Hope for your financial life and beyond

An Open Hand: The Most Powerful Money Visual Ever

Hidden Nuggets Series #20 – “…you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need…” – Deuteronomy 15:7-8

money in open handGiving is especially on my mind as we enter the holiday season.  I recently talked about why people give for the wrong reasons and how dangerous that can be. I followed that up on Wednesday by describing the five step giving plan my wife and I use to decide where our money goes.

What I’ve realized is that personal finance is all about making intentional and wise decisions with your money. Giving is no different.

Through it all, there has been one common theme related to giving – our attitude.

Several years ago I heard someone speak about our mental attitude in relation to how we view money. This person used a powerful visual that has stuck with me ever since. I’d like to share it with you today because it has revolutionized how I think about money and the opportunities I have to give.

The Open Hand Symbolism

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Giving for the Wrong Reasons This Christmas (Or Anytime)

salvation army bucket

Image courtesy of salvationarmyusa.org

The calendar has now turned into December and that means our thoughts are shifting focus towards Christmas. There will be so many activities to attend, so many destinations to travel to, and so much delicious food to consume.

And there will be so much giving that takes place.

December is the month specifically devoted to giving. We regularly give in many ways throughout the year, but it all seems to come focused together during the December holiday season. Schools have students bring in clothing items for distribution to children from low-income families. Pastors preach sermons and urge their congregation to fill local food pantries. The Salvation Army kettles show up outside department stores. And of course, families celebrate the season by gathering around the tree on Christmas morning.

These are all good things designed to meet needs and bless people at a special time of the year.

However, if we are not careful, we can get hooked into giving for inappropriate reasons. This can have a negative impact on our budget, not to mention our emotional and psychological makeup. That’s why it’s important to analyze to whom we are giving and why.

Giving For the Wrong Reasons

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The Boy vs. the Blog – Exercises in Giving

Hidden Nugget Series #10 – “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”  Matthew 10:42

800px-Football_on_groundToo often my thoughts degenerate into believing that only quantity has value. In other words, I mistakenly believe that when giving, it needs to be done in great amounts. While there are times and places to give generously, perhaps even exorbitantly, I’m convinced that isn’t the norm.

Last week I’m seated one evening at our downstairs computer pounding out another Luke1428 blog post. I’m on a roll as each sentence is coming quickly. (Oh if it were only this easy to write every blog post.) Then half-way through my glorious blog-writing experience, disaster struck.

My 10-year old son peeks around the corner and asks me to throw the football with him.

Ugh. Major cognitive dilemma.

Do I go play with him and risk losing my train of thought? (It’s incredible frustrating to have a writing groove interrupted.) Or do I simply tell him “Sorry bud, daddy is working and can’t play right now?”

What would you do?

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Attachment: The Giving Killer

Hidden Nuggets Series #4  – ”You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices…” – Exodus 22:29

1993 JeterMy baseball cards are pretty special to me. My first ones were collected in the early 1980s as rewards after our Little League games. Our coach would give us each a dollar to use at the concession stand when we won. I always purchased a small Barq’s cream soda and two packs of baseball cards. The trip home from the ball field was spent shuffling through the cards to locate my favorite Cincinnati Reds players, all the while chomping on the stale gum from the card packs.

That began a favorite hobby of mine that has continued off and on to this day as I’ve amassed around 12,000 cards. If you came to my house though, you would never know it because for the last 10 years 98% of them have been boxed away in the basement, tucked neatly into baseball card pages and three-ring binders. The other 2% are in the fire safe box, also basically locked away from view.

Every so often, I think about selling the cards, thus ridding myself of the torture of always moving the boxes when they are in the way. Something holds me back though.

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Would it Make You Sad to Give Away Your Possessions?

BMW

It’s a tough question to answer, isn’t it? My mind immediately goes to the question “How much stuff am I being asked to give away?” I could easily part with many things in my house and not feel any pain.

But what if I was being asked to give away the entire house? Or my cars? Or sell all my investments and give the proceeds away? Oy, that’s enough…I’m starting to get woozy.

I can think of only one instance where this might occur…

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Ways We Lie About Money

Have you ever told a little white lie about money? What might a “money-lie” look like? Here are some examples I could think of:

*Exaggerating your net worth or monthly income on a blog post.

Woman Quiet

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*Saying you got a better deal on an item than you really did.

*Telling someone who asked for money that you didn’t have any with you to give (ashamed to say I’m guilty here).

*Pretending you gave more to a cause than you actually did.

*Hiding or covering up your spending habits. (Guilty here as well and as you can read about here).

*Failing to report income earned in cash on your tax forms.

Why are we so apt to distort the truth? I think the core of the issue revolves around three main principles:

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“Give It Away Now” – Saving to Give

Chili PeppersI’ve been on a series of articles lately about the reasons we need to focus on saving money. I’ve dealt with everything from saving for emergencies, to saving for purchases, to saving for the children’s college and our own personal retirement.

I’m concluding this series today by proposing something that may seem radical. When I tell you this final reason why I believe we should save money, it’s going to seem contradictory and you may think I’m crazy. But I think the continual practice of this does more to enhance our lives than all the millions of dollars we could possibly accumulate.

To quote Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, we need to save money so that we can “Give it away now.”

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Giving: Like Never Before

Give to charity - FDP CreditHave you ever taken a moment to evaluate and reflect on how you organize your monthly budget? What line items find their way to the top of the column? Mortgage…food…car loan…clothing…pet food…Netflix subscription? What tends to get left over and pushed to the bottom?

I believe our budgets give us an indication of what we value most in life. We put the have-to-happen items at the top and the things-you-could-do-without-if-you-had-to items at the bottom. Makes sense. I mean, after all, we have to prioritize.

Everyone’s priorities are different and there is nothing wrong with that because our individual situations are unique. However, there is one priority we could probably give more attention to, and in 2013, I want to make it a goal. I want to give like never before.

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How to Get the Most Out of Christmas

I know stores already have decorations on display, but for me, Saturday, December 1st will officially begin the start of the 2012 Christmas season. In the next 25 days, we will attempt to cram more into each 24-hour day than is usually desirable. For me, the annual cramming revolves around two specific lists – my December “To Do List” and my December “Present Wish List.”

The “To Do List” for December is very important for me because as a teacher I receive a two-week vacation as school is out of session for Christmas break. (Not really a vacation because I take care of our four kids.) This gives me a greatly needed window of time to catch up on tasks at home. “Yes dear, I am putting that storm door up soon.”

The “Present Wish List” is all about what I would like to receive on Christmas day during our annual gift exchange.

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Forget Me Not

“For the needy shall not always be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.” – Psalm 9:18

It has been a horrific week in the northeast. In case you missed it, Hurricane Sandy ripped through New Jersey and New York, devastating the region. Many lives have not returned to normal as they are still lacking some basic necessities of life like food and shelter. Other lives will never return to normal as they have lost loved ones to this epic storm.

With power still not restored in some places and gas in short supply, the coming days will still present a high degree of challenge for those who are assisting in the relief efforts. But this week might prove to be even tougher for the affected residents of the east coast for an entirely different set of reasons.

America is moving on to a different news cycle.

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A Giving Spirit Is the Path to Friendship

I love the book of Proverbs. One reason is because Solomon filled it with so many one-liners. (I read a post once on Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like blog how he describes Proverbs as the original Twitter. That’s pretty cool.) Most of the one-liners are fairly easy to digest and interpret…pretty straightforward. But once in a while, you are not exactly sure what he is trying to say. Or maybe he is trying to say multiple things in one tweet. I think that may have been the case in Proverbs 19:6 when he says,

“Many entreat the favor of the nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gifts.”

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