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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.

The Benefits of Social Media

Recently I shared some thoughts about problems with social media. But to only take a negative view of social media would not be fair or appropriate. As with most everything there are two sides to the issue. Clearly social media has some attraction because billions of people around the world participate in some form or another. Facebook alone has over 2 billion active users. That is about one third of the world’s population, which is incredible when you think about it.

Having a better understanding of some key points will help us recognize a few of the benefits of participating. To completely ignore the good may cause us to miss out on some things that could benefit us. So today, I want to explore a couple of the more positive aspects of social media.

Connection

Prior to social media, we were connected with a very limited number of people. We rarely, if ever, saw old classmates, childhood friends or distant cousins. Now we are connected to people we don’t even know. We see children grow up, couples get married, students graduate and babies born. Though the argument could be made that social media creates thin relationships, the truth is that we are connected to people more than we ever would be otherwise.

Personally, I have also been able to connect with people with whom I have a mutual friendship and with others who have the same interests and vocation that I do. It also allows me to connect with people who I may never have met nor have any clue of what their life was like. Social media should never be a substitute for depth in relationships, but it certainly does broaden our ability to at least stay connected with people that we otherwise could not.

Awareness

I have found this to be one of the most beneficial uses of social media. As a pastor I care about the people who I am responsible for. I have found social media to be a great place for me to stay aware of things happening in people’s live. Hospital stays, sickness and surgeries, new babies being born or just a need for prayer. As a matter of fact, if I see someone asking for praying on social media, I try to always stop and pray and respond to their post. Many of the needs that I see I would never be known to me otherwise.

Just being aware of what is going on in the lives of the people around us will help us relate to them and other better. It will create conversation with people and help us be empathetic to their needs. Though I mentioned that some people love drama, there are many people just looking for support and prayer in a difficult time. Social media makes me more aware than I would be otherwise.

I am sure you have some thoughts about social media. Share in the comment section below your favorite part of social media. Maybe you have a great story of connection or awareness that would encourage all of us.

Problems With Social Media

In the spectrum of history, social media is a very new innovation, even though some forms of it have been around 20 years now. We are still sorting out how to properly use the many forms of social media available to us as well as manage the effects it may have on society. As with anything, there are positives and negatives. Rarely is it something that can be resolved, but rather something we must be constantly aware of both its impact on others and ourselves.

I am personally a fan of most forms of social media. It has many benefits and I will discuss some of those in a follow-up blog. As with every innovation, it also comes with challenges; things that can be problems producing negative consequences. The list of problems is long, but today I want to address two of them and some of the negative consequences they cause.

It Is A Highlight Reel

People share the best and brightest moments or their worst and lowest times (we will talk about this next). Rarely is anyone’s life all great or all bad.  If we consider someone’s social media as the totality of their life, we will walk away with a perception that is not correct. We share the beautiful meal, the vacation, the trophy our child won, the new car or house we just bought or beautiful view from a place we are visiting. These things do not happen every day but that is all we share and all we see shared so we start to make incorrect assumptions. Now, I would much rather see the good and positive happening in people’s lives than a bunch of negativity or drama, but it can be confusing to people who are struggling with their own identity.

 

People Exaggerate

Another word for this might be drama. Exaggeration can be both too good or too bad. According to some people’s feed, they always had the worst life could offer. Nothing ever goes right in their life and there is never enough sympathy. On the other end, there are people who always have the best and experience the best. I said I would rather see good and positive, but no one is always on top. People read these exaggerations and become disillusioned. We are glad to hear your appreciation for your food, your family, your faith or your politics, but no one always has the best or the worst of it.

As I mentioned, there are many benefits to social media and we will discuss a couple of those in the next blog. In spite of all of the good, we still need to be aware of the challenges presented by all of this information. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to create a life that matches someone else’s social media.

 

The Hard Work Of Freedom

In our previous post, we talked about 3 Reasons We Become Slaves. All of us have found ourselves bound to something at some point. The question is, what does it take to be free?

Freedom has never been achieved simply or easily either as a country corporately or for yourself individually. It does not matter if you want to be debt free, free from an addiction or escape a situation you feel has you bound. If you want to live a life of freedom, there are some specific things it will require. Here 3 things that you will need in living the life of freedom.

You Must Be Intentional

Freedom does not happen by accident. You must be intentional. Living a life of freedom must be done on purpose. The majority of people who are stuck in a situation want relief and may even find it temporarily. But to live in complete freedom, it will require you to be intentional about every decision you make: how you spend your money, with whom you spend your time, what activities fill your calendar. Rarely will we stumble upon the answer or some random act that solves all of our problems. It will not be a single decision either. One decision may put you on the right path but true freedom will require you to consistently make the right choices every day. Depending on how severe your situation is, it may require intentional decisions every minute of every hour. Your path to freedom will be lined with purpose.

It Will Require Patience

This is the hardest part for most people. We can make a decision to change things in our life. We can even start in the right direction, but we struggle with the patience it takes to achieve freedom. I have seen this play out in my own life at times and in countless other people as well. You rarely get into debt overnight and it is unlikely you will get out of debt overnight. That addiction will take time to defeat. Your health will require time to improve. Your marriage will get better over a period of months and years. Your few intentional decisions will not solve everything instantly. Freedom is a journey more than a destination.

You Will Need Help

It is rare for us to achieve the freedom we need alone; we usually need some help. This may come in the form of a course or book or it may come from a counselor or friend. A small group might offer us the encouragement we need or the guidance that is necessary. Whatever form help comes in, it is necessary for us to achieve freedom. Help gives us advice and offers us accountability. It gives us guidance and helps us stay the course when we are ready to give up. Most of us have some weakness or blind spot that has caused the problems we are attempting to solve, so finding the right people to walk along beside us will be critical to our success. We can get into bondage all by ourselves but we will rarely get free from it alone.

I want to encourage you today that no matter what your situation looks like, you can achieve the freedom you desire. Be intentional. Have patience. Get the help that you need. A life of freedom is the life you want to live.

3 Reasons We Become Slaves

Slavery is a strong word. It automatically conjures up images of human slavery in the United States many years ago. For some it reminds them of the struggles of human trafficking that are prevalent around the world today. We think of abuse and chains and the injustice of it all. But slavery is not just limited to human oppression. Slavery affects almost every single person.

All of us have found ourselves in bondage. For some it has been addictions or bad habits. For others it has been debt or unhealthy relationships. Bound by something from which we want to be free. Recently, I read a verse in the Bible from Proverbs that says “Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave.” (Proverbs 12:24 NLT) Hard work solves a lot of problems in our lives. I will address some of the benefits of hard work in the next blog, but today I want to talk about the reasons why we find ourselves enslaved to certain things.

Why do we find ourselves in situations where we feel trapped. Places we want to get out of but just can’t seem to break free. It is easy to have all of the solutions when we are not the one wrestling through a problem or addiction. When we find ourselves in those places we often get frustrated because we don’t know how we ended up there. We wonder “How did this happen to me?”. There are a lot of reasons why we find ourselves enslaved to things and situations. Here are three that might help you identify what happened in your life.

 

Need

Sometimes we have legitimate needs. Sometimes there are wants that we have confused with needs. But our needs often can put us in a situation where we feel trapped. Two of the most common places where people are enslaved are debt and substance addictions. The interesting thing is that legitimate need can lead to both of these. Sometimes we have a legitimate medical need that creates medical expense debt. That same medical need may require a prescription to pain medicine which for many can lead to addiction. The medical situation needed to be attended to but it had unintended consequences.

There are other times our perceived needs have landed us in some very unfortunate circumstances. We may have believed we needed to get married or we needed certain friends only to get those things and find we had chosen poorly out of what we thought was need. Poverty places people in some precarious places just by trying to survive. It is one of the drivers of human trafficking as people are just looking for a way to support their family or feed themselves. Need can lead us to places we don’t know how to escape.

Ignorance

Sometimes we just do not know any better. The Bible consistently refers to debt as slavery. It may be the most common thing that people get themselves into and then struggle to get themselves out of. Unsuspecting young people are preyed upon by purveyors of all types of goods with the promise of low payments while enjoying the benefits only to discover that the payment is more of a burden than the enjoyment of the product. People go to college and get into debt with student loans expecting a high paying job at graduation only to discover that getting a job is not as easy as they thought and the pay not as much as they hoped. These things often happen out of ignorance. We connect in a relationship and have no idea the track record of a person. We are just oblivious to situations or the consequences and we end up trapped and have no idea what to do about it

Laziness

Though need and ignorance can land us in some difficult spots, the majority of our problems come from laziness. I don’t mean we refuse to work or do nothing, it means that we are lazy in the things that have caused the problem. There are very few situations in which a little hard work, discipline and dedication would not solve. This is true of poor relationships, substance abuse, debt, health issues and many others. Many of the things we struggle with are just a reflection of the places where we have the least discipline and put forth the least amount of effort. We don’t budget. We don’t exercise. We don’t communicate. We don’t get help. We don’t follow through. It is not because the problems cannot be solved, we just don’t put forth the effort to solve them. Hard work doesn’t solve every problem but it will solve a lot of problems.

What has you trapped today? What led you to that place? Are you in danger of taking a path that could cause you problems later on. Being aware of the things that lead to being trapped may help you avoid some undesirable situations.

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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.