Dec 20, 2013

Money Makes Us Mean...But Small Nudges Can Change Everything

This video was excellent!  Paul Piff talks about his studies as his team pondered the question, “Does money make you mean?”

These comments really struck me:  

“What we’ve been finding across dozens of studies and thousands of participants across this country is that as a person’s levels of wealth increase, their feelings of compassion and empathy go down, and their feelings of entitlement and deservingness and their ideology of self interest increases.” 

“We are finding that the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to pursue a vision of personal success of achievement and accomplishment to the detriment of others.”

At the end of the video Paul shares hope. He says: 

“We have been finding in our own laboratory research that small, small psychological interventions, small changes to peoples' values, small nudges in certain directions, can restore levels of egalitarianism and empathy.” 

The most read article from The Stewardship Sentinel  in 2013 had a similar topic: The Deceitfulness of Wealth – Breaking Free From the Financial Trap.  It has been a blessing to look for reminders, nudges on stewardship and generosity, and to share those here.  

A challenge: 

This holiday season, look for opportunities to nudge yourself and others toward generosity.  Pass along videos on generosity, (the videos here and here are great) help someone in need or pick up the tab at dinner.  Don’t get too wrapped up in possessions to have compassion.  Don’t let money make you mean.

Oct 24, 2013

How To Be Rich & Fields of Gold - Andy Stanley

Stephen Rolston is a friend of mine.  He has a blog titled "Resource Freak" and was kind enough to pass on a few Andy Stanley books and resources to me (hence the name "Resource Freak").  One of the books that I am reading by Andy Stanley is titled Fields of Gold.  Andy talks about how God owns it all and how we should sow generously in order to see the life to the full that God promises.

I was excited when a financial planner friend of mine from Legacy Wealth Management in Grand Junction, Colorado passed on a series of sermons from Andy Stanley on a similar topic.  He shares four messages on this topic in 2012 that are worth listening to.  He titled the series "How to Be Rich." Don’t let the title fool you, this isn’t the prosperity gospel.  I hope you enjoy this great teaching on some of my favorite passages on stewardship and generosity.  Here is the link to the sermons.

Oct 17, 2013

More Giving & More Saving Using Your IRA (and a challenge for non-profits, givers & advisors)

PlanningForStewardshipCharitableIRARollover title=

I have seen more giving happen in the past 5 years through the Charitable IRA Rollover than through any other means of giving.
The Background Story:
The immediate tax deduction from funding an IRA, 401(k) or other retirement account is attractive, especially to high income earners. By socking money away they can reduce their current income and maximize retirement savings.
In many cases we see the tax advantage being so appealing that folks neglect their savings in other areas. They fund their tax-deferred retirement accounts while neglecting the Roth IRA or taxable savings. We see folks that have saved large amounts for retirement but eventually the tax-deferred nature of these accounts catches up with them. When folks continue spending in retirement or are required to take distributions at age 70 & ½ they grieve over the large tax burden. We have written about planning for tax diversification here: Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Bracket. 
The Opportunity:
Because so many families have a substantial tax liability associated with their IRAs we have been excited about the Charitable IRA Rollover. We have seen families find real meaning and purpose and substantial tax savings by supporting their favorite non-profits, ministries and even their church using their IRA assets. They can have their custodian send a check right to their favorite non-profits and the distribution fulfills their Required Minimum Distribution. It has been really fulfilling for me to work with these generous families to accomplish amazing things and reduce their tax liability.
The IRS guidelines on the topic are great bedtime reading but I have been trying to find a new way to share this info with folks. I’ve put together an infographic in hopes that this great concept might ‘click’ for families. 
If you are with a non-profit this is a sweet deal. If you haven’t shared this concept with donors over age 70.5, you should. What an opportunity for you and for them before year end.

The Challenge:
For Givers:
- If you meet the guidelines, this is a great way to support the organizations you care about. Call your advisor today.
For Non-profits & Ministries:
- Steal this infographic and share it with your donors. (I have a copy without our info that you can have. Email me.)
- Engage CPAs and Financial Advisors in your community. Ask them to serve on your board and to keep you posted as these great opportunities come up.
- Subscribe to this blog and I’ll keep you posted. I’m thankful for what you do and I want to help.
For Advisors:
- Look like a rock-star as you look out for clients best interest. If you have folks with an IRA and they are over 70 & ½ years old give them a ring and learn about what really gets them excited. You may manage a bit less money but you’ll have a whole lot more impact and a better relationship with your client.

Oct 9, 2013

The Deceitfulness of Wealth and the Impact of Generous Giving

A friend of mine who works in development for Wycliffe Bible Translators and I were in Denver this week. We had the opportunity to share thoughts at the Colorado Non-Profit Association Fall Conference on a Biblical perspective on stewardship and generosity.

Our community has come together with Wycliffe to fund a translation of the Bible for a group of 135,000 people in Mexico who don't have a word of scripture in their language. You can read more about that here.

We shared stories about our collaboration on that project as well as the life-giving impact we have seen in clients' and donors' lives who have embraced their role as stewards.

Sep 6, 2013

Making Stress Your Friend

Kelly McGonigal shares thoughts at Ted. She suggests that embracing stress and supporting others in stress leads to resilience. She wraps up the video with this:

“Chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort. Go after what it is that creates meaning in your life and then trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.” 

It reminded me of this verse:  

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 
                                                Philippians 4:4-9        
So what’s stressing you out today? What’s stressing your co-worker or spouse or kids out?

The Challenge:
  1. Take 1 minute to write out your stresses. Take another minute to write out the things that are stressing those around you. 
  2. Submit those things to God. 
  3. Now take action on each of these things. Make a plan to move forward in the things on your list and to embrace others and encourage them on their journey.

Aug 26, 2013

I Like Listening - Don't miss the latest story from I Like Giving

It was great to hear this story. The woman is an author who was commissioned to work on a book for I Like Giving. As she wrote about others giving stories she was intrigued and decided to start a giving experiment of her own. Hearing these stories can be compelling. 

You can join in the story as well by watching more videos, taking a 3 day giving challenge, or telling your story by filling in the blank - I like ____________ . Visit I Like Giving here.

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Luke 16: 9



Aug 15, 2013

Musings of a $100 Bill: Grumblings on inflation, credit and money maturity

This is the latest in a series of posts by a Guest Blogger, our friend Benjamin Franklin.  We'll get to take a look at money written from the perspective of a $100 bill.  Don't hesitate to share ideas or thoughts.  Also, feel free to chime in, argue a little or ask questions of old Ben.  He's an inanimate object and you can't hurt his feelings. If you missed the previous posts you can catch them here. Here it goes...
As I age, I feel more useless every day. That’s not just the cynic in me speaking; I literally can’t do as much as I could back then. I have been around for less than 20 years but I remember early on I was special. When a human would get paid they would place me in the back pocket of the wallet or in an envelope in a top drawer or on top of the fridge. They’d save a pile of us Benjamins until they had enough to make that big purchase. Times are changing and we big bills aren’t as special anymore. I haven’t been saved in a coffee can in I can’t tell you how long. Why the change? Well, I can give you three reasons. 
Bills have lost their value. You see, seventeen years ago when I was printed all of the things you humans need cost less. You could buy a cart load of groceries for less than a Benjamin. Now it takes a handful of big bills to pay for the same groceries. I’m still used for big expenses but instead of going at it alone I’m usually accompanied by a mountain of hundreds. Everything takes real money these days. I get used more and more at gas stations and donut shops. It felt good when I made a difference, when I could help someone purchase something they had worked so hard for. It’s less exciting when I pay for one meal and a doggy bag is all the family has to show for it.  Inflation, like old age, is getting the best of me. 
Bills are being replaced. I mentioned previously that we are being replaced by the credit cards. Yes we bills are a dying breed. In the old days folks would cling so tightly. Since the credit cards have taken the stage folks don’t think quite as much about their spending. They don’t have to give anything up. When you pay with cash, especially a Benjamin, you can feel pain. After the purchase your wallet is physically thinner and you have the feeling that you actually spent money. Credit cards aren’t the same. There is no pain. Your wallet never changes. It really is getting bad. I don’t mean to go on a tangent here but I can’t help but say a bit more because the situation is worsening a bit every day. 
When the little plastic minions first came on the scene they were a pain for the humans to use. Many companies didn’t accept them. You had to hand the card to the cashier. They took it from you and gave it back. Today you need not hand your card to an attendant. They have shifted control to the user and allow you to swipe your own card. Although subtle, this change further reduces the pain of credit card spending. You are the master and remain in control of your little plastic slave at all times without any cost whatsoever… until the statement arrives announcing that the roles have been reversed. 
The rewards are seemingly endless: airline miles, free gifts, and cash back. Why wouldn’t you own a credit card? The benefits are touted but the cost is great. Credit is out to destroy cash but it won’t stop there. Credit is out to destroy financial education, it is out to destroy the family and it has and will be the death of many nations. 
Bills are no longer used for education. When I was printed I learned how the world worked by hearing the stories of other bills and watching the humans. I have shared a bit on this before. Children learn in the same way. When they watch their parents work hard to earn a buck, save their money, and then spend their hard earned bills, education happens. I can tell you that my interaction with the family has decreased almost completely in the last 17 years. Children would watch their parents and they would follow suit, learning to save and spend wisely. They would watch as parents placed cash in the offering plate or wrote out a check to an organization they cared about and children would learn to give. This great credit card revolution has created an aversion to cash. Instead of clinging to bills, families now spread hand sanitizer after touching currency. I have watched the people grow more and more distant from bills and at the same time more distant from reality of how money works. The vast amount of money transactions are now invisible and unknowingly, many parents have left children sanitized not just from germs but from financial literacy.  
This conversation seems crazy to most. We can both agree that I am becoming obsolete. Inflation, debt spending, and the lack of education have diluted my effectiveness. I am completely aware of my future. I am too tattered to be worthy of collecting. Eventually I’ll be shredded. The fate of the humans is less certain. 
I hope my commentary will open their eyes to these dangers. Any transaction could be my last. I wish I could speak out. I wear a face each day but I have no voice. If I could speak out I would call each person who held me to action. I would warn them about the dangers of inflation, debt and overspending.
What questions do you have for old Ben? Post your curiosities in the comments below or email here.

Jul 25, 2013

Journey of Generosity - We don't want something from you. We want something for you.

A good friend of mine suggested that my wife and I host a Journey of Generosity. I detailed a bit of our experience here. Since, we have been blessed to host three other events with friends. This experience has been life changing.

I was excited this week to be invited to learn to facilitate these types of events for others. We have a few coming up this fall and I am ecstatic. Some of the moments I have shared with my wife through these events over the course of the past year have been among the best moments in our marriage.

One person gives freely, yet gains even more: another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper: whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

Proverbs 11:24-25 

If you are interested in attending or hosting one of these events, learn more at  

All Things Great and Small

I had the joy of attending a Journey of Generosity event the other day and as part of the 24 hours participants take 30 minutes to spend time listening. I took the opportunity to get outside and while I sat I looked down and saw the patch of dirt between my feet. The space had a few rocks and flowers and some grasses. From time to time a bug would crawl by. I thought about how you could look at that small space for your entire life and you’d still miss something. Studying the life of the plants and insects contained in that small patch of dirt could entertain a scientist for an entire career.  

This morning in our small group we watched this Louie Giglio video. He describes how big the universe is. You can check out more of his stuff here.

God’s creation is profound on the smallest scale and on the largest scale.

I hope you enjoy the video.

Jun 11, 2013

DEFEATING THE TAX MONSTER: Funding Goals and a Legacy of Giving with Business Interest and Appreciated Assets

I’ve never really liked scary movies.  It seems like when you go to rent a movie these days the shelves are crammed full of these frightening films.  The few that I saw as a kid went something like this:  
The monster has grown more powerful and it seems like there is no hope.  The plot can’t get any darker when a hero determines to stop running from the frightful foe and take a stand.  Usually the hero turns the beast’s clumsy weakness against it in some genius turn of events.  The enemy is vanquished and the hero is victorious. 
Imagine your assets in this way.  As a result of increasing taxes and a desire to preserve wealth, Americans have embraced assets that defer taxation. As the value of the asset grows, so does the tax associated.  We see families that feel trapped in certain assets because of these taxes.  Business owners feel trapped in their company, real estate investors defer taxes with a 1031 exchange, stock owners are over exposed to risk because of the tax implications of selling. 
Just like the monster growing in power, the asset takes over.  The tax monster controls decision making. These tax implications chain business owners to their company.  They force real estate investors to limit their options and we see stock investors’ lives tied to a few companies that have major effects on their portfolio and their emotions.  These families can’t live or give quite the way they’d like until they take care of this asset.
What if you stopped running from that ugly tax asset and you stared it in the face.  What if there was a way to turn the tables on this giant tax beast?  What if you could turn this pending tax nightmare into a great victory?  
Get ready to be the hero!  We love to go after these ugly tax assets because they have the most potential. When we dig into a net worth statement, these are the assets that we highlight and dream about most. 
You have to give a little to get a little.  Many of the families that we work with love to support their community or ministries or their church.  They do this out of their cash flow.  I love to watch these families come alive when they talk about their passion.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard folks say, “Once we sell the business, we are excited to…”
In order to give more or spend more, folks would have to sell this ugly tax asset.  The taxes, along with other factors, are holding them back.  This is the perfect opportunity to gift a portion of these assets. 
By placing an ugly tax asset into a tax free charitable account, you can sell without the tax consequences. This is how many big family foundations were funded. The Gates Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Buffet Foundation--all were funded with interest in their company. 
Giving isn’t just for the super wealthy.  Any family with an ugly tax asset should consider this, especially if they are charitable. 
The Charitable Checkbook Explained.  Your family can open a charitable checkbook.  Just like any account you can select any options that suit your family.  If you want to give more, the account can do that.  If you need income for life, the account can make that happen.  If you want to get a deduction and avoid taxes, your charitable checkbook can help you to meet your goals.  In the end you can sell this ugly tax asset without the tax penalty and you can fund your goals with tax savings.  The worse the pending tax implication, the better the advantages of giving. 
The most common type of charitable checkbook is called a Donor Advised Fund or DAF.  You can give business interest, appreciated stock or real estate to this type of fund, then sell it, skip out on the taxes and give. Folks who need income from the account have other options available.
Whether you’re diversifying out of a stock, passing on a business or moving out of real estate or some other highly appreciated asset, consider a charitable gift as part of your strategy.  
Stop running from the tax monster and gather your team of trusted advisors to start strategizing on how to use your highly appreciated asset to fund your goals and a legacy of giving.

May 29, 2013

Michael Hyatt, Stewardship & Your Trusted Advisors

I follow Michael Hyatt's blog Intentional Leadership. His most recent podcast asks, "Who are your trusted advisors?"

He had some great points and I thought you would enjoy it. I wrote a similar post last year:
Stop Neglecting Your Financial Think-Tank: Four Steps to Better Stewardship.

Who are the advisors that you trust?

Do you have advisors that you don't trust?

What sort of stewardship action items should you be working on with your trusted advisors this month?

May 13, 2013

The Stewardship of a Decade - Your 20s Matter - Meg Jay

I turn 30 this summer and I'm getting gray hair... Somebody asked the other day if I was depressed about my upcoming milestone.

To be honest I'm strangely excited about getting older & I don't think I'll cover up my gray hair. My 20s have been FULL. My wife and I have 4 beautiful kids. I am blessed with a business that I enjoy in a community that has embraced my family. We bought a little home with some space for our kids to run. This spring my boys have helped me in the yard to plant 40 fruit trees that they can enjoy.

There are a lot of things that I haven't done that some of my 20 something friends have, we are severely lacking on the world travel front. Some of our good friends post amazing photos of wonderful memories they are making with their spouses. I have to remember that we will never share the same story.

As I thought through Meg’s TED talk above I was reminded of this verse:

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12
Paul gives young Timothy a high calling. He doesn’t just call Timothy to eek by. He invites timothy to make a difference by setting an example.
Just like Timothy’s new ministry, the 40 fruit trees in our yard are new today, but they will give a bountiful crop. No matter which season of life you are in, the seeds you plant today will turn into a rich crop for decades to come.
The challenge:
Where should you be investing time and energy before your next milestone? Schedule the time to sow here.
Are there any areas that you are spending too much time that will not pay healthy dividends in the future? Take a step today to scale back in these areas.
Don’t put off that important decision.

Here is a bonus video. My kids love the Seeds of Worship cds. They are pretty catchy. I catch myself whistling this one.

Apr 25, 2013

Finding Time for Faith in the Family

I just don’t have time to do it all. Between the job and work around the house our time is full. Once our boys are in bed I plop down exhausted. We spend a bit of time reading through the Jesus Story Book Bible,which we really enjoy, and we have done Bible studies together which has been a really rich time. But I don’t feel like there is enough time in the day. Am I training my children up in the way they should go? Are the little bits here and there going to be adequate?
I was wrestling with this one day on my way home from work. Driving along I saw a friend of mine in his driveway so I swerved to the side of the road. He was filling in cracks in his driveway with his four year old son. As I walked up I heard him finish telling his son, “just like the cracks in the driveway, we have cracks in our lives called sin.” He went on to tell his son about Christ’s redemption and how it patches the cracks in our lives. 
It was so beautiful to watch this father integrate his faith into the every day. I was reminded of the verse:  

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 
Deuteronomy 6:5-7

I figured I'd better share a picture of the boys
helping out in the yard.
The more time I spend in the Word, the more I can see this happen. Instead of forcing an hour here or there to teach my children, I can integrate His Word into life. Instead of trying to find time for faith in the family, it comes more naturally. Instead of an hour here or there, God demands all of our time.

The boys and I have been planting fruit trees and running irrigation lines in our yard and it has been the perfect opportunity to have conversations about God’s word. 
Jesus shared the same types of stories. Instead of a lecture, he related his teaching to daily life. It was such a blessing to realize that I was just trying too hard. Instead of carving out more time, God’s design is better. 
The Challenge:
Look for one chance this week to tie your work with your children at the home or in the yard into a message from the Bible.  
Take the time to share how this experience went with your spouse or a friend.

Mar 28, 2013

10 Reasons To Be Thankful For Feeling Broke - Allison Vesterfelt

I bumped into this article from Allison Vesterfelt. She and her husband are planting a church in West Palm Beach. Allison is the author of a book Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life With Less Baggage. I thought she shared some wonderful reasons to be thankful for being broke. You can read more on her blog and subscribe here. 
I’ve been worrying about money a lot lately. It’s probably unwarranted, given the fact that I have all of my basic needs met, and haven’t missed a meal, well, ever — but when I look around my life I can’t help but see a few things I need, and even more things I want, and it makes me feel frustrated that I can’t afford to buy any of them.

I use the word “broke” really intentionally. We’re not poor. We’re just in one of those seasons where things seem extra tight, and we feel extra frustrated by the lack of freedom we have financially.
But the more I obsess over it, the more I realized that living with less is actually a blessing. Here’s why.

1. It grows my creativity

When resources are limited, I have to get creative. I believe this creativity is not disconnected from my artistic creativity. My husband and I have been searching old warehouses for useful materials, making a coffee table from an old elevator pulley. We’re also working on crafting a bed frame out of salvaged wood pallets, building a bookshelf, and refinishing a dresser we found at a thrift store.

Read the rest of Allison's article here.

Breaking the Formula & Breaking into Eternity

I love this song from Josh Garrels. If you haven't picked up his music you should catch his website here. His lyrics point to eternity and call us all up to that eternal perspective.

I usually sleep like a rock and am not very poetic. The other night I couldn't fall asleep and I picked up a pen. Here is what I wound up with. Most of it came from the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12.
On Wealth & God 
You can’t put out
            more than you take in.
You’ll have to save
            if you want to win.
Work every penny
            and rake more in.
Owe no man
            for that’s a sin.
Divide each portion
            into a separate bin.
“I did it myself!”
            you say with a grin.
Eat, drink and be merry
            let life begin.
An unexpected knock
            and crawling skin.
You’re called to account
            for what your life’s been.
You can’t serve both
            which did you trade in?
Was He the goal
            or a means to an end?
You lavished yourself
            but were you rich toward Him?
Has the age old trap
            done you in?
Most of it came from the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12.

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Luke 12:13-21

We spend so much time serving our money. We all know the formula: Spend less than you make > Save > Pay off debt > Invest > Diversify > Eat, drink and be merry.

None of this is necessarily bad. The books designed to fix our money problems have the right intent but I can't help but feel that we are using God as a means to get rich and to fill our barns. We need more teaching on being rich toward God. What if our children saw us, not building bigger barns, but being rich toward God as we loved others. What if we left our children an inheritance, not of wealth, but of wisdom.

The challenge:
Break the formula & do something crazy. Give sacrificially today. This doesn't mean we shouldn't be prudent or that we shouldn't take care of our family. But today, do something crazy to be rich toward God as you break out of conformity to this world and into an eternal perspective.

Feel free to share below if you'd like to mock my poetry or tell us how you were rich toward God.

Mar 21, 2013

Pizza & Eternal Perspective

Great video from Generous Giving and the founder of Domino's Pizza.
It reminded me of a quote that a friend shared with me the other day: 
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.”

You can hear the change that occurred in Tom Monaghan’s life when his perspective shifted from temporal satisfaction to eternal impact. 
The pull of pride and the sway of self-centeredness can drag us into a lifelong slump. Can you feel the pull? It competes for our hearts and minds every day.

The challenge: (Perhaps a pizza from Domino's will help us to mentally prepare.)
Spend the rest of the day adjusting your focus away from the temporal and to the eternal. Reshape every decision, every thought and every action, not only around the day but around the impact on eternity.
Is this exercise hard or does it come naturally?
What are the obstacles in life that keep you from an eternal perspective?
On that note, I think I'll order a pizza from Domino's. I doubt the pizza had much to do with Monaghan’s shift in perspective but I wouldn’t want to mess with the formula in any way.

Mar 15, 2013

Friday Flash Mob & a Friend to Follow

A few weeks ago I was blessed to spend some time in Washington State. A group called Generous Giving invited me to come and spend some time with folks who have hosted Journey of Generosity events in the past. The room was full of folks who have taken their role as stewards seriously and spend time inviting others into that life that is truly life.

Randy Alcorn, the author of The Treasure Principle, which I have mentionedbefore, spent a bit of time teaching. It was a blessing to learn from folks that really feel called to God's commandment of stewardship.

Today I bumped into this video that Randy Alcorn posted on his blog. (If youhaven't checked his site out, you should follow along with him here.) Not really stewardship related, but what a beautiful gift that these musicians gave to this community and to the world through YouTube.

What talent could you share with the world today?

Mar 14, 2013

How to Stop Traffic with Your Giving

What a cool idea. It’s amazing how shocked the folks in this video are to receive this unexpected generosity. If I were to give it a shot, my sign would be similar to his, but I’d tweak it a bit:
I have a home
                                                and a car
and a job
Praise God
Do you need a few bucks? 
I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone doing something quite like this. How about you?
What is the craziest generosity you have ever seen?

Have you ever given like this?

What would the next generation learn if more of us gave like this man?

Mar 13, 2013

Wednesday in the Word: Uncommon Sense

"The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord , where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” 
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” 
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” 
Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord.  The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 
The Lord called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” 
Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.  So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord , for your servant is listening.’"  So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 
The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” 
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 
And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli's house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’ ”
Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord . He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord ; let him do what is good in his eyes.”
The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord . The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word."
 1 Samuel 3:1-21 NIV84
I was in Oregon the other day for a few meetings and woke up one morning with a phrase stuck in my head, “Uncommon Sense: Spirit Filled Living.”  I wrote it down and I began to get ready for the day.  I’m going through the chronological reading plan on the YouVersion Bible App, and the passage I started with was this chapter from Samuel. 
My meetings included a retreat with a group called Generous Giving.  They invited a crowd out to hear a bit from an author that writes about God & Money named Randy Alcorn.  They wrapped the meeting up with this prayer:  
Ask God to speak to your heart.
Tell Him you’ll do whatever He says. 
It made me think of the book God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew.  I read this book as a child.  You read through the pages as Brother Andrew learns to trust God, to listen and obey.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough. 
As we learn to listen to God, not just on Sunday morning, but throughout the week, we will find this uncommon sense.  Samuel listened, Brother Andrew listened, and you and I can listen to the same still small voice. 
A challenge: 
Ask God to speak to your heart.
Tell Him you’ll do whatever He says.

Feb 22, 2013

Tim Keller on Money in Proverbs - National Christian Foundation Annual Conference

 At a recent conference a friend from Generous Giving gave my wife and I the book The Meaning of Marriage by Tim & Kathy Keller. My wife and I have been reading it and have really enjoyed it. I'm also reading Tim Keller's book Every Good Endeavor. It's also excellent. I'll probably share a review for each when I complete them.

So I ran into this Tim Keller video on The National Christian Foundation's site and couldn't help but share it.

So I really do read, and watch, and listen to authors and speakers who are not Tim Keller. Just not this month. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Feb 1, 2013

Running in a Sweater Vest, Calling Retirement's Bluff & Living The Integrated Life

Remember that movie Chariots of Fire? I saw a few clips the other day and I was first struck by the fact that these athletes were training for the Olympics in argyle sweater vests. It would certainly save time to be able to just exercise right in my work outfit. Perhaps an argyle sweater vest would be the perfect, universal outfit. I am going to keep my eyes out for one.

The next thing that stood out in the clips was a comment from the main character, Eric Liddell. He says “I believe God made me for a purpose -- but He also made me fast --and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
I wonder if Eric discovered God’s purpose for himself because he wasn’t wasting all kinds of time changing from his work clothes to his gym clothes. 
All joking aside, the busyness of our day and the competing demands seem to pull us in all directions. We do so much these days and we wear so many hats. In the midst of all of the busyness, can we fill in the blank? 
When I _________ I feel His pleasure. 
I’m really convinced that when we fill in the blank, the answer shouldn’t be all that far from our work or our play. We should be able to put our argyle running sweaters on to live out this purpose. Let me explain.
Too often I see folks who come into the office and suggest that they are working hard so that they can retire and do what they love. They are striving for some date down the road where their lives will finally make sense. They try to save more and pay off debt sooner so that they can retire earlier. They have compartmentalized their life.
I’d like to call retirement’s bluff.
True life doesn’t start at age 65, or with an early retirement. True life starts when we merge our personal life, our work life, and God’s calling. What can you do today that will make you, and the creator come alive. If you are one of those folks biding your time until retirement, STOP. Mix your purpose and your personal life with your work and begin living The Integrated Life. (For more on this, read the book The Integrated Life by Ken Eldred.)
Can you fill in the blank?
When I _________ I feel His pleasure.

Here are the running sweaters!

The Deceitfulness of Wealth – Breaking Free From the Financial Trap

Many of us remember reading the book Where the Red Fern Grows in school.  In it we read about a boy named Billy and his beloved dogs in pursuit of raccoons in the Ozark Mountains.  Early in the book, Billy’s grandfather shares with him a bit of knowledge about these cunning little creatures to lead him to his first catch.

You can hear wisdom in the old man’s voice as he describes a trap he devised by boring a hole in a log with an opening just big enough that the raccoon can reach inside.  He tells Billy to place a shiny piece of tin in the hole.  Once the raccoon grasps the shiny object, his clenched fist is too big to remove from the hole and he is trapped.

Billy is sure his grandfather is joking with him, “Why all he'd have to do is open his paw, drop the piece of tin, and he could pull it from the hole."

Billy’s grandpa laughed as he assured the young boy that the plan was sound.  Although the raccoon could simply let go, he would not.  The curiosity of the shiny little item in the hole was enough to hold the raccoon tighter than any other trap.

The story stuck with me.  In light of our nation’s financial problems, and my own financial priorities, the story continues to resonate.

In the Parable of the Sower, we listen as Jesus explains the outcome for each seed:

“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Matthew 13:22-23 (NIV)

“The deceitfulness of wealth.” It is not often that you hear that phrase in our society.  On the contrary, we hear about the almighty financial plan that leads to security.  Instead of wealth as a weed choking out our faith, we hear about wealth that leads to control of life and early retirement to a life of luxury.

In this, Satan has set his trap.  He has bored a hole in our faith and in it, put a few shiny things.  Even as a Bible-believing Christian, I have fallen for this trap.  I have my hand in the hole, clinging desperately to my retirement, my life, my health insurance and all of the things that my financial plan says will create security.

Satan has used this trap in every generation.  We read of the wrestling Solomon does between wealth and God.  We read as the rich young ruler sulks away, unwilling to release the shiny things in the trap.  Even in an Evangelic Christian community, this simple and age-old trap works.  Even as true freedom in Christ calls to them, they cannot let go. I cannot let go.

Everything in our society and the financial industry says it would be insane to let go.  The best demonstrated practices of financial planning promise security.  If your family will only follow the formula: spend less than you make > pay off debt > save > mitigate risk > diversify…then you will find true financial freedom. Y ou will take charge of your own life.

Like a raccoon in a trap, there is an unpleasant end in sight.  Fast forward to the book of Revelation in Chapter 18.  We read about the fall of Babylon the Great and the end of the financial system on earth. In this chapter, we hear a voice from Heaven saying, “Come out of her [Babylon & the world’s economy] my people.”  We read as world leaders and business owners mourn the destruction of this wealth and we have a clear calling.

You sit in a special place where you may be the only voice calling, “Come out of her [Babylon & the world’s economy] my people.”  You sit in a unique time period where your family and the families in your community are just frustrated enough that, with a bit of guidance, perhaps you can pull the curtain all the way back on Satan’s scheme.  You can use this economic opportunity to show your family how the trap works. You can free their hand from the deceitfulness of riches and from a financial plan that, without Christ, leads to death.

You can share the words of Paul as he speaks to young Timothy:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV)

You can lead those, with whom God has given you special influence and a special voice, to the truth. You can change lives as you educate your family and others that their rich blessings were not meant for self indulgence. They were given to them to steward, to be generous and willing to share. Through this generosity, you can lead those you love and serve to a place where they can share Christ as they love Him and love others in their community. You can use your unique seat and this amazing economic opportunity to create thankfulness toward God.

Satan is using his deceitful trap far and wide. Young families are taking hold of these shiny things, sure that they have found the truth. Their seed is falling in with the thorns and they are buying the lie of financial freedom, proliferated by Wall Street and Washington.

Paul exhorts Timothy in the same way. What an opportunity for Paul, to carry on his legacy--Christ’s legacy--through this youth. You have a similar opportunity, magnified because of a difficult economy. You can avoid the thorns and grow your seed in good soil as you pull weeds for those around you.

Just as Billy questioned the soundness of his grandfather’s idea, young families may think you are kidding. You are going against the grain, against this world’s wisdom. But take heart as you share this truth. Just as this truth has set you free, you will free young families from a life among the weeds.

The deceitfulness of wealth has its grip on our families and our nation. Christ has created you to grow in good soil. He promises this work will yield a bountiful crop. By replacing the almighty financial plan in your family and community with the Almighty God, you have the ability to free our nation. More than that, you have the ability to join with others as you loosen hands from the trap and take hold of the life that is truly life.

Money is not evil, and having wealth isn't a bad thing.  This is not the poverty gospel.  But it is worth asking, where does your hope lie?  Is your trust in the bank account and the business, in the 401k and the financial plan?  Have you fallen for the trap?  Or are those simply assets you steward as you trust in The Living God?

Jan 31, 2013

February 1: Day to Share and Prepare for a Generous Month

What could happen if we join together as a community for 28 days of generosity?  You are in the right place.  The month of February we'll make it happen.  We'll have our own experiment in generosity right here in Western Colorado (if you are reading from outside the area, don't hesitate to join in).  Each day we'll join together being generous. The wonderful TED video with Michael Norton suggests that giving to others makes our lives better.  Science proves that giving releases Oxytocin in our bodies, giving us a positive lift when we are generous.  Receiving has the same effect.  Join in for the 28 Days of Generosity.  February 1st is Day 1 and we will spend the day sharing and preparing for generosity.  Each day we'll share some ideas to get the creative juices flowing.  Feel free to post your ideas and share in the comments, on Facebook and beyond.  28 Days Kick Off Event: 5:30 p.m. at Great Harvest (bring a friend and join the fun)!
  1. Invite a friend to join you in the 28 Days of Generosity
  2. Tell everyone you see today about the adventure you are undertaking and ask them to join you
  3. Forward a link to this page
  4. Tweet about it
  5. Catch up with The 28 Days of Generosity on Facebook
  6. Print off the calendar and plan ahead with family and friends
  7. Share the idea with groups you are a part of--your church, the folks at the gym, your co-workers...
  8. Share the 28 days with a complete stranger
  9. Start a kindness journal and include in your entries how kindness makes you feel
  10. Check out the front page of the Montrose Daily Press where you can catch each of the 28 Days of Generosity.
Our community is running full speed ahead with this.  Keep up with all of the 28 Days of Generosity here.

Jan 28, 2013

Show Me the Money - by Ed Gungor

You'll appreciate this wonderful article by Ed Gungor published in Relevant Magazine.  Ed shares a story of God's provision and encourages us in proper thinking on stewardship and reliance on God.

Check out the article here: Show Me the Money - by Ed Gungor.

Jan 23, 2013

Wednesday in the Word: Good Excuses Not to Be Generous

However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you. If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
Deuteronomy 15:4-11 NIV84

Open Handed? Give Generously? Too often I am guilty of analyzing away generosity. I’ll hear that still small voice that says to give and I come up with my own excuses, not around the year of Jubilee and cancelling debts, but more along the lines of stewardship. “I can’t give cash to that homeless guy, he might buy alcohol.” I then run to Taco Bell and buy a combo to give away but by the time I get back to the corner where the homeless guy was, I’ve missed my chance. “I guess I’ll eat this combo… good thing it was the exact combo I would have picked!”  

I’m joking a bit here, but I do feel my heart in the wrong place at times. Instead of vetting every generous thought until it is gone, perhaps we should be generous on every occasion. Would God actually bless that? Would he bless me in all my work and in all I put my hand to?  

A prayer:  

Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Tell Him that you’ll do whatever he tells you.

Jan 22, 2013

28 Days of Generosity - We are off and running...wanna join us?

You may have read the post about our local project to promote generosity during the month of February. We invited a group of community members to dream about what could happen if we were to join together as a community for 28 days of generosity.  About 60 folks came together and decided the project was worth doing.  They shared their ideas for each day of the month and from hundreds of ideas we came up with these 28 things: 

1.      Share & Prepare for Generosity
2.      Give Something Away
3.      Phone a Friend
4.      Chivalry Day
5.      Give 5 to Your Favorite Cause
6.      Warm Wednesday
7.      Neighbor Day
8.      Furry Friend Friday
9.      Senior Citizen Saturday
10.  Take 10 Minutes
11.  Muscle Monday
12.  Talent Tuesday
13.  Baker’s Dozen Day
14.  Healthy Living Day
15.  Family Friday
16.  Small Person Saturday (Youth)
17.  Reach Beyond Our Community
18.  Thank a Leader
19.  Sweetness Day
20.  Give 20 Minutes
21.  Handwritten Note or Card Day
22.  Food Friday
23.  Snow Day Saturday
24.  Team Up With Others Day
25.  Secret Santa Day
26.  Book Day
27.  Simple Kindness
28.  Eat Out for Charity

A project like this could easily turn into a giant event-focused planning nightmare.  Our hope was to avoid that scenario at all costs.  We promised folks only two meetings.  The first meeting gave us our skeleton of the 28 days. At the second meeting we presented 10,000 business cards with the 28 days and a QR code that links back to the Facebook page and blog.  We forwarded the QR code, the logo and the schedule to everyone involved and they are running with it. The community has embraced this project and we have begun to see some amazing things happening:
  • Four local churches are taking the concept to their congregations.
  • A local Montessori school called Bright Beginnings has tweaked the calendar to fit the kids and they have shared a wonderful video on generosity as seen above.
  • Non-profits are running with the concept and taking it to their donors and to the families they serve.
  • The local school district is on board and Student Council at a few schools are running with it. We even got a message from students at a school in a neighboring community and they want to join in.
  • I am most excited about the involvement at my own home. This is going to be a great chance to emphasize the importance of giving with my children.
What could happen if you joined in?  Each day during the month of February I’ll share some ideas to get involved where you are.  You don’t have to be super wealthy.  In fact, you can participate with absolutely no money.  If a day doesn’t seem to fit, stretch the meaning a bit to make it work for you.

What could happen if we join together as a community for 28 days of generosity?

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