Today is the Day to Give

‘Tis the season for all-day football watching marathons, hitting the slopes and going to the malls to return those over-sized, unwanted gifts.

It’s also the season of giving.  Most non-profits raise one-third of their annual budget in November and December.  The vast majority of those dollars come in this last week of the year and a good chunk come in on the last day of the year, the 31st.

end-of-financial-year-signThis year the last day of the year, the 31st, falls on a Saturday.  That means that many of those financial moves will have to made on the last business day of the year.  That is today.

The last business day of the calendar year (again, today) is certainly beneficial for non-profits and it is also a beneficial day for you as a donor.  It is the last day to take advantage of gains, protect yourself against unneeded taxes, offload loses and prepare your financial home for the coming tax season.

Here are some thought about giving and specifically year-end giving…

First, I hope you and your household have a plan for giving to those in need.  I have worked in the non-profit space for three decades and I have personally seen thousands of families impacted significantly by giving away their resources.  Financial giving is a gift that gives both ways.  It helps fund the needs of our world, but it also gives to you, the donor, in ways that are incredible and incalculable.

As you prepare to give, search your own heart and mind.  What do you care about?  Where do you want to make an impact?  In our house we want to invest in our most immediate community (North Everett, Wash.), to long-time friends in non-profit service, and to the poorest people in the most difficult places around the world (primarily through World Concern).  That is where we focus our giving.

We also look for ways to have a donations matched.  At year-end, many non-profits will offer matching dollars.  You will see this on their website or in their materials.

So identify non-profits that address the areas you want to impact.  Ensure that they are qualified non-profits.  A good way to do so is at  They have done the work for you.  Look for “four-star” charities.  These are charities that live to the strictest financial and missional requirements.

With the charity picked, you are ready to give.  So how do you give?

One of the easiest and most mutually beneficial ways to give is appreciated assets.  Do you have a stock, bond or other security that has gone up in value since you bought it?  Donate the appreciated asset to the charity.  Don’t sell the asset and give the proceeds or you will have to pay taxes on the proceeds.  Donate the stock directly.  Almost any non-profit is prepared to receive assets.

For those that are 70 1/2 or older, check on a withdrawal from  your traditional IRA.  A “qualified charitable distribution” could be helpful.  Check with your tax professional.

Of course, you can give by cash, check or credit card.  If you are going to send a check, it must be postmarked by Saturday, December 31st.  Rather than risking a USPS postmark, I suggest going to the organizations website and giving via credit card.  Most all non-profits are set up for this kind of giving.  If not, you can call the non-profit directly and give your credit card information over the phone.  This gets the money directly to the non-profit and limits any issues with the mail.  It makes it cleaner for you and for the non-profit organization.

Another option for giving cash or check to a non-profit is just hoping in the car and driving to the non-profit.  Make sure you contact the offices first to ensure someone is at the office.  This is a busy time for these folks, as well.  Giving the check directly is encouraging and helps connect you to the non-profit and their staff.  In fact, when you call a staff person they may just come by and pick up the check.  Take their offer.  These public servants are people that you are going to want to meet and know…especially if you are investing in them and their organization financially.

Remember to also have a good CPA and/or tax consultant help you with your giving plan.  They should review and guide it.  Also consultant a professional.

We are an very generous people in America. Yes, there are tax advantages in our country to giving, but the truth is we are people who care.  The average annual household in the US make a contribution of $2,974 (but you can beat that…don’t you want to be above average).  Last year, as a country, we gave donated $373.25 billion to non-profits.  That was better than a 4% increase over the year previous.

I think we can do better than a 4% increase this year.  Share this blog post with your circle of friends and encourage them to give.  Encourage them to give where they feel led in 2016.

Today is the day.  Don’t delay or procrastinate.  Make your financial moves that allow you to be a generous person who is well connected to their community and the needs of the world.


Quadrant II Ideas

Yesterday I encouraged the importance of getting after Quadrant II ideas this week.  Quadrant II is from Stephen Covey’s book, “First Things First.”  You can read it by clicking here.

Quadrant II activities are the Important, Not Urgent activities that all of us have in our life.  Most of these activities never get done, but this week, the week between Christmas and New Years, is an ideal week to address these activities in your life, work and family.week-off

The truth is that most people completely relax during this week between Christmas and New Years.  Relaxing is good.  Never miss the chance to relax.  I just want to make sure that you don’t miss the opportunity to use at least part of this comfortable week to prepare for 2017.

Today’s post will offer specific ideas that will address many people’s Quadrant II needs.  Here are some ideas…


  • Take a nap, if you need a nap.
  • Play.  Truly recreate.  Hike, walk, paint, snow shoe, draw, write, bike, ski, etc.  Whatever you like, do it.
  • Think.  Breathe.  Relax.
  • Take time to work on a personal vision statement…or think about what you want written on your tombstone (maybe a bit morbid, but very helpful).
  • Consider what you may do this coming year to improve your physical health.


  • Have coffee with a friend, someone that your really enjoy but don’t usually see.
  • Get together with a childhood friend.
  • Have friends over to your house for a potluck dinner.
  • Write a card to someone who could use the encouragement.
  • Reach out to someone you don’t know well but would like to get to know.  Invite them to lunch…you’re buying.
  • Plan a date night once a month with your spouse.  Be creative.  Put it on the calendar and protect that date.
  • If you have kids, plan a monthly “date night” with each of your kids.


  • Read a book that will enhance your spiritual life.
  • Take a long walk to pray and think.
  • Simply spend time thinking…nobody spends enough time just thinking.
  • Develop a system for praying specifically this coming year.
  • The best way to do these is to take a day away to pray, read, reflect and plan.

Around the house…

  • Do some deep cleaning…behind the washer and dryer, whipping down the kitchen cabinets, etc.
  • Check your cable/satellite plan.  Again, avoid the “up sell” (and they will try to give you more services).  Just make sure you have what you need at the best price.
  • Clean out the junk drawer(s)…we all have one or two.
  • Speaking of drawers, go through your underwear and throw out the bad ones.
  • Go through your closet and give away clothes you don’t need.  Personally give them to a neighbor in need.  This will bless you.
  • Check all of your secure documents, ie. wills, contracts, etc., are in a secure fire-proof box.
  • Does each car have an insurance card in it?
  • Is there a project you’ve been wanting to get after but just haven’t had time.

And this doesn’t even touch finances…

  • Check all of your insurances.  Do you have enough?  Set an appointment with your agent.
  • Get all of your information together for taxes.
  • Make sure that you have made any favorable financial moves before the 31st.
  • Check on your giving for the year.  Have you been a generous person?
  • Give.  Many non-profits thrive or just survive based on giving this year.  Be a blessing.

Around the office…

  • Clean your office…not just pick up but truly clean, as in dust.
  • Organize the files in your office…or just get loose papers in files.
  • Completely clear off your desk and whip it down.
  • Make sure your flat spaces are flat (ref. “Ordering Your Private World by )…desk top, shelves, tables, etc.
  • Clear off and reorganize any bulletin boards.
  • Select and change any calendars.


  • Check your cell plan.  Avoid the “up sell” but make sure you are getting the best deal and have the coverage you need.
  • Make sure all of your pictures are off cards or phones and properly stored and backed-up.
  • Take the time to pick out a few of your pictures from this year and print them, in a book or just as prints.
  • Ensure that your computer is properly backing up to the cloud.
    Take the time to learn how to use a new computer program.
  • Clean out your email inbox.
  • Delete old texts on your phone.
  • Check the Contacts on your computer and/0r phone.  Make sure the information is correct and that you have everyone you need.
  • Do a post-Christmas double check on your Christmas card list.
  • Organize the files on your computer.
  • Rework your passwords and your system to store the passwords securely.

Now I’ve overloaded you.  You can’t do all of these…shoot the week is already half done.  So, as you read the list, which ones catch your attention?  Do those.  Even just two or three of these items will help prep you for 2017.

What isn’t on this list?  What would you suggest to be done this year to prepare us for next year?

Work THIS Week

There is no week in your working year with more potential impact than this week.

Yes, the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  Yes, the week that most take vacation.  Yes, the week that so many are spending in warmer climates.  Yes, the week that has nothing but green drive-time commutes.  Yes, the week in which most are watching football, getting bored with their Christmas gifts and finishing off the Holiday sweets.

This week has massive potential for your coming year, 2017…IF you take advantage of the opportunity.

So how are you going to take advantage of this week?  If you need time in a warmer climate, get in the sun.  If you need time with your kids, get on the floor and play.  If you need time to rest, get under the duvet, turn on the bowl games, chomp on the Holiday goodness, loosen the belt and relax.

What do you really need?  You may have specific needs, but everyone single one of us has a need to be purposeful and planned in our lives.  What is your plan for 2017 and your life for which you can spend your time this week to prepare and develop a plan?

This week truly is a national “deep breath.”  Most people don’t have urgent deadlines.  Timely requirements are pushed into the new year.  Many of our customers/clients are closed.  Everyone is understanding in this season…”We’ll get to it after the first of the year.”

It is in this “sigh” that I’d encourage some of your most important work.  Planning.  Preparation.  Strategy.  Direction.  Dedicated time on the items that you usually don’t have quadrant-twotime to address.  It’s what Stephen Covey calls, in “First Things First,”  Quadrant Two activities.  Quadrant Two are the Important activities, which aren’t Urgent.  Make sure your to-do list is packed with Quadrant Two activities this week.  This is a prime Quadrant Two week.

One of my executive coaches takes a personal retreat every year during this week.  He prays.  He plans.  He spends extended time thinking.  He writes.  He priorities.  My friend will be ready to hit 2017 on January 1.

Whether it is a few days retreating or a few hours at Starbucks, take the time this week.  There may be many afternoons that are “wasted” and even weeks that “go by so fast.”  This is one week you can’t let pass you by.  Take a hold of it and purposefully use it for your highest and best impact on the year ahead.

Prime next year by this week preparing yourself  spiritually, physically and organizationally.

You will then be truly prepared to celebrate the New Year.

Certainly Give; Certainly Ask

In this season of giving please remember that there is great joy in asking.  Everyone gives at Christmas, but very few of us ask…ever.  This begs the question, how does anyone know what to give if we never ask?

question-markI’d encourage you, especially during this season, to ask.  Not so much for a drone, sweater or mermaid-tail Snuggie, but on behalf of someone else.  Ask for your favorite charity.  Ask for a neighbor in need.  Ask for your church or parish.  The point isn’t the place as it is the practice.  Ask.

The Bible says that you have not because you ask not.  It’s in reference to God answering our prayers, but you can embroider from this basic principle.  By asking we give God, and by extension others, the chance to move.  Of course God and our friends and neighbors can give without our asking, but then we don’t get to be a part of the miracle…and anyone giving away their money these days is a miracle.  Join in the fun.  Ask.

I can remember a few years ago, I was supervising about 80 people that all raised financial support.  Each of them had very aggressive fundraising goals and their livelihood depended on it.  There was need and cause.

It was in this season we sold a house, my last parent passed away and the company for which my wife worked paid a handsome and well-reported dividend.  Each of these events were significant financial events in our lives — equity, inheritance and bonus.  All of our staff, each raising their own support, were aware of each of these changes in our lives.

So how many of them asked us for a donation?

None.  Not one.  I didn’t even get a passing, passive “Hey have you thought…?”  Nothing.

I recently had a friend whose last parent passed away.  He was wrapped up in months of legal issues and family wrangling as they worked out the inheritance.  It was difficult work.  Having lived through similar situations, I talked with him and prayed for him.  After more than a year, it finally wrapped up.  The best news was the reconciliation and peace of the family.  That can be a challenge in these situations.  Everyone was paid out and thankful.  It was a great relief.

About four months later, I was on a walk with this same friend.  We were talking about life and as a part of the conversation I asked, “Have you thought about tithing off of your inheritance.”  It wasn’t that smooth, but I had a sense that I should ask.  The question was fumbled and somewhat awkward.  An inheritance is some of the most intimate work in anyone’s life.  He briefly told me that they had thought about it.  I told him, “Way to go.  That is rare.  Well done.”  And we quickly left that awkward interchange.

I felt like I had stepped in something during this walk…and it stunk.  I feared that our relationship would change.  It just felt awkward…and I haven’t even asked for a dollar amount or for a charity or anything.

It was about three weeks later when I ran into my friend.  He said, “Hey I brought up to my wife that you had asked about inheritance, tithing and such.”  I thought, “Oh, boy.  Here it goes…she was, we were offend…how could I…etc.”  Instead he said, “She was amazed that you asked.  Thankful.  It showed you cares for us.  Thank you.”

There was nothing textbook about this ask.  It would never be a part of a podcast or a training video.  It was an awkward, unfamiliar walk on eggshells.

The point really isn’t HOW but IF.  It’s not the technique, but will you just ask.  It will probably never feel good, normal, smooth.  Just ask and then be quiet.  There aren’t any “style points” for asking.  The point isn’t looking good.  Don’t worry about it.  Just dive.  Ask.  See what happens.

This is a season to give…so ask.

Cold Weather “Healing”

img_3570This sunny weather this last week has provided a number of good days to ride my bicycle.  It has also been deeply cold.  I relish these cold, sunny bike rides out on the road.  There is something special about them.

Is there science to say that cold air does the body good?  My freshman year college-BioSci-educated mind would say, “Certainly.”  As with most of my science, it feels so.  I’d even go as far to say it can cure the common cold.  I may have to call the Surgeon General to get this word out.  It feels right whether biking, skiing or walking.  That crisp, clear air does something for me.

It not only does something for my body, it triggers memories.  The cold weather rides take me back to my early morning paper routes, first for the Lynnwood Enterprise and then the Seattle Times.  Of course, Mom would drive me on the rainy mornings, but on those clear mornings I would get on my bike and ride the roads of South Snohomish County, newspaper sack over my shoulders, throwing papers at front door porches.  It was a difficult job and on those crisp mornings you felt as if you were climbing a mountain.  Completion was incredible success.

Today, the completion of a simple, warm weather bike ride feels like an incredible success.  The cold weather just makes it that much more special.

Don’t fade away from any of these cold days in which the rain stays away.  Get out for a walk, ride, run or stroll.  Take it in.  Breathe it in and out…not only the air (which will cure all ailments), but also the memories.

Competing with My Sleeping Self

I got a Fitbit for my birthday a couple weeks ago.  It does many things, but one of the things the Fitbit tracks is your sleep.  It helps you understand your sleep patterns and the quality of your sleep, tracking it in graphs and calculations.

fitbit-sleepingI compete and there is no more fierce  competitor that myself.  I’ve been competing against myself for years, trying to be the best me that I can be.  Consistently bike 100 miles every week.  Reading the Bible in a year.  Trying to gain and then lose weight.  When you compete against yourself, the good news is that you always win.  You lose the weight or you eat that delicious pie, either way you win.

This true, except in sleep.  The more I work hard to get to fall asleep the more I’m awake.  The more that I fight against the “times restless” the more “min. awake/restless.”

Let’s just say, it’s difficult to PR in sleeping.

Maybe I should just relax.  Yes, that’s nice.  Now I can sleep.

But when I awake…Check the Fitbit, how did I do?

Taking Notes… at Funerals

Yes, funerals are a time to stand with friends who are going through this most significant of separations.  Of course, it’s also a time to honor the deceased.  I have also found that funerals are a time to reflect, review, receive and reorientate.  It’s therapeutic.

taking-notesI take notes at funerals. Nicknames, stories, Bible verses, quotes, themes.  I write it all down.  The notes help me ingrain the lessons in my own brain.

This last weekend I attended two memorials.  The first was a 56-year old man who died of brain cancer after a fairly short battle.  The other was a 77-year old man who suffered a heart attack. Two men who lived a whole-lot-of life and were taken far too soon from their grace-filled work on this Earth.

The 57-year old, Kelly, lived with a welcoming style that I’d like to emulate.  The style was literally style.  I’d seen him at home, work and in volunteering and he always looked sharp.  His style wasn’t hauty. It was honoring.  It spoke to the excellence he brought to the world.  The well-dressed can be anything but welcoming.  That was not the case here.  Anyone who knew Kelly talked about he changed a room with his presence, referenced at the memorial, “the Woo.”  His nephew even called him, “Up-man,” because Uncle Kelly helped him up the stairs as a toddler.  Kelly helped every man and woman “up.”

Seventy-seven years is a good, long run, but I am still amazed by the amount of life lived by Don.  He impacted lives in Alaska, Croatia, Bainbridge Island, Seattle, North Korea, Chile, Skagit Valley and where he died in Palm Springs.  He really didn’t have a plan for any of these places.  He was present and available to people and his strategy was simply “Jesus.”  As shared at the memorial, Don would say, “Jesus is the plan.” It’s incredibly kooky and it’s incredibly keen.  “God’s way is upside down.” Speakers at Don’s funeral talked about how his work would continue in North Korea and Croatia.  His simple plan worked.

My notes taken on two funeral bulletins about two brothers have been breathed in…as have the lives of two incredible men.  I learned from their in life…and with my pen while sitting in the pew.

Thankful Birthday on this Anniversary

happy-birthday-meme10Yesterday was an odd mix of emotions.  I have a few of those days in my life.  It was one year ago yesterday that I was dismissed from my job; there was no longer a role.

These unusual days sneak up on you emotionally.  For example, the anniversary of my parents passing.  Those date aren’t noted on my calendar, but every year I recognize the gravity of that day in my life by my responses and emotions.  It will be the late afternoon when I’ll wonder, “Why am I just ‘off’ today?”  I’ll then recognize that it’s June 4 or September 10.

Yesterday I was “off.”  December 3 is now one of those days.  The complicating piece is that it’s also my birthday, which is a day that already brings a circle of emotions (at least it’s noted on the calendar and seen as a day of reflection).

The remarkable and great news is that almost all of the last 364 days have been wonderful.  I have developed strong, authentic, supportive friendships.  I’ve seen the provision of God in my life.  Living in and leading with grace has been a gift.  Brenda and I love each other more than ever.  I have had hundreds of people speak specifically into my life.  While I have a few pounds to lose, I’m healthier today than I’ve been in years. Most of this has been well documented on  It has been a marvelous season.  I’m so thankful.

Yesterday was challenging in feeling the emotion of the one-year anniversary against the hundreds of kind Facebook posts, messages and texts from a whole lot of you.

Those messages where limericks in a day that was more of a lament.

You all didn’t know the anniversary, you just knew the birthday.  The day was a dirge, thanks for giving it delight.

My hope was that this is just a one-year wonder.  The truth is this will always be a part of my story.  People have told me that when you are dismissed from an organization after 25 years, it’s like a death.  If so, then I know from experience that it will get better with time.  I also know that this notorious day, while not noted in my calendar, will be a recurring annual event.

Here is what I can be assured from the last 364 days… God will use it.  He will use this day, every year, as a part of my birthday celebration to make me a better person.  It’s what He’s always done.  It’s how He operates.

“Thank you” for the kind birthday wishes.  I couldn’t respond to each message, text or email with these details, so I thought I’d reflect on my day with this post.  It wasn’t a “Happy Birthday” but it was a contemplative, challenging, considerate day…but I’m not sure there is a Hallmark card or meme you could have sent me that reads, “Have an Introspective Birthday.”