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5 Tough Questions Families Are Facing Today

The current times are putting enormous pressure on families. Calls to counselors, divorce attorneys, and domestic violence hotlines are on the rise. Everyone is navigating new territory every day. That is evident in the family unit. 

Families have had to adapt to schools closing, job furloughs, and summer plans changing. Many are frustrated by the rapidly changing landscape. Families have so many decisions to make, and all of them have consequences. Family units are asking questions and struggling to find the right answers. Even the smartest people in the world appear to be guessing. Here are five questions I am hearing families are trying to work through. 

 

 

Do I Send My Children Back To School?

For some families, this is not an option because their school system is not returning to in-person learning. Other school systems are allowing parents to choose between in-person education and remote learning. This puts parents in a difficult spot. In a home where both parents work, there is concern about who will take care of and teach them. This decision creates even more questions like “Will they be safe in the school environment?” or “What will they miss by learning from home?” This question creates a tough decision for parents that has long term implications.

Is The Financial Model Of Our Family Healthy?

The most recent statistics suggest that 78% of American families live paycheck to paycheck. If one of them loses their job or needs to be home with a child for education purposes, those families have no idea how they will survive. Is there a better way to move forward in making choices beneficial for our family? This may be the time to pursue becoming debt-free or to adjust your budget. Financial flexibility is critical in uncertain times.

Who Do I Trust For Guidance?

As I mentioned earlier, even the most brilliant minds seem to be guessing right now. What was a fact yesterday has changed because of a new discovery or a different understanding? Add to that the people who are intentionally trying to mislead people. We have access to so much information. Virtually anyone can post information and make it look like official news. Almost every voice has a certain angle they want to promote, which compromises their integrity. Having the discernment to know which voices to guide you is a challenge for every family unit. 

What Does The Future Look Like?

“I can’t wait for things to get back to normal” is the cry of everyone. No one knows when that will be or what “normal” will look like when it does. Is remote learning here to stay? Will I have a job in the future. Are certain parts of our culture changing? We want to plan for the future, but it seems less predictable than ever.

What Does All Of This Mean?

The virus. Racial tensions. Political division. Murder hornets. Saharan dust clouds. This is an endless list. All of these things seem to be converging at once. What does it all mean? Is it the end of the world as we know it? Are their spiritual implications? Is this the end times? We should be learning from every situation. There is something for us to walk away with from all of these circumstances. No one can tell you how things will turn out or what the result will be. What we can do is be open to learning so that whatever the result is, we are prepared. I can’t tell you what everything means. I can tell you that I must keep learning and growing. 

What questions are you asking right now? How are these times affecting your family? I would love to hear from you.

3 Things I Am Seeing As A Leader More Than Ever

Leadership is a process of learning and growing. If you are not learning and growing, you will not lead effectively. We face challenges and changes that test where we are on our leadership journey. The pace of change and the problems that it can bring reveals new challenges to us almost every day.

We are currently facing a worldwide pandemic. There are shared experiences with leaders around the world that we have never had before. I see things every day that I have never before seen. I am reminded of things that I had long forgotten. I see certain things becoming more prevalent than they were before. Over the last couple of months, I have noticed three things more than ever.

 

 

There Is No Perfect Solution

Every single organization is trying to deal with the current situation to the best of their ability. Most of the leaders I talk to are frustrated because every week changes are needing to be made. There are new government directives every week that challenge the most agile organizations. Everyone keeps talking about “normal”, but no one is sure what normal is or what it will be. There is no single person or organization that has a perfect solution. If you are waiting for the perfect solution, you are probably wasting valuable time. Perfection is just a fancy word for procrastination. 

People Choose The “Right” They Are Most Comfortable With

Everyone has their own version of right. I find it interesting the hoops we can jump through to justify a position we have. We have groups of people who believe the government can’t tell you what to do with your body therefore it should be a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion while at the same time they believe the government should tell everyone to wear a mask. We have people on the other side who believe abortion is not a choice, but that the government can’t tell them to wear a mask. We want tolerance while we shame people that do things we cannot tolerate, all the while justifying our tolerance and our shaming with intellectual theatrics. Justifying our behaviors while judging the actions of others is nothing new. In the current, it is more exaggerated than ever. 

Progress Is More Important Than Perfection

What do we do now? If you are waiting on “normal” to return before you attempt to move forward, there could be nothing left to move. Challenges are facing everyone and every organization right now. The question we have to answer is “how do we make progress when it will not be perfect and the situation is not ideal?” Children are at risk if they go to school, and many are at risk if they stay home. There is no perfect solution. What can be done that moves students forward, even if it is not perfect? Those are the type of questions everyone is dealing with. From families to businesses to government, the challenges are real. If we want to keep leading, we will have to choose progress over perfection and keep moving things forward.

What are you noticing right now? Wherever you are leading and whatever you are dealing with, remember that you are not by yourself. Keep leading. You are needed now more than ever. 

7 Things Contributing To The Current Climate Of Divisiveness

People are divided right now. I have not found a single person who would disagree with that statement. The difficulty is finding someone who believes they are a part of the problem. The current state of affairs didn’t appear overnight. This divisiveness has been slowly growing over a number of years for a number of reasons. In recent years there are certain things that have accelerated the division and deepened the divides.

Awareness of the things that are creating division can help us avoid some of them. It can also make us more aware of how we may be part of the problem and how we can participate in the solution. Here are seven things I see contributing to the divisiveness around us.  

 

We Have Lost The Ability To Disagree

We use cliches like “we will agree to disagree” but virtually no one really believes that. We are intent on convincing the other person they are wrong. If we do not agree with each other, we tend to separate. We group with people who look like us, think like us and want the things we want. We no longer just disagree, we divide.

Inflammatory Rhetoric By Leaders

Leaders are not ignorant of the fact that people are choosing division over a disagreement, so they create raving fans by appealing to the extremes. They believe it is better to have a few raving fans than a lot of lukewarm followers. These leaders will say whatever is necessary to excite their fan base while ignoring those not fully committed to their cause. What they say doesn’t have to be true or wise, it only has to appeal to a certain bias.

Analysis Over Information

There has been a lot written over the impact of the 24-hour news cycle and news networks on society. 24-hour television news networks are made for profit, not for information. The only way they can profit is to create raving fans which require them to appeal to a certain bias. These outlets have become purveyors of opinionated analysis over information. On any given network they will give you a few seconds of information followed by a panel of three to eight people telling you what they believe that information means. There is an abundance of biased analysis and very little unbiased information. On the other hand, the local news stations have limited time so information tends to be more important than analysis. 

More Talking And Less Listening

Everyone has a platform so they are talking and not listening. Social media has been the largest contributor to this. Everyone has the ability to tell everyone what they think and so they do. Every opinion gets equal billing even if they are not equally informed. Normal personality rules do not apply either. Even people who are normally quiet in a public gathering or meeting, or who normally go to great lengths to avoid conflict, will be overly confrontational on platforms where there is no face to face contact.

Points Over People

Our point reigns supreme. We are more intent on making our point than we are having a relationship with people. We will go to great lengths to prove our point no matter the cost to the relationship. You learn quickly in a marriage that there are times when being right is not nearly as important as having peace in the relationship. Sometimes we should seek peace with people over making a point with people. 

Politics Over Principle

People are more committed to their political parties than to their personal convictions. There are way too many people who refuse to address certain issues because they are afraid people will identify them with the wrong political party. Live your life by principles, not politics. 

Separation

This is relatively new on the scene but is accelerating the division. During the current pandemic, many gatherings have been eliminated. People are working from home. Kids are not going to school. Families are not going to church. The isolation insulates us from people who are different from us so we start to believe that our way must be right. Lack of community in any situation will inflame division. Some of the separations may be helping us stay physically healthy but it is quickly eroding relational health and there are long term implications that a vaccine will not repair. 

We can be part of the solution if we choose to. We must first be aware of how each of these things is affecting us then we will need to be intentional to seek health in our relationships.

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. 

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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.