Tag: gifts

5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from a Torn Quad

Recently while working out at CrossFit, I ripped my quad.

It hurt about as much as you’d expect ripping a quadriceps muscle would hurt. Unless, of course, you thought it wouldn’t hurt at all. In which case…it hurt much more than that.

image via: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crossfitpulse/

I was doing a kip-up, a martial arts-style move where you “jump” from your back all of the way on to your feet. I made it to my feet, and in that moment, all of the energy transferred to my already-weakened quads, and I instantly felt the pain shoot through my legs.

I sat down for a minute, trying my hardest not to throw up. And trying to act like I was ok. One of the trainers came over to check on me. “You’re probably just tight…and when I’m tight, I just take my fist and pound down my leg like this…” at which point he punched me in my leg. I crumpled to the ground like a man with a torn quad would if punched in said torn quad.

It’s taken me a week to get back to the gym. I’m not nearly at 100%…just close nough to fake my way around.

In the process, I learned a lot about life and leadership.

5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from an Injury

1. Stretching is vital.

If I’d stretched a bit more, I may have prevented my injury. Or at the very least, stretching would’ve reminded me that my quad was still weak.

In leadership: Before major decisions, take a moment to breathe. Before you blow up on a co-worker, stop and check your heart. Before you move forward, take a moment to look back. Before you start your day, spend a few moments in prayer. It’ll remind you who you are, where you’re headed, and that you’ve got a loving Father who wants to guide and shape you every step of the way.

2. Know your limits.

Apparently, kip-ups are above my pay grade. For now. 🙂

In leadership: “Knowing your limits” means understanding your gifts and your weaknesses. And learning, when you’re weak, to surround yourself with others who are gifted. Don’t be prideful. Know your limits. And know that you don’t have every gift necessary.

3. Sometimes, you just have to slow down.

When I was injured, I couldn’t go to the gym. Well, I could’ve gone, but it wouldn’t have done any good. I would’ve had to sit out the majority of the workouts.

In leadership: Organizational life can move at a fast pace, and if you don’t intentionally slow down, remind yourself of what matters most, doing what only you can do, and resting, you’ll burn out. God created the Sabbath because we need it. Which is also why, I believe, He created the hammock. Sabbathing should be a part of your weekly workflow. It’s vital, whether you’re “injured,” or just want to prevent “injuries.”

4. Allow others to help you.

I had to ask for help while I was injured. I needed help across the gym floor. At home, I needed help getting ice packs ready and, at times, just doing normal activities.

In leadership: To try to lead alone is foolish. God has hard-wired us to need others. He’s created us to be dependent on Him…and dependent on other people. Don’t forsake the gift that significant relationships play in your life. Alone, you’re prone to giving up, prone to always thinking you’re right, and only have 1 life experience to draw from. Together, you collaborate, refine processes, and draw from multiple life experiences.

5. Healing takes time.

It’s taken me a week to get back to the gym. It’ll probably take me a month or more before I’m back to pushing myself.

In leadership: When you’ve been injured, whether by relationships, broken dreams, or your own bad choices, it takes time to heal. The same is true for those you’re leading. Don’t expect that you, or anyone else, can recover immediately. It might be awkward, but ask for help! Surround yourself with people who know and love you best. You might not like mine, but find a small group. And pursue active healing.


Ever torn a muscle?



Authentic community and stinging honesty

Confession 1: I’m not a huge fan of American Idol.

Confession 2: I kind of like the first few weeks of auditions.

It’s probably completely the sinful side of me that enjoys those awful auditions that make our ears bleed. Oftentimes though, I’ll watch the first few weeks of a season then check out once the competition officially begin.

I watch as people who think they can sing like an angel crash and burn in front of 3 judges and millions of TV viewers. As the hour progresses, I’m struck by a strange combination of emotions, wanting to laugh, cry, and scream at my TV all at the same time.

The whole time I’m wondering why so many of these people’s friends told them that they were good. You know that they didn’t arrive at this conclusion all by themselves. Someone else must have told them, “Umm…yeah, that’s good. You should try out for American Idol!” Or, “You’ll really go somewhere with that voice.” Or, “Yes, you are a superstar!”

I began to wonder if we try to do similar things in “community,” encouraging people where they’re not gifted. Praising people when they don’t need to be praised.

Dishonest community

In the short-run, it’s easier to choose a ‘white lie” and preserve the peace than to find a way to lovingly speak the truth.

  • If I think I have the gift of teaching, but I’m awful at teaching, don’t tell me I’m good. If I didn’t do a good job, don’t tell me, “That’s the best sermon I’ve ever heard!” Be honest! It’ll sting in the short run, but like momma always said, “Honesty’s always the best policy.”
  • If I think I have the gift of hospitality, but I’m a jerk when I’m hosting people in my home, don’t let me keep thinking I’m doing a great job. Authentic community is honest.
  • If I think I’m a good writer, but my writing stinks, it would be unloving of you to tell me that it’s wonderful. And ultimately, if I think my writing is good, and I don’t work on it, in the long run I’ll never try to improve. And what I think I’m a superstar at will make me look foolish. I would bear the responsibility for that, but those along the way who were not honest with me would bear the load, too.

Authentic community is others-focused, not just you-focused.

Helping people understand their gifts is vital to the success of any leader. But don’t lead them to believe they’re awesome in something that they’re not. Speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) to those you participate in community with is a difficult thing to do. But it’s incredibly honoring as you seek to help someone improve a gift they’re using. Your words are setting them on a path to utilizing their gifts, not just embarrassing themselves with it.

Gifts are like muscles…they need to be exercised in order to be effective. Sometimes exercise has to start with a little honesty. And honesty is best received in the context of healthy, authentic, loving community.

 Do not lie to each other. – Colossians 3:9


Giving your Best Away

photo credit: Creation Swap user Red Bottle

I don’t know what you’re good at.

Maybe you’re amazing at building things.

Maybe you’re skilled at fixing broken things.

Maybe you’re a gifted communicator.

Or you can write in a way that makes thoughts come alive.

Maybe you have a strong back and can move heavy boxes.

Maybe you can coach soccer like nobody’s business.

Maybe it’s working with electricity that you’re skilled at.

Maybe you have every Friday night free.

Maybe you can think “systems” in a way that structurally organizes chaotic programs.

Maybe you’re a good painter.

Give away your best for free.

Your “best” is a gift. Especially when you’ve been trained (through school and/or practical on-the-job training) to use that gift more effectively. It’s a blessing God’s given you. There’s nothing wrong with making money doing what you’re good at, but God’s not just given you your gift to make money. He’s given you your gift to bless others and make a difference.

It’s time you stopped complaining about not knowing what you can do.

It’s time you stopped making excuses for not doing.

It’s time you stopped bemoaning a lack of resources.

You’re good at something. I guarantee that you are. There’s something that you do that comes easily for you, but others just can’t seem to pull it off.

God’s given you that gift to serve others.

Find a way to start using it.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. – 1 Peter 4:10

*Photo credit: Creation Swap user Red Bottle


I need You

Photo credit: Creative Commons User Herzensangelegenheit

I need you to use your gifts.

Because when you use your gifts, something awakens in me.

I can’t always explain it, but

  • when you teach, light bulbs go off.
  • when you sing, my heart sings.
  • when you lead, I follow.
  • when you serve, I want to serve.
  • when you love, I understand God a little better.
  • when you give, I want to give.
  • when you open your home, I feel God’s presence.
  • when you share your wisdom, life makes more sense.

You see things I don’t see. Hear things I don’t hear. Taste things I don’t taste. Understand things I don’t understand.

When you use your gifts, I see God in a new light.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. – 1 Peter 4:10

*Photo credit: Creative Commons User Herzensangelegenheit 


What are you good at?

Everybody’s good at something. How do I know?

We serve a God who gifts people. (check out Exodus 35:30-35)

And your gift was given to you to benefit yourself others.

You’re talented at something. There’s something that, when you do it, you just come alive. And when you use that gift, it feels as if you’re doing what you were created to do.

And when you use those gifts well, folks stop and stare. They’re in awe of your gift…because it’s awesome!


Here are some things I’m good at:

  • Learning
  • Writing
  • Discipline/working hard
  • Focus

So…brag on God. Tell us what you’re good at! (*leave a comment below)





Twitter Spam

Image from BusinessGrow.com

I was followed by a gardening site right after I tweeted about my own garden recently.


Maybe not.

The reason I am quick to say that it may not be spam is because they simply followed me.  Didn’t send me a direct message promoting their site, or pushing me to their Facebook account.  They just subtly let me know that they’re out there.  No in-my-face marketing.  And you know what, when I need help, I’ll likely refer back to their site.

Drive-by spammer?

I saw this acted out in real life while driving through my neighborhood.

I saw a professional landscaper stop and help a couple that was trying to get their tiller started.  Apparently they were having a tough time, and this guy knew what he was doing.  He was being generous.  Not to get business.  Not so he could drop off his business card, and subtly drop hints that he was the best landscaper in town.  But just because he had a bit of expertise and a few minutes to help this older couple figure their tiller out.

Social media is the same way.  You’ve got an expertise.  Maybe you’re a landscaper.  Maybe you’re a mom.  Maybe you’re a theologian or a comedian or a runner.  You’ve got some expertise in something.

That’s your angle.

Use that as your platform.  Give away your knowledge, stories, insights, failures, and successes.  Because somebody else wants to know what you know.  Your words will be priceless to them.

And in their time of need, you know where they’ll turn first?


And when they turn to Google, they’ll find you. You’ll be that guy that drove by at exactly the right time.

So tweet, blog, facebook, and share with the world your expertise.

We need you.

When you begin to see social media (and life as a whole) as a way to be generous with your gifts, passions, and expertise, we all benefit.  You included.



Mostly Forgotten

I go to your church, but you don’t know my name.

I sit in the back.

I slip out early.

I’m there every week…almost.

I try to follow God, but I’m not perfect.

You give me a smile and a handshake, but you don’t know my story.

You don’t know what I do for a living.

You don’t know my passions.

My struggles.

My plans or goals.

My past failures.

You’re happy I’m at church…you tell me every time I come.

But you never follow up throughout the week.

With an email or a phone call.

I’m not in a small group.

I’m haven’t been on a mission trip.

I’m not serving others.

I’m not on your radar.

Or your potential leaders lists.

But God’s gifted me.

And those gifts were meant to bless others.

Including you.

Our church needs my gifts.

And I need to use them.

But I need you.

I need your encouragement.

I need you to believe in me.

To breathe hope into my life.

Show me that I matter.

That God cares.

That I have a part to play.

That my story matters.

But until then…

I’m mostly forgotten.


Sometimes traditions should change

My traditions are changing this year.

And I’m thrilled.

(Photo by Karen Long)

When I was a kid, on Christmas Eve night, we’d head over to my Aunt and Uncle’s house, eat homemade lasagna with the whole family, then come back home in time to go to sleep.  We’d wake up early on Christmas morning, open gifts with my parents, eat homemade donuts my dad made, then spend the afternoon at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  That was our tradition.

When I got married, my traditions changed.  Nothing went away…but lots of traditions were added.  On Christmas Eve night, we’d go to a traditional candlelight service in Winchester, TN, then head to my wife’s grandma’s house to eat and exchange gifts.  We’d get back to Clarksville about midnight, wake up and head to my parent’s house to eat homemade donuts made by my dad, then spend the afternoon at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  Then we’d head to my wife’s Grandma and Grandpa’s house to finish the day thoroughly exhausted.  Christmas was special…but often felt rushed and hectic.

This year, our traditions are changing again.  In a big way.  Our son is getting to the age where we want to begin crafting his Christmas traditions.  We’re treating Christmas Eve morning as our Christmas morning.  And if our family wants to see Rex (which is the only person they care about in our family, if we were truly honest with each other), they have to come to us.  Christmas Eve night, I’m thrilled to be worshipping for the first time on Christmas Eve with my church family (details HERE).  Christmas will be much more relaxed, yet we’ll still be able to spend time with all of our family.  It’ll just be spread out over a few days.

Traditions change. And that’s okay.  When we’re unwilling to change, it’s easy to work ourselves into a rut.  In that rut, we forget why we do what we do.  And we begin doing things simply because we’ve always done them…getting frustrated with anyone who questions or challenges our traditions.

Traditions change. And they should.  Because we change.  Life doesn’t stay the same.  It takes us through many different roads.  People are added.  Taken away.  And that changes the flavor of our families.

Traditions change. And if you stick so closely to your traditions, you’ll alienate many newcomers.  Take, for instance, my son.  If we were unbending in our holiday routines, he’d always view Christmas as a rushed, tiring, hectic, gifts-focused time.  I don’t want that.

So this holiday season, evaluate why you do what you do.  What is it that you, as a family, value? Don’t just continue the same traditions because you’ve always done them. Because if you’re not careful, your traditions can block you from that which you value.

What is your favorite Christmastime tradition?

Is there something new you’re doing this year?

How do you handle change?


Don’t let it rot

We went out of town last weekend, and came home to this in our garden.

If you leave a fruit on the vine too long, it rots.  And rotting fruit looks, tastes, and smells disgusting.

Fruit was meant to be enjoyed by others.  Not to rot on the vine and never be enjoyed.

The same is true with the gifts God gives the Church.

To individuals in the Church: If God has gifted you, and you’re not using that gift, there’s a great chance that the gift will rot and start to stink.  If you’ve got a gift, use it!  We (the Church) need you to.

To church leaders: Turn your folks loose to use their gifts.  They’ll be honoring God, building the Church, and find themselves more satisfied.
This may lead to a bit of messiness, but the risk is worth it.  Your church is full of people who have been gifted by God, and will be much healthier if their gifts are being utilized.  Look for areas where people can use their gifts, and get them plugged in.
What gifts has God given you?

Have you been able to use them to build others up and honor God?


Play to your strengths

In leadership, there’s one train of thought that says that you need to work on your weaknesses.  Address them so that you can improve them.  Make them…not so weak.

This isn’t an all-too-terrible approach.  But it’s not the one I’m taking.

Rather, I’m focusing on my strengths.  I’m not good at everything.  But I am good at some things.  I’m not bragging here…really, I’m not.  We’re all gifted at some things.

Read this quote from Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath

Our studies indicate that people who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.” (iii)

Why not take the path of least resistance?  Has God not gifted you for a reason?

Carl Lewis, please stick to running.  You’re good at that.


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