In other news...

Sunday, June 22, 2008
(Just to note: I wrote this post last night, but wasn't able to post it until today)

Well, I need to update you guys about my Jeep, but first some other "news".

Most of you know a little bit about my new job, but let me explain it here for everyone. I work for BlueMoon Cinemas, who specializes in setting up inflatable movie screens for events. They come in three main sizes: 16 foot, 26', and 40', where the 16 foot screen is sixteen feet wide by nine feet tall. Here is a picture of a sixteen foot screen:

Here is a picture of me standing in front of the forty foot screen.

Ya, it is big! This job is fun, I work for two hours to set up the screen, then sit back and watch a movie (from Dumbo to Transformers, from The Wizard of Oz to Big), then spend an hour taking the screen down. It pays well, and is good physical work for me. It does hurt my sleeping schedule, but it is paying the bills for now.

Moving on... I want a 3G iPhone. This is no new news. I have been wanting an iPhone for a while now. But many things have made it more of a reason for me to get one now:

My current phone is starting to act flakey. IE: sometimes I can't hear others on the phone. Very annoying.
My current contract is up.
The price just got cut in half!
The App Store/SDK will be an amazing addition to the phone.
The new one has GPS, so I won't need a separate GPS unit (like I was thinking about getting).

But everything ain't rosey about getting one. For example, $300 is a lot of money for me right now, and the extra $30 a month (for the data plan) is a hard swallow. And...

Frankly, I am having "religious" second thoughts. Sure I would like it if I had one, but does the Bible call us to do what we want, or to serve the poor? I mean, how selfish am I to want an overpriced phone when others are hungry? I am not even speaking of "some random people in Africa," I mean people in my community, people in my neighborhood, people that walk by me on the street every day.

In the past I have spoken about my worries about greed, and this is a great example of that. Sure I volunteer at my church, and I give some money to organizations that I like to support, but when was the last time that I poured myself out for the poor?

Am I a bad person if I get an iPhone? I would hope not. But should I "fast" from an iPhone to learn some humility, or if I go back to work (I have ben thinking about going back to UPS to help pay for a new vehicle) would it be OK if I paid for it?

(I hate "religious" quandaries, because most of the time there are "right" answers and "wrong" answers, but I feel like often there is no way to absolutely know which is which. Sure, one can speculate and read the Bible, but transferring the Bible to modern times is an inaccurate science at best.)

Speaking about a new vehicle, I posted yesterday about two Jeep Liberties that I thought would be great for me. I originally wanted the 2003 (less expensive, more miles) but others convinced me that it was worth the extra money for the 2002 (less miles). Well, I went to the dealership, and they had already sold the 2002, so I looked at the 2003. The first thing that I noticed was that it smelled of smoke... that is, the kind of smell that says "someone who smokes lived here" (yes, the smell of "cigarette smoke" and the smell of "someone who smokes lived here" are different smells).

Then I noticed another kind of smoke. The dealer opened up the hood, and I saw white smoke coming out from behind the engine. It was at this point that he was all like "I just talked to my boss, and I told him that you were coming by, and because I said on the phone that I still had both Jeeps and one was sold last night, so I asked him how much I could take off of the price, and he said to take it down to six thousand." So right there on the spot he took one thousand dollars off the price, which just makes it a better deal... if it is a good deal in the first place.

I took it on a test drive, and it drove OK, but the "someone who smokes lived here" smell bothered me more than I thought that it would. I brought it back, and told the guy that the white smoke that I saw worried me, so he let me take it to my mechanic to look it over. Thankfully, my guy didn't charge me anything. He said that there was nothing mechanically wrong with the Jeep, except for a leaking valve gasket cover (or something like that) which was leaking oil on the manifold which was causing the smoke (turns out it would only cost a few hundred dollars to fix).

So I went back to the dealership, and I told him: "I know it sounds cliche, but this isn't the car for me." I didn't like the smell, it had too many miles, and there were other little things: like it had been in a fender-bender (cracking the plastic front bumper), and there were smudges on the inside of the plastic over the gauges.

So I didn't get either Jeep Liberty. I am still looking for a Jeep Liberty, but as Sara put it, this will just make me appreciate even more the Jeep that is "right for me."

Well, that is about it for now. Wish me luck (or something). As I write this, I am sitting here at a job watching Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (that is the original, not the creepy new one). The TV boy just got shrunk, and Charlie is the only one left, so I need to go get ready to take down the screen (the second picture above was taken tonight). Ta ta for now!



Swing said...

Gene Wilder at 22.5 feet tall? Wow that's a little scary. But those screens look really cool!!

I understand your quandry about the iPhone, but like you said, there's not clear-cut Biblical answer on this one. There are definitely times when God calls us to give money/service/etc to others, but I don't think his plan for all Christians is to live as cheaply as we can and give everything else away.

For our family, most of our giving decisions happen when we make our monthly budget: It's at that time that we sit down and decide how much we're going to give and to what organizations. This way, we don't have to tackle this decision on a day to day basis - because if I feel like I'm constantly struggling with this, I'll eventually just give it all out of feeling guilty. But God doesn't call us to a lifetime of feeling guilty over how much money we do or don't give!

And actually, at this time a lot of our budget is going toward savings (thanks to Dave Ramsey, of course). We're trying to pay off the house and have a comfortable emergency fund tucked away. The portion of our total income that we just "give away" is at this point relatively small (though I will say that it's bigger than our "blow" money budget - the money that we just spend at our discretion). However, once we get the house paid off and our retirement secured - that will totally open us up to a much bigger opportunity for giving than we ever had before!! What kind of good can I do in my community if I can suddenly give away my mortgage payment every month? Just something to think about.

So my suggestion is this: make a budget and at THAT time prayerfully consider what percentage God wants you to give away. Then stick to giving what you said you would, and don't feel bad about spending the rest on yourself. God has so totally blessed us in this country, and that's something to be thankful for, not feel guilty over.

OK, all that was theoretical, but I do have one more thing that applies directly to you. I, personally, am not sure that an iPhone is the smartest use of $300 when you're trying to save up for a new car and don't have an emergency fund. That's just me. I think there are much more important priorities for you right now. Otherwise, you just might be feeling really cool calling a tow truck from your new iPhone when the transmission finally gives out on Rhonda.

That's my 2 cents. OK, maybe it was more like 3.

Matt said...

I would have to say that I agree with Swing.

Obviously the 10% tithe isn't optional, but she's right. We have been blessed and we should be grateful, not guilty.

The less exciting part of that is what gratefulness looks like. Gratefulness means being a good steward of God's blessings. You probably know how I feel about debt. I'm almost as opposed to it as Ramsey. Your blessings aren't a license to live beyond your means.

Lastly, never never NEVER buy any car that makes smoke. No matter where the smoke comes from it is ALWAYS bad. Yes, there's the possibility that the last guy who changed the oil just spilled some on the engine and there's not actually anything wrong, but the liklihood is that the leak in the main seal is a symptom of 20,000 miles per year and very poor maintenance. Oh, and replacing a main seal by yourself would cost about $200. Paying a pro to do it would cost between $500 and $700.

I'm still praying for you, bro. Everyday. I promise. I'm really looking forward to being able to come up and see you more often. We're definitely going to have to hang out a lot more often.