Contentment Is Learned

I don’t make enough money. I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Workplace negativity annoys me. Extreme social behaviors fueled by the pandemic often cause me to have ill feelings towards others.

Can you relate, or am I alone on this?

While all of these statements are true for me in my head, I also recognize that the magnitude of their truth only grows when I give it permission.

I don’t make enough money. Actually, I do. ‘Enough’ is relative. I have enough because God always provides for my needs. I may not have excess, but excess is not essential.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night. True…but I could have went to bed earlier. I wasn’t proactive.

Workplace negativity annoys me. Ok, so why don’t I choose to allow it to energize me to be an element for change toward more positivity?

Extreme social behaviors fueled by the pandemic often cause me to have ill feelings towards others. It is what it is. I’m not going to singlehandedly change societal behaviors, most of which are personal pet peeves anyway. I even talked with my therapist about this. (Yes I’m in therapy. Healthy people seek help while unhealthy people remain unhealthy in their solitude) She challenged me, “Why are you allowing others (strangers) to occupy so much of your limited emotional capacity?” Yeah, good question.

You see, all of these examples of mine are choices. Choices for action or mindset. Choosing to take the better path is usually more difficult and requires conscious effort. But we CAN do it!

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13‬

The apostle Paul wrote this in one of his letters while imprisoned. He had learned to be content because of his past experiences, both of pain and joy. He shares that in every circumstance he has learned the ability to ‘do all things’ in order to live in contentment because of the strength made available to him through Jesus.

Now, you and I don’t always have the ability to change the circumstances around us. But we do have choices regarding how we model walking through them.

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9 Months After Moving To Colorado

Well, it’s been 9 months since we moved to Colorado Springs from Georgia.  There has been A LOT that has happened in that short window of time.  This has been the most difficult stage of my life in 25 years of marriage and ministry…hands down!   A few months ago I wrote a post about taking a break from blogging for a season.  I’m still not blogging regularly until December, but I felt compelled to post this update.

Colorado Springs is amazing!  It is beautiful, has very few bugs, and virtually zero humidity.  I see the majestic Pikes Peak every day…multiple times a day.  But simply living in a beautiful place doesn’t necessarily make the experience beautiful.

cropped-pikes-peak-lg.jpg

You see, when we moved to Colorado I left behind a son, an incredible church family, and a ministry career that had become my identity.  I didn’t know it while traveling across the country in a 26 foot U-Haul truck, but I was about to spend the next 3 months lost, confused, and depressed.

First, the family unit split in two.  We originally thought we were just moving with our youngest two sons.  Then just hours before hitting the road our oldest child asked to move with us.  This is her story so I’ll allow her to tell it on her own another time.  But this is a huge reason God led us to Colorado.

Our oldest son had a career and friends in GA and decided to get his own place and stay there.  My wife and I blessed his choice to stay, but I really struggled (honestly, I still am) moving without him.  I guess it’s a natural part of the whole ’empty nesting’ thing….but it really sucks!

Once we arrived here, I began working at a popular coffee shop.  Every coffee-lover’s dream job, right?  I have also been working hard to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology online.  After working there for about a month or so, I hit a wall.  For 2-3 weeks I remember feeling anxious and emotional driving to work.  There were even a few times I had to pray that God would strengthen me to overcome the flood of tears so I could perform like a ‘normal’ barista.  Those tears were sure to come later in solitude moments in my bedroom.  One evening here, another there…just me and Jesus.  Real men do cry, so don’t judge.

It was in this brief season that I realized that I had allowed ministry (being a pastor) to become my entire identity.  Loss of title, income, and the comfort of knowing a job well.  When you’ve done nothing besides pastoring full-time for over 20 years it’s not the easiest thing to transition out of that world and into retail coffee at 45 years old.

Slowly, I began to realize that God had me in a new, very specific, season on purpose.  First and foremost, I was to enjoy really being there for my wife and kids without the demanding work schedule of ministry.  Second, He was aligning  co-workers and customers at the coffee shop for me to interact with…to live my faith out for them.

In March of 2016 I had the honor of speaking at a Children’s Pastors conference in Kentucky.  This was a true gift directly from the hand of God to me.  He knew I needed this.  I loved it!  I got to share my ministry experiences with young leaders, and then encouraged them after each talk.  This rekindled a fire for ministry in me.

Yes, we left an amazing church in Georgia, but God led us to another one.  (we thought this would be impossible).  My wife, Cailey, is serving PT on staff there now working with kids and equipping leaders.  I am volunteering in the Connect ministry to help people discover a meaningful and fulfilling place of service in God’s community.

Most recently, the Lord provided me with a new job working with a medical bill sharing ministry.  Another new experience, but I’m trusting God in it completely.  Cailey and I have also begun co-writing our first book.  We welcome your prayers with this.

What does He have in store for me in the next 5-10 years?  I don’t have a clue and I’ve given up trying to figure it out ahead of time.  I used to have this quote hanging in my church office.  Now it is mounted above our couch in the living room.

“The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.”

This has proven to be true in my life and I’m confident it will be in yours as well.  My Jesus is faithful, he knows what he’s doing, and he really does care more about my personal success and happiness than I ever can.

Here’s to another year of adventure, obedience, and remaining in Him!

 

 

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)

Your self-image will become your reality

photo by: butchbellah.com
photo by: butchbellah.com

When was the last time you literally said to yourself, “I can’t?”  Last week?  Yesterday?  This morning?  Just admit it.  All of us say those words to something in our lifetime.

I’ve known people who didn’t want to have kids because they were worried they wouldn’t be a good enough parent.  I have sobering news for you.  None of us will ever be a flawless parent.

Unfortunately, this will be the case for pretty much everything in our lives.  We will occasionally screw things up in our marriage, finances, careers, personal health, etc, etc, etc.

And to some extent, deep down we really do know this.  But we still manage to place impossible  levels of excellence on ourselves when considering doing something new.  If there isn’t nearly a 100%  possibility that we will excel at it, we won’t even attempt it.  Any of these sound familiar?

Lose 50 pounds

Save for a new car

Change my lifestyle

Quit smoking

Improve my walk with God

Run a Marathon 

Tell my testimony

Recently, I’ve been on a personal journey of self-leadership improvement.  Most of my efforts have been entirely centered on physical, spiritual, professional, and relational growth.  You might be saying, “That sounds like a lot!”  It can be, but I’ve learned to not let it be.  You see, I have a list…..a plan…..to go after certain things all through the year.  I made a list of three things I want to accomplish this year and broke each one down in small, bite-sized steps.

I’ve been doing really well at most all of them.  But then there’s that ONE.  It seems like there is always ONE thing that we have the most difficulty with.  Do you find this to be true as well?

It boils down to self-image!

One of the books I’ve been spending time reading each morning is ‘The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth’ by John Maxwell.  In chapter 3, he states that “People are never able to outperform their self-image.”  I believe this to be true of all of us.  So, somehow…some way…we must develop a healthier self-image in order to tackle these  other areas in life.

Back to the ONE thing I am struggling with improving.  Earlier this year my wife encouraged me in this area.  She did this by speaking words of affirmation and encouragement into me.  She spoke things into me that I didn’t believe about myself.  Next, she slapped a very creative, yet God-sized, challenge on me.  She freaked me out and built me up all at the same time.

After spending much time praying about this CHALLENGE of hers, I’ve decided to give it my best shot.  I realize I might fail or even not complete it.  But I am also fully aware that if I don’t even try…I’ve already failed!

What is your ONE THING?  What aspect of your own self-image needs the most work?  Comment below.  I’d love to encourage you.

The First Step ‘IS’ the First Step

continuous-improvementIs there an area of your life that needs improvement? Every person who has an ounce of humility and a somewhat clear view of where they are at in life will answer “Yes” to that question.
For the longest time I have hated Nike’s mantra to “Just Do It!” How egotistical. They don’t even know me. I’m big and clumsy, so exercise isn’t easy for me. I’m challenged with moderate dyslexia, so I pretty much despise reading. I enjoy pastries, bread, cheese, and fast-food way too much, so maintaining a constant healthy eating habit has always been a challenge. I did not grow up in a Christian home so leading myself closer to God has been one depressing failed attempt after another. These are my realities. They are, however, also my excuses. I’ve recently come to understand that our excuses usually do have much validity to them, but validity doesn’t lead us to health and improvement in these instances.
While reading (yes, I’m reading) in one of Maxwell’s books I wrote down a quote he mentions in the first chapter.
“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” – Jim Rohn
I had to read this five or six times to really let it resonate. If you’re like me, we are usually willing to make that initial step to change our direction, but the problem is this. We expect the new (better) destination to arrive quickly. That simply doesn’t happen! So, how do we get there?
Whatever it is you need to start doing…..Just Do It! (Can’t believe I just said that)
It’s true, though. To change our direction requires a step. To continue in that direction takes another and another step.
I have recently been so encouraged. Sure, there have been positive voices around me…but my real encouragement has been tied securely to the tangible steps I’ve been making all on my own. And as I’ve take steps, God has been faithful to bless those. I can also feel Him cheering me on…wanting me to succeed.
I will pose the question again. Is there an area of your life that needs improvement? You might identify 4 or 5, but do what I did. Take on one at a time. Then, simply take small action steps that are nearly impossible to fail at. Just do it! I am…and you can too.

Please leave me a comment or voicemail.

3 Keys to Staying ‘On Track’ During the Holidays

photo credit: library.austintexas.gov

If you are reading this post right now you are probably feeling very similar to how I’ve been feeling over the past three weeks.

‘Off Track’

Maybe you know someone who is inundated with life stressors.  Pass this post on to them.  Here are 3 keys to staying ‘on track’ during the holidays.

1)  Stop – When I am feeling like everything is in disarray, the absolute worst thing I can do is accelerate forward with the hope of hitting a few big ‘to-dos’ on my way.  When you recognize that life and/or work are getting cluttered, slam on the brakes!  Trust me, stopping everything for a few hours (or even a whole day) will not cause a calamitous event in the universe.  Zebras will not lose their stripes.  The IRS will not deposit $1,000,000 to your bank account. And yes, you will still be willing to pay $5 for a cup of coffee.  Take time to pray, go for a walk, get a needed nap,

2)  Focus – Use Evernote (or an actual note pad) to jot down everything you feel has been dropped.  Those work tasks you haven’t touched in about a month.  The family dinner you still need to make happen.  The reading you need/want to do because……dang it, that material simply doesn’t pop into your head when you wake up in the morning.  Next, prioritize this list and put it in your calendar (I learned this from Jim Wideman).  This is the planning phase.  Don’t….I repeat…..don’t make this too difficult!  Keep it small and clear.

3)  Restart – Now, take a big breath and let it out s l o w l y.  Set yourself DOABLE goals each day and pace yourself.  Celebrate the little victories, and give yourself some grace when you drop the ball…..it happens!

Now, when things begin to get ‘off track’ again…..revisit #1 above.