Friday, September 4, 2009

When Fire Takes It All

While watching the Southern CA wildfires on TV and the loss of many homes, I thought about Marcia and Brad, whom I interviewed after they lost their house to fire. It burned to the ground, taking everything with it, but family members all got out alive, even the dog. At first, she was so grateful for their lives that Marcia could only say to herself, "We’re alive. That’s what counts. Thank you, God."

Then day to day reality set in.
For weeks afterward, she would start to say, “Oh, I’ll get the—“ and then stop, realizing. "It’s gone. Everything is gone."
Insurance replaced some of it. But none of the really important things could be retrieved. The family heirlooms. The kids’ baby photos. The letter Brad had written her on their tenth anniversary. And yet—

They were alive. That's what mattered. But at the same time, Marcia felt so sad. And guilty about feeing sad. "They are only things," she reminded herself.

Is it shameful to grieve over lost possessions?

Of course you grieve! While some objects can be replaced, others –the ones that hold family memories--are irreplaceable. Many circumstances can prompt the loss of meaningful personal possessions. A hurricane or tornado. A move into a nursing home. A mortgage foreclosure. A divorce.

If you should lose the important memorabilia of your life, give yourself permission to cry. You need to acknowledge your losses in the same way you do when a person dies.

The stages of grief must still be borne. Feelings of sadness are very real. Evenven when what we grieve are "only" possessions, we cannot really go forward until our griefs are honestly acknowledged and experienced--without guilt or shame.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

DIsagree about money?

Here's a humorous take on money arguments between couples: "There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who enjoy saving carefully for the sailboat they plan to buy one day. And those who buy the sailboat on credit so they can have the fun of sailing right now. Inevitably, the two marry each other."

If you're in disagreement over money issues, Sit down with your partner and each agree to write a money autobiography. Start by describing your parents' attitudes about money. What did money symbolize to you at age 10? 15? 20? 30? Is it Success? Security? Fear? Lack? Desire? Power? Pleasure? Do you have a particularly strong memory, happy or sad, that involves money?

As you read yours and your partner's autobigraphies, you'll begin to see where your attitudes, assumptions, and values came from. It can help you understand your partner's seemingly erratic behavior around money; and can help each of you make some behavioral changes. In my GRACE ON THE GO book about money, I include this prayer:

"Dear God, my partner and I share so many values.
But money differences are driving us apart.
Help both of us realize that our spend-or-save choices
Are neither right nor wrong.
Just different.
Help both us of us listen to each other's point of view and
Seek to understand.
Help both of us agree on our financial goals
And help us find a middle way to get there."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A reprint from United Methodist Reporter

I thought you might enjoy this Q&A by Mary Jacobs, a writer for the United Methodist Reporter. 

"With the economy as bad as it is, are you worried that you haven’t got a prayer?
In her book, Grace on the Go: Powerful Prayers to Ease Money Worries (Morehouse, 2009), Barbara Bartocci offers words of encouragement and practical tips.

Q: A lot of people are worried right now. What insight can you offer?

Worry is like prayer to the wrong god. We think we are focusing on the problem and somehow doing something about it. But worry puts our mind into obsessive, negative thinking. We're not problem-solving. We're obsessing.

When you catch yourself worrying, literally say the word “Stop.” Psychologists tell us that our minds will only hold one thing at a time. Once we stop the worried thought, we can put in something to take its place. I suggest a short, affirmative prayer such as, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” or “If God is with me, who can be against me?” Repeat this prayer until it is fixed in your consciousness, replacing the worry.

Another action step: if you feel you can’t give up worry altogether, then limit the time you spend on it. Mentally, put all your worry into a big canvas bag.Once a day take the worry out and wallow in it for a certain period of time—no more than 15 minutes—then mentally stuff the worry back into the bag and say this prayer: “Thank you, God. I am now worry-free until this time tomorrow.” Psychologically, by not trying to get rid of worry altogether, you have made it manageable.

Q: You describe a technique you call “prayerful brainstorming.” Explain.

It's a way to look at worry from a problem-solving perspective. Imagine that a friend has come to you with the same concern you’re facing. What would you advise? Jot down every idea that comes to you. Some will seem farfetched, but there’s going to come one idea you can use. It may call on you to live in a way that is different from your ideal lifestyle. But if you stay faithful, believing that God will be with you, you can brainstorm a way out of your problems.

We live in a culture that has mixed-up needs with wants. I believe the statement, “If you strive for the kingdom of God, all else you need will be given to you.” Maybe not everything you want, but what you need.

Q: Without discounting the pain, are there “lessons learned” from this recession?

Yes, we're re-learning what really counts. I have a chapter in my book titled “Happiness: Priceless." A study asked people, “Would you like more income?” Whether someone earned $5000, $50,000 or $500,000 a year, every person replied, "Yes. Sure."

“But when the question was asked, “What do you need to make you happy?” money was No. 14 on the list. First on the list is the loving concern and care of friends and family.

Q:So what’s your advice for dealing with money worries?

Follow these 19 words:
“Clutter less. Pray more. Consume less. Give more. Want less. Enjoy more. And always, always give thanks to God.”"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Face the truth about your debt

Kali, a divorced single mom, was so afraid to look at her bills that she tossed them, unopened, into her closet. Somehow she fooled herself into thinking that if she didn’t see them, they would go away.
For a long time, Liz couldn’t bring herself to check her credit rating.
Isabella had not acknowledged the full extent of her credit card debt until she began a series of credit counseling meetings at her church.
Facing up to everything we owe can be difficult. Keeping secrets—whether from ourselves or from others---takes a steep emotional toll. There is something freeing about facing the truth. See if this prayer helps you.
The Naming Prayer
I am naming it.
My debt.
I owe $ (fill in the blank)
It’s a heavy weight.I feel as if it could crush me.
But like Jesus bidding Peter to walk across the water,
You are bidding me to walk out in faith.
If I get discouraged and cry, “Lord save me!”
Please reach out your hand as you did to Peter.
I am willing but weak,
Yet I know with your help,
I can lift this weight from my life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

19 Words To Live By in Tough Times

Clutter less
Pray more
Consume less
Give more
Want less
Enjoy more
And always, always, give thanks to God.
These 19 words are from my newest book, Grace on the Go: Powerful Prayers to Ease Money Worries. (Morehouse Press, April,2009, $10.)Here are 3 quick ways to act on the words above.

3 Quick Ways to Clutter Less
1) Track in a notebook for a week how you spend your time and your money. These are two great clues to our real values.
2) Practice mindfulness. Breathe slowly. Pay attention to the present moment. Sometimes the worst clutter is in our minds. We twitter, we text, we link in, we email. I-phones, 24-7. A little silence can be a big thing.But, “…The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest…” (Dietrich Boenhoffer)
3) Clear your work space before beginning your next task. Notice how free you feel when your workspace is clear.

3 Quick Ways to Pray More
1)Begin each day with gratitude. Say aloud, as you get up,
“I rejoice!”
2)Put a spiritual spin on tasks you’re already doing. Morning shower: “May I be cleansed of any lingering resentments.” While filling your car with gas: “Fill me with loving compassion toward everyone I meet today.”
3)Since prayer is a form of thinking, watch how you think. Notice a negative thought? Say out loud, “Stop!” Then insert a positive thought or a quick prayer. “Jesus, have mercy. Christ have mercy” is one I like.

3 Quick Ways to Consume Less
1)Before buying anything, ask the question: “Is this necessary for life or death?”
2)If you bring something new into your life, give away something you already have at the same time.
3)Eat smaller portions. Live in smaller spaces. Say no to meaningless activities that merely pass time.

3 Quick Ways to Give More
1)Giving and receiving are part of a universal energy flow. People in the flow of giving will receive, though not necessarily from the person to whom they give.
2)If you were not raised to be comfortable in giving, start small. Send a small donation to a good cause. Writing a check to another reminds us that we do have more than we need.
3)Lend your time to someone going through a hard patch. Run errands for an invalid. Donate blood. Walk a neighbor’s dog. Build your trust in giving by remembering all you have received.

3 Quick Ways to Want Less
1)Stop comparing with others who appear to have more. Affluence does not protect anyone from the challenges of being human.
2)Appreciate what you already have. A family heirloom. Tulips in your garden. A comfortable bed. Loving relationships.
3)When looking at an ad or at an item on sale, ask: “Do I need this?” Pay attention to the answer. Corollary: Will my life really be less happy without this?

3 Quick Ways to Enjoy More
1)Studies show that positive life experiences gain importance in our memories, while material purchases lose value as time goes on. Pay attention to your life as it's happening now!
2)Choose your attitude. Research shows when we “act-as-if”, our emotions follow our behavior. Up or down.
3)Laugh more. Look for the humor in ordinary life experiences.

And always, always, give thanks to God!Or to the universe or to the Creator or to universal mind…whatever word you use, believe. And ultimately, all shall be well.

The copy above is for your use. Credit should be given to Barbara Bartocci, author,
Grace on the Go: Powerful Prayers to Ease Money Worries,
Morehouse Press, $10, pub date April 2009.

For a review copy of my book,

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Living Authentically

Peter and Sarah are haunted by a secret. They live in an upscale neighborhood of houses with three-car garages. Entry halls with cathedral ceilings. Bathrooms as big as bedrooms used to be. There are tennis courts and soccer fields. Good schools.
But their secret is… they can’t afford to live there.
They moved in when times were good, and now times aren’t so good. “We were stretched from the beginning,” admits Sarah.
It’s not only their house. They feel as if they’re “expected” to participate socially in ways they can’t afford. Like the expensive summer camp where all their kids’ friends are going. In trying to keep up, they maxed their credit cards, and are making minimum payments. “The interest rate is killing us," says Sarah. But what else can we do?”
The obvious answer is to move. Move to a neighborhood they can afford. But that means facing a reality that Peter and Sarah aren’t yet prepared to do.
There is a heavy cost in trying desperately to “keep up with the Joneses.” It’s more than financial. Peter and Sarah aren’t living an authentic life. They’re pretending to be who they’re not.
Being real—with ourselves and with others---is the pathway to inner peace. It means acknowledging the truth about where you are financially. Never mind comparing or trying to keep up with anyone else.

Try this: A Prayer to be Real
I am living beyond my means.
And I am not at peace.
I want to live an authentic life
And not lean on outward show
But I’m scared,
Afraid that by myself I won’t be enough.
Help me face my fear.
Help me believe that I am enough.
When I embrace Reality,
I will find peace because
Reality is another name for God.
This comes from my new book, Grace on the Go: Prayers to Ease Money Worries

Monday, January 26, 2009

Is this any way to ease money worries?

Here is my confession. After starting my blog, I set it aside to finish writing my newest book, GRACE ON THE GO: Powerful Prayers to Ease Money Worries which is being published by Morehouse Press (an Imprint of Church Publishing) in April, 2009.

Anyone reading this who is a writer by profession knows that there comes a time when deadlines decide your life. In order to meet my publisher's deadline, I stopped doing anything other than work on my book manuscript.
And I finished on time!

Here are the chapter headings:
It Isn't Fair!
Do I Need It or Do I Want It?
A Matter of Life and Debt
"I feel ashamed!"
He Spends, She Saves, She Saves, He Spends
Choosing Simple Abundance
Glory Be for the Gift of Giving
Happiness? Pricesless!
Trouble Spots