Friday, July 22, 2016

What Could Possibly Happen In Five Debt-Free Years?

Five years ago today, we made our way to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Plaza. It was for the sole purpose of sharing, on Dave’s radio show, the story of our debt-free journey. We were finally able to scream, “We’re DEBT FREE!” on air.

After the call, we signed the wall in Dave’s lobby:

"$95,283.00 in 51 months! We're Debt Free in STL, Wesley & Mindy"

This was before the live video stream and audio headsets of today. We called him from a real phone, which was sitting on a stool in his bookstore. He’s come a long way since then and so have we.

We are now solidly in Baby Steps 4, 5, and 6, but the last five years have been interesting. About 6-9 months after BS3 was complete, I switched jobs and took a significant pay cut. Little did I know at the time how much God was going to bless our family through this move. Being debt-free gave me the peace to make that decision confidently. Two years later, I was promoted twice at work within a 15 month period. I work and interview a lot better without the stress of debt on my shoulders.

Also, during the past five years, we completed a kitchen/dining room renovation. We did a lot of the work ourselves. Because we upgraded some of the finishes, it cost about double what we had originally planned, but we cash flowed it all and are enjoying it now without any loans. More than enjoying it, I’m kind of impressed with it, since I also designed it.

In February 2007, when we started our debt-free journey, we had a five-figure negative net worth. 51 months later, when we became debt-free, our net worth was positive and just over the six-figure mark. Today, we have been able to take that original negative net worth figure to the positive side and multiply it by ten. God is truly good.

The funniest part of the debt-free scream is that it almost didn’t happen. I didn’t think to contact Dave’s office and set it up weeks in advance as he now tells people to do. The day before, we were at my Dad's, about 30 minutes south of Nashville. We had just arrived there from our first ever debt-free, week-long vacation in the Smokey Mountains. We had been debt free since May and planned to do our debt free scream the next day. I was laying down in the afternoon. Suddenly, I jumped up and thought, I should probably call them and let them know we'd be there tomorrow. I called and left a message. Thirty minutes later, I got a call back and it was all set up. We'd be on the air the next day, live from the lobby. It wasn't until I got home and told my friend, Jen, about what happened when I realized how fortunate we were to have done our debt-free scream on such short notice.

I’ll close this with the Five Principles, I learned during Dave Ramsey's "The Legacy Journey" live broadcast:

“While earning an income over an extended period of time, you will develop a level of wealth if you follow these five principles.

1. Live on a written budget.
2. Avoid debt.
3. Foster high-quality relationships.
4. Save and invest.
5. Be incredibly generous.”

I’ll just add, if I can do this, I know you can too. Follow the Baby Steps…..

Follow this car to Financial Peace Plaza....

Monday, May 25, 2015

How do you run an errand?

Not really a Memorial Day story, but in the spirit of the day:

A week ago Friday, I made a quick run up to the South County Home Depot. As I pulled into the plaza, near the Home Town Buffet end, I stopped for a few people to cross the parking lot. As they crossed, a rather large car started backing out. It may have been a Crown Vic. I started speaking to myself about patience, despite my desire to quickly get what I needed and return home.

As the car slowly backed out, stopping too short to pull away, but still 10-15 feet away from my vehicle, I noticed the "Combat Infantry Badge" (CIB) license plate. Oh, a fellow vet, well, I can be patient for them. Then, they proceed to pull forward again, over the hatch-striped walking area next to their original spot. I waited, as they slowly backed out again. Again, they stopped short and still at least 15 feet away from me before they began pulling forward. My first thought was, they don't have enough clearance in front of them, and they'll need to back up a third time. I waited.

But, they didn't back up again. They kept going forward, bumping a parked car on the back right corner with their front right corner. The parked car rocked forward for what seemed at least 12 inches. Surely, they'll stop, right? Nope, they just continued forward, rubbing the entire back-side of the parked car's bumper with their front right corner. And once they were clear, they pulled away as though they had clipped that car on a moonless night in Vegas. I again had to wait for some other traffic and while I did, my mind raced. What should I do? Call the police? No. Run inside and quickly find the parked car's owner? No.

First, I memorized the plate, "83 INF". Once I was clear, I chased them down across the parking lot, honking my horn incessantly, flashing my lights like a mall cop. They slowed but didn't immediately stop. I continued and they finally stopped. They must have realized the gig was up. Their attempt at a strip mall hit-and-run had been foiled. To my surprise, I pull up next to a little old man, who was reluctant to roll down his window. Our exchange went like this:

Me: "Sir, do you know you hit a parked car back there as you were pulling out?"
Him, totally and sweetly surprised at my accusation: "Oh, I did? I didn't know."
Me, very concerned he didn't realize he had hit another car as big as his: "Yes, Sir, you did."
Him: "Oh, well, I'll go back and let them know."
Me: "Thank you, Sir."

I drove off, still wanting to quickly complete my Home Depot errand, but with even more haste as I entered the store realizing I had not been exactly clear with him about the details of what I had seen. As I returned to the scene, I saw the Veteran standing in the parking lot, sort of bewildered, while a Home Town Buffet employee looked at the back of his Crown Vic. I pulled up, and let him know he was looking at the wrong end and which car he had hit. At this point, I decided to park, not so much to ensure everything was resolved correctly, but I had a feeling this gentleman was someone about whom I wanted to know a little more.

As I walked up to the front of his vehicle, I noticed his license plate frame. “World War II” across the top. “Battle of the Bulge” across the bottom. I was in complete awe and rightly so. I didn’t like the circumstances of how my path had intersected with this gentleman from the Greatest Generation, but I also knew this was a moment that is occurring with less frequency for each of us. Standing in the presence of a World War II veteran.

As I walked up to him, I noticed his slide on his bolo tie. It was perfectly round, with a miniature medal set in the middle of it, a bronze star medal. Knowing the answer, I asked him in a confirming way, to start the conversation, about him being a World War II vet. Then I said, “And you were at the Battle of the Bulge?” He said, “Yes. I landed on Omaha Beach, was at the Battle of the Bulge, went on to the Hürtgen Forest and met the Russians at the Elbe River.” For a moment I was speechless. I sort of stuttered out, “You landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day?” He said, “No, four days after. The weather was bad and we couldn’t land that day.”

At this point, two gentlemen, who owned the car he hit, came out. The first man was old enough to be my father and he was being followed by his father. They looked at the markings on the bumper and decided it would buff out and told the WWII Vet not to worry about it. The older guy did ask the Vet how old he was, to which he replied, “98, no I mean 95.” Turns out the father was also 95, which gave them both a chuckle.

I waited for them to leave and then I approached the WWII Vet again. I introduced myself, told him of my affiliation with the Army and said it would be my honor to shake his hand. He gladly accepted and as we shook hands, I thanked him for his service while saying, “Our nation owes you a debt of gratitude which cannot be expressed in words.” He thanked me, looked me in the eyes and said, “I was just doing my job.”

Day. Made.

I never asked him for his name, but as you might imagine, his license plate indicates he served with the 83rd Infantry while in World War II.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How do you deal with “Shattered Peace”?

On March 26th, this is the terrible thing that happened….

After spending two hours cleaning up the hundreds of pieces of broken glass from inside my car, an amazing thing happened on the way to work that day. The same thing happened again the next day when I picked the car up from Safelite with new glass filling the hole.

The previous Sunday, Pastor Shawn's message was titled, "Known for Love: Love the City". This was a crucial verse from the message:

"And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace." - Jeremiah 29:7

I wouldn't be human if during the two hours, while I cleaned out my car, I didn't think about what caused us to move here in 2005. If I didn’t think about the violence we faced when we decided it was time to move away from the city. I started to think about what happened then in context of what happened yesterday. Even though it was nowhere near as bad, I thought, what if this leads to us moving away again. Further away.

Both of those times mentioned above, when I turned on the car to go, the same song was playing on Saint Louis' newest radio station, Boost 101.9 FM. It was Chris Tomlin's "God of this City". Only it wasn't. It was Chris' song, but being mixed into a rap song. After Chris finished singing, "Greater things have yet to come, And greater things are still to be done in this City," this "unknown to me" rapper was saying, "YEAH, That's what we praying for..." I'd NEVER heard this song before, I didn't even know who this rapper was the first time I heard it.

So, a couple hours later, I called Boost to find out who this artist was. The DJ told me his name was "Thi'sl", which I repeated as though he was saying a foreign word. Without prompting from me, he told me, "He's from Saint Louis."

I've been looking for the lyrics to the rap, but can't find them written out. Just a few "videos" of the song. And information about "Thi'sl", who apparently in 2011, started a blog about rebuilding Saint Louis: He recorded "Greater City" in 2011 as part of kicking off his "REbuild: STL" project. Here's the song:

The first time I heard it, as I was driving my car with a broken window, away from my home. It slowly hit me as I realized what was on the radio. It was a moment, God was talking to me.

I prayed for my city. I prayed for the person or persons who intruded into my car.

The second time I heard it, as I was driving my car with a new window, I thought, there is no way this is just coincidence. Just like there is a reason I am living in Saint Louis, there was a reason I was hearing this song again, at just that moment.

Just like those hundreds of pieces of broken glass were replaced with one whole piece of new glass, God can take the thousands of broken souls in our city and replace them, make them whole again, and make them shiny and new....

On March 27th, THAT is the amazing thing that happened....

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. - John 13:35

Monday, November 18, 2013

How do you read the Constitution of the United States?

When asked why certain things I would find to be socialist policies are allowed under the Constitution of the United States, most Liberal Progressives always cite either the "Commerce Clause" or the "Necessary and Proper Clause" of Article 1, Section 8. Tonight, I spoke to someone who claimed both of those clauses in defense of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare,” Social Security, Medicaid, and Public Education. This person happened to be a lawyer and wanted to cite case law to me.

This was my response:

Well, I'm not an attorney and I won't be citing any case law. I'm a simple man and a Soldier, who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.

Because of that oath, I take time on occasion to read the Constitution of the United States. I believe upon reading it that it was written for the common people of the United States, and doesn't require a lot of interpretation for what is hidden between the lines.

I'm also an architect, husband and father, avid reader of the Bible and a child of God. I consider myself one of the common people of the United States of America.

So, here is what I see:

The Commerce Clause: "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;"

Regulation of commerce is much different to the common man than directing you to buy something. Regulating something means you control how it is done when someone chooses to do it, but it doesn't mean you force them to do it. I also fail to see how this could apply to "Social Security. And Medicaid. And public education."

The Necessary and Proper Clause: "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."

The Laws must be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution powers which are actually delineated within the Constitution of the United States. According to a common man interpretation, Congress doesn't have the power to create "hoop-dee-do" Laws at will. The foregoing Powers fail to mention forcing an individual to purchase anything. They also fail to mention "Social Security. And Medicaid. And public education." Or Healthcare Insurance. "All other Powers vested by this Constitution" fail to mention those things either.

And then there is Amendment X: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

It seems pretty simple really. Well, until you involve those seeking power and attorneys; but I repeat myself. (Apologies to Mark Twain) I'll add that I doubt seriously anyone would have fought a war for independence from a single king only to establish a government with 545 potentates....

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Really Is Radical?

So apparently at the end of 2012, a Georgetown University professor of Constitutional Law had an opinion editorial published in the New York Times titled, "Let's Give Up on the Constitution." I almost never read the New York Times, probably because I'm not sophisticated. I'm not a professor and I'm definitely not a Constitutional scholar. I have read the Constitution though and find it very simple. I'm not sure that I really need a professor to explain it to me. Sure, there are a few words in it that I must look up, but I find using the dictionary to acquire the true meaning behind words rather educational. Even though I find the Constitution simple, I find it radical at the same time. More about that later.

Anyway, this professor, his name is Louis Michael Seidman. I'm not sure why any mention of him always includes his middle name. Maybe all Georgetown University professors use their middle name. I always thought using a middle name was only done for serial killers. Maybe his desire to kill the U.S. Constitution isn't the first time he's exhibited this type of behavior toward a nation's Supreme Law. Anyway, I came across an image of him, superimposed with a quote, supposedly from him. I cannot really be sure he said it. Perhaps he did, perhaps he didn't. I did read his op-ed though, and although the quote was not in it, upon the basis of what was published, it does sound like something he could have said. Here's the photo:

Based on what I read, I decided to dissect the three sentences, just off the top of my head. This is what I came up with...

I've got a simple idea - Yeah, the Constitution is actually a pretty simple idea. We'd be better off if more people, including Politicians read it and followed it to the letter of the law.

Let's give up on the Constitution. - And replace it with what? As I said, it's really a pretty simple document founded on the notion that "We, the People" control the government and when you think about it, that's actually the best way to establish a government.

I know, it sounds radical, but it's really not...
- Actually, "We, the People" ordaining and establishing a Constitution with the sole purpose of instituting a "new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness" sounded radical in 1776 and 1787. It still sounds radical today in 2013. If it wasn't radical, you wouldn't want to fight so hard against it. And since you admit, your idea is really not radical, then I really don't want to hear much more about it....

Because to me,
the best ideas ARE simple AND radical....

*Having taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution, thus my dismissive attitude toward the professor’s stance to “Give Up on the Constitution”....

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election 2012: How Do I Get Informed?

I live in Missouri, so most of this information will be focused on my state. For my out of state friends though, some of the links might help you with Presidential and Congressional candidates. In this era, there really is no reason to arrive at your polling place uninformed on the candidates, judges, or ballot issues. So, do your research, get informed, and go vote on November 6th.

I have been finding many different websites for information. Some have better information on certain candidates, while some have better information on other candidates. I can't seem to find one site that is the best on all of the candidates, judges and issues. Although, the 97.1 FM Talk (Local STL Radio Station) site has great candidate lists for the Congressional offices in both the Senate and House, they only cover the two main party Presidential candidates. They also don't seem to have anything on judges or the propositions. No worries, though, I have found other websites which will provide you information for those.

A couple of weeks ago my pastor posted a short list of how to approach the process of informed voting. Shockingly, the first item on the list was something I had suggested on my Facebook wall only a few days prior. Stands to reason though, as that one thing is the only reasonable place to start. Here’s the list, with my additions:

Sample Ballot: When you are preparing to vote, it is best to start by finding your sample ballot, so you know on what issues and candidates you will be voting. Then you will not waste your time becoming overly informed on an issue or candidate who is not on your ballot. If you are registered to vote in Missouri, you can locate a "Sample Ballot" for your polling place at this website link. If you are not registered to vote in Missouri, I would suggest checking your state's Secretary of State website or conduct an internet search using your state's name followed by "sample ballot November 2012".

Study: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." - 2 Timothy 2:15 Learn about the candidates, judges and ballot initiatives. Study the person. Find out as much as you can about who they are. Look at their past performance. Find out where they stand on the issues, especially the Constitutional ones if they are a candidate for federal office. This is where the links I have provided below are important. Please use them and share them. Share this blog post.

Pray: Seek God on each candidate, judge and ballot initiative. We are to seek Him continuously in prayer, including on how we vote. Our faith should be center to our lives and guide our votes. God’s Word says in Roman 13:1 - “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Since the candidates WILL BE appointed by God, then it is best to seek Him with regard to the wisdom behind each vote we cast.
If you’re like me, then you may even stay up late on Tuesday night attempting to keep score as the results come in. If so, then you will find an Election Day Scorecard at this linkIf you have any questions regarding the links provided below or other election information, please don’t hesitate to ask me. And may the Best Men and Women Win!!!

Helpful Election Information Links:

League of Women Voters: Everyone can use this site, no matter which state you live in. You can build your ballot with their online voters' guide! Type in your address to see the races on your ballot. Candidates' positions can be compared side-by-side, and you may print out a "ballot" indicating your preferences as a reminder and take it with you to the polls on Election Day.

FM Talk 97.1's List of Candidates: President, All US House and Senate, All Missouri State offices and Illinois House and Senate office.

Missouri Secretary of State Candidate List: A comprehensive list of candidates on Missouri ballots, including Presidential Candidates, Congressional Candidates, State Office Candidates and Judges.

Missouri Judicial Elections: For all of you, like me, who never know what to do with the votes on judges - Now there is this website, which is very informative and well designed.

Missouri Secretary of State's State-wide Ballot Issues: A comprehensive list of state-wide only ballot issues, including State Constitutional Amendment 3, Proposition A, Proposition B, and Proposition E. This page includes the "Official Ballot Language" and the "Fair Ballot Language" (which tells you exactly what a "Yes" or "No" vote means) and links to the full text of each measure.

Overall of Missouri State Ballot information: Great Page, Lots of Information provided! Out of state friends can use the home page of this site to locate their state's ballot information.

ALL Missouri Ballot Measures: See the right hand side for a list of counties with measures on their ballot. Out of state friends can use the home page of this site to locate their state and find much of their ballot information.

Saint Louis County Ballot Issues: A list of St. Louis County specific ballot measures. For my friends who live in surrounding counties - You should be able to do a search on this same site for your county to find a list of the ballot measures for your county.

Please Share This Post!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What Were You Expecting?

Seven weeks ago today, four Americans died at the hands of terrorists on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. For all we have witnessed and all we have learned with regard to Libya over the past seven weeks, I believe it is important to revisit where we started in all this and ask,

"What Were You Expecting?"

When the UN sanctioned action started there in March 2011, the United States Military named our action, Operation Odyssey Dawn. I believe words have meaning and at the time, I broke down the true definition of those two words. 

Odyssey: a long series of wandering action filled with notable hardships

Dawn: a beginning

Thus the True Definition of Operation Odyssey Dawn:

"The beginning of a long series of wandering action filled with notable hardships!"

Eighteen months later, I would say this Operation has lived up to its namesake. 
Words do have meaning and power. Hardships tend to be a little more inconvenient than "bumps in the road". Just because someone calls an operation to an end doesn't mean the hardship has culminated. As was the accusation in Iraq, in Libya a dictator was removed with little thought as to who or what would fill the void left behind. Eighteen months later, that void has consumed more than we could have ever expected from the start. We experienced another 9/11 and unexpectedly it occurred again on a Tuesday. Tuesday, 11 September 2012.

Given what WE now know THEY knew,
why weren't THEY expecting this?

Seven weeks later, based on unfortunately isolated media reports, this is what we now know:

We KNEW it was a terrorist attack the whole time. We had a drone sending a live feed back to the White House Situation Room, Dept of State and probably the CIA. We have the emails from the Consulate stating they were being attacked. We have the CIA Annex requesting 3 times and being denied 3 times for support. We had an airplane overhead, a C-130 Specter Gunship, which can fire precisely on a human target. This is another Mogadishu, another Iran Embassy Hostage Crisis. This is WORSE, MUCH WORSE than Watergate ever hoped to be and yet we have a vast media ocean that is being complicit in a cover-up of a massive scale.

I was too young to understand Watergate as it happened. I was ten years old when the Iran Embassy Hostage Crisis occurred. I don't want to see my country dragged back through the events of 1979 again. I remember seeing my country held hostage for more than a year and it was painful. I feel like we are being held hostage again. Again, it is painful. For that, I am angry and I am righteously indignant. Now that I am older, I can see a recourse. A recourse that only We, the People can put in motion. We must call our Senators and Congressional Representative. You can find your's at this link.

When you call your Senators and Representative I believe it is important to tie your request back to the U. S. Constitution, state what you have seen reported and request them to ask Congressional leaders to start an immediate investigation into the events in Benghazi, Libya on 11 September 2012
. I do not think it helps our cause to personally assign blame as it is their job to investigate and find the person(s) responsible. Here is a suggested statement for when you call:

"I am calling today with regard to the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which led to the deaths of four Americans, including a United States Ambassador. Seven weeks after that incomprehensible event, I have now seen media reports stating the military was given orders to “Stand Down” and not take action to save the life of our Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

It is my honest opinion that not counter-attacking terrorists who are actively engaged in an attack against our consulate and Ambassador, when we have the means to do so, can only be seen as giving our Enemies Aid and Comfort. Under the United States Constitution, Article III, Section 3, giving our Enemies Aid and Comfort is clearly defined as Treason. I am calling today to ask Sen./Rep. __________ to start immediately calling on Congressional leadership to investigate what happened in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 and find who is responsible for the treasonous act of telling our military to “Stand Down” on that day. Thank you."

Please do this! Honor the memory of the four Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice that day. Do not let this be swept away by a media who is failing to report the truth.

Fallen, Never Forgotten:

J. Christopher StevensU.S. Ambassador to Libya
Sean SmithU.S. Foreign Service Officer
Glen Doherty, Former Navy Seal
Tyrone S. Woods, Former Navy Seal

"When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them."

Psalm 91:15