Draw a Line in the Sand (Or on the Wall)

Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand…

Or on the wall…or in your mind.

I’ve worked with many people who can’t seem to move forward, because of a past failure or disappointment.

It could be a marriage damaged by an affair. The injured spouse is not sure she (or he) can ever trust again. After counseling, time to heal, and repentance on the part of the offender, the injured spouse simply can’t seem to forgive and move forward to build the marriage again.

It could be after a personal failure. The person feels they will never recover, so they refuse to take another risk. They remain miserable, but they can’t seem to pull themselves out of the emotional hold they’ve placed on their life. They may not be able to internalize the truth of God’s grace in their life.

It could be after a financial loss. The person can’t see that life will be any better than it is right now, so they refuse to invest or dream again.

Whatever the reason…and I’ve seen many…life has a way of sucking the passion to move forward out of us at times.

In circumstances like these (and many others), one mental “exercise” I’ve done is to draw a mental line indicating a starting over point. I’ve even drawn it on a board for people, such as the picture above. There’s nothing “magical” about this practice. It’s simply an opportunity to remind yourself of the truth that you can “forget what is behind and press forward”. (Philippians 3:13) You can begin again. You can make better choices. You can get up (again) and take another risk on life. You can do it today!

Get out a piece of paper, if it’s serious enough, draw it on the wall of your house, but maybe just a mental picture…then sign and dated it…Yesterday was then, today is today, and tomorrow is tomorrow. Move forward from this point with the rest of your life.

Do you need to draw a line?

Wherever you draw the line, draw it today!

This Question Can Change Your Life

I was watching an episode of Modern Family recently. I don’t watch much television and this isn’t a show I necessarily follow, but I was out of town, it was the only thing I saw on, and I needed something mindless to unwind from a busy day.

The show certainly wouldn’t be the normal place to discover life or leadership advice, but in this episode a nugget principle struck me. It’s huge.

In this particular episode, Phil, the father of the main family, asked his father-in-law Jay for some business advice. He had been offered a new position with a company. It was a tremendous opportunity; a dream job for him, but Phil wasn’t sure he had the skills required for the job. He wanted to know Jay’s advice before he approached his wife about the situation.

Jay’s advice was classic; the kind only someone seasoned with life experience can usually offer. Jay simply asked Phil a question:

“What do you really want to do?”

As Phil pondered the answer, he knew what he had to do.

The question Jay asked is critical. It’s something everyone faces at various crossroads of life. It’s what you need to consider when you have a dream or a vision, but aren’t sure if how it will be received or if you really have what it takes to make the dream a reality.

Where’s your heart? What do you really want to do?

As with any dream:

There will be risks

You’ll be afraid

You may fail.

But, if you’re heart is in it. If God’s not against it. Most especially if God is calling you to it.

You need to follow your heart.

We typically follow most closely and passionately after those things which hold our heart.

You’ll typically find more success in life when you follow your heart.

Of course, this means you have to make sure your heart is pure, you are following after the right things in life, and you have an end desire to please Christ, but, after that, pursuing the dream of your heart will prevent you from living with one of life’s great disappointments… which is missing out on a dream because fear kept you from following through.

Don’t allow fear to be a roadblock to realizing the dreams of your heart.

Do you have any dreams you regret not pursuing?

Move and move now.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for theLord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Andy Griffith Prepared to Die

I was saddened, as many Americans were, to hear of Andy Griffith’s death yesterday. The show after his name is still one of my favorite. I’ve seen every episode enough times to complete the lines.

I read where Andy was buried only 5 hours after his death, at the wishes of the family. What I liked most about what I read was this statement by his wife:

“Andy was a person of incredibly strong Christian faith and was prepared for the day he would be called Home to his Lord,” Griffith’s wife, Cindi, said in a statement on Tuesday. (Source)

Andy was prepared to die.

Are you?

3 Keys to Effective Accountability

Accountability is defined as the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable. Over the years I’ve tried to be accountable to other men in my life. I have certain standards, goals and principles that I strive for, and I use accountability to help guide my life in those directions.

I realize that I’m tempted as much, if not more at times, as everyone in my church. Sometimes I feel Satan gives pastors “extra” attention. I’m sure everyone feels that way at times. Accountability is one way I attempt to guard my heart. I highly recommend it. Accountability is not a fool proof method to keep a person (or me) from a major moral failure. I know (and you know) people who had plenty of accountability, but still had a catastrophic personal failure. Ultimately the quality of a person’s heart and walk with Christ will protect him or her. I believe, however, if it is done well, it can certainly help limit a person from many downward spirals.

I’ve done accountability in a number of ways. I’ve met with a few guys weekly. I’ve met with one guy weekly or bi-weekly. I’ve met with guys long distance. (I don’t recommend this method as the best option. I think there is value in face-to-face encounters, but it’s better than doing nothing.)

I’ve learned there are three keys to effective accountability:

Consistency – You have to meet “regularly”. That doesn’t have to be weekly, but it shouldn’t be annually. I think monthly would be about as far as I would stretch an accountability relationship. You need to meet frequently enough that you begin to recognize when there could be a problem in each other’s life. That requires a constant, growing relationship.

Honesty – There is no true accountability until people are willing to be transparent with each other. You have to be vulnerable with each other and trust each other enough to share what’s really going on in your heart and life.  That type relationship doesn’t develop quickly and, frankly, doesn’t happen every time you try. I’ve had relationships, which were initiated to be accountable relationships, that never fully formed the closeness needed for true honesty to exist.

Intentionality – If you want to be in an accountable relationship, you must be intentional. You will have to seek out someone. You’ll have to build a relationship. You’ll have to open your heart. You’ll have to take a risk of trust. You’ll have to follow through on your commitment to meet together. You’ll have to discipline your time. Nothing happens of any great value without intentionality.

I’m not sure you can do accountability without either of these three.

What about you? Have you ever been in what you would consider an accountable relationship?

Describe how it worked for you.

Two Words of Wisdom that will Change Your Life

Be Purposeful.

In parenting.

In marriage.

In forgiveness.

In ministry.

In your relationship with God.

In your career.

In your social media activity.

In your education.

In your financial life.

In your life planning.

In relationship building.

In leadership.

The “secret” that separates many from succeeding or failing is the degree in which they were purposeful in attaining what they hope to achieve.

Not getting the success you’re looking for these day? What’s the secret?

Be purposeful.

Try it.

In what area of your life do you need to be more purposeful?

There really are few second chances. If any.

There really are few second chances. If any.

Which also makes our first chance…and first impressions…so incredibly important.

Oh, I know, we always say “God gives second chances” and “You’ll get another chance”.

And, that’s based on some truth…but it’s really not.

True, that is.

There are actually very few second chances.

We try so hard to do it all over again, but in the process, I wonder if we waste a lot of energy…trying to create a second chance that will never come.

Circumstances will be different. You’ll know more. You’ll know better. You’ll be experienced. Everyone around you will have changed. You’ll have a hard time getting all the factors aligned exactly as with the first chance.

It will likely never be the same again.

You can try as many times as you like. You can begin again.

God extends grace after grace after grace…far more than your sins will ever wear out…

But, second chance…maybe not.

You’ll just be disappointed trying to produce a second chance that never comes.

And, that’s okay. Don’t be dismayed.

A fresh start is always better than a second chance.

If that’s true…if there are few second chances…

And I’m fully convinced it is…

Don’t try for a second chance.

Make it another first chance.

Only do it better this time.

7 Ways I Protect My Sabbath

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?

Dodging Geese Poop in Life and Leadership

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

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

One word for everyday’s run. Glorious.

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

I came to this realization though:

The best places to run all have some common characteristics.

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

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

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

A path beside the river

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

The chance to connect with nature and God along the river

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

The best places to run require dodging geese poop.

(There. I said it. That’s the part my wife wouldn’t have wanted me to say. She wouldn’t think a nice blog like this, written by a mostly nice pastor like me, about leadership and life, should use an analogy…or a word…like in this post.)

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

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

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

Well, it’s because…as I was dodging the geese poop, it occurred to me.

The same principle is true in life and leadership.

You can settle for mediocre.

You can choose to go for second best.

You can compromise before the right decision is made.

But, if you want to experience the best life has to offer.

If you want to settle for nothing but the right decision.

You have to dodge the geese poop of life.

The path to the best places in life are often lined with difficulties along the way.

It’s messy, filled with setbacks, conflict and obstacles. There will be times we are tempted to give up, choose an easier route, or quit before the end is in sight.

It’s a choice. You can “run” where you want to run, stay on the boring and safe treadmill of life if you want, but, as for me, no doubt about it, whenever I get the chance, I’m choosing to run by the river.

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

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

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

The Initial Response may Determine the Future Recovery

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

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

Doing that takes discipline and practice.

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

Let me give you an example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did Nehemiah respond?

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

That was his emotional response. Perfectly normal.

What happened next?

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

That was his rational response. A sign of maturity.

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

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

Look at Nehemiah’s response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your initial response may determine your future recovery.

Have you seen this principle at work?

7 Things I’ll Miss About Clarksville, Tennessee

I’ve lived in Clarksville, Tennessee all my life. So has Cheryl. I know that’s unusual at our age. Most people we know, especially in a military town have moved multiple times by now. It’s surprising to me too, because I never thought I’d stay past college. In fact, I went away when I started college, only to return and finish at our hometown Austin Peay State University.

Well, as much as I love my city, I’m moving.

If you haven’t heard, I’m in a ministry transition. I’ll be sharing more about that in the days to come, but we said goodbye this week. We have a few weeks of transition time, but for all practical purposes, our time here is done. We leave today for vacation and then we are basically just in and out for moving purposes.

There are some things I’m going to especially miss. (Every time I say that people remind me what Lexington has to offer. I understand that and we are excited about the new. You can be excited about new and still sad about the what you’re leaving.)

Here are 7 things I’ll miss about Clarksville:

Family – Being from here means we have lots of extended family here. Our family trees are both wide in this area. Our son and daughter-in-law are close by. Both our mothers are still here and we each have brothers and sisters in the area. We love them. We’ll miss seeing them whenever we want.

Friends – Our best friends live in Clarksville. Having been active in the community, serving in elected office, and pastoring a large church, I know lots of people. We will miss seeing so many friendly faces we already know and love.

Grace – Grace has been a miracle the last 7 years. God has brought so many wonderful people into our lives through this church. The staff are some of our best friends. We will miss worshipping, fellowshipping and serving with them.

Fort Campbell – Growing up in a military town is one of the greatest blessings in life. I’m patriotic, because I’ve lived among modern-day heroes. The soldiers and families here are dedicated, hard-working, and sacrificial. We will miss seeing all the uniforms and bumping into soldiers in restaurants and in the stores. Hooah!

First Baptist Church – My home church is where I was saved, discipled, and sent out for vocational ministry. My family still attends there. I’ll miss driving or running by and the good people I’ve known all my life. Many of my closest mentors are still in that church.

Downtown living – We’ve only done so for a year and a half, but we’ve loved every minute of it. Thankfully, we are planning to move to a fun walking area in Lexington, but we’ll miss the river walk, the downtown festivals and the art walks of Clarksville.

Austin Peay – We are both graduates and have supported the university and been friends with administrators, professors and students. Cheryl and I eat frequently on campus, I work out at the school’s fitness center, and I run through the campus almost everyday. We’ll miss the university that’s educated us and many in our family.

That’s just a start. I know it’s a short list but it represents so much more…so many faces…so many memories. Good times. (Mostly). We’ve invested much of our heart and lives here. We are going to miss you.

Goodbye Clarksville. We love you.

Just curious, what’s the longest you’ve lived in one city? Also how many different cities have some of you lived in?