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Urgent Vs. Important

Many words have been written about the tension between urgent and important. In the 1960s, Charles Hummel published a booklet called “Tyranny of the Urgent”. In it, Hummel makes the case that there is a constant tension between things that are urgent and things that are important and that far too often the urgent wins. There is a story about a man named Lazarus that Jesus raised from the dead. Upon examination of the story, the raising from the dead is not even the point of the story. It is really a great picture of the tensions between the important and the urgent.

In the story, Mary and Martha need Jesus to come right away because their brother Lazarus is sick. Jesus decides to wait a couple of days. When he does decide to go, His disciples are scared that they are going to get killed if they go and so they try talking Jesus out of it. Lazarus dies and the sisters complain when He finally arrives. Jesus seems to repeat this constant theme several times: this happened for your sakes. They had urgent problems. A sick brother. A fear of being killed because of previous threats. Jesus was concerned about the important more than their urgent. He wanted them to believe in Him. everything that happened took place so they would believe more.

Important is a long term strategy. Urgent is a short term disruption. If you have not determined what the important things are, the urgent things will constantly drive your life. Many people go through life from one crisis to the next without ever taking the time to determine what they deem to be most important in life. Determining what is important requires some big-picture thinking. Where do I want to go? What do I want to accomplish? Who do I want to be? What kind of life do I want? It requires you to determine your priorities instead of letting your life be dictated by the current situation or need.

Someone else will be glad to set the agenda for your life and family. Sometimes we do not even realize how other things become urgent and take us away from the important. Social media has an agenda for your life. Television and other entertainment have an agenda for your life. So do retailers, websites, email, friends, and coworkers. They may not describe it that way, but they all have something they want and expect from you. If you allow their urgency to overtake your important you will find yourself following their path instead of yours.

I encourage you to take some time and determine what is important in your life and work to control the moments that the urgent disrupts your life. It will require you to answer some important questions and have the discipline to follow through and say no. Understanding the value of the important over the urgent can be life-changing.

Things That Cause Us Not To Hear

Have you ever had someone talking to you and then realize when they finish that you virtually heard nothing they said? Or being asked if you took care of something but not even remember being asked? Or talk with someone about a matter yet they hear something completely different from what you said? You have probably had all of those experiences and possibly others when for one reason or another, communication failed.

It is frustrating for important information to be missed leading to something not happening the way it was planned. This affects our job, our family, our marriage, our friendships, and our faith. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice and they follow Him because they know His voice. My wife has said to me that early in our relationship she could speak in a crowded room and I could hear her voice anywhere in that room. Now she says she can sit right beside me and a I don’t hear anything she says. I think she is exaggerating on both parts, but there is also a tinge of truth.

Why do we struggle to listen at times? Why do we miss important information? Why do people speak to us, especially those we love, and we miss part or all of it? I think there are several reasons why we do not hear what is being said. This is not a discussion on the differences between hearing and listening, but before we can listen intently enough to decide what someone meant, we first have to hear clearly enough to even start that process. Here are four reasons that cause us not to hear what is being said.

We Have Already Decided
As a pastor I see this happen frequently right in a church service. For example, someone comes to the stage at the time when the offering is typically taken. Some people in the room think they know what is going to be said so they immediately tune out the person talking. This person on stage may tell an important story about how someone’s life has been affected or they may make an announcement that people need to hear, but because we have already decided “they are going to take the offering” we listen to nothing else they say. How do I know this happens? Because some people start talking as soon as that person enters the stage. Other people get frustrated because they missed an event or someone tells a story about something that happened in the church and they say they did not know anything about it. The problem was they did not listen.

This happens in every place of our lives. We think we know what our spouse is going to say because we think things like “here we go again”. We think we know what our boss is going to say so we start before listening and miss an important change to a process. Don’t just assume you know what someone is going to say. Take the time to hear it, even if you have heard it before.

We Have Something More Urgent Going On
All of us have things going on in our lives and some of them are urgent. Some of those things are tragic, painful, exciting or joyous. There are times when something going on elsewhere in our lives overtakes the person directly in front of us. For example, if you are having trouble in your marriage, when you go to work, that urgent matter often overrides everything that is going on around you. When we have stressful things going on at work, it can cause us to miss things our spouse or children are saying to us because those stressful things dominate our thoughts. It does not matter what someone else says if we are thinking about something completely different while they are talking to us. If this is a one on one conversation, it would do us well to share this with them so they do not waste their time and we do not miss something important.

We Are Just Too Distracted
Most of us carry the number one distraction tool known to man around in our pocket: a smartphone. Every single day new things are being added to those devices to take more of our time and our mental capacity. No matter how nimble our brain, we all have limited brain power. Our capacity to pay attention and take in what is being said is a limited resource. We have names and diagnoses for people who struggle with paying attention but the problem is not getting better. Our senses are constantly being stimulated with something new going on and those distractions limit our ability to hear and to comprehend. Learning to manage those distractions will help us hear more and miss less of the important things we need to hear.

We Know Better Than They Do
We all believe we are good at something. We know more about certain things than other people. Truthfully, everyone is a “10” at something. If we know what our “10” is, we will struggle to listen to what anyone has to say about that topic. Success in any area of life will tempt us to tune out advice or instruction in that area. Why? Because we think we know better than they do. When we believe our idea or our way is better, we will limit our hearing about that subject. I have been in rooms where I knew I was more qualified than the person speaking and the tendency is to shut them off. What we need to remember is that we can learn something from everyone, even if we believe we know more than they do.

With a little intention, most of these obstacles to hearing can be overcome. Listening better can be life-changing. I encourage you to work at hearing what others are saying. You will miss less and grow more.

3 Most Common Reasons We Complain

Most of us have experienced catching ourselves complaining. If you haven’t, you may not have the self-awareness to realize when you are complaining. You do not have to have a special sense to find things to complain about. However, I have met some constant complainers who led me to believe that this “special gifting” may actually exist. All of us have things that we could complain about if we chose to.

The question I want to address today is “Why do people complain?”. Since every one of us falls prey to complaining from time to time, what are the things most likely to cause us to complain? Why are we susceptible to it? Are there some things we could be aware of that when faced, we could make a more deliberate choice. It may also give us some insight into what is going on with other people when they offer their complaints as well.

Unmet Expectations

Everyone has expectations. Some are expressed while others even the complainer is not even aware of. Expectations are always a conversation I have with couples prior to their wedding. Each person is coming into that relationship with expectations. Many of those expectations are subconscious, or things that they had not even considered. Things like who is going to handle the money, clean the house, and cook? How often should you have sex, what does conflict look like and how many children are they going to have? What will discipline look like for the children, will we get into debt and will one parent stay home with the kids? There is an expectation associated with every one of those questions and a thousand more. The problem is that we often do not verbalize them and when our expectations are not met, we complain.

When we go to a restaurant expecting to be served and the service is non existent or the food is mediocre when we expected it to be delicious, we are likely to complain. Anywhere we expected one thing and got less or different, we are likely to complain. We should be more aware of the expectations that we have and seek out the expectations of others so there is less complaining.

Lack of Understanding

When we do not understand something, a natural tendency is to complain. What we should be doing is seeking to understand, but instead we choose to complain so that we put the burden on someone else. It is someone else’s fault for not explaining it properly or not giving us enough information. None of us wants to feel “dumb” or like we do not know something. Even if we make an attempt to get the information we need we will often preface our question with something like “Can I ask a dumb question?”. But usually, instead of taking the effort to seek out what we need to know we resort to complaining to attempt to divert the problem to another person. It will also help us to know that when people are complaining about something we have done, what they actually may need is more information and clarification.

Something Completely Non-Related

Have you ever had the experience of having trouble at work and you take it out on your family? Or someone irritates you and the next person you come in contact with gets the brunt of it? I have seen this happen more than once in my own life (especially the second one) and I am aware that it happens to other people as well. So many things have the ability to affect our attitude. Sometimes our complaints have nothing to do with what is happening but rather something that has happened. If we can be self-aware, it will help us avoid things bleeding over where they don’t belong. It will also help us extend grace when complaints are leveled our way. It may have absolutely nothing to do with what we were doing. They may just be having a bad day.

No one wants to be identified as a chronic complainer. We usually avoid those people. When we are more aware of the things that cause people to complain, it will help us avoid doing it and understand others better when they do.

3 Common Reasons For Spiritual Resistance

I have heard it said that the enemy is not attempting to just ruin your day, he is trying to ruin your destiny. I am not sure if your experience has been like mine, but I suspect it has. It seems like every time I feel there is a significant move in my spiritual life, the adversary begins to work even more. Someone shared a Joyce Meyer quote with me recently that I think fits the scenario, “a new level, a new devil”. Why is that the case? Why does it seem the enemy works harder when we are moving closer to the place God desires in our life? I think there are a few common reasons that this happens. If we are aware of these things, it will help us overcome the resistance that we are experiencing in our lives.

To Keep Us From Things We Cannot See

I mentioned earlier that he is trying to ruin your destiny. He is trying to keep you from things you are not even aware of at the moment. There are things that God has prepared for you that you do not even have the ability to comprehend at the moment. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 2:9 “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” ” Satan desires to keep you from the things God has prepared for you and when your spirit is stirred, you become more aware of the direction He has for your life and therefore more opposition is needed.

To Disrupt Things We Can See

Think about the things God is already doing in your life. You very well may be operating in a very favored place that is exactly where God wants you to be and doing what God wants you to do. When you are in “the zone” as some athletes call it, one of the worst things that can happen is to have that disrupted. Disruption to our work keeps us from being as fruitful as we possibly could. Satan will use every tool possible just to slow things down. Disruption is just a tool to get you to look somewhere else.

To Distract Us With Things We Should Not See

Distraction has the ability to cause destruction. If we get our eyes focused on unnecessary things, it will take our eyes off of the most important things. Distraction has caused accidents, lack of productivity and missed information, among other things. Distraction is a great force. Our eyes on things unnecessary will hinder us from the things that are. In the modern day of technology, there are more opportunities than ever to be distracted.

If you feel you are experiencing spiritual resistance more than normal, be encouraged. It usually means God is also at work and you are listening. Just as the enemy offers us resistance, we have the power through God to resist him as well. Offer your own resistance and keep moving forward.

Reasons Why We Don’t Get Well

There is a story in the Bible about a man lying by a pool who had been crippled for 38 years. Jesus walks up to the situation and knows the man has been crippled for a long time and asks him “Do you want to get well?”. You may not read things like this as I do, but on the surface, this seems like a ridiculous question. If someone has been crippled for 38 years, you assume they want to get well. What I have found is that most people want to get better, but not everyone wants to get well. Better means we do not have to deal with the symptoms or side effects. Well means we go through a process that brings significant change.

Everyone has some area where they need help. Some place that is out of sorts and is not quite well. Some of these things have troubled us for years but we have never taken the steps to deal with them. Most of our problems today are the same problems we have always had. We have disguised them or learned to work around them, but we have never taken the steps to get well. Why would we resist getting well? I think all of us have moments where we want better, and we may even consider the benefits of getting well, but we just stop short of following through. There are a lot of reasons why people choose not to get well, but here are four common ones that challenge all of us.

Discipline

Any habit or problem that we are trying to overcome will require discipline. Lack of discipline causes us problems in a lot of areas, but being extremely intentional when we are trying to overcome something in our lives is of utmost importance. Discipline requires us to do the things we need to do when we need to do them even when it is inconvenient. Some areas of discipline come naturally while others have to be forced, at least for a while. Most likely the area in your life that needs the most attention is an area where natural discipline does not happen. Discipline is work and most of us are not looking for another job, so we continue to drag the broken part of our life along with us making the best of things hoping that we can overcome whatever is hurting us.

Change

Getting well requires change. Most of the problems we are dealing with could be addressed with a few changes. We want our body to get well and often eating right, getting rest and exercising can solve a majority of those problems. We need our marriage to get well and just a couple of changes would make a drastic difference. Our problem is that our brain resists change because it programs itself to do things without using a lot of energy. We call these habits. Our natural tendency is to resist change. Even if the change is for the better we struggle to make those changes. Add to that the discipline that is required and some changes we just ignore. The only time people like change is when there are high benefits and low pain. Change is a necessary part of getting well.

Loss

No matter how bad things are, losing something is painful. It is the reason why people stay in abusive relationships. Losing anything, even when we will be better off, causes some amount of pain, or at least the fear of pain. The crippled man in the story would have lost his place among his friends. He would have lost his excuse for not doing certain things in his life. He possibly would have lost his identity. We fear if we move in the direction of getting well that we will lose things like relationships or influence or pity. Maybe this is true, but the things that getting well will bring into your life will be much better if you are willing to walk through the process.

Expectations

There were very few expectations of that crippled man. Most people had pity or sympathy. But the minute he could walk, there were expectations of him. He no longer had the same excuse. Some of our fear is that if we get well people are going to expect more from us. We like having an excuse or a built-in “out”. We often enjoy the pity or the attention that certain problems bring. If we get well, how will people respond if I am no longer the victim? Therefore, we just hold on to the pain and love a broken life.

I am sure you want to get better. What you really need is to get well. Well will bring the wholeness you desire and allow you to live the life you were created to live. Don’t allow an excuse to keep you from making the move you need to make.

8 Takeaways From The XO Marriage Conference

This past weekend our church hosted the 2019 XO Marriage Simulcast. The conference took place in Texas but we participated through simulcast and experienced some incredible speakers. Every marriage I know can use some help. Some of it is just tidying up places that we have let go while other couples need a complete makeover. Over the two days, I took lots of notes and plan to implement some of the things that I learned. I want to share eight of my takeaways that might give you some encouragement and insight as well.

Time For Communication – Jimmy Evans

Communication is critical for any marriage. It serves many purposes from information, to conflict resolution to romance. We can use words to heal our marriage. Jimmy Evans chose to allocate times to different types of communication we all need. This simple guideline may be of assistance in your marriage.

  • Proactive time: 3-5 days per year where you plan and decide what the year is going to look like and what your plan of action is from money management to parenting to dates.
  • Personal time: 1 hour per day where you unpack your day and talk about what happened. He encouraged this to be electronic free.
  • Intimate time: 3-5 minutes per day where you tell each other how much you love one another and what you mean to each other.

 

Rhythms and Stories – Jefferson Bethke

This presentation was jam-packed. The essential point, however, was for us to look at our view of time. The Eastern world views time circularly. You live and die and then it starts all over. The Western world sees it as linear. We will one day die so do as much as you can before that happens. God’s timing is rhythmic; it is both circular and linear. You are going somewhere but there has to be time to reflect. He spoke about the importance of the family table and the meals we eat and the stories we tell. The world’s story will win if your family does not have one of it’s own.

  • Daily – some things should happen daily that strengthen our family
  • Weekly – this might be a date night or family game night
  • Yearly – Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries are built in times for us to celebrate together

 

Don’t confuse the faith to believe with the discipline to endure – Jimmy Evans

Some people think that being an optimist solves many problems. Attitude toward anything does have a significant impact but the divorce rate is not that different between optimists and pessimists. Why? Because marriage still takes discipline. Hope is not a strategy. You still have to take the steps necessary to have a successful marriage and you have to be willing to endure even the most difficult days. It will get better but you must be willing to endure until it does.

Great marriages are great because they deal with their baggage – Tim Ross

Everyone has baggage. Some have a little and some have a lot. The question is not whether you have baggage, but whether you are going to manage it. Identify it. Talk about it. Deal with it. Then put it away so when it pops up again you know how to respond.

A successful marriage is less about finding the perfect match and more about working on it every day – Dan Liam

Mr. Right. Mrs. Perfect. We are all looking for that exact match when we get married. When it doesn’t work out we excuse ourselves by saying we were just not compatible. You will never find the perfect match. You will have a great marriage if you work on it every day. That is not an excuse to settle for anyone. It is just a reminder that daily work is more important than the perfect match.

Sharing Withholds – Les Parrott

We forget to say things from time to time. We meant to, but it slipped our mind. Sometimes it is a positive thing or a compliment while other times it is something negative. Sharing withholds is a time you set aside each week to share 3 things you forgot to mention. Two positive and one negative. After each person shares, you have to wait at least 30 minutes before you can talk about any of them. This gives you time to process so you respond and not react.

Your problem is not a punishment, but a platform for God’s power – Michael Todd

Just this morning I was sharing with someone in a message that something that happened to them years ago would make them a better parent to their married children today. The thing you are going through or struggling with in your marriage right now is not punishment. It is a platform for God to work and use it for His glory.

One of the reasons you are acting the way you are is because you don’t know who you are – Jimmy Evans

We struggle with our identity in Jesus Christ. We do not know who we are and are seeking someone to affirm something in us. One of the reasons why we act the way we do is because we have not discovered who we really are. We are a child of God. Stop letting culture define you. Live the life God created for you and be who He designed you to be.

 

I hope you will take some of these and apply them to your marriage and family. You will be better for it.  If you attended the conference, I would love to hear your takeaways as well. They might benefit someone else.

When Was The Last Time You Did Something New

We are creatures of habit. Our brains develop habits to keep us from having to think about certain functions or activities. We tend to wear the same clothes every week. We eat the same meals in the same places. We hang out with the same people and watch the same type of television shows or movies. There is value in routine and having a certain level of comfort, but there is also the danger of losing the “O” and routine turning into a rut-ine.

I once heard Zig Ziglar say that a rut was a grave with both ends knocked out of it. I am not sure if you feel like you are in a rut or you feel stuck, but routines and habits were never meant to be a trap. There are many benefits to flexing our mental muscles. There is research on both the physical and mental health benefits of trying something new. I will leave the medical research to the professionals in that field, but I can tell you about some of the benefits I have experienced and observed in the lives of others when they try something new.

New Solutions To Old Problems

This is the most common experience I have had. I try something new and it opens my mind to a solution to a problem I have been working through. Sometimes it is the very thing that was making me feel stuck or stressed. When you try something new, it opens up new parts of your thinking and exposes you to new things which often reveal a solution to a problem you are trying to solve. The two things may be completely unrelated. I have been traveling to a new place and suddenly had an idea that solved a problem back home. The solution to your current stress may be found in something brand new.

New Relationships

I love talking with people and engaging with people. Every time I do something new I meet new people. One of the most out-of-character experiences that I have had was spending several days in a cave monastery in Moldova. No one there spoke English so it was work to communicate when eating. In the cave was a single monk who had made that his home for 12 years. Everything he owned was in a space that was about 6’x8’ (a cave). Over the few days I was there, we had several conversations using Google Translate and I was inspired to do other new things in my life. As a matter of fact, I have even created one routine because of that experience. I have a prayer list on my phone that I pray over every day. New people in your life will always open up new things for you.

Overcome Fear

One of the main reasons we do not try new things is because we are afraid. We are afraid it might go wrong or we may not like it. We are scared that we will get injured or someone will laugh. Most commonly we are just afraid that we will fail. Fear is such a strong emotion that it can drive everything in our life. If we are not careful we will approach every situation with apprehension and anxiety. Trying something new will not only help overcome the fear of the new thing that we are trying but it will also make us more confident in the things that we do every day.

I challenge you today to try something new. Go somewhere you have never been. Eat something you have never eaten. Take a dance class or jump out of an airplane. Whatever new thing that has crossed your mind multiple times but you have hesitated, put it on your calendar right now and do it. You will find other things improve because of it.

Clues We Should Be Looking For

Every marriage is a work in progress. I have yet to find the married couple that has figured everything out. I have met some people who have given up, but I have yet to meet someone who has it all under control. Paul even spoke of it as a mystery in Ephesians 5. He wrote, “ 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery,” (Ephesians 5:31-32a). The challenge with mysteries is understanding the clues. If we can understand the clues, we can get closer to the answer.

Too often we settle into our old habits and old ways and just accept things as they are when with a little effort, we could drastically improve our relationship with our spouse. If your marriage is not what you wish it to be, there are some specific places where you can look for clues that will assist you in solving the mystery.

Past Experiences

It has been said that our life is the sum of our experiences up to this point. Both your experiences and your spouse’s experiences have an effect on the relationship. Thinking through where we have been and what we have done and the people we have interacted with, including the family relationships that we were raised in, will offer significant clues with how to adjust to make our marriage better.

Past Hurts

Hurt people, hurt people. We tend to lash out in places where we feel pain or have previously felt pain. Often we are more guarded in a particular place if we have experienced pain there. This does not mean that we do not need healing, but it can help us be more aware of our own defensiveness and understand why our spouse struggles with particular subjects.

Current Stresses

Sometimes our current pressure is what is driving the tension or problems in the home. It may not be the thing that the conflict is about, but it may be the underlying factor. For example, if we are experiencing stress at work or our finances are in disarray, it may cause us to lash out about other things or make us more irritable in general. When we understand how stress affects our attitude and our life, we can work to alleviate the stressful areas and also be more aware when it is affecting our relationship.

Repeated Complaints

If something continues to be repeated it is likely something that needs to be addressed. Is there something you have heard numerous times from your spouse? If so, it may be a clear indication that it is an area needing attention. Turning a deaf ear to a constant complaint will improve nothing and may, in fact, cause damage that will be even more difficult to repair than making a small adjustment that has been requested.

Just becoming aware and making a single adjustment can make a significant difference in your marriage. Do not settle for a bad marriage. Search for clues that will make things better. Not just ways your spouse can change, but ways you can change and adapt to have the best relationship you can have.

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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.