I grew up the youngest of eight kids in the great state of Michigan. My Dad worked in the parts department for Chevrolet and my Mom stayed home. Taking care of that many children is a full-time job in itself! We lived in a 4-bedroom house so we were a “close knit” family. Instead of having the three boys room together, my parents partitioned off an area for my oldest brother in the basement. We were blue collar through and through. Nonsense was not allowed at the dinner table and if you didn’t finish your meal, you had to eat it for breakfast- cold. That happened to me once and only once. It was spaghetti and I literally had to choke it down. Easily it was the grossest breakfast I have ever eaten.
When I turned five years old, things got tougher. My Dad lost his job a couple times and battled with alcoholism and depression. At one point, we had to get food stamps in order to pay for groceries. I started to think that things would always be this way and it definitely affected my self-confidence. When something did go right, I was thinking about when it would go wrong. It lingered into my playing career and my adult life as well. Some would call this a “generational curse” believing that financial struggle will be passed from the father to the son. I started to wonder if this was true, but then something happened to me and everything changed.
The Joy of Giving
I remember when I was a kid my parents taught me it was better to give than receive. I was like, “whatever”, I like getting stuff. Ripping open wrapping paper at Christmas and getting G.I Joe and Star Wars action figures for gifts…that was awesome! As I grew up the concept sunk in and I genuinely enjoyed buying gifts for my family and friends. However, I was always self-conscious of the money I was spending. It’s good to be aware of your budget, but I could be a scrooge at times as well.
When I was about 8 years old I started to donate money to our church. I went to a St. Joseph’s Catholic School and they gave all the students these small envelopes for our offerings. I never received an allowance growing up and only received money on holidays. My parents told me to put in a dime each week so I did. This slowly went up as I grew older, but I never understood what true giving was, much less a tithe. I was just told to give what I thought was right. Generosity had not entered my heart yet.
Now let’s connect the dots. The conversation you have with someone are the contents inside the pot (water and noodles). The colander is your mind. The things that you agree with are the noodles. What you disagree with is the water. When you disagree with someone it’s nothing personal and may not even have to be discussed with them. You simply take the thing or things that you learned and put them in your memory bank to use it later. The other stuff just washes down the drain, maybe never to be seen or thought of again.
Tithing during Turmoil
In 2005, my life was turned upside down at a church service. I was attending Resurrection Life Church and Pastor Lee challenged the congregation to tithe their income to the church and believe that God would bless them. God used Pastor Lee to speak to my heart and I decided to do it. I figured out what 10% of my gross income was and gave that to the church every week. After a while, things had not changed financially in my life, but I looked forward to giving. Three months later, I lost my job. I was not sure how that was a “blessing”, but I continued to give to the church during my month of unemployment and believed for something better.
After five weeks, I received a better paying job and went from working 50+ hours per week to only working 40. I had more freedom both financially and personally and God continued to work on my heart. A few months later, I got a call from my Mom that her car was going kaput. I talked to a couple of my siblings and we decided to buy her a car. I found one for $7,000 and told them I would put in $5K myself. I flew to Arizona for the weekend and drove it from the dealership to her house. It was the most money I ever spent on one thing in my life and it was absolutely the best feeling, ever. Giving her that car after everything she did for me growing up, started to rip down the bars of fear that imprisoned my heart. I became a cheerful giver.
I flew back home to Michigan and within two weeks was let go from my job. What the heck is going on here God?!! I was concerned, but not scared. I got on my knees, started to pray and God made it clear to me on what I should do. I sold everything I owned, bought an SUV with the equity line of credit on my house, and within 10 days, I moved back to Arizona. I started a youth baseball company called Cactus Athletics from scratch and lived with my Mom for 3 months until my house in Michigan sold. I eventually bought a house in Scottsdale and starting giving to multiple charities. I was completely all in on helping others.
Patiently Waiting on God
I have been coaching baseball since 1993. My first job was a camp counselor for Doyle Baseball. I was still playing in college, so I didn’t get paid. I helped the professional coaches at the camp in Phoenix, AZ and in return got to work out in front of the pro scouts that were in attendance. I enjoyed it and eventually this turned into a 25 year professional playing and coaching career. Over that time, I learned a lot of baseball techniques from some very intelligent men. Some I liked and some I didn’t. Some things worked during that time period, but as the game has evolved, better ways to teach have surfaced.
Fast forward one year and I was now married and owned four houses. We lived in one and the other three were rentals. Things were looking good. Then in 2008, the housing market crashed and we were in a heap of trouble. Now instead of renting to others, we had to rent from someone else! We ended up losing all four houses, but never missed a tithe. My wife and I were committed to giving to God. Things got really tough, and at one point we didn’t even have enough money to pay our monthly bills. Our debt was building up and it looked like there was no way out.
We believed things would get better and over time, they did. It took us seven years to rebuild our finances to the point where we could buy a home, but it happened, and there were plenty of blessings in-between. In 2012 I was hired by the San Francisco Giants as a Minor League Coach, and in October we won the World Series. Later that year my first book, Seven Day Fast, was published. In 2013, we won the Minor League Championship in the Arizona League. In 2014, we won the World Series again. All of these things came with financial blessings. Finally, in August of 2015, we purchased the home we currently live in. I didn’t enjoy waiting for seven years, but I learned a lot about money during that time.
The Reverse Birthday
My birthday was last week and all of us were sitting in the living room. I don’t really want or need anything so typically my wife struggles trying to find me gifts. About three weeks ago, I decided I would make it easy on her and said I was having a “reverse birthday”. We didn’t tell the boys about it. I bought gifts for everyone else, including the dog, and opened them as if it was my birthday. The boys giggled at first when I opened up a canine cooling pad and a zebra colored belt. Then I opened up two more gifts with Lego sets in them and they started to figure it out. I told them that everything I wanted was sitting with me, and that I was so thankful for all of them. Someday when they become Dads, maybe they will do the same thing for their family on one of their birthdays. That would be cool.
This was an opportunity for me to give the boys an example of generosity. Your actions will almost register higher than your words, and trust me that your kids are always watching you. God wants us to bless others and when you do, I believe that He will bless you as well. Just remember that it is always in His timing and the timing is always right. It can be hard to wait on what God has for you, but when you truly believe that He has your best interests at heart and you trust Him, the blessings will come.
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Here are some points to think about this:
- Your past does not always dictate your future.
- Believe in yourself and practice positive speech.
- Go out of your way to bless others with your time and finances.
- Do a tithe challenge for 90 days at your church and believe you will be blessed.
- Try a reverse birthday with your wife and kids and watch their reaction. Even include your pets!