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Journal This

Psalms 138:7-8

“Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me. The Lord will work out His plans for my life — for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.”
Psalm 138:7-8

Someone shared this passage from Psalm 138 with me, and I was so encouraged by it I wanted to share it with you so that you never forget these truths:

God made you.
God saved you.
God has a plan for you.
God will NEVER abandon you.
God’s love for you is FOREVER.

Read it. Meditate on it. Write it down. Never forget it.

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Journal This

Creating Silence

Creating silence has become one of the most powerfully productive exercises I have ever established in life. It’s amazing how much noise surrounds us everyday, keeping us from really taking a breath and just think.

I can get more accomplished in one day by starting my day with 15 or 20 minutes of silent thought, then I can in a week without it.

It started for me six or seven years ago when I decided to turn off the radio in my car on my way to and from work. That brief time in thought helps me order my day and opens my ears to listen to what The Lord has to say about it. (Without interrupting Him with my “great” ideas)

Try it, It’s not easy when you start, but nothing worth doing is.

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Journal This

Four Things Every Volunteer Needs To Keep Their Head From Exploding.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any church or ministry. But more times than not, for volunteers, what began as a work of passion, love
and a heart to serve, ends with frustration and burnout.

I believe there are 4 things every leader can give his or her volunteers that would combat these results.

1) Volunteers need clearly defined and communicated EXPECTATIONS.

One of the most frustrating positions for any volunteer to be in, is when they find themselves serving in an “evolving role”, a role that seems to change every time they show up to serve. Clearly defined and communicated expectations (the what, when and where of a position) will solve this issue.

This may seem like an easy thing to do, but the number one enemy of a clearly communicated plan is an unorganized leader. I’m amazed how many times I have heard or said myself in frustration, “_________ never does what they’re supposed to do.” When, the person being referred to has never been told EXACTLY what to do. That’s not their fault, it’s the leaders.

(Ps: Clearly defined and communicated expectations will also answer the question, “How often can we ask a volunteer to serve?” Well, how often did you communicate the need to them?)

2) Volunteers need to be EQUIPPED.

I was very fortunate to serve under Dr. Edwin Louis Cole at the Christian Men’s Network.

One day he called me into his office and told me that I was now responsible for emptying his office trash can everyday. He then proceeded to walk me through the exact process he wanted done. He showed me how to take out the old bag, how to tie it up and where the dumpster was. He then showed me where to find the new bags and then showed me EXACTLY how he wanted the bag tied and secured to the trash can.

I remember thinking how ridiculous it was that he was being so precise and specific with his instructions, it was like he thought I had never emptied a trash can before or that I couldn’t figure it out on my own. But the reality was, even though I knew how to empty a trash can and put a new bag in, he wasn’t going to assume I knew how. He was saving the both of us from potential future frustration. (the fact is I had emptied a trash can before, but I had never emptied HIS trash can before, and he wanted it done the right way.)

Dr. Cole used to say, “You can’t expect what you don’t inspect.” Basically, if you want something done right, you don’t have to do it yourself, but you are responsible for the training. To put it Biblically, “Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.” (Acts 8:30-31)

3) Volunteers need to be EMPOWERED.

This is pretty simple. Create volunteer positions that can be “owned” by a volunteer. Don’t create a position that is so rigid, that the volunteer feels like if they make one adjustment or mistake it will ruin everything. Every volunteer position should have some margin built into it, that a volunteer who is passionate can add his or her own gifting and ability to improve what they are doing.

I firmly believe that ownership fuels passion, and when you’re running towards passion, you’re running away from burnout.

4) Volunteers need to be ENCOURAGED.

When I say volunteers need to be encouraged, I’m not just talking about telling them they’re doing a good job.

The most powerful way we can encourage our volunteers is to constantly communicate how the role they are filling is important to the vision of the organization. (and if it’s not, then maybe it a role you don’t need.)

Here’s an example. Take a person who works in the church nursery holding babies. Week after week they sit in a room rocking the crying babies of strangers, changing dirty diapers and constantly having their clothes ruined as they get spit up on. We could tell them they’re doing a good job and we appreciate them, and that’s good, but it won’t fuel their passion. But when you tell them about the couple who were on the brink of divorce, and that because the church was able to offer childcare at the marriage conference they didn’t have to spend money they didn’t have on a babysitter. And while at that conference they both recommitted their lives to Christ and recommitted themselves to each other, it’s not a stretch or an exaggeration to say that happened because YOU were willing to give up attending the conference yourself to take care of a strangers baby.

That’s the kind of encouragement we need to give our volunteers. They need to know that what they are doing is the work of God. That they are building His Kingdom. That what they are doing is AS IMPORTANT as the ministry that happening from the platform. That is how a volunteer needs to be encouraged. (FYI, I didn’t make up that scenario above, that actually happened, and stories like that happen every week, we just need to be intentional about bringing our volunteers in on the celebration)

These four things may not be the “end all” of working with volunteers or solving the burnout issue, and I’m sure you have some things you would add and I’d love to hear them, but I do believe it keeps the process heading in the right direction.

Volunteers are a treasure that need to be protected. And it’s our job as leaders to protect them, even if it means protecting them from ourselves and our leadership mistakes. (we all make them)

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Journal This

Thirty-Three Percent

 33%

That’s it. That’s the number I came up with. That’s all there is. That’s all the time my family gets from my schedule. Of the 168 hours in a week, my family gets 33% of my time. It’s not near enough. It’s not near what they deserve, so I better make the most of it.

Before you think I’m the worse Dad or Husband in the World, let me clarify a few things:

1) I only counted hours “with” my family that we were awake. You can’t really engage with someone while they are snoring. So I counted sleeping as “away” from my family.

2) As a Husband and Father, part of my responsibility is to provide for my family, which is what I’m doing when I’m at work, away from my family. And as long as I have boundaries in place that allow me to keep a healthy work/life balance, I’m not neglecting my family for work.

So now it doesn’t seem SO BAD… except that the numbers above are based on a good week. A week I don’t have evening services, after hours appointments, hospital visits, conferences our church might be hosting or anything else that may come up in a pastor’s schedule.

The reality is, it could be worse. (I’d imagine if we all looked at our schedules, we all ran the numbers, 33% might be on the high end.)

But here’s the real question. Of that 33% of my week that my family does get, do they get 100% of me? Or do they have to share their time? Do they have to share their time with things like the TV, my email, my list of things I didn’t get done at the office, my frustration from how my week may have gone, or anything else that would communicate to them that they are not really the most important thing in my life?

I may be with them, but am I really there? Do my kids know they have 100% of their Daddy’s heart? Does my wife know that no one compares to her? My words may say it, but does my time, focus and attitude?

These are some of the things I’m asking myself. These are some of the questions I’m committing my time to answering. These are some of the questions I’m using to help focus my priorities.

Are there any questions you need to ask?

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Journal This

Two-Hundred Brownies

I recently had the privilege of arranging a free lunch for the faculty of one our local Middle Schools. During the lunch I met Lanette, a teacher who was 8 days away from completing her first year of teaching.

Teaching is not a first career for Lanette. It’s her third. She explained to me that when she had the idea of leaving the banking industry and going back to school to become a teacher, she thought it was a mid-life crisis. She was in her mid forties, had an established reputation in a great field, but she wasn’t happy. She was tired of working for herself. She wanted to spend the rest of her life building up others.

She told me that on her first day of school she looked at her students and told them, “This year, you will love me and sometimes you will hate me… but I will only love you.”

When I asked her if she still felt the same way about her students, now that the school year was coming to a close, she answered, “You know what I did on Memorial Day? I made 200 brownies from scratch, and wrapped them up to give to each of my students. I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t still love them.”

Lanette was excited that the school year was coming to an end, but she was even more excited about the news that her teaching contract had been renewed for another year, and she would be back with the students she loves.

We need more teachers like Lanette.
We need more people like Lanette.

By the way… Her brownies were amazing.

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Journal This

Do What’s Important

I do these things everyday:
Hug & kiss my kids.
Make my kids breakfast.
Tell my wife I love her.
Read.
Write.
Clear my inbox.
Pray.
Read my Bible.
Think.
Eat lunch.
Listen to my kids.
Listen to my wife.
Pray for my kids.
Pray for my wife.
Sleep.

How do I know I do them everyday? (Other than the fact that I do) Because I schedule them. That’s right, everything on this list is on my schedule. (No, I don’t really have “hug and kiss the kids” or “Kiss my wife” written on my calendar, but I do have blocks of time I have set aside everyday for nothing but giving my kids and my wife 100% of my attention.)

Why do I schedule them? Because they’re important to me. Because life is busy and there’s only so much time in a day. Because I have discovered that the things that are the least important tend to be the loudest and take the most time. Because if I don’t take control of my schedule, someone else will. Because I’d rather spend the limited time I have making sure I do the things that are important to me, rather then taking time away from them doing things that aren’t.

Ps. There will always be “busy work” that has to get done. The trick is not letting it take over your day or set your schedule. I set aside time everyday just for getting the “busy work” done. When that time runs out, I move on if the work is done or not. (I’ve had to learn to be ok with a todo list that is never done.)

Are you spending time on the things that are important to you or are you taking time away from them?

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Journal This

The Nicest Thing I Have Ever Witnessed Someone Do For A Stranger.

With the prediction of serious winter storms in Dallas, I headed to Walmart (with apparently every other person in town) to stock up on a few essentials before the storm hit.

As I was waiting in line to check out, the woman in front of me was having her groceries bagged. While the customer ahead of me was waiting, she asked Sherry, the woman working the register, how her night was going. Sherry looked over the register and said, very sadly, that her day was not going very well. She was working the overnight shift, and on her way to work her drivers side window broke and would not roll up. She had secured a plastic grocery bag over the open window, but now she was afraid that the ice storm was going to break through the bag and didn’t know what to do.

After the customer in front of me finished paying, she told Sherry she was sorry to hear about her window and that she hoped her night would get better.

Sherry, grumbled a little thank you and then began scanning and bagging my groceries.

A few minutes later, the woman who had just left, walked back into Walmart and asked to see the manager. After speaking to the manager for a few minutes, she and the store manager walked back toward Sherry.

It turns out, when the other customer left the store, she walked straight across the parking lot in the falling sleet to the bank next door. She spoke to the bank manager and arranged for him to close one of his covered drive thru lanes and allow Sherry to park her car underneath during the night. The bank manager also agreed to keep the lane closed until Sherry was off work, even if that meant the lane would remain closed during business hours. She then walked back across the parking lot (in the freezing rain) and spoke to Sherry’s manager who agreed to give her a short break after she finished helping me, so she could move her car to the reserved bank drive thru.

As she (the other customer) was explaining all this to Sherry, Sherry just stood there in absolute disbelief. (Along with the rest of us in the very long line that watched this whole thing play out).

The woman, without even giving her name, just smiled at Sherry, told her to have a great night and then walked out of the store.

Like I said, it was the nicest thing I have ever witnessed someone do for a stranger.

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Journal This

You’re Asking the Wrong Question

“What would you do if you had a million dollars? Whatever your answer is, then that is what you should do.”

Most of us have probably been asked this question in some form or fashion. A well meaning person thought it might help us make a decision or, at the very least, point us in the direction of an answer.

But it’s wrong.

Money doesn’t drive passion and it certainly doesn’t create it.

If money is what inspires you, you will never have enough.

Money shouldn’t drive you, nor should the lack of it hold you back.

A better question to ask would be, what would you do wether you had the money or not?

What keeps you up at night? What is it that start working on when you’ve finished your 9 to 5 and everyone else is winding down for the day?

What is it that The Lord has put in your heart that burns so deeply you don’t care what it takes to make it work or get it done?

Ask those questions.
Find those answers.
Then, do that.

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Journal On Being a Dad This

Discussing Taxation Without Representation with My 8 Year Old Daughter

Every morning I drive my eight year old daughter to school, and every day we have another random conversation covering whatever topic seems to be floating around in her head.

The other day, it was taxes.

Reese: “How much does my school cost?”
Me: “It’s free” (she goes to public school)
Reese: “It’s FREE! No one pays for it?!?”
Me: “No, we all pay for it when we pay our taxes.”
Reese: “WHAT!?! TAXES!?! I HATE TAXES! I HATE KING GEORGE!” *(Realizing she just finished studying the Revolutionary War in school)
Me: “No no no, I’m not talking about that kind of taxes. Those taxes were bad because the King was taking whatever He wanted and calling it taxes. The taxes we pay are good (ok, so I lied a little). They pay for things like Schools, Hospitals, Roads, Parks and a bunch of other things that we need.”
Reese: “So then you get to decide what taxes to pay?”
Me: “Well, not really, but we do elect the leaders who decide, so if we don’t agree with what they are doing we don’t have to vote for them again.” *(Reese gets out of the car and looks at me very seriously from the sidewalk)
Reese: “Ok, but if they start taking too much, I’m gonna throw an English Tea Party.”
Me: “Ok babe, I’ll keep you posted. Have a good day at School.”

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Journal This

Lessons From a Mentor

Dr. Edwin Louis Cole was one of the most influential men in my life. He welcomed me into his home, his life, his ministry and thanks to his beautiful Grand-Daughter Lindsay who I married, his family.

I can honestly say that it is a rare day that something he said or taught doesn’t come across my mind or slips from of my mouth. (most of the time without realizing it.)

I thought I might share a few of the truths (in no particular order) that seem to be the most frequent. (with a few thoughts of my own that go along with some of them.)

Here they are…

Peace is the umpire for knowing the will of God for your life.
This is become a foundational truth for our family. I can’t tell you how many times my wife or I have made a decision based on nothing more than the fact we didn’t have peace. This truth will turn most “hard” decisions into easy ones.

An ounce of obedience is worth more than a ton of prayer.

Character is more important than talent.
This was a hard lesson for me to learn. We live in a world where talent is worshiped and character doesn’t matter. Unfortunately this is often true in the church as well. We are the first impression many people will have of Jesus, and sadly, many people have chosen not to trust Him because they can’t trust us.

The characteristics of the kingdom emanate from the character of the King.
Same with business. Same with church. Same with Family. I may not be a king, but I am a father. My kids may not inherit the few talents I have, but they will pick up my character. When I see something in them I don’t like, I have to make sure I have dealt with it in myself first.

The man without an organized system of thought will always be at the mercy of the man who has one.

Don’t let someone create your world for you, when they do, they will always make it to small.

Change is not change until it’s change.

Don’t pray for opportunities. Pray you’ll be ready when opportunities come.
A constant prayer I used to pray was “God, bring me opportunities to preach… open doors for me”. I remember one day driving in my car praying this prayer and I heard a clear response from the Lord, “I’ll bring you opportunities to preach, when you have something worth saying.” That was a hard lesson, but one that I’ll never forget.

You are only qualified to lead to the degree you are willing to serve.

When the charm wears off, there’s nothing but character left.

We tend to judge others by there actions but ourselves by our intentions.

Personal philosophy determines public performance.

The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who knows why will always be his boss.

Leaders determine to influence. Followers only happen to influence.

Worry is a substitute for prayer.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7 (NLT)

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Journal This

Five Questions Every Man Should Ask Themselves Before Putting On a Bow Tie.

  1. Am I wearing a Tuxedo?
  2. Am I 3 years old?
  3. Am I a member of a Barbershop Quartet?
  4. Am I Orville Redenbacher?
  5. Am I from the year 1897 but by some sort of time travel accident I have arrived in the year 2014?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘Yes’, than go ahead and wear that Bow Tie, if not, don’t.

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Journal This

Tools of the Trade

I thought I might offer up a list of the tools I use on a daily basis to keep my life moving. To some it may seem like a long list, to others it may be lacking. (though, on occasion I may add a new piece of software here and there, but usually I end up ditching them for these trusty standards.)

Hardware: (Things you can touch, hold, tear, drop and break.)

Iphone– Always with me. Actually do most of my work on this.
iPad Mini– This has quickly become my “go to” piece of hardware. Love the size of the Mini. Take it everywhere (work related) with me. I’ve decided if I can’t do it on this… I’ll just figure out how I can.
MacBook Air– Favorite laptop ever.
Neuyear Calendar– Best wall calendar you can buy. Love the design/layout.
Action Journal– I’m 99% paperless in what I do (this was not an easy task to accomplish. Removed all paper and pens from my office for 2 months to make this a habit), but when the need arises, this is what I write in.
Bible– HCSB Version on my desk, NLT in my bag, NKJV & Amplified next to my bed. I’m always trading out on which version I prefer.

Software: (Things I run on the things you can touch, hold, tear, drop or break)

Evernote– This is my brain on tech. Everything goes in it and nothing gets done without it. It took me awhile to figure out the most effective way to use it, but the system I’ve used the last 2 years seems to work great. (I think I could probably teach a class on using this tool, but that seems like a lot of work since there is so much quality training already available.)
Logos Bible Software– Best Bible Software period.
IA Writer– If I’m not writing it in Evernote, I’m writing it here. (then transferring it to Evernote) I’ve tried several “distraction free” writing apps. This has become my favorite. (followed by Writeroom.) I write all my email newsletters, blog posts, notes from church services/meetings that I don’t want to use Evernote so I’m not tempted to work on other things. (writing this post in IA Writer now.)
WordPress– My preferred blogging/CMS system. Love working with it. (Tumblr is my close second on this.)
MS Outlook– Use this for church email/calendar.

Iphone Apps:

I have theory that a person really doesn’t need more than one screen of apps on there phone. Anything else is just distraction. (Seriously, take the time and see what apps you would keep if you were only able to use one screen hold them.)

Evernote– Same as above.
Logos– Same as above.
IA Writer– Same as above.
Tempo Calendar– The best calendar app I’ve found. Love how it handles appointments and MS Exchange accounts.
Buffer– Allows me to post to Twitter/Facebook/Google+ without falling down the rabbit hole of everyone else’s posts.
VSCOcam– Take/Edit all my iPhone pictures with this app.
Tweetbot– For when I want to see what my friends are posting. Love the way it handles Twitter’s lists function.
Instagram– Love this app, though it can be a bit of a time suck if I’m not careful.
Text+– Use this only to text with my daughter on her Kindle Fire.

Well, that’s about it. I’d love to hear what you think of the list above or get any suggestions you may have.