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When My Life Looks Normal And Yours Doesn’t

Over the last few months, much of my life has looked more normal than ever. In my role as a pastor, I was still at church each week even though we were preaching to an empty room. The fact that we could not meet has created some extra things that I needed to attend to on a daily basis.

The business I own fell into the essential category and with restaurants closed, many of them were updating their places so we have been busy. A couple of things we were doing for some major retail chains continued so all of my employees were working more than ever.

On the other hand, my wife’s life looked a lot different. She was not able to go to church each week for a couple of reasons. One, we were only allowing staff and necessary volunteers in the building.

Second, since we were not having church, the grandkids needed somewhere to be since their mom also works at the church so they stayed home with Barbara. Barbara is normally at the door greeting people each Sunday and making sure the cafe at the church runs smoothly. She speaks to local organizations about human trafficking and those events have all been on hold.

During the week, the grandkids were out of school so they were at the house more than normal since mom was working. I was often busy, so a house that was usually quiet during the day had lots of activity. Even TJ Maxx was closed so she had no retail therapy outlet.

There would be times I would sense her frustration and she would tell me that my life was continuing as normal while most of the things she did on a regular basis had come to a complete halt. I have to admit that I had little empathy. I was busier than ever and it was difficult for me to appreciate how different her life was looking at that moment. 

Things are beginning to change a little as restrictions ease up, but it caused me to reflect on how easy it is to discount other people’s problems because our life looks normal. We are naturally self-absorbed and selfish people. As long as everything is good in our world we assume that everything is just fine for everyone else. In reality, that is never the case. There is always someone in your life whose life is turned upside down.

They may have lost their job or a loved one has passed away. They may be struggling in their marriage or just trying to figure out how to be a parent. Their job may be stressful or their finances may be in turmoil. They may have received a bad report from their doctor and are not sure what the future holds.

We have all been there. We have been in a place where our lives were turned upside down while everyone else acted like life was normal. It was to them. You would think because we had walked in those shoes we would pause for people and be empathetic about their situation. That is usually not the case. Most of the time if our life is good, then we live as if everyone else is living the good life as well.

Right now someone in your life is struggling. They may not have communicated it well and it may not appear to be very bad from the outside. They could use someone to understand. Just to sit and listen while they empty their struggles for a brief moment. You may be so busy right now that you haven’t stopped to be there for them. But you can relate and you should let them know.

Just because your life looks normal does not mean that everyone else’s does. A little empathy for their plight would go a long way to helping them deal with these times. It will create a stronger relationship and you might even find they will be there for you when the roles are reversed. 

Coast to Coast During A Pandemic

One of our favorite things to do is travel. During this pandemic, our travel has been extremely limited. We have had 3 planned trips canceled due to travel restrictions around the world. Things are starting to lighten up a bit and some travel is available. Though much of my life has looked more normal than some others over the last few months, I have not flown on an airplane since coming back from Argentina in February. We have stayed in hotels a couple of times, but air travel during a pandemic is a new experience.

Our son is stationed in California with the Navy and there are still some travel bans in place for military personnel. Since he could not come to us, we decided to go visit him for a few days. We had hoped it would be a family trip, but the group finally whittled down to four of us. Barbara and I and two of the grandkids are making the cross country venture. 

I have read stories and have seen posts of empty airports and empty planes. Planes were grounded and flights were limited. A few people had complained about airlines packing planes too full, but for the most part, I was hearing that airlines were trying to keep middle seats empty. We are fortunate because Norfolk to San Diego is a popular route for military personnel so we could get a flight. We used points for 3 tickets and the one ticket we paid for was only $178 round trip. That is a great deal. Anyway, I thought I would share what I saw and experienced.

Masks, Masks and More Masks

Most airlines are requiring you to wear masks on the airplane. They were not required in the airport. But even upon arrival at the airport, 95% of people already had their masks on. I am used to seeing masks when I travel. It has been common for people from Asia to wear masks for years. A pressurized cabin and recirculating air seem like a place where masks might be a good idea, even though I still saw a lot of chin straps.

Not Many Planes

Usually, there are planes at every gate, but very few gates were being used and there was very little airplane traffic. When we left the gate, we taxied straight to the runway and took off. No waiting in line on the tarmac. It is unusual to be at a busy airport and see so few planes.

Not Much Was Open In The Terminal

The majority of the stores and restaurants in the terminal were closed. When we went through BWI, only one restaurant was serving food in the entire terminal. Airport terminals tend to be bustling areas of commerce. Not right now.

Limited Service

We were flying Southwest so it is not like we expected meal service, but what they did offer was limited. You received an unopened can of water and a bag of snacks. No coffee. No soda. No ice. No open cups. Barebones service to keep contact at a minimum.

Limited Capacity

Southwest does not have assigned seats so leaving the middle seat open is up to you. However, they are only booking their flights to 60% capacity so there is no reason for someone to sit in the middle seat. The four of us had six seats to ourselves. I would pay extra for that on most flights anyways.

Some Social Distancing

There was no social distancing going on at security. Everyone stood as close as they could get. But in most other places in the terminal people kept their distance. That made lines look longer than they were. For example, out of Hudson News the line went across the hall, but it was only 6 people. 

The Airline Employees Are Champions

Airline employees have had to change so many of the things they normally do. From ticket agents to gate clerks to stewardesses, so much has changed and they are dealing with a group of people who are doing something for the first time. Every single airplane employee I came in contact with had a great attitude. Even the TSA agents had a good attitude. It made an unusual experience a little better. We were also traveling on Vandin’s birthday and they went out of the way to make him feel special

Some People Don’t Care

This is not new, but it is worth mentioning. The lady behind us had a small child that wasn’t required to wear a mask. I am fine with that. But she was letting the little child play with the seatback safety card which is something you should probably not touch anyway. The child proceeded to lick the seatback card for the next 30 minutes. Pandemic or not, do not put anything from the seatback pocket in your mouth. Ever!

I am writing this somewhere across the Midwest. A few more hours to get there. I just thought I would bring you along on the journey so you would know what to expect when you head back out.

We Started Back and Here Are My Thoughts

This past Sunday was the first Sunday the church I pastor met together inside our building in almost 3 months. Our goal was to take plenty of precautions to protect people while accommodating as many as we could. We had our concerns going in and I am glad we have taken the first step. Things will get better and be easier going forward. It is not what any of us would like, but it is progress, and that matters. As I have shared several times, it is not perfect but it is also not permanent. 

Some of you attend churches that have already started meeting again. Some of you are part of a church that has not started meeting yet. There are plenty of opinions and ideas. I am not without an opinion. I had opinions prior to entering the building. Some of those are the same and some have changed since the first Sunday. Here are my observations after our first Sunday back, including the things I liked and the things I didn’t like.

 

It Was Good To See My Brothers and Sisters

There were volunteers and staff in the building while we only had services online. I enjoyed hanging out with them. But it was good to see faces of people I had not seen in months. 

I Missed The Fellowship

Though I saw the faces, there was limited interaction. I like to roam around and talk with people on a normal Sunday. People came in and left with very little interaction. One of the purposes of the gathering is fellowship. We will have to find a way to integrate that sooner rather than later.

I Missed Families

Open Door Kidz will be phased in during the upcoming weeks so if parents brought their children they would be in the auditorium with them. Some families did not come out of an abundance of caution. Other families prefer to wait until the children’s programming starts back. There were just a few families with children in the services. I missed seeing them.

I Like Hearing People Sing

Music will change each week as we go forward. I know it will be a blessing to people. We had singing, but not congregational singing. I love hearing corporate singing. There is something about God’s children singing praise to Him. I know it is coming soon, but I missed it the first Sunday back. 

It Will Lighten Up

Everything felt very rigid Sunday. Everyone was a little on edge because of the changes. The interaction was limited. There were three chairs between the families. It felt like work preaching. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It will loosen up going forward and as a speaker, it will make my life easier. 

People Were Thankful

Most of the people present were just thankful to be able to come to church again. They accommodated the changes even if there were things they did not like. That made things much easier.

Small Groups Are Needed

We have been doing small groups, which we call Life Groups, for about twelve years at Open Door. While we were not having people in the building, there were probably 15 staff and volunteers present each week to pull off the live stream. I saw a bond begin to grow in those people. There was a little less to do each week and we only had to do one service, so there was time to have conversations. Everyone was back at full speed this past Sunday. We cannot remove corporate gatherings. We need those. But small groups where relationships can flourish are more important than ever. If you are not part of a small group or volunteer team, then get involved. You will appreciate the bond of a small group.

As I said at the very beginning, it is not perfect but it is also not permanent. We will continue to move forward and soon things will look more normal than they do differently. Until then, we will continue to work to worship together and accomplish the work of the kingdom.

Sometimes I Am Disappointed In Myself

I am an evaluator. A reflective thinker. I look back on conversations and events and think through what was right and what should have been better. As I have written before, I can learn more looking back. Each year I spend a week in December looking back over the year. Even at the end of the day, I find myself looking back over how the day played out.

Last week I had a couple of days, two in a row to be exact, where I was very disappointed in how I had handled a couple of situations; disappointed with some words I had used and my thoughts when it was over. I think all of us find times when we look back and we wish we had done things differently. Recognition is not enough though. If we want to make improvements, we need a process to go through that will help us. Here are a few things I do when I have those days.

 

Repent

Way too many times the things that I am disappointed about need repentance. The last thing I want is to not acknowledge my need to repent. Sometimes this is all that is needed. There is nothing else that can be done, but I acknowledge and make sure my spiritual relationship remains healthy.

Apologize

Many of the disappointments we have involve other people. It could be an action we take or something we have said. If we have wronged or offended someone, the relationship will be better if we learn to apologize. Letting the other person know we are self-aware builds stronger, more trusting relationships.

Safeguard

If something happened that I do not want to happen again, I find safeguards to help avoid it. I find my wife is one of the best safeguards I could have. She will off something I should not say or keep me from doing something I should not do. There are many other safeguards that you may need depending on the situation. The simplest way to avoid trouble is to stay away from it.

Star Over

Don’t sulk. We all have bad moments, bad days, and sometimes bad seasons. Don’t wallow in it. Get up and move on. Nothing will improve dwelling on the past. Learn from the past, but don’t live in it. Living historically can cause you to become hysterical.

The question is not whether you will ever be disappointed in yourself. The question is “How are you going to respond?” when you do. Try a few of these things. Come up with a plan of your own. Either way, learn from it and move on.

3 Things I Am Thinking About This Week Because of Covid-19

I am a reflective person. I leave a conversation or interaction and I reflect on what was said or what happened and I try to learn from it. I probably learn more after the fact than in the actual moment. There are times when I learn something completely new while other times I am just reminded of something important that I was overlooking or had forgotten. 

During the current pandemic that our country is facing, there has been a need to learn at a rapid pace. There is a new change or new discovery or a new plan coming from the government and scientists every day. From the time I write this until the time it is published, more information will arrive and certain things will change. 

Even in the midst of fast-paced change, I take time to stop and think about what has happened or what is happening. There are a few things I have noticed this week. Every single one of these things I already knew, but they are fresh at this moment. I have seen all of them in my own life recently.

It Doesn’t Take Long To Make A Bad Habit

So many people are staying at home and new routines are necessary. In those times it is easy to allow bad habits to be created. We can slip into poor eating habits and skip exercise. It is easier to go to bed late or sleep-in longer. We can put off helping our kids get their schoolwork done. Netflix or social media sucks us in and hours will pass and nothing gets done. Habits are created much faster than we realize and because bad habits rarely require discipline, they are created even faster. In my world as a pastor, we know that habits are being created with church services being held only online. Habits are easy to make and hard to break. Be aware of the habits you are forming. 

Smart People Disagree

There is no shortage of opinions being circulated. No matter your preference, there is someone promoting that viewpoint. The interesting thing is that it is not clear what is right and what is wrong, what is best, or what is worst. There are smart people with almost every viewpoint. Extremely smart people. Rarely is one group privy to facts that another doesn’t have. It is usually affected by the lens through which people view things. It is not as simple as a sound bite. I have seen smart people disagree with all of my life. Will we come out of this and find that one single group or person was right? Probably not. What we will most likely find is every point of view has some validity, but finding the common ground is difficult. 

There Are Costs To Every Choice

If we do not take action to minimize the spread of Covid-19, unnecessary people will die. If we take the wrong actions, a different group of people will die. At the time of this writing, approximately 80,000 people have died due to the virus. Some studies are saying that another 75,000 people will die due to substance abuse or suicide created by the despair of the virus. The choice to close businesses comes at a cost to the economy, the services the government can provide and people’s mental well being. No matter which choice you make, there is a cost. There is rarely a choice that does not come with a cost attached. It is beneficial if we can count those costs before we get started.

I am sure as I reflect over the coming weeks there will be new things I learn and other things I am reminded of. Always be learning and growing. Make it a lifestyle, not just a moment. 

3 Things You Can Know About Mothers This Week

This coming Sunday we will celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States. It will be the most unusual Mother’s Day of my lifetime. I feel like I have said “It will be the most unusual___________” about every big thing that has happened in the last 60 days. Covid-19 has affected just about every aspect of life, including the way we celebrate holidays. There will be no Sunday church service in the majority of the country. Many families will not gather because of restrictions. There will be a lot of Facetime greetings and drive-by celebrations. 

Mothers deserve their day. They deserve to be celebrated. Pandemics and social distancing do not stop mothers from being mothers. Here are a few things that I think we could all remember as Mother’s Day arrives. 

 

Mothers Manage Crisis Everyday

Covid-19 is not the first crisis a mother has ever faced. Babies are birthed in trauma to a mother there to care for them immediately. From the time a child can speak, “Mama” is usually the first name that is called in trouble. This continues even into adulthood as you try to navigate mistakes and problems that are new and challenging. From scrapes and cuts to broken bones, from broken toys to broken hearts, from failing grades to legal trouble, mothers are usually first on the scene to care for their child in crisis. They have had to multitask and manage crises while cooking breakfast and getting them ready for school. They were prepared for this day and most likely have helped hold your family together even while other things did not look so sure.

Distance Doesn’t Stop A Mother’s Care

I am 52 years old but my mom has called to check on our family almost every day since this pandemic started. My parents live a couple of hours away and have been practicing social distancing but it has not stopped my mom from being concerned about our well being. In life’s challenges, mothers want to make sure their children are safe and managing new situations. Most likely you have had a similar experience. There is not a switch that mothers get to turn off once you reach a certain age. You may be separated by circumstances, but she has not stopped caring about you. 

There is not a switch that mothers get to turn off once you reach a certain age.

Mothers Will Appreciate Your Effort

If you think your mother needs an extravagant celebration to know she is appreciated, you are wrong. She deserves it, but she doesn’t need it. You only have to look at your childhood to recognize this. Most children are not very thoughtful. Many adults are not thoughtful either. In spite of your lack of appreciation when you were a child, and especially when you were in your teens, your mother faithfully cared for you. If you offered just the slightest acknowledgment, it would make your mother smile for days. This Mother’s Day may not allow you to do some of the things you want, but just the slightest acknowledgment will bring joy to a mother. A card in the mail, a phone call or Facetime are simple things but a blessing to a mother. This challenge might even bring out some creativity that will surpass any expectation your mother ever had.

No matter what the world looks like and the unusual things that are taking place, moms will still be moms and they will love you no matter what. Don’t forget your mother this weekend, but also don’t stress if it doesn’t look like what you had hoped for. She will love anything you do. So do something!

3 Things That Are The Same Even When Things Are Different

Since it is what so many people are talking about, it is also what I am writing about: things that are happening during the Covid-19 pandemic. So much is going on around us. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. No matter how different things are, some things never change. They may take on a different form or be focused in a different area, but they are the same all of the time.

Solomon said there was nothing new under the sun. The interesting thing about that statement is that the world is constantly changing. Even in his day, there was an evolution of events, products, and inventions. It comes at us at an even faster pace today. Still, with the fast pace of change, there are some things that you can still count on in every situation. Here are three things I have noticed during the last two months. 

 

Excuses Are Still Excuses

There are some legitimate reasons why certain things cannot be done right now. But there are also innovative people who have done the best they can to pivot and make things work. Teachers have restructured their methods to distance learning. Churches have gone from only preaching to people in the building to doing everything online, even when they previously had no online presence. Restaurants that no longer have patrons have worked to set up curbside pick up and oven-ready meals. 

On the other hand, there are those waiting on things to return to normal. They refuse to try something new and this situation is just the excuse they need. They blame the government. The Chinese. The governor. The mayor. Law enforcement. Often these are just excuses to keep from making the effort needed to make something happen. It doesn’t matter the situation, some people will always have an excuse.

There Are Always Opportunities

Every season and situation brings new opportunities. They may look different and they may require some effort to uncover, but there are opportunities everywhere. These opportunities may not make you rich, but they will almost always enrich your life. There may be some financial opportunities available right now. If you are able, you should use wisdom to take advantage of them. But there are a huge amount of opportunities to serve and be generous. 

I have seen people making masks for people to wear. Young people are shopping for the elderly. People are checking on their neighbors. Families are bonding and houses are getting facelifts and updates that have long been delayed. Personally I have had a chance to teach my grandkids a couple of things because the pace is a little slower. “There is nothing to do” is just an excuse. There are opportunities if you will seek them out. 

Learning Should Never Stop

You hate your job. At least statistics tell us that is a high probability. Some surveys show that as many as 85% of people hate their job. If that is the case, why not use this time to learn a new skill so you can get a job you love. Why not learn about relationships or parenting or marriage so that your relationship with the people that you are staying home with grows instead of recedes. Most likely there will be fewer jobs available when this is over. But there will also be more people trying to get those jobs. Why not learn something new that will make you more valuable. Enhance a skill so that you are more efficient than the next person. Refine a talent that will set you apart when someone is having to make a choice. Learning should be a lifelong process. Now is a great time to learn.

Yes I know these are different times, but some things just never change. Some are making excuses. Some are taking advantage of opportunities. Others are using it as a time to learn. Your approach during this time may be what sets you apart when this is over. 

5 Things I Hope Do Not Return To Normal

During the current pandemic, I have noticed a shift in certain things. I hear over and again people saying they cannot wait for things to get back to normal. I think I understand what they mean. They do not like some of the inconveniences that the situation brings. There are a couple of things I think when I hear those statements. 

First, everything is not going to return back to the way it was. There will be some changes to our world that will cause some things to never be the same. Every crisis I have ever experienced personally or I have seen happen in a community or region has caused some things to change. Some of them may be simple. Some of them may be more drastic. Either way very rarely has something traumatized returned to its previous state.

The second thing that comes to my mind when I hear this statement is there are some things that I do not want to return to the way they were. This disruption has created some very positive outcomes that I hope will continue long after this pandemic has passed. Here are five things I hope never return to their previous place.

Genuine Concern For Others

It is so easy to get wrapped up in our busy lives and problems that we walk right past people who are in need. Recently I have seen a real shift in the concern we have for others. We are checking on our neighbors. We want to know how business owners in our community are doing. We are calling and texting people to make sure they are ok. These people have been here all along, it has been easy to overlook them or assume they were doing just fine. I hope we never go back to the place where we find it easy to ignore the welfare of our neighbor.

Creative Communication

We can’t gather for events and church services. We are supposed to stay home and not visit family. Many people cannot go to their office so they are working from home. We have been forced to find creative ways to communicate. Families and friends are using Zoom calls. Teachers are gathering classes virtually to have a conversation. Pastors are recording videos and church services that had long been resisting. Churches are having drive-in worship where people stay in their cars. Communities are having parades and people are riding by with well-wishes for birthdays and special events. I hope that we continue to find creative ways to communicate with one another.

Prayer

I believe people have always prayed. History tells us that tough times cause people to return to their faith and pray more. I have noticed a real draw to prayer myself, but I have also seen many others spending more time in prayer. People have been more open to asking for prayer during these times as well. Bearing the burdens of one another is something we should always do. A stronger emphasis in prayer is beneficial for all of us.

New Stars

We are used to the stars of the world being athletes and movie stars. But with sporting events canceled and theaters closed those people no longer dominate our news cycles. Add to that the need for food, supplies, and medical care and suddenly people like clerks at the supermarket, drivers for the delivery service and nurses and doctors have taken preeminence in our culture. Teachers are being lauded for their versatility and willingness to support students no matter what. I am reminded of what Jesus said about the first being last and the last being first. I hope we can keep those roles reversed.

Local Support

We want what we want. And we are willing to drive just about anywhere to get what we want. And if it is $5.00 cheaper 40 miles away, we will spend $10.00 in gas and $30.00 in time to save that $5.00. Now suddenly some of our neighbors are in danger of losing their business because of closures and we want to make sure we support those local stores so they can survive. These stores do not need us just to be intentional for the next 30 days, they need us to be intentional every day. Shopping locally would make all of our communities more viable and allow us to live in a more vibrant place. I hope we shop local long after these orders have passed.

I am sure some things will return to normal soon. Something else will dominate the news cycle. People will return to the things they are comfortable with. I just hope some things do not return to normal. Our lives will be better if they don’t. 

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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.