Awareness Not Amounts

A rich guy is turned away because he will not sell everything he has and give it to the poor.

A servant is chastised for not turning a few bucks into a pile of cash.

A poor widow is commended for giving a cent - all she has - into a defunct religious system.

A woman pours expensive perfume on Jesus’s feet; Judas interjects; Jesus allows.

A couple claim more generosity than is true; God kills them.

If you’re looking for a rule to follow when it comes to following Jesus with your finances, stop now, because you’ll only get confused. Instead, here’s a principle:

When it comes to stewardship, it’s not about amounts, but awareness.

Neither your 10% gift, your Sunday offering tip, nor giving it all away satisfies a spiritual stewardship quota that allows you to stop discerning how the Spirit, today and every day, is leading you to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength—which includes your finances.

For more on how you are naturally inclined to love God and others with your finances, consider checking out The Seven Money Types: Discover How God Wired You to Handle Money.

Lower Your Expectations

I once had a girlfriend who told me I often disappointed her. I finally told her, “Lower your expectations or get another boyfriend.” I ended up making that decision for her - best move I ever made. She wanted a hero; I was just a steady, unimpressive, hardworking young man.

When it comes to growth, whether your goal is improved financial health, physical exercise, or spiritual matters, lower your expectations and shrink your goals. How’s that for motivation? Seriously, so many are stuck because they have Hero Syndrome; they won’t do something small because it’s not impressive enough, whether by their own standards or another’s standards they’ve imposed upon themselves. Lower your expectations and shrink your goals. When you get going, then start thinking bigger. Take small, consistent steps in the general direction of your intention, and let it be enough. Be proud of that. Soon, you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come.

Dust and Deity

In three days The Seven Money Types enters the world. It's been simmering for ten years.

My heart is calm; my soul is still. All is well, even though many challenges surround me.

As I reflect on what matters in life, it's not success, or notoriety, but you. 

Your life is a word from heaven.

And, I hear God in your story:

Through the Abraham types who use money to demonstrate God's hospitality. 

Through the Isaac types who use money to reveal God's discipline.

In Jacob types who use money to bring about beauty.

When Joseph types use money to make connections.

Through Moses types who reveal God's endurance through orderly finances.

When Aaron types reveal God's humility through how they use money.

And, through David types who lead the way financially.

Your life is a word from Heaven. The way you handle money reminds us of God's love.

Or, at least it can. 

These are The Seven Money Types, and together they reveal the image of God, the image of what is possible when our intentions and imaginations align with our soul's deepest desire.

This is the story I'm called to tell - the way God designed us plays out in how we handle money in one of seven ways, and how we handle money is meant to reveal something of God.

You know the story: We're made from dust and deity. Our relationship to resources is inextricably linked to our relationship to God. 

This is what it means to be God-imaged - to properly relate to the resources of creation and the Creator.

Three days until this word enters the world. And my heart is calm. I'm grateful.

 

 

Writing is Easy. Publishing is Another Story.

I’ve talked about this many times over coffee with people, and they seem interested in the topic, so I’ll let you in on the whole ordeal—writing, for me, is easy; publishing is difficult (Disclaimer—I’ve deleted every word of this blog post three times).

Writing, for me, is not difficult. You show up at the same time every day, put your butt in the chair, turn on some good music, light a candle, and avoid the Internet—and you do all this before everyone awakens because you have to go to work after that, or play in the yard, or whatever. Words happen. Well, at least they do most days, and some days those words don’t get deleted the next day. That’s a good day of writing. My rabbi friend, Arthur, a former CEO of a publishing house and former editor of a magazine, told me that publishers need people who can sit on their butts and write. Many writers have ideas, but most don’t have the discipline to do it day after day in a coherent way. That’s not my issue. I would write every day, all day, for the rest of my life. I’m born to do it. I love to teach what I write. It’s my call, the energy buzzing in the marrow of my bones. But publishing, I’m learning how to do this whole publishing thing. I never imagined it would be so challenging, and by challenging I don’t mean bad, but difficult—and this has nothing to do with publishers, or the publishing industry, but with me. This guy. Butt in the chair. Fingers on the keyboard—writer guy. I can write for days, but when it comes time to launch a book, to actually publish it, I start looking around for help.

When it comes time to launch a book, to actually publish it, I start looking around for help.

Publishing, even though I’m surrounded by editors whom (is it who or whom? That’s why I need editors. Do I capitalize the “i” at the beginning of this parenthetical thought?) know how to make something amazing of my ramblings, marketers who know how to make something compelling, and a whole slew of people pushing ahead behind-the-scenes to make something available, publishing, for me, the actual launching of the book, is difficult. It’s difficult because I’ve never been this far before in my dreams. I’ve never sat at a computer on a Saturday morning and realized that in less than three weeks this baby I’ve been carrying for what is now almost a decade will be born and some in the world will call it ugly, and I will judo chop them in the neck if I see them, and will hope that my attorney friends can get me out of the ordeal. Delivery date is 3.14, and What to Expect When You’re Expecting is proving useless. Will anyone pick up a copy? Should I even care?

It’s difficult because it’s part of my job, as the author, do my part in getting the word out. Me and the publisher—we’re in this together; I want to do my part to announce this baby’s arrival. We want everyone to know about this book because we think it has the potential to change the conversation about faith and finances. Honest to God, I am crazy enough to think that this singular book can reframe the entire conversation about faith and finances. That may be wishful thinking, but I didn’t sit on my rear for two years pounding away at a keyboard for something that will dink along and maybe help a person or two. Let me clarify—I wrote the original manuscript in 90 days—it flowed like milk and honey, but shaping it up, two years. Anyhow, we're out to shake the world.

I don’t like most religious books on money. I’m sick of the heresy of the prosperity gospel—I’m on record now—it’s a certified, Grade-A load of theological bunk. I think it is unethical, both theologically and from a business standpoint, to promise that if people of faith do certain things then God will make them rich. A bigger gift, coupled with greater faith equals a bigger return on investment from God and finances will fall from the sky. Tell that to Mother Teresa. Tell that to missionaries scraping together enough to feed their families. It’s crap. Flush it. It’s a farce, a lie to get you to give more to your church or that slick preacher on late night TV. Call in and ask for a refund and then give with open hands, expecting nothing in return, because you love God and the world. Give your whole life away. I’m equally tired of the scarcity gospel making people feel guilty unless they don’t give everything away. I’m tired of the narrow dichotomies that allow people to be labeled, or hide behind labels, like “I’m just bad with money.” I’m bored with the books that tell me how to handle my money and that don’t take the time to help me understand my thoughts and emotions about money, which are the very things that trip me up with money, make me feel anxious about it, cause relational tension, and so on. I get the what, we need to talk about the why. I gave up too many hours to write just another book about finances. God knows we have enough of them, and some of them are worth reading. I’m as skeptical as the next person when faith and finances are co-mingled. See, I need an editor. This paragraph needs to be cut, or re-arranged, but I don’t know what else to do with it.

I’m as skeptical as the next person when faith and finances are co-mingled.

It’s difficult to publish because I didn’t realize how important a social media platform is. I’m from Freeport, FL (Google it). I graduated with 73 people. We had two gas stations and a grocery store. One stop light. I stole a fishing cork from Chester’s Fried chicken (which doubled as the only gas station) and the clerk caught me, told my father and mother, and then I got in big trouble. When we got home, I crawled into my waterbed (are those still a thing? You can get trapped between the watery mattress and the railing, but it's a cozy spot) and prayed to God that if I could get out of this (I was six, I think), I would go into the military or become a preacher—both of these seemed like a life sentence, a severe penance to offset the karma I’d unleashed for stealing a fishing cork (10 cents, by the way; $0.24 in today’s dollars). As fate would have it, I became a preacher in a military community. God listens. Anyhow (more proof of my need for an editor?), we didn’t use the Interweb back then. Our phones were attached to walls, unless you were rich and your parents were paranoid and you had a phone in a bag that you carried in your car. That’s why God made pay phones. Only your grandmother had one of those in her Lincoln Town car. But, back to social media—my social media family is small but scrappy. Real authors have like 10 million followers on every social media platform. I don’t. Truth be told, social media overwhelms me at times. I wrestle with it, but I love staying in touch with people. I hope we can get the word out to the world together. We’ll see.

I love to write, but publishing is challenging. I’m looking for a good way to end this, to hit that dreaded “Save & Publish” button that’s staring me in the face, winking at me and wondering if I should be this honest. I wonder what people will think, if anyone actually read this far. But I’m still typing because I know there are others like me who love to write, or record, or make something that they hope the world will appreciate. And we know deep in our bones that we would do it anyway; we would create even if nobody ever gave it a like or a listen. But we have to get the word out, we have to publish because the world needs our creations right now. We have to get over the fear and trepidation of talking about our work and fearing that people will get sick of us, think we're self-serving, or narcissistic. Some will call the baby ugly. Don't judo chop them in the neck. Realize they wish they'd taken the time to let something bake in the creative oven all these years.

We have to publish because the world needs our creations right now.

These are the things I tell myself, and now, these are things I'm telling you.

Here goes…

 

The First Thing I Do Every Morning

My six-year-old son, Seth, and I just returned from Barnes & Noble where I purchased a gift for a dear friend and he purchased a long-desired Yo Kai Watch for himself, using the commission he earned from house chores and Christmas cash remnants. When he handed the clerk the cash, he teared up and mustered an emotional phrase, "Dad, that's basically all my money. I just lost all my money." "No, son, you didn't lose it; you spent it on this watch. Now, are you happy you have this watch?" I responded. "I think so, sort of. I like it, but I don't have much money now," said Seth.

He gets it from me. I hate seeing hard-earned money leave my account. Both Seth and I strongly resonate with what I call the Isaac money type, who seeks to maximize money and strives to always get the best deal (did I mention that Seth tried to negotiate a better price on the watch, and that he ended up getting $4 off using rewards and coupons?).

He'll have some soul work to do as he gets older, and I'll be here to help him. We can't go through life worried about every dime we spend. It's taken time, but I've learned that gratefulness postures the soul to concern itself less with "losing money" or worrying about every dime that's spent. 

The first thing I do every morning is to breathe a prayer of gratefulness. Before my feet hit the ground, before I check e-mail or pour a cup of coffee, I remind myself of all that the Lord has done. This posture of gratefulness orients my awareness toward all that is good in my life, and there is much for which to be thankful, and most of it has nothing to do with money.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good (Psalm 118).