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The most important, yet thankless, job in the world

I had a little time off for the holidays. Oh, how nice it was. I mean, I love my job. I absolutely love it.

But being with my family for an extended amount of time? That’s hard to beat.

I built countless Lego sets with my son. TV binged with my wife. Changed…oh so many…poopy diapers. Took scooter rides around the neighborhood. Slept in. Stayed up late. Put together toys for Christmas morning. Read through, and colored through, the Advent. Worshipped with my family. And at the end of the day, I rested. I Sabbathed. And I needed it as much as the rest of my family.

I need to let you in on a little secret, though.

Tending to our home, and our 2 kids, was no small feat.

Yes, my wife was there. The whole time. But I tried to take a load off of her plate as much as I could. I changed every dirty diaper. Tended to every tear. Made peanut butter sandwiches. Disciplined the whines. Hugged the “injuries.” Cleaned the kitchen. Vacuumed the rug. Made the bed. And did whatever it took to give my wife a little break.

And through this, my respect level for my wife has gone through the roof.

The day-to-day operations of raising children, keeping the house straight, making meals, and keeping your sanity is more difficult than you could imagine, especially if you’ve never done it before. Or if you imagined it was a fairly easy job.

As soon as one kid is fed, the other needs help. Then the other is crying. Then you’re having someone over for dinner, so the house needs to be straightened up. And dinner needs to be started. And…oh wait, dirty diaper again.

If you’ve ever said thought that stay-at-home moms have it easier than working dads, I’m calling you out. Right here, right now.

Moms have the most difficult, rewarding, exhausting, frustrating, chaotic, never-finished, messy, no-book-can-tell-you-what-to-do, thankless, joy-inducing, tear-stained, God-ordained, grace-filled job in the world.

A mom’s thankless work is never done. [Tweet that]

To think otherwise is to think too little of the work that moms do. To think otherwise is to downplay a task you either

1. Have never done.

2. Are terrible at.

To be an excellent mom takes your heart, mind, and body. It takes Jesus working in you and through you to sustain you. And to keep you from losing it each and every moment of the day, which is a very real and present option. I felt myself teetering on the brink of going crazy many times.

Motherhood is a calling. In my opinion, it’s one of the most difficult.

Thank you, Laura Reed. I love you even more.

To my mom, for putting up with my brother and me…you’ve got crowns upon crowns in heaven coming your way.

To all moms: don’t give up on your children. They need your grace, love, correction, hope, hugs, and cookies, because sometimes only a freshly-baked batch of cookies will do the trick. [Tweet that] I know this first hand.

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life … Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. – Proverbs 31:10-12; 25-30

 

Why every married person should be required to get their spouse a Christmas gift

If you’re married, do you get your spouse a gift?

Or do you forego the gift? Because, after all, you don’t really need anything, right? Or…well…this is a time to get other people gifts. Or…our budget just won’t allow it.

Is it really that important to get your spouse a gift? Or can we just skip it and focus on others? Do we really need to focus so inwardly?

Yes. Yes, you do.

If you’re married, you better get your spouse a gift for Christmas. [Tweet that]

I remember in premarital counseling, my pastor told me something about my then-fiance, now-wife. It was over a decade ago that he spoke the words, but I’ll never forget them.

Your spouse is God’s gift to you. They are your treasure. Treat them like they are. – R. Sing Oldham

If something is my treasure, I’m going to do whatever it takes to find, and keep, my treasure. I’m going to guard it. I’m going to protect it. I’m going to go out of my way to value it because it’s valuable! At the end of the day, I’m going to…treasure it.

One thing that I tell couples when I counsel is that a key to remaining happily married is to continue to date your spouse. Look for moments to steal away. Snag a kiss. Go out of your way to make the mundane special. Go on dates. Do little things to show them you love them. Do big things. Do tiny things. Do medium-sized things. But whatever you do, continue to date them. Continue to get to know them. Spend your life getting to know, and love, your spouse increasingly.

I got gifts for Laura when I dated her. I wanted her to know just how much I loved her. Just how much I treasured her. I wanted her to know how special she was to me. I wanted to impress her with the gifts I got. I wanted her to know I knew her well, and that I understood what made her tick and what she valued.

Just because we’re married now doesn’t mean I should want to impress her less. Yes, we’re committed. She’s not going anywhere and neither am I. But if I really love her, I ought to go out of my way to show her.

I ought to get creative. Think out of the box. Listen to her when she says what she likes and what she thinks looks good to her.

Sure, my wife may not “need” anything. She may not even say she “wants” anything. But it would make no sense for me to go shopping for hours, stretching my brain and my budget, to buy stuff for others without buying something for the one I love the most on this earth.

You’d better get your spouse a Christmas gift before you run out of money and ideas. [Tweet that]

I’m not saying you have to get something expensive. Not at all! It has very little to do with a dollar amount, and everything to do with your heart, your motivation, and how well you’ve listened and know your spouse.

Gifts that show you’ve listened well are more valuable than expensive ones. [Tweet that]

And those you love the most should get the best, most thoughtful gifts of all.

What do you think?

 

Preschoolers’ version of Christmas

How do preschoolers tell the Christmas story?

My church sat down with some recently.

I think you’ll enjoy their…retelling.

A Kids’ History of Christmas from Long Hollow Creative on Vimeo.

 

Jesus’ family is more dysfunctional than yours (sermon)

We tend to romanticize Christmas with songs like “Silent Night” and our “perfect” little Nativity scenes. But the reality is that Christmas is messy. Jesus came from the mess into the mess to offer us hope.

This is a sermon I preached recently at Grace Community Church.

Hopeless to Hopeful – “hope Series” from Gcomchurch Sermons on Vimeo.

 

A Christmas to Remember

I’ll bet you need a good laugh today.

Watch this video, then pick up Dave Barnes’ new Christmas album.

You can thank me later.

 

 

Success hinges on ‘insignificant’ details

On our way home from a long trip the other day, my son asked if he could “watch the map” on my phone and help tell us how to get home. Since I knew the way, I obliged. He feels like a big boy when he can tell me which direction I need to turn.

Or…maybe he likes telling me what to do.

Either way, he enjoys it, and on a long trip, having him occupied is a fine thing.

When I hear the GPS lady barking orders, I’ll ask Rex, “What did she say? Left? Right? How many more miles?” Most of the time, he gets it right. He repeats whatever she says. It’s kind of fun.

As we were coming to a fork in the interstate, I heard her say something, but I couldn’t quite make it out. So I asked Rex for clarification.

“Which direction did she say, buddy?”

“In 2 miles ahead on Interstate 24 go left…or right.”

“Which one was it?”

“2 miles.”

“No, which direction?”

“Interstate 24.”

“No, buddy. Left or right?”

“Yep. Left or right.”

That little detail would make the difference in us getting home. Or getting to another state. In his mind, “left or right” was adequate. But more work needed to be done. That distinction made all of the difference in the world, even though every other part of what he said was right on point.

Your idea

You’ve got inside of you an idea that will shatter expectations and hopes. That will set your organization, your church, your small group, your family, your team, or your non-profit absolutely to the next level of success.

But there’s one pesky little detail that you’re overlooking. One thing that will derail success. One tiny pebble on your track that needs to be moved before you can go forward.

  • Maybe it’s a hint of pride in your own heart.
  • Maybe it’s someone that needs to be clued in to the change that’s about to go down.
  • Maybe it’s a scheduling detail that you need to work through.
  • Maybe it’s a board member that needs to…
  • Maybe it’s a timing issue you need to revisit.
  • Maybe it’s a conversation you need to make.
  • Maybe it’s a phone call you need to follow up with.
  • Maybe it’s an agenda that needs to be tweaked.
  • Maybe you need to share ownership.
  • Maybe you need to change direction mid-stream.

What detail do you need to shore up?

The success or failure of your idea may very well depend on your combing over things one more time.

Details matter.

Measure twice. Cut once.

If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13

 

A tale of 2 pastors

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity… – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

I rode in the front seat while he leaned forward in the back of a cab one night in Dallas on our way back to the hotel. We were speaking at a conference together. I was leading a tiny breakout. He was a main-stage ‘rock star’ preacher.

As we talked, he expressed a genuine interest in the ministry I was a part of. About my family. He was concerned for what concerned me. Genuinely interested in being a small part of the solution. Genuinely interested in encouraging me. In listening, learning, and growing.

Someone at some point in some city at some conference told him he was awesome. Gifted. That he was a once-in-a-generation leader. In that moment, and in a thousand moments since, he reminded himself of his utter dependency on God.

__________________________________

Passing him in the hallway of the church he led, I stole a moment to say hey, and build a relationship.

He was insistent that I know how many speaking gigs he had coming up. About his blog. His book. His endorsers. His mentors. The mega churches he has influenced. The conferences he’s led. The people he’s gathered. The miles he’s traveled. The way I could help him.

Someone at some point in some city at some conference told him he was awesome. Gifted. That he was a once-in-a-generation leader. In that moment, and in a thousand moments since, he reminded himself…that they were right.

Which one do you want to be?

 

My take on writing

StartingSmall_Cover

I love writing. I do.

I love crafting words to give structure to thought.

I love painting a beautiful picture out of a seemingly mundane moment.

I love capturing the essence of a season with a phrase.

But writing a book is more than “the love of writing.”

It’s hard work. And finishing the book is only the beginning of the process.

For over a month, every day I’d get up  at 5:00 a.m. and write. And write. And write. My goal was 1000 words, every day. Most days, I came up with 1000 words of pure garbage. Throw it in the trash. Control-A, Control-X. And move on.

Because tomorrow was coming. And so were 1000 more words. And I didn’t have time for terrible words.

Most days, some of those words would stick.

Every once in a while, all 1000 would.

Then comes the marketing. The “how in the world do I get this message to the world” thoughts flood your head. And just when you think the heavy lifting is done, you realize that nobody will have a clue that you’ve written a book unless you tell them.

Simultaneously you realize that when you tell them, there’s the real chance you’ll come across as a jerky self-promoting sleaze bag who is only in it for himself. Which has never, ever, ever been my heart.

My friend John Morgan has been a great source of encouragement to me in this process. He’s helped me navigate the sleazy waters of self-marketing in a way that, I believe remains true to me. And maintains some sense of dignity.

So here goes nothing. Book #1 is in the books.

You can check out the full “press” release HERE. Or buy it below.

buy4._V192207739_

 

*all links affiliate links

 

 

Be careful you’re not blinded by your tears

We have a newborn. And though I love her, you don’t hear a ton about how tough the first few weeks are. Maybe it’s because we parents don’t want to scare non-parents off. Maybe it’s because we just don’t want to complain. Or maybe it’s because we don’t really know what’s going on those first few weeks because we’re walking around in a fog of sleeplessness.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.38.44 PM

Our baby is really a good baby. She’s not all that difficult. She cries, but it’s at appropriate times. And I can tell the difference in her cries. There’s the

  • I’m wet
  • I’m dirty
  • I’m tired
  • The sun is in my eyes
  • I just spit my pacifier out and I can’t find it
  • You just sat down to eat, so…
  • You just dozed off, so…

And then the best one is

  • I’m hungry…and I don’t ever think you’ll feed me again!

With this one, there’s a desperation that you don’t hear with the other cries. It comes from somewhere deep in her gut. You can sense the fear and pain and utter helplessness. It’s sad, really. It would break your heart, too. I’m certain of it.

And this happens before each and every feeding.

Even though there’s never been once that we’ve not fed her. Not once that we’ve looked at her crying and said, “I think we’ll just let you cry this one out.” Or, “You’re not that hungry.” Or, “Quit faking it.” Or, “You can wait until we’re done doing ____.”

We feed her every single time. There’s never been once we’ve skipped that portion of parenting.

Yet she screams as if we’re not going to feed her. She quickly forgets our love.

Don’t we act like that with God?

When things begin to go awry, we start to cry.

When things get difficult, we wonder, “Where’s God in this?!?”

When things aren’t going our way, we feel like it’s all over.

When plans change. When timings slow. When promotions don’t come. When the car breaks down…again. When it seems like, from our vantage point, God’s left us all alone, and our cries aren’t heard, we cry and cry and cry. Tears turn to desperation, and we believe that God’s done with us. That He doesn’t care. That He can’t do anything about this. And even if He could, He wouldn’t want to.

But we forget that God’s gone with us. He’s never left or forsaken us. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

We forget that God’s near to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18)

He’s never not provided exactly what we need. He’s never stopped being a Father to us. He’s never left His throne. His love’s never failed. (Psalm 136:1)

We feel like He’s far away, but He’s right there beside us. We just can’t see Him because we’re blinded by our pain. And we’ve chosen to listen to our ever-shifting fears and struggles rather than our never-changing Father.

May we never be so blinded by our pain that we can’t see the food God’s put right in front of us. Let’s open our eyes see God working.

 

The slow, regressive progress of change

change-flickr-david-reece

image credit: grist.org

Growing up, I played sports a lot, but golf was the game that stuck. On the other side of being able to regularly play competitive sports because of “life,” golf continues to be a sport I’m able to play, and not embarrass myself.

While playing competitively, I took lessons from a handful of coaches over the years, each of whom had their strengths, and taught me a different aspect of the game.

But one thing was constant with each coach and each lesson I took.

After changing my swing, even just a little bit, I always got worse.

Always.

There was never once where my coach would shift my grip, or adjust my posture, or shorten my backswing, where I would go out the next day and fire the round of my life.

Not. Even. Once.

I’d hit one or two good shots. And 75 bad ones.

Then the next round I’d hit 3 or 4 good shots.

Followed by another coaching lesson change.

Followed by a mere 1 or 2 good shots.

Over time, those 75 bad shots became less bad. And the 1 or 2 good shots became 8 or 10.

The positive effects of a swing change were never instantly felt. Even though I was making changes for the better.

Some times, when things got tough and I didn’t want to keep fighting through the difficult change, I’d revert back to old habits. In the heat of the moment, it made things easier. But never did it help in the long run.

If I went back to old habits, it would feel good, but I was no better off.

Organizational change

Organizational change is no different. It’s just on a larger scale. With more zeros on the end.

You know the changes that need to be made in your organization. Changes that will help move things forward. Changes that will open the door for new growth. Changes that will get the right people on your team.

Changes that will help position you for a bigger community impact. Changes that will lead you into the next phase of development.

But when you try to implement those changes, your organization will take a couple of steps backwards before it take steps forward.

My context for organizational change is the local church. Maybe yours is the non-profit board you sit on. Or the company you work for. Or the small group you lead. Or the running club you’ve joined.

When the change process begins, there’s a tension that exists between what “was” and what “could be.”

What “was” represents what

  • isn’t that bad 
  • isn’t completely broken
  • is “safe”
  • is comfortable
  • is known
  • is controllable

What “could be” represents what

  • is difficult
  • is painful
  • doesn’t instantly make you feel good
  • causes us to swallow our pride
  • stretches us
  • isn’t controllable
  • could fail
  • is unknown

But you know what change needs to happen. You see things differently. You see a preferred future, with more growth, more impact, more products (or ideas, depending on your industry), and more lives changed. That’s why you’re there!

Quit complaining about things being tough! Without difficulties, there’d be no need for leadership. And you’d be out of a job. [Tweet that!]

Don’t let the regressive, two-step backwards process of change keep you from moving forward. Going back to old habits, to what feels comfortable and easy and well-worn, isn’t what’s good for you and your organization. Even though it’s more comfortable at the time.

Aim for what could be, and don’t stop until you get there. [Tweet that!]

Even if you get burned. Even if you fail. Even if it’s difficult. And trust me…it will be.

If you give up on the first few steps backwards, you’ll never realize the growth that change can bring. [Tweet that!]

I’m rooting for ya.

 

Don’t give up and be helpless in times of trouble. – Proverbs 24:10

 
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