4 Truths about God’s Promises 

(This post came across my FB feed today from 2015. Based on Joshua 14:6-14.)

Someone should make a movie about Joshua and Caleb. I’ve always imagined they were buds, but who really knows. Not sure if their families shared manna together, but they are linked in the story of their nation.

Here, Caleb illustrates what it means to be totally with God. Not only was he faithful in his task at age 40, he also managed to stick to his guns for 45 more years.

At age 85, he reminds Joshua what happened on their first visit to the land which they now possessed. God spoke to him through Moses that his faithfulness would be rewarded.  Still as strong as at age 40, he was ready to receive the fulfillment of God’s promise.

Through Caleb’s life, we can see these truths about how to live in the light of God’s promise:

  1. God’s promise is worth your lifelong surrender.
  2. God keeps His promises, even if it takes your lifetime.
  3. God’s promise doesn’t give you freedom to do whatever you want while you wait. Remain totally His.
  4. Your family could also live in the light of God’s promise because of your willingness to be totally His. Worth it?
Advertisements

The Gift of Balance: Series Introduction (Part 2)

(This is part two of the first post in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter.)

Of the topics the rest of this series will cover, which one have you had to work on the most?

Mark: For me, it’s the work, career, job. I often use the analogy of a spectrum. At the tail end of my corporate career, I needed to change where I was on the spectrum. Too much work had become a detriment to my time, family, and even emotional health. So now I’ve shifted the pendulum to asking the question, “How much work should I be doing? Am I doing enough work?” My day looks so different. I’ve enjoyed a lot of personal time with family, but I have to balance the time to develop and grow a new business. Work is the area that most easily disrupts the other areas of my life. I’ve gone from placing balances on it, to trying to control, to asking what are my boundaries and what should I be doing. This one isn’t always a challenge, but it is the one that I need to pay the most attention to because it’s so influential to other components of my life.

John: Tonya, since you’ve counseled a lot of guys, would you say this is probably the case for most men?

Tonya: Yes, especially the “how much work do I put in” leading back to values. But this is my issue too. What I’ve had to learn, and learning to do all the time, is setting all my hours according to my values. My values have to be stated first. And then ask, “Do my hours reflect my values?” That helps me. If I don’t accomplish my tasks in the hours I’ve set, then I have to be okay with stopping. That was the biggest thing for me, being okay with not accomplishing everything that was on the list for that day.

John: I remember hearing Bill Hybels saying how he addressed that issue for himself. When the clock hit five, he gave himself an automatic stop. But before he left his desk, he’d pause and pray, “God, thank you for what I got done today.” Just a simple prayer that allowed him to leave and to leave stuff not done.

Tonya: That’s good. A professor once taught me that when I put my hand on the doorknob to leave to pause and say, Everything that happened in this office today rest with you, Lord, and now I go home to my family.” Disconnect my brain from work and be with my family. Again, it comes back to values. We can give lip service to our value system, but do we live out of it. When we do, it’s a whole different dynamic because then I can be sitting with my kids and playing a game and have peace because that is a value for me, a higher value than my work.

John: My input on this question is coming from the backside of what’s been said on the work topic. The topic that goes hand in hand on this one is the idea of sabbath/rest/play. It’s not so much that I struggled with finding my identity in work. It was finding the balance between the idea that as a single person I can give more time to the job and the need to find balance between work and play. When I started running it wasn’t just because I enjoy it, which I do, but it was for that purpose to give me structure and personal accountability about the need for this balance. But even then, I had to work on not letting my play feel like work. The competitive drive or need to get better would mess with the balance. Injury is actually a good thing for me. It makes me slow down and pause to evaluate am I pushing too hard. Finding balance in play time helps correct any issues that are on the work side of it.

Suggested Resources:

Mark’s

  • Essentialism, by Greg McKeown
  • Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt
  • Jesus’ message – “Store up treasures in heaven, rather than here on earth.”
  • Quote by martyred missionary Jim Elliot – “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Tonya’s

  • The Bible
  • Emotionally Healthy Leaderby Peter Scazzero
  • Leading on Empty, by Wayne Cordeiro
  • Dr. Leaf.com – 21 Day Brain Detox – podcasts, youtube channel
  • Sleep: It does a Family Good & Adrenaline and Stress, both by Dr. Archibald Hart

John’s

  • Integrity, by Dr. Henry Cloud
  • Awe, by Paul David Tripp

The Gift of Balance-Series Introduction (Part 1)

(This is the first post in a series on the subject of balance.  It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate.  By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors.  Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. Side note: for regular readers of this blog, these posts will be longer than usual. We three coaches are used to listening more than talking, so we have a lot to say.)

In getting to know Mark and Tonya over the last few weeks and months, I realized that we all have a similar concern about balance in our lives and helping others achieve it also. So it wasn’t hard to twist their arms to join me for a series on the topic. By way of introducing the series, we will share a little about ourselves, but also look at what drives us to be passionate about this subject and where we’ve found it most challenging in our lives. At the end of each post in this series, you will also find suggested readings and resources on that post’s topic. Mark is going to get us started by answering this first question:

Give us a bio and include your balance journey.

Mark: I grew up in a lower-middle-class, conservative Christian family in southern Michigan. My parents were very involved in their kid’s lives, putting their own needs aside for their kids. After marrying my high school sweetheart, we moved to Columbus where I began what became a twenty-year career in corporate America. Early on in my adult life, I was pretty confident that work and non-work balance was important to me and an important equation that I would have to solve. As our family grew (three kids now ages 17, 15, 13,), I realized balance is nuanced and fluid; it’s not a static, rigid concept. There are seasons where things are askew or you may be focused on one area more than another. What I always retained was that my relationships-wife, kids, God-were the things that I valued. As I navigated the career life, I found that career progression encroached in my home life and balance became really difficult-to the point that I walked away after twenty years to chart a new course. That was the moment I acknowledged publicly and through my actions that life was out of balance and I had to hit reset. I realized I needed a fairly drastic change in order to get back the balance that I wanted and had lost. Now I’m on this big adventure of what does post-corporate America look like. I enjoy coaching clients on this idea of balance in their lives; I’m jazzed about helping people know where they want to go in life and put together a plan to get there. It’s something I’ve learned-and I’ve learned a bunch.

Tonya: I’m also a Michigander. Go Blue! That’s where my husband and I met and married. My family experience was different; I grew up in a single-mother home. After marriage, we went into ministry, starting in campus ministry. We learned very quickly after moving into church staff world that we were going to have to protect our family life. So my story of balance comes from working under workaholics, pastors who had moral failures and were abusive to staff and family. My husband and I had to sit down and say, “What’s right here?” Those times helped us set the balance that God wanted for our marriage and family and to stand strong. Now having been married for 25 years and working as a therapist for 22 years while homeschooling our children, I never worked full time; taking care of the kids came first. So sometimes that meant I couldn’t do some of the things I felt passionate about doing. So seasons was also something I followed like, “Now is a season I’m raising my boys.” My time is beginning to shift since my youngest is about to finish high school, so I’m going to have more time to do those things that I want to do. My husband is now in the corporate world, but we still follow the choice to always talk about job opportunities he has and make decisions together. We’ve gotten push back at times, people telling us we’re crazy, but God has always blessed us. Living in California now for 16 years, we haven’t always chosen to have the income we could have had, but we feel blessed and haven’t paid any penalty for our choices.

John: As I listen to you both, I hear interesting intersections in our stories. I grew up in a pastor’s home; my dad passed away at the age of 40. As a twelve-year-old kid, I can’t say that my dad was a workaholic, but I can’t say that I think he had balance in his life. So that certainly influenced my view of balance as a pastor, as an adult, to not repeat the same history. Being single, achieving balance looks different but is still important. Balance can get out of whack for all of us in any area. I have worked through a couple of seasons where I realized, more from an emotional state, that I was out of balance. Similar to you, Mark, I chose to walk away from staff positions in order to reset. I didn’t have a “next” lined up. So Tonya, I got those same, “What are you doing?” comments. The balance for me wasn’t being concerned about what any one person thought more than what I understood the Holy Spirit was telling me. That doesn’t mean I have it all together, but when I feel like I’m out of balance I step back and let Him speak into what’s going on.

What makes you passionate about the subject of balance?

Tonya: The Oxford dictionary says that balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone to remain upright and steady. That definition helps us see the importance of keeping things flowing along and not feeling discombobulated and confusing. My passion is founded in my leaving my therapy practice a few months ago to pursue coaching. In my therapy practice, so many pastors were referred to me who had hit the wall. They were dealing with losing their spouses or depression or addiction; so I was desperate to help them be preventative. Coaching pastors is my passion, to help them remain upright and steady. Living for that audience of one, like you said John, is our first priority. Balance helps us stay steady even when the world is unsteady.

Mark: This may sound cliche, but I think it’s in the time of difficulty where we are tested to choose the things that we value. When tragedy happens, when promotions are on the table, we are asked in those situations to reaffirm those things that are important to us. In those times, having clarity on what is important makes it easier to make the hard decision or to get through the season, and to realize the season will reset or that it can be made to shift back once it is over. These times give us the opportunity to prove what is important to us.

I’ve always taken a longer-run view of balance, driven home by working with workaholics lacking a longer view. I decided that’s not what I want. Who gets to their death bed and says, “I regret I didn’t have more conference calls. I didn’t travel more to meetings around the country”? Nobody says that. There is this pressure that organizations put on their people to go the extra mile. I always wanted to maintain this longer view, to not wake up one day and my kids are gone and I don’t know my wife and I’ve missed it. There are more important things to me than a career or an organization’s profit. In the church context, if we don’t exercise our opportunity to say “no” then it doesn’t give others the opportunity to others to step up and say “yes.” So in the church and the business context, I saw how things could be different. So I decided to take this longer view to keep me from having regrets in the end.

Tonya: To piggyback off of that, this summer I just spent three months with my father back in Michigan as he was losing his battle with cancer. It reinforced for me the principle of understanding who we are is not what we do. Unfortunately, he never came to that. He passed without that peace. He struggled to be important by what he did, with the “do.” That was hard to watch, but it determined in me even more so to know who I am. When I introduce myself to others, I say, “I am the daughter of the Most High God”-not to be super spiritual, but to know who I am.

John: Feeding off of your thoughts, two things come to my mind that I’m sure people have heard me say or observed me do. One is, “Relax. God’s in charge here. It’ll be okay.” The other is I share a similar passion to what you were talking about, Mark, in helping people say no. Modeling that is huge. Helping people see the freedom that comes from saying no creates the reaction, “Wow. I didn’t know this kind of living existed.” It’s sitting back and saying, “God is first. I’m not.” 

(Part 2 will post tomorrow, where you’ll find our suggested resources on the subject of balance.)

 

Introducing New Blog Series

Starting this Friday, I’ll be posting a 6-week series on balance called “The Gift of Balance.”  This series will be another collaboration, this time with two contributors, Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter.  Mark and Tonya are life coaches who have backgrounds in other areas-Mark, corporate America; Tonya, counseling.  We are all passionate about the subject of balance-some reasons the same, some reasons more personal.

Our approach is that we are teleconferencing each week about the following week’s blog.  Then that conversation is put into a blog that hopefully reads like you’re listening to our conversation.  You might say a transcript of a podcast.  Should be interesting and hopefully thought-provoking and helpful.

Here is an outline of the series:

  • Introduction
  • Family/Parenting balance
  • Work Balance
  • Marriage/Single-Living Balance
  • Play/Time/Sabbath Balance
  • Church/Ministry/Serving Balance

Look for the first post in your feed this Friday!

You: 2018 Edition

So I’m back. First full week in the office in a month. Besides the expected comments and questions, here are two observations that were most likely true: “You look like you’ve lost weight,” and “You are on fire.” Welcome to sabbatical residual. Ran more miles in a month than any other month in four years. And rest equals sharpness.

Around this time of the year we start reflecting. Did I accomplish what I wanted this year? Is it too late? So what about next year? What goals do I need to set?

What if you asked a different question? Rather than figuring out New Year’s resolutions, what about this different angle: What upgrade do I need? From a spiritual perspective, what God-designed updates should be installed in the 2018 edition of me?

Not everyone can take a month off and gain residual, download a personal upgrade. But with some devoted time and thought over the next seven weeks, anyone can identify and engage with God what bugs need to be addressed and improvements could be installed from you, edition 2017.

For instance, considered these ten possibilities:

  • In the 2018 edition of my marriage, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my job, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my parenting, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my walk with God, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my hobbies, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my health, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my finances, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my friendships, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my vacation time, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my future planning, I will…

Forget New Year’s resolutions. Work on the upgrade. Allow God to design and install the 2018 edition of you.

50 days to launch!

Sabbatical: The Saturday After

It was a good month. A very good month. Memorable in many ways. I was asked Thursday what was the best highlight. I gave an answer, but I could give you a different answer if you asked me today.

Rather than do highlights, here is the end of my journal entry from 10/30:

The lessons I take away from this month are:

  1. Grace is so needed in this world. I need to give more of it.
  2. People are very lonely in this world. I can offer them hope through my obedience to serve and to give my time, talents, and respect. 
  3. God has what people need in this world. They can find it through various methods-church, community, music, dance, family, books, new friendships, similar connections, and jobs where they can love people. 
  4. There is much to be in awe of in this world. But it shouldn’t replace my awe for the one responsible for all of it. 

For a bonus thought, I’ll share this note from my morning run today. In my first few miles, I wasn’t necessarily feeling it. I thought 7.5 may do it today, although I needed to do more. However, the more I ran the better my legs felt making me think double digit miles were possible after all (I was wearing Alabama socks…gotta be it). I ended up getting just over 10 done and felt good following. It reminded me of Sabbatical race #3 in Dover. 

Here’s the deal: our minds are a tool. They can beat us up or tear us down. Controlling the self talk in our head determines if we’ll finish strong or finish at all. 

Bottom line: Own Your Mind.

Photos to illustrate: 

Following mile 1 in Dover. Thought: “How will these next 12 miles go?”


Finish Line in Dover. Thought: “Thanks, God. We owned those last miles.”

Winning at the Game of Life

(This is the ninth and final post in a series on wisdom from baseball; and how about it posting just a few hours before GAME 7. In this article, Mark Stanifer continues to mine his playing experience for insights into how to better play the game of life.)

One hundred and sixty-two regular season games. Three wins for the Division Series. Four more wins for the League championship. All for the chance to win four more games and be called the best in baseball. Only the Dodgers and the Astros have a chance to reach this final goal for the season.

Over the course of our article series, baseball has provided some excellent material for how to excel at the game of life. Of course, it is not a perfect analogy, but it is a good one.

Clear Goals Are Important

Last season, the Astros finished with a record barely over 0.500. The Dodgers lost in the League Championship to the eventual World Series winners. Both teams came into this season with something to prove, and they have. Although only one team will finish first, all the goal setting, planning, and hard work have paid off for both teams.

It’s likely that the other twenty-eight teams now watching the games on TV set a goal to win the World Series as well. Setting a goal does not guarantee it will happen. There are many factors which go into achieving a goal, some of which are outside of your control. But without a clear vision of what you are working for, how will you know when you achieve it? If the Astros had set their goal as simply “do better than last year,” it is likely they would have significantly underperformed. Winning the World Series is a big stretch goal, but it is specific and clear.

Team Effort

Each team has stand out players, but without the whole team, winning championships doesn’t happen. During this article series, we covered the importance of playing your role, doing the little things, and being the ideal team player. Suffice it to say, it takes a team to win the World Series.

It takes a team effort to win at the game of life too. Anyone who has achieved a level of success, broadly defined, has had help along the way. I don’t mean to diminish the individual effort. Instead, I want to emphasize the role that others — parents, mentors, coaches, teachers, partners, friends, spouses — play in their success. Moreover, truly successful people help others to be successful as well. MVP’s and all-stars garner a lot of attention, but I believe being praised as a great team player is a more desirable accolade.

Staying Focused

Spring training starts in March. The World Series sometimes finishes in November. That’s almost nine months of baseball, and over 200 games all told. How do teams stay focused for that long? There are multiple factors here, but I want to highlight one in particular. The players make a choice to stay focused on what they are pursuing — a championship.

Choices like this require sacrifice. I don’t mean to imply that a single minded pursuit of goals is always admirable. Rather, I’m highlighting a principle Greg McKeown writes about in Essentialism, which is this: “The way of the Essentialist rejects the idea that we can fit it all in. Instead it requires us to grapple with real trade-offs and make tough decisions.” Said differently, staying focused on your goals requires consistently choosing activities that lead to accomplishing your goals, and saying no to things that don’t. It also reinforces the importance of being clear about goals. Regrets arise from saying no to things that should have been a yes.

Not Just One Winner

The big flaw in using a sports analogy for life lessons is that in sports there is only one champion. Not so in life. A winner does not have to come at the expense of a loser. Winning, again broadly defined, is achievable for many. That said, let me be clear — I am not advocating for “participation trophies.” That diminishes the achievements and actions of those who have truly excelled. Rather, I’m advocating for a perspective that allows for many winners in the game of life, as each plays the game in the way they were created play. Some might call this an abundance mindset.

If I were to summarize this series in just a few sentences, it would be this: Be clear on where you are going and do what is yours to do to get there. Recognize the importance of being on a team and do the little things to help each other win. Realize that much of this game is mental and overcoming mistakes or failure will be critical. If you do all these things, it won’t guarantee victory, but it will increase your chances of living up to your full potential, and of winning big in life.

Dude…You’re on a Detour

(An “Own It” series for Dudes)

My last post had to do with my recent travels, with quite a bit of levity. This post also has to do with those travels, but with a more introspective tone. Balance.

My travels have taken me through 13 states. Guess what? They all have construction going on. Shocking. And guess what? Google maps is there for you, in the congestion and the isolation, ready to be silent or ready to give you an alternate route.

Another term for alternate route is detour. I literally took one detour that had me circle all four exit and entrance ramps at an interstate exchange to detour around a closed exit. That was a first. Pretty sweet, actually.

In my trek from Ohio to New York, I had a long time to think. One thing I was chewing on was a phrase I kept throwing at my Columbus friend, “You have options.” And as I passed a couple of detours and watched various driver’s reactions to the traffic flow changes, including my own, some interesting thoughts about detours and options in life came to mind. So here they are in randomness:

  • Some detours in life come at you with no warning-GPS lost the signal, the accident ahead just happened, the road seemed closed for no reasons. You don’t know what it’s about, how long it’s going to last, and maybe even uncertain if the new route really is taking you in the right direction. These life detours could be anything from financial to physical to vocational to relational. You really aren’t sure if you have options or not. This delay is full of uncertainty.
  • Other detours in life come with a few warning signs-“Road work 5 miles ahead. Left lanes closes in 1 mile. Detour ahead.” Reasons may be clearer because of better information, which may also give you options to consider for getting through the delay sooner. The delay is real but with less uncertainty, less stress on the traveler.
  • For a little bit of honesty, let’s acknowledge that we drivers actually bring some detours on ourselves. Maybe we failed to listen to the GPS, or arrogantly said, “She doesn’t know what she’s saying.” Maybe we purposefully chose to take a detour to see something that looked interesting that takes us off the planned course. And we are mostly okay with these detours. Some end well, some don’t. Regardless, we have to own the fact that we chose the detour.
  • The truth about most detours is this: they don’t ruin our lives. We may immediately start worrying about arriving in time or disappointing the in-laws or missing the meeting, but the end of most stories is we eventually get there and all is well.

So what’s a dude to do when approaching a detour or waking up to the reality he’s in one that he didn’t see coming?

  1. Consider your options
  2. Thank God you’re still on a road and not under it
  3. Take a breathe
  4. Look at the scenery that you wouldn’t otherwise have seen
  5. Adjust your speed, your expectations, your plans
  6. Realize that 15-30 minutes is about the same time it takes to get your hair cut. It won’t last forever.
  7. If the Spirit leads you to take a detour, listen and obey
  8. Ask God “what” questions rather than “why” questions
  9. Look for the purpose in the detour. You might find that it’s taking you to a better road.
  10. Turn up the music. Lower the windows. Enjoy the ride.

Dude…You’re in the Restroom…at the rest stop

(An “Own It” series for Dudes)

This month I’ve been doing quite a bit of driving. Trips have been anywhere from three to nine hours in length. Therefore, I’ve had reason to make a few pitstops. One such stop was memorable. It was a rest area in PA.

Frankly, PA has nothing to do with it. I’ve experienced the same scenario before, but in a different way. In the other scenarios I wasn’t actually in the room, so not the same experience. I’ll get back to that.

The experience has to do with dudes and their phones. Before you go there, no dude’s phone got dunked…not this time. Water wasn’t involved. 

When I walked in, there was a dude in the first stall. While a couple others of us “rested,” the dude in the stall’s phone rang. And, you guessed it, he answered it. Not only answered it, but he was still carrying on the conversation when I walked out.

Dude, you’re in a stall…using the restroom…at the rest stop. Doing business while doing business isn’t something the rest of us need to hear, see, or filter through any of our senses. For us other dudes, please observe the following manly restroom and phone pointers:

  • If your phone is your business line, consider yourself out of the office for a few minutes when you enter this “not private” office. For that matter, for your customer’s sake go ahead and declare that for all restrooms.
  • If you know that the ringing of your phone is simply irresistible for you to ignore, leave the phone in your vehicle. Most likely, you’ll get finished faster as well as get back to your phone and the highway more timely.
  • If the restroom becomes somewhat of a man cave for reading or playing games on your phone at your actual office or home, keep it that way. Get in and out at the rest area. Here’s a suggestion: pretend you’re at the stadium and it’s halftime. There’s a reason why reading materials aren’t provided.
  • If you must carry your phone with you for reasons for which you probably need to see a counselor, let all calls go to voice mail. People really don’t expect you to answer 24/7. They get it. They most likely won’t get it when they hear flushing and other noises from the other business guys in the room.
  • And back to that other thing, don’t be that guy…the guy that has to answer, “In the restroom,” when asked by your caller, “Where are you?” Your caller doesn’t need that visual. Again, senses.
  • Finally and seriously, own your phone. Don’t let your phone own you.

Life Balance Exercise: How’s Your Awe?

I just finished reading Awe by Paul David Tripp, second time, first 2017 reading. If you’ve yet to read it, I encourage you to bump it up your list.

Here’s an example why. Chapter 13 is entitled “Work.” The challenge is to consider how your awe of God compares to your awe of work. 

Could it be that you’re asking work to do for you what it cannot do?

God is too wise and loving ever to call you to one area of responsibility that will necessitate you being irresponsible in another.

The drawing above illustrates Tripp’s challenge. These domains are what we have been given in life, our calling. Keeping them in balance, owning our responsibility is vital.

To check your life balance, here are three questions and suggestions regarding your awe:

  1. In each individual domain, rate your awe of God in that domain using a scale of 1-10.
  2. Considering the three domains together where the ideal would be a balance of thirds (33.33% each), what percentage would you give each of them today? (Consider drawing your own graph as a visual)
  3. What can you address in these domains to achieve better balance and responsibility and to deepen your awe of God?