Blue Light, Reading Retention, and the Art of Empowerment

With the transformation of seasons, what’s on your radar these days? Though these three subjects might seem random, there is a common denominator to tie them all together.

tent-548022_1920

First, when I mentioned Kmart, what did you envision? When I think of them or Walmart, I think light. In most cases, you can go there 24/7 and the lights are on. Without even closing your eyes, you can see that kind of light.

The same is true with computer and cell phone screens. They are light sources. Not only that, from what I’m told they both emit blue light. That’s not a bad thing, first thing in the morning, when you wake up. After all, that’s the kind of light the sun provides up until early afternoon. It lets your body know that it’s time to wake up and get moving.

Do you see the problem? If you’re constantly looking at a screen all day up until you go to bed, it’s effecting your sleep patterns. Maybe you’ve wondered why you can’t sleep lately. That may be the problem.

Now if you’re sleeping just fine, great. But if not, you need to make some changes. What if you limited your use to late afternoon/early evening. That wouldn’t mean you have to go without mental stimulation. You could listen to your podcasts or music at this time. Use it as a chance to improve your listening skills. You might even start getting ready for bed earlier and winding down. Light a candle, turn off cell phone notifications, etc. If you’re not getting it done during working hours, extending your workday is only going to make things worse.

The fact is, if you don’t tell your body what to do, it will tell you what to do. Erecting some walls will help you give your life some more definition.

I’ve been painting with oils lately and every day is a learning experience. While there are places in a painting where blending is required, paintings are really powerful when there are sharp distinctions and contrasts. Blend too much, and you end up with mud. The same is true in life, if you don’t make distinctions, you’ll end up with a muddy canvas. The good news in life and oil painting is that any mistake can be fixed. Instead of going through the motions and not expecting much from life, change your mindset. Changing how you think, changes what you do and life was meant to be more than a mudslide.

From Blue Light to Reading Retention

As a leader, one of the best ways to grow is reading. Not just anything, but subjects that will help you tackle some of the challenges you’re facing right now. Instead of trying to fix everything, pick the area that needs the most attention. Guess what? As you begin to attend to the areas in need of attention, your whole life will improve.

In fact, reading is a great way to spend the time you were spending on the computer and phone every night. As the adage goes, ‘Readers are Leaders!’. Not only is it effective, it’s one of the least expensive ways to educate yourself.

But obviously if you’re going to spend lots of time reading, it makes sense that you’re going to want to retain what you learn. Filing a book you’ve read for future reference is wonderful, but to really take your leadership to the next level, it will pay to work on your reading comprehension and retention. Then your powers are more than within arms reach, you’ll have them stored in your memory whenever they’re needed.

If you want to retain what you’ve read, stop highlighting so much and jotting notes in your margins. These aren’t bad practices by any means for future reference, but what you’re really telling yourself subliminally is: I’m not going to remember this, so I’d better write it down! There’s a better way.

Instead of highlighting and taking copious notes, write a question at the end of each chapter. Not just any old question, but one in which the required answer is a summary of the whole chapter or important ideas. As you go through the book, go back and answer the questions you wrote down. If you can’t, it’s obvious you’re not mastering the material. I discovered this idea while reading an article by Scott H. Young.

Do you see the progression from blue light to reading retention. There’s a difference when you mindlessly surf and when you make it a point to distill the information you are learning. If that sounds uncommon, it should. You aren’t looking to be just an average leader, you’re looking to go the distance and to go the distance, you have to stand out from the crowd.

Beyond Blue Light and Reading Retention to The Art of Empowerment

You may not realize it, but you are a very powerful leader! That’s not just flattery, it’s the truth. However, your power is of no value unless you use it.

I’m not an engineer or the son of an engineer, but I do know that power companies have vast reserves of power for the taking. As you can imagine, this power is worth a fortune. However, their power is worthless unless they share it with others.

But people have to pay for it. Of course! It’s a beautiful thing. You can purchase something that cost someone else a fortune to produce for a small investment.

Now of course there are two ways of looking at this. As a leader, you have vast reserves of power. That’s why they say you’re ‘in power’ as a leader. However, unless you share that power, it’s of no value whatsoever. Think about that.

SO what are you doing to give away your power? The tendency  is to keep all of your power and do everything yourself. Like they say, if you want something done right, do it yourself. But that’s not how leaders do things. Maybe your Dad or Mom said that, but if you take a moment and reflect, were they influential leaders?

The second way of looking at this is to look at it through the eyes of someone who serves a leader. If you’re a leader and you have no leader, there is a problem. Any way, although servants may not pay their leader with money, they do end up paying them. Their payment may take the form of respect, service, dedication and more. These things are just as valuable if not more than money.

So be like a farmer and fork out your power like manure and you’ll have a huge harvest. They more you shovel out, the greater the return. Yes, you need to have discernment, but in most cases the people around you are dying to be part of something bigger than themselves. So empower them to actively use the gifts God has given them and your influence and impact will soar!

The Thread that Runs Through Blue Light, Reading Retention and the Art of Empowerment

So what do blue light, reading retention and empowerment all have in common? Stewardship. At the end of the day, you’re in control when it comes to going the distance in your own life. You’re in control of your body, your mind and your leadership gifts. So why not maximize them for the glory of God? They’re all gifts. Use them well and God will give you more. In the meantime, what question do you need to write down that’s going to help you remember the key idea in this article? Please be sure to share it in the comments section below!

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.

race-801940_1920

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.

karst-area-1090422_1920

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.

Small is the New Big

Never Stop Thinking Small

As a leader, you probably want your team to grow. By getting bigger, you automatically assume you will be able to accomplish more and see greater returns on your investment. But what if focusing on bigger numbers really isn’t the answer?

tiny-people-700921_1280

While you may see numerical growth as a worthy goal, chances are many of the people you lead may not. They envision that type of growth as something that will make you less available. Right now, they can reach you when they have to. They fear growth for many reasons and one of them is that it will create distance between you and them.  You’ll no longer be accessible.

They also have fears about becoming just a number. Right now you know them by name and make time to connect with them. If more people come along, they reason, they’ll be just another face in the crowd.  Just another number.  Nobody wants to be just another number.

So do you have to give up your dream of leading a large organization? No. In fact, many leaders of large organizations are beginning to rethink growth. Yes, they still want to grow and recognize the need to do so. However, what they are realizing is that in order to grow big, you have to think small.

More precisely, you have to think big and small. For example, you have to take care of your whole body. But if you neglect the small parts, the results can be deadly. Why? Because both big and small work together. Without properly functioning members, the whole body is less healthy. The point being, individual members need personal attention and care. The best way for them to get the care they need is in intimate settings. So it’s o.k. to think big, but in the process, don’t overlook the details.  Don’t forget people still long for opportunities to connect with others socially.

Hitting more close to home, think about your personal development for a minute. You’re to be congratulated for taking care of yourself and making healthy choices. But what I’ve seen in my own personal experience is that people can get so focused on themselves that it wreaks havoc on the people they care about most. Kudos to you for taking your health to the next level, but in your zeal to improve, don’t forget your family. Having said that, is there a particular area in your life that is in need of repair?  Is there a friend you’ve lost contact with in your flurry of activity?

When you take time to make small repairs, your whole life improves.  Sometimes it only takes a phone call, or a conversation over a cup of coffee. If you’re especially driven, these types of things may seem like a waste of time. If that’s the case, learn how to waste time. God can use what you think is a waste of time to impact people. Again, if you want to have impact, you have to have intimacy.

Model intimacy with those you lead. If you’re a Mom, this means your children and spouse. Don’t get so busy that you don’t carve out time to connect with your loved ones. Relationships thrive on both quality and quantity time. Is there a particular family right now who needs your attention?  You may have the nicest lawn in town, Dad, but your kids could care less, especially if in the process of maintaining it, you’re neglecting them.

You don’t have to wait until you’re bigger to grow.  Maybe you’re discouraged right now because you’re organization or family is not growing. You don’t have to wait until you have 1,000 people following you to be a great leader. Invest in the relationships you already have. “Do not despise the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10). All healthy large organisms are a conglomeration of small, properly functioning units. Growth is not just about numbers and you don’t need numbers to pursue it. Invest in what you have and God will give you more.

When you study the life of Jesus you see this principle in action. Yes, he drew large crowds many times throughout his ministry. However, as influential as he was, he often made time for up-close, personal, interactions. In fact, it’s likely that his ability to impress people up close impacted his effectiveness with the crowds.  You’ll have no large fire unless you take time to kindle a small one.

Jesus not only spent time with large crowds and individuals, he also spent time with small groups. The last three to three and a half years of his life he primarily spent time with twelve individuals. They ate together, traveled together, played together, cried together and more. Talk about intimate, intentional leadership. When all was said and done, his small band of followers were equipped to turn the world upside down.

If you were honest, in your pursuit to grow more influential, have you started focusing on the big things and neglecting the small? In particular, is there a relationship that needs watering? You’re not alone. In the corporate world we live in it’s so easy to get focused on the macro at the expense of the micro. So if you want to grow, don’t just think big or small, think both.

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.

woman-1225265_1920

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.

Think Seasons, Not Sessions

Making Sense of Hurt

When I think of pain, I think of an accident I had while ice fishing two years ago. Before I share that story, here’s a principle you may find helpful if you’re hurting right now. When it comes to pain, think seasons, not sessions. Let me explain.

turtle-1028026_1920

One minute I was warning my buddies how slippery the ice was because there was about 3 inches of water on top of it. The next minute my feet went out on me and I had a complete garage sale in a matter of seconds and was sprawled out on my back wondering if I was still alive! Somehow my buddies were able to keep from laughing while I laid in the water for about a minute like a turtle on its back. All of my gear was sprawled out like cargo from a plane crash. I felt as though I’d just been in one.

Of course I managed to fish the rest of the day, but by the time I hobbled off the ice at the end of the day, I knew something was seriously wrong. A trip to the Emergency room confirmed my diagnosis. Cracked ribs.

No big deal. Until you realize there’s nothing you can do to get comfortable. Whatever you do, you learn not to sneeze. The problem is your ribs heal very slowly because your lungs constantly move them when you breathe. I laid on the couch for about ten days, dreading every movement. Although the acute pain went away after a couple of weeks, it was still difficult to sleep for about ten months and I still experience numbness in my left foot and left leg and back from time to time.

The pain I experienced didn’t go away after a session of fervant prayer. It didn’t go away after a trip to the Emergency Room. It didn’t go away after a couple of weeks on the couch. Why not? Because sessions are never an instant cure. Sure they can add up to healing. But in all honesty, healing takes more than one or two sessions of anything.

In fact, sessions can take the form of the quick cure. Without getting to poetic, lets just say that while many things can be fixed quickly, pain isn’t one of them. Yes, you can medicate and numb it for a while, but it’s still going to come creeping back until it runs its course. So much for the quick cure.

Before you go thinking sessions are bad things, they’re not. Sessions are good things. They can add up to great results and be an all together wonderful experience….healthy ones that is. However, rather than expecting instant results, you’re better off thinking long-term. That’s where seasons come into play.

When you think seasons, think 3 months or longer. For example, while the seasons in the Northeast are usually somewhat predictable and regular, that hasn’t been the case this year. We had about 6 months of Sprinter, earlier in the year. During this time, it wasn’t quite Spring and it wasn’t quite Winter, it was a combination of the two. While you may laugh, seasons in your life can be just as long and unchartable. That’s why it’s so important to think seasons and not sessions. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to quit before real healing takes place.

Which leads us up to this question. Who are you talking with about your pain? Notice I presumed you’re talking with someone. There’s a reason why. The reason is you cannot reach your full potential as a leader unless you have someone to help. You can call them what you want, a teacher, coach, counselor. The point is find someone if you haven’t already. In fact, I’d even be willing to wager that Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel have at least one person to talk to if not more. So what makes you think you can do it on your own?

As a pastor, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone want to make a change. Some of them want it so bad, they’re willing to take whatever course of action is necessary to get better. Then, after a short period of time and not attaining the result they want instantly, they drop out of the race and go back to where they started. Usually in worse condition than when they started.

Then there are others. They too follow your advice. However, unlike the drop outs, they persist. After a while, you don’t even have to ask them how they’re doing because you can see the difference in their lives and attitudes. Yes, they still stumble and fall from time to time, but they always get back up and keep running. They are the righteous men and women who though they fall seven times, they persist.

So what are you waiting for? Find someone and get the conversation going about your healing. Ask if they’ll meet with you once a month for six months to a year and start meeting with them. While you’re at it, find a church and a pastor who will love and encourage you. Attend their weekly services and start getting your life back. And remember, when it comes to pain, think seasons and not sessions.

 

What Would You Do If You Had A Month Off?

(PART II)

Basket Weaving or Pottery.  My advisor looked back at me in astonishment.  We were planning my final semester of college and clearly a change was needed.  He asked me if I’d ever thought of studying abroad.  I lept.

beach-815303_1920-2

It’s easy to forget how much courage or carelessness the walk of faith takes.  There are always good reasons, sound reasons, why you should stay.  The real question is how important are you?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important are you?

Maybe you’re really important.  In fact, so much so that your organization can’t run without you.  You reason that if you were to take a month off, everything would be in shambles when you returned.  You may be right.  Or, you may find you were wrong.

Yes, my decision to study in England for six months was made out of desperation, but it was also probably the best decision I ever made.  The town where the University was located was surrounded by a Roman wall that was built so that horses and chariots could ride UPON it!  Amazing people with funny accents lived there.  I discovered Sausage Rolls and the English baste all of their cakes and pies in Vanilla Custard!  I even met an AMAZING English girl who has been a soulmate ever since as well as the loving mother of three beautiful kids!

It often pays to take a peek over the wall.  If you’re too important to take a month off, you and your organization may just stay right where you are and never experience growth.  While some measure of self-importance is vital, it can be a vine that will completely choke any potential for growth and expansion.  For you as an individual and your organization.

Similarly, believing you aren’t very important is just as deadly.  People who feel they are unimportant miss out.  It’s easy to go through life imagining you are unworthy for greatness.  There is all kinds of evidence to support your belief system.  There is your background, your family, your lack of finances, your social networks, your average job….Did it ever occur to you that you may be more important than you think?

Most of the influential people I know have one thing in common….they see themselves as neither too important or unimportant.  Said another way, leaders are careful not to overestimate or underestimate their worth.

Until you have a healthy estimate of your value, you will miss out on tremendous opportunities to thrive and grow.

So which is it for you.  Is there a next step you need to take, but you feel like it will sabotage all that you’ve built up and accumulated over the years?  Or, are you waiting for someone to come along and give you permission to take the next step?

Here’s the bad news.  Nobody is coming.  The good news is you can go!

God gave us an awesome poem to remind us of his provision.  It’s found in Psalm 124.  The just of it is there were many threats to Israel’s well being throughout history- both real and imagined.  But the writer of the poem concludes, “God’s strong name is our help, the same God who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8, The Message).  How awesome is that?  Pure goosebumps.

Regardless of how important you feel you are, God wants you to know that he loves you and he’s got your back!  He’s the same one who made heaven and earth.  Imagine what he has in store for you as you step out in faith.

It’s been said that a Lion leading a flock of sheep will conquer a Sheep leading a pack of Lions.  So what message are you sending your followers?  Do they see you as someone who has great confidence in God or someone who is quaking in your shoes?

To recap, maybe a month off to rest and recalibrate isn’t in your immediate future.  That’s o.k.  However, what would it hurt to start planning a month off next year?  Once you have that goal in mind, you can begin to plan the steps necessary to make it happen.

The idea that you were made for more isn’t just a daydream or a figment of your imagination.  Part of growing up involves moving out with the ever expanding circles if you are going to be all God has made you to be.  So don’t be afraid.  Stepping away from the wheel for awhile may feel counter productive, but it’s the only way if you’re going to mature as a leader and a human being.  You’re not serving a charlatan, but a God who loves you and wants to take you further than you could ever imagine.  However, often the only way to get there is to trust him and embrace an experience that few leaders have the courage to experience.

England was more than just six months of my life.  It’s an experience I reflect upon quite often.  The ways it changed my course and destiny are mind boggling.  So what adventure is calling you away from the shore?  You’re not going to get to London by thinking about not going to Los Angeles.  Determine your destination.  Devise a strategy and set your sail!

“The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God.  So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:9-11, The Message).

 

HURRY UP SLOWLY AND TAKE YOUR TIME

Speed of the leader, speed of the team

Foundations aren’t just good ideas, they take time. So, what if there was a simple principle to help you lay a strong foundation to build upon?

chess-316658_1280

Jesus said if a man wants a house to last, he needs a solid foundation. The same can be said of a life, if you want to be successful, you need to take the time necessary to lay a good foundation. Jesus said, “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit- but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 The Message.

Now for a principle which captures a truth found in this verse….Successful people make up their mind quickly and are slow to change it. Amateurs, however, take forever to make up their minds, but are quick to change them.

This principle is helpful, especially if you’re considering a move, a new position, kids….you name it. Regardless of what you decide, you have two options- you can decide quickly or take time to decide. However, if you take too much time to decide, the opportunity may pass. The biological clock stops for no one. Seasons change and you may have to wait even longer than you anticipated if you don’t seize new and exciting opportunities relatively quickly. In some cases, they may elude you forever if you don’t act on them.

But there’s more. Whatever you decide, commit to the long haul. If you decide to have more children, decide ahead of time that you’ll do whatever it takes to carry through and raise them through the good and bad. Remember, it’s one thing to start digging and quite another to continue building through rain and shine. But that’s what successful people do. They seize opportunities and follow through.

Immature people are just the opposite. They take forever to decide and then bail out quickly. Society calls them ‘Fairweather Johnson’s’. As soon as the sun starts beating down or the heavens open up and pour, they’re onto their next venture. Surely, they reason, it shouldn’t have to be this hard. Successful people, on the other hand, anticipate difficulties and embrace challenge for the long haul.  Successful people run toward fires and stick around to put them out.

Instead of picking up their roots and moving every time difficulties come along, successful people dig deep and hunker down where they are. They weather the storm. The time they take to decide quickly and stay committed, pays off in spades. Meanwhile, the fools who rush and cut corners pay dearly for their indecision and fickleness and when it gets hot in the kitchen, they’re the first to bail out.

The choice is always ours. We can pay now and play later or play now and pay later. Sometimes we tell our selves our decision to delay is wise, but in reality we’re just squandering precious time and the results can be deadly both in personal and kingdom losses. “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways,” James 1:8.

If you have a decision to make, why not give yourself a deadline? Pray and ask God for wisdom. “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.

Here’s a sentence to get you started. I will make a decision about _________________________by_______________.

HOW TO KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE

Navigating the Sea of Pride

wave-1215449_1280

Being humble used to come easy for me until I realized something was missing. 🙂  Here’s how I’m navigating those seas these days.

More than once, I can remember consciously humbling myself before God.  Usually, just because I knew there was a promise attached to my obedience.  James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”  Who doesn’t want to be lifted up, right?  It was as easy as just mouthing a few words to God and just waiting for the treat.  Kind of like a dog who does tricks for pay.

Then my thinking changed after reading the book of James.  Yes, God can lift you up, but first there may be more required than just talking with him about how humble you are or sorry.

Remember when you were a child and you wronged somebody?  Remember what your parent or teacher did?  They made you apologize to the other child….out loud.  In most cases, more than once, because your face didn’t line up with your words.  You were apologizing on the outside but on the inside you were clearly not sorry and it showed in your body language in the form of a pouting face.  So then the parent or teacher would say something like, ‘This time, say it like you mean it!’.

To this day, do you find it hard to apologize to someone in person.  If you were honest, the answer is yes.  It’s not easy.

This is no joke.  We’re out to sea in a life and death battle and we have the potential to accelerate or devastate our relationships with God and others.  The choice is ours.  We can insist on our own rights or  lay them down for the good of others.

Yet for some reason, we find it easy to humble ourselves in the sight of an invisible God, yet difficult to apologize to a person.  James knows this.  All throughout his book, he encourages us to put shoe leather on  our faith; to live out our faith wisely and practically.  So in chapter four, it makes perfect sense that we’re to exercise humility in a visible manner, out loud in word and deed.

In the beginning of chapter 4, James talks about how wars start to churn.  Usually they start because someone insists on their own way.  In many cases, neither person is wrong, just selfish.  For example, in some cases it’s a matter of each country wanting oil.  The only way to stop the war is for one party to surrender their rights for the good of others.

So when is the last time you apologized for wanting your own way?  When you do, you’re not telling the other person they’re right, you’re telling them, ‘look, I value our relationship more than my ego.’

Virtual  humility on the other hand is easy because you can experience it on your own.  You just have to mouth a few words to God and it’s done.  There is no accountability and you can be sure of a 100% success rate.  Real Christianity is messy and requires faith.  Real Christianity requires turning up the volume on our humility.

This played out in real life recently when I met a guy who is going through a divorce.  When I told him I was sorry he had to go through such a thing, he responded by saying, “It’s not so bad.  She’s been gone a month and now there’s nobody to tell me what I can and can’t do.  In fact, I’m looking forward to repainting all of the rooms we couldn’t agree on over the years!”

What?  You just ended a relationship with the most important person in the world and you’re glad because you won’t have to fight over paint chips anymore?  What about your children, let alone the vows you made?  I was reminded of the teenager who told his parents he didn’t want anyone telling him what to do, so he was going to move out of the house and join the Army!

James was right.  Being selfish may seem like no big deal, but it has the potential to destroy everything in sight!  Why not surrender our rights while there’s still time and salvage our futures before they sink and wash up on shore.

You see, when we’re selfish, we don’t just miss out on what God has for us today, it’s also a good way to kiss tomorrow goodbye and any hope we might have of a bright future.  As a pastor, I haven’t talked with many guys who are still excited because they can pick out their favorite paint color twenty years after their divorce.  However, I have talked with more than one guy who said he’s pretty sure he could have worked things out if he had been a little more forgiving and a lot less selfish

On the sea of life, there are decisions we make that will not send us to hell, but they do have the potential to make our lives hell on earth.  Why not come down from our look-out while there’s still time to serve others.  “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-24.

Please be sure to share your thoughts on virtual vs. real Christianity via Facebook or Twitter and/or the comments section.

STOP LISTENING TO YOURSELF AND START TALKING

Something I Learned While Running

country-road-1149161_1920

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.

 

 

 

STOP TELLING PEOPLE HOW MUCH YOU LOVE THEM!

A Powerful Combination that Will Boost Your Impact

winter-barn-556696_1920

Nearly twenty eight years ago, this summer, I was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident.  Here’s the thought that occurred to me at the time and here’s what I’ve learned since.

I was getting onto the Northway at Exit 9 in Clifton Park, heading south.  Being seventeen years old, I was traveling along at a pretty good clip.  Getting ready to merge with traffic, I looked over my left shoulder and got ready to duck in behind a dually pick-up.  The problem was I didn’t see it was towing a pop-up camper. OUCH!  Yep, I hit the road doing around 70 m.p.h….wearing shorts, sneakers, and a helmet.  BTW, I only chose the picture to the left because I loved it.  It actually has nothing to do with the post as far as I know.  🙂

When my world finally stopped spinning and sliding, I had some major road rash in the form of third degree burns.  But up until that point, I’ll always remember the thought I had as my whole life up until that point flashed before my eyes!  What I remember clearly thinking is this….I wish I’d told more people how much I loved them.

I write this today, celebrating my 45th Birthday.  Although all this time has passed, it’s something I’m still working on.  Since then, I’ve learned there is something even more important than telling people you love them.  You need to tell and show them.

You learned about the concept of Show and Tell in Kindergarten.  Whoever thought of this idea was a genius!  For the uninitiated, education actually took place before Common Core.  You brought an object to school and stood before the class.  Then, you showed the object to your class mates and talked about it.  It was a wonderful concept.  However, as we all got older, somewhere along the way we started depending on our powers of explanation and stopped demonstrating.

How about you?  Life is short, and the last thing people will remember you for is the house you lived in or your salary?  What they’ll remember most about you is how much you loved them.  So, are the people you truly care for hearing you love them or are they also seeing it?  Are you SHOWING and TELLING?  Someone once said, “Even a blind man knows when the sun is shining!”

The thing about love is it doesn’t always feel good.  It’s not always fun doing the dishes at 10:00 at night after you’ve worked all day.  There are things you’d rather be doing.  That being said, love is not always convenient.  But unless you go through the pains of showing people how much you love them, you’re words will only take you so far.  People eventually get very frustrated and discouraged when there is a proclamation of love and no demonstration.  SHOW and TELL.

When it comes to the gospel, there are some people today who believe we should show and not tell.  Others are very good at not showing, but telling.  Miracles occur when we SHOW and TELL.

Love will cost you more than breath, it will cost you time, energy, money, strength and more.  Why?  Because love is more than words, it’s a demonstration.  In the words of a wise mentor, “People can’t see our hearts.”  God, for example, didn’t just say “I love you!”, he showed his love.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but everlasting life.”  God displayed his love on the cross for all the world to see, and his love has been transforming people for centuries.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I’ve been given a second chance to show the world God’s love.  Up until that point, all I knew about love was that it gave you the warm fuzzies.  Several years later I came to know love on a much deeper level when he came into my life in the person of Jesus Christ.

My challenge today is to go out and show someone how much you care.  You can do it however you choose, in the form of a phone call or  a text, you may even have the opportunity to sit down with them.  But whatever you do, SHOW and TELL.