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How to Live Well Without Owning a Car


OK, I still own a car. But this blog title is also the title of a book by Chris Balish which I just checked out from my local library (to which I can easily walk and/or unicycle). Sarah and I have been influenced by this book recently, as we now bike more frequently, and we are playing a game where we have a set gas budget at the beginning of the month (which is dropping each month) and then trying to spend only that amount on gas. Who knows, we may be car-free by the end of the year!

This book was written in 2003 (when gas was half the price it is now) by Chris Balish, a professional news anchor living in St. Louis. He drove a big SUV and “accidentally” took the plunge into car-free living. He wanted to downsize his car, so he put the SUV on the market, planning to buy another car in the near future. Well, the SUV sold almost overnight, and he had not yet bought the new car. So he was forced to figure out ways to commute without the precious hunk of metal customarily sitting in front of his residence.

This interim period between cars turned permanent, and he did not go back. His book gives great advice on how to live well without owning a car. Notice the word, “owning.” This is not an “anti-vehicle” book. In fact, he gives thoughts on how to ride with friends, rent cars, and even a new thing called “car sharing.” He also gives advice on how to live “car-lite” for people who really do need to own a vehicle for some reason or another (i.e. large family, rural living, job-related transport, etc).

The bottom line is: we can all drive less than we currently do. And many of us can make it without a car – really. How often do we just hop in those transport devices on a whim – just to pick up a pack of sodas at the store?

Here are the benefits (some of which are detailed in the book) to not owning a car:
1. Financial (you can save boatloads of money by not owning a car – think about how much you spend on registration, insurance, gas, tires, repairs, oil changes, wiper blades, tolls, parking, lease payments, car washes, annual inspections (for Virginia residents), etc, etc, etc
2. Social – the other day, Sarah and I carpooled with my brother and his fiance to my parents’ house – and it was great social interaction with them – we were all crammed into a little mustang and talked the whole way out to the house
3. Health – when you do not own a car, by nature, you travel more on foot and bike, nuf said about the health benefit
4. Spiritual – it may be intangible, but remember the experience of enjoying God’s creation the last time you went on a walk in a park or rode your bike? now, when was the last time you felt that while driving down the highway at 65 miles an hour?
5. Global – by not owning a car, you are contributing significantly less to the oil industry, which could potentially alleviate the volatility in the Middle East (I know, it is only part of a complicated equation, but every little bit helps – especially if we want to see Middle East peace and Global peace)

New Home for the "Great Idea Blog"

Hey folks, I am now merging my two blogs into one on this site. This simplifies my postings since the subject matter that I covered on both blogs had a good deal of crossover.

By the way, there is an incredible free web tool called “Google Reader.” This thing is amazing. You can subscribe to blogs and news websites so that the all the information comes directly to you in one place. When you check your “reader,” you can see the most recently updated posts from your favorite blogs and news sites – and you can even categorize them into different folders. If this is new to you, then watch the video here for a quick and simple tutorial. It saves time – and you’ll be hooked.

Jaw-Dropping Mapping from Google

Google has done it again – something very practical, widely-used, and free. This time it is a feature called “Street View” on Google Maps. Google has mapped out every street and block of certain cities in America with a rotating camera on top of a car. That means you can type in any address in these cities and get a real picture of the house or restaurant or whatever. Then you can scroll up and down the street (and around the next corner, and so on) and see the rest of the block. I just spoke on the phone with a guy that I’m going to meet up with at his house. I’ve never been to his house before. He gave me his address and told me he was the second house from the end on the left. With that information, I looked it up on Street View and was able to say to him, “So you’re the two-story, white top with a six-paneled window on the first floor, right?” He confirmed my information as true.

You have to see this feature for yourself. If you don’t live in a mapped out city (indicated by blue outlines on the streets when you click on “street view” or by a camera image on the city) then type in the address of someone you know in a mapped out city and go sit on their virtual doorstep. This is amazing.

http://maps.google.com/maps

Lions who Don’t Hurt Donkeys


This morning, I experienced a “Wow” moment after reading a story in the Bible. Here I am, 27 years old, just graduated from seminary, the son of a pastor, currently serving in ministry – and I read a Bible story about which I was totally unfamiliar. I’m in Children’s Ministry, so I am used to teaching kids the stories of David v. Goliath, Abraham and Isaac, Jesus and his parables, etc. But I think kids could get into a story about a guy riding a donkey who gets mauled by a lion and then the lion just stands there over the dead body without doing anything to the donkey. The fate of this unnamed man was brought upon the Lord because he was a prophet who disobeyed the Word of the Lord. This story is found in 1 Kings 13. We have two prophets – one is called an “old prophet” and the other is called a “man of God.” The “man of God” from the Southern Kingdom hears the Word of the Lord to go across the border of the Divided Kingdom and tell Jeroboam, the king of the Northern Kingdom, some bad news about God’s judgement against his wickedness. Meanwhile, this “man of God” was told by the Lord not to eat anything while he was in enemy territory.

Of course, the inevitable happens: the “man of God” is stopped by an “old prophet” from the Northern Kingdom who invites him over for some food. The “old prophet” tells the “man of God” that God said that he should come over and eat (which was a lie). The “man of God” obeys the lie and eats with the “old prophet.” The punishment for disobeying the Lord was death by lion attack. And the man’s donkey just stood by the lion after the killing.

“Wow.” How cool is it to find new and exciting stories (at least to me) in the Bible. There is a reason for every word in this Holy Book. And this is one stop along the way of the narrative of the Kings of Israel (including the time of the Divided Kingdom after Solomon and before the Babylonian captivity). One moral of the story is: listen to the voice of God and stick to it even if someone tries to tell you otherwise (even if they say, “God says so”). Perhaps this will be woven into a lesson for kids. They like animals. And the boys really like it when lions are involved.

Book Review: Financial Peace, Revisited

I just finished Financial Peace, Revisited by Dave Ramsey with thoughts by Sharon Ramsey (Viking, 2003). I blasted through this book, both because of its readability and since the subject matter is very practical. I have been listening to this guy’s podcasts recently and his conservative Puritan view towards money (hard work ethic, no borrowing, giving/tithing, saving) resonates with what I feel is the right way to view finances. He has quite the following on his radio show and in his live events. He has also taken the American church by storm, offering his “Financial Peace University” curriculum at a church or school near you.

In his book, Dave shares how he lost BIG in real estate in his twenties – nearing bankruptcy, only to gain it all back again using the money principles about which he now teaches. Has what he calls the “Baby Steps” to financial freedom – starting with things like saving up an emergency fund and getting out of consumer debt. Then he encourages people to save for retirement and college – and then pay off the house. He teaches that ideally, nobody should take out a mortgage but should buy a house with cash. But if people area already in a mortgage, then they should “get mad” until it is completely paid off. We work harder at something, he says, if we get mad and let our emotional desire for peace and security kick in. Once the house is paid off, then they can live prosperously and philanthropically. None of this comes overnight. Financial peace is the result of hard work at our jobs and disciplined saving over the long-haul. It also means that we as consumers must curb our selfish desires to “have it all” and “have it now.” We must live well beneath our means and use the excess income to save and give.

I love this kind of teaching because it is the opposite of the “get rich quick” myths out there. We have all seen those infomercials and seen the ads: “Earn ten times the income for one-fourth of the work!” Maybe some people have achieved that. But most people cannot – because that is not reality. Work hard, give, save, spend. And make sure every penny – and no more – is allocated to one of those three categories (giving, saving, spending).

I recommend this book. We all need to deal with money in this world. This book helps up to better deal with it so that we are no longer enslaved by the money, but rather we have control over it.


This is a shameless plug for the best new conference of 2008 – the first annual Christian Juggling Conference. The Christian Juggler’s Association has been around since the mid-90’s and I believe that a conference has long been a desire of the leadership. Now, we get to see that desire come to fruition with this great opportunity for learning and networking coming this July. The dates are July 11th-13th and the conference will be held at Vineyard Community Church in Lexington, Kentucky. The exciting thing is that the International Juggler’s Festival is being held in Lexington, Kentucky the following week. So jugglers can attend both events if they like, since they are back-to-back. David Cain, the Juggler 4 Jesus, is the keynote presenter. There will also be open gym time, workshops, and an opportunity for real-live ministry in local churches on Sunday morning. This is so exciting! For all the details, click here. I’ll see you there.

The Money Envelope System


My wife and I have heard about budgeting money using cash in envelopes that separate different categories of spending, but I guess we never though it was “for us.” The more I thought about it, I figured that if it saves money in the end, why not do it? So I went to the bank and got out some cash for three main categories of spending (plus one for “other”) that are categories that are not “fixed” each month. These three are groceries, dining out, and gas. These three categories usually end up fluctuating each month because my wife and I have no budgeted goal for keeping those expenses down. With these envelopes, we know we can only spend “x” amount of dollars at the grocery store this month. Whatever is leftover we can put into savings and then start all over again next month.

If you think about this, it will save money and give more freedom. We will save money because we won’t just impulse buy – we actually have to think about our purchases before we put them in the grocery basket. It also produces more freedom (ironically) because we know we can go out to eat and spend money from our “dining” envelope at some nice restaurant at the end of the month because we held back from dining fancy at the beginning of the month. We often go out to eat and feel somewhat guilty that we are spending money frivolously. But now that we have a budget, we can feel the freedom of spending what we budgeted.

The reason why many people have financial wealth in this world is because of a simple principle called “delayed gratification.” They shop at JC Penny and maybe even Thrift Stores. The other reason they are wealthy is because they spend less than they earn. And that is a principle that can apply to anyone of any income level.

New You Tube Videos

I just posted a couple of new videos on YouTube. They are the first two videos listed on the left bar of this blog page. I just met with a great buddy of mine this morning for some fellowship and accountability. Wow, I have missed brother-to-brother fellowship! I had some great brothers-in-Christ while in college, and even a few friends in seminary. Now that my wife and I have moved to Virginia, it has been tough to find some close friends. I feel like this friend I met with (whom I knew from years ago) has been an answer to prayer. Let us not give up meeting together! “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another” – A Biblical Proverb

Other People’s Grocery Lists

I found a very entertaining book at my friend’s house last night. It is a compilation of real-life grocery lists discovered at grocery stores across America. I guess this author found the lists himself and collected lists sent in by fans. Here is the website (www.grocerylists.org). This is a fascinating subject – the left behind information that says so much about who we are as humans – doing something mundane as keeping lists for buying food.