March 2, 2015

Giving: An Antedote to Poverty?

God instructed The Prophet Elijah to travel to Zarephath (a city of Sidon) and dwell with a poor widow to escape drought and a grievous famine in Israel. When Elijah arrived in the city, he saw a widow woman gathering sticks and he asked her, “Please bring me a little water in a cup that I may drink.” And while she was going to get the water, he asked her to bring him a morsel of bread. Her response, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin and little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

Elijah’s response, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’” The poor widow woman fulfilled Elijah’s request. As a result, she and her household ate for many days without running out of flour and oil. And, life was restored to her sick son.

When people are in need, some tend to their needs first before others. This is especially true for women and families living without basic necessities for an extended period of time. However, the widow woman did not allow her extremities to prevent her from making provisions for Elijah. Following are a few characteristics the widow woman exuded that changed her impoverished stance:

  • She was not a complainer.
  • She was very humble and industrious.
  • She was charitable and generous.
  • She had strong faith and confidence in God and His word.
There are different levels and types of poverty – situational, generational, and extreme. The solution for each need different strategies, but a simple way out of many struggles could be tied to how we give. This view doesn’t minimize or trivialize the seriousness of poverty and its impact, but it does demonstrate the impact of giving. Just as poverty have different levels and types, so does giving.

Matthew 10:8b states, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Galatians 6:7b, states, “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” And, Luke 6:38 states, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

The measure of our lives will be determined by how we give, not how we receive. How does your life measure up?

Note: Bible verses are from The King James Version of the Bible.

February 2, 2015

Twelve ways to ‘C’ your way through 2015

  1. Clarity – Get clear on who you want to become and what you want to achieve.
  2. Completion – What will be the positive or negative result if you achieve or don’t achieve your desired outcome?
  3. Confide – Tell at least one person that will hold you accountable to creating change in your life.
  4. Commitment – Create a plan and system to be steadfast and unmovable.
  5. Chase – Pursue only your dreams; not the dreams of others.
  6. Control – Take control of the forces (e.g., habits, people, or substances) that can create barriers to achieving your inner-most desires.
  7. Confidence – You have everything within you to succeed. Do not base your success on external conditions.
  8. Condition – We are what we think. Defeated thoughts will lead to a defeated life. Train your mind to win.
  9. Courage – Be audacious and create your own path for success.
  10. Contentment – Be satisfied with what you have and don’t compare yourself to others.
  11. Character – Who are you or who will you become as a result of you reaching your goal(s)?
  12. Contribute – Sow into the lives of others as you strive for success. You will be amazed of what you will reap.

December 2, 2014

Invest in yourself

"I only take classes my job pays for."

"If my company wants me to stay, they should pay for my training."

"As soon as I get my MBA, I’m out of here!"

"I only enroll in workshops or classes that are free."

If your company pays for training, who’s investing in your professional development, you or your company? If your company pays, what do they get in return? If you pay, what’s the ROI (Return on Investment) for your growth and development?

Imagine hiring a contracting company that specializes in home renovations showing up at your doorstep without the skills, tools, or resources to perform the job. Would you pay for the training and resources the contracting company needs to complete the job? Or, would you hire another contracting company equipped with resources and expertise to meet your requirements and deadline to renovate?

Corporations are discovering better ways to yield returns on their resources and investments. And unfortunately, this doesn’t include ‘human’ capital because too many corporations have witnessed and experienced their education and training investments walk out the door.

If your career has come to a screeching halt, evaluate where you invest most of your time and money. If you plan to excel in your current or future place of employment, you have to transition to self-directed and life-long learners. The library is replete with ‘free’ resources for professional or career development and some organizations are replete with ‘fee-based’ resources. The resource you choose would be based on what you’re trying to achieve and why?

Education has been recognized as an integral path to economic empowerment and wealth. Not designer bags, shoes, or acrylic nails. If you’ve been blessed with these things great! But, if you invest more in these things than yourself, evaluate how these things have positioned you to create the foundation to your financial independence and stability?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “We buy what we want and beg for what we need”. Education is a needed commodity to evolve and thrive in today’s society and your growth will be measured by what you endow to yourself.

November 12, 2014

Don't Die with Your Baton

‘The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.” – Dr. Myles Munroe

On Sunday, November 9, Dr. Myles Munroe – a prominent pastor, prolific author, and transformational leader perished in a deadly plane crash. Dr. Munroe expressed his concern about his generation of leaders not passing on the legacy of leadership. He described this as – a person dying with a baton in their hand. And if someone wanted that baton, they would have to pry it from the hands of the person who was dead.

Exodus 32:9 states, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!” This is the depiction of people with hardened hearts and ears unwilling to listen or heed to the voice of God. Pride is the culprit of a stiff-necked generation and this generational type is growing from the strength of pride.

Individuals unwilling to learn are unwilling to lead. And, if we’re unwilling to lead, then why question or complain about the demise of our communities or society? We weren't created to receive and keep, but to receive and bless! Dr. Munroe used his life to teach people how to discover and live with purpose and he died in route to pass the baton of transformational leadership.

In his book entitled, Understanding Your Potential, Dr. Munroe states, "You must decide if you are going to rob the world or bless it with the rich, valuable, potent, untapped resources locked away within you.” If you do, then you've chosen to die with your baton.

November 10, 2014

Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID)

In 1980, Mary Catherine Swanson (an English teacher) created AVID - a program designed to help underrepresented students succeed in high school and college. The program's philosophy is: "Hold students accountable to the highest standards, provide academic and social support, and they will rise to the challenge."

A group of AVID middle school students completed their assignments fifteen minutes early and wanted to watch YouTube videos which were unrelated to AVID. When asked to turn off their videos, a student responded with: "My mom watches YouTube videos all the time at work, so why can't we watch them at school?"

What legacy are we leaving our children in reference to work, finances, or service? Students need role models to coincide with their lessons to advance academically, socially, or economically. And their parents should be their first point of reference.

The industrialized workforce is depleting and individuals that choose to watch YouTube videos instead of seeking opportunities to serve will be challenged to advance via individual determination.

October 31, 2014

Things or Experience?

A survey from Eventbrite found that 78% of Generation Y respondents would rather spend money on an experience than a thing, and 77% say their best memories come from experiences.

In addition, 72% of millennials shared they would like to increase their spending on experiences, and 69% say that their experiences make them feel more connected to their communities, other people, and the world.

In 1998, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore published an article - The Experience Economy. In this article, they state businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory (i.e., experience) itself becomes the product. Savvy businesses use this model and charge for the value of their "experience" product because they know if they create experiences that are exciting and transcendent, they can build a community of fans that will rave about their 'experience.'

Jesus Christ created a community of raving fans because He always gave people what they needed - a spiritual transformation. Example, a Samaritan woman went to Sychar to draw water from a well where Jesus was sitting. Her encounter with Jesus transformed her life when He told her about herself and offered her a drink of 'living' water that would quench her spiritual thirst forever.

After her encounter and transformation, she returned to her town and told everybody about her 'experience' with Jesus. As a matter of fact, she left her pail of water at the well.

Matthew 6:19-21, states, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Experience is what transforms, things pile up. What are you willing to invest in that will lead to your stronger 'inner' being?

October 28, 2014

Skeptics of The Poor

Two homeless women contacted The SOFEI Group for housing assistance after eviction from an area shelter. Housing homeless women and their families is not part of our mission; however, we sought assistance (temporary housing, food, and pampers) from area organizations, churches, and people on their behalf. Following are responses to our request:
  • Why were they evicted?
  • Are they tithing members of a church?
  • They must be irresponsible women to be evicted from a shelter.
  • Why can't they move to another shelter?
  • I don't believe in giving my money to people that don't want to help themselves.
  • Why can't they go and stay with relatives?
All responses were valid and The SOFEI Group decided to provide temporary housing and food for these women because they were wandering the street with their children in tote. And, it was discovered their eviction wasn't a result of their carelessness, but their refusal to attend substance abuse (alcohol or drugs) counseling sessions mandated by the shelter.

Some shelters receive different types of funding - funding for emergency or transitional housing. And, when shelters are strapped for cash, it's unfortunate that some women are subjected to unnecessary or unrelated services.

We're all responsible to be good stewards of our resources, and we clearly understand the skepticism associated with giving money to people you don't know. However, here's a food for thought, every time we spend our money, we're possibly supporting an organization or a cause we do not believe in. You know why? Because we don't ask questions about how our money is being used after a purchase is complete. As long as our immediate wants or needs are met, we seldom question the destination of our hard-earned money once it leaves our hands.

So, why the skepticism when money is needed to help the poor?