Monday, April 15, 2013

Tax Day - My Mount Rushmore of favorite days

If you've been reading this blog for any time at all or have known me for more than 5 minutes, it will come as no epiphany that I have a "different" view of life. Some people call me a contrarian, others just a plain old nut job.

And when he comes to my favorite days, April 15 or "tax day" is definitely on my personal Mount Rushmore of favorite days. It sits atop the entire calendar year along with Thanksgiving, Fourth of July and November 29th (our anniversary).

I was speaking to someone just recently and I mentioned that April 15th is one of my favorite days and they just about flipped out. This is definitely a common sentiment. Just look at all of the blogs, news, Facebook posts, tweets and daily conversations about this day and what it means. The general sentiment is that taxes are a bad thing and were having too much of a bad thing. It doesn't matter whether you're Republican, Democrat or independent; the general reaction to April 15 is one of despair and a date to be despised.

In listening to my friend I got both barrels of exactly how he felt. "What's the matter with you Chet? Are you out of your ever loving mind? We pay so much in taxes and get so little. Doesn't that make your blood boil?” I got him to take a deep breath and bought him a decaf to help calm his nerves.

You have to understand, I do not like working with numbers! I have neither skill nor understanding of anything having to do with mathematics. My dear brother has all of the mathematical DNA material in our family and he's great with numbers. It is virtually impossible for me to do any form of computation in my head. Excel is only one click away and I will create a little spreadsheet for everything, even the most mundane and simple calculation. I'm so insecure about my capabilities with numbers that I will even build a second spreadsheet to double check what was in the first spreadsheet.

So you can see that my enjoyment of April 15th becomes even more of a mystery. Actually, my enjoyment of tax day starts months earlier (now I really have you totally confused, questioning my sanity and general well-being.)

It all starts as I get information together to prepare my taxes. You know the drill: pull out all of your receipts in addition to credit card and checking account  statements. I then start the puzzling process of matching that to my accounting software. While it automatically interfaces to all of my credit cards and bank statements, there are invariably problems and discrepancies. I then leap immediately into panic mode wondering how in the world I'm ever going to get this together.

I calm down as I work through the details and start sorting through all the information. I create numerous “piles” of paper information scattered on the floor. An important note is that you don't turn on the fan or have the windows open – a brisk breeze can ruin hours of work. Time does not permit me to adequately explain the anguish our dog Jitterbug created as she ran through my office, sliding and scattering papers everywhere.

Once I get all the information and paperwork organized, I start to go through it in detail. It's at this point that I transition from panic to pause. I pause to think through the past calendar year to see how I invested my money, and consequently my time and energies.

There is nothing so sobering as examining your expenses to see what you think is important. You may say something is vitally important, but then you evaluate those verbal statements with your bank and credit card statements. You are smacked in the face with the reality of your true choices. Our true faith and beliefs are confirmed by where we spend our money.

I am struck by two truths.

First, I see God providing so much that I am completely blown away. He has done so much for me; I see and experience his kindness in ways that I do not deserve. This past year I dramatically changed direction in my life. Instead of getting a paycheck by working for a company, I struck out on my own through consulting and also started a non-profit ministry organization. After doing all the research in preparation for April 15th, I came to the unbelievable realization that while I took a significant risk and dramatic income reduction, God has been so kind and faithful. I know this because we actually have more money in the bank now than when we started. I can only attribute this to God’s kindness and provision.

Second, Jesus clearly believed in looking at “tax day.” When he said “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” [1] he confirmed the truth about us. We spend on what we “believe” in, what we hold dear.

So as the sun sets on Tax Day 2013, what did you spend your money on? What did you invest in? If you brought your receipts to Jesus, what would he see and what would he say?

Please believe me that I am not trying to play the “guilt card” but for us to clearly look at where and in who we put our faith. Faith is not jumping off a bridge but making daily decisions that line up to what we really think is true. I urge you to change and start following Jesus, realigning your life spending with him so that Tax Day 2014 will be on your Mount Rushmore of favorite days as well.

Blessings - Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

[1] Matthew 6:21

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