4 Healthy Steps For Your Current Season

I have found that we are constantly in one of four very distinct seasons of life.  And these four seasons tend to cycle.  I’m sure you can relate.

4 seasons

Mountain top | This seems to be the shortest season.  But it also tends to be the time in life when we don’t seek after God as aggressively.  This makes sense, right?  When everything is going great, marriage is solid, and the car is running well…we often find ourselves not NEEDING GOD as much.

Heading into a valley | You know this season.  It is inevitable and you can virtually sense things rolling down hill with increasing momentum.  It’s Monday morning.  You receive a disturbing phone call on your way to work.  The car breaks down on the highway.  Maybe uncomfortable changes are on the horizon at work or in your church.  This season is not horrible, but it’s an indication of things getting harder.  And they’re usually just around the corner.

In the Valley | This one…..well, it’s just terrible.  It’s the polar opposite of the Mountain Top season and lasts quite a while (or at least appears to).  Crying ourselves to sleep at night and waking up with a sarcastic outlook on each new day is pretty common.  This season is so bad and so difficult to maneuver through, believers can actually experience a deeper and richer intimacy with Jesus.  We tend to search harder, pray more often,  and look for evidence of His activity in our lives with more detail than every before.

Heading to the mountain top | Relief!!!  It’s here.  Can’t you feel it?  Subtle signs of hope begin popping up in areas where pain and discouragement were just the other day.  This fuels us with new energy for life and a positive look forward into tomorrow.

So, what can we do when we’re in the two most challenging seasons of life?  Here are four practices I have personally learned to be life-saving for me over the years.

1. Stay in God’s Word |Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)  The Bible is packed full of encouraging, insightful, and knowledgable passages like this.  More than this, though, it is God’s Word.  He uses the Holy Spirit to speak and reveal things from His heart to ours through reading the Bible.  In the dark seasons it’s less about how much we read, and more about reading anything in God’s Word every day.    

2. Get out of the house | Surround yourself with others.  People who genuinely love you and have your best interests in mind are going to be encouragers to you.  They can also be a powerful sounding board in you situation.  God chooses to speak to us through other healthy believers quite regularly.  Seek them out.  Take a risk and let others into your life.  This rarely ends badly.

3. Read | Find a book or blog that deals with your season of life.  Something that you find helpful and encouraging or challenging.  Ask a friend or pastor for names of good Christian authors they read.  Reading helps redirect our attention away from our own stress and worry.  It provides positive food for our mental energies.  Find something today and dig in!

4. Pray for the difficult things | It’s one thing to pray for help, strength, or simply the need for the next ‘feel good’ season to come quickly.  To accept the season we are in, however, and ask the Lord to teach us something new is a whole new approach.  It’s hard, but take intentional moments to set aside your pain and dismay in order to ask God to grow your understanding of Him and His will.

What season are you in today?  What did you learn, or how did you grow, from your previous season?

Leave a comment below.  Let’s grow in this life together.

 

 

 

Photo credit: http://www.ryankapp.com

God says, “Quit!”

macIn Mac language we could even say, ‘Force Quit.’  Why?  Because this subject is not easy.  It takes determination and a thought out plan.
Here are some practical reasons for having a day of rest (a Sabbath).

1.  God did it.

His example should be good enough for us.  Period!

2.  God asks tells us to.

Its a simple question of obedience.  As followers, we don’t get to pick and choose when we listen to Him.  God’s not an egotistical power-monger.  He always has reasons behind what He tells us…and we need to be OK with not always understanding those reasons.

3.  We are not God…we need the rest.

Whether you work the ticket booth at the local cinema or you’re the CEO of a major corporation…you CAN take one day a week to NOT work.  Screen your calls, mute your smart phone, don’t check emails, stay away from the office.  Failure to do this WILL cause problems for you down the road.

4.  It says a lot about our priorities when we observe a real day of rest.

 Taking a weekly Sabbath day demonstrates commitment to God, our family, and our own spiritual health.  And if you’re a pastor, it models a good example to your staff and church body.
Now, make a list of all the reasons that are keeping you from having a day of rest, rejuvenation, and awareness of God’s blessings  in your life.  Take that list to God in prayer and devise a plan to work past them.
What could you benefit from setting aside one complete day for this kind of rest?
Leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you.

I Can’t Talk About Jesus With Others

Have you ever said (thought) those words?  I know I have in the past.

So, what prevents us from speaking about Christ to those we interact with every day?  Why is it that talking about Jesus on Sunday feels just fine, BUT it feels awkward at the grocery store, gas station, or workplace?

complicated

I suggest 2 possible reasons this can be true for many believers:

Acknowledgment | What are you and I taking notice of in our ordinary daily lives?  If we’re not NOTICING God’s hand throughout the week (and even outside of trials and stress), we are obviously not going to be mindful to mention Him.  This is a dangerous place to be, because when we don’t acknowledge Jesus in our relationships, successes, and personal growth we take credit ourselves!  And eve if we don’t SAY IT, simply NOT giving Him credit assumes an unhealthy level of autonomy.

Excitement | Think about this.  We rarely find it difficult sharing our excitement with EVERYONE when our team experiences a huge win, when we’ve had a big personal success, or after we return from the most amazing vacation EVER.  The details and passion within these personal experiences come through easily and quite clearly, don’t they?  I would conclude, then, that our excitement and energy around the things of Jesus can have a direct effect on how much (if at all) we share his involvement in our lives with others.  If we are not excited about Jesus adjustments must be made.  Something needs to be changed so we can experience Him in new and fresh ways.

Take a look at the attitudes of Peter and John in Acts 4:20 (emphasis is mine).

“…for we CANNOT but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

The attempts to hush Peter and John were unsuccessful.  Their experiences and beliefs were so strong that they COULD NOT refrain from speaking of Jesus.  Notice this passage does not use the phrase ‘will not.’  It would seem that their situation went beyond obedience.  Witnessing about the life of Jesus was not an option.  It was practically automatic.  To refrain would require much effort.

How do we get to the place that Peter and John were?  Well, the excitement and acknowledgement needs to be there first.  Next, intentionality and desire must follow.

Lord, may you give us eyes to see your works in our lives…and a humble love for others to want to tell them about it.

 

 

How Proximity Can Affect Your Perspective

“I can see it’s not level from here!”

I didn’t actually say that out loud.  But it’s what came to mind as I was watching a a hired worker on a scissor lift hang crosses from our Sanctuary ceiling in preparation for our Easter services.

He was roughly 25 feet off the ground as I witnessed him pull out a leveling tool to see if the cross was level.

level

I almost laughed.  It was so obvious from where I was positioned on the ground and about 30 feet from him.  The cross was very crooked.  But his proximity to the work being done was so close that the degree of inaccuracy was not clear to him.  He needed a resource, a level, to bring it into perspective.

This is often the case with leaders when they find themselves in particular seasons in their company or church.  Sometimes we end up so close and focused on a problem or need for change that we simply cannot see the obvious.  In these times it’s often a good idea to consider involving the perspective of someone not as close to the situation as we are.  Someone whose proximity is more distant.  This ‘level’ can either be someone on another team within your organization or a hired consultant.

So many times, these people will step into our situation and almost immediately take notice of something that was staring you and I right in the face the entire time.

Where are you looking for that ‘A-Ha’ moment?  Do you have others helping you who don’t have a direct connection to your present situation?

Join the discussion.  I’d love for you to leave a comment below.

3 Things To Always And Never Do In Leadership

“I will NEVER be that kind of leader.”

“I will ALWAYS lead with the utmost integrity in my church.”

We’ve all heard it said, “Never say ALWAYS or NEVER.”  And I think there is some wisdom in that.  These words can easily set us up for major failure.

Never and Always.001

In the right context, however, ALWAYS and NEVER can be incredibly useful for staying focused and intentional with who we desire to become and what we hope to accomplish in the future.

Here are 3 things I suggest we ALWAYS and NEVER do in leadership:

1. ALWAYS do your best | Our work effort should be high and directed toward God (Col. 3:23).  This also creates solid character.

2. ALWAYS forgive yourself when you fail | You and I are going to fail.  It’s inevitable.  But if we don’t learn from our mistakes, give ourselves grace and move on…we will end up self-destructing.  Give each new day a clean slate (Lam. 3:22-23).

3. ALWAYS look for the good in everyone | Noticing the positive traits in others (and acknowledging them) encourages and builds others up.  Who doesn’t need more of that?  This also changes the way we view people for the better.


1. NEVER Give up | You and I lose sight of our goals, hopes, dreams, and reason for living when we give up (1 Cor. 9:24).  When you feel like giving up, seek a mentor immediately.  Work through it with someone.

2. NEVER neglect your priorities | Relationship with Jesus, family, personal health, rest, and growth.  These are some of examples.  Whatever yours are, keep them in front of you at all times (Luke 12:34).  Examine them to see how you are doing.

3. NEVER lose sight of your calling | This one helps us to avoid giving up.  Whatever God has called you to, do it well (Eph. 4:1).  He believes in you.

What would you add to this list?

Join the discussion and leave a comment below.

Sabbatical | Day 3

This is technically Day 4, but I still want to share from yesterday.

(Be sure to check out my Day 1 and Day 2 posts)

The key moments for me were continuing my reading in ‘No Other Gods’ and having some sweet time of personal worship.  I find it cool how the Lord can enter into fellowship with me while simply lying on my back in my hotel room with my earbuds in.

When we take the time for Him, He takes the time for us.

And as it is with most of my Sabbaticals, I have not done all that I originally intended to at the beginning of the week.  And today reminded me that this is not necessarily a bad thing.

You see, I came upon a Tweet today asking for church leaders to share their story…particularly about their current ‘Phase’ of life and ministry.  I could not resist. I love sharing my story, both the good and the less pleasant sides.  If it hadn’t been for others telling their personal stories I may not be where I am today.  So I share to encourage others.

origami_windmill_hires

Anyway, in doing this I want to share with you a personal quote I included when I emailed them.  Here you go.

“Our partnership with God in His Kingdom work is never contingent upon our comfort, happiness, or confidence.”

 

While I was thinking back over the past 6 months it dawned on me.  God doesn’t wait until we are living on the mountaintop, free of pain and 100% sure of Him being right there with us, to ask us to do something HUGE for Him.  Nothing happens to us that does not pass through His hands.  This doesn’t mean that God necessarily  ’causes’ all things to happen to us.  It does mean, however, that when we’ve given God a definitive ‘yes’ He will be active, aware, and verbal in our relationship with Him regardless of what is going on around us.  The critical thing here is to maintain healthy personal soul care.  If we aren’t doing this it can become nearly impossible to hear His guiding voice or feel His involvement in our daily lives.

What about you?  How have you been hearing from God recently?  Leave a comment below.

#RaceTogether

Not everyone has a strong opinion on this.  And those who do seem to clearly be in one of two ‘general’ camps on Twitter.

1)  “Starbucks is in the coffee business, so stick to coffee and stop trying to force your agenda on society.”  Note: many tweeting this sentiment hate coffee anyway.

2)  “Good for them.  This is a topic we need to be openly discussing more in America.  It’s going to take a little discomfort to develop healthier diversity in our country.”

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My cup today

Personally, I find myself in a third group on the issue.  And it really begs a BIGGER question:

“Is Starbucks or Social Media really the best place to

have this discussion?”

I would suggest the answer is NO!  And here’s why I say that.

Churches in America should be having this talk.  They should be the ones initiating the discussion, both within their congregations and in their local communities.  This is a leadership issue.  Can it get messy and uncomfortable?  Yes.  Will the result be circles of hugs and everyone singing Kumbaya?  Not likely.

If you’re a church leader, please hear this.  Of all the places to talk about race, ethnicity and nationality…the Church should be the safest and most authentic place to do this.  If it isn’t then I would suggest that we have some work to do in the areas of integrity and character.

I’ll end with this.

As I write this I’m sitting in a Starbucks located in the deep South.  I have seen Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and Asians all gathering for coffee and community.  And you know what?  We all seemed to get along just fine.

Why shouldn’t we try to cultivate a similar environment in our churches?  We should be able to worship, serve, and learn together.  Why is this not very common?

I could really care less about Starbucks starting the recent hashtag trend.  It will fade away eventually.  But the Church would be wise to adopt the discussion as a normal and healthy part of growing together in the family of God.

 

Please leave a comment below.  Who’s doing this well and what can we learn from them?

Sabbatical | Day 2

Reflections

I just love it when The Lord speaks to us outside of the ordinary.  Don’t you?  In the first day of my Sabbatical it took basically the entire day to simply unplug and transition.  I began reading a book titled ‘No Other Gods’ which paved the way for me to really begin hearing His voice a lot today.

So here’s the gist of what I’ve been hearing Him speak into my life so far.

I am the Lord your God…  (Exodus 20:2)

footprints_hires
It’s personal… incredibly direct.  He’s lovingly reminding me of who He is.  He is MY GOD!  Mine.  His ear is all mine day or night.  BUT He’s also reminding me that this is a two-way relationship.  He needs access to my ear day and night as well.

“Brent, I want you to be available to hear me when I need to share the deepest things in my heart with you.  I need to know that you care as much about yourself and my Church as I do.” – God

MY GOD is so full of grace and patience.  Can you relate?
I’m loving this sweet time with Him.  My wife has many friends and church family praying for me this week.  It’s working!  Thank you, I can feel the effects of your prayers.
What has The Lord been speaking to you ABOUT YOU recently?  Leave a comment below. 
 

Sabbatical | Day 1

A Sabbath, in it’s simplest terms, is a time of rest.  I am fortunate to be on staff at a church that puts a high value on personal health.  We are encouraged to take an additional day each month (or 3 days per quarter) for personal Spiritual rest and rejuvenation.  This is the first church in 23 years of ministry where I’ve experienced anything like this.

relaxing_nature

Every time I am on a Sabbatical experience I like to journal my thoughts.  It keeps me focused.  It’s a form of meditation for me.

So, I’m out of town for 3 days.  Mostly, I try to catch up on sleep and enjoy some much needed solitude.  But I do have a few areas of focus for those 3 days.

Reading | A significant part of my reading plan does include the Bible and a couple different devotional resources.  Additionally, I am reading ‘No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols‘ by Kelly Minter.

Prayer | I am very intentional to pray over my family.  This is always first.  I am also praying for the next 6 months of our new multisite church campus.  Prayer for specific families, continued healthy growth, and renewed vision are key focal points this week.

Entertainment | I like to eat at places I usually don’t get a chance to eat at where I live.  I will also try to watch 1 or 2 movies on Netflix, since I don’t normally have time to watch many movies during a regular work week.  And adult coloring (a form of art therapy) is something new I’m trying this week in an effort to clear my thoughts.  Looking forward to this.

Planning | This will include looking ahead at the next few months.  Strategically making initial plans and doing a little self-evaluation as well.  I will normally try to schedule my next 3-day Sabbatical during this time.  If I don’t it will likely not happen when it should.

Have you had any kind of a Sabbatical experience before?  What did you do?  And if not, what part of this post sounds intriguing to you personally?

Join the discussion, leave a comment below.

 

Photo credit:  pixshark.com 

What Makes Today Any Different From Yesterday?

“Routines can cultivate monotony….if we allow them to.”

And when our days become monotonous we can begin to perceive each day as incapable of anything worth while.

bored

Webster’s dictionary defines ‘Monotony’ as a lack of change that makes something boring; tedious sameness.

Do you long for your days to have tedious sameness?  I don’t.

Here are some ways to counter monotony:

  • Alter your daily morning routine – Have something new for breakfast.  Do your quiet/devotional time in a different area of the house.  Change the alarm tone on your smart phone.  Leave 10 minutes earlier.  Listen to a different radio station or genre on your way to work.
  • Challenge your daily expectations – This is key.  When we ‘expect’ something new, something unusual from the day ahead of us we virtually turn the autopilot switch off.  Pray for interactions with different people than normal.  Choose a different Bible passage to meditate on each day and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal new insights to you.

This take a little intentionality and focus.  Pick one thing and start there.

So what do YOU do to counter monotony?

Please leave a comment below.  Keep the discussion going.

 

Photo credit: www.london.anglican.org