The second in our series on prayer. Lord, teach us to pray.
Some of my favorite trips or vacations are where I get to take a long run. Through parks, subdivisions, and back roads. But, my favorite runs always involve water – along a river, lake or ocean. I have run in some incredible places.
Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington, DC., Madison, Wisconsin, Dallas. Just a few which come to mind.
On those runs one word can usually capture the time.
I worship. I talk to God. I dream.
Long runs along a body of water are awesome. Love it.
I have come to this realization though:
The best places to run all have some common characteristics.
The best cities in which to run, in my opinion, have these attributes in common:
A body of water.
A path beside the body of water.
The peace and tranquility of running on the path beside the body of water.
The chance to connect with nature and God along the body of water.
But, here’s the other thing I learned – and the point of this post.
(Sorry if you don’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 “poop” in a post. I guess I could call them geese droppings, but that doesn’t seem to capture what they drop.)
But, it is true. If you want to run in the best places –
You’ve got to dodge the geese poop.
And, right about now, you’re wondering why you’re even still reading this post. I understand.
Well, it’s because – once 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.
You can refuse the risk you might get dirty.
But, if you want to experience the best life has to offer.
If you want to settle for nothing but the right decision.
The path to the best places in life are often lined with difficulties along the way.
(By the way, for my pastor friends, this principle has been true for me in church planting and church revitalization. We’ve dodged a lot of geese droppings.)
Following your dream – achieving God’s plan for your life – maximizing your goals and ambitions – those aren’t easy. They never are. They require a lot of faith, a lot of hard work, and a lot of prayer and patience.
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 choose where you want to run. You can 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 body of water.
I’ll just watch out for and endure the geese poop, because I know it’s a part of the path.
Are you on one of those body of water paths of life right now?
Are there a lot of “droppings” in your way?
Don’t give up – the Glorious part comes to those who endure!
I have lots of meetings in my world. Over the years of business, non-profit leadership, elected office, and ministry, I’ve probably attended several thousand meetings. Along the way, I’ve developed some strong opinions.
I thought I’d share a few.
If all the decisions are already determined – don’t call a meeting – send me an email. Don’t waste my time.
If you’re meeting at a time when people are naturally hungry – feed us. And, pay for it.
If we don’t have an agenda – if it’s simply on the calenda, but there is really nothing to discuss – well, I don’t mean to seem rude, but what are we doing here?
If every new idea is going to be shot down – would skeet-shooting be a better use of our time?
If we keep doing this the same way every time, won’t someone – someone like me – eventually get bored.
If we are only going to talk about it – but never really do anything about it – isn’t this really just a social event?
If one person dominates all the conversation – let’s skip the meeting and schedule a speech.
If everyone is invited – nothing is getting accomplished today – let’s have a party.
If it’s past time for most people to go home – let’s postpone – you’ve lost our full attention.
If no one is taking notes – will we even remember any of this tomorrow?
Just a few of my thoughts about meetings. I’m not opposed to them at all. I think they are vital to healthy organizations. Let’s just keep getting better at them.
Do you have yours?
I have learned over the years – many times when I’m not up to par in my leadership or life – it’s simply because I’m tired. Recognizing this is paramount to maintaining productivity and for preventing burnout.
I can be irritable and harder to please
I become irrational about the flaws in others
I have difficulty concentrating
I display less patience and get frustrated easily
I’m less effective
My leadership suffers
Our team suffers
Take a nap (Some think you should take one everyday.)
Exercise (My adrenaline and energy grows when I sweat.)
Change perspective by reading a book, watching or listening to something other than where I’m currently working. (It may simply be entertaining.)
Engage with motivating people. (There are people who naturally fuel others by their presence.)
Take extended time away from my work. (The busier the season the more I need to discipline myself to rest.)
Evaluate my priorities, freeing myself for what’s most important. (We can easily get captivated by things of lesser importance which drain our energy.)
Call it a day and prepare for another day. (There have been days it’s just best to go home and start over the next day.)
Sometimes things, which at the time seem unproductive, actually end up being among the most productive. I’ve learned I’m not very helpful to the team when I’m extremely tired. Addressing it quickly makes me a better leader. Things aren’t likely to improve until I improve. Many leaders try to operate from an exhausted position and never realize they are the problem on the team.
Leader, be aware when you are the problem.
Don’t be afraid to admit you’re tired, leader. Most likely the team already knows it.
What happens when you’re tired…and what do you do about it?
What do you do after putting your foot in your mouth?
I was meeting with a couple for the first time and in the middle of the meeting I forgot their name. I tried to remember it but I went blank. It wouldn’t come to me. I muddled my way through the meeting. As I went to pray for them I was certain I had remembered their names. I thought it was a Holy Spirit moment. It wasn’t. As I called them the wrong name in prayer they politely corrected me – during the prayer. (I’ve often wondered if God must have giggled a bit at the moment.)
Sooner or later it happens to all of us. It happens to leaders, pastors and friends. No one is immune from the foot-in-mouth epidemic. We say the wrong thing. To the wrong person. At the wrong time. You hurt someone’s feelings. You offend them. You put them in an awkward position.
And, many times it is far worse than simply forgetting someone’s name.
What do you do?
Admit the error, say your sorry and ask for forgiveness. In the situation above, I quickly told them what had happened. They laughed and understood. Many people have such a hard time saying they are sorry, but it is critical to healthy relationships. Admitting your errors is a sign of maturity – and the right thing to do.
Don’t make excuses
You said it. It hurt. Don’t make it worse by pretending it didn’t or defending yourself. I couldn’t disguise my error, but it would have made it worse had I tried. Making excuses only deepens the injury or awkwardness. If you said the wrong thing – own the error!
Try to do better
Learn the discipline of thinking before you speak. I should have simply admitted to the couple I went blank. They ended up learning it anyway. I’m human. I meet with lots of people throughout the day and the meetings sometimes seem to run together, but I need to do better at committing names to memory – especially with people in my office. 🙂 Of course, in more serious situations, this is even more important. Saying the thing you wish you’d never said, which hurt someone deeply – we should continually strive to never do it intentionally. And, even if it’s unintentional we should discipline ourselves to think before we speak. Scripture is clear (James) – as we mature we are to get a tighter reign on our tongues. Practice asking yourself – before you say something – “how will the other person receive what I’m about to say?”
Everyone says something they regret occasionally. My mistake was a small part of a much longer meeting. It wasn’t as big of a deal as it felt like in the moment. I felt horrible, but I didn’t let it make things awkward when I saw them later at church. Even when you make the big awkward comment, you should not let it keep you from moving forward. Part of the maturing process is moving on from your mistakes.
Mine may be a silly example, but it’s one I felt freedom to share. Other times are more awkward. Even more damaging to the relationship. The actions are the same.
Got any stories of when you put your foot in your mouth?
I learned much of what I know about parenting after I was a parent.
Thankfully, my two boys are model young adults. I would say we have two of the greatest young men as sons any parent has ever seen. (Biased – aren’t I?) But, seriously, we have seen good fruit from our labor as parents. I believe this is in part because we followed certain principles.
Again, we learned as we went and it was purely the grace of God, but we were intentional.
These principles can greatly increase your success as a parent, in my opinion. (And, it’s important to note this is an opinion blog and an opinion post.) This opinion comes, however, not only from my personal experience, but also my training as a counselor, and my observation and counseling with hundreds of parents through years of ministry. Keep in mind – principles are not promises or guarantees. Children are individuals and you can do everything you know to do right and things not turn out as hoped.
But, I believe, as with most things in life, you have a better chance of success in parenting if you follow good principles than if you do not.
Most of us have a plan for other areas of our life, but not for our family. Plan a strategy for raising children the way you want them to go. We had a personal parenting plan. You can read the basics of it HERE. We reevaluated every year and made individual plans for each child based on their needs at the time. Do you have a plan for parenting? Granted, your plan will look different from ours. Your children are different.
This word has several applications. It is critically important to protect your relationship with the child, for example, so you can maintain influence over them for the rest of their life. You don’t want to lose their heart. This is not accomplished by giving them what they want, but by gentling balancing discipline with love. You may have to be willing to say no, or to make them wait for something, even when it is uncomfortable and unpopular with your children (and their friends). There are things parents need to protect their children from in this world – before they are ready. Just because an 8 year old wants to see the movie – and everyone else is seeing it – doesn’t mean they should. You’re the parent.
But, you also have to work to build their trust in you as much as their obedience to you. One reason our plan included the word grace is we knew we would have to extend lots of it to protect their heart and our connection to them. It’s a continual and delicate balance.
This one gets me in trouble with some parents, but often because they don’t always understand the magnitude of their parenting role at an early age – or they aren’t seeing the long-term goal of parenting. There is a time to gain control over a child’s actions. It’s when they are very young. When they are learning all the basic things of life we take for granted. We encouraged independent personalities in our boys, but a parent doesn’t have to let a 3 year old throw a temper tantrum, for example. When is this ever an acceptable – or effective – response as an adult? And, you can make a four year old attend Sunday school even when the would rather not – for another example. Are there times you don’t want to go to work? What do you do in those times?
There should be an element of control for a child not old enough to choose wisely and then a gradual release of authority given to them as they get older. Too many parents allow too much freedom early and then try to get control back when the child tries to be an independent teenager. It should be the opposite. You are training a child in the way he should go. Take advantage of the years where they desperately need and will comply with your wisdom.
Children require an intentional investment of time and energy over time. Having children who grow up well does not usually just happen. It is as a result of the right investment of parenting. We have children for such a short window of opportunity. We can’t waste time with opportunities which only produce temporary rewards or pleasures. Which has more importance – your work, your hobby – or your children? Do your actions portray your answer?
The one thing Cheryl and I consistently observe are families who appear to let the coaches or the instructors or other people raise their children. In a desire to give them activities they sacrifice needed time for their children with the people of whom they need the most time. Every family is busy on certain weeks, but if a family goes for months with little quality – and quantity – time together priorities may need to be evaluated.
(Side note – I realize this is especially challenging for single-parent or blended families. Some parents may need outside help – and it requires even more intentionality and planning. Get help and advice from others who have been there or are living your experience. This is also a huge advantage of being involved in a local church.)
You cannot expect children to learn – and certainly not live – principles you are not willing to model for them. Children should not be held to higher standards than you hold yourself. Are you living a life they can and should follow? If they simply do what you do – or are doing – will they turn out the way you would hope they would?
Parenting is hard – but, the rewards are worth it!
Also, if you know anything about my teaching, grace is of paramount theme. If you don’t feel you’ve done everything right – or you know you haven’t – first, know there are no perfect parents. Second, know God’s grace is sufficient. And, finally, know even if your children are adults there is time to restore relationships. My father was absent most of my life, but the last 10 years of his life were well-lived. He died a good father. I miss him today.
Praying for you as I post this.
The leader sets the bar for the organization.
If you are a leader of an organization then you have the awesome responsibility of establishing the parameters by which your organization will be successful.
I feel the need in every post like this, Jesus sets the bar. Period. He is our standard. But, it would be foolish to ignore the fact God allows people to lead, even in the church. And, as Christian leaders, we set the bar in our church for many of the things which happen in the church.
A mentor of mine always says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. He didn’t make up the saying, but he’s learned in his 70+ years experience how true a statement it is. Are you leading with the idea that you are setting the bar for the people you are trying to lead?
Vision casting – The God-given vision to the people is primarily communicated by the senior leader. Others will only take it as serious as you do. Keeping it ever before the people primarily is in your hands.
Character – The moral value of the church and staff follows closely behind its senior leadership. Our example is Jesus, and none of us fully live out His standard, but the quality of the church’s character — in every major area of life — will mirror closely to the depth of the leader’s character.
Team spirit – If the leader isn’t a cheerleader for the team, they’ll seldom be any cheerleaders on the team. Energy and enthusiasm is often directly proportional to the attitude of the leader.
Generosity – No church — and no organization for that matter — will be more generous than its most senior leadership. There may be individuals who are generous, but as a whole people follow the example of leadership in this area as much or more than any other.
Completing goals and objectives – The leader doesn’t complete all the tasks — and shouldn’t — but ultimately the leader sets the bar on whether goals and objectives are met. Complacency prevails where the leader doesn’t set measurable progress as a value and ensure systems are in place to meet them.
Creativity – The leader doesn’t have to be the most creative person — seldom is — but the team will be no more creative than the leader allows. A leader who stifles idea generation puts a lid on creativity and eventually curtails growth and change.
Pace – The speed of change and the speed of work on a team is set by the leader. If the leader moves too slow — so moves the team. If the leader moves too fast — the team will do likewise.
Team members will seldom outperform the bar their leader sets for them. Consequently, and why this is so important a discussion, an organization will normally cease to grow beyond the bar of the leader.
Be careful leader of the bars you set for your team.
We were at a department store looking at some shirts in the men’s department on sale. After over 10 years in retail, including as a buyer, I love nice clothes, but I’m cheap when it comes to spending money on myself. When I can find a good bargain I’m excited. I saw a shirt I really liked, but I quickly knew it wasn’t for me. A decade ago, it might have been an okay style for me, but today, someone would think I should be acting my age.
The dilemma for me these days, as I shop for clothes, is to find clothes which are stylish, but age appropriate. One method I use is to consider what my boys would say is “cool”, but what would not embarrass them. It is usually a good indicator.
It got me thinking, however, about a more important issue. I was reminded the image a person portrays can be huge in determining people’s perception of the leader. In a day when authenticity is valued by all, but especially the younger generation, I want to be “perceived” as being authentic. I want people I’m attempting to lead to take me serious as a leader.
Dress your age
This may not sound like a leadership principle, but it is. It is a biggie for me and my goal these days. I’m 52 years old. There are some “cool” styles which aren’t cool for 52 year olds. Knowing the difference is huge. Each season of life seems to have it’s own style. Dress within yours. If you aren’t sure, ask some people around you whom you trust. (Again, my boys help me.)
Admit your mistakes
Take responsibility for the things you’ve done wrong or when a project goes wrong and it was your idea. Own up to your bad decisions. If you pass blame or refuse to own up to a problem you’ll be perceived as a weak and pretend leader.
Don’t exaggerate who you are, your position, influence, or knowledge. Don’t pretend your church or organization is bigger than it really is. Tell the truth about you and the organization you lead. People can usually spot a phony and dismiss your influence in their life.
Don’t try to impress others
The harder you try the less they seem to be impressed. Be yourself – not who you wish you were. No one does a better you than you do. Simply strive to be the best you you can be.
Be a good listener
Be slower to speak. Don’t always have the answer. Even when you do, sometimes back off and let someone else take the lead. You show people you’re real if you act like they are – and it is worth hearing what they have to say.
What else would you add?
Sometimes life throws curves at us that take the wind from our sail. If we aren’t careful we can allow the injury to haunt us for life; never regaining what we have lost.
Have you lost a job recently? If you’re not careful, you will falsely assume that you could never get as good of a job again.
Have you had a business failure? If you’re not careful, you’ll keep yourself from ever taking a rid again.
Did you suffer from divorce? If you’re not careful, you’ll believe you can never recover or receive God’s grace.
Did your spouse have an affair? If you’re not careful, you’ll never risk intimate love again.
The Devil loves when you doubt yourself.
What steps should you take to get back on track and succeed again after a major disappointment?
Reconnect with God. This is always a wise idea, but it becomes a necessity at times like this. Times of disappointment can cause us to emotionally pull away from God. Our faith may still be in tact, but our daily trust waivers. We may know God is able, but we have a harder time trusting Him to do what needs to be done. (I preached about this issue HERE.)
Evaluate your life. Use this time to reevaluate the decisions you have made in life and what got you in the situation you are in today. Are there changes that you need to make? If so, be willing to change. If you did nothing wrong in this case, release yourself from responsibility.
Create some new dreams. Don’t allow past mistakes to keep you from discovering your passions in life. Keep those creative forces going in your mind so you’ll be ready when the next big opportunity comes along. Give yourself permission to believe the impossible. God does.
Call in the advisors. Others can usually see things we cannot see. They approach our life from a different perspective. Give someone you trust, who has your best interest at heart, access to the painful part of your life…and the freedom to speak into your life.
Don’t take your pain and anger out on others. It doesn’t make things better (usually worse) to hurt others because you are hurting. Innocent people shouldn’t be subjected to the wrath of your pain.
Take a break. Don’t expect to recover immediately. Your situation and the emotions and struggles because of them, probably didn’t start overnight and they will not end overnight. Give yourself time to heal.
When it’s time, be willing to risk again. Yes, you may get hurt again, but just as life is full of disappointments, it’s also full of joy and discovery. Remember that everyone is not the same and every situation is different. Don’t hold your past experiences against others who weren’t even there or against a future that hasn’t come.
Don’t let failure or disappointment define you. Be defined by God’s love for you and His plan for your life.
Do something. Rest yes, but at some point, just do something to stay busy and occupy your mind. It’s true that the “idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. If you lost your job, find somewhere to volunteer until you find another job. If you lost a relationship, find non-sexual relationships through church or civic activities to keep from being alone. If nothing else, start journaling as a way to release your thoughts. Do something.
Get back in the game. Choose your next steps carefully and don’t keep repeating the same mistakes, but at some point it will be time to enjoy life again. Life was not meant to be lived on the sidelines.
What steps do you have for receiving from disappointment?