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Impossible-Hard-Inevitable Stuff

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Speak of the impossible and someone might say: “It’s not impossible – it just hasn’t been done yet.”

As true as that might be, you sometimes face situations that you feel are impossible.

Or perhaps inevitable might be a better word to describe some situations. You feel like something is inevitable and hard at the same time and you would like nothing more than to avoid that situation. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.

When you are in a hard-inevitable situation, have you ever asked God for something impossible, such as stopping the inevitable? Me too! In fact, whenever Jesus came face to face with the hard, yet inevitable suffering and death by crucifixion, he did as well. In fact, the way he talked to God in that moment has often guided the difficult prayers that I have prayed. More precisely, the prayers were not difficult, but the circumstances in which I found myself were indeed difficult.

The model I personally use in such times is Jesus’ prayer(s) in Gethsemane. To say that he was facing a difficult situation would be the understatement of all time. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” were his exact words. You’ve heard his words but have you noticed the clarity?

First read his prayer…then pray your prayer following his example.

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36

First, pray intimately. After all you are speaking to your heavenly Father.

Second, pray expecting that God can and will answer…acknowledge his power: “Everything is possible for you.”

Third, pray specifically. Don’t be chicken. Don’t concern yourself with how it sounds. You’re talking to your Father and you are desperate! Pray! Ask! Seek! Knock!

Finally, pray better than you are. All I mean by that is this: when life is said and done you will be glad that you lived in God’s will. You will never regret asking that God’s will be done before your own. So in every bold prayer say this: “Yet (even though I have asked for some things I would like/prefer) not what I will, but what you will be done.” Accept his will above your own.

I learned from a wise woman…and sometimes it is this simple: “You have not because you ask not.”

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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Taking Stock

ImageOn 1/31 look at Gn 1:31 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” (Ge 1:31)

On the final day of creation – which just happens to be the final verse of Genesis chapter one – God looked back over his handy work and declared that it was very good. It was so good that on the following day he rested!

Well, today is the last day of the first month of 2014! Stopping to evaluate the first month isn’t a bad idea. In fact it can be quite helpful.

When you look back over the first month can you say it was very good? Are you headed the direction you had hoped for? Would you grade January as average, good, or excellent? What things did you plan to do and in fact you did them? What opportunities came along that you are glad that you took ahold of? Are there some important lessons you learned that you should write down in your journal? What are some “do betters” for the month of February?

Now say a prayer thanking God for all the things that went well and ask for His help in the areas where you need it.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil 4:6

Try not to be too narrowly focused as you look over the past month. For example, Think about all aspects of your life: marriage, parenting, financially, friends (are you meeting new people), family, education, physically (confession: I need to step it up in this area), educationally (are you reading and learning anything), attitude (are you joyful, at peace, friendly, etc), spiritually (Are you loving God by being content and thankful to Him for where you are in life? Are you loving your neighbor as yourself?). You get the point. I have also found it to be quite encouraging to list your blessings, speak them out loud.

I’ll end with a quote from the movie The Shawshank Redemption – just because I like it – “You need to get busy living or get busy dying.”

 
 

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Strong Leader

Strong Leader01Have you ever had someone say something to you that was so true it made you stop the conversation, or at least pause for a moment, just to think about what had just been said?  I had one of those exact experiences a few years ago, and I’ve tried to live up to it since.

Here is what happened: I was on the phone with a trusted friend and mentor that lives in Miami.  We were discussing solutions to some challenges I was facing and that is when he said it.  He spoke in a deliberate tone: “If you want to work with strong leaders then be one.”

I’ll never forget that moment.  I was so grateful and at the same time I wanted to yell, “Ouch…that hurt!”  Although I agreed with him the impact felt like I had hit a speed bump to quickly.  The kind of speed bump that almost brings you to a stop while your car rolls up and over the “bump.”  That one comment stopped me cold in my tracks.  In that instance I had to slow down while I finished getting over that thought.

My friend was dead on accurate:  Leaders are people who think of solutions and act.  Don’t be somebody who sees only problems but doesn’t feel the burden to bring a solution?  Be the person in your family, office, group or team that spends the necessary time to think through a problem long enough to think new thoughts about possible solutions.  Expect the leaders around you to do the same.  The fact is that whenever you live as a strong leader you find yourself in the company of other strong leaders.  You will either attract them to you or you will be attracted to them.  It’s probably both.  Pretty cool deal for sure.

I have the privilege of working with lots of strong leaders…and hopefully so do you.  About six months ago at one of our staff meetings we went over some guiding principles, the kind that really resonate in the heart of those who want to lead well.  If memory serves me, I think that our lead pastor Justin Miller gave the list.  The basic points are his, the commentary is mine.  Anyway, here is the list.  I hope that these thoughts are helpful and inspiring.

1. There is a clear difference between processes and people.  A strong leader will fix systems and deal with individuals.

2. Planning and preparation are key to success in most anything.  Sweat before or sweat during.  The weekend is won or lost by Friday.  In other words, before you get to an event or meeting you can feel confident when you have planned and prepared well.

3. Be people focused on the weekends.  Regardless of the type of business, in the end it comes down to people business.  I joke that ministry would be so fantastic if only we didn’t have to deal with people.  Of course that would be true for most businesses.  Of course what is also true is that if it weren’t for people, you would be out of business.  My guess is that its as easy for electricians and pastors alike to forget that we are in the people business.

4. Take ownership for all we do.  Take responsibility for being heard, don’t assume people know.

5. Back of house and team preparedness sets the tone for everyone.  Remember that everyone in your organization matters.  For one thing their attitude matters because it will come through in their interactions with those you serve.  That is why it really matters for you to have conversations with everyone in your organization.  Your people need to know what matters to you.  Not just one speech to your team at Christmastime, but lots of conversations all of the time.

6. Follow up promptly, accurately and tactfully.  In other words, keep your word…do what you said you’d do. The secrets to success aren’t secrets at all: Say thank you and please, smile, show up on time, and keep your word.  Four things!  Does anyone have a red Staples Easy button?

7. Spend time on the ground with your sleeves rolled up.  Don’t depend solely on reports from those you lead.  Get into their world and understand what it takes to get things done that you as a leader expect to have done.  That is exactly what happens in the television show Undercover Boss.  Awesome…  Imagine that your boss, I mean the big dog in your company is working next to you.  Would you work, act, or speak differently then you currently do?

That’s all: If you want to work with strong leaders, then be one.  BOOM!

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Leadership, Uncategorized

 

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The Tortoise and the Hare

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Have you lived long enough to know the value of patience and perseverance?  Do you believe that the good stuff in life comes only through endurance and long-suffering?

We like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare because in the end the improbable happens…the tortoise wins!

The slow unimpressive turtle won against a much quicker, more impressive opponent rabbit.  He didn’t win because he was slow or because he was entitled to win.  He endured, didn’t quit and eventually crossed the finish line…in first place.  He won because he applied the principle of steady plodding. 

Leaders generally agree with the importance of persistence and grit.  Yet how often have you looked for another way?  Is there another way?  Of course there is.  There is the way of the Hare!  However…

Wisdom teaches us, “Easy come, easy go, but steady diligence pays off.” (Pr 13:11, The Message).  While the principle of steady plodding applies to all of life the context uses wealth to illustrate.  This is more obvious in the NIV:  “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”

Little by little?  Frankly I would prefer “a bunch by a bunch.”  What about you?  However much you may prefer quick growth, the change that is produced usually isn’t sustainable.  The tortoise won because he used the principle of steady plodding and because the hare loses focus and interest.

Did the hare want to win?  Of course he did!  Everyone wants to win.  But because he was fast he knew he could easily win.  So he started out fast and impressive but soon grew tired.  He could not sustain the pace.  Not true with the turtle.  Mr. turtle started out at a speed that was sustainable and simply didn’t stop walking.

Where have you behaved like the hare?  Where would you like to be more like the tortoise?  Do you have areas of life where you would like to win?  Your health?  Your money?  Your energy level?  Your friendships?  Your marriage?  Your children?  Your spiritual life?  Your education?  May I suggest that you pick a direction and start walking!

Take a life lesson from Solomon: “…steady diligence pays off.”

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2013 in Leadership, Uncategorized

 

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Let There Be…

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Day zero: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty,..” Ge 1:1–2 Before day one, as we think of it, the earth had no visible shape or design and it was void. Sometimes, life can feel that way. You are alive and yet each day feels like yesterday; no shape or design, no purpose, void, and empty. But it doesn’t have to remain that way for you. Let today be Day One, the first day of the rest of your life. Participate with God and follow His example in creation. What did God do?

On Day One, when everything was in chaos and empty, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Ge 1:3. Obviously, we are not God and our words do not hold the power of His. Yet I encourage you to finish this statement: “Let there be…” What do you think? Let there be a book, a strong marriage, faithful children, a non-profit organization that meets a specific need, a club in your neighborhood that meets a specific need or maybe financial stability, etc. You get the point. The first thing God did was to create light. He turned the light on the situation. He clearly delineated light and dark. He did not create the sun or moon until day five. The sun and moon were part of filling the heavens and the earth. He just turned on the light. What would turn the light on for you, right now, at this time of your life? Getting finances in order, reading the Bible daily, or taking a class?

I dare you to think, to dream, and to imagine about your personal “Let There Be.” Don’t worry right now with the how or what (which can be difficult if you are anything like me). Just spend a moment completing this statement: “Let there be…” Once you have something write it down. Better yet write down whatever you’re thinking. You can clean it up later. Right now we’re just turning on the light. Once it’s written your statement will likely need more design and content. For now just write it down and leave it messy. We will work on the shape and filling later.

While you think about your ‘Let there be,” think about this question: How will you define success? How will success be measured? Will we measure success in dollars, personal  achievements, number of acquaintances,  the age when I retire, possessions, or the length of our life, to name a few? The answer to the question lies partially in the answer to the next question: What are you striving for? Do you strive for more money, more possessions, retirement at an early age, or maybe success in your business? Whatever measure you presently use, will remain your measurement until you make a conscience decision to change the measurement.

Lasting and sustainable success in life is not usually automatic. It must be intentional. A man could conceivably live a long life without his life being successful.  As with most things more is not always better (although it is not intrinsically bad either – it’s just more). I would like to suggest to you that success in life is not measured in the quantity of years that make up one’s life. We must consider Jesus upon whose life time itself turns. He only lived 33 years and fulfilled his purpose. Like Jesus, I believe that we can have the confidence that we will be given the years needed to accomplish our purpose on earth. What do you think? However, we must be about the business of living on purpose, with resolve and a singleness of mind.

Solomon came to a great conclusion as to the question of what matters most on the earth. He, like us, was in search of fulfillment in life. After his great search, he concluded that to fear God and obey his commands was indeed the greatest thing a man can do. This is not to say that the pursuit of living intentionally is a simple matter. It is not. The moment anyone begins to live with direction, purpose, and meaning, they will discover internal and external resistance and distractions. Live according to the highest principles you know anyway. Learn to push through what is urgent in order to get to what is important. We should seek to live in the important more than the urgent. Eventually, what is important will become urgent.

In all of life’s busyness, what is your Let There Be? Let that rattle around in your brain for a while…

“We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by every passing ship.” – Omar Bradley

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Goal Setting

 

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