Good In, Garbage Out

The Power of New

8:59 a.m. The Corvette in front of me stopped at the gate and I got out to see what time the Dump opened. The guy in the Vette turned out to be the manager who was opening the gate for the day. Perfect timing. It reminded me of the following principle.

Good in, garbage out.

I see this principle everywhere.

In the picture above.  Clean, fresh, running water displaces stagnant water.

Take the body for example. It takes in clean, fresh, oxygen and breathes out waste- carbon dioxide.

Digestion. The body takes in fresh, healthy food and gets rid of the waste.

Relationships. We associate with healthy people and disassociate with toxic people.

Again, this is a principle easily seen throughout the world.

The rub is when we keep gathering good things and never get rid of them.

As simple as the principle of good in, garbage out is, we all have a tendency to hold onto unhealthy habits, relationships, attitudes, etc.

Tomorrow we think to ourselves. Next week. Next year. The next time my co-worker is offensive, I’m going to speak up. The next time I feel like binging, I won’t. I’ll throw out that thing that’s damaging my soul, tomorrow. I’ll end that relationship next week.

Paul wrote: “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Sometimes health means getting rid of the old and focusing on the new.

Things like self-limiting beliefs.

Traditions.

Habits.

Mindsets.

Routines.

Eating habits.

Social habits.

You can probably think of a few of your own.
I’m reminded of my grandmother who never got her license because her father criticized one move when she was learning to drive.

Remember, good in, garbage out.

Sometimes you may even find your self in a situation where you are just taking garbage in.

If that’s the case, there’s still time to change.

Maybe it’s things that are keeping you back. Always remember that people are more important than things. Yet it’s so easy to forget that and focus on what you have, need or want.

Eventually you get all you can, can all you get and sit on the can.

Then there’s the maintenance of all that you have. Jesus talked about this. He commanded us to store up treasures in heaven where there are no thieves to break in to destroy, moths to devour and rust to corrupt and tarnish.

If you’re not careful, you can get so caught up in materialism that it will suffocate you.

Mind you, I realize it’s a common disease in the West. I’m fully aware how crippling it can be and all-consuming.

Perhaps it’s time to whittle down some of your personal possessions. If you have two coats, give one away. Twenty pairs of shoes, donate ten.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of getting rid of some things that are no longer useful and are just taking up space.

Keep a piece of paper and a pen handy for a couple of days and every time you find yourself thinking about and worrying about physical things, write it down.

People. Is there someone in your life who is nothing more than a vampire? Why are you allowing them to suck the life out of you and your family or organization. Maybe it’s time to end the relationship. Some people, no matter how hard you try, are ever going to change.

Don’t go and unfriend someone just because they disagree with you. But if they are a troll, who is constantly cutting you down, do something about it. Have the uncomfortable conversation. Detach. Whatever you have to do to get rid of the garbage that’s filling up your life because of their unhealthiness.

Reading. One of the best ways to fill your mind with fresh thoughts are books. If you can’t afford them, there is always the local library. With a library card, you’ll have FREE access to unlimited supplies of magazines, books and DVDS.

Any book that gives you just one single revelation is easily worth it’s price. The person you’ll be five years from now will be the direct result of the the books you read and the people you spend the most time with.

Look for a book that addresses your major pressure points at this moment.

Remember, good in, garbage out.

Are you broke? Get a book on finances. Depressed? Get a book that will give you some strategies to feel good again. Overweight? Get a book on diet and exercise.
The first book you’ll want to read is the bible. There are tons of free versions online. You’ll find that there’s just something about it. It has a natural tendency to fill you with good and while displacing the garbage.

The trip to the dump was a success. I got rid of a bit of junk and now I’ll be able to create some safer, tidier areas in my personal living spaces, especially the garage. It only took a small amount of time and I’ll be enjoying the results for quite some time…months and maybe years.

So. If we’ll take a few minutes here and there, we can begin to take in some good and get rid of some garbage. We don’t have to go to extremes or buy the farm. Small, sound decisions over time have a snowball effect. Sometimes it means simply washing a dish or two or sweeping the floor.

One small, simple action, is sometimes all it takes to get the ball rolling and move in a healthier direction and go the distance.

When Something’s In The Way

Change Doesn't Have To Be Crazy

Life can be really messy. Especially when it comes to making a change. Some people don’t mind change as long as they know how every thing is going to work out. Unfortunately, you don’t always know.

I’m talking about a change I’ve made in the recent past. There were many uncertainties. However, it seemed like the best thing to do.

In my own experience, the right choices don’t always look good on paper. You know what I mean if the change you are considering means a cut in pay or some setbacks for a while.

The good news is that sometimes things work out better than you could have ever imagined. So here’s a principle.

There’s always an obstacle between where you are and where you want to go.

Most people are not willing to take the chance. The ones who do prosper.

If you’re not taking any risks whatsoever, chances are you are at risk.

There’s the risk of dying inside. The risk of never knowing what could have been. The risk of missing out. The risk of being devoured because….well, you’re not taking any risks.

I’m not saying you should play Russian Roulette with your finances, relationships, spiritual life or anything else for that matter.

But you might want to reconsider if there’s a change you feel God wants you to make. If there’s a change that will benefit you and your family. A change that will advance your spiritual life.

The reason I say this is because if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to get the same results.

As I said earlier, I took a chance that seemed right and it is paying off in Spades. It multiplied my circle of friends tenfold. Increased my income. And allowed me to have the kind of life I only dreamed about for twenty years.

That’s not saying any of those things are going to happen if you make the change you’ve been considering.

However, there is a good chance that the change you’re considering will make a difference. In your life and the lives of others.

Remember, there’s always an obstacle between where you’re at and where you’re trying to go.

Be it a Giant. A river without a bridge. A dream without a template. Heaven without a stairway.

You have to kill the Giant. You have to figure out how to get your troops across the raging waters. You have to devise the plan to make the dream come true and initiate it. You have to build the escalator to the heavens.

That’s actually the fun part. Life without a challenge would be a bore. You can stay at your current level with the rest of the crowd or break out and climb higher. It’s your choice.

But I promise you that the best way to get the results you’re getting is to stay exactly where you are. And eventually things are going to change anyway. That’s the natural cycle. So you can work to move beyond your current status or be swept downstream eventually by change.

Here are some questions.

If you just keep making enough to pay your bills do you think you will ever have enough to do the things you really want to do?

If you don’t put your self in situations where you are around more people, do you think your circle of friends will ever increase?

If you remain in your comfort zone, do you believe you’ll ever be challenged to grow?

Good questions, right?

If you’re satisfied with the results you’re getting, so be it. However if the reverse is true, you’re going to need to make a change.

The reason we don’t like change is because we have to walk from this room to the room down the hall and we’re afraid it’s going to be dark in the hall and big scary, furry monsters are going to jump out and get us.

Jesus didn’t refer to humans as sheep by accident. Sheep are fearful animals. So are we, sometimes.

As you navigate your current dark hall, here’s a verse for you.

God’s your Guardian,
    right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
    sheltering you from moonstroke.
 
God guards you from every evil,
    he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
    he guards you now, he guards you always.
-Psalm 121: 5-8 (The Message)

Maybe, just maybe the change you are contemplating is of God. Perhaps it’s something he’s been preparing you for and orchestrating for a while now. You’ll never know unless you strike out into new territory.

However, don’t feel like you have to bet the farm. Rather, take a flyer. By that, I mean, take a small step in the direction you are considering and see what happens. Think of it as temporary, not permanent. Don’t quit your day job.

Everyone seems to think you have to do something radical to make a change. That’s not true. Take a baby step. Rather than upping your 401k deduction to 10%, try 2% for a while.

Keep your full-time job and try working the job you’re interested in part-time.

Volunteer 1 hour a week before you agree to 5.

Instead of trying to save $100.00 a week, start with ten.

You don’t have to slay the Giant on the first day. You can practice sharpening your sword.

You don’t have to cross the river the first day. Start by finding some logs to tie together.

You don’t have to have a successful non-profit the first day. Begin by narrowing your target and getting something down on paper.

You don’t have to take everyone to the next level tomorrow. For today, simply write down 5 things you can do to change your culture.

But whatever you do, do something. Take some kind of action. Otherwise you’ll never make any progress. That’s fine if you want to be in the same boat five, ten or twenty years from now. However, if you don’t, start today. Again, don’t worry about going all in. You can always do that later.

God Never Wastes a Hurt

Why It's Not Too Late

When I was in my twenties, I didn’t just hit bottom, I dug a hole. I remember just wanting to disappear into thin air. All that would be left were some chalk lines on the pavement. Sorry no details here, I’m sure you have a story of your own.

The problem is that we all have a tendency to believe we can create our own happiness. If we just do a little more or better, than everything will be all right. We’ve bought the lie that if we just work hard enough our lives will match the stock photos where everyone’s hair is perfect and nobody has zits, let alone skeletons in the closet.

The bible says otherwise. It says someone, not just anyone, but Jesus, had to die for me….before I was even born! An innocent person had to die for the guilty. Me. You.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His [a]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (New American Standard Bible).

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel pretty good. Especially when I examine my own personal performance on a weekly, daily and moment by moment basis.

He loved me. He died for me. He was buried for me. And he triumphed over the grave. That’s really good news and it applies to you.

In the words of a song writer, “Living, he loved me. Dying, he saved me. Buried, he carried my sin far away. Rising, he justified, freely forever. One day he’s coming O glorious day!”

Have you ever wanted to be rescued? I think many people do. We saw that this past few weeks when people were buying Powerball tickets. Why? Because we honestly believe that a payout like that has the potential to fix everything that’s wrong with our lives.

I’m not against people who take chances. Faith means trusting God and taking a chance. Farmers take a chance and plant seed with the hope that it will produce a crop. As believers, we should be planting seed and taking chances. The bible says if we sow a lot of Tomato plants, chances are we will harvest a lot of Tomatoes.

What if you took a chance and trusted God with your life. Right now. “Heavenly Father, I’ve sinned. Please save me!” If that’s too fancy, why not just cry out “HELP!” He knows your heart.

If you fell into an icy river, you wouldn’t be shouting anyone fancy. A stander by on the banks would see your need and understand your simple cry for help. Why is it that we often feel like we have to figure our problem out before we ask God for help.
If your life is a mess right now, I want you to know that you’re not alone. We don’t have to live in this world very long before trouble and heartache comes along.

God created the world to be perfect. Paradise. Heaven on earth. Mega pixels beyond measure. There was no sin, no death. The Lion laid down with the Lamb.

Then sin entered the world and the picture began to change. There was friction between the first man and wife. The ground was increasingly difficult to work. Weeds and thorns popped up. Child bearing was painful. Their oldest son killed their youngest son.

For thousands of years it got worse. There were murders on the front page headlines. Horrors beyond horror. Rape. Greed. Entire populations wiped out. Deaths by arrows, death by stones. Death by strangulation….

Finally, when the timing was just right, God sent a Deliverer. A Messiah He had been predicting for thousands of years. Jesus!

When Jesus died on the cross, he died for us. He died for those in the past who foresaw his day and believed he had the power to save them. He died for all who would live in the future and need forgiveness. He died for you. He died for me.

How do we know? He arose from the grave after he was buried. That was no accident. It had been predicted. He showed that he was who he said he was and that he has the power to give eternal life.

Even if the story ended right there, it would be a good one. But there’s more. One day he’s coming back for us! In the meantime, we can live a life of purpose knowing that he loves us and meeting our needs.

What are you afraid of right now? What has you down?

There’s no problem that’s too hard for him!

He can restore dreams. Health. Relationships. Incomes. Hope. You name it, he’s got it covered.

Mostly, he wants to come and live with you. He wants to set up home in your heart and give you a hope beyond your wildest dreams.

Paul had this to say about Jesus’ death on the cross and how it changed his life, “What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.”

Paul realized there was nothing he could do to diminish or gain God’s love for him.

God’s love does not change. Once we accept it, it’s ours forever. It never waxes or wanes, it’s always full, whole and perfect. God is in the process of working everything that has happened in our lives for good. The good, bad and the ugly. Why? Because he knows we can’t do it on our own. Left to ourselves, we’d be miserable and hopeless. Only one person could pay for our sins and solve all of the problems of the world. They nailed him to a cross. Aren’t you glad?

 

Is Your Dad Glad?

How to Have a Long, Full Life

Have you ever had a time when you felt like you were failing in every area? Maybe even in your lowest moments you’ve wished you were someone else, that you had the advantages they had by birth. Then you could be a billionaire real estate mogul or a rich and famous musician.

Me too. It’s so easy to get our eyes off what we have and focus on what we don’t have. The end result is pain.

When it comes to our geneologies, it’s not that some things are too painful to talk about. The fact is that it’s healthier to focus on some details and forget about others when it comes to making peace with our origin and destination.

There’s a phrase in the bible that sums this up pretty well. Moses wrote, “Honor your mother and father. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12)”.

I’m going to climb out on a limb and say that there are many people who are not at peace with their past. Or their parents. God knew that we would find blame with our parents and so he recorded these words.

If you were to trace these feelings back to their origin, it all boils down to this. “God, it’s all your fault that I have the parents I have.” If you were to say that, you’re right. However, if you feel shorted because of this fact, your real problem isn’t your parents, your real problem is with God. He’s not wise enough, or loving enough, or kind….

Here’s another trap. When we don’t know what God is really like, it’s easy for us to imagine he’s just like our earthly father. Not true. While your earthly father may have godly attributes, he is not God. The fact that we all have imperfect dad’s is evidence that we all need a perfect heavenly father.

The good news is that we can all have a perfect heavenly Father. In another place, God says, “I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:7).

Does that mean that you earthly father was perfect and that you should just forgive him for all of his faults in the past. No. Does it mean that you can though if you choose to. (Gulp) Yes! That’s just my opinion. But here’s what I’ve found. When we let others off the hook, we let ourselves off the hook. Life is too short to have hangups keeping us back.

The fact is that our heavenly Father is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

When we start looking to have our needs met by anyone other than God, we look bad and so does God.

For example, when we complain on the job and brag about God at the same time, God isn’t glorified. All they hear is that our God is not big enough to satisfy us.

If you have children, you know what I mean. Does it make you look good when your child has a temper tantrum at the check out line in Walmart?

Some thoughts on being satisfied with God and glorifying him.

Passions.  What are they? In the words of Eric Liddel, “God made me fast and when I run I feel his pleasure.” What is it for you? Are you carving out time to do the things you enjoy or ‘grinding it out’ so that you can do what you want sometime in the future. For me, it’s being in the woods. When the pressures of daily living mount, that’s where I head to get alone with God and calm my mind, will and emotions.

Others. Last weekend my son and I went to our first Yankees game. Aaron Judge hit two homers. The next morning I watched a Youtube video to see what his response would be. When asked what he thought about hitting his longest homer of the season, he said, “Not much”. Then he went on to give his team the credit for playing so well. Something magical happens when we give others credit rather than ourselves. In contrast, have you ever been around anyone who blames everyone around them for their lack of success?

Joy. As a parent, you know that when your children are most satisfied with you, you are most satisfied with them. For example, they like a shirt you surprised them with. Or a phone that you bought them. Or a word of advice that you gave them. In contrast, when your children are miserable it makes you miserable….if you let it. As you get older you realize that your children are going to go through times and seasons of discontent. It can only bring YOU down if you let it.  I can imagine some of your hearts are aching right now because your relationship with your child.  God wants to use this season to strengthen you and grow you if you’ll allow him to.  God wants you to reach the point where your joy is found in him, and not relationships, circumstances and income.

Work. Many people I talk to as a pastor want to know what God’s will is for them. Some even wonder what God’s perfect will for their life is. They want to know how they should spend every moment of their existence. As if God is some kind of director and there is a script floating around out there somewhere and they’re supposed to learn it and act in unison moment by moment. If God has one for me, I haven’t figured it out yet. As a pastor, I feel like saying, “If you find out, let me know.” What if we substituted the word work for will? Will seems kind of intangible. To me, work is more tangible. The work that God has for us is laid out perfectly clear in the Great Commission. Like most of the bible. He’s given us the plan and left it up to us to figure out the implementation.

I used to work construction. Every foreman had their own form of leadership and way of doing things. However, at the end of the day, they were all successful in completing their projects. Admittedly, some of the finished products were better than others. However, when everything was said and done, people were able to pull up to the gas pumps we installed and fill their cars.

Your job isn’t to be perfect. Your job is to be the best version of yourself that is possible. However, if you keep blaming your past and your parents for the state you’re in today, you’re not glorifying God. Father’s Day is a reminder to all of us to be thankful for not just our Dad’s but our heavenly Father who makes all things possible.

 

Stop Listening and Start Talking

The Life Beyond Your Comfort Zone

One day last Summer, the point where I turned for home was quickly approaching while jogging the bike path.  However, on this particular day I decided to keep running straight past my turn.  In fact, mentally I decided I was going to run twice as far today.  That’s when it happened.

Immediately, my mind was inundated with thoughts.  Things like, “You have to turn for home, you can’t do it!….”If you keep going, you’ll have to run twice as far than you normally do….”You hurt, there must be something wrong.”  You get the idea.  My body was telling me, don’t do it!

A wonderful lesson began to unfold.  I kept running, straight, past my turning point for home.  Farther away from my destination.  And as I did, guess what happened?  It wasn’t any more difficult than my normal routine.  In fact, I felt twice as good when I ran down the homestretch and crossed the finish line at my driveway.  When all was said and done, I’d ran TWICE as far as my normal routine.  How is that possible?

This is what happened.   When my body began to tell me I couldn’t, something greater began to tell me I could!  Up until that turning point, I’d always listened to my body, but amazing transformations take place when we stop listening to ourselves, and start talking!

I’d like to report that I do respond that way everytime a similar scenario plays out, but sadly, I don’t.  How about you?

What’s the impossible thing you’re facing right now?  What self-limiting beliefs are holding you back?

Is it a lack of confidence?  Finances? Family?  An employer?  What is it?  Maybe it’s time to stop listening and start talking to yourself.  It’s a silly illustration, but one you’ll remember- are you the little engine that can or the little engine that can’t?

The apostle Paul said it this way,”…work out your own salvation…for it is God who works in you…” —Philippians 2:12-13.  It’s not our wills that give us a problem, it’s something smaller than that.  How do I know? Because there is something far greater, working in us, namely God!  As Christians, we want to do God’s will.  We have the power in us, Paul says, we just have to work it out.  God is already doing a perfect job working in you.  Do your part, by using dynamite….that dynamite is obedience to his will.

Lets face it, our bodies lie to us!  They have a mind of their own.  They are like the animal who doesn’t want to work.  They lie and connive.  They cheat and rob us of all that God has for us.  They prefer the path of least resistance.  The only way to master them is to stop listening to them and start talking to them.

This isn’t a ‘no pain, no gain’ post.  Instead it’s an invitation to tune into your greater self and tune out everything that’s telling you it can’t be done, whatever ‘it’ is for you right now.  Chances are there is opposition because what you’re trying to do needs to be done and you’re the only one who can do it!

Just think, you were born at just the right time to be in the position to face the particular challenge you’re facing right now.  So lean into it with faith and stop listening to the opposition.  When you do, you may be surprised to find you’re capable of accomplishing twice as much as you think you can.

 

 

O.K, So Everything is Going Relatively Well….What next?

How to Live Beyond Being Happy

So maybe you’re six weeks into something new and things are starting to gel.  Or, it’s been a year since you lost your spouse.  Now you’re beginning to wonder what is next.

I remember being newly single in college and not knowing what to do.  Everything changed in an instant.  I didn’t want to do much.  Mostly, I thought about diving into the Saranac River and seeing how long I could hold my breath.  In retrospect, I just wanted to be numb to what was going on.  Ever feel that way?

Wanting to feel better is a natural tendency, however it’s not the only option.  Pretty soon, your comfort zone gets uncomfortable.  Stay inside the box for too long and you’ll suffocate.

It’s counter intuitive, but life begins outside your comfort zone.  Be it a new job, circumstances, challenges…illness.  There’s just something about embracing a challenge that is rewarding.

Years ago I met a guy in his eighties who was still taking college classes.  “I’m a life-long learner,” he said.  We all should be.  In the words of Bob Dylan, “He who is not living is dying.”

Here are some things you can do if you’re stuck in a rut.

Start something new.  It’s called a sigmoid curve. Google it.  When you reach the top of the learning curve and start declining, it’s time to start climbing again.  Challenge yourself in a new way.  Rewrite your business plan.  Learn Greek or Hebrew.  Offer a new service.  Start a new business or stream of income.  But whatever you do, start something new!

Find a new way To travel to work.  To spend time with your mate.  To spend money.  To save.  To improve your diet.  To study the bible.  To meet people.  To earn a living.  To have fun.  To network.  To grow.  To challenge yourself.  To donate.  To learn.  To write.  You get the idea!

Meet new people. New people bring new perspectives.  They teach you new things and allow you to teach them.  It’s a give and take kind of thing.  What kind of people do you need to meet to accomplish your goals?  A guy I just met used to be a salesman.  He would go to shoe stores and buy shoes that had damaged boxes or minor blemishes and give them to potential clients.  He’d attach a note that said “I’ll do anything to get my foot in the door.”  I wouldn’t have learned that unless I took the time to meet and learn from him.  Meet new people It will change your life.

Develop a new mindset.  Negativity gets us nowhere.  Write down some affirmations and review them daily.  Stop letting the weather or circumstances dictate the quality of your life.  Decide to be content with today, not this Friday or next year when you have your dream job.  Those kinds of tomorrow’s never come.  Learn to be content no matter where you are, Paul was.  Capture your thoughts in a journal.  Meditate daily- it doesn’t have to be for hours.  Start out for a minute or ten a day.  During that time focus on shutting out all distractions.  Occasionally focus on a the excellent things in your life and world.

Of course these are only some ideas to get you started.  Be creative.  Years ago I decided to take a leave of absence from my steady job to work at a summer camp.  One of the best decisions I ever made.  Had two incredible summers!  Summer’s here.  So what are you going to do about it?

Are You Growing?

One Simple Way to Tell

What if there was a simple way to guarantee you are growing? Strange question, right? But the fact you are reading this blog, tells me you think about this sort of thing. Wondering if you’re growing is part of what it means to grow.

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Remember when you were younger and you wondered about this sort of thing. Maybe there was a door in your bedroom closet and you measured how tall you were every so often. At that time you wanted to measure your physical growth. Maybe you looked forward to the day when you were taller than your Mom or Dad or Sister or Brother. Chances are, you haven’t measured your height in a while. At some point you felt as though you’d reached your final height, so there was no longer any need to measure.

Have you ever wondered if the bible has anything to say about growth? The answer is yes. Plenty.  It even talks about how Jesus grew.  Luke 2:52 says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” Jesus grew physically, in stature; he also grew in his ability to apply the things he’d learned, in wisdom; and he grew spiritually and socially. That’s a lot of growing. However, none of this growth occurred over night!

Impatient people, on the other hand, are constantly checking to see if they have grown. They’re like the child who asks their parent to measure their height once a week.

Photo on 4-7-16 at 9.16 PM

Chances are, as an adult, you no longer measure your height. However, you are always measuring your growth in other areas, be it finances, leadership ability, or fitness, just to name a few. And when you do, you always end up feeling lousy because there is a perceived lack of growth. Let me state the obvious. Chances are you haven’t grown much in the last week or month because….well, that’s not the way growth happens.

Mature people realize growth takes time and they measure accordingly. What if rather than measuring every day or once a week, you began to measure monthly? Or annually? See the difference? It’s not that successful people don’t take the time to reflect on their growth, they do. The difference is, mature people realize growth takes time. So when they measure, they look back over longer periods of time while reflecting. They ask themselves, “How have I grown since this time a year ago?”

Growth takes time. It doesn’t matter if it’s physical fitness, spiritual maturity, social or intellectual growth. As a mature leader, part of your job is to realize this principle and to help your followers to understand it better. Encourage them to commit to the long haul before they bail out. Explain to them that growth takes time, but the results are worth it. Teach them to set small and large goals.  Challenge them to commit for six months to a year.  Emphasize the importance of journaling and records.  Both are great ways to record important information for later reflection.  Stop measuring their growth so frequently, that’s only a recipe for frustration.

Besides measuring too often, immature people compare their growth with that of others. When they want to feel good about themselves it’s easy to compare themselves to someone who is floundering. If they’re really delusional, they compare themselves to a star in their field. Big mistake. That’s a recipe for depression and heartache. Mature people take responsibility for their own growth or lack thereof. We’ll never reach our potential as long as we’re trying to measure up to others.

Mature people also measure themselves by God’s standards. They realize they’re responsible for how they live despite the actions and direction of their peers. They make it a point to seek God’s will for their lives and to follow his leading. When in Rome, they never do as the Romans do.

There was a man in the bible called Asaph who knew how to truly measure his own personal growth. In Psalm 73:24 he said this to God, “You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny!” The exclamation is mine. You see, it’s not that Asaph never got depressed. He did. Quite a bit, in fact.   However, whenever Asaph faced a set back and needed encouragement, he always reflected on God’s activity in the past. Why not take a few moments to stop reading and do that right now?

Feeling better? Good. When we stop to reflect, God’s goodness in the past reassures us of God’s goodness in the present and in the future!

So if you want a simple way to guarantee you are growing, don’t compare yourself to the person you were yesterday or last week. If you want a true estimation, compare yourself to the person you were six months or a year ago. When you do, you’ll be amazed! And while you’re at it, don’t compare yourself to others. That’s only a recipe for pride and/or depression.

I guarantee if you look back on the person you were a year ago, you’ll see that you’ve grown. Maybe not in every area, but probably in more areas than you realized.

F.O.C.U.S

How To Manage Distractions

When you have two children, you can play man to man.  More than two and you have to play zone.  As if that’s not difficult enough, there’s a new challenge.

Distractions.

Remember the pastoral days before cell phones?  Just you and nature or whoever happened to be in front of you.  You could change your oil in peace or bake a cake without being dinged.

I’m so glad cellphones weren’t around when I was a teenager.  It was bad enough not having a girlfriend, let alone worrying if I was going to get dumped via text.   My zit production was bad enough without that kind of stress looming over head.

Back in those days the only ones who had cell phones were C.E.O’s.  And the phones they had were the size of bread loaves.  When did we all become C.E.O’s?

While those days aren’t gone, something has changed.  There came a day when we found that we could do lots of things at the same time.  We could drive and talk on our phones or read a text.  We could read a book to our child and look up the latest deals in the market place when and if necessary.

But it’s more than our phones now.  There are distractions everywhere.  Go online for a few minutes and there a thousands of different rabbit trails.  They know what you like based on your searches and advertise the items in the margins.  You can go online today to find out what the weather is going to be and end up buying a kayak!

By now, perhaps you’re beginning to realize the dilemma.  There are so many alluring exits in our daily travels that we’re having a hard time reaching our destinations.

Here are some thoughts on focusing.

F: Find a system that works for you.  Personally, I’ve found that when I lock my cell phone in my car for hours on end, I can’t be distracted by it.  While that might sound harsh, find a system that works for you.  Go cold turkey.  Start by taking baby steps.  If hours on end sounds too long, lock it away for an hour or two.  Whatever you do, find what works for you.  Turn off your notifications.  Silence it during sleeping hours.  Once you find your system, tweak it and change it.  Learn from your mistakes.

O: Opt out on being part of the crowd.  We all want to be loved.  The problem is we can’t love everyone at the same time.  Oprah says she’s got a lot of money.  And because she has lots of money, she gets a lot of requests from people who want her money.  She says that while she can’t give money away to everyone, she can give away some here and there.  You’re not Oprah.  You only have a limited supply of time and energy.  Don’t try to keep everyone happy.  They’ll find you sitting in your cubicle drooling all over yourself.  Opting out of the crowd doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you care enough for those you love to devote yourselves to them in such a way that they know they are your number one priority.  Don’t be a cellphone zombie.

C: Craft a vision for you and your family.  Part of the reason we’re so distracted is we don’t have a long term vision.  Take some time and try this exercise.  Begin by imagining what you want your children and/or family to remember about you.  Many people do this.  What do you want your epithet to say?  Then ask yourself what you want your grandchildren to remember about you.  Then your great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.  If that doesn’t help, ask yourself what you want to remembered about you one thousand years from now!  Once you can answer that question, the distractions will melt away.

U: Use your phone to create.  In the world of production, there are really only two types of people, producers and consumers.  My personal vision is to ‘create good things, beautiful things, in the lives of others and their families’.  The problem is it’s so easy to just consume all of the good and beautiful things other people have created.  You don’t have to write a novel or write a blog to be creative.  Start small.  Text your spouse during your break and tell them you love them.  Call one of your friends on FB who appears to be struggling.  Post something that is going to add value to the lives of your followers.  Start by making one call a day or one post.  Encourage one person.

S: Soar.  As you begin to take back parts of your life, your whole life will improve.  Don’t go through life being distracted left and right.  Focus on the moment.  Wherever you are, be all there.  By taking a few minutes or hours to take a bird’s eye view, you’ll develop an Eagle’s eye focus on what needs attention.  Reflection and observation are two of the most powerful tools to help you get back on track and start flying toward your dreams again.

Nothing can undermine your effectiveness quicker than distractions.  The good news is that the more you begin to focus, the more your distractions diminish.

Some people put blinders on their horses to keep the horse focused on the task at hand.  It’s not cruel.  It keeps the animal on track and focused on the task at hand.  I don’t know about you, but I need blinders sometimes.  There have been too many days when I haven’t experienced a sense of satisfaction because I’ve been distracted.  How about you?

 

 

 

What To Do Now That You Took A Risk And Things Are Looking Ugly

What Winners DO When Things Go Wrong

Although I enjoyed my job most of the time in High School and college, there were times I didn’t.  While everyone else was enjoying their weekend, I was schlepping crates of milk from the back cooler and stocking the shelves.  In the process, you had to pull all of the old milk from the back of the shelf and put the new stuff in the front.

Sometimes I stocked the Frozen section.  Nothing is more embarrassing than having zits and wearing a red smock and being seen by the other kids in your class, while filling shelves with frozen pizzas.  Usually they just snickered and kept walking.  Occasionally they’d acknowledge me with the wave of a hand.  I might as well have had a big ‘L’ tattooed on my forehead.

Soon after I stopped working for Grand Union in 1995, they offered an incentive.  It wasn’t much, just a couple thousand dollars, but as a young college student I could have used it.  It would have been fun to take the summer off and sleep in until noon everyday, all the while having disposable income.

But then there’s foresight.  That moment when you decide to keep moving forward come sink or swim.  It’s what separates the wheat from the chaff in the world of success.  Be it determination, fortitude, call it what you want, there’s something to setting your course and pressing on.

I decided to do that recently.  The path I was on was pleasant and fulfilling, yet I decided to strike out for new territories beyond my comfort zone, professionally.  Again, there was no buyout.

But there was buy-in.  I bought in to the idea that it was something God wanted me to do.  That was enough, always has been.  Sometimes what doesn’t look good on paper, makes perfect sense otherwise.  Sometimes the best thing is a change.

However, when the newness and excitement of your adventurous decision wears off, you’re left to figure out what you have to do to get out of the quicksand you’ve jumped into.

In my case, there were new hours, new days off, new people.  At times I felt like I was in a video game looking for shortcuts and secrets.  Occasionally there were hidden treasures, but most of the time there was a lot of struggle.  It’s a real challenge when you go from total competence to relative incompetence.

Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about right now.  You struck out in a new direction and sometimes you find yourself looking back over your shoulder.  You think about going back to the place and time where things were predictable.

Here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned 60 days into my new journey.

It’s going to be o.k!  If you’re like me, you need to know that right now.  One time I went camping with my Dad and his friend for the weekend.  We rode on the back of their motorcycles and pitched tents.  We were young and it was pitch black the first night.  Us kids were alone in the tent and the darker and later it got, the more sure we were that there were bears outside the tent getting ready to eat us.  I’m older now and I’m not scared of bears.  A lot of crumby things can happen, yes.  But you have to keep fear at bay and your faith intact at the same time.  Imagine how the men and women of the bible must have felt while going through their heartaches and trials.  It’s going to be o.k.  I promise.

Learning is fun!  When you attempt new things, you learn new things.  Your circle grows and so does your knowledge.  You meet new people and they teach you new things.  Sometimes what to do and other times what not to do.  You learn their stories and fears and insecurities, philosophies, viewpoints and more.  In some cases, they share exciting and innovative life strategies with you.

Your circle of influence grows!  As you meet new people, you’re impact grows.  Likewise, these people help you connect with their friends and networks.  The choice is yours, you can remain living as a big fish in a small pond or you can become a small fish in a big pond.  There used to be an old pond down behind the farm I grew up on.  It was full of Catfish.  The problem was they were all stunted.  None of the fish were over 4 or 5 inches long.  Sure you could catch a ton of them, but nothing huge.  They were so small because they had no choice but to remain in the small, overpopulated pond they lived in.  A pond with limited supplies of food and opportunities for growth.  You’re not a fish.  The choice is yours when it comes to pursuing new ventures.  You don’t have to stay in the pond, there are oceans out there!

Your confidence will grow!  Remember the first day of school?  One poor kid I went to school with peed his pants every day before he got on the bus.  He’s been dead now for many years now.  He crossed over the median on a highway into oncoming traffic while being chased by the police.

New places, especially school, can be frightening.  You have a new locker that’s hard to find and you pray everyday to crack the combination and find all of your classes.  In the hustle and bustle your books sometimes get knocked out of your hands and lie sprawled out all over the floor.  The good news is that as time goes by, your confidence grows.  Slowly but surely you learn your way around and the new sights, sounds and people become familiar.  Relax.  You learned new environments in the past, and your going to assimilate with your new environment.  One of these days you’re going to be able to give the new kid on the block a tour and show him the restroom so that he can put on fresh pants.  Or not.  Point is, as your confidence grows, you’ll be more likely to embrace fresh opportunities in the future.   The more you do, the shorter the learning curve becomes and the more potential you have.  The lessons and experience you’re gathering now will prove helpful in the future.

Your appreciation for the world we live in will grow!  You’re going to find out that wherever you go, there are new people to meet and new places to see.  And if you stay positive, you’ll find beauty all around you, no matter where you go.  The good news too is that wherever you go, God is the same.  Yesterday, today and tomorrow.  And he’s created an amazing world.  Whenever you get discouraged, just look up and when you do, you’ll find out that the view of the sky is the same no matter where you go.

My Dad used to take us fishing with Fibber McGee, a friend of his and when we asked Fibber why we weren’t catching as many fish as he was, he always said the same thing, “You have to hold your face right!”  I remember wondering what he meant for years, he’d never tell us.  Then one day I realized what he was saying.  It was a flash of lightening.  He was saying, “Whatever you do, keep a great attitude!”  You have to believe before you receive.

I don’t know what you’re going through right now, but I do know this.  Regardless of what it is, if you keep the right attitude and stay positive, things are going to turn out just fine.  It all goes back to the Law of Reaping and Sowing.  Keep planting good seed and good fruit will follow!

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”.  Galatians 6:7

 

 

 

 

How To Climb Out Of The Swamp and Stand On A Rock

Blah Blah Blah

He had hands the size of pie plates that were brown as the land he tilled, and now he’s dead.

It’s 5:53 in the morning. I’m sitting on my back porch drinking coffee and listening to the birds sing. The grass is so green you can smell it. It’s going to be an amazing day.

It wasn’t always that way. There used to be days when I dreaded putting the first foot on the floor. We could go all the way back to college or the teen age years before that. Ironically I used to have a paper route and had to get up with the birds. I remember doing all I could to load by bag and balance my bike. The first couple of deliveries were a balancing act.

As the route progressed, the bag got lighter and the world around me looked brighter. It’s funny the things you remember when you reflect. I just remember working really hard, seven days a week and being looked at as a total loser. I used to have zits (not acne) and was waiting for someone to like me and say I was such a good kid, but it never happened. Sometimes I thought about riding my bike into the local swamp. They wouldn’t find me, just the handlebars sticking out of the muck and the papers sprawled all over floating on top.

Before those days there was the farm. Great BIG amazing place! Life everywhere. It throbbed all around you. Used to wake up once in a blue moon and go down to the barn. It hummed. The milking machines clicked and the cows bellowed. We used to grab an utter and squirt a barn cat. My grandfather, the guy with big, brown hands, leaned his head against the cow flanks and maneuvered the milkers with one hand. Then he’d lean against the wall and we’d talk. Don’t remember now what we talked about, but it was amazing.

I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. I REALLY REALLY miss him. When I tip toe around the house in the morning real early so as not to wake anyone else up, I envision him doing the same. There was dim flourescent light over the kitchen sink. You could hear the Coffee garble as he filled his cup and tip toed out the doors toward the barn. I used to feel sorry for him, but I don’t now that I do the same thing. He had mastered his circumstances in a way that took me 45 years to grasp. I’m still grasping. But I LOVE my day more than I ever have, especially the start.

Three more things about developing the early riser habit!

You look forward to seizing the day. When we were kids, we used to get up at the crack of dawn while the fields were still covered in fog and trudge our way for miles out across the highway in the distance to Fosse’s Pond. By the time we got there we were soaked with morning dew and steam was still rising off the waters. We soon learned fish like worms early in the morning. Occasionally one would surface and SLAP the water when it landed. Now that I’m a little older, every day is a trip to the pond. Getting up early has reawakened my sense of adventure. Every day now I fill the 5 gallon bucket with memories and carry it home, switching hands from time to time to easier carry the load.

Your lows get lower and your highs get higher. My grandfather’s been gone almost twenty-two years now. My Mom has been gone almost sixteen years. My Grandmother’s been gone almost eleven years. There’s a trend here people. The older you get the more you will experience difficult days. But you will also experience and appreciate all kinds of other days. The tendency is to pretend that nothing hard is happening in the world. We tell ourselves soldiers aren’t getting their limbs blown off on a daily basis, our friends aren’t walking around with their hearts ripped out after failed marriages, our children aren’t feeling the pressures of something that moves faster and faster every day! But they are. They really are. But in the midst of it, we can learn to trust. We can believe that behind it all. Behind the curtain there is a God. Someone who loves us and has our best interests in store and is in the process of making all things new! Just this week our circle received news that one of our mentors graduated from a long, painful battle with Cancer. You can’t ignore that. However you also can’t ignore the fact that he impacted many people and his legacy lives on. Embrace your highs and lows. Give up on the idea that life will never be painful. Nobody’s ever made it out alive except for Jesus and even he had to die first.

You’ll be ready. I remember getting up to do the things I enjoyed on Saturdays and days off and taking half the day to wake up. Not any more. Everyday is Saturday! Gazing up now, there’s more light. Still an overcast morning but the grass is a thousand shades of green brighter. The glass table on the back lawn looks like an Adirondack valley covered with small ponds and lakes. The Lilacs are budding and drops of dew are hanging on the furniture. I’ve been away for an hour and fifteen minutes. It’s going to be an amazing day. Did I mention the fact that it’s Friday? All week, I’ve been looking forward to the treat of driving my truck to work. The kids are moving about and starting their day inside the house. My wife has been seizure-free for just over two years! I’m ready for whatever life sends my way. I’m expectant. Anticipating untold miracles today. I don’t want to ride my bike into the swamp anymore. The zits are gone. People can hate me and voice there opinions about me and I’m good with it. I can love them in a way I couldn’t before. I can laugh. Smile. Encourage. Make someones day! And it all began with getting ready. With starting a new SIMPLE habit of getting up early like Grandpa. Whatever it is you’re looking forward to in life, start preparing now. One of my mottos has always been “If you don’t see it before you see it, you’ll never see it when you see it”. In the words of Steve Brown, “You think about that!”.

Your rest will be sweet. I sleep like a baby. No more lying in bed and thinking. In fact, I get in bed by a certain time. Whatever it is that is so important, can wait until the morning. That means the notifications and ringer get turned off. I’m not Super human. If my phone is a machine and it needs to recharge every night, God knows I need to rest. The quality of your rest at night determines the quality of the day that follows. It’s a myth to think you can work all day and night for days on end and not come apart at the seams. If you work hard, you need to play hard and rest hard.

You don’t have to be Superman or Super Woman twenty four hours a day, but you can be if you want to. And it all begins with carving out a routine that works best for you. The sooner you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, the sooner you’ll reap the results of a life that makes a difference. You’re mistaken if you think you can stay up night and day and not experience any collateral damage. At least that’s my experience. You aren’t a turbine that was designed to start and run forever. You’re human. Don’t forget that.

However, don’t get discouraged about this thing called life. Many people have gone through it and managed to enjoy it in the process. You don’t have to be like my grandfather who got up every day at the crack of dawn and worked ’till sunset and you don’t have to be like me. But I promise that beginning the habit of starting early will revolutionize your life and maximize your enjoyment everyday tenfold!

“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Psalm 127:2