Friday, February 27, 2009

Choose Hope

I still have a job.

I feel no fear that I may lose my job (even though it could happen).

I know several people who have lost their jobs.

And I'm not alone.

We all know times are tough and a lot of people are struggling financially. If it hasn't effected you or someone you love yet, it will soon.

So, why am I not afraid? Why is the title of this post, "Choose Hope"?

I received this in my email today from

I’m tired of hearing all the gloom and doom coming from the media about the economy and unemployment—I bet you are, too! Let’s take a minute to look at the true reality of the situation and what we can do about it.

Yes, many people have lost their jobs and houses. You may be one of them. But guess what? People have lost their jobs and houses even in a bull market. About 93% of people are still employed. That is pretty good! I was alive in the 1970s when unemployment hit double digits, and we’re nowhere near that right now! I’m not making light of the fact that some people are struggling; I’m just putting the situation in the proper perspective.

Even though you may be currently unemployed, that doesn’t mean you have to participate in the recession. People like me who have chosen to not participate acknowledge the reality of a slow economy and suffering people. However, we have decided that we’re not going to form our lives around the negativity coming out of the media and government. We’re intensifying our efforts and going to have the best year of our lives in spite of things slowing down.

Some people who find themselves unemployed will go into new careers or start their own businesses where they have the best year of their lives—professionally, financially and emotionally. Their current job losses are actually blessings in disguise. They believe this and are formulating game plans based on it. I guarantee there are men in their garages right now starting their own mechanic shops. The next Mary Kay Ash is writing up a business plan for new products she’s just created. College students are developing “the next best thing” in their dorm rooms as you are reading this. This is reality!

So think about your skills and interests. How can you leverage those passions into something you enjoy doing every day while earning money for it? If you haven’t lost your job but dread going to work, maybe it’s time to fire your employer and go in a new direction. When you have a game plan for your money and career, you will have a sense of empowerment because you aren’t a slave to the lender (or employer).

When employers start hiring because they believe their businesses will grow, recessions end. Many who have stopped hiring a healthy amount have been paralyzed by fear. They’ve lost hope. People who continue going about their lives in normal ways (without being irresponsible and buying stuff they can't afford) believe in the future. It’s called hope.

You can have fear or hope. It's your choice.

I choose hope.

If you've never listened to Dave Ramsey, you're probably wondering who this guy is and why you should believe what he's saying. Well, he knows what he's talking about. He was a millionaire by his mid-20s, then lost it all and went bankrupt. He crawled through that horrible experience using the plan he now teaches to pay off debt and gain financial peace. He's on the radio all over the country (including AM 960 from 9-10 a.m. Monday-Friday; 4-6 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m.-noon Sunday). You can listen online at or download podcasts through iTunes.

Maybe you've heard of Dave Ramsey ... too much! You may be sick and tired of hearing, "Dave Ramsey says ..." Well, get over it! If you'd give his teaching a chance and actually use it, you'd stop hating him so much. You'd start taking control of your money and gaining financial peace.

So, when you hear the bad news on TV and hear our president say things like, "The flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy," you don't have to be scared. You can choose to be hopeful, to be in control, to not participate in the recession.

I stand just as good a chance as anybody of losing my job because of the economic situation in our country, but I will be OK. I have some skills I can leverage. I have some ideas in my head. I won't blame the government or my former employer or anybody for my situation. I'll simply do something to make it better!

I, too, choose hope.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Little Girl ... Not So Little Anymore

My daughter Hanah is six years old. She will be seven in a little more than three months. This spring she'll finish her first year of school. She's reading and writing. She can add and subtract. She understands jokes that used to go over her head. She cares what her hair and clothes look like.

If all of that wasn't enough, last week Hanah lost one of her top front teeth. It had been loose for a few weeks and finally last Thursday she pulled it out herself. The other top front tooth is also loose so she'll have a really big gap in her smile sometime in the next few weeks.

All of these things make me realize just how fast she's growing up. I cannot believe she's almost seven. I don't want to miss a minute because I might miss something significant.

I feel so blessed to be her daddy and I hope I'm doing a good job. I love her so much and have such high hopes for her. But ultimately I know I have to trust God to be everything she needs because I can't. And that's the way it should be.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More Thoughts on Limits

After writing yesterday's post about limits and how they can sometimes benefit us, I realized a point I might have unintentionally made. It may have seemed like I was saying that we should simply embrace our limitations with no hope of ever overcoming them.

I don't believe that at all.

Continuing with my basketball example, I don't ever want to settle for what I can presently do. Just because I'm slower than I used to be, that doesn't mean I can't work hard to improve my speed. I can always get stronger and regain at least some of the vertical leap I used to possess. In fact, I believe that if I worked hard enough I could probably surpass what I used to be able to do. But, since I currently am in a slower, less athletic state of being I must embrace it to get the most out of it. If I commit to exercising, losing weight and practicing my jump shot I will no doubt improve and then I can embrace that state of being to maximize my results. But for now, I am where I am and I want to use it to be the best that I can be.

In the example of trying to fix the dryer, I'm not just going to accept the fact that I don't know much about dryers and never try to work on one again. Through my mistakes and talking with the repair man yesterday I've already learned a lot about dryers. If the need to work on one ever arises again, I'll probably seek direction before I just dive in. For now, though, I embrace my ignorance of dryers and understand that trying to repair one will probably be a failing endeavor. In the future, however, maybe I'll learn enough to be able to do simple repairs.

So, while I still feel we should embrace our current limitations in order to be the most effective we can be, I also believe we can change our limitations by improving ourselves - but then we must still embrace whatever state those improvements leave us in.

OK, philosophy class is over.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Limits

Several times in the last few days I've had moments where I've had to realize, and yield to, my limits.

I've started playing basketball once a week. It's just a group of guys from my church who play pickup games for a couple hours each Thursday night. Some are older than me, some are younger. This year, more than any other, I've had to realize how physically limited I've become. I used to be pretty quick and athletic. I could jump high enough to block shots, make shots over defenders and even rebound effectively. I could even attempt to dunk on breakaways (though I was only successful once).

Now, I have to settle for jump shots in situations where I used to drive to the basket. I find myself trying to tip a rebound away from an opponent rather than just snatching it away. I don't even think about dunking on breakaways, I just lay the ball in off the backboard.

With all that said, I think I'm probably a better player now than I was in high school and maybe even college. Since I'm just getting back into playing regularly my timing is still off and my skills aren't as sharp as they used to be. But I think I'm a much smarter player and understand how to get the most out of what I can physically do.

Another moment of realization occurred yesterday when I was trying to do a fix-it job at our house. The dryer has been making a squeaking noise for a couple weeks and I finally got around to taking a look at it. Now, I know nothing about dryers, but I consider myself pretty handy. Well, my limit became clear when I loosened a set of screws on the back of the dryer. The fourth screw came out a lot harder than the rest and as I pulled it out a spark shot toward me and I heard something inside the dryer fall. I still don't know what happened but when I tried to turn the dryer on again it sounded awful and then it smelled hot.

So, I did my best to figure out what I had done wrong and got a huge gash on my hand in the process. Finally I decided it was beyond my ability to fix and looked up a couple numbers to have a professional come and take a look at it.

I bring this up because many times we look at our limits as a negative thing. But, the more I think about it, I'm pretty sure our limits are there for our own good.

If I didn't realize my athletic limits I would probably hurt myself every time I played basketball. Same is true for fixing things around the house.

If I didn't play within my limits my teammates would not want to play with me because I'd be missing all kinds of crazy shots and dunk attempts. My wife wouldn't like me ruining her house if I tried to fix things that were outside my limits.

Limits can keep us safe, but they can also help us be our most effective. So, what are your limits? What is it you can't do that you've been looking at as a negative that just might be helping you be effective?

Monday, February 9, 2009


I don't think I've ever known somebody so little and missed them so much.

One of my best friends, Derry Prenkert, went through a tragedy this weekend when his father, Kip, was in a car accident and eventually died from the injuries.

I knew Kip, but not well. I saw him maybe 3-4 times a year and did not have very many occasions to just sit and talk with him or get to know him on a deeper level. So what I know of Kip comes from my own observations of him and the things Derry has told me about him.

Kip was an English teacher before he retired several years ago. I know he loved to read and almost always had a book in hand. I know he loved basketball and would often go to games (with a book in hand) even when his children weren't playing. I know he was generous because he allowed my wife and I to use his cottage in Ludington for a weekend last fall. I know he was a man of few words, but a man of significant, and often humorous, words.

I tried to relay my feelings to Kip's widow, Jeanette, Derry and Derry's oldest brother Robby while I was at the hospital. I mentioned how much I always appreciated their family, even though I never spent much time with them.

Kip and Robby, who seem very similar to me, were some of the most thoughtful people I've ever known. What I mean is they spent a lot of time thinking - not talking. Both seemed to carefully measure their words before speaking and were great at expressing themselves through writing.

When Katie and I went to the cottage we discovered a journal for the people who stayed in that place. Since Kip and Jeanette were the owners they spent more time there than anybody and, thus, had the most entries in the journal. I sat for at least an hour thumbing through the various memories written in that book. The ones by Kip were my favorites.

One journal entry that stuck out to me was about putting up a new basketball hoop outside the cottage and Kip's comment was something like, "It seems to work fine. The ball consistently goes through the hoop when shot from the free throw line."

I remember Kip being chosen to shoot free throws at halftime of a Bethel basketball game. If he could make 10 in a row, he would win some large sum of money. Derry was sure his dad could do it, and it looked like he had a good chance. He made maybe 6 or 7 before missing and ending the game, but I'm sure that if he could have started over he could have made 10 in a row.

I've always had a respect and admiration for people who take great care in choosing their words. I wish I was more like that, but I have trouble enduring the silence. So, Kip always held a special place in my heart - even though I only knew him a little bit.

I miss him very much today. Maybe it's because I know my friend is hurting. Maybe it's because his death makes me realize how quickly somebody you love can be gone. Maybe it makes me realize my own father's mortality. Maybe it's because I would have liked one more experience with him - just to observe his unique personality and humor.

I know for sure Kip is celebrating today because he is with Jesus. He's probably passing the time until his family joins him by reading a book, or shooting free throws ... or maybe even talking to Jesus!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A blessing in disguise?

If you read this blog you probably recall that our family van was in an accident a few weeks ago. The damage was bad enough that the insurance company just gave us a check to cover the cost of replacing it.

Well, we originally planned to use that money toward a new(er) van, realizing we would probably have to borrow some to cover what the insurance money didn't. Neither of us liked the thought of taking on more debt, but we weren't sure what other options we had.

As we were waiting for the insurance company to send us a check, we picked up our van and drove it home. Yep, drove it home. The damage did not make it undriveable, but it did make it make it ugly. As I rode home I realized that there was really no reason we couldn't keep the van. It is in good mechanical condition, it's just a little banged up.

You also may recall one of our goals for this year is to get out of debt by our anniversary (May 27). Well, the insurance money was enough to completely wipe out one of our debts and put a good dent in the other one.

So, we wrote the check to pay off our smaller debt and were planning to write another check to pay down the remaining debt when we got a call from some friends. They offered us an incredible deal on a new(er) van.

We haven't finalized the deal, but it looks like we're going to go ahead with it. Then, if all goes according to plan, we will donate our van to a ministry in need so that we can bless someone else.

God has an amazing way of working things out in ways that I never would have thought of. What started out as a very discouraging occurrence (the accident) has turned out to be a boost toward our goal of becoming debt free - and it will end up blessing us and others in the process. Amazing!

Monday, February 2, 2009

NFL Predictions Challenge - Final results

What a great Super Bowl, huh? I was feeling pretty good about my chances with the Cardinals taking the lead late in the fourth quarter.

Then Santonio Holmes happened.


So, I congratulate Craig Helfrich on winning the CDDD NFL Second-Half Weekly Predictions Challenge.