Creating silence in my life has become one of the most powerfully productive exercises I have ever established in life. It’s amazing how much noise surrounds us every day, keeping us from really taking a breath and just think.
I can get more things accomplished in one day by just taking 15 or 20 minutes in 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. Just 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.
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.
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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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.
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 wether 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?
Another life lesson learned on the drive to school.
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.”
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 their 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)