Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Doing Virtuous Business by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch

I received a copy of "Doing Virtuous Business" by Theordore Roosevelt Malloch from the Book Sneeze program in exchange for my honest review. I was expecting more of a "how-to" conduct one's business affairs justly, something more along the lines of "Business by the Book". However, while "Doing Virtuous Business" does provide some practical examples and a practical list of virtues to employ, it is more of a philosophical treatise about capitalism and ethics. Malloch explores the effects of religious beliefs of many different kinds on how an individual or a corporation operates. Since I am a Christian, it is his view of Christianity that interests me most.

In some senses, I think it is dangerous to link being a Christian to any one system of economics or politics. After all, the follower of Jesus lives by the values of God's kingdom and His righteousness, and God's principles and values are greatly different than any system based on worldly wisdom. The true Christian strives to be radically righteous, radically just, radically generous, and radically loving no matter what economic or political system he or she is placed in. Malloch lists virtues that not only build economic capital but spiritual capital, as well. These virtues, so far as they are Christ-like virtues, should be found in every believer in any economic circumstance.

However, there is not doubt that democracy and capitalism do provide unique opportunities and freedoms that can be used for great good. I am impressed that Malloch realises that mankind not only has a moral dimension, but a spiritual dimension, as well. Suppressing the spiritual dimension through economics, politics, or academics is never good for a country and its people. Encouraging the spiritual dimension to flourish blesses a nation.

Since I don't often read economic theory of any kind, reading Malloch's theories and also the examples of virtuous businesses that he describes is mind-stretching for me. I haven't decided yet what I think of some of Malloch's ideas, but I find it worthwhile to consider them. I am grateful to be in a democratic republic, as well as in a capitalist system, because I do enjoy freedom and the chance to use my talents in creative, profitable, ethical, and spiritual ways. I pray that our government and economy strengthen. I like the idea that in a capitalist society you can create material and spiritual capital. This is because it is an open and creative system of economy, as opposed to the closed systems of communism and socialism. However, should God, in His Sovereignty, move our country's system in another direction, I pray that He would show me ways to be Christlike in whatever that turns out to be.

Book Review: Here burns my Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

I was given a free review copy of "Here Burns My Candle" by Liz Curtis Higgs. I was intrigued by the historical setting in Jacobite Scotland, as I, myself, have Scots ancestry. I also saw that this book is supposed to be a re-telling of the first part of the book of Ruth. The book's setting and theme had a lot of potential, I thought, and I looked forward to reading it. I do enjoy historical fiction and some historical romance.

I didn't feel that this book lived up to its promise. The relationships drawn between the three women and the two brothers seemed shallow compared to the relationships in the real book of Ruth. I realise that the author didn't mean this to be a verbatim re-telling and meant only to build on the basic idea. However, I thought that she blew a chance to give us more depth to her characters.

Also, a large sub-theme is the infidelity of the main character's husband. While this is a subject that people do deal with and could easily be analysed in Christian fiction, it seemed out of place in this particular story. It seemed as if it were thrown in for maudlin effect, rather than being a sub-plot that actually moved the story line or gave the story any depth.

When reading Christian fiction, I like to be inspired by the faith of the characters -- or at least that of the main character. Unfortunately, I didn't find much inspiration in theses pages.

On a more positive note, I thought it was clever that the main character began as a pagan, as Ruth surely would have been a pagan until influenced by her Jewish husband and parents-in-law -- her mother-in-law, Naomi, in particular. Whether someone would have actually been involved in pagan worship at that period of time in Scotland, I don't know. I imagine that the greater conflict would have been between Catholic loyalties and Protestant ones.

While Naomi in the book of Ruth had her faults, she was a godly influence on her daughters-in-law. The mother-in-law figure in the book doesn't seem as much of a godly influence on her family. Her faith seems more ritualistic and nominal. She is not close enough to her daughter-in-law to be aware of the struggles in her marriage or of her lack of knowledge of the Bible.

Others may like "Here Burns my Candle," but it wasn't my cup of tea.


Friday, May 06, 2011

30 days of Smart Money Choices -- Weddings

According to The Wedding Report, the average cost of an American wedding increased 22.9% in 2010, from $19,581 (2009) to $24,066. This is actually conservative compared to other articles I've read. Yet, many families I know have organised lovely weddings for a fraction of this cost.

When it comes to getting married, taking a honeymoon, and establishing that first place a couple will live, these things are an opportunity to spend money according to priorities. One couple might place a high priority on the wedding ceremony, while another may put more into the honeymoon, and still another save for future married life. One bride may place a high priority on the wedding dress, while another is more concerned about the cake and flowers. Deciding what a couple's priorities are requires a lot of communication between the bride and groom, as well as between the bride and her family and the groom and his. Deciding how to fit those priorities into the actual budget for the wedding requires communication, as well.

The bride, especially, will need to know what her wedding budget is and where she wants to place her funds. Knowing when to splurge and when to save can save a lot of headaches.

Of course, a wedding is generally one of the most special occasions in a family's life. Because weddings are so joyful, the Bible uses wedding imagery to help us understand something of what the wonders of heaven are like. However, young couples, especially the brides, should remember that after the wedding comes the marriage. After years of wedded bliss, some of the things that seem so important to you when planning your wedding will not be the things you happily remember of your wedding day. It's not necessary to spend lavishly on the wedding ceremony or honeymoon in order to celebrate the beginning of a wonderful, life long relationship. Many a happy marriage began with the simplest of weddings.

Not only should you think about your financial wedding budget, you should also think about your time budget, as well. Too many brides exhaust themselves trying to have the perfect wedding. (There is no such thing!) Some brides like this begin their married life in a state of nervous exhaustion instead of peaceful joy. Better to err on the side of simplicity and be freer to enjoy your wedding and first days of your marriage than to be consumed with details that drive you and your family and your beloved groom to distraction. It all depends on what you can personally manage. Tame the Bridezilla within you!

Today, many people wait until they are somewhat older to get married. Weddings between two people who have worked and have savings to add to the contribution of the brides parents are often featured in bridal magazines and other media. Couples who marry at younger ages and who have not each worked for very long will have smaller budgets and will be more dependent on the parents' budget. They will do well to remember that they do not have to compete with media images of the perfect wedding.

In fact, a couple should avoid comparing their wedding to that of any other couple. It is their special day. The important thing is that they are establishing a life together, not that they live up to someone else's special day. A couple who begins their marriage with contentment, faith, and joy will have a lovely day no matter what.

Here are seven tips for arranging a wedding within a budget:

1) Thirty years after my wedding day, I still have my wedding gown and intend to keep it unless someone should ever want to be married in my now old-fashioned dress. However, a bride in our family was not as sentimental about keeping her dress, and she sold it after her wedding. This is a way to re-coup some wedding costs. Another option if you are not attached to keeping your dress is to rent a dress. Yes! There are places that will rent you beautiful dresses for a fraction of the cost of buying one. If you do want to buy and keep your dress, do a cost comparison of buying one verses having someone sew it, particularly if a seamstress in your circle of family and friends will do the sewing for free. My mother-in-law married back in the era when tea-length gowns were fashionable, and she made her own dress. Later on, when she needed a dress for an occasion and her clothing budget as a newly wed was tight, she died her wedding gown and wore it! Her husband -- my father-in-law -- did not recognise at first that she was wearing the same dress, because she had made it look new.
2) A current custom among some is to have two dresses: one for the wedding and one for the reception immediately afterward. You have only a short time to be in your wedding gown. Think carefully before deciding that you really do want two gowns. You will get more enjoyment out of your wedding gown and save money on wedding costs by wearing your wedding dress all the way through the reception. Of course, you may want a less formal going-away outfit or a second dress for a party that will be given at another time or on another date than your wedding. However, if you choose wisely, these outfits will be something that you will wear again and again.
3) Chances are great that if you are getting married, someone you know either just had a wedding or is also planning one. Check into borrowing items or sharing items or buying bulk items together.
4) Vintage wedding rings can be re-set and are often a less expensive and more beautiful purchase than a brand new ring.
5) If you are getting married in your home city and in the church you usually attend, you fill likely know many women who have planned weddings in that building and/or reception hall if you are using the church reception hall. Usually, there are even a few women who take on the ministry of helping brides prepare for their weddings. Take advantage of their advice.
6) Create a folder or a notebook in which you can keep your wedding plans, as well as pictures or notes for wedding ideas. Often, you can take an idea that you see in a magazine or on a wedding web site or at a wedding and re-produce something similar for less expense. Be sure to visit web sites that offer example of budget weddings.
7) Many of us start planning our weddings when we are little girls and have definite ideas about what we want. While we may be able to incorporate many of our dreams into our actual wedding, we may have to be flexible about others. It's more important that you are marrying the love of your life than that you are creating a dream wedding.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Thirty Days of Smart Money Choices....

1) When couponing, make sure that any coupon you use will represent a "real saving". By that, I mean that the coupon must be for an item and a brand that you really want. For some items, I do care about which brand I buy. For other items, a house brand is fine for our family. Sometimes, a coupon for a brand name item will only bring it in line with the regular price for another brand's equivalent or for the house brand's equivalent. Also, we can get carried away with cutting out coupons and clip coupons for products that we really don't have a desire for or a use for. If you really do not desire that particular item in that particular brand, the coupon doesn't represent real savings for you. However, if it allows you to buy a brand that you do love or an item that you really need, that is a real savings.
2) Encourage any of your children who are earning money through babysitting, doing chores, or working at a job to give a certain amount of their income, to save a certain amount of their income, and let them use the rest as they see fit. (That is, of course, provided that they use it in a way that is in line with your family's values.) This will teach them habits of giving and saving early. Starting with monetary discipline at a young age is so much easier than trying to acquire it later on.
3) We are not vegetarian, but we do not mind meatless meals. Well-balanced, meatless meals can often be cheaper to cook than ones which include meat. Also, you can stretch your meat budget through using little bits of meat in stir-fries, casseroles, etc.
4) The worthy woman in Proverbs 31 was likened to merchant ships bringing back their food from afar. How would merchant ships operate? The merchant would likely select the best of something for the best price. He or she would be knowledgeable about the goods to be traded. For example, a spice merchant would have a thorough knowledge of spices, and a clothing merchant would be able to identify quality merchandise. As the food manager of your home, it's worthwhile to educate yourself about many different aspects of foods from nutrition to quality to seasonal supply to how to cook them to the best ways to season them, etc. Learn, for example, what the various cuts and grades of meats are and how they should best be cooked.
Learn enough to be a smart shopper. You don't have to know it all at once, and you don't have to become a gourmet chef in order to make some good choices with your food money. Just gradually learn what you need to know for your purposes and keep learning throughout life.
5) Dental work can be very expensive, but not everyone has dental insurance. Sometimes, even if you do not have access to dental insurance through your work, you can qualify for a dental discount plan. Search your options. Verify that the discount plan is sound and will be a benefit to you. The dental discount may not cut your costs as much as insurance would, but every dental dollar helps.
6) Maintaining your teeth will cut down on expenses and pain! Of course, we all know that it's important to floss and brush our teeth. Likewise, it's wiser to go for regular check-ups than to wait until you have a problem to visit the dentist. Even if you practice tip-top dental hygiene, there is no guarantee that you won't ever have some problems with your teeth. Sometimes, things befall us that are no fault of our own. However, if you do neglect your teeth, you can pretty much count on paying for it later on down the road.
7) Wearing your sunscreen throughout life can cut down on the expense (and pain) of dealing with pre-cancerous damage to your skin. Obviously, those of us who can't tan are at highest risk. However, even if you tan easily or even if you have very dark skin, you can sustain some sun damage. No matter what your skin type or ethnic background, some type of sun protection is advisable. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.