Tag Archives: Investment

“Enough” With Which to be Faithful

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”
Matthew 25:22-23 (NIV)

A wise counselor once asked me to name my pain. “At the depth of your soul,” he asked me, “what would you label the core ache that feeds your strongest feelings of sadness and inadequacy?”

I pondered the question, but it didn’t take me long to come up with an answer: “Not enough.”

I came to realize that most of my life I have had to actively work to overcome an inherent sense of never being enough, giving enough, doing enough, loving enough, caring enough, sharing enough, serving enough, or achieving enough. Addressing “not enough” is a  large part of my spiritual journey.

In today’s chapter Jesus tells a parable that has grown increasingly powerful to me as the years have gone on. As with most of Jesus’ parables, it is quite simple. A master gives each of three servants different amounts of his money and goes away for a long time. The master returns to find that two of the three have invested his money and earned a return on the investment. The third buried his master’s money out of fear and returned just what he’d been given.

Two lessons from this parable have become quite important to me.

First, the master does not evenly distribute his money among the servants. One was given five bags, another two, and the other one. This is another reminder to me that a seemingly fair and equitable distribution of anything in this temporal world has never been part of the economy of God’s eternal Kingdom. I have been given more than some and less than others. The question has never been what I’ve been given, but what I do with what I’m given.

Herein lies the ying and the yang of my core pain. I must learn to be content with what I’ve been given, but also accept that I am responsible for it. I must learn to accept that I have been given “enough” and that God knows I am capably adequate to faithfully invest it wisely.

The second lesson I take from this parable is in the master’s compliment to his servants. “You have been faithful with a few things” he says. The servants were not burdened with the entirety of their master’s affairs. They were given a relatively small amount and were rewarded simply for being faithful with what they’d been given.

Sometimes my feelings of “not enough” grow to epic disproportion in my heart and mind, fueling all sorts of unproductive thoughts and paralyzing fears (much like the third servant in the parable). I quite literally blow everything up in my mind until its completely out of proportion to the truth of the situation. In these moments the master’s compliment helpfully reminds me to boil things down to the simplicity of being faithful to the tasks right  in front of me.

This morning, that means serving my client well in a day full of meetings. If you’ll please excuse me, I have a few things to which I must faithfully attend. And, that will be enough for today.

Have a good day.

Featured image courtesy of AZQuotes

Building Projects

blueprintBut you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith….
Jude 1:20a (NLT)

For over a year, Wendy and I have been dreaming and scheming to make some major renovations here at Vander Well Manor. Our little brick tudor is a cute old house and we love it. However, the garage is rotting, the wiring and plumbing are ancient, and the boiler appears to have been installed sometime during the Roosevelt Administration. We realize that it is going to take a fair amount of work to bring our house into the 21st century and make some desired improvements. Over the months we’ve been working with an architect to plan the changes we want. Now we’re in the stages of figuring out just how much it’s going to take and cost. To be honest, at times it seems overwhelming.

Building something, and doing it right, is not an easy task nor is it a simple one. It requires planning, thought, investment, and a lot of hard work. In the end there is a cost, and when you’re doing renovation work there is always the question as to whether the resulting outcomes will be worth all of the cost in the end.

So it is with building people. God’s Message tells us that we are to “build one another up.” This, too, does not happen without planning, thought, investment, and a lot of hard work. There is always the question whether your hard work will have been a worthwhile investment. Yet, we are not told to consider the outcome nor is it in our control. Building up other people is simply part of the job description for those who follow Jesus. To be honest, at times it seems overwhelming.

This morning I am reminded that building up a home and building up people have many similarities. There is, however, one major difference. If we succeed in building up our home it will result in some nice and needed improvements, but the house will simply need more renovation in another forty or fifty years. If we succeed in building up people it can have eternal results.

God, help me be a people builder.

Relational Investment Choices

Friends talk
(Photo credit: Ruud Raats)

Do not speak to fools,
    for they will scorn your prudent words.
Proverbs 23:9 (NLT)

I have a retirement account and a person who manages my investments in that account. Each month I check the account to see how it is performing. I need my administrator to make wise investment choices for me. If it is invested well and I get a good return on my investment, the compounding interest will give me even bigger yields and provide for my future retirement.

As I get older I find that I look at relationships much like I do financial investments. The days roll by and I realize that I have limited time on this Earth. I want to invest my time, energy, and resources in relationships that are life giving and produce good results for both me and the other person in the relationship. My financial advisor would steer me away from foolish stock or mutual fund choices that would not be in my best interest. In the same way, I find myself evaluating the veritable plethora of choices before me regarding those with whom I spend my time and relational energy. 

I have no time for fools. That’s like throwing money into the stock of a company headed into bankruptcy. I find myself wanting to invest in a diverse portfolio of relationships with my limited means. Some relationships are sure things and safe investments. Investing in my wife and kids and family are no brainers and I need to invest heavily in those. Wise friends are like well performing funds which are solid, dependable and offer a good return on investment. I need to direct a good chunk of my relational investment in those. I also want to find those relationship investments which are diamonds in the rough. Like penny stocks, it may not seem like there’s much there, but a little investment could pay off substantially for both parties and bring great reward.

If you study Jesus relationship choices you’ll find that He made very clear and even harsh decisions about whom He would invest time, energy and resources. He rejected some who wanted to follow Him. He said “I have no time for you.” He chose three among his closest followers to pour a greater investment of Himself into, and in doing this He created hard feelings among the twelve. In his final three years of life on this Earth Jesus made conscious choices, as the eldest son of his earthly family, to pull investment out of his earthly family and pour it into a diverse portfolio of risky relationships. His twelve closest followers can be described as risky penny stocks at best, but Jesus saw the future yield His investment in them would produce.

This morning I’m asking myself these questions:

  • In whom am I investing my time, energy and resources (emotional, relational, and spiritual as well as financial)?
  • What foolish relational investments have I made which are draining my resources and leaving me with a personal deficit? From whom do I need to pull my relational investment away?
  • Who would it be wise for me to put more relational investment into? How can I make that happen?
  • Have I fallen into the trap of spreading my relational resources so thin across so many relationships that I can’t possibly manage it all well? Is it time for me to adjust my relational portfolio, make some tough choices and bring it into a manageable level?

[An index of all Tom’s chapter-a-day posts covering every book and chapter]

Grandma Daisy and the Three Things that Last Forever

2012 12 25 Grandma Jeannes Present

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

In my mother’s family, my great grandma Daisy was the undisputed matriarch. Divorced during a time when it was both scandalous and humiliating, she refused any money from her ex-husband and determined to raise her five children on her own. Relying on faith, hope, and love, she made ends meet and became a living example to her children and grandchildren. Grandma Daisy died when I was five years old, but her imprint on my family has become clearer to me throughout my life.

When Taylor left for Uganda last summer, I sent with her a box of crayons that I discovered in a tub of family mementoes that languished in my basement. They were Grandma Daisy’s crayons and I figured that Grandma Daisy herself would rather have them being used for art therapy projects in Uganda than gathering dust in my basement.

On Christmas Day, we gave my mother a set of three photographs showing Taylor with some children from Uganda, of a picture colored by a young girl there, and a picture of a woman drawing with Grandma Daisy’s crayons. On the back of the picture was an explanation of the photo triptych. As my mother read about Grandma Daisy’s crayons being sent to Uganda with Taylor she began to weep.

I thought about that moment this morning as I read this amazing chapter. My great Grandma Daisy had little or nothing of earthly value in this life. Her life and her legacy were not about getting more, keeping up appearances, or getting ahead. Her life and legacy were about simple faith, eternal hope and tangible love. I know that, not from having known her personally, but from the testimony and evidence given by her children and grandchildren in countless stories, anecdotes and family treasures.

Today’s chapter says that faith, hope, and love are the only three things that last for eternity. As I watched my mother’s reaction to her gift and the deep meaning it held for her, I caught a glimpse of the truth of it. As New Year’s Day approaches and I weed through bags of trash, piles of broken down cardboard, and a host of new stuff to place in our house, my thoughts are given to the coming year. I’m thinking more than ever about where my time, energy and resources are invested, and about Grandma Daisy’s legacy. I’ve never been one for big new year’s resolutions, but I think this year is about decreasing my investment in a lot of things and increasing my investment in just three.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 9

Detail
Image via Wikipedia

Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. 
      Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. 
Proverbs 9:7 (NLT) 

One of the tasks I have in my job is to sit down one-on-one with people, listen to some of their phone calls, and help them learn how they can do a better job serving their customers. It’s not rocket science, but companies recognize that when a customer calls with a question or a need there is moment of truth taking place. That customer will walk away with a distinct impression of the company based on how that associate handled the call. So, I help them make it as positive an interaction as possible.

As you might imagine, I have coached a diverse number of people. Some of them are “mockers” who clearly do not want to be there, listen to little or nothing I have to say, and refuse to change even the simplest of behaviors. I’ve been cussed at, threatened, insulted and had people turn away cross their arms and refuse to look at me. I’ve learned over time that there is little I can do for some people other than to provide them the information as clearly and positively as I can without reacting to their negative behaviors.

Fortunately others are open, teachable and desire to do a great job. They are willing to listen to my feedback and genuinely try to change their behaviors.

I couldn’t help but think of the different people I’ve coached over the years as I read of Wisdom contrasting those who are “mockers” and those who are “wise” in today’s chapter. I’ve seen the difference and I understand why she advises not wasting your time with certain people.

When it comes to work I am paid to coach everyone and to do my best to communicate even with those who will refuse to listen. When it comes to life I have more latitude to focus my time, energy and conversation in relationships that will bring life and fill life’s well. The older I get, the more discerning I become with regard to whom I will interact.

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 25

"You're fired!"
Image by gwilmore via Flickr

“The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.'” Matthew 25:22-23 (MSG)

After meditating on the parable of the workers this morning, I find myself unable to stop thinking about the parable as an episode of The Apprentice. In many ways, the parable is an “Apprentice” episode. The boss has three apprentices and wants to see how they will do. Who will he ultimately make partner? Who does he need to fire?

As an employer, I love to find people who approach their work as if they were an owner. That’s basically what the first two workers in Jesus’ parable did. They were entrusted with taking care of their master’s money and they thought about what their master would do and want done with his money. They had learned from watching their master’s investment strategies. They knew how he thought. They managed the money entrusted to them by thinking like the master. It paid off.

[cue Donald Trump: “You’re hired.”]

The third person in Jesus’ parable said he thought about what his master wanted, but really he was thinking about himself. “How can I accomplish the task with the least amount of effort and the least amount of risk?” 

[cue Donald Trump: “You’re fired.”]

(btw: I’m quite sure that the third worker immediately filed a wrongful termination claim. Walking out of the boss’ office, the third worker mutters: “It’s so unfair. I did exactly what he asked me to do!”)

I hate to be cliche’ but there really is value in asking “What would Jesus, my master, do in this situation? How would Jesus want me to respond?” The boss and Master of the universe has blessed me with so much. I have time, I have life and limb, I have resources and energy that are entrusted to me. How am I investing myself?

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