Is Real Life Happening Yet?

reallifelogoFor years, I waited.

My perception of my life was all about circumstances. I saw myself as not being in the ideal circumstances but assured myself that one day things would be different. As I saw it, the present was always lacking in some way. However, things would really be good when, one day, life would be what I wanted it to be.

When I was single, I thought life would really begin when I got married.

When I was in college, I thought life would really begin when I graduated.

When I was in graduate school, I thought life would really begin when I finished the program.

When I was married, I thought life would really begin when we could settle down somewhere.

When we were renting a house, I thought life would really begin when we could own a home.

What We Learn From Diana Nyad

RT_diana_nyad_jt_130901_16x9_992Unbelievable.

On Monday, 64-year-old Diana Nyad became the first person to swim the 110-mile route from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. She swam for 53 hours with 35 people accompanying her in boats.

Nyad first attempted this feat in 1978.  She then attempted it again three times in 2011 and 2012.  Each time she was unsuccessful in completing the swim.  On Monday, she finished and was greeted by numerous well-wishers on shore.

As she stood on dry land, she spoke to reporters saying:
“I have three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”

I love what she said.

Never, ever give up.

So many people live in resignation.  They consider going back to school, changing jobs, moving to a new place, or learning a new skill.  They step out and find that taking that next step is hard.  In fact, they might experience failure in their first attempt.  I am impressed that Diana Nyad failed to finish four times and then tried one more time.

Life often requires resilience, tenacity and grit.  Taking the next step will often be “easier said than done.”  OK.  Most things worth doing are difficult.  Yes, I pray and I prepare.  However, there are times when you attempt to take on a task and it just doesn’t go well.  Do I have the resilience to push through even when I want to quit?

You never are too old to chase your dreams.

Think about this one.  We hear so many negative messages regarding age.  Some people go on and on about being old.  No, I am not talking about people in their 90s but people who are decades younger.  Yes, I realize that some people have physical limitations related to aging that might prevent them from certain sports or other activities.  However, some people talk about age as if there was little to look forward to.  Yet, I think we were meant for more than to sit in a recliner for the remainder of our lives.

Nyad is right.  One never is too old to chase one’s dreams.  Far too many people shut down way too early.

It looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.

She is speaking about swimming, but this is also true about life in general.  We need others!  We need the prayers of one another.  We need the input and counsel of others.  We need to learn from others.

Far too many of us get to a point in life where we think we have got it down.  We stop growing, learning, and developing.  We become stuck in what we have learned in the past and stop stretching.

We need others!  We need others who will come alongside us, as well as people who are somewhat ahead of us.  Of course, we also need those who may find their encouragement through us.

I don’t plan to swim great lengths.  However, I do plan to think more about these three statements.  Right now, I find them very encouraging.

Question

Which one of Diana Nyad’s three statements means the most to you?

Four Questions that Can Bless Your Life

question-markI once heard a former college president reflect on the years he had served the university.  A colleague had recommended a particular person to him to possibly serve in his administration.  The question from this college president was:

“Is she capable of high level thinking?”

That is a good question for all of us.  Are we capable of thinking about those things that really matter?  Do we ask good questions? Do we reflect on important matters?

Do we take the time to reflect on important questions?

What Has Pushed You to the Edge?

pushed over the edgeLots of people are discouraged.

Have you noticed?

Lots of church leaders are discouraged.

Regardless of the ministry in which you are engaged, there is a likelihood that sooner or later you will become discouraged.  The following are some reasons that may sound familiar.  I have experienced a few of these.  I have seen the others in church leaders I have known.

Some people experience discouragement and some even feel like they have been pushed to the edge.

Ministry Inside.116

hard-lifeMesses are a part of life and ministry.

When my daughter Jamie was seven years old, she decided that she wanted to go fishing with me.  The next day we got up at 5:30 a.m., grabbed our fishing gear, and went to the water.  Her favorite part of fishing, besides catching a fish, was casting. When I say cast, I mean rare back and let it fly!  That is exactly what she did this time. She came back over her head very near where I was kneeling behind her.  I could feel her lure brush the top of my head.  Off came my cap.  The hook was struck to the top of the cap with the minnow flailing about to get free. I took her rod and reel and began to work with it to get the hook loose from the cap.  Meanwhile, I let her use my rod and reel.  A few minutes later I looked at her and saw that fishing line was everywhere.  Finally, in utter disgust, she said, “This thing is a mess.”

This week our area has been dealing with the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.  My office is about a 30-minute drive from West.  We have several families in our church who either live or work, or both, in West.  On Tuesday afternoon, one of our families drove me through much of the area that suffered badly from the explosion.

Ministers and other church leaders deal with messes quite frequently.  Divorce.  Cancer.  Death. Crime.  A member sent to prison.  The child of a church leader on drugs.  The following are five suggestions for church leaders who must navigate through a mess.

1.  Don’t rush to fix the situation.  Quite often ministers will become uneasy with the questions or doubt that may be expressed.  In our uneasiness, we may attempt to rush in with much advice and very little patience.

2.  Don’t pronounce the situation as God showing us this or that or what trying to teach us whatever. The truth is we don’t know why so many things happen.

3.  Do be present.  There is great power in simply showing up and being fully present.  In fact, when words are at a loss and when you don’t know what to do, one’s presence with another or a family can be huge.

4.  Do be a safe place where people can ask the questions that are burning within.  Loss is tough. Sometimes we are in such a rush to move on, we don’t allow others the opportunity to feel loss and its implications.

5.  Don’t be trite.  Some years ago my friend’s wife died of cancer leaving behind this young husband and their young children.  The following Sunday, the minister began the sermon by talking about how he understood the loss that many people felt.  He then proceeded to tell the story of his car being involved in a parking lot fender-bender and how frustrating that was.  Some family members of the woman who died were angry that this minister insinuated that he understood how they felt by comparing their loved one’s death to a fender-bender.

 

Question:

What would you add to this list?

 

Pray for Boston

boston-marathon-explosion-ap-2-041513The day after the Boston Marathon, we wait for more details.

More than 170 are injured and 3 people are dead.  Two bombs exploding changed everything.

I think about the Richard family and how this particular Boston Marathon impacted them. They were all standing near the finish line. As a result of the blast:

Mom had surgery.

Daughter lost a leg.

Son died.  8 years old!

The scene with its blood and carnage must have been horrific.

Meanwhile, this morning, I saw an interesting line in the Washington Post online.  ‘Pray for Boston’: Prayers stream in after Boston Marathon bombing.  From all over the world, social media sites are being bombarded with the plea to Pray for Boston.  (Moments ago, I looked on Twitter at the number of tweets that were using the hashtag #PrayforBoston.  Amazing!)

Maybe there is nothing more important for men and women across the world to do today than to pray for Boston and for these people whose lives have been drastically changed in a moment.

 

Five People I Need Around Me

Quote-of-the-Week-EncouragementWho in your life makes you a better person?

I just had lunch with a friend who is such a person.  He is older, wiser, and helped me think through a life issue and a church issue as well.

I am better off for having spent time with this friend.  He is the kind of person who makes me want to be a better man and leader.  I enjoy being with him.

Now I realize that not everyone is like my friend.  Some people complain constantly. Some people enjoy arguing. Some are pessimistic and cynical.  Others are manipulative. Many of us deal with all kinds of people every day.

I have learned that I am better equipped to deal with these kinds of people if I am deliberate about surrounding myself with five different kinds of people.

1.  A joyful person.  I am grateful to know some joyful people.  These are people who may have challenges but their attitude is joyful.

2.  A person who is a learner.  I love being with people who are always learning and growing.  I find that so stimulating.

3.  A person who will help me.  I am thinking of a couple of people who will ask me a question or two and then have the patience to listen.  Through their genuine interest in my life, I feel valued and appreciated.

4.  A person whom I can help.  I get energized by being with a person who genuinely wants my help and will even follow through regarding what we discuss.

5.  A person who believes in me.  I am fortunate enough to have been given this gift through my wife, Charlotte.  I find her confidence in me to be energizing and helpful.

Are all five kinds of people in my life all the time?  Not necessarily.  I do tend to gravitate toward these people. They have a way of adding value to my life and I am better for having known them.

Questions:

What kinds of people add energy and value to your life?  What would you add to the above list?

4 Ways to Make a Significant Difference in Another’s Life

Far too many people squander the opportunity they have to make

Bag when s the minutes your process beyond online pharmacy Spring dewy.

a powerful difference in the life of another.

It doesn’t have to be this way

Yet, I suspect you’ve been there. You have lunch or coffee with a friend.  Later in the day, long after you’ve left your friend, you realize that when you are with this friend you usually leave her/him feeling more discouraged and more negative about life than you did before.

A friend of mine tells of his friendship with a particular minister.  This minister was a very unhappy man. My friend once said that he needs to spend less time with this friend. “I feel so down after I have been with him.” Another friend described her time with a certain friend as a real “drain.” “She goes on and on about what she doesn’t like, complaining about this person and that person.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

All of us are going to experience tough seasons of life. At times, it can be helpful to talk with a friend. I am not suggesting that friends should not talk about what is difficult in their lives. Rather, I am focusing these remarks on a particular attitude.  One can have a regular disposition or attitude that is negative, cynical, and sour.

I believe that God works through us, enabling us to have an attitude and disposition that blesses.  God enables us to encourage another.

I was sitting in a Panera Bread working. I overheard a conversation between three women (I gathered they were friends) at the table next to mine. These were three young mothers. One of them was also a school teacher. At one point in their conversation, she talked with them about relating to their children’s school teachers. She said, “After the first day, approach the teacher sincerely and say something like this, ‘Yes! Yes! I am right with you. Tell me how to help you this year! I can be here tomorrow and talk with you about supporting some of these projects you have in mind.’” Wow!


The following are four ways to build up others around you.  Let me encourage you to connect these suggestions to people you will be with today:

1.  Choose to affirm, encourage and bring out the best in others (instead of dragging people through the muck and mire of constant negative, pessimistic, cynical remarks).  These people will look forward to being with you.

2.  Choose to be a raving fan of anyone doing the right thing (instead of critiquing and sizing up others).  Affirm what is good, right, and positive.

3.  Pay attention to people and the details of their lives.  Affirm the good in them (instead of focusing on the shortcomings of others).  Unlike those who regularly demand attention, some people often slip under the radar.  Be intentional about paying attention to these people.

4.  Communicate appreciation to people who desire to make a positive difference with their lives (instead of taking these people for granted).  You will never know how important a word of appreciation might be today.   


Question:

Which one of these four suggestions do you especially need to pay attention to?

One of the Most Powerful Tools for Any Leader



You have a tool at your disposal that can make an incredible difference in the life of your child, spouse, congregation, or the people you work with.

tools-icon.jpg

Your encouragement can make such a difference in the life of another.

Yet, for some reason, some people seem to make no effort to encourage another. Instead, they are draining, lifeless, and even discouraging.

Let me challenge you to choose to be encouraging.


Communicate words of encouragement.

Words are extremely powerful (Proverbs 3:27-28).  

Encouragers look for ways to compliment and to affirm. What is this person doing right? What is she doing that adds value to the people around her.  Do you know how many people long to hear a “well done”?

Express the high value of another person.

We encourage when we speak to one another in a way that communicates dignity and respect. When we do this, we are telling another “I value you.”   

My friend Doug once said it like this (regarding a man we both looked up to): “He talks to you as if you were a very important person. He makes you want to come up to a higher standard.” Recently, a young woman mentioned a couple that they have been friends with for a long time. She said, “They have a way of elevating the conversations.”

I know a school teacher who once interacted with a young girl in her first grade class and discovered that she was very poor. She had no father present. She wore small flip-flops to school and large dresses, regardless of the weather.  One day she wore a dress held together by diaper pins. This teacher arranged for this girl to finally have some clothes that fit her. A lady at the teacher’s church bought new shoes for the girl.

A lady at church gave that teacher money for clothes and then some shoes. One day, Charlotte asked the kids: “If you could wish for one thing for Christmas, what would it be? One girl said, “I wish my daddy could get out of prison.” Another girl said, “I wish we had a car.” The six-year-old who had been wearing diaper pins on her dresses said, “I wish I had a doll.” She told her teacher that she had never had a doll. A gentleman at the teacher’s church saw to it that she got a doll.

One day she asked her teacher: “Why are all of these good things happening to me?” She continued to press and finally her teacher said, “There are some nice people who love God who have bought these things.” Then this little girl said: “God is nice. I think I like God.”

What had happened? This teacher had expressed high value to this little girl.


Pay attention to the work of God in others lives.

Have you seen God take the worst of the circumstances in your life and turn them into good news? Have you seen God turn a frustrating person into someone who has become sweet and considerate?

We can learn to pay attention to what God is doing and then encourage others where he seems to be at work.


Picture a special future for another person.

There are times when you must wonder if you are doing anything right at all. Are you getting through? Yet, to encourage is to envision what a person could become in Christ. It is to believe that we are not limited by our mistakes, bad habits, or vulnerabilities. Encouragers believe that in Christ, people really can change.

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Owning Up to Weariness

Years ago I was coming home from a meeting late one night. This particular meeting had not gone well. It had lasted too long. Some spoke to others in a manner that seemed curt, abrupt, and lacking in grace.

I was tired–very tired. I left the parking lot of that church building and began the drive home. I came to a red light and felt a surge of anger, disappointment, and exhaustion. I could feel my eyes welling up with tears. I slammed my hand hard on the steering wheel. The frustration wasn’t just with the meeting. Rather, this emotion was the culmination of numerous episodes of life that were draining and exhausting.

weariness.jpg

I felt weary.

I suspect that you have felt this way at times.   

  • Weariness comes when you witness your friends go through marital turmoil and finally divorce.
  • Weariness comes when you know you should have thick skin, but lately one of your critics has really been getting to you.
  • Weariness comes when a particular person you have been praying for for months finally comes to church. Then, you find out that no one even spoke to her.
  • Weariness comes when you experience deep disappointment with one of your children. Your daughter is having an affair with a married man. Your son was fired from his job for misappropriating funds.
  • Weariness comes when you are in a congregation in which there is much strife and division. You are very tired of this.
  • Weariness comes when you feel disappointed with life in general.   

Sometimes weariness comes not as the result of any one problem or crisis. Rather, it feels like one problem is being stacked on top of another. Finally, you wonder just how much more you can stand.

Somewhere in the midst of this weariness, we are called back to a God who will not let us go.

(Psalm 63:1-8)

1 You, God, are my God,
   earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
   my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
   where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
   and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
   my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
   and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
   with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

6 On my bed I remember you;
   I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
   I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.