Mindful Awareness: Seed of Creation – Seed of Wealth

I moved, last night, to the treehouse. There is energy, peace and quiet on The Beech Treehouse that I lovingly built. It is my best place to cultivate self-awareness, nature-awareness, other-awareness, creative problem solving and focusing my energy to do and create.

Steven Covey said that all things are created spiritually before they are created physically. His metaphor was God’s creation of the universe. In the beginning was the word. The word is spoken thought and truth that preceded creation. The universe was created in the mind of the creator before it existed. Similarly, Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich. Hill’s thinking preceded the book. The book inspired seeds of thought that preceded wealth creation for millions.

Wealth comes in many forms. Money is essential. It is the easiest form of wealth to quantify. But it is only a means to greater forms of wealth. (See “Money, Entrepreneurship, Meditation and Joy“).

All forms of wealth are created beginning with self-awareness.

Roger Hamilton said, “I believe entrepreneurship and this whole idea of raising consciousness come from faith and three things: self-awareness, then self-mastery, then self expression. You can only get to self-expression, which is where all the money gets made, if you’ve actually got clear in self-awareness first.

Self-awareness is where you begin. It is where you learn your strengths, talents, weaknesses, interests, values – the things that will direct and guide you through life, give you purpose, drive and energy. It is the place where you begin to understand the needs of others as you explore needs in yourself.

I was asked to teach marketing strategy as an adjunct at the University of the South (AKA Sewanee). I taught for five years. Most basic among marketing principles is that the marketer must satisfy an unfulfilled need of a defined group of people of significant size. The quickest, most sure way to find that need and that market (people with that need) is to look within. The self-aware person understands at depth, his own needs and is able to intuit those needs to others faster, more accurately and with nuanced understanding better than big data with artificial intelligence.

Great men and women changed the world, overcame intractable problems and became fabulously wealthy because they saw needs more clearly and complex solutions more simply and elegantly than all the MBA-enabled smart people around them. Self-Awareness is always the beginning point. Our modern examples include Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and my favorite, Mahatma Gandhi. Extraordinary self-aware minds, extraordinary impact.

You should know yourself better than anyone else can. I say “should” because most people don’t. Hence they fail in business and in life because the seed of all creativity fails. No seed, no roots, no stalk, stem, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers – no fruit. Self-awareness is not the be-all, end-all. It is just the beginning. But it is the solid beginning without which there is no happy ending.

And so, I go to my place of meditation to explore myself. The process is not born of narcissistic navel-gazing. No, it’s a process that begins with self, but quickly transitions to connecting dots outside the self. Then, to energizing, hope and faith-filled dreams and strategies. Dots that, in our distracted, frenetic world seem unrelated, irrelevant or unimportant. Yet, these are the very seeds of creation, elegant strategy, wealth through and beyond money – JOY.

Throughout my business career, I discovered that my greatest strength was in strategy. At times, I was able to create a vision that inspired action in others, solve problems or develop a franchise that flowered into more than ten thousand stores, producing wealth and convenience for millions of people. That story is for another time.

It wasn’t enough. I tired of the constraints of large corporations. I “retired” to become an entrepreneur. I made every imaginable mistake, yet I succeeded on the back of the ability to change strategy nimbly and effectively when situations changed radically. I bet the farm on 750 acres of land, three miles of breathtaking bluff line to develop a high-end, gated residential community, anchored by a Medical Spa that would holistically care for retiring baby-boomers. That strategy was based on market research and what I thought was a bullet-proof business plan. Three months after committing my entire life’s savings, with debt secured by everything I owned, the sub-prime mortgage Real Estate crash occurred. It was followed in 2008 by the whole economy. My target market disappeared. Every developer with similar plans and aspirations on the South Cumberland Plateau in middle Tennessee closed up shop. My bank was awash in foreclosed land from failed developments like mine. But, they stuck with me because I was making a few sales when no one else was making any. My banker could see that my new strategy, market positioning and personal passion were aligned and working. I was still making lots of mistakes that slowed me down. But that alignment saved me. It came from knowing myself and knowing that others in similar conditions and similar mind-set would want what I wanted.

Today, the Village on Sewanee Creek is alive and well, an intentional community quietly fulfilling its purpose in the lives of those who live here. They reassure me that what I created was good. It blessed their lives. That is meaning, purpose, joy and a kind of wealth. I reflect on the seventh day of creation, where God stood back, Took a deep breath, rested and proclaimed his work “good”. That is a kind of wealth called Joy.

Today, after teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and despair, I am not financially wealthy. I lost most of it. But I am debt free and wealthy in other ways. I am confident that money will return as I satisfy the needs of more and more people. The Village has been an exciting (sometimes depressing) ride. I have learned much about myself and the world I live in. That is my seed for creating great wealth of many kinds.

It’s been thirteen years in the wilderness. Like Henry David Thoreau, I came here to live my life deliberately. Over that time, I systematically, deliberately, thoughtfully developed a natural strength into a proven process that is changing my life for the better. I hope to use what I have learned to change many lives for the better.

I thank God and all his creations (including people like you) for making all this possible.

Money, Entrepreneurship, Meditation and Joy

So, is Money essential for existential joy (ikigai)? Where does money fit into this philosophy of doing for others? Is existential joy for religious fanatics or ascetics who fast, live in a cave, and meditate all the time? Is it for those who take pride in having no camel to fit through the eye of a needle?

Hardly!

The fastest path to self-awareness is by becoming an entrepreneur.  

The best way to make a difference – to raise the consciousness of the world – to solve the world’s problems is to be a successful entrepreneur.

I once made a post to this blog under the title, “We didn’t know we were poor”. It was during a period when the world was still suffering from the 2008 downturn. People had lost their homes and their savings. The private banking cartel called the Federal Reserve had been bailed out by the tax payers.  The world was suffering under a poverty mentality.  It was hard times for us too, having made personal guarantees on a million and a half dollar business loan.

I received an email response to that post from someone who was interested in joining our intentional community, the Village on Sewanee Creek.  The subject line read “I hate money”. He went on to explain that he just wanted to get back to the land, to be self-sufficient by having a little garden and living simply without working for anyone else to earn money.   I thought, “wow”!  There is someone who missed the point and doesn’t understand money.  There are times in the life of most if not all entrepreneurs, when things get very tight.  You worry whether you will be able to make payroll or whether the bank will call your loan, forcing you into bankruptcy.  Money is not the enemy.

They say there are two kinds of business people – missionaries and mercenaries. The missionary entrepreneur with a purpose beyond money, to provide what the world needs, is shielded, if not immune from the poverty mind set. (S)He can live frugally and joyfully without the trappings of wealth.  That does not mean (s)he doesn’t appreciate, seek or enjoy wealth or money or, god forbid, hates money or revels in poverty.

If you believe money is the root of all evil, recheck your Bible.  It’s the LOVE of money where people go off the rails.  It’s the infatuation with money to the exclusion of the needs of others that is evil.  

So, what is the opposite of love?  Does one need to hate money instead of love it?  Think again.  Are we to give evil money to the poor?  No.  Love people. Do good. Help others. Raise their consciousness. Teach them how to become wealthy themselves (as in teach a man to fish so that he too can become independently wealthy).

Money is the most powerful vehicle we have to love and do good for others and ourselves.   We are told to love others AS OURSELVES.  That’s an equation, so if it is good to give money generously to others it is just as good if not better to make it generously for ourselves.  I believe God wants us to be fabulously wealthy so we can be fabulously generous.

True wealth is not how much money you have.  It’s what’s left if you lose all your money.  It is the trust you have earned, the relationships you have created and the competence you have developed that enabled you to earn money abundantly and give you confidence that you can make it again after a fall.

The tough times for me began in 2007, peaked in 2008 and continued for years. I posted “we didn’t know we were poor” in November of 2013. People who have true wealth can hurt like everyone else, but don’t have to feel that they are poor when they lose their money. People who have true wealth live in a state of self-reliance and existential JOY.

Interested in becoming more resilient and making more money?  Take the entrepreneur track.  

Start with becoming self-aware through meditation, journaling and building a business to serve others.  If you are a would-be entrepreneur, come, let’s share our best ideas on how to solve problems and serve people’s needs.  Then, let me show you how to cultivate the right mindset through purposeful meditation on the principles of joy.

Subscribe, Share and Like. Then Call or text (931) 450-2426. Your first visit is free.

Ikigai – A Hero’s Journey

My quest for existential JOY began early. First memory: probably one or two, lying on my back on the lawn, in summer, gazing into the clear San Diego sky and feeling amazed that I exist. The beginnings of a profound sense of gratitude, which I later learned is foundational to a sense of existential Joy – the joy of being.

Existential joy, as I define it is independent of outside stimuli. It therefore can exist even in times of stress or pain. It simply exists. It is the ultimate form of self-reliance.

A bit later in life (1971) at the age of nineteen, I volunteered to serve a two-year mission for my church. I was sent to Japan, a place I knew absolutely nothing about. My mission to the Japanese revolved around a central message, “Man’s Search for Happiness” which was the theme of the church’s pavilion at the Osaka World’s Fair of 1970. During my two years in Japan I experienced existential Joy at a level most never experience in a lifetime. I learned infinitely more than I taught, as teachers always do. Others experienced it too.

That 2-year period was anything but easy. I struggled to learn the Japanese language like nothing I had ever done, often crying myself to sleep, discouraged and mentally exhausted. Yet in the depths of despair, I found purpose and meaning, something the Japanese language has a unique and wonderful word for. It is “ikigai” and before I learned that word, I experienced it.

Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile.[1] The word translated to English roughly means “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”[2] Each individual’s ikigai is personal to them and specific to their lives, values and beliefs. It reflects the inner self of an individual and expresses that faithfully, while simultaneously creating a mental state in which the individual feels at ease. Activities that allow one to feel ikigai are never forced on an individual; they are often spontaneous, and always undertaken willingly, giving the individual satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life. Wikipedia

The loving, passionate energy I put into those two years paid back incredible dividends throughout my life. Because I had achieved a level of mastery of Japanese, I was given more opportunities to serve in senior level business positions, developing big American retail brands all over the world, starting with Japan. Today, there are tens of thousands of stores (ihop, 7-eleven, Baskin-Robbins, Dunkin’ Donuts, Papa John’s to name a few) that I was instrumental in establishing. Those stores provided jobs and income and customer convenience to millions of people. My heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the opportunity to serve and impact the lives of so many. IKIGAI.

But, along my journey, I became disillusioned with some of the selfishness, greed and politics that go along with functioning in large corporate environments.

Hero’s JourneySo, about thirteen years ago, I left to develop an intentional community with lofty goals that involved my ikigai based on self-reliance, integrity and mutual love, service and an abundant lifestyle within a closely bonded community. In October 2006, I purchased about 750 beautiful, remote acres on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, the Grand Canyon of the Southeast. It was just three months before the sub-prime mortgage Real Estate bust. It was my personal version of the “hero’s journey”. It was filled with all the elements of such a quest – challenge, failure, loss, disappointment, betrayal, fear, forgiveness, redemption and more. My life came into question as did my quest for existential joy. I fell into a state of depression as we teetered on the edge of bankruptcy for years, living in a state of lack. We now live simple, debt-free, peaceful, abundant and happy lives, but it was a rough road getting here.

There is a place in the iconic hero’s journey where the would-be hero falls to a low state. Then, through another mighty struggle with his own demons, overcomes. In the next stage of the quest, he returns home to teach what he has learned. This stage solidifies his learning and sets the stage for his next adventure. This is every brave man or woman’s journey.

And so was my struggle to recover existential joy. I have always been a deep-thinking introvert. My mentor boss at Dunkin/Baskin, upon his departure to head up Red Lobster, which he turned around and then took private, gave me a memento that still reminds me of my strongest talent. It is a brass giraffe because he said I always had my head in the clouds. It’s true. I am a big-picture visionary. I see trends and opportunities coming long before my peers and I develop detailed plans in my head to take advantage of those opportunities. One of the guys on my team once told me that I was exceptionally self-aware. I wasn’t sure how to take that at the time, but I have come to appreciate what a wonderful gift that is as well.

Over the past two years, I began an earnest quest to understand and recover existential joy – to define all of the principles that contribute to it and to develop self-mastery in applying those principles. Because of earlier life successes, I wasn’t in unexplored foreign territory, but I was beginning from the bottom of a pit that, in my hero’s journey, I had fallen into. Thankfully, my gifts of self-awareness, introspection and vision enabled that quest. I am now prepared to share the results of a lifetime of seeking existential joy.

My previous post speaks of some of those principles – productive creativity, meditation and gratitude. As described in the above Wikipedia link that defines Ikigai, the path to finding it is unique for each person and cannot be dictated or forced. It requires a great deal of self-awareness to discover one’s unique talents, gifts, passions and so forth. But, I believe there are solid principles beneath all that messy uniqueness. These are universal. They apply to everyone. My daily discipline involves testing these principles against the rigors of life to see if they hold up – always – and figuring out where and how the unique pieces fit into the universal principles. To date, I have identified and tested over a dozen discrete yet inter-related principles.

In coming posts I intend to share my discoveries. I hope to find a larger audience who will seek, test, find, validate and share joy that leads to wholeness of their life and then share it with others. If you are interested in the discipline that brings ikigai, or what I call existential joy, please subscribe and share my posts. Then share your experiences by commenting.

For those serious about accelerating your path to joy, come to my place in the Village. I will teach you my personally proven methods of practical, applied meditation. In peaceful, private natural places for deep meditation, like our waterfall,

the Beech Treehouse,

huckleberry point lookout

Overlook #17

or several ancient Indian rock houses on the property.

Discover who you are, your talents, passions, demons and opportunities to thrive. I will personally coach you how to practice the discipline necessary to change your life against your will, habits and addictions, to become your best, most joyful and prosperous self.

Call or text for an appointment or a stay-over. (931) 450-2426.

Be Water; Be like God

This morning I have been meditating on Lao Tsu’s verse #8 of the Tao Te Ching.

It gently invites us to be like water.

I considered two translations. Each is quite different. Without consulting the original Chinese, I did my own translation. I drew inspiration from the two translations, adding my own insights about life and the nature of God and water. Truths I learned from my own life’s path, my Tao

I hope to become more like water and God. Wrestling with my own poetic version of Lao Tsu’s wisdom helped me think more deeply, clarifying my water. I recommend the exercise and, should you give it a try, would love to see your version. Post it as a comment for the enjoyment of all. Share your living water. In a time of division, contention and darkness, this is something we can all do. Perhaps the best thing.

“Be Water, my friends. Be Water.” Bruce Lee

I include the two translations, from which I drew inspiration, below.

I hope this brightens your day in some small way.

With love, Grant

———————————————————————————
“True goodness is like water, 
it benefits everything and harms nothing. 
Like water it ever seeks the lowest place, the place that all others avoid. 
It is closely kin to the Tao.

For a dwelling it chooses the quiet meadow; 
for a heart the circling eddy.
In generosity it is kind; 
in speech it is sincere;
in authority it is order;
in affairs it is ability; 
in movement it is rhythm.

Inasmuch as it is always peaceable it is never rebuked.”

———————————————————————————
“The supreme goodness is like water.
It benefits all things without contention.

In dwelling, it stays grounded.
In being, it flows to depths.
In expression, it is honest.

In confrontation, it stays gentle.
In governance it does not control.
In action, it aligns to timing.It is content with its nature,
And therefore cannot be faulted.”

The Value of Community – Mennonite Perspective

From a distance, I have admired Amish and Mennonite communities. Our Friday project tradition is loosely borrowed from the iconic Amish barn raising. I have admired them when they occasionally hit the news with a story where the community has pulled together to publicly forgive the perpetrator of some horrific crime against them.

In Paul Born’s article, Deepening Community: The Joy of Togetherness, I was interested to read the perspective of one Mennonite leader on the importance of community, what it is, how it benefits us, and how it is built. I was drawn into the article by his description of how difficult community can be and why a part of us finds community inconvenient, invasive and unwelcome. Life is often about finding a balance and that balance point is dynamic and different for everyone. That’s why, in building the Village, I have tried to attract people who have a desire for close community. We cultivate that desire through our traditions of regular social and shared work events, but avoid any and all coercion to participate. This establishes a baseline culture of voluntary community and cooperation, but allows each person the freedom to seek their own balance without social pressure. We govern ourselves by broad principles, but few rules. While consensus is desireable, there is room for differences because of the importance we place on private ownership and control of private property.

Recently the topic of “like-mindedness” was raised again in our community bulletin board. Some of us acknowledged our discomfort with the term. But an underlying set of shared values is fundamental to a cohesive community. In many “intentional communities” those values are provided by religious faith in a codified set of doctrines provided by a charismatic leader. My observation is that when broad principles are distilled into ever finer sets of rules by which members are expected to live, the overwhelming social tendency is to judge one another harshly. Rules meant to perfect us, chafe and bind. Soon, the burden is more than we are willing to bear. The ties that bind, bind us down into socially unbearable servitude. One of the central messages of the New Testament is about Jesus’ struggle against the Pharisees and Saducees who had reduced the law of Moses to a state of hypocrisy and judgementalism based on rules for virtually every action, every choice. We see the same impulses in today’s freedom movement, rejecting “nanny state” government’s exponentially growing body of law that attempts to regulate everything.

Over time, a culture of the Village on Sewanee Creek has emerged with identifiable characteristics. I will attempt to describe what I see. People who “fit” in the Village, have a strong sense of self but are unselfish. They desire to give unselfishly, but expect others to reciprocate in kind. Because they want to be generous, they are long-suffering and forgiving. But over the long term, if generosity is not reciprocated, they do not feel an obligation to give disproportionately. Takers are not encouraged. They gradually find themselves isolated by their choices. All must give in proportion to what they receive. This is a principle of human nature, perhaps a part of natural law.

Villagers have an independent streak and enjoy their private space. They enjoy the company of others, but they are not offended or feel excluded if not invited to participate in a private dinner or a project initiated by other members of the community.

Villagers are interested in being creative. They like to make and build things. Often, we start out lacking the skills or esthetic sense necessary to build masterpieces, but we want to become better.

A sense of humility seems to be a necessary characteristic. Working in community affords each of us an opportunity to learn from others and improve our practical skills. In our Friday projects, I have observed a great deal of patience for those who have little in the way of practical skills, but humbly seek to learn and improve. Patience stretches thin for people who are self-centered, arrogant, pushy or argumentative. It is most obvious when one who lacks skills arrogantly refuses to accept advice from those who have mastered those skills. It is a path that can lead to isolation even within communities with the best intentions. But, our approach provides flexibility and openness to natural resolution. If the owner/leader of a project finds it difficult to work with a particular volunteer, (s)he is ok to invite that individual to spend their time more productively on other, more satisfying work. If that happens with a lot of people, that leader may realize that they need to work on their leadership skills. It is the same freedom that is exercised by individuals to not participate in any given project.

But all benefit from mutual service. All desire to be part of our community traditions. It’s the reason we are here. Because each choice brings it’s natural consequences, people are motivated to follow scriptural counsel to repent, change, improve. To the extent that the majority of people in the community focus on humbly recognizing and improving their own weaknesses based on the true principles taught by Jesus, unwelcome behaviors are self-correcting. Individuals improve personal competence and self-reliance. The community grows in strength and cohesiveness.

I began writing this post as a short introduction to Born’s article for our Village Bulletin Board, but it grew into something more. An online discussion, internal to “Friends of Sewanee Creek” followed. Please feel free to share your own perspectives on this blog.

If you are interested in access to our more private community discussions or think you might fit in our community, send me a request Request FOSC Membership. Our process of inclusion starts with a friendly phone chat, so be sure to include your phone number.

Michael Ruppert is dead

Some if not most of you know the name. Ruppert was an early 9/11 truther. He exposed the CIA for drug trafficking, brought down its director, starred in an apocalyptic movie called Collapse, wrote Crossing the Rubicon and many other books on corruption in government and managed a popular website called fromthewilderness.com
This champion of truth is dead of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

What do we learn from this tragedy? That staring down the rabbit hole too long results in loss of hope. If there is anything the enemy wants, it is for those who fight against evil to lose hope, whether you define the enemy as Satan, the illuminati, globalists, the evil, corrupt nature of fallen mankind, big government, big Corporations, or whatever.

As one who admittedly stared down that rabbit hole too long and has determinedly averted my gaze, I call upon myself, our community and the world at large to look for the good in life.

I am thankful for wonderful neighbors in the Village on Sewanee Creek who DO look to the positive in life, who overlook each other’s flaws and continue on in faith and hope and whose lives are evidence of hope and generosity by the way they give of themselves for each other.

God lives. Jesus Christ is His perfect Son. In the end, Christ wins the war against evil. I’ve read the book. There is a happy ending for those who live for it.

Love and Give as Christ Did

In places of Christian worship, the phrase, “Christ is the reason for the season” is an oft heard cliche. Let us consider the reason this is true. It is simply that God’s Gift that is Christ, is Love, expressed through giving. Giving is the central theme of Christmas.

I am drawn to the New Testament as it chronicles HOW he lived and loved during His mortal life. To model my life on His, I must look for understanding in what He thought, taught and did in the challenging circumstances of His mortal life on earth.

For the Christian world, Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth. The single most important symbol that is embodied in our Christmas traditions is the practice of gift giving. Christ is literally a gift from God to all of His children. “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten son.” Gifts and giving are Central to an expression of Love. Giving is the primary focus, whether celebrated as a secular or spiritual holiday. But, If one desires to celebrate Christmas as a Christian, it follows that we must seek to understand what Christ taught about giving. and even more importantly, how Christ gave, as an expression of pure love. And we must do likewise. For, giving is the essence of love.

The basic questions come to mind: How, What, Who, When and Why? As I search the New Testament for answers, I find the how is revealed in the What, to Whom and When. But the heart of the matter is found in the Why. Let us begin with:

What did he give?
Of Material, Physical gifts, there are very few examples, but each is instructive:

To those who have material wealth – He gave only when compelled or to return that which was already theirs. He said, “Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s“. And when compelled to pay taxes, he miraculously extracted a Coin from a fish’s mouth.

But, When compelled, he counseled to go the extra mile . Give your cloak, carry the burden, give service willingly, thereby taking control of the transaction and transforming it into something that IS a gift, not a theft. It becomes a spiritual gift of forgiveness in the transformation.

Judas kept the purse, one might assume partly for the purpose of giving to the poor, although there are no actual examples or evidence of giving money to the poor other than Judas’ complaint over expensive ointments offered to anoint Christ’s body for burial, that MIGHT have been sold and given to the poor. Christ responded unempathetically and correctly, that the poor will always be with you. He used the occasion to emphasize the core message of his life: the important gifts are not material. The irony of Judas, the betrayer, advocating for the poor can only be lost on those most deeply mired in worldly materialism.

Another parable, the Widow’s mite, demonstrated Christ’s position on giving to the Church. The principle He taught is that the value of a gift is not in the amount, but in the content of the heart, the sacrifice of self. It is purely spiritual, not fiscal. This principle seems to be lost on many in the church today who throw away principle in the pursuit of wealth in order to be able to donate large sums in the “building of the Kingdom”. Christ’s message could not have been more clear, yet more routinely ignored. His kingdom is not of this world.

If not material, What DID Christ give? Clearly, the focus of Christ’s gifts was always spiritual in nature. They were all gifts of the spiritual self, pure manifestations of love. My reading of the New Testament convinces me that He gave essentially three gifts, perhaps ironically and inversely symbolized by the number three. There were three gifts of great material value received from three wise men. Christ’s gifts were these three:
* Forgiveness
* Healing
* Encouragement
, or lifting of the Spirit

This brings us to the next question, To whom did he give?

At first glance, one might conclude that Christ was so generous, so loving, that he gave indiscriminately to all. And, from a certain perspective, one would be correct. But, this ignores another of His teachings. He said, “what profits it a man if he receive not the gift?” So, if you consider how He ignored and dismissed the Pharisees, Sadducees and all who were incapable of appreciating His spiritual gifts, you must conclude that, in the end, Christ gave only to the worthy.
What qualified a man for His gifts? What made him worthy? There are probably more ways, but I have narrowed to two main qualifications – Faith and humble Seeking.

He promised to give to seekers – those who valued His gifts. He said, “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.

He gave to those who already had. Consider the parable of the talents, where more was given to the man who multiplied the investment, but Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world. So while this parable speaks of money, its currency is faith, not coin. By virtue of FAITH, men are enabled, ready and willing to receive and multiply His gifts of the spirit. To those who received and multiplied His gifts, he counseled, “Cast not your pearls before swine.” He wasted no effort giving to those who were incapable or unwilling to receive His gifts. He did not suffer fools.
A case can be made that Christ gave to his closest friends, the ones He loved most.
* Lazarus, he raised from the dead, but he did it as a trial and demonstration of faith to those he loved most.
* He changed Water to wine at a wedding feast as a favor, but here too, there was an embedded message as he signaled the beginning of his formal ministry.

So, did He give to anyone or everyone indiscriminately? Of course! That was the nature of His mission, to save ALL mankind. But consider how he did that. He did it by how he lived and died, not by building up wealth “where moth and rust corrupt and thieves break through and steal ” His gifts were gifts of Himself that lift us all. In His perfection, as far as I can tell, He never gave a substitute for a real gift, as we do when we give material trinkets, hoping to represent the real thing.

Next, let us consider When, or under what circumstances, He gave.

There are examples when he gave to satisfy an urgent or immediate physical need:
* He Calmed the sea – but only after a test of faith
* He Fed the 5,000 – but only as expedient to temporarily satisfy a physical need while he addressed spiritual needs through his teaching. Then, he dismissed those whom he correctly perceived were only interested in Him as a source of food welfare.
* Again, he Changed water to wine, but only to deliver a symbolic message.

Finally we ask, Why did he give? What was his Motive? I believe this is the most important question; The answer to this question goes to the heart. Christ’s perfection was anchored in the purity of motives. Every outward action was a manifestation of motive.

Why? Was it To prove his own goodness? to himself or to others?
No, in fact he counseled that when we give to be seen of men, we have our reward and that reward is a hollow one. To give thus, is to forfeit the spiritual reward. It may be better not to give at all than to give to be seen of men. The best giving is done with no expectation of a reward.

How often, in our Christmas giving, is our primary consideration:

* Giving in hope of receiving? Either in the form of a reciprocal gift or simply recognition of our own generosity.
* Or is the why of our Giving so as not to be embarrassed by an imbalance between the material gift we give versus one we receive?
* Is our why, To out-give someone else, thereby proving our own relative generosity or to show off our own wealth or ability to give?

Christ would not have been guilty of any of these impure motives. His gifts, being spiritual in nature, could not in any way be quantified in value or compared to other’s gifts and there is never a record of him giving in the context of an exchange. Perhaps it was never an issue because there was no Christmas custom, with a public display of gift exchanging. I wonder what Christ would have thought of our custom of exchanging gifts in His name, .

Do you ever feel burdened by Christmas, with it’s oppressive demands that we exchange expensive gifts of questionable real, lasting value? For many, the holidays are a season of stress and depression. Christ taught that His burden is light. If Christmas is a burden, consider that you may be trying to carry the wrong one.

Why did Christ Give? Was it To prove He cared? Yes, his life’s mission was to redeem us from our sins. To accomplish that, he had to draw us to him through love by a supreme act of sacrificial giving that demonstrated his love for us. He had to give of Himself in a way that proved to the world, His complete lack of selfishness. So, in His giving, there was an element of proving, but it was not a direct proof of His goodness, only a proof of His love, as He continuously asserted, “why callest thou me good? Only One is good.” Aye, But here’s the rub, in order to PROVE he cared and to draw us to him in love, He had to genuinely love and give. He had to love with ALL his heart, holding nothing back. It had to be real. There could be no grain of self-interest. And so, while he did prove His love through giving, the emphasis was never on proving, only on loving.

Why? Was it to improve others wealth or physical well-being? On occasion that was a byproduct, but when he gave food or healed the body, there was ALWAYS an underlying spiritual purpose.
* To teach an important, eternal principle
* To overcome evil influences as in the casting out of demons or mental disease
* To enable people to be self-sufficient in providing for themselves as in the healing of the sick.

The Bible records not a single example of Christ giving such a gift as might be found under a modern Christmas tree.

Why did He give? I return to the nature of His spiritual gifts. His mission, His purpose, His motive, His why, Was to Forgive, to Heal the body and spirit, and to Encourage, to lift the discouraged, to strengthen the weak and to bless mankind with spiritual growth. The scriptures reveal this consistently, repeatedly.

We, of the Christian faith, who desire to love and to give as Christ loved and gave would do well, as we celebrate His birth and His life, to examine and emulate His example.
Am I suggesting that our materially focused Christmas giving customs, that we all enjoy, should be abolished? I believe David Bednar’s well-quoted talk, “good, better, best” is a valuable prism through which we should each decide how to celebrate Christmas.

* The practice of giving material gifts, though only an excuse for the real thing, is Good.
* Material gifts that require a special sacrifice of self in the giving and consider how well the receiver can accept the gift are Better.
* purely spiritual gifts of forgiving, encouraging and healing are Best.

None of us have achieved Christ’s perfection of Love or it’s perfect manifestation in how, what, when, to whom or why we give. But let us seek to learn and grow line upon line, to lift others and, in the process, lift ourselves from good to better to best.

These teachings of Christ, I share, at no cost to me, as a Christmas gift, praying that they may be a source of lifting, encouraging and healing and that you will receive His gift with a humble, seeking, faithful and thankful heart, and that, having received His gift of love, you will follow His perfect example by re-gifting it to Him and to all those you love.