Family Investment Strategies

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Intended for Father’s Day weekend, these thoughts are a bit behind schedule!

This past Spring, Emily & I co-led and participated in our first ever Financial Peace University…which was CRAZY helpful in getting our minds wrapped around goals for our marriage and family.  The line we heard repeated more than anything else was this:

Live like no one else now so that you can live like no one else later!

Translation:  be willing to make sacrifices early on for a later pay off.  Choose homemade cards, board games and Family Dollar instead of bling, cruises and Neiman Mark-up. The savings and investments made early move a person into the realm of enjoying things without debt later.  And for the believer, moves him/her into the reality of eventually being able to bless specific ministries in extraordinary ways.

A fun way to teach this to our kids is sharing FPU’s investment calculator.  (Click HERE to preview and play around with it). I wish I had a picture of my oldest child’s face with this scenario:  $2000 invested at age 18, with NO more money paid in, at a 10% average rate of return by age 68 = $243,781!  But take the exact same scenario and have $100 per month drafted from your checking account.  In the same time span, the yield is $1.7 million!

It goes to show that a little, invested early, and continued over time reaps a great harvest.  This is a great principle for parents!  And I hope, an encouragement as well.  Many parents I know are working very long hours to provide for their families in this difficult economy. Many more are trying the accomplish the task which ought to be shared by a spouse all by herself.  As discouragement takes hold, it is easy to feel like one has skipped  today’s or this month’s payment, or maybe even has made some big withdrawals.

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Houston…we may have a problem!

But be encouraged, and know that every small kindness with the intent to nurture and reflect the Father’s love adds value that is compounding. Even if gone unappreciated in the moment, every

  • note in a lunch box
  • book read at bedtime
  • backyard ball game played
  • recital attended
  • music lesson, practice, rehearsal driven to (in your minivan with 248,000 miles)
  • prayer prayed over him, his folded clothes, made up bed
  • homework sheet assisted
  • “funeral” for yet another pet that kicked it
  • hug
  • wrestling match in the floor when you “let” him win
  • surprise “just because” little gift
  • lovingly confrontive conversation rather than letting it go unspoken
  • time spent doing something she loves (but you might hate)
  • “I love you” spoken
  • time you spent answering the questions you never saw coming, but by the grace of God were able to answer truthfully and without freaking out…

all these things compound the interest. These and more add to the vocation of biblical parenting:  to nurture our children towards being a gift for God’s world.  It’s biblical because it images the Heavenly Father upon them.  It’s obedience because you recognize your child as a divinely entrusted gift. It’s spiritual formation for the parent because as a father or mother, you make the investment not only for your joy but especially for others to savor.

This becomes the heart-cry of the believing parent: that the LORD may shape my son/daughter and use this life so that others may know and be in eternity with Him.

Hang in there moms and dads.  Even if today’s deposit is only a dime, it may be greater progress than you realize.  In God’s hands, He can turn the investment made in your child into an endowment instead of a Social Security check.

And for the record, this is why I’m late this week:

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 Your family is your small group.

 

Legos, Missions & Finding Joy

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It’s been a week of reentry.
You know, that week after vacation when you catch yourself staring at the wall while responding to the 487 emails that accumulated while gone and re-living the sun on your face in the lazy river at the resort, and…Oh sorry.  I did it again.  I’m back.  I love being home, but it’s great to savor great memories made with family.  On more than one occasion, Emily & I have fondly reminisced “what we were doing this time last week.”
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But if you read my previous blog, you already know there are some memories better left in Florida!  There is one scene, however, that I keep replaying in my mind.  I’m not quite sure what adjective should be assigned to it.  Astounding? Incredulous? Dangerous? Disturbing? “What could it be!?” you might ask.  THE LEGO STORE.
In case you weren’t aware, the Plank’s are serious Lego people.  I’m not talking about the 10 minute Duplo sets, I mean put-on-your-seatbelt-we’ll-be-here-for-8-hours-with-a-manual-putting-this-together people.  We went to Legoland. And thanks to 3 young boys, I can quote vast parts of the movie.  I love it that their little minds are attracted to this genre of imagination.  We have fun completing these sets together; and we’ve found that some great conversations can take place in the midst of all that construction.
But the store…wow!  We visited 3 times, and each time people were snatching and grabbing products as if there would NEVER be another Lego made.  It was like Black Friday, except EVERY day!  This is the scene that continues mentally replaying.  It disturbs me on a couple of levels.  First, that we can place so much importance and faith in a product to bring us joy and secondly, recognizing how easily we can be sucked into the hysteria.
There is an important lesson we are trying to teach our kids:  “stuff” is not ultimately going to make them happy. How crazy is it that we are still learning that one…even as adults?  I’ll be happy if I get everything I want is not true.  A growing disciple must constantly wrestle with the fact that our soul’s default is utterly selfish.  I will continually be tempted to snatch and grab products and experiences that fill me in a desperate attempt to experience joy.  And if you’ve been a believer for a long time, be forewarned:  the Enemy’s strategy gets more diabolical…
I just didn’t get what I was looking for from that message today.
This church really needs to provide more services and activities for me.
I only go to Bible studies where there are really mature believers.
I’m going to let someone else volunteer this year…I’ve done my time.
The music chosen for worship isn’t my taste, so I’ll stand in the foyer until it’s over.
These thoughts, and others like them, will streak across your mind at some point.  And when they do, there is a spiritual antibiotic ready to remove them: service.  And when the fever hits, ingest it or else the dis-ease will spread.  You can’t serve without humility, and humility always involves an emptying of the heart.  I love this quote from Andy Stanley:
 
“As leaders, we are never responsible for filling anyone else’s cup. Our responsibility is to empty ours.”
― Andy StanleyDeep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend
 
This week, several from our church, along with one of my little Lego-Builders (Jordan) had the privilege of “emptying their cups” alongside the Chattahoochee Fuller Center in their first-ever Block of Blessings.  A large part of our community is in legosdesperate need of restoration.  This great organization took one week to do home repairs, paint, mow, plant, pressure wash and restore beauty to a single street.  One block of South 2nd Ave. in Lanett, AL is now a sparkling, inspiring example of what I hope will continue happening in our community. Alongside a lot of hard work, it brought me so much joy to see my child developing friendships with folks of multiple races and with believers from other parts of the country. And also with the sweetest Ms. Newby, whose face was filled with smiles and tears as she daily invited us to her front porch swing during construction on her house, and continually reminded us that we would never know how much this meant to her.
 
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At the dedication & prayer of blessing at each home on South 2nd this afternoon, the President of Fuller Center said these words:  “it’s important what you say, but it’s what you do that defines you.”  Sounds a bit like James 2:26 to me.
 
Maybe one of the best ways we can disciple our families this summer is to not focus only on all the fun experiences that we think will fulfill us, but upon constructing opportunities where we empty ourselves.  Who knows, your next mission trip might be one street over.  And it just might be even more amazing than Legos.
Your family is your small group.
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