your family that you’re going to take a voluntary pay cut in order to eliminate spending on things you don’t need so you can give more generously to things that matter.  You’ll be amazed at how little you can actually live off and find yourself carrying much less stress because of it.

Your Money and Your Generosity 2

This is a continued post based on my thoughts regarding finances.  Please note: I am NOT an financial advisor.  I will speak with authority on certain subjects.  The only thing that gives me any authority to speak on the area of finances is the simple fact that my wife and I have a handle on our finances, are debt free, and faithfully tithe to our local church.  Feel free to read and comment.

So yesterday I wrote about setting and sticking with a budget.  Today I want to clarify the issue of living within your means.  We all live on some percentage of our income.  Some may live on 80% of their income, others may live off 30%.  The trouble is when we choose to live beyond our means.  When we live off 120% of our income.  Many people are living over-extended in the area of their personal finances.  I hear far too many stories of people applying for a new credit card only to transfer the balance of one to the other at a lower rate in order to receive a cash advance so that they may pay off the balance of another.  I know, it sounds so twisted – but it happens too often not to talk about.

I remember my Freshman year in college and the barrage of applications that I received in my mailbox everyday.  At first I felt special (after all, it was the only mail I was receiving!) but I soon began to realize that the credit card companies were targeting me as a young adult with no money who was irresponsible and would help them accumulate more wealth through growing interest payments on a balance there was no way I was able to pay off.  It became a trap that I feel into headfirst.  The summer after my first year in college I can remember returning home and being scolded by my father who then had to advise me on how I would spend my summer.  The joy of having money at my fingertips with the credit card was soon gone as I spent my entire summer paying back the debt that I had caused.  Every cent that I earned went to a creditor.  I was an indentured servant for those three months.  Proverbs 22:7 says it with all the reality that was meant by the writer:

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave of the lender

I proved this all too true as I gave all of my money to my creditor.  The joke around campus my Freshman year was that when you receive a Discover Card you enjoy the ability to buy whatever you desire only to “discover” that you will never be able to pay down the balance.  Credit cards when used with little care or concern for the consequences that they carry can be dangerous when in the hands of one who does not understand the power of debt.  I was one such fool…

That was then, this is now.  I now refuse to use a personal credit card.  I make every effort to purchase items with cash.  If I don’t have the available cash I don’t make a purchase.  There is freedom in deferring a desire.  Most times if I can not afford an item and I delay the purchase until I have the necessary funds I end up realizing that I don’t even need the item.  By limiting my spending to “cash-only” purchases I end up reducing the impulse purchases that so many retailers thrive on.  It also teaches me discipline in spending and makes me truly count the cost of purchasing an item that I think I need.

Some reading this post may feel like there is no hope.  That is a lie.  Don’t believe it.  You can find your way out from under what seems to be an overwhelming debt load.  Pay beyond the interest payment.  Never make a minimum payment.  Always pay above the required payment amount and specify that you want the extra amount being paid to go directly to the principle.  By paying even twenty dollars over the minimum payment you can quickly reduce the principle and begin to make headway in reducing your overall debt.  As you begin to see the total debt load become less and less each month keep pressing on.  Don’t get cocky!  Continue paying down the principle and don’t give in to the idea that “just once won’t hurt” by splurging on a want.  That HD flat screen monitor with surround sound will always be available later and the prices are dropping.  Keep waiting on that purchase and you will pay less overall and get a product the is of even greater quality.

More tomorrow…

Generosity

Here’s a great look at generosity from down in the great state of Texas.  No commentary needed.  Just read the story here.

Your Money and Your Generosity 1

After quite a few conversations with people over the past day regarding some of the things I brought up in my message yesterday I thought I would begin a new blog series to answer some of the questions raised.  Feel free to tune in throughout the week as I will be posting each day on this topic.

“I know that I should not have debt but I can’t see a way out.  How do I get there?”

This is one question that was asked yesterday by someone who truly wants to be a generous person and yet feels trapped beneath the pile of debt they have accumulated over the years.  My quick response – it took you a while to build up this debt, it’s going to take some time to get out of it as well.  There really is no quick fix to debt reduction.  It will take time to get rid of debt.  The point is not to become so overwhelmed that you just give up on the process.  Begin today.  Make a plan and stick with it for the long haul.  You will begin to see your debt go down and over time go away.

Make a budget.  If you are married sit down with your spouse and work through your inflow and outflow of finances.  If you are single sit down by yourself and do the same thing.  Start by figuring out how much you make.  Look at all avenues of income.  Write them all down.  Next write down all of your financial obligations.  Everything that you know you owe out to someone.  Rent, mortgage payments, utility payments, cable, phone, internet, auto loans, student loans, credit card debt, insurance payments, etc.  Figure out which payments are due monthly, quarterly and annually and set them in different columns.  

Once you know your inflow and outflow you should have a realistic idea of how much you have to work with each month.  A few things to decide upon are:

  • how much will you budget for groceries each week?
  • will you eat out?
  • Entertainment costs?
  • fuel for your vehicles?

 

All of these are expenses that need to be fit into your budget.  My thoughts regarding extra expenses such as entertainment and eating out are that they should be at a minimum if you have debt.  These are extras not essentials.  Pay down your debt and learn to live within your means and then add in some of the fun stuff.  If you cal yourself a Christian (I’m not being judgmental here, I’m just making a statement based on Scripture) you should be tithing.  As a matter of fact, it’s the first check you should write out with each paycheck – whether weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

As I stated yesterday.  A basic principle to live by is this:

Give, Save, Live off the Rest.

With every bit of income that you receive you should give 10% to God, Save 10% for yourself, and Live off the Rest.  By following this simple principle you will live within your means.  If you have debt that you owe a creditor the amount that you live off of will go below the 80% because you should be using that money to pay back your debts.  If you have debts your first priority should be in paying those back after you have tithed.  The money that you are spending on interest payments to a creditor is wasteful and therefore needs to be ended as quick as possible.  If you have high interest levels you should contact your creditor and ask about having your interest percentage reduced.  Most creditors will make a small reduction in the percentage rate if you ask.  Every little bit counts.

It should go without saying but if you have debt and you are working to remove that debt by paying it back to your creditor you should also stop adding to that debt load.  Stop buying the items that you feel you need.  Most of us end up purchasing things we don’t even need simply because we allow wants to become needs.  In the words of Bob Newhart, “Stop It!”  Just don’t do it.  Put down the credit card and step away from the register.

By sticking with the budget that you establish and paying down the debt that you have without adding to it further you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Live within your means and the light will keep getting brighter.

More tomorrow…

Letting Go and Giving Thanks

I spent the day cleaning out my closet and dressers yesterday.  I was amazed at the amount of clothes that I have amassed over the years that I don’t even wear.  Many of them are in brand new condition.  As I weeded out all that I had not worn in a very long time I spent time reflecting on how blessed I truly am.  I know that when clearing out and letting go of things that you have owned for a time it can be hard and some people will do so kicking and screaming. For me as I began to dig through the enormous pile of clothing that I had not worn for a long time I began to smile broader.  I found myself giving thanks.  Thankful that through the blessing that I have received I could be a blessing to others.

I’ve been spending a great deal of time reading and thinking on Colossians 3:17:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

We each have the ability to do make small sacrifices each and every day in our lives- to hold loosely to the things that we have.  The key to doing these things or speaking the words that we share with others is to do so with a heart of thankfulness.  I think that ties in to the idea that “God loves a cheerful giver.”  Whether you give of your time, talents, or treasure – what is the heart behind why you give? 

With the cold weather heading our way here in NH I started looking at the heavy wool sweaters that would help to keep others warm.  Maybe a guy who is living under a bridge will end up wearing one of the sweaters that I gave up.  Maybe a new resident of Concord, a refugee from Africa, will be given one and the joy of being warm will give him a hope for his new future here in America.

I’ve learned over the past year about the true joy that comes from living with less.  Kim and I have been reducing our possessions.  It is freeing to know that you can live within your means.  I am grateful for the days that I have the ability to be generous with what I have.  I keep looking for other ways in which I can help others while living in a way that reduces my need for personal gain.

How can you let go of things that you have held tightly to?  How can you find joy in doing so?  Thoughts?

Upset at Generosity

I blogged earlier this week about the shoes that were donated to Soles4Souls.org through the simple act of leaving our church barefoot.  The Concord Monitor got wind of this and did a small write-up in the paper.  What seemed like a great act of charity that would provide shoes for those who have none has whipped up quite a dust storm of controversy in the comments that people have left on the online version of the article.  Today I posted a response.  Here it is:

I guess I am not quite sure how to start this comment. As I have read through all of the other comments below I have gone through a cycle of emotions. Please hear my heart as I write the following statements.

Our desire to is to help others. From the very humble beginnings of Grace Capital Church meeting in a home until now we have desired to be a blessing to our community and the world. Every year we strive to give away more than we did the year before. In 2007 we gave away 31% of everything that came into the church. Those financial contributions went outside of the church to those in need. Whether helping the homeless here in the Capital Region or drilling clean water wells in Rwanda, Africa we desire to provide for those who have nothing.

It goes beyond financial giving though. Our desire is not to seek our own prosperity as some may think. We truly understand the Biblical principle that “to whom much is given, much is required.” We have an amazing congregation filled with giving people. People who go out into the neighborhoods and serve their communities. At the Pembroke/Allenstown Old Home Days we gave freely to rent 4 inflatable obstacle courses to be used throughout the day to give children and families a place to enjoy each other. We did not charge for that, we wanted to simply bless the community that we are a part of. That same day, people from GCC went to stores and purchased popsicles with their own money to hand out to people walking down to the event. Every Saturday morning you will find people from GCC as well as many other area churches at the Friendly Kitchen serving up fantastic meals to those who come to be fed. These same people have a van that is set up in the parking lot where they hand out water, socks, underwear, sleeping bags and tents to those who have no homes. We care and so we serve those in need.

Our desire as a church is not to be self-serving but to serve others. We buy our Starbucks coffee at wholesale prices and sell it at our Cafe for prices lower than what you would pay at Dunkin’ Donuts. Over the past 4 years we have given away all of the profits from the sales of that coffee – amounting to thousands of dollars. We host blood drives in our facility, community gatherings, and public school events. Our student ministry serves young people from Concord and surrounding towns a free meal on the last Wednesday of each month. Our facility has been made open to many local agencies including the Town of Pembroke when they needed a location to hold a town meeting.

If you were to attend one of our two services on a Sunday morning you would find Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and even Green Party members welcomed with open arms. We are not a political body and will never build walls of division because of political issues. We encourage each person of voting age to research the issues and stance of each politician and to vote with their conscience. Please don’t blame Bush on us, there was a whole country that had the opportunity to vote…

This past week we had a total of 997 pairs of shoes donated to Soles4Souls.org That is a fantastic thing and I celebrate that. I celebrate the generosity of each person who left their shoes on Sunday and walked out barefoot. I celebrate each person who went home and dug through their closets to bring in even more pairs of shoes to be donated. I ALSO celebrate those who are bone marrow donors, blood donors, give to help purchase school supplies for children that can’t afford them, buy Girl Scout Cookies, give to rebuild the Gulf Coast, provide humanitarian aid for victims of flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

I celebrate anyone who can look beyond their own needs and help meet the needs of those around them who can not. As I celebrate you, and the good things that you do, can you join us in celebrating this “good thing” that was done? Can you look beyond issues of faith as I try to do and see that this one simple act of leaving a pair of shoes at a persons church is not something to criticize but to celebrate. Can you look beyond whatever baggage you are carrying around from past hurts and celebrate with us?

I‘d like to think that we are all much better than what has been commented here below. You can choose to disagree with many things that we do, but an act of generosity? Please, at least don’t do it anonymously.

Kevin Twombly
Generations Pastor
Grace Capital Church

My prayer is that people would be slower to criticize a good thing simply because it was done by a church.

Soles4Souls

Here’s some background information about Soles4Souls, the organization that will distribute the over 800 pairs of shoes that were collected this morning at Grace Capital Church.