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The Things We Are Not Good At

We are good at everything. At least in our minds we are. Even when we recognize where we struggle, we continue to subscribe to the misconception that everyone else believes we have to be good at everything. So, in order to comply with that reasoning, we do certain things only because we believe it is expected. This is more than just strengths and weaknesses. These are things that, for whatever reason, you just don’t yet know how to do.

John Maxwell has said that while he was pastoring, especially when he felt his church needed to hear about a subject that he did not know well or had questions about himself, he would bring someone in to speak on that subject. He needed to grow and he wanted the people he led to get the best teaching available. I find myself doing the same thing for my own church. There are topics that are just not my strength and never will be because of my personality or interests. But, I do want the people I lead to hear those messages so I make sure to have those people come.

This topic is not limited to only pastors and speaking. There are so many places in our lives where we keep the people around us from experiencing the best because we feel like we are the ones who have to do the work. Culture often puts pressure on us to do what others are doing. If you are a husband, you have to do these things to be a good husband. If you are a mother, these things are expected of good mothers. I am not telling you there are certain things every husband or mother has to do, although there probably are some things you should be doing. What I do want you to know is that you do not have to do everything that everyone else is doing in order to be successful. As a matter of fact, those you love may be better off if you let someone else do it.

So today I want to release you from the stress of trying to do what everyone else does the way they do it. Don’t be intimidated to let someone else do something they can do better than you. Everyone around you will benefit, including yourself.

Its’ Time To Sell The Boat

In 1988 I was in need of a job and took a position with a company selling new restaurant equipment. That job led me to two other companies both of which sold new equipment. These companies usually discarded or left old equipment that was being removed from the locations where they were installing their new equipment. At one location in Rockingham, NC, we installed a dishwasher and the old dishwasher was going to be left. It was a Hobart brand and I knew that Hobart equipment was mostly sold through exclusive dealerships. I called the dealership closest to me and asked if it had any value. He told me to bring it by. I took it by, he inspected it in the back of my truck and offered me $900. I could not take his money fast enough. I had just sold a new $6,000 dishwasher on which my commission was approximately $200. I took a discarded piece of equipment considered to be trash and sold it for $900. I continued to resell the used equipment and over time, I started my own business selling used restaurant equipment.

Over the years the business has offered blessings I would not have otherwise been able to enjoy. It allowed me to take less money for salary when I pastored my first church. It sustained me in the moments of my life when I had nothing else to do. When I took a position at Open Door, I stopped taking a salary from the business and gave some of that money to the church. Over the years it has allowed me to take a smaller salary from Open Door so we could hire other positions. It has provided things for my family we might not otherwise have. It has also provided it’s share of heartaches. There have been difficult times financially as any small business owner can appreciate. There have been disagreements with customers and times people did not feel like they were treated fairly. I think most every business owner can appreciate the joys and the heartaches I am talking about.

Over the past few years, though my day to day involvement in the business has been limited, it has still required a certain amount of my time and energy. I had hoped one of the children would want to take over the business, and though they have worked for or even managed it at different times, their interests are elsewhere. As the church has grown there have been times when the mental strain of the business affected my ability to lead at church. I struggled with what to do and how to do it.

Several years ago while in Israel, I heard a passage read from John 21 that resonated with me. It was about the disciples going fishing and Jesus appearing to them on the shore. They did not recognize who He was, even when He spoke to them. This fishing boat has been a part of Peter’s life throughout the gospels. He is called out of it to follow Jesus. He finds himself in it several times with Jesus. In this story he decides he is going fishing to get away and the others go with him. When Peter realizes who Jesus is and gets to Him, Jesus looks at Peter and asks, “Do you love me more than these?” There are a lot of “these” around. There are his friends, th 153 large fish he just caught, the boat….. Peter assures Jesus that he loves Him, but Jesus keeps asking. I am not sure, but it seems to me that Peter’s boat may have become a distraction. Jesus keeps telling Peter to feed the sheep. Jesus knows about all of the things Peter is going to do in the coming days like preach on the Day of Pentecost and speak to kings. Peter does not know these things, but Jesus is trying to prepare him. He keeps saying “feed my sheep”. This story is the last time we find Peter with the boat.

The boat in and of itself was not bad. It actually served a purpose on several occasions but Jesus did not want Peter to miss an opportunity because of the boat. So apparently, Peter walked away from it one last time. I am glad he did because he accomplished some amazing things in the days that followed.

I have reached a place in my life where it is time to sell the boat. Not the boat I literally own but rather my business. It will not be easy. I have 30 years invested in it. It is a part of my life. But it is time. I do not know what God has in store for me or the church, but I don’t want to be distracted when that opportunity comes. I believe there are greater days ahead. So, if you see me talking about my restaurant equipment business more in the coming months, know that it is my path to selling “the boat” and to clear my mind to be used more by God in the things He wants to accomplish.

4 Things To Try In The New Year

The New Year brings people face to face with an opportunity to get a fresh start. We sit down and make resolutions while boldly proclaiming our intentions to anyone who will listen. Some of the resolutions are what you would typically expect. Health and finances usually top people’s lists. The gym is overflowing during January. Some resolutions are a little more personal and not shared as often. Some people even choose not to make resolutions at all because they struggle with following through or they’re not sure where to even start.

If you are tired of making the same resolutions every year, maybe a new approach will help. As I am preparing for this New Year, I am using a different model for my list. There is an old wedding tradition that says the bride should wear “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue”. I am going to use that saying as a framework for a few resolutions for the coming year. Maybe it will work for you as well.

Something Old

I have no doubt that there is something that makes your list just about every year. It is that thing that you cannot seem to overcome or fail to consistently stay on the right track. It is different for everyone but it seems that every time you make one of these lists, this one thing has to be on it. Don’t give up. Keep at it. Put that thing on your list again this year. You may be tired of it but don’t give up. It is OK to keep working on something. Walking long enough in the right direction will get you to the right place eventually.

Something New

One of the things that makes life stale is that we stop doing new things. We get in routines which turn into ruts, and a rut is nothing but a grave with both ends knocked out. One of your plans for the New Year should be to try something new; something you have never done. Maybe it could even be something you’ve never even considered doing. My new thing this year will be to parachute from an airplane.

Something Borrowed

We all think we are smart, but we do not always have the best ideas. One of the greatest resources in the world is seeing what works for other people. If you see someone successful in an area where you want to see better results, why not ask them what they are doing and then make that part of your plan for the New Year. In any area you are looking to improve, there are people willing to offer suggestions and advice. Borrow part of their formula. It might be exactly what you need.

Something Blue

So this was the one that I had to think about a little more. The other three I was already processing but “something blue” seemed a little weird. But the truth is all of us could add a little color to our life. I bought a red velvet blazer and wore it recently for the first time. Maybe you could try a new color or style of clothes. Paint a room or a wall in your house. Hang out with people who are completely different from you. Wear some fun socks. Your outlook will change when you add a little color to your life.

All of us have changes we want to make and changes we need to make. If you are stuck trying to figure out what to work on next year, maybe these four ideas will prompt you to think of something that will make a difference. I hope that this coming year will be your best ever.

She Doesn’t Believe In Jesus or Santa

This has been a very special Christmas season for my grandson Vandin. He is 7 and it’s almost magical to him. Kids usually enjoy Christmas, but this has been especially true for him this year. His excitement is apparent in so many things – the things he has noticed, his desire to help decorate at home and at his grandparents (even great-grandparents) and his enthusiasm to participate in the Christmas play at church. He wanted to write a letter to Santa and even his prayers at night include something about Christmas. As a grandparent, it has been exciting for me to watch as well.

Because my experiences were different than most others’, it’s probably even more exciting for me. I cannot recall a time when I believed in Santa Claus nor do I recall a time when I did not believe in Jesus. I remember having a debate with a young boy in the church about Santa Claus thinking he was ridiculous. I followed that same pattern with my own children. I’m not sure if they ever believed that Santa was real and they probably cannot recall a time when they did not know Jesus.  That is not a statement of direction, only observation. There is a conversation to be had about how to approach the subject of Santa or Jesus, but I just want to share with you the burden of a little boy and the joy that Christmas can be.

A few nights ago we were out of town so Barbara and I called Rowan and Vandin to check on their day. Vandin had been watching a YouTube tutorial on how to draw and was now showing me some of his resulting work. To my surprise, it was extremely good. He told me he was going to cut them out to take to a girl at school. His mom rolled her eyes and I chuckled a little but didn’t say much else about it.

When we returned, Barbara and I went to each lunch with Vandin one day at school. While we were sitting there, he pointed out the little girl he had given his drawings to. He then looked at me very seriously and said, “Poppy, she doesn’t believe Jesus or Santa Claus are real. She won’t believe unless she has proof. I am going to get her proof. She doesn’t need to have Christmas without Jesus or Santa”. What a wonderful insight.

Before you get too self righteous and tell me how Santa Claus should not be a part of the conversation, hear me out. How much better would this Christmas be if we were as concerned as Vandin that those close to us experienced Jesus and Santa? For Vandin, it’s a mission. The season would be a little bit brighter for those around you if they had that experience as well. Maybe we should examine our mission and make sure that the people around us know the love of Jesus and the fun of Santa this Christmas season. I am not sure you can bring physical evidence that will change someone’s mind. But you can take a few actions that will at least give them thought. This Christmas season why don’t you try to:

Listen More

Christmas seems to be a time for everyone to talk. This is what I want for Christmas. This is where I am going for Christmas. Since everyone is talking it would be a good time for us to listen. It very well may reveal something that would help us show them Christ more than they have ever experienced Him before.

Love Better

The stress and strain of a busy Christmas season can cause us to have short tempers and less patience. It can also cause us to be more critical of others and their lives. I wonder how different the season would be if we offered a little more acceptance and overlooked some flaws. What would they think if we were actively caring for people. Giving gifts is a great way to express your love for others, but there are so many other ways to show you care for the people around you.

Leverage Opportunities

There may be no time during the year that gives us more opportunities to talk about our faith than Christmas. Everywhere you go there are songs playing about a baby in a manger or angels. There are nativity scenes in all types of places. Generosity abounds. Lights signify a joyous time. All of which open a door for us to talk about our faith. We should leverage these opportunities to speak about spiritual things and what they mean in our own lives. There is no better backdrop than Christmas to share your story of faith.

You may not have people in your life who do not believe in Jesus (or Santa for that matter), but all of us have people who have chosen to ignore faith or who have drifted away from a place they used to be. Make the season a little more memorable for them. Remember as Vandin said, no one should have to do Christmas without Jesus and Santa.

3 Things That Struck Me About George H.W. Bush

This past week our country’s 41st president George Herbert Walker Bush passed away. If you look on the bookshelf in my office you would find that one of my treasured possessions is a book that he signed. While reading and watching the last few days as people memorialize him, share old letters he had written or interviews and speeches he had made, I was struck with a great sense of sadness. Some of it has to do with the current political climate that has been developing for a number of years and a longing for a more stately time among our leadership across both parties.

I turned 18 and earned the right to vote in 1985. The first presidential election I had the opportunity to vote in was in 1988; George Bush vs. Michael Dukakis. I remember first having an interest in the presidency in 1979 while in the 7th grade when Ronald Reagan and George Bush were vying for the Republican nomination to face against Jimmy Carter. I suspect that his early presence in my political memories has some impact, but there are also a few other things that stick out to me that make him such an important figure in my life.

He Loved His Family (especially his wife)

It was clear that President Bush loved his family and especially his wife Barbara. The joy that was present when he was with any of them made you want to be with your own family. The love was reciprocated as well. One of his granddaughters chose to get married this year so that he could be present as they knew his health was failing. Many stories have been told of the love affair he and Barbara had. I recently watched an interview that was several years old where he was reading some of the letters that he had written to Barbara early in their relationship. He would tear up talking about how much he loved her. Her letters to him were lost when the plane he was flying was shot down in WWII. He had all of her letters with him and they were lost at sea. They were married for 73 years. We have plenty examples of strained and broken families. It is encouraging to see a family with such love in the most pressure-filled positions in the world.

He Was the Leader of the Country Not Just His Party

He made a pledge when running for election that he would not raise taxes. Politically, it became his Achilles’ heel. However, he made choices that probably cost him the opportunity to be re-elected but allowed the country to later balance a budget. He could have pandered to his party but he did what he felt was best for the country. There could be a debate over whether it was the right move or not, but he did not allow his party to dictate what he felt was best for the country. We have created an environment where leaders play to a base to stay elected and often sacrifice what is best for the country to keep themselves in office. Leadership willing to make choices for the betterment of the whole and not just the betterment of themselves is what great leaders do.

People Were More Important Than Politics

Bill Clinton defeated George Bush in 1992 in the presidential election. It would have been easy to be bitter and talk about all of the things that affected the election. It would have been easy to throw stones at Clinton for some of his own struggles later. He could have chosen to only associate with Clinton when he had to, but when the world was in need, he came together with Bill Clinton to first help raise money for victims of a tsunami that devastated Indonesia. They began to tour and raise money together and spend time together just being friends. Bush would later say that he was the father that Clinton never had. Clinton did not dispute that statement. They raised money to benefit millions of people around the world and had a genuine friendship that was an example to all of us to overlook our political differences and have relationships with people. When we understand that people are more important than politics, our political climate will improve immediately.

As our nation grieves and many of us reflect on a life lived so publicly, may we be encouraged to live our own life better and understand that people are watching and we may have more impact than we know.

Around The Block Again

Why do we repeat the same problems over and over again? This is something that has been on my mind for days now as I find myself repeating the same mistakes over again. This seems to be true for most of the people that I assist in some way. There is often some improvement and occasionally there seems to be a conquering of certain problems, but more often than not, it pops back up in some form or another. If you find this to be true for yourself, you are not alone. It is more common than you may believe. Here are a few reasons why we repeat these things in our lives that may give you insight on how to overcome them.

It Is Personal

There is a Bible verse that says all of us have a sin that easily trips us up. It is not the same thing for everyone, but all of us have things that trip us up that are personal to us. It may not even be something we would call a sin, but it seems to creep back into our lives time and again. Other people seem to handle the same thing so well but we constantly are picking ourselves up from it. Knowing yourself and your weaknesses can go a long way to helping you overcome anything that you struggle with. Other people have their own personal tripping device too. Your responsibility is to know yours and work to overcome it.

The Right Help

Another reason we continue struggling with the same things is we never get the help we need. What we usually do is commiserate with people that have the same problem. You may have a go to person for general advice. That best friend that you can trust. Here is what you need to know: when you have a problem you need the right help. There are people that are gifted in the very area that you need help with. You may find it in a book, a meeting, a conference or a video, but you need to find the right person for the problem that you are struggling with. The right advice and guidance from the right person is priceless.

You Must Be Accountable

This one is a little tough. It is hard to allow people close enough that they can see our problems and speak into our lives. It is difficult to allow someone to call us out when things are not right. But one of the most effective, and usually necessary, ways to overcome a place in your life where you are struggling is to have someone that will hold you accountable. Sometimes it is someone that is already a part of your life. Other times it is someone you seek out. Whoever they are, make sure you have them. They may be the key to the problem you have.

I know these things all too well. I have found each of these to be true. My progress has often been slowed because I repeated the same mistake. Let’s all move forward and one of the best ways we can do that is to stop circling the same block.

The Lens You See Through

When I am preaching or speaking at a conference, I will occasionally take my glasses off to read my notes. It usually throws people off because most of them either wear glasses to be able to read or assume that is why most people wear glasses. For me, I can read just fine. I have better than 20/20 vision up close. My need for glasses has to do with distance. This is called being nearsighted when things at a distance get blurry. Farsightedness is the opposite.

About 15 years ago I began to notice I was having problems reading signs while driving. When it was dark and raining it was even more difficult. At the time I was traveling a lot and knew I needed to address the problem. My optometrist prescribed glasses to correct the issue. It makes my life much easier being able to see things at a distance.

How we see things in life can also be distorted. There are times we cannot see things as we should. People are constantly wondering why other people do not see things the way they see them. We reference things like “I see it like this” or “from my perspective”. It seems so clear to us why our point of view is the right one and we cannot understand why others cannot see it that way. It would help us to understand that everyone sees things differently and for different reasons. It is also helpful if we could be a little more self-aware and understand when it is us that sees things a little blurry.

Since I started this conversation about wearing glasses and when they are needed, let’s apply that to how it affects life and people’s points of view.

No Lens

Statistics say that well over 50% of people wear some sort of corrective lenses; a few are as high as 75%. Some people wear them because they enhance their personal style while others prefer to hide it with contacts lenses. That leaves a minority percentage of people who are not using corrective lenses. It does not mean they do not need it, it just means they are not using them. The overwhelming majority of this group are young people. The reason is because our vision changes as we get older.

The same is true in life. The overwhelming majority of people probably need to adjust their outlook slightly because they do not realize the toll time has taken on their point of view. It has been said that we are the sum of all of our experiences until this point. We are usually unaware of how something that happened to us 10 years ago affects our ability to see things correctly today. It is possible you need to make no correction to the way you see things, but it is rare.

Dark Lens

I have used transition lenses for years. Inside they are regular glasses and in the sun they darken. When I got new glasses recently I decided I wanted a pair of prescription sunglasses. I actually got what they call “drivewear” which brightens objects even though it blocks the sun. I was wearing them one day and forgot to bring my regular pair of glasses. I went into Walmart forgetting that I only had on my sunglasses. I didn’t notice at first but I did keep noticing people looking at me. That’s when I realized I was walking around in the store looking like I was trying to hide a hangover. Others noticed it before I did.

I think there are times when we our thinking is clouded and we do not even realize it. It is usually easier for people on the outside to see how poorly our viewpoint is clouded or distorted. I think all of us have had the experience of making some irrational choice. It may have been because of our attachment in a relationship or it could have been out of desperation from a situation we had created. Either way, understanding when our judgment is compromised can be beneficial to us as well as understanding that others may see it before we do.

Corrective Lens

Even though the majority of people use some type of corrective lens, there are many different types of corrective lenses. My wife and I use completely different corrections. She is farsighted and needs glasses to read while I need mine to see at a distance. If we exchange glasses, neither of us can see clearly. What is needed to help her is different than what I need. Even people with the same struggles do not need the same amount of correction. Each person has different needs.

This may be the most difficult part of life views. We know what helped us to see things better and we often think that the same prescription will fix everyone. That is most likely not the case. What helped you may make things worse for someone else. We all want simple fixes and mass adjustments but that just does not work. We need to understand that the correction other people need may look completely different than the correction we need.

There are so many other things that affect our point of view. Things like angle and distance change for every single situation. There are two things that can help all of us. One, most of us probably need some correction. Two, we may not ever see things exactly the same way. Understanding these things will allow all of us to live a little more peacefully in this world.  

What Is On Your Mind?

What is keeping you awake at night? What is the first thing on your mind when you wake up? What do you think about the minute you have idle time? This may not be true all of the time, but I think all of us have periods of time when we just can’t seem to escape certain things. Seasons when something is at the forefront of our mind. It is in those moments that we need to understand those things are rarely on our mind just for the sake of thinking. Unfortunately, we often only think and miss the opportunity to deal with the things we are thinking through.

There is nothing wrong with thinking a situation through. Giving deliberate thought to something before you take action is certainly a good process. But, if we are not careful, we will be the archer only holding his bow and arrow. Instead of ready, aim, fire it becomes ready, aim, aim, aim, aim and we never fire. I have found that there are three common actions that I need to take when something is constantly on my mind.

Something you need to change

These things are often personal. It could be a habit we need to change or a practice we need to improve on. It could be as simple as the time you wake up in the morning or something as significant as breaking an addiction. Making personal changes can be difficult, but most often extremely rewarding. Our lives usually improve significantly as we make the changes that are constantly on our mind.

Someone you need to talk to

This goes a step further because it is no longer about us. Most commonly, this is the reason we only think about it and never take action; we just don’t know how the other person will respond. This creates fear and so people find it easier to just avoid the conversation altogether. Sometimes it is an apology we need to make while other times it is clarification of a situation or confronting someone about an issue. These conversations can be critically important and avoiding the conversation will only make things worse

Situation you need to address

This is typically something more complicated, involving multiple pieces and is rarely taken care of quickly. Quick improvement can be realized with personal change. Conversations with an individual may find change immediately. These situations, however, usually involve not only personal change and conversations with others but other factors that need to be fixed as well. We usually avoid taking action on these types of situations because it is not simple nor quick. It may be the culture in the organization you lead or even your family. Things like culture take concentrated effort to change and require multiple actions to be taken over time. Choosing not to address the situation will only allow it to continue to deteriorate. It may take time, but the rewards of changing these situations can provide long term rewards and rapid momentum.

So what is it that is consuming your thoughts right now? Is there something you need to take action on? Most likely, you will need to take one of these three actions. Get started today.

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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.