Making a Christ-Like Living in a Dog-Eat-Dog World – Part 2

When I was six years old, my friend Mark and I had a great idea. We built a flying platform that resembled a freight pallet without any sides on it. We found a rope just the right length to tether it so it wouldn’t go above the top of his house because we figured our parents would be concerned if it went too high. We had one problem that we couldn’t find a solution for, though. We realized that once we got the platform flying at the right height, we didn’t know how we were going to get up on it. We eventually had to abandon the whole idea because we couldn’t move past that obstacle. I wonder if a little boy’s flying platform might be similar to many a man’s idea of self-employment. It is a great idea, but there is no real way of practically working it out.

This is part two of a series of articles, so if you haven’t read the first article, please do so.

I encounter quite a few dads who have been bitten by the bug of wanting to work from home, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing since there are a multitude of advantages of self-employment. Often I wonder: Is it because he heard someone speak on home businesses, and he comes away feeling he isn’t leading his family properly unless he comes home? Is it because it has become popular within home-education circles? Perhaps the worst reason: Can it be that Dad has a rebel heart and is fed up with having other people tell him what to do?

I would encourage you that there should be only one reason to come home to work—because the Lord told you to. If a man has placed his faith in Jesus Christ, then he is bought and paid for by His blood and now owned by Him. He is therefore a servant, as Paul calls himself via his introduction in Romans, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). Paul understood that one aspect of his relationship with Jesus was that he was a servant. Servants follow the leading of their masters. Is Jesus your Lord and Savior? If so, then He should be directing your life. It is comforting when things are difficult to be able to say, “We know God led us to begin this; therefore, we trust Him.”

For something as important as beginning a business, it is critical that the Lord direct. It may be something that He puts on a dad’s heart for the future, or it could be that the Lord is saying now is the time. It isn’t just a matter of how God is directing, but exactly when He is directing. We need to know God’s timing.

There can be a host of “signs” indicating this is the time; however, that doesn’t mean it is God’s timing. A man should not only hear God’s still small voice directing on what to do, but also hear when to do it. Timing is a critical factor in business. If it is too early, few want the product, but if it is too late, everyone who would buy already has it. God, the Author of seasons and sine waves, has perfect timing—not too early nor too late. Is God saying now is the time?

Hearing the Lord can be a bit difficult. I would encourage you that unless you have clear direction, take the answer as “no.” Anything less than a concrete “yes” is “no.”

To help discern God’s direction, make sure this is a team effort in your home. You and your wife are a team, one in the Lord, and therefore, all the decisions of life should be looked at and prayed about together. Teri and I love seeking the Lord’s direction daily together. It’s just one more area that we tackle as a team.

A significant factor in determining a family’s readiness for self-employment is the tidiness of that family’s financial house. How much debt load the family is carrying, how much savings they have, and their spending habits have great bearing on how ready they are for self-employment. Debt puts heavy pressure on a family when they are trying to begin a new venture. Sam Walton shared in the book titled Sam Walton, Made in America how every day that he had personal debt he felt the weight of it. Likely, whatever emotional burden you feel now due to debt is nothing compared to the possibility of watching foreclosure come closer and closer until your family must leave your home if the future is wrongly presumed upon. Ideally, we should get our financial house in order, and that means getting out of all debt and putting aside a cash reserve before moving to self-employment.

The family contemplating such a venture should commit the plan to paper. Looking at the plan “face-to-face” in black and white can help move it from excited euphoria to reality. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). It is a good thing to make a plan under the Lord’s direction. Don’t skip this step. Make a plan, and then add a buffer to it. Double the projected time to break even and double the anticipated expenses. This will help add needed cushion.

If Dad quits his job with the intent of beginning a business cold turkey, he is putting the family at great risk if they aren’t prepared financially. Normally, the business takes longer to reach profitability than originally expected.

It is possible that your plan calls for beginning the venture while you are still employed. That can help minimize financial risk, but the impact to your time needs to be carefully weighed. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). There is only so much time in the day, and if you have a full work day, where will the time for the new venture come from? It can only come from time with the family. I have observed men so consumed with their business that they lose their families. I’m confident that God would not lead a family into a business that would result in them losing their children.

In 1997 I was laid off from my corporate job. I had felt the calling on my heart for a family business for several years and had even previously formalized a business and name. I just hadn’t felt it was the Lord’s timing for self-employment. However, being laid off became obvious direction from the Lord that it was time. We had a business in place, and at that time Nathan, my oldest son, was working full-time doing information technology (IT) consulting work in the Kansas City area. We just didn’t know what Christopher, my second son, and I would do.

As we prayed, we felt God leading us into print brokering. Print brokering is basically a middleman between a customer and a wholesale printer—an independent salesman, so to speak. The direction to broker printing didn’t make sense to us because neither Christopher nor I had any experience in it, but we couldn’t shake the strong feeling that God was leading us in that direction. God even provided a Christian brother who was successful at print brokering who said he would spend a day with us giving counsel and sources for wholesale printing. We set out on the adventure.

Christopher and I began pouring all our efforts into developing print customers. Over time we found and satisfied a reasonable number of customers. One customer had a need that we knew was better served by a software program run on a personal computer. We proposed the idea to the company, and we were hired to provide the solution. We then had three areas of business going concurrently: IT consulting, print brokering, and custom software.

As we look back, we see how God used the print brokering to introduce us to the print industry. We learned a great deal during that time that prepared us for years later when the Lord led us to self-publish books. Of course this was no surprise to the One Who is all knowing. That is the beauty of following the Lord. We never could have had the business sense to pursue one area while anticipating God would expand it into two more and then use it in a completely different application.

God also led us into developing software, which is now another area of business for us. Back then, He brought us to a homeschool dad who is an excellent programmer. We worked together for several years, and our customer was very satisfied with our software. Our son Joseph has now stepped into that role as a software developer, allowing that business offering to continue.

We saw the reality of “all things work together for good.” There finally came a time when we needed to license some proprietary software to satisfy our client’s needs, but because of our small size, the mega company who owned the software wouldn’t license it to us. The only thing we could do was suggest that our client work directly with the mega company. At that time, Titus 2 had grown to where it was taking the majority of my time, and it was a struggle to work with software development and Titus 2 concurrently. It then became obvious that I needed to switch full-time to Titus 2 ministry while Christopher would stay full-time with our family corporation. That was possible because we no longer had the software project.

From the very beginning, we saw God’s hand when He directed us down the self-employment path. I was laid off and new employment was required. As we prayed about it as a family, there was clear direction from the Lord toward the type of self-employment. That was fifteen years ago, and while it all looks somewhat different for our business now than it did then, we are so grateful for all God has done.

We will continue this series next month.

Siblings: The Good and the Bad – Part 4

In this series of articles about developing lifelong sibling relationships, I am trying to encourage young moms who are in the trenches dealing with the day-to-day skirmishes of sibling rivalry to stay strong. As a mom with grown children, I can well remember those days with little ones, but I also can see the solid, loving relationships my children now have as adults. Looking back, there were things the Lord directed Steve and me to do that I can share in a practical way with moms who have younger children. If you haven’t read the first three articles, here is the link to them.

As a follow-up to last month’s article, I want to tell you about our “offense-clearing” time. We learned this from some dear friends of ours who shared about it in a newsletter they used to produce. Throughout the day, we suggest that our children clear their consciences and rebuild broken relationships by asking anyone whom they have offended, wronged, or hurt to forgive them. However, the practical reality is that this doesn’t always happen during the day.

At the end of our family Bible time, Steve asks each of us, if there are any offenses that haven’t been righted already. If so, we are given the opportunity to ask forgiveness then so we have cleared the sin before we go to bed. Steve’s question allows us to consider our failures of the day and take care of them with the other person as the Lord would have us take care of them.

I believe that learning to clear their offenses helped our children to become more sensitive to being careful with their words, attitudes, and actions toward each other. There is an accountability that takes place when we know that we will confess to the other person how we have wronged him and ask forgiveness. It also helps to avoid bitterness that can grow when hurts are committed but not dealt with. “I was wrong. Please forgive me,” are powerful words in relationships when stated sincerely.

We did not allow our children to be physically aggressive toward each other. They were not to hit, pinch, pull hair, or do anything to hurt one of their siblings. We have seen families where those kinds of actions are ignored, winked at, or thought a normal part of childhood. What we have observed is that where sibling aggression is tolerated, the sibling relationships suffer. We didn’t even let the boys wrestle with each other because we learned early on with our first two boys that when they wrestled, one got hurt. If there was to be rough housing, it was with Daddy on the living room floor.

We were careful to teach the children that anger was wrong. “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8). We didn’t let them yell at each other, belittle each other, call each other names, or have other expressions of anger toward one another.

With our older three children, we discovered the damage that friends did to sibling relationships. When the children played with their friends, they were unkind to their siblings, and they came to prefer their friends to their siblings. There were hurtful words and actions from one sibling to another because of the desire to spend exclusive time with the friend. Steve and I knew that the lifelong relationships were the sibling relationships, and those were the ones we chose to protect. We did that by limiting individual friends and moving to family friends where the children could all play together in the setting of two families spending time together.

We unexpectedly happened upon the power of doing family work projects for building all family relationships, including those between siblings. Through the years, Steve has always been a dad who was willing to slow down whatever project he was doing in order to allow his children to work with him. It would have been much more productive as far as completing the project for him to do it alone. However, by involving his children, he not only gave them practical skills that they take with them when they start their own families, but he also built sibling relationships.

During those hours of working on a project, there is talking and fellowshipping going on—lots of it in our family because of how much we enjoy each other and like to talk to each other. If there were hard situations between the children, those would often come up, be discussed, and worked toward resolution. For the project to be completed, the children had to work together. Family turned out to be the perfect place to learn teamwork.

When Steve involved the children in his projects, whether it was car repair, home repairs, remodeling, yard work, or a building project, he was doing it to help them learn that they could tackle almost any home project. Steve’s mom had given him that attitude, and he wanted to pass it on to his children. The side benefit we discovered as the years advanced was that not only were the children learning to be self-sufficient with home tasks, but they were also becoming better friends. When siblings are working together toward a common goal, they are on the same side pulling together toward the finish line.

The final suggestion that I can pass on to you are Steve’s weekly meetings with the children. For about twenty years now, Steve has had a one-on-one, planned, weekly meeting with each child from the time that child is four or so until he is married. During the meeting, the child is free to bring up anything that is on his heart—issues with Steve or me, with their siblings, with their walk with the Lord, or with what they are doing. Concerning sibling relationships, this has allowed Steve to give comfort, guidance, and encouragement in how to deal with the challenges that will come to sibling relationships. It allows the child to talk about a problem, stemming the possibility of bitterness growing because of issues that had been kept bottled inside and unresolved. Since the meetings are personal and consistent, the issues are addressed on an ongoing basis, helping the child work toward resolution.

Remember the undergirding for all these relationships between our children will be prayer. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). Pray when there are problems, and pray when there aren’t that the relationships can be strong and sweet. It is the Lord Jesus Who works in hearts.

We have watched our children grow from the normal squabbles of young siblings into adults who enjoy being with each other. There is always laughter and conversation between our children, who are now all adults except for sixteen-year-old Mary. They are quick to help each other, admonish each other, and ask forgiveness when they have wronged each other. We think you want those kinds of relationships for your children as well. Perhaps some of what the Lord was showing us to do for a positive outcome in sibling relationship will be helpful to you with your children.