Reawakening Manners and Morality in Men

What is the Purpose of a Necktie?

Necktie

At a recent formal event, well formal for the south west anyway, I was asked if neckties have ever served a function other than decoration.  We pondered, postulated, and pontificated for a while and the best we could come up with was that neckties are used to hide buttons.  I was unsatisfied with that answer and decided to do some research.  It turns out neckties have a much longer history than I had imagined, and they have never served a function other than decoration. Neckties are ancient bling, nothing more.  They do have an interesting history, so if you have the time, keep reading.

The modern necktie is said to have originated in Croatia in the early 1600’s as a simple piece of fabric tied about the neck, called a cravat.  This fashion trend was picked up by the Parisians during the thirty years war and delivered to Europe where neck fabrics became all the rage, culminating in those poofy lacy things we see in Victorian art.

The earliest evidence of neckties predates the Thirty Years War by some 1800 years.  China’s first emperor, Shih Huang Ti, was buried in 210 B.C. and he wanted to take his army with him to protect himself in the afterlife.  His advisers convinced him to take life size replicas instead of slaughtering the army, so 7,5000 life size terracotta replicas of the famed Chinese army were created and buried with him.  There are entire legions of officers, archers, horsemen, and soldiers all carved in exquisite detail.  Each figure varies in details like hair, armor, facial expression and weaponry, but one trait is common amongst them; a necktie.  Each warrior is carved with a pieceof cloth tied around his neck.  There is a certain amount of mystery about this, because other historical records make no mention of the Chinese army wearing neckties.  Some historians believe that it is an honor bestowed on his soldiers by Shih Huang Ti, because silk cloths were a great luxury at the time.

Another early example of neckties that predate the ‘modern necktie’ of Croatia can be found on Trajan’s column in Rome.  It’s a decoration celebrating the Roman emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars and was erected in 113 A.D..  There are 2,500 figured carved into this column and include people wearing three different styles of necktie, including one that looks much like the cowboy bandanna worn by early American settlers.

The modern necktie traces it’s history back to the early 1630’s when a large number of Croatian mercenaries came to Paris in support of King Louis XIV and Cardinal Richelieu of Three Musketeers fame.  The french were instantly enamored by their outfits because of the unusual scarves tied about their necks, ranging from coarse material for the common soldier to fine silk for officers.  They called these scarves cravats, though the origin of the word is up for debate.  The most widely held opinion is that it is a corruption of “Croat.”  One thing is certain, the military and courtiers immediately began copying the Croatians style.

Over the next 10 years, cravats spread across Europe and into the English colonies as well.  Cravats styles were limited only be the imagination, including tasseled strings, scarves, bows of ribbon, lace, embroidered linen and ruffled collars.  This trend continued with a variety of style changes including the steinkirk, a loosely wrapped scarf tie worn with dangling ends tucked or pinned to the breast, the stock, a ridged military neck piece worn tight around the neck to increase blood flow to the head, the bandanna, a square cloth tied in the back, and the bolo, a piece of string held closed by a decorative component worn close about the neck.

At the height of their popularity in the early 18th century, there were dozens of acceptable ties worn for high fashion on a variety of materials.  Men from every walk of life and every tier of society included some form of neck covering in their daily dress.  Mr. H. Le Blanc Esq. wrote a book in 1828 titled The Art of Tying the Cravat which included 16 lessons on tying 32 varieties of cravats.  It also contained etiquette like this: “The grossest insult that can be offered to a man is to seize him by the cravat; in this place blood only can wash out the stain upon the honor of either party.”

The necktie as we know it today was introduced during the industrial revolution, and has kept it’s basic three piece tapered construction throughout many style changes.  Modern tie variants include the 4 inch fat tie, the 1 inch skinny tie, the striped Ivy League tie and the bold colors of the corporate power tie. Whether you regard you necktie as the height of fashion, or a small noose, know that it has stood for conformity, individuality, and vanity through the ages, but never functionality.  And remember to never touch another man’s tie.

I leave you with this fantastic quote from famed fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, “If a person steps on your cravat, you are to blame because you were kneeling.”  Ponder that as you don your corporate power tie, punk skinny tie, cowboy bandanna, western bolo tie, or whatever else you choose to wear around your neck.

Good Timber by Douglas Malloch

Timber

The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth,
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
This is the common law of life.

Get Out of Debt Step 5 – College Funding

Debt

This is the fifth installment of our Get Out of Debt series based on Dave Ramsey’s bestselling book, “The Total Money Makeover Workbook.”  If you’ve followed the first 4 steps then you are currently debt free except for your house, have three to six months living expenses in savings, and are investing fifteen percent of your income into various retirement accounts.  You are becoming financially fit and are on the right path toward building wealth.  You have your finances under control and you have a growing sense of security.  This next step is not for everyone.  If you’re children are already out of school, or you have no children and are sure that you won’t have children, then college savings are not a worthwhile goal for you.  If, however, you have children who are younger than college age, or the possibility exists that you might have children in the future, then you will need to implement baby step number five in your financial plans.

Every parent wants their child to have better opportunities than they did growing up, but according to a CBS MarketWatch report, 68% of parents have saved less than $10,000 for their children’s college education, which is not much in terms of standard college costs.  Assuming you have successfully completed steps one through four, then now is the time to begin saving for your children’s college educations.  I’ll stress again, you need to take care of steps one through four first.  When flying on an airplane, the stewardess always tells you to put the air mask on yourself first, in the event of an emergency, before helping your traveling companions, including children.  The reason behind this is simple, if you pass out, your no help to anybody, so take care of yourself before you help others.  This principle holds true to finances as well.  You are no good to anybody if you fund your child’s college prior to paying off your debt or saving for retirement.  Your kid will go to college debt free, but at the expense of you being a wall mart greeter at 75, working to pay for your medicine.  Take care of your own obligations first, then begin putting money aside for college.

So, now that you’re convinced you need to start saving for college, where do you put the money?  College tuition has been averaging about 7% increase a year.  This means savings bonds (5% growth), zero-coupon bonds (6% growth), savings accounts (3% growth), are all bad ideas.  Pre-paid tuition grows at 7%, but most of these are state based and will only pay for in-state schools, though to do break even with the investment.  In today’s economy, it is hardly a guarantee that you can fund 18 years of college investment in a single state without moving, and then convince your child to go to a school in that state.  Face it, you just aren’t that lucky.  So where should it go?

Dave’s number one recommendation is an ESA, or Educational Savings Account, which is sometimes refereed to as an Educational IRA because it grows tax-free when used for higher education.  An ESA allows you to invest $2,000 per child per year.  This works out to $166.67 a month.  You can invest your ESA funds into any mix of funds and change your mix at will, making it a very flexible plan.  If you invest $2000 into an ESA from birth to 18, with a modest 12% growth you will have $126,000 saved for college, tax-free.  That same investment would net $72,000 in one of the pre-paid state tuition plans.  If your child is over 8 when you begin saving, or you have aspirations to send them to a more expensive school, or grad school, then you will need to set aside more money than what an ESA allows.

The second college saving vehicle of choice is the 529 plan.  The are state plans, but most allow you to use the money at any institution of higher learning, across state lines.  There are several kinds of 529, so be sure to get the right kind.  The “life phase” plan allows the administrator control of the money to move it to more conservative investments as the child ages.  These perform poorly (8% growth) because they are extremely conservative.  The “fixed portfolio” plan locks you into your investment until you need the money.  The problem is, if you get into some bad funds, your stuck with them.  The “flexible plan” allows you to move your investments around within certain brands of funds, providing both good growth and flexibility.  You can choose from virtually any mutual fund in the American Funds Group, Vanguard, or Fidelity.  This type of 529 is the only one that Dave Ramsey recommends.

If you don’t have time save for college, then being creative and making concessions are in your future.  Your child does not HAVE to go to a brand name ivy-league school.  Your child does not HAVE to have their own apartment and eat pizza hut every night for diner.  Living on campus and eating at the cafeteria saves around $5,000 per year.  Some employers offer work study programs that include generous tuition assistance.  The various branches of the military and the National Guard will trade a college education for several years of service.  If your child is getting into law, medicine, nursing, or education, the government has a program where they pay for the students education.  In return the student agrees to serve some amount of time in an “under-served area” typically in a rural or inner-city area.  Apply for scholarships, lots of them.  There are over $4 BILLION a year in unclaimed scholarships.  Make finding and applying for scholarships a part time job between your child’s junior and senior year of high school.  One student applied for over a thousand scholarships.  She was turned down for 970 of them, but the 30 that accepted her provided $38,000 toward her education.  Working a high-rejection, high-paying sales job in the summers leading up to college can make a huge difference, if the student is willing to work hard.

The point is, even if you don’t have time to put down a good foundation of savings, if you are motivated, and creative, then sending a child to college debt free is still attainable.  The earlier you start, the easier it is, but it’s never too late.  Think about your student loans and how long it took you to pay them off.  If you want your child to have a different fate, then start saving as soon as you are financially fit enough to do so. Get a copy of Dave’s fantastic book from Amazon with the link below.

Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Paul Revere’s Ride

The Friday Poem below is somewhat romanticized, but I challenge you to consider yourself in Paul Revere’s situation.   As the images flow through your mind, look back into history and see yourself there; an army headed your way, a desperate ride to sound the alarm, to rouse and rally before everyone and everything you hold dear is destroyed before your very eyes.  Can you feel the horse beneath you, flanks heaving on your wild ride?  Is your heartbeat the only sound pounding in your ears?  In his place, do you have the mettle to do what you must?  Could this poem be titled John’s Ride, or Larry’s Ride, or Zack’s Ride, or Your Ride?

Paul Revere’s Ride

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said “Good-night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,–
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,–
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Get Out of Debt Step 4 – Invest 15% Into Retirement

Invest

This is the fourth installment of our Get Out of Debt series based on Dave Ramsey’s bestselling book “The Total Money Makeover Workbook.” If you’ve followed the first three steps, then at this point you are debt free except for your house and you have three to six months of expenses stashed away in an emergency fund. You attacked your debt and built up your emergency fund. The money you budgeted toward those two goals is now yours to invest.

You should now begin investing 15 percent of your before tax gross income into retirement accounts. Why 15% you ask? Because Dave and numerous other financial gurus say so. You want money investing early because of the way retirement accounts work. The longer you leave the money in them, the better they do. $100 per month invested at 12% for 25 years nets you $187,885, which is nice, but that same $100 per month invested at 12% for 40 years nets you $1,176,477. Longer is better, got it?

So why only 15% when 20% or higher would plainly be better? Because you aren’t ready to do that yet. There are other goals still, which will be discussed in the next few articles, that need to be accomplished first. Remember, Dave Ramsey calls these baby steps.

You are becoming financially fit, but your not ready for marathons or iron mans just yet. Over-investing before finishing steps 5 & 6 will actually slow down your wealth building potential. So for now, 15% or as close to it as you can manage. If you can only do 5%, start there and build up to 15% over time. Also, company matching does NOT count toward your percentage, that’s bonus money.

So, what do you invest in? Look at your company’s 401k program and find out if they have a matching program. If they do match, say 4%, then you should definitely invest 4%. This is essentially doubling your investing power instantly and is basically free money, so take advantage of it. Don’t invest your full 15% here though, because there are other financial vehicles that need to be invested in first.

Over time tax laws change, but you need to be on the lookout for programs with tax advantages. Right now the best place to invest is in Roth IRA’s because money invested here grows tax-free. Not everybody can use a Roth IRA due to income and situation restrictions, but if you can, you should. If you invest $3000 a year in an IRA from ages 35 to 65 and it averages 12% growth over the long haul, you will have $873,000 tax-free at age 65. You will have put in $90,000 of that money, the other $783,000 is tax-free growth. Tax-free, as in all yours, do not pay the government, you actually get to keep it all, tax-free.

With Roth IRA’s you put the money where you want, so look for a good growth-stock mutual fund. When deciding, look at the long haul (10 year or more) track records, to see how it has preformed over longer periods of time. Short 1-5 year fluctuations don’t matter much, your looking to invest for 30 years for steady gains. Every financial analyst has their own ideas on how to spread out your investments. Dave Ramsey’s strategy is a 4 part division of equal percentages. Invest 25% in Growth and Income (large-cap, blue chip), 25% in Growth (mid-cap, equity, S&P index), 25% in International (foreign, overseas) and you guessed it, 25% in Aggressive-Growth (small-cap, emerging market).

OK, that’s a lot of numbers and percent signs. Lets go through an example to help this make more sense.

Husband Earns: $47,000/year
Wife Earns: $38,000/year

Sorry ladies, I’m not sexist, those are adjusted national average salaries for each sex. That’s an annual total income of $85,000. Take that $85,000 and multiply it by .15 (15%) to get a total investment goal of $12,750.

The husband’s company matches 3.5% in his 401k, which is $1,645, that gets invested in the 401k. $12,750 – $1,645 leaves $11,105 to invest. The current (2010) Roth IRA limit is $5000 per person, so $10,000 gets invested in a Roth IRA, leaving $1,105 to invest. If the husband then turns his 401k up from 3.5% to 6% he will be investing a total of $2,820 in the 401k. This takes their total investment up to $12,820. That’s just over 15%.

This is your goal. Figure out what your 15% is, and then work towards investing it.

Assuming you’ve completed baby steps 1-3, then when is the right time to start investing? Now. When it comes to investing, time really is money. The longer you have to invest before retiring, the more money you will have when you retire. It really is that simple.

For a more detailed analysis, more examples, and some fantastic retirement worksheets like the retirement investment calculator, the retirement kitty calculator, and the investment breakdown calculator, pick up a copy of Dave Ramsey’s excellent book, “The Total Money Makeover Workbook” from the link below.

Historical Jesus – Not A Wuss

Jesus

Editor’s note: All men must read this guest post from Nick LaPrell.  It will shed some light on why the Jesus of today irritates you.  Admit it, he does.  It is difficult to believe in a God that, in the back of your mind, you think you can beat up.

The Original Godly Gentleman

It does not surprise many to learn that more women go to church than men. According to a 2000 survey by the Barna group, 61% of church attendees are women, leaving 39% men. Some churches have attempted to address the issue by staging more church barbecues, after service football gatherings, sports teams, an other manly activities. Unfortunately, some have gone to the extent of endorsing (or at least allowing) drinking, smoking, and cursing.

Perhaps the root of the problem isn’t that men cannot relate to church, but that they cannot relate to an entirely emasculated Jesus. We hear about how Jesus calls us to “turn the other cheek,” (Matthew 5:39) or how Peter was rebuked for taking a guard’s ear off (John 18:10). We see pictures of a thin pale long blond haired Jesus glowing with his hand stretched out, looking to the heavens. Lets face it, men are getting the message that the Son of God is a small, quiet, passive doormat and they are called to be like Him.

The Appearance of Jesus

Most know that Jesus’ trade was a carpenter (Mark 6:3), but in his time carpentry was not all about building chairs and furniture. In fact, carpentry involved building houses (usually out of heavy stone). Take your frail image of Jesus and add about 80 pounds of muscle. He would have needed that to accomplish this skill. Also add some heavily calloused hands that spent over a decade handling heavy materials.

historical jesusIn Jesus’ time and region, you would not find blond haired blue eyed pale Jews. Take that image and darken it to around what you expect to see in the Middle East today. His eyes were also most likely brown, and His hair would be dark in color. It was also culturally unacceptable to have long hair (1 Corinthians 11:14), so shorten His hair up to something above shoulder length.

Isaiah 53:2 tells us that He has no beauty that we should desire Him. He was average looking, so take that image and rustle up His hair a bit. He probably bathed as often (not very) as anyone else, and contrary to the movies today, it is doubtful that His tunic maintained an almost glowing white color. Lets go with dingy. We might also want to consider the physical aspects of Jesus’ death. He was whipped and beaten beyond recognition, nailed to a cross, and jabbed with a spear. That is going to leave a mark that will put any bragging Hell’s Angel to shame. Revelation 19:11-16 gives us a description of Jesus when He returns to pour His wrath out on a corrupt world:

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

word horse

He is described as having tattoos! A name that only He knows and the phrase “King of kings and Lord of lord’s” on His leg.

Now we have a more historically accurate depiction of Jesus. He is strong, dark, dirty, rugged, scarred, tattooed, and Jewish/Middle Eastern looking.

A Passive Jesus?

One of the most grossly misrepresented verses has Jesus instructing his disciples that if they are slapped in the face, they are to turn (offer up) the other cheek:

But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
– Matthew 5:39

This has been perverted into pacifist ideology today where we are to believe that we are not to stand up for ourselves when we are hurt or threatened. The context of the verse is actually quite different. In the culture at the time, slapping someone was to insult their honor. If you were slapped, you could have the courts fine the person. Jesus called us not to retaliate for the sake of our honor. In modern times, the verse might read, “If someone flips you the bird, don’t return the gesture. Just go about your business.”

According to John 18:10-11, when the guards came for Jesus, Peter responded by drawing his sword and cutting of a guard’s ear (we can probably assume Peter was aiming for his head). Jesus rebuked Peter. We might get the idea that Jesus was rebuking Peter for responding in violence, but the reason Peter was rebuked was because Jesus spent the past several days trying to explain to Peter that He was going to be captured, beaten, and killed, and this was all part of God’s plan. Peter was rebuked for going against God’s plan, not for attacking a man he knew was going to harm Jesus.

Jesus certainly does not condone violence as a solution when there are other options, but He does expect us to stand up for ourselves. When Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure, he instructed them to bring supplies, including a sword. In fact, they were to sell their clothes to purchase a sword if they could not afford one:

Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.
– Luke 22:36

The Presence of Jesus

Jesus has a presence like no other. He had to speak loud enough for a crowd of thousands to hear Him without a microphone. He spoke with a confidence possible only by someone who knows 100% that they are backed by the Creator of the universe.

When Jesus saw the crooked money changers outside the temple perverting God’s law, He didn’t “turn the other cheek.” He roughed up the merchants with a whip and tossed their tables (John 2:15). When a disciple stepped out of line, Jesus didn’t “agree to disagree,” He lovingly, yet firmly rebuked them. (“Get behind me Satan! – Matthew 16:23)

No, Jesus was not the quiet guy in the back of the room nobody noticed. He stood for the truth and offended most people in the process. He will pour out the wrath of God on a world that will become more corrupt than ever before. Revelation describes Jesus coming on the scene riding on a horse with fire in His eyes. Politicians come to a resolution by compromising their own goals until an agreement is made. Jesus will not compromise the Word of God. He will utterly destroy any who oppose when that day comes.

Like Jesus

Perhaps if us men know more about who Jesus was we would want to be less “like Mike” and more like Him. I will strive to be like Jesus in ways that don’t often end up printed on a t-shirt.

• I will develop a skill at which I can excel. (Jesus was a carpenter)
• I will keep my body strong. (Jesus walked everywhere He went)
• I will refuse to compromise the truth, all the way to death.
• I will be confident that while I am doing the work of God, He will have my back.
• I will lead people around me to the truth.
• I will protect my family by any means necessary.

I think that if more men knew that this is what it is like to strive to be like Jesus, maybe there would be more men in church. Then again, maybe they are too afraid to be the kind of man that Jesus is. After all, Jesus is the first and the last Godly Gentleman.

Lead Me – by Sanctus Real

Lead Me – by Sanctus Real

Sanctus Real’s Lead Me is a song that has earned itself a permanent place in my music rotation.  I think every man should listen to this song every morning as a reminder of why he’s getting out of bed, and what will be expected of him for the next 18 hours or so.  I find that this song’s powerful words really resonate with me.  Matt Hammitt, the lead vocalist and guitar player wrote the song after his wife had the courage to come to him and beg him to be a leader for their family.

Andrew Funderburks from New Release Tuesday interviewed the band shortly after their album Pieces of a Real Heart came out.  The following is an excerpt from that interview.

One song I know that is poignant for the band is “Lead Me.” Would you mind sharing the story behind the song?

It’s a pretty amazing song. Our lead singer, Matt Hammitt, had most of the song written. It was written after Matt and his wife had a pretty gut-wrenching conversation, where she told him that she needed him to be a better spiritual leader to her and their family. It rocked Matt’s world. They’re the ones who have been married the longest in the band. They’ve been married longer than I have. They already have two daughters and they’re expecting their third child right now. Matt said that he found it humbling that his wife would have the courage to say something like that out of love. Secondly, he realized that he had to do something about it. There was no way around it. We don’t believe in divorce. There were some things they had to work on to keep that open dialogue between the two of them, so that they could admit problems and work through them. That’s where the song came from.

The idea is actually at least a year and a half old. We had a rough idea of the song because he had a demo, but it got put in the pile. The president of our record label somehow found the song before we completely finished the record and said, “Something is going on with that song. I think it could really be turned into something special if you guys finish it.” Until he said that, we hadn’t even entertained the thought of putting the song on the record. When we went in the studio to finish the song with this writer from Nashville, the story came together perfectly. The song is kind of a father’s prayer for his family and wife. It’s an honest cry out to God saying, “If I’m going to lead my family, I need You to lead me.” I can say this because I didn’t have a lot to do with it. [Laughs.] I hope that hearing the story behind the song, and what went into writing it, will touch a lot of lives. It’s a powerful song!

You can catch the entire interview on New Release Tuesday’s Website.  While I wasn’t able to find an official music video for this song, I did find a pretty neat production by My Bridge Radio.  I think they did a fantastic job on this, and hope they continue to produce videos of this caliber.

 

Here are the lyrics, in case they didn’t instantly burn themselves into your soul.

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They’re just children from the outside
I’m working hard, I tell myself they’ll be fine
They’re in independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I’m called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won’t You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can’t
Don’t want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I’ll show them I’m willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

Father, lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

Matt put out a podcast with his wife giving more of the back story behind the song.  They knew they were having problems, but they took divorce right off the table.  If there is no escape route, you have no choice but to fight.  They fought for their marriage and came out stronger for it.  I hope more men can learn from his example.  It sickens me that the divorce rate in the church is no different than in the world.  As a geek, it annoys me when people leave their electronics set to forever blink 12:00 when they have a users manual that tells them how to fix the problem if they would only read it.  Well you know what?  Life comes with an instruction manual too.  If you want to salvage a marriage, or simply improve one, go READ THE MANUAL!  Looking at the smoldering remains of my keyboard, I do believe I’m going to have to write some more on this topic.  Anyway, go check out the video on youtube.

Get Out of Debt Step 2 – Payoff Your Debts

1 dollar

This is the second installment in our Get Out Of Debt series.
In step one of Dave Ramsey’s debt removal plan, he had you save up $1000 for unexpected emergencies. Now we come to the heart of the 7 step process, paying off the debts. No investing, no building up your saving accounts. That comes later. Before you can successfully begin to build wealth, you must first stop hemorrhaging money with huge debts. If a man walks up to you with a gaping chest wound, do you first stop the bleeding or patch up his clothes so that he looks nice? Stop the bleeding! Building wealth on top of debt is like building a mansion on top of a leaking dam. If you want your house to survive, you must first fix the dam. So, 3 metaphors later, have I convinced you to stop building wealth and investing prior to paying off your debt? Listen to what Dave has to say about this.

“The most powerful wealth-building tool is your INCOME. Ideas, strategies, goals, vision, focus, and creative thinking all have their place, but it is when you get full control and use of your income that you build wealth – and not only build it, but keep it. A very small percentage of people may inherit money or win a jackpot, but these two avenues to wealth are the result of dumb luck. They are not a proven plan to financial fitness. To build wealth, you have to CONTROL your income.
The bottom line for becoming wealthy is this: Don’t have any payments. Debt is the enemy of your income. It keeps you from becoming wealthy. It keeps you from enjoying the feelings of security and flexibility associated with wealth. One of the reasons I am so passionate about a person’s getting rid of debt is because I’ve seen thousands of individuals make HUGE strides toward becoming millionaires in a relatively short time AFTER they get rid of their ‘payments.’ Just think how much you could do with your income if you did NOT have a car payment, student load, credit-card balance, medical debt, or even a mortgage.” ~Dave Ramsey – The Total Money Makeover Workbook pg.145

So, how does one go about paying off debt? Dave recommends the snowball technique.

List all of your debts excluding the house payment. We’ll take care of that later.

Seriously, go get a sheet of paper and do it now. I’ll wait. Write down the name of the debt, the balance, and the minimum payment. List them all, everything from your student loan to your clothing store credit cards. Now, sort them from smallest balance to largest balance. This is the order that we you will pay them off. Interest rates don’t matter unless you have two debts that have similar payoffs. In this case, pay the higher interest one first.

Now to get started, payoff the smallest one. Pay the minimum to your other debts, and focus all your attention on the smallest one until it’s done and gone. Now take the minimum from that smallest one, and apply that and the minimum from your second highest until it’s gone. Repeat this process until you are out of debt. It’ll make more sense in a chart.

Debt Balance Minimum New Payment
Penny’s $150 $15 $0
Sears $250 $10 $25
Visa $500 $75 $100
M.C. $1500 $90 $190
Car $4000 $210 $400
Student Loan $4000 $65 $465

Once you paid off your Penny’s card, you took the minimum payment of $15 and added it to your Sears minimum of $10 to get a new payment of $25. Upon paying off your sears debt, you add that $25 to the minimum of $75 from your visa debt and begin paying $100. Doing this, along with applying any extra money toward this debt creates a snowball effect. With each debt you pay off, you have more income with which to pay off the next one. Using this method, the debt above could be paid off in 26 months.

In my own experience we had a larger debt than the example, and we paid it off faster because in addition to the snowball, we applied everything we had into paying it off. No new clothes, no Starbucks, no eating out, no movies. We lived cheaply for a year and reduced our debt to only a house in less than two years. I highly recommend this method because it works both mathematically and emotionally. If you look at the debt snowball only in terms of mathematics, there are other ways that claim higher efficiency, but they miss the psychological component of the debt snowball. This method allows you to make early ‘wins’ in the debt payoff race and it feels good. Every debt that falls by the wayside releases a burden and really causes you to refocus and stay the course.

So, step two the getting out of debt is to pay off your debt. It really is that simple. No magic, no get rich quick scheme. Just use your income and your head. Stop hemorrhaging money and start paying off your debt. For more details on the debt snowball method, check out Dave’s book. I think every man who isn’t already independently wealthy should read his book and apply its principles to his life. You can be a gentleman regardless of your means, but it’s more fun to be a gentleman of means.