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Entries in God (37)

Friday
Mar292013

hopeitude

I was reading Following Your Bliss, Right off the Cliff on the New York Times website. Long and the short of it, "Following your dreams is risky and sometimes you fail." 

Duh. But yeah, it's true and it's something to think about during the planning process for your business (or your side business, or your community program, or wherever your dreams fit in the scheme of things). Sometimes the dream isn't enough.

There's some science in this article, about the part of the brain that controls worry and the pain that comes from it. And to overcome that physiological reactionso that we can take action and attempt to make our dreams come true, despite the risk of pain and failurewe feel hope.

I love this line from the article:

As paradoxical as it sounds, [Michael Derring] said, “If you stop worrying about the outcomes, you will achieve a better outcome.”

Stop worrying about the outcomes? Yikes! Most of the time, it seems like "worrying about the outcomes" is all we do! But there's a sweet sort of logic here.

The article is more or less saying, "Don't let your emotions become invested in the business." Don't put your self-worth on the line for a shoe store or an auto shop or a novel. If you fail, you'll believe you are the failure. But that's not how failure works. A person isn't a failure. Only actions can be failures. A person is a decision-making, action-taking, hope-and-faith-having machine. We make decisions, we take action, we have hope and faith that it will work out. And if it doesn't ...

If you approach a business or any other endeavor with the attitude that, should it fail, it isn't the end of the world, you can pick up and recover, you're chances of success actually increase. You're willing to take more risks, for starters, and risk is the price of momentum. You may take actions you wouldn't have taken before, in a more cautious mindset, and those actions lead to results, and those results may end up bringing you increased benefits. Or they may blow up and fade out. It happens.

From a financial standpoint, this is why you want to be smart about the way you invest in a business. Make the decision early on to stay away from debt. Take on investors, but don't take on loans. Investors know that they're taking a risk, and that it may not make a return. Lenders don't care either way if you succeed or fail, they expect repayment with interest and they'll try to destroy you if you don't follow through. Investors empower, lenders enslave. 

Trust me on this one ... I'm enslaved to a lot of lenders at the moment.

From a spiritual standpoint, this is why you want to ensure that your business is built to glorify God. God likes it when we do things that are empowering, that build something that brings good into the world. Staying focused on God's Ultimate Rule—Love your neighbor as you love yourself—means you're doing everything right. You won't have to worry about mistakes coming back to bite you in the ... assets. The business may fail, due to a lack of demand or bad timing or myriad other reasons, but it won't take you with it. 

So what happens after failure? Learning. This is the point where you pray and ask for wisdom. "Show me, Lord, where it went wrong. Show me how I can pick up and start again. Show me how to change my plan and build something that glorifies you." God never denies the request for wisdom. He just requires you to commit some brain power and effort to it.

This article ... I'm on the fence about it. I get a real "don't pursue your dreams because they're risky" vibe from it. But there are points made that are more encouraging. Hope—that's a good message. So read it as a cautionary tale. Have hope, but also have a plan. Have a goal, but don't worry about the outcome. Invest, but don't enslave yourself to the dream. You belong to a greater power than dreams.

Thursday
Mar282013

wisdomification

I'm 40 years old, and I'm pretty sure I haven't done my best at being a steward of the gifts I was given. Some, yes, maybe. I've definitely nurtured skills such as writing, marketing and strategy, self improvement, knowledge about innovation and technology and leadership thought. My education in those areas isn't "complete." There's always more to learn and more ways to grow, but that's true of any field of expertise. I spend a lot of time growing in these areas.

I've fallen short in a couple of major areas, though. Money ... that's a big one. I had a lot of wrong-headed thinking about money, all through my 20s and 30s, and that has lead me to be deep in debt, with nothing put back for rainy days or long winters. I'm changing that now, growing in my financial education and developing the long-abused self discipline I need to be better with my finances, and to build a better future.

I've also fallen short on my health. I'm actually pretty "healthy," in that I'm not suffering from anything debilitating or inhibiting. I do have a pacemaker, but that's actually improved my health and physical stamina, rather than be a debit to my health account. Where I've fallen short is in diet and exercise, of course. I'm about 70 pounds overweight. I get winded walking from my truck to my office, or taking small flights of stairs. I'm chronically fatigued a lot of the time. I suffer from indigestion and other digestive irritations. In general, my energy and my stamina are low, and the way I look actually impacts my self esteem. I'm working to change these facts, too, by changing the way I approach food and by taking opportunities to move more, any chance I get. 

In both of those areas I have a ways to go. I have miles and years of damage and abuse to undo. Maybe some of it will never be undone, but I don't think that's true. I think that if I turn to the source of my strength, if I trust and rely on God's strength instead of my own, I'll be able to accomplish anything that brings good and joy into my life, and the lives of others.

The other area where I see need for change is my ego. I am utterly self-centered and selfish, much of the time. I know that my focus should be on loving and helping others, as often as possible. This is my mission from God, the commandment I can't avoid whenever I open my Bible or simply look around me. If I'm going to glorify God in all I do, I have to start with the one indomitable command He's given. I have to love others as I love myself. I have to help others the way I would want others to help me.

If I concentrate on that, it's possible ... more than possible, likely ... that the other areas of my life will fall in line, and even with all the work I'll have to put into it, they'll seem easy to me. 

This morning I started reading Proverbs (actually, I started listening to it from the Bible Gateway app ... worthy). I've read through it before, but this morning I approached it with new focus. I had read about Solomon, who was told by God that he could have any one thing he asked for. He could have asked for long life, or for all the earth to come under his command, or for more gold or more power, or for any number of things that might be attractive to anyone, even a king. But what he asked for was wisdom.

The result of that wisdom, beyond becoming a ruler who has become the benchmark for wise rulers throughout history, was the book of Proverbs. It's a treatise of Solomon's wisdom. It's written in simple language that, somehow, hides more truth than it reveals, and that can only be dug up through repeated reading and study. It's a guide for anyone who wants to improve his or her life, to get on a path that leads to greater life, to better health, the increased wealth. Looking for the ultimate self-help book? It was written a few thousand years ago, in the format of a letter from father to son. 

In Becoming a Millionaire God's Way, Dr. C. Thomas Anderson writes that if you want to improve your life in every avenue, if you do nothing else, read, study, and dwell upon Proverbs. Follow the wisdom there and you'll start seeing positive results in your life. I already am.

It's not all about money, obviously. Money is just a tool for reaching goals, helping others, serving God. It's not all about health, either. We need strong health to have the energy and physical reserves to do what's good for us and for others and for God. Really it's all about gaining wisdom, and using that wisdom to glorify God.

Pray for wisdom. Ask for it right now. I pray this prayer throughout the day:

Lord, change me. Give me wisdom. Increase my faith. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Show me how to glorify you in all I do. Amen.

Pray. Study. Pray and study. 

And it's not just about the Bible. Solomon studied the literature and wisdom of Egypt and other nations. He wrote about it all extensively, along with his insights and interpretations and ideas. He used what I call the REAL Word of God.

According to John 1:1-5 The Word was with God in the beginning. It was God. Ultimately, the Word became flesh in the form of Jesus, the Christ. So the Word is more than just the Bible. It has existed, exists, and will exist in all of creation and eternity. Which means you can find the Word, and wisdom, anywhere you look. So look broad and wide. Think about what you're seeing, consider it through the lens of your faith, and suddenly Wisdom starts to show herself.

Wisdom is the path to wealth, health, long life, and happiness. Wisdom is the road to God's kingdom. Trade everything for it. Forget feeling low about the failures of your life. Learn from them, grow from them, use them to cultivate a nice crop of wisdom. Every garden needs fertilizer.

I'm working on those rough patches in my life. I'm praying for God's wisdom and guidance, and that I wil receive increased faith and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And ya know, I can see it happening. I'm making a lot of progress, every minute of the day. I'm already well beyond the man I was just a couple of months ago. I'm grateful for God's touch on my heart and my life. I feel sorrow for those times I let Him down, and grieve the Holy Spirit, but I feel joy in His mercy and grace, and in the wisdom I'm seeing build slowly in me.

Wealth, health, and happiness come from love, righteousness, and wisdom. God wants us to seek all three, and he wants us to help each other in the search. I'll help you walk if you help me walk. We'll make the trip together.

Wednesday
Mar272013

wealthitude

The two biggest management challenges for lifestyle design (Christian or otherwise), are time and money. Seems like we're always short on both, or otherwise they're freakishly out of balance. For most of my 20s I had more time than money. These days I find a shortage on both sides of the scale, but if you take debt out of the equation I have less time than money, overall. Them's the breaks, right?

I always thought so. But that's pretty much a wrong-headed way to approach either subject. Nothing is inevitable about time or money. Both are tools, and our job is to learn how to use them.

I'm working on my financial education these days, because building wealth is important. With wealth you can help people. You can be at peace about one of the most stressful parts of life. Most importantly you can do good and glorify God.

Part of our "charter" on Earth is to be good stewards of what we're given, to be responsible and increase what has been entrusted to us. Building wealth gives us more resources to use on our mission.

Time, though, is the other side of that equation. Most of us are short on it, because we're busily trading it for coins. Wealth may be part of the charter, but we have to remember that time is the commodity in our life that we can spend but can never increase. God wants good things for us, and wants us to do good. Both require time.

Wealth can help free up your time, this is true. But here we have to be careful, and look a little closer at the definition of the term. Wealth is different than money.

Money is a symbol—it stands for the value of something. And since value is negotiable, according to supply and demand, that means money has a variable value. 

Wealth, on the other hand, has a constant value. Wealth—true wealth—is the ability to choose. If you want to take a vacation, you can choose where and when, but also how long and how many people to take with you, how many fine restaurants you'd like to visit, which hotel you want, and a myriad of other choices that have less to do with what you can "afford" and more to do with what you "want." Wealth means you are able to operate above the level of "need," and in the domain of "want." 

That's why wealth is such a tricky and controversial subject. As a rule, we humans are pretty poor at choosing the right "wants." If we aren't diligent in our obedience to God's Word, our wants become entirely self serving. We think only about what we want, what we have planned, what we will do with our wealth. We become a closed loop.

You know where a closed loop leads? Nowhere. You just keep running in the same circle, over and over, getting right back to where you started and starting right back up again.

One way to veer out of that rut and run at angles to your closed loop is to start focusing on others. God's greatest command is to love others—love 'em like you love yourself. Love 'em like your momma and your granny. Love 'em like you love your kids. You'd do a lot for your kids, right? How would you feel if someone else loved your kids as much as you do? How much joy could you take from someone giving to your kids the way you'd want to give to them, if you could? How sweet would life be if you knew that someone out there was taking care of those you loved?

That's how God feels about it.

We're all God's kids. We're all God's loved ones. "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (That would be Matthew 25:40).

You want true wealth? Start doin' for the least among us. Start focusing on finding ways to increase your reach and your ability. Build a store of tools and resources that you can use to help others, to do good, to glorify God.

I haven't been so hot at this plan in the past, but I am definitely starting to see it in action in my life. The more I get away from focusing on Kevin, and the more I focus on God, the greater my joy and the greater my wealth. Now it's time for me to start focusing on ways to help others increase. How can I use what God has given me to do good among my brothers and sisters on Earth? How can I glorify God with everything I say, think, feel, and do? 

That's the reason I've started writing about Christian lifestyle design in this blog. God gave me an ability—I can think and I can organize that thinking and I can put that thinking on the page or the screen. I've used that ability, that gift, all of my life. I've served myself with it. Now it's time for me to use it to its real potential, to serve and glorify God. And to do that, I love you by sharing what I've learned in life. 

I'll need to go further, of course. I'll need to increase the wealth I steward, and then use that wealth to further the work. I'll need to use my tools to build and acquire better tools. That's the point.

Time and money. They run short. But humans—we have a remarkable ability to do a lot with very little. That's God at work in us. So let's embrace it, and use it to build something God will be proud of.



Tuesday
Mar262013

beliefitude

I have a tendency to get overwhelmed. I've always been a "big picture" guy, preferring to look at the general flow and the potential outcome, rather than dither in the details. The more steps something has, the more reluctant I am to be involved.

The problem is that a large chunk of life involves details and steps. If you want to buy a home, there's a stack of paperwork that may make no sense whatsoever, but it has to be filed. (Why isn't buying a home like buying anything else? "Here's my money. Gimme a house." There's a whole 'nother blog post in that one, I think.)

If you want to learn to play the piano, you have to learn the layout of the keyboard, learn to read music, learn to make chords, learn to keep time. 

If you want to learn to be a better writer you have to learn the rules of grammar (and when to make exceptions), you have to learn how to edit, you have to learn how to rewrite and how to start the whole process all over again.

Anything worth having in life is usually going to involve going through steps. And going through steps requires patience.

I am not a patient man. And thus, I am often overwhelmed.

My biggest issue, as far as I've determined, is that I like to do the work fast, so I like to do everything that's required ALL AT ONCE. I don't just want to write the book, I want to edit as I go, lay it out as I go, create the cover, and publish it, all within a week's time (even that is stretching the limits of my patience sometimes). The result? A book. Sometimes a very good book. But often a book with errors and issues that could have been avoided. 

There's an argument that can be made here, from a marketing and strategy standpoint, regarding "build to ship, ship to profit." I agree with that argument, actually. But let's put the marketing hat aside or second and put on our life hat.

Life requires taking things in smaller chunks. Baby steps. Remember What About Bob? Dr. Leo's "Baby Steps" were just the thing to get Bob out of his apartment, with Gill in tow, and down to Lake WWinnipesaukee. He was even sailing! He was a sailor! And it started with baby steps to the elevator.

It's taken me a long time to get past just knowing that this is common sense and actually accepting it as common sense. One step, and you've started. Action is taken. Progress is made. You are closer than you were just a step before.

I had an epiphany yesterday as I was on a walk (trying to lose the gut I regrew thanks to my past commitment to chicken wings and chocolate). The truth is I don't have what it takes to do all that is expected of me.

That's OK. I can admit it. I can accept it. I'm not a failure, just because I can't accomplish everything that's on my plate. But here's where things veer from the typical, accepted course ... that doesn't mean I won't accomplish it all.

My epiphany really came down to this: True, I don't have what it takes. But God does. True, I will be overwhelmed, but God won't. True, there's just too much, and I just don't have the attention span, commitment, dedication, brain power, money, time, resources, connections, know-how, expertise ... But God does. 

That's what faith is really about, see? It's not about wishing and hoping and believing with all your might that "some giant spirit in the sky will fulfill my wish." It's about believing that God will give you everything you need to fulfill His WILL. It's about knowing, without doubt, that God really wants the best for you, and the best may not always be what YOU want.

I get overwhelmed by the details. But God always delivers on what I really need. If something slips through the cracks, even if there are uncomfortable consequences, I can rest easier knowing that something I'm not aware of is in the works. Something bigger, better, and more wonderful than I had anticipated. I can rest, knowing that even if things seem to be going wrong around me, there's someone who sees a picture even bigger than what I see. 

The struggle for me, right now, is that I'm thinking, "My non-Christian friends aren't going to get this." In my study of God's Word, what I'm finding is that it takes belief to understand what you're reading. It's like having the pass key for an encrypted file.

You have to actually want it. You have to actually believe, even if just a tiny bit, before the "data" starts to flow. This is what causes atheists to scoff, and I totally understand why. It caused ME to scoff, and I WAS a believer. "You have to believe to believe?"

Notice I didn't say "keep an open mind." It's not about that. It's about true belief, or the willingness to admit that you know so very little of what's really there to be known, and there is truth in what you're hearing. I'm a complete ingoramus, but as I study and learn and grow in God's Word, praying for wisdom and increased faith and to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I'm starting see more than I expected. 

Remember those pictures that were made up of thousands of smaller images, and if you stared long enough you could see the shape of something else? That's what it is. The details are masking it, hiding it from everyone, right in plain site. If you just glance at that picture without knowing something is there, you'll never see it. You have to stare. You have to know. You have to believe that the picture isn't just some big joke, some random collection of images. You have to look at it with the expectation that eventually you'll see past all the details and get the real picture.

Until then, it's going to seem overwhelming. After all, not all of the smaller images in those pictures is actually used to create the hidden image. Some have to be ignored. Some seem important, but end up being distractions. It can really start to feel overwhelming, it's true. But relax your eyes, be diligent, be calm, and suddenly the real picture comes into focus, and you can't believe you never saw it before.

Monday
Mar252013

stressicity

Last Wednesday I attended the first of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University classes. One down, eight weeks and a sizeable chunk of debt to go. And judging by the sheer volume of resistance I've already met from friends and family, not to mention my own stubborn tendency to want to keep doing things my way, I'm guessing I'm already on the right track.

That's how that works. Have you noticed? The thing that does you the most good takes the most sacrifice, the most sweat, the most stress. If something is going to build you up, first you have to be torn down.

For a large chunk of my life I've lived with the belief that my biggest enemy, the guy who stands in my way most often, the fella who tears me down most without bothering to pick up the pieces—yeah, that guy is me. I could say it was Satan or sin or the nature of evil that tears me down. But the truth is that Satan, sin, and evil have only the tools I give them to work with. I've busily handed over custom-made Kevin-manipulating tools, and then raged at Satan's efficiency in mucking up my life. And all the while asking, "Why, God, why?!?"

A sure sign that you're doing something good for yourself is to guage how uncomfortable you feel. There's actually a word for that, though one you may not have heard before.

You've heard of stress. It's that thing you suffer when bills are due, when the car breaks down, when you have a test you haven 't prepared for. Have you heard of eustress

Eustress literally means "good stress." This is stress that builds you up instead of tearing you down. It's the stress of putting money into a savings account every month, even if money is a little tight. It's the stress of taking your car in for regular maintenance even though you're strapped for cash and/or time. It's the stress of studying for a test ahead of time, doing the assignments, asking for help in advance when you don't understand something.

Think of exercise. Nothing is more stressful than that first time you lace up and hit the street to get some miles under you and some pounds off of you. Your  muscles tense up. You sweat. You breathe heavy. Your lungs burn and your stomach churns and you end up feeling like complete garbage. And then there's the aftermath! Strained muscles, weariness, headaches.

And the time! Holy hourglasses, exercise takes up so much time! Changing into workout clothes takes time. Stretching takes time. Stopping to drink water takes time. Doing a cool-down takes time. Just showing up, day after day, to do this thing that isn't always all that much fun, and almost always hurts, takes time.

But when you keep at it for a few weeks, suddenly that time doesn't seem so big a cost. Muscles loosen. Breathing becomes regular. Sweat becomes less unpleasant. Pounds start to burn away as muscle starts to grow. Energy starts to increase. And the time suddenly isn't such a high cost any more.

Eustress is that stress that's ultimately good for you. Working out gives you benefits that outweigh the suffering. So the suffering, the stress, is building you up instead of tearing you down. 

That's the key to understanding the resistance I'm dealing with, both externally and internally, when it comes to getting my finances under control. I lack a financial education, so I have to pursue one. I lack self discipline, so I have to develop it. I lack a wealth mindset, so I have to build one. I have to work for it. I have to use muscles I haven't yet used. And that hurts. And it takes time. And it causes stress and headaches and nausea and tight feelings in my chest and stomach. 

But if I keep at it, if I keep carrying on, then I will eventually get past those pains. I'll cut debt down to nothing. I'll have money in the bank to support me and Kara if something goes wrong. I'll use money as it was intended to be used, to grow and support and promote and prosper me, but also to glorify God. I'll have true wealth. Wealth that isn't defined or limited to a number on a bank account. True wealth is freedom. It's controlling my resources—time and money—instead of letting them control me. 

So I'll take some flack from friends and family. I'll be laughed at because I'm forced to do some things I blatantly said I'd never do, like sell something I like that costs me a fortune to keep. I'll  have to eat a little crow, soak up a little humility, and suffer through a little indignity. That's stressful. But it's good stress. Eustress. It builds me up instead of tearing me down. 

So for that, I'm grateful.

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