Til Death Do Us Part

My Friend DonWhat do you want people to say about you at your memorial service? That’s kind of an uncomfortable question, but I came by it honestly. I recently lost a good friend who was my own age, and way too young to die. He went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. Frankly, that’s the way we’d all prefer to go, without suffering, but the suddenness rocked me. Any one of us could be diagnosed with a terminal illness, and given six weeks to live. At least then we’d have six weeks to get our affairs in order. HeavenBut what if I go to sleep tonight and wake up in heaven, like Don did? I couldn’t rest until I answered that question.

If I die…wait a minute… we always say that, but we really should say “when I die”. In human history, there is just about a 100% mortality rate with only a few biblical exceptions. CemetarySo let’s be honest and say, “when I die”.  Hopefully it will be at the ripe old age of a hundred, but what if I die unexpectedly? In that moment my wife’s life would be drastically altered. A lifetime of plans would suddenly and completely change. The thought of my wife rifling through my file cabinet, wondering how she would make ends meet, gripped me.Dave Ramsey

So I sat down and wrote a legacy list. You know, the one Dave Ramsey always talks about. We already have our wills in place, but the Legacy List is another tangible way we can say “I love You” from heaven. It’s not romantic, but it is a single sheet of paper that has all the information, account numbers and policy numbers that a grieving spouse would need to carry on without us. On second thought, maybe it is romantic. The list includes location of our wills and healthcare directives, policy and account numbers for: life insurance, investments, short and long term disability, health and long term care insurance.Last Will and Testament It even includes some recommendations on which broker to seek advice from, on how to live on the life insurance and what we have saved. Plus we have to consider that Social Security and pensions change or disappear upon a spouse’s death.

We tend to think:

There will always be time to say the things I want to say to my spouse.

There will always be time to take that trip.

There will always be time to save for retirement.

There will always be time to take a walk, watch a chick flick, or go fishing together.

There will always be time…

Don ServingBut time is an earthbound property; and our time on this earth is like a vapor. Moments like this can be paralyzing or catalyzing. I know myself pretty well, and I know that if I let any time elapse, I’d forget the urgency. There are some important things I need to do today. Then there are other things that I need to do a little bit every day… for my wife, for my children and for others who are important to me.

One of the things I admire most about my friend Don is that he was a man of action. He didn’t just talk about going hunting, he’d plan a trip. He didn’t wait for others to plan events; he would serve others by taking a lead role. Hound DogHe was a real friend and we had a great friendship because he pursued it like a bloodhound. Great relationships don’t just happen, they must be pursued. Thanks Don. Even your death has inspired me to be a better man.Don and I Hunting Success

Any More Money, Honey?

Money Tug of WarIt is a well-documented statistic that the biggest cause of divorce in North America today is money fights and money problems. No surprise that our consumer mentality as Americans spills over into our marriages. The trend toward two-earner households over the past several decades has only served to divide what ought to be united. Couples use terms like “my money” and “your money” and develop self-centered plans to spend it. Many couples engage in protracted power struggles over their resources that result in debt, hurt feelings and empty bank accounts. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometime one or both spouses engage in “retail therapy” as they try to “medicate” their unhappiness or to satisfy a longing in their heart that “Stuff” will never fill. Jesus spoke of the desire for more like this: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Luke 12: 15 In other words, more stuff isn’t the answer. What we crave is unity: oneness with our God and oneness with our spouse.
Successful married couples view their income as “our money” as they share their goals and dreams and the future together.
So let’s start with the basics: Where does money come from? They say there are two things everyone should teach their children. Where babies come from and where money comes from. The answer is: Money comes from work. “Work is a sure-fire money-making scheme,” according to money guru Dave Ramsey. Early on in marriage, couples need to decide who is going to go out to work. It is OK to decide that both husband and wife will work, especially while getting started and establishing a home. Couple with BabyThroughout your marriage this decision can be re-evaluated as children are born, go off to school, and as they leave the nest. During different seasons of life, you may decide that one spouse should stay home to devote their time and energy to raising your children. That will be their work for the next X number of years. The most important thing is that the couple makes these decisions together
Then next thing we want to understand is that there are three things we should do with our money. A healthy balanced life includes all three: Saving, Spending and Giving. When couples agree upon how their money will be saved, spent and given, they agree upon their core values.  They say you can look at a person’s check book and learn what is important to them. Jesus said: where your treasure is, there your heart will be also Luke 12:34.
The Dreaded B Word
Money Scrabble TilesIf you’re feeling hopeless, like you can’t get a handle on your money it is probably because you’re disorganized. When we want to solve complex situations it is very helpful to write them down instead of just letting them swirl around in our mind. Plus, since our spouse isn’t a mind reader, a BUDGET will help us put all the facts on the table and agree on a plan we can work on together. If you want help establishing a budget, and a sound financial plan for your life and marriage, I highly recommend you sign up to take Financial Peace University together. Thousands of couples have attended with the intent to fix their finances, only to experience the added bonus of gaining valuable communication skills, which revolutionized every other aspect of their marriage. I’d say that’s worth the price of admission. Wouldn’t you?

The Black Friday Blues

There’s a reason it’s called Black Friday. Millions of people around the world are about to jump into the abyss. We like to make fun of lemmings, but every year we, who are supposed to have more gray matter and opposable digits, do the equivalent by taking the plunge off the financial cliff. Lemming on a RockThe only difference is that lemmings jump into the deep blue sea. We jump into the RED, and spend the entire next year with those “easy monthly payments”.
So before we get too caught up in the holiday spirit, let’s consider a few words and phrases that are key to a healthy marriage: Communication, Unity, Like-mindedness, Consensus, Sharing, Helping, Togetherness, Agreement.
Bloomingdales ChristmasNow let’s consider who is out there strategizing for a GREEN Christmas: MasterCard wants to be your master. Discover card doesn’t want us to discover how much we spent until the bill comes in January. American Excess…..you get the picture. PayPal is only your pal when you pay. Target is targeting you! Best Buy wants what is best for them. Amazon wants to sell you down the river. And the Apple Store…well, re-read Genesis chapter 3.Lure
The bible warns us how the world lures us in:
the lust of the flesh: This will feel good, or taste good…
the lust of the eyes: I didn’t want it until I saw it. Now I can’t stop thinking about it…
and the pride of life: I’ll be the first to have the newest version. I’ll be the envy of all my friends. 1 John 2:16.
All the displays and mood lighting are not there for your convenience.
As husbands and wives we need each other more than ever during the holiday season, to remind each other what Christmas is really about, so we won’t get caught up in the local mall’s definition.
GrinchSo at the risk of sounding too much like the Grinch, I’m going to recommend we take a piece of advice from Santa, the jolly old elf himself. Make a list and check it twice. For those who don’t speak the language, that’s North Polish for “Make a Christmas Budget”. And do this together before you go out shopping. Some people write their list on an envelope with three columns: Name, Amount, What to buy. If you put the cash inside the envelope, at least you’ll know when you are out of money.
A word about surprises
The commercial said, “There is no substitute for that look on her face when she opens the box and sees it sparkle for the very first time.” What it doesn’t say is, “That is the look of sheer terror wondering “How are we going to pay for this?” We all love surprises when there are no strings attached. But husbands and wives should decide together on their Christmas spending, especially if you are going to purchase any big ticket items.
You may consider doing what we do. For Christmas we give each other a token gift costing no more than $20.00. Then after Christmas, if there is something our spouse really wants, we can buy it at the After-Christmas-Sale for about a third of the price.
Ancient Word NOThe Ancient Word
There is a word that has fallen out of use. It is not politically correct and consequently is no longer taught in schools. Parents have forgotten it and children have not heard it commonly used. The word is NO. It is a word that, at one time, had a very important purpose. It is a word we are supposed to tell our flesh when it wants something that is not in our best interest. We are supposed to use it when our eyes deceive us or we are about to make an unwise choice for the sake of pride. It keeps us from heading back to the punch bowl or from giving too much attention to someone else’s wife. No is a word that needs to find its way back into our vocabulary as a possible option. It could keep us out of big trouble this Christmas.
No Regrets
December 26th can be a day filled with peace or a day full of regret . Many couples have experienced both, but it’s unanimous, we all prefer peace. So before we get carried away in the herd of lemmings, let’s decide with our spouse that this will be the Christmas that Communication, Unity, Like-mindedness, Consensus, Sharing, Helping, Togetherness, and Agreement will determine the color of our Christmas.Christmas Star