Tag Archives: Investment

Brewing Interpretation

Brewing Interpretation (CaD Ecc 11) Wayfarer

Ship your grain across the sea;
    after many days you may receive a return.
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
    you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 (NIV)

A couple of chapters ago, I discussed the challenges and mysteries that accompany the translation of ancient Hebrew text into modern English. As I spent some time in today’s chapter, I encountered another mysterious challenge that has spawned a very interesting interpretation.

The translators of the NIV have given the interpretation of the first two verses of today’s chapter a decidedly commerce-driven slant. The Hebrew does not so much allude to shipping grain across the sea, but more simply says to throw/cast ones bread/grain on water. The interpretation of invest is also a choice for a Hebrew word that is more simply translated as give. Here are a couple of other ways other translations or paraphrases say these same verses:

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
(KJV)

Don’t be afraid to release your bread upon the waters,
        for in due time you will find it.
    Divide your portion—put seven here, maybe eight there—
        for you can never be sure when or where disaster will strike.
(Voice)

Cast your bread upon the waters,
    for you will find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, or even eight,
    for you do not know what calamity may happen on the earth.
(CEV)

Over the past couple of decades, the craft of brewing beer has exploded into a 22 billion dollar industry with about 9,000 different breweries. I know several individuals who enjoy making their own home brews to share, and I always enjoy sampling when I’m invited to do so. Along with this heightened interest, some craft brewers have delved into investigating the ancient brewing practices of different cultures. For example, there’s an ancient Akkadian text that describes the process of brewing beer in which dates and bread are “thrown into water” as part of the mix of ingredients.

This has led a few scholars (whom I suspect might be craft beer lovers themselves) to consider that the interpretation of these verses of Ecclesiastes may mean that when you throw your bread into the water and it comes back to you in a barrel of beer, be sure to share it with seven or eight others, so that when tough times come they will share their beer with you.

As I consider these translations and interpretations in the quiet this morning, I humbly conclude that I can’t be certain either way. Both the NIV’s decidedly pointed interpretation in favor of commerce and the beer-lovers decidedly pointed interpretation in favor of sharing your beer could be what the Sage of Ecclesiastes intended.

What is clear to me is the general spiritual principle the Sage was getting at, to which all the various translations and paraphrases point: invest, produce, and generously share the profitable returns with many. In doing so, I’m insuring myself for lean times which may certainly come.

I never know where this chapter-a-day journey is going to lead me each morning, and sometimes I’m genuinely surprised at where I end up. Today, I not only have a good spiritual principle on which to meditate and apply to my life, but I also have a pleasant bit of trivia about Akkadian brewing and Hebrew wisdom to share with some unsuspecting new friend over a pint. Cheers!

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Of Riches and Rubble

Of Riches and Rubble (CaD Mk 13) Wayfarer

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Mark 13:1-2 (NIV)

I still remember my first trip to Chicago. I had never been to a major city. My hometown of Des Moines was my only frame of reference, and even at a young age I knew Des Moines like the back of my hand. A person could get from one end of the Des Moines to the other in about 20 minutes. It just wasn’t that big. Chicago was a revelation. I and my friends went to the observation deck of the John Hancock building, and I stared out at city as far as my eye could see. It was impressive.

For Jesus’ followers, the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and to the Temple, was a similar experience. As far as we know, the Twelve were from small rural villages in the Galilee, and the Temple complex in Jerusalem was the equivalent of the John Hancock building, the Sears Tower, or the Empire State Building.

Casual readers may not realize that the temple in Jesus’ day was not the same Temple that Solomon built. That temple was razed to the ground by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. A generation later, it was rebuilt by Hebrews who returned from exile. Then, Herod the Great came to power around 37 B.C.

Like many egomaniacal tyrants, Herod had an edifice complex. He wasn’t Jewish, but he understood that his constituency was, and the temple in Jerusalem was the center of that constituency’s worldly power. Herod was shrewd. He knew it was in his political best interest not only to keep peace with the power brokers of the Jewish community, but he knew it would be even better if this potential threat to his power felt indebted to him. So, Herod decided to invest his vast riches to fix-up the five-hundred year old Temple.

Of course, egomaniacal tyrants with edifice complexes aren’t just going to do a little sprucing up. They have to spend their vast riches to build something that will bear their name (whether officially or unofficially) so the size of the project must be in relative proportion to the size to their egos. The original size of the Temple was relatively small compared to the impressive temples built by the Greeks and Romans. Herod made sure to not just rebuild the Temple itself, but he built an entire Temple complex around it. Sure enough, it’s still known today as “Herod’s Temple.”

That’s why, in today’s chapter, Jesus’ disciples are still exclaiming what a magnificent complex it is even after they’ve spent two entire days listening to Jesus teach in the Temple courts. They can’t get over the sheer size and architectural beauty of it.

And then, Jesus ruins the moment: “It will all be rubble 40 years from now.”

And, it was. The political tension between the Jewish people and their Roman occupiers will continue to grow. There will be wars and rumors of war. It will eventually boil over. The Romans will raze Jerusalem and Herod’s Temple in the year 70 A.D.

Enjoy the view while you can.

In the quiet this morning I couldn’t help but think of the spiritual lesson in this brief exchange. The rest of today’s chapter is Jesus’ prophetic foreshadowing of where the Great Story is headed in the climactic final chapters. It’s not idyllic.

Wars
Earthquakes
Famine
Deception
Tyranny
Families divided
Betrayal
Hatred
Exile
Darkness

I’m reminded as I contemplate it that every good story ends up there. The death eaters descend on Hogwarts. Gandalf and Aragorn stand surrounded and outnumbered at the Black Gate of Mordor. Aslan is bound and lying on the White Witch’s stone table. Jesus lies dead and buried in a borrowed tomb.

There’s always darkness before the dawn.

Without catastrophe there’s no eucatastrophe.

“Be careful what your heart treasures,” Jesus said. “Cars rust and end up at the dump. Today’s fashions will end up at the thrift store where nobody wants them. That expensive gadget will be obsolete in a year. Herod’s Temple will be nothing but rubble in a generation.”

“Invest in the only things that remain,” Holy Spirit whispers to me in the quiet. “Faith, hope, and love.”

I’m off into another day reminded to enjoy the view while I can.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Life Investment, and Reinvestment

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)

Along my life journey, I have been blessed with a number of people who have invested in me. This morning as I sip my first cup of coffee and mentally travel all the way back to childhood I am recalling them with a smile on my face, and a heart of gratitude. There were family members, teachers, directors, employers, mentors, and pastors. Some were just doing their job, yet in doing so made a significant impact by simply spending some one-on-one time of instruction, encouragement, and wisdom. A few were intentional in going above and beyond to pour themselves into my life.

I was reminded this past week of the most significant spiritual mentor in my life. It wasn’t just me. I was one of many young men whom he poured himself spiritually for decades. At his funeral, the gentleman leading the service (who was, himself, another protégé) asked everyone who had been discipled by our mentor to stand. A small army of men, from their late teens to their early sixties, stood with me.

What reminded me of my mentor this past week was a pint I shared with a young man from our local gathering of Jesus followers. He just returned from a two-week spiritual intensive. He shared with me how the program had been life-changing for him. That program is the legacy of my old mentor, led and run by others who had, like me, been impacted through his mentoring.

In today’s chapter, Paul continues his letter to the young protégé in whom he had poured more of himself than perhaps any other. He starts the chapter by calling Timothy “son,” then tells Timothy to take all that Paul has poured into him and invest himself in passing it on to others who can, in turn, teach it to others.

Individuals taking the Life that’s been invested in them, and investing it in individuals who, in turn, reinvest what they’ve been given into other individuals.

In the quiet of my office, I am once again seeing the faces and names of those who loved me by investing themselves in me and giving me knowledge, wisdom, time, companionship, encouragement, and occasional admonishment. This begs a few questions:

How am I doing at reinvesting what others have invested in me?

In whom am I intentionally investing anything of real value?

“Enough” With Which to be Faithful

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”
Matthew 25:22-23 (NIV)

A wise counselor once asked me to name my pain. “At the depth of your soul,” he asked me, “what would you label the core ache that feeds your strongest feelings of sadness and inadequacy?”

I pondered the question, but it didn’t take me long to come up with an answer: “Not enough.”

I came to realize that most of my life I have had to actively work to overcome an inherent sense of never being enough, giving enough, doing enough, loving enough, caring enough, sharing enough, serving enough, or achieving enough. Addressing “not enough” is a  large part of my spiritual journey.

In today’s chapter Jesus tells a parable that has grown increasingly powerful to me as the years have gone on. As with most of Jesus’ parables, it is quite simple. A master gives each of three servants different amounts of his money and goes away for a long time. The master returns to find that two of the three have invested his money and earned a return on the investment. The third buried his master’s money out of fear and returned just what he’d been given.

Two lessons from this parable have become quite important to me.

First, the master does not evenly distribute his money among the servants. One was given five bags, another two, and the other one. This is another reminder to me that a seemingly fair and equitable distribution of anything in this temporal world has never been part of the economy of God’s eternal Kingdom. I have been given more than some and less than others. The question has never been what I’ve been given, but what I do with what I’m given.

Herein lies the ying and the yang of my core pain. I must learn to be content with what I’ve been given, but also accept that I am responsible for it. I must learn to accept that I have been given “enough” and that God knows I am capably adequate to faithfully invest it wisely.

The second lesson I take from this parable is in the master’s compliment to his servants. “You have been faithful with a few things” he says. The servants were not burdened with the entirety of their master’s affairs. They were given a relatively small amount and were rewarded simply for being faithful with what they’d been given.

Sometimes my feelings of “not enough” grow to epic disproportion in my heart and mind, fueling all sorts of unproductive thoughts and paralyzing fears (much like the third servant in the parable). I quite literally blow everything up in my mind until its completely out of proportion to the truth of the situation. In these moments the master’s compliment helpfully reminds me to boil things down to the simplicity of being faithful to the tasks right  in front of me.

This morning, that means serving my client well in a day full of meetings. If you’ll please excuse me, I have a few things to which I must faithfully attend. And, that will be enough for today.

Have a good day.

Featured image courtesy of AZQuotes

Building Projects

blueprintBut you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith….
Jude 1:20a (NLT)

For over a year, Wendy and I have been dreaming and scheming to make some major renovations here at Vander Well Manor. Our little brick tudor is a cute old house and we love it. However, the garage is rotting, the wiring and plumbing are ancient, and the boiler appears to have been installed sometime during the Roosevelt Administration. We realize that it is going to take a fair amount of work to bring our house into the 21st century and make some desired improvements. Over the months we’ve been working with an architect to plan the changes we want. Now we’re in the stages of figuring out just how much it’s going to take and cost. To be honest, at times it seems overwhelming.

Building something, and doing it right, is not an easy task nor is it a simple one. It requires planning, thought, investment, and a lot of hard work. In the end there is a cost, and when you’re doing renovation work there is always the question as to whether the resulting outcomes will be worth all of the cost in the end.

So it is with building people. God’s Message tells us that we are to “build one another up.” This, too, does not happen without planning, thought, investment, and a lot of hard work. There is always the question whether your hard work will have been a worthwhile investment. Yet, we are not told to consider the outcome nor is it in our control. Building up other people is simply part of the job description for those who follow Jesus. To be honest, at times it seems overwhelming.

This morning I am reminded that building up a home and building up people have many similarities. There is, however, one major difference. If we succeed in building up our home it will result in some nice and needed improvements, but the house will simply need more renovation in another forty or fifty years. If we succeed in building up people it can have eternal results.

God, help me be a people builder.

Relational Investment Choices

Friends talk
(Photo credit: Ruud Raats)

Do not speak to fools,
    for they will scorn your prudent words.
Proverbs 23:9 (NLT)

I have a retirement account and a person who manages my investments in that account. Each month I check the account to see how it is performing. I need my administrator to make wise investment choices for me. If it is invested well and I get a good return on my investment, the compounding interest will give me even bigger yields and provide for my future retirement.

As I get older I find that I look at relationships much like I do financial investments. The days roll by and I realize that I have limited time on this Earth. I want to invest my time, energy, and resources in relationships that are life giving and produce good results for both me and the other person in the relationship. My financial advisor would steer me away from foolish stock or mutual fund choices that would not be in my best interest. In the same way, I find myself evaluating the veritable plethora of choices before me regarding those with whom I spend my time and relational energy. 

I have no time for fools. That’s like throwing money into the stock of a company headed into bankruptcy. I find myself wanting to invest in a diverse portfolio of relationships with my limited means. Some relationships are sure things and safe investments. Investing in my wife and kids and family are no brainers and I need to invest heavily in those. Wise friends are like well performing funds which are solid, dependable and offer a good return on investment. I need to direct a good chunk of my relational investment in those. I also want to find those relationship investments which are diamonds in the rough. Like penny stocks, it may not seem like there’s much there, but a little investment could pay off substantially for both parties and bring great reward.

If you study Jesus relationship choices you’ll find that He made very clear and even harsh decisions about whom He would invest time, energy and resources. He rejected some who wanted to follow Him. He said “I have no time for you.” He chose three among his closest followers to pour a greater investment of Himself into, and in doing this He created hard feelings among the twelve. In his final three years of life on this Earth Jesus made conscious choices, as the eldest son of his earthly family, to pull investment out of his earthly family and pour it into a diverse portfolio of risky relationships. His twelve closest followers can be described as risky penny stocks at best, but Jesus saw the future yield His investment in them would produce.

This morning I’m asking myself these questions:

  • In whom am I investing my time, energy and resources (emotional, relational, and spiritual as well as financial)?
  • What foolish relational investments have I made which are draining my resources and leaving me with a personal deficit? From whom do I need to pull my relational investment away?
  • Who would it be wise for me to put more relational investment into? How can I make that happen?
  • Have I fallen into the trap of spreading my relational resources so thin across so many relationships that I can’t possibly manage it all well? Is it time for me to adjust my relational portfolio, make some tough choices and bring it into a manageable level?

[An index of all Tom’s chapter-a-day posts covering every book and chapter]

Grandma Daisy and the Three Things that Last Forever

2012 12 25 Grandma Jeannes Present

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

In my mother’s family, my great grandma Daisy was the undisputed matriarch. Divorced during a time when it was both scandalous and humiliating, she refused any money from her ex-husband and determined to raise her five children on her own. Relying on faith, hope, and love, she made ends meet and became a living example to her children and grandchildren. Grandma Daisy died when I was five years old, but her imprint on my family has become clearer to me throughout my life.

When Taylor left for Uganda last summer, I sent with her a box of crayons that I discovered in a tub of family mementoes that languished in my basement. They were Grandma Daisy’s crayons and I figured that Grandma Daisy herself would rather have them being used for art therapy projects in Uganda than gathering dust in my basement.

On Christmas Day, we gave my mother a set of three photographs showing Taylor with some children from Uganda, of a picture colored by a young girl there, and a picture of a woman drawing with Grandma Daisy’s crayons. On the back of the picture was an explanation of the photo triptych. As my mother read about Grandma Daisy’s crayons being sent to Uganda with Taylor she began to weep.

I thought about that moment this morning as I read this amazing chapter. My great Grandma Daisy had little or nothing of earthly value in this life. Her life and her legacy were not about getting more, keeping up appearances, or getting ahead. Her life and legacy were about simple faith, eternal hope and tangible love. I know that, not from having known her personally, but from the testimony and evidence given by her children and grandchildren in countless stories, anecdotes and family treasures.

Today’s chapter says that faith, hope, and love are the only three things that last for eternity. As I watched my mother’s reaction to her gift and the deep meaning it held for her, I caught a glimpse of the truth of it. As New Year’s Day approaches and I weed through bags of trash, piles of broken down cardboard, and a host of new stuff to place in our house, my thoughts are given to the coming year. I’m thinking more than ever about where my time, energy and resources are invested, and about Grandma Daisy’s legacy. I’ve never been one for big new year’s resolutions, but I think this year is about decreasing my investment in a lot of things and increasing my investment in just three.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 9

Detail
Image via Wikipedia

Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. 
      Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. 
Proverbs 9:7 (NLT) 

One of the tasks I have in my job is to sit down one-on-one with people, listen to some of their phone calls, and help them learn how they can do a better job serving their customers. It’s not rocket science, but companies recognize that when a customer calls with a question or a need there is moment of truth taking place. That customer will walk away with a distinct impression of the company based on how that associate handled the call. So, I help them make it as positive an interaction as possible.

As you might imagine, I have coached a diverse number of people. Some of them are “mockers” who clearly do not want to be there, listen to little or nothing I have to say, and refuse to change even the simplest of behaviors. I’ve been cussed at, threatened, insulted and had people turn away cross their arms and refuse to look at me. I’ve learned over time that there is little I can do for some people other than to provide them the information as clearly and positively as I can without reacting to their negative behaviors.

Fortunately others are open, teachable and desire to do a great job. They are willing to listen to my feedback and genuinely try to change their behaviors.

I couldn’t help but think of the different people I’ve coached over the years as I read of Wisdom contrasting those who are “mockers” and those who are “wise” in today’s chapter. I’ve seen the difference and I understand why she advises not wasting your time with certain people.

When it comes to work I am paid to coach everyone and to do my best to communicate even with those who will refuse to listen. When it comes to life I have more latitude to focus my time, energy and conversation in relationships that will bring life and fill life’s well. The older I get, the more discerning I become with regard to whom I will interact.

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 25

"You're fired!"
Image by gwilmore via Flickr

“The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.'” Matthew 25:22-23 (MSG)

After meditating on the parable of the workers this morning, I find myself unable to stop thinking about the parable as an episode of The Apprentice. In many ways, the parable is an “Apprentice” episode. The boss has three apprentices and wants to see how they will do. Who will he ultimately make partner? Who does he need to fire?

As an employer, I love to find people who approach their work as if they were an owner. That’s basically what the first two workers in Jesus’ parable did. They were entrusted with taking care of their master’s money and they thought about what their master would do and want done with his money. They had learned from watching their master’s investment strategies. They knew how he thought. They managed the money entrusted to them by thinking like the master. It paid off.

[cue Donald Trump: “You’re hired.”]

The third person in Jesus’ parable said he thought about what his master wanted, but really he was thinking about himself. “How can I accomplish the task with the least amount of effort and the least amount of risk?” 

[cue Donald Trump: “You’re fired.”]

(btw: I’m quite sure that the third worker immediately filed a wrongful termination claim. Walking out of the boss’ office, the third worker mutters: “It’s so unfair. I did exactly what he asked me to do!”)

I hate to be cliche’ but there really is value in asking “What would Jesus, my master, do in this situation? How would Jesus want me to respond?” The boss and Master of the universe has blessed me with so much. I have time, I have life and limb, I have resources and energy that are entrusted to me. How am I investing myself?

Enhanced by Zemanta