5 Reasons This Pastor Attends Church While on Vacation

destin beach

Pastor and ministry leader, as you consider your vacation this year, I want to encourage you to find a church wherever you are and visit.

I understand why you may not. Church is your “job”. You’re on vacation. It’s a break from “work” by definition.

One of the first things Cheryl and I do when we go out of town is look for a place to attend church on Sunday. We’ve had some incredible experiences attending other churches and its one of our favorite parts about vacation.

I know many pastors who look forward to some weeks they don’t have to attend church. I have often been asked if we are legalistic because we don’t take a vacation from church while on vacation. Do we feel we “must” attend church in vacation? Is it because I’m a pastor?

Absolutely not. We feel no obligation. It’s what we want to do.

Here are 5 reasons this pastor attends church on vacation:

We love church.

Church is the best part of our week. We don’t view church as an obligation. It is a privilege. We believe the church is God’s plan to make disciples. It’s our community. It’s where we find our best friends in life. It is a large part of what fuels us for the week ahead. Why would we take a vacation from this important part of our life?

We get to worship without distraction.

Honestly, Sunday can be a very distracting day for Cheryl and me. We are both busy with ministry obligations. On vacation we are freed to worship.

We get to sit together.

Cheryl is beside me during the worship portion of the service, but she has never stood beside me while I preach – even as many times as I’ve asked her to. 🙂 Actually, we did dance together on stage in one service. (Another story) On vacation we enjoy being together for an entire service.

We learn from others.

I love sitting under the teaching of other pastors. Cheryl never admits to anyone preaching better than me, but she seems to take plenty of notes when we are out of town. 🙂 We also always go home with new ideas and renewed energy from attending other churches.

We get to encourage another pastor.

We know how much we love visitors. On vacation, we get to attend another church, pray for the pastor, and many times meet and pray for the pastor and pastor’s spouse. Those have been awesome experiences over the years.

Please understand. I’m not saying you have to attend church when you’re on vacation. I am far from being legalistic. I’ve often been referred to as more of a rebel, but don’t dismiss this advice too quickly. It could be one of the greater parts of your vacation. (And if you’re ever in Lexington for vacation, come see us. Did you read my post about vacationing here?)

The Best Routes in Life Find You Dodging Geese Poop

older couple enjoying life

Some of my favorite trips or vacations are where I get to take a long run. Through parks, subdivisions, and back roads. But, my favorite runs always involve water – along a river, lake or ocean. I have run in some incredible places.

Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington, DC., Madison, Wisconsin, Dallas. Just a few which come to mind.

On those runs one word can usually capture the time.

Glorious.

I worship. I talk to God. I dream.

Long runs along a body of water are awesome. Love it.

I have come to this realization though:

The best places to run all have some common characteristics.

The best cities in which to run, in my opinion, have these attributes in common:

A body of water.

A path beside the body of water.

The peace and tranquility of running on the path beside the body of water.

The chance to connect with nature and God along the body of water.

But, here’s the other thing I learned – and the point of this post.

The best places to run require dodging geese poop.

(Sorry if you don’t think a nice blog like this, written by a mostly nice pastor like me, about leadership and life, should use an analogy – or a word = like “poop” in a post. I guess I could call them geese droppings, but that doesn’t seem to capture what they drop.)

But, it is true. If you want to run in the best places –

You’ve got to dodge the geese poop.

And, right about now, you’re wondering why you’re even still reading this post. I understand.

Well, it’s because – once as I was dodging the geese poop – it occurred to me.

The same principle is true in life and leadership.

You can settle for mediocre.

You can choose to go for second best.

You can compromise before the right decision is made.

You can refuse the risk you might get dirty.

But, if you want to experience the best life has to offer.

If you want to settle for nothing but the right decision.

You have to dodge the geese poop of life.

The path to the best places in life are often lined with difficulties along the way.

(By the way, for my pastor friends, this principle has been true for me in church planting and church revitalization. We’ve dodged a lot of geese droppings.)

Following your dream – achieving God’s plan for your life – maximizing your goals and ambitions – those aren’t easy. They never are. They require a lot of faith, a lot of hard work, and a lot of prayer and patience.

It’s messy, filled with setbacks, conflict and obstacles. There will be times we are tempted to give up, choose an easier route, or quit before the end is in sight.

It’s a choice. You can choose where you want to run. You can stay on the boring and safe treadmill of life if you want, but, as for me, no doubt about it, whenever I get the chance, I’m choosing to run by the body of water.

I’ll just watch out for and endure the geese poop, because I know it’s a part of the path.

Are you on one of those body of water paths of life right now?

Are there a lot of “droppings” in your way?

Don’t give up – the Glorious part comes to those who endure!

What Happens When I’m tired – and 7 Remedies

Lazy person

I have learned over the years – many times when I’m not up to par in my leadership or life – it’s simply because I’m tired. Recognizing this is paramount to maintaining productivity and for preventing burnout.

When I’m tired:

I can be irritable and harder to please

I become irrational about the flaws in others

I have difficulty concentrating

I display less patience and get frustrated easily

I’m less effective

My leadership suffers

Our team suffers

Here are 7 remedies I’ve discovered:

Take a nap (Some think you should take one everyday.)

Exercise (My adrenaline and energy grows when I sweat.)

Change perspective by reading a book, watching or listening to something other than where I’m currently working. (It may simply be entertaining.)

Engage with motivating people. (There are people who naturally fuel others by their presence.)

Take extended time away from my work. (The busier the season the more I need to discipline myself to rest.)

Evaluate my priorities, freeing myself for what’s most important. (We can easily get captivated by things of lesser importance which drain our energy.)

Call it a day and prepare for another day. (There have been days it’s just best to go home and start over the next day.)

Sometimes things, which at the time seem unproductive, actually end up being among the most productive. I’ve learned I’m not very helpful to the team when I’m extremely tired. Addressing it quickly makes me a better leader. Things aren’t likely to improve until I improve. Many leaders try to operate from an exhausted position and never realize they are the problem on the team.

Leader, be aware when you are the problem.

Don’t be afraid to admit you’re tired, leader. Most likely the team already knows it.

What happens when you’re tired…and what do you do about it?

10 Tips for Recovering from Major Disappointments in Life

Disappointment

Sometimes life throws curves at us that take the wind from our sail. If we aren’t careful we can allow the injury to haunt us for life; never regaining what we have lost.

Have you lost a job recently? If you’re not careful, you will falsely assume that you could never get as good of a job again.

Have you had a business failure? If you’re not careful, you’ll keep yourself from ever taking a rid again.

Did you suffer from divorce? If you’re not careful, you’ll believe you can never recover or receive God’s grace.

Did your spouse have an affair? If you’re not careful, you’ll never risk intimate love again.

The Devil loves when you doubt yourself.

What steps should you take to get back on track and succeed again after a major disappointment?

Here are 10 tips to consider during the recovery process:

Reconnect with God. This is always a wise idea, but it becomes a necessity at times like this. Times of disappointment can cause us to emotionally pull away from God. Our faith may still be in tact, but our daily trust waivers. We may know God is able, but we have a harder time trusting Him to do what needs to be done. (I preached about this issue HERE.)

Evaluate your life. Use this time to reevaluate the decisions you have made in life and what got you in the situation you are in today. Are there changes that you need to make? If so, be willing to change. If you did nothing wrong in this case, release yourself from responsibility.

Create some new dreams. Don’t allow past mistakes to keep you from discovering your passions in life. Keep those creative forces going in your mind so you’ll be ready when the next big opportunity comes along. Give yourself permission to believe the impossible. God does.

Call in the advisors. Others can usually see things we cannot see. They approach our life from a different perspective. Give someone you trust, who has your best interest at heart, access to the painful part of your life…and the freedom to speak into your life.

Don’t take your pain and anger out on others. It doesn’t make things better (usually worse) to hurt others because you are hurting. Innocent people shouldn’t be subjected to the wrath of your pain.

Take a break. Don’t expect to recover immediately. Your situation and the emotions and struggles because of them, probably didn’t start overnight and they will not end overnight. Give yourself time to heal.

When it’s time, be willing to risk again. Yes, you may get hurt again, but just as life is full of disappointments, it’s also full of joy and discovery. Remember that everyone is not the same and every situation is different. Don’t hold your past experiences against others who weren’t even there or against a future that hasn’t come.

Don’t let failure or disappointment define you. Be defined by God’s love for you and His plan for your life.

Do something. Rest yes, but at some point, just do something to stay busy and occupy your mind. It’s true that the “idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. If you lost your job, find somewhere to volunteer until you find another job. If you lost a relationship, find non-sexual relationships through church or civic activities to keep from being alone. If nothing else, start journaling as a way to release your thoughts. Do something.

Get back in the game. Choose your next steps carefully and don’t keep repeating the same mistakes, but at some point it will be time to enjoy life again. Life was not meant to be lived on the sidelines.

What steps do you have for receiving from disappointment?

20 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife this Weekend

Rear View Senior Man and Woman Couple Walking Holding Hands

Men, want to show you’re wife she’s loved this weekend?

Let me offer a few suggestions:

Give her the best time of your weekend.

Do something with her you know she enjoys – even if it’s not your favorite thing to do.

Share a dessert with her. (Ouch! This one hurts me personally. I don’t usually share desserts.)

Take a long walk together and hold her hand.

Fix the bed, take out the trash, or pick up your clothes – without being asked. (Or whatever it is you know she would love if you did.)

Genuinely listen to her without trying to fix anything.

Give her a few hours with no responsibility – none. (Even the kids.)

Brag on her to your friends. Make sure it’s genuine and make sure she hears.

Go to a coffee shop and play 15 questions. I have a list of them HERE.

Tell her your deepest fears and greatest dreams.

Leave her notes around the house.

Write down 10 reasons she’s the woman of your dreams.

Leave a sweet voicemail on her phone telling how much you love her. (You can leave one at work, too, for her to get when she returns.)

Cook dinner. And, then do the dishes.

Book a date night for later this week. Take care of ALL the arrangements.

Pray for her out loud.

Ask her advice.

Say, “I love you”. Unsolicited.

Make her belly laugh.

Dream with her about your future together.

Any ideas you would share?

A Happy Mother’s Day Tribute to the Mother Who Has No Children

Happy childhood

I want to give a tribute to the mother who has no children.

I’ve always been sensitive this time of year to the mothers without children.

You know the ones.

They never had children.

For whatever reason.

Some never tried.
Some never could.
Some tried, could, and lost their child.

And, for many it’s a hidden pain they carry deeply. Deeper than any wound. Deeper than most people ever understand. (Certainly deeper than I can understand.)

I’m reminded of Hannah’s pain in 1 Samuel 1.

They never had children, but they:

  • Care for others sacrificially, simply for the joy of giving.
  • Are willing to fight lions, tigers and bears (Oh my!) for the ones they love.
  • Have more strength than the average man when caring for someone.
  • Are taken advantage of because of their generosity.
  • Love deeply and unconditionally.
  • Make life special for others – just because.
  • Find satisfaction in the simplest gestures of love.
  • Strive to make the world a better place for those around them.
  • Hide their pain – most of the time – when others take advantage of them.
  • Are always thinking of others and willing to put others ahead of themselves.

Sounds like a mother to me.

Many of them wanted children — but they never were given the blessing. And, motherhood is a blessing. Just as all parenting is.

They have no children.

But, they have a mother’s heart.

They may not have children – not in the natural sense – but in heart -they are every bit a mother.

They love like a mother. They sacrifice like a mother. They serve like a mother. They give – just like a mother gives.

And, if God were to celebrate Mother’s Day, I think He would include them in the celebration.

Because in God’s way of doing things, it’s always about the heart.

“Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

This year, as you celebrate Mother’s Day, don’t forget the mother who has no children.

While you’re at it, don’t forget the one whose mother isn’t here any longer. And, the one who has a hard story with their mother. And, all the others who – as one celebrates – another weeps.

Let’s be sensitive to the needs of others.

That sounds like something worthy to celebrate on such a wonderful day!

A Leadership Experiment – The Little Things Matter

trash pickup

In making a first impression – the little things matter.

When a visitor shows up on our church campus for the first time – the little things matter. When a parent decides to trust us with their children – the little things matter. The way we follow up with guests – the little things matter.

Most leaders and pastors believe this, but we often don’t pay attention to the little things. Over the years, even as a very non-detailed, extremely big picture person, I’ve started to notice the little things.

A number of years ago, while I was pastoring another church, I felt I needed more buy-in from them in helping to lead the church. They were a great group of people who were passionate about reaching the lost, but they had begun to neglect some of the little things to keep a church operating. I wanted to encourage them to be more observant about what needed doing.

I conducted an experiment. I placed a Sunday bulletin on the floor of the men’s bathroom, right in front of the urinal. You couldn’t “go” without stepping on it or over it.

It stayed there through two Sundays and no one picked it up or threw it away. At the following Wednesday night leadership meeting, I brought the bulletin with me. I asked, “Does anyone recognize this?” (It was before I was a big a germaphobe as I am today.) Apparently – by the look on some faces – most of the men had seen it previously.

I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but it was a tangible reminder to them about making a first impression – the little things matter – and, more importantly, they play a role in this. We were a church plant. We didn’t have a custodial staff for the building we rented. We were the custodial staff. If the bulletin was to be picked up, one of us needed to do it.

They instantly recognized every man visiting our church in the last couple weeks had probably seen the bulletin on the floor of the men’s room. We only had one urinal – and we had very good coffee. Although it was a minor thing – just a bulletin on the floor – it had the potential to leave a larger impression. Imagine if the same visitor returned the next week to find the same bulletin still on the floor. (Of course, in a church plant, by the second week you may be plugged in enough to be picking bulletins off the bathroom floor.)

I’m not saying it was brilliant. It may not even have been nice. But, the experiment made some impact. 

From this point, some of the men became more observant about the little things which needed attention. They started to take ownership in their roles as church leaders. I felt I had more participation in leading the church. 

The point of this post is we must find ways to illustrate the importance of this principle – Little things matter.  

By the way, I have always been curious if this same experiment would have worked in the women’s bathroom or would someone have picked it up?

Pastor, feel free to try this experiment at your own home. Little things matter.

6 Steps to Finishing Well in Life and Leadership

finish line

Everyone wants to be successful in life, but the truth is many people never really achieve what they set out to accomplish. Many of us fall short of obtaining our dreams and goals. This is true in life and leadership.

After years of observing a lackluster success rate among some of the people to whom I minister and to leaders I coach, I began to examine why some people never seem to succeed.

What is it which keeps people from being achieving what they claim to want most in life?

Are there some steps which can be taken to enhance our chances of winning in this “game” of life?

If I am asked to coach someone to be a winner, these are some of the steps I will start.

Here are six steps I suggest to win in life and leadership:

Step One: Get in the right race.

Many people never achieve the success they wanted, because they entered the wrong competition. They are aiming for the wrong targets. We should ask ourselves “where do I want to go in life and what do I eventually want to accomplish?” Until we know how we want our life to end we will never know the steps to take to succeed. This is true for leaders. If you don’t have a vision for your leadership – where you’re leading people – you’re failing before you get started. Of course, I believe in life this starts with a decision to allow Christ to set your path. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

Step Two: Discipline for the race.

Winning happens over time – not in an instant. The greatest athletes work hours outside the game in order to perhaps win even a single game. Victory doesn’t often happen without hard, painful work to get there. It takes diligence and consistency to be a winner. Many times victory was just around the corner, but the people gave up too soon. The best leaders I know also learn their individual skills and continue to develop them and they surround themselves with people who complement them – and cover for them in their weaknesses.

Step Three: Develop character first.

People who truly win in life spend a great amount of time on the development of themselves and others around them. Most of the successful business people and church leaders I know set aside time each week for personal development. They are frequently in the gym, reading a good book, and attending church on Sunday. They develop their mind, body and spirit. They recognize that they must be relationally, physically and spiritually healthy if they want to have success in life.

Step Four: Accept Failure

Most winners are built through brokenness. The greatest leaders have failed many times. Before inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison failed a thousand times. Babe Ruth had 714 home runs and 1,330 strikeouts. Abraham Lincoln was said to have failed so many times, in business, in his love life, in politics but finally became one of the greatest President of the United States. People who finish well in life and leadership allow failure to be their friend not their enemy.

Step Five: Ignore unnecessary distractions.

Winners don’t give up when obstacles get in the way of achieving their goals. They find a way to work around them. They don’t waste a lot of time and energy on the wrong things. They build upon the strength of others. Life is full of disappointments and set backs, but those who finish well learn to keep pushing forward – even through the darkest days.

Step Six: Stay in the race.

If a person wants to win he or she has to stay in the race. One cannot be a quitter and still win. Many times the winner is the one with the most heart. I know some leaders who need this encouragement – and, they will need it many times in their career as a leader. Often we see the underdog team come from behind to win simply because they have more passion. If you want to be a winner – if you want to finish well – stay in the game!

Choose today to be a winner! Finish well! Don’t let your “hope to do’s” become your “wish you had’s”.

The WHAT Test – A Simple Strategy to Think Through Level of Commitment

Asian business people team drawing on white wall whiteboard with sticky notes creative real office

The WHAT Test.

Over the years, I have found numerous uses for this simple strategy of thought. The WHAT Test is an acronym of steps to force you to think through how committed everyone involved actually is to a project, relationship or goal. It doesn’t ensure success, but it can help you avoid the disappointment of not having thoroughly thought about the agreed upon direction and level of commitment before you begin.

Here’s The WHAT Test:Where

Where do you want to go? It sounds simple, but it’ serially not. Many times when one person is ready to celebrate success another thinks you’re just getting started. Talk through the end goal. What do you want to accomplish? Collectively define a win. Make sure it is very clear up front where you want to go and how you will know when you’ve “arrived” at your intended destination.

How?

How will you get there? What’s the plan? What are the steps to get us to our goal? Who is going to do what? Who’s responsible? Who’s in charge of what? What are the necessary steps involved? This is where you ensure there is a strategy in place.

Agreement

Are all parties in complete agreement with the previous two? This is critical. Don’t neglect this important step. Don’t move forward without knowing everyone is on board. Many times we agree to a vision on the front end and have reservations once the actual strategy is in place. It’s good to renew agreement before proceeding.

Tenacity

This may be the most important one. I always ask: Are you willing to pay the price to see it through? This is almost a covenant agreement type step – and may even involve an actual covenant. Most great ideas fail – not because they weren’t great ideas – but because no one had the commitment to see them through. This can be especially true when relationships are involved. Decide on the front end all parties have a “whatever it takes” attitude. This will save you many headaches and heartaches down the road.

Obviously, each of these have multiple layers to them, but this exercise always seems to shake out some of the initial reservations which may not have been spoken and avoids some of the personal obstacles which may otherwise occur.

Let me give you a few examples of when I’ve used this:

  • Working with a couple trying to rebuild their relationship – could be after an affair or serious breach in trust has occurred.
  • Prior to attempting a difficult project or assignment.
  • Before a business partnership is formed.

At the beginning of any important venture – Take the WHAT Test

WHAT you are trying to accomplish will seem more attainable when you can easily pass the The WHAT Test.

There are dozens of applications for this simple formula, but the point is strategically thinking through these steps will help protect, build or rebuild relationships – plus help all parties avoid disappointment.

7 Ways to Sleep More Soundly each Night, Even During Sleepless Seasons

sleeping man

If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24

Years ago when we were in business, Cheryl and I went through a difficult season in life. We had had such success, but times got hard. Dealing with employees, cash flow, banks and trying to increase sales so we could make payroll made for many sleepless nights. It was distressing. I was frustrated. And, because I couldn’t sleep, I was less productive during the day.

I’ve grown a lot since these days – and from these days and I’ve come to believe, unless there are health reasons why you cannot, we should be able to rest at night. I wish I had known then what I know now.

Over the years, I have learned a few secrets of sleeping better each night.

Here are 7 ways to sleep more soundly each night:

Exercise during the day

Sometime during the day, make yourself physically tired. Exercise not only works the body – it frees the mind. It helps you prepare to relax. There’s a power in physical activity which cannot be ignored. I try to exercise at least 5 days per week. During the sleepless days of business I mistakenly thought I was too busy to take the time – which was foolish on my part.

Eat healthy foods in adequate quantities

I’ve learned, for example, greasy foods don’t set as well on my stomach. You’ll have your own foods which don’t make you feel as well as you could. Also, if you eat too little you’ll wake up hungry. If you eat too much you won’t settle peacefully. Find the right quantity of food and discipline yourself to eat the right amount. This usually means eating until you are satisfied, but not stuffing your stomach. And, eating early enough for food to settle. We even find walking after we eat helps us rest better. Finally, for this point, staying adequately hydrated seems to help me sleep better. 

Put your day to bed

This is huge. For me it means reviewing my day and preparing for tomorrow. I spend a few minutes reflecting on what took place, what I can change and what I can’t, and then looking over my calendar for the next day. It mentally says “This day is over. A new day is coming.”

Be consistent

Even on weekends or when I’m out of town I keep pretty much the same schedule. Occasionally I’ll need to “catch up” on some sleep, but most of the time I’m in bed and out of bed  (without ever using an alarm) at the same time each day. Once it becomes a habit it’s not so bad – even getting up early. Seriously. We moved time zones in the last few years and there was another adjustment to make. Now my goal is 7 hours sleep a night. I can tell a difference when I don’t get it.

Invest in good bedding

Don’t be cheap when it comes to your mattress or bedding. I’ve learned you get what you pay for with this expense. Shop for quality, as well as price. There are mattress experts. Rely on them.

Write it down

Journaling can be a release from the day. Share your thoughts, concerns, fears and dreams. Get them off your chest then lay them to rest. (No rhyme intended, but it works.)

Pray

End with a release to God. Regardless of how stressful the day was give your burdens to the Burden-Bearer. I’m not trying to be cruel – just factual, but if worry is keeping you awake at night, you have a faith issue bigger than a sleep issue. I certainly did in the hard business season. Remember, Gid is on His throne – even as you sleep. (If you fall asleep while praying God won’t mind. Didn’t you enjoy watching your children fall asleep?)

There will always be exceptions when you still can’t sleep – sickness, sick children, etc., but it shouldn’t last long without impacting the rest of your life. And, if necessary, see your doctor. The older I get the more I realize how important sleep is for overall health and productivity. 

Try some of these and let me know how they work for you. I’m praying you learn some secrets for better sleeping.

Do you ever have trouble sleeping? What tips do you have?