5 leadership truths I’ve learned from my children
1. Don’t root your identity in what people think
2. Have fun
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.
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
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.
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 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.”
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!]
Don’t give up and be helpless in times of trouble. – Proverbs 24:10
Without an oncoming wave. In the middle of the calm. In an open field with no breeze.
Without a wall to climb. A hill to take. Or a gate to storm.
Without a battle to fight. An onslaught to defend. A war to wage.
Without the need for tenacity. Bite. And digging in my heels.
Without a sprint. A hurdle. Or one more lap to swim.
Without naysayers. Without doubters.
Without chaos. Without a bit of confusion.
Without “but it’s too hard.” Without “but we’ve never done it like that.” Without “there’s no way.”
I rely on myself. I trust in me. I make much of Ben.
I move too quickly. I wait too long. I shuffle my feet.
I lax in prayer. I lax in study. I drop in growth.
I grow weary. Get bored. Meddle where I shouldn’t.
I doubt. Blame others. I shift responsibility.
I grow frustrated. Apathetic. Listless.
I am fidgety. Nervous. I can’t sink in my toes.
I scratch. Scrape. But my heart grows cold.
Give me a challenge and I thrive.
Give me “comfortable” and I waste away.
Am I the only one?
Confession: I don’t read all of the books that I review.
Oftentimes, I’ll get a book, read it enough to get the gist, then move on.
But I’m passionate about Crossfit. And anytime CrossFit and faith collide, I’m in.
So when I got a copy of Rich Froning’s (on Twitter HERE) book*, I read it cover-to-cover. If you have any inclination towards CrossFit, you’ll enjoy this book. Rich chronicles his rapid rise to success in the CrossFit world, sharing his story from life on the farm to back-to-back “World’s Fittest Man” titles. Reading this book is like sitting down with Rich over a cup of coffee. Or, more likely, over a protein shake after a WOD. (workout-of-the-day)
Every time I read a portion of the book, I wanted to throw it down and start working harder. Rich’s work ethic and passion are infectious.
Equally infectious is Rich’s faith.** It’s genuine, and you see it laid bare in this book as he does battle against his own pride. I found his faith refreshing, bold, and courageous.
The big question Rich wrestles with throughout the book is, “What legacy am I going to leave when I die?”
Hopefully you’re asking something similar.
For Rich, faith and fitness go hand-in-hand. I’ve found the same to be true, which is why the book resonated so well with me. When I’m disciplined with my body, I find myself more disciplined spiritually.
This is a great summer read. And a great read just in time for this year’s CrossFit Games, as Rich looks to become the three-time champion for this sport.
Pick it up right HERE.
Are you a CrossFitter?
* all amazon links are affiliate links
**If you read the book, you’ll notice that a key player in Rich’s wrestling through faith issues is a guy named Donavan Degrie. Donavan’s my coach at the box where I work out, and I can see why he played such a key role in Donavan’s faith journey.
Our imaginations are powerful machines. They have a great way of spinning possible scenarios out of control. They play into the fears that have taken root in our hearts and minds, pouring gasoline and igniting them into a raging fire.
Our imagination is great at exacerbating our fears, making them feel worse and worse, feeding what helps them grow: more fear.
But what if God had a different idea for our imaginations? What if there was a better way to use them?
Check this out:
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – the Apostle Paul, Ephesians 3:19-20
This passage speaks directly to the heart of our fears and imaginations. How?
1. The opposite of fear is love. It’s a love that’s “too great to understand fully.” Because when you’re loved, fear can make no nest. I remind my son of this all of the time when he’s afraid. He’ll call me from his room at night, when it’s dark and quiet. “Dad?? Can you come here??”
“Hey buddy. It’s okay. You’re safe. Daddy loves you so much, and I’m not going to let anything happen to you. And even more important than that, ‘God is bigger than the boogie man…'” (we sing a little Veggie Tales song together)
2. Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John reminds us that “perfect love expels all fear.” (1 John 4:18) Fear can’t make a roost where love has rooted.
3. With love comes power. Power from the loving God. Power to conquer our fears, because they don’t hold power over us anymore. Power to punch our fears right in the throat.
4. Through that power, God can accomplish more through us than we can even think. Try to think of how God could use your fear right now. Go ahead. Now ask God to do that. God’s already got something bigger planned. It’s going to blow your mind.
5. Your fear isn’t even about you. What God’s going to do isn’t even on your radar. God’s going to use it to change your future. He’s going to comfort you, and give you courage, and remind you how powerful He is…so that someone else can see and feel the love and power of God through you and your story.
God can use your fears to do amazing things, affecting your life and the lives of others. He can help you grow through them, and become all you were intended to be in Christ. But we’ve got to be creative, and use our imaginations not to constantly spin the worst-case scenario.
But to spin the best, most mind-blowing scenario possible.
And know that God can do more.
Trust God. Rebuke fear. Dream bigger.
How do I stop growing in my faith?
You’ve asked this question time and time again. In varying seasons of life. Maybe you’re asking it right now.
You’re tired of growing your faith.
Me: How many days did it take God to create everything?
Rex (my 4 year old son): 3?
Me: No, 6.
Rex: Oh. That’s a lot of days.
See, my son fully believed that the God he’s been learning about could’ve made everything in 3 days. That God was big enough and powerful enough and quick enough to make everything his eyes have ever come in contact with…in just 3 days. Why would He need 6? Why would it take Him a whole 6 days to make the earth, the animals, the trees, and the water?
He’s so awesome, He could do it in 3 if He wanted.
I’m so encouraged by Rex’s faith. He believes that God is bigger than even I say He is.
About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. – Matthew 18:1-4
Our faith, the faith of a rational, college-educated, enlightened adult is much less, isn’t it? It’s not quite as quick to believe. Not quite as quick to take that step of faith. A little more sluggish to accept the unacceptable, and grasp the miracles.
We’re a little slower than our kids are.
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – Ephesians 3:19-20
Faith is believing in what we can’t see. It’s trusting God for what He’s promised rather than what we’ve seen come true.
God can change your marriage. God can use you. God can use her. He can forgive you. He can use your addiction, and the victory you’re going to enjoy, to serve others.
It’s time you stopped believing lies. Stop believing the haters in your life. Stop listening to the voices that beat you up.
Start trusting in the promises given to you in the Bible. Start trusting in the One who loves you on your worst days. (Romans 5:6) Start believing the One who wants to give you life. (John 10:10) Star believing the One who loved you first. (1 John 4:19)
I try not to check my distance too often while I jog, because running is often as much in my head as it is in my feet. I tell my legs what to do…they don’t tell me.
On this particular day, however, I was listening to a podcast, not paying attention at all to how far I’d gone. Turns out I hadn’t even made it out of the neighborhood on my trek to 7 miles.
As I glanced down to see my distance, I realized where I was.
I was at the most depressing part of a jog. The part where I realized I’d just left the house, but I still had a long, long ways to go. I was at the point where you look down to see how far you’ve gone, only to realize that on your ensuing 7 mile jog, you’ve only traveled .5 mile.
The rest of the jog, which took nearly an hour, felt like it took 4 days. Every hill was tougher. Every burst of sun more blinding. Every corner with shade was too chilly. Every puddle deeper.
It was depressing. I felt unproductive. I felt like the journey ahead was too far to go. I felt like I’d never make it.
Which is why it’s never good to measure success on the first half-mile.
Don’t measure the success of your recovery from addiction on the 2nd week, when you feel like you might break.
Don’t measure the success of your small group on the 3rd meeting, when the group still hasn’t gelled.
Don’t measure the success of your new idea on the first person you pitch it to, who tells you it’s dumb.
Don’t measure the success of your spiritual goals at week 4, when you’re still struggling with wanting to want God.
Don’t measure the success of your marriage in month 3 during a fight, when you’re tempted to walk away from it all.
Don’t measure the success of the church you’re visiting on the first visit, when you were frustrated.
Don’t measure the success of your career on your first job, which you struggled to find any satisfaction in.
Success isn’t measure .5 mile from the starting line.
Success is measured at the end of the race.
Whatever race you’re running right now, keep fighting. Keep running. Keep clawing. And don’t give up.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. – Paul, 2 Timothy 4:7
“This is your house. You’ve got the floor to pray if you want.” I whispered to my friend as we gathered together in his kitchen, people spilling into the dining room, stirring prior to small group. Lots of people showed up that night, eager to engage in each others’ lives, catch up on the week, and dig into the homemade meatball subs simmering on the stove top.
Facial expressions speak much louder than words. Unless, of course, you are screaming into a megaphone, in which case those words speak louder than your facial expressions. But in most instances in life, knee-jerk facial expressions speak what’s on your heart loudly. In this moment, I knew I’d inadvertently put my friend in an awkward spot.
“Umm…ok. Let’s do this” he whispered back, shrugging his shoulders to shake off that nervous feeling of inadequacy and I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing.
He positioned himself so that the full group could see and hear him, and began to tie the laces of the new “spiritual leader” shoes he was taking for a spin around the block. “Well, guys, welcome to our home,” he squeezed through a forced smile. “We’re glad you’re here” he said as he communicated genuineness, making eye contact with everyone looking up. “I’ve never done this before…well, out loud, anyway…but let’s pray.”
He prayed the most simple, God-honoring, easy-going, authentic prayer I may have ever heard.
There was nothing profound about his prayer. Nothing particularly to note from an outsider’s perspective.
But knowing the internal battle of his heart, combined with the fact that he’d never taken the spiritual lead publicly like this before, it was beautiful. I believe this step of faith he took into unknown (for him) territory has set his family on a pathway to spiritual growth like he’s never known. Though the prayer may not have sounded radical to you, it was a risky, wall-shattering step towards Jesus.
It was our small group that got him ready for this. And I know how we did it.
There’s a way to structure prayer time that encourages prayer. And there’s a way to structure prayer time that encourages people to think you’re amazing and eloquent. One way honors God. One way honors you and your flowery vocabulary.
The more you use theologically technical, complicated words when you pray out loud, the more you’ll encourage people to shut down during prayer time. Why?
Because they don’t have that vocabulary.
At some level, praying out loud is like public speaking. Glossophobia (fear of public speaking) strikes 3/4 people, and we as a culture are deathly afraid of speaking in public. Maybe it’s a twisted form of pride that we need to work through, but the truth remains: speaking publicly strikes a fear into most people’s heart. Combine that with the fact that people don’t know the words you’re using, they’re afraid to appear “immature” spiritually in front of other people. They don’t know what to say, and it’s easy to shut people down during group prayer time through the words you use.
You, the leader, can lead group members to take radical steps of faith by the way you pray out loud. Pray simply. Pray as if you’re talking to a friend…because you are, right? God’s not impressed by your theologically charged language. He wants your heart, not your words that seek to impress hearers. In fact, when you use words that don’t encourage others to unite with you in prayer, you sound a lot like the hypocrite from Matthew 6. You’ve gotten your reward already, and the reward isn’t that God heard you.
Want to encourage others to begin praying?
Pray simply. Use normal language. And keep your prayers short. Pray for a specific request, thank God that He showed up, and move on.
It’s in that process of simplicity that group members begin to think, “This prayer thing…it’s not so hard. Maybe I can try talking to God, too.”
Last time I checked, talking to God for the first time is a radical, beautiful step of faith.