Crappy Christian

"Practicing" Christian, because one day I'll get it right.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

PCA church moves to weekly communion

I was at the Help's church this Sunday and they've been having communion every Sunday for Lent. Before it was just for Advent. And from now on they will be having it every week.
Good for them.
Lucky me I'm used to passing the plate of saltines and individual servings of wine/grape juice and it helps that we sit with a group who know I'm Catholic. I honestly don't want to confuse anyone, but I'm not participating. So I will avoid sitting next to the person who asked why I wasn't Christian. Nice person, but....
There are other things I don't participate in at the Help's church, like the praise songs. One, there are no music notes for me to read for the praise songs. Can I read music? Not really but I know a half note from a quarter note, and it helps to see that my voice is supposed to go higher on this part. Secondly, I don't buy or listen to these hippy-dippy Jesus is my girlfriend songs on the radio. They are absolutely foreign to me. Lastly, I don't trust those songs. To me the theology is a little wobbly on some of those lines or something is just plain wrong. Most of the time I can't put my finger on it.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Marriage savings/discount is not automatic

I was talking taxes with a friend, it is April after all, and I mentioned that according to TurboTax the Help and I are paying less than 11% (something like 10.54%) of our gross income to federal taxes. Friend was impressed (yea me, sidenote, another friend says she's paying nearly 0%, which is impossible or illegal), and wondered if it was because the Help and I were married. Unsaid, up to this point in the conversation was friend wondering if it would be worth it for him and longtime gay partner to marry. Unsaid by me in the whole thing was, no, and I went to prove it.

Before the Help and I married, our pre-marriage tax rate was about 12pointsomething%, after ten-point-something. On the surface you'd think, ah ha, we got a marriage tax savings. Ah, no. I noticed two things. One, our combined gross income was less post-marriage than pre-marriage, even though we both got raises in that time. I lost income renting out my extra room, which is now our room. Retirement and other pre-tax funky paycheck stuff also did it. Prior to marriage, we weren't putting much, if anything into retirement. By being one in marriage we are trying to be purposeful about our future and our finances are combined. My gay couple friends, have been together for a couple of decades and their finances are separated, and I don't see their accounts coming together any time soon. Sometimes I'm shocked how separate they live their lives at times.

The second thing that helped lower our tax rate were deductions. We pay more in local taxes (income & property) which is about half of our deductions. The other half, charitable giving. I give to my alma maters, we give to our churches, and one church I don't attend anymore. We give to local charities. I give to random charities. I was giving to charities before getting married, the Help did the 1040EZ and really didn't give much thought to giving. The Help's alma mater, UC-3rd Circle of Hell, will probably never ever get anything from him, and since I never went there, we won't be giving. We give to the school we both attended, only because I was giving to the school anyways. They just tacked his name on is the only difference. I know our friends volunteer for the arts, but I don't know if they regularly give to any one charity. They don't attend any weekly religious (there are many, many gay churches and gay friendly spiritual houses in DC) functions and so as I know don't regularly financially support any non-profit. Knowing one half of the couple he'd probably be very unwilling to give away significant amounts of his income.

So yes, in marriage we saved money. Not because some state granted us a marriage license, that helped, but because we began living as married people, being one with each other. I heard a financial guru say that the difference between being married and shacking up is 'the conversation is different.' We have had conversations about our future, with the assumption that in 20, maybe even 30 years (we're old, we married old, one of us will be dead before making it 40 years) we will still be one. I know the conversation is different in the way I've seen others lives, between the married and the shacked up.

Note: I forgot to mention the mortgage interest deduction, which is less now than what it was when we got married. That helps too, but less so as we throw more at our mortgage. But then again, we're going to get a 2nd mortgage for the construction planned this year.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Lord Revive Us

I am playing this hymn on repeat. I feel the need.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Night-time ritual

Before falling asleep and going to bed, my husband reads to me. Right now we are dealing with the various St. Paul's letters to communities. I believe we started with one of the gospels and then picked random NT parts. For Advent he used the devotional my church had around, then for our anniversary we read Song of Solomon. We read that as he had me read the girl parts.
It is a ritual that goes forward, through sickness, health and travel. There have been very few times when he hasn't read a scripture to me, even when I'm trying to deal with pain, or I'm about to fall dead asleep, he'll read. If I'm alseep, then all bets are off. He reads a study bible so then he reads the commentary after scripture. I give commentary while he's reading.
Following scripture and the commentary is prayer. Sometimes I ask for a short prayer, which doesn't seem to make much of a difference because everyone still gets included and it is still long, winding and Presbyterian, then we do a relay Our Father, where I say part, then he says part, and then back to me. We kiss goodnight and crawl back into bed.
Not as good as compline, but better than nothing.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What is poor?

I'm reading a book "The Beautiful Tree" about private schools for the poor in Africa and India. I've gotten to a part where logic is tested. There are people telling the author that there cannot be private schools for the poor because the poor are too poor to pay, thus there cannot be schools where the poor are paying to send their children. When the author found schools where the poor were paying to send their children to school, then the nay sayers said those people aren't poor. Never mind that they have no electricity, running water, work as fishermen, live in one room shacks with tin roofs, and make about $1 a day. No, if they are paying for schooling, they aren't poor.
There is more I'd like to write, but I am not done with the book. But there is a attitude that I am disliking, and it is the author's bias, but development people seem to fail to acknowledge that the poor have agency. Yes, the poor make bad decisions, but it's their decision. Another thing, I'm also sensing international poverty pimping. Send millions of dollars to support middle and upper class bureaucrats to make reports and studies about the poor and call it helping the poor, though the poor see a little of the results, and get little ownership of the process or the results. How many abandoned clean water projects dot the world?


Friday, February 07, 2014

The importance of privacy

I blog some parts of my life. But not all.
In the NSA spying on Americans brugh-ha-ha, some people have stated they don't care if certain benign aspects of their life are known.
My problem is the last century is filled with examples of the State or groups deciding to kill or imprison people because they happened to be  X.  Who cares if your parents came from Haiti and you're living on the Dominican border. Or that your father was an intellectual or shop owner in China? Or when you were 20 you flirted with Communism in America? Or in this same country you're of Japanese decent? Or you're Armenian in the Ottoman Empire? The 20th Century is filled with examples (notice how I'm avoiding the biggest one?) of the State or someone deciding that this or that set of people is the problem or will be a problem, as with the Japanese internments, and going after them.
So yes, now it doesn't matter that the world knows you are or were X. But if the winds change, and blow in a force or a set of know it alls who feel X is bringing the country down or holding the great cause back or endangering the people, is that knowledge so benign?

Also the tools and systems that allow this government to spy on its citizens and others can just as well be used by other nations. I was listening to a podcast of a person who got a FOIA request about the travel information the government had on him. As expected it showed him the flights he took from here to there, but what he didn't expect was there was also information about the hotels where he stayed and local contacts. It also had international travel information. It was supposed that the Chinese had access to this same information by legally demanding an airline, with a presence in China, at their Chinese offices, pull information from this big travel database. And if the Chinese can track people this way, then who else can as well? The Russians, the French (yeah, I know who cares?), the Israelis, and so forth. This endangers activists, which is concerning.

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Sunday, February 02, 2014

Is it a white guy thing? Protecting "their" women

I've encountered a sentiment up close a couple times to make me wonder if it is a 'thing'. First time was with a roommate, the white straight male one. He was talking about the future, his concerns about the future with his then girlfriend (now wife). He liked the neighborhood we were in, but had some concerns about living here with her. He had very strong concerns about her safety, about her walking on the streets alone, afraid she'd be raped or something. They wound up in another part of DC, with (as far as I'm concerned) the same crime issues, but much hipper and a better selection of retail and restaurant options. At the time, I was in 'strong independent woman' mode. I was slightly offended of the idea of woman as weak thing that without man at her side will constantly be at the mercy of the criminal element.
The second was with my own husband, the Help. Now the Help and I had been platonic friends for about a decade, so we had a relationship before amor came in. After marriage I noticed he was trying to take on more of the protector role, to which the 'strong independent woman' that was me responded with, "what the Hell?" In an animated discussion about my safety, he expressed concern (despite my years of being safe when the neighborhood was more dangerous) and I countered with asking about the safety of a single female neighbor. He responded that the neighbor I mentioned was not his wife.
In the two examples, the males were white and the females, black. I've heard similar sentiment from other white guys regarding their live in girlfriends and wives, where the guy was white. And from some women inquiring about moving to the neighborhood, hinting that they can't be safe without a guy (bf or husband).
My own father, a black man, never seemed to take on this role. It wasn't protection but honor and respect, where his interests. Other black women seemed to take on protection, in a motherly fashion. There are issues of manhood and masculinity in the Black community that I really can't address here, so I won't.
After marriage, I'm letting go of parts of the 'strong independent woman' and submitting (as I've decided to interpret it) to my husband. I've grown too attached to my husband to think of living independently without him. I allow him to drive me to work, so he can protect me from the bus ride I'll have to take after work. I allow him to be concerned about aspects of my safety that are much in his thoughts, while I continue to maintain and strengthen those areas of our safety that have not crossed his mind.

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