21 July 2012

No Time

It's been a frustrating week. I've been going to work quite early, in part to deal with the heat and often getting home late. I'm exhausted and disappointed that I haven't had time to get to my writing.
I still want to finish the articles on the issues surrounding Kirk Cameron's movie...I've got a couple more parts to finish.

I've got an article going on Syria and Russia and the new geopolitical realities of the post-Cold War world...and why many in the United States are unhappy with the new/old arrangement.
I've wanted to write about Mandela's birthday and how Western media has completely revised history with regard to South Africa. In the late 1980's, Thatcher was still referring to him as a terrorist.
For weeks I've wanted to write a couple of pieces on the Kenyan Church bombings and what's happening in East Africa, and a piece dealing with the mess in Nigeria.
Apart from this, I have at least another one hundred articles and essays ready to be written. I have the notes ready etc... These are on various topics...
·       Christian attitudes toward economics, our life in Babylon

·       A host of political articles, dealing with law, the courts, etc...

·       Current Events (Victor Bout, China, the Eurozone)

·       I have many articles I want to critique...with notes ready to go. I could write them today.

·       Dozens of historical pieces. Originally I had intended to write far more about Church History. These articles do take a bit more time. I've been sidetracked.

The bottom line is...I just don't have the time. I started this in the summer of 2010. Currently there are over 400 blogposts. In the early days I had a lot more in the way of links to stories and articles of interest accompanied by short commentary. I don't even have time for that. I've been focusing on just writing longer pieces.
All told, there are over 300 actual essay style pieces totally around 2500 pages, perhaps quite a bit more. I've been also trying to go back through, clean some things up and review what I've written. Again, there's no time.
I feel like I'm just getting started. I've only begun to skim the surface.
Basically at this point, to do what I want to do would require my full time attention, which is impossible. I don't make a lot of money to begin with (well below the US poverty standards for a family of my size)...which is fine, but it makes it difficult when sometimes I have the pressures of needing to work some additional hours etc... Also, I live in a rural area (my choice) which has its perks (very low housing costs/quiet/natural beauty) but also lays on a heavy burden.
Gasoline, vehicle wear and tear, lots of miles, and often 1.5 to 2 hours a day traveling to and from work, which for me changes all the time. It all takes its toll. For the past several years I've averaged 32-35,000 miles per year. That's a lot of gasoline, a new set of tires every year, brakes etc... In fact all told, when the dust settles, our vehicle alone eats up almost 1/3 of our income. We would have to have one regardless, but... the nature of my work makes it far more costly.
This morning I'm sitting here with a hurting back and again no time.
It's all in the Lord's hands but it has prompted me after a lot of consideration to write the following:

Supporting This Project And Website


Jim C. said...

Hey John,

Of course the choice is yours, but let me be the first to say that it would be a sad day if this weblog shut down. In my opinion, it's one of the few bastions of reason and sanity on the internet. I routinely visit every day looking for updates and new insights - or old insights phrased in ways I did not consider that need to be reiterated.

You've probably already considered this in the past but I thought I'd ask anyway: have you ever thought about taking on a partner? I mean someone who has a genuine interest in the nature of your business (from what I've gathered it sounds like home maintenance/landscaping/etc.)? While you would lose absolute control over decision-making as far as the business' trajectory is concerned, it would take at least some of the workload off your back. Maybe someone at the church you attend would be interested.

Jim C.

Protoprotestant said...

Thanks for the note.
I am in no way planning on shutting this down. Inconceivable! I'm just wiped out and there's so much I want to do. I know there are a lot more people who would be interested in this...but I need the time to get out there and make those contacts and reach them.
In the meantime, I've just got this burning desire to write....but tomorrow I'll probably be up on a roof. Nothing wrong with that, but I think I can use my time in a better way.
I hope no one thinks this is some kind of sell out on my part. Putting that button up caused me no little anguish I can assure you. I kick against it in many ways but I think/I hope I've made clear what my motives are.
I'm a solo general contractor. I do a lot of wiring, plumbing, drywall, trim carpentry, and painting. In this area that means...remodeling kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. I replace hot water tanks, windows, hang doors...all those sorts of things. I don't do landscaping or anything like that.
I scrape by. My wife homeschool's our 4 children and we have one vehicle which I use for work. This means if there's an emergency or someone (one of the kids) has to go the doctor...I have to bring the vehicle home.
A partner is one thing...it would be hard to find someone who would be willing to have me work part-time. The problem is, if they have the skills and tools...why would they 'partner' with me? There are some guys who just don't have people skills and can't procure work. But most guys that are the level where they can work independently...they want to go on their own.
If they can't do the work independently....then they're not really a partner, they're an employee.
An employee is different....there are additional overhead costs (Worker's Comp Insurance etc...) and then of course....can they be left alone a couple of days per week? It depends. Years ago when I worked for another contractor he would leave me alone and often in charge of another employee.

Protoprotestant said...

I have thought at times....spend a few years and build up a crew...get them to the point where I don't always need to be there. My time would be spent in the office, procuring jobs, meeting people, and problem solving which would occasionally involve picking up a hammer etc...
And then I could take 1-2 days off per week and write.
BUT...it never works out that way. You make a lot more money, but instead of gaining time...I'd be working as much as I do know and then in addition to that I would need to spend extra hours doing the paperwork etc.. I only say that because I've talked to the guys that have done what I just described.
They have more money so they can go out to nice dinners...spend a weekend in Niagara Falls or whatever...but they're very busy and always a bit nervous. Everything revolves around trusting your workers. One bad worker can ruin you and take your business down.
I appreciate the advice and I'm always trying to think of ways to re-work my life structure. If I could get one of my novels published....I thought for awhile that might solve it...but realistically it wouldn't generate enough money for me to quit swinging a hammer and drawing my pay.
Like I said, I don't need a lot of money. If I can quite putting the miles on my car...that alone will save several thousand dollars per year. I don't expect money to come rolling in. I'll be surprised if I get $100 dollars by the end of the year. But if I do....I'll take a day off just to write. In the meantime I'll just have to keep squeezing it in at 11pm and 5am. Adversity and struggle are good things...but really and truly...I'm just leaving it in God's hands. If He wants me to write full time and expand this...then the support will trickle in. If He doesn't....then I'll maintain present course. I don't think that means He doesn't want me to write at all....who can say?....but if the money doesn't come in...then I can say with absolute confidence I need to keep at the construction for the present.
What...did you want a job? (smile)

Jim C. said...

Hey John,

Hmm...just curious...how much work have you done on your own home?

This is what my brother-in-law's parents did...they bought a house, renovated it then after a couple of years flipped it and bought a new house. The profit from doing this would have been the proceeds on the sale of their old house less the cost of the new house and the unamortized portion of the mortgage plus interest, accumulated amortization and mortgage fees on their old one. I'd have to go back to my old textbooks to see how the accounting was recorded in detail but the bottom line is they made money doing this.


Protoprotestant said...

Oh I've given it thought. This area isn't really conducive to that. We weren't affected by the Real Estate Bubble. This area has been depressed for a long time. The towns around here are loaded down with houses for sale and properties go cheap.

In fact a lot of homeowners find themselves exasperated because they'll do improvements, but it barely increases the value of their home....if at all. There are just hordes of houses around here going from 15-20k for a fixer upper to 100k for something that's really nice.

The 100k house if it were dropped in a metropolitan area would go for 350k. It's just the area. There's no value here because there's very little in the way of economy.

So...the flipping houses thing doesn't really work here. I do a fair bit of work for some landlords and if you get the right tenants that can be lucrative. If I had rental properties I could do my own maintenance and for someone who wants to live simple...not bad. But, aside from requiring the initial investement, or borrowing the initial investment to purchase a property and fix it up or whatever....you also run the risk of one bad tenant setting you back many thousands of dollars.

That happened to the one guy I'm working for now. We remodeled an apartment back in 2004....and in 2011 I was redoing it all again. The tenants had trashed the place...holes in walls, door ripped off jambs etc...

There are lots of ways to do these things but you go back to that old conundrum....it takes money to make money. If you have it, there's all kinds of things you can do. If you don't....you're treading water just to survive.

I tread water and I survive...but not very well. And that's what I'm trying to say....that's fine. I don't care if that's all I ever do. In fact spiritually speaking, it's probably for the best.

Anonymous said...

As you have mentioned it is a depressed area, would you be able to procure a few homes "CHEAP" then fix them up and become a landlord..Then with the possiblity of taking on just a few jobs with you current buisness you could have down time to write. If you take no subsidies from HUD for the rent you can be more in control of who rents. This is just a thought. I have friends who have done this in a depressed area they live in they have 4 rentals. They do alright . They are not rich, but, they can have the flex time they want. I also know how it is to feel called to do something to have this unquenchable desire and yet God has not given a clear and easy path to reach the goal. In one post you said part of the thoughts you had regarded your children . That you wondered will they really understand what I thought . I believe it regarded once you were no longer on this earth, as this time at hand keeps you from writing in the way you would so love to, write letters to them this is a gift a treasure they will long share with thier children and grandchildren.

Protoprotestant said...


Yes I have considered it. And I wouldn't have any problem taking on HUD tenants. There are certainly plenty of them around here.

But you still need the money to purchase the cheap house.

And you need the money to fix it up....which can easily run into the thousands.

I know a guy who just bought an old office building in the downtown of a small town. The 1st floor will be office space and upstairs, there are large apartments on the 2nd and 3rd floor.

Nothing is habitable at the moment. He picked up the building for about $30k but will probably spend about $100k to get it in order. Granted a lot of that is labour....but still it takes a ton of money.

That's my problem. I can do virtually anything on my own house....but everything costs money even when doing it yourself. A small project can easily cost $200-300 or more.

My income is volatile, so even when I have some extra money, I'm always reticent to spend it. I might be okay one week...but then a few weeks later I might desperately need that money I just spent fixing a floor, buying a door or whatever.

So to get into the rental business I would have to take out a loan....and then presumably do the work in my spare time, bringing an income during normal business hours. And until I started generating income....my monthly overhead would go up because I'd now have a loan payment to work on as well.

I doubt I could get the loan anyway. My credit isn't so great. I've got a lot of unpaid medical bills. We've made our share of trips to the ER to acquire what should be primary care. But when you don't have access in the form of insurance....it's hard to even find a doctor who will see you...but that's an entirely different issue.

So for about a year I'd have to work 12hrs a day...at least 6 days a week and put myself into a financial bind in order to come up with the extra $600-900 a month to make the payment.

It takes money to make money.

I suppose someone might say...well, take a couple of years off from writing, do this...and then be squared away.

I suppose...if it all worked.

Another solution would be to send my wife out to work while I worked full time on fixing up a rental property. But that wouldn't be acceptable to me. I've seen so many make that compromise....become successful and then judge those who refuse to compromise. It angers me when I see it.

So....I can either keep going as I am...and write infrequently in my spare time.

Or if in time enough people really and truly believe in what I'm doing...and God wills it....then things will work out.

I'm not worried. It's in His hands.

Like I've said...I don't think we'll 'win'...so it's not a matter of a time deadline or the need for a desperate push.

I do think there is a certain urgency and I think this is terribly important...more than perhaps many readers realize....but, this is the story of Church History. My writings will and can reach people...I can make sure of that....but in the end it's not going to change the setting.

Protoprotestant said...

Actually some of these issues are ones I hope to touch on at some future time.

I've been compiling notes and making outlines for a long series of articles (more like a mini-book) on the issues surrounding Christians and Economics...our life in Babylon.

I think both the Christian Left and Christian Right have got this completely wrong. On this issue, I think the Waldensians, Hussites and others are most helpful.

The Capitalist argument is built on several planks, one of them being the notion of reward for 'risking' capital...either something you possess or borrow.

On the one hand someone might argue I should risk collapse and go for it in order to get ahead...my reward.

This is a common argument made by the Right in order to suggest the poor and others need motivation and incentive to go out and take those risks.

But what they rarely understand is they're speaking from the standpoint of security. They're taking risks that they can often absorb. Losing 20 or 30k hurts but they can weather it.

For many poor people...losing $200 is a catastrophe. They can't risk big because they have no security. Some do it anyway...and make it.

I've heard some Christians outrageously suggest that we should look to someone like Steve Jobs as an example of entrepeneurial endeavour and business acumen, drive etc...

The problem is....he's one in several billion. Some make it....most do not. Many risk and suffer and collapse. My own father was high-roller...at one point possessing millions. He died peniless, destitute, broken. Many times he could have put some money aside, but strongly believed that you needed to risk all to gain. And he lost...badly.

Besides this in the case of someone like Jobs he could be considered unscrupulous and certainly from a Christian standpoint immoral.

This in itself does not negate the idea of risk-reward. There's something to it, but I'm not sure it always represents Christian ethics or wisdom.

In my case, going into debt would be abandoning the bird in the hand to go for the two in the bush. I don't need to do it, and I think frankly I would be rather irresponsible to do so.

One person quoted Einstein to me awhile back and said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. While quaint, it does not reflect a Christian worldview.

The Christian Worldview is rooted in the ideas of submission and duty to God. At times we may feel like a hamster caught on a wheel...but that doesn't mean we compromise principle in order to get off the wheel. Maybe we're meant to be on it. We can pray that God changes the wheel and He may indeed facilitate an exit.

Please to anyone reading....I'm not suggesting that any of the ideas given to me are bad ones. They're good ones and I've thought of them...but in my situation they won't easily work.

Right now...I get by. Not well, but we survive. We live in a way and at a standard a bit different than most Americans. We have a different attitude about a lot of things like our house and possessions that cause most people to think us strange.

While in some ways it would be nice to get into something like real estate transfers and investments (I grew up surrounded by that)...or get into rental properties...

At this point I don't want to do anything that takes away my time and energy from what I'm doing. Not construction. That's just a means to an end. I do it with a Christian ethic (as much as possible. To be fully consistent, there's a lot of work I would need to turn down) but I largely view it as a means rather than an end.

Protoprotestant said...

My desire is to continue writing on the topics related to this website and God willing He will provide a means for men to find even more time to do so.

I've spent a good deal of time thinking through my economic situation. This and the wider cultural, historical, and certainly the present theological issues have led me to probe further. I think we (the Church) especially in the United States need to re-think this...re-think our whole attitude about money etc.. I think Dave Ramsey, and even the successors of Larry Burkett are often VERY mistaken. I think the Biblical Worldview on this matter is frankly too radical for most Americans. It means the American Dream and most American thinking about money is not only wrong...but wicked.

AGAIN that's not directed at anyone's comment. PLEASE don't misinterpret me. I'm speaking in general terms...rambling...because these are all articles I've been itchy to write for some time. These conversations revive these ideas in my mind and I'm simply sharing some of my own wrestling and reflections.

Thanks for the advice...and keep it coming.

Jim C. said...

Hey John,

I've given this some thought and in retrospect I think it was wrong of me to give you any advice. First of all, I don't live in the Appalachian mountains. All I know is based on what you've said about it as well as bits and pieces I've picked up from the internet. The picture I've gotten is basically a landscape representing America's dark, untold story of grinding poverty where people live in borderline third-world conditions. It's probably not that bad in reality but I'm sure it's not great either. Like you said, you've received advice in the past on how to grow your business but given where you live - where effective demand just isn't sufficient - it's much easier said than done.

I also don't know anything about contracting. I can't remember the last time I even picked up a hammer. Therefore, I'm really in no position to be advising you on what specifically you could do to make your business more lucrative. The important thing is that you're doing what you can to support your family and pay the bills and you work hard at it. Just be mindful of your health. I know there are days where a 14-hour shift is necessary but all it will take is lifting something the wrong way and your broken back will shut you down permanently.

Also, your skills as a general handyman are more scarce than you realize. There are many who wouldn't know what to do if their sinks clogged let alone if trees fell on their houses or their roofs caved in. For many it would be the end of the world. For you it would be just another job.

On a side note, how good are you at fixing cars?

Jim C.

Protoprotestant said...


You weren't wrong to give advice. You were trying to be helpful, and I appreciate it.

Those are good ideas. The area I live in is very strange. We have an odd and out of sync economy and real estate market.

It's both interesting and wearisome. It's both a help and hindrance. Living in this type of area can trap you....you fall below the US standard and live at a different level making it very hard for you to get out and move to a different economic level.

But at the same time... it's an opportunity because it's one of the cheapest places to live. Where else in the US can you have a house payment in the $200 range? It's one of the few areas where it doesn't make sense to rent....and yet many have credit so bad they can't get a loan and are forced to.

For my family of 6 to rent a house around here, it would run anywhere from $450-600... while there are a myriad of houses available that you can get for under $60k and have a payment lower than that rent. It's weird.

But it's not only Appalachia with its rural charm, tackiness and strong provincialism.

But in PA where I'm at...it's also the Rust Belt. It's dilapidated, run down, distressed, both pristine and polluted, exploited etc....

It's interesting. It's not the best place I've lived, nor is it the worst. For the most part it's a good place to raise kids and cheap. We live in a dumpy run down old farmhouse... we have deer in our yard on a regular basis, we see lots of bear, we have endless forests....

But we also have massive amounts of drugs...we find needles along our road and law enforcement has more than once come in with helicopters to find marijuana fields in the National Forest which surrounds us.

You can make it here. You can get into certain businesses and if you do it right can become quite successful. We have our local barons and our entrepreneurs.

I wrestle with what to do. I wish I knew how to fix cars! I've always wanted to learn that and more about repairing appliances...then I could just sit at home and wait for stuff to break!

Seriously though, thanks for the advice and don't be shy in offering it. I rambled in this and a couple of the other comments. IN NO WAY was that directed at you or what you were saying. If you took it that way...I must ask for your forgiveness.

As is often the case....the things in themselves (business ventures, whatever...) are not evil. It's how you go about it. Sadly all to often in this world unless you do it the world's way...you're not getting anywhere. If you live in a depressed area...in some ways it can be easier, in other ways it's harder and you must be more aggressive.

Protoprotestant said...

And to anyone else reading....

my apologies. I'm trying to get to emails and comments etc...

Right now it's 6.42am and I'm headed out the door. I've been leaving early getting home at 7.30 or so.

Last night while eating my late dinner I'm going over the Greco-Persian Wars with the kids, and finishing Hebrews.

After that....it's get cleaned up, talk to my wife a bit...and pass out in the chair.

As I said to someone else...I guess it's better to be busy than to not have any work at all. There are many stuck in that reality. I praise God I have someplace to go this morning.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to say a couple things out the gate.
One is I have NO problem with HUD per-say I was thinking as a Christian can we possibly help others while helping yourself, as you had said to Jim you can buy cheaper than rent so if one COULD buy some homes then you could rent it still cheaper than they can rent..As I know not all can get HUD even if they need it and further I dont agree with keeping people dependent on the government. With that said....
I have spent all but a few years at home not working as this was my husbands wish...NO he isnt making big money or has he made quote big money it was feast or famine as he worked labor jobs...
He and I never had alot of extra but we made it through raising 3 kids. We never owned a new car or for that matter had medical insurance over the past 15 years..He currently has massive medical problems we do get some medicare for him as he worked and paid into it. BUT, we cover ALL that it does not including his medicines that are now in the doughnut hole as they call it ..
I am not whining I am SO SO very thankful we have something ..My heart goes out to you at the situation you are in with financial things... I too do not agree with many of the ways things are handled in America as it breeds a MORE MORE attitude . Sorry for rambling I just wanted to say I am not sitting here thinking people should not get help or that using government programs are wrong just that if we could somehow as Christians not need them so we are helping one another. Thank You for your time.

Protoprotestant said...

Sorry I was getting confused. I guess I thought you were Jim.

Thanks for your comment. If it sounded like I was reacting about the HUD statement...I probably was a bit.

At one time I would have certainly slammed anyone how 'took' help.

It's all a little more complicated than that isn't it?

But like I said to Jim...your ideas weren't bad and by all means...if you have any more, feel free to share.

I'm struggling, but we get by. I would be content with even less if I could write full time. I hope I can find a way. I just have to be patient and trust in the Lord.

That said......MANY THANKS to the handful of folks who have supported me. If I can just get about 100 people sending in $20 a month...I can write full time. I think it might take awhile to win over/interest that many people.

But who knows?

This afternoon I wasn't feeling very well so I put my foot down, left work early and came home to write. God willing some articles will be coming soon. I have a couple that a pretty much done and a couple more in the works.

I hate getting out of my 'groove'...it's hard to not write for a week or two and then dive back into it. When I'm on a roll I can be very productive. Maybe in time....


Anonymous said...

John: praying for you and yours.