Monday Start (Resources to Begin the Week)

For the past several Mondays, I have been posting a number of links to articles, posts, books, etc. that I have found helpful. (You might consider subscribing to this blog by e-mail. You can subscribe here.)


For Your Thinking

You might enjoy reading this post by Michael Barber, a young Catholic scholar entitled “New Document Promotes Priority of Scripture in Theology.” Very interesting. (Thanks to Scot McKnight for this post.)

Ernest Hemingway’s favorite books.

Audio of James Bryan Smith (and others) from the recent Aprentis Institute conference in Dallas. These talks flow out of The Apprentice Series.

I am not sure how I became aware of this, but this magazine, which targets women, looks very interesting. (As the father of two adult daughters, I am interested in publications that speak to women and the values of those publications.)


You might enjoy the following regarding productivity and organization.

Jeff Goins has written a great post entitled The Best Way to Pursue Your Life’s Work. I found this post very helpful. Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed by my work, I find that I am attempting to start big instead of small.

Also see his very fine post: 3 Important Habits for Building Influence that Matters.


The Messiness of Raising Children (Our Attempt)

Today is our oldest daughter’s birthday. It has hard to believe that 29 years ago, we had our first baby. Now Christine and her sister Jamie, are grown and have families of their own.

I recently thought about the years we were together as a family. We were all learning together. We certainly made lots of mistakes. However, as I think back to the many conversations Charlotte and I had about our children, this is what I recall:

family01.png

1. We tried to establish consistent habits such as reading Bible stories at bedtime, praying together, and eating meals together.

2. We never wanted to put pressure on them because they were a minister’s children. We tried to communicate they were children of God, just like everyone else.

3. We talked about our faith and God at home. We did so as a part of our everyday lives.

4. We attempted to be consistent in what we taught our children through our words and actions.

5. We went on family vacations together. Some of the most signifiant conversations occurred late at night when one parent was driving while one of the children rode in the front seat.

6. We tried to communicate again and again, God’s care and concern for them. We did this each night when we put them to bed. Later we attempted to do this through notes, conversations and prayer.

7. We wanted our children to see that our lives did not center around them but around God. This can take enormous pressure off children. Rather, they see that we have a higher purpose outside ourselves.

8. We attempted to communicate basic godly virtues such as honesty, truth-telling, and patience.

Again, we did this imperfectly.

Question:

What has been important to you in raising your children?

Ministry Inside.71

What is this going to cost?PickBattles.jpg

I have a limited amount of money. It does not expand beyond my paycheck each month. Therefore I need to live within our budget and think about what I purchase. After all, if I purchase something today, I may not have the money to purchase something else tomorrow. There is a limit to my financial resources.

Good leaders pick their battles. Others seem to enjoy picking a fight. Yet, not every hill is worth dying on. You can go to battle over an opinion, a preference, or a concern today, but this may have implications for tomorrow. Be sure the battle is worth it. Far too many battles have been rooted in someone’s pride instead of a worthy cause. Consider whether or not this cause is important to Jesus.

Four suggestions:

1. Before going to battle for something, make sure the hill is worth it. Check with several wise people to get their feedback. You may not hear what you wanted to hear, but this will help your thought process. Far too many people are impulsive and rash in what they do. These leaders have a way of wearing people out. If you wear people out today, they may not have the energy for a much greater cause next month.

2. Remember that good will is not given to a leader in an infinite quantity. Churches will give a leader good will and the benefit of the doubt if they think that leader has earned it. However, one generally has only so much good will at his/her disposal.

3. Persistence and perseverance are great qualities. Some people see themselves as being persistent when it fact they are perceived as being obstinate, bullheaded, stubborn, and difficult. These qualities have a way of wearing others out. Consequently, you may wonder why others do not have the interest, much less the passion, about a new concern. They may be exhausted.

4. Be upfront genuine and avoid manipulation. A church leader once told me about something that he wanted to do in his congregation. He said that went ahead and did it without going through the proper channels. His explanation? “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” That is nothing less than a manipulative ploy. That is a good way to damage one’s credibility and wear out one’s welcome.

Four Ways to Take a Vacation Today


Take a free vacation today.Vacation.jpg

Yes, free.

I once read an interview featuring a busy business executive. He spoke of his work, his responsibilities, and the stress that came with his job.

In the interview, he said that during his busy, hectic day he might call a longtime friend. For a few minutes, they might talk about a river they planned to raft or a football game they wanted to see. These conversations with friends were brief, but for him they were a breath of fresh air in the middle of a busy, stressful day.

These conversations can be mini-vacations. For a few minutes, they allow you to get away. Such conversations can be a refreshing pause in the middle of a day that is draining.

There are other ways to take a mini-vacation.

I have spent a few moments reliving last summer’s vacation. My mind doesn’t know the difference between these memories and the actual vacation. I have found this to be relaxing.

One person I knew would pause during the day and for a few minutes work a crossword puzzle.

I once knew a guy who watched old movies during his lunch hour.

Some people work out at the YMCA or another gym during lunch.

These are endless ways people have found to refresh themselves in the middle of the day.

You have your own ideas about what might be a mini-vacation for you. You might consider trying this. I am not talking about a long period of time. Try doing this for two minutes. Two minutes. Spend two minutes thinking about a pleasant hike, a nice vacation, or an evening you recently enjoyed. You might be surprised at how long two minutes can feel.

Yes, like most anything—this could be abused. One could stay on a mental vacation and only occasionally come to work mentally.

For so many of us, however, these breathers can help bring clarity and perspective to our day. When I am behind in my work, my tendency is to get more intense and more focused. Of course, this kind of focus can be useful and can spur on productivity. However, doing my work with this level of intensity day after day only makes me weary. I don’t feel creative or energized.

These mini-vacations can be very helpful. They can restore and motivate. They remind me that God has created me to be a whole person. I am mind, body, soul, emotion, etc. I am a social being. One of the greatest gifts I can give the people I love the most is to take care of myself. Selfish? No. Self-care is about being a good steward of what God has given me.

Suggestions:

1. Call a friend with the intention of talking about a subject that is very pleasant to you both. Do you both like to fish? Do you like to compare coffees? Spend a short time talking about the subject.

2. Sit in your chair, close your eyes and relive one of the most enjoyable experiences of a vacation or special trip. Seek to remember the sounds, smells, and sensations of the place.

3. Cultivate friendships with at least a few people who will talk with you about something other than your work, your responsibilities, etc.

4. Look for opportunities to laugh. One woman used to cut cartoons from the newspaper and put them on her refrigerator for her family to see. She believed her family needed to laugh more. There are days when I eat lunch at my desk in the office. I will sometimes watch a few You Tube clips that I know are very funny.

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

Looking for Thoughtful Resources?

Susan Gregory Thomas The Gray Divorces. (Wall Street Journal) “The divorce rate for people 50 and over has doubled in the past two decades. Why baby boomers are breaking up late in life like no generation before.”

Paul Simon (singer/song writer) – interview regarding the place of faith in his most recent music.


Dealing With Ministry Issues?

Mark Roberts – “Pastoring is Always Personal.” See part 1 here and part 2 here.

Julie Pierce – “Silence as a Leadership Discipline.” I especially like the questions she includes in this post.

Michele Cushatt – “Storytelling 101: Crafting Your Illustration for Maximum Impact” Suggestions for thinking about how one might tell a story.


Productivity/Learning

Bob Bufford – The Difference in Learning for the Two Halves of Life. In particular, I like what he says about his own learning in the second half of his life.

Georgina Laidlaw – “The Productivity Secret of Professional Writers” (Guest post on Jeff Goins’ blog). Very insightful.

Charles Duhigg (NY Times writer) – interviews regarding his new book The Power of Habit. (An interesting book I heard about through David Allen.)

Four Ways to Pursue Wisdom

Do you put a premium on pursuing wisdom?wisdom.jpg

Do you know this pursuit can make all the difference in your future?

  • Some people are intelligent, yet they don’t seem to have much wisdom.
  • Some people are articulate, yet they use poor judgement.
  • Some people are very talented, yet they make some very unwise decisions.
  • Some people are charming, yet they place themselves in some unwise and even compromising situations.
  • Some people gain much attention from others, yet they are shallow and lack any depth.
  • Some people advance quickly in their careers only destroy themselves and their family through unwise choices.

Here are four ways to pursue wisdom:

1. Read the wisdom literature of the Bible. Read books such as Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and James. Examine wise and foolish persons in Scripture. Be a student of wisdom.

2. Pray that the Lord will give you wisdom regarding your habits, your actions, your words, and your decisions. Confess to him when you have behaved foolishly.

3. Learn from people whose lives reflect wisdom. Ask them questions. For example, suppose you know a Christian businessperson whose life reflects wisdom and godliness. You might ask questions such as:

  • What habits or practices have helped you grow in wisdom?
  • How do you maintain a growing vibrant marriage while under stress and pressure at work?
  • How have you dealt with sexual temptation in your life? Are there any particular practices or habits that you have while traveling and staying in hotels for meetings, conventions, etc.? What would you recommend to a young man or woman?
  • How have you kept your priorities God-centered?

4. Listen to the words of godly people in your life who raise questions or voice concerns about some aspect of your life.

  • Does your wife (husband) tell you that he feels uneasy about a particular person in your life?
  • Does a friend raise a question about changes that he is seeing in your behavior or moods?
  • Does a co-worker (who happens to be a Christian) raise questions about some decisions you have recently made?

Question:

When you think about wise men or women you know, what words might you use to describe their lives?

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

Looking for thoughtful resources?start (1).png

Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury) and Richard Dawkins – “The Nature of Human Beings and the Question of their Ultimate Origin.” This was a dialogue event which took place

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in the Sheldonian Theater, Oxford University, on February 23, 2012. You can read more about this here and watch the video here.

John Ortberg interviews Dallas Willard – This interview took place at the Catalyst 2010. You can view the videos here.

Mickey Goodman – “Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids?

Wade Hodges – “Spiritual Fitness in 100 Words.”

Daniel Kirk – “The Wisdom of Stability.”


Dealing with ministry issues?

Ron Edmondson – “The Loneliness of a Pastor.”

Ed Cyzewski – “The Dark Side of Pastors: Getting to the Root of Pastoral Affairs” Also see “Why Pastors Fall Into Affairs.”


Work Practices

Amy Gallo – “Stop E-Mail Overload” (Harvard Business Review).

Michael Hyatt – “7 Steps to Launching Your Next Project.”


Finally

You might enjoy reading the recent post “Keep Your Marriage Out of the Ditch” You might find it helpful to subscribe to the RSS feed on this blog. (I realized after several months, that the RSS symbol was actually linked to an e-mail subscription option but it has now been fixed. You can get to the feed here. If you would like to subscribe by mail you can do so here.

Keep Your Marriage Out of the Ditch

Some people are married for a few years and then they get stuck in the ditch.car-in-ditch-in-snow.jpg

I want to reflect on this page about marriage and how to keep it out of the ditch.

As I write this particular post, I am thinking about couples in their 20s. Perhaps you’ve been married for a few years. You may even have a small child or two (but not necessarily).

So you’ve been married for several years. Perhaps you both have jobs. Yes, the economy is a real issue but so far you’ve been able to do much that you’ve wanted to do. If you went to college, you’ve probably been out for several years. Now you have jobs. You are paying off school loans. You have responsibilities.

You are married.

Let me suggest a few problems that sometimes surface in marriage during the early years.

1. Am I still cool? You may be out of college and paying a mortgage. Yet, you may still want to prove that you have what it takes. For some women/men, this impacts the way they dress and the way they relate to the opposite sex. Far too often married men and women flirt with others at work to prove to themselves that they still have it. This may include suggestive and risque texting and FB messaging. This is a very dangerous game to play.

2. Why do we have so many arguments? Some married couples seem to fuss with one another a lot. You may find this to be familiar ground. Part of this frustration is that often a couple feels as if they are getting nowhere in these arguments. Some explode while others withdraw. Some argue with insults and put-downs. Unfortunately, some couples do a poor job of forgiving one another.

3. Why doesn’t he grow up? A woman once told me that she had four boys. She had three sons and was married to another boy. She was frustrated that he wouldn’t grow up. No, this is not limited to men. (There are certainly young women who refuse to grow up as well.) Picture a young mother with three children. It is Saturday. She is trying to clean the house and prepare lunch. Her husband is sitting in his recliner with the television blaring. He gets upset because one of the kids is screaming during his game. To her, this relationship feels lopsided. These are our children. This is our house that needs cleaning. He mutters something about this being just the way he is.

4. I didn’t know it was going to be like this. He had expectations. You had expectations. “Wow, this is not what I expected.” Many Christian women have said, “I thought he was a spiritual person. He talked a lot about his faith when we were dating. Now I have to practically drag him to church. Why can’t he be more like other husbands who seem to be such godly men?”

How do you adjust your expectations? Where did your expectations come from? Do you just shrug your shoulders and give up? Or, do you dig in your heels, determined to get your way.

5. We are stuck. Some couples are stuck. She may say at one point, “We really need to see a counselor to talk about our marriage.” His response may be, “I don’t have a problem. I’m doing just fine. If you have a problem, you go to counseling.” Later, as she finally disengages emotionally from her husband, he is alarmed and wants to get help. She has no interest at this point.

Some couples get stuck but they do very little that is constructive to help them get unstuck. Many couples are more concerned about their image than their reality. Consequently, they attempt to communicate to their friends and others that they are doing very well, even though their marriage is coming unraveled. To complicate matters even further, some men and women will not read or do anything intentional to learn, grow, and develop.

       

Question:

Which one of the five issues mentioned do you most relate to from your own experience?


When You Feel Spiritually Dry

Are there times when these two words describe you?DryCreekbed.jpg

Spiritually dry.

I suspect that most of us experience this at various times.

There is a creek that runs along the edge of our property line. Much of the time, there is water in this creek. However, during the hot Texas summer, the creek will often dry up. In fact, it will be so dry that the creek bed cracks due to the lack of rain and intense heat of the blazing sun.

There may be times when your soul feels parched and depleted.

There are often a number of factors that may be at work to create this sense of dryness. In addressing this, however, it is important to begin with your own heart.

Remember the story of Samson (Judges 16)? Part of his vow to God was not to cut his hair. However, the Philistine woman, Delilah, wore him down and he finally told her the secret of his strength. In the middle of the night when he was asleep, she cut his hair. As a result, he lost his strength. He ignored his covenant with God (symbolized by the vow he made regarding his hair) and lost his strength.

Whenever I experience a period of dryness, I need to ask at some point, “Have I ignored my covenant with God?” Of course, this is not always true. However, maybe one place to begin is with my own repentance. Unfortunately, this is the last possibility some people consider.

Darryl Tippens, in his fine book Pilgrim Heart, writes:

Our inability to confess our obvious and hidden failures greatly damages our spiritual lives and our credibility. Our witness rings hollow. Our carefully packaged faith that hides faults haunts us and angers others. When things go awry, as they will, it becomes second nature to blame others rather than take responsibility. Thus, Christians can reside in communities where the truth is rarely spoken and where disappointment, bitterness, cynicism, and anger simmer for years. Finally the day comes when the frustration explodes. Nearly everyone is surprised at the intensity of the blow-up. What happened and why?

Often the explosion is the inevitable consequence of Christians not telling the truth of their lives – hurts over their troubled marriages, the disappointment with parents and children, their sadness and anger over harsh and unfair words spoken at church, the chronic pain of a dysfunctional relationship at work. Mark it down. A Christian who is not confessional is in peril – a danger to himself and to the community (p. 100).

Perhaps during a season of dryness, when my heart feels parched and cracked, I ought to consider the possibility of my need for confession and repentance. Maybe, like Samson, I have not been attentive to the covenant relationship I have with God. Perhaps I have allowed myself to become worn down by the nagging temptations of the evil one.

Sometimes, confessing my sin and neglect may be the first step toward freshness and life again.


Question:

What have you found helpful during periods of dryness?

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

Regarding my blogstart.jpg

You might find my RSS feed helpful if you use Google Reader or some other similar tool. If you prefer to subscribe by e-mail, you can do so here. I recently rewrote my “about” page. You can find it here.


Need Energy?

Michael Hyatt – “3 Actions You Can Take Now to Shift Your Emotional State” (Some very practical suggestions.)


Looking for thoughtful resources?

Ben Witherington – “E. Stanley Jones Devotional Resource

Peter Scazzero – “Gordon MacDonald – Wisdom After 50 Years of Godly Leadership

Steve Baker – “Life Rules . . . Past and Present” (Edward Benson’s rules of life as cited in J. Oswald Sanders’ book, Spiritual Leadership.)

Darryl Dash – “A Minister May Draw the Bow But God Will Direct the Arrow” (A great quote from Charles Simeon.)


Focusing on writing?

Read Jeff Goins. He is a very good writer and student of writing. I gain much from his blog and am a regular reader.


Odds and Ends

Ed Stetzer did a recent Twitter poll in which he asked this question: “What book have you recently read that made an impact on you and why?” You might find the results interesting. You can find them here.