The Clear And Simple Solution To Every Problem

Wrestle the Bear

During a morning walk with my friend, he shared a bit of wisdom, “There’s a clear and simple solution to every problem….and it’s usually wrong!”

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A little over two years ago, my wife took our minivan to the dealership and they told her it was going to cost about six hundred dollars just to pull apart the dash to see what was wrong and restore the heat.  We were stymied.  After all, the “experts” had spoken on the issue and that was that.

Fast forward two years and my wife threw down the gauntlet and said it was time to replace the vehicle.  No problem, but I’m the worse salesman in the world and told everyone interested in the van what was wrong with it.  I sleep really good at night though :-).  However, despite my honesty, we were having a hard time selling the van.  Not too many people want a vehicle without heat in the Northeast.  Go figure!

Long story short, after many hours of trouble shooting and repeated attempts, I discovered what was wrong and fixed it!  The motor that works the mixer door under the dash had died, leaving the flap closed so that no heat could enter the ductwork.  The van now has luxurious heat….it’s like sitting in front of a fireplace and it cost me zero dollars to repair.  Want to buy it?

I don’t know what challenge or problem you’re facing right now, but I do know one thing.   There’s a clear and simple solution to your problem and it’s usually wrong.  That’s not to say that some things aren’t easy to figure out.  However, long, ongoing issues are evidence that the solution you’re in need of may take some time and wisdom, not to mention repeated attempts.  But one thing is for sure, if you do nothing, nothing will change.

Most of us, however, do SOMETHING.  The problem is we don’t do enough of something.

We go to the gym….for a week.  We date our spouse once a week….for a month.  We go back to school….for a semester.  The problem is we’re starting and stopping so much that we never follow through with anything.  Then a pattern of giving up begins.  And it gets easier and easier to keep giving up.  Eventually, the least little bit of resistance is enough to ground our dreams and plans.  Unfortunately, our kids watch us and catch the disease

Here are just a few thoughts on problem solving.

Walk away from the problem.  Not permanently, but temporarily.  Take a break.  Take a walk.  Unplug  until you are able to come back to the problem with fresh eyes and a refreshed spirit.  My grandfather, a wise old farmer, taught me this trick years ago and trust me, there are plenty of conundrums when you own a farm.  So stop doing the same thing over and over and getting worn out.  Take a break.  Maybe you need to research your problem a bit more.  Maybe this challenge is a valuable education in disguise.  The knowledge it has to teach you may be helpful for years to come.

Pray.  This one ought to come before walking away from the problem.  However, if you’re like me, it’s fitting.  I can’t count the times I’ve attempted something then prayed.  In the words of Jesus’ half-brother James, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).  Pound for pound, there’s a lot of wisdom packed in that verse.  Ask God specifically to provide you with a clear and simple solution to your problem.

Wait.  Not to work on the problem, but for the solution.  Sometimes it’s only a matter of time.  I know an innocent guy who spent years in prison before he was finally freed.  In the meantime, he used his gifts as best as he could and further developed his character.  In the meantime, his patience muscle grew.  His name was Joseph and you can read about him in Genesis chapters 37-50.  As a pastor, I constantly tell people, “It took you years to get in the mess you’re in and it may take just as long to get things straightened out”.  Attending church one Sunday isn’t going to solve all of your problems, stick around for the long haul.

Remember, there’s a clear and simple solution to every problem, and it’s usually wrong.

Simple solutions take the form of flight.  It’s much easier to run from the bears in our lives than to attack them….or so it seems.  Eventually the bears catch up with us and we still have to face them.  It takes a lot less energy to face your problems than to run from them.

You know the story.  A man was missing from home for six months!  That’s a long time.  Finally, his wife heard a knock at the door and she opened it to find her husband standing there in filthy rags.  One shoe was missing.  “What happened?”, she asked.  “Well,” he replied, “I got chased by a bear for two weeks.”  “Chased by a bear for two weeks?  You’ve been gone for six months!  Where were you the rest of the time?” she asked.  “Well, I’ve been walking back!”, he answered.

We can run from our problems and to be quite honest, it feels pretty good sometimes.  However, most of the time we’re better off committing to solving our problems rather than running from them.  In the words of my good friend, “There’s a clear and simple solution to every problem, and it’s usually wrong.”

Are You In Need Of A Relationship Makeover?

Something That Was Never Designed To Be A Substitute For Listening

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

One of the highlights of my childhood was spending time with my grandfather. It didn’t matter where we went, in fact, I don’t remember what we talked about half the time. The sheer joy was just being in his presence.

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How about you?  As we navigate the river of life, it’s so easy to forget how important it is just to spend time with people. The conversation doesn’t have to be deep every time and it doesn’t matter if you never solve all of the problems in the world. What matters is the company….the connection….or, in the words of one of my favorite English professors “experiencing the human condition together.”

I admit I’m just as guilty as anyone. As a pastor, I often feel like words are my greatest commodity and I have to fill all the empty spaces of a visit with pearls of wisdom. What I’m learning, is words are important but what really matters is presence. Jesus spent time with his disciples. He pitched his tent among them.  He even hung out on the cross for them.  However, as a leader it’s so easy to feel like time with others is wasted unless we solve some kind of problem or relieve a pressure point. Not true. Often, a touch of the hand or a kind smile or furrowed brow has the power to accomplish what words never can.  Sometimes just knowing you’re there is enough.  If you don’t believe me, go and read Psalm 23.  In it David is greatly comforted by Jesus his shepherd, yet there is no mention of words as one of those comforts!  Presence is often greater than words.

However, many times, in my relationships with others, I often revert to lecture mode. If something’s going to get fixed, I infer, I must say something. I must put forth a rational solution. Define the facts. Come up with a solution. When in reality, our families don’t need another coach, or specialist. All they want is us. Crazy, I know! But when’s the last time your kids or your wife asked you for clear, sound, practical advice? Bet you can’t remember. But skip a game, or a meal, or a Saturday with them and watch what happens. It’s not our advice they want, they just want us.  “Where were you”, they’ll ask, not “tell me again what you said before”.

These days, in my opinion, there is a lot of doing and not a lot of hearing.  Because if there was more listening going on, it would show up in our actions.   James says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” Again, there is no shortage of doing. In fact, people can’t stop doing. Every waking moment has to be filled with activity. It’s an epidemic. Productivity, however, means being busy at the right things. In my own experience it’s so easy to get busy without first taking the time to listen. If you’re too busy to listen, you’re too busy to lead….for God, in your home, at work, and in the community and world around you. It’s time to start getting busy with our ears, especially before God, and then start getting busy doing.

Just yesterday a good pastor/friend reminded me that as disciples, one of the key things we do is spend time with Jesus. Not just talking to him, but listening. Every time in my life that I have, the ice has melted and there was a Springtime thaw. It’s amazing what just a short, but intentional period of time, will do for your home life, personal circles, and spheres of influence. Yes, we must DO, but first we must make time to HEAR.

And if Jesus spent time with his disciples, therefore we must spend time with our loved ones. They’re not going to get what they need from a video on Youtube, T.V or their friends. What they need is us. In tune. On point. Present. Available.

So what are you trying to do? Whatever it is, God is with you. In tune. On point. Present. Available. When you go to bed, he’s with you. When you wake up, he’s with you. When you go to the dog groomer, he’s with you. When you hurt, he’s with you. When you laugh, he’s with you. Just as you wanted to spend time with your Grandfather when you were young, God wants to spend time with you. Maybe you’re feeling the pain of separation right now and you’d give a million dollars to be able to spend one more minute with a lost loved one. Guess what? God knows.  He’s listening.  He never wastes a hurt and you shouldn’t put a period where he’s put a question mark.

Imagine if we decided to stop what we’re doing, right now, and spend some time just listening to God. Again, here’s a good verse to start with “Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” Think about what God is saying. As thoughts come to mind, write them down on a piece of paper. If thoughts don’t immediately come, wait until they do. You may even come back later this week and write down some more.

Imagine if we focused on being present, the next time we’re with someone else. Rather than just thinking about what we’re going to say about ourselves next, imagine if we got seriously interested in finding out what that other person is going through. Just listening. Maybe nodding our head from time to time or giving just a brief vocal response to let them know we’re still listening. Maybe that’s why God wants us to develop the discipline of intently listening to him so that we can patiently listen to others.

Finally, do. We are human beings, and not human doings, but part of being human means taking action. In fact, be the kind of person you expect those you lead to be. Yesterday, pastor Johhny Hunt said, “If you want your people to be generous, you be generous. And you don’t have to be rich to be generous. You only have to be generous to be generous.” Eventually you will have to use words but when you do, you’ll be ready because you will have spent time with the wisest person who ever walked the planet. You’ll also have to lead, but that too will be no problem because you will have taken the time to be led.  Leaders listen and then act on what they’ve heard.

If you reread the words of James, there is a catch. The catch is this. There are people who take the time to listen, but they don’t take the time to act accordingly. We like to think it is because fear or feelings of insecurity creep in. James, however, says if something walks like a sheep and talks like a sheep they’re probably a sheep. However, if someone says they’re a sheep yet walks like a goat and talks like a goat, they’re probably a goat.

What are your thoughts? Do you think there is more doing than listening these days, or is the reverse true? Where once there was great listening and very little doing, there now seems to be great doing and very little listening.  Doing was never designed to be a substitute for listening. 

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalm 16:11 (NLT)

It’s Not Too Late

Reawakening Your Passion

The fact that you’re reading this, tells me you’re the type of person who wants to get better.  However, those who are constantly trying to move forward, eventually lose momentum.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

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Last year I lost about twenty five pounds over a six month period.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it was life changing.  My wife claims it was closer to thirty.  Whatever it was, it didn’t last.  I ended up going through a tough season where I didn’t feel like doing much of anything.  Needless to say, I ended up gaining back about half of what I’d lost.  Maybe you’re there right now.

It may not be weight, but some kind of personal gain.  Maybe it was a great routine or saving money.  Perhaps you had a regular date night with your spouse.  You’re not alone, all of us get side tracked at one point or another.

Rather than thinking about what you’re going to do next to get your mojo back, why don’t you just pick up where you left off?  That’s what I did.  I went back to cutting portions, making healthier decisions between meals, eating a good breakfast, cut soda, started drinking my coffee black.  As of this writing, I’m no Adonis, but I have lost some of the weight and experienced some victory here and there.  With a little persistence, I will get back to where I was and start working toward my initial goal.

In the words of John Maxwell, “We all have uphill hopes and downhill habits”.  You’re not alone.  We’re all in the same boat.  But it’s also not too late!  The minute you start believing that, you’re all done.

It’s not too late.  It’s not too late.  It’s not too late.  That’s not a typo.  I’m here to tell you there’s still hope.  Doesn’t it seem so simple once you boil it all down?

You don’t have to give up on your dreams.  Here are some tips to help you as you transition into your next season.

Get a Partner– Rather than placing all of the weight on yourself, there are other options.  For example, you can get an accountability partner.  Did you know that 90% of people who have a partner, stick with the program?  On the flip side, only 10% of people who exercise, have a partner.  Ecclesiastes reads, “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.  Share the work, share the wealth.  And if one falls down, the other helps.  But if there’s no one to help, tough!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (The Message).  A partner will be there to pick you back up when you fall and encourage you to keep going.  Get one!  What are you waiting for?

Measure your Results– I used to be the type of person who only weighed in about once every ten years, beside Dr. appointments.  Now I weigh in daily.  There’s one thing I’ve learned- numbers don’t lie!  Monitor your progress.  When the numbers or results aren’t what you’re aiming for, make adjustments in your strategy and capitalize.  It will pay HUGE dividends.

Call a Friend– That’s right!  The importance of connection can’t be emphasized enough.  So when you call them, make an appointment to meet and catch up.  The reason we sometimes struggle is because we don’t take the time to cultivate our relationships with the people we love and care about.  Just this past week, I reconnected with a handful of relatives at the fair and it totally recharged my batteries.  Who is it that you need to get together with?  The wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, wrote, “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17 (The Message).  If you don’t have at least one friend who brings out the best in you, find one!

Whatever you do, I want you to know it’s not too late!  Your best days are still ahead of you, not behind you.  You may not feel that way right about now, but it’s the truth.  So learn from your mistakes.  Instead of trying to continually come up with a new plan, re-work the old one.

Just this morning, while taking my daughter to a track meet, we pulled onto a major highway and the traffic was crawling.  At first, we reasoned the State was probably doing roadwork.  Inwardly, I confess my focus was on myself and how I was being inconvenienced.  Granted, it was a fleeting thought, but I admit to having it.  However, as we proceeded further, we saw the facts proved otherwise.  First we saw the red flashing lights and firemen, then a mangled can the size of a car wedged under a guard rail.  A helicopter was idling in the other oncoming lane.  The feelings of being inconvenienced were soon replaced with prayer and thoughts of thankfulness.  I thought to myself, if that person or people are still alive, they’re probably going to have a long road to recovery.

The fact is, recovery takes time.  So if you get back in the saddle, don’t just think things are going to change over night.  They will in some ways, for instance you’ll be relieved that you made the right choice.  But most likely it will take some time to recover if you’ve crashed and burned.  So the question isn’t what are you going to do tomorrow.  The question is what are you going to do right now?  What’s your next step that’s going to set you up for the success you’re looking for?

For instance, if you’ve decided you’re going to start working out again before work in the morning, prepare.  Put your clothes and running shoes out before you go to bed.  In the morning, you won’t have to waste time trying to find everything while you’re still half asleep.  It will all be there waiting for you.

Maybe you’ve decided you’re going to get out of debt.  Cutting up your credit cards may seem absurd, but it’s a partial solution and you don’t have to wait until tomorrow to do it.  While you’re at it, go to the Library and borrow a set of C.D’s on Financial Management or get a book or two.  Better yet, do both.

But whatever you do, don’t just keep waiting for a moment of inspiration to get back to the fundamentals that once helped you achieve success.  Feelings can be nice things, but successful people don’t wait for them to show up, they just get down to business and enjoy the feelings when and if they come.  I’d love to hear about some of the strategies you are using to reach your goals, so please feel free to comment below.  Remember, it’s not too late!  It’s not too late!  It’s not too late!

You Don’t Need A New Life

The Art of Appreciation

If you’ve ever been to a funeral, you know that we have a tendency to remember the positive things about people and forget their faults once they die.  The reverse is true, sometimes, while they’re still alive.  What if you started doing this?

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It’s sooooo easy to focus on what’s wrong with your life.  Sometimes it seems the older you get, the more your dissatisfaction grows.  What started out as Measles becomes a full-blown case of appendicitis of the soul.  If you’re not careful, the pain is so bad, you can’t think of anything else.  It can begin with your unruly kids, or your jerk boss, or your horrible house and your insensitive spouse.  Before you know it, you meet the enemy and he is you!  That’s right.  The problem isn’t your kids, your boss, your house or your spouse.  You’re your problem.  And the problem is you’ve gotten to the point where you focus on everything that’s wrong with your world.

So, when is the last time you focused on everything that’s right in your world?  I’m not saying that there aren’t issues in some of those other areas we’ve looked at, I’m just saying that when we face difficulties, we can forget about how good of a life we really have.  For example, aren’t you glad it wasn’t your funeral I just attended today?

Call it positive thinking, call it glass half-full, call it whatever you want.  If you’re always completely focused on what’s wrong with your life and not what’s right, you’re going to be miserable.  Now, if you’re not actively seeking to provide for your family and you’re just waiting for someone else to do it, that’s another story.  But if you’re genuinely seeking what’s best for you and your family, you’ve got a lot going for you.

People say the Christian life is hard and it can be.  I get that.  Though the Christian life is all up hill, God has given us the resources to thrive.  We have Jesus himself, the Holy Spirit, God’s Word- the scriptures, prayer and friends to encourage and strengthen us.  The problem is we can get to the point where we neglect some or all of these things.  Then life gets hard indeed.  If the Christian life wasn’t hard, you’d never grow.

Speaking of the scriptures, the apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned whatsoever state I’m in, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11.  Talk about the art of appreciation!  Paul was writing from a Roman jail and explaining what true joy is.  Maybe just after he wrote this sentence, a rat ran under his chair!  Yet, Paul was able to say “I’m content”.  That’s not to say Paul preferred prison over the penthouse suite.  But God can turn your prison into a palace if you’ll only focus on what’s right with your life and not what’s wrong.

Right about now you may be thinking, “he just doesn’t get it, that’s not going to make my problem go away.”  Your right.  I’m not saying to think positive and all of your problems will go away.  What I’m saying is your problems aren’t going to go away unless you change.  And part of that includes your mindset.  If you just keep focusing on all of your problems, you’re going to miss out on the power.  Don’t ignore your problems, attack them.  And that begins with a heart of thanks and appreciation for what you have that’s worth saving.

If you don’t think this is a prevailing mindset, think of the last conversation you had with someone.  As you talked with them, did that person strike you as someone who was truly appreciative and thankful for the opportunity to live.  Or, did they strike you as someone who feels like they need more?  Listen, it’s o.k to want more.  But you’re not going to be more joyful with more if you’re not content with what you have right now.  Once you get more, there will always be more to get.

Likewise, chances are you’re not going to get less.  By that I mean, your best years of health may very well be behind you.  In the future, there may be more Dr.’s appointments.  More funerals.  More bills.  More grandchildren.  Chances are your life is going to get more complicated, not less.  Chances are you’ll have more problems to solve, not less.

Right about now, you may be wondering if it’s all really worth it.  I’m here to tell you, yes!  If you’re 22 or 92, you have a lot to be grateful for.  The fact that you’re even able to read the words on this page, puts you in good standing.

I just started painting with oils again after twenty years and it’s been amazing.  There are a lot of lessons.  Here’s one thing I’ve learned.  It’s frustrating but insightful.  I’ve been painting landscapes, and without fail, there are parts of my painting that come out amazing and others not so amazing.  The next painting I do, I completely flub the part I did well and perfect the part I painted poorly in the last picture.  So, what do I do?  I turn off the inner editor and think to myself, there are many people who would be happy with this, flaws and all.

Friend, your life may not be perfect, but there are plenty of people who would love to have it, flaws and all.  It may sound funny, but I pray that as you work on fixing some of the mistakes in your own life, God teaches you more about the art of appreciation.  No matter what you’re going through, and how many times you feel like giving up, you have a lot to be thankful and appreciative for.  So next time you feel like throwing in the towel, why not change your mind and focus on what you’ve got, not what you want? 

While we’re at it, would you join me?  Lets start focusing on what other people around us are doing right and encourage them.  What if we just constantly looked for opportunities to encourage people who are doing the right think and stopped policing for people who are messing up?  I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to do a lot better when I’m loved than when I’m criticized.  Love you folks.  Have a great week!

How To Be an Olympic Leader

Why Faster isn't Always Better

Do you ever feel like life is moving too fast? With the end of summer fast approaching and the oncoming of fall, it’s easy to feel like you’re in ‘squirrel mode’. Time to hurry up and start packing things away and getting organized for you know what. But faster isn’t always the answer.

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There are actually three options.  To begin thinking about them, imagine a highway.

The Fast Lane You already know what this one is for. It’s the one you get in when it’s time to cover some ground. For some it’s not fast enough, and they feel the need to go faster. The posted speed limit is just too slow. Without getting into character issues, there are some who can travel in this lane with skill without jeopardizing their own life or the lives of others.

The Slow Lane This lane if for those who are not in much of a hurry. You reach your destination in this lane, it just takes a little longer. In fact, in some cases this lane allows you to take more in on your journey. People in this lane are often referred to as ‘Sunday drivers’ in upstate N.Y. where I live.

The Middle Lane This lane isn’t just for those who are looking to go a little slower than drivers in the fast lane or a little faster than drivers in the slow lane. This lane also allows you to navigate between the fast and slow lanes.

I’ve used this simple illustration to point out a few truths about leadership and winning. Top leaders realize that none of these lanes are any better than the other. In fact, they all have equal value. What sets strong leaders apart from the pack is that they realize when it is time to accelerate and when it is time to let up on the pedal.  They’re not afraid to use every lane when necessary.

Some are not so fortunate. They learn the hard way about the value of discernment.

The problem is there isn’t always a highway to take your team from point A to point B. It’s often more like a side road with twists and turns. A great leader knows this and understands when it’s time to slow down and when it’s time to speed up.

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Yes, some of you can negotiate S and hairpin turns faster than others, but in general, you’ll do well to take the time to slow down. In the long run, you and your team will be all the better for it.

I was once in Mustang 5.0 with a friend and his brother heading into a sharp turn doing about 130 miles per hour!  My friend and I begged his brother to slow down, but he wouldn’t.  We both knew the turn couldn’t be made at the speed we were traveling, yet his brother was out of his mind.  Miraculously, the car remained upright when it spun in circles as we flew off the road and came to a rest.

Sometimes as a leader, you can make the mistake of trying to impress others by how fast you drive. They won’t be so impressed if you crash and burn and injure everyone on the bus with you.

Not only do good leaders possess competency, they also possess character.  Your character is just as important as your competency. You can lose your competency and get it back. Neglect your character and you’ll never live it down. Why not slow down? Be the leader God designed you to be. You’re not going to impress him or anyone else by constantly acting outside of your giftedness and integrity.

Psalm 78 says of King David, “So he fed them (Israel) according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands”. The world of leadership moves fast and it requires both character and competency. If you have to forfeit either character or competency, you’re not being the leader God made you to be. You don’t have to cut moral corners or burn yourself and others out to make a difference in this world.

Again, no lane is better than any other. Each one serves a purpose for a time. What is important is knowing which lane to use at any given time. So how do you know?

You know you’re in the wrong lane when you lack character. Loss of character doesn’t just occur in the fast lane. It can also occur in the slow lane. For example, you know it’s time to shift into a faster lane but it’s not convenient.

You also know you’re in the wrong lane if competency is an issue.  In some cases you may not be using your full competency and God is telling you it’s time to change lanes.  Or you may be trying to appear more competent than you are and God wants you to slow down and get the skills you need.

Before you go off into the mud, why not take a few minutes to reflect? What lane are you in right now? Is this the right lane for you and your family?

Again, some leaders have more character and competency and they can travel fast, but that doesn’t mean you can. When was the last time you let your heart catch up with your mind?

In the rush to reach your dreams and goals, it’s so easy to put the pedal to the metal and hope for the best. However, you need to use sound judgment. Every move you make, the people you lead are watching. More importantly, God is watching.

If you’ll start thinking of leadership as three lanes instead of just one- the fast lane- you’ll be on the road to achieving more than you could ever imagine. In no time at all, you’ll even pass the wrecks of those who thought they needed to get there faster. While nobody wants that, it’s a sobering truth. Leadership from the heart requires both competency and character. The choice is yours.

How to Multiply your Impact Overnight

One Dirty Little Principle that Will Change your Life Forever

Would your life change as a leader if you had more help? Seven years ago, I thought you only had to go before your team and tell them you had a position to fill and you’d get instant volunteers. I was wrong.

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Many inexperienced leaders make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves. Common sense tells them that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. This works for a while. The key phrase is a while. Eventually Lone Rangers get burned out or realize the importance of equipping others. Like someone once said, you are successful when you better yourself, but you become significant when you better others. Great leaders better others and one way they do that is by empowering them to use their God-given gifts.

But there’s a rub. Many people do not step up to fill available positions when they are asked to do so publicly. Sure someone may once in a while, especially if they’re looking for public recognition, but in most cases nobody will. Let me explain.

As a pastor, I’ve asked people from the pulpit to volunteer, only to hear crickets. There are probably a number of reasons why it happens this way. I’m not a psychology major. The reason this happens, in my opinion, is because when you do it this way, people assume the position you’re trying to fill could be filled by anyone. If it were special, they assume, you’d be looking for someone who is qualified, not just any old person.

What if there was an easier and more effective way?

Lets face it, when you need someone to do a job, you usually have a particular person in mind, don’t you? Rather than just asking anyone, talk with THAT person privately and make your proposal. The worse thing they’re going to say is No. If they do, you haven’t lost anything, in fact you’ve narrowed your search.

We could riff on this theme forever!  Did you ask a roomful of people to marry you, or did you ask one?  Do you ask all of your neighbors to borrow a tool, or only the one who has what you need?

You also don’t put an ad in the Want Ads when you need work done on your car, do you? No, you search the Net or call a friend and ask for references. To go a step further, if you needed brain surgery, I’m sure you’d do your research and find a Doctor with excellent credentials and references.

Rather than asking anyone and everyone, imagine what might happen if you gave someone a personal invitation to meet with you. Then, rather than making an impersonal request, imagine what might happen if you told them why you feel they are particularly qualified and asked them to join your team. There’s a difference between personal and impersonal invitations.

If you’ve repeatedly looked for help in performing the tasks you are faced with and had poor results recruiting people to help, imagine what might happen if this instantly changed overnight.  It’s quite possible there are some who see you trying to do it all yourself and they are just waiting for you to ask them personally.  So what do you have to lose?

The work you’re called to do is a great one, and having the right players in the right seats on the bus is of the utmost importance! Singling people out for promotion is not only important, but your responsibility as a caring leader. People are depending on your leadership.

I’m like you, I don’t know what happens when I turn my iPhone on, but I’m glad it does. The same is true of this powerful principle. You can influence people from a distance, but you have to get up close and personal if you’re going to make a lasting impact. So stop shooting at every duck in the flock and pick just one.

What Would You Do If You Had A Month Off?

A Powerful Question Worth Asking Yourself (Part I)

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What if you had an entire month off from your regular duties?  Sounds wonderful, right?  But what would you do if you had so much time on your hands?

Thanks to an amazing church and an even more amazing God, I’m taking a sabbatical this month.  This all came about after following the example of a very good friend and mentor who’s been doing this for a couple of years now.  It’s been amazing!!!!

But what would you do if you were in such a position?  Would you go to the beach?  Follow your favorite band?  Go camping?  Sleep in until noon everyday?

By now you’re probably trying to figure out how to take a sabbatical yourself, or punching your computer screen :-).  While this is all new to me and I haven’t thoroughly researched it, here is a question that is shaping the way I’ve been spending my time.

Why?

That’s it, end of post, caput, we’re done, have a great week.  Just kidding.

When it seems like we have all of the time in the world, we can make the mistake of thinking any road will get us to our destination.  You know the adage, ‘All roads lead to Rome’.  That may be true if you have all the time in the world, however, even a Honey Bee knows the shortest distance between two points is a straight line

Lets face it, it’s easy to lose your bearings, especially if you have no compass to help you get back on track.  I learned that when hunting in the Adirondacks about ten years back.  An enjoyable traipse in the woods turned into aimless wandering in a Cedar swamp.  Every way looked right!  Needless to say, I’m glad I finally got my bearings after an hour or so.  Otherwise, it would have been a cold, dark night.  The same principle applies in decision making.  Without a compass, you may be doomed.  That’s the reason ‘why’ is such a good question.

For example, if you take a month off and have lots of free time, ‘why?’ is a powerful question to help figure out the way you structure your time.  It becomes a filter through which you funnel all of your decisions.  Otherwise, if you intend to go nowhere, you’ll get there every time.

So, if you take a month off, with the goal of resting, here’s how it works.  Rather than focusing on ‘what’ you plan to do, ask yourself ‘why’ you’re going to do it.  Is volunteering for a week going to help you achieve your goal of rest?  In some cases, yes!  Volunteerism is a beautiful thing.  However, in some cases, no.  Especially if you volunteer actively throughout the year.

Here’s another example.  You decide to take a month off to reconnect with old friends.  Great idea!  However, if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, don’t wait to ask yourself ‘why?’.

When you ask ‘why?’, you’re forced to examine your motives.  If you’re not careful, you can even find yourself doing a lot of good things, for the wrong reason.  Good things aren’t bad, but they can keep you from reaching your goals and accomplishing your dreams.  Especially when you have such a limited amount of time.

For example, maybe you’re thinking about going back to school.  Great!  But why?  What’s driving you to do it.  Are you looking to become all that you can be or is it just going to be another feather in your cap?  Imagine spending years doing something that was never a good decision to begin with.  Nobody wants to be the guy running toward the wrong end zone with the football.

By now you can see the reason ‘why?’ is such a powerful question.  ‘Why?’ has the power to help you cut through the fog, guilt and confusion.  I’ll tell you right now, if you decide to take an extended time off, there is going to be resistance in some shape or form!  Someone is not going to understand why you’re doing it or see the benefits of your choice.  Remembering why you chose to do so, will keep you on course, especially when you feel like people are talking behind your back or plotting your demise.

Switching gears, maybe an extended period of time off isn’t possible right now.  Don’t fret.  You may not have the luxury, but you can still carve out time to move forward and rest.  ‘Why?’ will help you do that.  For example, there’s an opportunity to work overtime.  Before you commit, you know what to do.  Ask yourself why you’re doing it.

Or your friends invite you to a get together.  ‘Why’ will help you choose what’s best for you.  Life’s too short to always do what’s expected of you socially.  In fact, Jesus had a church member die and he didn’t even call the family or send a text for three days!!!  Although I wouldn’t recommend doing that, it goes do show that Jesus paid very little attention to social norms.

While your at it, have fun and don’t feel guilty about it if your conduct is a reflection of good character.  I like how Eugene Peterson says it, “Take on an entirely new way of life- a God-fashioned life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you”.  Ephesians 4:24 (MSG).

So go ahead and take the class.  Read the book.  Call the friend.  Visit the beach.  You’re in charge of your own time.  If those activities are going to help you reach the goal you’ve set, go for it!  Just be sure to  decide ahead of time what your reason for taking the time off is, and act accordingly.  Don’t be like me and end up in a Cedar swamp trying to figure out how you’re going to get home safely!

When did you last take time to reflect and determine the true motives behind your actions?

Stay tuned for part II!

One Thing You Should Do No Matter Where You Are

The Future Is Now

I hate running. There, said it. Feel much better now. But I do it anyway because I like the rewards. So lets talk about something you can do no matter where you are, especially when there are other places you’d rather be.

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While running, it’s so easy to look forward to the finish line. You just want it to be over, so that you can rest. Unless of course you’re sadistic. But what if you just focused on the next step, not the finish line. Rather than looking down the road to the end, just focus on running.  One step at a time.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals or dreams. Those aren’t bad things. It’s easy to miss out on all of the beautiful things in life when you’re overly focused on the destination.

Rather than thinking about how much work your relationship needs, why don’t you take a moment to just celebrate the milestone you’re at right now- difficulties and all.

Instead of worrying about how your meeting is going to go tomorrow, take a few moments to better prepare today.

Maybe the pain you’re experiencing right now is confirmation you are heading in the right direction.

Instead of thinking about how much fun you’re going to have on Saturday, why don’t you be joyful today, right where you are?

The ironic thing is that people who emphasize the beauty of the destination are least inclined to make the world a better place here and now. The journey is just a means to the end.  When they reach their destination they hurriedly strike out for the next one.

Life becomes something you chase.  Everything you do is just to make it to the next level.  You trade happiness today for success tomorrow….wash, rinse and repeat.  For some, death is the ultimate finish line.  Life on earth is garbage, but when you die, everything is going to be better. Why wallpaper the living room if it’s only going to be burned eventually?

Jesus, on the other hand said he came so that we could have an abundant life (John 10:10). Yes, there are challenges, but with the overcoming of each one, there is joy and fulfillment, and so much more. If there were not challenge, there’d be no satisfaction.

What about Cancer? Well, what about Cancer? You tell me. Some of the happiest people I’ve ever met were those who had an increased appreciation for life because of their illness or loss. That’s not just a rosy glasses philosophy, that’s reality.

Wherever you are, be all there!

No matter what you’re going through, you’re the first one to experience this planet in this particular way. Nobody’s ever been the parent to your fourteen year old daughter before, including you. You’re the first one to live exactly the way you’re living right now. You’re unique. Nobody has ever experienced the world quite the way you’re experiencing it at this very moment!

The past is past and the future doesn’t exist. The only thing you have is the present. It’s a gift, so where ever you are, be all there! Each day you receive twenty four golden hours to spend as you choose and you can’t save them or get them back again. Each one must be cashed in on a moment by moment basis.

Most of the time, rehashing your past can lead to regrets and focusing on the future can lead to worry. It’s not that you shouldn’t plan for the future. You should. The point is you don’t need to worry about the future. In fact, Jesus commands us not to!  “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers-most of which are never seen- don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?  What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving” (Matthew 6:30 The Message).  “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself” (Matt. 6:34 KJV).

As I type, Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton is playing on the radio. When my wife and I met over twenty years ago, I used to play it for her on my guitar. How cool is that? Right now, I have nothing to do but enjoy this moment and feel wonderful. How about you? What’s one thing you can do right now, no matter where you are? Be all there!

Thank You!

Two Powerful Words

Have you ever felt unthankful?  Before you read any further, I want to thank you!  Thank you for checking out this site from time to time.  Thank you for your words of encouragement and feedback.  Your friendship and kindness are greatly appreciated.  The time you set aside to read these posts means a lot to me.  I treasure you.  You matter.  You are loved.

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However, time can play some pretty funny tricks on you.  It’s always fun to start out on the Yellow Brick Road, but then something begins to change.  What was once a source of joy and gratitude can become a burden.  You want children and then they become teenagers.  You love your new car, but then notice some rust one day while washing it.  You wanted the new job but now it’s become a source of frustration and there’s never enough left over at the end of the month.  So what’s really happened?

Lets face it, our zeal for life and all things new can deteriorate quickly.  It just seems to come with the territory.  Worse yet, the problem only compounds the more we carry out our inventory.  Not only do our cars rust, but so do our relationships, our finances, our devotion, our physical fitness.  It’s especially painful to watch our loved ones struggle.  Our aging parents and pets are daily reminders that things are changing.

If you’re going to safely navigate hardships and change in life, you’re also going to have to change your attitude.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 says this, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  This verse wouldn’t be so difficult if it weren’t for the word all.  But notice it doesn’t say be thankful for all things.  What it says is be thankful in all things.  No matter what happens.  No matter how you hurt.  No matter what the weather forecast is or the state of the stock market, unthankfulness is never an option.

In fact, mature people are thankful people.  Not thankful for what happens to them, but thankful regardless of what happens.  The point is, no matter what happens, we all still have something to be thankful for.  If you lose a limb, but you’re still alive, you’re still in the game.  If you’ve gone through a divorce and you still have a place to live, you have something to be thankful for.  If the stock market crashes and you still have something to eat, you have something to be thankful for.  If your church splits tomorrow and you still have a family, you have something to be thankful for.  You get the idea.  An attitude of gratitude helps you find the gold in the ashes.

A greater appreciation begins with an appreciation of what you have, not what your going to get.

A greater appreciation begins with an appreciation of who you are, not who you’re going to be.

A greater appreciation begins with an appreciation of who you know, not who you’re going to meet.

A greater appreciation begins with an appreciation of what you have left, not what you’ve lost.

No, thankfulness does not ensure an easier course, but it does provide a smoother ride.  Why not take a few minutes to thank God this morning.  Thank him for Jesus.  Thank him for your family.  Thank him for your shirt….Take a pen and paper and write down 10, 20, 30, or 100 things you’re thankful for.  Trust me, the expression ‘thank you’ is packed with two powerful words!  What are some of the things you’re thankful for?

Vision

8 snapshots to keep you moving forward

If you’ve ever taken a cruise, you realize how important mission and vision are.  We took a cruise to Gran Turk in early 2015.  It was a blast!  While the trip took a lot of personal planning, I’m grateful the company took some time to do some planning of their own.  Without a mission (port of destination) and vision (what it will look like along the way), we would have been doomed from the start.  So what is your vision for your life? Your church? Your family? As someone once said, “A failure to plan is a plan to fail”. Chances are if you have no blueprints for your life, you’re not going to build much of anything. You can jump on the expressway to nowhere and get there pretty quickly.  So where do you start?  Here are 8 thoughts on vision.

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1. Pastor and author Andy Stanley argues that vision starts with a daily commitment. Think about that for a moment. Regardless of how great your vision is, unless you’re willing to commit to it, you’re doomed from the start. Will you make mistakes? Yes! But as Life Coach Dave Kraft says: “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not making much of anything.”

2. I believe one of the largest obstacles holding leaders back from casting vision is the fear of error. As someone said, “there’s so much fear of strange fire, that we have no fire!” When we fear what others will think if we fail, the obstacle in question is our pride.

3. Vision is a clear mental snapshot of “what could and should be”, according to Stanley. Vision is not the real challenge, the real challenge is making vision stick. Some of you have an idea of what could and should be. You may even have the wisdom to make it happen. But are you constantly and creatively finding ways to keep your vision before the eyes of your followers?

4. Another good question to ask when trying to understand your vision is to ask what the problem is that needs to be solved. For instance, maybe the problem is there are no basketball courts in your community for under privileged teenagers. Or maybe the problem is poor morale at your place of employment because the employees have no allocated place or times to get together for meaningful connection throughout the day. You can’t come up with a solution until you understand the problem.

5. Maybe you struggle with vision because you get side tracked. Often, less important things take the place of the urgent. Saying YES to vision may mean saying NO to less important details.  Why? The bible says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish!”. Pastor Johnny Hunt says it this way: “Where there is no clear, prophetic revelation, the people cast off all restraints!”. If the people in your life cannot see your vision, maybe it’s because you haven’t made it stick. Vision is a big deal when you realize people’s lives are at stake.

6. One way to make vision stick is to make it simple and memorable. Provide a visual. For example, if you’re a pastor, post a photo of you and your smiling church members standing in front of your sign. What simpler way to illustrate the goals of joy and unity? Again, not only must you state the vision, you must REPEATEDLY remind your people, family, organization and others of the vision.  Perhaps right now, you are faced with a challenge. Maybe, just maybe, you are burdened by the problem because God wants to use you to come up with a solution. It wouldn’t be the first time. A.W Tozer said: “God tells the man or woman who cares!” The challenge you are facing right now may be a leadership opportunity in disguise.

7. Whatever you do, Stanley emphasizes that you take notice when people catch your vision and CELEBRATE! As a leader you want to minor in pointing out flaws in other people and major in recognizing strengths.

8. In the meantime, understand that people’s complaints can be useful in determining their understanding of your vision. Feedback is your friend! Facts are your friends.  Sometimes their complaints only show their lack of understanding. Leaders never take constructive criticism personally.  They look beneath the service.  They attempt to determine motives.

So what have you learned about vision?  If you’d like to study this topic some more, buy a copy of Andy’s book ‘Making Vision Stick’.