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The Secret to Financial Intimacy? Communication!

Whether football, basketball, or any other team sport, it’s essential that players on the same team communicate with one another in order to run their plays. The key to winning in any human endeavor is effective communication. If you and your mate are experiencing financial turmoil, don’t go silent. “Burying your head in the sand” will most likely put you on a collision course with divorce. Your relationship does not have to become a statistic. You can overcome financial tension or thwart its development with effective communication; it is the bedrock of a harmonious relationship.

Nothing is impossible when people come into agreement. So says the ancient wisdom found in Genesis 11:6-7 which relates the story of what happened after the great flood. Contrary to God’s orders to scatter throughout the earth and re-populate it, the people decided to stay in one place and build a skyscraper that would reach into the heavens. They were so united in their efforts that God had to step in and implement drastic measures:

Look!” he said. “The people are united; they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”  In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. Genesis 11:6-8 (New Living Translation)

After God confused their language and made communication impossible, they had to abandon the project. Here is the moral of the story:  If you can’t communicate, you can’t build…anything!  But when people get on one accord, nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  So, couples, it’s important that you communicate, confront and resolve the issues that threaten your unity.  Here are my sure-fire strategies for effectively confronting your thorny financial and other relational issues:

  • Select the right time and place to put the issue on the table; don’t be guilty of doing the right thing at the wrong time! Don’t force your mate to communicate when he or she is tired, hungry, or stressed.
  • Be specific about the problematic behavior; don’t generalize or beat around the bush.
  • Seek first to understand, rather than to be understood. In other words, Listen, Listen, Listen!
  • Make constructive comments only. Do not attack your mate’s character or judgment. Simply stay focused on the behavior that needs to change.
  • Agree on your spending priorities and commit to specific strategies for staying on track.
  • Forgive the violations and missteps of the past. Let them go. Make a fresh start.

If you need more detailed strategies, consider getting our resource: FINANCIAL INTIMACY available at: www.confrontingissues.com.

Just Show Up!

When David saw that King Saul was bent on discouraging him from confronting Goliath, he decided that he’d better give him a short testimony.

David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:34-36).

The ability to recall the past is one of the most powerful functions of the brain. It can be both a blessing and curse, depending on what you choose to recall. Remembering brings the emotions of the past into the “now” whether the event was positive or negative. When you recall positive experiences, you rekindle the courage, the joy, and the sense of accomplishment associated with the victory. You can never underestimate the power of an experience to re-inspire faith.

Several years ago when I served as Chief Financial Officer for a mega-church, I negotiated an unprecedented financing commitment for the construction of the church sanctuary. It was exhilarating and a bit scary.  I remember feeling inadequate from time to time as I met with the highly sophisticated bankers.  The deal terms were very complicated and I was concerned that I would make a misstep that would prove detrimental to the church. However, my anxiety was short-lived and my confidence was bolstered each time I recalled that several years earlier, I had taken a job in an industry in which I had absolutely no experience. God had shown Himself strong and had allowed me to develop a reputation for being a great negotiator as well as being able to project future expenses with a high degree of accuracy. Because I was so unfamiliar with the complicated operations, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had worked on my behalf. It was a very humbling experience. It was then and there that I learned to just show up as prepared as I could be, but to expect the real answers, the brilliant stuff, to come from God.

If you have allowed Satan to give you “experience amnesia” and have forgotten those times of divine intervention in your life, why not recall someone else’s testimony? Faith can come from more than one direction. Read the miracles recorded in the Scriptures.  Recall the good things God has done for your friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and even people you have heard about on the news. Miracles are faith-building no matter who the recipient is. If He did it then, He can do it again.

So here is my challenge to you.  If you are facing a situation where you are feeling inadequate for the task, recall a time or incident in which God brought you out of a difficult situation. Do you believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever? Then just show up my friend and get ready to give Him all the glory.

Slaying Your Giant

           “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth”  (1 Samuel 17:33). King Saul’s words to David reflected his lack of faith and courage as he sized up Goliath the giant and accepted defeat.

There will always be people who will try to prevent or discourage you from slaying the giants in your life. Their resistance could be due to the fact that “misery loves company,” or they are projecting their lack of faith onto you, or they have any other reasons to keep you locked in your cell of defeat. Whatever the intention, you may find that you have to stand alone in your quest. Don’t wait for the support of a cheerleading squad before you step out.

David met with discouragement as soon as he came to the battlefield and asked why everyone was running from Goliath. Eliab, David’s oldest brother, accused him of being a conceited show off –simply for being on the scene. “ ‘Now what have I done?’ said David. ‘Can’t I even speak?’ He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter” (1 Samuel 17:29). David’s response represents a key strategy in dealing with discouragers. It reminds me of my elders in the South. When they wanted to let someone know they were ignoring their comments, they would say, “I’m not studin’ you!” To study means to give something careful thought and consideration. When David turned from Eliab to speak to the other men, he was, in essence, saying to him, “I’m not studin’ you! I’m going to ignore you and focus on someone else.” We can easily fall into the trap of giving too much thought and consideration to the discourager.

You cannot afford to allow another person’s negative input, which emanates from their insecurity, to reinforce your own. You have to handle such discouragers the same way you would handle any toxic substance: eliminate or limit your exposure. When you must come into contact with it, protect yourself with the proper attire—that is, the whole armor of God (see Ephesians 6:11-18). Victory will be yours!

Adapted from my book,  30 Days to a Stronger More Confident You

Thanksgiving Dinner Aftermath!

Thanksgiving dinner is over and while I’d love to think that it went well for all of you, I know that’s not everybody’s reality. Maybe you had to deal with a problematic, cranky, or divisive relative—the kind that leaves you resolving, “NEVER AGAIN!” Or, perhaps you had some disappointing “no shows” despite the fact that they RSVP’d for the dinner and you prepared food accordingly. Now brace yourself because what I’m about to tell you may not be what you want to hear.

  • First, decide that you are going to forgive them… yes, just decide. You don’t have to “feel” like it.  Simply decide as an act of obedience to God who commands us to forgive (release any desire for payback) all offenses (Mark 11:26). Feelings follow actions; you will feel better knowing you have pleased the Lord.
  • Next, ask God IF or WHEN you should discuss the situation with the problem person. If you decide to confront, get the facts first by asking non-accusatory questions that seek to understand. Example:  “Was something going on with you on Thanksgiving that we need to talk about?” “We missed you on Thanksgiving. I figured something came up since you had indicated you were coming. Is everything all right?” (DO NOT ADD… “If you had any class you would have called!!” (lol); some people have simply not been taught social etiquette.  Give ‘em mercy…)
  • Finally, ask yourself what character trait God is trying to work out or develop in YOU through this situation (patience, flexibility, etc.).  Every “situation” has a purpose for those of us who love God (Romans 8:28). Don’t let your frustration cause you to miss it!

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Thank God for the victory!

Father, I want to thank you for your loving kindness and faithfulness to me. You have always been my strong tower.  You are a shield for me, my glory and the one who lifts up my head (Psalms 3:3). You have heard all of my petitions, you have seen my tears, and you have answered me according to your divine purpose.  I stand in awe of your great power.

I do not have adequate words to express the depth of my gratitude to you for all that you have done in providing for me, protecting me, comforting me, empowering me, and adopting me into your family. I lift up to you the words of Mary, the mother of your dear son Jesus:

“For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me.

His mercy goes on from generation to generation, to all who fear him.

His mighty arm does tremendous things! How he scatters the proud and haughty ones! He has taken princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands” (Luke 1:49-53 NLT).

Thank you, Father, for never reneging on your word. It has been my anchor in the midst of every storm. I am eternally grateful to you for your goodness and for your wonderful works. I exalt your name above every name on the earth.  In the name of Jesus. Amen!

(Excerpted from EMERGENCY PRAYERS by  Deborah Smith Pegues.)

Winning Over Fear

Fear is perhaps the oldest emotion known to mankind. Over the years, it has often been my greatest friend—and my greatest enemy. I was raised in a strict Pentecostal environment in the Deep South. My pastor, parents, and Sunday school teachers constantly warned that Jesus could return to the earth at any moment to “catch away” His people. They cautioned that anyone He found committing any kind of sin would face eternal damnation; there would be no mercy. When I went away to college and experienced freedom from my parents’ control, the fear of burning in a lake of fire and brimstone haunted me like a ghost.

In retrospect, I realize that this fear worked to my advantage. It was a real deterrent to the temptations that surrounded me: illicit drugs, sex, and wild parties.  However, once I graduated, moved to the big city (Los Angeles), and started a life on my own, I faced a host of debilitating fears. These fears were an enemy to my quality of life: fear of flying to my corporate assignments, fear of living in an apartment all alone, fear that every man I met was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, fear that any day a major earthquake would swallow up Los Angeles, fear of crossing over a tall bridge. On and on went the torment.

Let me hasten to say that fear is not always a bad thing. Fear is a natural response to real or perceived danger. Healthy fear causes us to lock our car doors, buy alarm systems, and to look both ways before crossing the street. Fear becomes unhealthy, however, when it controls our behavior and keeps us from doing positive things.

Fear is learned behavior. We can learn it from childhood conditioning, personal experience, observation of other people’s experience, media exposure, or other channels of information. Over the years, my apprehensions and trepidations learned through all these channels have been persistent; however, I have been equally persistent in my quest to overcome them.

I’ve modeled the pattern. I saw my fear of earthquakes progress from anxiety about the predicted “big one,” to extreme fear during a significant temblor, to quake-phobia in which I kept an overnight bag packed by the door. Further, until recently, I flatly refused to visit San Francisco under any circumstance due to its devastating quakes. It’s no wonder that Paul admonished, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). He knew that if we didn’t nip anxiety in the bud, it would progress in its intensity and get a stronghold in our lives.

Scripture declares that fear is not from God. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). As a woman of faith, I believe this and I passionately teach it. I also know that “believing is behaving.” Therefore, in the final analysis, our behavior is the decisive test of what we really believe. When we succumb to the “spirit of fear,” it is because we have embraced an erroneous belief about God and His ability or willingness to deliver us from the fear-triggering situation, person, or thing.

I have concluded that I will probably always have to battle one fear or another; however, I have resolved that I will not allow any of them to hinder my progress or derail my destiny. I’m going to run toward this emotional giant and conquer it!

4 Ways to Respond to Criticism

Ncbody has 20-20 vision on how their behavior affects others—and  nobody enjoys hearing about their weaknesses or shortcomings. Thus, it can be a painful experience when others give us feedback—whether it is designed to help or hurt. Depending on  our level of confidence or insecurity, we may interpret any mention of our need to improve as a confirmation or proof of our worst fears—that we are lacking something.  However, if we are going to walk in the confidence it takes to live our best lives, we must learn how to benefit from such input.  Try these four strategies for responding to not-so-pleasant feedback.

  1.    Listen.  Do not interrupt the critic with an explanation or excuse for your behavior. Relax. Let your body language indicate that you are intent on hearing all that the person is saying to you.  Avoid smirking, rolling your eyes, or seeming skeptical of what is being said.  Instead, try nodding your head (this simply says “I hear you”, not “I agree”), looking the person in the eyes, and asking clarifying questions. This will encourage the constructive confronter to relax also and not to struggle to find the right words to keep from offending you.  Most of all, don’t focus on how you will respond; just listen. Intently. Listen to discern hidden motives. Some people simply enjoy being critical and can only feel good about themselves when they diminish others.
  2.  Look for the kernel of truth.  There is usually some smidgen of truth in criticism—especially when you hear it from more than one person. Resist becoming defensive. Know that defensiveness is usually a way of resisting the pain of the truth.  Never be afraid of the truth; it will set you free if you embrace it.
  3.   Learn new ways to behave.  Ask the confronter for suggestions on how to improve. Being teachable demonstrates emotional maturity, humility, and wisdom. There is an old proverb that says,   “Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still.”
  4.  Leave  “groundless” criticism behind.  Simply say, “Thank you for your input.”   You must handle feedback much like you eat bony fish; you eat the flesh (useful)  and leave the bones (useless).  Don’t spend time rehearsing the encounter afterward.    Remember that nobody can please everybody so you have to respond “like a duck”. No matter how much water you pour onto a duck’s back, it simply rolls off.

Resolve now that you will not let constructive or destructive criticism make you resentful, zap your confidence, nor steal your joy. Rather, you will use it as a stepping stone to a brighter future.

Where Are You Heading Financially?

Do you have a dream of what you’d like to achieve in your financial world?  I guarantee you that, unless you have written it down, the chances of it coming to pass are slim or none.  Written goals give energy. The more you review them, the more motivated you become to accomplish them.  Many people are like “Cora” who asserts that she really wants to write a book. “I wrote three chapters about ten years ago”, she moaned. “I’ll finish it someday.”  Someday is the date that everybody plans to pay off credit cards, getting in shape, go back to school, or complete a host of other positive actions. Listen, folks, someday is no day!  Your goals must have a time limit.  A goal without a due date is just a wish.

It’s good to divide your goals into two categories: short-term and long-term.  The short-term goals represent what you’d like to achieve within the next one or two years; long-term goals would be your desires for the period three to ten years from now.

Unsure about which goals to set?

Here is a sample list to get you started:

Short-term goals:

I will establish a minimum $1000 emergency fund by ________.

I will eliminate all credit card debt by ______.

I will take a dream vacation to _______ by ______.

I will move into my own apartment by   ______.

I will complete my college degree by __________.

Long-term goals:

I will purchase a home by _______.

I will invest at least $______ into my retirement fund by______.

I will save $_____ for my child’s college education by______.

Even if you miss your targeted due date, the existence of a deadline provides motivation to continue. Just keep moving forward. You don’t have to pursue all the goals at once;  just start with one.  Succeeding at one thing can super charge your faith to do more. Keep your written goals in view.  Be specific.  Beginning them with “I will” is more energizing than “I’m going to try” or “I hope to”.

Be accountable and true to your goals by sharing them with a few people who believe in you and have demonstrated their support. Give them permission to ask you about your progress from time to time—and don’t get defensive when they do.

Who’s Goal Is It Anyway?

Before you put your goals in stone, it is important to ask yourself, “Do these goals represent my vision or desire for my life or someone else’s?”  For example, “Do I really want to go back and get that college degree even though I am making good money or am I just pacifying my nagging girlfriend or spouse’s desire for more social status?”  If your goals are not your own, you are highly likely to lose motivation especially when the inevitable struggles or challenges arise.  You may also find yourself resenting the person who pushed you into it. There are endless stories of people who went to college and majored in subjects in which they had little interest, but did so to pacify a parent. Many are now knee-deep in their unfulfilling, high-paying jobs and feeling trapped because of their upgraded life styles and related financial obligations. So, do your soul searching before you even start.

Finally, remember that you never achieve your goals alone. So stay connected to a strong support system, and for goodness sake,  don’t forget to acknowledge the Almighty. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

Note:  First written as a Guest Blog for https://www.tdjakes.com/posts/where-are-you-heading-financially

Passing on the “F” Word…

Are you passing on the “F-word” or other profanity?

This is an “open letter” to all my mentees, admirers, relatives, and friends who confess to being a Christian.  Some of you post or re-post quotes, graphics, videos, and other input from folks who use the “F” word and other vile, profane language. I caution you to consider the mixed message this sends when a few posts before or after that, you praise God and exalt His name.

You may not stop to think about it, but whatever you send out under your name implies approval or acceptance. I caution you to guard your “brand” as a Christian and consider how this could call into question your sincerity. Now trust me, I’m writing this on command from the Holy Spirit. I wish I didn’t have to address this. I risk every reader’s rejection and anger. I am willing to face both because I want us Christians to be a light in the world and not a supporter of darkness.

About Your Money…

I’m praying for your financial needs. Some of you do not need more money but rather WISDOM in spending and in saying “No” to others when that is the appropriate response. God gives us resources according to our ABILITY to manage. “And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability…” (Matt. 25:15).

So here are my top 5 tips for staying on top of your finances:

  1. Pay your tithes (10% of earnings) to your local church consistently. This is the best way to insure yourself against lack.
  2. Walk in complete integrity; don’t cheat, lie, or engage in other acts to gain a financial advantage. This opens the door for Satan to wreak havoc with your money—plus—it is an insult to God as it implies that He can’t provide, so you are taking matters into your own hands.
  3. Carefully consider your transactions; don’t be impulsive. STOP. THINK. PRAY. Be clear on WHY you are spending. If everybody in the world were blind, would you still buy that item? Or, are you buying to impress?
  4. IMPORTANT: If you lack technical know-how regarding an endeavor or transaction, ask somebody who has succeeded in doing it. Consider HIRING an expert for an hour (or less) of consultation: “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” (Proverbs 23:23(KJV)). This is huge. Most people won’t invest in their dream; they want busy experts to sit down with them, tell them exactly what to do, and generally mentor them–all for a free lunch. This may happen in rare situations but usually NOT. TIP: If you do get a free opportunity to converse with such a person, get straight to the point with your specific questions. Take copious notes and don’t waste their time. And yes, pay for lunch!
  5. Expect favor with God and man. God gives favor to us for being in right standing with Him thru the Blood of Jesus. “Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield” Psalm 5:12 (NIV). Just ask for what you want; No isn’t fatal! Besides, if God says No, rejoice that He knows what’s best for you.

Hey, you can do this! You have a Helper…