3 Options When You Can’t Stand the Heat in the Leadership Kitchen

Chef fire fighter

When I was growing up I frequently heard the phrase.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Are people still saying it and I’m just not hearing it?

Either way, I love a good analogy to help me think through a topic. And, I think the phrase applies in leadership. And, I’m not sure getting out of the leadership kitchen when it gets too hot is the only option.

Are you experiencing the “heat” – the stress of leadership? 

Do you feel you are in over your head? 

Are you not able to keep up with the demands on you personally and are you, therefore, questioning your abilities as a leader? 

Do others have the perception you can’t accomplish what you are supposed to do? (Perception is often more powerful than reality.) Are you stuck and wondering what to do next?

I have been there numerous times as a leader.

At 20 years of age, I was thrust into a management position, because the manger left suddenly. By default I was given responsibility I had bluffed upper management into believing I was prepared to do. I wasn’t. When I became a self-employed small business owner I quickly realized the ball rested in my court, I was responsible for meeting payroll for others and myself, and I was in well over my head. As the pastor of fast growing churches, there have been many times I’ve not known what to do.

The heat in the kitchen was more than I could bear.

Thankfully, I’ve matured enough to admit it these days.

When you find yourself in over your head in leadership – use the analogy of the “heat in the leadership kitchen”.

I think you have 3 options:

Get out of the kitchen

There’s always that. Let’s be honest and admit you may be in the wrong kitchen. The heat may be too much for you. Sometimes you simply aren’t a fit for the role. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a fit for any role – just not this one – or in this organization. My leadership style wouldn’t work in many churches. Being willing to admit it saves you heartache, your team from destruction, and the organization from having to make difficult decisions regarding your leadership in the future – when everyone else discovers you’re out of your league or misfit. 

Learn from better cooks

Continuing with the kitchen analogy, perhaps the oven temperature is set too high. You may be using the wrong ingredients. Maybe you need better assistant chefs. I’m not trying to stir up a recipe simply to fit this point in the post (Okay, please admit that’s funny), but you may need to invite input from people who have been cooking (leading) longer than you have. Chances are good an outside look can see things you don’t see. Leadership can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) done alone. Find mentors willing to invest in you. This often begins with the humility to admit you need help and the willingness to ask for it. But, the best leaders occasionally need help and great leaders aren’t too proud to ask for it. I’ve also discovered seasoned leaders feel honored to ask. (And, as a Christian leader, remember God is on your side and He may be waiting for you to surrender before He jumps in to help.)

Improve the kitchen

Perhaps it’s the environment you’ve created in the kitchen. You may need to change the people who are seated at your kitchen table or who are watching you cook. You may need to get a better stove or, as I’ve learned, even getting the right spatula will make me a better cook. Again, I’m not trying to overuse this analogy, but the point is in leadership we usually have to get better before we can get bigger. Sharpening our personal skills, growing the strength of our team, placing the right people in positions around us and improving the organization’s culture and environment can be helpful when a leader feels overwhelmed. You have to do what it takes to become a better leader. I got a second master’s degree to help me in leadership. You may not need to go to that extreme, but you should be intentional about gaining the training and experience you need to be a lead at a higher level.

Feeling hot in the leadership kitchen? You may need to get out – but there may be other options.

Got any other kitchen leadership analogies you’d care to share?

7 Things Every Leader Needs to Quit Immediately

young woman showing her denial with NO on her hand

I’ve often wished I could say something to every leader. Some things I’ve learned the hard way. I often share things leadership should do, but today I thought I’d share some things not to do.

Some things to quit.

Here are 7 things every leader needs to quit:

Measuring success compared to another’s success.

Your leadership will not be like someone else’s leadership. It’s not designed to be. You’ll likely be successful in ways other leaders aren’t. Some of those may be visible and measurable – some may not be. The goal should be to be the best leader you can be and measure your success by your obedience to being the leader God has designed you to be.

Pretending to have all the answers.

There’s an unfair expectation many leaders face to be the person with the answer in every situation. Seriously, how’s this working for you? The sooner you admit you don’t have all the answers, the quicker your team will be willing to fill in your gaps. And, surrendering is something God values in His followers.

Trying to be popular.

If you want to be popular, be a celebrity. If you want to be a leader, be willing to do the hard tasks to take people where they need (and probably want to go), but may be resistant along the way. Leadership can be lonely at times. Be prepared.

Leading alone.

Just because leadership can be lonely, doesn’t mean you have to lead alone. Good leaders surround themselves with people who care, people who can hold them accountable, and sharpen their character and their faith. If you have a tendency to separate yourself from others, stop now and reach out to someone. Take a bold risk of being vulnerable and release some of the weight of responsibility you feel.

Acting like it doesn’t hurt.

When people you trust betray you – it hurts. Be honest about it. When people rebel against your leadership – it hurts. On days where it seems you have more enemies than friends – it hurts. Don’t pretend it doesn’t. You won’t lead well if you’re a cry baby, but you should have some outlets where you can share your pain.

Trying to control every outcome.

Three reasons not to: 1) It doesn’t work. 2) It limits others. 3) It’s not right. Leadership is not about control. It’s about relational influence. When you control others you limit people to your abilities. When you empower people you limit people to their combined abilities as a team – and – keep in mind, there’s strength in numbers.

Ignoring the warning signs of burnout.

At some point in your leadership, if you really are leading through the deep waters of change, relational differences, or simply the stress of wearing the leader hat, you’ll face burnout. When you start to have more negative thoughts than positive thoughts, when the pressure of leadership is unbearable for a long period of time, or when your leadership starts to negatively impact your physical or emotional health or your relationships, it’s time to seek help.

Which of these do you most need to quit?

7 Traits Which Indicate a Leader is Insecure

Uomo d'affari disperato

Christian are called to walk by faith. This includes Christian leaders. A part of our calling in leadership means we want always know what the future holds, but we steadfastly follow God’s leadership. 

I must be honest. As I work with Christian leaders – and I observe the culture and leaders within the world – I sometimes see more confident leadership outside the church than within. How can this be? 
Having faith should never be mistaken as insecurity, however. In fact, a more opposite is true. People of faith have assurance in Whom we are following. We can lead people with confidence, strength and conviction. 

Insecurity always shows up in a person’s life. It can possibly be disguised, but it can’t be hidden. Insecure people – or people who aren’t secure in who they are personally or comfortable with their abilities – display some common characteristics.
Insecurity is a normal emotion when we are exposed to something new, but as we mature in leadership – and especially in our faith and calling – we should guard against the negative impacts of insecurity.

Here are 7 traits you may see in an insecure leader:

Defensive towards any challenge.

The insecure leader flares his or her insecurity when ideas or decisions they make made are challenged in any way. They remain protective of their position or performance. They are constantly looking over their shoulder expecting someone to question them or their authority. 

Protective of personal information.

The insecure leader keeps a safe distance from followers. Their transparency is limited to only what can be discovered by observation. When personal information is revealed, it’s always shared in the most positive light. This is about them and their family. They only want you to believe – and know – the best about their world. 

Always positions his or herself out front.

Insecure leaders assume all key assignments or anything which would give attention to the person completing them. They are careful not to give others the spotlight. They use words like “I” and “My” more than “We” or “Our”. They tend to control informtion – everything goes through them first. 

Limits other’s opportunities for advancement.

The insecure leader wants to keep people under his or her control, so as to protect their position. They are leery of strong personalities or other leaders. They have “yes” people around them and guard against anyone who displays leadership potential. They hand out titles only to those they believe will never question their authority. 

Refuses to handle delicate issues.

Insecure leaders fear not being liked, so they often ignore the most difficult or awkward situations. They talk behind people’s backs rather than to them. They are likely to say one thing to one person and something else to another – depending on what is popular at the time. 

Makes everything a joke.

One huge sign of an insecure leader, in my experience,  is they make a joke about everything. Again, they don’t want to handle the hard stuff – and want to be liked – so joking is often a coping mechanism used to divert attention from the issues they don’t want to face. When people laugh it gives a false sense of being liked to the insecure leader.

Overly concerned about personal appearance.

While this is not always the case, some insecure leaders are never far from a mirror. They are overly conscious of their clothing or hair. Afraid of not being in style or wanting to be accepted as hip or cool, they are constantly looking for the latest fashion trends or attempting to be cutting edge with the gadgets they carry. (I’ve observed the opposite here could also be true. The insecure leader is careful not to stand out, so they appear to have no concern for personal appearance at all.) 

Please understand, all of us have moments of insecurity. Leaders, especially, if they want to be effective, must learn to recognize signs of insecurity, figure out the root causes of it, and attempt to limit insecurity from affecting their leadership. And, again, Christian leaders, we have reason to be confident – if we are truly following closely to our Leader. 

What other traits have you seen that indicate someone is an insecure leader?

4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership – A Guest Post by Jenni Catron

Jenni Catron

This is a guest post by my good friend Jenni Catron. I have gleaned from Jenni for several years, since the days when we served together in nearby churches. She’s a great leader and continues to challenge me. I’m excited about her new book, her newest book, The Four Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership: The Power of Leading from Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. This will be a book you’ll want to add to your leadership library and toolbox. Thanks Jenni.

4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership

One of my favorite extraordinary leaders in the Bible is Nehemiah. In the Old Testament book named for him, Nehemiah led the Jewish people to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that had lain in shambles for seventy years. While the Jewish people had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple after some fifty years of exile, they were never able to finish the wall around the temple. It was left in ruin because they faced opposition each time they attempted to complete it. No leader before Nehemiah had the clarity of vision and the influence to overcome obstacles to accomplish this monumental task. What’s striking about Nehemiah’s story is that he wasn’t personally affected by the wall. He didn’t live in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was in Judea serving as the cupbearer to the king of Persia. This was a high- profile position. He had earned a respected seat of influence, so the fact that he was concerned about the people in his homeland speaks volumes about his character. As you read through his story, you quickly see that Nehemiah understood the complexity of the leadership task before him. He recognized that there was a problem to solve and that no one else was stepping up to solve it. He identified the leadership vacuum that existed, and he felt called to help lead through it. As we look at Nehemiah’s actions, we see how he employed the dimensions of an extraordinary leader to lead himself and others through the complexity of the problem they faced.

He Identified the Problem After spending a few days in Jerusalem assessing the situation, Nehemiah told the other leaders, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17). The first task of the leader is to define reality, especially when a complex problem lies between where you are and where you desire to go. In Nehemiah’s case, it was a wall that lay in ruins, and those ruins symbolized a lack of hope, a lack of strength, and a lack of direction for God’s people. He was burdened. Nehemiah owned it. It was personal.

He Sought Out Support (Heart) Nehemiah knew he couldn’t do this alone. He needed others to help him accomplish the vision of restoring the wall. Nehemiah’s role as cupbearer to the king was no accident. He strategically used his place of influence to petition the king for permission to take a leave of absence from his job to lead the rebuilding effort. In addition, he asked the king to write letters to other government officials from whom he would need help. In each step of the process, Nehemiah cast vision and began recruiting help: first to the officials, then to the priests, and finally to the citizens of Jerusalem. He engaged and involved people at every level, and Scripture says that “the people worked with all their heart” (Nehemiah 4:6).

He Prayed over It (Soul) Nehemiah displayed spiritual leadership by praying for God to give him direction for how to proceed. According to Halley’s Bible Handbook, “He spent four months in prayer before he made his request to the king,”8 and Scripture cites numerous times when he paused to pray throughout the project. And these weren’t puny prayers. Nehemiah 1:4 tells us that Nehemiah wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. When was the last time your heart hurt like that on behalf of someone else?

He Developed a Plan (Mind) Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah visited the remnants of the wall and outlined a plan for rebuilding. He took his plan to the city officials and received their blessing, thanks in large part to the letters from King Artaxerxes. With permission to build, Nehemiah recruited the workers. He provided clear direction and regular guidance, especially when they faced challenges. When opposition arose, he posted guards day and night. When the laborers grew fatigued because of the threats of attack, Nehemiah created rotations so that their responsibilities and the associated pressures would vary. Nehemiah’s attentiveness to the details of the process and the implications of the work for the people exemplified his awareness of managerial leadership.

He Saw the Possibility (Strength) Nehemiah developed a personal passion for this problem, and from that passion a vision of hope for the future was born. While he identified a problem, he also caught a vision for the possibilities. The fact that Nehemiah developed this vision on behalf of others is significant. He didn’t see the possibilities as a benefit for himself. He saw the possibilities for others. Amidst criticism, threats on his life, grumbling from those he was seeking to help, and the difficulties of the task, Nehemiah stayed the course and displayed unwavering commitment to the vision God gave him. His selfless leadership showcased the strength of an extraordinary leader.

5 Legitimate Fears of a Church Planter

Scared Afraid Man Wrapped in Red Fear Tape

Having participated in two church plants as a planter, and now working with church planters on a regular basis in a coaching capacity, I know first hand the fears associated with planting a church. It’s a leap of faith and one God is calling many to these days.

My theory here is recognizing the fear and realizing their legitimacy is part of guarding our hearts against them. The fact remains – for a church plant to be successful, at least in Kingdom terms, God must provide His grace.

Keep in mind, Jesus said not to be afraid. Fear is usually a substitute for trust. But, unless you are perfect – which I suspect you’re not, you’re subject to normal human emotions. The kind church planting produces.

Here are 5 legitimate fears of church planters:

No one will show up.

If we do all this work and it doesn’t work – what will we do? You’ll be thankful you were obedient to what you believe God called you to do and wait patiently for Him to provide. We had to consistently remind our core team that God was in control of numbers. Our job was to be faithful. This doesn’t mean you stop inviting people or investing in the community around you, but you trust God will stir hearts for His work.

We can’t afford it.

You probably can’t. Seriously – not with what you can see. And, seldom there be “enough money” – or so it may seem at times. God calls us to big tasks. Church planting is hard – and not cheap. But, the Lord will provide resources for His vision. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to educate people on the needs or help them understand the command, value and blessing of giving, but it does mean you trust God even when the checkbook balance is low. It also doesn’t mean you won’t have to wait to make major purchases or there won’t be times you have to wait until “Sunday’s offering” to get paid. Our paycheck was delayed several times the first couple years so other bills – and other staff – could be paid, but we were never hungry.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Isn’t it wonderful? It means you’re insufficient without His sufficiency. What a great place to reside! The great news is that many have gone before you. Learn from others and stay on your knees before God.

People will leave

True. Most core teams are cut in half in the first few years. At first I thought we were to be the exception. We weren’t. Other people will come and never return. But, some will stick. And, they will have hearts for the vision. And, in them we rejoice at what God has done. We build our teams around those who God sends to us and who remain steadfast to the journey ahead. The team may change several times the first few years.

We don’t have a building

No, but you probably don’t have a mortgage either. And, you’re raising up an army of volunteers for set up and tear down. You are building service and sacrifice into your DNA as a church. Isn’t it wonderful! Don’t lose that atmosphere and culture of dependency, even when you have a building someday.

Final thought. These fears are legitimate – real fears. Don’t be ashamed you have them. The key is not to live in them, but to live and walk in the faith God will complete His plans and enable those He calls.

What other fears have you experienced in church planting?

5 Secret Objections to Change

Time for Change - Ornate Clock

In the world of change, I’ve learned there are some common objections. I’ve previously written objections people use to criticize change, but in this post, I’m addressing the root cause of that criticism. These are the secret objections.

No one admits to these. But they are real. Very real. In fact, they may be the biggest obstacles you’ll have to face in implementing change. The root of most objections.

Show me an objection to legitimate, needed change and you’re almost guaranteed to find one of these hidden in the crowd somewhere. Probably multiples of them.

Here are the 5 secret objections to change:

Selfishness

We want what we want. We want what’s comfortable. We want what requires less sacrifice on our part.

Pride

We like our ideas and don’t believe we can enjoy the ideas of others, as much as our own. The way I want to do things is best, isn’t it?

Power

We want to make the decisions for our life and resist when we think others are making them for us. We have a very real, often hidden desire for control.

Fear

We are afraid of what could happen if we change. We fear the change might change not only what we are changing, but it might change us in some way. That’s scary.

Satisfaction

We don’t see the need for change. We like things the way they are, no matter how hard someone tries to convince us change is needed. The way it is now is the way it’s supposed to be.

Granted, I don’t believe we can continue to grow most of the time without change. Change is all around us. Failing to embrace it only leads to more severe problems later. With the exception of God and His Word change is imminent. But, that doesn’t mean change is easy.

Sometimes understanding the hidden reasons behind the objection helps the leader better address the situation.

What are hidden objections to change have you seen? Which of these would be your most likely secret struggle with change?

5 Criteria for Making New Year’s Resolutions We Actually Keep

Clipboard with Checklist

I love a fresh start.

Perhaps it’s because grace is the doctrine I’ve needed so much, but there’s something about a clean slate, which motivates me towards achievement.

I’m like this with my desk at the office. I create stacks. Magazines to be read. Notes to be written. Lists to be completed. Bulletins from other churches. (I am always looking for better ideas.) Stacks, stacks, and more stacks. When the stacks are at capacity – I call it organized chaos.

But, then one day I’ve had enough of the stacks and I go on a cleaning spree. I sort. I file. I trash until the top of my desk shows far more wood than paper. Ahhh… Finally, I’m inspired to work again.

I love a fresh start.

I think this may be why I’m one of the people who appreciates New Year’s resolutions. It’s like a line on the calendar, which screams to me: FRESH START!

But, as much as I appreciate the value in them – beginning new things, stretching myself, making my life better – I’m like everyone else. I find it easier to make resolutions than to keep them.

How do we make resolutions we will actually keep? Because they aren’t going to improve anything if you don’t follow through and they probably just make you more frustrated than before you made them.

Well, first, write them down. This is huge. I’ve heard people say you are twice as likely to keep a written resolution than one you simply state in your mind.

And, then, here are some suggestions for the type of resolutions which seem to work.

My 5 criteria for making resolutions I actually keep:

Reasonable – Another word might be attainable. The resolution must make sense for you to actually be able to do this year. Saying you want to read 50 books in a year – because you heard someone else does it – and, yet you didn’t read any this past year is probably going to be a stretch. You might be able to do it, but it likely isn’t a reasonable goal. Don’t be afraid of small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). The key is you’re trying to achieve something, which makes your life better. If you’re successful this year you can set a higher goal next year.

Measurable – To be successful in keeping a resolution you need some way to monitor success towards it – certainly a way to know when you’ve achieved it. If your resolution is simply to lose weight you won’t be as motivated as if you say you want to lose a pound a week. You can track that goal and see your progress. Obviously it will still require discipline, but there is something about a measurable goal which – for most of us – drives us to meet it.

Sustainable – This one doesn’t apply for every resolution, but does in many. Ultimately I have found I’m more motivated to reach goals, which change my life for the better over a longer period of time. It’s great to meet those milestone, once in a lifetime type of achievements – such as running a marathon, or writing a book. And, we should have those type goals in our life – and maybe a milestone resolution is reasonable for you this year. The problem I have seen is if we get off track on reaching them it’s easy to simply give up – maybe even write it off as an unreasonable goal. We feel defeated and so we quit making any resolutions. In making New Year’s resolutions, I find I’m more successful if it’s something which I possibly adopt as a new lifestyle. Some examples would be changing my eating habits, beginning to exercise more often, Bible-reading, journaling, etc – again reasonable and measurable – but something I will sustain beyond the New Year.

Accountable – This is key. Weight Watchers is a great example here of this principle. There is something about their system, which works, and part of it is the reporting portion – where you have to be accountable to others for your progress. If you don’t build in a system of accountability – whether it’s with other people or some visible reminder of your resolution and progress – it’s easy to give up when the New Year euphoria begins to fade.

Reward-able – And, this may be the most important and the least practiced. One secret to actually achieving your resolution may be to find the “carrot”, which will continually motivate you to stretch for the finish line. If losing weight is a goal it could be a new suit or dress when you reach a pre-determined number. If it’s running a marathon (and if this is a reasonable resolution for you this year) it could be you run the marathon in some destination city you can’t wait to visit. If it’s reading your Bible through in a year – promise yourself a new Bible at the end of the year. The reward should fit the degree of stretching and effort it took to accomplish the resolution, but this often serves as a good incentive to helping you reach your goals – especially during the times you are tempting to quit trying.

I hope this will help. It does for me. I have some daily disciplines in my life now, which started as New Year’s resolutions. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found resolutions can help me start the year with fresh goals, and the discipline towards achieving them helps me have more discipline in other areas of my life.

Here’s to a great New Year! God bless!

7 New Year Resolutions Which Could Change Your World

fireworks

Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life. And, if we do, I’m confident we could also improve the life of others.

In fact, with a whole lot of improving – it might become contagious – and we might just change the world.

Here are 7 new year resolutions which could change the world:

Let’s resolve to begin everyday with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check.

A 3 part checklist. What if we woke up every morning and began by talking to God – recognizing His power and asking Him to direct our steps, make sure our smile is our attitude, and humbly enter the world not expecting anything other than to be a blessing? It will require discipline – but how we begin a day almost always determines how we end one.

Let’s resolve to return evil with good.

It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. A grudge or sarcastic remark seems so much more fulfilling – in the moment. But, over time, it causes more harm than good – mostly to us – often even more than “them”. Imagine your world when you influence others by how you don’t respond when they “push your buttons” the wrong way.

Let’s resolve to never let the sun go down on anger.

Anger emotions grow overnight. They blossom into more intense anger emotions. We may not be able to resolve all disagreements, but we can drop the right to get even and resolve to be at peace as much as it depends on us. We will awake with level ground to build better, healthier relationships with others. Oh, what a world it would be if we had less anger.

Let’s resolve not use social media as a forum to bash others.

Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook – rant-free even – where we simply stalk – I mean check in on old friends. Let’s act like people – real people -may actually see what we write. And care. And, let’s post in a way which encourages and builds each other up – almost like that’s in the Bible somewhere. (It might even be somewhere around 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – check me on this one.)

Let’s resolve to develop our patience muscle.

Wow! I put this one in the middle so maybe you (or my wife) would skip over it quickly. Just kidding. This is one I need – we all need. I’m not sure we can completely master it this year, but, with intentionality – and Christ’s strength – we can keep getting better. What if we thought about the most common things which test our patience – such as the traffic on the drive home at night – and we asked God to help us deal with it before we experience it – each time? Just a thought.

Let’s resolve to remember it’s not about us.

This one alone would surely change the world. What if we placed into our schema – into our immediate thought process – a simple understanding – OTHER PEOPLE MATTER – just as much as we do? Does it make a difference when you think someone values you? Of course it does. What if we valued others and demonstrated to them by how we treat them, what we say to them, our facial expressions, or even our thoughts toward them? Think it might change a few of our relational encounters this year? I think it might. Certainly seems worth trying.

Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak.

Ouch – if needed! It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. (It’s also hard to hear from God.) It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak. Many times disagreements, arguments, even serious issues like prejudism or racism, have more to do with misunderstanding or miscommunication than anything. When we listen we demonstrate value – but, it also guards the tongue, protects relationships, and we might actually learn something.

Of course, ultimately the change the world needs is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others – including other believers – others might actually want to hear our Gospel.

I realize I’m simple-minded – but I do, henceforth, resolve.

Who’s with me?

12 Challenges for the New Year Which Can Make Your Life Better

Challenge

The verdict appears mixed among the people I know of whether of not they make resolutions for a new year. And, I understand, many have tried before – it didn’t work – and so now they are like “why bother?”.

I believe there are probably some principles in place as to whether or not a resolution succeeds. For example, is it reasonable? Is it measurable? Is it sustainable? Do you have accountability in place? (But, at this point I’m writing another post – which I may – so let me get on with the point of this one.)

I wonder if the term itself is a problem. RESOLUTION. I hereby resolve! Sounds kind of formal – almost intimidating – doesn’t it? I hate to say I’m resolving to do something where chances are good I won’t.

I do believe strongly, however, we should work towards continual improvement in our life – whether this begins at the first of the year or in the middle doesn’t matter as much. But, the new year does provide a nice, clear place to start.

So, I want to offer a spin on the old resolution tradition and offer a new word.

Challenge.

Do you ever challenge yourself to do better? It’s easier than saying I resolve to do this. You’re not saying you will – you may not even be able to – it will be a challenge – but you’re willing to give it a try.

Let me give you some examples – maybe some challenges for you to consider. I can almost guarantee if you meet just a few of these challenges your world will be better. You won’t need to meet all of them – just the ones most “challenging” to you. But, you’ll have to trust me in this – meeting them – or even improving upon them – will brighten your life.

Here are 12 challenges for the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else

God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake. The more you live the you He intended the more you’ll enjoy the benefits and blessing. There’s something you can offer this world no one else can. Comparison only leads to disappointment.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens

And, the challenge here for you may be to quit trying to carry everyone else’s burden. God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can do it anymore – and ask for help. In your weakness – He is strong, but you’ll have to admit your weakness before He usually allows His strength to kick into full gear.

Start embracing today

You can keep hoping your life away – that this would happen or that would happen – but when you begin to find contentment – TODAY becomes a great day – in spite of the challenges it holds. The Apostle Paul said he had learned “the secret of being content”. I’ve personally defined contentment in my life as “being satisfied with where God has allowed me to be in life – right now.” Perhaps your greatest challenge in the new year will be embracing where God has you now and waiting more patiently for what He will bring in the fullness of time.

Let the past go

As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”. So simple, yet so profound! It speaks volumes to me. If the tree fell – there it lays. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s done. Finished. On the ground. All you can control now is your response to the tree which fell. If grief is holding you back – grieve – get help if needed. If it’s regret – reconcile the loss. If it’s guilt, or disappointment, or anger – whatever “it” is from your past – deal with it now. Admit the tree fell. It hurt – it stinks – and you wish it hadn’t happened – but, I challenge you to move forward in the new year.

Accept God’s grace

It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But, denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it. Is the guilt of your past keeping you from enjoying all the blessings of being a child of God? Has there never been a time you received the gift of salvation? Have you been living more like a prodigal in exile than a child of the King? If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. If the Son has set you free – you are free indeed! I challenge you to embrace grace in the new year.

Live free of grudges and bitterness

The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness. Someone reading this is holding on to a grudge, some bitterness, maybe anger – and it’s keeping you from fully enjoying life. Every time you hear a person’s name or see them you are reminded of the injury they caused. And, it’s hurting you more than it is them. Chances are they’ve moved on and you’re still struggling. Isn’t it time to let it go? (Let it go – could be a “Frozen” song you need to sing to yourself.)

Remember other people exist

Don’t be selfish or always command your way. People – even the best people – will never perform to all of your standards – and is it even fair to expect it of them? They may not even agree with you as to what is important. You cannot hold people to unrealistic expectations and not be disappointed often.

And, here’s a note to those of us disappointed with the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we can’t expect that everyone sees the world as we do. Of course, there are biblical principles through which we view the world and live, but can we really expect people who aren’t believers to embrace them?

Admit mistakes readily

Sincere humility is an attractive quality – and it helps to free you from future regrets or guilt. We all can have “perfectionist” tendencies, yet none of us is perfect. If you want to live with less self-induced stress this year – admit you don’t have all the answers and sometimes you have none.

Give generously

Giving opens the heart to joy and contentment. Something happens when we give to others which causes us – though we have less – to feel like we have more. And, there are many needs around us. I challenge you to give more in the new year and see how it makes your life better!

Protect your heart

“Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also. Most likely there are activities, or people, or places where your heart is most easily injured. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can be aware so you can “guard your heart”. And, when you are aware you may be injured you will build guardrails to lessen the damage.

Take a new risk

The adrenaline of attempting something you’ve never done before fuels you for future success. It could be something you’ve always wanted to try or something you know God wants you to do, but, for whatever reason, you’ve resisted. Especially if it’s God-honoring, not sinful, will make your life or other’s life better, then what are you waiting for? Don’t let fear or thoughts of your inadequacies be your chief motivators in the new year. I challenge you – GO FOR IT!

Think and act eternally

There is more to this life than the world we know today. Thankfully, I might add. Jesus said to “store up treasures in heaven”. Whenever possible, I challenge you to consider the eternal consequences of the decisions, investments, and actions of your life. Jesus said to live in this world, but not be of this world. How are you making a difference in the world to come by your world today? The more intentional you are the more treasures you build for a future reward.

Which of these challenges are you willing to accept?

Which of the above do you most need to embrace?

10 Things I’ve Learned About Gossip – And Why I Hate It So Much

Young woman telling a secret to a man

I hate gossip.

I realize hate is a strong word. But it’s the one I prefer here. I’ve seen so much negative results caused by gossip.

Gossip happens in families, in the workplace – wherever two or more are gathered – gossip will be among them. And, gossip is always destructive to building healthy relationships. I hate gossip in any setting – but especially in the church.

Relational gossip – especially among believers – shouldn’t even exist. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and believers for it to exist at all.

Gossip is destructive and has no part in our lives or in the church. I’ve counseled with families caught in drama after the loss of a loved one and gossip is fueling their division. I have witnessed gossip destroy a healthy work environment. And, I have worked with so many churches where gossip – drama – is a leading cause of why the church isn’t healthy – isn’t growing – isn’t accomplishing all God has for the church.

(I expanded this from a previous post where I addressed drama in the church. I decided gossip was the broader issue – and it applies to all relational settings.)

And, I’ve learned a few things about gossip.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about gossip:

Not all rumors are true. In fact, most aren’t – especially not exactly as they are presented. When we repeat things we shouldn’t we seldom get all the facts straight. There is usually something we don’t understand.

People like to expand on what they think they know. People love to speculate, add their opinion to what they’ve heard. When they do the story gets further from the truth. People enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things “bigger” and “better” than reality.

There is almost always more to the story than what you know. Whenever multiple people are involved there will be multiple sides to the story. Even in stories involving only one person – if we aren’t hearing it from them – we only know what we know. We don’t know another person’s thoughts, history, or individual circumstances. And, it may or may not be what your mind stretches it to be.

Sometimes people don’t consider the ramifications of what they are doing. This is so true and so potentially damaging. I have seen gossip destroy a person – even seen it run people from the church – and some of the people involved in creating and furthering the drama wonder later what happened. They honestly didn’t realize the damage their rumor-repeating was causing. It’s so easy to get trapped in drama without considering the damage being done to others. I’m convinced, people don’t always intend the harm they cause.

Gossip is fueled by reaction. When someone tells you something you shouldn’t even know – the way you respond often determines how many times it’s told again. If you gasp with wonder and interest – the person sees they have something and are motivated to seek the same reaction in others. If, however, you appear not as interested or intrigued the person may feel disarmed somewhat from sharing it more.

Some of the juiciest gossip is disguised as a prayer request. Be honest. You’ve done or seen this done many times. People do this to pastors all the time. “Pastor, please pray for the Jones family. I’ve heard their son is really causing them problems. Just wanted you to know so you could be praying.” And, actually, many times they just wanted me to know so they could be telling.

People often stir drama for personal advantage. It could be to advance their own agenda. They may be on a power play. Sometimes people talk about others thinking it will make them feel better about their own life. And, sadly, I’ve known people who seem to get a “cheap thrill” out of creating drama. (I’ve never understood this one – but it’s true.

The only reliable source is the direct source. Every. Single. Time. In fact, a good discipline would be to not repeat anything which wasn’t from a direct source.

Thumper’s mom was right. If we can’t say something nice – we really shouldn’t say anything at all. If we all lived by this principle there would be far less drama. And, far less pain caused as a result.

Gossip destroys. Gossip can bring down a person’s reputation quickly. Start a tale about someone and watch their character unravel in front of you. It happens to celebrities and politicians. I’ve seen in happen to pastors, individuals, and entire churches.

The point of this post is awareness. Most of my readers are believers. Some non-believers, however, will likely share my distaste of gossip in relationships. If you’ve made it this far in the post – you and I can make a difference in stopping gossip from spreading by how we respond to it.

You may want to read my post 7 Ways to Stop Gossip Or, even better, read the Book of James in the New Testament. Or maybe Ephesians. (Specifically note 4:29).