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A Stroke of Genius

It’s that time year again. For thousands of us in the #OneWord365 community, December is the launch pad for discovering our new ‘One Word.’ Identifying one single word to focus on over the entire next year.

I’m writing this exactly 6 weeks after my wife and I chose to make a significant transition (and it’s Christmas Eve). We’re calling it our #LifeReset. We downsized, quit our jobs, and moved to the Oregon Coast. We began new careers as many have in this ‘great resignation.’ The Coast has always been a place of beautiful vacation memories with our kids. For both of us, there is just something awe-inspiring about the ocean waves crashing against the rocks. The salty air. The sand between your toes. It’s simply magical!

I gaze at the champagne-splashed waves rolling over the sandy abyss, the deep blue sky above hanging out with a gathering of bleached-white clouds, and the evening horizon which artistically displays God’s stroke of genius with brushes of fire red, blood orange, and tropical yellow. Our creator is an artisan.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭19:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

A huge part of our transition involved creativity. We started with a blank canvas, envisioned what we would love for our next 10-20 years to look like, and then started dipping our brushes in various pigments. Along the way, God has been so gracious in providing us with quality paint.

I offer all of that to say that I have located my One Word for 2022.

Paint: to depict as having specified or implied characteristics.

In 2022 I plan to ‘Paint’ my tomorrow, career, marriage, mental and spiritual health with the mediums of Joy and Peace. I will do this by tapping into God’s stroke of genius, borrowing His brushes, and asking Him to guide my hand in every movement.

So, what do you plan to focus on in the next year? Do you have One Word for 2022? I’d love to hear from you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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The Ocean Is Calling Us

Exactly 4 years ago we felt God drawing us to serve in Yakima, WA. And it’s been an incredible ride! We’ve made so many new friends, gained additional family members via marriage, and witnessed God do things that led our jaws to drop. Honestly, I don’t think we would’ve imagined ever leaving Yakima.

BUT…

It’s also been a couple years of financial, physical, and emotional challenge. We’ve been primarily working at Winco Foods making slightly more than minimum wage. Cailey (my beautiful wife) has been working hard in regular therapy to deal with some childhood traumas. Both of us have held multiple additional part-time jobs in the last 3 years just to help make ends meet. On top of all that our landlord just sold the home we’ve been renting for 1 year.

These issues recently caused us to rethink our current situation. A huge factor in this we owe directly to our oldest son, Garrett. He was home on leave from the Navy in September. Over dinner one day he shared his concern for us burning the candle at both ends with a flame-thrower. And he proceeded to challenge us to ‘dream big.’ He asked, “What changes to your lives can you make that would position you in a happier, safer, and more secure place?”

We left dinner that night kind of in shock…in a good way. Then Cailey took it a step further. She said to me, “What the heck. Let’s try to dream BIG!” If we could live anywhere we want and change our careers so that neither of us would need a second job what would that look like? What kind of employment would that require?

We have always loved the Oregon Coast. In addition to its beauty, we had a tradition of taking family vacations there most summers with the kids when they were younger. So we began tossing our resumes to employment opportunities on the coast. Newport surfaced quickly in our ‘test’ search. Cailey worked in banking earlier in our marriage, and will be sliding back into that. She enjoys it and this will provide a regular schedule with almost no stress. This is what she wants/needs. I will be doing counseling/social services with a non-profit agency that offers much needed resources to families in multiple coastal counties.

We are incredibly grateful for all our kids. Their support and encouragement in this “life reset” has meant the world to us.

I’m sharing this post just 4 days after arriving in Newport, OR. Multiple obstacles and change of plans hit us along the way here. The truck cost WAY MORE than we estimated, averaging only 7 miles per gallon! Housing is tight like it is most places, so we are making our temporary home in a cozy hotel room for an undetermined number of weeks while we look for what’s available.

In spite of all the difficulties, God is still working on our behalf! He has provided just enough in the moments when our faith was weak but resolute. Here’s a thought I read in my devotional titled, ‘Navigating Transition.’

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

This quote connects to our life reset, and I would venture to say even more broadly to how the pandemic has impacted us. Cailey and I didn’t LEAVE people, circumstances, and hardships in Yakima. Rather, we RAN TOWARD change, health, and discovery together in Newport.

(My world in a single picture!)

That’s enough for now. We’ll be sharing tons more over the coming months on our LIFE RESET and incredible journey of following Jesus into the crazy unknown. We’d love to hear from you. Drop a comment below, leave a prayer, or encourage us to remain connected to friends and family.

Until next time…..

Subscribe to the blog newsletter HERE to stay in the loop with an occasional email from me (not enough to be annoying).

You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram! Here’s a little about me if you’re interested.

Leadership Burnout: 4 Signs To Watch For

“Leadership is a marathon, NOT a sprint.”

You’ve heard this before.  Church leadership requires a healthy pace.  You and I;  we’re not Superman.  We’re definitely not God.  So we need to stop living our lives like we are.

burningout.002

As leaders in the Church, you and I have a huge responsibility.  This is all the more reason we must be attentive to our spiritual, physical, and emotional health regularly.

Here are 4 signs to beware of:

Short temper | Anyone ever accused you of being snappy?  Maybe your spouse or a co-worker?  And when they address it doesn’t it make us even SNAPPIER?  When we have been going full throttle for too long, anything (anyone) that appears to be a speed bump in our way ends up really irritating us.  Watch out for this.

Fatigue | Staying up too late and getting up too early.  Have you ever said to yourself, “People survive on 3-4 hours of sleep a night all the time.  I just need to push through this busy season.”  Two thoughts here.  1. That is simply justifying an unhealthy lifestyle.  2. If you’re in church leadership, guess what?  It’s always a busy season!

Told by others | This one usually stings a bit.  And the reason is usually because the person holding us accountable is someone we have a close relationship with.  A spouse, close mentor, or good friend.  That’s why it stings…because you and I know they’re right!  Here are a few things I’ve personally been told: “Hey man, what’s up? You’ve been a bit distant lately.”   “You have not checked in on me and how my family has been doing in quite a while.  I miss that.”   Are you O.K? You haven’t been yourself lately.”

Isolation | This one is huge!  Beware when you reach the point of dreading being around anyone.  You stop going to Small Group with your spouse during the week.  You tend to be the last one in at staff meetings and the first one to leave.  Your list of friends you can confide in has diminished to zero.

If you can relate to any of these today, please….talk to someone.  Modify your schedule.  Take a true Sabbath rest.  Ask your spouse to pray for/with you.

If this isn’t you but you know someone who is in this place, do them a favor.  Offer some loving accountability.  Share this post with them.  Offer to pray over them.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore your gut on this.  Leave a comment below.

You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

Has Busyness Intruded On Your Life?

I am sick and tired!

Literally, as I write this I have been knocked down for the last 5 days.  I’ve missed work, gotten behind in my studies, and whined a lot to my family about how miserable I feel.

Truth | You and I are not super-human, and we’re definitely not God!  We were not created to be invincible (I know, hard to believe).

Confession | I haven’t taken time to rest like I should.  This is a huge reason I got sick.  I have not had my quiet time with Jesus in the last week.  I have not been proactive about taking a real Sabbath once a week.

So how did this happen to me?  How do we allow our days to spin out of control?

EASY!

busyness.001

We let our priorities and healthy habits fall out of sight.  When we don’t plan ahead…when intentionality becomes scarce…those things get replaced.  So what takes their place?   Busyness! 

I don’t know about you, but I plan to be more intentional with my time.  That’s simply going to mean looking ahead at my week and planning accordingly.

How about you?  How do you successfully keep busyness from leading the way?

Comments are always welcome and appreciated.

Comments, prayer requests, and questions are welcome below.
You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram!

3 Surprising Sabbatical Reflections

All leaders require rest……but all don’t realize it!

Sabbatical:  Similar to the purpose in our weekly Sabbath, a Sabbatical (at least in church terms) is a number of days or weeks set aside for Prayer, Bible intake, reflection, and physical rest.

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Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them. – Ezekiel 20:12

I’m fortunate to be serving on staff at a church that sees the benefit in it’s pastoral staff taking regular Sabbaticals.  Recently, I returned from a 3-day Sabbatical.  Here are three reflections I came away with after comparing this one with others I’ve had in past years.

They are always different | These times away are spiritual journeys.  And since the Holy Spirit leads the way, it’s a good idea to not over-plan.  Enter it with a focus, but leave enough margin open for God to reveal his intentions for you.

They always have value | Sometimes we simply need tons of physical rest.  Other times fresh vision and insight is needed from reading the Word and listening to other teachers/preachers.  And then there are those times when we are desperately searching God’s will in a heavy decision.  No matter the ‘why,’ this time alone with God is always valuable.

They are never what you expected | This one was no exception.  As usual, I began this most recent one with a handful of specific expectations.  Things I wanted gain insight on from God.  In keeping with how he usually does things, God provided just what I ‘needed’ and nothing more.  And you know what?  What he spoke was better than what I had asked for.

What have been your experiences with Sabbaticals?  What challenges come to mind for when contemplating experiencing something like this for yourself?

Comments and questions are always appreciated.

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.

The One Commandment Most Church Leaders Break Often

Church leaders are some of the worst examples of modeling healthy rest.  I wrestled with this for years!

God even commands us to do it……yet we don’t.

calm

…the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…  Exodus 20:8-11

Now, I’m not talking about a legalistic approach to the Sabbath, which includes checking off a ton of boxes to show we are ‘keeping the law.’ The deeper purpose of the Sabbath is so much more.

Taking one day every week and giving it Sabbath consideration does two things.

  • It proves to God that we really do care about what He tells us.
  • It forces us to create healthy margin in an increasingly busy society.

So…why do church leaders constantly struggle with taking a full day of rest?

Guilt | This is especially true of senior leaders.  “The church is paying me to be the Pastor at all times.”  No they’re not!  You are in your leadership position to lead the congregation in healthy relationship to God.  That means letting others see in you how to live the life God has called us all to live.

Poor time management | “There is work to be done every day of the week.”  Yes there is, but it can be done in six days.  Pre-plan your studying, phone calls, meetings, appointments, and regular tasks to fit into 5 or 6 days.  This is what ‘keep the Sabbath holy’ means.

Savior complex | Can I just shoot straight on this one?  If you think you can’t take a literal day of rest because someone in the church ‘might need’ you, there’s a problem.  What eventually happens here is people in the church learn to lean more on us as pastors and less on their faith in Jesus.

May I offer you a challenge?  Take one of your regular days off and give it Sabbath consideration.  For me, that day is Monday.  Sunday is church and leadership…that’s work.

Be sure to check out my post on ‘4 Tips To Having A Good Day Of Rest.’

If this helped you, I’d encourage you to share it with someone else who could use it today.

Join the discussion.  Leave a comment below. 

Top 5 Recent Leadership Posts

feedbackBelow are my most popular posts on leadership.  I’m sharing these with you for one key reason.  I am looking to making a few small adjustments with my approach to my blog and I really need your input.  Take a look.

1) Manage your life, or your life will manage you

2) Your worship style is not working

3) We’re going to skin our knee on ministry work

4) 5 tips to having a good day of rest

5) Taking the Church’s Biblical pulse

Now tell me…which of these post did you like the most and why?

What aspects of the content did you find most helpful, and what material do I need to change or completely get rid of?  Are there leadership topics/issues that I am missing?

I’d love your input.  Either comment below or email me at brent@ccclive.org

(photo credit: www.jeffbullas.com)

“Taking the Church’s Biblical Pulse”

(This is a continuation of an  article I wrote for Light and Life Magazine’s January issue)

photo by: urbanchristiannews.com
photo by: urbanchristiannews.com

Most Churches have a degree of illness in them.  It’s to be expected…Church is comprised of flawed people.  Now, we really can’t talk about Church health without utilizing the Bible.  I know we ‘say’ that, but do we regularly compare our Church health to Biblical principles?  Let’s take a look at what I believe to be 5 key issues that make up the foundation of a healthy Church.

1) People Before Task Lists –  Jesus instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39), not to put our ‘To-Do’ lists before people.  Life gets busy for all of us.  Tasks and errands affect everyone.  If we are not careful, however, we will get all of our boxes checked off but miss the hungry soul that crosses our path and not even know it.  This is what I normally refer to as Spirit Awareness.  I am constantly finding myself praying daily for the Holy Spirit to grab my attention when I am about to have an opportunity to plant a seed for the Kingdom.  If I do not ask for this I am typically not going to look for it.

2) Scripture Before Comfort –  This one is so uncomfortable, yet singlehandedly kills Churches.  When a fellow believer needs to have an unhealthy aspect of their life addressed, Ephesians 4:15 encourages the Church family to speak the truth in love, not ignore it in hopes that the issue will magically disappear (because it never does).  And if there is an offense or sin between believers, Matthew 18:15-17 clearly tells us how to go to the individual and take care of it.  Note, texting or sending them a direct message on Facebook does not count.  Trust me, even if Jesus had an iphone in his day I am pretty sure he would say what he had to say to your face and not drop subtle hints on your Instagram account.

3) Lord Before Pastor –  I realize this one might be a bit sensitive for some folks,  but it is right there in the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:3).  We are to have no other gods before Him.  Did you know that the use of ‘gods’ here could translate “person of greatness or power?”  Lead Pastors are in this category.  This does not make them bad people, but Churches often place their Pastor on a pedestal so high (unintentionally) that they become the focal point of who is leading the Church instead of God.   Here is a tough question.  If your Pastor left your Church (circumstances aside) would it continue making an impact for Heaven without skipping a beat, or would it completely implode?

4) Sabbath and Prayer – There are seasons when we simply must rest.  Jesus modeled this with his disciples saying, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31)  This applies to us as individuals as well as to the Church.  Might I suggest that it is O.K. occasionally for the Church to shut down ministry for a week of prayer?  Our church does this three times a year.  During a week of prayer we strongly encourage (all but mandate) all Bible studies, groups, student ministries, and outreach events to cease.  We then ask the congregation to join us in prayer and worship each night at the Church.  

5) Keep everything in the light – In other words, do not lead the Church via top secret Board meetings and ‘off record’ one-on-one talks with people who have personal agendas.  Likewise, avoid ignoring problems of gossip, infidelity, and other compromises of the faith within the Church.  Address these issues head on and with everyone involved once you become aware.  When evil is brought into light it cannot thrive away from darkness (Eph. 5:13-14).

Healthy Churches make greater impact for the Kingdom of God.

Is there anything you would add to this list?  What are some examples of solid Church health that you have seen?

Comments are welcome below, or you can leave me a voice message HERE.  God bless.

* Credit:  The majority of these principles come directly from our Operational Values at Christ Community Church, compiled by Rev. Keith Cowart.