Category Archives: work

Who Are You Cheating?

These are the notes I am teaching from tomorrow in Sunday School Class.  Come join us in the Couples For Christ Class at Trinity UMC in Huntsville, AL.

Reference:

Andy Stanley. Choosing to Cheat. Multnomah Books 2003.

Gather:

·         Come up with a working definition of “cheating”.

·         Do you work to support your family or your ego? Perhaps some of both?

o   Has your focus shifted with time? If so, how?

o   Are you prone to leverage the pressures and responsibilities of work as an excuse to spend more time there?

o   If you knew you were going to fail either at home or at work, where would you choose to fail? Would your spouse agree with the way you answered that question?

Warm up:

Everybody Cheats

 

The tension we feel between work and family is complicated by the fact that most of us love what we do at work and we love being with our families at home.  On top of that, both are ordained by God!  Who gets top billing?

 

Work:

·         We typically have more to do than we can ever hope of getting done.

·         There are always loose ends

o   Phone calls and emails that didn’t get returned

o   Meetings that were cut short or skipped

o   People that deserved and didn’t get my undivided attention

·         If you stayed at work until everything was finished…if you took advantage of every opportunity that came your way…if you sought out every angle to maximize your abilities,  improve your skills, and advance your career…Would you ever leave work?

 

Family:

·         Have your kids ever looked at you and said, “Hey Dad, We’ve played enough.  Why don’t you go back in the house and see if you can get some work done.”?

·         Has your spouse ever complained about you coming home early?

·         If you stayed at home until every ounce of affection was poured out in all the appropriate places…if you kept giving until every emotional need was met (every love tank filled)…if you did every chore, finished the honey-do list, and did everything necessary to ensure that everyone felt loved…Would you ever leave home?

 

Creating a healthy family environment is difficult because of the inherent selfishness of each family member.  Creating a successful career is difficult because of the competition in the market place.  Either one of these environments or the struggles related to both could consume our undivided attention.  We don’t have the luxury of allocating all of time to one or the other. So, we are forced to wrestle with the conflict.

Our knee-jerk reaction to this dilemma is to answer the call of the squeakiest wheel.  We run from fire to fire, troubleshooting our way through life, rescuing the needy and rewarding those who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  Over time, our families learn that the only way to get our attention is to create a crisis.

Heavy Lifting:

 

Role of Work vs. Role of Family    

 

Role of Work: (Discussed in Lesson #1 of this series.) 

·         Refer to Genesis 2:15.  God created us to work!  Before there was a family to support, God put Adam to work.

·         Today, men and women get up at the crack of dawn to plow their vocational fields in order to produce a crop.

·         Work is task-focused. 

·         We tend to find our worth through accomplishment.

·         Rewards are tangible, progress is measurable, accolades are notable

 

Role of Family:

·         The family is relationship focused.

·         We find our value simply by who our relatives are.

·         Family is about “be-ing”

·         Rewards are intangible, progress is subtle, seldom given accolades

 

At work, I am expected to show up and produce.  My family is just happy if I just show up.

 

Taking your task oriented focus into the home causes things to fall apart.  Can you “fix” your family? Can you “fix” your marriage? Can you “fix” your kids?

 

You do your job.  You love your family.  If when we reverse the order that the tension escalates and the tug-of-war begins.

 

How many of us have taken the “good intention alibi” into the spiritual realm?  Do you strike a deal with God and pray the following prayer when you get extra busy or are having to travel a lot?

 

Lord, you know my heart.  You know how badly I want to spend more time with my family.  So while I’m away, please watch over and protect them.  Please fill the void that I have left while I am away.  Lord, You understand my love for them; help them to understand as well.

 

If you are expecting God to do you job for you while you do a job for somebody else, you have made an arrangement with God.  What is wrong with that?

 

1.      We are assuming that God could not just as easily fill the void at work as He could the void at home.

2.      We are asking God to fill a gap that only we can fill while we scurry off to do a job that a thousand other people could do.

 

We might as well pray

 

Dear God, You do what only I can do while I go do what many others could do just as well or better.

                                    

As a counselor, Andy Stanley states that he has never talked to an adult who reported that while growing up his father worked all the time, but God filled the gaps and there was no residual relational or emotional damage.  He has never talked to a mom who reported that her husband neglected his family for the sake of his career, but fortunately God filled in the void, and everything was fine?

 

If we can’t expect God to cover for us in a way that protects our families from the residual effects of our misprioritization, then what are we to do?

 

The answer is simple.  But it is simple in the way that telling a smoker the solution to their addiction is to stop smoking.

 

Cool down: 

 

Holding the Rock

 

Everybody is willing to be “understanding” when a loved one needs to cheat a little.  Why do they accept it? Easy, because they love us.

 

(Parable)

 

Your mental willingness was overcome by your physical and emotional exhaustion.

 

·         When we ask our husbands and wives to carry our load as well as theirs, it is like handing them the rock.

·         When we are absent at critical junctures in family life, they are left holding the rock.

·         When we find ourselves pointing to the future to somehow make up for the past and present, they are holding the rock.

·         When we assure our families that things are going to change and they don’t, they are holding the rock.

 

When the rock drops, it usually shatters into a million pieces.  The grip on the rock usually fails on something that seems to trivial.

 

What does your family want from you more than anything else?  Love, you say.  Yes, but it goes deeper than that.  They want to feel like they are your priority.

 

The problem is, you love your family in your heart, but you don’t love them in your schedule.  And they can’t see your heart.

 

Our family’s willingness to hold the rock for us is born out of their desire to please us. Part of their reason for wanting to please us is that in pleasing us they hope to gain what they value most, our acceptance.

Whenever you compromise – or cheat – the interests of a family member in order to fill gaps somewhere else, you shuffle your priorities.  Loyalty that was intended for a loved one gets displaced and given to someone else.  However small, it increases the emotional load they must carry.  It may not seem like a big deal.  But it sends the message: You’re important…but right now something else is more important.  When we take advantage of their willingness to support our dysfunctional schedules and misprioritization, we send a message of rejection.

 

And our actions speak louder than our intentions.

 

Assignment

 

This week try both of the following:

·         Spend intentional time with your spouse.  Really inquire about them and what they think. Taking time to figure a woman out makes her feel valued.  (Guys, this is why girls love the book/movie Twilight).  Ask your spouse if you (collective) are ok?  Ask if they feel like they are hold a rock in certain areas.  Be honest and explore this.

·         While tucking your kids into bed, as the following series of questions:

o   Is everything okay in your heart?

o   Did anyone hurt your feelings today?

o   Are you mad at anyone?

o   Did anyone break a promise to you?

o   Is there anything I can do for you?

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God is good for church, but that stuff won’t work where I work

These are the notes I will use for our Sunday School Class tomorrow.  Come join us.

Reference:

Andy Stanley podcast “Taking Care of Business, Part 2: Current Market Indicators”. 8/11/2008

Andy Stanley, Choosing to Cheat. Multnomah Books. 2003

Gather:

·         In your workplace, which of these are valued more

o   Economics of the deal versus the ethics of the deal

o   Income versus integrity

o   Cash flow versus character

·         How do you justify Christian values in a capitalistic economy where return on investment, cash flow, bottom line, and shareholder , … are the ultimate “ends”?

 

·         What happens if in your place of employment, you are called upon or expected to do things that are clearly in opposition to what God has called you to be as a Christian? (Does this ever happen?)

 

Warm up:

I believe that there is a tendency to develop two sets of books to operate out of – one for personal life and one for business life.  We need to be careful in our work life otherwise we become idolaters – we say we are Christians, but we bow down to one of these

 

1.      Security – I have to pay my bills, my mortgage, get my bonus to make ends meet, …  The quest for security becomes the Lord of your life.

2.      Recognition – I have spent years developing this client base, company profile, reputation, etc.  People view me in a certain way, and if I all of the sudden interject my Christian values into the workplace, I would lose my reputation.  Recognition of your accomplishments becomes the Lord of your life.

3.      Progress – You want to move forward and going backward makes you cringe.  I love God, Jesus and all that church stuff, but when it comes down to it, I’m not going to make a decision professionally that makes me take a step back.  You have a hard time with decisions where the “right” decision may make you back up versus the “wrong” decision that may make you back up.  Progress becomes the Lord of your life.

 

The market encourages and reinforces you to pursue these three idols.

 

A major problem arises when you live one way in your church/family/friendship life and a different way in your business life.  Your ethics are like water – they seep.  It doesn’t matter how high a wall you build between the two, eventually there is a relationship that will be compromised from living out of two sets of books.

 

·         Parents that compromise themselves in the workplace compromise their moral authority at home

·         Eventually you will lose self-esteem and self respect – You are caught in an awful tension and you realize that you are a coward and a hypocrite.

·         “I’m afraid of what will happen if I do the “right” thing”

 

If you are willing to sacrifice your ethics for a “deal”, you are afraid of something – What is it?

 

Heavy Lifting:

 

·         When you say “no” to the right decision, you compromise and you lose the opportunity to see what God could have done if you stood your ground.

 

·         When you refuse to exercise faith and do the right thing, you miss an opportunity for God to show up, and you will always wonder what would have happened if I had done the right thing. (shame/guilt).

 

·         The Old Testament is full of stories of men and women that have to make difficult decisions – often times with their life on the line – where God intervenes after they make the “right” decision. 

o   David and Goliath

o   Moses and Pharaoh

o   Saul and David

o   Abraham and Isaac

o   Ester and King ?

 

These stories capture out imagination.  These are the stories we tell our kids.  Why?

 

Look in the book of Daniel

 

Background: 605 BC, Babylon (King Nebuchadnezzar) destroyed Israel and took best and brightest captive.  Integrated them into Babylonian culture – very metropolitan.  Became most powerful nation in the world.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego identified as extraordinary administrators.  Build up quite a professional reputation.  All the perks that go along with being at the top of their game professionally – invited to all the parties, access to people of power and influence, had their own servants, …

 

Daniel 3:1-8

The city is full of people worshipping different gods.  King N. comes up with a crafty plan and says you can worship whatever you want, but ultimately you worship me.  I’m the one that holds your fate in my hands.

 

Daniel 3:8-12

Jealous people that were overlooked for these high positions plotted to present SMA in a negative light to the king. Jealous  backstabbers.

 

Daniel 3:13-15

King gets mad.  Confronts the boys.  Gives them a second chance (he really likes them and wants them to succeed).  Finally asks “what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”  He wants the boys to know that their life lies in his hands.  He controls them and could squash them if he wanted to.

 

Daniel 3:16-18

The boys stand their ground.  “We don’t need to defend ourselves to you, O King” (i.e. tell that band to pipe down).  Our God is able to save us.  If he does, then it shows you don’t control us.  If not, we die – still don’t worship your image – either way our God wins, and you lose.

 

Daniel 3:19-30

King N. throws them in the furnace.  They don’t burn and they come out of the fire not even smelling like smoke.  King freaks out and declares their God the God of all Babylon and them gives the boys a raise.

 

You don’t belong to your manager, boss, ceo, board, etc.  You belong to the Invisible King and he is in control of your life.  Do the “right” thing regardless of the cost and give God a chance to show up.

 

Cool down: 

 

Do you think you are where you are professionally due to God’s goodness, grace, and opportunities he has given you, or do you think you are where you are professionally because you are a hard worker and “got after it” and God didn’t have anything to do with it?

 

This is a binary question.  You are on one side or the other.  No middle ground.

 

Once you get to a certain level in your career, do you have to compromise the principles of God to maintain the blessings of God?  (A question I would love to ask Politicians).

 

Assignment:

 

Wish every Christian in the midst of your success would come smack up against a situation that calls you to abandon your faith and Christian morals for the sake of income.  In that moment you will discover something about you, God, and the strength of your faith.  (As a parent you will also have  a story to tell your kids about a time you made the right call when you had a lot to lose).

 

Do the right thing and give God a chance to show up!

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The Boss

These are the notes I will be using for the Sunday School Lesson tomorrow.  I am doing a four part series on When Work and Family Collide.  I am feeling pretty convicted on this subject right now since I am traveling a lot and missing some of the things going on at home.

References:

Andy Stanley, Northpoint Podcast “Taking Care of Business, Part 1: Meet the Boss”

Andy Stanley, Choosing to Cheat – Who Wins When Family and Work Collide?. Multnomah Books.  2003.

 

Gather:

·         Describe your first job.

·         Describe the worst job you ever had – what made it “that bad”?

·         Describe the best job you ever had – what made it “that good”?

Warm up:

·         How do we view work?  What are the important elements of your “job”?

 

·         How does God view work?  (Genesis 2:8,15)

o   Work for man was not a product of The Fall.  It existed prior to The Fall.

o   When God had everything perfect, 1st thing he did for man was put him to work.

o   When earth was perfect, mankind (the image of God) was working – as a gardener.

o   God loves it when we work!

 

We tend to place more emphasis on the “where” and “how much” aspects, while God just wants to see us work – where we are, whatever you do.

 

Heavy Lifting:

 

Paul addresses work in his letter to the Colossians (Colossians 3:22-4:1).

 

·         Who does God address first?  —–Slaves

o   Colossians 3:22 – “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”

o   Basically tells the slaves to be the best slave you can possibly be and work as if they are working for the Lord.

·         Who does God address last?  —–Masters

o   Colossians 4:1 – “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven”

o   Basically tells the Masters to be fair and good to their slaves because they too have a Master over them.

·         In between these two, he addresses us.  In reality, aren’t we all somewhere between Masters and Slaves in our jobs?

o   Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart”

§  “Whatever” is significant.  It means what you are doing right now – not your dream job, not when you get to start your own business, not after that promotion you think you deserve, not once I get to leave my job and work in the home raising my kids.

§  We want to raise our hands and ask for a pass – Look at what I do, God?  “All my heart”?  Come on, All I do is ______.  The people above me don’t put their heart into it, why should I? 

o   Colossians 3:23 continued – “As working for the Lord, not for man”

§  What does “working for [the] man” look like?

·         Do as little as you can to get by, unless someone is watching.

·         Appear to be very busy, even if you aren’t.

·         Appear to be indispensible to the company, even if you are not.

·         Take credit for as many ideas as you can.

·         Jockey for position.

·         Look at employer as source of income and source of security.

§  This verse gives us a new standard – Do it as if you were working for God.  You are working for a big Boss in heaven, not for [the] man.

o   Colossians 3:24 – “since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward”

§  Paul pulls us into a broader context.  As Christians, you will give an account for every single part of your life to the Lord.  We are rewarded for all parts.  We want to say, “I will put my whole heart into my family, worship, friendships, … but work?  All I do is ______.”

§  God does not compartmentalize!

§  In heaven (when God makes all things perfect again – like it was in Eden) we will have jobs.  We will work.

§  God is interested in our work.  He wants to know who the faithful workers are that can be trusted with greater accountability later on.

§  WHAT YOU DO IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS HOW YOU DO IT!

·         We focus on what and where

·         God focuses on how and your diligence.

o   Colossians 3:24 continued – “It is the Lord Christ you are serving”

§  Pretty blunt for those that haven’t understood the message yet.

§  We serve Christ in the job market, career, homemaking, WHATEVER.

 

Cool down:  4 Statements –

 

1.      Your work has eternal implications even if it appears it doesn’t have any eternal significant.

·         Everything has eternal significant – even though your “product” does determine eternity.

·         If I were a doctor, pastor, missionary, … 

·         God loves to see you work.

 

2.      How you perform at work is as important as where you work.

·         This should be a very liberating statement.  Is it?

·         We are all focused on the “where” – we all have friends with better jobs, higher paying jobs, … the grass is always greener.

·         God doesn’t mind you asking for a better job, but what about NOW.

 

3.      How you perform at work is as important as how you behave.

·         Have you ever run into the person at work that prides themselves on the Christianity they display, but at the same time feel like it’s ok to be a slacker.

·         Poor workmanship is never balanced out by good character.

·         “God doesn’t care about the secular world or the market place” – Yes, He does!

4.      Putting your heart into your work allows God to bless your work.

·         God does not bless disobedience.

·         God won’t give you success in areas that you are clearly violating His command.

o   Bless my marriage – Are you following the commands for marriage in the Bible?

o   Bless my finances – Are you stewarding your money according to the principles in the Bible?

o   Bless my family – Are you raising your family according to biblical standards?

o   Bless my work – When you do your job with your whole heart, as if unto the Lord, you make yourself blessable.

·         You can’t got to a job where you give half effort, ask God for something better, and expect Him to respond.

·         Invite God into the areas that you want blessed.  Think you will see a difference in the way you operate in those areas if you truly invite God in?

 

Assignment:

 

For one day this week, show up to work and work at it will all your heart, as if working for the Lord.      

 

Think through what this looks like:

·         When would you arrive?

·         How quickly would you respond?

·         How long is lunch?

·         Where would you go?

·         What does break time look like?

·         etc.

 

Try it and be ready to discuss it next week.

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Louder Than Words

These are the notes for the lesson I taught in Sunday School this morning.  The class is a group of 30-40 year olds.  Most of us are married and have young kids.  We are starting to ascend to leadership positions in the organizations where we work and volunteer.  The resources for the lesson are

1.      Andy Stanley’s opening talk at Catalyst 2008 titled “Louder Than Words”

2.      Visioneering by Andy Stanley

3.      Shane Claiborne’s talk at The 2008 National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville, TN. Gen. Session #2

Arrival: (Divide into small groups of about 5 people)

1. Everyone in the small group needs to name at least one leader that they respect

2. List the qualities of the named leaders that make them worth following (come up with at least five).

3. Describe a time when you were in a group that was lead by a “leader by position only, but did not have any authority.”

4. Everyone in the small group needs to name at least one leader that lost their respect (personally or on the National stage).

5. What was it about their “action” that caused you to stop following them?

Warmup: (Discuss in same small groups)

Read Luke 7:18-23 (NIV)

18John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

 20When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ “

 21At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 23Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

1. How does Jesus respond to the question from John’s disciples?

2. Can you respond the same way that Jesus responded if someone at work, or wherever your position of authority is, were to come ask “Are you the one who is to manage us, or should we expect someone else?”

3. Could we respond the same way if someone asked us “Are you a Christian?”

Notice that Jesus didn’t highlight all of his major accomplishments we typically do in an annual review with our boss.  He didn’t say “I fed over 5000 people with only 2 loafs of bread and five fish” or “I spit in some dirt and wiped it on this blind guys face and now he sees”.  He simply responded with “Take a look around and tell him what you have seen.”  His actions spoke louder than words.

Exercise: (Come back together and work as a large group)

Read Nehemiah 5:1-13 (The Message)

1-2A great protest was mounted by the people, including the wives, against their fellow Jews. Some said, “We have big families, and we need food just to survive.”

 3 Others said, “We’re having to mortgage our fields and vineyards and homes to get enough grain to keep from starving.”

 4-5 And others said, “We’re having to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards. Look: We’re the same flesh and blood as our brothers here; our children are just as good as theirs. Yet here we are having to sell our children off as slaves-some of our daughters have already been sold-and we can’t do anything about it because our fields and vineyards are owned by somebody else.”

 6-7 I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints. After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet. I said, “Each one of you is gouging his brother.”

 7-8 Then I called a big meeting to deal with them. I told them, “We did everything we could to buy back our Jewish brothers who had to sell themselves as slaves to foreigners. And now you’re selling these same brothers back into debt slavery! Does that mean that we have to buy them back again?”

    They said nothing. What could they say?

 9 “What you’re doing is wrong. Is there no fear of God left in you? Don’t you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you?

 10-11 “I and my brothers and the people working for me have also loaned them money. But this gouging them with interest has to stop. Give them back their foreclosed fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes right now. And forgive your claims on their money, grain, new wine, and olive oil.”

 12-13 They said, “We’ll give it all back. We won’t make any more demands on them. We’ll do everything you say.”

    Then I called the priests together and made them promise to keep their word. Then I emptied my pockets, turning them inside out, and said, “So may God empty the pockets and house of everyone who doesn’t keep this promise-turned inside out and emptied.”

    Everyone gave a wholehearted “Yes, we’ll do it!” and praised God. And the people did what they promised.

Do people really act like this?  It sounds like a “Bible story” – “Thus saith the Lord, and the people obeyed….” How could Nehemiah command this much respect from his people with just one conversation?

Let’s look at the context of this passage?

  • Nehemiah was the cup bearer to King Artaxerxes, Babylonian King, and he had a vision to go rebuild the wall in the place where his father is buried (Jerusalem).
  • He travels to Jerusalem and finds the Hebrew people and the town of Jerusalem a total mess.
  • The Hebrew were people in high debt to the Gentiles.
  • Nehemiah assumes all of the debt of the Hebrew people. They are now financially free.
  • Most of the Hebrew people don’t know how to manage their resources, so they get right back into trouble.
  • This time the wealthy Hebrew people start loaning with high interest (Lowell Baron style) to this same group.
  • This is against Mosaic Law – Nehemiah gets very angry – and the story picks up at 5:1.
  • The Hebrew people had to work the fields during the day, and after work they worked with Nehemiah on the wall.

 Let’s continue on in the story…

 Nehemiah 5:14-18 (The Message)

14-16 From the time King Artaxerxes appointed me as their governor in the land of Judah-from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of his reign, twelve years-neither I nor my brothers used the governor’s food allowance. Governors who had preceded me had oppressed the people by taxing them forty shekels of silver (about a pound) a day for food and wine while their underlings bullied the people unmercifully. But out of fear of God I did none of that. I had work to do; I worked on this wall. All my men were on the job to do the work. We didn’t have time to line our own pockets.

 17-18 I fed 150 Jews and officials at my table in addition to those who showed up from the surrounding nations. One ox, six choice sheep, and some chickens were prepared for me daily, and every ten days a large supply of wine was delivered. Even so, I didn’t use the food allowance provided for the governor-the people had it hard enough as it was.

19 Remember in my favor, O my God, everything I’ve done for these people.

This is why the people listened to Nehemiah:

  • He didn’t take what was owed to him – he sacrificially gave himself to the vision.
  • He didn’t leverage his position.
  • He lived with alignment of creed and deed.
  • He knew their work on the wall was a sacrifice, so he sacrificed equivalently.
  • He didn’t ask them to do anything he, himself, wouldn’t do.

Cool Down: (Large Group)

Nobody cares how smart you are as a leader – Do they believe that you believe in what it is that you are asking them to do.

How would you feel if your boss paid you more than what they were paying themselves because they knew they needed you to get the job done?  Would you follow this leader?

Christ lived with perfect alignment of Creed and Deed.  He didn’t have to present a resume of polished activities to prove who He was.  All he had to say was “Go back and tell John what you have seen”. 

Are you living louder than words? 

Are you living with alignment of your creed and your deed?

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The American Dream

I am attending the National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville, TN this weekend.  At the general session last night three speakers were given 18 minutes to give a talk followed by 5 minutes of discussion with the people sitting around you.  At this point everyone was given the opportunity to text questions to a number on the screen.  The speaker then had 10 minutes where a moderator asked the speaker some of the questions that were texted.  It had a Q feel to it with the addition of a cool use of texting and speaker feedback.  The speakers were Shane Claiborne, Andrew Marin, and Tony Campolo.  Andrew’s talk was about Christians reaching out to the Gay and Lesbian communities.  I thought he did a great job telling his story and the story of what the Marin Foundation in Chicago is doing to reach out to a community that traditionally is not only neglected, but shunned and denegrated by the Christian community.

 

The talks by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo were also good, but I am having a difficult time digesting a theme that was in there talks and the talks of a few of the other presenters on Saturday morning.  These speakers on Friday night and Mark Yaconelli on Saturday morning all made comments declaring that the American Dream is dead.  They all said that the current market crash is going to force America to live differently and abandon the old ways of consumerism.  Now, there is no argument from me that America has demonstrated horrible fiscal policy from a bloated government that runs a massive deficit every year down to the average household that has been spending way more than their incomes can support.  The government views us as “consumers” instead of “citizens” as demonstrated by their solution to economic woes – Every gets a check in the mail with the directions to go spend it.  To me, that’s like giving an alcoholic another bottle of Wild Irish Rose because we have to keep the liquor industry afloat.  I believe that the church should be modeling Biblical spending principles, and that Christians should be tithing and saving and not reacting to the current situation with fear – like everyone seems to be doing.  But, to say that the American Dream is dead is foolish.

 

After a discussion with some friends I realized that nobody has a clear definition for “The American Dream”.  Tony Campolo defined the American Dream as “a desire to have a better life than your father had” and others simply defined it as “Comsumerism”.  Based on their definition of The American Dream, maybe it is dead, and for good reason.

 

I have a different definition.  I believe that the American Dream is to live in a place that fosters creativity and innovation and gives everyone the opportunity to bring their great ideas to fruition.  My definition is one of creation and innovation – one inline with what a dream should be.  Maybe my definition is off.  The American Dream that the speakers were talking about is the ugly thing that many in American have turned the American Dream into – one of greed where wants and needs have been greatly confused.  This economic downturn is a wakeup call for everyone.  I believe that this country will innovate and create its way out of this hole.  There will be some pain, but in the end we will be stronger.  It’s time for new ideas to rise up and for Dreamers to create.

 

There was a comment that I really did like about this topic from Mark Yaconelli.  He said that the era of purchasing whatever we want off credit cards – a practice that has contributed to isolating us from community – will be replaced with one where we start looking out for our neighbors. 

 

Instead of “keeping up with the Jones’s”, hopefully we will start “looking out for the Jones’s”.  This type of community is something I Dream about.

 

What is your definition of “The American Dream”?

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Do What You Love Doesn’t Always Equal Making $

I saw Seth Godin present during a session at the Catalyst Conference last week.  I really enjoyed his blog entry this morning, so I thought I would share it with you all.

Maybe you can’t make money doing what you love

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Journaling

A recent Time Magazine article describes the power of journaling with weight loss.  A study in the August 2008 issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine describes a study where participants were encouraged to use weight-loss maintenance strategies including calorie restriction, weekly group sessions, and moderately intensive exercise.  About half of the group was encouraged to keep a food diary.  The lead researcher describes the results by saying, “hands down, the most successful weight-loss method was keeping a record of what you eat.”  In a six-month study, participants who kept a food journal six or seven  days a week lost an average of 18 lb (8 kg), compared with an average of 9 lb (4 kg) lost by non-diary keepers.  The article goes on and describes the author’s personal experience with food journaling. 

 

Here is what I find interesting about the article:

1.       Writing down everything you eat will increase the results of your weight loss goals by a factor of 2 (3dB).  WOW!  I guess just writing it down makes you aware of how much junk is included in your diet.  Once you become aware of it, you will at least have to rationalize to yourself (and your diary) why you need another Coke in the afternoon or why you put chips on your kid’s dinner plates instead of fresh vegetables.

2.       Accountability will make this even more effective.  The author shared his food journal with his wife.  When another person is involved you now are not only justifying junk to yourself and your diary, you have to justify it to someone else.  This someone else can look for trends that you want to ignore.  “Wow, you are an entire carton of Oreos last week and another one this week.  Are you stressed?”

 

What’s great is the practice of journaling extends to other areas of our lives-

 

Finance: My parents both encouraged me to journal.  It all began with a Money Book.  In order to get my allowance when I was young (age 8 and up) I had to present a money book that showed all of my income and expenses for the month.  The money in my cigar box (my piggy bank) had to equal the balance of my money book for the month before I got my allowance.  This was a very good practice for college.  My parents made me, my brother and my sister sign contracts before attending college.  The terms of the contract stated:

·         Mom and dad would pay for 16 quarters of college (4 years).

·         All of the money for each quarter was paid at the beginning of each quarter.  We had to pay tuition, books, rent, food, entertainment, …  If we ran out of money for the quarter, we could not ask mom and dad for any more money – we had to get a job.

·         The amount they paid was fair.  It was enough to have some fun, but not enough to really get into too much trouble.

·         If we got a scholarship, the amount left over was ours to keep.

I still continue my financial journaling today.  It took a while for my wife to see the value in it, but we both see the monthly budget as a tool to help us reach our financial goals in life.  It also ties into food journaling in that I guarantee you will be amazed at how much you spend on fast-food when you integrate the cost over an entire month, quarter, year.  Just like your diet, your spending can get out of whack, and it takes an objective look at it in entirety to put you in a position to start prioritizing again.  This is a very healthy practice – highly recommended to start keeping a financial journal (budget).

 

Work: I keep a journal at work as well.  I jot down daily activities.  Sometimes they are detailed technical notes and sometimes they are a few words on what I accomplished for the day.  It’s also a great place to store records and notes of phone calls with customers and other contacts.  This really comes in handy when it’s time for an annual review.  Flipping through the pages written over the past year helps pull out specific actions that are worth noting on the review.

 

Personal (public): For some reason I feel the need to publish my personal thoughts in a blog.  Is it narcissistic?  Maybe, but I like to dialog with others (my sister would say argue instead of dialog, but I think I have matured a little).  Blogging is an outlet for me.  I read a lot of different things, and if I don’t try to formulate my thoughts on a particular subject, it will be lost.

 

Personal (private): I also keep a personal private journal.  I do not write in this journal too often.  I usually carry it with me when I go on a big trip or if I am working through some important private issues.  I find that it is comforting to work through the subject to the point where I can rationally put it on paper.  Once it is on paper, I can work through different scenarios that ultimately help me make a decision.

 

Prayer: I need to work on this.  Tony, the Youth Pastor, showed the youth group his prayer notebooks from college.  I thought this was really cool.  Tony said that ACTS prayers are a good way to start.  ACTS is a template to help guide you through your prayer standing for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (or intercession).  I currently don’t keep a prayer journal, but would like to start.

 

Do you journal? 

Do you find it a nuisance or a comfort?

 

Share you journaling habits to help inspire us all to start/continue.

 

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