Keeping Sane

Possibilities. Endless they are.

If you allowed yourself, you could drive yourself nuts thinking about them. All the “what could/should have beens,” “if onlys,” or “just supposes” are quite mind blowing. For instance:

  • What if Cain hadn’t killed his brother?
  • If only Moses hadn’t struck the rock.
  • What could have been Samson’s legacy?
  • What if Ruth didn’t follow Naomi?
  • Just suppose Israel never selected king #1.
  • If only David hadn’t stayed home.
  • Just suppose Esther wasn’t successful.

Those are just a few before Jesus decided to make his earthly appearance-before he showed us that overthinking the possibilities is unnecessary when he’s in the picture.

As we consider the past, live out the present, and look into the future, in order to keep our sanity we must keep Jesus in the picture. He helps us make sense of it all. For those wanting perfect peace, keep your mind stayed on Jesus.

You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

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How to Respond to Injury

Recently I was given an audio copy of Bravo Two Zero, a military memoir by Andy McNab. McNab was the sergeant of an eight-member SAS regiment given a mission to Iraq, January 1991.

Today I listened to their situation after they were compromised and survived a fierce fight. As Sergeant McNab led them on an all-night evasive trek, he realized one of his men, Vince, was injured. Here’s a clip of McNab’s reaction:

The whole of the game is to get everyone over the border. Vince clearly had an injury. We’d have to do all our planning and considerations around the fact that he was in trouble. None of this, “No, it’s okay, Skipper, I’ll go on.” Because if you try to play the He-Man and don’t inform people of your injuries, you’re endangering the whole patrol. If they’re not aware of your problem, they can’t adjust the plan or cater for future eventualities. If you make sure people know that you’re injured, they can plan around it.

We can be part of various teams in life where we get injured do to fierce fighting-on the job, at the family reunion, in the stock market, even at church. And what Sergeant McNab said about Vince in Iraq is true for all the injured people and those on their teams.

  • The injured have to speak up. Otherwise, the whole team is in trouble. And they may be completely unaware unless the injured person speaks up.
  • The team has a responsibility to adjust. The whole of the game is to get everyone to the destination together, to stay unified in fulfilling the mission.  If that means slowing down to tweak the plan, then accept and commit to it. For the sake of the team and the mission, take the time to listen and adjust.

Playing the He-Man weakens the team. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps disrespects and distances your team. 

Are you injured? What is your injury? Which team member needs to know? Be courageous and let the tweaking begin.

Shortening the Lows 

Today is another big day in the life of Tom Brady. Just so happens, I came across an interview of him from last June on demand this afternoon. Seemed appropriate to check it out.

Regarding the outcomes of championships, he was asked two interesting questions: how high are the highs and how low are the lows. About the highs, he didn’t make any distinction from his different experiences of highs; they last the same. However, he answered differently about the lows. For example, when they lost the Super Bowl in 2007 he said his low lasted about a month. But when they lost last year to the Eagles, it was half the time, about two weeks. His explanation-stage of life. Last year he had his children to pay attention to, to help them understand what failure is and how to deal with it. Eleven years of personal development had shortened his low time (my paraphrase).

Trying to avoid the lows is like trying to avoid raindrops. Impossible. Failure happens. Disappointments come, some expected, some not. The opportunity we have is to choose how we respond to them.

I’ve noticed this myself. My lows have gotten shorter. The low in my 30s was almost twice as long as a low in my 40s. After that one, I determined to be more proactive in addressing my lows. I leaned into the verse about the sun not going down on your wrath (Ephesians 4:26) and looked at how that could apply to my lows. Interestingly, the lows continue to be shortened.

So what changed? What did I stop doing? What did I start doing? Here are a few things:

  • I stopped being too concerned about what people wanted from me or could do for me..I started being more concerned about what God wanted for me and what I could do for people.
  • I stopped allowing the decisions of others to determine my steps…I started listening more to the Holy Spirit to determine my steps.
  • I stopped giving self talk free reign…I started admonishing myself based on what truth God had for me.

And my lows continue to shorten. 

Want to shorten yours? Take some time and answer these two questions: 1)What do you need to stop? 2)What do you need to start? 

Make It Count

Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
John 12:3

Mary’s family had much to thank Jesus for. He had made it clear that he was the giver of life. She decided to do something extraordinary to show her love and worship.

  • Her choice was to anoint him.
  • Her choice was to give up something she’d being saving for herself.
  • Her choice was extravagant.
  • Her choice was a declaration.
  • Her choice was sacrificial.
  • Her choice was to have a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
  • Her choice was to make it count.

What do you have to thank Jesus for?
What choice would make it count?

Adversity: The Integrity Test

Adversity. No one wants it, but when we get it we gain so much. Sometimes that gain feels immediate. Other times it may seem decades before we realize it. I believe the latter was Joseph’s experience (for a refresher, read Genesis 37-50). However long it took him, here’s how he let us know his gain:

You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result-the survival of many people. (Genesis 50:20)

A mindset toward gain from adversity is found in Joseph’s statement. The mindset is vertical (about God), not horizontal (about man). Rather than looking at what man or circumstances have planned, he had learned to look at what God had planned. Easier said than done in the face of adversity, right?

I want to suggest that one preparation we can make before adversity knocks on the door is to make a commitment to integrity.

A commitment to integrity in the face of adversity will…

  • …guard against fear invasion (horizontal).
  • …ward off impulsive reaction (horizontal) giving foundation for calm decisions (vertical).
  • …raise the banner for complete transparency (vertical).
  • …remove selfish ambition (horizontal) to bring in a kingdom mindset (vertical).

Maybe you haven’t considered that integrity is what’s being tested in your adversity. There’s no way around the reality that adversity peels back the layers and shows everyone who we really are. How are you preparing for that revelation? How can you study for the integrity test?

2018 Library

Back on January 13, I posted an entry about a self-developed reading strategy for the year. The objective: read broader. The goal: read 25-30 books falling under 10 headings. Perfection wasn’t the hope as much as growth. Having read 28 books with at least one book under each heading, I testify that this strategy worked. I’ll repeat it this year, after some tweaking.

For the curious, here is the library of 28 books, listed by order read and avenue of reading:

He Loves Me, by Wayne Jacobsen (hard copy)

Limitless, by Nick Vujicic (hard copy)

Lincoln’s Spymaster, by David Hepburn Milton (audio)

The Closer, by Mariano Rivera (audio)

Always Looking Up, by Michael J. Fox (audio)

Awe, by Paul David Tripp (kindle)

The Rest of God, by Mark Buchanan (kindle)

Rhythms of Rest, by Shelly Miller (kindle)

Measure of a Man, by Martin Greenfield (audio)

Safe People, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (kindle)

Children of Jihad, by Jared Cohen (audio)

Understanding Gender Dysphoria, by Mark Yarhouse (kindle)

First Man, by James R. Hansen (audio)

Kiss the Wave, by Dave Furman (hard copy)

Miracle in the Andes, by Nando Parrado (audio)

I Hear His Whisper, by Brian Simmons (hard copy)

Quiet, by Susan Cain (audio)

No One Gets There Alone, by Dr. Rob Bell (kindle)

Onward, by Howard Schultz (kindle)

David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell (hard copy)

Coach the Person Not the Problem, by Chad Hall (eBook)

A More Perfect Union, by Ben Carson (audio)

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell (hard copy)

How to Read the Air, by Dinaw Mengestu (audio)

Transformed, by Joe Pellgino and Jack Redmond (hard copy)

The Search for More, by Marge Knoth (hard copy)

Dangerous Calling, by Paul David Tripp (kindle)

Boundaries For Leaders, by Dr. Henry Cloud (hard copy)

Boundaries For Leaders (Book Review)

The first tweet I shared about this book was two months ago. I finally finished it today. It fell victim to multiple books being read simultaneously, not being on my kindle while traveling, and other excuses.


But I did not want this book to be read hurriedly. Dr. Cloud’s works should require margin in the reader’s heart and mind to receive the full impression. And this book, for leaders in particular, should be given the fullest margin.

I had only managed to get through a couple of chapters before last weekend. I determined to give it my full attention and get it finished. Let me say, last Saturday was a memorable reading day. My highlighter was busy. My mind was engaged. My heart was encouraged.

Leaders, no matter what size your tribe/company/organization/ministry, this book has something, probably lots of somethings, for you. For those in church world, that goes for paid staff leaders as well as volunteer/lay leaders. It order to fully serve as a body, we all must pursue being people who get results. If read with an open mind, this book will resource a team to do better for the kingdom, particularly mentally and emotionally. Here are 15 quotes to illustrate:

If you have the right people on board, they will exceed your wildest expectations.

The gap between where we are and where we want to be, which is the goal, does not go away by itself. We have to close that gap. And we have to deal with gaps that, sometimes, are difficult to face but motivating.

Two sets of reality consequences – the promise of positive outcomes and the fear of losing something of value – are among the most fundamental drivers of human performance.

Research shows that a “getting better” orientation goes much farther than a “being perfect” orientation.

The first element missing in many leadership scenarios: the right kinds and the right amounts of time together.

Don’t allow big problems to become elephants in the room. Name the elephant.

Put your smart phone in your pocket, purse, or bag. Some of the best leaders I know have a “no cell phone or email during this meeting” rule.

What you create, and what you allow, is what you get as a leader. Especially thinking.

Great leaders do the opposite of exercising control over others. Instead of taking all the control, they give it away.

When people assign a specific time and place for completion of specific tasks and goals, their chances of success increase by up to 300%.

The best leaders and organizations I know make use of outside sources for coaching and lifelong learning in a very organic fashion.

To be the best you can be, you must develop a hunger for feedback and see it as one of the best gifts that you can get.

“Fearful” is when you let your fears make your decisions for you, so…don’t let fear make your decisions for you! Having fears is normal. Being “fearful” is dysfunctional.

Many leaders allow too much lag time between knowing and doing.

If one person calls you a horse, blow it off. But if five do, buy a saddle.

If Only

13 years. That’s a long time to walk in the wrong direction. Ask Abraham.

Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before me and be blameless.”

These two verses from Genesis are only separated by chapter delineation (16:16-17:1). It appears for thirteen years, at least, Abram did not hear from God directly like he had previously. This time period followed he and his wife’s decision to do things their way, a way not given to them by God. This decision was a deliberate choice that could be concluded with two words: “if only.”

So Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael were acceptable to you!”

He said this in 17:18 (Read the rest of the conversation between verses 1-18 to see why his name changed, among other things). Abraham said this in response to just being told, in so many words, quite graciously, “My plan hasn’t changed. Even though you tried your way, I’m still offering you a better way.” Thankfully, we all can say Abraham followed the plan.

This scene offers us hope when we’ve followed Abram’s and Sarai’s path. At some point we all seem to face the choice to wait, or to devise our own way, or to heed questionable counsel. It’s almost as if a salesperson shows us a pair of blinders, and we knowingly reply, “Yes. I’ll have a pair.” For whatever reason, we complete the transaction, say thank you, put them on, and walk out the door…until God shows up, however long that takes.

Fortunately for us, God is gracious. And if we receive that grace and give him our blinders, we reap the benefits of faith. As he was told, Abraham received tremendous blessings that have been passed on to many generations for placing his faith in God’s way despite “if only.”

Do you have an unresolved “if only”? Are you wearing blinders? How long before you follow Abraham’s lead?

Don’t Be Afraid

An interesting connection seemed whispered to me in last night’s Christmas Eve service that I’ll take a few lines to unpack.

Many times in scripture someone was told not to be afraid. Sometimes it was from a leader to his people; sometimes it was from a writer to his reader. In the scenes of the Christmas story (Matthew 1, Luke 1-2), Joseph and Mary and the shepherds were are told this same message.

After Joseph was told not to be afraid in Matthew 1, Isaiah is quoted that “they shall call his name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.'” Interesting. If God is with us, do we need to be afraid? Is it possible that we get afraid because we believe God isn’t with us? Or at least we get our eyes on something huge like the unexplainable pregnancy of a fiancé and forget that God is with us?

Some have endured the holidays being afraid. And humanly speaking, who can blame them? A recent widower, a confused parent, a lonely senior couple. Pray for them that they experience God is with them.

As you look into 2019, what might you be afraid of? Finances, health, relationships, job security, looming transition? How could you remind yourself that Jesus’ coming made it possible for God to always be with you? 

You don’t have to be afraid. Immanuel came. God is with you.

The Reason We Ask, Seek, and Knock

(Post from a youversion reading plan by Adam Stadtmiller)

God answers prayer, but asking prayer is not primarily about answers. Asking prayer, like all other forms of prayer, is about relationship. If you make asking prayer about answers, you’re moving into dangerous territory.

When prayer is primarily about answers, our relationship with God becomes results focused. When God says no or works outside of our time schedule, we desperately question why and are tempted to feel inadequate or unloved by God. Be assured that as you grow in the area of asking prayer, the Devil will seek to shift the focus of your prayers from relationship to results.

Christ was well aware of the relational purpose of asking prayer. In the seventh chapter of Matthew when Jesus dared His followers to ask for things – big things – like “elephants” in prayers. He immediately transferred the focus from the asking to the fatherly or paternal relationship that surrounds each request we make.

Jesus was saying that whenever you ask in prayer you open up the familial lines of communication and put yourself in a position to experience relationship with a loving and compassionate Father.

When God answers your prayers in dramatic fashion, you will grow in the knowledge of His power and care for you. When God works on His schedule instead of yours, you will come to know more about His sustaining power. And when God says no and your dreams die or perhaps you lose someone close to you, you will come to know the God of all comfort who weeps with you. If you want to know God as Father, begin to assault the throne of heaven in asking prayer.