Nov 212014

Why Can’t We See In Ourselves What We See In Others

I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the Facebook post, but I could be wrong.

Clearly someone thought I was wrong.

I was in Wal-Mart and happened to wander into their book section. The most prominent book displayed in the Christian section was a book allegedly about Biblical prophecy. In my theological opinion it has nothing to do with prophecy or the Bible. It’s a get-rich-quick scheme based on scaring people into thinking the world might end tomorrow because of how poorly our political opponents are acting.

So I took a picture and made a slightly humorous comment showing I didn’t support the book.

Many people responded to the post—some in support, some attempting humor, and some disagreeing. It was an engaging thread until someone took deep exception to my post. They didn’t just disagree with my point, they made deep judgments about my heart. They questioned my role as a pastor; let it be known they would never visit the church I pastor, discouraged others from attending, and while admitting pastors are human said we should live to a higher standard than I was doing.

When I read the critique, two thoughts quickly passed my mind.

First, I wondered am I guilty of what the person is accusing? Anytime someone accuses us of something, we should consider their point. Even if we do not like their approach, we should examine our hearts to see if they need to be corrected. Maybe the post was out of bounds. Maybe it didn’t accomplish what I wanted. Maybe there was a better way to go about it. (See: Criticism–How to Listen When Others Speak)

Secondly, I wondered why I can’t see in myself what is so easy to see in others. In other words, how do I fail the way this person failed?

Notice the irony of the comment: a Christian took to Facebook to tell me on Facebook that I should never critique another person on Facebook. As a pastor, they thought I should know better and they were appalled at the condition of my heart which would allow me to be so negative.

My five-year-old self wanted to respond: “So you don’t want me to do to others what you just did to me?” But my 36-year-old self restrained my childish response and instead asked the question: “Why can’t I see in myself what is so obvious in others.”

It’s easy to see fault in the lives of other people. They are selfish, condescending, childish, petty, rude, mean, short-sighted, and often wrong. And it’s not just that they are all of those things, but they are all of those things in blatant and obvious ways.

Yet common sense tells me I’m not unique. Whatever is so obvious to me about other people is likely very obvious about me to other people. While I may not sin in the exact way as someone else, I no doubt sin to the same degree and frequency. So why is it so easy to see in others but so difficult to see in myself? (See: Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook)

What are some ways I condemn in others the very thing I’m doing?

Of course it is much more difficult to see our own sin and shortcomings because it takes maturity to do so. A child can easily point at their sibling and tattle. But it takes real maturity to step outside of ourselves, look at our actions objectively, and judge our thoughts or actions as inappropriate. Then it takes tremendous humility to admit fault and confess our imperfections.

Attacking other people is much easier than reflecting on our own actions.

Yet we must do the hard work. (See: How to Respond to Mean People)

We cannot go through life writing the story that we are good and everyone else is bad. We cannot make it our call in life to point out the faults of everyone else. We must do the mature work of looking at our own lives.

This doesn’t mean we can ignore our responsibility to stand up for truth. Bad actions, ideas, and beliefs do need to be confronted. We can’t remain silent. We must walk the fine line of standing on the side of truth with humility and self-confession.

Here are three questions which should help us look first at ourselves before others:

1. Whenever we are outraged by others, ask: What is it within me that causes me to be so outraged by them? Turn the focus back on your heart and your actions.

2. Whenever we are quick to assume we are holy and someone else is not, ask: What are some ways I sin in a similar fashion to how they are sinning? Refuse to fall for the delusion that I’m morally superior to others.

3. Whenever we are tempted to point out something which is wrong, ask, How can I highlight disagreement with an action or idea without attacking the person’s heart?

I’m still open to the thought I shouldn’t have posted what I did on Facebook. I don’t think I was wrong, but maybe I was. I’m convinced the book is bad and should not be supported, but maybe my attitude was not appropriate. (See: Drama Addicts–Why Your Friend is Always Stressed)

Yet I wonder less about that one post and more about the posts, comments, and actions which I don’t even recognize are wrong. I’m afraid I’m doing to others what I do not like done to me. And I’m doing so with out even seeing it.

 

Nov 202014

Drill, Rest, Then Drill Again

Getting a tooth filled is not painful, but it is exhausting. Modern techniques have taken the pain of dental work away. The only part that is painful is the process of numbing the pain. While most shots do not hurt, a few of them carry a few seconds of significant pain. But after the shots, the pain is gone.

Yet the lack of pain doesn’t make the work refreshing. It’s wearisome.

When I was a kid, I had a good amount of dental work done. All these years later the work needs to be redone. Apparently fillings have a shelf life.

If it were just about pain tolerance, my dentist could give me a mouthful of shots and redo every filling I’ve ever had in one sitting. It would be cost-effective and time efficient; instead the work will be broken into several sessions. I will block the time on my schedule, drive to the dentist, wait the twenty minutes for my mouth to numb, let him do his work, and come back another time for the whole process to begin again.

Why? (See: Why Some Relationships Succeed and Others Fail)

Why wouldn’t I just do all the work at once. He would prefer it. I would only be inconvenienced once. And it would be over.

The problem is I can’t tolerate the discomfort for too long. While there isn’t any pain, dental work is not comfortable. There are bright lights, an apparatus holding my mouth open, foreign objects poking and prodding, drilling, and the irritating Mr. Thirsty making sure I don’t gag on my own saliva.

In short doses, it’s tolerable, but after a certain period of time I need a break.

A good dentist can sense it. She knows when the patient can endure drilling and when he needs a break. She knows the right time to get the work done and the right time to let the patient rest.

Our lives are filled with cavities. There are places where decay has set in and what we need the most is for someone to drill away that which is no longer useful and to fill the space with something productive. It’s a need. (See: Everyone’s Pain Is Just Below the Surface)

Yet if you have a drill in your hand, you can’t just focus on the need. You also have to consider the tolerance of the patient. Drilling needs to occur, but don’t blindly drill until the problem is solved. Drill then rest.

Rest, not because you need to be replenished, but because the patient needs time to recover. Their nerves need to relax. The bright light needs to be turned off. The tension needs to be released.

Rest and then drill again. (See: When Life Seems Out of Control)

When it comes to confronting problems, people tend to make one of two mistakes.

Some drill at the issue with no concern of others. They see a problem and they attack it. Their boldness is admirable, but their work is rarely effective. Instead of attacking a problem, it feels as though they are attacking people. The issue might be confronted but the relationship is broken.

Others never drill because drilling is never fun. No one goes to the dentist and asks him to drill on a tooth because they miss the feeling. Even with numb gums, having a tooth drilled is nerve-racking. It’s a necessary experience, but not an enjoyable one. Some people never confront difficult issues because confrontation is always uncomfortable. Afraid of making others uncomfortable, some people never deal with hard issues.

The need is for balance.

We must have the courage to engage in difficult situations and circumstances for the well-being of others and society.

We must have the discernment to know when those we are helping can best tolerate the drill and when we need to let them rest.

When a couple is going through a difficult time, I often encourage them to set aside thirty minutes every day to discuss the issue. Maybe an affair has occurred or trust has been violated in some other way. Emotions are raw. One spouse might want to constantly talk about the issue while the other spouse may want to never discuss it. (See: Two Steps to Solving 90% of Relationship Problems)

To help them avoid either extreme, I encourage them to have a set time. After the kids have gone to bed, when the demands of the day have died down, sit down and talk about how things are going. If an issue comes to mind before the meeting, write it down. If you think of something after the conversation, remember it for tomorrow. Don’t avoid the issue, but don’t let the issue dominate every conversation. No one can take an unending serious conversation. It would be too exhausting.

So it is with all difficult issues. Whether we are confronting a deep sin within society like racism, sexism, or physical abuse or we are dealing with a personal issue in a family or workplace, we must have courage and discernment.

Drill, rest, then drill again. It’s a good way for dentists and leaders.

Nov 192014

Three Mistakes Individuals Make After a Divorce

Divorce happens. As much as I wish it didn’t, it does.

Most divorces should never happen. Relationships end because one or both spouses are unwilling to do the difficult work which marriages require. It is a great tragedy. (See: A Map for Navigating Life’s Disappointments)

Yet some divorces have to happen. Even as a pastor, I sometimes recommend a husband or wife file for divorce. I never make my recommendation lightly, but some relationships cannot survive.

No matter the cause of the divorce, there are three common mistakes I see individuals make. While there are other mistakes as well, these three are the most common and should be avoided by those who endure the painful experience of divorce.

1. Downplaying the effects on the children. Even when a divorce is the right decision, it has lasting consequences on a child. Every child needs help after a divorce. Parents often assume because the child is talking about their pain or expressing it in negative outburst that they must be handling it well. Rarely is that the case. While children are resilient, divorce is still painful. They need assistance in walking through their pain and disappointments.

Parents can play a key role in this process, but they rarely can play the only role. Other mentors, teachers, and counselors are also important to the child. If I suffered through a divorce, there is no question both of my children would be in counseling no matter if I thought they needed it or not. They would be there until a professional told me they did not need to be there.

2. Failing to learn from broken relationships. They say divorce is always a two-way street, but that is not necessarily the case. While it takes two people to make a marriage, it only takes one to end it. One spouse can do everything in their power to make a marriage work and still end up divorced. Sadly, in those situations many individuals feel an extreme sense of guilt and shame even when they are the innocent party. Yet even if a spouse did everything they could to make the marriage work, there are still important lessons to be learned from a divorce. Failing to learn those lessons is a major mistake.

Attempting to understand why the relationship ended, knowing what your personal strengths and weaknesses are, and discovering what caused you to choose the other person, are all important lessons which can be learned from a divorce. The pain of a divorce can be one of the greatest motivators we will ever experience. Never wanting to go through the experience again should cause every individual to ask the tough questions and make important changes. Rarely can this process happen alone. (See: What to Do When Life Falls Apart)

The greatest predictor of the success of a second marriage is how much a person learned from the mistakes of the first marriage. Never waste a divorce by failing to learn the lessons which could only be taught through the depth of pain.

3. Rushing into a another relationship. Divorce hurts. The pain is so great it causes us to long for someone to comfort us and something to take our minds off the hurt. That other someone and the something is often another relationship. While it is extremely understandable why people quickly jump into a new relationship it is often foolish.

Divorce is like a death. Just as someone doesn’t just “get over” the death of a loved one, we don’t just “get over” a broken relationship. It takes time to process it, believe it, and understand it. The last moment in which you should be making important decisions, like who to be in relationship with, is when you are experiencing great stress, grief, and sorrow. Rarely will we choose wisely when we are under that much stress. (See: Divorce Is Contagious)

As hard as it is, a person should not get into another relationship soon after a divorce. Take a year. Grieve. Learn. Discover yourself. And then begin to test the waters of love.

Divorce is heartbreaking for communities, families, and most of all the individuals involved. It’s a pain which is so deep, I spend a good amount of time writing to assist marriages so they will not have to experience the brokenness. However, divorce does happen and when it does, an individual must make wise choices to keep from compounding their pain and the pain of others. There are many mistakes to avoid, but these are the top three. (See: How to Respond to a Culture of Broken Marriages)

Nov 182014

You Don’t Know Me

I pastor in my hometown. Before a new subdivision was built beside our church, I could look out my office window during the winter and see the elementary school and junior high I attended as a kid. Out the back field of our property is the house my best friend grew up in.

It’s an odd scenario to pastor in your hometown. My second-grade teacher attends the church. Many of the adults knew me when I was five or six or sixteen. Jesus said that a prophet is without honor in his hometown. I’m not a prophet, but there is a reason most pastors lead churches far from their homes. Who wants to remember their pastor playing Little League or struggling to get a date (hypothetical of course) or learning to drive? (See: The First Time I Cussed)

Yet here I am, and in this place there are many perks. I love being a pastor in my hometown and struggle to consider doing this job in any other location. But there is one major drawback—people assume they know me. And they do, in part. They probably know my basic personality. They know if I’m trustworthy or kind. They know many of my likes and dislikes. But they don’t really know me.

They know who I was, but they don’t necessarily know who I am. Like everyone, I’ve changed. I’ve grown up. I’ve gone places, had experiences, and learned things which have changed who I am. Marriage, parenting, and maturity have changed my mind on many aspects of life.

While some things haven’t changed, many have. To assume you know me is to make a bold assumption.

But that’s true with everybody.

One of the worst assumptions we make is when we assume to know someone. It’s fair to form opinions, have assumptions, and to think we know what a person may think, believe, or do, but it is not fair to think we know someone and never given them a chance to reveal their true selves. (See: It’s Not My Job to Read Your Mind)

We hate it when others do this do us. So why do we do this to others?

One of the great aspects of maturity is understanding that people change. Who I am today is not who I will be tomorrow. Hopefully I will improve. Today’s lessons, achievements, setbacks, and experiences will change me into a better person tomorrow. It’s not guaranteed, but it is mostly under my control.

The change means someone could know me today, but not truly know me tomorrow. Unless they do the work to continue to know me, I will change and they will never know it. They will always assume I’m the same person I’ve always been. (See: Five Ways Hunting Can Make You a Better Husband)

This assumption is dangerous. While it may be true, it likely isn’t. I know aspects about people around me, but I do not fully know them. For me to know them, I have to continue to give them the time and opportunity to reveal themselves to me.

Do you know your spouse? You knew her/him yesterday, but have you taken the time to see how yesterday has changed them?

Do you know your co-workers? Hopefully they are growing and advancing. The person you worked with last week is not necessarily the person beside you today.

Do you know your parents or children? Both are changing and while we might know them better than anyone else, do we truly know them?

If you want to kill your marriage, assume you know your spouse. Never listen. Never explore. Never allow them time to fully express themselves. Your assumptions will prevent you from truly knowing them. (See: The Most Important Marriage Advice I Could Give)

If you want to be a bad boss, assume you know your employees. Never give them a chance to prove themselves. Never provide chances for growth. Never forgive a past mistake.

If you want to be a bad parent, assume you know your kids. Always treat them as though they are a child. Always assume you know them better than anyone. Never ask what they think, believe, or desire. (See: What I Prayed the Night Ella Was Born)

A funny thing about living in my hometown is that I regularly run into old friends. Some still live in the same neighborhood, some have moved a thousand miles away. Whenever I see them, it’s tempting to think, “I know them,” but I’m quickly reminded, they have no idea how I’ve changed over the past year, five years, or decade. They don’t know me, and I don’t know them.

I’ve known a lot of people in my life, but I don’t really know very many today. Thankfully, that is what makes today fun—every person I meet today will be a new person because they have changed since yesterday. If I give them the chance, we can reveal ourselves to one another.

You might have known me in the past, but I’m not fully who I once was. Time has changed me and hopefully for the better. And I can only assume it has done the same to you.

Nov 172014

Strong Character Is Built Through Significant Challenge

Shrek and Donkey were transformed in their journey together for the princess.

Rocky grew from his pursuit of a title.

Great teams find themselves in the pursuit of a championship.

Mission and character go hand-in-hand. In literature and life, a person finds what they are made of on a great quest and the quest helps make them become greater than what they were. (See: You Better Make Up Your Mind)

Show me someone with great character and I’ll show you someone who feels a sense of purpose in their lives. The purpose is derived from their character, but their character is also dependent on the purpose.

Character is created for mission and mission creates character. The relationship is reciprocal.

Good character doesn’t exist for its own benefit. While a leader fixates on their own character and the character displayed by those they lead, good character is not the ultimate goal. The hope is that the character will aid a greater mission. (See: What Should a Leader Care About)

Leaders see character as a prerequisite to accomplishment. We continue to work on ourselves and our teams because we know bad character can destroy us and good character can aid us in accomplishing the task at hand.

Character is created for mission.

There is always a greater purpose beyond ourselves. We focus on ourselves so we may then forget about ourselves in the pursuit of a greater good.

If a public speaker doesn’t recognize his nervousness before an engagement and find a way to channel that nervous energy in a good way, he will never be able to focus on his audience or the speech he is giving. He must look at himself before the mission so that he doesn’t spend his whole time during the mission compensating for his weakness.

As it is for a public speaker, so it is with any leader. We work on our character as a part of preparing for, and working on, a greater mission. This is also the reason we focus on the character of the individuals and organizations we lead. (See: You Control What Matters Most)

A coach is quick to point out any laziness he sees in a player regarding preparation. The laziness is a character flaw; it’s a failure to put in the heart and work necessary to accomplish a task. A good coach almost always shows the player how laziness will hinder both the player and the team in the pursuit of victory. Lazy practice habits lead to lazy in-game habits which can lead to a loss. Character development is always linked to the pursuit of a mission.

We need good character because of the great tasks before us. Unless your mission is significant enough, your team may never realize the importance of integrity, honesty, courage, etc. When apathy about character development is present, it reveals a failure to properly communicate the importance of the mission.

Character is also created by mission.

The pursuit after something important provides the motivation for change. If someone believes passionately enough about a goal, they are willing to confront anything which might hinder their mission. Bad character hinders every mission. When a teammate can’t be trusted or a leader lacks integrity or someone looks out for self above others, a group’s performance will suffer. Good character creates good teams; bad character creates bad teams. (See: Communication Reveals Character)

Mission not only provides the motivation to change, it also reveals what needs to be changed. Worthy pursuits exhaust us. They demand everything we have. They wring every ounce of energy from us. In this process, every weakness is revealed. We might easily deceive ourselves or others in times of ease. We can appear stronger than we actually are. We can think we have it all together. Yet the testing which comes from fighting for an important mission strips away all delusion. We will quickly realize our need for growth. Weak spots will appear. Character flaws will be revealed. Only when we are pursuing after a worthy mission will we truly expend ourselves to such an extent that our flaws will be fully revealed.

Hasn’t the Army known this concept for years? Isn’t this the concept of basic training? Military leaders desire to break enlisted men and women in order to build them back up properly. They stress the mind and body to reveal what is there. After weaknesses reveal themselves, they can be confronted and improved.

It’s in the midst of a mission that character is most often revealed and changed. (See: What Every Leader Should Look For)

Too many teams, organizations, and individuals fail to reach their goals because they downplay the importance of character. By ignoring the development of their character, they set themselves up for defeat. You might be able to ignore character in order to gain short-term wins, but eventually bad character will reveal itself and will become self-defeating.

Yet when mission and character are wedded together, victory is normally found on both fronts. With a strong sense of mission, people are quick to identify character flaws and make improvements. With a strong sense of character, team members focus less on themselves and more on helping others in the accomplishment of a great task.

Failing to have purpose in your life is a failure of character. Good character was not created for the individual. It is a gift which is to be leveraged for the well-being of others.

 

Nov 142014

Ten Reasons Life is Better in Your Late 30s

When I was in my mid-20s I was with a group of people of various ages. The topic came up, what is the best time of life?

I knew better than the traditional thought of high school and college. Both seasons of life are fun, but they aren’t close to being the best time of life. I expected a person’s 20s to be the best. In your 20s you live on your own, are in great shape, and start living your own live.

But the consensus of the group was the 30s, and particularly the late 30s.

I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. It’s hard for me to imagine life being better than it is now.

Here are 10 reasons life is better in your late 30s:

1. You are starting to know and accept yourself. Life is a continual process of discovery, but in your 30s you begin to get an understanding of who you are—strengths, weaknesses, habits, etc. While the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” might never fully go away, by your 30s you start to have some idea. Knowing and accepting yourself allows for an appreciation of life and others.

2. You realize no one is cool. From the moment we enter school until well into our 20s, we are often chasing cool. We want to be in the cool crowd, with the cool things, and be seen as a cool person. Thankfully the myth of cool eventually fades. It takes a long time for us to understand but no one is truly cool. We all struggle. We are all imperfect. Everyone has weaknesses. (See: The Only Time I Was Ever Stoned)

3. Your marriage is built on love and trust more than lust. When young couples get married, they think they love each other. After being married for a decade, a couple knows they love one another. Experiencing the ups and downs of marriage, learning to communicate and forgive, allows a couple to trust each other. True love is built on trust. While the physical relationship remains important, it becomes an expression of love and not its centerpiece.

4. You’ve experienced enough life to gain some perspective. My six year-old regularly says, “Dad, this is the worst day of my life.” He might think it’s true, but I know better. It takes some years to put our days into perspective. I know just because today is bad doesn’t mean tomorrow will be. I also know that what I often call a bad day isn’t that bad at all. (See: Trust Me It Matters, Read This Before You Die)

5. Your kids are old enough to sleep and young enough to believe. The newborn years are hard on parents. Not only are you learning to parent, but you are sleeping very little while doing so. Thankfully, those years give way to late preschool and early elementary days. In this season, your children begin to become somewhat self-sufficient, but are still highly dependent. Parents are heroes in these days. Few things are as fun as watching a child who is full of wonder.

6. You are starting to earn real money. They say your 30s should be the decade you learn to make money so your 40s and 50s can be productive. If someone has made wise choices, their 30s can be very fruitful. The days of living paycheck to paycheck should be behind you and there should be enough money left over to invest in the future.

7. You’re young enough to do nearly every physical activity, but wise enough to refrain from stupid activities. Most 3-year-olds are still able to run, jump, and do nearly any activity they have ever done, yet the next day they feel the effects of their activity. This ability, mixed with feeling the effects, keeps them from doing things which the average teenager or 20-something may not think twice about. Being able to do something, but wise enough not to attempt it, is a wonderful place to be in life.

8. You return to things that are truly important. If faith was an important part of your childhood, it’s not unusual for your late teens and 20s to be spent without giving it much concern. However, there is something about growing kids, the aging of parents, and the tragedies of friends which can remind us we want faith to be an active presence in our lives. This element can bring a deeper meaning and value to life.

9. You still have time to change. Unless your dream is to be a professional athlete, your 30s are a time in which nearly every dream can still come true. It’s not too late to go back to school, change careers, pick up a new hobby, etc. You’ve lived long enough to know what you want to do, but not too long for it to be too late. (See: Three Loves to Change Your Life)

10. You’ve had enough bad experiences to appreciate the good ones. Life is best lived in gratitude. By your 30s you should have experienced enough heartbreak, disappointments, and unfulfilled dreams to truly appreciate the areas in life which you have been blessed.

It’s not true for everyone. And if your 30s aren’t good, don’t assume the rest of life will be bad. However, your 30s are a tremendous opportunity for growth, meaning and appreciation.

Sadly, too many people speed through their 30s either trying to still live like a 20-year-old or assuming all of life will forever be this way. It won’t.

Hopefully life continues to get better, but so far, there has not been a better time in life than this.

Nov 132014

Never Ask “How Can I Make My Child Have Faith?”

One of the most common questions I receive is “How can I get my child to have faith?” While the intention of this question is wonderful, the question itself is not the right focus. A parent cannot make a child believe. Instead of focusing on making them believe, we need to focus on creating a climate in which they might choose to believe.

In this final episode of The 7 Series: Parenting, Laura Keep and I discuss the issue of faith when it comes to parenting.

Parenting is an expression of my faith and a great instructor in faith.

Show Notes:

Faith answers the “who” of parenting. Who do we want to be as parents? Who do we want our children to be? We want to be, and we want them to be, a person of faith.

Parenting is ultimately an expression of faith. (See: Three Ways Parents Discourage Their Children)

Each word–authority, love, choices, consequences, environment, and conversation–point to faith and flow from our faith.

The right question: “How do we as parents share our faith with our kids?”

The wrong question: “How can we make our children believe?”

We can’t make our kids believe. Their belief is between them and God.

I can create a climate which allows them to choose to believe.

If we aren’t careful, in our attempt to force our children to believe, we will exchange faith for religion.

Before I am a parent, I am foremost a child of God. I must believe before I can share faith with my kids.

Personal spiritual growth should be a primary focus of a parent. (See: One Thing We Must Teach Our Children)

Fathers are tempted to spend more time instructing our kids in sports rather than faith because of our insecurity regarding faith. We must avoid this temptation. If we ignore faith but focus on sports, we will communicate to our kids that sports are more important than faith.

Parents should be growing with their kids in faith. There is no need to hide our ignorance. We can reveal it and then seek to grow together.

My focus should never be on a one-time experience of faith for my children. My focus is on a lifetime of belief. This perspective gives my child room to doubt, question, and to grapple with the issues of faith.

Questions of doubt regarding faith are tremendous opportunities to teach our children. Never fear questions or doubt.

A parent’s role is to always be bringing issues of faith to the surface in the midst of family discussions.

Never make the centerpiece of your child’s life a picture of faith (baptism, confirmation, etc).

The scariest verse in all the Bible is “children obey your parents.” This command should get the attention of parents.

Most problems in my life are because I obey me over God; it’s frightening to think God actually commands little people to obey me. The awareness that God commands them to obey me should greatly influence the choices I make.

My temptation as a father is to overplay my authority, downplay God’s command to act in love, and to cause my children to lose Godly hope. The Bible warns fathers against this. (See: A Father’s Primary Role)

One of the great roles of a parent is to continually remind them of our hope. No matter what we have done or the consequences of choices, a Christian has hope because of what God has done for us.

If we are overly focused on a one-time experience, we will likely rush our children into decisions they aren’t truly making. If we are focused on a lifetime of faith, we will be far more patient.

If parents do not intentionally try to influence our children toward faith, our children might believe but they will do so in spite of us not because of us.

Parents too often bring up issues of faith only when a child has done wrong. This is why many people have the belief about God that he is an angry God who does not like us. We must talk about God at all times, especially in good times. Whenever we speak of God in the context of our children making mistakes, it should be about his grace more than his judgment.

 

Nov 112014

Five Ways Hunting Can Make You a Better Husband

I’m not a hunter. I’ve long said hunting combines three things I try to avoid—early mornings, the cold, and death. Yet there are few things which can teach a man to be a better husband than hunting. (See: Funny Friday–On Hunting)

If more men would approach their marriages the way they approach hunting, they would have happier marriages (and probably get to do more hunting).

Here are 5 elements of smart hunting which also characterize smart husbands:

1. Education. If I had all the passion in the world to go hunting tomorrow, I would not be successful. Why? Because I wouldn’t know what I was doing. Good hunting requires education. A hunter has to study the prey. They have to understand what motivates them and moves them in order to lure them into the place of the kill. (See: The Most Important Marriage Advice I Could Ever Give)

The same is true for marriage. Husbands (and wives) do not naturally know how to be a good spouse. No matter how much desire one has, without education they will not be successful. Husbands must study their wives to understand them. What motivates and moves your wife? What are her most important desires? What does she need the most from you? What are the things which could drive her away?

2. Preparation. I’m not aware of a single serious hunter who wakes up on the morning of a hunt without a plan of where they will go and what they will do. Half the fun of hunting appears to be the preparation for the hunt. They scout, scheme, and discuss. They call their friends and search for ideas. They are open to every tip or suggestion. (See: Love Your Friends, Don’t Listen to Them)

A good marriage requires a similar practice. It takes forethought, consideration, and planning. It helps to consult others (the right others and not your buddies who have worse relationships than you). Find someone who knows what they are doing and learn from them. Read a book, go to a conference, and do the work necessary to have a good marriage.

3. Patience. There is no such thing as a good hunter who is impatient. Every great hunter has the ability to ignore a thousand distractions and wait for just the right moment when their target is in their site. Patience is a requirement for hunting. (See: We Are in This for the Long Haul)

And so it is with marriage. Love is patient. You can’t be impatient and a good spouse at the same time. A good marriage takes time. It can’t happen quickly and it requires patience for one another and oneself. If you are patient in the woods, but not in your house, something is wrong. It’s not an inability; it’s a choice.

4. Action. Hunting is a sport. It’s an endeavor which combines mental skill with physical ability. It cannot be accomplished passively. While there are moments without action, those moments are intentional and important to the process. Hunting in an activity, the lazy need not attempt the sport. (See: Marry a Partner, Not a Child)

Marriage is not a sport, but it is an activity. Success is only found in action. What are you doing to make your marriage work? Are you hoping things improve but failing to do anything which leads to improvement? Far too many men are apathetic in their relationships. Not knowing what to do, they do nothing. This will never lead to success. Men were created to act. Good actions will lead to a good marriage.

5. Celebration. Do you notice all the pictures of dead deer on your Facebook newsfeed during hunting season? When a person puts that much effort into an accomplishment, they are quick to announce their success. They can’t help but talk about what happened, tell the story, and show the pictures.

A good marriage should be celebrated. If you are working hard, taking the time, making the effort, and experiencing some success, you can’t help but talk about your wife, tell the good stories, and brag on her and to her. Celebrating the good moments in marriage will help a couple endure the bad moments. (See: Every Marriage Lives Between Two Rings)

Men are more capable than they realize. Being a good husband is possible, but it isn’t easy. Yet if a man can become a good hunter, he can become a good husband. It’s easier if you grew up with a good role model, were taught the right ways, and learned from an early age the tricks of the trade. Yet even if that didn’t happen, all the skills required to be a good husband can be learned.

If you consider yourself a good hunter, I wonder, are you a good husband? If not, why not? If you have done the work to excel in hunting, why are you not doing the work to excel at home?

If you are a good hunter but a bad spouse, at least be willing to admit one thing—you are choosing to be a bad husband. After admitting it, repent of it, and change.

If you are married to a good hunter who is also a good husband, thank him and send him to the woods—he might not only have fun, he might also be reminded of his need to study and pursue you.

Nov 102014

Why Others Don’t Trust You

When it comes to leadership, if I could only have one thing, it would be the trust of those I lead.

Without trust, good leadership does not exist. While fear might force some to follow for a limited time, trust compels others to follow no matter the situation. Trust is what binds the relationship between leader and follower. Where trust is absent, so too is absent all the other qualities necessary for good leadership.

Without trust from others, we are not leaders.

Trust, of course, requires trustworthiness.

While others might give us a basic level of trust, the majority of trust is earned. It’s proven over time. It cannot be demanded or expected to be given at first sight. We must prove ourselves worthy of being trusted. This happens on several levels:

Knowledge. Do we have the cognitive ability to process relevant information, understand it, and act on it? Without this ability, we might be liked, but we will not be trusted. There are many areas of life in which I believe others should trust me, but there are also many areas in which I don’t even trust myself. Some things I do not have enough knowledge about to ever be a leader. In those areas, my job is to actually dissuade others from following me. (See: Every Great Leader Loves to Learn)

Courage. Having knowledge is one step, but without the courage to do what is right, a person cannot lead. We all know people who have the ability to lead but they lack the courage to put themselves out there in a leadership role. It takes courage to have an idea, say ‘this is right,’ persuade others away from a wrong direction, or risk putting your name or identity on something which could be wrong. Leadership is not easy; it’s a game only played by the brave. (See: Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve)

Transparency. Leadership requires us to reveal more of ourselves than some want. We have to show we are trustworthy which demands that we reveal things that non-leaders do not have to reveal. We must show our way of thinking, tell our story, confess struggles and hardships, reveal our weaknesses, all so that others can identify with us. A leader often lives in the spotlight and the spotlight always reveals places which some people prefer to keep hidden. (See: Communication Reveals Character)

Wholeness. Leaders don’t have to be perfect, but they do need to be whole. This is an absence of personal conflict. When spoken words match unseen actions, a person is whole. There is no internal divide; no hypocrisy. Since we all have imperfections, the concept of wholeness is best seen when an inconsistency is revealed. Bad leaders make excuses, deny accusations, and cover-up inconsistencies. Bad leaders want the appearance of wholeness without actually having it. Good leaders change. When a character flaw or mistake is revealed, they are grateful for the revelation and do the hard work of making the necessary changes. They care more about the reality of internal wholeness than the appearance of it. When a leader is pursuing wholeness, they are often worth following.

It’s Risky to Lead (or Follow)

For trust to be exercised, a leader must take risks. We will never know if trust is present unless a risk is taken. A challenge must present itself and a leader must arise to meet the challenge. They call others out of apathy and into action. This is always risky. It’s easier to remain hidden, to stay enfolded within the group, to take cover in numbers. Yet a leader chooses a different direction. They are willing to separate themselves and individualize themselves all for the well-being of the group.

Notice the inverse nature of leadership: a person who is thinking most about themselves and trying to protect themselves will stay hidden in a group while a person thinking most about a group and trying to protect the group may identify themselves individually in order to lead the group in the best direction. Of course this can also be done for selfish means. Just because someone tries to lead does not mean they are selfless in actions. Yet good leadership does require a submission of self for the well-being of others.

Leading requires risk. (See: Leadership–Learning to Take a Punch)

But so does following.

Followers must take risks as well. Their risk is to follow the leader even without being certain the leader is right or completely trustworthy. There is always risk in following a person, idea, or belief. Since outcomes are unknown, following a leader is an act of faith. We trust that they are knowledgeable, good-hearted, and right even though we can never know that for sure.

Following often means we are trusting others more than we trust ourselves. This requires great humility.

The risk of following is one reason some leaders never truly lead. In spite of their personal integrity, track record of success, and conviction regarding the direction one should take, some leaders never lead because they refuse to follow. Their distrust in others becomes a hindrance for others to trust them.

Few things cause us to distrust others as much as their unwillingness to trust us when we have earned it.

Trust is often a reciprocal relationship—unless it is given, it cannot be received.

This doesn’t mean we should blindly give trust in order to receive it. This does mean we must be willing to allow others to earn our trust even if we suffered in the past because others have abused the trust we gave them.

Good leaders know it is risky to trust others. They have likely experienced the hurt when others do not prove themselves as trustworthy. Yet they also realize without trusting others, they themselves will not be trusted and leadership will not take place.

If your level of trust is suffering from others, why? (See: What No One Ever Tells You About Being a Leader)

Are you lacking in one of the four areas upon which trust is built—knowledge, courage, transparency, wholeness? If so, how can you grow in those areas?

If not, is it possible others do not trust you because you do not trust them? Your distrust in them is causing them to show distrust in you.

Trust is a foundational aspect of leadership. Small pieces of it can be given but most of it must be earned.

A good leader is both trustworthy and trusting.

Nov 062014

A Bar, the Cleaning Lady, and a Million Thanks

Occasionally on Fridays I take a break from serious writing and post personal stories about life in the pastorate. For more on these Funny Friday posts, see: Warning–Objects in the Pulpit Often Appear Holier Than They Actually Are.

Be Careful Where You Park

One of the funniest things about the pastorate is the occasional need to look pastoral. I’m grateful that I pastor a group of people who aren’t overly concerned with my pastoral persona. I’ve long believed the main reason we video our services is because the congregation hopes I make a mistake that goes viral. However, I still feel an occasional pressure to keep up pastoral appearances.

Recently, my family was going to try a new restaurant. It’s in a strip mall so as I pulled into the parking lot, the closest parking spot to the restaurant was in front of the establishment next door. As I began to park, Jenny quickly said, “You can’t park here.” I was confused. Why couldn’t I park in front of a pet grooming shop? But then I looked more closely. Come to find out, “Happy Tails” was not a pet grooming shop, it was a bar for a specific clientele.

I drove around and found a different spot. For a pastor, the best parking spot is not always the closest spot.

The Cleaning Lady

We have a person who cleans our house every other Thursday. Between two jobs, two kids, and my full-time writing habit, the house doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.

As every woman knows and every man can’t understand, we have to clean before the cleaning lady can clean. Apparently it would be embarrassing for the cleaning lady to know our house isn’t clean.

My only concern every other Thursday is that our house looks pastorally dirty. I don’t mind our person knowing our house isn’t neat, but I want to make sure there isn’t anything non-pastoral lying around which might cause her to question my call to ministry.

Primarily I focus on two categories:

1. Underwear: while everyone knows the pastor wears underwear, there is no need for them to be seen. Each week I make sure my drawers are buried in the middle of the dirty clothes pile.gloves

2. Advertisements/Magazines: my house receives the same advertising materials as yours, but there is no need for a Victoria Secret catalogue to be on the kitchen counter when a guest comes to the house. Of course, I’m also not comfortable with it being at top of the trash can either, so I will often take all catalogues to the outside trash so they are completely unseen.

Understanding my personal paranoia regarding what the cleaning lady thinks, explains my disdain for what recently took place. I came home on a Thursday afternoon to a spotless house. I made my way to my bedroom when I noticed my nightstand. I yelled to Jenny. She rushed into the bedroom asking what was wrong.

I said, “Look. What is this? What is this doing here?”

She said, “What is wrong? So Ella left her gloves on your nightstand. She likes to pretend to be a doctor or nurse.”

I said, “Jenny, the cleaning lady was here today. She doesn’t know those are Ella’s gloves. Now she thinks I like to play doctor and nurse.”

 

A Million Thanks

On an unrelated note. I don’t know what constitutes something going viral, but this past week I believe I had my first viral post. My article “The Most Overlooked Characteristic of Who You Want to Marry” has topped two million views. As the reader, I don’t take your time lightly. I appreciate every opportunity you give me to speak into your life. Every like, share, +1, retweet, or forward is an act of support for which I’m grateful.

If I can ever be of any assistance to you, please let me know.

Have a great Friday.

 

 

 

 

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