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5 Things About Difficult Conversations

Difficult conversations are a part of life. They happen in our families and our jobs. Depending on your position, you may be required to have more of these conversations than others.

Very few people look forward to difficult conversations. That is normal. The people who do enjoy difficult conversations need to read this more than anyone. 

Though we can’t avoid difficult conversations, we can improve on the process. Whether you are talking to a boss, employee, spouse, or child, these five things will make your conversation smoother and result in better outcomes. 

Be Thoughtful

Before you have the conversation, have the conversation with yourself. Think through what you are going to say. Write down the things you know you want to communicate. It is a good idea to rehearse what you are going to say and how you will say it. Most great public speakers rehearse out loud. Putting thought and preparation into what will be said and how it will be delivered is the first step to making the conversation easier. 

Be Honest

It is useless to have a difficult conversation if you are only going to deliver part of the truth. Honest communication is the foundation for making a difficult conversation easier. When you only offer part of the truth, you are setting yourself up to have another difficult conversation at a later time. If you cannot be honest, don’t have the conversation.

Be Direct

Being direct is different than being honest. I know people who tell the truth, but they wrap it in rambling dialogues that lose and confuse the listener. They turn a single sentence fact into a 15-minute lengthy talk, and then the person who needs the information leaves without a clear understanding of what was just said. Big words may impress the listener, but if they don’t understand the intent, they are just impressed and not informed. 

Be Grace-filled

Being grace-filled is for the people who have the honest and direct part of the conversation perfected. Speak with grace. Some people fall to the belief that the truth will set you free without knowing that grace and love must also be present for it to have their full effect. You are still dealing with people; they need to be treated with dignity and respect even when they have made a mistake. 

Be Confidential

Difficult conversations are rarely public conversations. What is said needs to stay with the people who are a part of the conversation. On occasion, others need to learn some issues, but they cannot spread them to others. It then becomes gossip. Gossip ruins the benefits of a difficult conversation, and trust is lost.

I cannot eliminate difficult conversations from my life. I can learn to make them better. Apply these five things the next time you have a difficult conversation, and you will get better results. 

5 Things About Batman

Growing up, one of my favorite shows was Batman –  the show featuring Bruce Wayne as Batman with all of the “boom” and “pow” effects. If it was on television, my brother and I and our friend Robin were watching it. We would even find ourselves acting out the scenes.

Recently I was doing some training for a leadership game, and the moderator asked a question about superheroes. We had to tell what superhero reminded us of our training organization. I immediately thought of Batman and some things that apply to life and leadership.

Here are my Five Thursday Thoughts on how Batman can apply to our lives.

Multiple Tools

Batman was not a one-trick pony. Some superheroes have a single superpower, but Batman had gadgets. The Batrope, the Batmobile, Bat Helicopter, and tool belt just to start. He had a Batarang and a Bat Claw and so much more. He had a resource for every situation.

We cannot know everything, nor can we be good at everything, but it does help us to be more well-rounded to deal with different situations that arise in our lives. I know people who know how to use a hammer well, but it can do more harm than good when used in delicate situations. You need other tools to deal with different situations. Learn new skills and hone old ones. You never know when you will need your Batsense to solve a problem.

Transformation

Batman was millionaire Bruce Wayne in his daily life. He went about his business as an average person on most days. But when needed, he transformed quickly into Batman, usually sliding down the Batpole into the Batcave. Multiple people benefitted from Bruce Wayne’s transformation. 

Life requires transformation. We are not who we used to be. We have either improved or declined. Rarely is transformation as simple as moving from one room to another; it is usually a journey that takes time. People benefit when we transform and live out the purpose God created us to live.

He Could Relate

Bruce Wayne was a regular person. He was wealthy, but he lived an everyday life like everyone else. He could relate to the fear and concerns everyone else had. His superpower did not cause him to look down on others. Even when in full superhero mode, he could connect with those in trouble because, in reality, he was one of them.

You probably have some area where you are a superhero. We are all a “10” at something. But we cannot allow our gifting or talent to keep us from relating to others. The most remarkable people can relate to others even in their greatness. We are all just people. Don’t think more highly of yourself than you should.

He Didn’t Run Solo

Batman had Robin as his sidekick. He shared his wisdom and insight with a much younger protege. He had patience with him even when he made mistakes. It was clear they were better together.

We are not created to do life alone. We need others to make us better, and we need to be a positive influence on others. Sometimes others slow us down or cause us to deal with things we would have typically avoided. But those people are usually better off because we are around, and we have others that make us better because they are present. 

He Respected Order

The Batman I watched was not a rogue operator. Though he was a superhero and had gifts that saved many people, he still reported to Commissioner Gordon because order is necessary. Lack of order creates chaos.

One of the dangers we have in talent is believing we do not have to answer to others. There is still order in the world. Even if we have more ability or insight than our superiors, we must show respect and honor. Your ability does not eliminate the need for humility.

I am not sure who your superhero was growing up. Batman was mine. Even today, writing this, I have thought about some things I can learn from Batman 40 years later. 

5 Takeaways From The 4 Laws of Love

Recently I have written a couple of blogs that featured five statements that had made a difference in my life at different times. This format seems to be a positive one to use, so I plan to use the “5 Things” rule each week. If you have a catchy name for the five things that I can use, let me know. 

One of the “5 Things” topics from time to time will be about books I am reading. I recently finished “The Four Laws of Love” by Jimmy Evans. Four of the five have to be my takes on the four laws. I will give you one more important takeaway as well.

The four laws come from Genesis 2, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.” (‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:24-25‬ ‭NLT) Here are my five takeaways.

The Law of Priority

A man leaves his father and mother and is joined by his wife. Your spouse becomes the number one priority in your life other than God. If you allow anyone or anything, no matter how good or important, to take time and energy that belongs to your spouse, you violate the law of priority. Some of the things that are important for us to prioritize are:

  • Our communication
  • Our relationships
  • Our romance

 

If we do not set our priorities, someone else will.

The Law of Pursuit

We are to be joined by our spouse. Some translations use the word “cleave.” It means to pursue with great energy or cling to something zealously. The problem with most marriages is that we pursue vigorously before marriage only to focus on another conquest after we get married. 

Your spouse wants and needs you to pursue them. God designed marriage to include two servants. The happiest of marriages are two servants in love. You are together for a purpose, and when you pursue that together, the rewards are tremendous.

The Law of Partnership

The two become one. This statement is a powerful principle. When you are married, nothing remains yours alone. You are one. Anything not submitted to joint ownership will result in the other person feeling violated. Marriage is not a one-way street – it is a place where both spouses need to participate. Dominance harms marriage. Mutual submission is the key to marital satisfaction. 

Partnership is an area where marriages will continually grow. Finances is usually one of the early partnership tests for marriages. No single person should dominate the financial situation, even if it is a single-income family. Mutual respect will allow you to become the partners that allow your marriage to thrive.

The Law of Purity

They were naked and felt no shame. The statement includes sexual purity but is not limited to sex; it encompasses all aspects of our lives. They did not experience shame physically or emotionally. Emotional nakedness, where each partner can lay themselves before the other without fear, is a crucial aspect of happy marriages. When we can lay everything before our spouse, it shows we have nothing to hide.

One of the places where we need purity most is in conflict and anger. If we cannot manage our anger, our spouse will limit their interaction with us and often hide things for fear of retribution. Purity includes learning how to deal with conflict and managing our anger so our spouse feels safe to be naked in every area of life. 

Vision Retreats

One of the things this book proposes is vision retreats for your marriage. The retreat includes only you and your spouse. I have heard of this concept before, and Barbara and I have tried it. Anything without a vision will flounder. We tend to wait until there is a crisis to address an issue. What would happen if we took time each year to talk about our goals and dreams for every area of our marriage and family. What are our communication goals? Financial goals? Parenting goals? What do we want for our children? What does intimacy look like in this season of our life?

When we disagree on the direction, a division is inevitable. Vision retreats allow us to bring clarity to our plans which will enable us to say yes to the right things and no the ones that do not match where we believe God wants us to go. If there is a purpose for you being together, doesn’t it seem logical to want to pursue what God wants every day in your home?

All marriage can and should grow. One of the ways you can do that is by reading a book together. The Four Laws of Love is a book that will benefit your home.

5 Life Changing Statements About Parenting

Recently I wrote a post about five life-changing statements. You can read it here. I am going to continue this series with five ideas in different areas of my life. Today I want to talk about parenting.

A few of these statements are probably statements you have heard. One may consider these proverbs because they have been shared for generations. Some of these I heeded. Others of these I learned the hard way. If you are a young parent or desire to be a parent, take these to heart. 

They Grow Up Fast

We say this in different ways for different situations. We talk about how time flies but rarely do we live our life with intentionality knowing that children are only young for a season. This lesson is something I heard but did not take seriously enough. Knowing what I know now, I would have slowed the speed of my own life so that I could enjoy the speed of theirs. 

Tell Your Dad

I was in a tough spot in my early twenties, and I needed someone to help. I had a legal issue, and it was going to take some money to fix. We had a family friend who was probably in his 70’s at the time. He was the mayor of a town where my dad used to pastor, and he was relatively wealthy. I went to him and asked for help. He asked me if I had told my dad. I had not. First, I was embarrassed. Second, I didn’t think my dad could help financially. He told me to tell my dad, and if he couldn’t help, then come back and see him, and he would assist. He said no one loves me more than my dad, and I should always go to him first. I did tell my dad. We cried together. He asked me why I didn’t come earlier. Then he found a way to help me. I have never forgotten that. Your dad will turn the world upside down to fix your problems.

Teach Them While They Are Young

There is a lot of science about how much children learn early and how learning slows as they get older. As a parent, there are some things I went about with intention. There are some other things I wished I had done with more intention. They are learning from us every day. As parents, we are the number one influence they have. If they are going to learn from us anyway, wouldn’t it be wise to be intentional and make sure they learn what we want them to learn? 

This Hurts Me More Than It Does You

I heard this first when I was getting a spanking (no emails, please). But I learned that corporal punishment did not have to be involved for this to be the case. If we take a toy, not only do we have to hear the whining, we also lose the distraction they had, and we have to pay more attention. As they get older, it becomes even more painful. We take their car, and then we have to deliver them to school and practice and events. It then becomes a burden for us too. I see this most often with screens now. I am going to take your iPad or tablet. Then we lose that built-in babysitter, and we give in because we do not like the pain either. Discipline is difficult for the parent and the child. 

Equal Is Not Best

For some reason, we believe the myth that to be fair, we have to be equal. Equal is a terrible way to parent. Appropriate is a much better method. We want them to have the same things, do the same things, and go to the same places. What I have learned over the years is that God created each of us as individuals. What is the best path for one person may not be the best path for another one. One child may need to focus on sports while the other focuses on music. Equal means they both have to do it all or none or just one. For children to thrive, parents must treat them appropriately, not equally. Equal is a poor measure of fairness.

I have a lot more parenting statements. Some I managed to apply. Others, not so much. What are some of your favorite parenting statements?

Buckshot, Bullets and Bows

I do not hunt regularly. At least I do not hunt game animals regularly. To a certain extent, we are all hunters; we just choose different prey. I have been hunting less than ten times in my life, but I have lots of friends who are hunters. I know about guns and have been around them more frequently than I have been hunting. I have taken a couple of classes to familiarize myself with them. 

Hunters most often use a shotgun, a rifle, or a bow. The game that you are hunting and the season you are in will determine the weapon of choice. Each one of these weapons uses a different type of ammunition. There are variations of each type of ammo, but for general terms, a bow uses arrows, a shotgun uses shells with some kind of buckshot or “shot,” and a rifle uses a cartridge or bullet. Each one has its benefits and requirements. You can’t use them all for every situation. You need to know which one to use for each task.

The same is true of many of our ventures in life. We have to make the right choice of weapon; otherwise, we will spend time trying to accomplish something we can’t do or could be done much quicker and easier if we chose the right tool. Let’s take a look at how this might play out.

Buckshot

A shotgun shell has powder to explode, and it propels buckshot from the opposite end of that shell. The buckshot leaves the end of the gun barrel and sprays or scatters in a broad pattern. This effect is great for small game animals like birds or rabbits but not very effective with large game. It also does less damage to the object it hits. It will have multiple penetration points.

There are things we tackle in life that need a shotgun approach. We need a broader spray field to make sure we hit the target. We may need to be a little more careful with the target, or it may be small enough that we need some margin to make sure we hit it. If the target is small, quick, and not very clear, a shotgun approach to the situation may be the best method. Sometimes multiple options are the best solution. 

Bullets

Rifles and pistols use bullets or cartridges. These are single projectiles that either hit their target or not. A shotgun may have some buckshot that hits and some that don’t. It may even hit and not hit the most vulnerable spot, and the game may move on and never be harvested. A cartridge has more power and can take down large game, but it also requires a higher degree of accuracy. 

Larger projects, goals, and purposes in our lives require more powerful solutions. They have to be focused. If they miss the mark, they can be useless, but they can bring enormous rewards when on target. I see people with big dreams and little skill spraying ideas everywhere but never taking anything down. The most unfortunate thing I see is people taking 50 caliber rifles to a squirrel hunt. They have high skills with low ambition, and nothing in life seems fulfilling. The larger your goal, the more precision you will need and the longer distance it will require.

Bows

Bows have less range and less force. They require high accuracy and skill to use effectively. The variety of animals a hunter can kill with a bow is limited. Bows also offer a more significant challenge to the hunter. A novice should not use a bow, and you do not want to put yourself in a life-threatening situation with only a bow. Bowhunting can offer a thrill to the hunter, but it is not the best device for self-defense. 

Bow adventures are fun in life. They allow us to exercise our skill with an added thrill, but they do not make good tools for building a long, purposeful life. Life should have its thrill-seeking and adventure moments,  but people accomplish great purposes in the mundane daily devotion. Nietzsche calls this “a long obedience in the same direction.” 

Life has lots of situations we must master and conquer. Knowing what tool to use and the requirements are critical for the success of each of those ventures. Every target has its required ammunition if you want to be most effective.

5 Life Changing Statements (Part 1)

Over my life, I have come across various statements that impacted me significantly. Either people told them to me directly, or I gained them from a book, a conference, a sermon, or training. You probably have some of those statements in your own life. Over the next few weeks, I will share some of those statements and why they impacted me so much. Maybe some of them will speak to you. 

You Can Learn Something From Everyone

I was sitting in Claude Hopper’s office in Madison, NC, one night. I was young, energetic, and pretty stupid. I had a lot of life lessons to learn. I was promoting gospel concerts and selling men’s clothing while losing a lot of money in the process. Claude said, “Steve, you can learn something from everyone you meet. You may learn how to do it. You may learn how not to do it. But you can always learn.” I started applying that. I have gotten better at this over the years, and I am still learning from people today. 

You Cannot Change What You Are Willing To Tolerate

I wrote about this statement in my first book. I was listening to a TV preacher who was not particularly fond of late one night. I was struggling through difficult times. He made this statement, and it resonated with me. Part of my struggles came from the fact that I was tolerating some things in my life that were causing me great pain. The way out of my mess included no longer accepting what was going on and what I was doing. I have learned not to blame others when I have the power to fix it.

People Don’t Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care

The first person I ever heard say this was Zig Ziglar. I have heard it in numerous places since, and I have used it regularly myself. People will listen to you if they believe you have their best interest at heart. But even the best advice is not heeded if they don’t think you have their best interest at heart. Care about the people, and they will care about your advice.

Everyone Is Not For You

I am not sure where I first picked this up. I learned it younger, and it helped me develop a thicker skin. Sometimes we are only concerned about the people who are against us. These people are usually easy to spot. It is the people we assume are on our team but are not our supporters. We make assumptions based on their silence or empty compliments, only to realize they are weights in our lives instead of helpers. Judas kissed Jesus while John rested on Jesus’ shoulder. Both showed affection, but both were not for Him.

Leadership Is Influence. Nothing More. Nothing Less.

This title is a John Maxwell statement. There are probably hundreds of statements I could give you from him, but this is number one. It drives everything he does. It set the tone for my leadership as well. I understood that I am a steward of my influence and cannot lead unless I have it. I quickly learned that I did not have to influence everyone, but I did have to influence the right ones. I will struggle to connect with some people, but if I can influence someone that will connect with them, I get the same leadership benefits. We are all leaders because we all have influence. The question then becomes how we will use it.

This list is a start. These are the first five. If one specifically encouraged or challenged you, share that with me. We can all grow together.

4 tips for better sex in marriage

I am going to tackle a subject that is not typical for my blog – sex. Sex is one of the most important parts of marriage. It is the most intimate expression between a husband and a wife. Too often, it becomes a matter of tension in marriages because we have not been intentional about it. Life pushes it to the back of our priorities. It was probably central to the early part of the relationship, but those days are a distant memory. 

Recently I preached a sermon on sex in marriage, and I gave six reasons for sex in marriage. You can catch that sermon here. Today I want to offer some things that we have found to be important in keeping sex a priority and less of a tension. Maybe some of these will help you in your marriage.

Mutual Expectations

One of the questions that I ask in premarital counseling is, “How often do you expect to have sex?” People have expectations, even if they have never expressed them or given much thought to them. Subconsciously we have ideals that we bring into the marriage. We have the ideal sex life. The problem happens when the two parties’ standards do not match. If his perfect sex life is three times per week and hers is one time per week, trouble is on the horizon. If sex happens twice per week, he is frustrated while she thinks she exceeds expectations, and neither can understand why there is tension. Our entire married life, my wife and I have had mutual expectations about the frequency of sex. This one solution removed pressure about sex from our relationship. 

Talk About It

The most common time when couples discuss sex in marriage is during conflict. Something has created tension, and so there is a discussion. If you want to improve your sex life, have conversations without stress. On a date night, make that the topic of conversation. Talk about your likes and dislikes. Discuss ideas you have. Find code words that mean something sexual to only you and your spouse. Anything that you talk about will become more of a centerpiece to your marriage. 

Be Creative

Sex is not just for the bedroom with the blinds closed. Solomon wrote about having sex in a field. Try a different room in the house. Have sex at a different time of day instead of the last thing at night. Make a lunch appointment to both come home from work. There are many ways to be creative with your sex life that might be the very thing that brings the transformation you desire.

Understand The Value

Understanding the value of sex in marriage is an essential piece of this. God made sex pleasurable, but that is not the only thing that makes sex important. The Bible tells us that sex is for knowledge, oneness, procreation, protection, and comfort. Sex should not only be limited to the times we are stimulated and want to enjoy it. The value that it brings to the relationship means we go out of our way to make it a priority. Sex does not solve everything, but it does solve a lot of things.

Writing this was not nearly as awkward as preaching about sex. Don’t allow life to squeeze out one of the most valuable parts of marriage. There are enough other pressures in life that we cannot control. Don’t let sex be a constant area of tension in your relationship.

4 Things I Am Learning Right Now

I desire to be a lifelong learner. Things change, and I need to continue to change as well. Sometimes those changes move at a faster pace than other times. Being aware of what is going on around you and in you allows you to recognize the growth that is taking place or that needs to take place.

There are a few things that I have noticed recently. Some of them are not new, and I may have even acknowledged them previously. They just seem to be at the forefront of what is going on in my life at the moment. Here are four things I am currently learning.

One Change Can Create A Multitude Of Changes

Recently I sold a large portion of the business I owned. It was the piece that took the most energy. I just did not realize how much energy. In only 30 short days, the freedom it has brought to my life has been incredible. It has sped up the pace of change in several other places. I have more energy to devote to conversations in my marriage, with my friends, and in the church. It has allowed me to do more writing than I had been doing for the last several years. I have lots of new ideas that were just looking for a way to get out of my head. I recently had a chance to stay an extra day on vacation and took it without stressing, where I was usually trying to come back a day early. That one single change has been the catalyst for many things that are breaking through in my life. 

Presence Over Presents

Two recent trips have driven this point home. I spent six days with my wife in the Florida Keys. Then I took a day trip with my grandson to New York City. On each occasion, they both remarked how enjoyable it was to just hang with me. We all want to say we know that presence is more important than presents, but we don’t always practice it. Most of us are guilty of trying to overcome our lack of presence with extravagant presents. Don’t stop giving gifts. That says something. Just make sure you are giving your presence. It is the best gift you have.

Every Family Has Struggles

I have been preaching a series on family and marriage since the first week in January. Every week I get feedback from families about how a particular topic spoke directly to their current struggles. Or about how a personal illustration I shared encouraged them because they felt like they were the only ones with that problem. All families have issues – every single family. Some hide it better than others, but they are all wrestling through issues. You can find encouragement in the fact that you are not alone in the deep end. All families are working through their pain and shortcomings. Don’t feel isolated. You are part of the biggest club in the world: the imperfect family.

You Can Find An Example To Support Any Point Of View

There is a statistic for every theory or belief system. There is an example for every idea. There is an outlier for every issue. Finding an example does not make your case. Many of the hot button issues today are around politics or the pandemic. Most of the time, they are intertwined. Examples for and against masks. Statistics for and against a vaccine. Similarities between Hitler and the Democrats or the Republicans (depending on which point you want to make). I have no intention of making a public proclamation for or against a vaccine, but people still want to have conversations with me. Here is an example. Recently someone asked my opinion, and then they shared an example of someone who had a severe reaction to the vaccine. That was all of the information they needed. I asked if they took ibuprofen. They said they did. I then asked if they were aware of the extreme reactions of some people who have tried to take ibuprofen. They were not. I told them to look it up. Some people cannot take ibuprofen because it is dangerous to their health. I said you could find an adverse example for any kind of medicine you want. You may be able to take some medicine freely that causes other people to suffer. It makes no sense to use a single example to refute everything. 

I am learning. I am growing. I hope it is something that never stops. Be aware of what is going on in your life, and learn to grow from it. If you don’t, you will pass by a lifetime of opportunities. 

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.