Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"I Hate Money", A Poem, Kinda

Man I hate money. 

I feel like I never have enough.  Yet I feel strange about how much I actually have.  I spend more time thinking about money (how much I have, need, want, have to pay-off, should save, etc.) than probably anything else. 

I would like to buy many things.  I would like to pay off many debts.  I would like to give many things away.

I am stingy to the point over being over-bearing and a nitpick.  On the other hand, I can drop a wad of cash at a chance to play golf.  I can bear my own inconsistencies, but it must be hard on the people closest to me.

I don't want my kids to remember their dad being cheap.  Yet I don't want them to think they deserve Dairy Queen after ever baseball game, or slushies from SA every time we get gas either.  It is a difficult balance.

Marriage complicates money.  Or is it vice versa?  Who gets to spend what?  How can I argue with a purchase my spouse makes when I make silly purchases myself?  Tough calls.

And how does my faith effect my finances.  I think Jesus wants me to be a wise steward of the money that is his.  He also wants me to have joy in the things he has created for me to enjoy.  I could find joy in a boat, but is that wise?  Is sending my kids to private school wise?  There is definitely a little joy in Chiptole and a fountain pop, but how wise is it to eat out once a week?  Or twice?

Man I hate money.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Experience of the Provision of God

Wow Jesus Christ is so amazing!

Today I spent 15 minutes in my car on lunch break with my seat tilted back, my eyes closed, and my heart & mind in prayer.  I was feeling stressed out.  Due to a bit of a gap between my being hired and actually receiving my first couple paychecks, I didn't know how we were going to make it through July and August financially.

In my prayer I told Jesus how I was feeling and I asked him to provide for our needs.  I thanked him for all he has given us during the last 6 months and I asked him to show up again.  Then I declared that no matter what I was trusting in him.  I claimed the words of David in the Psalms when he wrote, "I would have despaired if I did not believe that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."  I stood up on those words and choose belief over despair.

When I got home today I was still feeling kind of down about this.  However, as I started going through the stack of envelopes that had piled up on the counter I quickly found myself in the middle of God's grace and a miracle.  I opened a letter from Stephanie's teaching retirement account people and discovered we were getting a refund check.  Then I opened a letter from Wells Fargo and found another refund check from an escrow overage.  To top it off, Stephanie had deposited a check today that she received for summer basketball coaching that was higher than we expected.

One 15 minute prayer at lunchtime was answered by 3 completely unexpected revenue streams.  Praise God.  "Knock and it will be opened, seek and you will find, ask and you will receive."  Grab hold of that promise!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Choose Your Words Wisely

This is a great reminder from Pastor James MacDonald that as parents we need to choose wisely what battles to fight and how to fight them.  Too many nights I've laid down to sleep regretting my short temper and angry words trough-out the evening.  I want to pour into my kids, not shut them out.
We only get so many words in our families. The older our kids get, the fewer words we have with them. What are you going to spend your words on? “Clean up your room!” “I asked you five times to take out the garbage!” “How many cookies have you had since lunch?” Is that how you’re going to spend your words? Like that’s going to have a big impact! I fear we’re wasting our words on issues of little value, and then we’re too exhausted to pour into our families the kind of truth that can be a fountain of life to them. Instead, let’s choose words of truth that build and guide and that establish a foundation of wisdom for our families that will last them a lifetime. 
 Click here to read the whole post.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Emily Days Weekend

Last weekend the family and I went up North to spend some time at my parents cabin.  We had a great time. 

Here are some of the highlights:

- catching four fish with Jacob
- playing at the park with Andrew
- food and games at the Emily Days market
- touring the lake on a friend's pontoon
- watching the Twins and Women's World Cup
- grilling chicken and steaks with charcoal
- listening to the kids play pinball
- dinner at Happy's Cafe
- preaching at my parent's church Emily Wesleyan (listen to the sermon here)
- lighting sparklers on the back deck
- swimming and paddle-boating in the lake

Thanks Mom for hosting such a fun weekend!

- You can read my mom's recap here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Effectively Engage Your Critics

I've been thinking recently about how to build relationships with people who you disagree with, or people who disagree with you.  I think how Christians effectively engage their critics is increasingly important as we move into a more and more hostile, and post-Christian culture.

That being said, here are some things I think you shouldn't do:
- insult them
- put them down
- call them names
- completely blow them off
- let them upset you
- fight online (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

And now, some things you should do:
- seek to understand
- look for points of agreement to build on
- speak from a position of logic, not emotion
- get to know the person - as a person
- stand on your convictions found in Scripture
- live an exemplary life
- admit your hypocrisy
- trust Jesus as the victorious one

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

15 Behaviors to Make You a Better Dad

Dads, I'm certain if your kids are older than an hour old you've begun to realize effective parenting can seem like the most challenging and frustrating thing you do in your life.  Part of the difficulty in parenting comes because we value and love of children so much and we want the very best for them, so when they misbehavior or display poor character we get upset.  But it is also this way because we are selfish and we have our own priorities that conflict with our children's wants and desires.

Children have the most amazing ways of pushing our buttons and driving us dads up the wall don't they?  One of my kids always has to get in a last word, even if I've said 'stop talking right now' 99 times he will still try and make his point.  Another one of my kids reasons and argues with me like a little lawyer and holds me legalistically accountable to every word I say.  At times I almost need to plead the fifth when dealing with that child!  My third kid walks around the house seemingly instinctively compelled to interrupt and/or ruin the calm, orderly behavior of any room he walks into. 

I'm seriously considering building a small room in my basement with padded walls that I can go and sit in for an hour each night just to calm myself down!

And yet, there is nothing I'd rather do than be a dad.  The smile of my son, time cuddling and tickling with my daughter, playing a game of catch with the oldest - all of these are moments that melt my heart.  No matter how horrible the day is after they've been asleep just an hour I miss their faces and little hands hugging me. 

It's important, Dads, that we continue to do our best to nurture and love our kids, without throwing in the towel during the tough moments.  With that in mind, here's 15 things you and I can do to be better dads.  And for the record, I have definitely not mastered these!

15 Behaviors to Make You a Better Dad
1. Pray for yourself and your kids DAILY
2. Chill out a little and don't sweat all the small stuff
3. Set your agenda aside and go with your kids' plans once and a while
4. Tell your kids you love them EVERYDAY, MULTIPLE TIMES
5. Discipline with consistency and out of calm concern, not anger
6. Be spontaneously generous
7. Love your wife well in front of your kids
8. Involve your kids in the things you do
9. Provide structure, clear expectations, consequences, and follow through
10. Be honest and keep your word
11. Admit your mistakes and sins, model repentance and ask your kids for forgiveness
12. Grass grows back & broken things are replaceable, don't ruin your relationship over 'things'
13. Take your kids on special dates, one kid at a time, and as a group
14. Don't gain compliance through yelling and physical intimidation
15. Finally, your kids behavior is basically your fault - they're built on your DNA

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

13 Do's (and Don't) for Giving an Engaging, Enjoyable Presentation

I've been a part of many presentations, of all different size groups, and I've seen things that make the time go by quickly, as well as things that have made the time drag along. 

Here are a few pointers to make your presentation to me more engaging, enjoyable and professional.

Do
1. Include some personal stories to supplement your content
2. Use different tones of voice
3. Give me a hand-out to follow along and fill in some blanks
4. Offer me meaningful chances to ask questions or give input
5. Emphasis why the material you're presenting is important

Don't
1. Talk with food, gum, or your fingers in your mouth
2. Over use the dramatic/ thinking pause
3. Whisper
4. Ask for input that is obvious or unnecessary
5. Continually repeat yourself, continually repeat your self
6. Talk, pause, Talk, pause, Talk, pause
7. Be completely robotic and monotone
8. Pretend something is more important or exciting than it really is