Playing it Safe — Not My Style — And, Often Not God’s Plan


A few years ago, I observed a characteristic in me I hope is not permanent.

After our boys moved out of the house, we moved to a downtown condo. The condo sat on a hill, overlooking the river district of our community. We loved the view, but it presented a problem on windy days. We had to weatherize our front porch every time we suspected a storm, turning over the furniture and making sure everything was secure.

One night Cheryl heard the wind picking up and asked if we should prepare the porch. What she really meant was I should get up and prepare the porch, but I love the gentle way she “suggests” such things. Getting up at 1:30 AM to step onto my front porch in my boxers has never been my idea of fun, but I do like a happy wife, so I headed out to do my job. When I got back into bed she thanked me to which I replied:

“Better safe than sorry.”

Instantly the thought occurred to me. I would have never used this phrase a few years ago.

“Better safe than sorry” has never appealed to me before. Sounds like something my mother would have said to me.

I like risk-taking. I embrace change. I lived my life running to things others say can’t be done or they aren’t willing to try. 

Even more, I’ve made a commitment to walk by faith — but this is more than a spiritual decision. It’s a personal wiring. It’s in my DNA.

In fact, I’m scared of “better safe than sorry“.

What happened to me? Am I that old? :)

So, I came up with an immediate plan.

Shortly after this, my oldest son and I have went skydiving!

We jumped out of a “perfectly good plane”.

I had to! I couldn’t stand the thought of resting on the safe side.

What’s the purpose of this post? You’re wondering, right?

Well, if you’re like me, the older you get, the more likely you are to play it “better safe than sorry”. You want to be comfortable. You want to pay your bills and keep your children in the right schools and plan for retirement and live in a safe neighborhood. I get it. And, all of those are okay. There’s nothing wrong with living a so-called “normal” life.

Unless God calls you to something else.

And, if God is calling you to something bigger than your ability to understand — I have some strong advice. It’s wisdom! It’s strongly Biblical.

Don’t play it safe! Play it by faith!

I’m not suggesting you don’t weatherize your house. I’m certainly not suggesting you jump out of a plane. 

But, I am suggesting you be willing to do everything God asks you to do — even when it’s scary, the future is uncertain, and you don’t have a clue how in the world you are going to do it.

Regardless of your age – or your fears. 

And, maybe you do need some disciplined risk-taking to stretch your ability to make the big moves again.

God never promised a safe-life. He promised an abundant life. God never asked us to “play it safe”. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He never promises a risk-free life. He promised a victorious life — as we trust in Him!

Be honest: Are you more likely to prefer a risk or the safe side?

Olive Tree Parenting – Growing Children of Character

Smiling little boy digging in vegetables garden

Every time I write about parenting, people email me asking for more. I understand.

Parenting is hard work.

Most people who follow my ministry closely know this is one area of my life I have taken very serious. One specific desire Cheryl and I had in raising our boys was encouraging them to love Christ and display His character. It’s great to teach our children how to play sports or to do well in school, and I think we should, but our greatest goal should be to help them be people who aspire to have good character – specifically the character of Christ.

Recognizing the Bible is a great guide to do this, I once developed a model for parenting called Olive Tree Parenting.

This model is based upon a couple verses of Scripture.

Psalm 128:3 says, “Your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.”
Psalm 144:12 says, “Our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants.”

Here are a few facts I’ve read about olive trees:

  • They were a symbol of peace and happiness to Hebrews.
  • It takes some varieties 8-10 years to even bear fruit.
  • It takes 20-50 years for an olive tree to be mature and really productive.
  • No one knows for sure how long they grow, but estimate is at least 300-600 years, with some estimates up to 2000 years.
  • When the tree trunk of an olive tree dies new sprouts come out keeping the tree alive.
  • Olive trees are evergreens.

Do you see any parallels there in raising children – or your desires for them in life?

I firmly believe we are more likely to get out of life what we actually aim for, so our goal became to raise children to be adults that bear righteous fruit for generations. We began to think strategically how to develop Biblical characteristics of fruit in our two boys.

The Bible also gives us some clear indication of what righteous fruit looks like.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Here are some suggestions to encourage each of these fruits to grow:

Love is the first fruit mentioned and perhaps the most important. Jesus said “love” was the greatest command for us all. I don’t believe we can teach our child to love. We must model it for them.

Here are some actions you can take, however, to instill this fruit in their heart.

  • Ask your children questions about their life. Get to know your child and what they are thinking.
  • Do everything in love — even discipline. (They will know when you are not acting in love. You will too.)
  • Discipline. Don’t neglect discipline in “the name of love”. Discipline should actually be an indication you love them enough to train them to do the right thing.
  • Watch how you treat other groups of people — including other races and ethnic groups.
  • Watch your child’s attitude — always recognize attitudes over actions (1 Sam. 16:24) and respond accordingly.
  • Love your children’s friends.
  • Be kind to your neighbors, friends and family. They are watching.
  • Get involved in church and community not out of compulsion, but because you love other people.

The goal of producing joy is not to make your children happy – even though most parents rightly want that for their children. The Bible makes a distinction between joy and happiness. (Psalm 68:3)

Here are some actions you can take to instill the fruit of joy in your child’s heart:

  • Don’t reward everything. Life should not be a big celebration. Life shouldn’t revolve around the next big event.
  • Have a sense of humor. Have fun parenting. Let them see you enjoying life.
  • Be positive. Children can’t take the pressure and stress of life that an adult has to handle.
  • Allow your children to enjoy life at the age they are – without trying to make them someone they are not.
  • Life is difficult and there will be trials, but let your children see you use trials as something you learn from and have faith during; trusting that God will work all things for good.
  • Remind yourself Scripture says to “be joyful always”. Model it for them.

Peace is a foundation for other great character traits you will want your children to have. The Bible says we can have peace that is there regardless of the storms of life. I know many adults who would like this kind of peace themselves. You would certainly want it for your children.

Here are some actions you can take to model peace for your children:

  • Pray for your children daily in their presence. This shows them the importance of prayer and relying on God for daily strength.
  • Teach them to pray. Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Help your children understand they can talk with God anytime. They will catch on quickly. Faith comes much easier when built as a child.
  • Let them see you read your Bible regularly. Truth can ground us when we are afraid or stressed.
  • Talk about your faith. Peace is found in a relationship and they need to see that modeled for them.
  • Remain cool in stressful situations – as best as you can. It’s okay that they see you emotional, but they should quickly see you display a peace that surpasses understanding.

This is a tough one for me, because it is one of my weak points, but it is a part of the fruit of the Spirit God has encouraged us to have. And, our children need it greatly.

Here are some actions to help your children have this trait:

    • Let them see you waiting patiently. (If my boys or my wife reads this they will be wondering when they will see this in me. Still, I have had to wait for many big picture things in my life many times. I’ve attempted to do so patiently.)
    • Make children wait sometimes. Yes, I said it. Children shouldn’t get everything right away and they certainly shouldn’t be able to demand it with temper-tantrums or tears. One statistic I read says that children today get 90% of everything they want, yet as adults they will get less than 25%. We are setting them up for failure when we give them everything.
    • Don’t be a complainer. Do everything without complaining or arguing.(Phil 2:14)
    • Don’t let your children think they are the center of the universe. They are not – actually God is. Encourage them, but don’t crown them kings.

Kindness could be defined as “genuine friendliness, helpfulness and generosity”.

Here are some ways to instill kindness in your children:

  • Be a giver and not a taker. Let your children see you giving to others regularly.
  • Never let children see you being unkind to the cashier or waitress.
  • Know your neighbors and actually have concern for them.
  • Never allow degrading comments to be made to other family members.
  • Care for the hurting people of the world.
  • Be a regular giver/servant at church and in the community.

Jesus said “well done good and faithful servant” and “a good tree produces good fruit”. This is the opposite of bad. (Makes sense, huh?)

Here are some suggestions to instill goodness in your children:

  • Reward good acts towards others.
  • Give extra praise to your children for doing good things. (This can be done verbally and doesn’t always mean buying something.)
  • Never let them see their parents argue and fight.
  • Demand respect always. They don’t always have to agree, but they should always have to respect.
  • Always declare truthfulness. Never let them see you telling lies; even “little white lies”.
  • Teach prompt obedience. Don’t let them “think about” obeying you. This is especially true for younger children.

Children will be as faithful as you are, so in order to see them grow into faithful individuals you will have to model it for them.

Here are some action steps to help the process:

  • Be faithful early in their life to what you want them committed to later in life. If you want them to go to church as adults then take them faithfully as children.
  • If you commit to doing something then do it. Let your Yes be yes and your No be no.
  • Be an anchor in their life in whom they can always depend upon.
  • Be faithful in all relationships. They are watching.
  • Be consistent. If it is morally wrong today — it is tomorrow.
  • Let them know they can depend on you to do what you said you would do for and with them.
  • Let them find you in your devotion and quiet time on a consistent basis.

The word means “not harsh”. It doesn’t mean to be a “mealy mouse” and it doesn’t mean to avoid discipline. It means to be gentle — even in your anger. In John 2, when Jesus went into temple to drive out the money-changers, He first made a whip. It was a definite and determined response, but it was “gently” planned.

Here are some steps you can take to instill this character trait in your children:

  • Grant forgiveness easily. Don’t hold grudges against those who have wronged you.
  • Don’t let your children fear coming to you about anything, because of the way you may react.
  • Get down to the children’s level when trying to explain something or in the way you respond to them.
  • Always be available to talk with your children.
  • Talk gently to your spouse.
  • When there is a disagreement in public, such as in a restaurant, it is okay to protect your interests, but it should always be done with gentleness and respect for the other person. There is never an excuse to be rude or obnoxious.

The opposite here is being undisciplined. This is an important trait, because it affects all the others.

Here are some action steps to help build self-control into your children:

  • Don’t allow temper tantrums. “Expressing themselves” is not an excuse for unruliness.
  • Learn personal disciplines and model them — things such as daily Bible reading, exercise and tithing.
  • Know sin has consequences and teach this principle to your children. (Unfortunately you may have to model it also.)
  • Use appropriate discipline for each child. All children are different.
  • Determine the motive behind the action before disciplining your children.
  • Provide appropriate tests for them as they mature to see if they can handle a situation. As they get older grant them more and more trust.

There is a final step in the Olive Tree Parenting Model. You must teach your children to abide!

In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If our children can learn this skill all these others will become and remain a part of who they are. They will learn this best as they see you doing so.

I’m praying for your parenting.

I need to remind you that this is a “model” – and I wasn’t perfect at doing this. Some I did better than others. The fact is, however, we seldom hit a target we aren’t aiming for – so make this your goal and you will find it easier to achieve than with no plan at all.

7 Things Healthy Teams Check at the Door


I think healthy teams are intentionally created, so wherever I serve I’m consistently trying to make our environment better.

Over the years, I’ve learned some things will not develop healthy teams. Many times it’s as much about what we don’t have on our team as what we do have. 

The team I now serve with works well together – most of the time. We get along well with each other. My theory is it may have to do as much with what we don’t bring to the time we spend together as it does what we bring to the that time.

Let me explain. 

Here are 7 things healthy teams check at the door:

Egos. There is no place for them. A team requires everyone pulling equal weight. That means everyone should get equal recognition. No one thinks they are “better” or more important to the team. 

Closed minds. Healthy teams need every opinion on the team. The synergy of differences makes the team better. No idea is too crazy or wild to at least talk about together — maybe even experiment. 

Domination. No one is in “control” on a healthy team. There are times when all team members are in “charge” because of their responsibilities.

Selfishness. Teams can’t be healthy when everyone is looking out for themselves. Healthy teams work together and support one another. They share time and resources. 

Negativity. No one benefits from a poor attitude. Encouragement fuels health and production. Healthy teams encourage one another. 

Personal criticism. Healthy teams support one another personally. They become like family — loving each other. They build each other up — not tear each other down. There may be teasing in fun, but a healthy team learns when even teasing goes too far. (I’ve personally had to go back and apologize for teasing.) 

Stubbornness. When any team member holds out for “their” way — including the leader — it keeps the organization from achieving health.

What would you add to my list?

Develop Where You Are

Little green seedling grow from tree stump

I’ve seen so many potentially great leaders waste opportunities because they were waiting for the perfect scenario before they begin to develop as a leader.

They don’t enjoy where they are currently in life or work — so they think there is nothing to be gained where they are now.

They aren’t in their dream job — so they don’t look for the benefits of being in the present situation.

They don’t respect the leader they are supposed to follow — so they close themselves off from learning anything  — whether good or bad — from him or her.

They don’t plan to stay in their current work location — so they overlook personal growth opportunities.

They don’t enjoy the people with whom they work — so they miss the potential of building future relational connections.

They are waiting for the “right” opportunity — so they never give their best effort, not realizing their “off-paper” resume (what others say about them) follows them. 

What a mistake!

Here are a few things I’ve learned by experience.

There is no guarantee your next location will be any healthier.

Or the leader will be any stronger. 

Or you will like it any more.  

If you don’t work well with the people you are currently working with — what if the problem is more you than them?

In fact may end up being a worse opportunity — the grass which appears greener on the other side often turns out not to be.

Here’s my advice:

Take advantage of where you are now.

Learn all you can now — from every opportunity.

Grow where you are now.

Give your best now.

Build relationships now. 

Develop where you are today.

It will build your character.

It will make you better prepared when you reach the job you do love.

And, most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.

If you don’t see yourself in your current position five years, or even one year from now — that’s okay — give the next whatever time you have the best you’ve got. Bloom where you’re planted.

There are lessons, principles and wisdom to be gained in every situation. Never waste those opportunities. 

Help all of us. Describe a time when you developed as a leader in an environment you didn’t enjoy.

7 Ways I Protect My Sabbath – A Challenge For My Pastor Friends

Man using a tablet computer while relaxing in a hammock

This is a hard word for some pastors, but after a recent post I was asked about how I protect my Sabbath. That’s a great question, because many pastors struggle in this area. In fact, many pastors I know who would teach their church to observe the Sabbath, seldom do so personally. This fact alone is one of the leading causes of pastoral burnout, in my opinion.

Protecting my Sabbath has proven to be crucial in protecting my ministry.

I observe my Sabbath day on Saturday most weeks. It’s my day with Cheryl. It’s not a day where I do nothing. That’s not how I rest. It’s a day where I do what I want to do. On my Sabbath, I don’t work. I play. I rest. I recharge. I clear my head and prepare for the week ahead.

Here are 7 ways I protect my Sabbath:

Recognize the value – I have to realize there is a reason to observe a Sabbath. It’s almost like God knew what He was doing. :) If I value it enough, I’ll make it a priority. The value of a Sabbath is not only for myself, but it aligns me with God’s design for mankind. “On the 7th day He rested”. Have you read that somewhere? We were created with a need for the Sabbath. That makes it valuable.

Make it a priority – Not only do I value the importance, but I make it a priority in my week. As important as any other day, my Sabbath is a must do part of my week. A Sabbath is good for the pastor, the pastor’s family and the church. That’s worth prioritizing.

Place it on the calendar – The Sabbath needs to be planned in advance. If you think it’s going to happen when you “catch up”, you’ll never take a Sabbath. Depending on the size of your staff or the demands of your church, your day may not be the same as mine, but you choose a day that works best and calendar it regularly.

Trust others – One of the leading reasons I hear for pastors not taking a day off is that they don’t have anyone who can handle their responsibilities. This is especially true in churches where the pastor is the only staff member. Regardless of staff size, pastors need to surround themselves with some healthy people and take a risk on them. I delegate well so that when I’m gone I know things will continue to operate efficiently. Ultimately, however, when I honor my Sabbath I’m demonstrating that I trust God. After all, the plan was His idea.

Discipline myself – I just do it. I make myself take a day off. (You should consider this discipline!) Now, here’s the hard part of that. In addition to saying “Yes” to yourself, you have to discipline yourself to say “No” to others. Without a doubt, if you try to protect a day there will be multiple invitations, seemingly good opportunities, and non-emergency interruptions. It will happen. You’ll have to continually help others (and yourself) understand the value in this discipline. It’s part of being a healthy pastor. And, I assume, most churches want that. Frankly some will never understand the value in your Sabbath (even if they see the value for themselves), but they will also be the first one to complain if you aren’t performing at your best in other areas of your ministry.

Prepare for it – I have to work hard prior to a Sabbath so I can comfortably take it without reservation. That means I handle any details I can in advance. Whether a pastor works five or six days a week, (I personally work 6) it is important to work hard and smart enough where there is no guilt in taking your deserved and commanded sabbath. Not trying to be cruel here, but if you are not finding time to take a Sabbath, it could be a planning and organizational problem as much as it is a demand of your time problem.

Learn to enjoy -Some pastors, like me, are not wired for a Sabbath. I realize some people have no problem taking a day off, but I honestly would work seven days straight if no one stopped me. There’s always plenty to do. I’ve learned, however, that I function better the other 6 days if I have one day that I’m not working. It’s been a challenge to maintain it, but I now truly look forward to the rest. It’s proven to be as important for my wife as it is for me and when she’s happy, I’m happy.

Now, please understand, there are no perfect plans. This works most of the time for me, but not all of the time. There are, of course, exceptions, interruptions, and Kingdom opportunities, which cause me to not be able to protect every Sabbath day. (Jesus had those too.) As much as is possible, however, I stick with this plan, and when it is interrupted, especially if it happens several weeks in a row, I will make up the time with some extra time away. I try to get my downtime back at some point. It’s that important to me now.

Pastor, are you protecting your Sabbath? Be honest.

The strength and success of your ministry may depend on it.

Pastor, what tips do you have for helping some of my burned out pastor friends maintain a weekly Sabbath?

Bonus question: Pastor, do you have a plan for extended time a way…a Sabbatical of some form? Could you share what you do in this area to help the rest of us?

10 Disciplines I’d Recommend Everyone Start in Their Twenties

Closeup of mature man´s hand giving a book to his son,conceptual image, over white background

This is one of those posts I hope someone learns something from which can help them in life.

Okay, I hope that for all of my posts — otherwise why am I writing. But, I see this one as a life-giving post for those who will read it and take some of it to heart. Specifically, my target is those who are in their 20’s, who are starting out in their adult life and career. As I’m writing, I’m thinking of my own two sons in that demographic, the young people who work on our team, and the hundreds of college students and young adults in our church. Those who come to mind are driving my desire to invest something in you who will read this.

I’m 51, which is certainly not old — although it may have seemed like it was when I was younger — but it is old enough to have learned a few things. Like things I wish I had done when I was younger. And, some things I’m glad I did.

I have learned the only way to really sustain something in your life is through self-discipline. No one is going to force you to do some of the most important things you need to do.

If I were in my 20’s again, there are some disciplines I would make sure I incorporated into my life. I would practice them enough that they would be natural for me today.

Here are 10 disciplines I would recommend everyone start in their 20’s:

Saving. It’s easier to start setting aside money before you start spending it. Setting a budget and living by it makes so much sense to me now. It didn’t in my twenties. I wanted all the disposable income I could make. But, I didn’t spend it wisely and now I have to make up for lost time saving for my future.

Exercising. I exercise everyday. Now in my 50’s I recognize more than ever my need for regular physical activity, but some mornings the body doesn’t want to get going. Without it being intrinsic to who I am I’m not sure I would start now.

Journaling. I have journaled off and on throughout my life. It is so much fun to read my thoughts from 30 years ago and reflect on how much I’ve learned and things God has done in my life. Still, there are periods missing where for years I didn’t journal. Knowing the value in what I do have I wish this had been a more defined discipline.

Friending. Those deep, lasting friendships often start early. And take work. At this stage in life friendships have deeper meaning and importance to me. I need people who can speak into my life who know me well. I have those, but not necessarily among people I knew in my 20’s — who have a long history with me. I look on Facebook at friends from high school and college and I wish I had worked harder to keep those friendship strong. I miss them. At the time I thought they would last forever. They didn’t. They are still “friends”, but not at the level they once were. I’d make sure I surrounded myself with the right friends — and those may or may not be the people from your 20’s, but I’d build healthy, long-lasting friendships.

Identifying. Specifically here I’m referring to learning who you are — who God designed you to be — and then living out of that truth throughout your life. This is the discipline of faith. Figuring out what you believe about the eternal and why you believe it and then putting faith into practice is vitally important. It will be challenged so many times. The author of Ecclesiastes writes, “Remember your creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come.” Such wise advise. Knowing what you believe — nailing it down without reservation — will help you weather the storms of life which surely come to all of us. As a believer, knowing God’s approval of you will help you believe in yourself and your abilities and empower you to take the God-sized risks you may look back and regret if you don’t. This discipline also helps you develop the discipline of prayer — seeking wisdom from God. When you fully recognize the value of being “in the family of God” you are more likely to cry out regularly to “Abba Father”.

Giving. Just as saving is an easier discipline if you begin early so is giving. Whether it’s time or money I now realize the value there is to me in helping others. I have practiced this one throughout my adult life and it is one of the most rewarding parts of my life. I highly recommend starting this discipline early before the world and all its demands takes the ability from you.

Resting. Those in their 20’s now seem better at this one than my generation was but for those who need it — start resting now. Work hard. I think that’s a Biblical command and a good virtue. But, the older you get and the more responsibility that comes upon you the harder it is to find the time to rest. It needs to be a discipline.

Life-planning. Creating a discipline of stopping periodically to ask yourself huge questions will keep you heading in a direction you eventually want to land. Questions such as — Am I accomplishing all I want to do? If, not — why not? Where should I be investing my time? What do I need to stop doing — start doing — to get where I want to go? In what areas of my life do I need to improve? These can be life-altering questions. Ideally, we should ask them every year, but at least every few years this is a healthy discipline to build into your life — and the sooner the better.

Honoring. This discipline is honoring the past — learning from those who have gained wisdom through experience. When you’re young you can be guilty of thinking you know more than you really know. It’s not until you get to a certain age — certainly I’m there now — where you realize how much you don’t know. There is always something to be learned from another person’s experience you don’t have. This one seemed to come to me naturally, because I grew up most of my early life without a father in the home. I craved wisdom — especially from older men. But, I cannot imagine where I would be in life had I not developed the life-long discipline of wisdom-seeking early in my life.

Coaching. Pouring into others is a great discipline — and should begin early in life. In my 20’s I didn’t realize I had something to give others from what I had already learned. Imagine the impact of a 20-something person investing in a middle or high school student — maybe someone without both parents in the home. It wasn’t until I recruited one of my mentors in my mid-20’s and he said, “I’ll invest in you if you invest in others” that I began this discipline. I wish I had started even earlier.

It’s probably not too late for most who will read this to start most of these. Most of them, however, become more challenging the older you get.

Someone will wonder how I chose the order of these or if some are more important than others. There may even be push back because I started with one about money. I get that and it’s fair. Obviously, one on this list is MOST important. In my opinion, it would be “Identifying”. All else is an overflow of that one. But, had I started with it then the natural question is which one is number two, and number three, etc. Whichever one would have ended up number ten could seem less important. I think all of them are important, so I didn’t prioritize them.

Any you would add to my list?

Something I Want for My Boys Even More Than Their Happiness


My boys are in their mid 20s. They have pretty stable lives. They came off our payroll pretty much right out of college, which I guess is considered a blessing these days. They work hard. They are responsible.

Best of all they love Jesus and people. They both serve Him in their own way.

They have great relationships in their life. Everyone seems to love them who knows them. As every parent does, I love when people brag on them. And, I get to experience it regularly. One of them is married to a wonderful Christian lady. 

I know, it seems I’m bragging — and I am. Let him who boasts boast in the Lord and I give Him all the glory. Our family is truly a product of grace.

Every parent wants their children to be happy. That seems to go without saying.

I certainly want that for my boys. It’s something I even pray for frequently.

But there is something I want more for my boys more than their happiness.

In fact, I’d almost sacrifice their happiness — at least in the short-term — for them to achieve this in the long-term.

I want my boys to be obedient.

I want them to go wherever God leads and do whatever God commands. I want them to trust His leadership, follow His plan, and surrender their will to His will. I want them to some day hear those words, “Well done good and faithful servant. Well done!” 

Even when it’s uncomfortable. Even when it’s not their plan.

You see, I’ve learned by experience in my own life.

I know the center of God’s will is the absolute best place to be.

Granted, it’s not always the safest place in terms of the world but it’s always the safest place in terms of the kingdom of God.

Do I want my boys to be happy? Don’t let me close this post without you knowing I do. Yes, I do want their happiness. In fact, I believe ultimate happiness is found in living within the pleasure of God — delighting in the things in which He delights.

But, more than anything — I simply want my boys to be obedient.

51 Things I’ve Learned in 51 Years

Old books on the table

I continue to learn. I hit 51 years of age this year and one thing that’s become apparent over the last couple years is how much more I still have to learn.

And, yet, along the way, I have moved into a unique opportunity. It’s almost scary at times. People are looking to me for advice. They think I have something to share. Wow! Just when I realize I don’t really know anything, people think I know some things.

So, I culled together some of my learnings.

Here are 51 things I’ve learned in 51 years:

  1. There is no substitute for experience.
  2. You can’t lead people where they don’t want to go.
  3. No one will be as concerned about protecting your time as much as you.
  4. A “lesson in humility” teaches far more than an “ego boost”.
  5. Often what I don’t want to do is the very thing I need to do most.
  6. The best friends sometimes say the hardest — but most needed — things to hear.
  7. People are more honest with you if they can predict your reaction.
  8. We hurt most the ones we love the most.
  9. Very few people can really comply with “don’t tell anyone”.
  10. If someone goes to bed angry they wake up angrier.
  11. You never get a second chance at a first impression.
  12. God could not and would not ever send you beyond His abilities.
  13. Rebuilding trust is more difficult than keeping established trust.
  14. If you have to impress a friend they aren’t much of a friend.
  15. “Just once” is almost always a bigger deal than led to believe.
  16. Don’t be defined by a past you don’t intend to repeat.
  17. Never let an inability to understand keep you from an ability to respond in obedience to God by faith.
  18. Hard times come naturally in life. We must determine early to use them for God’s glory, to develop personally and to help others.
  19. You can pray. You can worry. You can’t do both at the same time.
  20. When you quit trying to be like someone else you have a better chance of being who God designed you to be.
  21. There is wisdom with age. Always be willing to learn from those who have lived and experienced more of life.
  22. The longer you wait to forgive someone the longer it takes to heal your heart.
  23. Don’t miss what matters most by worrying about what doesn’t.
  24. More success in the world does not automatically bring more happiness, but more success with the things that matter most does.
  25. Having wisdom doesn’t mean you made all the right choices. It just means you learned from the choices you made.
  26. Just because your momma laughs, doesn’t mean it’s funny.
  27. Never waste an idea. Always have something nearby to write it down.
  28. You can’t ignore one life principle by trying to live another
  29. Don’t stop doing the right thing even when the wrong thing is receiving more celebration. That party won’t last.
  30. A sweater may be old and ugly now, but one day everyone will want one just like it.
  31. Often one’s perception is determined by his or her experiences — good or bad.
  32. Habits form quickly.
  33. You can have tons of “friends” until there is trouble in your life — then you’ll discover some real friends.
  34. Big dreams rarely make it past our mind unless someone risks the chance that they could fail.
  35. The little things we do often have more value than the big things.
  36. Character is shaped by how we respond to life’s difficulties and life’s victories.
  37. Genuine love is far more choice than it is emotion.
  38. Recovery is often just on the other side of surrender.
  39. People are the greatest investments.
  40. Emotions should never be the sole indicator of decision-making.
  41. Your reaction determines their reaction.
  42. Never mistake the silence of God as the absence of God.
  43. Everyone receives motivation through affirmation.
  44. Seldom will you be 100% certain of a decision.
  45. Solicited applause are seldom genuine.
  46. The best opportunities seldom come wrapped neatly in a package with a bow on top. They usually come with work. Get your hands dirty work.
  47. The best leaders are often the ones smart enough to get out of the way of smarter people.
  48. Integrity does the right thing, regardless of whether it brings popularity.
  49. Some of your greatest achievements will be what you inspired others to do.
  50. If God is stretching you, it may be uncomfortable for a while, perhaps even hurt, but eventually you’ll love the new shape.
  51. Always learning something new keeps your mind young and you’ll have less resistance to change.

Three Steps to be an Expert Disciple of Jesus

Jesus hand

Jesus was specific about what it takes to be a good disciple. This isn’t a guessing game.

If we want to mature in our walk with Christ, we should pay close attention.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Here are three steps to be an expert disciple:

First, we must deny ourselves

Jesus is not saying here that we should not own anything. Or want nice things. He is asking us to line our desires with His desires — even when they conflict with our desires. He is asking us to prioritize our life — with God and others in mind. (The first and greatest command — and the second is like it.) In denying ourselves, we are to look to Jesus and not unto our own abilities. Trusting Him when we can’t find our way without Him. That apart from Him, we can do nothing. Deny our fears. Deny our inabilities. Deny our sinful temptations by the power of the Gospel. Deny me — for Him — knowing I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Second, we must take up our cross

I don’t have a cross. At least not literally. But Jesus is encouraging us to carry forth His cross. His agenda. His mission. We are to be the salt of the Earth. We are to spread the Good News. We are to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world, as others see Jesus in us. The message and wonder of the cross — the Gospel — is to be evident in us. We should love the unlovable. Forgive the ones who don’t deserve forgiveness. Extend grace. Attempt to bring reconciliation through Christ. His cross.

Third, we must follow Him

That may seem like the easiest, but it is perhaps the most difficult. It would be easier to write a bunch of rules of what a good little Christian should look like. But, we’d only mess that up into some sort of legalism. Michael Yaconelli once wrote, “Jesus said follow me’, not ‘Follow my rules.” I remember when I was younger playing “follow the leader”. The guy in front made all the moves. The object was to follow the leader exactly. It was usually easier in looks than in practice. Jesus is our leader and every day we need to mimic the Savior. It won’t always be easy. Culture will work against us. Some in the church will still want to write more rules. But Jesus following will always be best. It’s part of being a disciple. In fact, it IS being a disciple.

Which of these three steps do you most need to apply to your life today?

5 Steps to Getting Unstuck

Trapped, Trying To Get Out

What do you do when you are stuck?

I mean you can’t get going again. You can’t find your way. You’re stuck in yesterday’s mistake. Or, you can get stuck in yesterday’s success. 

Perhaps you had a dream, but you got sidelined pursuing it. Perhaps you’ve absorbed all your energy, all your resources, and all your passion, but it didn’t work and now the dream is dead and you don’t know what to do next. 

Maybe you just experienced you’re greatest season ever — but now things are still again — you don’t know how to repeat the success. Or, even how to get started again. 

I understand. I’ve been there several times in my life. On both sides. And, both are frustrating. 

If this is your situation, i have a few thoughts. Based on experience. You can find your momentum again.

Here are 5 suggestions for getting unstuck:


Being stuck drains you emotionally and physically. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to spend a season resting and waiting. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing, but it does mean allowing yourself a chance to heal. Rest is often the platform for launching next. 


Most likely your setbacks — and sometimes your success — takes your focus off of the big picture of your life. You may have been saturated with fear and uncertainty and you are afraid to risk again. You may need a fresh dream or you may need some new dreams, but at some point you will have to lift up your head from the natural self pity that accompanies disappointment and refocus on your future and the plans God has for your life.If you’re coming off of a success, you may begin to believe that all of life is a victory. Spend some time considering what matters most in life. Many times we find it’s things that are there in times of failure or success. Things that money (relationships) cannot buy. 


If you have a God-given calling or at least God-honoring and you don’t believe it’s time to give up — then spend time setting some new goals and objectives. You may need to redesign your dream into a contemporary context as culture or your life changes, you mature, or God gives you greater understanding. You may have to tackle things from a different angle, learn something new to help you towards it, or make some new connections with people who can help you move forward. And if your stuck after success – remember what got you there last time may not get you there the next time. It’s time to learn some new tools to spur some new momentum. 


It’s okay to start something completely new. It is. Many times God leads us through disappointing opportunities — or successful opportunities — to teach us valuable principles to help us achieve other dreams. Don’t be afraid of God doing something new. (Remember: His mercies are new every morning.)


One thing is certain, you will never move forward if you are sitting still. Even God-given assignments require a commitment of personal energy and resources. Often people who fail to reach their destination remain sidelined because they never start again after a setback. People who have periods of wild success began to think that is the norm and so they wait for it to naturally happen again. Don’t be a victim of either mindset. Try something new. Find your passion again, get your vision in focus, be willing to take yet another risk — then get started again. 

I should also say that talking to people who have been stuck is a great way to get unstuck. The encouragement that you can start again often is exactly what you need to hear. And the way to find someone who’s been stuck? Simply find someone who has been around a while — and is now successful. Trust me, they’ve survived “stuck”.

Have you ever been stuck? How did you get unstuck?

Let your story encourage others.