Save, Save, Save

samanthakrieger.com

376-savings-jarI was in conversation with a girl my age this weekend about finances and the economy (as it seems to be the hotbutton of late!). I shared with her some of the research I had been doing about where certain people think we’re headed as a nation. I proceeded to say how much my family and I are really trying to save, save, save.

She looked at me in disgust: “Save? I’m not saving. I work hard. I’m going to spend what I want, when I want. As long as I’m being responsible, I’ll be fine. Who needs a savings account?”

Her expression and gestures kind of made me laugh under my breath. She didn’t care at all about what was going on in our economy. I am wondering if she’s even watching the news. But then I began to think more about her response and the fact I have had the same attitude before. In fact, growing up with a father who was extremely successful and not having to worry about finances, early on in our marriage I would spend like I was still under my dad’s roof. It was scary. My credit card proved it. So in essence I lived out her words in some way, shape or form.

But now things have changed. My whole mindset is radically different. While I’m still far from perfect, I really value saving more and spending less. Last year around this time, we were about $40,000 in debt. Thanks to the help of Dave Ramsey, we’re now $10,000 in debt with just a small student loan left and Jeremiah’s car. We’re so thankful that our mindset and behavior has changed. I know we can all admit as Americans that we love living above our means. I mean, who doesn’t love it? But the  better way is to be wise and to be content with what we have. I wish it was easier done than said.

Wasteful Time Online

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Last weekend, we had our CARES core team over for a brunch. Jeremiah and I get the privilege of serving alongside friends who share in the same vision we have to bring the love and hope of Christ to our community. Our core team helps us set up for our resident events. They clean, cook, and engage in meaningful conversations with our residents. They truly make our ministry what it is.

Joe faithfully serves alongside us. He’s a bachelor, has a cushiony job, a well-decorated apartment, and comes from a good family. Around the table, we got on a conversation about the internet in our culture today- how we live and breathe technology.

Joe chimed in unexpectedly, “I just did away with internet completely.”

We all gave him the look.

“I just didn’t want the temptation to even be in my presence.”

I knew exactly what he meant. Pornography. It’s always there. Just one click of a button. Well, Joe proceeded on and said that he didn’t want that kind of temptation being a single guy and living alone, but also the temptation of wasteful time. He also said he’s the kind of guy that can’t get on Facebook for just a few minutes. He’ll be on there for hours and hours and never know it. He said because he’s done away with the internet, he has so much more time. He can still check what he needs to online at times, but when he’s at home, it’s not a choice.

I know I have the tendency to be addicted to checking email, facebook messages, or whatever else, but lately I’ve been overwhelmed by it. I can’t get to everyone’s requests and I can’t answer everyone’s questions. Having a newborn son, however, often makes it easier not to. But I decided a few days ago to challenge myself with a goal I think is attainable: After the days I’m at work, when I’m at home, I’m not going to spend any more than one hour online. The same goes with the days I’m home with John. The rest of my time will be spent offline enjoying the relationships God has given me. We’ll see how it all goes.

After I decided what I would do, the next day  I was on Anne Jackson’s blog, who is a renowned blogger who I’ve been in communication with some at work. And she is actually doing a technology fast. She isn’t blogging until Easter and she’s turned off her comments (for various reasons). After seeing her commitment, I didn’t think I was so crazy after all!

So, I want to challenge you. What is a goal you think you could have when it comes to your technology habits? What things could you replace with online time?

America becoming an undeveloped nation?

celente

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I was doing some research today and ran across some startling info. I don’t know what to take of it yet. Gerald Celente–who I’ve never heard of before today– is the CEO of Trends Research Institute. He’s renowned  for his accuracy in predicting future world and economic events. He accurately predicted the 1987 Stock market crash, the Fall of the Soviet Union, the 1997 Asian currency collapse, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and what’s happening right now in our economy. His track record is at trendsresearch.com.

Well, Celente is now forecasting revolution in America, food riots and tax rebellions – all within four years, cautioning that putting food on the table will be a more pressing concern than buying Christmas gifts by 2012.

According to his recent Fox News interview called “Predicting Obama’s Impact” (posted on YouTube on Nov. 10, 2008), by 2012 America will have become an undeveloped nation. There will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and holidays will be more about obtaining food than gifts.

This all just seems too crazy! Doesn’t it? For some reason something in my heart tells me I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened though. I’m not at all saying I believe this guy. I’m really cautious of wacky people who try and predict the future but Celente has made his life following trends. He knows and understands history. His track record is insane.

Regardless if we think he is on to something or not, I really think all the more that it’s time for America to wake up and begin seeing what’s at stake. Is the media blowing a lot of this up or are we in denial as to what America’s future could  look like? Right now, I am trying to ask myself what changes I can make financially on a day to day basis to better prepare for the future. For our family, since we’re just about debt-free, it means saving, saving, saving. And of course praying nothing like this would happen, but still preparing for a potential rainy day. Would love to hear your thoughts.

My Dad’s Surgery Approaching

In my first year of seminary, I was taking a break from classes to visit my parents at our lakehouse in VA. That weekend, my dad came down with an awful sickness. He was throwing up, felt dizzy, couldn’t see or barely walk. He was looked at by a doctor in the small town our lakehouse was in. The doctor didn’t have much to say. He and my mom decided to travel to Lynchburg where my school was for a second opinion. I was standing in our kitchen when I heard the news. My mom called me to say that dad either had an aneurysm or a brain tumor. They would know soon. She sounded anxious and a bit fearful. I knew it was serious especially in the way she relayed everything.

At that moment, I broke down into tears and was tempted to call all my friends and spill the news. Instead I set the phone down and headed over to our big comfy chair that overlooked the peaceful water. I grabbed a pen, my journal, and Bible and spilled all my fears and frustrations out on the pages. In that time, I felt God’s peace and presence like never before. Several hours later, I heard the news that thankfully dad had a brain tumor and not an aneurysm and would be operated on soon. I packed my bags for the hospital.

My family camped out in the hospital for several days praying for dad and awaiting his return out of surgery. I was joyfully overwhelmed by all the calls and emails we received from friends and the seminary faculty praying for my dad. Through it all, he made it out and recovered well- even though it was tough.

Fast-forward five years later and we are in the same place again. Dad’s tumor has returned and he’ll be operated on tomorrow at 11AM at Baylor University Medical Center here in Dallas.  Many thoughts and emotions run through my mind right now. Why must he do this all over again? Why the pain again? Will the doctor do his job correctly? How will his recovery be?

Yet through it all, like what I learned in the chair at our lakehouse– God is sovereign over everything and he cares deeply for me and my family. Despite everything, He’s in control. He is with my dad and knows all the circumstances. So the question remains: Will I trust him again?

May my dad rest in your care tonight as he prepares for this surgery tomorrow God. Comfort his heart and may your glory be made known all the more. Calm his spirit as I know he is nervous. In your awesome name. Amen.

My Son & My Selfishness

n55713931_5260Life with a child… there’s simply nothing in the world like it. It’s pretty wild the influence our culture has had on me  when it comes to having children: they’re too much work, they’ll ruin your fun, you won’t be able to do anything anymore, you’ll become older faster, your career will be over, they’ll be a burden to you and others… the list goes on.

While children are certainly hard work it is the best hard work I’ve ever done. I’m only four months into it all, but I feel like I can say that getting up multiple times at night, nursing non-stop around the clock, changing 25 diapers a day, washing spit up out of my hair and clothes, taking multiple trips to the doctor, and putting whatever need John has before my own has been worth all the sweat and tears. He has been everything but a burden. He’s been a beautiful addition to this union of marriage.

img_8684Most of all, my son is teaching me to be Self-less which is something I think our world doesn’t want. It’s hard to give up self. It’s painful sometimes to put someone else’s needs before our own. Sometimes I just want things my way, when I want them. And don’t tell me anything different. But God calls me  to deny my self. He calls me to higher living because life’s more abundant when I’m not looking into mirrors all day. 

My friend Bethany’s mom would always tell her, “Marriage strips away one layer of selflishness and having children strips away the rest.” I couldn’t agree more.img_8680

Rethinking Bethlehem & Redemption

bethlehemOne of the most amazing things about my job is being able to hear and reflect upon solid teaching from our video shoots before I write. I’ve been writing the discussion guides for our Bluefish TV 2009 Small Group Kit that releases soon. Some of our teachers/pastors in the kit include Erwin McManus, Todd Phillips, Mark Batterson, David Nasser, and more. Right now, I’m working on the Christmas small group series called “A Savior is Born: Experience the Wonder of the First Christmas” with Pete Briscoe- the Senior Pastor at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship.

Let me tell you… this series is beautifully taught. Pete’s teaching has helped me to better reflect on why God chose certain details in bringing his son into the world. For instance, Shepherds. They were the poorest of the poor in that time. Considered ceremonial unclean. Not allowed to worship in the temples because they worked with animals (who were unclean). So why did God choose to bring the good news that a Savior was born to them first? He could have chosen the chief priests or the elders. Well, God always exalts the humble and they were watching for Him.

Bethlehem? The town wasn’t anything special. But it was great in the eyes of God. A manger? No newborn infant at that time would have been placed in a feeding trough. Why wasn’t he born in a palace? Why didn’t he come in apparent glory like many expected? 

And Mary? She was a simple human touched by divine power. People try to exalt her today above God but what made her extraordinary was the Spirit coming upon her. His grace and favor was on her, but not because of anything amazing she did. He chose her to bring His glory.

I’m so perplexed that God came into the world as a humble servant- for me. For us. He chose lowly Bethlehem and took upon a criminal’s death on a horrific cross to save me from my sin and to heal my brokenness. Why did he do it? Because of His relentless love, grace, and redemption for all mankind. There’s no condemnation here. There’s no pomp and circumstance. 

If that doesn’t cause me to sing, I don’t think anything else will.

Community for the Soul

walk_with_flowersYesterday our best friends, Jay and Julia came over for a surprise visit. They brought John a Valentine’s gift- two really cute t-shirts for his little body. Julia and I catched up on life and the guys talked about finances and you know, guy stuff. Our relationship with them is so wonderful because we both get along so well as a couple and separately: me and Julia and Jeremiah and Jay. Through them and our community group at Watermark, we’ve learned so much about authentic community.

Being in real community where struggles are revealed, sin issues, hurts, habits, hang-ups and the like is a real rarity in our culture today and especially in the church. We’ve become more isolated. I think the Baptist church I went to as a teen meant well, but there were some issues when it came to being honest. I don’t remember feeling the freedom as a teen to share my problems for fear of rejection. That kind of fear is a tragedy in the church because real healing comes from being real and not pretending to have it all together.

What I also love about authentic community is that friendships are taken to a deeper level and accountability becomes a must. The meaning of unconditional love really becomes reality as well. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, you’re loved regardless and you’re spurred on by someone else who really cares.

When Jay and Julia left, Julia texted me and said “So good to see you. Those visits are SO good for the soul.” I couldn’t agree more.

So how has being in community been good for your soul?

He’s got the Whole World in His Hands

blueThis past weekend wasn’t typical that’s for sure. Saturday morning at approximately 2 AM, we heard gun shots that woke us up out of bed. Yeah, not the exact thing you want to hear at 2 AM. Half way asleep, I just kept thinking: Is that really what I think I’m hearing? Jeremiah is much better than I am in stressful situations. He had heard the shots before I did. He then called 911 and explained the situation. The dispatcher said she’d already received calls about it and they were taking care of it. Oh well that’s good, I thought. Meanwhile my heart is still beating a million times a minute. So is Jeremiah’s. We went across our apartment to check on John and he was fast asleep. I couldn’t believe what was happening. 

Believe it or not, we live in a very nice area. Our apartment complex is very nice. Three-story luxurious town homes and midrises are right beside us. The problem with Dallas is that right around the block from a nice area can be a really bad part. It’s a very transitional city. Unlike any I’ve lived in. I’ve been reflecting on the past two days about God’s sovereignty in my life. It’s crazy to think how there’s never a moment in time when He is not in control. I’ve heard it said once that you’re indestructible until God calls you home. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the mission field in the Middle East in the hot spot of war and danger or serving God right here in America… God is still in control. He knows when my time is up. My days have been numbered. He is protecting my family and nothing happens in my life in which he isn’t sovereign over.

I’m not really sure what gun shots mean in the start of 2009. Hopefully nothing but a wake-up call to pursue things that matter most in life more. We don’t even know what really happened yet that morning. But I do know that I trust in an all-powerful God who cares deeply for my needs, for what concerns me, for the fears and frustrations that fill my mind. He is watching over my son too just as Jeremiah and I attempt to do our best in protecting him. I definitely don’t understand all of God’s mysterious ways but I can definitely trust that His ways are higher and his thoughts are not my thoughts. His heart breaks because of the evil in our world. I can lay my head down at night, a little more comforted, knowing that He’s got the whole world in His hands.

I just now found out that my husband blogged about this too on his Old Testament online journal for DTS

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Luke 12:17

I am Second

cornFor several months, I had seen billboards for I AM SECOND here in Dallas and never knew what it was. A few weeks ago, my pastor Todd did a message on prayer and showed a powerful video of a woman sharing her story of the hardships she faced growing up, living on the streets, and eventually giving herself to prostitution. Our whole church was really moved by her story and at the end of the video, we found out that Karen was a part of I am Second. Not only that, Todd had invited her to be a part of our service. She talked with us about prayer and giving her life to Christ. It was really awesome to have Karen there.

Countless real-life stories fill the site of I am Second. There are people like Brian Welch formerly from Korn, Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys), Joe Gibbs, Stephen Baldwin, Jason Castro (I just love the way his story was done) and more. It’s truly incredible to hear their stories and how God intervened in their life and how he wants to do the same in ours. His grace is for everyone to accept no matter where we’ve come from or what we’ve done. That’s exactly why Christ came- to free us from sin that ultimately chains us to bondage. Condemnation wasn’t the reason he came, but because of his love and grace alone towards all people. This is a message the world desperately needs to hear. I truly hate how this message has been distorted by “religion” and false teaching. It has clouded the truth that Christ will do everything it takes for us to know him and be set free from sin. He has no concern for religion but for a relationship. This reality has invaded my life and I can’t help but speak about it too.

Truth on a Starbucks Sleeve

coffeeIt’s wet, cold, and rainy here in Dallas. I’m off work today as well due to a severe case of strep throat. Before my husband left to workout with his friend Jay, I hinted that I would love a warm cup of Starbucks. A few hours later he came in the door with one. I was so happy he remembered! While sipping on my white chocolate mocha, I noticed the writing on the sleeve advertising their new Tea Time drinks. It read ‘Your next “action item”: Do as Little As Possible.’ 

I just loved reading this simply because that is what I’m trying to do in my life. I don’t know if you struggle as much as I do with that “to-do list”. I have things to get done and when they don’t get done, I get frustrated. And sometimes my mood is determined by what hasn’t been done. I don’t focus on what has been done. As Americans I think we also characterize success by what we “do.” But I think we can be successful and still do only a little. Little in the fact that we’ve come to understand priorities, moderation, and balance in day to day life. Not being so overcommitted or stressing ourselves out to the point of physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion. Maybe it even comes down to not being so hard on ourselves to be all things to all people.

I saw this lived out on my trips to Argentina, Guatemala, and Africa. Tea time and siestas was a daily thing. They lived simple lives, they loved well, and were relationally driven. They probably have less heart attacks than we do. 

Success in the simple really is attainable. I’m striving hard for it. Do you think living a simple life is possible in our culture today?

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