Don’t just believe stuff, do stuff.

Do you have a tool, an appliance, or a gadget somewhere around the house collecting dust, something you bought (or were given) one time but have never used? A lot of us probably do, and it makes me (Randy) think of Radio Shack’s slogan, “Don’t just buy stuff, do stuff.”

Radio Shack’s slogan also makes me think of a good slogan for Christ-followers: Don’t just believe stuff, do stuff!

Following Jesus involves more than attaining knowledge about God and the Bible. That’s important, but following Jesus is a way of life. When there’s a disconnect between what I believe and how I live, there’s a problem!

This is why you’ll normally see us use the description, “Christ-follower,” as opposed to descriptions like “Christian” or “believer” (not that there’s anything wrong with these tags, necessarily). I like “Christ-follower” because it indicates action. I believe God expects more from me than simply believing some things about him.

I believe God expects us to live out our beliefs!

Our Best Money Practices

Randy’s message on Sunday included a brief rundown of our best money practices. We believe it’s extremely important to have good money practices, but the purpose of good money practices is more than building a savings account or preparing for the future. The real purpose of good money practices is to honor God. John Wesley said, “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.” It’s about honoring God with our finances.

So, FWIW, here’s what we think our best money practices are. We hope they will be helpful to you.

1. Tithing/Giving. Our best money practice, hands down, is our commitment to give a percentage of our increase (everything we receive) to God. We believe the tithe (10%) is a good benchmark for us to start with. As we grow, we plan to continually (gradually) increase our giving. We currently designate a little more 10% for “tithes,” which we distribute to the churches we serve. We also designate an additional percentage for “offerings” to support special offerings and other ministries (see some of the “great causes” in the sidebar for some examples). We try to increase our giving every couple of years or so.

2. Tracking expenses. Next to tithing/giving, tracking our expenses has been one of our best money practices. It helps us know where our money goes and where we may need to make adjustments in the future. We track our expenses (and income) using an Excel document (which works well), but we are in the process of searching for alternatives (simply to see if there’s a better way). One service we’ll probably look into is Yodlee. “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.” (John Wesley)

3. Budget. Our budget, which we see our budget as more of a guideline than as something rigid, grew out of tracking our expenses. We have a good idea where our money will go because we know where it has gone in the past. At the beginning of the year, we can adjust the budget as necessary. One of the best things we’ve done is to budget amounts for individual things (e.g. clothes). In those areas, we don’t need to ask each other for permission to buy something as long as we have the money in our budget. It minimizes any conflict we might have over spending decisions, not to mention, sparing us the wasted time and energy. It also helps that neither of us are impulse spenders, and we’re both fairly frugal.

4. Use of credit cards. We’ve been using credit cards for (most) everything possible since we’ve been married. Because we use cash back credit cards, we have probably earned a few thousand dollars in cash back over the years. We pay as we go and have the full payments drafted from our bank account every month so we don’t have to worry about extra charges.

5. Planning for the future. In the last several years, we have been receiving a pension benefit through our service as pastors in the UMC. We also contribute part of our salaries to our pension plans as well. In the last couple of years we have tried to be more intentional about preparing for the future. As we expand our family in 2008, we will also begin thinking about saving for our child’s college expenses. The main thing is to plan ahead as much as possible.

These are our best money practices. Having good money practices is important. We’re sure there are some things we could do better. What are some of your best money practices? What areas do you need to work on? Let us know by leaving a comments below. Also, feel free to discuss any of the above.

“August Rush”

Yesterday, we went to see the movie, August Rush (official movie site). The movie caught our attention a few weeks ago the moment we saw the first preview/commercial on TV. We knew immediately that this is a movie we wanted to see as soon as possible. August Rush just opened in theaters this past Wednesday. “An incredible journey moving at the speed of sound.” (movie tagline)

And we were not disappointed. In fact, we were blown away. August Rush is a very moving movie. It’s no wonder that the movie won a Truly Moving Picture Award.

The movie tells the story of an 11-year-old boy, Evan Talyor, whose name is changed to August Rush (Freddie Highmore) by the Wizard (Robin Williams), who Evan meets on the streets of New York. The boy lives in an orphanage, but believes that he will be reunited with his birth parents one day. He believes the music that he hears in everything will somehow connect him to his parents — Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell) and Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) — from whom he was separated at birth.

We really look forward to this movie coming out on DVD in a few/several months. We may come back later and post some quotes from the movie after it’s released on DVD (subtitles on DVDs make it easy to transcribe some of the dialogue).

{Parenting} Shaping a God-Centered Culture

As you can imagine, we’re preparing to bring home our (first) child from Korea in early 2008 (sometime around February, possibly). In addition to practical things like getting a crib ready, we’re also thinking about the kind of environment, or culture, that we want to create in which to raise a child. “… one of our jobs as parents is to create … a culture where our child can grow and develop into a strong person who honors God.”

We’ve written a couple things along these lines before, including Parenting as Character Building 1.0 and 2.0.

We believe one of our jobs as parents is to create a certain kind of culture, a culture where our child can grow and develop into a Christ-following person who honors God. We’ll post some thoughts on various aspects of the kind environment we want to create, starting with Deuteronomy 6.4-9, which talks about shaping culture in the home …

Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up (Deuteronomy 6.7).

Shaping a God-centered culture. Our top priority as Christ-following parents is to create an environment where God is at the center of life. God is not simply a part of our lives or something that we add to the mix. God is our life.

Some of the ways we’ll try to keep God at the center include prayer, reading and internalizing Scripture, and by engaging in spiritual conversations, including the act of “doing theology” together as a family. Doing theology together simply means discussing life from a biblical perspective. Doing so, we believe, will help our child develop a biblical worldview (i.e. viewing life, and engaging in life, through the lens of the Scriptures).

BTW, it’s fun to think about parenting because parenting is simply one form of leadership. Much of what we’re thinking about is very much informed by what we’ve learned about leadership. Therefore, a lot of what we write in these posts may be applied to other areas of leadership as well.

Have any advice for us? How have you shaped a God-centered culture in your home?

Operation Christmas Child

Every year, Samaritan’s Purse conducts a wonderful outreach called “Operation Christmas Child.”

We’ve been able to participate in this ministry for the last several years through some of the churches we serve. This week is the week shoe boxes are delivered to drop-off locations all across the country, which will then be delivered to larger facilities for checking and packing, before finally being delivered to children all over the world.

May God bless children around the world as they receive show boxes, filled not only with little gifts, but even more importantly, acts of love.

Legendary Coaches: John Wooden

As we reach the end of this series of posts about legendary coaches from the special feature on the We Are Marshall DVD, we’re ready to learn from one of the greatest leaders/coaches in sports history, John Wooden. “… never cease trying to be the best you can be.” (Wooden)

On teaching …

A coach is nothing but a teacher. You’re just teaching a different subject than, say, English, which I taught for many years. But you’re still teaching, you still follow the laws of learning, work with people under your supervision, just as you do in any other position where you’re in charge, so to speak.

On talent …

I think all of those who reach–in the coaching profession, that reach the status where they seem to be considered among the better, it’s because they all had extraordinary talent. You don’t do it without talent. Not everyone does it with talent, but no one does it without talent.

On gentleness …

Abraham Lincoln said, ‘There’s nothing stronger than gentleness.’ And I believe that. […] It’s like leading and driving. I think the gentle person leads, I think the driver, it’s like being more in front with a banner than being behind with a whip.

On legacy …

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.

On getting prepared …

Cervantes said, ‘The journey is better than the end.’ I consider the journey–I equate that with practices. The end is the games. And I do believe that is important. It is the — getting prepared is the most important thing and that is the journey.

On being the best you can be …

Never try to be better than somebody else. You have no control over that. And that’s something my father gave me years before when I was in grade school: ‘Never try to be better than somebody else. Just learn from them, and never cease trying to be the best you can be. That’s under your control and the other isn’t.’

Great words from a great coach. Be sure to check out my earlier posts on Jack Lengyel, Bobby Bowden, Pat Summit, Lute Olson, and George Horton.

And for more info on the movie this special feature came from , see the We are Marshall page at imdb.com as well as the review we wrote of the movie.

Legendary Coaches: George Horton

We’re nearing the end of this series of posts about legendary coaches from the special feature on the We Are Marshall DVD. See my (Randy) earlier posts on Jack Lengyel, Bobby Bowden, Pat Summit, and Lute Olson.

“… it’s the quality of time that we spend.” (Horton)

Of all the coaches featured, I was the least familiar with George Horton, manager of the California State Titans baseball team. While I didn’t transcribe a lot of his words, I did enjoy listening to him talk about his experiences as a leader of his team.

On quality time …

If I had to say what is my philosophy, we think the difference in Cal State Fullerton baseball, and all the others that are out there, is not the time that we spend, it’s the quality of time that we spend. And doing everything. And I think you could say that in every endeavor that you take in into your life.

To learn more about the movie, see the We are Marshall page at imdb.com. Also, see our review of the movie.

Legendary Coaches: Lute Olson

I’ve (Randy) been posting quotes from the legendary coaches special feature on the We Are Marshall DVD. So far, I’ve covered Jack Lengyel, Bobby Bowden, and Pat Summit.

Lute Olson has some great quotes as well. “If you’re going to be good, you’re gonna have to be dedicated.” (Olson)

On motivation …

If you’re gonna coach, you have to make them better than they think they can be. And that’s not easy. That’s gonna take a lot of pushing and shoving, and, you know, some tough times.

On hard work …

In the current time, people are always looking for that quick fix, okay? You know, ‘I want this, but I don’t wanna have to spend the time and put the effort in to accomplish this.’ And that’s the great thing about athletics, that’s not possible. If you’re going to be good, you’re gonna have to be dedicated. The game is a game of fundamentals. There’s no way for someone to develop fundamentals other than through drill work and concentration on what they’re doing.

On adversity …

I think dealing with adversity, how you deal with it, is going to have a big effect on what you can accomplish during the course of your life.

On the value of living every day …

There have been so many situations that have happened in my lifetime, where, all of a sudden, someone that you would not think would be facing death is gone, like that. How can anyone think that death is gonna come at the time when I expect it to come? It’s not. Live every day. I’ve heard it too many times, ‘I wish I had …’ Okay, so if you wish you had, start doing it right now.

See the We are Marshall page at imdb.com. Also, see our review of the movie.

Legendary Coaches: Pat Summit

We’re in the middle of a series of posts with quotes from the We Are Marshall DVD, specifically the legendary coaches special feature. So far, we’ve posted quotes by Jack Lengyel and Bobby Bowden.

Next up, Pat Summit, who has had an incredible coaching career, coaching women’s basketball at the University of Tennessee. Pat Summit made a couple great statements. “You want to win … you gotta roll up your sleeves, and you gotta work.” (Summit)

On initiative and hard work …

What I think we have to do as coaches is, we have to be ready to say, ‘This is not going to be easy. You want to win, and you want to win a national championship, then you have to understand, you gotta roll up your sleeves, and you gotta work. And no one else can do that for you. You must do it for yourself. And kids coming in today, it is, it’s about instant gratification. Well, it’s not happening. You make it happen.

On fear of failure …

Sometimes people are–they hesitate to go for what they want for fear of failure. I’ve never been afraid of failing. I’ve always focused on the end result.

Fear of failure keeps so many people from making an effort. But that’s the only sure way to ensure failure. You gotta take a risk!

For more on the movie, go to the We are Marshall page at imdb.com. Also, check out our review of the movie.

Legendary Coaches: Bobby Bowden

Continuing with quotes from the Legendary Coaches special feature on the We Are Marshall DVD, next up is Florida State Head Football Coach Bobby Bowden

Of all the coaches featured in this DVD spot, I think I transcribed more of Bobby Bowden’s words than any of the others. There’s some great leadership material here. “You gonna have adversity … But you’ve got to overcome it. You’ve got to fight your way through it.” (Bowden)

On the importance of leadership …

When everything else is equal on a football team and the team you’re playing, it’s usually which team has got the best leadership.

On what leaders do …

People wonder what a head football coach does. Really, he’s the guy that sets the program, tells them how the program is gonna work, how are we gonna do it, and then oversees everybody. He doesn’t coach. He coaches the coaches.

It’s the same for pastors. Pastors cast vision, shape the culture, and then oversee (not to be confused with micromanaging) the work. Pastors can’t “coach” everyone; they coach the coaches (that is, they lead the leaders who lead others). Jesus modeled that with the disciples.

On integrity and being a role model …

There used to be an expression when I first started coming up in coaching. It was this, the coach talking to his players: Don’t do like I do. Do as I say do. Then he’d go out and get drunk. (Laughs) That’s not my philosophy, that’s never been my philosophy. My philosophy has always been, when I coach, don’t ask a boy to do something I wouldn’t do. Anything I tell him to do, it’s something that I hope I would do if a coach told me.

Pastors, too, practice what they preach.

On dealing with failure …

You simply are not gonna win all the time. You’re gonna lose some, you know it? And to me, a coach’s success, somebody says: What do you have to do to be a successful coach? I say, You gotta get over the bad times. If you never had adversity, you ain’t gonna be nothing. You have got to have adversity to build your character and find out how tough you are and find out how good your judgment is. A person who’s wealthy, and born wealthy, and never had to work, and everything is handed to him, I don’t know how they keep from being worthless.

You gonna have adversity, you know? There’s gonna be times where you’ll think you do not more deserve to be a football coach than the man in the moon. But you’ve got to overcome it. You’ve got to fight your way through it. You can’t listen to the outside opinion.

Many of the coaches on the DVD feature discussed failure and adversity. Being able to handle adversity is extremely important in life; it’s essential for leaders!

On love …

When I first started coaching back in the 50s, the approach that coaches took to football, a lot of them back then, was to kill. (Laughs) Kill. Kill. Go out there and kill them. Kill them. You gotta be mean. You gotta be rough, you got to physically whip them, all that. And that was kind of them theme back in those days. But now, then, our approach and I think more coaches’, is love. Love. In other words, if my players love each other, they have brotherly love for each other, then they’ll fight for each other. […] That’s why I think love is so important. […] Some coach is gonna go out there and be able to mold his team together as a team better than the others, and he’s gonna win the national championship. If he stays healthy.

Great words on leadership from one of the truly legendary coaches!