Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Making Time

I spent some time today driving to Atlanta and back for a meeting. I will readily admit that I don't love the traffic in Atlanta. In fact, it makes me appreciate driving in Milledgeville each time I have to pass through there. The good part about the combined four hours of driving is that it gives me time to think and to listen to podcasts. This way I can listen to other leaders, pastors, and authors and use it as a time of personal development. It takes some dead time on the road and makes it more beneficial. Honestly, I should regularly carve out that time each week, but it sometimes takes a road trip to make it happen.

I recognize the importance of being mentally stimulated and challenged and while it happens in various ways throughout the week it's a practice in which I need to be more disciplined. Setting that time aside on a consistent basis will open my mind to new possibilities and help to reshape the way that I view things. It's something that all maturing leaders should take part in.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Class Act

While most of the baseball world was focused on the retirement of Derek Jeter yesterday, he was not the only player to retire. Bobby Abreu, an 18 year veteran, also hung up his cleats as a player. He is more well known as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, but retired as a New York Met who had signed him to a one year contract. Once Bobby made his intentions known the Mets brought him back up to the major league level and let him start his final game. After he got a hit in the fifth inning, manager Terry Collins had a pinch-runner come into the game for him which allowed Bobby to receive a standing ovation from the home crowd. It was a respectful moment and gave Bobby a chance to be celebrated even though his retirement may have been overshadowed by a more well known player.

Terry Collins' actions showed great respect for Bobby and his years of service. It's a perfect example of how great leaders take the opportunity to recognize others for their contributions. Celebrating employment anniversaries and special occasions lets other people know that they are valued. Leaders should look for these moments to turn the spotlight on others as often as possible. It engenders loyalty, creates a team mentality that can't truly be forged without it, and reveals the true heart of the leader.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Looking for Direction

It's a fairly stereotypical (and often accurate) assessment of men that we don't follow directions. We either assume that we can figure out how to assemble something on our own or that if we just keep driving we'll eventually find what we are looking for. I have made mistakes in a number of different areas that reflect the truth of that argument. I think part of it is stubbornness and often a miscalculated level of trust in my own abilities. Over time I have learned how much easier the process is if I will just look at the information that's available before I undertake a project.

The same principle holds true for discovering how to be a real man. Most of us end up forging ahead based only on our life experiences and family influences and hoping we'll figure it out along the way. While this may provide some foundational pieces that will help us, they don't fully equip us to determine the next best steps in all of our current relationships. At some point we will need to seek out the directions that God has for us--the ones that will help us navigate the treacherous pathways of life. When we try to just figure it out on our own is when we run into trouble. It takes positive encouragement from other men and a healthy dose of humility to admit we don't know what to do next and that we need help.

While some might view this as the ultimate sign of weakness, I actually believe it reveals powerful humility and wisdom. We can't begin to find the correct next steps until we admit we need help finding them.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Next Step

I had the opportunity to take a group of our leaders to the Pivot men's conference at Savannah Christian Church this week. We were looking forward to a time of bonding and being challenged as men and we were not disappointed. The experiences were powerful and the speakers all had their "A-game" on. I took pages of notes and wrote several question for myself to answer later as thoughts and encouragement flowed over me from the godly men on the platform.

Honestly, I didn't expect any less than what I was blessed to receive. I anticipated powerful moments and thoughts that would stretch me and I was pleased to be correct. The unknown factor in this moment for me and others is what we will do with our experience. We have returned home and are fired up about the potential of seeing God work in new and mighty ways in the men in our community. We now have to prayerfully translate that inspiration into action if we want to see a new movement take place here. It's time to take what we have received and step into action.

I don't know exactly what that will look like, but I'm ready to move forward. Partnering a passion for change with a willingness to execute is the only way we'll get anything done.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Too Far

How do you know when you've gone too far?

Stephen Tulloch plays for the Detroit Lions and managed to end his season this past Sunday from his own mistake. He sacked Aaron Rodgers and enthusiastically celebrated his somewhat routine play by demonstratively jumping up in the air. Unfortunately for him, he tore his ACL when he landed and will now have reconstructive surgery and miss the rest of the year. I'm sure he's frustrated at suffering such a serious injury stemming from his own over-excessive celebration.

I actually feel pretty badly for Stephen. While I haven't suffered a physical injury from a foolish reaction, I have certainly caused damage by going too far in other ways. I've allowed my mouth to get out of control and hurt others in the spirit of "being funny". I've let my emotions get the better of me when circumstances were changing. I've done some foolish things that have (un)intentionally afflicted people that I care about. I've made ridiculous decisions that have had negative short-term and long-term consequences as well. 

We all have the opportunity to avoid these types of decisions. Will we learn from the mistakes of others and avoid inflicting damage or will we foolishly decide that we need to experience the pain for ourselves? Sometimes it's a blending of both that teach us the best lessons, but I would much prefer to let someone else be the example I can learn from.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


One of the biggest hindrances to our progress and productivity are distractions. These are the things that interrupt our momentum and delay the completion of our goals. Is it something simple that temporarily interrupts your train of thought or is it something bigger that completely derails a course of action? It can be the movement of people while you are speaking, loud noise from another room, an unexpected drop in, a Facebook notification, or anything that we allow to interfere with our concentration. 

The truth is that there will always be things to distract us. We get to decide how we will be derailed and for how long. If we want to be successful and feel productive we have to learn how to develop the mental discipline to stay focused when conditions make that practice difficult. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


You probably wouldn't believe a label reading, "chocolate milk" if it was placed on a gallon of bleach. That kind of ignorance would be foolish. Realistically however, we mislabel many other things and convince ourselves that the improper label is the correct identifier regardless of what we are truly seeing.
  • We mislabel divisive conversation as helpful criticism.
  • We mislabel malignant gossip as prayerful concern.
  • We mislabel sporadic generosity to ease personal guilt as genuine compassion for others.
  • We mislabel once-a-week attendance as faithful Christianity.
  • We mislabel societal dysfunction as the norm because it is widely accepted.
  • We mislabel lustful glances & adulterous flirting as harmless, friendly interaction.
  • We mislabel deliberate sinfulness as acceptable because it's "not that bad."
We have two choices: blindly follow poorly labeled practices and let their misnomer fool us into a false sense of what is good or we can recognize what is wrong and make the correction in our own lives first. Just because a label makes us feel better about ourselves doesn't mean it's actually good for us. 

A candy coated poison pill tastes better going down, but it will still kill you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Blame Game

"Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." Ruth 1:20-21

Naomi and her husband made a decision to leave their homeland for a foreign country. They left behind a place God had set aside for them and pursued a life in a land they weren't intended to live in. After her husband and two sons had died Naomi decided to return to the only other life she knew. Obviously, her circumstances had made her bitter and she placed all of the responsibility for her current condition on God. Her troubles were not a result of God's punitive attitude, but of the choices that her family had made.

What attitude do we have when our circumstances turn sour? Can we honestly assess how our decisions have led us down this pathway or are we content to blame God for the nasty consequences of our decisions? He is a big enough God to handle our accusations, but we'll never see any personal growth if we don't take responsibility for our own actions.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Who Are You?

Have you forgotten who you are and who you want to be? 

We react so quickly to circumstances, emotions, temptations, and other people's choices that we often forget who we're supposed to be. It's the path of sin we have chosen that blinds our eyes to who we truly are as men and women of God. It's why marriages break apart, why we are unreasonably short-tempered with our children, and why people make seemingly small choices that end up with large, negative consequences.

To prevent this we need daily reminders of who we are supposed to be in Jesus Christ. Our journey with Him isn't confined to a few moments while we choose to live hedonistically the rest of the week. When we acknowledge our Father and admit that we are sons & daughters of the King, we will start to live like it and won't allow temporary pleasures to cause us to forget who we are striving to be.

We need to be reminded about our true identity so that we make lifestyle choices that reflect who we are striving to be. If we don't stay focused on these reminders our character will be unstable and unrecognizable.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

This Is Me

If you boast about your areas of strength (personality traits, abilities, potential, gifting) and nobody near to you recognizes those strengths, there is a problem. You're either not being earnest in using that ability or you're not honestly assessing who you really are.

Dormant strength needs to be awakened and developed to have an impact. An authentic self-assessment and wise counsel from dependable voices will help us be realistic in our capabilities. Both of these are key to operating healthfully in our natural gifting and maximizing our personal potential.

In simple language: know who you are & work to make the most of who you are.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

In Memory of a Great Man

Many of us lost a great man this week as Jim "Doc" Carlin left this world. Doc was one of my favorite, most influential teachers at Mainland High School and then became a colleague and friend as I returned to my alma mater to teach. His premature departure leaves a void that won't be easily filled even though the thousands he influenced will do our best to carry on his legacy.

Doc was a giant of man in physical stature and also in influence and intellect. While I have always loved reading it was his passion (and his deceased wife Betsy's) that spurred mine to greater heights. While "teaching" may have been his profession it was obvious that this was a calling for him and not merely an occupation. Even though it has been 25 years since I sat in his classroom, I can still see him gesticulating as he enthusiastically shared the beauty of literature and challenged our thinking as well. Doc worked tirelessly to shape us and open our minds to see the hidden treasures of books and most importantly, the life lessons they contained. His authentic desire to be a blessing was obvious to me even as a scrawny, immature senior and even more so as the years went by. 

He supported all of us in our endeavors and showed up at theater performances and athletic events to cheer us all on. While he may have come across to some as gruff, it was evident that it was truly love for us all and his desire to see us find our best. As fellow educators I was privileged to see another side of Doc as he stood up against injustices and fought for what was right. I watched as he refused to settle for the status quo and always persevered for the best for students, teachers, and our school. It was a reflection of his consistent character and concern for others. I always felt like I was part of his family and I know I don't stand alone in that sentiment.

He was passionately articulate, deeply compassionate, remarkably intelligent, and humbly gentle. I am grateful for his influence and greatly saddened by our loss. I am a better reader, student, teacher, thinker, and man because of him. Others may write and speak more fluently about him than I am capable of doing. Nevertheless, I knew that I had to do my best to simply fulfill what he always charged us with and "Put words on paper!" 

Thank you for everything, my good friend. Enjoy God's rest. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Peace in the Pain

Music speaks to us in ways that go beyond a catchy tune. There are times when the lyrics are exactly what we need to hear and are soothing to our soul.

As I think about the people I know that are struggling through life's difficulties, I often wish that I could provide them a solution. I know that God is ultimately what they need in those moments and it is not just healing that He brings. So many times it is the peace that He brings us as we journey through difficulties that is His greatest gift. A song by the Aaron Pelsue band describes this gift in more eloquent words than I ever could. I pray it reveals the peace we are most desperate to receive from God.

There are days when, I don’t feel like, I can get out of bed
There are moments, when I fear that, all of my dreams are dead
Then Your Spirit comes and it wakes me up, gives me the strength to fight
You remind me of, Your great power to give every dead thing life

You’re my joy when I have none
You’re my hope when I’m undone
You’re the love that over comes when I’m afraid
You’re the peace in the pain

When my heart is fully broken and I can barely breathe
When my world is a stormy ocean, crushing me in deep
Then Your Spirit breathes and You promise to me, the most amazing things
You remind me of Your great power to calm all my raging seas

You’re my joy when I have none
You’re my hope when I’m undone
You’re the love that over comes when I’m afraid
You’re the peace in the pain

Peace that passes understanding
Holds me up when I feel like I could die
Peace that passes understanding
You’re the source and I’ve never felt so alive

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Peacemaker

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 
Romans 12:18

Even if you don't believe in God or His principles this is fairly sound advice. It's a call to be someone who willfully advances peace in personal relationships. The key part of this statement is, "as far as it depends on you." To me this means that we will sometimes find ourselves advocating for peace when others are actively opposed to it. It puts responsibility back on the individual through a call to do what is right regardless of the circumstances. This is certainly not an easy posture to adopt, but I firmly believe it will positively impact all of our life relationships if we can actively pursue it.

We can either seek to be a peacemaker or choose to engage in conflict at every opportunity. It's difficult to find peace in your life when you aren't striving to create it through your actions and attitude.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Character Developments

Human character is not constant because the traits 
or qualities that constitute it are unstable. 
-A.W. Tozer

Our character is one of our most valuable personal resources and it's also a fluctuating commodity. It needs to be managed and must also be developed. The good news is that even if our character is weak or poor it can be improved. The converse is also true: even though we have established good character it won't remain that way if we don't continue to refine it. An ever present focus on developing our personal character is essential if we hope to maintain a high level of consistency. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I remember watching a basketball game in high school where we were losing in the last few minutes.The other team was trying to run down the clock and we were doing what we could to get possession of the ball. I vividly remember one of our players trying to steal the ball while two other players kept throwing it back and forth to keep it away from him. They never moved their position, but he was quickly exhausting himself dashing back and forth. He was committed to what he was doing, but his high level of energy wasn't helping him get the ball or our team to win.

We can have a high level of energy expenditure without seeing results even if our objective is clear. Being successful isn't just about excessive energy and focus, but also about using the right methods. If one of those three elements is missing we won't achieve our desired results and will simply end up exhausted and unfulfilled.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Slow Pace

I was driving down the road the other day behind a driver going 10 miles below speed limit. As often happens in these circumstances, I found myself getting aggravated at the slow pace. I couldn't understand why someone would willingly choose to drive that slow on a somewhat busy road. Didn't they have somewhere to be? Didn't they realize that those numbers on the sign were supposed to be the lower limit of our traveling speed? 

The truth is that I wasn't late for another appointment and in fact, i wasn't even really in a hurry. It was really about the fact that I was being inconvenienced by slow driving. Things were not happening at the pace that I would have preferred for them to happen.

Doesn't that describe us in many phases of our lives? Our change in physical discipline isn't producing the quick weight results we desire, our efforts to change our relationships aren't working fast enough, our increased productivity isn't bringing that job promotion we've been eyeballing, and our prayer and Scripture reading hasn't changed our faith like we want it to do. The world around us isn't moving at the pace we want and we're aggravated about it. 

The truth is that I can't make some things speed up. No matter how much I want to see things move more quickly, sometimes that tempo is just going to be slow. I can either stay aggravated because life isn't fitting into my carefully crafted agenda or I can enjoy the slower pace while recognizing that things are still progressing.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Faith Results

Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting.

I have written about this from a leadership perspective and it also has great spiritual principles. Your current spiritual disciplines are producing exactly what they are set up to produce.

If we want to see increased faith in God, are we doing something to increase our faith or maintaining the same habits and hoping they produce different results? If we want to speak more kindness and love to our family are we doing something uniquely different to change our thought & speech patterns? If we want God to provide us with more influence we can't continue to think, speak, and act the same way we always have. We've got to begin to trust God more with our lives and let Him rewire us even as He changes our future.

We can't foolishly expect our same habits to produce different results.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

See the Enemy

Our puppy, Moses, has just started to be alarmed by his own reflection. He sees his own image in the TV screen or in the front door to the dryer and starts to bark. He won't take his eyes off of it and to get him to stop we have to cover it or get him to leave the room. Moses thinks that he's barking at an intruder, but he's the one that is causing himself stress.

I think that might accurately describe a lot of the conflicts we face. We make a lot of noise and get out of sorts only to discover that we are the main culprit in our dilemma. We can stay upset over the current circumstances and keep making noise or we can own up to our contribution to the conflict and decide to do something about our part.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Set the Tone

 Our attitude sets the tone for our experience.

If we anticipate a positive interaction or a negative one we will usually be correct. Nothing ever flows exactly as we expect, but our attitude can make the difference in how we view the outcome. This is true of personal encounters, job situations, community experiences, and even church services. We can either learn to expect the best or anticipate the worst. We will find that what we set ourselves up for is what we end up experiencing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Searching for Strategy

God asked the Israelites to march around the city walls of Jericho for six days. On the seventh day
they walked around seven times, blew their trumpets, and yelled out. As unlikely as it may seem (at least by human power standards) the walls of the city collapsed and the Israelites stormed in to defeat their enemy.

This whole idea of marching without engaging doesn't seem like a strategy from history's best military practices. The point was that the people needed to trust God to do what they couldn't. Victory was assured once they were willing to let God do what only He could do.

What is my Jericho? What am I trying to defeat with my own power when I should be relying on God's power?

  • Shame & guilt from my past
  • Entrenched personal habits
  • The way that I process conflict
  • Obstacles from other people
  • Community strongholds of prejudice
  • Fear over the unknown future

I don't think I can simply ignore these issues yet I do know that I have to surrender some of them to God's higher power to see them conquered.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Not Perfect

In the face of the uncertainty of life I'm doing the best I can right now. What I do will never be as perfect as I would like it to be. The truth is that I will only frustrate myself if I focus on making the exact right decision with perfect timing at every opportunity.

Instead I need to keep learning from each situation, apologize when I am in error, and trust God to make things right in His perfection. I don't have all (or sometimes many) of the answers, but I'm trying to learn and make corrections along the way. Sometimes I might be anxious about making a decision because I don't want it to be wrong or for it to cause too much damage. At some point I just have to prayerfully consider my options, humbly accept the teachable moments, and move on with God's grace fueling me.

I tend to think it's fairly sound advice for all of us.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Small Steps

There are always parts of our life in which we can find dissatisfaction. It could be a personal
relationship that is struggling, discontent with our job situation, continued frustrations over our own personal habits, or even financial difficulties. Sometimes these areas seem so overwhelming that we are unsure anything can be done about it. We may even reach a point where we resign ourselves to this negative status quo and believe nothing can be done. 

I know of very few big problems that can be solved overnight and yet I recognize the power in taking a positive step. If there are things that we don't like, then we need to change something even if it's just a small adjustment. Leaving things exactly the same won't bring about any transformation, but will only increase our frustration. 

Sometimes we can see a ray of hope by simply doing something different.

Monday, September 8, 2014

That's What Friends Are For

I have been very fortunate to have good friends in my life. Some of them have been a vital part of my regular life for a season while others have been there for longer periods of time. All of them are important to me and have helped me to become the man that I currently am. Now and then, I am blessed with a chance to reconnect with old friends through social media, a random phone call, or a quick visit. Each interaction reminds me of the great value of those relationships. It's amazing how comfortable it is to slip back into conversation even when the lapse of closeness has been greater than either of us would like.

While I wish we could shorten that gap, I will content myself with the moments that God blesses me with.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Searching for Hope

In C.S. Lewis' book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy discovers a land where "it's always winter, but never Christmas."

This is a land where there is never a hope for a season to pass. There is never a hope for things to someday get better. To live without this hope is to be trapped in generational sin and our own past mistakes. When this is the mindset there is no need to think of the future or to imagine that anything can change. 

This is a perversion of the promise that God brings. He shows us that there is no hope without Him. The rest of our lives may seem futile, but if we believe in a God who is always working for our good we can see a glimmer of light when the rest of our world is trapped in darkness.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Small Things Matter

As a pastor, I see a lot of marriages at different stages. I have been part of vow renewal ceremonies, crisis counseling, counseling simply for the sake of making their marriage better, and acting as an officiant as well. While I love to see marriage restored and strengthened I will admit to being partial seeing the beginning of a new relationship. Some of them tend to be more special than others and a lot of that is attributed to how the two of them interact. There are just some couples that fit so well together from the very beginning. You can already see how healthy they are going to be and how they will support each other. It's shown in a simple touch, a glance, a gentle word, or a calming presence at the exact moment it's needed.

They may not even realize the depth of what I see in them and yet I know it's going to be moments like these that will build a solid foundation for their future.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Defining Our Character

I was having breakfast with my girls the other morning and posed a tough question. I asked them who they wanted to be. I wasn't trying to discover the career they intended to pursue, but wanted them to give some though to their character.

While we have a calling in life that is part of who we are it is our character that truly defines us. When we have some concept of a future "us" it helps to shape the decisions we are making today. Keeping that vision consistently in front of us will hopefully help us make the right choices along the way.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Winning Ticket

My wife and I will sometimes talk about the things we could do if we won the lottery. We share extravagant dreams, missions we could support, places we could visit, and people we could help. The biggest problem with this conversation isn't our improbably odds on winning the lottery or even the potential ethical dilemma associated with "gambling." The biggest obstacle to us winning is that we don't play. We laugh about our conversations, but the truth is that we will never come close to winning a multi-million dollar Powerball lottery simply because we've never purchased a ticket.

You don't have a chance to win if you aren't in the game. If there is some area that you want to find success you will have to take a step of action or nothing will ever happen.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Playing Small Ball

I love baseball. I am a sports fanatic in the truest sense if the word, but I truly love the game of baseball.
There is something about the history, the pace of the game, the potential for exciting things with every pitch, and the threat of a comeback that makes it special. One of the most exciting things in baseball is the home run. It is fascinating to watch a feat of strength and timing that sends a ball hurtling hundreds of feet through the air to land beyond reach. It can quickly change the momentum of a game and is exciting for fans to anticipate.

Because the home run is so exciting, I think we try to perfect the same science in other areas of our life. We want to have the maximum impact with every decision that we make without realizing that this isn't always the best course of action nor is it always possible. While there will be opportunities when we can make a big decision that brings immediate changes of vast impact the reality is that life is usually made of up small consistent decisions adding together over time to create change. Above average, consistent baseball hitters know when the time is right to swing for the fences and when it's better to contribute in smaller ways for greater overall momentum. 

Are we content with occasionally getting the big hit or do we want to be more consistent with our efforts? Our mindset and daily discipline will help us do little things that add up to bigger results in the long run if we are patient enough to stay focused in the process.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Changing Time

Habits eat willpower for breakfast.   John Ortberg

I am tired of starting and stopping things. I tend to get fired up about changing my health (in all areas) then end up falling short of my intended goal and giving up. It's a frustrating problem of running out of willpower when I tend to need it the most.

The truth is that my willpower is a limited commodity and I can't rely on it alone to make the difference in my lifestyle. While there are times when I need to be resilient, I also need to learn new ways of living. It requires a rewiring of my brain to swap out old habits for new ones. Writing these words is obviously much easier than fulfilling them, but I believe that consistency and a "one-day-at-a-time" focus will bring the change that I'm so desperate to see. Realizing that I can't will myself to be better, but must develop new patterns of thought and behavior is actually a relief even if it seems that it will take longer to become a reality.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Step One

I am trying to create some positive changes in my life and honestly they aren't always easy to do. I know that I want to be a healthier man in all aspects: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I see the direction that I want to move in and just need to develop the discipline to keep progressing in that direction even when it's difficult. I know that the consistency of my motivation will have an ebb and flow to it and that may be frustrating for my pace of growth. I need to remind myself that I didn't get where I'm at overnight and I won't fix it in one night either. My devoted attention to my goals today will help build another step for tomorrow. Nothing of significance is built all at once, but by being diligently faithful one piece at a time.