Sheltering Your Kids: A Christian Parent’s Dilemma

protecting-childrenYou don’t have to watch the news for long before realizing we live in a broken world. As parents of young kids my wife and I often joke about selling it all and moving to some remote island! Sometimes that seems like the safest option…but is it the Biblical and most loving option?  There is a difference between sheltered and unaware, however we frequently use these words as synonyms. Being sheltered is Biblical and describes our relationship with God.  Psalm 91:1 reads, Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Throughout the rest of Psalm 91, we see how God shelters us and protects us. He even shelters us from the eternal consequences of sin through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  So if sheltering is Biblical, as a parent how do we shelter our kids without raising an unaware and unprepared child?

Being Full of Grace AND Truth

John 1:14-17 talks about Jesus being full of grace AND truth. That is a difficult line to walk that carries with it quite a bit of tension.  As parents though, that is part of our job: to show and be an example of grace and truth.  When we are full of grace with little to no truth, we are lovingly unaware. When we are full of truth with little to no grace, we are legalistic and typically unloving.  Both are vital for us to parent in an age-appropriate context.

Realizing It’s Not If But When

All kids will be exposed to the realities of the world at some point. It’s not “if” but “when”. But as parents, we have the opportunity to create the kind of open  relationship with our kids where we are the ones to explain the realities of life as they grow up.  The value of this kind of relationship is that as our children will come to us first to talk and ask questions. If parents avoid the realities of this world then we are communicating to our kids they should not talk about them to us. When that is the case, our children will still talk to someone, it just won’t be us.

Parents have the opportunity and responsibility to share the realities of the world while teaching Biblical truths. This is much healthier and much less reactive and produces long-term relational results. The family should be a place where nothing is off limits and everything can be talked about and discussed. Unfortunately, many parents procrastinate discussing the tough topics due to awkwardness or just not knowing what to say. In our home we try and create a safe place where no subject is off limits. A key to creating this culture is starting while they are young.  But it’s never too late.

Raising an Adult, Not a Child

The day is coming when our children will leave our home (hopefully) and venture out on their own. Our relationship with them will not cease but will shift. A question my wife and I use in getting our kids ready for that exit is, “What kind of adult are we raising?”  In other words, is what we are doing now preparing our kids to become healthy, responsible, and Godly adults?  Are we seizing the realities of our world and turning them into teachable moments: to explain what is right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate.  And to also teach God’s Word and help our kids understand the why behind the what.

When Jesus’ ministry on earth was coming to an end he prayed for his disciples saying, My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (John 17:15). Jesus asks God not to isolate them from the realities of this life, but to keep them from being under the world’s influence. May that be our prayer for our kids. That God would help us raise our children in a way that doesn’t take them out of the world but prepares them to survive and thrive in this world. Take time this week to reflect upon Jesus’ prayer and look for opportunities to put His words into practice with your kids.

Permission to Bother God

I truly do LOVE being a dad. Before having kids I never could have grasped the joy I would get from being a father. With that being said…I also could not have imagined how annoying and bothersome my two boys could be. Saturday morning, trying to sleep just a little bit more is impossible with the constant, “Dad…Daddy….Daddy…It’s morning time…Daddy…I want breakfast…” and on and on and on my three year old goes until I finally and reluctantly begin to move out of bed.

There are many behaviors that we don’t have to be taught in order to become experts…Persistence is one of those “expert at birth behaviors”. We have the natural tendency to be persistent with what we want. It is an ingrained behavior of a child: nagging, whining, complaining, crying, bothering until they get what they want. We are familiar with the common phrase, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”. In other words, the one who complains the loudest tends to get an answer sooner.

What is interesting and has begun to change my prayer life is we are given permission to have this kind of relationship with God. We are invited to “loving bother God” with our prayers and requests.

In Luke 11, Jesus teaches us how to pray (aka The Lord’s Prayer). Now look at the parable that Jesus tells to show how to apply what he just taught.

Luke 11:5-10 (NIV)
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

Jesus says it is because of “shameless audacity”…or persistence, that the request would be answered. Jesus goes on after this parable to say:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Persistent Pursuit through Prayer

Jesus gives us permission to ask, seek and knock…and to keep on knocking until we get an answer. It’s important to not misunderstand, there is not a promise that we get whatever we want as long as we keep asking. Our God is not a genie that snaps his fingers at our every wish. But He is a good Father (Luke 11:9-13) who hears us, listens to us and answers us but also desires us to persistently pursue Him.

Interestingly enough, praying with persistence is what grows and deepens our relationship with God, NOT the answer He gives. It is our pursuit of God through persistent prayer that develops and deeps our relationship with Him. And that is what God desires, a relationship that consists of a mutual persistent pursuit of one another. He persistently pursues us (Psalm 139) and desires that we would do the same. Persistently praying is the rhythm of asking, seeking and knocking…and never stopping until we hear from Him.

Don’t give up on your prayers but rather, keep praying: keep asking, seeking and knocking…and knocking…and knocking. Just as a child persists, may we lovingly bother our Heavenly Father with our prayers. May we persistently pursue our Father through prayer!

“Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The way to trouble God is not to come at all.”
– D.L. Moody

For more study on praying with patience and persistence read 1 Kings 18 as Elijah persistently prays for rain.

Why I love Halloween!

porchAs a pastor of a local church my heart breaks for those in my community who have yet to come to know Jesus and be part of His Bride (the church). I love my community and The Church and have given my life to Him and to leading His church.

Throughout the year, I pray and strategize on how to best make an impact and create lasting influence. I read leadership books so my influence and capacity may increase and grow.  I prayerfully study and dig into God’s Word so I may be able to teach, lead and disciple those God has allowed me to shepherd. I challenge and encourage the people of my church to invite friends and neighbors to church and to introduce other to Jesus. I am involved in civic clubs and active in my community so I can know my community and get to know others in my community. I look for those God given opportunities to meet someone new, talk with someone, introduce someone to Jesus, pray with someone, invite someone to church…

And personally, I have found no better opportunity than Halloween! I have not found another time that I can meet just about every person in my neighborhood and their kids within a couple hours. I have not seen another moment that just about every person in my neighborhood (and from surrounding neighborhoods) will come up and knock on MY door! Think about it, this is the only time knocking on every door in the neighborhood is acceptable and even encouraged! Could Halloween be an answer to prayer?!

We’ve all noticed it: it is not as easy to interact regularly with neighbors. We come home late from work, pull in the garage and shut the garage door only to be seen again to get the mail or head back out to work. In a culture that is becoming more and more “close-doored”, Halloween is a golden opportunity.

Lights On: Jesus says we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-15)! This Halloween, let your light shine bright and turn on your porch lights! I pray that every family that visits your home this Halloween sees something in you that lights up the night!

This Halloween, try silently praying for every family that visits your home. Compliment every child on his/her costume. Thank the parents for coming. Wave and smile. Make small talk and get to know your neighbors. Look for neighbors with kids the same age as yours to be able to connect again. Be the friendliest home on the block! Maybe instead of just having candy, you have s’mores available on your driveway with hot chocolate for the kids and coffee for the parents.

The point is answering this question: As a Christian, do I live in a way that is full of light: attractive and appealing, leading people closer to Jesus or do I come across as unavailable, turning people off to the gospel? 

Due to the roots and history of Halloween, Christians can be uncertain on what to do with this “holiday”. As Christians, we can either use Halloween as an opportunity to show our neighborhood what we are against OR use Halloween as an opportunity to be LIGHT.

So yes…I love Halloween!

May this Halloween be a great opportunity for you and your family that ultimately brings LIGHT to your neighborhood!

Best Practices when Portable

The phrase “Home is where the heart is” was put to the test for my family and I. We made a big move from California to Georgia, following God’s call in our life. Upon arriving in Georgia we found a place to live in an apartment complex as we waited for our old house to sell. I will be the first to admit that it was a very difficult four months! We lived on the third floor of a large apartment complex with a 2-year old and a very pregnant wife…which meant everything we normally did became three-times as hard. Trying to get a house full of stuff into an apartment; carrying groceries up three stories; keeping a toddler entertained on the third floor without a backyard; the list goes on and on as you could imagine. Even though it was where we ate, slept and lived I had a difficult time calling it “home”, mainly because it wasn’t where I wanted to live. It wasn’t what I had grown accustom to. It wasn’t my ideal location to live and raise my family. But God has a way of teaching us great lessons in miserable situations…

God called my family and I to Georgia to plant and launch a church in Northern Georgia. I moved from a church and ministry with large, beautiful facilities with a large staff to a church I would be leading and pastoring that had no building, no facility and no staff…how would this ever feel like home? How could a portable church ever feel like a family? How could a portable church become a home for the lost (or as we say, “a place for people to belong, become and bless)?

God used those four months in that apartment complex to remind me that home really is where the heart is. God has given each of us (the church) a universal mission and a mission specific to us (as individuals). Regardless of the specifics of that mission, it is up to us to be good stewards of that mission and lead others in that mission. Portable church is not a hiccup or hindrance in moving God’s mission forward. Portable church is not just a placeholder or a stepping stone to a permanent facility. Portable church is another opportunity to lead and love others well! Church is not where the building is…church is where the heart is!

With all that being said, allow me to state the obvious…portable church does have unique challenges! In my context, we set up and tear down a movie theatre every Sunday morning for two worship services that includes four additional environments for kids and students plus two lobby areas and a cafe. And that’s just what happens inside. On the outside, parking team sets up cones, guest services puts out all the signage and so on…if you are in a portable setting you know the drill.

But even with these unique challenges God has figured out a way to get me to stop wishing for a building and remember that home is where the heart is! So, Pastor…my question would be “where is your heart?”. Is your heart set on a building…or is your heart set on the mission of God?

If your heart is set on the mission of God then let’s make the most of what we have, let’s dive into some best practices when portable!

1. BE A BENEFIT MORE THAN A PROBLEM

If you are portable, that probably means you are renting a space or using someone else’s space. Which means, you are an inconvenience. That doesn’t mean you’re a problem, it’s a fact! The fact is you occupying that space requires extra work on their end. Even if you pay for that space, someone has more on their plate because of you. And the person who is STUCK (and I do emphasize “stuck”) dealing with you is probably not seeing much more in their pocket as the person sitting a few levels up at the office.

With that in mind, it is a crucial practice to be seen as an asset, as valuable, as a benefit more than a problem and inconvenience. This doesn’t mean there are no problems but it means the benefits of you being there outweigh the problems and headaches. So how do you become beneficial for the people on the ground dealing with you?

Flexibility – Just because you pay for the space doesn’t give you the right to never budge. We set up and tear down every Sunday in a theatre. One Sunday, they had multiple 12:00pm showings which meant they had no choice but to put a showing in one of our children’s ministry auditoriums. Yes, we pay for our space and from a contract standpoint would have every right to not budge. But the relationship we have with the manager and employees is a priority. So we flexed! After our 9:30am service we moved to another auditorium and made it work for our 11am service. Yes it was more work on our part…but relationships are a give-and-take and take work! Don’t be seen just as a taker.

WOW Them – I can buy enough donuts for my set up team volunteers and the theatre staff for under $50. Can I afford it every week…no. Can I afford it sometimes…YES! I have also handed out thank you cards to every person at church and asked them to write a thank you note to the theatre staff. It was a wow moment when I handed the manager a stack of 200 Thank You notes! We have dropped off Starbucks to the employees on a Friday night. When you WOW them…they will actually miss you if/when you leave. That is one of our goals…to actually be missed!

Help Out – I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will. Leave your areas nicer than when you found them. Help them out even if that means doing their job for them. Clean the bathrooms, sweep the floors, pick up trash. We probably throw away more trash from movie guests than church guests…that’s ok with us and we don’t complain about it! As Chick-Fil-A would say, “it’s our pleasure”!

NO Surprises – Don’t surprise them. If you have a special event or extra things going on, let your contact know ahead of time. The phrase “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” does not apply in this context. For all you former youth pastors…(which I am also a recovering youth pastor), remove this phrase from your vocabulary! It was cost you the relationship.

Ask Questions – After each service ask questions to the right person:
“Did anything not go well?”
“Did we get in the way with your business or employees?”
“Was something not put back or cleaned up?”
“Do you need us to do anything differently next week?”
“How could we make things easier on you?”
Don’t wait for them to come complaining. Give them an opportunity to let you know right then and there before it festers and potentially becomes exaggerated.

Go Above Their Heads – Regularly go to the boss’ boss and brag on them! There is a young man who is one of the shift managers at the theatre we rent. He is usually the one to open for us and is there until we leave. I find ways to tell his manager how great he is, how professional he is with us and how well he does his job. Then I take it up a notch, I go to the regional manager and brag on the theatre manager and her entire staff! Become their biggest fan and biggest advocate without asking for anything in return.

2. VALUE VOLUNTEERS MORE THAN…well, just about everything else

Whether you are in a portable environment or not, a healthy church does not function without volunteers! This becomes exponentially true in a portable setting. I have chosen to value my volunteers above just about everything else that goes on with our church on a Sunday morning. It’s not about keeping your volunteers “happy”. It’s making sure your volunteers are healthy and valued. If the task becomes more important than the person, the person won’t stick around very long.

Be Available: This means I am VERY available to them. So no, I don’t have a green room to hide in before and after services. Be on the ground, walking around with your volunteers showing them how you appreciate and value them. You will be amazed at how much value you will add to your by being around and available, by rubbing shoulders with them while they do what you have asked them to do.

Go Out Of Your Way: Leaders know the need to value volunteers. Allow me to push you to another level. Add value to your volunteers by going out of your way for them. I’m sure we would all agree that our volunteers consistently go out of their way for us and the church, let’s return the favor. I would suggest going out of your way for them OUTSIDE of a Sunday morning. Ways we practice this:
– Regular volunteer parties just to say thank you and to celebrate.
– Have an environment for volunteers AND their families to hang out, eat food and play. We do regular “game nights” for our volunteer coordinators and their families.
– Make and deliver “thank you bags” for volunteers and their family. Usually consist of a bag of popcorn and a redbox gift card (cost is about $4 each)
– Write Thank You Notes…WRITE THANK YOU NOTES!!!!!! Was I clear enough on that one??
– Show up to a volunteer’s work place just to say thank you.

3. EMBRACE WHERE YOU ARE

As leaders, we all have grand visions for where we believe God is wanting to take our church. However, those visions are not accomplished overnight. Stewardship is a theme throughout the Bible, and not just financial stewardship. Stewardship is being faithful with what you have been given, whatever you have been given. If you don’t have a building of your own…then be faithful with what you have NOW instead of wishing and waiting for it to land in your lap.

Commit to stop viewing your portable situation as just a season to endure through. Stop saying, “If we can just make it through this season, then once we get a building we can really do God’s work”. I have to constantly remind myself of this. Being portable, I see what hinders us and what potential we have if we weren’t portable. Would a building help us…of course! But I cannot allow that to drive me. Buildings can be given and taken away.

“The grass is always greener on the other side”, but maybe that’s because we aren’t watering and caring for the grass on our side. Be faithful with what you have and move the mission God has given you forward with what He has given you. If you can’t be faithful without a building…how could we ever be faithful with a building?

Mission over Building – God has given our church a mission…not a building. And if we ever do get a building of our own, the building is nothing but a tool to move the mission forward. We do not talk about if or when we get a building. We do not even have a goal of having a building in the next x-years. As a leader, I desire to lead people to Jesus and into the mission he has given us…NOT to build or buy a building. I would plead with you, don’t allow resources and tools you don’t have to become the hindge-point of your church, your mission or even in your conversation.

Choose your Battles Every portable space has it’s own unique challenges. With unlimited resources I’m sure we all have a dream list of what we would do in our portable space (other than buy a building). But the reality is, for every idea you have it requires additional: time, hands and storage. In other words, you can’t do everything you want (even if you have the money for it). For example, lighting is always an issue for us…Go figure, theaters are made to be dark! So we have chosen to NOT do other things so we can focus on improving the lighting. And as our systems improve and volunteer recruitment grows, we will continue to add and improve what we can. Look to make improvements but don’t be so quick to execute every great idea you have. Choose your battles and start with the ones you need to win now. And anytime you want to add or implement a new idea ask the question: “Who will this impact?”

Less is More – One of the greatest challenges with a portable environment is always Set Up & Tear Down. They are the first to arrive and the last to leave. It’s the hard work of unloading and loading the same equipment to the same spot at the same time every Sunday, week after week…53 weeks a year (including an additional Christmas Eve service). With that in mind, we have decided that we cannot truly turn a theatre environment into an ideal church environment every week. We do not have the bells & whistles of a permanent facility not because we couldn’t do it…but we know that less is more. We prioritize clarity and functionality over “cool”. Our lobby set up is not the coolest you would ever see…but it provides a good first impression for people and does what it is meant to do (even without a bunch of cool flat screen tvs…ok, we do have one tv we use). Be ok with less! Somehow Jesus saved a bunch of people without LED lights and Flat Screen Tvs!

4. POSITIVE…POSITIVE…POSITIVE

Nothing can be more draining as portable church. However, nothing can be more fulfilling as portable church! I remember our first baptism Sunday after we launched. Seeing people go public with their faith through baptism inside a movie theatre…one of the top moments in ministry for me!! Create and keep a culture of positive! Constantly celebrate! Continue to remind people why we do what we do.

A culture of positivity can easily build momentum and moral. The opposite is true, a culture of disappointment, discouragement and exhaustion can quickly decimate an entire team. Be proactive!

We practice this in simple ways:
Smile a lot! Our set up and tear down teams smile a lot! Everyone is talking, catching up, joking around while doing some intense labor before and after church. Model this well and teach your top leaders to follow your lead. Smiling says, “I love what I do, this is great…” Lack of smiles say, “I’m tired…why are we doing this…something is wrong”

Use your platform to celebrate all that God is doing as much as possible. When you feel like you have done this enough, keep going! Work celebrations into your message, into your emails, into your conversations…anywhere and everywhere!

5. EQUIP: even more than you think you already do

Volunteers will get most frustrated when they are asked to do something and they don’t have what they need to do it. In a portable environment LISTEN to your volunteers and short of the ridiculous, give them whatever they want! That sounds a little much…ok, as long as it’s inline with the mission, isn’t sinful and stays within budget…GIVE THEM WHATEVER THEY WANT! As the leader we have to be good stewards but we also have to equip our volunteers.

If your volunteers are asking for something you cannot give them…work with them to find an alternative solution.

We use A LOT of carts for our set-up and tear-down. In our trailer, almost everything goes in or on a cart. But it wasn’t always that way. As we got going, our set-up team leader started making these expensive requests for lumber and wheels for carts. I quickly answered YES! It gave ownership to the volunteers and made what I was asking them to do…doable and easier!

Because we are all volunteer except for a part-time worship leader and myself, everyone leading major ministry areas are volunteer. So we can’t have staff meetings in the middle of the day like other churches. So I talked with my volunteer coordinators and asked when we could regularly meet together. We came up with day, time and frequency that worked across the board and we meet regularly together. This meeting always includes lunch or dinner and we do leadership development, we do planning, we assess and evaluate, we ask questions and we pray. All that takes place in under 2 hours to honor and value their time.

Side Note: If you have volunteers leading large ministry areas (children’s, students, production, set up, etc…) Give them a budget to work with! This will empower them to lead, provide more ownership on their part and create freedom with accountability.

6. FLY HIGH & WALK LOW

As the leader of a church, business or organization we have to be able to fly high. We must be able to see the 30,000ft. view and see the big picture. In a portable setting, that is very important. It’s easy to get caught up in all that must get done and miss the larger picture.

But just as important as flying high is we must be sure to walk low. This isn’t gospel, this is just my opinion. I continue to find value in playing some part on the set-up and tear-down teams. Yes, as the pastor and leader of the church I have other responsibilities that only I can do that do take priority. But I believe and have seen that if you bleed and sweat with someone, they will bleed and sweat for you! As you lead at a high level, don’t have your head in the clouds for so long that you never come down and walk and help those on the ground.

7. Say “THANK YOU”! Often, Loudly and in a variety of ways!

This is the last best practice, but perhaps the most important (and the easiest)…say thank you! I had a volunteer come up and tell me, “Brian, you know you don’t have to say thank you for everything I do”. When I heard that, I knew I was finally starting to get this culture moved forward! I want my volunteers and teams to notice how much I say thank you. I don’t want it to be a surprise that I say thank you. I also never want to get out of the habit of saying thank you. I would rather be accused of saying it too much than not enough.

Situational Thank You-  But saying the same thing over and over can get old. So be creative and say the same thing in different ways and at different times. I have paused in my message to just say thank you to volunteers. When it rains, I begin my sermon by thanking our parking team and encouraging people to say thank you on their way out, maybe even go get them a Starbucks! When school starts we really highlight our student and kid ministry volunteers. When it starts getting colder out we highlight and thank our set up and tear down teams.

Work hard and party hard! I mentioned this earlier but we have regular volunteer parties where the agenda is only THANKING THEM. (Yes we do have planning and strategy meetings…but those are only valuable if volunteers show up and are engaged, which won’t happen if you never party).

Tie it to the mission – When you thank your volunteers, always tie it to the mission! In my context: It’s not “Thanks for doing what I asked” it IS “Thank you for giving people a place to belong!” Thank your volunteers for living out the mission of the church!

Thank You Notes – Look at your calendar right now and carve out 30 minutes a week for nothing but thank you notes. Not thank you emails or texts (still do those) but prioritize handwritten, put in an envelope and mailed thank you notes. The benefit outweighs any excuse you could possibly come up with! See if you can send at least 7 thank you notes a week. I promise, your volunteers will remember your 4 sentence thank you note more than your 40 minute sermon this week.

Additional Resources & Books

Here are some great reads that have helped and benefited me especially in a portable environment.

Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann

Winning with People by John C. Maxwell

How to win friends and & influence people by Dale Carnegie

Replenishment Cycle: Fuel Up and Rest Up

aaf92620a8119445_heel_strike_at_sunset.preview“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

As Christians we paraphrase this into “Love God. Love Others.” but forget or rather neglect the “as yourself” part. Which poses the question, is it possible to love others and God without loving yourself (in a Biblical and Godly way)? No. Jesus teaches and gives the ultimate example of self-sacrifice and a lifestyle of serving but does not teach or promote self-hurt or self-harm. When we neglect ourselves we mask it by calling it “sacrifice” or “serving” but in reality it is harmful to ourselves, our relationships and our ability to work for The Kingdom!

Prepare to Persevere:

When we love our self in a Godly way we are not only obedient to God’s Word but we are preparing ourselves to persevere; which we would all agree we need to be able to persevere. Jesus never indicates that this life will be easier by following him, in fact it may be the opposite (see John 16). But just because life will have troubles and difficulties doesn’t mean the only option is to quit. The last part of Hebrews 12:1 says, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”. Perseverance is only possible if we are and continue to remain healthy in all areas of our lives (which is a Godly definition of self-love). Jesus models the way of a Godly and healthy self-love by showing us how to FUEL UP and REST UP (check out Luke 5:15-16; Mark 2:27; Mark 1:35-39)

So what does it look like to love yourself in a Godly way, to prepare for perseverance by FUELING UP and RESTING UP? It will look different for everyone but there are many tools to help identify what it is for you! One of these tools is called “The Replenishment Cycle” (developed by Tom Paterson http://www.patersoncenter.com/lifeplan/paterson-lifeplan.html)

The Replenishment Cycle:

We all have aspects of our lives that either drain us or recharge us. If we do not identify what refuels us and make intentional time and effort to implement those into our lives we will not be able to effectively love ourselves, others and ultimately God. Below is the Replenishment Cycle (which has been adjusted by Gil Stieglitz: http://www.ptlb.com)

replentishment cycle

Loving yourself is to have a life that is full enough that you can pour into others and into persevering. If you are drained and empty you have nothing to give or offer (the obvious image of trying to pour water out of an empty glass). But when we stay filled we can effectively and more continually pour into others and into the demands at hand. As you begin to identify what you need to stay replenished and healthy, it would be good to look at this from different time perspectives: what do you need in each of these boxes daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually? Everyone is different, so what replenishes you will be different from your spouse, friends, kids, coworkers, boss, etc…

Rest/Sleep: How much time do you need for sleep to stay replenished? Do you need to go to bed early and get up early or stay up late and sleep in? Do you need one or two power naps? How often do you need a day off? How often does your family need a vacation and for how long? When do you and your spouse need a date night?

Right People: There are three types of people in our lives…those that drain us, those that recharge us and those that destroy us (Toxic Relationships). The draining people in our lives are not bad people…they are the people who we need to be pouring into! But if we are only spending time with those who need us/drain us then we are going to be running on empty in no time. Who are the people who recharge you? How often do you need to spend time with them and it what capacity? 

Creation/Recreation: What is fun for you? Do you like making art, refinishing furniture, making music…? Does creating replenish you? Or is it recreation: sports, games, sewing, etc…? Identify what creation and/or recreation activities replenish you and how often you need to be engaged with them.

Right Work: My dad always told me if you enjoy 75% of your job then you have the perfect job! Ideally you want to be in a career that isn’t a constant stress or drain; however the reality is we do what we need to do to provide for ourselves and our family. But ideally, what is the right work for you, what is the right career for you right now? If you don’t have the option to have a career that is replenishing then can you supplement by volunteering or doing something on the side that keeps you replenished by doing what you love.

New Information: Learning will replenish you! This may or may not be in a classroom or school setting. For some this is taking additional classes or continuing through the educational system. For others it is reading, watching documentaries, going to conferences or learning to fix your car by watching YouTube videos. What do you like learning about? What would you like to know and learn? How do you get replenished by learning?

Eliminate: Bob Goff (http://bobgoff.com) is known for saying he quits something every Thursday! The most replenishing thing you could today may be saying no to something. A healthy leader knows when to say no. What is on your plate that needs to be taken off? This is difficult because most of the items on our plates are important but we cannot do everything. What do you need to eliminate? (If you want to hear more on this specific subject, click here for my podcast on “the good that hinders” or visit: https://vimeo.com/127467280)

Nature: There is something rejuvenating about being in God’s creation! Whether you consider yourself an outdoors person or not, nature is reviving. You need to determine what form of nature you need and how often you need it? Maybe you need to be outside hiking weekly or once a year need to be someplace where you can admire nature from the comfort of an air conditioned room.

Add/New Actions/Habits: What are you currently NOT doing that would replenish you if you started doing them? This could be starting a new hobby, exercise routine, healthy eating regiment, family dinners, date nights, etc…  Just as it’s important know when to say no, it is just as important to identify what you need to begin.

Jesus: In John 15:1,4 Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener…Remain in me, as I remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Our souls are replenished by being with Jesus! How will you remain in Jesus and remain filled?

6 questions to ask before the day starts

wake-up-early

Growing in our relationship with God is an ongoing, daily endeavor. Someone once told me it is stumbling in the right direction. Often we look at the big picture, the long-term plans and goals and invite God into those yet dismiss or gloss over the every day. Psalm 37 gives us a great guide for approaching God in our every day to prepare for our day…especially in small things. I have found it helpful and productive to ask 6 simple questions every day before I begin my day:

How am I trusting God?

Psalm 37 say tells us to “trust in the Lord”. Of course, our default answer is “yes, I trust God”. But the question to ask yourself is HOW am I trusting God. Right now, currently, today…HOW am I trusting God? What do I need to trust God in my day today? Take a look at your calendar…what meetings and appointments do you have scheduled? Who are you meeting with? What obligations and opportunities will you have today? How do you need to trust God today? What seems too big for you to handle on your own? What seems beyond your capabilities or capacity? Where do you feel like you can’t…and that is where you can trust God today.

What good can I do?

After trusting in God, Psalm 37 tells us “and do good”. It almost sounds like something your mom would say to you as you walk out the door to school, “make good choices…be good!” Often we neglect the simple and profound impact of doing good every day. The Christian life, if misinterpreted can feel like a list of what NOT to do. So ask the question, what good can I do? Think through the people you will interact with today: coworkers, family, friends, waiters, baristas, clients, etc…what good can you do for them today. You may not be able to do something good for everyone who encounter today but do for one what you wish you could do for all.

Do I take delight in the Lord?

This is kind of an odd question. Taking delight is not a phrase we commonly use. The meaning here is to desire what God desires, enjoy what God enjoys, focus on what God focuses on. It is to allow my desires to line up and run parallel with God’s. Today, what objectives and plans do you have? What are you trying to accomplish today? In your daily tasks today, how can you take delight in the Lord? How can you accomplish what God wants to accomplish in the midst of your daily grind today?

Where am I not fully committed to God?

Psalm 37:5 tells us to “commit your way to the Lord”…and if you keep reading you see the benefit of doing so. It’s easy to commit to God in the “big” things, “God I commit to not murdering someone today”…well, that may depend on the intensity of your commute to and from work. But for the most part, we commit SOME OF our ways to God. But notice Scripture tells us to commit our WAY (not WAYS) to God. In other words, will you commit to allowing God to direct you today? Will you invite God to interrupt you in your day? And if God does interrupt you will you commit to your way or His way? Prayerfully prepare yourself to commit to God’s way today, doing things His way, following His way…even if it feels like an inconvenience or an interruption.

How am I trying to move before God moves?

Being still may be the most difficult thing to ask someone to do. In fact, that’s almost something we never ask, except of our kids. Instead, our day is full of “go go go”! So before you DO, before you GO, before you MOVE…see if that is what God wants. Be still before the Lord means to stop for a moment: to stop and pause long enough to approach God and see what He says. If we are constantly doing and going we may be running full speed ahead in the wrong direction because we never stopped to see where God was going. In your ambition and dedication today, stop and pause long enough to approach God in stillness before moving forward. Seek HIS wisdom, HIS council and HIS advice before making the decision on your own.

Where am I frustrated?

Take a look at your day and look for hurdles, obstacles, barriers…anything that may frustrate your plans or agenda. Where are you already frustrated or what has potential to be a frustration today? The opposite of frustrated is patience. When we are frustrated we have a great opportunity to grow in our patience. Psalm 37:7 tells us to “wait patiently on Him”. So ask the question and identify your frustrations to allow God to grow your patience. When you bring your frustrations to God first thing in the morning you will discover your ability to be patient increases throughout your day which in turn will lower your stress, anxiety and disappointment. Let your frustrations turn into patience opportunities. 

Psalm 37:3-7 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord and do good;

    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Books for 2015

book-and-coffee

Leaders are readers because leaders must constantly be learning. If you haven’t read them yet…here are my 12 book recommendations to read in 2015 (one per month):

The Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards – A must read for every leader (especially pastors)! Discover how to lead even when you are not the main leader and how to lead through pain, brokenness loss, heartache and frustration.

Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson – A great read talking about change

Winning by Jack Welch – Great lessons not just on being successful but developing healthy culture within an organization from a true expert!

Humilitas by John Dickson – A history, study and practical application of humility

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson – A very practical and helpful book for spouses, employees, managers and leaders to be able to say what needs to be said and get the results you need and want.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – Answers the question, “what makes high-achievers different?”. Discover the “what’s” to discover what you can do to be a high-achiever.

Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene – An interesting look into a town that changed lives through love, compassion and hospitality. Great lessons for anyone, especially churches!

Church Planting Landmines by Tom Nebel & Gary Rohrmayer – Not just for church planters but anyone in ministry.

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr – We can’t add time to our day but we can work to increase our energy capacity and focus. A very practical book in increasing energy in all aspects of life.

Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley – A must read for every husband and/or father. A reminder that our family must come first.

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg – The secret keys to real success!

Leadership Axioms by Bill Hybels – Practical, inspirational and quick easy reads.

Taming Tantrums

P_temper-tantrums1

A post from Family Pastor Phil Haas and his wife, Bev Haas:

Ah, yes, those embarrassing tantrums that make us want to run and hide.  Well, it’s time to put your big boy pants on and take this little ogre on.  Forgive us for calling your child an ogre, but we can all be an ogre at times.  When kids (or adults) discover that they can’t do or have something they want, the stage is set for a tantrum, which is an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration.  Our grandson’s preschool teacher taught a lesson that he still recites some four years later.  He learned “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!” We’re glad you’re ready to teach your son this godly value as well.

A Biblical Path

So we are on the same page we want to point out tantrums are not just about uncontrolled outbursts.  Tantrums are an outward expression of an inward sinful nature.  In Romans 3:23 the Bible states that all of us sin.  The Hebrew root for the word sin means to miss as in miss the mark.  Makes you think of English words like misbehavior or misconduct.  When a child acts out we must call it for what it is-sin.   Now let’s look at some advice to point your son down a better path as Proverbs 22:6 advises parents to do.

Plan Ahead

When you’re not in the midst of a battle, begin planning your approach.  If you wait and react in the midst of the struggle, you probably won’t make your best decision.  Visualize how you are going to handle his next tantrum.  Decide how you will act and react no matter how your child behaves.  I (Bev) use to tell our then preschool son, Brian, he could either get under control or I could help him; those were his only choices.  Self-control is a learned choice. I see too many junior high students (and their parents) that have not learned to take ownership of their behavior, so we’re glad you’re ready to teach your son responsibility and help him rein in his uncontrolled outbursts.

Press On

We are big fans of Love and Logic Parenting.  Jim Faye, one of the authors, writes and speaks a lot about making parenting more fun and less frustrating.  That probably got your attention since dealing with children’s tantrums is anything but fun.  The reality is, all young children throw an occasional tantrum to see if their parents will give-in to their demands. A key to handling this frustrating behavior is to stay calm.  Don’t get pulled in to the emotions of the moment.  The next time your child begins a meltdown, put a bored look on your face and say, “Nice tantrum honey, but I think you’re losing your touch. Last time you kicked your feet a lot harder.  Give it your best!”  Another approach is to walk away and peek around a corner.  Make sure your child can’t see you but you can see him.  There are few things more fun than seeing a small child who’s beginning to realize that their outbursts aren’t exciting enough to get them any extra attention.  The most common reason children throw tantrums, in addition to being sinful and selfish, is to get attention.  Make sure your child is getting positive attention.

Don’t try to control everythingThat’s not possible.  Instead give up some control to keep the control you need.  The best way to give up some control is through simple choices such as “Do you want orange juice or apple juice?” Don’t give a choice you can’t live with.  Children have an uncanny ability to pull us into trying to control the uncontrollable.  You can avoid this dead end by using what Love and Logic calls enforceable statements.  Enforceable statements tell kids what WE will do or allow rather than trying to tell THEM what to do.  This approach gives some control to our children.  Examples are: “I’ll listen as soon as your voice is calm as mine” and “I’ll keep the toys I have to pick up and you can keep the ones you pick up.”

Choose your battles wisely.  It’s still great advice!  Does it really matter that his clothes don’t match?  Our daughter, Amanda, once wore her wool hat and mittens in July, and quickly figured out that they were not appropriate accessories for the season!  When you choose to draw a line be empathetic but don’t give in or you’ll invite more tantrums.  An understanding tone or look can go a long way when your child is frustrated.  You can show empathy and still be firm (We suspect your child may hear the firmness in his dad’s voice, but he hears the nice mommy voice from you).  Phil said I used my “junior high no nonsense teacher voice” when I meant business.

Our parting advice is to persevere.  Nothing works flawlessly or all the time, so keep practicing these and other suggestions you pick up from experienced parents you hang out with.  Your son is smart and he’ll soon catch on that tantrums don’t pay off.

Bring FUN into Your Marriage

Question from Reader

Every year my husband and I make a few New Year’s resolutions.  One resolution that tops our list every year is to have more fun and less stress.  The problem is we rarely make it out of January before our resolutions fall by the wayside.  I’d like for this to be the year that we actually keep our resolution about having fun.  We definitely need some of that in our marriage.  Any suggestions?

Answer from Phil Haas, Family Pastor at 1st Church of Christ in Burlington, KY

Bev, my wife, and I can certainly relate to your question.  We are one of those couples that keep saying we want “more fun and less stress” in our lives as well.  The interesting thing is we had lots of fun and little stress when we were first married.  So what happened?  We’re guessing the same thing that happens to all married couples—it’s called life!  We graduated from college and both got full-time jobs.  Not long afterwards we purchased our first house and took on the responsibilities of home ownership.  And then we started having kids. Over time, having fun took a back seat to other priorities in life.  Okay, you get the picture.

The Importance of Fun

A simple definition of fun is “something that brings enjoyment, amusement or light hearted pleasure.”  Having fun as a couple is essential to a satisfying marriage.  New research on marital satisfaction underscores the importance of having fun in a relationship.  Over and over research has found that the link or correlation between fun and marital happiness is highly significant.  Even without consulting the research most couples instinctively know their marriages are happier when they make time for fun.  But as most married couples learn, it’s the fun that’s first to fall by the wayside as the demands of life pile up.

The point we’re making is that fun is more than a New Year’s resolution or an indulgence; fun is instrumental in having a more satisfying marriage.  There is a long list of benefits to increasing fun in your marriage.  Here are a few: having more fun promotes spontaneity when life becomes routine or boring, connects us with positive emotions, reminds us of the good in our relationship, creates more good memories, and gives us hope when working through difficult challenges.  If you want to have a more satisfying marriage and less stress, inserting more fun into life is a good place to start.

Overcoming Barriers to Having More Fun

You already know you want to have more fun and less stress, so how can you make that happen this year?  The daily duties (or grind as we like to call it) can keep you from enjoying your marriage or you can choose to enjoy your marriage in the midst of the grind.  Here are some of the most common obstacles that most couples must overcome in order to have more fun.

  • Schedule some fun.  With the hectic schedules that most couples have today; you need to schedule time for fun.  Upwards of 80% of our lives are scheduled, so why not schedule some fun?  When we agree on a date and time and put it on our calendars, we’re more likely to make it happen.  How about scheduling a weekly or monthly date?  At our church we encourage every couple to have a regular date.
  • Give yourself permission to be a KID again.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the seriousness of life and not allow yourself to have some serious fun. Did you know that the average child laughs some four hundred times per day compared to the average adult laughing less than fifteen times a day?  Lighten up and laugh more.  Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”
  • Try something new.  When Bev and I thought about words that describe our marriage lately we came up with routine and predictable.  Ouch, not words we would choose but we had to admit they were dead-on.  As a result, we are now making a conscious effort to try something new and different and the rule is neither of us can complain.  We are having fun doing things we never thought we’d enjoy.  We’ve discovered that trying something new can bring back the fun factor.
  • Budget for some fun.  We tend to hold on too tight to money, especially Phil.  Yes we both agree that we need to save for retirement, but we decided not to put fun on hold until then.  For most couples money is tight, but there are ways to find what we like to call “fun money.”  There are lots of fun things that are free, but sometimes we need to spring for something fun that costs us. Bev has a can where she stashes extra money.  Last summer we took a vacation that was mostly paid for from her can.

The bottom line is that every couple must learn how to enjoy their marriage in the midst of the grind of daily life.  Part of God’s purpose for marriage is for us to enjoy life with our spouse.  Our paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 9:9 is that God intends for you to enjoy your marriage in the midst of the grind.  This year don’t miss out on what God wants for your marriage.  Find ways to enjoy life together in the midst of whatever the New Year brings.

I Want to Quit

Bedroom Confession #3 “I Want to Quit”BC_Facebook_Cover

From Mountain Lake Church Dawson’s Sermon Series, “Bedroom Confessions”
View the service online at: vimeo.com/dawsonmlc

Is love enough? I guess that depends on how you define love. We love pizza, love our jobs, love vacations and love our spouse.

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that “love never fails”. If that’s true, why do so many relationships and marriages still fail? To have a love that never fails as it says in verse 8 we need to look back to verse 7 to see what it takes to get to a love that never fails:

It [Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

To have a love that never fails in our marriage we must be willing to put in the work and effort on the front end. When we have a love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres we will have a love that never fails.

As we look at practical ways to always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere to develop a love that never fails…understand always means “in all things”. That means that in all things love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres…in good times and bad times.

Love Always Protects

To protect means to provide, care for, defend. It is the image of covering to protect from potential threats. It is putting your personal safety and desires aside for the good of someone else, in this case, your spouse.

Gardenia vs. Daylily
If you are gardener you understand what is required to care for different plants. There are some plants that demand more care than others. Gardenias are beautiful plants known for its fragrant white flowers. Due to their beauty they have become a gardening symbol in the southeast. But to be able to enjoy the beauty of the Gardenia you must be willing to put in the effort. Gardenias demand very specific care from the time of the year they are planted, temperature, sunlight, watering, placement, soil type and so on. You cannot plant a Gardenia in your backyard and expect to sit back and watch it blossom.  A Daylily on the other hand is in many ways just as beautiful but is capable of blooming and growing without the tedious care and attention.

Each spouse has a duty to protect, to care for, the other…always! A love that always protects means that each spouse knows what it takes for their spouse to grow and blossom into the beautiful man or woman that God intended them to be. A gardener can’t get upset at a gardenia for not growing if he doesn’t provide the correct care. God has given husbands and wives the duty to protect, to care for their spouse…paying careful attention to their specific needs so that they can grow into their full potential. It is the responsibility of the spouse to be the gardener of their husband/wife.

Side Note: We get the word “husband” from the term “husbandman” which is someone one cultivates the land…aka farmer. 

Know the Needs: Do you know what it takes for your spouse to grow and blossom? If not…find out! (this is a process…sometimes a process of trial and error)

Do the Deeds: Once you know what it takes to protect your spouse so they can grow, do it! There is a large gap between knowing and doing. Set time aside to do what it takes to protect

Be a Defender: Just as a gardener does many things to protect his plants from insects, frost, too much sunlight, not enough sunlight, etc…We must be very aware of anything that poses a threat to our spouse. Are any of the following a potential threat: Toxic Relationships (family, friends, coworkers, neighbors), Financial Pressures, Stress, Temptations, Media, etc…

Remove Sarcasm: The word “sarcasm” literally means “to rip flesh”. When we allow sarcasm into how we talk to our spouse we are doing the opposite of protecting

Love Always Trusts

In order to always trust the relationship must be safe. Security in a relationship is developed through honesty not perfection. Honesty includes apologizing and forgiving. This doesn’t mean we necessarily forgive and forget but we choose to forgive and choose to not hold grudges against our spouse. Always Trusting means we think the best of the other person and always assume the best in the other person.

Apologize: Be quick to apologize. Ask your spouse if there is anything you still need to apologize for. You may be surprised what you need to apologize for that you didn’t even realize hurt your spouse.

Note for husbands: When you apologize to your wives it is important to be aware of your demeanor. We are naturally louder and more animated when we talk which can be perceived as intimating to our wives. To effectively apologize to our wives (which we should probably be doing on a daily basis) we need to soften our voice.

Forgive:
 Forgiving keeps our emotions from dictating our love. Forgiving doesn’t take away the hurt but it begins the healing process. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting rather forgiving is choosing to love always and in all things.

Love Always Hopes

Love that always hopes is not a love that just wishes things will get better. This is not “wishful thinking”. A love that always hopes has confidence. Confidence that even though things may not be good right now…we are committed to each other and committed to work hard, put in the effort and things will get better.

Joy over Frustration: Joy is different from happiness. There can be joy in the midst of troubles. As a couple, choose joy over frustration. Choose to see how things are growing and be joyful for the progress you are making, no matter how minimal it seems. Marriage is a journey…it will be more enjoyable walking it through together…even if the road is difficult. Hope does not expect immediate results but has confidence while being joyfully patient.

Picture It Often: Too often we get caught up in what is instead of what could be. As a couple take time to hope and dream together. Talk about what your ideal life looks like five years from now, ten years from now. The more you talk about the ideal and picture it together the more you will find yourself moving towards the ideal together.

Love Always Perseveres

To persevere means to stay, to remain, not to retreat. In our marriages we fail to persevere because we don’t feel like it, it seems too difficult, requires too much effort or just too tired. Love is a commitment not solely an emotion or feeling. To have a love that always perseveres you must be willing to commit to one another…always and in all things

Commit to taking divorce off the table! Take time this week and go over your wedding vows again. Take notice of the commitments you made to one another and take an honest evaluation of how you each are doing living up to those commitments.

Love Never Fails

Love never fails = in all things protect, trust, hope and persevere!

To grow the intimacy within your marriage both spouses must be willing to grow and cultivate that love.  When your marriage is based on the love that God has for us, which is the only love that truly never fails…then yes, love is enough!

Our love should be a reflection of the love God has for us

As a spouse, does your love for your spouse reflect the love God has for you?

[Husbands and Wives] Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)