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5 Things That Cause Us To Stop Growing

One of the biggest differences between people is their willingness to learn and grow. Very few people will own up to allowing their life to become stagnant, but it is an easy trap into which we can fall. We stop growing, and life becomes boring, stale, and mundane. 

Growth should be a lifelong process. Too often, it becomes a season in our life instead of a lifestyle. Sometimes we do not recognize when we stopped growing. Growth must be intentional, or stagnation will become common.

There are specific times in our life when we tend to cruise and relax our efforts to grow. Each of these times affects us differently based on our approach. My goal here is to get you to be aware that there are some specific times in your life when growth is challenging. These are my 5 Thursday Thoughts.

High School Graduation

High school graduation is one of those events that almost everyone anticipates. It is usually part of the highlight reel of our life. It is not unusual for students to arrive at the end of their high school career and be exhausted from learning. They have spent the previous 18 years in a learning environment from daycare to preschool, elementary, middle, and high school. After that amount of time, they just don’t feel like learning anymore. Statistics say 33% of high school graduates never read another book after graduation. When adulting starts, learning tends to end.

College Graduation

If the statistics about reading for high school graduates is surprising, it is even higher for college graduates. 42% of college graduates never read another book for the balance of their lives. That is close to half of all college graduates. The danger at college graduation is not exhaustion but abundance. We have sharpened some of the broad knowledge we received in high school. Usually, we have a focus or a major, so there is at least one area where we think we know everything. The real danger is that we believe we know everything about everything. A new college graduate is one of the cockiest beings you can encounter. Don’t allow your abundance of knowledge to keep you from learning the critical things in life you need. 

Marriage

Marriage is a beautiful thing. But there is no institution around that is more likely to find itself in a rut than a marriage. Spouses quickly take each other for granted.  The test of growth in marriage is that we become dependent on the other person to make us into what we are supposed to be. We become dependent on them for what we lack instead of growing into the person who changes. We wait on them to fill in the blanks of our lives instead of seeking our answers.

Financial Freedom

As we get older and our income rises, most people arrive at a place of financial security. They reach an income level that meets their needs, and they have money to enjoy extra things. They get comfortable and complacent. This position is not the same as contentment. Contentment finds peace in any situation. Comfortable and complacent settles into a certain situation for the long haul. The danger with financial freedom is we think we have arrived. If we have arrived, there is nowhere else to go or grow.

Retirement

Retirement is the last roadblock to growth we are going to address. There may be other places later in life that are challenging to moving forward, but retirement is certainly one of the last ones. The danger in retirement is we think we are through, so there is no need to grow. Retirement can bring feelings of loneliness and uselessness. Those emotions only feed the tendency to stop growing. Retirement is only the end of a season, not the end of your life.

Don’t allow common barriers to keep you from growing your entire life. Be intentional about opening new places in your life that allow your mind to expand and your life to flourish. Lifelong learners are the most effective people on the planet.

5 Takeaways From Tipping Point by Jimmy Evans

I am not a person who spends a lot of time reading about end-time prophecy. I have chosen to live like Jesus was coming back today and work like He is never coming back. But that approach does not eliminate that Jesus Christ will return, and some signs point to that.

Recently I read Tipping Point by Jimmy Evans. The subtitle to the book is The End Is Here. This type of book was a stretch for me. It is out of the normal scope of books I choose, but I find value in stretching myself. Maybe the things I share here will make you more aware of what is going on around you.

I didn’t see things exactly as the author, but I will leave them for another time. Here are my 5 Thursday Thoughts from Tipping Point by Jimmy Evans. 

The Bible Contains Prophecy That Is Relevant Today

If the Bible is a guide for our lives, then it is relevant. There are things scripture tells us that will come to pass. Some of those things are coming to pass. I do not understand clearly every prophecy in the Bible, but that does not make it less relevant or authentic. 

Israel Is A Large Part of Biblical Prophecy

There is no way to deny the role of Israel and the Jewish people in Biblical prophecy. The Old Testament centers around God’s chosen people. Many of the New Testament authors are Jews. Jesus is Jewish. Many of the events listed in the end-times prophecy happen in and around the nation of Israel and include protections for some Jewish people. It doesn’t matter how you view the nation or the people. You cannot ignore them in end-times prophecy. 

Prophecy Should Bring Comfort To Believers

Many have used signs and discussions of the end times to scare people. I remember watching movies like A Thief In The Night and being scared to death as a young person. The purpose of prophecy for believers is to bring comfort, not fear. 

Timelines Are Debatable

When? That is the number one question people want an answer to when it comes to the end times. The truth is that there is no perfect answer. We are not meant to know when Christ will return. What particular things mean at certain times is not always discernible. When we waste our time trying to pin down an exact time, we seek something we were never intended to know. We get signs, not dates. 

Don’t Be Led Astray

One of the common themes of end-times discussions will be the falling away of believers. People are deceived and distracted from what matters. This falling away is a common theme of many New Testament writers, whether discussing ends times or not. Avoiding false prophets and the dangers of being led astray is important at all times. 

This book is not for everyone. I agreed with some things, while others I did not. Unless you are prepared to weed through these passages, their context, and some good commentaries, stick with just reading the Bible or another book I recommend here. 

5 Things I Am Seeing Post-Pandemic

The last year-plus has challenged everyone in some way. The Covid-19 pandemic has created havoc worldwide. I recall having conversations early in the pandemic about the long-term effects we would suffer. I was not sure what they would be, but I knew there would be lingering consequences following the pandemic.

We are beginning to see what some of those lasting effects are. Time may never bridge the educational gaps created by time missed in the classroom. Commercial office space is in flux as more people now have the option of staying home. Businesses closed and will never reopen. This last one will continue to grow as the smoke continues to clear.

One of the lasting effects I am beginning to notice is the behavior and responses of people. These effects will have long-lasting implications for culture. Some of them can be changed, while awareness and management can only curb others that are still impacting the community. Here are my 5 Thursday Thoughts.

People are more fearful
Anxiety seems to be at an all-time high. Anxiety expresses itself as fear about multiple situations. People are anxious about their health, their family, their finances, their careers, their retirement. The slightest indication of a problem can turn into panic. As I write this, a gas pipeline is down in the southeast. Even though they clearly said there was enough gas for everyone provided the pipeline was back running within a week, people started panicking and lines formed at gas stations, and they soon were out of gas. This response was born out of fear, not out of fact.

People are more skeptical
Who do you believe? Do you believe the politicians? The scientists? The medical professionals? The media? Over the last 18 months, facts and opinions have evolved at a rapid pace. People we should trust have contradicted themselves multiple times. Exaggerations have been used to get attention. The result is that no one knows who to believe, and thus they start to believe who is most comfortable. Few things will disintegrate culture like mistrust.

People are angrier
Arguments. Fights. Riots. Rage. It shows up everywhere. From our capital to social media feeds. Anger is becoming the default emotion. There is no more dangerous emotion than anger. The fear, skepticism, and isolation I am addressing here only fuel this fire of rage burning through our land. There have been very few problems solved with anger and outrage, but many were created.

People are more isolated
One of the most evident outcomes is isolation. Isolation did not start with Covid. It was already becoming a problem in society as people lost their personal connections for a more shallow digital connection. The pandemic only accelerated this problem. Leaders forced us to isolate ourselves from one another for our protection. In the meantime, we may have made other problems worse. Isolation affects social skills, learning, and mental illness, just to name a few. Everyone needs to be alone from time to time, but loneliness and isolation are rarely healthy.

People are less hopeful
People who are not religious are speculating about the end of the world. I have to admit, just writing this clouds my ability to see a brighter future. I tend to see the future as more promising and wake each day with expectancy, but there are significant challenges that lie ahead. There have been situations created that a return to “normalcy” will not easily rectify. There are plenty of statistics that show the average person is less hopeful about tomorrow than they were 5 or 10 years ago. Hope is not a strategy. I get that. But it can be buoyant to our attitude until a plan is developed and a solution is found. As a person of faith, hope is one of three things that endures: faith, hope, and love. When hope fades, despair can overwhelm.

Seeing these things as a leader requires me to make adjustments moving forward. I cannot pretend these obstacles are not here. I can acknowledge them and find effective ways to move forward. You cannot pretend there are no lasting effects. What you can do is work to overcome them and find ways to lead your family and your community back to health.

5 Takeaways from “Courage To Be Healed”

Recently I read a book entitled “Courage To The Healed” by Mark Rutland. The book describes how true inner healing happens through the power of the Holy Spirit and Christian counseling. He shares stories from counselors and clients of how people faced things from their past and learned to let go of bitterness to find healing.

Rutland deals with five toxins that affect our lives along with the pathway to deal with each one. Every toxin has a throne that needs specific therapy to reach the goal. Here is a chart that shows this.

 

We have a Wonderful Counselor who wants us healed and whole. Here is my summary of each one of the toxins and how we can recover from each one. 

The Toxin of Shame

Dr. Rutland offers an example of a young boy who was raped when he was fourteen. He had lived a life suppressing his shame, and it was affecting his work and his marriage. Shame leaves unworthiness in its wake. He describes shame as the most destructive of all negative emotional forces. There are two principal reactions in lives wounded by shame. The first is a defeatist attitude; the other response is combativeness. 

Shame lies to us; thus, its throne is deception. As long the sufferer believes the lie, shame is strengthened. What is needed is truth. Truth is what unseats deception and helps heal us from the toxin of shame. Once deception is unseated, the goal is to integrate our lives. Shame causes us to compartmentalize, which fractures our lives in the process. The contents of each compartment are not always consistent. The goal is integration, so we have whole lives, not multiple inconsistent compartments. 

The Toxin of Unforgiveness

Unforgiveness is seated in legalism. He defines legalism as “a worldview that sees all life’s outcomes as a product of cause and effect, of if-then propositions.” You can be legalistic about anything. It is not just rooted in religion. All unforgiveness is seated in the sense of justice, and all justice is seated in law. 

The therapy that is needed is grace. Receiving grace and granting grace destroys legalism. He tells us that grace lets God run the universe His way. Grace wants sinners to be healed, not destroyed. God is more concerned with people than law. Learning that forgiveness happens solely in the offended is a huge step in overcoming this toxin. My forgiveness does nothing for those I forgive. It heals me. 

The Toxin of Rejection

Rejection is seated in doubt. Some doubts are inflicted while others are inborn. Rejection is more than being left out. It becomes a conviction. Rejection is a question, not a statement, and that question is, What is wrong with me? Doubt is the throne of rejection. Doubt gets its power from a lie, and that lie is, “something is wrong with and unlovable about me.

The therapy is trust. Rejection is a slow, long-term wound. Therefore the healing process of trust can take time. The healing is necessary because wounded humanity wounds wounded humanity. The goal is to learn acceptance. Learn to trust the character of God, and He accepts us. We must realize that we are acceptable. No one can reject someone whom God has accepted. 

The Toxin of Condemnation

Rutland states that “Condemnation is a powerful inner wound. Self-loathing, even self-destructive impulses, are rooted in condemnation.” The cycle is reinforced by idolatry. We believe that our wound is bigger than God or bigger than what God can heal. Our wound becomes our idol. Condemnation is a toxic kind of idolatry that puts the way I feel or believe ahead of what God says. 

The therapy for condemnation is worship. Worship restores perspective. By restoring perception, a worshipping life becomes a more balanced life. He mentions three aspects of worship that can be life-changing: gratitude, humility, and other-centered living. Worship is by definition other-centered, or, more precisely, Other-centered. One of the counselors in the book says, “Worship doesn’t rid the world of idiots. It heals the people who need to learn how to live constructively in a world full of idiots.”

The Toxin of Fear

Fear is seated in pain. He says that future pain, dreaded pain, finds its horror in either memory or imagination or both. The interesting thing about pain is that we cannot remember how it felt when it was happening. We cannot forget the hurt. But fear does not always flow out of pain. Sometimes it flows out of our imagination. Many of our fears are nothing more than our imagination leaving us debilitated. 

The therapy is love. Love heals painful memories where fear is anchored. This is not just any love, but perfect love. Fear attaches itself to our lives. Love is what casts it out. When fear is cast out, hope can blossom. Hope is like springtime at the end of winter. Without hope, despair sets in, and we become less resistant to the struggles of life. Rutland reminds us that “the truth that heals our fears is not the end of pain. There is pain in life; it is true. Pain-free living is a false hope. It is not the end of pain that sets me free. What sets me free is love that casts out fear.”

If you are struggling with any of these issues, I highly recommend “Courage To Be Healed” as a part of your healing journey. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that life is good, but God is hard. Life is hard. Sometimes even painful. But God is good, and we can trust Him. 

5 Things That Help Resolve Conflict

All of us experience conflict in our lives. Anywhere we have relationships, conflict is a probability. Conflict is inevitable. Combat is optional. The goal is to find a resolution to conflict before it becomes combat. 

We have all had conflicts we struggled to resolve. More than we will admit, we have been the cause of the conflict and the struggle to fix it. There are some elements to resolving conflict. Today I am going to talk about five of them in my 5 Thursday Thoughts. They do not all have to be present to resolve conflict, but some of them will always be present. Let’s take a look at these five and see if we can gain some insight on how we can better resolve conflict when we have it.

Communication

If we refuse to communicate with the person we conflict with, it is nearly impossible to reach a resolution. When conflict arises, we are tempted to retreat to our corner and have nothing to say. We may even refuse to talk to the other party. If we are in danger, this may be necessary. But most of life’s conflict does not involve physical danger. Usually, the only thing that hurts is our pride or our feelings. No communication will make resolution difficult. It is also a form of unforgiveness which affects you more than the other person involved.

Understanding

To resolve conflict, you have to make an effort to understand where the other person is coming from. Conflict may involve right or wrong, and there may be only one answer, but there is always more than one perspective. Just because people have taken the wrong side does not mean you should not consider their view. When people feel understood, they are much more agreeable.

Forgiveness

In some conflicts, people say hurtful things or act in ways that bring pain to other people. To move past this will require forgiveness. Forgiveness is about the offended, not the offender. Sometimes apologies are never made. That does not mean you cannot extend forgiveness. Apologies are helpful, but forgiveness is necessary.

Patience

Some resolutions take time. Some people need a little space to think things through and for emotions to calm. You do not have to overlook it forever, but patience can allow everyone to get to the place they need to be for a resolution to happen. Conflict can arise instantaneously. Resolutions can take time.

Humility

The need to be right and win are two of the greatest hindrances to conflict resolution. Sometimes peace is more valuable than being right. Sometimes we have to apologize even when the other party is the one that created the situation. Humility does not mean we have lost or have been run over. Humility doesn’t mean we think less of ourselves. It means we think of ourselves less and put others first at times. 

Conflict can be stressful. Not resolving it can be damaging. Put these things into practice and resolve the conflicts in your life much quicker.

5 Words That Are Better Than Others

Words matter. I try to use the right ones, but I don’t always get it right. It can be painful when we use the wrong words. It is not even as simple as right or wrong words. Some words are just better than others. They send a different message and point in a different direction.

We interchange these words at times. Using a particular word can change how people perceive you and can even change your subconscious thinking. Here are five words that I think are better than similar words we use.

Investing > Saving

Learning to save is something we want our children to do with their money at an early age. One of the things we fail to teach is the importance of investing. I heard two statements recently that reminded me of the difference. The first was, “It is nearly impossible to save your way to wealth.” The second was, “Why would we save when they can print more. The way to wealth is investing.” I think about how we approach people and how we relate these words. Given a choice, most people would rather hang around people who invest over people who save. Why? Because we usually view investors as generous and savers as stingy. This paradigm is not always true, but it does affect our mindset. This concept even applies to time. Your greatest returns will come from the time you invest, not the time you save. It does not mean that saving is bad. It just seems that investing is better. 

Responding > Reacting

I have talked about this before. The best example is medicine. When we take medication, and it works, medical professionals say we are responding well. When we have a reaction, that is not usually good. In life, responders are better than reactors. Responders typically improve or minimize damage. Reactors tend to make things worse. If you want improvement, respond. Don’t react.

Forgiving > Revenge

This one seems so obvious, but it is much more challenging to live out. We like control. We think that not forgiving someone helps us control the situation. If we get revenge, we inflict some of the pain we have experienced. We somehow believe that if we forgive that they are free. The person whom forgiveness sets free is you. Forgiveness is about the offended, not the offender.

Purpose > Profession

I know many people who have a profession, but they are not living their purpose. It is not that they do not have a purpose. They have either not found it or have chosen the security of a profession over fulfilling a purpose. The goal is to merge the two. To live out our purpose while being able to support ourselves financially with a career. A profession without purpose only provides resources with no reason. Live on purpose. 

Love > Tolerance

Tolerance is a popular word in our culture. When was the last time you got excited about someone tolerating you? Tolerance is inferior to love. What most people mean by tolerance is the absence of confrontation and the presence of approval. Love is better. Love always accepts, but it does not always approve. Tolerance is never going to solve the differences of the world. I don’t want to be tolerated. I want to be loved. It is the greatest need of our culture.

You may disagree with my assessment of words. I would encourage you to think about the words you use and how the people around you receive them. Words set the table for many other things in your life. Use the best ones, not just acceptable ones. 

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. 

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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.