You’ll be excited to know that after asking you scads and scads of seemingly rhetorical questions at the end of blog posts, someone has responded!! You may recall that at the end of the I Love Ram post, I asked “Do you have a cool ram story? A manna story? We all love to learn about God’s provision . . .Share your story.”
Well, one of my awesome readers sent in the MOST AMAZING provision story ever, and I just HAD to share it. But I wanted to wait a few weeks after I Love Ram because I never want you to get blasé when reading provision stories like I Love Manna and I Love Ram. I mean, let’s just face it. After a few days of steady manna, we are all ho-hum with our, “What-what, GOD! Where’s my manna?”
I want us to be awestruck every time. I want all the glory to go to God.
So, without much more intro, I present my guest blogger, who has chosen to be called ” The Inadvertent Blogginator.” I will confess that, due to the fact that this is my blog, I am going to occasionally butt in and editorialize. Sorry; it’s a problem I have.
I Love The Fattened Calf
I’ve got a story, but it’s a bit controversial among some Christians because it involves mismanagement of money, debt, settling debts, and divorce, and how God rescued me from the mess that I had allowed myself to get into.
Oh, you had me at “controversial among some Christians.”
When I was married, I let my wife manage our money, even though she had a mental or spiritual illness that led her to compulsive/excessive shopping. I found that letting her have control over the family money was the only way to keep the peace between us on this subject. ( I know… That’s a terrible display of leadership in the family, and I was not living up to the job that God gave me, but I was weak and afraid of her.)
Anyway… when we separated and had to divide debts and assets, I found out that there were credit cards in my name that had astronomical balances that I didn’t even know existed. Furthermore, I had no money at this point and had lawyer fees to pay, so I quickly found myself at the end of my rope financially and was no longer able to pay any of my bills. My lawyer advised me to just file bankruptcy. She said it was no big deal and everybody is doing it these days. I basically got swept up in the moment, had no idea what to do, and just followed the advice of those around me. I started filling out the paperwork to file for bankruptcy, but every time I did, I felt some hesitation. I should have known to pray about it, but I didn’t. I thought I had no choice.
At the end I will tell all you readers how much $$$, but The Inadvertent Blogginator and I have to withhold that information for dramatic effect.
One day, I called my old roommate, Jim P—-, and was talking to him about this. I told him that I felt like I had an obligation to pay my debts and I was just not feeling right about bankruptcy. (I’m not passing any judgment on anyone who has filed for bankruptcy, and I have not searched the Bible for any answers about this… I just felt like God didn’t want me to do that.) Jim said he wanted me to listen to the Dave Ramsey course on CD, and he mailed it to me overnight. There was a particular section in there that Jim directed me to about dealing with creditors. So I listened to the CDs and within about a day I got a call from a creditor offering a settlement.
Friends like Jim are awesome.
Now, I need to side step a little and give you some back story here. When I reached the point of not being able to pay my bills, I started getting about 20 calls per day from different creditors trying to collect money. They are rather ruthless and will call every hour between 9 AM and 8 PM. There are laws dictating when they are allowed to call. The bankruptcy attorneys tell you to just advise the creditors that you are in the process of filing bankruptcy and to give them your attorney’s name and number. Legally, they have to stop bugging you. So I went ahead and told them all that and, sure enough, the calls stopped. Actually, several months had passed while I lingered over the paperwork and hesitated to submit it.
So . . . back to the story… I was quite surprised when this creditor called me to offer a settlement because I had not heard from any of them in the months since I started the bankruptcy process. Also, I had just learned about settlements the day before while listening to the Dave Ramsey CDs. This particular creditor offered to settle my debt for 50% of what I owed them. Following the Dave Ramsey advice, I played it cool, wouldn’t commit to anything by phone, and requested the offer in writing. Also, I didn’t try to bargain with the first creditor, I simply said I’d have to look over my finances and see what I could do.
Then he lowered his offer to 40%, and agreed to send it in writing!! Now there was a slight (huge) problem… in order to settle a debt, you have to have a large amount of cash on hand in order to pay 40 – 50% of what you owe, and I happened to not have any cash because, after all… I was in debt. However, at this same time, my employer (major oil company) announced that despite the fact that the company had been having a terrible year, they felt like the employees had done an excellent job and they were giving us all bonuses, and I got a huge check in the mail.
Yippee. This is getting GOOD!
Wow, I was excited, but I still thought that this check was only a tiny fraction of my total debt, and while I could settle with this creditor, that would still leave several other creditors that I could not settle with.
Hmm . . . this is a bump in the plot.
Now I had a dilemma. There was no guarantee that the courts would grant my bankruptcy. Settling with one of my creditors left me in a position where I’d be less likely to be granted bankruptcy. Without the bankruptcy settlement, I’d be left in an even worse situation where I could not possibly pay my debts and there would now be no way out.
This story is setting itself up for some great spiritual metaphors. I appreciate that.
However, I felt like there were too many “coincidences” so far, and that settling was what God was leading me to do. I concluded that had to go through with this settlement, and I did. Afterward, I began calling my other creditors and trying to reach settlements with them, praying that the money would grow like the loaves and fish that Jesus served.
Are you wondering why I didn’t call this “I Love the Loaves and Fishes”? 🙂 I am a little bit.
With the first creditor that I called, I decided I would be brave and offer a settlement of 30% of my total debt to see what they said. Without hesitation, they said “Yes”. After that, I felt a little more brave, so I called another one and offered 25% of what I owed them. Again, with no hesitation, they said “yes”. Eventually, I was so encouraged that I called another and offered 20%. Immediately, they also said “yes”.
Okay, but even at a fraction of the debt, how are you going to pay this money in cash?
I was getting great responses from these creditors, but I needed more money to pay these amounts.
Oh, good, I’m glad you realized that too. 😉
Now for backstory number 2. I had worked my whole life, since I was a little kid, and put money into a savings account (forgive me for saving….).
You are forgiven. 🙂 Actually, your story has had me thinking about a retraction . . .
When I was in high school, there was a small Christian school that I used to go to that needed money for an expansion, so they offered bonds that people could purchase to help support the school. I bought a savings bond for $3000 and it was supposed to mature in 2011 and be worth somewhere near $15,000. However, the company that offered the bonds came under a federal investigation for something… I don’t know much about the legal world so I can’t explain what it was… However, this happened only a couple years after I bought the bond in 1996. Every year, we got a letter from some lawyer somewhere updating us on the case. They said that they would try to recover as much money as possible, and take out their legal fees of course, and then try to return the money to the original purchasers. Every year the letters got worse and worse until these guys had escaped the country and were nowhere to be found. Also, the legal fees were getting up into the millions of dollars, so all the bond holders finally assumed that all their money was gone. That assumption seemed to be supported by the fact that the letters eventually stopped, so for probably the past 7 or 8 years, I had completely forgotten about that money.
Let me guess . . . .
Just as I’m trying to pray and trust God that I’m not going to end up in jail for trying to settle these debts with no cash on hand, I got a letter from the lawyers saying the rogue bond manager guys had been caught. Their money had been confiscated, and was being returned to the bond holders with the accrued interest up to that point. I think it was around 2009 at this point, so technically two years before I would have gotten this money (had everything gone according to plan), and I certainly didn’t ever expect to see any of that money anyway. After all the fees were taken out, I got a check a couple days later for about $9800.
FREAKING OUT!!! Loving this story!!
Now I had money to pay all my settlements that I had reached! When, in the craziness of the divorce, my ex-wife decided to go out and buy a new car. She “gave” me hers along with the debt, so I had an extra vehicle that I owed more on than it was worth. Using my newly acquired settlement skills, I called the bank, and they said they would settle for $6600. Not leaving myself any bargaining room, but needing to sell it as fast as possible, I put it on Craigslist for $6600. Within minutes I started getting phone calls about it. One young couple came out the next night and wanted to buy it. They asked if I could take $6300 for it and I agreed.
I explained that it was a settlement with my bank, and it would probably delay getting the title signed over to them, but that I would let them take the car as soon as I got the money. They immediately said, “Well, if it will help you out, how about we give you $6400.” I said, “Sure, if you are willing to do that, that would be great for me. Anything will help.” We shook hands and they got in their car and drove away. Then a minute later, they called me back and said that they wanted to give me the full asking price of $6600. I couldn’t believe it. The next day they came with the money, and I settled my last debt.
I beg to differ. GOD settled your last debt. But I’m sure you meant that.
I went from the process of filing bankruptcy to being completely debt free in about a week. I am still living happily debt free. Praise God.
Okay, so re-reading this story again, I have to lift my jaw up off the computer desk. Amazing. But wait to you hear this . . . when I wrote to ask him the amount of the original debt . . .
I’m a little embarrased to tell you the original amount of debt, but here goes… Get ready… $57,900.
WOWZAH!! Isn’t God amazing?! In the midst of the messes of our lives, he is right there with all of his abundance, ready to show us how merciful and loving and giving he is and will always be towards us. Here’s a verse that The Inadvertent Blogginator shared as being relevant to him during this time . . .
Isaiah 43:2 When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end.
While maybe I should have called this story “I Love the Loaves and Fishes”, it was The Parable of the Prodigal Son that kept forcing itself into my mind as I studied this story. (Click here to read it.) While there isn’t a direct analogy to the parable of The Prodigal Son, I couldn’t help but think, as I read my friend’s story, of the phrase from that parable about the son returning home after squandering his inheritance. (I am not saying the Inadvertent Blogginator squandered his inheritance–since that didn’t happen; don’t get me wrong.)
The Bible says, “When he was a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; HE RAN TO HIS SON, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Then a few sentences later the father (who represents God in the parable if you’re not familiar with it) says, “Kill the fattened calf . . . let’s have a feast and celebrate.”
You know, it is awfully encouraging to hear that when we are willing to take the meager step of returning to God with mountains of baggage, problems, brokenness, and debt, he is RUNNING to us, thrilled to see us, taking us into his grace, and lavishing bountiful fattened calves and feasting upon us. While we are expecting to be treated like servants, second class citizens, or worse, HE is RUNNING to reclaim us as his children, pay our debts, and throw a party for us. There is just no debt too big. NO. DEBT. TOO. BIG.
He ran to his son . . .folks. That’s us. Messy US. When we make the smallest step towards heeding him, HE responds in a HUGE way. He wants to take our HUGE Debts, wipe them out, and offer us a party with a big ol’ fattened calf. (I’m sure grass-fed. Don’t worry poorganics. ;))
Okay, I’ve made myself cry now, so the post must be done. Please thank the Inadvertent Blogginator for being vulnerable and sharing this story of God’s amazing provision and grace to him. I love how these stories show how God loves to glorify himself even in the midst of our crazy, boring, and broken lives.
So, who’s story is going to be next? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have a whole feature of stories like this? (Hint. Hint.)