Tag Archives: Bible

The Clothing Exchange: Bartering, Giving, Saving & Making A Difference

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You know what I love most about the above photo? Its location.

These folks aren’t camped out waiting to purchase tickets to the newest Batman movie. They’re not waiting to get into the V.I.P. line at a night club nor are they waiting in line to get to their Houston Rockets seats.

This was the scene outside the doors of Eagle Heights Fellowship in Mont Belvieu, TX. This is the Church home of Penny Glass & her three well-rounded, funny, adorable daughters.

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Mrs. Glass created an ingenious bartering system called The Clothing Exchange and it has grown exponentially over the last few years. As a result of her need to provide for her own children she wondered, “What if there was a place where I could give up what we don’t need in exchange for what we do need?” She approached her Pastor and pitched her idea. He fully supported her and gave his permission to use the Church as headquarters for this economically sound solution to clothing needs.

Viola, the Clothing Exchange was born!

How it Works
Many families are having trouble dealing with the current economic climate. They’re struggling to bring home the bacon (in my house it’s veggies). As a result clothing is an area that may be sacrificed in order to keep the family car running, keep electricity on, and stock up on groceries.
The Clothing Exchange allows families and individuals to bring in used but reusable clothes in exchange for a voucher equal to the number of items donated.
So, for example, Molly donates three jeans and five blouses which she’s outgrown-eight items. On exchange day she bring in her voucher and picks out eight items of her choice. She can choose 8 pair of jeans or seven jeans and one blouse or maybe she wants six pair of jeans, one pair of shoes and a scarf. Any combination is allowed as long as she doesn’t exceed eight, the number on her voucher. All participants are made aware that there is no guarantee they’ll find somethung in thier size or something they’ll like. But all are still willing to take part because it means they’ll be donating to others in need even if they get nothng in return. However, according to Penny, there’s never been a situation where a participant couldn’t find clothing they could use.

Simple, smart, effective and very much in need. In fact the need is so great that hundreds of people from miles around came to donate their used clothing in hopes of helping others while providing for their own families. Talk about a win-win situation.

Economic Ripple
So is there a positive economic effect? Most definitely! Most families shop at big department stores. Others, like myself, love thrift stores. When we shop at these locations the money doesn’t always stay within the local economy. Big companies need to spread their profits all over the globe in order to thrive. They have to pay for advertizing, put money into payroll and employee benefits and maintain thier facilities.
The Clothing Exchange allows local money to stay local—in the bank accounts of members of the community. So Mr. J donates his sons old clothes yet comes home with more clothes for his son without spending a single cent. With the savings Mr. J can put more money into an emergency fund or save for his son’s trade school education. Now imagine hundreds of families within a certain area doing the same thing. This creates more economical stability within the region. It makes sense, too, that if a family is more stable they’re able to donate to charities, give to missions and shop at local farmer’s markets. These all help give strength to the local economy.

An important aspect to the Clothing Exchange that builds a strong economy is what Penny does with the clothes that cannot be used in the exchange. See, if donated clothes have rips, tears, stains, etc they’re either given back to the donor, given to other churches or given directly to the homeless. This ensures only clothing of the highest quality are available on Exchange day. Providing the homeless with clothibg has several amazing results. It helps build confidence, gives a sense of added security and it offers an opportunity to excell. Imagine being homeless, sleeping on the streets, unable to shave and shower. Across the street from the box you live in is a NOW HIRING sign in the window of a locally-owned diner. You know you qualify for any open position. You’d work hard and put in extra hours if someone would just give you a chance.
Problem: You don’t feel presentable. And the fact is, most employers won’t hire someone who smells bad and is dressed like….well….a homeless person.

But, if the clothing exchange provided you with a fresh pair of socks, a pair of shoes, nice slacks and a long sleeved shirt and maybe even a tie; well your future could look very different. You can wash up in the restroom of a convemience store, change into your new duds, then walk confidently into that diner and tell them “You sould definitely hire me”.

This is one way a homeless person can become a productive member of society. All because of the generous hearts of Clothing Exchange participants.

Want to Join In?
The next Clothing Exchange event will be in Feb or March of 2016. In the mean time
1. Set aside those items you no longer want or need: shoes, shirts, pants, jackets, sweaters, hats, etc.
2. Tell others about this blog so they’re informed on how they may participate.
3. Follow this link to the Clothing Exchange facebook page so you can stay up-to-date on future events-
https://www.facebook.com/groups/237924579719778/?fref=ts

‘Deadbeat’ Dad Chronicles, Odd Jobs- Part One

As a non-custodial father paying child support, I live life under the microscope of scrutiny from not only an ex-wife, but society in general. Not only do I wake up determined to succeed financially to provide for myself, but I have the added pressure of providing for a son who does not live with me.

I’m not saying this financial responsibility is more burdensome than a custodial parent’s job, nor am I saying that one should feel sorry for, or be lenient with, a parent who is paying child support.

However, I have recently become very familiar with society’s misconceptions concerning the toil of supposedly deadbeat dads. So I think it’s time we explore what a father goes through financially in order to provide for his child, keep up with court-ordered payments, avoid jail and be a good example to his child.

The Odd Jobs.

Jail is not exactly my idea of a good time. I can’t even stand to be in my own house for more than two hours. I get anxious, like a caged dragon I feel the deep need to escape and spread my wings.

With this mindset I have always been motivated to seek odd jobs if I was ever laid off. So, what jobs did I take in order to keep up with child support?

First, there was Secret Shops. Many folks have a misunderstanding of how this industry really works. There are horror stories but I can tell you personally that there are legitimate secret shop companies that will literally pay you to shop.

Side note: If you Google “secret shops” you’ll be flooded with choices. Avoid any company that states you have to pay to become a secret shopper. Most of these are not legitimate.

One company paid me to go to Burger King, order a meal and fill out a report. The report included details about the taste and temperature of the food, the cleanliness of the store and if proper signage was displayed in the location.

For a recently laid-off individual this was a great way to keep my head above water because I’d be reimbursed for the meal and be paid an extra $5 – $10.  Therefore, the groceries I had already bought would stretch a bit further while I ate these “free meals.”

Another secret shop company sent me to Mattress Firm to pose as a customer interested in a new bed. This is by-far my favorite kind of secret shop. During the visit I’d take mental notes about the employee’s performance, level of professionalism, the cleanliness of the store and which model features the employee demonstrated along with several other key aspects of the employee’s job. I’d do this while the employee demonstrated the many positions of the adjustable bed. Yeah, it was tough but somebody had to do it.

Secret shops are easy and convenient. I’d have lunch at Burger King while out looking for a job and enjoyed knowing I’d be reimbursed for the meal. Then as I go about the rest of my errands I’d stop into Mattress Firm, lie on some really comfortable beds and get paid for it!

There are some folks who are professional level secret shoppers. I never rose to that point myself but shoppers who are dedicated and reliable are eventually given higher-paying shops. There are even some secret shoppers who earn above $30,000/year.

Obviously this would help a struggling mom or dad avoid jail time which can sometimes result from falling behind on court-appointed payments.

Generally speaking, secret shop companies pay their shoppers once a month. So, my advice is to be very detailed in your record keeping as an independent shopper. Keep your receipts, keep track of the shop location, expected payments, etc. At first, look for shops that don’t require you to buy anything. One example is the Mattress Firm shop I mentioned. A shop at James Avery requires you to ask questions about jewelry but not make a purchase.

The profits from one month of these shops may then be used in your second month for shops like Burger King for which you’d be reimbursed.

With discipline you can earn a good part-time income which can help you stay current on child support payments. If you are a non-custodial parent, it pays to be prepared to take on work where you can find it and practice frugality…and avoid those annoying silver bracelets.

A good verse to keep in mind is Proverbs 27:12
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

The “dangers” we face as non-custodial parents are varied.
A. Failing to set a good example for our childrem
B.  Additional interest due to falling behind on payments
C. Jail time

But, spending time in prayer,

asking God for guidance and seeking wise counsel  from others in similar situations (Provrrb 15:22) can help us avoid these financial pot holes.

Another favorite verse is Poverbs 6:6-9
6 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!
7 Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work,
8 they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.
9 But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up?

Ants, animals not as smart as humans, are smart enough to plan ahead, work, store up for a rainy days, etc. Non-custodial parents need to plan ahead. Save for those unexpected lay offs, injuries and economic storms so that you don’t miss any payments, ever!

Have you had to take on the odd job – or two – to keep up with child support payments, lest you be called a deadbeat dad (mom) and potentially face dealing with the judicial system? I’d love to hear your stories!

The #Frugal Life: A Frugal Mentality

How Much is Enough

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Often, upon hearing the word frugal, inaccurate images float through the mind’s of many people.

Some imagine a penny-pinching Grinch that hoards every dollar as if clinging to life itself.

Others imagine a destitute fool who doesn’t recognize the so-called “finer things in life.”

My hope is that this blog post gives a better picture of the mind of the frugal individual. Set aside the inaccurate, and sometimes insulting images in your mind, and let’s discover the real reasons for developing the frugal mentality.

There is a scene in the movie The Great Gatsby where Gatsby is on the second floor of his bedroom, throwing pieces of clothing down to the woman he loves. His intention is to entice her with his riches, impress her with expensive clothing, and therefore hold her affections.

This is a far cry from the frugalist’s mindset and definitely far from the mind of God. I say this because of what is written in #Matthew 6:33

Seek the Kingdom of #God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (NLTse)

God prompts us to seek His Will, His pleasure and His mission for our lives above all else. We are not to be trapped in the vicious cycle of working hard for material gain just to be foreced to work even harder to afford even more. If we concentrare on our relationship with God first, He will align our mind and goals with His and therefore free us from such dangerous materialism that inevitably lead to greed.

The Christian Frugalite (yes, I created a new word), following the Spirit’s direction, is free to see things as they really are. Free from the prison of materialism. The frugalist understands that the really important things are neither material nor monetary. Unlike the get-all-you-can attitude of most folks, the frugally minded actually see the ultra-lavish lifestyle as both sickening and greedy.

The movie scene I described earlier actually turned my stomach. Why? Because I think of all the desperate people in the world who could benefit from the generosity of the ultra-rich.

Can you imagine the problems that would be solved if every mega-rich celebrity or sports personality decided to sell their mansions and some of their many luxury vehicles, then donated the proceeds to feed the hungry or help rescue victims of human trafficking? What if all those millions were funneled into creating jobs for those in desperate situations instead of being used to buy expensive purses, over-priced shoes and jewelry?

That would be an amazing thing!

It is the Christ-centered, frugal mind that can do this world the most good because it is not trapped by the unproductive idea of gathering more and more stuff. The Frugalite is free to give to charities, churches, and the indigent on the street without feeling she has missed something.

She understands the importance of paying a homeless person to wash her car instead of going to the car wash. In fact, giving to those less fortunate gives the frugal person a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

So the next time you’re tempted to think of a Frugalite as stingy or cheap, you may want to consider that she is not hoarding her pennies, she is proactively funneling them to where they do the most good.

I’d really love to hear:
*What frugal practices have you adopted?
*What frugal habits do you plan to employ in 2015?

BBM Interviews Audrey Ostoyic

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Today’s interviewee is a wonderful lady I met through a Google+ group, Christians In Business. Mrs. Audrey Ostoyic is an upbeat, positive, social media strategist, mother, wife and Christian business owner. Through following Audrey’s posts, blog and YouTube videos, I’ve come to greatly respect and admire her. Due to this respect and admiration I asked to interview her concerning her perspective on personal finance.

I hope you find her answers as inspiring and encouraging as I did.

BBM: Is the Bible one of your financial education sources? Why or why not?

Audrey: The Bible is my ONLY financial education source. I have listened to Dave Ramsey before and he gives amazing tips on the ins and outs of debt and debt collection agencies that are relevant for today and that you don’t find in the Bible, however the Bible is it for me. If you think about it, if you read your Bible and follow it then you don’t need to worry about your credit score, debt or debt collection agencies calling you. I’ve never owned a credit card in my life and never will. My husband on the other hand has 2 but pays them off every month. The only debt my husband and I have together is our home and we are working on getting that debt erased. My motto has always been, “If I don’t have the cash to buy it then I don’t need it and if I need it then God will supply it according to His Word.”

BBM: Do you believe that small businesses contribute positively to the economy? If yes, how so?

Audrey: Absolutely! I believe that Small Businesses, for the most part, really care about, not only their customers, but also their employees. Every Small Business that I have had the pleasure of training in Social Media is more like a family than the larger corporations I’ve worked with. I’ve also noticed that small businesses take care of their employees by paying them more and giving more/better benefits. In this way small businesses are keeping employees longer, they (employees) are more loyal and they become invested in the business as much as the owners.

BBM: How do you manage your finances? (Examples: Financial adviser, spreadsheets, envelope system, checkbook register, a combination of tools, or something else)

Audrey: Well, I’m very blessed (or some might say not very smart) to have my husband take care of the finances. I am not a spender at all and have always thought about each purchase as to whether it is a need or a want. If there is something I do want I simply ask my husband if there is enough money and if he says yes, I go buy it, if he says no then I just don’t get it. 😉

BBM: At what age did you begin to form a “financial freedom mindset”?

Audrey: About two years ago when I turned 39 yrs. old (I guess I just gave my age away lol) Took a long time but it’s not only the “financial freedom mindset” as much as it is the “God’s got this” mindset. No matter what financially may be going on if I abide in Him and He abides in me then there is nothing that can touch my finances.

BBM: Why do you believe financial wisdom is important?

Audrey: I believe Financial Wisdom is so important because it allows us to be in a position for The Lord to use us whenever he needs to. For me every single penny that comes into my home is The Lord’s. When the Holy Spirit speaks to me to give, no matter how much it is I will do it in obedience. My husband and I have gone through some of the worst financial storms since we got married in 2001 and through it all we HAD to rely 100% on the Lord and he never failed us.

Amen Audrey! Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed and I really appreciate your openess and honesty.

I highly encourage BBM readers to follow Audrey Ostoyic on Google+ as well as her blog page, http://www.livinlyfemarketing.com

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Teen Business Owners- Part Two: Is Your Teen Prepared For Real Life?

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Looking back in history there is strong evidence that children had a lot more responsibility than today’s average teen. The Bible tells us that young David was about twelve when he killed a lion and a bear to protect his father’s sheep and about seventeen when he killed Goliath who stood nine feet, six inches tall.

Try getting today’s suburbuain child to go close to a lion, I dare you!

As impressive as the whole lion situation is, there is an even more important lesson here.

In order for David to be prepared to face the lion he had to be taught two things long before the king of the jungle came into the picture- responsibility and bavery.

Who do you think took on the job of teaching these much-needed character traits to this young man? The school system of the day, the elders of the Church or some brave soldier in the community? No! His parents did. While there is no mention of David’s mother in the Bible we do know that his father was Jesse, a direct descentent of Jacob- ya know, the guy who wrestled with God and consequently had his name changed by the Almighty?

Obviously this bloodline was NOT made of cowards. Wisdom, bravery and integrity are part of this family’s legacy. Such traits were taught, emphasized and passed down to future generations. Don’t get me wrong, these weren’t perfect people. Jacob, The Trickster, stole his brother’s inheritance then was tricked by his own uncle, Laban. Ten of Jacob’s sons agreed to sell son number eleven into slavery.

Yeah, they were liars, deceivers and thieves, definitely not perfect beings, but they were used by God anyway!!

See, even the most imperfect of us, myself included, can be used by God to do extraordinary things.

One book every adolecent/teen should read is “Do Hard Things” by Alex and Brett Harris. This book is authored by teen brothers who were sick and tired of the teen-ager status quo. They got fed up with how little society expects of their age group, so, they decided to do something about it. In this book you’re taken on a journey where the teen brothers achieve things that are considered “far beyond their years”. The important lesson in this book is that both adults and teens need to REQIURE and EXPECT more of our youth. They’ll learn, rise to the challenge, meet our expectations and even surpass them, IF we give them a chance.

So, look at what you’re teaching your children. Do you feel they can do more? If you were their age right now, do you feel YOU could accomplish more than today’s average teen? If your answer is Yes, and I suspect it is, then why sell your teen short? Let’s not prepare them for an average life, let’s prepare them for an extraordinary one!

Teach them to “Do Hard Things” like owning a business, tracking expenses, prepare for retirement, deal with tough economic times and sacrifice that PS3 game now for financial freedom later on.
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It’s up to us parents to get our children ready to bring down the real-life financial lions of the future.

The Christian Walk: Taz Bright interviewed by Hannah C. Mathiot

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This article is part of a series of interviews with ordinary Christians and their personal walks with God. Recently, I had the pleasure and privilege of talking to Eustace Bright, known to his friends as "Taz." Taz is the owner of Bright Balance Ministries, and was raised in Huston Texas.

"I'm nothing special," Says Taz Bright, "my story is not unique. I'm a flawed, messed up, vengeful, violent man without Christ. But, I serve One who IS special, unique, patient slow to anger, quick to forgive and Perfect. In a world where both political stances and personal beliefs shift with the change of public opinion, it's good to lean on something that hasn't budged since before the beginning of time-His Word."

Taz shares with us his story of finding Christ at a young age, his struggles as the victim of identity theft, and how God taught him through these struggles.

"I heard the gospel all my life, growing up in Church, listening to only Christian music in my Christian home, raised by Christian parents. I attended a private Christian school up until 7th grade. I first felt The Spirit tugging at me when I was 8 years old but I kept pushing Him away."

"I kept attending Church and Sunday school & learned a Bible verse for every letter in the alphabet. I even taught Bible study as I got into high school. But it wasn't until I was a junior in high school at 16 years old that I actually made the decision to give my entire life to Christ."

"Now I'm in financial ministry as the owner of Bright Balance Ministries. I've been blessed with a talent for managing money and the gift of teaching. I firmly believe that it's because of these blessings God has charged me with the responsibility to help Christians manage, spend, invest and spend widely."

1 Peter 4:10-11 confirms that Christians should use their gifts to encourage and teach other Christians. "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."(ESV)

Like all of us, Taz has his own personal battles with sin, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, he has learned to fight sin and live within God's will for his life in humility.

"I gave my life to Christ twenty-two years ago in the summer of 2011. While I haven't been perfect, by any means, I can say I've grown a lot. Attending Calvary Chapel in Idaho Falls (and now also in Baytown, TX) has exposed me to exegesis, deep Bible study & how important they both are. Growing closer to God has helped free me from a violent temper, helped me gain purpose and direction and also helped me appreciate His patience with me. He's used two back injuries to humble me and, despite the pain, I'm actually thankful for those injuries because of what I've learned because of them."

Taz Bright gives us a stunning testimony of how God has used various trials in his life to refine him and teach him patience and forgiveness.

"For six years, an identity thief (former employee) pretended to be me by getting two jobs in my name, selling my social security number to eight people among other things. As a result, I was evicted from my home, my business failed, my car was repossessed, I was arrested six times for crimes I never committed, I moved back into my parents' house (worst part by the way) & I had to start over financially. This all occurred while trying to be a good example to my son. Through this struggle I learned patience, forgiveness and saw a practical, daily example of God's provision- a valuable lesson for sure. Now, I'm a business owner and financial minister."

The bible does not promise that the Christian walk is going to be easy. In fact, it prepares us for exactly to opposite. The Christian life promises suffering (Hebrews 2:10, 1 Peter 1:6-7).

Taz Bright gives the following advice for new Christians. "Accept the fact that you're going to hit road blocks. Even Christ faced opposition, ridicule, and 'advice' from well-meaning friends & family. Follow The Spirit's lead -not theirs. There will be times when you have to go into a private room, lock the door & take a deep breath. Allow those moments to happen and remember those who have gone through it before: Martin Luther King Jr, Billy Graham, Christ! You're in good company."

Taz also encourages other Christians to get involved in their local churches and serve their brothers and sisters in Christ. "I serve as a greeter at my small Church in Baytown & considering joining the worship team also. Church involvement is very important. The Bible tells us to "…not forsake the assembling of yourselves together…"(Hebrews 10:25) We need encouragement, prayers, deep Bible study- a support system- in this troubled world."

The Bible indeed calls Christians to stay deeply rooted in the Church. Hebrews 10:24-25 says: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (ESV).

"I'm currently reading through a Bible Reading plan using my olivetree.com study app. The reading plan is about Peace, which happens to be very important considering my present trials. I'm experiencing the deep, constant peace of God even while dealing with things that would have normally sent me into a Hulk-like rage (Actually Hulk may have beaten me in the self-control department)."

Taz has also found great encouragement in a book called Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis. "It will introduce you to the skill of interpreting God's Word so that you get what HE meant you to understand, not some private interpretation. Knowing God's Word is essential to navigating life's rough seas."

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we can only live according to his will by the constant grace, mercy, and love that God our Father gives us through Jesus Christ his son. Please pray continually for Eustace Bright and his family, along with the other Christians in your life and in your local Church. We all need prayer and encouragement constantly.

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