Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mir Rant: Overpaid Christian Executives and Charity Recommendations

I've felt a bit sad this past year as I've found out the pay (individual and family) that some ministry leaders get while routinely asking for donations to keep their ministries going.

Here's one blog that addressed the topic earlier this year in a 10 part series: FreeGoodNews.Com

I last year decided to stop giving to two ministries after looking at the compensation for the heads and, in cases, their wives and children. I also decided to stop giving to one--though I don't know how they compensate leaders--because they were keeping 50% of every dollar I donated to a missionary's work in the Middle East. The missionary found a church that would take donations and give 100% to his work. No administrative cut.

I consider that good stewardship.

And I'm really bummed about stuff I've read recently about the salaries of ministry leaders.

I figure if you're out there calling it a ministry and asking for charitable donations from folks who are almost certainly making the US median wage or lower, then there has to be a sort of accountability and humility that is not expected of strictly business folks. A ministry is not a business, even if it functions like one. If it relies on donations (not manufacturing or selling a product the way companies and corporations like, say, Microsoft or Mattel or Marvel or ABC or Ethan Allen do), and if the purpose is "kingdom-oriented"--ie for the salvation of the lost and the equipping of the saints--then there has to be something that overrules the lure of the personal profit motive. Greed has to be taken out of the ministry equation.

When I see that good men and women who teach and live soundly in so many way, who don't see a problem with accepting wages putting them in the top 1 or 2% of American income, when that very income comes from asking widows, poor folks, middle class folks to donate, I wonder why that is. Do they really accept that quarter million salary plus without a single twinge? Is that possible?

Come on. Is it rocket science? No minister should be making many times what his average congregant makes. No ministry leader taking up costly air time for donation pleas should be making 4 and 5 and 6 and 10 and 20 times the US median wage.

Sorry. Makes my eyes cross!

How does a minister justify taking a quarter of a million, a third of a million, half a million, even a million and plus in salary when he's also asking retirees and working moms and others to give donations? I have issues with this. I just can't see Paul or John or Christ doing this. Sorry.

And when you add in family members into the ministry staff pot, a family could be seeing compensation as outrageous as that of, well, look it up yourself. (eg. One famous pastor got $1000 per hour for a 16 hour work week in a year that additionally included a huge pastor's salary of a 1/3 of a million as per a 2003 tax return.) It just takes a couple googles or a visit to Charity Navigator to begin to get an idea, though CN doesn't always include all family members benefitting from, well, some godly nepotism.

I did add Gospel for Asia to my "offerings" list. They promise all the donation designated for the mission field goes to the mission field. Nothing of that allocation is used for administrative expenses. Advancing Native Missions also has a 4-star rating. Over 92% of donations go to native missions. Their CEO earns a bit over 41K. That's quite, quite modest. Another fave of mine is Voice of the Martyrs, also a 4-star rated one.(Go here to browse other 4 star rated religious charities, excluding media/broadcasting ones.)

Of course, for the Christian, the main place to give is one's church, but even there, be a good steward. If your church isn't one that regularly holds budget reviews and membership votes, then ask to see the budget. Find out where the monies go. How much are leaders paid? Is it fair? If not, give more in order to pay them more! If it seems outrageous, say so: take it to the elders. How much and what percentages go to good works for the poor and for missions, for the sick and imprisoned? How much is used up in less important stuff, for fluff?

Hubby and I left our interim church after a year of asking for a financial statement was fulfilled by the barest bones of a budget that served no real useful purpose. We decided that was a symptom of some underlying problem. If a church can't keep its budget clear and straight and open for inspection and feedback from those who give their hard-earned monies to support the church--then, okay, I'm outta there.

(And kudos to Pastor Brian Pipping, my fave pastor of all the men who shepherded me in my adulthood, for his accountability and openness and humility and responsible fiscal behavior during the time he pastored our wee Baptist Church in Miami Lakes, FL. He set an example other pastors should follow, imo. Frankly, he deserved a better salary than he got. I still thank God for the honor of having known the man who didn't think cleaning a church restroom was beneath him if it was a job that needed doing.)

And mind that, really, you don't have to give money to any large organization in order to give to the kingdom or advance the gospel: help your needy neighbor right where you live. In times of food-inflation, groceries may be very welcome. A drive to the doctor for an elderly church member, which with the price of gas is a gift, for sure. A $20 slipped into the Bible of someone who just got laid off and you heard is struggling. Buy up inexpensive New Testaments and pass them on as the Spirit moves you. Start a home Bible study and buy study books to share with newcomers. Help out at a food bank. Meet someone in your home church who wants to be a missionary, and fund their home or overseas work directly. Mow a disabled neighbor's lawn. Stock your car with clean socks and wet wipes and non-perishable eats with a few useful tracts and pass them out to any homeless person you come across during your treks in the city( better than giving cash, which you know they'll almost certainly use for substance abuse). Keep a couple of gas gift cards with you on Sundays (the pre-paid ones that look like credit cards) and if you see someone at your church who routinely gives rides to church to those without transportation, like youth or the eldery--give em a gift of fuel so they can keep their "ride ministry" going.

Times are tough. Looks like they'll get tougher, maybe for a long time. Be wise in how you give. Make your gift go as far as it can to do the good you want it to do.

At the heart of it, I think some of these Christian executives need to really spend some long, hard time in reflection before God. If it really comes down to wanting big pay--go secular. Go join a regular corporation and bust your butt to make CEO salaries and get stock options and the big house, etc.

If it's about the kingdom, though, and you're taking the widow's mite and the retiree's mite and the single mother's mite and the two-jobs to make ends meet father's mite, then reassess what you take as your pay. I think it's shameful to make pleas for donations and make more than 99% of Americans.

Maybe they need to read a few of these articles linked by Finding Jesus blog in their post titled "God and Finances."

I know I need to re-evaluate, too. We always do. Hubby will be starting a new job with a nice salary (not as nice as those Christian executives!), and we need to be more responsible than ever in a time when so many are suffering and doing without. For the Christian, there is no excuse. Giving is commanded. Greed is not supposed to rule over us--compassion and humility and generosity are.

I've got lots of work to do, battling my own selfish inclinations and American-bred materialism.

So do many of our religious leaders, clearly. And not just Christian ones. All our religious executives and ministry heads need to reflect on this.

Hal Spacejock offered free


Free humorous SF: Hal Spacejock

Haven't read it. Just giving a promo-hand to a nice guy.

Some sort of tranquility...

has come to our household. Hubby accepted--at last!--a job offer.

He'll now be part of the team of muy smart folks working on those nifty smart phones called Blackberrys.

We won't have to move: it's local.

Now, maybe, I can get back to reading and writing, as I've done precious little of either for months and months. Oh, and back to weight watching. Although it's been up in the nineties here, so walking out there any time the sun is out is not a pleasant prospect.

That move to Seattle seems tempting in retrospect when one is sweating like a wee piggie in the subtropical almost-summer sun. And preparing for hurricane season. :O

I've come to accept that I may have to hire this lady to help me with my neurotic hoarding/clutter issues. Yes, it's that bad. If I died, it would take them weeks to find me under all these books and magazines.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

On husbands and masterpieces

Was visiting DGD's blog after a long absence--go see his fun and silly Renaissance Faire pics-- and came across this familiar physique:




My husband looked a lot like that when we got married. (Very nearly that white, too!) I remember thinking of him as an updated David in those salad days. His naked legs alone could've made a batallion of ladies swoon. That was 25 years ago come June 11th. Neither of us looks like we did way back when, but he still looks pretty nice in the buff. Lucky me.

(He's gonna kill me for saying that.)

Me, these days I look like a Botero. :-/

Wednesday, May 21, 2008




If you visited MindFlights already, and I hope you have, did you pick your fave skin, yet?

Did you know you could pick your own magazine look from various choices? I have mine set to number three. I had hoped that would have been our permanent "front page," but I was outvoted in favor of changing "faces."

You can have forest, sky, space, etc. Go browse!

Back to content: I pretty much have stuck to poetry editing for months now. I will occasionally weigh in on fiction, and I've done some heavy-duty feedback (long critique) on a couple of revision requests. But poetry is where I focus (though I still like to help out with short fiction from time to time).

This month, we are featuring two "space" poems--poems that look out there at the cosmic wonders, and may deal more with the natural aspect, the science, the wonder of that, rather than the sci-fi/fantasy elements.

First, a lovely space haiku from Karen A. Romanko, whose name may be familiar from reading her work at other DEP SF mags in the pasts. On her blog, she writes this about the haiku we're featuring:

I've got a new haiku at Mindflights, which begins with the line, "necklace of suns." This little poem was inspired by a trip to Griffith Observatory a while back to meet with local poets [info]dkolodji, [info]samhenderson, and Kendall Evans.

Connecting the two levels of the Observatory is a long, sloping corridor called "The Cosmic Connection," which includes a "timeline" of the universe composed of celestial-themed jewelry.


Visit her blog to see an image of the celestial jewelry exhibit that inspired her brief poetical observation. It can only enhance the experience of the haiku.

Issue 5 also features a poem that falls more into the space/science poem category, but has its own solar systemic, meteorological charm. Read "Martian Weather" by Mary Jo Rabe, which begins:

If dusty storms could halt their flight
And spin their dizzy pirouettes,
Would Martian surface lose delight
Without the jolt of caustic jets?


If you write speculative poetry--and especially Christian-themed or Christian worldview SF Poetry--please consider entering our first poetry contest. The theme is a wide open and intriguing one (we think): Exile. Two length categories (short is 1 to 49 lines; long is 50 to 100 lines) give you plenty of room to play with ideas, language, meter, metaphors, and spiritual depths. You must have a speculative element (science fiction or fantasy). No strictly space or science poems, sorry.

Get all the details here:

MINDFLIGHTS' FIRST POETRY CONTEST.



Now, I hope your new acquaintance with MindFlights has been pleasant. I hope you wish us well, want us to grow, maybe even want to be part of our growth.

So, how can you help MindFlights?

1. The simplest way is to read us and pass on the good word when you enjoy a story or poem or review or article or forum thread there. Just tell others who might like us.

2. The next simplest way to help is to register and be apart of the forum. Post your review of Christian SF novels and anthologies (and other SF works you can highly recommend) in the "Review" section. Give heads up on markets, on author interviews, etc, to other forum readers. Brag about your sales and awards. Be involved in the community we created and want to grow.

3. What's after that? CONTRIBUTE YOUR WORK! If you write
terrific Christian SF, if you work hard at crafting speculative poems with a Christian worldview, if you have a Christian vision with a speculative mind, then let us hear from you. If you are a Christian SF artist and you are willing to take a small remuneration ($10) to see your work featured as our online "cover", then submit! I can't guarantee acceptance, naturally. But you knew that. :) Submit!

4. Another way to help is to donate.
We want to encourage Christian SF authors and offer (though not exclusively) content that is family-friendly and Christian at heart. We offer a wider spectrum, but we will not abandon CSF. Our goal is to move to support CSF, but we need our best CSF writers and poets to submit and participate and support for us to do so.

5. You can also help by joining our team. We don't take on volunteers lightly--we need to have someone recommend you, give a thumbs up to your ability to edit--but we're happy to expand our staff and lighten the loads of the volunteers. But please, only if you're serious about committing to donating an hour or more a week to the editing gig (and when there's a crunch due to many subs, it will be more than an hour a week, easily, for fiction editors.) We like to think of it as helping out the speculative community, especially the part of it we want most to nurture, the Christian SF community. Is this something that appeals to you? Do you know someone on the staff already? Contact them. If you know me (and I know you) and you're a gifted proofreader or have experience editing/writing fiction, drop me a comment.

So, there you go. A wee magazine that wants to do more. Can you be part of the vision?



Now, please drop by my tourmates and say "hey!"--
Do visit my blog tourmates:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Michael Heald
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Margaret
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Pamela Morrisson
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Rachelle
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Rachelle Sperling
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Linda Wichman
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour: MINDFLIGHTS MAGAZINE



Okey doke. I'm back. Thanks to all of the bloggers giving a nice shout-out for MINDFLIGHTS this month. Please remember to only use minimal excerpts (very short on poems, be ultra careful on haiku, very brief bits of stories, and give attribution for everything, please. Give props to the creative folks!) My gratitude is genuine. :)

We're into May now at MINDFLIGHTS. Our first issue debuted January of this year. Our art that issue was "The Sentinal" by Karl Eschenbach--digital, a winged creature and a background of infinite sky--which made us think of flights, potential, freshness, wonder, beauty, power, and all sorts of things we want for the works we offer.

A poem, fittingly entitled "In the Beginning" by David Siegel Bernstein, PhD, began thusly:

Once upon a time,
there was no time,
or even a
once


Which, is a pretty cool opening.

"In the beginning, God created..." Now, we create, and that's what MINDFLIGHTS is about. We publish poetry, short fiction (short stories novelettes), and will consider longer works under very limited circumstances (see our guidelines for when you need to query).

The longest work we have published is a serialized novel by by Jane Lebak, a surname pronounced to sorta rhyme with "fleabag", as per the author herself, who is certainly not flea-ish or baggish in any way. :) If you like angel stories, check out SEVEN ARCHANGELS--ANNIHILATION:

All angels have known since their creation that they cannot be killed—but now Satan is convinced the impossible can be done. Demons abduct and are able to tear apart the Archangel Gabriel's soul, leaving Heaven in stunned grief. If angels can be killed, where is God's justice?

Can Gabriel be saved from the void? How can Satan be prevented from achieving a final victory against God?


The book is available from Amazon.com. See the link at the bottom of this blog post.

Issue 2 had a poem that I'm very fond of by Joshua Gage, "The Illuminator." It introduced me to a term I had to look up. See if you can spot it in the opening lines:

Candles perch like angels
beating back the night
with triumphant wings. The scribe
begins his work. “Formavit”
sprouts leaves beneath his quill,
the Bernacae,


(Take note that the contents of online issue 1 differs from the contents of the published issue of MindFlights 1 available from Lulu.com. Editors discuss and vote on what to include in the hard copy version.)

Issue 3 online had one of my fave bits of art that has come our way this year: Marge Simon's "The Gatherers." It even inspired me to write a poem--which is still in draft form. You can check it out here. (The artwork, not my poem.) It's got a very cooly retro feel, like some of my vintage sci-fi publications.

We were also fortunate in the April issue to get THIS nifty bit of art from Michelle J. A. McIntyre, an artist who has big fans among us on the staff. That issue also featured an interview with a Christian fantasy author well-known to our CSF community, Bryan Davis. One of my fave Christian speculative poets, John Kuhn, adds one of his poems to that issue. One that rhymes, even. :)

That's all for today.


Tomorrow: Current issue and contest announcement. And how YOU can help.






Do visit my blog tourmates:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Michael Heald
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Margaret
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Pamela Morrisson
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Rachelle
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Rachelle Sperling
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Linda Wichman
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Monday, May 19, 2008

MINDFLIGHTS Magazine on the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour



Wow, it's really, really easy to get out of the blogging habit. It's been a month plus since I dropped in.

(Special "muahs" to all who left encouraging comments and sent kind emails, to which I'm very tardy replying!)

But, of course, as one of the editors on staff at MINDFLIGHTS (though I've taken a break there as well as here), I had to come out of hiatus to join the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour promoting our wee webzine of Christian-friendly to Christian SF.



Those of you who used to regularly read this blog or who knew me from assorted fora where I blathered, well, you're probably well aware that I used to volunteer at another Double-Edged Publishing publication: Dragons, Knights and Angels (DKA). Also did (and plan to do again) poetry editing for their FEAR AND TREMBLING magazine of suspense and horror. I also benefitted from the contests at THE SWORD REVIEW, the most popular of the previous DEP magazines.

MINDFLIGHTS is the creative effort born from the merging of two previous DEP SF-specific magazines. (The Sword Review and DKA).

At DKA and TSR we offered pay (though quite, quite modest) to fiction and poetry contributors. Still, being free online publications reliant on donations (mainly from staff, frankly) and whatever revenues ads brought in made (and makes) things a bit tough, budget-wise. It seemed best to become more efficient with our resources. With three SF magazines in the stable, we realized we could be better stewards of what we had by consolidating of our two most popular mags at DEP. (Popularity assessed via readership stats/site hits).

Hence, the new creation which is the subject of this blog tour.

Our long-term goal is to one day pay semi-pro to pro rates. For now, we simply want to offer some remuneration to our kind and gifted contributors while we continually seek good quality SF for all readers, but especially those with a Christian worldview. We also seek to nurture some student writers and poets, mainly by giving them feedback when they submit and by publishing them when we see fledgling talent poised to grow and take flight.

MINDFLIGHTS is not exclusively Christian SF the way DKA was. Some may be disappointed by that. But I think you will see our vision is Christ-honoring. Read our Vision Statement to get an idea of how we view our mission. Here are the opening paragraphs of that statement:

All flights have a destination. Mindflights' journeys are speculative, and our ultimate destination is truth.

We believe some truths are universal. Some truths are there for all persons to find through observation and pondering, with inquiry or with introspection, with stillness or with debate. Other truths must be sought, hunted, and they are more difficult to capture. Both can inspire stories and poems.

Here at MindFlights, many of us believe the ultimate truth resides in the person of Jesus Christ, who as Savior embraces us with eternal life, and as Lord asks that we give ourselves over to service, to love, to purity, and to a greater purpose. Our faith is a thing that asks us to fly beyond earth and take others with us as we journey upwards. As such, we will actively seek and happily offer stories and poems that display this world view, whether overtly or subtly or someplace in between.

But we are not isolationists. We don't bar the door to the skeptic, or the seeker who hasn't found, or the one who has an allegiance to a different set of doctrines. Our faith says the door should be open for all who want to befriend us. Hospitality is an early and enduring virtue in Christendom. Therefore, we want to offer broader visions of truth. While contributors need not be Christian, familiarity with compatible values will increase the likelihood that your submission will fit.


This is an introductory post, and I'll get more into the magazine's content and how you can be a part of our vision in subsequent posts.

For now, visit MINDFLIGHTS, enjoy "Voyager," the artwork by Victoria Zamudio that is featured in our current front page, and browse what our magazine has to offer the reader of SF, Christian or otherwise.

Catch you tomorrow!

Do visit my blog tourmates:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Michael Heald
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Margaret
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Pamela Morrisson
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Rachelle
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Rachelle Sperling
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Linda Wichman
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise