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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 35-

Well, I hate to say this but I think this frugality experiment, although it has been fun, has not brought about the great insight I had hoped for.  Don't get me wrong.  I have enjoyed the money saving, and the extra exercise, and the whole concept of a spending freeze but it just seems too easy.  Maybe thats OK.  Maybe I should have been reading some books like "Nifty Thrifty" or "Frugality for Dummies".  I don't know.  Maybe I should have started out by giving all the food in my pantry away and trying to then do the $2/day.  So far I have only spent about $14 on food for myself.  I didn't really even have to do that.  Maybe its OK to fail.  Or maybe the lessons are to be found in unmet expectations.

When I was a junior in high school, I entered the Middle Tennessee Science and Engineering Fair at Vanderbilt University.  It was a traumatic time for me.  We started working on it in the Fall and were to turn it in come Spring.  If we placed, we got a 100 for the semester.  It was a special project for me because my dad and I were working on it together.  Of course he was just helping me but I was reveling in it.  Well, that March,...I think...its all a blur... he suddenly passed away.  He had broken his leg and a blood clot formed and went to his lungs I believe.  Well anyways....one of the ways I dealt with the grief was focusing on this project that he and I had been working on.  My hypothesis was that if you were able to increase the surface temperature between two smooth surfaced metals you would be able to increase the conductivity between them........interesting eh?...... well to make a long story short......the experiment failed.  Instead of trying to justify....and rationalize....I just turned in my failure explaining why I thought it didn't work.

I don't know if you guys have ever been to high school science fair before, but have you ever noticed how everyone's experiment seems to work out.  If we had that kind of success rate in the adult scientific community we would already be teleporting ourselves to Mars where we would be sharing our innovations with alien races who have been obviously lagging behind technologically.   I mean I think I was the only experiment in the physics section that had failed.  But you know what?  I got first place.  Thats right.  Success in failure.  I guess the judges were OK with me failing.

I think God might just be OK with my failures too. (As long as I don't do it on purpose)

After all I have learned some things.......just in the last few days

1. Squirrels don't have much meat (and they have tough skin)
2. Five year old Cream of Wheat is still tasty if you put enough sugar on it.
3. I'm pretty sure Seneca's crack house is on the East 3rd St.  (Bike Riding discovery)

So maybe this experiment will be a success after all.....in its own weird way.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 32

Wasn't today a wonderful Easter?  The weather was beautiful.  Everyone was together, visiting, enjoying each others company.  I spent the day with a new family at church and let me tell you they were a hoot.  Kids, and animals running all over.  No one was shy.  Everyone was happy to see me and friendly.....  They enjoy doing bunches of the same things I enjoy.  We talked about movies, looking for waterfalls, throwing knives, trampolines, and planting trees.  It was a good day.  It was a day of life, the kind of day I hope you had, and it got me thinking a lot about the resurrection.

See I had a little bit of an epiphany this week as I was thinking about Easter.  I though a lot about what resurrection means.  What are the implications of it for me?  Then I started thinking about the meaning of the word itself......especially the "re".  See resurrection is "coming back" to life.  I had always thought about the resurrection in terms of heaven and a new kind of life.  If I were to graph it linearly it would be (this life) then (death) then (a different life).  Although, this is true -in a sense- resurrection implies a more reflective line.  (This life) then (death) then (This life again).  This life again is obviously absent the pain.  But maybe the new life I spend so much time looking forward to is more similar to my life now than what I realize.  I hope this doesn't sound blasphemous to anyone.

In other words we get a glimpse of resurrection life now....but we get so caught up thinking about what it will be like we don't see what it is.....now.  I know life can be hard but it can also be good.  Very good.  Why would people try so hard to hang on to it, if it weren't?  So yes, when things are difficult, take comfort in a life to come where there will be no more pain.  Just remember that this painless life to come may look much like the good part of your life today.

Its hard to rough it around the holidays.....even if you aren't eating out or going to the grocery store someone is always inviting you over and sending you off with a plate of food.  We took a group to work at Palmetto Bible Camp this weekend.  I ate better there than I normally do at home.  

I did catch my first squirrel.  I'm thinking four could make a good stew.  I also drank my first powdered milk.....gag!!!!  Maybe I can use it for cooking or something.?   I also found some old oatmeal mix that had bugs in it.

Still riding the bike and not purchasing anything for myself.  Feeling good in general of the money I'm saving while trying not to think too much about what I'm going to buy when I'm done.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 28 - Spam>Treet Meat>Potted Meat

My refrigerator is clearing out....as is my pantry.  Last night I ate a couple year old burritos I found way in the back of the freezer.  Still good.  The day before I experienced the wonders of potted meat.  For you guys that may not be familiar with potted meat, it ranks right below Treet Meat on the cheap meat scale.  In fact it reminded me a little of blended Vienna Saugages.  It was weird eating meat that spread like peanut butter but it was tastier than I thought.  Why did I have a can of potted meat, you ask?


It kind of looks like dog food but I liked it.


A little over a year ago I took a group of teens on a spring break mission/fun trip.  One of our many stops was at the disaster relief center in Nashville, TN.  We spend about four hours one days boxing thousands of cans of potted meat for disaster victims.  I had never heard of potted meat before and was curious.  I came home, bought a can for about 35 cents and proceeded to let it sit there for over a year.  For 35 cents it was not too bad.  If I ever make my own disaster relief package I may have to add a few cans because I am guessing it has the ability to remain unspoiled for decades.

I still haven't gassed up since day 11.  This biking thing is rockin.

Next menu items (hopefully)..........powdered milk....(I hope I don't gag) and squirrel (I have to catch enough first)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 25 - What I don't like about other people's lawncare

This post is not intended or meant to be negative in any way.  It is simply a public service announcement.  If what is said offends or irritates in any way.....I apologize in advance......

This time of year the flowers are beautiful in South Carolina.  I have Camelia bushes that produce some of the most brilliant red/pink flowers you have ever seen......rose bushes......purple Iris'........and a Clematis climbing up the trellis next to my shed with the brightest purple/pastel hues and picturesque flowers imaginable...... And then there are the Azaleas.  Talk about breathtaking.   My front yard is so thick with pink splotches of Azaleas that you can barely see the leafy green.
Boring Danny, so what?

Well I am doing a little jogging the other day and I see a stretch of homes that had (in my opinion) done the unthinkable.  They had shaped these beautiful bushes into boxes, cubes, and spheres.  Now this might be OK for some sort of Holly............. but for Azaleas.......Ugggghhhh...  In the pruning process these well intentioned gardeners? eliminated the budding blossoms that so successfully reflect the beauty of our Creator God.  The scandalized shrubbery's souls had been stolen.  Am I overreacting?  Maybe.

Now....I know pruning is a good thing.....I preached about it this morning.  As Jesus says in John 15, we need to be pruned to robustly grow strong and mature for the long haul.  My problem is the "when" an "how" these poor azaleas were pruned.

My azaleas only bloom for a few weeks.  When they are done and start to loose their luster, I cut them back.  This gives them a full year to replenish.  The problem I have with the "shapers" is I have never seen a shape that was more beautiful than the natural way the bushes grew on their own.  The gentle sways.  The subtle bends.  These could only be made by the creator God who envisioned the beauty of the Azalea to begin with.   I know we have all inherited a little of the creativity of our Creator that finds wonderful expression in all parts of life.........its just can we really improve on what God has already given us?  I feel like much of this artistic expression is sometimes misguided.

I've been feeling this a little with the whole "stewardship" experiment for the last few weeks.  I feel like I try to squeeze so much into such a small amount of time that I have almost mechanized things.  I have had the  tendency in the past with all my busyness to "shape" the time God has given me.  Maybe that is as abominable as shaping the azaleas.  I have found life goes on when I don't dine out.  Riding the bus introduces me to new and interesting people with stories I would never have otherwise heard.  I enjoy riding much more than driving.  My time is not as much mine.  I'm on other peoples schedules and I like it.  Its much more of an organic free flowing schedule to live by.  I don't see a bohemian lifestyle in my future.  Its just I like my schedule to develop.  I like being on God's time.  I can still have a plan.... a plan ever subject to change.

Lets face it.....God's plans are always so much better than ours anyways.  We may not fully realize it now temporally but it will become clear as our eternal perspective develops.

Proverbs 19:21

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 21 - A broken toothbrush and a can of pears.

I am a regular brusher.  If I have a toothbrush available I will brush after every meal (no I don't borrow other people's toothbrushes).  I usually keep one at my house and one at the church.  The one at the church has my name on it.  So I am brushing the other day and all of a sudden....SNAP.....my toothbrush breaks in half.  I don't know what to think.  This has never happened before.  My first reaction is to look down at my biceps and smile.......its just I didn't think I was actually brushing with full def con 5 force.  How could this have happened?
I hypothesize that maybe its the ants that love to get on my toothbrush.  No, I don't know where they come from .  I just know they are there.  I beat the brush on the sink to shake the ants free.  Then I squash them all leaving a lone survivor to go back and warn his friends......it never works.....Anyways, maybe the beating of the brush weakened the structural integrity.  Maybe it was a manufacturer's defect....I don't know.  All I know as I have never even HEARD of this happening to someone......and now I am left with a little bitty toothbrush to brush my teeth.  I know people used to use baking soda and their finger but not me.  I feel dirty without brushed teeth.

So Danny, why don't you just go buy one?  They are only like 2 bucks.....Ahhhhhhhh but thats the problem....thats a whole day's worth of food.

So I am running low on supplies.....I'm not going to starve, I have plenty of food I don't want.  Today I at a can of pears for lunch.  I don't dislike pears.....I just don't particularly enjoy them.  I am trying to.  I even have a pretty good pear tree in my back yard.  Its just that pears rank about 78th on my official fruit ranking.   This particular can of pears has been taunting me for years.  I don't really even know where it came from.  I may have inherited it or maybe it was a gift.  All I know is every time I see it in my cabinet, it says, "Danny, don't be so wasteful.  Eat me.  Quit wasting this space.  Millions of people would be happy to have me and you let me sit here in the dark gathering dust."  Of course I tell Mr. can of pears to shut up and quit haunting me but to no avail.  Today his ghost is gone forever.

I don't know why I tell you all this other than it really stinks sometimes not having money.  Not having money in the big things is bad enough, but I evidently can't get along without even the small things.  The little conveniences I've gotten used to, once stripped away, become deep losses.  I miss stopping at the Dollar General on my way home to get whichever whatchamagizet I need.  Its nice.  Easy.  But I guess we don't ever fully realize what we've got till its gone.  I am grateful for you fully functional non broken toothbrush.  I will never take you for granted again.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 17 - Dog sitting

Recently, I've been dog sitting.  Buddy maybe the best dog in the world.  He is a medium sized mutt, brown and white with a tail that can knock down a house.  He looks like he may have a little pit bull in him.  He is good tempered and fun.  Like most dogs he likes to chase squirrels, run around outside, be petted, and play.   He is potty trained.  He loves other dogs and people.  I've never seen him snap at either, although lots of dogs don't like him.  Buddy has one big flaw though (outside of eating grass and sniffing butts).  He has separation anxiety.  Where ever I go he shadows me.  In ways its nice because you really don't need a lease.  Since the catbus doesn't allow dogs - go figure, I've had to drive more than normal.

Two of my friends found buddy as a puppy when he was abandoned under a house years ago.  He stayed with me about a week before he tried to dig his way out of the bathroom.  One of our students adopted him and he has been a part of the Bryan family (and honorary member of the Clemson Church of Christ) ever since.  Recently, after their other dog died, he literally busted through their door trying to get out so he wouldn't have to be alone.  Can you imagine?

See, I do alright alone .....at least compared to others.  I don't normally miss people that much although I will sometimes tell them I do to make them feel loved (semantics).  I miss you all.  Not that I don't like seeing folks when I do.  I just don't miss.  I wonder sometimes what it would be like if I had Buddy's kind of separation anxiety with God.  I do miss God.  But I don't necessarily go crazy missing him when we've been apart.-not busting through the door missing anyways.......or maybe......just maybe......I don't get the anxiety......because even when I'm doing "my" thing, deep down I know God is still with me.  He's always on the other side of the door.  Yeah, I think I like that explanation better.  See Buddy is fine as long as he sees you.  Maybe I don't ever feel that anxiety because God has always been in view.......even when I've wandered far away.

Money wise I'm still doing well.  Its almost a game now.  I am actually starting to worry I might not eat all these leftovers/frozen/canned foods that I've had for way too long.  I ate some year old frozen fish last night ....mmmm....mmmmmm......

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 14 - Bingo!

Well I have broken one of my pledges and I don't feel guilty at all.  Today we went to the Ye Old Sandwich shop in downtown Seneca.  I still go to lunch with people just to visit.  I usually try to eat a little something before to prevent temptation.  Well today while Jay, Dianne and I are sitting at our booth the owner dings a little bell and asks to get everyone's attention.  She says they are starting "dinner bingo" and if they call your table number you get a free meal for the day.  Table number 27 was the first pick but no one was sitting there.  Then, you guessed it, they called table number 1, our table.  I wasn't hungry but I have a hard time saying no to free food.  I ordered a cheeseburger....and it was delicious.

Yesterday, I went to the Dull's house to learn to make baked spaghetti.  Susan showed me all these cool cooking tips like how to "score" the onion.  She was showing how much cheaper it was to make things from scratch especially when as a single you make things you can freeze/refrigerate for later.  She provided all the "ingredients" so I didn't actually have to purchase anything.  Again I don't feel guilty (this was unsolicited help).  It was delicious.

Then I did my second grocery run on the way home.  Cheryl, one of my good friends here in Clemson since I moved here, is really big into coupons.  I think there is even a name for "couponing".  I believe one the the cable shows is doing a mini series on it.  Anyways, she knows knows how to stretch a buck.  Sometimes she can get a van load of groceries paying hardly anything.  She showed me some websites to learn the couponing methods and the double coupon values for bloom, Bi Lo, and Publix.  Some of the techniques seemed a little complicated to me but I found a few items I use and was able to get out of there paying only $2.90.  That was 50% off the sale price and about 75% off there normal prices.  Not too shabby.

I haven't faced any huge difficulties yet.  I know eventually things are going to be more difficult when I start running out of stuff but so far its been pretty easy.  Partly, its because people give me stuff all the time.  Monday, this sweet lady Alice who I do Bible study with every week and is on a fixed income due to her disability gave me some bread and pudding.  She wasn't giving it for my experiment.  She just doesn't eat those things that are brought to her house.

Am I so blessed that I could eat free in perpetuity?   Have I been wasting that much?  I must confess my heart glazes a little when I hear about all the poverty and starving children in the world.  Its so foreign to me.  I don't think God wants us to be miserable because others suffer, but couldn't I show a little more solidarity?  I don't know.  I'm going to have to think about this.  I mean I give about 50 bucks a month to "orphan" charities, hundreds a month to my church and thousands a year to missions.  But should I pat myself on the back and feel good or should I acknowledge I could be giving 200-300/month more if I was really willing to sacrifice?  I don't know.  I think for now I am going to try to keep enjoying this time and be thankful my suffering is light.  Maybe I can curb some of my former wasteful habits to meet somewhere in the middle.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 12 - "I'm a what to you?"

Well I gassed up for the first time yesterday.  11 days on half a tank of gas I think is pretty good.  I figure if I can keep up this pace I could save over $150 bucks on gas in 40 days.  Not too shabby.  That would be close to $1500 over a year.  Craziness.

Yesterday, I had someone tell me something I've never heard before.  There are two little neighborhood girls that come play under my Magnolia trees.  They are huge trees.  I don't know exactly what they do but they leave a bunch of their toys and clutter strewn about.  I don't mind.  They are 8 and 9 years old and very friendly.  Sometimes they come ask to borrow things.  Sometimes they just need a band aid or some random little trifle.  They are always a trip.  Evidently they were in the mud yesterday, because they were nasty dirty!  After helping them identify some of there scrapes where they had evidently fallen out of the tree the 8 year old says......."You are like a dad to me."  What?  ....did she say "You are like a dad to me?"  Now I know what comes from the mouth of an 8 year old must be taken with a grain of salt.  Its just......little girl.....I don't know you that well.....and you don't know me.....I could be a crazy person.  Am I nice to them?  Sure.  Do they make me laugh?  Of course.  But daddy?  So I decided to ask some more questions to find out why she would think a nice man she barely knows would be like her daddy.

I got the gist pretty quick that she has already had several step dads and maybe even some foster ones.........No wonder......  at 8 years old she couldn't know all of them that well if at all.  They asked me what I did and when I said I was a minister....their faces went blank...."What's that?"  (They guessed doctor and truck driver bye the way).   "Well a minister is a person who works for a church" I said.  The light bulb went on.  They knew what a church was even though I could tell they never went (I know church is not a place).

This got me thinking about perceptions.  The way I was seen by an 8 year old was completely foreign and diametrically different than how I saw myself.  I wondered if God's perspective of my personage is that much different than mine?  It wouldn't surprise me.

Outside my window I can see Cardinals, Goldfinches,  a red bellied woodpecker, and various other birds.   Bright colors.  Beautiful colors.  I wonder why it took me so long to appreciate them?  Was I so caught up in all the bustle of life that I never noticed?  Me now sees these things.  Me 10-15 years ago .....not so much.....Its amazing how a little time changes the way we see.  I hope my little 8 year old friend can one day know what its like to have a father who loves her in yellows and blues and greens.   I hope her transformed perception will reveal her daddy as he should be.  When Jesus cries "abba" it is not to one of many "step" dads.  Its a cry to his eternal "daddy" who plays, protects, and kisses to make it better.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Day 10-Mr. Thrifty

Well I made my first trip to the grocery store.  I had some coupons and was tipped off on a couple items on sale.  Two boxes of pasta, a loaf of bread, three cans of Campbell's soup, a six pack of Ra Men noodles.  How much do you think it cost?  $5.31.  I feel pretty good about that.  Coupons are the best.  I just need to find out where I can get more of them for future purchases.

On the bus, I met a bunch of old folks on their family reunion.  They were all cousins from New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan.  They had a relative in Walhalla and decided to ride the bus around for the day.  I started shooting the breeze with them and went into tour guide mode about the things they ought to see while they were here.  I am trying to talk it up more with folks on the bus.  Its so relaxing just riding especially with all the room for my legs.  Its usually pretty easy to strike up a conversation when there are only 3 or 4 of you on the whole bus.  The goal is to be deliberate with "social" opportunities.  Normally I would do memory verses or listen to the radio.  Although I still hold those options on the ready my first priority is to think, pray, and chit chat with folks.  We can't expect to get relationships started by waiting for others to take the initiative can we?

Its cool how Jesus was always doing that.  Zachaeus or the woman at the well.  Jesus could have focused on some other spiritual activity but people who needed him were always of first priority.  I sometimes struggle with this because I don't default to people needing me......but they do ......and they need to know what I know....Why?  Because I am the happiest person I know.  There's got to be a very good reason for that....lol.  

Joy by its nature is meant to be shared.  It is one of the unique entities in this world that is quantified qualitatively.  The more pure the joy....the more of it we have.  I want abundant joy.  Don't you?  Well then lets share it.  Lets refine it by sharing it.  Joy's not meant to be held or possessed.  Its not experienced in a vacuum and displayed for all to see.  It is mutual.  It is the hope of intimacy.  It is the expectation of love.

What a beautiful day today....