House sign

I really like religious accessories. I love going into religious stores of all sorts and looking at the stuff that goes along with various traditions. I’m also amazed by how much of this stuff is available online.

I was considering buying a mezuzah. While I’m not Jewish, I like the idea of a symbol that is a reminder of our shared commitment to serving God. I have found the prayers used for putting it up and all the specifics for how to do it.

So then I started to look around. The simplest place is online, and I discovered that Amazon has several mezuzah cases. Some are quite simple. Some are quite expensive. While looking I found one that specified it was a Messianic Jewish mezuzah. I kind of liked that idea. I don’t want to give the wrong impression to people, and this seemed like a happy medium.

But then I didn’t really like the symbol. There is a menorah, a Star of David, and a fish, all joined together. I liked that, but because the orientation the fish is upside down and at the bottom I wasn’t hot on it. For me, all the symbols have to be equal and can’t “read” as lesser or greater than.

So this was a drawback. Then I thought about the scroll on the inside. It is known as a “klaf” and it has to be done in a certain way and by a specially trained person to be kosher. I figured that even if I’m not Jewish, if I’m going to use a Jewish religious item I should do it correctly. I wondered how I was going to get a scroll. Turns out Amazon has those too. Who knew?

But then I started thinking a little bit more about this. The words will be sealed up inside this case. Even if they weren’t, I couldn’t read them, or at least not yet, because they are in Hebrew.

For the same reason that the Catholic mass is no longer done in Latin but is instead in the language of the land, I should get something in English, and have it visible. Hiding it away doesn’t make any sense for my purposes and actually goes against my philosophy.

So then I switched gears again. Then I started looking for a plaque that said what I wanted, and I could mount it at the door. The simplest thing is something that says “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (from Joshua 24:15) Yes, Amazon has those too, in a variety of fonts and finishes.

And then I stopped.

This is someone who has realized that you don’t need to have a priest to have Communion. It doesn’t have to be blessed by a specially trained or consecrated person. None of the disciples were ordained. None of them had a master’s degree from a seminary. I suspect that many of them were illiterate. Jesus came to take the power away from the authorities and gave it away freely to everybody. Jesus didn’t come to create an exclusive club. Jesus says to everybody “You’re in” and he throws open the doors to the party, much to the consternation of the powers that be.

Not only do you not need a priest to consecrate it, you don’t have to have any special supplies. You can celebrate it with the bread and wine you have on hand, or crackers and grape juice for that matter. It isn’t the symbol that matters. It is what it points to. If you realize this you’ve unlocked a door.

So I don’t need to buy a sign saying “As for my house, we will serve the Lord.” I could make my own.

Sometimes it takes me a while to come all the way around back to myself. Sometimes I get distracted by things. Sometimes the things become more important than what they represent.

Walking to Nashville

A lady came up to me at work a few days ago and said “I’m walking. How do I get downtown?” She was middle aged and looked healthy in mind and body. This was around 6 pm.

Now, you need to understand that downtown Nashville is about twenty minutes away, by car, from where we were.

I said that was going to take her hours. She said it didn’t matter, she had to get to work in the morning and she didn’t have any money for a taxi and she didn’t understand the bus routes. She again asked for directions on how to walk to downtown Nashville.

I was torn, a little. Should I give her money? She didn’t ask for it. She looked like she was in her right mind, even though I didn’t think she was acting like it.

So I gave her directions. If you walk north to the main road and go left it is a straight shot to downtown. It is how I go, but I drive. The freeway traffic in Nashville is terrible. I hope to never walk to downtown, but if I had to I’d go this way.

This all raised more questions.

Why doesn’t she have a car?
Why doesn’t she have any money?
Where are friends she could call for a ride?
Where is she going to sleep – or is she?
How did she get here to start off with?
How did she get to be my age and be in such a situation?

But then again, I think I was more concerned about her than she was. I felt that this was a bad situation, but one brought about by bad choices. She seemed rather matter of fact about it, blasé even. I got the impression that this was her normal.

While I wanted to rescue her by giving her money for a cab, I got the impression didn’t feel like she needed to be rescued. And I knew deep down that if I bailed her out this time, it wouldn’t prevent the next time. If she hasn’t learned how to plan ahead by now it is highly unlikely that she is going to any time soon.

I wonder if she made it to where she was going. I wonder if she knew what to do when she got there.

I gave her the help she asked for, and secretly I was relieved that she didn’t ask for money. I’m always wary of panhandlers. I never know if they are going to spend the money I give them on what they asked for. I don’t want to aid and abet an addiction.

I wanted to save her from what I saw as bad choices. If I’m being honest, I wanted her to be me. I wanted her to be independent and self sufficient. But if I’m digging even further and being really honest I have to admit that she already was, she just wasn’t in a way that I recognized and approved of.

Money, cash, and addiction

I’m really getting into this idea of saving money by using cash. It has only been two weeks into this experiment and the results are pretty amazing.

Before, I’d really get a rise out of spending money. Now I’m getting excited about not spending it.

When I first started I felt like I should carry my whole week’s allowance with me. I thought I might need money on hand, more than I normally did. You know, just in case I had to buy something. Like there would be a random need to buy, like an itch that needed to be scratched.

It is weird. I realize now that money was like a drug for me. I got a high out of using it. I started to get nervous if I didn’t have enough on me.

Now, I hadn’t gone totally cash free in all these years. I normally carried some cash on me even when I used credit cards all the time. It made me feel better to have it. Every now and then the credit card machine wasn’t working. Some places don’t take cards at all. Sometimes it was faster to pay in cash. Sometimes there would be a collection being taken up at work for a gift for a coworker who was leaving or having a baby or both. It is better to tip in cash.

I was always grateful to have it when I needed it. I just didn’t get that I’d be better off using it.

Now I carry a credit card as the backup instead of the default. I’m not quite comfortable going without it yet. Last week I needed it because I went to the dentist for a filling. I’d forgotten that dental insurance isn’t like medical insurance. The bill I got upon leaving was a lot bigger than my usual twenty dollar co-pay. Even with that, I still spent less than I had been spending when I used the credit card all the time.

I don’t know how I’ve been doing it. For the past few years I was spending $300 to $500 a week on my credit card. I paid it off every week. This is a lot of money, especially for a government employee. We get paid in benefits, not in actual money. I didn’t get toys. I bought things that were needed, or so I thought.

The first week I pulled out $300 in cash. I overspent by $40 because of the dentist. So still, pretty good. Far better than $500. This week I pulled out $200 and I’ve only spent half of that. This includes buying groceries. A lot of my money was going to eating out. Now that I’m cooking fresh food I’m not only eating better I’m saving money.

I’d not planned on this additional part to my New Year’s resolution, but I’ll take it.