The Forgotten Guidelines

Many years ago, a skinny kid with a pickup truck and a riding lawn mower started a lawncare business. (Yes, that is him in the photo above!) A year later he got married (to me) and started a family. All the while, the company was quickly growing and the demands on his time increased exponentially. Summer droughts came and money was tight. But this kid, who soon grew into a man, was committed to two guidelines from scripture that aren’t very popular–

Resting on Sundays and Tithing 10%.

We rarely hear anything about either of these anymore. Oh, every once in awhile we hear about giving–especially if there is building project in the works– but we rarely, if ever, hear about keeping the Lord’s Day.

Are these things something we have to do? Of course not. There is nothing we have to do to be saved. Some cults would teach that if you don’t keep the Sabbath, you aren’t saved. And some groups would imply that giving to their ministry is the paramount command of God. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth! If that is what you are hearing, then you are in a false system.

But I do believe there are reasons to seriously consider making these two things a part of our lives. Here’s why–

Let’s look first at the Sabbath Day. When God created the world, He set a pattern to work six days and to rest on the seventh. The week, set up by God in Genesis 1, comes directly from the Bible. The author of Hebrews also references this week set up by God in Hebrews 4, carrying the idea of this rest over into the New Testament. When God specified the seventh day for rest, we know it wasn’t because He needed it. He doesn’t need to sleep or slumber. So why did He do this? I believe He did this not only for His own glory but because He knew that man would need a pattern of rest. Carm.org puts it this way–

On the seventh day, which is the Sabbath day, the day of rest, Christians cease from their work, just as God did. But where we need to be replenished, God does not.

So let’s go back to that kid for a moment. When Eric started our company, he could have easily worked 24/7. The work was there and plentiful and he was full of energy. But he had been taught that Sunday is a day of rest and chose to abide by this even as a young man going into business. As we look back now, we see how this not only provided him with the rest he so desperately needed, but perhaps even saved our marriage and family during those tough years of building the business.

The other day we were talking to a young man who has ventured out on his own to start the same type of business. As he shared about his summer, he talked about how he was working seven days a week– long days with rarely a break. We encouraged him to consider making Sundays a day of rest. For himself and for his family. Owning a company is demanding. Customers want things and they want them now. Establishing that your trucks will not leave the property on Sundays is a simple–and I believe God-given–way to take a much-needed break after a long week.

Of course, some people have jobs in which this is not possible. I do get that. But if we can do this, perhaps it is time to give this some reconsideration. How kind of God to provide this pattern in Genesis 1 that His people can follow,  providing us one day of rest from the work of the week.

So let’s move on to tithing. This one is so different from what it used to be. Or at least from what I remember it being. Growing up, I was taught that you tithe 10% to your church. Period. Oh, sure, there were some parachurch organizations that you gave to but that wasn’t where your main giving went to. It was your church. Since then, there has been an explosion of parachurch organizations. Many of these ministries are good ones and in need of funds. There is nothing wrong with giving to these. But our churches still need our 10% to function. Our pastors need their salaries, our churches have electric and oil bills and need to buy office supplies and pay their secretarial and janitorial staff. This can’t be done unless its committed members are tithing.

I heard someone once say this– “Give to your church first and then give to other organizations.” This is good advice. I remember hearing it and thinking Yes! That makes a lot of sense! I only wish I could remember who to give the credit to for this statement. Of course, this is not a biblical mandate, by any means, so this is a very personal decision that each person needs to work out on their own.

As an aside, I will add here that in the recent years we have made the choice to give only to charities that are committed to spreading the Gospel. Oh, I can’t say we don’t give $10 or $20 here and there to other charities, but we want the bulk of what we give to go towards spreading the true and unadulterated Gospel. Even many charities labeled “Christian” are not spreading the Gospel but, instead, are focused only on fixing temporal situations. Of course, there is nothing wrong with digging wells and providing medical care, but if we aren’t sharing the Gospel, then all of that work has no eternal value. It is critical to care first and foremost for their souls. We really try to make sure that this is the case for the charities we support.

But some of you are probably thinking something like this: I can’t even give 10%, much less anything over and above that.

I get that. I truly do. When we got married, we started life out with (my) college debt. We lived very meagerly in a small apartment. Every dollar counted. We didn’t have much and giving 10% of what we did have meant real sacrifice. It was difficult to place that check in the offering plate each week, but we had been taught by our parents that you give, no matter what.

And, now, looking back over all of those years, we wouldn’t change a thing. God was so faithful! He always provided for us. Always. We had some lean years but we were always able to pay our employees. We always had enough to eat. We could always pay our bills. Not always on time–but they always got paid!

So why do we tithe? We know that God doesn’t need our money. So what’s the deal? I love how Dave Ramsey puts this

So why does He ask us to give 10% to Him? Tithing was created for our benefit. It is to teach us how to keep God first in our lives and how to be unselfish people. Unselfish people make better husbands, wives, friends, relatives, employees and employers.

Once again, we see that this is a guideline that blesses us. That it was given for our good and our benefit. What a kind God we serve. Something that would seemingly cost us a great deal actually ends up blessing us!

Resting on Sundays and Tithing 10% require something from us, don’t they? They require sacrifice and discipline. But the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice. We have seen this in our own lives and in the lives of others. Don’t despair if you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. You can do this. I believe when we choose to honor God and the patterns He has set before us in scripture, He enables us to follow them. He will walk with us each step of the way.

 

 

Lessons from a Snowstorm

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To say my weekend turned out nothing like I planned would be an understatement. It started off with a phone call on Friday morning that forced me to change my plans for the whole day. As I drove home on Friday night the snow was coming down much earlier than had been forecasted and the weather reports seemed to be raising the amount of snowfall expected. Our landscape company does snow removal, so I knew we were definitely in for an interesting weekend.

As the snow fell on Friday night everyone gathered at our house and we turned on a movie. But it was not a normal relaxed movie night as my husband, son, and son-in-law kept their eyes on the weather and wondered how they were going to handle such a huge storm.

Three days later, it is mostly over. Although as I sit here at my laptop, my guys are still clearing snow in their efforts to get normal life back up and running for folks. Oh, how I respect and admire them for this. I don’t think I could do it. They have been going nonstop since during the night on Friday with just a few hours of sleep. I don’t know about you, but I know that I couldn’t do that. I am so thankful for the men in my life!

My job is to take the inevitable phone calls, which is always an adventure. One of our secretaries made it into the office this morning, so I am finally getting the opportunity to sit down and write on this Monday morning. My thoughts feel a little scattered, so I am going to try to pull them all together.

The weekend was full of interesting stories and tidbits, but instead of relaying everything, I thought I’d just summarize a few lessons that I learned (or was reminded of yet again)–

1. God is faithful. I never fail to be amazed at how God works out all the details when these days come. We have breakdowns and we have problems, but God is there in the midst of it. Without question. I know skeptics call this coincidence. But really–is there such a thing?

2. Most people are still generally nice. At least that is what I experienced yesterday. Because of the huge amounts of snow, we had run into the unusual circumstance of our normal snow equipment not being adequate for all of our jobs. This meant contracting subcontractors with bigger machines. But most people were patient and very kind when they called to ask about their driveway.

3. Some people are not so nice and they are the ones who remind me that I still have such a long way to go in the sanctification process. At one point, one lady called to complain about something. Her complaint was certainly legitimate, but it was made with such anger and accusations that I had a very difficult time holding on to my temper. I did manage to do so, but I got a little sarcastic and felt quite a bit of glee informing her that I was one of the owners when she demanded to speak to one of them. It is people like this that remind me that I still have such a long way to go in loving others–especially the ones that are selfish and unkind.

4. God answers prayer. In the midst of the weekend, we ended up having quite the crisis. Without going into details, I felt so helpless and really had to reign in the worry and fear that was rising quickly inside me, threatening to overtake me. I learned again that when I am faced with circumstances far outside my control, that I am not that spiritually mature, after all. I enlisted a few people to pray and God answered in an amazing way. We feel undeserving but offer our deepest and most humble thanks to Him!

5. A thank you in the midst of something like this is like a balm to the soul. This morning, before I switched the phones back to the office, I answered a call from a local business that we plow for. As most calls are usually negative, I prepared for the complaint that was sure to come. Instead, they had called to thank us for doing such a great job. Wow. What a blessing! Just a simple phone call, so easy to do, and yet so many of us never take the time to do this. I am thankful that this man did so. It means so much to our guys to hear words of praise once in awhile. We are always so quick to complain but most of us rarely offer a thank you. This phone call reminded me of the importance to express my gratitude to others.

6. I won’t die if I can’t leave my house. One of the things I have had to get used to is being the last one plowed out. Even now, my driveway is full of snow and drifts. This used to really get to me and I would grow a little angry. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that it was just my selfish desire not to be stuck here that drove my anger. Now I just try to be patient and not to be an extra burden that my husband has to worry about. When I feel a little claustrophobia rising in me, I just remind myself that I have people who could pick me up if there was an emergency!

 

These are just a few of things I learned this weekend. I am sure I could come up with more, but I need to go get busy and see if I can get my life back to some semblance of order! Hope you have a great day!

 

 

On Shows and Sharing

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I spent most of yesterday at a builder’s show representing our landscape & lawncare business. I’ve done this often and generally enjoy talking to people about our company. My son has grown into quite a good salesman, so when I was working with him on this day I found myself mostly smiling or having friendly chit-chat with people and letting him have the serious conversations. I am okay with this. Sales would not be my strong point– to say the least.

But this did give me more time to stand back and just watch people. And here is what I noticed– if someone was interested in what we do or if they had a project already in mind and needed to hire a landscape contractor, then they would stop in our little 10×10 booth space and look at our display and talk with us. But if they weren’t, they’d walk right by.

Because they did not have need of our services. At least not right now. And maybe not ever.

One of the things I have really struggled over as I blog is the lack of footing I seem to get in this very fickle world of blogging. Growing4Life is not really all that appealing to most people. It’s focused on hard truths and is meant to challenge us out of our comfort zones. Very few readers are going to spend their time reading things that make them squirm. This can be very discouraging for me. So much so, that I have contemplated quitting numerous times. Why write?

{Let me insert a heartfelt thank you here to those of you who do read, share my posts, comment, and encourage me to keep going. Words cannot not express how truly grateful I am for you.}

But as I stood there thinking about all of the people who walked by our booth, a truth settled into my heart–

God will draw whomever He wants to read the blog. My job is to be faithful to what He has called me to do– whether I have one hit per day or one thousand.

And this truth affects much more than the blogosphere. It affects all of us, doesn’t it?

We are here to give God glory and to share the gospel. That is our main purpose. If we are doing this — whether in our neighborhood, workplace, online, or overseas on the mission field–we need to remember that God is master of the grand design. Sometimes we can grow discouraged because we feel like we aren’t making any different at all. And yet God is weaving all of our stories together perfectly. We may have planted a seed that will reap many dividends in the future but not find out about it until much later or perhaps we won’t find out until we reach heaven.

In the meantime, we can’t focus too much on the many people who aren’t interested in our message. It’s okay. It’s important to remember that most people aren’t going to be interested. The way is narrow (Matthew 7:14). (Actually, if the majority just loves us, we are most likely doing something wrong. John 15:18) True Biblical Christianity is not popular. But scattered in the midst of the general and sometimes hostile population are people who are searching for the truth and baby Christians longing to grow. God will give us opportunities to share Christ with unbelievers and to encourage and build up believers. Our job is to faithfully respond to those opportunities. We must not get discouraged.

Let’s be faithful to the ministry God has called us to and let Him take care of the rest. Yes, people will walk by and ignore us. They may even point a finger and make fun of us. But that’s when we need to remember that this short time here on earth– if we are saved– isn’t about us.

Let’s live our lives with an eternal perspective, remembering that God is weaving a marvelous tapestry of people touching people touching people. We can’t see it here from ground zero. But He can. We just need to keep on doing what He has put before us to do and let Him take care of the rest.

 

Can You Just Be a Little Nice?

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Have you ever talked to one of those arrogant, condescending types? The kind that get your defenses up in world-record time? The type that you just want to ask– Can you just be a little nice? I don’t want to stretch you too much here, but some kindness would go a long way.

I’m sure you know the kind.

I had the opportunity of talking with a guy like that the other day. I had to make a business call. I just wanted to have a pleasant discussion. Instead I ended up with–well, let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant.

People like this make my blood boil. I mean you can just tell me what you have to say in a kind way. You don’t have to make me feel like an idiot.

I have had these conversations with vendors and customers. In fact, the customer ones always make me laugh. So let me make sure I understand–you are upset with me because I am asking you for money that you have owed for months? Okay then. If you are in any customer service or job where you deal with people, I am pretty sure you will be able to relate.

But we can have these conversations with co-workers, other parents on the sidelines of the soccer field or basketball court, friends, family, and, sadly enough, in the hallways and conference rooms of our churches. They are certainly not relegated to the Business World only.

I replayed that conversation over in my mind to determine two things–

What could he have done to help the situation? I ask this so that I keep this in mind when dealing with others.

and

How could I have responded better? I ask this so I can keep my Christian testimony with these particularly infuriating kind of people.

So, first, as I thought about the whole conversation, I realized that he immediately set me on edge with his tone. His tone was arrogant, condescending, and rude. He acted like he knew everything and I knew nothing. He also made me feel quite helpless with his lack of flexibility and unwillingness to compromise. Instead of working together to solve a problem, he made it very clear that he wasn’t interested and was not going to join me in solving anything. And, finally, he wounded with this words. Instead of using words to heal and solve problems, he used them to belittle and build walls.

I am not sure why this guy was so unpleasant. I had never had any contact with him before. He doesn’t own the company I called, so he isn’t vested personally. I came to the conclusion that he’s just unpleasant. And I hung up very thankful that I am not married to a guy like that one. Wow.

But the question is: Do I ever act–even slightly– like this guy? When I am cornered or upset or “sure I’m right”, am I arrogant or condescending? Unwilling to yield or compromise? Keep in mind I am not talking about biblical issues and principles here. Of course, we never yield or compromise truth. But I am talking about the interpersonal stuff of life that has no consequence. The stuff that doesn’t matter in the long run. What kind of attitude do I bring to these issues?

It’s a question to consider.

And then I had to look at how I responded. Did I emanate Jesus Christ and His love for this man? I knew the answer was no. This has been one of the main challenges for me in running a business with my husband for the past 27 years– responding to critical and unkind people. Since we have two admin assistants now, I rarely answer the phone or deal directly with people anymore (for which I am so incredibly grateful!) so I was very pleased to realize that I responded much better than I would have 20 years ago. God’s done a work in me. No question about that. Of course, there are miles and miles to go. And I still could have done better.

I realized that I did not have an eternal perspective as I talked to this guy. Instead I immediately got defensive, which put an unkind edge into my voice. Instead of thinking about the fact that this guy may not know Jesus, I immediately became consumed with my wounded pride and focused on how I was feeling at that moment. Instead of using my words to encourage and heal, I used them to defend myself and fight back. I could’ve done so much better.

You know, this is the nitty gritty stuff of life. This is where our Christianity shines brightly or shows itself to be tarnished and unlovely. How we treat others and how we respond to others is one of the most basic ways we give our testimony each and every day.

 

 

Building and Protecting

IMG_9141We humans want the easy way. Water always flows in the path of least resistance. The river flows downstream. It’s easier to walk down a hill than up a hill. It’s easier to sit on the couch than it is to get up and exercise. This is life.

This past weekend our landscape company took three and a half days to set up a huge garden display at a garden show.  It took hours and hours of preparation and many man hours to get it set up just right. Every plant was placed with care, every block laid carefully, and the covering of mulch was perfected. By Thursday afternoon we were all pleasantly exhausted, knowing that we had done our best and it looked great. It was very rewarding.

Of course, that feeling of reward lasted only a few brief days. Today–just three short days after we put it all up– we tore it all down in a few hours.

I just can’t help but think about the similarity of this to life. Almost everything worth having is going to cost us something — hard work, sacrifice, self-denial, etc.  Healthy bodies, healthy marriages, healthy families, healthy budgets do not happen with an “easy” button.

And all of that hard work and sacrifice — for a healthy body, a healthy marriage, a healthy family, a healthy budget– can be utterly destroyed in a few brief moments.

Building something takes months, sometimes years. We have to carefully protect that for which we have worked so hard!

This is why it is so important that we be on guard at all times, keeping our feet firmly rooted in the soil of God’s Word, so that we can withstand temptation. It says in I Corinthians 10:13 that there will always be a way of escape for any temptation we face. But if we are not walking in the Spirit, learning God’s Word, then we have no right to expect that way of escape.

And so the concrete space that was a beautiful garden just a few short hours before today gives evidence to the fact that building up takes much more effort than tearing down. It’s a great reminder for all of life.

 

 

Impatience Is Not a Virtue

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Inevitably, we run into the same problem every spring within our landscaping company. Everyone wants their patios and outdoor fireplaces and retaining walls built immediately. They are excited about the upcoming season and want to put their exciting plans for an outdoor living space in motion as soon as possible.

But here’s the problem: hardscaping is a job that requires skill and education, and so we only have a handful of men qualified in this company to take a job from start to finish. We have divided them into two crews. That means that we can only work on two projects at a time. As we are well-known and trusted in the area, we usually end up with a pretty long waiting list for installs. We try to tell people we are worth the wait, but, occasionally, some of them get impatient and won’t wait. I can understand their frustration. But that frustration can lead to a big mistake.

They call a guy who is just getting started (or an old guy who is starting a new business with a new name for the 5th time!) and hire him. These guys do not generally have a waiting list and can often start jobs immediately. Now, let me preface all of this by saying that a few of these guys are good, honest guys who do quality work to the best of their ability. But that is not the norm. Many of them are uneducated without proper insurance at best and complete shysters at worst.

As my husband always says: If someone can be there right away (or even in two weeks) in the springtime, they are probably not a very quality company.

Ironically, this decision has often ended up causing people great stress and, most times, even more frustration than they started with.

Take, for example, two recent situations where Eric was approached for a price to fix the shoddy work of these types of incompetent contractors. In both cases, the customers are also out quite a bit of money and one is looking at a lawsuit to try and retrieve at least some of it. These are not the first jobs that we have entered midstream because of this reason.

You see, patience sometimes is necessary in order to get a beautiful product that will last for a lifetime. There is so much more to hardscaping than throwing down pavers. There is great care needed in laying the proper base, great importance in using the right materials and tools, and careful precision needed in making the right cuts. Does the person you want to hire have specific training for this job and the proper insurances and equipment? These are critical questions before hiring a contractor.

So why am I writing about this on a devotional blog? Or do you already see the correlation?

We live in a world that wants everything right away. We do not want to wait for anything. And so we make mistakes.

Sometimes they are home-related –like hiring a shyster who can start right away instead of waiting for a respected and trust-worthy contractor.

Sometimes our mistakes are financial –like wasting hundreds of dollars at a casino or on lottery tickets trying to make quick, easy money instead of working hard and investing wisely.

Sometimes these mistakes are made by young singles –like marrying an unbeliever instead of waiting for a godly spouse.

And sometimes they are made as families –like settling for the first, comfortable {and compromising} church we visit rather than carrying out a thorough search for a church that is teaching sound biblical doctrine.

But all of these mistakes are also spiritual. How come?

I guess what I see as a common thread here is self-centeredness driven by feelings. When we aren’t willing to wait on an outcome, even though that outcome would be better and yield much higher dividends and rewards in the long run, then we are operating on feelings. And feelings are just never good things on which to base decisions.

Don’t get me wrong, feelings hold some weight. But when faced with a decision, it is best to look at all of the possible options with all of the possible outcomes. And then, pushing the impatient feelings aside, we make the wisest decision we can with the information we have.

There is no doubt that decision-making can be excruciatingly hard. But we should never base any decision on our feelings of impatience and frustration.

 

What is your phone voice?

1353144_47874028 (1)Yesterday, I called a water park to ask a question before purchasing tickets online. When I finally got to a real person (don’t you just hate those recorded voices that make it take a zillion years to reach a human?) I was pleasantly surprised to hear a cheerful voice pick up the phone. I proceeded to ask my question and a couple of others, since she was so friendly, and then hung up, very pleasantly surprised at the conversation and given a great first impression of this park I had never been to.

 I compare this to a couple of local companies I work with for certain things. When I call to place an order, I always hope that I don’t get a certain person on the phone. I know that if they answer, they will make me feel like I am inconveniencing them by placing an order. I will get off the phone determined to find a new company from which to order. Thankfully, there is another person who works in each of these companies who makes up for the rudeness and keeps it bearable to work with them. I can say unequivocally, however, that if they would lose the one contact that I have that is friendly and kind, I would find another place to take my business.

We keep this in mind as we run our own landscaping office. Thankfully, we have two of the sweetest, kindest secretaries you will ever meet and if you talk to them on the phone you will immediately get the impression that they are so glad you called. Even when someone calls to berate or criticize, they manage to keep their cool. This is nothing we have done as bosses, but is a reflection of the Lord’s work in their lives.

So what does this have to do with you? I think sometimes we forget the importance of the first impression we give when we answer any phone. Whether it is our home phone, our cell phone, or the phone at our place of employment, we have a responsibility to be an extension of the love of Jesus.

We immediately have a positive start to any relationship when we answer the phone with grace and kindness. And we immediately have a negative beginning when we answer with annoyance or impatience. We can make someone feel like they are important or we can make them feel insignificant. It is our choice.

What is your phone voice like? When a stranger hangs up the phone after a conversation with you, what is their impression? In this world of technology I think we sometimes forget that our kindness and love must extend to our phone conversations, our texts, and our Facebook messages. Let’s show the love of Jesus Christ in all aspects of our lives.

 

Wednesday Wisdom: From the Pen of a Fourteen Year Old

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My youngest daughter and her cousin started a charity organization called Hearts4theWorld awhile ago.  You can read about their organization over at Hearts4theWorld.net. They started off with a bang, but, as is often the case, are now struggling to keep the public’s interest.  In her blog there, my daughter has expressed some of the feelings, frustration, and thoughts about the last few months. As I was proofreading it for her, her thoughts encouraged me. If we feel like we are definitely doing something the Lord wants us to do, we need to keep doing it until He makes it clear that we should stop. But sometimes that is hard and discouraging, as these two young girls are finding out. I am proud of the lesson my daughter is learning, written here by her, and believe her thoughts will encourage you, too–

Have you ever had that feeling where you wanted to do something important, something big? What did you do with it? Did you waste it? Did you start… And then when it got a little bit too hard, did you quit? Or did you follow through?

We had all these questions when we were thinking about starting Hearts4theWorld. We got the motivation to do something, something bigger than we had ever done before. But when we thought through it a little more, we realized that this might be a little harder than we thought. How would we send the Bibles where they need to go? Who would hand them out? How would we get our name out there? Would people even like our bottle cap creations? We had to think about all of these questions. We prayed a lot about everything, because we knew that we would get nowhere without God. God provided us with an awesome link in Haiti, and there began our mission. In the beginning, our friends and family bought from us and told their friends. We were so excited and everything was working out perfectly! But as time continued, business slowed down, likes on our page decreased, and views on our Etsy site got fewer and fewer. We were confused, we were disappointed, and weren’t sure what exactly went wrong. But we knew we couldn’t give up. We decided not to quit in the beginning and aren’t gonna even think about it now.

But, we have to admit, we did think it might be easier if we just took a “break” for a little while. But we knew that’s not what we should do. As people say “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. We thought about other things we had done in life. Did we give up when something went wrong? Of course not! We kept on trying! So as we’re at this point, where we’re just not quite sure how to put our business out there for people to see and to like what they see. We decided not to give up, but to completely and totally lean on God. After all, He is the one who planted this idea and love for the world in our hearts. So He can do what He wants and in His own time! After all, patience is a virtue! ;) But that’s not to say that we’re just gonna stand back and say God run the business! No! Of course that’s not what we mean. We’re obviously going to keep trying new ideas, but we just want to put everything that we do in God’s hands and in His time.

So what does this mean for you in your life? Well the point we’re trying to get across is never give up. No matter if it’s a sport, an instrument, school or a mission like this! And if you have motivation to do something (If it’s motivation to do something good) then go for it! What do you have to lose? Maybe you’ll say “It’ll be embarrassing if it doesn’t work out” or “My friends wouldn’t think this would be cool”.  Who cares?! All that really matters at the end of the day is did you do your best and do it for the glory of God? Now I’ll be honest, I was a little embarrassed at times because it’s not like there’s a lot of kids starting their own organizations or anything. But then I would think… What is our goal in life? Is it to fit in and be “cool” or is it to honor God in everything I do? You have to make that decision for yourself. But for us, the answer is clear. So we hope you think about what we’ve said and make your own decision to rely on God when your dream isn’t working out exactly as you had planned.

This blog post and others are found here.

How to Succeed in Business

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Twenty-six years ago, a kid, just graduated from college, loaded a used John Deere riding mower on the back of his old pick-up truck and went to work. All these years later, that kid and his bride (my husband and I) have learned a fair amount about running a business. If you are interested in starting your own company or are in the process of starting your own company, you may find these suggestions worthwhile–

1.  Have a thankful heart.  We often joke around about how we had NO idea what we were doing all those years ago. Eric didn’t go into business to make money.  He just did what he loved and what he believed the Lord was calling him to do. As his wife, I just went along for the ride. We didn’t pour over profit and loss statements or balance sheets. We probably should have done a bit more of that, but because we didn’t, we know that God has really protected and cared for us in this venture.  We have seen Him work in marvelous ways–helping us to meet payroll or feed our family in the lean years.  We try very hard to not take his grace and care for us for granted. A thankful heart, even in the midst of the hard times, is important.

2.  Plan for the worst. We try very hard not to over-stretch ourselves financially. We know that at the whim of a culture or the downturn of the dollar, our whole business could change. We keep that in mind as we determine what debt to take out. Eventually, we are trying to work it down to zero, but that takes time. However, we have made some progress and can already see some rewards of our efforts to reduce debt.

3.  Work hard. This sounds so simple, but we have noticed that there are so many who aren’t willing to put in the long hours necessary to get a business up and running. I think this is the main reason that we have been successful–because of my husband’s willingness to work hard (not mine–I don’t have near the same drive). Any success we have experienced is mostly because of the gift of hard work that God has instilled in Eric. We see so many people who want to go into business to make easy money. What they don’t realize is that the money doesn’t come easily at all and it takes a lot of hard, hard work and many, many hours. Especially those first five to ten years. Success can only be realized if you are willing to work hard.

4.  Don’t sacrifice your family. One of the things I appreciated early on was Eric’s willingness to meet the needs of his family despite the long hours. He always (aside from crazy springtime) makes time to talk to me and the kids.  He goes to sports games (most of the time) and plays basketball in the backyard. And, honestly, in our early years, one of the ways he did that was by following God’s command to keep the Sabbath holy. He kept Sundays work-free and our family is stronger because of it. Oh, don’t get me wrong–we did sacrifice as a family with dad’s long hours, but keeping the family a higher priority than the business is important for both the family and the business.

5.  Don’t give up! Persevere through the tough times.  I know sometimes people look at successful companies and assume that they just got lucky, but it’s not like that. At least it wasn’t for us. We have been through some very difficult times (and know that at any time we could go through them again). Eric just keeps going (and drags me with him, even when I feel like giving up!)  He refuses to give up and that has benefited our business over and over again.

6.  Treat your customers and employees like you would want to be treated. So often bosses treat others with condescension and harshness. We try very hard not to do that. Oh, we are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but we want our employees and customers to know that they are valued as people to us and that we realize we would not be where we are today if not for them!

7. Follow God’s way as written in His Word. We sometimes get frustrated when we watch (or hear about) other company’s taking money “under the table”, lying on tax returns, and not getting the proper licenses or insurances.  But, early on, as Christians, we made the choice to be on the “up and up” with everything we do and we have never regretted it.  We can sleep at night because we know that we are doing things as God would want us to and that is what matters most.

8. Don’t get stuck in status quo. No matter what business you find yourself, it is constantly changing. Don’t stick your heels into the ground and determine to stay where you are. That is almost a sure way to kill your company. We have ebbed and flowed with various trends through the years. We have adjusted and changed and moved, all according to where the industry was going. We continue to do this.

9.  Be Generous. Don’t hang on to any material blessing too tightly.  Use what you have to further God’s Kingdom and to support and encourage Christian brothers and sisters.

10. To God be the Glory. Sure, we may have done some things right, but we have done a whole lot more wrong. But through it all we have tried to honor God.  Any credit for any success goes to God alone.  Along with that is the realization that any success is fleeting in the scope of life. We put our future in God’s hands and trust Him completely.

These are just a few of the lessons that we have learned and put into practice over the years. When I asked Eric to read over this, his first concern was that I was bragging too much on him. And maybe it does sound like that. I do have a lot of respect for this man who is my husband. However, much of what we have learned has been through much heartache, tears, and many arguments. It was a long and difficult road.  My main desire here is to spare some of you the same grief we went through.

Many of you are not running companies, but many of these same principles can be applied to any job…any life. It is my prayer that these principles will be helpful to you, wherever you find yourself in life.

 

Face It (Part 2)

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One of the most difficult things about standing up for the truth is figuring out what the truth really is. There are so many different interpretations and opinions and thoughts, that it can get a little crazy. For instance–

–Someone may think that putting red curtains in the church sanctuary is ungodly.

–Someone may think that driving a big SUV is a sin (I actually had someone say something similar to me when I was driving my Yukon XL).

–Perhaps someone thinks that eating certain foods is wrong.

–Someone else may think that all movie-going and TV-watching is sinful.

So, herein lies the question: How do I know if what I believe is actually truth or just my opinion?

There is and will always be only one way. We can only know truth by knowing what God’s Word says.

YES, I get that people have twisted and turned and interpreted and translated the Bible until it has become something that many people don’t trust and even more people don’t bother with (oh and, by the way, yes, it DOES matter what translation of scripture you use. Some have been seriously compromised.)  However, I believe that we can stand firm on the biblical doctrines of old. I say this because of what Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:15–

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.

I believe Paul is referring to sound doctrine here, the biblical, true Christianity taught since Jesus Christ came to earth, not meaningless traditions that hold men hostage.

There are many who are trying to redefine Christianity to make it more palatable and acceptable to the masses and so they’ve changed the meanings and interpretation of verses we have understood differently for two thousand years. That’s what we need to be very wary of.  If it changes the way traditional Christian doctrine has been viewed through the ages, it is most likely not from God.

But, that being said, there are many times that we stand self-righteously on things that just do not matter.

My husband and I have run into this on many occasions while raising teenagers. In fact, often has been the time that I have been standing firmly, saying “NO, you may not do that,” when Eric (my husband) will look at me and ask, “Honey, really…why not?” And, I have to swallow my pride and concede when I come to the conclusion that I can give no biblical reason or principle to apply to the situation.

I can also think of several times that Eric, as a business owner and church board member, has chosen to concede on things he felt very strongly about, simply because they were not opinions derived from scripture.

If we are willing to compromise on these non-biblical issues, people will be more likely to listen to us when it is time to stand for biblical doctrine and principles. Humility and kindness and compromise go a long way and is critical for the stupid stuff in life that doesn’t matter if we want to be taken seriously about the stuff that does.

And when it’s hard to know the difference about if it’s right or if it’s wrong from a biblical standpoint, I’ll just be honest and let you know that  I tend to err on the side of standing instead of caving. This is because God’s approval is so much more important to me than man’s.

God grant us the wisdom to know what is Truth worth standing for and what are the situations unworthy of a grand stand.  We will only have respect and a listening audience when we know the difference.

p.s. If  you haven’t read part 1 of this series, you can find it here.