The 1 Thing People Need From You

You Already Have it

This post appears as an article in the October edition of Around Canton. I write several times per year for this local publication and always enjoy the feedback I receive. I wanted to share it here in hopes that it will encourage you too.

 

Several years ago my grandmother gave each of her grandkids a small book that she had written and bound. Each page was filled with stories of faith that she had personally experienced. There were stories of answered prayers she and my grandfather had prayed over the previous 50+ years. There were stories of wonderful sermons she had heard or church services she had attended. Each page was different, and very powerful. When she presented these books to each of us she informed us of her motive. It was her desire that while she was still able to remember the wonderful things God had done, that she would make sure her family knew as well. What a thoughtful and forward-thinking idea.

Perhaps one of the saddest verses in the Bible is Judges 2:10 which says, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” While that might not seem all that sad to you, keep in mind that the Lord had done some amazing things for Israel in the previous generation or two. He used Moses to lead as many as 1 million Hebrews out of the Egyptian bondage of slavery. They spent 40 years in the desert preparing to inhabit the land that was promised to their forefather, Abraham, 700 years before, all the way back in the book of Genesis. Upon entering the Promised Land they defeated enemies, inhabited new land, and established themselves as a new nation…and then they stopped telling their stories.

I can’t imagine that. These stories included frogs, locusts, darkness, water turning to blood, walking across a large body of water on dry land as God supernaturally rolled the waters back, defeating giants, and so much more. But eventually their children didn’t know.

So the question for us is this: “What stories do you have that need to be shared with your children and grandchildren?” Unfortunately there will come a day when each of us will no longer be able to share these stories. So we must be intentional to share them while we can. It doesn’t have to be in a book. Maybe it’s a time of sharing after the turkey has been eaten and the table is cleared. Perhaps it’s just an email or letter written and sent. No matter what method you use, don’t put it off one more day. You have a story to tell, and someone needs to hear it.

I Know Why You’re Disappointed

What You Can Learn from Middle School Basketball Tryouts

I’m all for evolving, stretching yourself and constantly trying to improve, and goal setting is a huge part of that process. So how is it possible to set a goal, reach the goal and still be disappointed?

My son recently tried out for the 7th grade basketball team at his school. His one and only season of organized basketball was in 4th grade, but when it came time to sign up he decided to give it a try. Before the tryouts he explained that the coach described the process as daily tryouts, beginning on Monday, with cuts at the end of each day beginning on day 2. He said his goal was to “just make it to Thursday.” He felt that making the team was unrealistic given that he hadn’t played much basketball, there would be nearly 50 boys trying out, and most of his friends have played basketball for the last several years. So we supported him and held out hope that he would make the first few cuts.

Wouldn’t you know it, he actually did pretty well early in the week and as he got in my car after Tuesday’s tryouts he told me that 21 boys were cut, but he was in the group invited back the next day. As I asked for a rundown of the day’s tryout he concluded his description with this line: “You know dad, I think I could actually make the team!” The amount of excitement in his voice was matched by the caution in mine as I responded, “that’s awesome, Cooper. I hope you do.” Then I added my obligatory parental disclaimer, “But if you don’t make it, it’s okay. Remember you just wanted to make it to Thursday, and you’re halfway there. Just keep working hard.”

Wednesday came, and he was invited back for Thursday.

Thursday evening I parked my car on the curb in front of the school and waited…

As he walked out of the gym I could see it on his face.

Disappointment. Embarrassment. Frustration.

He got in the car and the floodgates opened. I prepared my comments, but he didn’t want to hear them. He hadn’t made the team and his 7th grade world was CRUSHED!

 

Cooper made it to Thursday and was still disappointed. Why? Because early results opened up new, better possibilities that were previously unthinkable. Thursday is a great goal until you realize you were one day from making the team.

Exceeding your goal of losing 10 lbs can be disappointing if the scale shows a loss of 14.9 and you focus on missing out on 15 lbs.

Maybe you’re a pastor who set a goal of 500 people on Easter Sunday. Before leaving the church you got the news: 595 in attendance! You should be thrilled, but all the way home all you can think about is how close you were to 600.

You set a goal of 10 new sales leads this month and you ended the month with 12. Instead of cake you’re wallowing in your morning coffee because the guy who shares your cubicle set the new company record with 17 new leads.

Disappointment can often be the result of unmet, unrealistic expectations you set for yourself.

 

It can also be the result of giving your heart to new possibilities before taking the time to celebrate present successes.

Are you disappointed?

If so, is it because of unrealistic expectations, or

is your original successful goal no longer enough due to comparison or success in the process?

Go buy a cupcake, celebrate what you’ve accomplished and set a new goal!

Disappointment is Dumb!

Yawn Like Somebody is Watching

The Response to What You’re Doing

The other day I was driving down the road and passed a car heading in the opposite direction. I glanced over just before the other car passed by to see the driver yawning. In a flash they were gone…and I started to yawn.

Even typing the words, I actually just yawned. I just yawned again. I’m not tired, but I can’t stop yawning. Are you thinking about yawning yet? Have you yawned yet? How about now?

Maybe you are one of those rare people who can refrain from yawning even when you see it happening or hear about it. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I yawned several times while looking at Google Images of people yawning to find a picture for this post.

Yawning is contagious. If you’re ever bored at a restaurant, just find someone at another table and fake a yawn while making eye contact with them. They’ll start yawning. It’s hilarious.

I don’t really want to talk about yawning though. I want to talk about what I learned from my encounter with the yawning driver who passed by.

After she passed me, I imitated her behavior. It wasn’t a premeditated response, but it happened. She had no idea how her action affected me.

Have you ever thought about how your actions are affecting other people? If you have, perhaps you have attempted to alter behavior you didn’t want repeated. However, in the rhythm of everyday life sometimes we forget that people may be watching and we quit acting and just yawn…I mean live our actual lives.

If people mimicked the way you talk to your spouse, would their marriage be healthy?

If someone talked to their kids the way you talk to yours, would you think they were good parents?

If another Christian followed Christ the way you do, would they be growing closer to Him or falling further away?

I recognize that this might seem overwhelming. It may make you sweat. It might scare you, but it doesn’t have to. Their responses could be positive or negative things. Somewhere, someone is probably emulating some of your good behavior too.

The reality is, people are always watching. If you have kids living at home, they are for sure. You are consciously and subconsciously modeling for them what it means to be an adult. Even beyond kids, people on your job, people in your community, your neighbors, your friends, and total strangers. They are just passing by, observing your behavior and it has an affect on them.

What actions are you taking that may be causing a response from someone else?

Live like someone is watching. Because they are!

Taking the Necessary Steps

Learning how God answers some prayers

There is a famous story in John 2 about Jesus turning water into wine. I think it teaches us all something about the way God meets our needs.

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.  – John 2:6-8

I don’t know exactly how they filled the jars with water but it appears to me that they had 2 choices.

  • They could carry the jars to the well and fill them up to the brim and carry them back, or
  • They could go to the well with smaller pitchers, fill those up, walk back and fill the larger jars, and repeat that process until it was finished.

Either way, we’re talking about a pretty good amount of work.

I did some research and if you split the difference between the 20 and 30 gallons these jars held, you get 25 gallons of water, which would weigh about 200 pounds. So each of these jars, when full would have weighed 250 lbs or so including the stone jar itself.

So, they either carried six 50 pound jars to the well, filled them up and carried six 250 pound jars back, or they carried 1200 pounds of water one gallon at a time.

Often when I pray for God to do a miracle or answer a prayer I want it done RIGHT NOW. I’m looking for those “Suddenly” moments from Scripture, and He can do that. But what if God meets needs another way too?

What if the answer to your prayer looks more like a process and the miracle you seek takes more than a minute?

You pray and ask God to “fix” your marriage. You want it fixed by the time you say “amen” and open your eyes. But what if God is fixing it one counseling session at a time?

You pray and ask God to “help” your finances. You mean give me more money or lower my bills. But what if God is helping your finances every month you create a budget?

You pray and ask God to “give” you a promotion at work. You’re expecting the boss to offer you the job today over lunch. But what if God is teaching you some things in this job so you’re ready for that job 3 years from now?

Our miracles are usually the culmination of faithfully walking to the well time after time to fill up the jars, and carrying the heavy things because Jesus asked us to.

I think my favorite part of this story is when Jesus asks the servants to draw “some” out and take it to the master. Draw some what out? They had just put water in those jars, why would they give the master water? But they drew it out and the master tasted wine.

What you put in during the miracle isn’t what you draw out after the miracle.

Be patient. Don’t get frustrated. Do what Jesus is telling you to do and…

TRUST THE PROCESS.

 

3 Reasons Fast isn’t Always Best

The Power of the Process

My wife is an amazing “homemaker”. That’s probably not even the right word for what she does. Sometimes she is a DIY furniture maker. Other times she finds obscure antiques or knick-nacks and turns them into statement decor in our home. She is also the self-proclaimed “fastest painter in the world.”

She finds a color she likes, picks up a gallon, and we are moving furniture to the middle of the room that evening. We don’t obsess over color selection. She knows what she likes when she sees it. If we get it on the wall and don’t like it we can paint over it.

However…

We are both impatient. We like to paint the room, move the furniture back and take the “After” picture. The project needs to feel complete before we go to bed. While we are still passionate about the idea we want to leverage our energies toward completion.

I’ve adopted and love her get it done now mentality with painting. However, I have come to realize that I carry this same attitude with me into everyday living. Undone projects tend to eventually become the things we’ll get to “one day”. So I rush through to get the job done. After all, no one ever takes an almost finished picture.

The problem is, a lot of things worth doing can’t be done quickly. Financial responsibility starts with a decision and hard choices initially, but it’s never really “finished.” Weight loss or healthier living is ongoing. Educational endeavors take time.

So what do we do?

Stop comparing your “work in progress” to someone else’s “finished product.”

      The reality is they probably aren’t finished either. They just may be a little further down the road than you. It’s also important to view everything on social media like you do the objects in your rearview mirror.

While the mirror tells you “objects are closer than they appear”, social media should come with the caption “not as fabulous as presented.” The perfect Instagram picture of their clean house doesn’t reveal the dirty laundry hidden behind the door.

      The glowing Facebook post about their weight loss journey doesn’t show the lingering insecurity in front of the mirror.

If you allow yourself to be shaped by someone else’s well-crafted narrative you’re setting yourself up for unnecessary heartache.

Appreciate the benefits of “sleeping on it.”

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve painted a room, cleaned up, moved the furniture back and gone to bed, only to have the light of a new day reveal a spot we missed. Taking a little extra time gives you a perspective that finishing too quickly will rob from you.

My dad says he has two financial decisions he still regrets to this day. Both were made without walking away to sleep on it and returning the next day to close the deal. There are very few things that can’t wait an extra 12 hours.

Remember the original “why.”

Pastor Mark Batterson talks about the power of a picture in a cow pasture.

It’s not that the cow pasture has any power. It’s just that he originally felt the call of God on his life walking through that cow pasture. So he went back and got a picture of himself standing in the pasture and hung it in his office. On those days where his job feels “unfinished” he looks at that picture to remember his excitement for the original calling.

Why did you start out on this journey? Why did you originally go back to school? Why did you originally want to save money? Why did you commit to purity before marriage or faithfulness within your marriage, in the first place?

If you can remember WHY, you’ll eventually figure our HOW.

If you’re like us you love to finish the job and cross the item off your to-do list. But don’t be afraid to embrace the work in progress.

It’s where life is actually lived!

 

The Last New Years Resolution Post You Need to Read

4 Things to Focus on in 2017

We’re only one week into the new year, but I’ve already read about more resolutions than I care to remember. I’ve broken one resolution already, but I don’t want to talk about it.

So I won’t bore you with the same old things you’ve already read somewhere else…maybe.

This past Sunday I spoke at our church on “4 Things to Focus on in 2017.” If you’d like to listen you can CLICK HERE.

While there are a number of things you could focus on this year, I believe these 4 things will lay the foundation for everything else.

1.  Spend more time with God

Now I realize there’s almost no more cliche thing for a Pastor to tell you than to spend more time with God. But I wouldn’t tell you, if I didn’t believe it.

Pastor Chris Hodges tweeted recently,

“2017 will be the best year of your life if it’s the best year spiritually.”

I genuinely believe this to be true.

Pick a Bible Reading Plan and stick to it. Commit to pray daily. Be in Church. Surround yourself with people who are growing in their relationship with the Lord.

Look at this from the book of Matthew.

Matthew 14:22-23 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,

If Jesus knew it was important to spend time with the Father, you and I should too.

2.  Trust God More

It’s an amazing thing that God forgives our sins and saves us. I am so thankful that He is my Savior. But did you know that He also wants to be Lord of your life? He wants to lead and guide and direct our lives. Who better to do that, than the One who is writing our story?

Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not in your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

Maybe the greatest thing you could do in 2017 is trust God beyond your ability to figure it all out.

3.  Forgive more

The 1st two really focused on you and God. The 3rd thing I think you and I should focus on more in 2017 is forgive more. Look at this:

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

I don’t think the point Jesus was making is that you have to forgive someone 77 times, but once they do wrong for the 78th time you can write them off. I think He was trying to make the point that we should be a forgiving people.

It has been said that “Forgiven people forgive people” but I’m not sure that’s always the case. I know a lot of “christians” who can’t, or won’t, forgive others.

Jesus tells a story later in Matthew 18 about a man who owes 10,000 pieces of gold. The king calls the man in to pay his debt, but the man says, “I don’t have it to pay.” So the king orders that his wife and kids be thrown into prison until he can pay it. He begs and the king relents and cancels the debt. The man gets up and goes outside where he bumps into a guy who owes him 100 bucks. He asks for it, but the man says “I don’t have it.” So he orders that the man be thrown in jail. The king is informed about this man who was forgiven much but refused to forgive and he has him thrown in jail and tortured. That story leads me to ask this question of me and you.

What if we could only receive as much forgiveness as we gave?

The last focus for this year is

4.  Pray Big Prayers

In the book of Joshua there is an amazing story.

The children of Israel have captured Jericho and defeated Ai. So the kings in the area get scared thinking that they might be next. So they band together to protect themselves and they attack the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites call out to Joshua for help and he leads them on a march all night to come to the Gibeonites’ rescue. When they get there, they attack, defeat the enemy and chase them down. Then we read one of the most amazing passages in the entire Bible.

Joshua 10:12-15 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel! Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

I know sometimes when we read the Bible there is a temptation to think, “well that was back then, this is now, that can’t happen anymore.” But what if you started praying big prayers just on the off chance that God could actually answer them?
Pastor Mark Batterson doesn’t call them Big Prayers, he calls them Bold Prayers. He says “God honors bold prayers, because bold prayers honor God.”

I know it doesn’t work like this, but I want to pray the kind of prayers that gets God’s attention in heaven. Prayers so bold He has to stop what He’s doing to make sure He heard me correctly. Again, I know that’s not even theologically correct, but it sure does illustrate how I want to live my life this year. I’ve been asking myself the following question to get me started.

What could I ask God for that makes me a little bit nervous?

Maybe you could ask yourself the same thing as you focus on

Spending More Time with God

Trusting God More

Forgiving More, and 

Praying Bigger Prayers!

Happy New Year!

Why I Got Mad at My Wife and You Do Too

Using My Mistakes to Make You Better

The other night my wife Corrie was doing laundry and discovered something that had a stain on it. After searching the laundry room she discovered that she didn’t have what she needed to properly treat the stain. So she asked me to go to the grocery store and pick it up.

I did. Walked in. Went straight to the correct aisle. Looked at the detergents, but couldn’t find the powder version she requested. They had powder in every other name brand, but not the one she wanted. So I found the liquid in that same brand. It said “Stain Remover” on the front. I paid for it, and returned home.

When I walked in, Corrie immediately noticed that I had liquid instead of powder. She said, “I don’t think this will work. I needed the powder.” I calmly responded, “They didn’t have powder. I looked ‘EVERYWHERE’. They had it in other brands, but not this one.” She replied, “I’m pretty sure they did, I was just in the store earlier today.”……

This is the point in the story where I started acting like a child. In no uncertain terms I told her it was insulting that she didn’t believe me when I told her it wasn’t there. I said if she was so sure it was there she could go look herself…(or something like that. I don’t exactly remember.)

She remained calm and just said, “I think you may have been looking with the detergents, but the powder would be with the stain remover. Did you look there?” (I had NOT looked there)

I grabbed the liquid bottle, walked back out the door, drove back to the store, told the guy I needed to exchange it, walked to the correct aisle, passed the detergents, found the stain removers…and there it was…right where she said it would be.

I came home, tail between my legs, and apologized to my wife for acting like an idiot. She was so kind the whole time it made my behavior even worse.

I don’t tell you that story to demonstrate my ignorance about detergents. That’s painfully obvious.

I tell this story to ask us all a question.

Why do we get so upset about being wrong?

I know Corrie loves me. I know she knows I’m not perfect. So why did I take a posture that she was insulting me for being wrong, when I was, in fact, wrong? She wasn’t even upset that I got the wrong kind.

Why do we lash out? Why do we lie to cover up our mistakes? Why do we get so angry?

Most of the time I think we act this way out of our insecurity. Other times it’s our pride.

What if you took 2 minutes and evaluated your recent similar reactions to the one I just described? Why were you so upset? Drill down beyond your behavior to the motivations that caused your reaction.

Maybe these 2 minutes will save you embarrassment, hurt, and a necessary apology next time.

Burned Out Pastor’s Wife

Over the past few days many in the church world have been consumed talking about the resignation of Pastor Pete Wilson of Crosspoint Church in Nashville, TN. In case you haven’t heard the news, he announced to his church that he was “broken”, “tired” and “needed rest”. Since then people have called it “burnout.” Most have called it a brave move to confess something to thousands at his church and perhaps hundreds of thousands through social media what most of us in ministry are too afraid to admit has or is happening to us.

While I see the bravery, when I watched the video I was also thinking about something a little differently than most people. As he stood on that stage in vulnerability to walk away from something that was once a dream so deep in his heart and now had exceeded his wildest expectations I could only think of one person: his wife.

I have sincerely prayed for Pete Wilson’s wife and children over the past few days. I couldn’t even tell you their names (sadly enough) but we share a common bond. I may not be married to someone who pastors 1000’s but my husband is a pastor. Like her, and like many of you, to some I am the nameless wife of the guy who preaches. I understand the weight and the burden that is carried behind the doors of a pastor’s home and my heart goes out to her. She will probably never read this and may not be experiencing these things right now, but I’m sure she has before…and maybe you have too.

You’ve probably heard the old saying “behind every good man is an even better woman” and though I don’t know if that is entirely true I can speak from the heart of a pastor’s wife to say that for almost every burned out, burdened, tired pastor, there is a wife wrestling with some of these same issues, and others, without as much support. I realize pastor’s wives may not carry the same weight of their husbands, but we do carry a weight, and it’s often overlooked or minimized.

I would never assume to know all the conversations that have taken place over the years and months in the Wilson home. However I know some of the conversations that have taken place in our home. I’ve also talked to enough pastor’s wives that I know some of the conversations that have taken place in those homes as well.

This is not about bad husbands, because I am married to a great man who would never intentionally prioritize things over our family. He’s a devoted husband, a great baseball coach for the boys and takes our daughter out on dates. Many of the women I talk to are married to similar men. However, the demands of ministry and life often throw things out of balance for them and for us. Sometimes wives need to say hard things. Things like

“you’re not giving enough to your family”,

“the kids miss you”,

“you’re mentally and emotionally distant”,

“the things in the home are falling apart because of the time you are giving to the church”,

“your priorities are out of whack”,

“I miss you”,

“the oil hasn’t been changed in months ;-)”,

“should we just sell our beds and sleep at the church?”

These statements may seem harsh to some and even may seem unfair to certain readers but many times they are the cry of “pre-burnout” or full-fledged “burnout” from a pastor’s wife. I’m telling my husband the kids miss him, not too hurt him, but because of the burden I’m carrying for our children and the rhythm of our home and ministry balance as he pursues the calling of God on his life as well.

The church world talks a lot about pastoral burn out, but what about pastor’s wife burn out?

What do you do as a wife who is exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally? What do you do when you don’t want to attend another life group or talk about the church on your date night? What do you do when you don’t have anything else to give to a member who “just needs 5 minutes”?

The job of pastor’s wife is one of the most rewarding things I get to do. I don’t always get it right but I thank the Lord regularly for calling me and for calling our family to this incredible work. This post is not autobiographical, right now. But it’s no less sincere.

I have such a heart for pastor’s wives, so much so that it is hard to explain in words most the time. Whether they stay at home or work outside the home, most pastor’s wives also work hard for their church too (and usually for no pay). Often there are expectations that come with being married to a pastor whether the wife feels called to them or not. Things like women’s ministry, or worship or children’s ministry. Sometimes it’s meals with first time visitors, home or hospital visitation, decorating the church and so much more. At the same time they carry a heavy burden for their families, children, husbands, staff families, church members, etc.

There is a pressure we place on ourselves to make sure we are being enough, doing enough, and reaching enough. We want to make sure we are meeting the expectations of those around us. If we aren’t careful we suffer in suffocating silence.

So what do you do if you are married to someone in ministry and experience any of this?

First, take notice. Learn to be ok with not being ok and admit that you feel like you are about to lose it. I’m a very laid back person, but I always know when I’ve had about enough because I get emotional. Everything becomes a big deal, and I get short-tempered, even over little things. Others may notice mental and physical exhaustion and a desire to sleep all the time. Still others might notice a loss of joy in things you love most.

Second, find someone to talk to. I don’t know who that person is for you but I am so fortunate to be married to my best friend who tries his best to understand what I’m saying and feeling. For us, after 12 years of marriage, 4 kids, and 13 years of doing ministry together, I’ve learned it’s ok to show my humanity and my weaknesses to the person who claims to know/love me more than anyone else. Maybe you don’t want to express these burdens to your husband because of what he’s already carrying, but you have to talk to someone. Maybe it’s a friend, parent or sibling who doesn’t attend your church. Maybe it is a counselor. Whether you would classify yourself as an introvert, like me, or an extrovert like ALMOST EVERYONE AROUND ME, everyone needs someone to talk to.

Third, do some serious soul-searching. Be honest. Evaluate the fundamentals of your faith. Are you reading your Bible enough? Are you praying enough? Are you trying to please others more than you are trying to please God? Remember and ask the Lord to remind you why He called you in the first place.

Lastly, be ok with saying you need a break.  Women aren’t usually very good at this because we like to stay busy so people don’t think we can’t juggle all that’s in front of us. That’s not how God intended it to be. Be ok with needing a break. Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG) says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

So I’m praying for you today pastor’s wife. I’m praying that you feel a renewed sense of God’s calling and purpose for you. That today you find joy in Him. I pray that there is a return to the basics and to the goodness of God that at one time was enough to follow Him into this thing we know as ministry. I’m praying for your children and families. I’m praying for your marriages and your homes today.

I’m praying that you find rest for your soul.

The #1 Threat to Contentment

Imagine that your boss calls you into his office and says, “You’ve done great work and in return we’d like to offer you a 25% pay increase beginning immediately.”

How would that make you feel? Excited? Happy?

Now imagine that you leave his office and you’re walking down the hall back to your office only to overhear a coworker talking on the phone: “yeah, they said I’m doing a great job and they are giving me a 35% raise beginning immediately.”

How would that make you feel? Upset? Angry? Insecure?

Isn’t it amazing how quickly our emotions can swing from one extreme to the other? The only variable in the scenario above was the information received about your coworker. But that didn’t really effect you, except that you let it effect you.

It has been said that

“the number #1 enemy to contentment is comparison.”

Think about that. How much more content would you be if you didn’t compare your life with someone else’s?

Your house is nice, except it’s smaller than the neighbors.

Your car runs great, except it’s older than your sisters.

Your kid’s public school is fine, except your best friends’ kids go to private school.

Your company is growing, except it’s not growing as fast as the company downstairs.

Your church is healthy, but you aren’t seeing the numbers the Pastor on Twitter is seeing.

Whenever I’ve allowed comparison to steal my contentment here’s what I do:

  1. Intentionally and consistently find ways to thank God (and others) for what you have. You might have to “fake it ’til you make it”. Give thanks before you feel thanks. Don’t stop. It’s amazing how my whole perspective changes when I’m focused on what God has blessed me with.
  2. Pray that God will bless others more. I can’t resent what God’s doing in someone else’s life when I’m asking Him to do it for them. Kill your pride by praying for others to be blessed.
  3. Repeat!

Find contentment in the things you have and quit worrying about what others have.

Be content. Stop comparing.

Life Lessons – Part 2

I started writing last week about 35 observations I have made since turning 35 last month. They are in no particular order and you can read the first half of the list HERE. After reading both lists I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

19.  I should have learned more about money-management as early as possible. I was smart so I understood some things intuitively, but I didn’t spend enough time around lots of people and resources that would help me manage money better until I got a little older.

20. Things are just things. My friend Matt taught me this phrase recently. Before that I would have called this “Possessions only really matter in the moment.” What I mean is most of the things I “have” to have in the moment are just things in my house after a few days, weeks, months or years. There are things in storage boxes right now that I have not used or touched in months or even years that at one time or another was a “have to buy”.

21. I make better decisions when I’m not in a hurry. This could be applied to every area of my life, but when I slow down, weigh things out, remove as much emotion as possible…I just make better decisions.

22. Sleep is important. My mom used to tell me that our bodies heal at night while we sleep, so if we don’t sleep we don’t heal. I’m not sure if that was even scientifically correct, but it’s practically correct. I feel worse the less I sleep and it has a cumulative effect. I’m better in every area of my life when I’m sleeping well for long enough periods of time.

23. Kids grow up too fast. I don’t mean this in the condescending way it sounds to those younger than me. I mean it more as a dad. My four kids are getting older, faster. I swear. It seems like it was just yesterday that they were learning how to crawl, and now we are navigating devices, proper relationships, language, habits, and sexuality. I wish they would slow down.

24. Fear is real, but it’s fake. I know some people who have a very real struggle with fear and anxiety. It’s a real thing, and in no way am I belittling that. However, I also believe that fear is fake. Beyond a very small percentage of the things we actually fear, most of the things we are afraid of haven’t and even won’t happen. They are fake fears. They are the monsters under our bed, and yet they grip us and keep us from living fully free.

25. News agencies cater to our fears. I don’t watch the news on television anymore. I scan the headlines on my computer or phone, but not near as much as I used to. The reason: these companies make money the more they sensationalize the events happening around us. Many times they have become part of the story rather than just reporting on it.

26. God knew what He was doing when He created the idea of Sabbath. I talked about sleeping earlier, this is not that. This is the idea that I have intentional time in my schedule and calendar that validates this reality:

I am not what I can produce.

When I work non-stop it is actually rooted in an unhealthy place that doesn’t honor God. I’m better 6 days a week than I am 7 days a week because that’s the way God made me.

27. Everyone needs a mentor/coach. It’s no secret that I believe in coaching and mentoring. I have been a recipient and I’m now actively coaching pastors and leaders. You can read more of my philosophy HERE. But my life, leadership and ministry is better because of those a few steps ahead of me helping me navigate my own life. I have mentors as a husband, father, pastor, leader, writer, speaker, and more. I think everyone needs people like this.

28. “You can’t go cheap on toilet paper, peanut butter or underwear.” This was a phrase my mom said over and over when I was growing up. She would buy off brand all the time, but not in the 3 categories above. She believed the higher price here was well worth it.

29. My wardrobe got better when I just gave up control. For the first few years of our marriage I wore what I’d always worn. It wasn’t great, but it was comfortable and I could usually get Buy One Get One ____. At some point Corrie started slipping clothes into my closet and drawers and I didn’t realize it until I was getting complimented for clothes I didn’t remember buying. Eventually I just gave up control and I’m thankful for it.

30. With a good tool, and a Youtube tutorial video I can fix almost anything. Technology has made me an actual, honest to goodness handyman. In a stage of life where money wasn’t readily available I learned how to fix my hot water heater, leaking toilet, change my oil, change my brakes and rotors, and lay flooring in my house…while watching someone else do it on Youtube.

31. There is a difference between a cup of coffee and a “good” cup of coffee. I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was pursuing my Master’s degree while married, pastoring, and had young kids at home. My friend Jonny was staying with us recently and he made some coffee but it involved a process to make it and time to let it sit. That was a new experience for a guy who just hits the start button on the auto coffee pot. But it’s a shame both of these things are called coffee, because what he served me was something else entirely.

32. You are what you read. (aka “Leaders are Readers”). I’ve always loved to read. My brother always hated to read…until recently. Now he reads circles around me. But I believe that reading has set me up to be a better leader, writer and speaker, among so many other things. By continually exposing myself to outside voices, even those I disagree with, across a variety of genres, I’m better.

33. Hair travels. I noticed it in older men long before I started getting older, but there’s less and less hair on my head and more and more hair…

34. I failed to realize how much a compliment was worth. I have always been surrounded by very affirming people. My mom often led the way in this area for me. While I would say that “words of affirmation” is not my love language, I never really wanted for affirmation. After her death there was a void left that I didn’t realize until it was too late. My dad, brother and friends are still very affirming, but I’ve realized that I’m not as good at giving affirmation as I probably should be because I took for granted how much I needed it myself.

35. My brother is an idiot. I use the term idiot as a term of endearment, and I’m not even kidding. If I call you an idiot it means I really love you. My brother Jason is a huge idiot. Nobody makes me more angry, but nobody makes me laugh harder. Corrie knows when I’m talking to him on the phone because I’m either ticked off or laughing so hard I’m crying. I’m thankful for our daily phone calls.

 

Honorable Mention:

Once I started making this list I came up with more than I needed. So here are a few more that almost, but didn’t quite, make the list.

36. Early bird gets the worm. I’m an early riser, for the most part. But I have definitely learned that I am more productive the earlier in the day I get started.

37. Dry cleaned shirts just fit better. There’s a place by my house that dry cleans shirts for dirt cheap. Once I found this out I started taking a few shirts at a time to get dry cleaned and my clothes miraculously started fitting better.

38. A full tank of gas is overrated. I hate stopping for gas. It’s a pain to stop whatever forward progress I’m making to stand still and wait…So I run ridiculously low most of the time. There have been times (the exact number is not important) when I have run out of gas. Thanks to my friends who have helped me in these moments. You know who you are.

39. The quality of a good pillow. I knew I was getting older the first time I took “my” pillow on an overnight trip away from home. You just never know what kind of pillow you’re going to find in the hotel or friends’ guest room. There doesn’t seem to be much in between. It’s either soft as a cloud and my sinuses get stopped up or hard as a rock and my neck hurts the next day. So I travel with mine.

40. I swear stuff hides from me. I can be looking for something very intently only to discover that it’s not where I thought it was or told it was. Corrie walks into the same room and the thing magically appears. I’ve looked into the refrigerator for something and didn’t see it. I close the door. She opens it and wouldn’t you know it, the thing is sitting right on the shelf where I looked. It’s some kind of voodoo wife magic or something. I still don’t understand it.

 

Alright, now it’s your turn. What are some things you’ve learned in your years on earth? Which ones of mine have you observed as well?