Author: Ben Reed (page 1 of 85)

5 leadership truths I’ve learned from my kids

As a family, we spend a lot of time together. It’s a value for us, honestly. Some people would say quality time is most important, but we say that quality time is only found when you spend quantity time together.
And because we spend such a vast amount of time together, we experience a lot of everything: lots of laughs, tears, and joy. Lots of light moments and plenty of teachable ones. Moments of quiet and long stretches of seemingly meaningless noise from the back seat. And while “learning” mostly flows one direction (my wife and I are always looking for opportunities to teach our children truth), the waters flow the other direction from time to time, too. Here are a few things I’ve learned recently from my kids.

5 leadership truths I’ve learned from my children

1. Don’t root your identity in what people think

My daughter is a wild child. She vacillates between high highs and low lows, and everything in between…all in the span of 5 minutes. But one thing is certain: she isn’t affected by what you think of her. If you think she’s funny, great. If you don’t, great. If you agree with what she’s doing, great. If not, great. And while some of that behavior we as parents are working on, there’s something beautiful about not being swayed by the shifting thoughts of others.
think she cares what you think? Nope.

think she cares what you think? Nope.

The more you care about others’ opinion of you, the more you find yourself chained by them. What do you see on this spaghetti-smeared face? Pure joy.
Confession: sometimes I care too much what other will think.
Truth: The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. – Proverbs 29:25

2. Have fun

My son just loves to have fun. Where ever he is, whatever he’s doing, he’s looking to enjoy life, and pull others in to his vortex. Seriously, whether he’s at school, church, or in the front yard, he’s constantly gathering people together to play, laugh, and enjoy life.
Check out the one kid on the left that's dabbing. The. One. Kid.

Check out the one kid on the left that’s dabbing. The. One. Kid.

 

Confession: Sometimes I get lost in tasks.
Truth: “So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” – Solomon, Ecclesiastes 8:15

3. Take risks

My kids take risks. All of the time. Some   Many of them are dumb. But that never slows them down from taking another risk that might end in them falling flat on their faces. Maybe we could learn something from them. Maybe we play it too safe, under the guise of “I might look foolish” or “I might not succeed.”
Confession: Sometimes I lean towards comfort.
Truth: Where there is no risk, there is no faith.

4. Love quickly

Both of my children are quick to love and trust others. I’ve found that the older I get, the more I’m tempted to be slow to trust. They have a short memory, while mine is a little longer. As I’ve seen my trust of others broken, it makes me a little hesitant. I’m learning from my kids that relational risks are worth the potential downside.
Confession: Sometimes I struggle to trust after it’s been broken.
Truth: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus, John 13:35

5. Tell people what to do all of the time

Oh, wait…that’s just my daughter. And I’m not applying that one. 🙂
 

6 Leadership truths we can learn from Legos

4016.

That’s the number of pieces in the Lego set my son and I are building. It’s called the Death Star, and it’s even more epic than I anticipated. He saved his money for a long time to get it, and it hasn’t disappointed. Every single day, Rex asks if we can build a little more of it. So naturally, I’ve used it as the hook to “finish your homework then we can build a little.”

All 4016 pieces...with one happy boy

All 4016 pieces…with one happy boy

I love the time spent with my son, using our minds and our hands together. It’s good for his development, and for mine. It’s good for our relationship. And I’ve found that we can have meaningful discussions about the most important things in life while we’re working together…even more so than if we were to sit down and have a face-to-face talk. Boys seem to respond better talking side-by-side.

But enough about that.

Did you know that you can learn a little about leadership development* from Legos? (actually, you can learn a bit about leadership from almost every aspect of life if you look for it)

6 Leadership Development Truths Legos teach

1. They don’t build themselves. No Lego set has ever spontaneously built itself.

No person has ever built themselves either. There are no truly self-made men/women. We are all a product of the communities where we live: our city, our church, the 5 people closest to us, our small group, our hobbies, our experiences, etc.
If you want to grow in your leadership, surround yourself with people who lead like you want to lead.

2. It’s as much about the process as it is the destination. We’re having as much fun building the set as we will ever have with the set once it’s “done.”

Development happens in the doing, not simply in the “learning.” It’s as you lead that you learn to lead. Books, seminars, and Ted talks can only take you so far. I’ve heard it said that “community” is both a goal and the means of achieving the goal, of the Church. The same is true of leadership development.
Leadership development is both the goal and the means of achieving it.

3. The destination is vital. Without instructions, the Lego set is a bunch of mismatched pieces.

Knowing what you’re developing towards is important, otherwise you’re just spinning your wheels. But when you have a destination in mind, it gives you the freedom to know what to say yes to…and what to turn down. It points you in the direction you need to go. We are all lumps of clay in the hand of the potter, who makes of us something beautiful and useful, giving our daily grind purpose and meaning.
Without a destination, you’ll hit it every time.

4. Improvisation is crucial. We’ve lost so many of those pieces. And a blue 2×2 just adds character where a light gray 2×2 should be.

Leadership development is not simply a series of formulas you follow. You can’t check all of the boxes and magically be developed. The development happens as you improvise throughout life. That’s called wisdom.
Leadership is a purpose-driven art.

5. There’s a special tool for when you make mistakes. I love that Lego assumes you’ll make mistakes.

IMG_6019Our development will be fraught with mistakes. And there’s a tool we need day after day after day: grace. Grace for others. And grace for ourselves. Grace that we’re not perfect, nor will we ever be. (there’s also a proactive tool to help us make fewer mistakes: constantly learning)

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

6. It’s never done. There’s always another piece you can add to make it more awesome. And over time it breaks down, revealing more holes.

Leadership development isn’t a “thing” you put on your to-do list. It’s a process that changes throughout life, in different seasons, ups and down, highs and lows. Different seasons expose different weaknesses that invite more development.

Have the end in mind, but remember that the best leaders are always in development.

*another word for “leadership development” is discipleship. Because we’re called as followers of Jesus to be disciples, constantly learning and growing in the way we know, love, follow, and lead others to do the same.

 

Packing lunches in the dark

Every morning before the house wakes up, I make my son’s lunch. I pack it in the lunch box, fill up his water bottle, zip it away in his bag, and hang it up on the hook.

IMG_5859

He doesn’t even realize I’ve packed it. He doesn’t ask if it’s done, doesn’t check my work, and doesn’t ask what it is. No thanks, no “you’re the best, dad!” He just eats it at his appointed lunch time at school. No thoughts about why dad packed ham today instead of turkey, or why the crackers were a little stale. He just eats.

The quicker, the better, since he gets to play on the playground when he’s done.

I love that I get to do this for him.

This is a picture of God’s relationship with us. I wonder how many things God does for us that we don’t even notice. He does so much for us that we never realize, and that we don’t, or can’t, control. He causes the rain to fall and water the earth. The sun rises and falls every day. He even causes the very molecules of our bodies to hold together (Colossians 1:17).

He causes relationships to hold together (or not). Our finances to hold together (or not). He causes the earth to grow plants…which, in a way is kind of like making our lunch. 😃

Think about the thousands upon thousands of chain reactions that happened to bring you to the very spot you find yourself right now. Think of the failed ideas, the interviews you passed, the car crashes you avoided, the relationships you’ve had, the pain you’ve walked through…all leading to this moment.

When I was a child, I didn’t realize this. I’m sure my parents, or someone along the way, pointed it out to me, that God controls everything. But I didn’t pay much attention to these things…I just went on about my life.

As I’ve grown in my faith, I begin to take stock of the ways God provides for me and my family. I notice what He does day in and day out that provides safety and security. My heart shifts toward Him as I count the too-many-to-count ways He gives me more than I deserve. Even when things don’t go my way, I trust God knows what He’s doing. Seeing the goodness of God in action deepens my love for Him.

Becoming more aware of our surroundings is a sign of maturity in life. My son, who’s 8, has a greater understanding of how the world works than my 3 year old. And I’d like to think I understand more than either of my children. I’ve matured, and I’m more cognizant of the way things work. As my son gets older, I hope he begins to realize the lunch-packing I do. Not because I want credit, but because becoming aware is a sign of maturity.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Paul, Romans 8:28

Do you know what the original Greek word for “all” means?

It means “all.” In all things God’s working for our good. In all things He’s at work. He’s not sitting back wondering what’s going to happen. He’s in the very middle of everything because He’s lovingly working all things. From the big happenings in your life to the tiniest breath, God knows what He’s doing. And every moment is shaping who you are and who God intends you to become.

Time to grow up. Time to see who’s really packing our lunch.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. – 1 Corinthians 13:11-12

 

Running on empty

When I started driving at age 16, I bought a little Toyota Tercel. It was old at the time. It was a little beat up, and if you wanted to make it up a big hill you had to turn the A/C off. But I didn’t care. I was proud of that thing.

I remember one day pulling in to a gas station to get a drink. I had half of a tank of gas left, but figured that since I was there, I might as well fill up. I noticed it took longer than normal to fill up. Thinking it was just a slow pump, I went on.  A couple of weeks later, I was still at 3/4 of a tank but decided to fill up again. It took a long time again.

empty

empty

As I pulled out, the gauge jumped from full to empty to full. I pulled over to the side of the road.

I didn’t know what was going on, and I was just praying I would make it home. As I looked down at the gas gauge again, it was full. Completely.

And I was confused. Completely.

The next day, I was on empty again. But before I could pull in to the station, the needle had gone back to full.

What was happening was the mechanism that controlled the needle telling me how much gas I had in the tank was broken. So on a 10 minute drive across town, I would go from full to empty a dozen times. It was maddening. And anxiety-producing.

When I thought I was full of gas, I’d been running on empty.

Are you running on fumes?

It’s entirely possible that you’re running on fumes but you don’t know it. It’s possible you could be out of fuel but think you’ve got a full tank. Cruising around town, you’re about to have to call a tow truck.

If you’re a leader, you’re in an even greater danger of not just taking yourself out of service, but taking others with you. 

God has given us some gauges to help us know whether our spiritual tanks are full or not.

Sometimes they are broken (though more often than not, the problem is that we choose to ignore the warning signs). I’ve found that some of the best gauges are actually questions you can ask yourself.

5 ways to know you’re running on empty

1. How’s your family?
Start with this question. Because your family (or those closest to you) know you often better than you know yourself. And they’re a great indicator for you. If they’re worn out, but you don’t feel that way, your gauge might be broken. You may be physically, emotionally, and spiritually running them ragged. Check that gauge.

Our hearts deceive ourselves, and we need others to help us see what we’re blind to. Those that know us best can help. Have you ever asked them?

2. Are you growing more anxious?
The Bible says to be anxious about nothing, (Philippians 4:6-7) which is easier said than done. We can easily find ourselves anxious about everything. Finances, job security, spiritual growth, physical health, parenting issues, retirement, and tomorrow’s to-do list keep you up all night.

If you’re growing anxious, you’re running on empty.

3. Are you growing less patient?
Patience is a sign of peace. And peace is a sign of rest. And rest is a product of  intentionally sabbathing.

Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city. – Proverbs 16:32

If you find yourself with a short fuse, with patience constantly out of reach, you’re closer to *empty* than you think.

4. Are you resting well?

And I don’t just mean “are you sleeping enough,” though that may be part of it.

Are you working so hard you need the rest? And resting so well you need the work?

5. Are you feeling less fulfilled?
Fulfillment comes from doing what God created you to do. That’s based on your spiritual gifts, your heart, your abilities, your personality and experiences (HN: Class 301 at Saddleback). So your interpreting a lack of fulfillment isn’t your job’s fault. Or your marriage’s. Or your local church’s. Or your home’s. It’s a by-product of a heart that’s searching for fulfillment in the wrong places. Here’s where life’s found:

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. – The Apostle John, 1 John 5:11-12

A lack of fulfillment should signal to you that your gauge should be on empty. Time to fill  up.

Have you been running on empty and didn’t even know it?

 

 

Excessive, annoying grace

Confession:
I like coffee. And maybe (said while squinting my eyes and making the universal pinching symbol for tiny) I am a little excessive about it. Just maybe.

I have just a few different ways of brewing coffee. Here’s what I’ve got:

Chemex
Aeropress
Toddy
V60 Hario
Stove top Italian Espresso Mokka
Iced coffee brewer
Espresso machine
Manual Espresso maker
French press
Traditional brewer
Keurig

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You never know what kind of coffee you’ll need. Seriously. I may need to make lattes for guests, or a pot of clean coffee for me and…well, I’d probably just drink the whole pot of Chemex. *Confession alert.*

Or maybe it’s hot outside and an iced coffee is preferred. Or maybe we have a lot of people in the house that could care less about the taste of their coffee and I’ll get the Keurig out. 😃

Regardless, I’ll bet you look at my coffee brewing collection and say I’ve got a little too much. Too many options. You probably have just 1 way, maybe 2, of brewing your coffee at home, and can’t imagine why a person in their right mind would need more. You may even say that my collection is a bit excessive. I can see why you’d say that.

Because you don’t love coffee as much as I do.

I love drinking it. Sipping it. Gulping it. Making it. I love the art and science of making the *perfect* cup.

And I especially love serving it to others.

You may not appreciate my excessive approach, until you’ve had a cup from my house. I can guarantee you that it’ll be the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had. Ever.

Annoying obsessions

There are lots of things we see other people doing things that are excessive seem excessive and annoying to us, right? When people collect items we don’t care about, it seems odd to us. From comic books to cars. Baseball cards. Pokemon. Pogs  (remember those??). Signatures from famous people. Action figures. Barbies. Buttons. Cameras. Typewriters. Fountain pens.

And coffee equipment. It’s annoying to you. You may think, “Why would anyone need so many different ways to brew a cup of hot dirt?” But I assure you, I do. And if you enjoy coffee as much as I do, you will appreciate my collection.

Grace

Grace: noun \ˈgrās\ Unearned favor from God.

Grace is the same way. I need excessive amounts of it.  I realize the gap between who I am and who God’s created me to be. I see the mistakes I have made and continue to make. And I need grace each and every morning. I need it by the bucketfuls. I need it so much that I preach and teach on it. I tweet it. I talk about it in conversation. I need it in every different form I can get. I get it and I give it.

Without it, I’m bankrupt.

If you don’t feel like you need it, my obsession is strange. Which means I may be annoying to people. More often than not, it’s annoying to “church” people. People that “have life all figured out.” People that think it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.  Sorry, folks, I’ll take all of the “good thing” I can get.

Side note: I’m so thankful I’m not at a “churchy” church. My church is a place where it’s ok to be in process, ok to still be figuring things out. Ok to not be ok (but not ok to stay that way).

It’s impossible to abuse grace. Because it’s meant to be applied when you’re at your worst and when you think you’re at your “best.” Even our “best” is filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) So even in my best year in my best season on the best hour of the best day…I still fall woefully short. I’m still in need of grace to cover me. When perfection is in demand, I’ll choose to let someone else live it.

Grace is always needed. Never earned. Paid for already. (John 1:14-17)

To get that grace, you’ve just got to ask. (Romans 10:9-10)

If you want the favor of the King, cast all of your eggs in the basket of grace. That’s where mine are.

 

The “superhero” you

I love superhero movies. There’s something fun about getting lost in the fantasy world of capes, masks, and gargantuan fists. To see someone climb up the side of a building gets me stoked. To see someone smash the ground so hard it causes an earthquake makes me smile. And through a series of unforeseen, never-could’ve-guessed-it plot twists and turns that are completely predictable, the good guys win. I like that.

IMG_3775

Well hello Smiling Thor Captain America Hatchet Man!

It’s fantasy in all the right ways.

I’m not always looking for a drama. I like to watch movies for the escape value. Life’s hard enough, so why be reminded about it on a 20-foot HD screen with surround sound? Can I get an “amen!”?

But when it comes to real life, there’s inherent danger in wearing a mask though it might be more fun and “safer.” It’s “easier” for me to pretend like everything’s always ok in my life. It’s easier for me to wear the mask of

  • I’ve always got the answer
  • My kids are perfectly well behaved
  • I don’t struggle with “normal people” things
  • Life’s easy
  • “I’m doing great!”
  • I’m coping really well

Why we wear masks

There’s a gap between who you are and who you want to be. And this is a universal truth. As I look across my life, there is so much that I wish I could do. So many areas where I wish I was better, stronger, more articulate, and a better leader. So many areas that I wish I’d matured in.

There’s a gap between who I am and who I want to be. And I’m not alone in this.

I look at their marriage and wish mine were more like that. I look at the way they parent and realize I’m not where I need to be. I see their leadership and am quickly reminded I’m not as strong as them. I see the way they handle adversity and notice I’m not able to do what they do. I watch they way they navigate complexity and chaos and wish I were different. I see the way they speak, they write, they excel, and realize I’m not them.

My gap is wider than yours in certain areas. And narrower in others. In some areas of my life, I have a gap where you don’t. But we all have gaps. So we try to cover those with a superhero mask. Because superheroes are strong where we wish we were. Superheroes can overcome anything. And they always win.

They aren’t scared. They can take a bullet. They can fly, climb, and throw cars to save people. Everybody loves them. Kids want to dress up like them for Halloween.

Nobody’s ever wanted to dress up like me for Halloween.

4 Truths about masks

It’s easy to compare others’ strengths to our weaknesses.

When we look at others strengths, it’s easy to compare what they’re great at with what we’re weak at. And that’s not fair. God’s given you strengths so you can use them to serve others. If we were strong in everything, we may be tempted to think we don’t need God.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10

Others’ strengths aren’t your strengths. Your weakness isn’t theirs. So stop comparing.

Gaps call us to faith.

The gaps we see in life can’t be crossed on their own. And the gap between who we are and who we want to be can be an awfully large chasm that isn’t traversed overnight.

It’s hard to exercise faith when the skies are blue and we feel like we can “handle” everything. When we’re weak, unsure how and where to take the next step, we can grow in our faith.

If you look across your life and don’t see any gaps, be scared. Because your faith isn’t growing. And you’re probably looking in the wrong direction.

Exercise some faith and grow.

The world needs you. Not the you with a mask.

People are more endeared to you through your weaknesses than through your strengths. Because they have weaknesses, too! In fact, Paul the apostle says

But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

If you want to fully embrace grace, and fully embrace the power of the One that rose from the dead, take that mask off. After all, you’re not fooling anyone.

Ever tried boasting about your weaknesses?

You are deeply known AND deeply loved.

You are known by God more fully than anyone on this planet. God even knows you better than you know yourself. And as deeply and fully as you are know, you are loved.

It’s impossible to be fully loved without being fully known. But most of us walk around in fear that if we’re fully known, we won’t  be fully loved. Thankfully, that’s not the case with God. He knows our weaknesses. Our joys. Our tendencies to mess things up. He knows our past and our future. Yet still He loves us.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! – God (Isaiah 43:1)

Live in that.

 

Work for the rest

At the box where I do Crossfit, we have this concept called “work for the rest.” We do workouts occasionally that are a prescribed amount of time, with a rest, then repeat. So that would look like this:
3 minutes of burpees
1 minute of rest
3 minutes of pull-ups
1 minute of rest
3 minutes of seated row
1 minute of rest

Photo cred: me Photo spot: CrossFitReform.com

Photo cred: me
Photo spot: CrossFitReform.com

So the idea is that you’d sprint the burpees, pull-ups, and the row because you get to rest immediately afterwards and because you’ve got to sprint again. Our coaches are harping on us the whole workout saying, “Work for the rest!” In other words, work so hard that you have to take the rest. Push yourself so hard that you have to stop at the prescribed time in order to rest. Work so hard that you’re gasping for air, barely able to stand up, not-able-to-talk tired. Don’t get to the 60 seconds of rest and think, “I could’ve done a little more.” You’re getting a rest for a reason! You should need it

  • because you’re tired, and you feel like your body is ready to collapse.
  • because you’re not done, and another round is coming in 60 seconds.

Spiritual lives

There are spiritual implications to this concept, too. Our bodies were created to work. And not just any work. We were created to do significant work. Work that matters here and echoes throughout eternity. Work that serves our families. Our communities. Work that gives back. That makes the world a better place.

But we were also called to rest. Rest replenishes our bodies. Helps us refresh. Allows our life rhythms to breathe. (ultimately, the “rest” that the Bible talks about finds its fulfillment in Jesus, who calls us to “rest” from our works: we don’t have to earn our relationship with God. That’s another post for another day.) It shows our dependence on God, as we rest instead of work, acknowledging He’s the one that is in control.

Did you know that we’re commanded to rest? It’s actually one of the 10 commandments:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. – Exodus 20:8-9

 

We tend to think of disobedience as breaking the law. Doing something “bad.” But the Bible would say we’re being disobedient if we don’t rest.

The bottom line

Here’s what you need to know when it comes to work and rest.

1. Work so hard you need the rest.

Work so hard and so well that your body, soul, and spirit are gasping for air because you’ve given all you’ve got. Work so hard that you can’t go on because you need that rest. And while you’re at it, make yourself indispensable. Become a linchpin.

The Apostle Paul says this:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men – Colossians 3:23

If you knew what you were doing was “for the Lord,” as in you were receiving a direct instruction from God himself, you’d work a little bit differently. You’d put a little more oomph into those “mundane” tasks. You may show up a little earlier. Stay a little later. Put more creativity in. Share more deeply. Lead more passionately. Give more generously.

Go! Go! Go! The rest is coming. [Tweet that]

2. Rest so well you need to work.

Work well, and take the rest. Let your body, soul, and spirit recover. Find those things that help your soul replenish. For me, that means a few things:

  • No email
  • Time with family
  • Sleep
  • Reading a good book
  • Walks around the lake in my city (“active recovery”)
  • Time with Jesus (reading Scripture, praying, etc.)
  • Coffee with friends
  • Running

Through rest, God breathes life back in to me. I need it, too. I give everything I have to my work. Every ounce of my experience, abilities, passion, and life. So I need a fresh wind every single week. I need Rest. Rest gives me energy, stamina, creativity, and the ability to get back up again. It also reminds me, each and every week, that  in my rest that I show my dependence on God. I could work. Or I could trust God to do the work He’s promised He will. I remind myself that my body’s not my own. The ministry’s not my own. My family’s not my own.

And after rest, I’m ready to go back out. I strive to rest so well that I’m ready to get back at it.

Just recently, a pastor friend of mine stepped down from his leadership role because he was burned out. He’d gone so hard for so long without taking rest for his soul. The scary part for pastors like us is that if we don’t rest well, we could lose the ministry we’re striving so hard to serve. [Tweet that]

When you don’t rest, you’re not ready for what’s coming. You end up producing less, being less available, and having less capacity. You can’t give your all to what’s coming because you’re still trying to run on empty.

So rest. Rest well. Rest hard. That next 3 minute sprint is coming.

Tomorrow’s coming. That next season is coming. That next project is coming. That next ministry opportunity is coming.

Your family needs you. Your friends need you. Your community needs you. And if you’re a pastor, your church needs you.

Not the tired, burned out, rode-hard-and-hung-up-wet you. They need the fresh, Rested you.

 

7 ways to hold on to hope

Some of you are in a difficult season right now. Maybe it’s in your finances. Maybe your marriage. Maybe your health. Or maybe your job.

Hold on to hope. Or chips. Chips are good, too.

Hold on to hope. Or chips. Chips are good, too.

I’ve heard it said that you’re every person on the planet is in one of three places:

  • In the middle of a difficult season
  • Coming out of a difficult season
  • Getting ready to enter a difficult season

Hopefully you haven’t yet taken your shoes off.

What you need right now isn’t an immediate change. That may be what you want, but it’s not what is going to happen. You know that. God doesn’t just remove all things difficult when we ask Him to.

I don’t always do that for my kids. “Dad, I’m tired of cleaning my room!” doesn’t find me giving in to my kids’ request to stop. It’s good to push through what you think your capacity is. It builds character when frustration isn’t immediately resolved, and we’re required to dig deeper, hang on longer, and trust with more certainty. Paul the apostle says it like this:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:4-6

Suffering –> Endurance –> Character –> Hope

So how do you hold on to hope?

  1. Go with friends.

    • Don’t try to navigate on your own. There are no healthy followers of Jesus that are lone rangers. Going alone, you will be broken. Going with others, you can grow and prosper. The wisest man to ever live, Solomon, said this:

      And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:12

      Hope isn’t found simply through relief. It’s found when others walk through hopelessness with you. It’s found in community. Paul urges us:

      Bear one another’s burdens.” – Galatians 6:2

  2. Actively trust in the Lord.

    • This means we don’t simply wait lazily on our couches until God opens up the heavens. There’s this concept in Crossfit that we talk about called “active recovery.” It means that on your “off” days, do something that’s still active. You don’t get better by sitting on the couch. Actively trust in the Lord by doing and going, not just sitting and waiting. Be careful with your “open door theology.Hope is an action verb.
  3. Be honest.

  4. Know it’ll get better. Relief is coming!

    • It may not come when you want it to. It sure didn’t for the Israelites. They had to wait 40 years at one point. Then 70 years at another point! But relief is coming. Hold on to hope because God’s got a plan to pull you through.

      For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9

  5. Know it won’t get better.

    • “Wait, wait, wait,” you say. “You just told me that relief is coming!” And I did. But the larger reality is that we live in a fallen world where sin abounds. There is a thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Which means we should come to expect that this life will be fraught with pain and frustration. So instead of making an idol of an easy life, grow in the reality that things will never be fully “right” on this earth, but they will be in heaven. (this isn’t an invitation to fatalism, though: Jesus prayed that God’s perfect will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10))
  6. Know this will make you more like Jesus.

    • God’s not taking you through this pain because he’s sadistic. His plan is that through all things, you’d begin to look more like Jesus. We love Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” But it’s verse 29 where we find what the answer is for our situation:For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” The “good” that God wants for you is that you’d grow to look more and more like Jesus! Hold on to that hope!
  7. This can be your ministry.

    • Check this out:

      For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.” – 2 Corinthians 1:5-6

      So God comforts us in our days of hopelessness so that we could extend that same love, mercy, grace and hope to others who have no idea where to turn. In other words, God creates most impactful ministry for you out of your deepest pain. Don’t hope simply for relief. Hope for a more lasting, eternal impact.

 

Why my kids take their shoes off in the car

I have a 2 year old daughter. She’s equal parts spunk and sass. She’s a spitfire, and I am crazy about her. Even at her young age, she’s got a mind of her own. She knows what she wants, and will stop at nothing to get it.

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But she does this thing. Every time we get in the car, after I buckle her into her carseat and start the car, she takes her shoes off. Every. Single. Time.

If you know anything about putting shoes on kids, you know that this isn’t the easiest task in the world. Kids tend to be a bit squirmy. And if you know anything about the way little kids take their shoes off, you know that they don’t just place them neatly beside each other. They place/launch them into two totally different places.

So when she takes her shoes off in the car, they’re not placed on the edge of her car seat. One is under the passenger’s seat, and the other has somehow been lodged under the floor mat of the trunk. Don’t ask me how that happens.

It’s so frustrating, because every time we get out of the car, I have to go on a hunt for her shoes, then deal with her little feet that want to go any direction except towards the front of her shoes.

But I realized something just the other day that motivates her taking her shoes off.

She has no clue how far we are going.

Confession: I take my shoes off on long trips when I’m driving. It’s more comfortable that way. I can relax a little more when my shoes are off than when they’re on. The difference between me and my daughter, though, is that I know how long the trip is going to take. I don’t take my shoes off if I’m driving 5 minutes to the grocery store.

My daughter does. And that’s because she doesn’t know if the trip we’re on is across the country or across the street. If it were a trip across the country, then of course taking her shoes off would be appropriate. All she thinks is, “One time, we took this long trip, and I took my shoes off and it was great, so…”

Taking our spiritual shoes off

The same thing can be true with our spiritual lives, too. We hit difficult seasons in life. Everybody does. We hit a tough road at work, at home, with our friends, or with our families. We hit tough financial times, strained marriages, and sicknesses. Pain, frustrations, and chaos seem to hit all at the same time. I know, because I’ve been there.

In these moments, it’s easy to give up on God. Easy to “take our shoes off” because it’ more comfortable, and easy, to give up than to persevere.

We give up too soon. We quit too early. Because we don’t know when the end, the payoff, is coming.

One of my favorite verses in Scripture is Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

What a hope-filled verse. This is an easy one to quote to someone that’s living in the middle of a confusing, painful life situation.

But most people forget the verse before:

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

70 years!! The promise for the hope God has would come after 70 years of living in exile. But hope was coming.

Our question for God is, “Is this a 7 minute situation? Or a 70 year situation?” And do you know what God answers with?

“I got this.”

Maybe your “shoes” aren’t a painful time of “suffering” you’re walking through, but they’re a dream you’ve yet to see realized. You desperately want ______, and God hasn’t granted it yet.  If we knew the answer to when our suffering would be over, there would take no faith. We wouldn’t need to trust God, because we’d know with certainty when we’d get what we were wanting.

So I tell my daughter now, “Leave those shoes on. We’ve got some walking to do here in just a sec. I’ll tell you when you can take them off.”

Maybe in our car rides through life, God’s telling us the same thing. He’s got a plan, and a timing, but we’ve got to trust. He knows what He’s doing, so we need to leave our shoes on. Relief is coming, but it’s coming through an avenue we couldn’t have imagined. (Ephesians 3:19-21)

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:5-6

Relief is coming sooner than you think! It may not be exactly when you want, but it’s better than you could dream of.

What is it that you desperately want, but God hasn’t given you?

 

 

Advice for kids that works for adults

I tell my kids things all of the time. Over and over. And over and over. If there’s one thing I can say is always true about parenting, it’s that I repeat myself constantly.

If there’s one thing I can say is always true about parenting, it’s that I repeat myself constantly.

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one of those days I had to speak a lot of these words of advice to my kids…

It never, ever sticks the first time.

Being from the South, in our family we value manners. We teach our kids to say, “Yes, m’am” and “No, sir” as a way of respecting adults. I’m constantly reminding them to speak with respect. I say it so often that in a meeting just the other day, I instinctively began telling a coworker, “Did you mean to say, “Yes, sir” there?”

As I’ve said these words to my kids so many times, I’ve also found that they work for my own heart. In so many situations, I’ve seen that I need to follow the advice I give to my children. These are some of the principles that my wife and I work to drive home with our kids that translate incredibly well to adults, too.

You don’t have to like what I say, but you need to speak kindly.

Oh, how this would change the tone of a disagreement.

“Love is patient and kind…” – Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:4

You did the right thing, but you did it with the wrong attitude.

The Bible talks about this one.

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – Paul, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

All ideas are not good ideas. If anyone has told you that, they were lying. Adulthood gives us more freedom…which isn’t always a good thing. Tons of options are within your capability of going after…but don’t just chase something because you can. Maturity exercises restraint.

“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” – Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:23

We all help out around here. Even when it’s not our mess.

Teamwork makes the dream work. And if you want to endear yourself to someone, help them out with a mess they created.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Paul, Philippians 2:4

Trust me because I love you. Not because you think what I’m saying is 100% true.

I know that some of the coaching I’ve given out to my peers isn’t believed because they think it’s true. But hopefully they trust what I’m saying because it’s coming from a heart of love.

I may be upset with you. But I haven’t and won’t stop loving you.

This needs to be verbalized more often. It creates safety and security. Unconditional love is love that doesn’t require the other person meet a certain condition to be “worthy” of love. In other words, I don’t stop loving you because you messed up…my love for you isn’t conditional.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” – Jesus, John 13:34

Complaining won’t get you your way.

” Do everything without complaining and arguing…” – Paul, Philippians 2:14

Play nice. She’s your sister. She’s not going away.

If we’d learn how to work well with others, our organizations would be a lot better off.

If you want to have good friends, you’ve got to be a good friend.

Take that one to the bank.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” – Solomon, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Anything you say to your kids that translates to adults, too?

 
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