The little tree that could…

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I saw this little tree while I was running in our local arboretum this fall.

It made me stop and take a picture. It also made me think.

You may not be able to tell from the picture, but this tree is not very big. Not a whole lot taller than me.

It reminded me of the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

And, some other principles about little things.

This little tree, one of the smallest in the park, is doing its part, in a marvelous way.

Displaying God’s glory through the amazing colors of fall.

In fact, this was one of the prettiest trees I saw all season.

It made me look. It made me stop. It prompted this post.

And, I was reminded.

Sometimes it is the smallest that brings the greatest impact.

When God chooses, He can use the smallest, or seemingly insignificant, to bring Him the greatest glory.

Because, ultimately, there are no minor players in God’s economy. He works all things for good.

Don’t overlook the small things in life today.

The small gesture. The one kind word. The small start. The beginning stages. The often overlooked. The gentle whisper.

The small things may actually be the big things.

Do not despise these small beginnings” (Zechariah 4:10)

10 Things I’m Learning in Ministry and Life

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Some are new…some are reminders I’m seeing lived out…

The most mature is often not the one with the most knowledge of Scripture but the one who has learned to most live like Christ.

The longer we sit in the same chair the more ownership we take in it and the less likely we are to want to move from it.

If we want people to grow we have to encourage people to change. Stability isn’t growing. It’s often the level field on the way to a period of decline.

Success in ministry is not always translated into success as a follower of Christ.

Just because they know it doesn’t mean they know how to live it. Or that they live it.

Without a sense of desperation, many people will resist any change you propose.

Pastors are human.

My attitude at the beginning of a day often determines my progress and attitude at the end of the day.

A similar perspective that changes frowns into smiles often changes worry into a prayer…fear into faith…bad days into good.

More talk the talk than walk the walk. And it’s easier. And I’m guilty too at times.

What are you learning these days?

If I Were Going to Start a Blog Today

Blog word.

If I were starting a blog today…I’d do things differently than when I started this one.

I’d be offline for at least 30 days.

Maybe longer.

If I had enough patience…maybe several months.

And, I’d write…just write.

As much or as often as I felt like it.

I’d sharpen my craft.

I’d build a great blog platform (I have to have help with that part.)

I’d read other blogs and gain ideas.

I’d develop some outlines or themes for future posts.

I’d discover my unique voice…what I’m most passionate about writing.

I’d build up a pool of great posts.

But, I wouldn’t release them until I knew I was ready. At least 30 days. Maybe longer.

Then I’d release them at whatever interval I plan to post. (Daily, several times a week, weekly, etc.)

Why?

It would give me an arsenal of posts. I’d have some ready to go and then be able to concentrate of future posts. I’d be thankful to have the margin.

It would give me practice. I would know that I’d need to be able to write frequently if I were going to make blogging work long term. Audiences take time to develop. This would also discipline me to build my blogging muscles.

Here’s what I know now. Most people start a blog, but never continue. This would test my commitment and ability to sustain myself as a blogger. If I were going to start a blog today, I’d first want to make sure I was in it long enough to build my voice.

That’s what I’d do.

How Rumors Spread…

Colleagues interacting

I’m telling you stuff I wouldn’t tell anyone else. I would appreciate you not sharing it. I’m not one to spread rumors.

That was from the guy behind Cheryl and me at a ball game recently. Loud talker guy.

I thought to myself, “That’s exactly how rumors start.” 

In fact, I probably should have said…

“No. You would never spread a rumor. But, you will talk loud enough for everyone around you to hear what you are sharing. About someone. That you probably had no business sharing…even if you were a soft talker. ”

They discussed business, politics and the church. No bases were left untouched. And people were trashed with no opportunity to defend themselves.

But don’t worry loud talker. I’m safe. I won’t share anymore about Bob and all his problems with Tim or what a low life Wayne is because of the way he’s treated Sam.

You’re “non rumors” are safe with me.

(Names have been changed to protect the accused guilty.).

Moral of the story here. And, it applies to all of us…even pastors and bloggers.

Rumors spread because people share them.

And, I’m not angry, even if I sound like I am. Especially not at loud talker. Sadly, he was being no different than many of our conversations. He was just loud enough to get caught. (But, he should lower his voice. :) )

This guy didn’t necessarily anger me. Individually, he would have almost been funny…if it weren’t such a serious issue.

You see, I’ve seen the damage rumors cause. I’ve witnessed individual’s reputations destroyed by rumors. I’ve known rumors to divide a church. Satan uses rumors to spread lies.

So, rumors anger me. It’s sin. Shouldn’t it anger us all? And, at some level we can all be guilty.

Let’s do our part to stop the spread. And, the way to do that is not to share them.

You may now want to read 7 Ways to Stop Gossip or listen to my sermon message on addressing gossip HERE.

5 Don’ts of Healthy Communication

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In my career, I work with a lot of people in a lot of settings. You might say my job involves a lot of relationships. And, in the process, I have learned the key to healthy relationships is communication. Communication is an art of sorts. Some are better at it than others.

I have seen relationships destroyed because of poor communication. I know marriages that could improve if we improved the communication in the marriage. I’ve seen people avoid other people, because they know how the communication will go when they encounter them. I’ve known people who are short on quality relationships, and, honestly, many times it is because they never learned or don’t practice healthy communication.

So, sincerely, this post is intended to help. We are all guilty or some of these at times. This blogger/pastor included. So, this is a reminder to me also.

Here are 5 Don’ts of Healthy Communication:

Don’t always have a bigger story. This is the one I’ve been guilty of the most of these five. Someone is telling you their story and their experience reminds you of your experience. So, naturally, you interrupt their story, or don’t appear to be listening closely, because you want to share your story. But, remember, right now they are sharing “their” experience. It is important enough to them to share it with you. Don’t try to trump their story. It is rude and it shuts them down. Discipline yourself to wait for the right opportunity…and be okay if it doesn’t come…sometimes your only role is to listen.

Don’t talk more than you listen. This will address the person you’re thinking of in the first point that is always sharing their story. They never listen. They don’t give you a chance to share yours. If this is you…stop talking and listen. Ask questions. Show genuine concern. Be interested in what others have to say too. You’ll find people more interested in what you have to share when it’s your turn.

Don’t always be negative. All of us are negative at times. Life is hard and it impacts us. That’s partly what friendships are for…to share our burdens with one another. But every conversation and every comment we make shouldn’t be negative. That makes it difficult to build a sustainable, healthy relationship, because sometimes the other person needs you to be positive on the day they are especially negative.

Don’t consistently have the last word. Sure you’ve got one more word to share. We get that. You’ve already proven that point. But, sometime let them say the final word. It’s humbling for you. And, good. For you and them. And, the conversation. And, the relationship.

Don’t speak before you think. This is so important. Maybe the most important. It includes the saying, “If you can’t say something good…don’t say anything…or nothing if you want to be like Thumper…at all.” If we could catch our words before they exit our mouths, filter them through the power of love and grace, then release them, we could keep from injuring those with whom we are trying to communicate. And, relationships could thrive apart from the injury of inappropriate or awkward…often even mean-spirited words.

Okay, be honest, upon which of these do you need to improve? What others would you share? Remeber, I shared mine. Now your turn.

My Additional Writings

I am consistently asked if I have a book written. I haven’t written a book yet. I hope to some day. But, I have written a lot.

Readers if this blog may not know that prior to blogging I spent over 10 years writing an online devotional. You can find it at mustardseedministry.com.

A few years ago, I published some of them into a book. You can find it HERE.

Mustard Seed

I’ve written a couple other resources also.

Recently, Lifeway published a Bible study on conflict. If your small group or Sunday school needs a study, we all deal with conflict. You can find it HERE.

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Finally, if you lead a men’s group, I have written a men’s Bible study titled “Questions In a Man’s Journey”. It’s a short, 9 week study, with lots of questions to help guide discussion and self-discovery. I wrote it years ago for personal use when leading groups, but in recent years other groups have requested to use it. You can find it HERE.

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I still hope to write a book someday. Until then, thanks for reading this blog and my other work.

3 Seemingly Non-Productive Activities that are Always Productive

Green extra mile sign

Here’s a secret about my life you may not know.

Some of the most productive activities in my life can seem non-productive.

When I consider the fullness of my calendar…as a busy pastor and leader, every moment counts. I live by a schedule and a mound of checklists.

But, I’ve learned there are some things, which may take time from other things, which make the other things even more productive…and life more meaningful.

Here are seemingly non productive activities that are always productive:

Quiet time – If I start my day quietly reflecting on something (really Someone) bigger than the world I’m about to face, I feel better prepared to meet that world. I’d love to say every morning is an earth-shattering, Jesus rock my world experience. It’s not. But, when I discipline myself to slow down before I hit a fast pace, the balance of my life seems in place.

Exercise – I know, by experience, that the way I feel physically impacts the way I feel emotionally and spiritually. I can’t imagine being able to separate one from another. I don’t always feel like exercising. Even though I love running, sometimes my body doesn’t want to cooperate, but when I do, I always…I mean always…have a more productive day. (Because of this, sometimes I exercise twice in one day.)

Nap – I know. Talk about unproductive. Imagine taking a break from a crowded calendar to sleep. One might even say I’m lazy. Actually, anyone who knows me would never say I was lazy. They’d more likely use phrases like workaholic or, at least, very productive. What they don’t know perhaps is that one secret to that is when I feel the afternoon blahs coming…no amount of caffeine seems to help. I’m not afraid to stop everything, close my eyes for 15 or 20 minutes, and recharge my batteries. It works wonders for a tired brain. I’m always ready to go at the calendar again after a quick shuteye.

So there. You have some of my secrets to being productive. These help me go the extra miles in life.

Do you have any secrets you would share with me?

Hiding in Arrogance…A sobering word to captains of sinking ships

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I’ve seen it many times.

The leader at the helm of a sinking ship.

It’s almost historically comical it it wasn’t such a serious issue. 

Everyone around the leader may know there is a problem, seemingly except the leader. And, yet, many times the leader knows…they know all too well…but arrogance…or dare I say stupidity…keeps the leader from admitting…and certainly not owning a problem. 

And the water keeps getting higher inside the boat. 

In fact, in my observation, one huge reason the ship goes under is because the captain wouldn’t admit to the sinking ship or didn’t know how to stop it, but never asked for help guiding the process. It takes humility to confess the boat is soon subject to evacuation. No leader wants to be that captain. 

Yet sinking ships do what sinking ships do. They keep sinking unless something is done to drastically curtail the flood of new water. 

By the way, I know all this this not by second hand observation. I’m not trying to be cruel with this post. If you’re that captain it hurts. It doesn’t feel good. It’s scary. 

But, I know it by experience. I know it by being the captain of a sinking ship. And, some of the best life and leadership lessons I learned were from that experience. (Read one thing I learned HERE.) And frankly, looking back, we evacuated too soon. I still believe we could have saved the ship. I wish I had known then some things I know now. 

But, if I had one thing to share from that time it would be this. Don’t pretend the problem isn’t real. Don’t act as if the ship isn’t sinking. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Listen to others. Signal for help now. Raise the flag of distress. 

I wouldn’t go public on social media that you’re ship is sinking. That’s not a good idea either. But, there are probably people who already know. They can help. Drop your pride and ask for it. 

Here’s a prayer on your behalf: 

Dear God, give us humility as leaders. And, as we make outselves awkwardly vulnerable, save the ship…and receive the honor! In Jesus Name. Amen.