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Posts Tagged ‘restarting’

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.

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!

Will The Real Hero Please Stand Up Series

will-the-real-hero-stand-up-blog-artToday’s post is on my friend Justin Brackett’s site. (www.justinthesouth.com) Justin has started a new blog series entitled “Will The Real Hero Please Stand Up”. Over the next month he is having multiple contributors tell who their heroes are and why. Ordinary men standing up and being real men… Heroic men. Check out my post and stay tuned to the rest of the series here: Kindness Changes Lives

Have You Ever Been In A Funk?

In A FunkIf we’re honest, we have all been in a funk from time to time. We’ll I’ve been in one for about 10 months. Some of you are saying “Really?” and others of you are saying it’s about time you admitted it… or got over it. A little while back I told a friend that I felt a million miles away from where I was a year ago. A year ago I had this passion oozing out of me. I was getting ready to pastor a church… to love on and do life with a group of people I had grown to love deeply. And not only was this my hearts desire, it is something God had told me would be so years before. And rather miraculously He was making it so without any pushing or manipulating from me.

Well, all of the momentum God had created to divinely fulfill the desire of my heart and launch me into this new season came to a sudden stop… and I was heartbroken. I’m telling you my eyes leaked for weeks just thinking about it, and then God did something; He healed this hurt place in my heart. He helped me understand this was a good change, one He orchestrated. And while I felt better, I’m telling you I was in a different place. That passion I mentioned before was gone and while I can tell you I don’t believe I was ever bitter, I was different… Empty is the best word I can think of to describe it.

Based on some needs of my family we begin looking for a new church home and we attended some great churches, but I’m telling you this guy who had come to love the Bride of Christ was now wondering at times if She was even relevant. I asked myself questions like, “If my children were all grown… would I go?” I’m telling you I just felt hollow… for the first time since meeting Christ a dozen years ago I wasn’t even sure where I fit in the body of Christ.

I have had a zeal for ministry to men for a dozen years. It is something that just burned in my chest. I’ve blown it in so many ways men can blow it. Absentee father, Unfaithful husband, Workaholic, Horrible provider, Pornography addition and then some… So much so that I can relate to just about every man. And God has redeemed and restored and rescued me. He has given me beauty for ashes in so very many areas of my life. He’s done so not only because He loves me but also for me to be a messenger of hope to others. With that said, I believe the honesty and transparency of these blog posts can be helpful to men, but I haven’t posted a thing for a long while because I didn’t think I had a relevant thing to say…

I had gotten trapped evaluating my past and present trying to determine my future.

Gideon is a great example of this. Check this out; Judges 6:13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Ever felt like that? “If the Lord is with me… Where is He?” “But now He has abandoned us” Our prayers feel like they are hitting the ceiling… God isn’t speaking to us like He once did… I think we’ve all been there at one time or another.

I don’t have a magic bullet for you today… I wish I did. So I’m just going to outline some of the mistakes I made leading into, and while in this “funk” to communicate what God is teaching me in hopes that I will come to know it more deeply, and that it might be a help to someone else today or in the future.

Mistake Number 1: Isolation

I know, I know, everyone would say that’s a no brainer but I’m telling you I’m more insulated than most men I know from being able to isolate and yet this past year I was able to pull back without any sirens going off. No I didn’t go “dark” but I’m a little afraid oh how easy that might be to do. Long story short; you can be surrounded by people and still be alone.

Mistake Number 2: Filling in the blanks

I believe many of us here have had the pleasure to hear God speak to us personally… In so many different forms. Through His word, a vision or dream, From Him directly, a prophetic word. Through our spouse or children. So many ways. I cherish those times… I write them down and put them in my journal. And while sometimes God’s message is a very specific like No. Yes. Go. Stop. Those may not be easy to obey but they are very very clear. Other times it is a lot more vague like “what I’m about to do is so you may preach My Word to those who don’t know Me”. Which leaves a lot of unanswered questions like “ok what are you about to do, how long does “about” take, and what time does this start?”

Well hearing God speak those words to me was awesome but it was like this big blank canvas and those words were barely enough to paint the sky in this new picture. I held on very tightly to those words and this new picture/vision and as the years progressed some things seemed rather obvious to me and I filled in the blanks. I filled in the blanks and created this beautiful picture and I’d stared at it, I memorized it, I prayed over it. But the problem is I painted in a lot of the blanks and my paint dried and became static. Today I understand that God’s economy is a much more fluid picture that continues to grow and change… It’s much less rigid than the ones I/we create. I have confused some of the things God has said as destinations, instead of what I believe them to be today, which are points along the journey.

In that fluidity is the adventure! And every man is wired by God for Adventure

Mistake Number 3: Holding too tightly

God has done some amazing things for me… miraculous things, things I will forever cherish. And in this current season I am just beginning to understand that even holding too tightly to the things of God from the past may restrict His ability to do a new thing in my life today.

Think about that picture I just talked about… what if you have done most of the painting in that picture and God is trying to fulfill His plan for you, and yet you are holding so tightly to that version of your future. It might be grand in your eyes, but I Promise you it is inferior to God’s best. I believe this is the case for me.

And what I’m finding is it takes time to clear away space for a new vision, a new dream, a renewed direction. We can hold so tightly to what God has said that we leave no room for His plan because we have filled in so many of the blanks for Him. Continuing to look at that picture we can get stuck there in a place called “I guess this is as good as it gets” or “I guess maybe I didn’t hear exactly right” or you fill in the blank. But it’s stuck nonetheless.

And in God’s deep love for us He wont let us stay stuck. He repositions us…  and MAN! That’s uncomfortable! When it seems like God is pushing the reset button. When He seems to be doing things that are contrary to what He’s previously said, and not congruent with this beautiful picture we’ve painted.

I am reminding us all today that you were made to be awesome, incredible, and creative… and the enemy’s job is to minimize you. You are suppose to bear fruit… Jesus cursed the fig tree because it was not producing fruit.

Sometimes it’s tempting to back off, resign ourselves to defeat, and live in the shadows when the going gets tough.  Don’t! God has designed an amazing adventure for every one of us. You have potential you have yet to begin to tap, and if your not smack dab in the middle of your adventure today… WHY NOT?

Here’s what it took for me to get some clarity. It took a break with routine – Getting out of the complacency of my day to day. For some that might mean getting away… For some it’s your electronics, you’re so “connected” you’ve forgotten what quiet sounds like. Some of you it could be pushing too hard… Working so hard you are not leaving room for God to move.

If your feeling stuck or a little like me or Gideon. Take a break from your routine; Stop asking the same questions you’ve been asking God and just show up and see what He might say if you give Him a blank canvas. Maybe even inviting Him to push the reset button.

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

17 Habits That Will Change Your Life… Pick One

As we approach the New Year many of us start to think about goals and resolutions. More often than not we have at least a few things we’d like to change. The biggest problem is, sooner than later we don’t keep one or two and we throw in the towel on all of them. For that reason I thought this would be a good time to re-post this.

We all have seasons in our lives where we need a “makeover”. Sometimes it’s when things aren’t going well or our circumstances aren’t the greatest and sometimes we wish there were things about ourselves that were different or better.  The point is when we get to those places in our lives we usually make a list of half a dozen things or more we’d like to change. Things to start doing… things to stop doing, and off we go. For instance, here is a sample list most of us can relate to.

I’m going to:

  • Lose 10 pounds
  • Start  weekly ‘date night’ with my spouse
  • Go to the gym three times a week
  • Read more / watch TV less
  • Spend quality time with my kids
  • Work less

While the list above has some great ideas in it, it’s the list that causes most of us to be unsuccessful. (More on this in a minute) Sooner than later life happens: the boss made me work late on my planned date night so now my spouse is mad and I’m alone in front of the TV at midnight eating donuts thinking what a crazy idea it was to join a gym. That’s a funny scenario but come on… not so far-fetched.

We all have full schedules and an array of demands for our time and attention so trying to change too much too quickly will result in failure most of the time. Here’s the secret. Pick One. Pick one habit you’d like to start or stop. Anything at all but just one, and get started. By all means have a list of things you want to do or stop doing, but attack them one at a time. Everyone has heard the old adage it takes 21 days to make a habit and it’s true. We’ll guess what; do you know how many 21 day periods there are in a year? 17. That’s right 17! Talk about a Makeover! Imagine what you and your relationships will look like in a year. Imagine what you will feel like in a year. I dare you to start today!

BTW In my first 21 day period my habit was to become a more polite driver. No I’m not the guy yelling with the excessive hand gestures… I’m the one he’s yelling at. Like in football there are two kinds of drivers offensive and defensive. I’m an offensive driver; Kirsten just says I’m offensive. Want to know what my second 21 day habit is? Same thing. I’m getting better but not quite there yet. I should have picked something easier to start with. What’s your first habit going to be?

Broken Bones And Your Relationships

Did you know that when a bone breaks and it heals, it becomes strongest at the point that it was broken? That’s amazing to me. You would think that that place would be the most vulnerable in the future, but it really becomes the sturdiest. (I can see God’s fingerprints all over that science!)

Consider for a minute that our “bone” is our relationship, and it’s broken, but not set properly… It heals, but not correctly. In 2005 my wife Kirsten and I were separated for 11 months and 14 days. Kirsten reached a point at which she couldn’t continue. It was my fault, but I won’t go into all the details of “why” but suffice it to say I was not providing for my family the way I should have been, and we had been though many many tough years. At the time I was doing everything I could to try to keep us together… but the truth was I was trying to prolong a relationship that was mediocre at best.

In hindsight I see very clearly that God had a lot to do with the separation. In my mind I had two choices; staying together in a very dysfunctional, mediocre relationship or divorce… My choice was to stay together. God’s perspective was better! (Isn’t it always!) Here is what God knew to be true. Kirsten and my relationship was broken, and it had been for many years… much like a broken bone. Unfortunately we never got the “break” fixed properly. I liken it to a broken arm. Hold your arm out in front of you and now bend it 90 degrees. Imagine you broke your arm and it healed on its own just like that. From now on you couldn’t bend it any more or less from the elbow. It still looks just like an arm, it’s still somewhat functional, you can still tie your shoes, you can still scratch your nose, but you can’t throw your child in air and catch them. It’s ability and usefulness is limited. That was our relationship. It still looked like a marriage, but our level of love and life was very limited.

God’s option was this; He’s going to re-break the arm (our relationship, the separation) and He’s going to do some healing on both ends and then bring it back together and set it properly this time. So that it can be fully functional again!

If a bone becomes strongest at the point that it was broken, and the same is true with our relationships. That means that unless we’ve received the correct and complete healing, we have limited our level of life, love, joy, enjoyment, you name it. Unless we’re willing to do some work, our relationships can only decline.  I’m not suggesting you dig up a bunch of old stuff, but if your marriage isn’t thriving today there is a reason, and it very likely is that your capacity has been limited by a break in the past that was not healed correctly or completely.

So what’s the point I’m trying to make? It’s this, for years I was a peacekeeper in my marriage. Sweep it under the rug, let’s move on etc. and there was a huge obvious bulge under the rug at our house. Do you know the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking?  Peacekeeping is about avoiding conflict at
any cost.  It’s ultimately a selfish motive because the status quo is desired above all else. Peacemaking understands conflicts can be a healthy stepping-stone to an improved relationship. It seeks time and effort to resolve problems, not ignore them. One leads to relational decline. The other to relational strength. So are you a peacekeeper or peacemaker in your marriage? Give peacemaking a chance.

 

To Rebuild Something It Must First Be Torn Down

To start over… To quit and begin again… to take a step backward to be able to take two forward. Whatever you call it, it’s hard to contemplate and even harder to do! Starting over seems so painful. For some reason there’s a sense of failure in that. You’ve got all this time, effort and energy that will literally go to waste if you start over, and for that reason most of us don’t or wont and our “pain” continues.

Take your business for example; let’s say your cash flow is consistently tight, week in and week out you borrow and shift and juggle to make payroll. You’ve done it so long that it’s become normal… So much so you’ve surmised most businesses run this way. Occasionally you’ve thought, ‘I could hire a consultant to help with this or there are some changes I could make to eliminate this problem like increasing prices by 6%, adjusting my accounts receivable terms, incentivizing prompt payment, penalizing late payments, etc.’ but you don’t call a consultant and you don’t implement the changes… Why? Because you perceive making those changes to be more painful than your current situation. The truth is juggling to make payroll each week is extremely painful and stressful, but you have done it for so long you have become somewhat “comfortable” in this painful place. From the outside looking in its rather obvious… from your perspective, not so much. Multiple honest perspectives are very valuable!

Still don’t know what I’m talking about? How about your marriage; you’ve been married 12 years, and while you’d admit the honeymoon is over, you say “My wife and I are still married… Look at all the people we know who are getting divorced” The truth is your relationship is mediocre at best; there’s no life or zest in it anymore. You desire a better relationship and you’ve considered going to counseling, but you’ve concluded that would only bring some touchy subjects to the surface and cause more pain. You have grown comfortable in the mediocre relationship and would rather continue in that for years to come than do some hard work that leads to real love and life.

If it sounds like I’m preaching, know that most of my writing comes from personal experience :0). Our hope is that things will get better if we hang in there long enough. That is faulty thinking. A solid home does not spring forth from a broken foundation.  To rebuild something it must first be torn down.

Take a step back… What is it that’s not working so well? What is it that came to mind when you read that question? Identify it before the wheels come off! What can you begin working on this month that would bring forth a higher level of life, joy, love and relationship for years to come?

Do Over!

Remember when you were a kid and you were out playing with friends in the neighborhood. All of a sudden something happened in the game you were playing and everything came to a stop. There might have been a play that was too close to call or one person saw a strike and someone else knew it was a ball. After a little back and forth someone always yelled, “DO OVER!” and invariably the game started back up again… I can even remember having several “Do Overs” in one afternoon. I can recall times when I was sure I was right and yet I still accepted a “Do Over” as an agreeable means to move forward.

Somehow as kids, continuing to play was more important than being right or having the last word. When did we outgrow that? When did our right to be right become so important to us that we would rather sever a friendship than work it out?

The other thing a “Do Over” accomplished is once you agreed to it there was no going back. You weren’t allowed to bring it up again… Whatever happened on the do over counted… some you won, some you lost, but you came out the next day ready to play.

I wonder what our relationships and our marriages would look like if we practiced this childhood pastime. What if every so often we called a “Do Over” and agreed to start again, leaving the past behind us, never to be brought up again… Are there any relationships in your life that could use a “Do Over”? Anyone is allowed to call a “Do Over” you know :0)

Rare Is The Man

Rare is the man whose heart is wholly devoted to the Lord.

Most of us believe in God, love God, worship God and trust God… with 98% of our heart.

We serve an extraordinary God but most of us would describe our lives as ordinary at best. If we compared ourselves to non-believers there wouldn’t be a big “AVANTAGE” in the Christian column like there should be.

Everyone’s heard “What makes something extraordinary?” That little EXTRA, well I think the same thing is true in the other direction. Giving God a little less than 100% of your heart keeps us mediocre.

I believe that small part of your heart that you keep locked away from everyone else (including God) (which in itself is a little funny because God obviously knows about it, you’re just not allowing Him access to it) keeps you below average, mediocre and ordinary instead of living the abundant life we are called to.

This is not a new condition by the way!  Go back several thousand years and for generations in both directions only one man is found. 2 Kings 23:25 Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength…

Now come forward to about two thousand years ago. Jesus is talking to an entire city and can’t find one person whose fully engaged. Revelation 3:15-16 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

How about today? Here are statistics about American Christian men (most from the Barna group)

  • 44% admitted to struggling with fear.
  • 73% admitted to not leading their family the way God intended.
  • 70% admitted to struggling with porn in their daily lives.
  • 50% admitted to viewing pornography at least twice a month.
  • 38% believe it is morally acceptable and there is nothing wrong with porn.
  • 22% are having inappropriate relations with another woman.
  • 82% would describe their lives as average to mediocre
  • 98% have a secret
  • 31% admitted to being a workaholic
  • When asked is your marriage thriving, plateaued or failing. Only 18% said thriving

These are Statistics about American Christian men… How is this possible? How can we serve an extraordinary God and be so similar to those who don’t even know Him?

I believe the control you are holding onto is making you vulnerable and keeping you average! I believe that that little piece of your heart you want to maintain control of is your undoing. I don’t care if that small part of your heart is hurt, shame, fear, guilt, pride, or a secret. If you don’t give God access to it it’s never going to change!

Ten years ago I had lost everything; business, family, friends… everything, and I prayed this little prayer “God I give you access to my whole heart! I’m not holding anything back anymore! Do whatever it takes to make me the man You’ve created me to be. Make me a great husband, an awesome father, an incredible provider, a great steward of the resources you entrust me with. Do whatever it takes!

I first prayed it when I had nothing left to lose. Today it’s a bit of a scary prayer, but I will not stop praying it because I trust God more with me than I trust me with me and that my friends is what it really boils down to. Are you willing to relinquish control?

I do not have it all figured out! But I attribute God’s work in my life to this prayer and giving Him 100% access and permission to do whatever it takes. So what do you say? How’s what you’re doing working for you? Make a move!

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