Dave Ramsey at Catalyst West 2011

imageMy brother is a bit of a Dave Ramsey fanboy so I took great pleasure in gloating to him via text that I was close to his hero.  Ramsey has built a very successful organization meant to help people be smart with their money and avoid debt at all costs.  There’s probably a pun in there somewhere.

One thing that stuck with me from Ramsey’s talk was a story he shared about a company picnic.  He employs around 300 people and holds a big family picnic every year with inflatable jump houses, barbecue, and whatever else he can do to show his appreciation for the employees.  As he arrived at the picnic he looked at this field full of kids running everywhere playing and he asked his teenage son what he saw. 

“Lots of kids,” was his son’s predictable reply.  Ramsey saw more than that, of course.  If he didn’t it would be a pretty dumb story.

Ramsey said that if he, as the leader of his organization and the employer of the parents of these children, makes a really stupid decision – it would affect all of them.  With all the blessings he enjoys as the leader of a successful organization, he also has the great responsibility of knowing that his actions impact a lot of people in significant ways.  I thought this was a novel way to communicate the principle anybody in leadership has heard a million times: leadership is service.

Through his talk Ramsey shared five principles that guide him as he leads his organization.  They were pretty standard – People Matter, Incredible Team and Culture Matter, Slow and Steady Matters, Financial Principles Matter, and A Higher Calling Matters.  He had good things to say about all of those principles.  A few notes I took that stuck with me most:

“When you get on fire about taking care of the needs of others, courage comes over you.”

“A great team gives you courage.”

"The tortoise wins every time; you don’t finish if you don’t do the little things right.”

“Practice excellence in the ordinary.”  These last two in particular got me thinking about the day-in-day-out practice in my classroom.  I want every day, every lesson plan to be excellent, not just so-so. 

“When you have a pile of money and no debt, you have more courage.”  Ramsey is rabidly opposed to debt, even to the point of discouraging student loans.  While I’m not quite on the same page with him there, I do think this statement is true and helps demonstrate that the way you manage your money is more than just a money thing.  When you’re stressed out about whether or not you can pay the bills, you are less likely to take some risks that you might otherwise take.  When you have some savings and you don’t have some debt, some things you just assume you couldn’t do become possible. 


Catalyst West: Andy Stanley

imageThe first speaker at Catalyst West Coast this year was Andy Stanley.  The theme of the conference was “Take Courage,” and he admitted resisting the temptation to preach a sermon encouraging us to be brave like David or Gideon or Noah.  While sermons along those lines have truth in them, it can be a challenge to relate to them when the chances of you having an army you need to whittle down to the faithful few are pretty small.  There’s also the fact that if you’ve been around church long at all, you’ve heard plenty of sermons like that.  Andy took a different route, and I’m glad he did.

Before he got into his message, though, I could tell he was bugged by the inability of this room full of alleged adults to control themselves with the little poppy things we’d been given.  You remember those little boxes from when you were a kid – they were full of little bags of powder or something that would *bang* when you threw them at the ground?  Somebody thought it would be a good idea to put one of those boxes under each seat.  So many people couldn’t help themselves and kept messing with them long beyond the time they should’ve been.  I found Stanley’s lack of amusement with them amusing.  And he was right on.  Anyway.

Here are a few of the highlights I got from his message:

The person engaging in an act of courage usually has no idea what the ramifications or impact of that decision will be.  We’re not living in movies, and the orchestra doesn’t tense up when we’re about to make a climactic choice.  We go through life and make the choices we’re presented with.  Some have big impact and others little – but we don’t know which is which. 

While our stories aren’t likely to be on the front page of the newspaper, we’ll face moments/opportunities/challenges that will require us to exercise the extraordinary courage we so often shrink from.

He then went on to describe three (he said four but ran out of time) faces of courage – times when courage may be required for us to move forward into God’s best plan for our life.

One of those situations was having the courage to ask for help when it would be easier to pretend that everything’s okay.  The secrets you have influence the way you lead.  You compensate for your secrets in ways you don’t notice but the others around you do.  He called those who needed help but didn’t get it chickens. 

We don’t ask for help because we’re afraid of what others might find out about us, or what we might discover about ourselves.  But the real thing we need to fear, according to Stanley, is waking up one day and realizing we are outside of God’s will for our lives.  If we are to lead, we need confidence that God is with us.  If I’m not confident I’m where God wants me to be, how am I going to lead with confidence?

Do I fear being out of God’s will more than poverty?  Irrelevance?  The opinions of others?

I think what stuck with me most from his talk was something he said toward the end:

One day, everything I’m going through right now will just be a story.  All the stresses, pressure, hopes, worries, doubts, fears, responsibilities – all of it will be a story.  When this chapter of my life is over, what story do I want to tell about it?

“It would’ve been easier to X, so I did.”

“I was afraid of Y, so I didn’t.”

For some reason that really resonated with me.  I can think back to so many situations and times in my life where I was consumed with one thing or another, worrying about this decision or that decision – and now they’re stories.  I wonder how many stories I missed out on because I wussed out?  I do not want to wuss out.  I want my greatest fear to be that I’m out of God’s will for my life.  I’m not sure it is.  But I want it to be, and I will be praying for God to make it so.


Catalyst West Conference 2011

I had the privilege this past week to attend Catalyst West 2011 with a team from South Bay Church.  It was a fantastic experience but, as Matt Chandler said, a bit like trying to drink from a firehose.  There’s a lot to work through.  In an attempt to process some of what I heard and think about it a bit more, I’ve decided to resurrect my blog with a series of posts related to Catalyst.  I need to force myself to write and think.

When Filipe sent out an email informing us that South Bay had tickets for those who wanted to go to Catalyst I assumed I wouldn’t be able to go.  The conference was just a few weeks after Janelle’s due date.  I didn’t dare ask to take an out of town trip and leave my wife with a newborn, a 16 month old, and a four year old.  I’m smarter than that.

Janelle actually brought it up to me and said she felt like I should go.  I did my best to pretend to struggle with saying yes and snagged South Bay’s last ticket.  Fiona was just one month old but Janelle blessed the heck out of me by taking care of our girls while I left her alone from Wednesday-Saturday.  I’ve said it before and I will be saying it until the day I die – one of the greatest evidences of God’s love for me is the amazing woman He gave me to spend my life with.

I had a lot of fun at the conference getting to spend some time with people from South Bay and strengthen some existing friendships as well as make some new ones.  As far as the conference itself, there were some fantastic sessions and some not-so-fantastic ones.  I did my best to get what I could out of everything and open myself up to whatever God had for me.  Over the next few posts I’ll share my thoughts on the conference and some of what I got from it.