Categories
Christian Living

The upside of fear

Stupid spreadsheet.

Typically, I’m a pretty positive– upbeat — and self-confident person. I’m told I’m overly optimistic by my friends. But the past few weeks have brought about unfamiliar emotions. Negativity, melancholy, and anxiety. 

And since these are unfamiliar emotions I haven’t quite known how to respond. In situations where I’m typically chipper I’ve been quiet. In moments I typically shrug off bad news and instantly turn it into a positive I’ve been silent. I’ve been asked for ideas on things and just not had solutions where I normally have been so dependable.

It’s not that I don’t have stuff to say its that I think its time to be quiet and listen– I don’t want the wrong words to come out because of my emotional state so I just bit my tongue.

It all goes back to the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet brought out fear I’d never had before. And, like all fear, it’s illogical and stupid.

The Spreadsheet

As a small business owner my income and expenses are all captured on a master spreadsheet. This gives me a month-by-month look at my business, where my money is coming from and where it is going. (Very similar to a personal budget.) Heading into the summer my balance sheet was very strong for the rest of 2012… this summer we had some record breaking months and some projects coming this fall which could double, even triple what we made in the same months of 2011.

Then over the last few weeks I’ve had to revise some of some numbers down. At the same time I had to make these revisions we ran into a normal business cycle where I pay a lot of money out while I’m waiting for a lot of income to come in. (I call this cash poor, invoice rich.) When larger businesses hit these business cycles they take out short-term loans. But we’re small enough where we just float through these times with our savings.

But it was those normal revisions and that normal business cycle which brought out all of that funky emotional junk.

Factually speaking, the numbers aren’t even that bad. We will still make more than we need. We are totally fine. But the act of making those changes and seeing all that cash go out planted a seed of doubt in me which grew into fear. “What if the cash doesn’t come back?” “What if it gets worse?” “Why don’t I have ____ in savings for when this happens?” “Why don’t I have a line of credit at the bank in case to cover this better?” On and on and on.

This is what I know about fear: Fear will make you dumb. Fear whispers lies in your ears. Fear makes you say no to things you should say yes to and visa versa.

And all of that was true of me in August. Our last camping trip came at a perfect time. Just when I was thinking, “What am I going to do?” We went and looked at the stars and took hikes and laughed and giggled until bed time.

Those 4 days gave me the perspective I so desperately needed: We are totally fine. 

Sitting by the fire helped calm my nerves. It helped lower my anxiety. It reminded me that everything would be OK.

The Upside of Fear

Sitting in church the other day I think it all started to wash over me. Not all fear is bad. I’m afraid of what a spreadsheet says might happen in 3-4 months? Really? How could I be so stupid? Talk about a lack of perspective in light of all that I know about Our God! Talk about allowing emotions to rule over facts! Talk about putting your faith and trust in something really, really small!

Here’s my observation: The only good kind of fear is the kind which leads you to taking positive action. 

Photo credit: James Stark via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Categories
Christian Living

Towards Simplicity

Photo by Steve Minor via Flickr (Creative Commons)

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Simple Gifts – Elder Joseph Brackett, Shaker

This has hardly been our theme song for 2010. Yet, Kristen and I have made some serious moves towards simplicity this year. Ever since I read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I’ve been fascinated by the concept that less is more in my life.

The Simple Things

  • Quantity time with the kids, individually. As the kids are getting older we are making sure to schedule time for mom and dad to spend big chunks of time with each of us 1-on-1.
  • Gardening. I can’t tell you how many deeply simple Biblical principles have been illuminated to us through our garden this year. For me, the biggest one has been– You have to prune daily, you have to weed regularly– Otherwise good things will take over your life and bad things will choke out your growth.
  • Staycation- I suppose not everyone lives in a vacation destination quite like we do. But there was something so beautiful about renting a house 45 minutes away and spending a week with family.
  • Financially sound – I was shocked when I looked at some graphs on Mint.com the other day. I told Kristen, “We did a really good job this year. We’re ahead in every category and on target or ahead in every goal.” It’s amazing what can happen if you’ll just live within your means. In 2010, we were able to give or save 25.4% of our income.
  • Meaningful roadies- In November, I lamented a lot about being away from home 14 weeks in 2010. (27% of 2010) At the same time, most of those trips were really meaningful. And not all of that was away from family. (Including the mission trip with Kristen, probably the most valuable trips of our marriage.)
  • Friendship – It’s incredible to have a life full of friendships. (Or as a co-worker calls them, “Adam’s bromances and brarriages.”) While having a bunch of great friendships is huge to me… nothing has made me more excited than to see Kristen develop some deep friendships with a few women in our community group.
  • Real food – We’ve far exceeded our desire to buy/grow 25% of our food from organic sources in 2010. While it might not sound immediately like a step towards simplicity: Going to the farmers market (and even visiting the farm where our food comes from) has not only connected us to where our food comes from– we feel a lot better. There’s nothing finer than enjoying a salad or eating fruit that you’ve grown yourself.
  • Acting on convictions – Putting what you believe to action really is a step towards simplicity. That might not sink in at first, but remember that regrets and the conflict caused by sitting idly on your convictions creates stressful complexity. All year long I’ve asked myself, “Am I making the most of this opportunity? Am I acting on my convictions? Will I regret it if I don’t say that?”
  • Towards a small world – No doubt, I have many friendships all around the country and around the world. But taking the step to try to focus some of that energy onto the block we live has been rewarding. We’re looking to allocate more of our time/resources towards that in 2011.
  • Journalling – I’m headed into my seventh year of journalling my life online. This little discipline has transformed my life. It’s really interesting when I interact with people who are thinking about starting a blog. “When will I have the time? What will I say? Will people read it?” I come at it daily with the exact opposite thoughts. The time I spend journalling brings me life. What I write just comes out of my life. And I don’t care if anyone reads it.

It’s funny how simplicity is different for everyone. When I think of my life, filled with a calendar full of meetings, digital gadgets, hours online per day, on and on… I still consider it grounded in simplicity. Perhaps that makes me a digital simpleton?

I don’t have grandiose plans to drive this further in 2011. With baby #3 coming soon I think we’ll just be happy to hold on to the progress we’ve made in 2010. You know, keep it simple.

What steps towards simplicity are you taking? What are things you’d challenge me towards in 2011?

Categories
Sports

Fixing College Football

Mark Cuban is admirable for trying to fix college football.

Let’s start with this: It’s broken.

2010 is case in point. In mid-January Oregon will play Auburn in a game labeled “the BCS championship game.” But, if TCU wins the Rose Bowl they deserve to be co-national champions, too. We’ll simply never know who is the best team in the college football in 2010.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. It’s happened a lot in college football. And it’s always the big money conferences shutting out the Little Sisters of the Poor. (As Ohio State president & chairman of the board of the foot-in-mouth council calls them.)

It’s about the money

We all know it. No one believes that it is about the athletes academic calendar… as the NCAA so stupidly claims. They certainly allow a playoff in every other sport, regardless of academic issues.

It’s about TV rights, protecting lesser bowls, visitor bureau’s, guaranteed payouts, conference affiliations, and a whole litany of people who are getting paid on the side.

It’s not about championships

We will never know who the football national champion is until we have a playoff. Why? We are leaving it up to computers and polls and fluke plays to determine who the champion is. Are Auburn and Oregon the best teams right now? Ask Ohio State, Michigan State, and Stanford that question.

Imagine just putting Duke vs. Kansas every year in the finals and calling that a basketball championship? What makes March Madness so fun for the whole country is that we take the best teams and let them decide who the champion is by playing the game.

The solution– Keep all of the bowls; have a 16 team playoff

First, shorten the regular season to 10 games. Then have a conference championship game determine who gets the automatic bid. Allow 5 at-large bids, top 11 conferences get an automatic bid.

That would be: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big 10, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 10, SEC, Sun Belt, and WAC.

Second, identify the top 8 bowls the week of Christmas. Play in a 2 day rotation of 4 games each day.

That would be: Independence Bowl, Little Caesar Bowl, (formerly Motor City Bowl) Las Vegas Bowl, Gator Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, New Orleans Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, and Holiday Bowl.

Third, the round of 8 would be played on January 1st. The Final 4 would be played the second Saturday of January. These would be the six big games we all love. They’d be competitive and they would mean something. This would make January 1st an incredible day of college football. A rotation of the top 6 bowls would cover these.

That would be: Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Rose Bowl, and Gator Bowl.

Fourth, the championship game would be played the 3rd Saturday of January. (Or, maybe more ideally, the Saturday between the AFC/NFC Championship & Super Bowl game.) I would argue that the game should be played annually in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl. Let’s face it, the Rose Bowl is the most amazing place in college football to play a big game. It’s perfect in every way.

Two ideas for fixing the money problem

  1. Each participating school would earn an equal share of tickets, television, and all other monies paid to the NCAA for the coverage of this, just like in basketball.
  2. The rest of the remaining teams & bowls would be invited to play in the exact same system we already have. That’s 20 bowls left untouched! A 16 team playoff only effects and enhances 15 bowl games. We all know everyone would make more money.

This shows this isn’t just about money. It’s about pride. The SEC, Big 10, Pac 10, Big East, and Big 12 are just plain scared to play teams from other conferences. I don’t know how fans of those conferences can be proud of teams who are afraid to play anyone on any day.

Categories
Culture

Two quick axioms about money

Photo by Alan Cleaver via Flickr (Creative Commons)

  1. If the average American spends 3-5% more than they make in a month– making more money is not the solution to financial woes. If you made $1 million and spent $1.05 million a year, you’d be the same fool with money you are today.
  2. If the financial institutions of our country were as diligent about collecting information from customers as the average retail clerk, we wouldn’t have had as many bad loans in the housing market.Do you want to open a credit card and save 5%? Would you like to make a donation? Would you like to buy the extra insurance?

Got any observations about money lately? Share them in the comments.

Categories
illustrations

Where to Rent vs. Buy

HT to Mint

Categories
Weblogs

Best of 2004

Note: I’m on vacation this week. My family has a rule for daddy– It’s not a vacation if daddy brings a computer. Each day this week I’m highlighting my favorite post from the adammclane.com archives. These are oldies but goodies.

Yes, I am Wasting My Life

August 31st 2004

Again this month we are short financially. Grad school came calling. Preschool came calling. Uncle Sam gets his cut in a few days. A combination of expected and unexpected expenses draws a little more money from savings to checking in a constant game of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Life’s expenses are again expensive. Each time this happens to me I start to reminisce about what life could have been like for Kristen and Megan and Paul. Had we stayed on the path of corporate success in Chicago we wouldn’t have this to worry about. The bills always got paid in full. There was always a little extra at the end of the month. We could always surprise someone with a special gift. Vacation? No problem. New tires? How about the best? New clothes? Why not. Yet in the same moments I recall the emptiness I had as I laid in bed at night, longing for my life to be wasted for something more important than getting richer… or more precisely, helping rich people get richer.

Read the rest

It’s 2010. I am still here. I am still wasting my life. And I still love every minute of it.

Categories
family

Bringing May to a Merciful End

New feature at Chase.com

I am thankful for Memorial Day weekend. A beach day ahead– but that’s not why I’m so happy it’s the official start to summer. I’m just happy to get May out of the way.

The last 45 days have sucked for us financially. Like, literally, there has been a vacuum attachment having its way with our bank account.

A mistake on a tax form. SLURP. A little fender bender with an uninsured driver. SLURP. Some bi-annual bills. SLURP. SLURP. SLURP. Paying for our summer vacation. SLURP. Going on a mission trip. SLURP. Replacing some broken stuff. SLURP.

Two points of celebration. This series of unscheduled bills brought out all of the temptations.

  • Celebration #1: Savings!
  • Celebration #2: We didn’t put it on credit!

I logged into Mint the other day and I expected a pop-up to slide down and go… “You’re kidding me right now, aren’t you?” May was a blood bath of a month for us. But we got through it and we’re happy to see it go.

I can’t wait for June. I’m ready to start off a new month.

Categories
haiti

Support my Haiti trip

I would greatly appreciate any financial support you can help us with as we head back to Haiti to lead a team on July 19-25. As I mentioned in the video– we are trying to offset these expenses so we can not only honor God with our service but also our financial stewardship at the same time. If you’d prefer to mail a check, here is a link to our Chip page which has our address.

Categories
Church Leadership

It only takes 10 givers to fund a church

People don’t like to talk money and the church. It makes people instantly think of TV evangelists.

And while those TV evangelists swindled millions out of well-meaning, hard-working Americans, the truth is that 99% of churches are great places and not full of crooks.

I have an encouragement for my friends just entering their 30s, you’re finally hitting the earning power to make a difference in your church.

Here’s something that may be news to you: It only takes about 10 solid givers for a small-to-medium-sized church to stay solvent.

Working for a small church this was clear. 6-7 core “giving units” provided a solid foundation of giving on which our monthly budget was built. We didn’t really know who they were but we were thankful for their faithfulness. But the $200-$500 a week they each gave weekly was the difference between the staff having a heart attack about the budget and knowing we’d at least make payroll! And, of course, people beyond that core group gave substantially too which made all the difference in the world for doing more than making payroll. Yet the fact remained that without those 6-7 anonymous folks we would have been in deep trouble.

Now, I’m sure $200-$500 per week seems unattainable. You’re saying that’s a lot of money! In some parts of the country $800/month is more than the mortgage. So you’ll have to do the math to figure out what that translates to in your local economy.

But here’s the point: These weren’t a special breed of super-givers. These were regular Joe’s and Mary’s. The median family income in that part of Michigan was about $60,000. That meant the median family brought home about $800/week after taxes. ($80/week if they tithed) Yet most of the folks in our church had professional jobs which paid much, more than that. All of a sudden you realize… the 6-7 families funding a big chunk of the church are really just average professionals tithing about 10% of what they brought home.

That’s where you come in. If just 5% of the church actually tithed, your church could stay solvent. I don’t mean they’d be in great shape. I just mean that 5-10 solid givers per hundred forms the foundation of giving for your church.

And if you are wise with your money you can be one of them soon.

Again, that may seem impossible. But if you got serious for the next 6-12 months on reducing your debt load you will be able to give a lot more. And while most people in their early-mid thirties are just starting to dig their way out of mountains of credit card debt, college loans, car loans, and the fat part of a mortgage… as they do that they are discovering they can have a lot more giving power.

It only takes 10 givers to fund a church. The question is simply– Do you want to be one of them?

Categories
Current Affairs hmm... thoughts

Poll: How much cash do you typically carry?


Maybe it’s just me, but I’m shocked to see how many people carry $50-$100 in cash in their wallets. Just so I know if I’m weird or not, humor me and let me know how much you typically have on you. (Totally secret, no way for me to know who said what.)