Don’t be afraid to take a wrong turn — or go where the path isn’t clear — or act when you don’t have all the details figured out yet.
Some of the best discoveries are made that way.
People are always asking Cheryl and me how we discovered a great new place to visit. Or to eat.
Don’t you love Instagram and Facebook for those postings?
Often it was on a discovery trip.
One time we were in Maryland. I said to Cheryl, “Let’s just take this road and see where it goes.”
It actually went to a dead end. At the ocean. Stop. No way out except where we came from. We may have even been in another state at that point. I never knew for sure.
There was one restaurant at the end of the road. It looked like a dump. Our cell service was so weak we couldn’t Google the place, so we just went for it. It turned out to be one of those memorable meals — in a good way.
We didn’t know where we were going or what we would find when we got there, but details don’t matter as much when you’re on a discovery mission.
We’ve actually used the discovery method to find dozens of great places. On most every vacation or trip we set aside some time just to discover something new. It gives us adrenaline as a couple, keeps things interesting (we’ve discovered some not so great places too) and — whatever we find — it gives us lots of great memories together.
I use the discovery method in leadership too. We try lots of new things. Some work. Some don’t. But, the ones that do prove to be some of our greatest discoveries. We found them by exploring.
Details are great. I know some people feel they need them. (Cheryl is that way.)
But don’t let not knowing them keep you from the greatest discoveries.
Explore. It’s often how the best discoveries are made.
And, it keeps life interesting.
In life and leadership.
I spent most of my adult life outside vocational ministry. I’m amazed at the opportunities God has given me in ministry, but in many ways I am still a newcomer. I have just over a dozen years in this career. It’s challenging in some ways, because I see things differently from some who have only done ministry, but it also gives me a unique perspective from some pastors. I sat “in the pew” far longer than I’ve stood “behind the pulpit”.
One thing my experience has done for me, especially since I’ve become a pastor, is to help me realize how much I didn’t understand about being a pastor. Like the feeling that work is never done. Like feeling you are never really “off”. Like knowing people are going to be upset with every decision you make — and balancing whether to move forward or give into their frustration. Like the pressure of “Sunday’s coming”. (Pastors — know that one?) Like carrying the weight of everyone, but sometimes feeling you’ve got no where to share your own struggles. Stuff like that.
The “fun” stuff I didn’t know prior to being in ministry. Plus, in the business world, we handled problems so differently from how they are typically handled in ministry. A lot faster sometimes.
I also spend a lot of time investing in other pastors. It fuels me personally. I’ve learned some of their challenges. Some of their concerns. Some of their wishes.
Along the way, I’ve learned some great lessons of what it takes to build a healthy church — many I didn’t previously understand — even though I was very active in the church. Things look different looking at the church from this perspective.
So, if I were ever on the other side again — and I was back “in the pew” — I’d change a few things about myself.
Here are 10 things I’d do differently if I weren’t a pastor today:
I’d make church attendance a priority. I’d build my week around the services of the church, knowing how vital every person is to the body. I’d understand what an encouragement it is to the pastor when people give the same priority to church that they give to other places in their life.
I’d love my pastor. I mean really love my pastor. Knowing how many expectations are placed on the pastor, I’d be among the group that’s always ready to help, but, recognizing he’s only one imperfect person, not one to get my feelings hurt if the pastor didn’t do everything I hoped he would.
I’d be a generous giver. Understanding that there are really a small number who financially support the work of the church, I’d be a Kingdom investor.
I’d be an ambassador for the church. I’d use my influence in the community and where I worked to bring people to church and Christ. I’d look for people I didn’t know on Sunday mornings and try to help them acclimate to the church.
If I had a problem with the pastor, I’d talk to the pastor. Not his wife. (That’s always a bad move.) Not other church members. Certainly not the community.
I’d try to get less upset about things that impact only me — that are mostly matters of personal preference.
I would pray bold prayers for the church. Daily.
I would support the pastor and his family. I would understand he couldn’t be everywhere, and never make him feel guilty for not being where I hoped he would be.
I would smile when he preaches. I’d give visual witness that I was paying attention. I might even say “Amen” when appropriate. Oh yea..definite amens.
I would serve where needed. In fact, I’d volunteer without being asked.
Pastors, anything you’d add to my list?
My friend Wayne Hastings is a pastor, author, speaker and business consultant. You can contact Wayne, and read his Blog, by visiting his website, waynehastings.com. He and his wife Pam live in Franklin, TN. His latest book “The Way Back From Loss” released this week. It’s a 60-day devotional focused on how, when we suffer loss of any kind. As a minister, we need this book. Here’s a sample of Wayne’s work.
Stuck in the Middle
“Christian living demands that we keep our feet on the ground; it also asks us to make a leap of faith. A Christian who stays put is no better than a statue.” —Eugene H. Peterson
Today’s Verse: “The Israelites grumbled and deplored their situation, accusing Moses and Aaron, to whom the whole congregation said, ‘Would that we had died in Egypt! Or that we had died in this wilderness! . . . Is it not better to return to Egypt?’” (Numbers 14:2–3 AMP)
Stealers Wheel recorded a hit song called Stuck in the Middle with You. It’s upbeat, but lines like “Trying to make some sense of it all, but I can see that it makes no sense at all” reveal that it’s an anthem to many lost hopes, ideas, goals, and beginnings.
We begin many things in life with fanfare and celebration. New things start happening. The “change” word is bandied about. Plans and dreams are set in place. It all looks so good.
Then, in the middle, something happens. We get stuck. Whether it’s because of our feelings, circumstances, or the voice of the Deceiver, we slow down. We find ourselves flailing in the quicksand of the middle. The emotional high is lost, we can’t see the end for trying, and the energy for it all just slowly disappears.
The Israelites suffered in the middle. Initially, the former slaves were heading to the Promised Land and everything looked great. Seas parted, food rained down from heaven, and God’s light led their way. But, for some reason, they got stuck in the middle. An eleven-day journey took forty years and the original “team” never made it.
If any group “had it all,” it was this group. If any group should have never felt loss, it was this group.
So what happened? And how do we free ourselves from being stuck?
The Israelites lacked vision. When the twelve came back from spying out the Promised Land (Numbers 13 and 14), the people chose to be negative. While Joshua and Caleb saw riches, the other ten saw disaster. They lost vision of all the good that could lie before them. Instead of seeing positive possibilities for the future, they wanted to return to the bondage of the past.
They had unbelief. It’s a progression. Lack of vision leads to doubt, which leads to more unbelief: “This is too hard!” “Why did we ever start this?”
“It doesn’t make sense.”
They were disobedient. God set a clear path before them and yet they strayed from it. They let their own pride, desire, and plans get in the way of a perfect plan engineered by God.
Letting the middle get in the way will stop any progress or growth. People think they are doing fine just by getting near to a new beginning. But then excellence gets reduced to acceptable and mediocrity is just a breath away.
We need to battle through the fatigue of the middle.
INSIGHT: When we are in the middle of loss, it’s tempting to quit and just stay stuck in the middle. When you feel that temptation, look up, not back. Look up, not at your circumstances, feelings, or regrets. Look up and let God renew your vision and belief, and prompt you to obey Him.
PRAYER: Ask God to lead and guide you out of the middle. Seek His direction and vision. Ask Him to increase your patience and your courage to move forward instead of looking back.
• Study Numbers 13 and 14. Take note of the responses of three different groups of people: Joshua and Caleb, the other ten spies, and the people. Choose to follow the response that will help you out of the middle.
• Understand that in a season of loss, there will always be times when you feel stuck. Learn to recognize how it happens and choose to respond out of vision, faith, and obedience rather than your feelings, thoughts, or circumstances.
• Discover the courage to look at your situation. When you’re in the middle—discouraged and frustrated—ask yourself, “What do I want to be doing ten years from now? How do I want to have grown by that time?” Looking this far ahead can release you from today’s angst and remaining stuck in it.
Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 1980 and 2000), 171
I often teach and write about the experiences that I have working with relationships. Personal experience is often some of the best information I have to protect and help other relationships.
In helping marriages, I often try to share some of the barriers that I have seen to having a good marriage. My theory is that if couples are aware of the barriers before they become an issue it’s much easier to deal with them when they arise.
One of the consistent barriers I have seen in having a strong marriage is the way the couple deals with outside influences. It could be friends, family, work, or hobbies. It’s mostly people.
One of those primary outside influences that many couples struggle with is dealing with in-laws.
And, the in-laws who are causing a problem are now rejecting this post.
The crazy thing about this issue is that I once talked about the issue but now I live the issue. So I realize I am on shaky ground by speaking to a subject I haven’t yet mastered. We have been in-laws now for a couple of years and it is still relatively new for us. But now at least I see both sides of the issue. Cheryl and I are trying to be good in-laws by learning from other people’s experiences we have encountered in ministry.
I’m speaking primarily in this post about parental in-laws, but these will also apply to other relatives of couples. This type post gets me in trouble. It’s a sensitive issue. Keep in mind this is an opinion blog. And this is an opinion post. But these are gained through years of experience working with young couples. Apply as necessary.
Here’s some of my best advice for in-laws:
Remember “leave and cleave”. It’s Biblical. Two people are trying to become one. That’s the goal. That means the two can’t be part of another unit in the same way. Yes, they are still family, but they are creating something new. Their new will likely look different from yours — hopefully even better. No doubt you will have influenced who they are as a couple. That may be in good and bad ways. Let them as a couple determine what they keep of your influence and what they leave behind. Again, they are still part of you. But, in the formulation of a new “them” they have to leave some things behind.
Know this: Everything you say to your child impacts their spouse. One way or another. And, it will likely either be repeated and injure your relationship with their spouse or cause a hidden wedge in their relationship. You can’t expect them to become one if you have a private world of communication with your child. And if they are trying to be a good husband or wife they will not keep secrets from their spouse. Yes, you should always be a safe place for your child. And there may be times where it is necessary for them to come to you in secret. But those should be rare. Very rare in my opinion. You can help them reduce friction in their marriage by not contributing to or promoting private conversations.
They sense the pressure to “come see you”. Chances are they have pressure elsewhere too. Maybe even from other in-laws. How welcoming is it if you spend most your time talking to them complaining how little you see them? Yes, it’s hard when they don’t seem to want to — or you feel slighted in the amount of attention you receive — but guilt and complaining won’t accomplish what you’re attempting. It might even get them there, but it won’t promote quality time with them. And, it will often build resentment.
Get rid of the phrase “What you should do is”. It isn’t helpful because it’s usually received with an immediate pushback. They are trying to form their own identity as a family. Hopefully they will solicit your input at times but don’t offer it unless you’re asked.
Offer advice only if you’re asked. I thought this one merited repeating. Again, it’s not that you don’t have for good advice. And they would probably be better off if they listened to your advice more often. Most likely you have experience they don’t yet have. But most young couples want to discover things on their own just as you possibly did when you were younger. Unsolicited advice is almost never seen as valuable as solicited advice.
Be a fun place to hang out. All young couples need to see healthy people and healthy relationships. Marriage is hard without any outside influences. So the more healthy and environment you can create for them the more often they will want to be a part of that environment.
Love them unconditionally. I would say equally, but that’s hard — isn’t it? You’re going to naturally lean towards favoring your own child, especially when there is friction or conflict in the relationship. Be patient with them. Give grace generously. Hold you’re tongue when you’re tempted to say something that could be hurtful. Forgive quickly when needed. Remember, you are supposed to be the maturer people in this season of life.
The point of this post — and this blog — is to help. I’m not trying to stir more frustration. Other blogs do that well. :). Seriously, my aim is to address issues I see often and help us learn from other people’s experiences. I realize this is a hard season for many parents. But, with careful intentionality it can be a great season.
Remember, we are new at this.
What other tips do you have?
I was talking with a young pastor recently.
It was after one of my posts about introversion and how I don’t think my introversion has to keep me from being a senior leader. Whenever I post about the subject of introversion I hear from fellow introverts. Some of these are apparently even more introverted than me. And, that’s a lot of introversion.
Anyway, this particular pastor is having some issues at home with introversion. He has managed to be extroverted for his church, but when he gets home, he has nothing left to give. He feels the tension. He wants to push through it, but he doesn’t know how. And, his wife is growing increasingly impatient with a lack of intimacy in communication, limited social life, and feeling left out of part of his life.
His side of the story. He knows what he needs to do, but he doesn’t know how to do it.
Her side of the story (according to him). She doesn’t understand how he can be so introverted — even when it’s with his family.
I get it. I really do.
So, this post is to the families of introverts. There are a few things I’d love to say to you. I hope they are helpful.
Here are 7 words to families of introverts:
We aren’t crazy. Sometimes you think we are, don’t you? Be honest. When we don’t talk for long periods of time — even when we are with people — you assume we must have a few screws loose somewhere. We probably do — as you possibly do — but introversion isn’t one of them for us. We aren’t weird — okay, again, some of us might be, but not just because of introversion. In fact, you may not know this, but there are lots of introverts around. Lots. Mega lots. You may even have overlooked some of us because we aren’t always trying to get your attention.
It isn’t personal. When we don’t talk that is — because that’s what you enjoy doing with people so much. It’s hard not to take it personal though, isn’t it? But, it most likely has little to do with you when we don’t talk to you as much as you wish we would.
We do love you. This one is huge. The crazy thing about introverts — that I know some have a hard time believing — is that most of us really do love people. A lot. More than you can imagine. In fact, the measure of extroversion or introversion, from what I can tell, has no bearing on the degree of love a person has for others. That’s a whole other side to a person’s personality — and character. If one expectation you have of love is talking a lot, you’re going to be disappointed at times. But, this may help to know — for some introverts, one expectation we have of love is giving the people we love time to not have to talk. (Figuring out how to balance those expectations is tough, isn’t it?)
We need time to recharge. The amount of time is relative to the amount of extroversion we had to do to get to the opportunity for introversion. But, all of us need that time. We may even crave it. This is especially true after very extroverted events or settings. For my pastor friend I mentioned above, that’s Sunday afternoon following a Sunday morning. (Funny how Sunday afternoons always follow Sunday mornings.)
Preparation helps. If you give us advance warning, we can often better prepare for conversation. We can gear up for it. I know that may be difficult to grasp for especially extroverted people, especially when it involves people we love so much. Please understand, though, that introversion impacts how we relate to others — not how we feel about them. I love my wife. More than anything. And, she shares my calendars so, thankfully, she knows the times I am more likely to revert to my introversion preferences. I find, however, that my wife and I having a routine time where we interact together at night, is the time I’m ready to dialogue with her best about my day and hers. And, she loves that time. I do too. Seriously. It works better for me because I’m prepared for it — actually looking forward to it — and it works better for her because I actually talk. And, want to.
We don’t have a right to ignore you. There. I said it. And, my introverted friends can get frustrated with me if they want to, but we don’t. You can expect communication. Relationships are built on communication. We just have to figure out how to make it work with your personality and ours. We can do that, can’t we? And, you can tell them I said it. Get an outside party (such as a counselor) to help you if you need it. We can’t expect people to ignore their personality — and we should work to respect other people’s personalities, but we can expect two people in a healthy relationship to find a balance that allows healthy, intimate conversation — at a level that meets the needs of both in the relationship.
Activity often produces conversation. This may sound strange unless you’ve experienced it, but as an introvert, I talk more — and am more comfortable doing so — when I am being physically active at the same time. Walking for Cheryl and me helps us communicate. Our communication is strengthened when we have an activity we do together regularly. So — we walk. Almost daily. Certainly enough that she feels we’ve communicated. What’s an activity you could do with your introverted family member that might produce more (and better) conversation?
Here’s the disclaimer. Not all introverts are alike. Just as not all extraverts are alike. And, there are varying degrees of introversion and extroversion. It’s important not to put people into boxes — and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. Maybe the best follow up to this post is a conversation with your introvert on how the two of you could communicate better. More than anything, as a relationship counselor and pastor, I want to help people better communicate. Sadly, I’ve sat on the outside of dozens of relationships in trouble and communication is almost always one root of the problems in the relationship. This post isn’t counseling — and my intent was a very soft approach, but the issue here is huge for some couples. Don’t be afraid to get help if needed.
Are you an extrovert married to an introvert? Any tips you’ve learned that can help?
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord Psalm 33:12
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. Psalm 119:45
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:20-21
I’m a Fitbit wearer.
It’s a wristband that syncs with an application on my phone to count the number of steps I take each day. It’s set with an automatic goal of 10,000 steps.
This is not an advertisement — although if Fitbit wants to endorse this page I’d be open to that — but, I’ve been using it for several months now and it’s taught me a few things. About myself. About life.
Granted, I knew these already. They are not new revelations. But certainly I’ve had some principles that have been reinforced by my use of Fitbit.
Here are 4 things I’ve learned:
I respond better when I have a goal. Goals encourage me. Knowing I need to get at least 10,000 steps per day motivates me. Even if it’s at the end of a long day I will find a way to complete the goal. I WILL GET MY STEPS!
There’s a special joy in completing a goal. When you reach 10,000 steps the Fitbit goes crazy. (Or crazy compared to what it had been doing just sitting on my arm.) That tingle. That buzz. Those lights flashing is a pep in my day. Sometimes I use the elliptical and place the Fitbit bracelet around the bars of the machine. (It’s more accurate that way it seems.) I miss my “buzz” of reaching the goal. Okay so I’m being a bit dramatic, but if you like completing a task this does give you something else to get excited about each day.
Accountability challenges me to do my best. Cheryl has a Fitbit too. We keep track of where each other is in our daily goal. If she doesn’t feel like walking the nights we need steps, I’ll challenge her. If I’m not feeling it, she encourages me.
A little competition never hurts. I have “friends” on Fitbit. To be a friend, they have to have a Fitbit too. Granted, I don’t need another social media outlet to keep up with, but with Fitbit, my friends keep me going. I know they are “watching” — and trying to catch me — so I must stay ahead. I must.
My experience with Fitbit has been a daily reminder how valuable having goals and objectives, accountability, and even competition can be in my life. Think with me:
How can I apply these same principles to other areas of my life?
Do you want to be a better blogger?
I have some advice.
Just a warning, you won’t hear this advice everywhere. In fact, it runs contrary to most of the better blogging advice out there — perhaps even some I’ve probably offered people in the past.
But, I believe it’s true. Especially for the beginning blogger.
Do you want to be a better blogger?
Write poorly — but do it often.
Yes, that’s what I said.
I think one key to being a better blogger is to write more bad posts.
Okay, Ron, you’ve lost me.
Let me explain with an illustration.
People ask me all the time how I became a runner. I run an average of 5-6 miles a day. I ran a marathon a few years ago. I’ve run dozens of half marathons. I’m planning to run another full marathon this fall.
My discipline is not to run. I’d do it everyday.
But, I once hated running. Despised it. I had been a runner earlier in life, but thought I outgrew it as I got older. I even announced from behind a pulpit one day that I’d never run again — unless I was being chased by an angry deacon.
Then one day I decided to give it another try. I don’t know why. I just did.
Someone gave me advice — I’m not sure who now — but it was brilliant. They suggested I set a time limit for running and always finish that goal. It could be 20 or 30 minutes. If I couldn’t run that long at the time, the advice was to finish the time, running when I could and walking the rest.
I’d run for 3 minutes and walk for a while. Then I’d run 5 minutes — then walk some more. I kept this up but always tried to complete my allotted time. Eventually, over the weeks, I found myself filling the entire time running. And soon learning to love every minute.
That’s my running story. How I became a runner.
And now you’re wondering…
How does my running story fit into encouragement about blogging?
Write poorly — but do it often.
Just write blog posts.
Please don’t misunderstand. “Poorly” is probably a poor word choice. It exaggerates my point, but I’m not saying write junk. Give it your best effort. If you’re not any good at writing period, maybe blogging isn’t you’re thing. But if you have a few minimal skills, this might work to make you better over time. You just need to write — the best you can — more often.
Set a goal of how many you want to write per week and do it. Write to fill your goal. If your goal is 3 posts a week — write three posts a week. If it’s 7 — write 7. (That’s probably too many, but it’s your goal.)
Finish your goal. Every week.
You won’t always write the best posts. (You’ll walk more than you run sometimes.) You’ll need to improve. A few years from now you’ll look back at some of your older posts and see how much better they could have been. But, you’ll get better the more you write. Practice makes perfect (or near perfect) as they say.
The problem for many runners is they expect to run the 6 milers as soon as they got off the couch. It takes time. Discipline. Consistent effort. Sometimes walking more than you run. Getting better as you go.
It’s the same with blogging.
As a leader, there have been numerous times when I have been in over my head with the challenges and opportunities I was facing. God seems to call me to huge tasks.
I suspect if you’re a leader, you understand. I think He does that to many people! It keeps us humble. And, dependent — on Him!
Regardless of how comfortable a leader may be in his or her position…
- There are times when the leader has no answers…
- He or she has exhausted every bit of knowledge gained…
- The current strategies don’t seem to work anymore…
- The situation is beyond the current plans and systems…
- People are complaining…
- It seems you’re on a treadmill — getting no where…
- Some days you leave thinking you accomplished nothing — maybe even most days…
Ever been there? Did you think someone was talking to me about you?
When the leader doesn’t know what to do and/or doesn’t have a clue what to do next, here are some suggestions:
Admit – The first step is to be honest with where you are currently as a leader. Pretending to know the answers when you don’t know them will not solve the problem. Most of the time, the people you are leading already know your inadequacies. Come clean. You’re overwhelmed. No shame. All of us have been there at times.
Pause - It’s okay to take a break to clear your head. It could be an afternoon, a day, or a week, but sometimes you just need to get away from the situation long enough to gain a fresh perspective. I often disappear from the office Thursday afternoons on especially difficult weeks. I may take a long run, mow my grass, pray or read. The busier the season — the more overwhelmed I feel — the more I need to pause. I know it sounds counter-productive. It’s not. At all. It’s life-giving.
Seek help – Find a mentor who has walked where you are currently walking. I have several older men I call when I’m maxed out with stress. There is a benefit in surrounding yourself with people smarter than you about a matter. This is the time for the believer to rely more than ever on his or her faith; trusting that the God who called them to the task will be faithful to complete it. (1 Thess 5:24)
Learn – Leaders should always be teachable. Again, assuming or pretending to have all the answers only slows or curtails projects and is quickly be discovered by others. Stretch yourself and learn something new. Read. Definitely be reading. Attend a conference. Listen to some TED talks or sermons from pastors you admire. Feed your mind. It needs some new energies.
Improve – Make better checklists each day. Spend more time planning. Learn to better delegate. I always say, you have to get better before you can get bigger. As you learn improvements needed, be willing to change. The tighter you hold onto methods that aren’t working the longer you’ll delay moving forward. Push through the overwhelming period and become a stronger, more capable and better leader. You can do it!
Do you need help? Are you overwhelmed? Start the process towards getting better.
I’m pulling for you — and I’ll trade you a prayer!