Dodging Geese Poop in Life and Leadership

(This is the kind of post I only do when my wife is in another city. I’ll explain why in a minute.)

We were on vacation not long ago. I got to run in some incredible cities. I ran in Minneapolis, Fargo, ND, Sioux Falls, SD and Mason City, Iowa.

One word for everyday’s run. Glorious.

I worshipped. I talked to God. I dreamed. It was awesome. Loved it.

I came to this realization though:

The best places to run all have some common characteristics.

It was true on vacation last week in the cities I mentioned. It is true of my two favorite running cities of all time…Philadelphia and Chicago.

You see, the best cities in which to run, in my opinion, have these attributes in common:

A river (Insert lake or ocean where appropriate…as in the case of Chicago)

A path beside the river

The peace and tranquility of running on the path beside the river

The chance to connect with nature and God along the river

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

The best places to run require dodging geese poop.

(There. I said it. That’s the part my wife wouldn’t have wanted me to say. She wouldn’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 in this post.)

But, it is true. I and I think you need to know…if you want to run in the best cities…

You’ve got to dodge the geese poop. No one scoops and bags for geese.

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

Well, it’s because…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.

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.

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 “run” where you want to run, 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 river.

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

Are you on one of those “river” paths of life right now?

Don’t give up…the Glorious part is coming!

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 5

This is part five of my interview with Dr. John David Laida. If you missed any of these segments, you can find them here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

In this final segment, Brother Laida addresses:

  • Word of advice to young pastors
  • Word of warning to young pastors
  • Future of the church
  • Advice on handling change and transition

Are you impressed, as I am, with the insight Brother Laida has shared? Share a word of encouragement to him in the comments. I’ll see that he gets them.

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 4

This is part four of my interview with Dr. John David Laida.

In this video, you’ll hear Dr. Laida address:

  • How he prepares for messages
  • Weaknesses in ministry
  • Dealing with controversy
  • 5 things pastors ought to do
  • The most important thing for a pastor to do.

Love The People from ron edmondson on Vimeo.

What did you find interesting in this segment? Have you enjoyed these so far?

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 3

This is part three of a five part interview with Dr. John David Laida. Brother Laida, as we called him, is a 92 year old pastor (about to turn 93), who, at the time of this filming, is still working full-time in ministry.

If you missed the first two segments, click HERE and HERE.

In this segment you’ll hear Bro. Laida address:

  • The way pastoring has changed
  • Protecting family in ministry
  • Being active in the community
  • Worship styles and adapting to culture

 

Are you enjoying this interview? What impresses you so far about Dr. Laida?

Two more segments of this interview…and they’re good! Stay tuned.

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 2

This is part two of my interview with Dr. John David Laida…or as I call him…Brother Laida. He has “supposedly” retired once, but never quit working. He’s still serving a church full-time today.

In this segment, Dr. Laida addresses:

  • Where he learned to lead a church
  • Delegation
  • How he handles church conflict

What do you think of Bro. Laida’s answers so far?

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 1

This is the introduction video to my interview with Dr. John David Laida. Brother Laida, as we always referred to him, was my pastor growing up. He served as senior pastor for 28 years at First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee and under his leadership the church grew every year. He served as president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and was a respected man in the community.

After retirement, Bro. Laida has remained active. He has preached almost every week since and has helped dozens of churches in transition as an interim pastor. At the time of this filming, he was about to turn 93 years old and had just taken the interim job of my home church, First Baptist Clarksville. He’s respected highly in this region for his wit, wisdom and his faithful service.

In this video, you’ll get an introduction into the beginning days of Brother Laida. It’s fascinating to hear his perspective on his earlier days of life and ministry.

This is a five part interview and this is the longest. Most will be 5 or 6 minutes in length. I hope you’ll enjoy learning from one of my mentor’s and spiritual heroes.

What did you enjoy most about his story this far?

Who is the oldest pastor you know still serving today? Honor them here.

The Initial Response may Determine the Future Recovery

Over the years, I’ve observed that many times the initial reaction to tragedy often dictates the final outcome of the situation.

I’m not talking about our split second response to disappointment, but the way a person responds in the days and weeks following the receipt of an unfortunate situation. Initially we react with emotions. That’s normal. The key is how we respond after the initial shock is gone. Ideally, as we mature, our response time should improve, shortening the reaction from the purely emotional release, which is natural, to the more confident and assured position, which is making rational decisions in spite of our emotional state.

Doing that takes discipline and practice.

Many people, it seems to me, never move beyond the emotional response and it cripples their potential for future recovery.

Let me give you an example.

Recently my oldest son Jeremy lost his job. His company downsized and, what he thought was a stable position, suddenly disappeared. He had been married less than a year and had weeks earlier purchased his first home. Jeremy is very mature for his age, so he handled the news better than some might have, but you can imagine the shock and disappointment was big for him.

For the first 24 hours he was numb, afraid, even a bit angry. I knew then that his reaction to this unexpected change of events would greatly determine his recovery period. I encouraged from the sidelines, but knew he ultimately had to own his response.

What happened? The next day he went to work. He weighed his options. He developed a plan. He took immediate action towards reaching his objective. The plans changed a few times in the coming weeks, but his resolve and confidence remained steadfast. Today he’s successfully working for himself. He’s only a couple months in, but already the signs of success are apparent. He’s recovering from disappointment into a better position, with more flexibility and job security, than he had previously. I’m so proud of him.

(BTW, if you need content development or online marketing/social media assistance, but can’t afford full-time staff, he may be able to help you.)

The initial response to disappointment or uncertainty often determines the quality of recovery.

This principle has Biblical implications. Recently I saw this principle reading about Nehemiah. Nehemiah had just learned the wall of his home city had been destroyed. His people were in jeopardy. The potential for devastation to the Jews was huge.

How did Nehemiah respond?

“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days” Nehemiah 1:4

That was his emotional response. Perfectly normal.

What happened next?

“and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”

That was his rational response. A sign of maturity.

Nehemiah knew that ultimately the protection of his people was God’s business, not his. He called upon God, because he knew that ultimately God was in control. In spite of the circumstances around him, God could be trusted.

There’s another example. Nehemiah was the cupbearer for the king. On one of his visits to serve the king, the king notices Nehemiah is not his bubbly personality as usual. The king asked Nehemiah what was wrong.

Look at Nehemiah’s response:

Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” Nehemiah 2:4

Imagine you’re standing before the most powerful man in the world and he asks you to state a request on your behalf. As we later learn, Nehemiah’s request would take him out of the king’s service. It was a huge request. How Nehemaih responded would greatly determine the outcome.

What did Nehemiah do in that moment? Verse 4 continues:

“So I prayed to the God of Heaven. And I said to the king…” (verses 4-5)

This time Nehemiah had less time to react. His initial reaction would greatly impact the quality of the response he received from the king. What happened next was greatly determined by his initial reaction.

Are you in the midst of a crisis? Have you received bad news? Are you disappointed with where your life is headed?

Your initial response may determine your future recovery.

Have you seen this principle at work?

Identity Always Precedes Activity

This is a guest post from Jeff Goins. Jeff is a writer, speaker, and blogger. Jeff has also become a friend and I’ve enjoyed the times to hang out with him. He’s a sharp young mind you should get to know. Check out his new eBook, You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One).

Here are some thoughts from Jeff:

I’ve spent too much time trying to prove something to myself instead of living into the reality of my identity.

I’ve labored and toiled, desperately trying to affirm in myself what I hope is true about me. That I’m good enough. That the world needs to hear my message. That what I have to say counts.

I’ve wasted years on this pursue and not spent nearly enough time grasping my identity as a child of God. A son. An heir.

And frankly, I’m tired of it. It’s exhausting and pointless. I’ve given up on proving things (to me or you) and started surrendering to who I am. In the process, I’ve learned two lessons:

Lesson #1: You are not what you do.

Your identity comes from some place deeper than your resume or list of accomplishments.

This is important, because in a culture of competition, it’s easy to get lost in the rat race. To chase the horizon and never catch it.

So many people live out of their false selves, constantly performing for an invisible audience and never feeling satisfied.

This will leave you dissatisfied and disillusioned. The way out is to trust what God says about you is true:

  • You are accepted.
  • You are righteous.
  • You are forgiven.
  • You are loved.

Lesson #2: What you do comes from who you are.

This is related to the first, but still worth stating, because so many people aren’t doing this. They’re living out of some fake place of pretense — a facade, a front. And everyone can see it, but them.

The way out of this is to stop lying to yourself. To admit you are who you already know you are:

  • A writer.
  • A dreamer.
  • A plumber.
  • A dancer.

Whatever it is that you were made to do, it’s time to stop hiding and start believing. And then, once you believe, it’s time to do it.

So many people are waiting for God to tell them what to do with their lives, but I believe God is waiting for those people to be who he’s made them to be.

Are you still living life with a performance mentality? Or have you finally given yourself to be who you are? If so, what are you?

Faith Obeys, Without Knowing How

But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.” The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” Samuel did what the LORD said.1 Samuel 16:2-4a NIV

God sent Samuel to annoint David king. He was removing Saul from power. It was a dangerous and scary assignment and it made no sense. Speaking against the king could bring death, but not only that, Saul looked like a king. David was an unknown kid. Samuel was naturally afraid. Wasn’t there some other way?…Samuel must have thought.

God’s plan was made. He wouldn’t budge because of Samuel’s fear. God never leads by popular opinion, so Samuel obeyed.

That’s what faith does.

When Samuel obeyed God, EVEN THOUGH it didn’t make sense for him to do so, he was exhibiting his faith in God. Faith always moves without seeing or understanding. Faith is always prior to receiving the complete picture or having all the answers. Faith precedes victory. Every time.

If we want to please God, we have to obey Him when it makes no sense to do so.

Years ago our family traveled to our nation’s capital on vacation. I have spent considerable time in the city, as a college intern and during my political and business days. It is one of my favorite places to visit. Our boys had never been. I told them that this would not be an enjoyable trip…at least not for the first few days. At nine and twelve years of age, and not being musuem people, I knew they would be bored at first and I wanted to prepare them.

I was right. I told them, however, that if they would obey me, they would be glad they had been once the trip was over. By the time we left Washington, DC, both boys were sad to say goodbye to the city. They had fallen in love with it. The twelve year old even said he wanted to attend a college there. (He obviously later changed his mind.)

That is the way it is sometimes in our Christian walk. Obeying God, following Him, and carrying out His plan, especially when it contradicts our own, is not always the first thing we want to do. It won’t even make sense sometimes. But, as we obey God, and He works His will through our obedience, God blesses us in ways we never expected, and we begin to experience what it means that “all things work for good for those who love the Lord”. (Romans 8:28)

Samuel didn’t want to go find David, but he obeyed. And, guess what? God knew what He was doing. Duh!

And, God knows what He is doing in your life too!

You need only to trust and obey!

In what area of your life are you most having to walk by faith these days? 

12 Words of Encourgement for Pastors (Or Other Leaders)

I love pastors. Each week, through this blog and my personal ministry, God allows me to partner with dozens of pastors, helping them think through life and ministry issues. I’ve learned that many pastors struggle to find people who will invest in them and help them grow as individuals, leaders and pastors.

Recently I had a pastor ask me for my “best advice” for other pastors. Wow! That’s hard to say. I’ve learned so much through the pastors who have invested in me and by experience. It’s hard to summarize all that I’ve learned. It could probably fill a book or two…but at least more than one blog post!

I put some thought into the question and decided to come up with a list of encouragement, one that I would give to all pastors, to answer his question. I’m sure there’s more (and you can help by adding yours), but this post is at least a start. Of course, wisdom is transferable to other fields, so change a few words around and I’d give this advice to any leader…some of them perhaps to any person.

Here are 12 words of encouragement for pastors:

Choose your friends wisely…but choose friends. Don’t attempt to lead alone. Too many pastors avoid close friendships because they’ve been hurt. They trusted someone with information who used it against them. Finding friends you can trust and be real with means you’ll sometimes get injured, but the reward is worth it.

The church can never love your family as much as you do. Your family needs you more than the church does. They can get another pastor. Your family doesn’t want another you. You’ll have to learn to say “no”, learn how to balance and prioritize your time, and be willing to delegate to others in the church. (You may want to read THIS POST from my friend Michael Hyatt on saying “no” with grace.”

If you protect your Sabbath day, your Sabbath day can better protect you. You’ll wear out quickly without a day a week to rejuvenate. God designed us this way. Take advantage of His provision. Take time to rest. You may not rest like everyone else…for me rest doesn’t mean doing nothing…but you need time away from the demands of ministry regularly. Lead your church to understand you can’t be everywhere every time. You owe it to yourself, your family, your church and your God.

You have influence…use it well. The pastorate comes with tremendous power and responsibility. It’s easy to abuse or take for granted. Don’t. Humility welcomes the hand of God on your ministry.

No amount of accountability or structure will keep you from temptation if you’re heart is impure. Above all else, guard your heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Avoid any hint of temptation. Look for the warning signs your heart is drifting. Keep your heart saturated with God’s Word and in prayer.

Let God lead. You can do some things well. God can do the impossible. Whom do you think should ultimately be leading the church? You’ll be surprised how much more effective your leadership will be when it’s according to His will and not yours.

If you can dream it, God can dream it bigger. Don’t dismiss the seemingly ridiculous things God calls you to do. They won’t always make sense to others or meet their immediate approval, but God’s ways will prove best every time.

Keep Jesus the center of focus in the church. You’ll never have a money problem, a people problem, or a growth problem if people are one with Jesus.

Your personal health affects the health of the church. Take care of yourself relationally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This, too, requires discipline, balance and prioritizing, but if, to the best of your ability, you strive to be healthy in every area of your life, as a good shepherd, your people will be more likely to follow your example.

The people in your church deserve authenticity. Not only will be honest about who you are help keep you from trying to meet unreal expectations, but it will help the people in your church be transparent with you and others. Don’t be someone you’re not. Be someone worthy to follow, but make sure you’re living it…not just teaching it.

You’ll never make everyone happy. If you try, you’ll be very unhappy…and very unproductive.

Now, make this post better. As you can count, there are only 11 here. I’m counting on you to add your best number 12.

What word of encouragement do you have for pastors (or other leaders)?