I can almost remember the very week, when I was little, that Dad made the incredible announcement that he was raising our allowance from 10 cents weekly to a entire quarter dollar! I never felt so rich in all my life. Just imagine receiving an entire $12.00 per year as my rightful portion of the Cross estate! And I never bothered to even think about the need to pay taxes – it was just allowance of 25 cents every Friday.
My next big change in understanding money came with my first real job, after babysitting for 50 cents/hour. I worked as the flower delivery guy for Baseview Floral, when we lived at Grand Forks AFB. Actually, the flower shop is gone now, but back then, it was a strong business. I would load up the flowers in the back of the van, secure in a big low box with ropes running in all four directions, so it would hold the vases up and keep the giant mums from exploding if they hit the floor of the van. I also swept the floor, and even dusted the other tempting merchandise around the store. I even graduated to the level of being able to unload the giant caskets full of roses, carnations and baby’s breath, and then even cut the ends of the flowers and plunging them into big vases filled with water, waiting to be placed in the cooler. Boy, did that place smell great, all the time. For that menial work, I made $1.50/hour, and felt like I was a king. I felt a little less so, when I would receive my paycheck, and at the end of two weeks, working about 23 hours/week, I would make $69, and then found out that the sinister powers of government felt as though they had the right to subtract from my hard-earned money, a sum that included income tax and social security tax. Still, even with a bit less than $50, I had nothing and no one to spend it on, so I felt pretty rich.
Fast forward again to college, where besides taking 18 hours of credit, I worked across town at the hardware store nights and Saturdays, and also live in my student loan of about $1000/semester. Of course, out of all that money, I had to pay tuition, fees and stuff, and pay rent on a shared apartment, and buy food to live on. At 17 years old, it amazed me that I was making more money than I ever had in my life, and I was poorer than when I got 25 cents per week. I remember one time, in between paychecks and after having paid out my rent, that I calculated I had $1.69 to last me for four days. Macaroni, tomato sauce and minced onions became my food for two, and sometimes only one meal per day. Ah, college life – what a dream.
Then, when I had a real job as a new pastor, married and supporting my lovely wife, we also learned to love macaroni and tomato sauce more nights than not. Then when two babies came along, and the salary was a little better, I was still surprised when our income barely matched our outgo. When I was appointed to a three-church charge in small town North Dakota, one of the best parts, I’m sad to say, came about in the fact that I was the only protestant pastor in a large number of miles (the Missouri Synod pastor didn’t count), and so whenever there was a death in the area, or a relative of someone who lived there, and wanted to be buried back at the home cemetery, I was called on care for the families in their times of need, for which I usually received a $50 honorarium. It was like manna from heaven! I remember one week when, in addition to leading the rest of the church activities, including three worship services across 45 miles on Sunday morning, I had four funerals. We were able to order and fill our fuel oil tank for the furnace at home for the winter. What a gift – anyone else want to die?
For the next forty years or so, our money situation rose and fell, with debts taken on, and debts paid off. The finest day came when we actually completely paid off our credit cards, which for years had served as a third income, after mine and Cheri’s, just to keep us where we needed to be in the financial world.
Then somehow, someway, after the boys were out of school, and we seemed to have most of what we needed or even wanted for living in our home, suddenly we had money! Not a lot – not a fortune by any means, but more than 25 cents per week. In fact, if you can believe it, in my wallet right now, I am carrying $169. In cash. That’s the equivalent of a month and a half of money when I was in college. How times change. Had I known I’d have this much, I would have retired years ago! Still, it’s this time of our lives, and we have learned how to also give money away where it is most needed. Do we have all that we want? No- of course not, but we have certainly more than we need, as we find ourselves spending far less than we ever did decades ago. In fact, some nights we even have macaroni and tomato sauce and minced onions, not because we can’t afford anything more, but really because we like the taste, and it’s fun to live simply.
I believe it’s an important and care-full activity to, from time to time, think back and consider from where we have come. It’s good to do that about our money, and our maturity, and our relationship with others and with God. Instead of sliding blindly or accidentally into our current life, when we intentionally take note of our beginnings, and the stories surrounding that time, and where we are today, it allows us, I believe, a chance to live more humbly and honestly, no matter what our financial or other state we find ourselves in. When we come to realize indeed how God has blessed us, and continues to sustain and hold us in the palm of that Holy Hand, one of the things we can find our selves giving away freely and fully – is our thanks to God, from Whom all blessings flow.
I invite you to remember, and to take account in your life today – perhaps you will be surprised, and as awestruck as I am for the many ways God has poured out Grace upon us. Have a blessed day!
Word for the day: velleity. Pronounced vuh-LEE-uh-tee. Actually, when you discover this word, you discover that some words are just plain sad. This comes from the Latin velle, which actually means “to wish, or will something.” However, as the word moved through the Middle Ages, it became a word that meant merely that: a wish. Some of the definitions you will find about this word are “volition of the weakest form,” “an indolent or inactive wish.” It’s even described as “the lowest degree of desire.” It’s as if someone would wish aloud, “I wish I had a million dollars,” or “I wish I could jump over that mountain.” The content, and the effort surrounding that wish is so weak, that it is hardly worth wishing for at all. It is a mere wish, unaccompanied by any effort to attain it. One of the more important things we can teach those who come after us, is to make a wish, but then apply all the effort you can to make that wish come true. That’s a wish that is worth wishing, instead of a mere velleity…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.