It was a quiet week at the parsonage. At least it began that way, which is a sure sign of trouble ahead for me.
Why is it that bad weeks always start out very quiet and serene? Could it be Mother Nature's way of luring people into a false sense of serenity?
The Mistress of the Parsonage and myself were enjoying a Monday evening at home. She was busy with her needlepoint and I, upon my favorite chair, busied myself with writing out the checks for the month.
"Aha," I sighed with an air of satisfaction.
"What are you happy about?" my wife casually plied. (Have you ever noticed just how perceptive wives are?)
I informed my significant other that I had just finished writing all the checks for the month and discovered we had a surplus in the family exchequer. This is not a normal occurrence for us. What is normal is to have more month than money.
Every time we think we are about to make ends meet, someone moves the ends. If somebody ever comes up with a two-week month, we just might have a chance at making those ends meet.
With the air of a Wall Street financier, I confidently informed my wife that after paying all our bills for the month we had a surplus of $1,050 in our checkbook. Being only a husband, I assumed this bit of information would be met with some degree of jubilation from my better half.
Imagine my surprise when I was greeted with a sarcastic rebuff. Disregarding Miss Pessimist, I began dreaming of how we would celebrate this unexpected windfall.
The trouble with windfalls, though, is that they are usually more wind than anything else. Nevertheless, with the naiveté of a seasoned husband, I reveled in our unexpected wealth and what we could do with it.
Some view money as "filthy lucre," but I take a more casual and practical attitude.
Without looking up from her needlepoint, the good mistress of the parsonage simply stated, "You'd better recheck your balance." What do wives know about finances and balancing checkbooks?
To placate her, I rechecked my checkbook balance, if only to prove me right. "Uh, oh," I said softly. Instead of having a balance of $1,050, my new calculations revealed I had an overdraft of $1,050!
Without saying a word, I got up from my chair and got the official, plug-in calculator. Some jobs require heavy-duty equipment.
I discovered my mistake the third time I went over the figures. It is amazing what a difference a misplaced decimal point can make.
Much to my satisfaction, and after 20 minutes of frantic financial sweat, the actual balance in the checkbook was $105. Believe me, I was still elated with this small surplus, which doesn't happen often. There is no satisfaction quite like knowing you are right.
When I cheerfully informed my wife that we, in deed, did have a surplus she simply responded by saying, "Something will break."
Of course, she is a fervent believer in an old saying among parsonage dwellers: "Cash on hand means trouble at hand."
I don't pay attention to such "old wives tales," which may be why things don't always (okay, never) turn out for me. As a man, I believe I am in charge of my destiny, which is different from a woman, whose destiny is to charge.
As my wife continued with her needlepoint, I sat back in my favorite chair, reveling in what we could use the money on this week. Maybe a romantic dinner at our favorite restaurant. In the dim light of unreality, the options seemed endless.
That was Monday night. On Tuesday, as I worked on my computer and tried to print out some important document, I noticed something was wrong. The printer was not responding.
At first, I thought it was merely out of ink. Have you ever noticed that the printer runs out of ink when you are in the middle of something important that must be printed at once and you don't have a fresh cartridge?
Off to the office supply store to purchase a new ink cartridge. After three hours of trying everything I knew and a few things I did not know, I discovered the printer had died. I had just spent $25 dollars for a cartridge I could not use and now I had to purchase a new printer.
It's a good thing I had that surplus. The new printer cost $70, and with the ink cartridge that I could not use or return, I was still $10 to the good.
Sure, I was disappointed but more important, I had the cash on hand to cover these unexpected expenses. This was only Tuesday and the week was not quite over.
Wednesday evening there came our way a storm bringing some badly needed rain. It also brought lightening.
After the storm, I went to my computer and made a discovery. Lightening and computers are not exactly friends. The lightening had knocked out the modem in my computer.
"Never fear," I comforted my wife. "We have homeowner's insurance and this is covered." I took the computer to the repair shop. I was told the lightening knocked out the modem, which had to be replaced.
The bad news: The new modem would cost $95 to replace.
The good news: My homeowner's insurance would cover any damage caused by lightening.
The bad news: I have a $100 deductible on all claims.
There is a well - known law of parsonage economics - the cash on hand is never enough for the crisis that develops. My experience is that the cost of emergency repairs equals approximately 2.7 times the cash on hand.
Late Saturday night, after completing my preparations for the Lord's Day, I pondered my week. I began the week with a surplus and ended the same week with a deficit.
In reviewing my week, one thought settled into my mind. Whenever I think I have everything in control something unexpected happens.
I turned to a favorite biblical passage that always brings me great comfort. ''Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.'' (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV.)
Emergencies come and go, but God is always on hand.