When I grow up…

Happy childhood

I was walking in the hall of our church building recently when I had to stop to let a classroom of children walk by me. We house a school in our building and an early childhood development center. It’s not unusual to encounter some of them on a daily basis. On this occasion, it was a class of what I would guess to be 4 or 5 years of age.

They were perfectly lined up by their teacher. They were behaving nicely. Their teacher was doing a great job with them. So cute.

All of a sudden. Out of nowhere. One little girl broke into meowing. Cat meows. She was good too. She didn’t know anyone else was around it seems. She simply started meowing.

I laughed. She didn’t seem to understand why. Her teacher told her to be quiet. She didn’t seem to understand why.

What is wrong with a little meowing anyway? Especially with such good pitch. I mean, it wasn’t a lion’s roar. That would be different, right? It’s a kitty cat. The cat’s meow.

But it made me think…

I want to be like that girl when I grow up.

Suddenly my mind reflected on another time in life…several years ago now…

When my youngest son was little he was often afraid at night. As long as he knew he could call and I’d be there…anytime at night…he was okay. He could sleep without fear. Without worry. And he tested that numerous times.

I want to be like that boy when I grow up.

I also want to skip and kick a can down the street and not worry about the effects on the environment. Just once. Random. I know.

I want to laugh more. Belly laugh. About things other people don’t even think are funny.

I want to enjoy my ice cream. All over my face, if needed. We can go to the bathroom later and wash it off. Or just go swing for a while. Whichever.

I want to climb a tree. A really big tree. Without a fear of heights or a fear of falling. I might even shout, “Look at me” from the top of that tree.

I want to take a run in the woods, jump in some puddles, and wear my play clothes all day.

Life is serious. Too serious. Very serious.

This world is a messed up scary place. Somedays it seems everyone is crazy. Doesn’t it? Even me. Who can I trust? Does anything make sense anymore? Anything?

But I know, I really do know, that my God is on His throne. He’s not moved. He’s in control. He has a plan. And, He loves me. He really does. He watches over me at night and counts the hairs on my head. All while making sure the stars are still aligned. And, I think He even laughs at my corny jokes. And at the cat’s meow of a little girl.

So when I grow up I want to trust more and worry less.

I want to enjoy life knowing someone else is in control. I want to laugh in the midst of sorrow knowing there is coming an answer. A resolution. Glory yet to be revealed. Knowing hope is here today. Not tomorrow. Today.

And, I want meow. Whenever I choose to meow. Life’s too short not to meow at will.

I can’t wait to grow up.

7 Secrets to Being a High Achiever

Green extra mile sign

I get asked frequently:

Pastor, how do you get so much done and still take care of yourself and your family?

Honestly, I never feel I’ve accomplished as much as I would like, but after receiving the question so many times, perhaps I should attempt to answer.

I do have a lot of responsibility. I pastor a large church…undergoing transition and change. I have an active (some would say over-active) online presence. I blog regularly to a growing audience and daily interact with my readers. I maintain a separate non-profit ministry I’ve managed for over 10 years where I provide consulting and teaching to pastors and churches. I frequently take on extra writing projects and speaking opportunities, which usually keeps me doing something different every week. And, I strive to be the person, husband and father my congregation could seek to follow.

Okay, typing that paragraph reminds me. I’m busy. Productive would be subject to interpretation, but certainly I have activity in my life.

As I’ve reflected of what helps me accomplish much, here are 7 thoughts:

My 7 secrets to being a high achiever:

I’m intentional – That’s probably number one. I strive to live my life for a purpose and that carries over into everything that I do. (Notice there are even 7 steps in this answer. That was intentional.) If you could name one word that describes who I am as a pastor, leader, husband, father, friend and child of God, it would be intentional. (By the way, I’m intentional about resting too.) I even put that last sentence about rest in here intentionally, because I knew someone would wonder. :)

I don’t sit still long – Being still is a discipline for me. Some seasons I’m better at it than others. I realize some people have no trouble with this, but I do. As I said about being intentional, I have to make myself rest. My mind is constantly in motion. If I’m watching a television program, which isn’t often, I’m doing attempting to do something productive while I watch…otherwise I feel I “wasted” time. I wish I could say I’m always doing the “best” things, but certainly more activity leads to the potential for more productivity. Doesn’t always work that way, which is why some of the other points I’m listing are far more valuable than this one.

I exercise – I’d also love to say I watch what I eat, and I do to a certain extent, but mostly I exercise to stay fit. I’ve learned that the more out of shape I am the less effective I am in all that I attempt to do. It impacts me physically, emotionally and spiritually when I skip my time exercising.

I work from a plan – Whether it’s long-term or short-term planning, I try to have one. I begin most every Monday morning (or sometimes Sunday nights) planning the week ahead. I find I’m more successful in my week if I’ve put some plans on paper prior to beginning any activity. Daily I begin by reviewing my plans for the day. At the beginning of a year, I plan the year. I periodically look over larger time spans of my life and plan or review where I’m going. Now, the further I get from the date, the more difficult it is to solidify my plans…life disrupts…but without a plan I find I’m spinning my wheels more than making progress.

I take advantage of opportunities – Did you catch that? It is not complicated, but it is a powerful principle. Networking. Delegation. Time-management. Learning something new. Cultivating dead times. I am intentional (there’s that word again) at looking for opportunities as they present themselves. If I’m waiting at the doctor’s office, I’m probably writing a blog post or replying to emails. Small opportunities lead to huge opportunities. I seek those moments. (By the way, that’s why I always have something with me where I can make notes. When ideas come…I want to be ready. Intentionally ready.)

I try to stay ahead – This is hard. I’m a procrastinator by nature too, but the more I can, I try to stay one step ahead of the snowballs in my schedule. They happen to all of us. If I’m prepared when those times arrive I can better keep them from being a disruption in my productivity.

I prioritize – I say no often. It may not seem like it to an outside observation, but I do. I say no a lot. I have come to the realization that I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I’ve tried to figure out what’s most important in my life, my work, and my walk with God and I put those things first. I even schedule some of them to make sure nothing gets in the way. I ask myself consistently questions such as, “Am I the right one to be doing this?”, “Is this the best use of my time?” Again, intentional.

It should finally be noted that I’m in a different season of life these days. I’m an empty-nester. When my boys were home life was different. I was intentional then too, but in different ways.

Which of these would help you the most? Any you would add to help others (and me)?

People Make Mistakes

Disappointment

People, even the “best” people, make mistakes.

I’ve stopped being surprised when I find out the person I thought had it all together doesn’t.

When “the good girl” gets pregnant…it doesn’t catch me off guard as much anymore.

When I hear about the person in ministry, who falls into repetitive sin, I’m saddened, heartbroken, but not as perplexed as I used to be.

When the “mom” is the guilty one…it stings…I may even be angry for a while…but not overly surprised.

Sin is all around us.

It’s a messed up world we live in these days…and these days have always been. Since the fall of man.

The truth is that good people make bad decisions.

We shouldn’t be too surprised when people behave like…well…people.

That’s not an excuse. I’m not letting people “off the hook”.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to make better decisions.

We should. We really, really should.

We should be holy, because God is holy. (1 Peter 1:16)

We should have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5)

I’m not saying there aren’t consequences for our actions.

There are. (Galatians 6:7)

But, I am saying…really remembering…that the only “good” in me (and others) is Christ.

All we like sheep have gone (and go) astray…apart from God’s grace.

The heart is deceitful above all things. (Jeremiah 17:9)

Sanctification is a process. (Philippians 2:13)

We need Jesus. We need Him desperately.

People make mistakes.

Even the “best” of people. Even believers.

Even you.

Even me. Especially me.

Are you surprised?

All Creation Bows…When Your Faith Dwindles

faith

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. Matthew 8:26

I wonder if Jesus often wondered, in His humanity, why the disciples just didn’t get it.

In fact, I wonder why I don’t at times. Sometimes it seems like an everyday occurrence.

There Jesus was, all along, throughout the storm, and yet I fail to recognize Him. I knew, at least in my heart, that God was still God, that the Holy Spirit was my great comforter and that Jesus was at the right hand of the Father saying, “Dad, I know what he’s going through. Let’s help him one more time.” But in the midst of a tempest…a storm…a trial…it often seemed like He was nowhere around.

Or, are you not like me and my disciple friends? Do you have perfect faith? Strong faith? BIG faith? BIGGER faith? Is your faith “mature”? More “perfect” than mine?

Sure, we should always grow in our faith. And, it is trials and storms of life that God uses so often to increase our dependency on Him; to teach us who God is and who we are not. But you and I, if we are honest, know that our faith often dwindles. We often try to take on the storms with our own abilities. It may be like flying a paper airplane in a hurricane, but we will put our all into being independent. As dumb as that seems in reality.

And then our plane crashes…

You’ve been there.

Suddenly, we have nowhere else to turn and we call upon the name of the Lord!
Redemption comes! Then comes the real strength and power! Then comes the real solution!

Our faith…little as it may be…calls upon Jesus…and all Creation bows at His name!

When is the last time you knew God to be God…no questions asked?

Are You a Christian Struggling with Guilt?

girl past

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” John 3:17 NLT

Are you a believer, but you can’t seem to shake the feeling of guilt? You know God saved you, but you still feel so much guilt from your past?

I need to assure you today that, in my understanding of Scripture, guilt does not come from God. The devil often uses guilt to keep us from doing the will of God and growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Guilt has to do with condemnation. You feel the “weight” or “sentence” of your sin. But, didn’t Christ die for that condemnation?

The next verse after John 3:16, the famous and familiar verse, reminds us that God sent Jesus to save, not to condemn it. Romans 8:1 says there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The very definition of guilt has to do with remorse for having done something wrong. Furthermore, guilt is being responsible for an offense. A Christian’s sins have been paid for on the Cross. One of the very definitions of guilt is “guilty conduct; sin”.

The sin debt of any believer is heavy, but every bad offense we have ever committed has been covered over by the grace of Jesus Christ. We still sin, but Jesus doesn’t get back on the Cross. His death was sufficient for all our sins. There is “no condemnation” for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Please don’t misunderstand, you may feel sorry for your sins and ask God for forgiveness. That’s what we call repentance, but God’s motivating factor in obedience is love, not guilt. God guides His children to obey Him with a loving hand. Sometimes God’s love for us involves discipline. Many times we suffer the consequences of our sins. God will lead us to follow Him exclusively, but He will do it with love, not with guilt.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to bring condemnation. He came to bring salvation to all who would believe in Him.

Thank God today that there is no guilt for the person who knows, loves and believes in Jesus Christ as Savior.

10 Things I’ve Learned About Church Drama

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I love the local church. I really do. I believe it is God’s design and His plan to reach the world with the Gospel…with life and hope.

But, I hate church drama.

I really do. I hate destructive drama in any setting, but especially in the church. It shouldn’t exist. It especially shouldn’t exist in the church. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and for believers for it to exist at all, but, even still, it does.

Drama. Gossip. Back-stabbing. Politics. Jockeying for power. Rumors. It’s destructive and has no part in the local church. I’ve seen lots of it. And, along the way I’ve learned a few things.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about church drama:

Not all rumors are true. Most aren’t.

People like to expand on what they know. Or think they know.

There are consequences to sin. Even though there is grace. Some confuse that.

Some people enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things bigger and “better” than they really are.

Gossip destroys.

There is usually more to the story than what you know. But it may or may not be what your mind stretches it to be.

Many people never consider the ramifications of what they are saying.

Some of the juiciest gossip is disguised as a prayer request.

Thumper’s mom was right.

The only reliable source is the direct source.

For those who have given up on church because of the drama…Please reconsider. I still believe in the local church. I think we need people who like me…hate the drama of church and just want to live out the Gospel. Don’t let the drama keep you away. Come be a part of ending it.

You may want to read my post 7 Ways to Stop Gossip and 5 Suggestions When Your Life is a Drama. Or, even better, read the Book of James…New Testament. Or maybe Ephesians. (Specifically note 4:29).

What have you learned about church drama?

10 Ways to Help Your Spouse Transition to a New Position

Lifestyle choices.

In a previous post, I wrote about the pastor’s spouse’s emotions during a time of ministry transition. You will need to read that post HERE for this post to make complete sense.That post resonated with several who are dealing with that issue. My post was to bring awareness to those emotions, but as I expected, it generated questions.

People wanted to know how…how do they help their spouse transition?

Great question. I don’t have all the answers, but I have some.

Here are 10 ways to help your spouse in a job transfer:

Celebrate what she’s doing – Many times your excitement will seem to diminish what your spouse is doing. I was talking to a young pastor recently who is experiencing great success in his new church. At the same time, his wife is watching their children. I reminded him that changing diapers on the children he loves is just as powerful. He knew that, but he needed a reminder to celebrate that fact.

Help her explorepace herself – Eventually, she needs to find her own identity. It will take time. Allow her the freedom to do so, even if that means you have to keep the children some so she can.

Don’t lock her into your world – Don’t dictate her ministry. My wife and I our partners, but she is not me. Nor am I her. Her interests and mine are different. That’s okay. It’s actually by design. She makes me better. And, in a much smaller way I’m sure, I make her better.

Listen to her – That’s always important, but even more so in times of stress or change. You’ll be busier than ever. But she will need you…more than ever. Listen. The practice will serve you and your marriage in the days ahead.

Let her grieve – She may mourn over the separation from friends. She may miss the old house. She may complain at times that the supermarket isn’t as easy to navigate. It’s a part of the acclimating process. Give it time.

Be conscious – It won’t be the same. It probably never will be. Her role will be different. Your role will be different. You will have different friends. Your schedules may be altered. Your routines will change. Be conscious that this creates stress in people and relationships.

Be present when home – When you finally get home, be fully home. Shut down. Have some times where you quit everything work related and be with your family. Give your family the attention they deserve.

Celebrate your new area – Explore the new city together. Discover the hidden gems and be a tourist for a while. (I wrote a post about how to acclimate to a new city HERE.)

Keep her informed – She will naturally feel somewhat isolated from your exciting new world. Don’t allow that emotion because you’ve excluded her from it. Make her feel a part of things as much as you can by giving her details of your day. I realize this will require even more patience, but during transition she needs to be even more a part of your day that she missed.

Be patient – It may take longer for her to acclimate to the new environment than you think it should. That’s okay. She’s not you. Don’t expect her to respond to change the same way you would.

Those are my suggestions. If you’re in a time of transition, for the good of your marriage and yourself, be intentional!

Have you transitioned recently? What recommendations do you have?

The Emotions of Betrayal and How to Process

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I was reading a passage the other day and something struck me…

The emotions of betrayal…

Have you ever experienced them?

It helps to be able to count to twelve…

See what I mean…

And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.Acts 1:13

Do you see what I saw?

Count them. There are eleven names. Eleven. Not twelve.

One was missing. For three years there were twelve. They had been Jesus’ disciples. His closest companions. Jesus had invested time, energy and life into them. Now there were eleven. One was missing.

The betrayer…

If you don’t know the story, another named Judas betrayed Jesus. For a hefty sum of money he handed Jesus to the authorities where He was arrested, beaten and crucified. Of course, it was used for a divine purpose, but the fact is one of the disciples betrayed the others and Jesus.

I don’t think I ever considered this before…but what were the emotions of betrayal for the remaining disciples? Did they miss their friend? In spite of his betrayal, he was a close companion on a mission. A team member. There must have been some attachment. Were there moments of bitterness, anger, or rage? Were they sad? Was there one in particular who got hurt most? He was closest to the betrayer, perhaps, (I don’t know…just knowing people and team dynamics I’m asking).

But, that was then and this post is really about you.

Have you ever experienced the emotions of betrayal?

We don’t talk about it much in leadership or ministry, but maybe we should. Those emotions are real. They are heavy. And, they are common.

Have you been hurt by your own betrayer? You trusted him or her. You may have even called them friend. They let you down. Disappointed you. Betrayed you.

Anyone who has served in any leadership position has experienced betrayal at some level. It could have been the gossip started by a supposed friend or a pointed and calculated stab in the back. Either way…it hurts.

Learning to deal with, process, and mature through betrayal may be one of the more important leadership issues, yet we seldom deal with the issue.

How do you handle betrayal?

Here are a few quick suggestions:

Grieve – Give yourself time to process. Be honest about the pain. Don’t pretend it didn’t matter. It does.

Forgive – As much as it hurts, refusing to forgive or holding a grudge will hurt you more than the betrayer. Embrace and extend grace. If there are realistic consequences you can let those occur, but in your heart let it go. It may take time to do this, but the longer you delay the more you are still held captive by the betrayal.

Analyze – It is good at a time of betrayal to consider what went wrong. Was it an error in judgement? Do you need stricter guidelines? Would it have happened regardless? You can’t script morality and shouldn’t attempt to, but you should use this as a chance for a healthy review of the parameters in which the betrayal occurred.

Continue – You can’t allow a betrayal to distract you from the vision you have been called to complete. There will always be betrayers in the mix. They show up unexpectedly. Eventually you will have to take a risk on people again. It’s the only way to lead healthfully.

Have you ever been betrayed?

What would you add? How did you’re forward? Or have you?

The Pastor’s Spouse: Emotions in Times of Transition

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When I’m talking to a pastor who has accepted a new position, after I hear the excitement in his voice of what he sees God doing, I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your wife dealing with the change?”

There is usually a pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She’s doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on her than I thought it would be.” or, pushing even further, “I don’t understand why she’s not as excited as I am. She agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the pastor is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as for the pastor. It will come in time, but for now, she’s not as excited about the change in positions as he is.

Why is that?

I like to encourage pastors to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition. The new pastor has found his center of gravity and purpose. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for hers.

You, the pastor, when you come home at the end of a long day, have something exciting to share every time. Things are moving, changing, challenging you daily. Even on days things aren’t going well…you have drama in your day you can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, her days look the same.

You come home pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most…your partner in life and ministry.

But, if you’re not conscious of her emotions, depending on her state of mind, she may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.” Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not thinking those things and would never want her to think those things, but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. That’s part of change.

She’s moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. She is often more relation-centered emotionally, so her heart transitions slower. The roles she held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times hers took a step backward. Or seem to have for now. That will change in time, and she probably knows that intellectually, but emotionally she feels a sense of loss that will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

Granted she is your partner, so she may be excited for you personally as a couple, but remember, she is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

That’s enough encouragement for today. I’ll share more in a future post some thoughts on helping your spouse find her center of gravity and purpose in a time of transition. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, share your stories to help others.

Pastors/Pastor’s spouses, did you have a harder time in a season of transition than your spouse did?

When the Dominant Question is Why

troubled young woman

“All I want is a reasonable answer —– then I will keep quiet.” Job 6:24

Job just wanted to know why.

Has that ever been your question?

If you know the story of Job then you know that he is the “poster child” of suffering in the Bible. Job lost everything; his children, his wealth, his health, and even the support of a loving wife. God allowed the Devil to bring suffering on Job to the severest point of pain, stopping only short of taking Job’s life.

That alone has a series of “Why” questions attached to it.

Job just wanted to know why. He simply wanted a sincere, reasonable answer.

You should know Job had lived a righteous life. He was one of the good guys.

Have you ever heard the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I am not sure that question didn’t originate with Job.

Job didn’t think sin had caused his pain. He didn’t believe that God was a harsh God. He also knew God as a loving God, so Job knew his suffering wasn’t a result of the meanness of God. As hard as he tried to understand and find answers nothing made sense. There appeared to be no reason.

The fact is, Job’s dilemma is often are ours. We can’t always understand the ways of God. We can try, but there will be situations and circumstances in life that simply will not make sense to us. We can know that God will work all things for good. We can know that He will never leave us nor forsake us, because those are promises He has made. We can even know that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

We may never know the answers to our questions of why.

Instead of trying to resolve the unanswered questions, I wonder if our goal should be otherwise. I wonder if our goal should be to trust in the God who does understand.

I wonder if the solution is not to question as much as to simply rest in the sufficiency of God. I know. That is hard to do, but over time, as we experience God more, our resolve through the trials of life should become more of repentance and rest and quietness and trust. This is where our strength will be found. (Isaiah 30:15)

Lord; grow us towards total dependence on You through times of life we cannot understand.

Have you ever been in a place where you had more questions than answers?