Thanks for the Exposure, COVID!

This past weekend over dinner and Rook, someone replied to a statement with a half-joke/half-serious, “Thanks, COVID!” If you have friends like mine, you’ve probably heard those two words also.

We decided we should actually make a list of things we are thankful for due to the pandemic. Before I go further, this post is not meant to make light of the trauma and loss of life many have and are experiencing. Rather, it’s an effort to “give thanks in all things.” Not always easy but can be beneficial. And if you’re reading this from outside the United States, this list may not be relatable.

The not-so, yet-somewhat serious list had these eight items:

  1. Less bad breath (masks)
  2. More solved jigsaw puzzles
  3. Less traffic
  4. More quality family time
  5. Less handshaking/hugging
  6. Greater appreciation for things we take for granted
  7. Spending less money
  8. Disney less crowded

On a run this week, I thought about this more seriously. And my thoughts landed on one word: Exposure. Let me expound on that with four statements of what has been exposed-and I find it good.

1) What we fear more than we should-Not long into the shutdown I heard a coach classify our fears being exposed into three categories: fear of the unknown, fear of death, and fear of not having control. These natural fears left unchecked can lead to dark personal times. When they are exposed, they can be addressed, better managed, possibly eliminated.

2) What we trust more than we should-We understand nothing’s perfect. That makes it hard to know what to trust. And left alone, we are challenged whether we can trust ourselves. This exposure is an excellent test for discerning where I’m leaning for my understanding and how much am I trusting God above all other trust options.

3) What we love more than we should-We Americans may have needed this exposure more than any other people group. We love excess, options, extra, more. That love leads us into loving whatever it takes to have it. We are in love with being busy. Extra and busyness are American idols. These idols also kill and needed to be exposed.

4) What we hate more than we should-Two hates that have been exposed are change and inconvenience. These hates have led to hate for one another. Why is this something to be thankful for? Because selfishness, superiority, and pride stay hidden in our normal superficiality. Now that it’s no longer hidden, we can look to God to forgive and heal it.

The pandemic has brought us more than physical exposure. May we work equally hard to address every exposure.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Courtney Anderson

Embrace the Pace

2020 has, if nothing else, provided many lessons. One of those has to do with pace. Sometimes life’s pace feels extreme; other times it crawls. The lessons are many, but here’s one on my radar: Whatever the pace, embrace it.

That’s not a call to laziness or workaholism. It’s more a call to submission. If God says run, run; when he says rest, rest. Whatever pace he’s setting, embrace it.

Embracing a pace requires awareness and commitment. The pace of a 5k is much different than a marathon. Why? For starters, there’s a difference of 23.1 miles. That pretty much sums it up. That awareness determines the mindset needed. Training is built on it. Racing is built on training. The entire process requires embracing.

Solomon seemed to understand this. Check out these verses from his books:

  • “My love calls to me: Arise, my darling. Come away, my beautiful one. For now the winter is past; the rain has ended and gone away. The blossoms appear in the countryside. The time of singing has come, and the turtledove’s cooing is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs; the blossoming vines give off their fragrance. Arise, my darling. Come away, my beautiful one.”‭‭ Song of Songs‬ ‭2:10-13‬ ‭CSB‬‬
  • “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:” ‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1‬ ‭CSB‬‬

There is a pace of hibernation which shifts to wondering.

There is a pace for listening and reflecting which shifts to singing and celebrating.

Whatever pace God is leading you at today, you can trust that it’s correct. Embrace it.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/David Brooke Martin

God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 2)

Exercising leads to discoveries. And when it comes to this exercise about responsibility, the discoveries may not feel good at first. Like discovering you really shouldn’t eat the entire quart of ice cream just because you worked out today.

Chances are through this exercise you discovered that you are taking responsibility, trying to own something, that isn’t yours. It’s a common battle for humans to wrestle with God, stealing responsibility. Paul David Tripp says it’s because we are at war between being in awe of ourselves and being in awe of God. When we are losing that battle, we think everything is ours: money, possessions, relationships, career. Contrary to our wants, we win when we let God own what really is his.

That second heading, Not Mine, can be as big a battle as the God heading. When we haven’t won in that heading, forget about winning in this one. Why? Because if I’ve kicked God off the throne taking all the responsibility, it’s going to inevitably spill over into every area of my life. I have all the answers and control. In fact, I believe I want them. Reality is, I’m burdened and miserable. Like Pilgrim trudging uphill bearing his burden.

I have found three things to address when I’ve discovered I’m taking on someone else’s responsibilities. You might say, these are my responsibilities to stay out of “not mine” responsibilities.

  • Trust-Sure, you’ve job searched before; so what’s keeping you from staying out of your spouse’s or child’s searching efforts? You’ve also scheduled employees before; so what’s keeping you from allowing your manager to do it? You’ve been doing this task much longer than your new volunteer; so why are you micromanaging them? Discovery #1: Sometimes we do what’s not ours because we have trust issues. (Proverbs 3:5; Isaiah 55:8)
  • Humility-If I’m having responsibility issues, chances are I’m also having pride issues. Humility is required to allow good failure (yes, that’s a thing). Humility is required for personal and team growth. Ball hogs, dictators, authoritarians, glory-stealers, all losers in general taint outcomes because of pride. Discovery #2: Often we do what’s “not mine” because of our pride. (Matthew 23:12; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3)
  • Being For-Many of us are recovering tellers; by nature we take “not mine” responsibility by telling what needs to be done. My recovery started a few years ago. One mindset for a recovering teller is to be for others. Parents/bosses/leaders, you can avoid the “not mine” heading by being for your child/employee/volunteer. Not being over, behind, ahead-be for them. Encourage. Celebrate. Cheer. Discovery #3: Everyone benefits when we are all for each other. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Those are my three. They may be yours also. What else may yours be?

We’ll address that more in Part 3.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Elizabeth French

3 Things That Matter

In this read of Ravi Zacharias’s The Grand Weaver, three things stood out to me. They, like all eight chapters in the book, discuss what matters.


Your disappointments matter

In chapter two, he wrote this about the end of life:

One of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender.

He looks at the lives of David, Job, and Habakkuk to illustrate the importance of communion with God to carry us through pain, to make us “tender by that which makes the heart of God tender.” God’s presence is more essential than answers.

Your calling matters

In chapter three, these three statements can breathe life into any searcher:

When your will becomes aligned with God’s will, his calling upon you has found its home.

God often reinforces our faith after we trust him, not before.

No follower of Christ does secular work.  We all have a sacred calling.

Your worship matters

Chapter eight may be the best chapter you’ll ever read about worship. In it, he discusses the five main components of worship taken from the book of Acts: the Lord’s Supper, teaching, prayer, praise, and giving. This line speaks deeply to why worship matters:

When worship and praise lose their focus and purpose, the finite finds the Infinite boring and the creature finds the Creator insufficient.

Tenderness matters.  Trust matters.  Worship matters.

Waiting for Presto!

Parlor magicians hired to entertain children at birthday parties frequently begin tricks with a display of an empty hand, offering clear proof that there is nothing up their sleeve, nothing in the shiny top hat they are about to sit on the table in full view of the fascinated children. Then suddenly-presto!-a rabbit is pulled up by the ears, a dove with fluttering wings emerges, a shiny silver dollar flips into view. Something created out of nothing! We adults know that these are just parlor tricks, sleights of hand, practiced technique.

This quote comes from chapter seven of Andy Davis’s book, The Power of Christian Contentment. Davis is describing the best worship that comes from contented believers, and he shares this thought under the heading Most Comforted by Things Not Seen.

Some people want to know how the trick works. Not me. I’d rather not know. Were I to know, the awe and wonder would be gone. To keep the awe, I don’t want to know.

Often I’m tempted to know how God is going to do something, what He’s up to, or even to tell Him what to do. I’m learning that giving in to those temptations ruins contentment. Giving in also displays my lack of trust or my need for control. What I’m realizing is I’m also ruining my awe and wonder. 

I need to stay off the stage and wait for presto!


Photo Credit: Unsplash/Omid Armin

Henry Cloud’s Integrity

In 2006, Dr. Henry Cloud published what I believe to be his best book entitled Integrity

His objective is to connect the dots for how integrity and character work day to day. To do that, he outlines six character traits that enable talents and abilities to get their desired results:

  1. Creating and maintaining trust
  2. Seeing and facing reality
  3. Working in a way that brings results
  4. Embracing negative realities and solving them
  5. Causing growth and increase
  6. Achieving transcendence and meaning in life

It’s rich. I finished re-reading it last night. Yes, it’s one of those books. Here’s proof:

  • Underdevelopment leaves a gap between where we are at any given moment and where we need to be. That gap is our need and opportunity for growth.
  • Dysfunction is when an effort toward making something better makes it worse. That is when we are in trouble. And both a lack of integration and a lack of development can do that.
  • We trust people who we think hear us, understand us, and are able to empathize with our realities as well as their own.
  • Research has for decades proven that you can help desperate people immensely by giving them no answers at all, and only giving them empathy.
  • If you want to leave the best wake possible, leave behind a trail of people who have experienced your being “for them.”
  • Wise people are “cautious in friendship,” as the proverb says. They seek to get to know a person clearly, as a person truly is, before they hire him, marry him, become partners with him, or divorce him, fire him, or not go forward with him.
  • It behooves all of us to be working on whatever unresolved pain we are walking around with, lest some issue in “reality” tap into it and overcome our ability to make good decisions.
  • Secure identity is about who a person is, not what he does or what his results are.
  • People oriented toward growth want others to grow as well as themselves.
  • The immature character asks life to meet his demands. But the mature character meets the demands of life.
  • The one question that hovers above all others in importance for a person’s functioning in life is “Are you God, or not?”

Upcoming Group Coaching Program

Just finished this book and excited about developing a coaching group around it.


Edging closer to a new year and decade, we can challenge ourselves about personal growth in order for God to do all he desires in our lives. My working name for the group coaching program is this: Going After The Better and The Deeper: My 2020 “I Can” Plan. The program will last four weeks meeting on Wednesdays starting January 8.

Of course, you can start your work now by getting a copy of the book. To whet your appetite of what your coaching may address, here are a few quotes:

  • One reality you must come to terms with is that your mind is not always telling you the truth.
  • Accepting reality is like a reset button for rebooting your computer.
  • You are never without options. That is the nature of God’s creation.
  • We are all control freaks, to an extent. God has always encouraged his people to take risks in order to grow, change, and live the lives of faith that will produce good fruit.
  • The accurate meaning of failure is that it is a learning experience.
  • Whenever you encounter a closed door, God knows what he is doing. Trust him; he is for you.

Official registration for the group will come later. To get in now, send an email to john@firstbradenton.com.

Offering Generosity

For my second favorite takeaway from Dare to Lead, I’m going to part three entitled “Braving Trust.” This part focuses on the process of trust. Brown’s team identified seven behaviors that make up trust’s anatomy, which she came up with the acronym BRAVING to define. Those seven behaviors are:

  1. Boundaries
  2. Reliability
  3. Accountability
  4. Vault
  5. Integrity
  6. Nonjudgment
  7. Generosity

After reading the definitions and unpacking of these seven, the one that most challenged me was #7. Read this definition, and you might see why:

Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

There are so many opportunities for us to make up what we think other’s intentions are, why they said what they said, or did what they did. And many of them aren’t based on generosity. Many are based on our shallow trust levels.

So here are scenarios where I’ve put this to the test since reading this:

  • When someone doesn’t return my call/voicemail/text/email in the time I think they should
  • When someone appears to have over promised…again
  • When someone clearly didn’t read all the details of my email
  • When someone gives the wrong impression, in my opinion

See what I mean? All these scenarios have potentially opposite outcomes when I practice generosity. Generosity deepens trust and diminishes suspicion or accusation.

Generosity is a gift that can come in various packages. Here’s to offering it more every day.

6 Lessons from the Blind Runner


The pic above is a screenshot of the results from the race I ran in PA yesterday. If you know me at all, you know I can analyze the heck out of a list like this. Don’t get me started. Actually, it’s too late anyway…did that hours ago.

Before you focus on my name and placement, let your mind look over the rest of the results. One detail that glares at you is that finishers 2&3 crossed the finish line at the same time. Not unusual in the running world, particularly in smaller, local races. Usually that means family members or running friends ran together, literally-they stayed together, and probably chatted, the entire course length. Not my thing, but it is a lot of people’s.

But without being there yesterday, you wouldn’t know there is more to Adam and Brandon’s story than they ran a race together. And I can’t say I know a whole lot more than that since I didn’t talk to them. But I did watch them. I simply had to. Why? Because one of them wasn’t going to start, let alone finish, without the other one. Brandon was blind, and Adam was his guide.

In a much bigger race I once saw such a team at the start line, but I never saw them on the course after we started. This second opportunity was different. Because of the layout of the course, we passed each other twice. In all, I had four chances to watch them do their thing. And do it they did.

So instead of just analyzing these results yesterday, I thought about what I could learn from these two men. Apparently, quite a bit. Pause and think about them separately. What would it take for you, 17 years old and blind, to attempt to run a half marathon? And if you can see, what would it take for you to guide a blind runner any distance, let alone 13.1 miles? Again, I didn’t talk to them, so I’m guessing what the answers are to these questions.

For the rest of this post, here are the lessons I take away from putting myself in Brandon’s shoes-which seems incredibly assuming.

  • Trust

This has to be the most important thing they both have in their work together. Adam doesn’t have a chance if Brandon doesn’t put his trust in him.

  • Courage

Maybe Brandon’s not seen his entire life and only knows what he knows, but how else can you define his willingness to step up to the start line without declaring courage. I met another runner running his first half yesterday, and he needed some courage. But he could see and was old enough to be Brandon’s dad. Courage was on full display.

  • Joy

Brandon’s face before, during, and after the race exuded joy. Fear, not present. Doubt, defeated. He even ran a recovery mile or so afterwards with that same joyful countenance.

  • Fulfillment

Brandon knew he belonged with everyone else. He experienced the same fulfillment as all finishers do when they cross that line. He did not have to feel or think less than.

  • Exemplify

If I were to ask Brandon what he hopes others learn from seeing him run, I’d put money on his answer being something like, “I hope they see what’s possible. I hope they learn to trust, have courage, pursue joy, and know fulfillment.” (Ok…those are my words, but you get the point.)

  • Normalcy

We are all normal as God created us. Embrace it. Be the normal God made you to be.

To be honest, in life we’re all blind runners. Wouldn’t you agree? So let’s thank God for all the Brandons who show up in our lives to remind us.

Building Trust

This quote came from my @youversion devotion this morning:

“My perspective of every situation will either encourage or dishearten my trust in God.”

I believe that. So to put it to a test, here’s a simple exercise I started as a journal entry. You might give it a try also.

Make two headings on the page: Dishearten & Encourage

Under dishearten, write a perspective that clearly lacks trust in God.  Maybe something like, “God doesn’t care.”

Then under encourage, write the perspective that counters this statement. Possibly, “God is always at work.”

So far I’ve written four competing perspectives on my page. I’m going to review it daily and add to it throughout the week.  The goal-build trust instead of sabotage it.

What exercise might help you build your trust in God?