The slow, regressive progress of change

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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

 

Comfort is the opposite of faith

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image credit: Creation Swap user Shane Cappelle

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.”

Without faith.

 

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.

I wither.

 

Give me a challenge and I thrive.

Give me “comfortable” and I waste away.

 

Am I the only one?

 

 

Rich Froning’s book – a review

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.

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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.

Question:

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.

 

Fear & our crazy imagination

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image credit: CreationSwap user Dave Shrein

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.

  • Your husband is running 5 minutes late on his way home from work…and your imagination thinks he’s abandoned your family.
  • Your meeting with your boss is unexpectedly cancelled…and your imagination thinks it’s because you’re being let go, and probably going to be thrown in jail.
  • You’ve been asked to speak publicly…and your imagination thinks you’ll be booed, or worse, laughed off stage.
  • You’ve got an interview coming up…and your imagination thinks they’ll not only not hire you, but they’ll fire you from your current job.
  • You’ve got a test coming up…and your imagination thinks you’ll fail it, and concurrently life will fall apart.
  • You slip up with your addiction…and your imagination thinks God hates you now.
  • You’re working on your dream…and your imagination thinks you’ll never finish it, but that it’ll be your demise.

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?

5 Truths about Fear and Imagination

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?

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.

  • Tired of getting closer to God. 
  • Tired of God calling you to do big things. 
  • Tired of feeling like your gifts are being well-spent. 
  • Tired of pouring yourself out. 
  • Tired of feeling like you don’t know exactly what God’s going to ask you to do.
  • Tired of God using you to minister hope and grace and truth.
I mean, seriously, it’s time to quit growing. Time to get control back over your life. Time for things to calm down, and for you to get a handle on where things are going. Am I right?
If you’re with me on this, and you’re ready for your faith to grow stagnant, stinking the place up like a mosquito-infested pond in June, then try this one thing on for size. It’s easy, really. If you’re tired of your faith growing, all you have to do is

Play it safe.

  • Don’t be generous with your resources. That’s risky, and takes faith. 
  • Don’t be generous with the grace you give others. You will probably get burned.
  • Don’t join a small group. You could be asked to be vulnerable. And you could be stretched. That’s no way to live.
  • Don’t read your Bible and act on it. Just stick to reading it. Much safer.
  • Don’t invite your neighbors to church with you. Stay in your comfort zone.
  • Don’t go on a mission trip. That’s crazy talk. 
  • Don’t go serve the homeless in your city. You might get dirty.
  • Don’t tithe. Planned giving? We’re going for minimal risk here. Come on.
  • Don’t maintain close relationships with people. People are too messy and difficult.
  • Don’t build relationships with people outside of the faith. If someone doesn’t trust Jesus, give ‘em a tract and move on. If you try to stick around and love them, you’re being dangerous.
  • Don’t worship with other believers. Just quit going to church. They ask you to do things like ‘participate in worship.’ Not safe at all.
  • Don’t do anything difficult. When things get tough, run the other way. That’ll *stick it* to your faith.
Just minimize the risk in everything you do. That way you keep things safe, easy, and manageable.
And watch your faith shrivel right up.
Anybody with me?
 

Stupid, Crazy Faith

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CreationSwap user Thomas Roberts

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

The faith of an adult

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.

We struggle to believe

  • God can save our marriage
  • God can really change our dad’s heart
  • We will ever have a good relationship with our kids
  • We will ever be where we need to be spiritually
  • We can ever beat this addiction
  • She could ever forgive me
  • Our daughter could ever love me
  • Our life could ever count for something
  • God could actually be in control of our crazy lives
  • God could ever use him to minister Truth and Grace.
  • God could ever use me.
We rationalize our way out of miracles. We look for what we can see, touch, taste, feel…and base our belief on that. Rather than on the unchanging truth of who God has claimed to be, and what He has promised to us.

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)

Start having the faith of a child, instead of the faith of an adult.

 

 

 

Keep fighting

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image credit: iStock Photo user amygdala_imagery

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

 

 

How to encourage Radically simple, beautiful prayer

“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.

image credit: CreationSwap user Stacey Lewis

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.

The leader sets the tone

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.

 

 

 

The #1 way to fight insecurity

Moses is one of my favorite heroes in the Bible. Partly because of the danger surrounding the time of his birth. Partly because he was an amazing leader. Partly because he got to part an entire sea.

 

The Delivery of Israel & the Red Sea, 1825, Francis Danby

But mainly because I love how real Moses appears. You get to see Moses’ humanity throughout his story. The fact that he’s weak, doubts his call, and still messes up gives me loads of hope that God could use me despite my weaknesses, doubts, and failures.

God called Moses to lead the oppressed Israelites to freedom from their bondage to Egypt, and Moses doubted whether this would work. After all, he was just Moses. And Pharaoh was the most powerful man in the world.

In Exodus 4, so God could prove to Moses that He is who He says He is, God asks Moses to throw his shepherd’s staff on the ground. When he does, it turns into a snake. He then asks Moses to pick it up by the tail. Not the head. The tail. (For the record, I have some level of faith…but if you ask me to pick up a snake by the tail, I’m out. Call someone else.)

Moses picks it up, then God tells him to put his hand into his cloak. When Moses pulls his hand out, it’s leprous. God instructs Moses to put his hand back in his cloak, and when Moses pulls it out, his hand has returned to normal.

Cool story, no? Crazy miracles, no? Moses had seen two miracles, right before his eyes, but still responded with this:

“O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” – Exodus 4:10

Sticks turning to snakes. Hands being turned all crazy. And Moses still doubted? Doubted that God could use his bumbling mouth to lead a people to freedom? Doubted that God could do what He said He’d do? Doubted God would come through for him?

Yep. Moses listened to the voice of insecurity.

Because Moses thought he was still operating in his own power.

Insecurity does a great job highlighting weaknesses and isolating you from Truth. Moses was weak, and on his own, he would surely fail. Before the most powerful man in the world, Moses would just curl up into the corner and cry, being constantly reminded of how weak and “unusable” he was.

Good thing for Moses, though, he wasn’t going alone. He was simply a mouthpiece for the living God.

We are Moses

We’re no different than Moses.

We see miracles all around us. We see God healing people (often through medicine). We see God reconciling marriages. We see addictions broken. Hearts far from God turning back to Him. Sons returning home. Fathers owning their responsibilities. Mothers selflessly giving of themselves. Walls coming down.

We even see God using us to bring about change in others. We see God working miracles in our own lives.

Great miracles.

But we doubt. We wonder how God could ever use us. Just like Moses did. We feed our insecurities and doubts, relying on our own strengths. We remind ourselves that we’re

  • weak
  • scared
  • busy
  • tired
  • funny looking
  • dumb
  • failure
  • wounded
  • ugly
  • hopeless
  • addicted
  • lazy
  • bitter
  • worn out
  • shameful
  • too messy
  • still in process

So how could God ever use us?

Because God says to you:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

It’s not about your strength and your gifts and your ability to lead. It’s about you trusting God to do what only He can do.

Your insecurities are a chance for God to show off through you. To remind you that it’s not about you.

Ready to fight doubt? Ready to defeat insecurity?

Take a step of risky faith.

And listen to the voice of God, not men.

 

 

Quit planning. Start doing.

Carrying around a megaphone doesn’t legitimize your message.

image credit: Flickr user Hazzat

It just makes your message louder.

Just like talking about your dreams doesn’t mean you’ve taken any real action to accomplishing them.

It just makes your dreams more widely distributed.

We love to talk about our plans and goals and dreams. Sharing your dreams is a great way to keep a conversation going, and make us seem like we’re the forward-thinking, out-of-the-box type.

But just like the guy who writes a blog about how to write a blog about blogging is great at spinning his wheels but creating no real movement, so too are our wheels spinning.

We go in circles trying to justify our inaction.

9 times out of 10, our inaction is driven by our fear.

Faith takes risks, trusting God to truly be a God who loves to do the impossible. You’ll never fully understand God’s power until you have the faith to believe, pray, and act on the fact that our God is a God who loves to do the impossible. (Re: Ephesians 3:20-21)

You can’t experience God’s power if you trust Him with what you, in your power alone, can do. Faith requires risk. Risk to trust God. Risk to fight your fear. Risk to believe and act in confidence that God is who He says He is and does what He says he’ll do.

Instead of writing about marriage, take your wife on a date.

Instead of taking about reaching out to your neighbor, do it.

Instead of leading others to be generous, do it yourself.

Instead of telling others about your dream, start living it.

Don’t write. Do.

Don’t speak. Be.

Don’t dream. Act.