Two Important Tasks

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Credit: Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Last year I created an Excel spreadsheet for the purpose of planning a family budget for the next ten years. For this purpose, our immediate family is Terry and yours truly.

My thought is that someday I’ll probably want to retire from full time employment. Because I began working for pay from the time I was about 12 years old, and still do so today, fully retiring from gainful employment will be a big step in my life. I’m not ready yet. But it will happen someday.

Be that as it may, I believe it’s not only important but critical for individuals or couples approaching the end of their working career to take a close look at anticipated income and expenses to see how the two match up. So that’s what I did.

The expenses on our list include generous contributions for our home congregation and other favorite ministries and charities; home mortgage, including PITI; auto expenses, including payments, insurance, maintenance, and gasoline; utilities, including water, gas, electricity, cable TV, internet, and cell phones; health and life insurance premiums; groceries, occasional restaurant meals, clothing, and routine household expenses; family birthday and Christmas gifts; travel and vacation allowance; federal taxes; medical expenses; savings; unexpected and miscellaneous expenses.

The sources of income on our spreadsheet include salary, estimated to terminate at an approximate point in time; retirement plan/pension payments; social security checks; income from IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and annuities.

I planned for gradually increasing expenses with income adjusted by loss of current salary, followed by stable but slightly increasing revenues. As long as the difference between these two numbers is positive on the revenue side, we should be alright. That’s certainly the plan.

This process is closely related to estate planning myth #6: “No need to make a list of what I own. My family will be able to find it all.” Here’s the reality. This myth is the result of indifference, laziness, lack of care and concern for loved ones. It takes time and effort to create a budget and at least as much time and effort to make a list of assets and liabilities.

To assist in this process, we at Legacy Deo have created what we call the “Red Book.” It’s designed to help record in writing your assets and liabilities; account numbers and balances; contact information for each account, including address, phone, user name, and password; location of important legal and financial documents, etc. This is a very significant document!

Request your free electronic Red Book at mailto:info@legacydeo.org or call (512) 646-4909. You’ll be glad you did. And while you’re at it, get busy on that budget. Both are important tasks!

Rudeness or Kindness?

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Credit: rawpixel.com from Pexels

Have you noticed that in our world today, more than a few people are downright rude?

Examples of rudeness include people cutting in line, littering the highway, being consistently late for appointments, misusing handicapped parking spaces, driving slowly in the passing lane, using cell phones in movie theaters, and not teaching manners to their children.

Thankfully there are many examples of kindness: Serving at a homeless shelter, picking up litter on the street, giving a stranger a compliment, making dinner for a family in need, paying for a first responder’s meal at a restaurant, donating Christmas gifts to an orphanage, holding the door open for other people, and helping the elderly carry groceries to their car.

Last week on Facebook I saw the following piece about rudeness and kindness:

Being rude is easy. It does not take any effort and is a sign of weakness and insecurity.

Kindness shows great self-discipline and strong self-esteem.  

Being kind is not always easy when dealing with rude people.

Kindness is a sign of a person who has done a lot of personal work and has come to a great self-understanding and wisdom.

Choose to be kind over being right, and you’ll be right every time because kindness is a sign of strength.

These observations about rudeness and kindness prompted recollections of a few biblical references about the virtue of kindness:

  • Colossians 3:12: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  • Galatians 5:22-23: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  • Titus 3:4-5: When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

A suggestion: Use these simple reminders to avoid rudeness and motivate acts of kindness in your daily routine. You’ll be blessed. And so will the recipients of your words and actions.

54 Years Ago Today

On bended knee, with fairly certain hopes for an affirmative response, I invited Terry to be my wife. It was then, and still is today, called engagement. Ours took place exactly 54 years ago today, August 15, 1965. By now you know she said yes.

Part of the proposal was that we would move from Austin, Texas to Springfield, Illinois. That was the location of the Lutheran Seminary that would accept graduates from a secular university. That was me. Bachelor’s Degree. Texas A&M. Animal Science.

Terry has occasionally mused about the dual nature of the proposal, with a slight twinkle in her eye, wondering aloud what I would have done had she said yes to the first part and no to the second. I quietly and teasingly respond by saying, “I guess we’ll never know, will we?”

How could we have known what personal experiences, family events, vocational challenges, and career opportunities would come from that invitation and its acceptance more than half a century ago?

  • Eighteen different residential addresses.
  • Two children, one son-in-law, two grandchildren, all genuine blessings from God.
  • Seminary in Springfield and vicarage/internship in Charlotte.
  • Sixteen years of mission development and pastoral ministry.
  • Fourteen years of Christian estate planning and higher education development.
  • Nineteen years of regional and national church body presidency.
  • The passing of parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends.

Along the way, both of us have worked hard, individually and together, in the home, in the world, in the marketplace, in the community, in the church. We’ve done things we didn’t really know how to do. None would have succeeded without the grace of God.

Our family has brought and continues to bring great joy, laughter, fulfillment, and godly pride. Flavored with occasional seasons of uncertainty, anxiety, tears, and concern. Navigated with imperfection, faith, hope, trust, and love.

Our many, many friends have been and continue to be remarkable sources of encouragement, camaraderie, stimulation, and companionship. All of them are gifts.

Sin and imperfection have led to times of disappointment and pain, both from outside and also from within our church body. Yet by the grace of God, our faith has provided hope in times of despondence, comfort in times of sorrow, assurance in times of doubt, inspiration in times of discouragement.

These are merely a few highlights of more than half a century together, with lots more to tell. It all began 54 years ago today. With a heartfelt invitation. And a trusting, loving response.

Regrets? None. Would I do it all again? Absolutely. And I’m fairly certain Terry would still say yes.

Evil Grieves the Heart of God

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Credit: Tony Webster / Flickr

Last week brought two more incidents of “domestic terrorism” in Texas and Ohio. Most recent tallies indicate at least 32 dead and more than 50 wounded, all at the hands of two individuals with no apparent motives. Our hearts hurt each time this kind of news arrives.

As usual, pundits, politicians, and other people are quick to decry these dastardly deeds and to offer solutions that might provide a quick fix. Gun control, background checks, psychological or psychiatric help for people who flash signals of mental imbalance or leave a trail of racial hatred or indicate vengeful predisposition are the most frequently suggested remedies.

Each of those suggestions might be somewhat helpful. But none really gets to the heart of the matter. The bottom line is: It’s the heart that matters. “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Genesis 8:21 (ESV).

My father used to say that if you believe children are born without original sin, just put two toddlers in the same room, with only one toy, and shut the door.

The biblical quote above was spoken by God after he had sent the great flood, described in Gen. 6-9. It begins like this: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’” Gen. 6:5-7

The flood was caused by 40 days and 40 nights of constant, torrential rainfall. After a total of approximately 370 consecutive days on the ark, God created the rainbow as a visible sign of his covenant never again to destroy the earth by the waters of a flood. Gen. 9:8-17

Just before that covenant, “The LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. ’” Gen. 8:21

The bottom line is that nothing anyone does now or in the future will change the evil nature of man’s heart. Steps we take, guns we confiscate, laws we make, restrictions we place, speeches we hear … these and other decisions or actions might be somewhat helpful in minimizing the massive and rapid loss of life that occurs in a mass shooting. We should and must do whatever we can toward that goal.

Yet people with evil hearts will always find ways to do evil deeds. Not even the almost total destruction of mankind in the flood sent by God removed the evil from man’s heart.

So we teach our children and our children’s children that life is a precious gift of God. And we endeavor to teach others that truth as well. That won’t eradicate the evil in man’s heart. And it won’t totally stop mass shootings. But it might go a long way toward curbing the unbridled insanity that happens far too often. For evil still grieves the heart of God. And my heart as well.

Sold! Not Sold!

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Credit: Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Sold! That’s the word repeatedly spoken by the auctioneer this past Sunday at Camp Lone Star in LaGrange, Texas. The event was the annual camp celebration. Activities included Bible study, outdoor worship (with indoor video projection for those who don’t do well in 90+ degree heat), delicious BBQ beef and pork with homemade noodles, followed by live and silent auctions.

Terry and I were there, along with a few hundred other folks. Soon after the auction began I told Terry that Lutheran Outdoors Ministry of Texas would most likely be the beneficiary of the greatly improved U.S. economy. That prognostication turned out to be quite accurate.

This year, for the first time ever, I dutifully recorded the winning dollar amount for each of the 116 items presented for bid. Only 115 items were actually sold. More about that later.

Monday morning I tallied the winning bids, which amounted to an actual total, if I recorded all those numbers correctly, of $52,080! That amount does not include the silent auction, worship offering, and other contributions. God be praised!

Not Sold! That’s what the auctioneer said about the only item that did not successfully solicit even an opening minimum bid. It was an estate planning program, valued at $800. No one offered the initial amount suggested by the auctioneer. When that suggested amount was lowered from $500 to $200, there still were no bidders.

Finally, the auctioneer simply instructed the camp staff assistants to pull that item off the bid list. It was simply not sold. No one was interested.

Intrigued, I pondered the fact that bidders had spent a total of $3,200 for four 15-packs of delicious homemade cinnamon rolls, $3,100 for a quilt and pillow case, $4,000 for a painting of Jesus (a priceless possession), $4,500 for a softball signed by camp staffers, and $1,000 for a wine basket. But nobody was interested in the estate planning package.

So I come to you with the fifth of seven estate planning myths: “Charitable estate planning advisors only want me to include the church in my plan, not my family.” I have no idea if that myth contributed to the lack of interest in the auction package, but it is certainly not true.

The Bible says: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim. 5:8

Legacy Deo exists to help folks like you make plans to provide for your loved ones and, if you so choose, for your favorite charitable causes. We’re pleased to make available to you our electronic Wills Planning Guide. Request it at mailto:info@legacydeo.org or call (512) 646-4909.

Not sold! It’s free!