helping men be extraordinary


Thriving In Adversity

bristlecone pineOn a recent hike in Great Basin National Park I came across an extraordinary sight. At about 10,000 feet, just below the tree line were these odd looking, but beautiful pine trees… Bristlecone Pines. I learned these pine trees are the oldest living things on the planet, some as old as 5,000 years.

When you consider they are growing in an area of great adversity, extreme cold and wind, rocky “soil” if you can call it that… it’s really just rock. It’s amazing they can not only survive, but truly thrive.

Many years ago Bristlecone Pines were planted at an elevation of about 5,500 feet where growing conditions are much more friendly. What they found was the trees grew straight, just like most pine trees and they’re lifespan was the same too. Thousands of years less than where they normally grow. This was fascinating to me!

Ok so by now you’re saying what’s this have to do with me. Well, we all enjoy seasons of peace and ease, but what really shapes us, what really makes us who we are, is the adversity we go through. Yet when we are in the middle of adversity we do anything we can to get out of it. What if God is using the adversity you are facing today to help mold you into the man He created you to be? What if you entered the next few days with this perspective? What I’m going through is tough, but I can do hard things. God is with me and this will ultimately be for my good and the good of others.

I think I’m beginning to see a little more clearly what James is talking about. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Your Untapped Potential

max and blueI went camping last weekend and we had two dogs with us, my brothers weimaraner Max, and my border collie Blue. Max is about nine years old and is a natural in the water. He will swim and fetch as far, and as long as you can throw. Blue has been in some creeks and streams, but never in deep water. While Blue loves to fetch as much as Max, when we arrived at the lake and threw his favorite ball in the water, he would only go in a few feet and look at the ball, not willing to risk going into the deep water.

We yelled and encouraged him every way we knew how but he wouldn’t budge. Then all of a sudden you could almost see him muster the courage, and he swam out and retrieved the ball. From then on you couldn’t get him to stop, and it occurred to me that Blue didn’t learn how to swim that day… He just learned he could!

I wonder what potential you and I are walking around with… potential that God has already wired within us that we are unaware of because we haven’t taken the plunge. The waters don’t part until your feet are in the water :0)

And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap. Joshua 3:13

What Men Fear Most

ScaredWe may never admit we worry about anything, but trust me, we do.

Weakness and men don’t mix. With protector/provider ingrained in our DNA, men believe it’s our primal job to be strong. If something threatens our strength or ability to provide and protect, we may experience angst, stress and a desperate desire to regain control. However, since we are unlikely to share our feelings, the silent anxiety affects our relationships in untold ways.

As men we want to solve or dispel our fears, but we don’t want to admit them to others. Somehow we think admitting we’re afraid says we are less than a man, or something is wrong with us. Men walk around comparing the worst of themselves to the best other men are portraying, and this reinforces our decision to keep quiet.

So, what are the top seven things men fear most?

1. Failure
2. Do I make enough money?
3. Have I accomplished/done enough in life?
4. Am I going to lose my job?
5. Am I getting old?
6. Appearing to need help
7. Am I a good dad/will I be a good dad?

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Read that verse again… When you are afraid you lack power, love and self-control.

Here is the secret: Fear only breads when it’s kept inside. Admitting it releases it and prevents the weight of having to pose. Confession is the key to releasing fear and experiencing peace. Confession eliminates the control of fear. Find someone you trust and give it a go!

Finding Your Place

love-one-another“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

In this verse Jesus very simply tells us to love one another. Seems easy enough. Then He adds, “As I have loved you.” All of a sudden that’s a whole new level of love, isn’t it? He loved us so much He died for us. If you’re being honest, how many people are you loving like that?  Tough question for sure!

I’m reminded of the time God spoke to me about one of my friends. He said, “You are a good friend to him,” immediately I felt encouraged. Then He continued, saying, “but you haven’t been a friend to him like I’ve been to you”. OUCH! It pointed directly to the verse above.

You may still be looking and listening for God’s specific purpose and call for your life, but you can find your place today by loving the people He has put in your life, like Jesus loves you.  Start with one person. Who comes to mind first? Is it a family member, a co-worker, a friend? You loving them as lavishly as Jesus loves you will make a major impact in their life, and in the process you will find a place and purpose that’s been waiting for you all along. People will know whose you are without you saying a word. Jesus says, “ By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

Father’s Matter

father-grown-sonThis year my kids are 15, 21 and 26. Like all dads out there I’ve done some things right and many things wrong. If you are a father of young children know that you have an immense opportunity and responsibility. Your leadership will have more to do with their development and future than you now know.

I’ve done a little experiment, and polled a number of men to get their answers to two questions in hopes that we might glean some wisdom from their experience.  While I surveyed men from varying backgrounds and ages, it was very interesting to me how similar their answers were. My Dad used to say, “learn from other’s mistakes instead of making them all yourself.” Good advice!  Hopefully we can all apply it after reading this.

The first question I asked was:

As a father, the one thing I would have done different when my children were young is _____________?

The three most common answers were:

  1. Model Christ to my children better
  2. Focus more on my relationship with my wife
  3. Plan for regular vacations and purposeful memory making occasions.

So, young dad’s out there… How are you doing in these areas? The #2 answer says a lot in the fact that the question was direction towards children but focusing on the relationship with your wife. Don’t miss this one!  Today is a great day to start or restart.

The second question I asked was:

As a grown man the one thing I long/longed for my father to say is _______________?

The same three answers were repeated over and over. In fact these were the only answers given.

  1. I’m sorry
  2. I love you
  3. I’m proud of you

Fathers, listen up! Especially if you’re a dad of grown children. Chances are your children are longing to hear one or all of the above. You probably don’t have to think very long to know what that is. Men, do it now. Pick up the phone, go for a visit and bless your children with the words they long to hear.

He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction. Malachi 4:6

Becoming A Stronger Spiritual Leader

Learn Grow LeadTo state things simply, a man is made to lead. This is a God given, innate desire and calling for every man, but becoming a strong spiritual leader does not happen by chance. This would be the obvious place to start listing things you should do, like reading your Bible daily, praying daily and meeting with a weekly men’s group who will challenge and encourage you. While these are key ingredients, I’d like you to consider another approach.

If you read the title and thought there was room for you to grow as a spiritual leader, the first step is deciding to. You will be finished reading this in the next 60 seconds, and it will be very easy to move on with your day without changing anything. Nothing is more difficult than change. Nothing is more difficult than doing something one way for an extended period of time and then stopping and restarting. I get that! I’m challenging you to do something every man needs to. Decide right now you are going to become a stronger spiritual leader for yourself and your family.

If you said yes to the challenge, increasing your intimacy with God is the next step. You can do the practical things listed above, but these disciplines without intimacy with the Father wither in time. Without relationship you will find yourself at the beginning of each year renewing old resolutions. Revelation 2:5 “…Repent and do what you did at first.” This is the path to spiritual growth.

So if intimacy is key, how do I increase it? Great question! How would you go about increasing intimacy with your wife and children? The answer is obvious isn’t it? TIME. Your spiritual leadership becomes stronger in proportion to your time spent with Jesus.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13 I want that said of me! How about you?

Having The Tough Conversation

difficult conversationLet’s face it; we all experience this from time to time. That elephant in the room that everyone’s aware of, but no one wants to talk about. It could be the conversation you need to have with your parents, or with your child or spouse. It could be the talk that needs to happen between you and an employee or coworker.  Whether it’s the big elephant or a bunch of small stuff that’s been swept under the rug for years… either way it’s encroaching on, and diminishing the intimacy and authenticity of your relationship.

So why are these very necessary conversations so hard to have? It’s our FEAR OF PAIN. Come on, nobody likes pain. Given the choice, we all choose comfort over confrontation. The very thought of having the conversation produces anxiety in us because our fear is, “this is not going to go well or end well”. That thought process is true for all of us, but that entire process happens in our head, and gets all twisted up with the worst possible outcome, which produces more anxiety. Mark twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened”.

My experience is this, while they are difficult to have, the positive outcomes to these conversations far outweigh the rare negative ones. I can still remember getting the phone call from Kirsten saying, “We need to talk, I’m coming to pick you up”. GULP! I didn’t know what it was about, but I knew it couldn’t be good. I remember this sick feeling in my stomach waiting for her to arrive. I’ll save the details for another post, but suffice it to say, it was one of the toughest conversations of my life, but in the months following that conversation our relationship soared to new heights because of it.

Avoidance is the best short-term strategy to ensure long-term misery. Muster the courage, lay down the negative thoughts, and go have the conversation. Freedom is on the other end.

The Real You Wants Out!

When I grow upIf you are in your 30’s or older, you’ve asked yourself the question, “How did I get here?“ After high school or college there were all these possibilities and expectations about life. The world was full of opportunity. But that’s not what happened. For a lot of us the responsibilities just piled up while the fun and adventure drained out. Life became heavy, more about responsibility than adventure, more about duty than purpose or meaning.

Have you ever asked yourself, “What is it I’d really love to do or be?” What is the dream you have had since childhood? What is that thing you would do for free because you enjoy it so much? If you have had these thoughts, and you know the answer to the question, you were almost immediately confronted with thoughts like, “I’d have to go back to school.” “I couldn’t make a living at that.” “I don’t have the money.” “My family would think I was crazy”, and on and on. Because of those thoughts we almost immediately leave the question and answer behind and move on with our day.

But, what if right now you allowed those negative thoughts to come, and while some of them might be valid, just give yourself permission to lay them aside for a minute. Give yourself permission to unpack that “thing”, that dream and give it room to breathe. Regardless of all the impossibilities, what does it feel like to see yourself doing or being “that”?

If feels good doesn’t it! Real good! A God that loves you very dearly placed that desire in you, and He put it there for you to discover and dream about and fulfill. You may have given up on it or put it on a shelf, but He hasn’t. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and He plans to prosper you and not to harm you, He plans to give you hope and a future.

Harold Thurman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I double dog dare you!

How about you? Have you faced some of this? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Click the Comments link above the picture and let me know what you think.

One Strategic Move to Getting Unstuck

Getting UnstuckIf you’ve been married a couple years or more and you are willing to be brutally honest, your marriage is probably mediocre at best. I apologize for starting out so bluntly, but stick with me for a minute. The first part in making it better is identifying and admitting where you are. The other issue is you aren’t sure how it got that way… it happened so subtlety. You woke up one day and realized it wasn’t great.

You want to know what happened? You stopped pursuing your spouse. It’s that simple… and hard. Men, when you were dating you’d talk for hours on the phone, you’d go to the chick flicks, you’d drive hours to spend 15 minutes with the one you love. You pursued her! But once you “got” her… you stopped. Granted there may be a lot of scars, anger and disappointment present today, but those are by-products of not pursuing your wife.

Another trap we get into is surveying the landscape and comparing our marriage to those around us. Come on! With a 50% divorce rate, if you are still together you are doing a lot better than those around you, aren’t you? The problem with the married couples you’re comparing to is that their marriage is mediocre too.

Pick any area of your life and ask yourself this question, “Can I neglect that area, not work at it, and see growth or success over a long period of time?” The answer is absolutely positively NO! Yet couples say, “why don’t we have a good marriage?” When for years they have been neglecting it. Consider your body; don’t eat right and don’t exercise and your heath is going to decline. Don’t manage your workplace, don’t plan ahead and your business will decline. Take your yard for example; don’t cut, fertilize or water it for just one year and you will have a mess. Over a long period of time you will only see deterioration!

Here is the hardest part… you don’t know what to do to make it any better. TO GET WHAT YOU ONCE HAD, YOU MUST DO WHAT YOU ONCE DID. Period. Own it! This one strategic move, consistently practiced, will propel you out of mediocrity.

How do I know this will work? Eight years ago my marriage was shattered. With bitterness, resentment, anger and the works, I began to love, cherish and serve my wife without expecting anything in return. I began to do what I’d done at the beginning of our relationship. Was it a quick fix? No. Was it hard work at times? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes! Yes! Yes! Love never fails. Today Kirsten and I are best friends, we enjoy each other’s company… we actually like one another :0) Get started today! You can do this!

The Hostage You’re Holding May Be You


I had lunch with my friend Grady today, and learned we shared a similar experience. So much so, I believe there may be a few of you who have also. While most people have heard the saying, “money is the root of all evil”. 1 Timothy 6:10 really says it a bit different, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” Money is not evil, it’s the love of money that is. Ok, now that we have that straight. What if like Grady and me, you have this money thing down pretty well. That is to say, you know God is your provider, it all belongs to Him, and you’re in a place where it doesn’t run your life nor do you run after it.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to say yes when friends have asked for loans. I’ve needed the same kind of help through the years, and I feel privileged to be able to pay it forward so to speak. Sometimes God has asked me to forgive the loans, which I have done, and I’m grateful to say the same has been done for me. Again, I think I’ve got this money thing down pretty good, which leads me to the part where I got tripped up.

Through most of last year I had these checks sitting on my desk. The checks were payments on loans, but I was asked to hold them until they let me know it was ok to deposit them. No problem right! Three months goes by and no word to deposit. Six months goes by and it’s gotten even quieter. The truth is, the amount of the checks is insignificant… it’s not going to make me or break me, but I’m seeing the checks on my desk and it’s the principle of the thing… At least continue to communicate with me… Then I’d see these people on Facebook and I’m admitting I didn’t like the feeling it produced in me. So the next day at work I hid the checks under my keyboard so they wouldn’t be a constant reminder and I removed the friends from showing up on my Facebook timeline. Problem solved, right? WRONG!

Had the checks never been written, I don’t believe I would have had a problem with it. It’s God’s money after all. You’ve heard it said, “it’s the principle of the thing” right? Well the principle of the thing was messing me up inside! I can remember praying, ‘God I don’t want to feel like this towards them, help me with this’, but it wasn’t until a Saturday morning when He helped me see those checks were doing a lot more harm than any good they could ever do. I drove to my office, ripped up the checks, forgave the debt and my peace returned. Grady’s story was so similar it just made me think someone else’s story might be too, and just maybe if you’re in that “stuck” place we were in for a while, this might help you get “unstuck” today.

Are you holding someone accountable for something that’s out of your control? Let it go today. The hostage you’re holding may be you.

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