What Churches Do
It seems strange to be writing this. Partly because for me it is a way of life and obvious but I suppose that to those who do not attend a church it may not be. In the USA there are about 225,000 churches with attendances averaging between 20-75 per week.
Those churches help roughly 30 million people each year with food, clothing and shelter. They do this without asking questions and without any agenda in mind other than doing what the Bible says, which is to love thy neighbor as thyself.
That is 30 million people who get back on their feet without any government assistance. Most of them never say thank you after the fact and most churches could not tell you the names of anyone they helped after about a month. The churches I mention are the small ones. Their annual budget for everything is seldom above 50k per year (most are less than half that amount). The small churches are in buildings long past their prime (built in the 1950's and 1960's).
They can do the work they do because in most cases the communities they are in make an exception for churches when it comes to paying state, local, and property taxes.
Now I hear talk of removing those tax exceptions and forcing the churches to "pay their fair share." Let's see what that does to the typical small church with 4 property lots and a annual income of 30k.
Starting with school taxes 4 lots x 3,000 (avg property tax) = 12,000 lost to the church. The working capital for the church is now 18k per year.
City/county property taxes 4 lots x 310 (Texas state average) = 1,240 lost to the church. The working capital for the church is now 16.7k per year.
You do the math for the rest, for the typical small church the final results leave that church with the ability to help 3 people per year while paying taxes provided that the aid required is minor in nature. Just to be clear, before becoming a taxable entity the typical small church helps about 130 people per year. After becoming a taxable entity that same church can only help 3 people per year!
Last year the small churches helped 29 million people. Under a system which removes their tax free status they could only help 675 thousand which means all those taxes would end up hurting over 28.3 million people in the very first year that churches did not have a tax free status. It gets worse, in year two 50% of the small churches would be forced to either close their doors or merge with other small churches. In year three we would lose another 30-40% of the small churches so that the number of small churches would drop from 225 thousand to roughly 40 thousand. Many of those left would fold into "house churches" just to survive as a local group of believers and without any means of doing even a fraction of what they do now to support the community they are in.
The Barnes & Noble bungle!
The Barnes & Noble Bungle
I have always been a huge fan of the "brick and mortar" book stores. Being able to just walk around and see books and magazines in all kinds of genres is very cool. I find so many things that I now treasure but which I was not even looking for at the time I discovered them. That is the nature of the "brick and mortar" store and one that I don't think the "online stores" can ever match.
One thing that has always gotten my excitement level up are the "new releases" and the "Top 10 Best Seller" areas. I love going to those spots to see if my favorite authors have released/published anything new. The Internet helps there with author sites and "Top 100 lists" in the various genres that I love BUT Barnes & Noble is doing a couple of things now that could lose me as a customer!
The first thing they have started doing is pre selecting what they think should be the "Best Sellers" so not only am I not seeing what others are actually buying but now I am seeing only what Barnes and Noble thinks
I should buy! I see books listed as "best sellers" that are actually ranked in the bottom half of the "Top 500" and do not see books ranked in the "Top 10" so my choices are suddenly both skewed and limited based on what they think I should be buying. The last time I was there the saleslady told me they could order the book I was looking for and ship it to me for free (I have a B&N Membership card). This leads to bungle number two... If I order the book at their store I get a 10% discount on the retail listed price
and free shipping. If I order the book online I get a retail discount
which can equal a discount up to 50% and even with a $4.00 shipping charge that means that if I do not shop at Barnes & Noble I can save money.
The point of the "brick and mortar" store is the atmosphere and the idea that you can get what you want and take it with you. Barnes & Noble is acting like they are going out of business and if they keep on their current path that could very easily become a self fulfilling prophecy.
Pastor Rick's Supermarket Adventure!
Well let's just say I should leave the grocery shopping to my wife. The other day I decided to make a pot-roast for my Church's fellowship and figured "how hard can it be?" Put the pot roast in a huge pan, surround it by veggies and cook it... easy right?
So I went to the Tom Thumb Supermarket and started looking for the pot roast. Did you know the meat section is all the way in the back of the store? And they have that section divided into all sorts of things with cheese in the middle! So I have to look around and try and figure out where they hid the pot roast. I finally found it but do they have it labeled for us men? Of course not! They had 7-bone roast, Chuck roast, Chuck eye, Arm roast, Flat iron steak, Brisket AND Pot roast all scattered around in different sections almost a city block long! It took me almost a half hour to find two 3 pound cuts of meat and because I wasn't sure that was enough I always bought a nice package or "stew meat."
Next it was time to get the veggies. I was looking for packages that were pre-mixed so I would be able to get on with the cooking. I went all over this 50,000 square foot store three times looking for pot roast veggies &/or stew veggies... nada, zippo, zilch, Tom Thumb didn't have them!
So I then went to Wal-Mart and started looking, it took me about 40 minutes to find three packages of stew veggies (never did find "pot-roast veggies") and decided what the hey, at least I got something.
Now on to the cooking, what the hey are those pieces of paper stuck on the bottom of the meat? Is that supposed to be there? How does a 3 pound pot-roast take up the same space as a twenty pound turkey? Why does it take 10 HOURS to cook? I remember why I always buy chicken now.
The final test, the people at my Church loved the pot-roast but several mentioned that they had never seen it cooked with zucchini before (I thought those were cucumbers)!
Take it from me men, let the women do the shopping, they have wayyyy more experience at it!
Books a Million!
I have determined it is time to remodel my home office. I started cleaning the office about a month ago when my pet cat "Natoth" decided to go exploring and I would find books, diploma's and awards suddenly launching themselves to odd corners of the room!
this picture is symbolic
Now, after cleaning sorting and boxing things I can see all four corners of the office and have discovered my personal library is approaching the 5,000 book mark (seems like a million). My next step is to buy the shelving and cabinets to replace the hodgepodge collection of shelving I have collected over the last 25 years! My goal is to be finished before my birthday so I can take pictures.
Gypsies Tramps and Thieves (they be lying to us)
Listed below are speedtest.net reports initiated by me on my new ISP. This is the same site they use to verify things. Today, the service tech shows up at Noon which is the time my wife normally goes to bed. Like a good tramp act they are late. The guy comes in, disconnects my phone, then tells my wife he fixed it. Does anyone see any test result from 5-6PM GMT? I sure don't. The tech did a good gypsy routine in vanishing after being on-site for less than 30 minutes.
So I come in after a really rough day to discover my office phone disconnected and the problem is not resolved. I call tech support and the closing remarks made by the tech that assured my wife everything was fixed said the trouble was either the modem (the modem is brand new) or the phone jack at the wall. I have been paying inline insurance to cover both sides of the wall for over 12 years now! To acknowledge that that might be a issue without taking corrective steps is thievery! To lie about it to the customer is unthinkable to me but the techs own notes show that is exactly what they did!
IP_ADDRESS TEST_DATE TIME_ZONE DOWNLOAD_MEGABITS UPLOAD_MEGABITS LATENCY_MS SERVER_NAME DISTANCE_MILES
18.104.22.168 7/15/2013 12:26 AM GMT 0.36 0.75 52 Keller, TX 50
22.214.171.124 7/15/2013 12:27 AM GMT 0.3 0.74 40 Keller, TX 50
126.96.36.199 7/15/2013 12:31 AM GMT 0.07 0.75 49 Temple, TX 150
188.8.131.52 7/15/2013 12:37 AM GMT 0.6 0.74 40 Dallas, TX 50
184.108.40.206 7/15/2013 1:56 PM GMT 0.62 0.73 74 Fort Worth, TX 50
220.127.116.11 7/16/2013 1:19 AM GMT 0.36 0.74 42 Dallas, TX 50
18.104.22.168 7/16/2013 1:20 AM GMT 0.42 0.67 40 Dallas, TX 50
22.214.171.124 7/16/2013 1:21 AM GMT 0.24 0.74 40 Dallas, TX 50
126.96.36.199 7/16/2013 1:33 AM GMT 0.11 0.67 54 Keller, TX 50
I have a scheduled off day this Wednesday, if it isn't fixed before then I am driving over to their office. Perhaps they can explain or finally do what is right when confronted with a Pastor in full company executive mode. We shall see...