Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The ABC's of Gratitude

This week I listened to Max Lucado's final sermon of his series on prayer in which he focused on saying thank you to God.  One of the exercises that he shared during the sermon was using the alphabet to help count your blessings.  I have decided to do this to focus on my blessings instead of shortfalls or gripes.

  • A is for Anna - I am thankful for Anna, my wife, for her support and everything she does for our family.
  • B is for Blog - I am thankful for this blog that allows me to share my thoughts and keep myself accountable to what I know is right.
  • C is for Church - I praise God that our family belongs to a church that does so much for people in our community.
  • D is for Dates - I am thankful for opportunities to take my wife on dates, even though the opportunities are too far apart. 
  • E is for Erasers - I am grateful for the ability to erase mistakes and seek forgiveness when I am in the wrong. 
  • F is for Friends- I am grateful to have a friends that support me and my family in various areas of my life. 
  • G is for Grace - I am thankful for God's grace which allows me to have hope for the future.
  • H is for Hope - I am thankful for being able to have hope in the future and feeling content.
  • I is for In-laws - I am thank for my wife's parents who have given us a great example of a strong Christian couple and how to live a generous fruitful life.
  • J is for Jesus - I am grateful for a relationship with Jesus Christ. 
  • K is for Kindness - I am thankful for being able to see acts of kindness everyday of my life from strangers and people I know. 
  • L is for Love - I am thankful for the opportunity to love others and be loved.
  • M is for Mom - I am thankful for my mom who has showed me countless times how to be strong and do what is right even when things are going on.
  • N for Nieces - I am thankful for two beautiful nieces that I am looking forward to watching grow in the coming years. 
  • O is for Organization - I am thankful when things are organized.  It helps me be less stressed, be more productive and enjoy myself. 
  • P is for Podcasts - I am thankful for everything I am able to learn from podcasts I listen to.  
  • Q is for Questions - I am thankful for the ability to ask questions.  I also love hearing all of the questions that my son and my students ask. 
  • R is for Riding - I am thankful for being able to ride my bike again and looking forward to particpating in RAGBRAI. 
  • S is for Students - I thankful for the opportunity to impact the lives of hundreds of students every year as a teacher. 
  • T is for Teachers - I am thankful for people who have taught me and are teaching my son.
  • U is for Union - I am thankful for my teacher's union that stands up for our members and our students everyday.
  • V is for Vacations - I am thankful for opportunities to relax and recharge on vacation.
  • W is for William - I am thankful for my son who reminds me to be grateful for the little things.
  • X is for X-Ray - I am thankful my last X-Ray has given me the green light to be physically active again.
  • Y is for Yesterday - I am thankful for the many wonderful memories I have of all my yesterdays. 
  • Z is for Zero - I am thankful that the date that our family will have zero debt is coming in just 38 months.
So what are you thankful for?

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Road to Awesome

The fourth session of The Legacy Journey is The Road to Awesome and is taught by Jon Acuff.  I was surprised to watch the whole session without seeing Dave.  It shows that he is really is committed in leaving a legacy beyond himself with the company he built to help other people.  Jon starts stalking about the importance of using our passions and do what God has created us to do.  The first step is to change our lives to be structured in a way that we can deliberatively do this.

Jon laid out five stages on the road to awesome.  These stages used to be based on age, but that is no longer the case.  Our place on the road to awesome is no longer about when we were born, but when we decide to get started.  Now is the perfect time to start because we cannot skip stages, but we can shorten them.

Stage 1: Season of Learning:
This is the stage in which we figure out who we are and what we are about.  We don't want to just "find our purpose" but we want to live with purpose.  During this state we will be experimenting with different passions.  We need to remember that it is okay not to be amazing at everything we try the first time.  The only thing we can control for sure in our journey is our starting line.

Stage 2: Season of Editing:
During this season we are subtracting things out in order to narrow our focus.  We need to ask ourselves many questions like, "If I died today, what would I regret?"  When you figure out your answer to that question then check your schedule to see if you are actually spending your time on those things.  We work on finding what gives us the most joy and focus on those things.

Stage 3: Season of Mastering:
Now that we have narrowed our focus, we need to gain as much experience as we can so that we can get really good at our passions.  Jon gave us three times on how to gain this valuable experience:
  1. Volunteer somewhere - you pay time to receive experience
  2. Get a part-time job - figure out if you will love/hate something as an employee before jumping all in. 
  3. Be led - find wise mentors!
Stage 4: Season of Harvesting:
This is a stage that you are working within your passions along with lots of support.  You will need support from two groups of people.  The best way to get support from others is to support other people the way you want/need support. 
  1. Your Inner Circle - this should be your spouse if you are married.  The worst place to put your spouse is on the opposite side of your dreams. 
  2. Your Outer Circle - You will need to get support and feedback from friends and family too. 
Season 5: Season of Guiding: 
This stage is about helping others along their road to awesome.  You will be guiding others whether you know it or not, so be intentional about it.   Ask others questions about their goals/desires and build on relationships with those who can mentor you and you can mentor.  One tip that Jon Acuff gave was to tie mentoring building into something you both already care about so it is more likely to happen. 

We all need to get up and get started today to begin our legacy journey's no matter how old we are.  Stages 1-3 need us to be intentional for them to work but stages 4-5 will happen no matter what we do, so we need to be intentional so we harvest and guide within the legacy we want to be leaving behind.  One of Jon's last tips he shared with us was not to compare our beginnings with someone else's middle. We cannot expect to skip stages and be in harvesting guiding when we are just learning and editing, so don't be disappointed when that doesn't happen.  

I loved this lesson, it was filled with great information that also can be found in Jon Acuff's new book Start.  I talked about the book before, but I wanted to take this opportunity to have another random book give away.  Enter today using Rafflecopter below. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Principle of Contentment

In third session of The Legacy Journey titled, "The Law of Great Gain", Dave Ramsey tells us that the most powerful financial principle is contentment.  This principle is able to do many things in our lives:
  • It is what allows us to get out of debt. 
  • It allows us to live on less than we make. 
  • It allows us to save and invest.
  • It allows us to change our whole view of generosity to be able to give like no one else. 
  • It opens up everything about God's way of handling money to us.
Contentment is not a reaction of circumstances but is part of our character.  Content people don't always have the best of everything, but they do make the best of everything they have. Dave shared four warning signs of spiritual discontentment:
  1. Always be trying to "get rich quick".
  2. Trying to appear wealthy. 
  3. Feeling anxiety about what you don't have.
  4. Allowing jealousy and envy to creep into your mind. 
We need to create a balance in our lives between intensity and enjoyment after getting out of debt.  God
tells us to take care of our own household and if he has blessed you it is Biblical to spend some of your money on your life style, but we need to have a balance.  The spirit of poverty in which wealth is evil is not biblical and neither is the spirit of pride that your wealth came from your hard work.  We need to trust in God with a spirit of gratitude knowing that our wealth comes from God and be in conversations with him on how to manage it.

Dave Ramsey recommends setting a lifestyle budget based on your income that would take care of your family at a reasonable level that God helps you decide.  Then continue to be in conversation with God about how to manage the rest using ratios.  For everything God blesses you with over your base budget you should give your tithe (10%) off the top and pay your taxes.  After these two, you need to set the percentage of your increased income that would go toward increased giving, increased lifestyle and increased investing.  These percentages will not be the same for everyone because God has different plans and purposes for each of us so we need to be in constant prayer to find out what God wants our percentages to be.

The key is to be content is to be grateful where you are.  As a warning, we should not be lazy or take God's blessings for granted.  Are you traveling on your road with contentment?  If not, what would make you content?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Feelin' It

In our third session of the Staying In Love small group series we talked about emotions and the impact they have on our marriages.  My wife had us start playing a game to think about the ways we show love to our spouses and what types of things make us upset.  It was interested to hear and learn about the perspectives of other men in my group as well as from our wives.

Andy Stanley talked about how a lot of what comes out in our emotions from our marriage comes from within us and not necessarily from our partner.  He encourages us that instead of monitoring our spouses behaviors or actions we should look inward.

Andy gave us four simple steps that we could apply to encounters in our relationships:
  1. Before you speak, think about what you are actually feeling.
  2. Identify the emotion by name.
  3. The say it out loud.
  4. If appropriate, tell your partner how you feel. 
As we do this, we will likely find that what we thought was a "marriage problem" may actually be a problem inside our own hearts.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Pinnacle Point

The second session from The Legacy Journey is titled, The Pinnacle Point.  During this session Dave teaches to create a wise investment strategy as a tool for us to make progress on our legacy journey.  Dave started with a quick review from FPU about keeping our investing simple and to make sure to use diversification in order to lower our risk.  A lot of the content of this lesson I have written about in previous posts from FPU and other finacial articles, so I will quickly summarize a few of the topics.

This session will cover the following topics:
  • Understanding risk and liquidity
  • Tips for long-term investing--you should take advantage of any ethical, legal way to protect your investments.  
  • Basic investment options
    • Certificate of deposit
    • Money market mutual funds
    • Stocks and Bonds
    • Mutual Funds
  • Advanced investment options
    • Low turnover funds
    • Annuities 
    • Rental real estate
This lesson covered a lot of information about making wise investments.  All of the information Dave teaches is about keeping investing simple and move forward on your legacy journey with a plan in place.  Don't fall for get-rich-quick schemes but stay strong over a period of time investing and saving little by little with a smart goal orientated plan so you can live and give like no one else and hit your pinnacle point!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Debt Free College?

I wish I would have even considered the idea that going to college debt free was possible when I was deciding what schools I would be going to, how much I wanted to work, etc.  I have read many articles and some books that helped me realize that going to school debt-free is possible, even for those with modest means.  Here are some tips on how you or your children could begin working today to have a chance to going to school debt free.

  1. Take high school seriously!  The work you do in high school can lead toward large financial rewards in college through scholarships and into your future without student loan payments.  My wife was able to get a scholarship to go to school tuition free by the hard work she put into her high school career.  
  2. If you cannot get a full ride scholarship and cannot afford to go to a 4 year university or college debt free then look into attending a community college for the first two years.  This could allow you to live at home and slash the long-term cost of college.  Most community colleges now have agreements with the four year universities to be able to transfer the first two years into a four year degree program so you are not behind starting your junior year. 
  3. Don't pick a school that is outside of your price range.  Apply to several schools that are within your budget based on the amount you or your family is able to save, the scholarships you have earned, etc. 
  4. While you are in high school earn as many credits as you can for college credit either through AP course offerings or dual enrollment classes if that is an option in your area.  Once you are in college check to see if there are any tests you can take to test out of classes or possibly earn some credit (make sure to study before the tests).  During the summers you may want to consider some online classes that could transfer into your college (make sure to check that they can transfer in before registering for them.)
  5. Apply for every scholarship you can find.  Check out local organization, national organizations,
    stores, the college, churches, etc.  Use the internet to search for scholarships and apply for them of all sizes from hundreds to thousands of dollars.  Each scholarship will help! 
  6. Many studies have shown that students who work while in college are more successful academically than those who don't.  This also will help you pay for college as you go rather than having to put your college on a student loan or you books on credit cards.  Make sure to get summer jobs too to help save up to pay for your tuition. 
  7. Start saving now.  No matter how old your kids are or you are, it is never too early to save for college.  You can invest in ESA's, 529s, or even a money market account if college is very close.  One of the programs that our family takes advantage of is the U-Promise program that allows a portion of purchases we make at stores to go into a 529 account to help save for our son's college. 
  8. When in college don't take out loans for "extras" like partys, upgrading your computer, eating out, etc.  You don't need to keep up with your college classmates in terms of spending.  
Do you have any other tips on how you or our children could go to school without debt?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Snares and Dares

Snares and Dares is the title of the first session of Dave Ramsey's new class The Legacy Journey.  This class answers the questions many people have after graduating Financial Peace University (FPU) and becoming debt free have been asking: "What's Next?"  For the past 20 years Dave and his team has been teaching people to get out of debt and providing them hope for the future.  With The Legacy Journey, Dave will inspire many to live and leave a lasting legacy.   FPU was about waking up and The Legacy Journey is about growing up.  Dave will be teaching us how to emotionally and spiritually grasp wealth as a concept through the lens of The Bible.  This class is for people who are building wealth to make a difference in the world.

Dave starts the class off by reviewing the process for winning with money over time, his seven baby steps.  This process does not change when you become debt free.  We need to stay on a budget and never allow debt to become and option again.  As we mature in our biblical understanding of wealth or perspectives will grow as well.

Dave challenges us to expand our vision of what leaving a legacy means by laying out biblical steps along the journey. 

Step 1 (NOW) - First we focus on taking control of our money and cleaning up the mess we created.  This is when we are setting up our budget, getting out of debt and building our emergency funds.  (See 1 Timothy 5:8) 
Step 2 (THEN) - When we are no longer worried about just getting our bills paid we can start saving and start adopting a future focus.  We need to live and work today with tomorrow in mind.  On this step we are saving for college and retirement. (See Proverbs 29:18) 
Step 3 (US) - After we have taken care of some of our immediate needs, we then work on changing our family tree with a emphasis on leaving a legacy for our family.  This step emphasizes on leaving your family a material and spiritual inheritance.  (See Proverbs 13:22) 
Step 4 (THEM) - Once you have taken care of your family tree you are able to open up your eyes to see needs your community and world.  This helps you leave a legacy for others.  (See Proverbs 28:27)

Dave then lays our some biblical warnings about money.  

  • Don't worship money or anything God provides for us, just God himself. 
  • Be honest when dealing with money and any other ares of your life.  Wealth gained by dishonesty won't last. 
  • You are a manager of the resources that God has provided for you.  You will eventually give an account with what you have done with God's resources. 
  • Don't be focused on financial wealth, but on God's provision for our life. 
There are many misunderstandings about wealth and toxic beliefs in our society.  Building wealth is not evil, the Bible calls us to grow wealth for the good of the kingdom of God.  Though as we build wealth  our heads and hearts need to remember it is about stewardship of God's possessions not ownership.  If we want to be faithful stewards that mean wealth building should be a holy activity.  

At the end of the lesson Dave shows us the Legacy Box, which will give us a place to gather important papers for your family members if something would happen to you.  Make sure your spouse and other family members know where to find this information.  Dave encourages you to keep copies of all of your important paperwork and keep them in a safe deposit box.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Staying in Love

One of my favorite things about our church is their focus on small group ministries.  Anna and I are fortunate to have been invited into a small group of other young married couples.  Our small group decided to do a short study on marriage using Andy Stanley's Staying in Love curriculum.  We have met twice already and I have loved the conversations and Andy's teaching.

Love is a Verb
The first session talked about God's command for us to love one another the way the Christ loved the church.  This involves taking actions to put your spouse's needs above your own and submit to them.  We should be proactive in loving our spouse in both words and actions and take our cues from Jesus.  Loving relationships take work and sometimes force us to go outside of our natural selfish selves.  As a husband my number one role beyond loving God is to show love to my wife.  I will continue to strive to live a life in which I make love a verb in our relationship. 

The second session was much like the first in which is tackled one of the major problems with most marriages in the world - that we are selfish.  In Philippians 2:3-5, we are to put others interest first and not to act out of selfish ambition or our own self interests.  When we have strong communication in our marriage and truly understand what our spouses interests/passions are we can help strengthen each other and our marriage.  Marriage is not a 50/50 contract, but something that take mutual respect putting each other first.  We must value the other person in our marriage as more important than ourselves.  As we move forward in the next couple weeks I will try even harder to put Anna's needs/desires/interest above my own.  

We only have two more sessions left and I am looking forward to continuing to get together with other couples who share our values of having strong Christian marriages.  By coming together and sharing successes and challenges we help strengthen one another and make God the cornerstone of our marriages. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Staying Accountable with DietBet

After nearly 3 months of not being able to participate in much of any physical activity have been cleared by my doctor for some activities including biking.  I am looking forward to trying to get back in shape and prepare of RAGBRAI in July.  One of the negative side effects of not being active for a long period of time was the gaining of several pounds.

One of the things I am doing to help get myself accountable to lose some of those pounds during the month of May is hosting a DietBet with anyone who wants to join me.  You bet $20 that you can lose 4% of our bodyweight in 4 weeks and if you win you get to split the pot.  The more people who participate the bigger the pot.  I have found that by putting my money on the line I am much more motivated to meet my health goals.

Here is quick video that explains the process:

So what do you say?  Do you have a few pounds to lose and want to join us in staying accountable.  Join our DietBet today!