Monthly Archives: February 2014

Random Thoughts

Traveling this week in Korea. Sitting in Incheon airport on our way back home. We were able to bring the whole family to Seoul to see my youngest brother get married. His wife is a Korean national, but they met in Ankara, Turkey where they were both teaching. They’ve since moved to Seoul, but no word yet on what their long-term plans are together. I can say that she and my brother appear to be very happy together and a good fit. She’s very kind and gentle, much like my brother. I’m really excited to see him this happy and sharing his life with someone special. Hannah comes from a relatively small family; she has one older brother who is already married and has a young toddler. I come from a family of 4. And now we have 7 of our own.

This has been a good week for me — a healthy reminder of all the blessings in my life. As much as I rant and complain about the growing black hand of government intrusiveness in the United States, it is my home, and I’m proud to be an American. As I grow older, the simpler things in life are the most important. I’m neck deep in my middle life (I won’t call it a crisis). Our children are all out of diapers. Our oldest daughter is a stone’s throw away from starting to drive and eventually thinking of college. I’m at a good mid-point in my career. Chronic illnesses that once threatened my long-term health have been reversed, and I’m in the best physical shape I’ve been in probably 20 years.

Back in TX, we have a huge home, more than one car, all the groceries, appliances, medicines, toys and products that we could possibly need to keep us warmed, filled, healthy and comfortable. I have a wife that makes everything beautiful in my life. She is everything that I’m lacking, understanding where I’m impatient, thoughtful where I’m clueless. Our children, as much as they can drive us crazy at any given moment, still manage to get compliments for their behavior and manners even while overseas.

Then I also look around and see young people, both stateside and here in Seoul, chasing after things that once preoccupied my time, money and energy. The latest styles of clothing, music, entertainment, all-night parties, heavy drinking, and chasing after women are so far behind me that I can’t imagine living that life again. It makes me wonder what men my age or older are thinking when they divorce or are still living that youthful ignorance.

For the unbeliever, life can be a series of struggles, a never-ending pursuit of happiness that never materializes. Chasing after titles, power, influence, wealth and physical relationships are mirages in the desert. For the Christian, these things are put in the proper priority of life. Everyone needs shelter, relationships, and physical comforts. Isn’t it reassuring to know that our Father in Heaven knows what we need and provides them freely?

We’re left with what matters most. The assurance of our salvation, of His complete and final atonement of our sins, gives us the freedom and context to consider the secondary and tertiary matters in life.

In short, I’m reminded again of the verse that headlines my blog — Galatians 5:13. “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

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That’s a lot of money. Or is it?

We’re heading to Korea soon to celebrate my younger brother’s wedding.  I went ahead and exchanged some USD to KRW (South Korean Won) here before leaving.

This is the 1,000 Won bill.

1000 won

If you’re from anywhere other than Korea, your first thought might be “Wow!  That’s a lot of money.  A thousand Won has got to be able to buy a ton of stuff!”

In fact, at the time of this post, the exchange rate is about 1075 Won to $1 USD.  This THOUSAND Won is worth about $0.93.

This makes intuitive sense to most people.  Obviously, different countries have different currencies and each will be worth more or less than our domestic denomination.  To go a step further, what really determines the VALUE of any currency is what you can get in exchange for it.  If I can take this 1000 Won bill and buy a steak and lobster dinner, I don’t care what the exchange rate is to USD, THAT’S A GOOD DEAL!

What escapes the average citizen is when a country arbitrarily inflates or deflates the value of its currency by playing around with the money supply.  If the currency is not tied to anything of value, like Gold or Oil or Land or Porches, the Treasury can basically print or destroy currency at their whim.

What happens as a result is not immediately visible to most citizens.  They go around thinking their money has a fixed value when in fact (in the case of the Treasury printing HUGE amounts of money to be circulated) their money is slowly losing value right before their eyes.

Economists will tell you that the way printing money affects the economy has the same impacts of a tax.  It’s a tax that hurts the poorest the most.  And unlike your income tax, where you pay the IRS up front with each paycheck and they give you a small ‘refund’ at the end of the year, currency manipulation isn’t something from which you can request a refund.

 

Get your smokes elsewhere, like from our competitors

CVS Caremark Corp. announced today that they would stop selling all tobacco products from their retail stores this year. The decision was made to try and bolster their image as a healthcare provider. It is expected to cost them $2 billion in annual sales.

Business decisions like this are always perplexing to me. Does Larry Merlo, President and CEO, think he’s actually improving anyone’s health with this announcement? If you’ve ever been to a CVS, usually the first 2 aisles are stocked full with candy, chips, jerky, and soda. The next 2 might be dedicated to cosmetics. Some stores, I’m told, sell liquor.

I understand the desire to paint a marketing brand image. But CVS is a for-profit business. If I was a shareholder, I’d be dumping the stock. Or calling for Merlo’s head.

The fact is that no one that uses tobacco is forced to do so. They CHOOSE to do so. Yes, that includes teens subjected to peer pressure and media glamorization.

If you’re a smoker and CVS stopped selling cigarettes, what would you do? If CVS is the ONLY place in your town to get cigarettes, you might actually be forced to quit. But almost certainly, you’re just going to go right next door to the Walmart or 7-11 or Kroger or the gas station. So Merlo is basically pushing $2 billion into the pockets of his competitors.

Now, CVS can do anything they want. If Merlo wants to take $2 billion in sales off the table to push a marketing image, that’s his choice. But recognize the futility of trying to force adults to make good decisions. Instead of telling consumers what they are allowed to buy, retail business should be listening to what consumers are demanding if, in fact, they want to stay in business.

Poor in spirit

Another great sermon this morning on the Beatitudes. Today’s messages focused on Matthew 5:3 — “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

One quick thought that caught my attention immediately. Lyndon had pointed out the similarities and differences between Poor in secular terms (meaning a beggar, completely dependent on the charity of others for any and every physical need) vs. Poor in spirit (which is what Christ was speaking to.) More thoughts on that topic later this week.

But this verse is not to be taken out of context, as some requirement of having no possessions in order to be happy (as I had touched on last week). If that were in fact the case, then we should stop giving anything to the poor lest we rob them of their happiness.

I’ve said it many times, but our possessions are not good or evil on their own. If, however, we are consumed with things and our hearts turn to covetousness, whether you are rich or poor will not make a difference in God’s eyes. A poor man with little wealth may covet his neighbor’s things and thus be sinning. A rich man may recognize the temporary nature of his fortune but still be honoring to God.