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God First

One Thing, God First

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

When I was preparing to propose to Nicole, my Mom was with me every step of the way. From picking out the ring, figuring out Nicole’s ring size, subsequently hiding it from Nicole — my Mom was my engagement ring consultant, and an excellent one at that!

From all the decisions to be made in terms of cost, clarity, cut and numerous other options, the best advice came regarding the engraving on the ring.  She didn’t hesitate when I asked what should be engraved on the inside of the ring: she insisted on the words “God First.”

To be honest, I had no idea what this meant when I got engaged and got married. Although it was and is a simple sentence, I had no idea how to make it a reality in my life. It actually was quite foreign to me since I was going to church but was not reading the Bible and felt quite distant from God due to my sin. I was a casual Christian and God was playing a very small part in my life.

He was definitely not first, more like twenty first.

Nonetheless, we went with this inscription. Maybe it was a prophetic prayer from a mother to his son to get right with God. Although very short, those two words still ring in my heart and head to this day.

Now, some thirteen years and many trials and tribulations later, God is first in our marriage. This two sentence vision/prayer from 2004 is now the key ingredient in our healthy marriage.

What stories, phrases or prayers can you share about making God first in your life and/or marriage?

surrender

My 5-Part Surrender

I am a stubborn person, and God didn’t have an easy time with me. For years my progress as a Christian was three-steps-forward, two steps back. Finally after many years, I allowed Jesus to be CEO over my whole life—but believe me, I am still always tempted to wrestle control back from him!

Looking back over the last several years, I identified the five major components of my surrender. They were:

  1. I prayed for God to send strong Christians into my life to help me with my marriage. As you can imagine, my stubbornness was affecting my marriage as well as my spiritual life, and I knew nothing would change until I addressed it.
  2. God answered this prayer in the form of recreating my community to be what He wanted, and I forced myself not to fight it.
  3. By becoming involved in this new community, I learned about humility, grace, love, what the Bible says and how it applies to my life. Without the right community, I don’t believe I would have surrendered. I am far from perfect, but I’ve had a definite change of heart and mindset.
  4. The next step for me was moving from “believing” to “doing” which took faith and the continued reliance on the community. They stayed by my side, praying for me and encouraging me on the path God has set for me.
  5. This all led to me slowing down, to stop quenching the Spirit of God by striving so hard all the time. I’m learning to let Him lead me.

Even though I have less net worth and income than I once had, I have freedom, fascination and a lot more fun than I have ever had. It appears God wanted to make significant changes in my heart, and this took adjusting my net worth and income. This has been scary at times, but God is my provider and He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Getting the calendar portion of my life more in line with what God wanted allowed me to get the cash category more in line with what God wanted. When these two were more in line with what God wanted, this allowed the Holy Spirit to speak deeply to me, and whisper things I could have never have dreamed about. I believe now I am stepping into the calling God has on my life.

What is your surrender story? How has it led to more fun and stepping into what you were called to do?

moneylove

Love of Money

Money has always played an important part in my life. As you can see from this picture, when I was younger I loved a lot of stuff—two TV’s on my desk (come on!) and if you take a closer look you can see a popular sticker from the 80’s: I love money.

Yep, that was me, and still is to a certain extent. I was raised with the idea that if I gained more money and “stuff,” my problems would be solved. I battle this mindset almost every day, but I have God’s word to help me, financial buddies with whom to talk to about money, and great resources to help further my education around the subject.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

When I achieved some financial success in my twenties, it created new problems and made the old problems much worse. Some of the new problems were that I felt a sense of entitlement because I had “made it,” in my mind, which combined with the pride I had, made for a miserable life. I thought the world revolved around me, and that all things that I was involved with should be to help further my own agenda in my life.

My love of money was preventing me from living the life God created me for. If I had continued on this “love of money” trajectory, I shiver to think what my life would consist of now.

I went very hard after money, and when I achieved financial goals, I was left with a deep emptiness which eventually led to a great anger that I had been duped. At times I felt it was just me and my money because I had no real relationships.

Thanks to God’s hand on my life and the partnership of my wife Nicole, I no longer love money the way I used to. It’s been a long road and I’ll continue to work toward Godliness in this area, but together Nicole and I have been learning to submit our financial lives to the Lord, and funny enough, we rarely argue about money like we used to. Maybe we’re on to something! We don’t have it all figured out, but we’re not where were before.

How about you? What is your money story and what part is currently being written?

question

What do I want?

Right after Nicole and I got married, we started fighting a lot. Mostly about money, but also related to what we should be doing (calendar and calling) and how we were going to do it. Little did Nicole know that she had married a big jerk!

During this rough time in our marriage, I came up with one statement that I would repeat when we began to argue. I was having trouble winning these arguments (many men might be familiar with this), so I gave up and said:

“I don’t care where we live, what we do for a living, or how much money we make. I just want you, me and any children we have to be Christ-followers.”

That was in 2006.

That is still the theme of my life today. Although I struggle with this, it’s what I want—with one addition.

Not only is it my fervent wish that my family follow Christ, my desire has expanded to everyone else as well. Everyone! It’s my prayer that we all would live as God intended.

That’s a big, audacious prayer. But I think God loves those kinds the best; especially when they are in line with His desires too.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

How about you? What do you want?

When you look at Paul’s life, was He confused as to what He wanted? “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Powerful!

How about Jesus—confused? No, of course not, He was never confused. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Super powerful!

God.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Perfect!

My prayer is that we would seek God in order to know what we want; and that we would ask God for those things, no matter how outrageous, with full faith that he will answer.

time

100 Hours

We each have 100 usable hours, give or take, every week after we take out sleep and commuting.

Does that seem like a lot to you? Or not very much?

With most of us working around 50 hours each week, that leaves another 50 hours for the other priorities in our lives.

I struggle with this. Constantly.

It’s hard to give enough time to my relationship with Nicole, my son Luke, my stepmom and my mother and father in law, friends, church community, and taking care of myself physically. I also need a little down time so I don’t go crazy. I wrestle with how to fit everything in, and no matter what I’m doing, I feel like I should be doing something else. I’m constantly feeling guilt, shame and fear.

UGH!

How do you do it? What do you do in order to maximize these 100 hours every week, preserving and growing your important relationships, without losing clients, getting fired, ruining your marriage, or burning out?

I use the lineup  in order to keep me focused on what is most critical. It’s not perfect, but for me, although it has been a struggle, it has improved my most critical relationships.

But I know how easy it is to slip back into old habits. I worry I’ll go back to being crazed and confused, especially now that I am launching this blog. I just don’t know where the time is going to come from.

More coffee? Less sleep? Help!

My most important relationship, with Jesus, is at risk of slipping due to my busyness and my addiction to social media. I am not where I once was spiritually. I am getting too busy and having more and more trouble saying “no thank you.”

Decisions are hard, but I know you can help me. So, come on, give me your best advice, I want to learn from you.

Thank you for helping me out!

lineup

My Lineup

In 2010 I began doing research for a white paper to grow my business and create a niche for it. I interviewed executives and entrepreneurs, asking questions about how they balanced their career, family, and life’s challenges in order to finish well in life and not blow up all of their critical relationships. I also read books and dove deep into this topic in order to further my knowledge.

This white paper took me over 200 hours a great deal of money to complete.

I gained no new business from this white paper although I interviewed some of the most successful executives and entrepreneurs in Southern California. (I am really good at spending a lot of time, money and energy on a project and gaining no new business. Must be a gift.)

What I discovered is that we all have about 100 useable hours every week and how we use those hours will determine our destiny. Destiny is important to me and I imagine it is important to you. I tend to be all over the place with my time unless I have a path to follow and some lanes to stay in. So I’ve created nine categories that help me prioritize my time and energy.

If you’re into baseball metaphors, I like to I look at these nine categories as my baseball lineup—they’re my players. I want to score home runs—and I don’t want to get stranded at third base. So here’s my starting lineup:

Owner: Christ

Christ is the owner of the team I manage. I own nothing; I am His manager. The game I am playing is the game He wants me to play, at least this is the way it is supposed to go. No owner, no team, no team, no game, so Christ must be far and away the most important part of this team. At least this is what I think sometimes, if I played that way more often I would be winning more and hitting more home runs.

#1. Couples

For the first 6 years of our marriage, Nicole never felt like she was a priority to me. Our marriage suffered because of my insecurities and arrogance. This persisted even after I started reading the Bible in our second year of marriage and actively attending a Bible study. I am still working through a lot of stuff and will share with you in the next post just how bad it got. At least now I realize our marriage must be one of my priorities, and I continue to work on it.

#2. Children

While I am alive, no one else is better to be a Dad to my son Luke than I am. This continues to be a struggle while I work at home and attempt to balance my commitments to work, home, community, and spiritual life.

#3. Care for Self

Much like oxygen on the airplane, I have to first take in the oxygen so then I can give it to those sitting beside me, like my son and others about whom I care deeply. This means I must prioritize my own physical, mental and spiritual health.

#4. Cash

For me what this looks like is how I spend the first part of my day. I start out, though not perfectly, reading the Bible and then praying. This is my Christ time. I then, most every day, balance my checkbook (cash) and review my monthly spending plan, and look at my calendar of appointments coming up today and in the coming weeks. Some of this I do on my own, and some with my wife. This is currently working for us as a couple, though it takes a lot of time—we’d love to know what is working for you that might help us be better stewards of all that we’re given.

#5. Calendar

This is all about making the best choices in how to spend my time. Nicole and I have struggled so much with this. We argue and waste a lot of time over the calendar. (Ironic, right?) We are open to what you are doing, we will share what we have done. We’ve had some successes and we will share those with you in this series, as well as our fights, and hopefully we can encourage one another in this challenging place.

#6. Calling/Vocation

Just like #2-Children, the category of Calling will take on various levels of importance during different seasons of life. But even now while I’m in an active, growing, child-rearing season of life, I’m constantly trying to pay attention to God’s calling on my life and attempting to stay right where He wants me.

#7. Community

I think of community as many groups: People we help who will never repay us, friends at church, those we share passions with, neighbors, people who are close friends (think Peter, James and John for Jesus), those who will carry our casket if we were to die today. The list can be quite expansive, the idea, of course, is to live in community, as we cannot live the life we were designed to live without community.

#8. Care for Parents

Parents are important—God commands us to honor them and gives us the promise that when we do, things will go well. I was impatient, demanding and downright mean to my parents while I was growing up and they were alive. During this time, things were not going well for me. Hmm…..I had many major issues with this over the years, and I will share some of them with you. I messed it up and don’t have another chance with my own parents, but I can expand the meaning of this to include care for my Step Mom and Step Dad as well as Nicole’s parents and our Great Aunt and Great Uncle as well as other elderly people in our neighborhood.

#9. Designated Hitter

What other priorities would you like to include on your top ten list? For me, it is being in a Coffeehouse—this is my happy place. For you it could be cars, canines, cats, camping, college football or any other hobby/activity that you love that would help you not get stranded at third base. (Doesn’t even have to start with a C!)

How have you intentionally used your time to determine your destiny?

What do you think about this lineup?

Over the upcoming weeks, I will share struggles, arguments, failures, and successes, and I hope to hear some of yours. Let’s help each other better use these 100 hours we continue to receive every week.

 

 

 

youarehere_one-to-ten

On a scale of 1 to 10

In the middle of my research for the white paper on work-life balance, I was feeling pretty good about my marriage to Nicole. Our son Luke was almost 2, healthy and happy. Although we had had some rough spots, I thought I was at least a 7 out of 10 as a husband.

So one night when Luke was asleep, I asked the question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best husband and 1 being we are near divorce, where do you think I am?” ­­­­­A very scary question, especially for someone like me who tends to be arrogant and full of blind-spots. Without hesitation, my awesome wife said a “2.”

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, a 2.

Ugh. Double ugh.

Although I was full of arrogance, for some strange reason this did not cause a fight, nor send me into a deep despair.

I simply took it as fact and vowed to do better.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25

I was not doing this. I had no idea how bad it was until I asked this question. I was moving so fast, and so concerned about providing for my family that I neglected her. I was working 65+ hours per week. That’s ten-plus hours a day, six days a week. How could I possibly have spent enough time with Nicole?

This was right after this lunch and before Jeff and his wife Millie drove up from Orange County one Sunday night to share a word she said that she had from God for us. I soon realized that simply vowing to “do better” and actually doing it were entirely different things. I needed to overhaul my life and begin living according to my priorities.

One of my greatest fears has always been having a mediocre marriage or worse, a divorce. It was being incubated and I had no idea.

What tough questions have you asked those closest to you in order to find out the truth?

How has the outcome been, and what could you share with me to help me be a better husband?

What blind-spots have you discovered in yourself?