CCC Blog

“The Universal Language”

When I was 14 years old, I traveled to Scandinavia with the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp International Concert Band.  Blue Lake is a summer camp on the western side of Michigan that offered two week-long camps with concentrations in theater, dance, and choral and instrumental music.  I had attended the previous summer and was invited to audition for the high school international band.  I made it and opted to go. I remember my mom and dad being more excited about the opportunity than I was.  After all, I was just entering ninth grade and was self-conscious of being the youngest in the group.  But go I did and after spending all winter and spring rehearsing, we left for our summer tour of Sweden, Norway and Denmark in July. 

We ended every concert, whether it was in a cathedral’s courtyard, assembly hall or civic auditorium the same way… Stars and Stripes Forever, with the entire brass section standing up in grand fashion after a dramatic ritard before the final chorus.  The European audiences loved it, clapping in time with the beat and giving us robust standing ovations when the song ended.  The second to last song of every concert they also loved… Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia.  Though we were never actually in Finland, other Scandinavians seemed to honor and respect our attempt to play some of “their” music.  But as much as they enjoyed it, I did even more.  I instantly fell in love with the subtle power of this gentle melody (which we have in our hymnal as Be Still My Soul and This is My Song).  I even came home from that trip, confidently telling my mother that I wanted to have this song played at my funeral!  To her credit, she didn’t scold me for thinking of my mortality as a 14 year-old, or remind me that her funeral would likely precede mine.  Instead she said something like, “Well I think that’s a lovely choice.” 

I don’t know where the idea came from – to have Finlandia played at my  funeral.  I don’t consider myself morbid, nor one who thinks of dying more often than the average person my age.  But I believe I had some understanding from an early age that music communicates a reality of its own that is beyond the ability to quantify it with the spoken word.  We can confess with our music what is difficult for us to articulate with our words.  Singing and music expresses the deepest desires of our hearts; the truest intentions of our souls; our core convictions.  It gives us a voice when our words fail us and speaks meaning into the places of our lives that are beyond meaning.    

A few years after that European trip I wrote an essay for an English class in which I used the phrase: “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a piece of music is worth a thousand pictures.”  I’m sure at the time I felt I was waxing poetic and philosophical.  In retrospect that sentence seems more corny than anything else.  But corny or not, I believe it’s true.  A week ago last Sunday Bob Wade and I were both getting ready to play in the brass choir and sing the recessional anthem Battle Hymn of the Republic.  I walked passed him humming the part of the song where the men sing in very staccato-like fashion “truth – is – mar – ching – truth – is – mar – ching…”  Bob was thumbing through his copy of the anthem but looked up upon hearing me.  He leaned his head back for a           moment, closed his eyes and smiled.  “Ahh,” he said, “that song brings back so many memories.”  And so it does. 

 

I don’t know what memories that particular song brings back for Bob.  But I don’t have to.  For it’s true for me too.  And I’m willing to bet, the same can be said for you as well.  Because all music provides us a universal language with which to communicate the meaning of our lives.  

Blessings – Michael

Posted by Michael Karunas with

Financial Peace University

Last week we concluded our first Financial Peace University class. I hope this will be the first of many, as there have already been a handful of people inquiring about another opportunity to take the class.  Mike and Gerri Munos, and assistant Paul Gorden, did a truly fantastic job leading the class and I want to share some statistics from the last nine weeks. 

  • We had 30 people begin the class (9 couples and 9 singles)
  • 66% (or two-thirds) of the original 30 were from inside Central (1/3 came from outside the church)
  • 4 people (2 couples) who attended did so free of charge. They are couples getting married at Central this year and as a “wedding gift” to them, I agreed to pay for their taking the class as part of the pre-marital preparation. 
  • The ages of the group ranged from the mid 20s to the 70s.

Gerri Munos asked for a week 2 “financial snapshot” of our group.  On April 16, we collectively claimed:

  1. $767,296 of non-mortgage debt
  2. $431,474 of liquid cash
  3. 80 credit and charge cards

In a second “snapshot,” our group (which then stood at 25 people) claimed:

  1. $54,768 of non-mortgage debt paid off in seven weeks,
  2. $53,907 in money saved in seven weeks
  3. 24 credit and/or charge cards closed

I was a participant in the class for two primary reasons.  First, I wanted to see what the class was like so I could be informed of exactly what we were promoting here at Central. I have known Dave Ramsey’s work for a long time, read one of his books, and have incorporated versions of some of his principles into my personal life, but had never actually taken FPU.  Secondly, I believed our family was in a pretty good position in terms of spending, saving and giving but I was curious about what we might learn.

I was immediately, and consistently, impressed with how often I walked away from each class with several “take-aways” for things that we could do in our household to improve our overall family situation.  Two things emerged in particular: (1) I saw how, without paying close attention, there was a lot of “hidden waste” taking place in our spending.  Because of this, I realized how much more we could be saving for our retirement and for college, if we were more mindful and intentional about our expenses.  This has led to an ongoing conversation in our family about “wants” vs. “needs” and; (2) I learned I was not doing a good job teaching money management to our children.

To date Amy and I are working on a “master list” of changes we would like to incorporate into our lives but I can safely say that FPU has already made a positive impact.  We changed the ways we buy groceries, saving over $75 a shopping trip.  We still carry two credit cards (one for each Amy and me) but we have not used them in the last two months for things other than that for which we receive reimbursement.  And we have changed the way we work with our children. 

There is now a job chart in the kitchen with a “commission” (dollar amount) for each chore (25 cents to $9.00).  Each child maintains a ledger and every two weeks (when I get paid), they get paid.  Ten percent immediately goes to church, 10% goes to their savings account and 80% goes to their own “piggy bank.”   Every time they choose to deposit into their savings account, I promise to match the donation up to $10.

We plan to look at dates in the fall (possibly mid to late August through October) for a second session of Financial Peace University.  I believe in the importance of this much more than I did 10 weeks ago and will continue to pledge support to anyone – from within the church or without – who takes and finishes it.  

Blessings – Michael

Posted by Michael Karunas with

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