My Thankfuls: 10 Reasons for a Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-clock

For years, when the boys were at home, we shared our list of “Thankfuls” each Thanksgiving holiday. We would each take turns (one item at a time) of ten things we were most thankful for that year. I remember early in this tradition the boys’ spellings weren’t always correct, but their lists were always sincere.

I miss those special times sitting in our living room, but that shouldn’t stop me from sharing my list with you.

Here are my “Thankfuls” this year:

1. My relationship with Christ. And the grace that got me there. (And keeps me there.)

2. My loving wife. She’s my best friend. She’s seen my best and my worst and keeps being my biggest supporter.

3. My two amazing sons. Jeremy and Nathaniel (Nate)…age 25 and 22…are simply two of the best men I’ve ever known. Seriously.

4. Jeremy’s wife Mary. If I had raised a daughter…or picked a wife for my son…I would have wanted a Mary. Thanks God.

5. My calling. I work for Jesus. How cool is that? I ran from it for years…but it’s the best “career” I’ve ever had. And, I’ve had several.

6. Family and friends. Cheryl and I are so blessed with amazing families…with low or no drama. We have friends we can call upon at any time day or night. The greatest asset of our married life together is people.

7. The staff and people of Immanuel Baptist. Nearing a year and a half with them, I can honestly say we’ve met some of the most loving, supportive people we’ve ever known. We’ve already made friends for life.

8. My health. Granted, I work on it, but I’ve had friends die of cancer (and other causes) this year…some younger than me. I am thankful for being able to run…and walk…and feel well enough to work…and play.

9. The city of Lexington. We adopted our new home quickly. It’s our mission field, and that’s what missionaries do. We love the sports, exploring the many restaurants, the neighborhoods, and especially the people. What a lovely place to live!

10. The future. I look around the world today and see a lot of darkness. But, this year, I’m thankful, as always, that I serve a risen Savior. That makes every morning new with His mercies and grace. I’m grateful the days ahead are bright…because He is my light. (Cheesy…maybe…but always true.)

There’s part of my list. I could continue, because I am blessed. No, my world is not trouble free…far from it actually…but when I pause and consider all that God has done and is doing around me…thanksgiving is my only proper response.

And for what (or whom) are you thankful this year?

6 Tips for Happier, Healthier Relationships

family prayer

It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. Family and friends. Good food and good times.

Mostly.

Truthfully, this time of year is especially stressful for some. I am not referring, in this post, to the ones who have lost loved ones this year. That’s especially difficult. My prayers go out for you. I’m talking about those who have living “loved ones”…positionally speaking at least.

The holidays expose many people to broken relationships, hurt feelings, grudges from the past. Many will have to be around people, by default, that they wouldn’t choose to be around unless those people were blood relatives…or in-laws…or friends who aren’t your friends, but come with the package of celebration. They will be there…and the reality of that causes you to be less enthusiastic about celebrating this year.

That’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes…doesn’t it?

(Raise your hand if that’s your story.).

What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most…or who always seems to say the wrong thing…or who is…honestly…even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life?

I want to encourage the Biblical approach.

Here are six tips:

Bite your tongue – When you are tempted to snap back…don’t. Sure, it will be difficult…even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26)

Extend grace – Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)

Put on another’s shoes – Anyone who hurts you…has a story. Usually they were hurt too…by someone. Remember…hurt people…hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Practice patience – Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t that what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Exercise humility – When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break point in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)

Pray for them – The last one is sometimes the most difficult…but oh how Biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer…the One whose yoke is easy…the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life…and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments this holiday season, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)

Apply liberally, as needed.

You’ll have healthier, happier relationships this Thanksgiving and Christmas season…and even into the New Year.

Do you have a difficult relationship facing you? What tips do you have?

One and Only One Leadership Principle

Leadership Ahead

I received this email recently:

Ron, a question for you.

If you had to pass one and only one leadership principle to others leaders, What would that one principle be and why that one?

That’s a hard question, but I thought for a minute and came to a thought.

Here’s my reply:

It’s not about you.

Why?

Because, leadership is about something bigger than you.

If ever we begin to believe its about us, or our agenda, or our plan…or even more dangerous…our people…we will become controlling, prideful and eventually ineffective.

How would you answer?

5 Ways This Introvert Responds at a Social Gathering

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Social gatherings. I love them. I really do. As an introvert, however, they can be very difficult. Introverts are typically far more likely to be placed in awkward, uncomfortable situations when the crowds are large.

People have a hard time believing I am introverted. Certainly I’m not on Sunday.  I intentionally try to meet as many people as possible. And, I have plenty experience in extroverted environments. I’ve even served in public office. I can work a room if I need to do so.

Introversion is a personality based on preferences. It’s how someone is wired by life. We don’t simply choose to be introverted. We are programmed that way in our core personality.

So, knowing this time of year can be uncomfortable at times, I thought recently about how I respond in social settings where I’m not the host or where I don’t know most everyone in the room.

This may not be true for all introverts, but it is for me. I had this discussion with a fellow introvert. He said he just avoids all parties this time of year. I don’t want to do that, but knowing my reaction will hopefully keep me from hiding out in my personality and missing fun I really do often want to have.

Here is my typical response:

Find the corner – I look for a place away from the crowds to adjust to that space. I do this before even looking around to see who is in the room. I’ve been told, “I waved at you when you entered the room”, but I didn’t see you. I promise. I wasn’t even looking yet.

Survey the room – After a pause, this is when I finally begin to process who is in the room. Who do I know? Where’s the “safe” place to begin conversation? It’s usually with people I somewhat know and can easily begin conversation.

Spot the extroverts - It’s not that I don’t want to talk to them. Possibly they are some of the ones I most want to talk to, but I need time to “warm up” first. Many times these people launch into heavy conversation as soon as an introvert hits the door. The thought that this might happen is many times one of our biggest fears…and a main reason we avoid the social gathering altogether.

Look for an opportunity - When can I best break into a conversation? Many times if I can get started I’m good. Getting started is the hardest part. I won’t interrupt. Introverts typically don’t do that. We are gentleman (and gentlewomen) communicators.

Decide whether or not to move forward – At this point, I will either make the best of it…and many times have a great time if I do…or flame out early…or never ignite at all. It’s sad, but true. I’ve gone through this routine countless times only to spend a few minutes at a gathering before exiting as quickly as possible.

So, introverts, let’s not miss the parties we want to attend. If you want to stay home…great. But, I am committing not to allow my introversion to stop me. I’ll do this by disciplining myself to attend, adjust, and engage.

Help me out introverts, because whenever I post about this extroverts accuse me of all kinds of things.  (That’s why I wrote THIS POST). If you’re an extrovert and want to know how to better engage with introverts, read THIS POST.

Introverts, any other ways you respond in these type settings?

Are any of these true for you?

10 of my favorite John F. Kennedy Quotes

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Obviously, John F. Kennedy spoke many memorable quotes. As with any leader of significance, I knew there were probably some statements that are lesser known, but are meaningful. In fact, in light of what we know now, some may even be more relative today. (I discovered these with simple Google searches and several sites attributed these to JFK.) If Twitter had been around, some of these would have been retweeted and favorited.

Here are 10 of my favorite John F. Kennedy quotes:

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.

We would like to live as we once lived, but history will not permit it.

Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.

Once you say you’re going to settle for second, that’s what happens to you in life.

The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

Do you have a favorite JFK quote?

The Myth of a Pastor

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This is a guest post by Nathan Joyce. Nathan is the senior pastor at Heartland Worship Center (www.heartlandworship.com) in Paducah, KY. He received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in pastoral care and counseling. Follow Him: @heartlandpastor, http://nathanjoyce.wordpress.com

The Myth of a Pastor

​Leprechauns, the Yeti, vampires, and the American pastor have one thing in common. They are all subjects of mythology. A rich folklore exists for each of them. However, the pastor is the only one being smothered by myth. Why? Because only pastors are real, and only pastors are dying by trying to live up to the myth that surrounds them.

​If you are a pastor, you need to be aware that your church has built a narrative about you that you can never live up to. It’s not completely your fault, although you are probably contributing to it. The myth was well and alive before you ever arrived on the scene. The focus of this myth is that you are hardly human.

Here are a few possible myths:

1. You can meet needs without having needs. Your calling is to empty yourself in the lives of others, but very little room exists for you to be lonely, hurt, insecure, tempted, and needy.

2. You are the perfect family member. Your marriage should be strong at all times. You are to be a parent like Ozzie Nelson not Ozzie Osbourne.

3. If you happen to struggle, make sure it’s with something minor and in the past. The myth would love to state that you never struggle, but if you must struggle, it needs to be with something harmless. Certainly depression, lust, addiction, and broken relationships are off the list of viable options unless they occurred years ago and have been triumphantly defeated.

4. Your spiritual life constantly sizzles. You have a special “line” to God. Your moral life has no failures, and you always “feel” close to God.

5. You live up to your sermons. Every preacher must decide whether to preach up to God’s standards or down to his own life ability. Many people who hear you think there is no difference.

6. You are excellent at all of the various aspects of ministry. You’re an introvert that can study like a scholar. At the same time, you are an extrovert like a cruise director. You must be funny and stern at the same time. You must be simultaneously creative and well structured.

The result of the myth is that pastors are burning out, falling out, and breaking down morally in record numbers. Souls are empty, leaving pastors susceptible to moral failure and depression.

What can we do?

First, it is up to every pastor to avoid the pride that desires to live up to the myth. It’s not simply a matter of workload management or needing more encouragement (although these can help). The issue comes down to whether or not a pastor tries to live out the myth or if he rests in the truth and grace of God. The myth demands so much energy, while authentic and honest living, including confession concerning our neediness, brings rest.

The heart of the Gospel is that we are helpless and needy. The Gospel does not become obsolete once we are initiated into salvation. It becomes the anthem of our new existence, resulting in a Gospel-spirituality that operates out of the same daily, honest confession of neediness.

Second, our churches must adopt a culture of nurturing the minds and hearts of its leaders. Most churches spend more time and money on landscaping than on cultivating the souls of their leaders. Churches can begin to demand Sabbath, healthy boundaries, strong investments into family time, and regular spiritual feeding for pastors and leaders. Unfortunately, the culture of many churches is skeptical, oppositional, and unrealistically demanding. If churches nurture and safeguard the wellbeing of their leaders, it would be to their own benefit. Inspired, enduring, and motivated church leaders will empower a church as much or more than any other factor.

What other myths have you seen applied to pastors?

5 Ways to Fuel Creative Thoughts

ideas spinning

I’m an idea guy. No on has ever accused me of not having an original thought. Most of the time the opposite is more accurate. The teams I lead usually fight overload with the number of ideas I produce. I have to discipline myself to “unthink” and give teams permission to tell me “bad idea”.

But, even idea people have lulls in their creative process. We grow stagnant. Get bored. Need help spurring thought.

So, how do idea people get new and original ideas?

Here are 5 ways that work for me:

Get up and walk – If it is cold I walk inside, but outside is my preference. Several times throughout the day I take a hike. My best ideas rarely happen sitting at my desk.

Whiteboard – Diagraming or drawing my thoughts makes me think. I have one wall in my office covered  with idea paint. If thoughts get stale…I play with dry erase markers. Literally. Start writing or drawing and it leads to more ideas. Every time. (I also have several doodling apps on my iPad.)

Exercise – Whenever I’m in a lull, exercise triggers my brain. And, it’s good for my health. Sometimes a mid afternoon sweat will make the last half of the day my most productive in thought.

Hang out with creatives - Iron sharpens iron. Creatives sharpen me. I like to occasionally hang out with random thinking, highly creative types. I’m random, nut structured, so I have to pace my time with the over-the-top creatives, but they always trigger new ideas.

Different environments – Going somewhere I’ve never been always fuels me. A new city. A new park. A new restaurant. A new coffee shop. A different library. Change the space…expand the pace (of thought).

Those are a few that help me.

What triggers your creative process? 

5 Suggestions When Firing Someone in Ministry

Unemployment

My post on firing people in ministry created a great deal of interest. As I expected, some felt it made the church seem too much like a business. I get that, but the other fact, and many understood although sadly through difficult experiences, is that if we don’t address this very serious issue, Kingdom dollars are often misused. And, if we are honest, that has been allowed in ministry far more often than it should be. Our command to love or even to be kind shouldn’t cause us to waste Kingdom dollars.

Please read THAT POST before reading this one.

The fact is, in nearly every situation I’m aware of where this type decision is made, it’s not an issue of likability. It’s not that we don’t love the person or their family. If that was the case, all this would be easy. It doesn’t always even mean the person did something wrong. At times, it is a simple issue of chemistry or fit and often the person proves later to be a great fit elsewhere. Making this difficult decision has many times proven best for all parties involved, but admittedly, getting to the point of release is sometimes a most difficult process. As hard and delicate an issue as this is, it is poor stewardship, in my opinion, not to address the issue.

With that in mind, I’ve had several ask me to expand on that post. If you have to release someone from a ministry position, what are some best practices to protect the church and person?

Here are 5 suggestions when you have to fire someone in ministry:

Be certain – Not as much from a legal sense, but from a moral sense, we need to be sure this is the right move. (You need to be legal too and if you aren’t sure in that area ask. I have always consulted an attorney before anyone is released.) The fact is it will be difficult. It may even be messy. There is usually some damage done to the body. You shouldn’t hide from the right decision because of it, but you should make sure you’re making the right decision.

Be generous – This will differ depending on the person’s tenure with the church and the reason for dismissal, but be as generous as you reasonably can be. This could be financial, but it could also be in the way you allow an exit to take place. I’ve had some unique situations to accommodate. Knowing how hard this is going to be for the affected party, as much as possible, be overly generous.

Be graceful – I’ve been involved in a few messy situations involving the release of a staff member. Many times the most gracious thing to the departing staffer is the information that’s not shared. There is always more to the story and everyone wants to know the “more”…sadly many times for the wrong reasons. Keeping that information as confidential as possible extends grace to the person, the person’s family and the church. Grace should also be extended in creating an exit strategy that protects the person’s future employment possibilities, as much as possible. There may be moral or legal issues you feel obligated or legally have to share, but as much as possible, extend grace.

Be honest – Here, I am talking about what you communicate to the person being released. Don’t sugarcoat. Now is not the time. What’s the real reason? Hopefully, by this point, there has been sufficient due process and fair warning, except in cases where an immediate exit is the only option. Either way, tell the truth. I’ve seen churches disguise the real issues in an effort to land a “softer blow”. Many times this only creates more tension, because of the ambiguity and uncertainty of the dismissal.

Be helpful – How can the person improve for their next position? What are the areas they do well? In what ways can you help them land better into their next role? The person won’t always be open to your “help”, but you should be available to help them wherever and however they might be.

This is admittedly hard. No one enjoys this discussion or this process. I don’t even enjoy writing this blog post. We should be Biblical in our approach always, but it’s not Biblical to avoid hard issues hiding behind a label of ministry.

What other suggestions would you have when you have to release a person in ministry?