Posted in focus on faith

Dirty Little Secrets

If your true financial condition were put up on a billboard for all your friends and family to see, would can-stock-photo_csp13318719you feel satisfaction and peace? Or would you feel deep embarrassment? (Bill Hybels, Simplify)

Welcome back to the fourth instalment of my blog-crawl through Bill Hybels’ book Simplify. Today’s chapter deals with money, more specifically our relationship with finances.

In his four decades of pastoral ministry Hybels has counselled scores of people — many high-earning professionals — who have wept with shame and humiliation over the dreadful mess they have made of their finances.

So strongly does he believe in the need for financial reconciliation with God, Hybels says it is similar to spiritual reconciliation. He has found five central tenets for full financial reconciliation in Scripture and here they are verbatim:

Belief #1: All I have comes from God

  • none of us got to where we are today on our own

Belief #2: I live joyfully within God’s current provision for my life 

  • debt comes from wanting more than God’s current provision for your life and arranging other ways (credit cards, loans, second mortgages, lines of credit, etc) to get it
  • true financial peace comes only when you can live joyfully beneath God’s provision; in other words, spend less than you earn.

Belief #3: I honour God by giving the first tenth of all my earnings to His purposes in the world (this is called a “tithe” in Christian circles)

  • it requires faith to live on 90% of your income but the pay-off is that God ushers you into a life not available to the person who insists they need to keep all 100% of their earnings. Your “ticket” into the place where you experience God’s peace and blessing costs one tenth of your earnings. If you are already doing this, you understand. If you’re not, you think this is crazy.

Belief #4: I set aside a portion of all my earnings into a savings account for emergencies, giving opportunities and my later years.

  • adopting a 10-10-80 rule works well for Hybels. Give 10% to God’s work, save 10%, live on 80%. However, even starting with as little as one or two percent in savings each pay period will make a difference over time.

Belief #5: I live each day with an open ear toward heaven, eager to respond to any whisper from God regarding my resources.

  • Christianity is not a set of rules, it’s a dynamic two-way relationship with God. Financial freedom allows you to respond to God’s whispers when He makes you aware of a need you can meet from your 80%.

Okay friends, it’s Dirty Little Secret time! If your true financial condition were put up on a billboard for all your friends and family to see, would you feel satisfaction and peace? Or would you feel deep embarrassment? The Action Steps for this chapter are to prayerfully work your way through all five beliefs; Hybels recommends journalling your commitments in response.

Here it is for all to see…slight twitch in left eye…. The beliefs, in my own words, and my responses are below:

#1: It’s all His: Yup! We’re good.

#2: Live within our means: We did for years, then we didn’t for years, and now we do again. As I mentioned in an earlier blog we incurred some debt in the form of a credit line. We chose to do this during a high-expense season of raising our family because we believed it was more important to finance with some funds borrowed against our house than to exchange our ministry careers for secular jobs that paid higher wages. However, since April 2014, we have reduced our debt by 30% and are on track to see it paid off in less than two years. I will add that we have never carried credit card debt — we always pay it off each month.

#3: Give some back: I am happy (and humbled) to say that we have been “tithers” since before we married and I can think of only two times in…hmmmm, gotta get a calculator here… 451 months of marriage that we have not given at least 10% of our earnings to God’s work through the church.

#4: Save some: I am also glad (relieved!) to say we have some money set aside for our “later” years — which are just around the corner! We do, of course, expect our “spoiled” kids to take care of us once we’ve spent their inheritance. We remind them of this quite often….

#5: Say yes to God’s promptings: This is where the real joy of financial freedom comes from. When you are able to step up and help someone in need, the reward is priceless! We’ve been able to do this scores of times and the feeling of satisfaction can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

Don’t feel like you need to share your dirty little secrets but feel free to jump in with a comment on what you think about finding simplicity through keeping (or putting) your financial house in order.

Posted in focus on faith

Simplified Living is Far From Simple!

“Simplified living requires more than just organizing your closets or cleaning out your desk drawer. It requires uncluttering your soul.” Bill Hybels

As we went around the table at our Caring Circle monthly meeting, each woman in turn started the same way, “I’m so tired!” Young moms, grandmothers, working-outside-the-home moms, working-at-home moms. Our ages spanned four decades yet our stories were the same. I’m pooped! And I don’t like it!

I hear the same words repeated over and over: exhausted, overwhelmed, over scheduled, anxious, isolated, dissatisfied testifies Bill Hybels in Simplify. Hybels says he began talking about “simplifying” in response to meeting so many people all over the world who were facing burnout, stress and dissatisfaction.

Why is it that a full generation after learning there is no such thing as Superwoman (the dedicated employee, involved mother, sexpot spouse who never has a headache. She’s a gourmet cook, fashionably dressed, stylishly coiffed, gel nailed, completely accessorized dynamo with buns of steel who teaches weekly Bible studies and volunteers for her community association) women are still knocking themselves out trying to squeeze into that skimpy leotard with the Big S stretched across their bursting bosom?

Everybody is writing and talking about simplifying these days. Go to Amazon and key in “simplify” and you will have scores of resources to choose from. They span concepts like frugality, minimalism, decluttering, organizing, downsizing and more. But most of us are too tired and busy to read those books and we don’t need the stress of having to add one more thing to our lives even if that one-more-thing is “finding a way out of the mess I’m in!”

To most of us the word simplify means “get rid of.” It might mean I need to purge my closet of all the clothes I don’t fit, don’t like, and don’t wear so I can easily access what I do fit, do like and do wear. It might mean get rid of time-wasters, like watching Netflix so I can be more active…but what if I lose weight and have to bring all those skinny clothes back to my overstuffed closet? Oh rats! Two steps forward; one step back.

There are no shortcuts to simplified living, says Hybels. Untangling yourself from the overscheduled, overwhelming web of your current life is not for the faint of heart. It’s honest rigorous work…. Action is required. Hybels then outlines 10 practices to unclutter your soul. These practices deal with finances, time management, relationships, work, forgiveness, and energy to name a few. He concludes each chapter with action steps because reading the book alone will not simplify your life — taking action will. I’m already tired and Bill just told me I need to take action!?

Simplified living is about…being who God called us to be….If you crave a simpler life anchored by the priorities that matter most…you can stop doing the stuff that doesn’t matter and build your life on the stuff that does, Hybels says. Join me as I work my way through Hybels’ 10 practices in my next series of blogs. I will try to be as honest as I can about my “action plan” and how those actions are working — or not — to unclutter my soul. I invite your comments about your own efforts to simplify.