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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. 

Pressures Crisis Places On The Family

Everyone is under pressure right now. Pressure to make decisions. Pressure to perform in an unknown environment. Pressure to care for people who are sick while putting their own life at risk. Financial pressure. Relationship pressure. And not least of all family pressure.

There is probably no place that is experiencing the effects of this worldwide pandemic like the family unit. Kids are out of school and parents are having to juggle other responsibilities with trying to help their child stay on pace and prepared for next year. Many people are working from home putting more people in the house than normal. Some people have lost their jobs which affects the family unit. Not to mention families that are actually dealing with the infection of a family member and possibly even death. 

Crisis causes us to deal with things we were not prepared for while at the same time revealing things we had no idea were there. Each person responds differently to pressure, but even the best responses reveal things that are sometimes ugly and even painful. I am not sure what you are seeing in your family right now, but here are a few of the things people are talking to me about.

Crisis Exposes Our Weak Points

We do not get to choose how we respond in crisis. We respond out of who we are. Response to a crisis is automatic. Whether we know it or not, we have been preparing how we were going to respond for years. It is in those moments of crisis that we are revealed for who we really are. There is no time to prepare or repair at that point. We are just exposed.

All of us have areas of weakness. Whatever those weaknesses are they tend to be front and center during difficult times. Crisis does not make a person as much as it reveals a person. Sometimes we are shocked because we thought we had dealt with certain things long ago. Others can be surprised because they find out things about you that you had been able to keep hidden in times of normalcy. Things that are not defined ahead of time are hard to define in crisis. In battle, a weak point that fails can put the strongest forces at risk. When our weak places are revealed it often invites fear and frustration into our lives and our family.

Normal Roles Are Challenged

Most likely your family has some fairly defined roles. In our home, there are things I focus on and other things my wife focuses on. It does not mean that we do not help each other, but it does mean we depend on one another to carry their weight so the other one does not have to worry about certain things. Almost every organization works this way from businesses to churches to government. We are dependent on everyone else filling their roles for things to operate smoothly.

In a crisis, it is an all-hands-on-deck mode. Roles get fuzzy and responsibilities start to bleed. We are trying to survive. The problem is that we end up doing things that we do not enjoy, things we are not sure how to do or things that we are just not good at. This tends to make us frustrated and irritable which only adds extra pressure to our family unit. Understanding that this is not permanent can help us chip in for the short term to make things work smoothly.

Intimacy Fades

When crisis comes and routines fade one of the first victims is intimacy. Stress is one of the greatest inhibitors to physical intimacy which seems strange because physical intimacy is one of the biggest relievers of stress. In crisis, we tend to use all of our energy trying to keep things together and we forget that we need intimacy with one another. In the current crisis, the lack of intimacy is heightened because the normal hugs, handshakes, and high fives are no longer a good idea while we practice social distancing. People need intimacy. There is never a time you have to be more intentional about intimacy than in crisis.

Grief From Loss

In this crisis, there are people who are grieving from the loss of a loved one. We are all familiar with the grieving associated with death. But in this crisis, there are many things people are grieving about, sometimes without even realizing that is what is going on. 

People are grieving the loss of a job. Almost everyone is grieving not being able to gather with others and share the relationships we crave so deeply. We are experiencing a loss of freedoms for a while. We have lost certain pleasures like taking trips or going out to eat at a restaurant. Grief creates sadness and brokenness. Give the people in your house some space to grieve whatever they have lost. Support and encourage one another. Grief should always be temporary.

There are so many other things I could discuss here. Things like how we get defensive when our weaknesses are pointed out or how we can overlook things in small doses but when we are together 24/7 it seems like the worst flaw in the world. Understand that everyone is feeling some pressure right now. You are not alone. Your family is not alone. Your marriage is not the only one. Know what the pressures are. Work at alleviating them and then be intentional to come out of this a better unit than when this started. Crisis does not have to crush you. It can grow you if you allow it.

Keep Some Routine Even In The Midst Of Crisis

How many words can you think of to describe what is going on in the world right now? Chaotic. Unprecedented. Uncharted. These are certainly unusual times that are requiring unusual measures. No sporting events. Limited church gatherings. Stores and businesses closed. Schools are closed. So many of our daily routines have been thrown to the side. Some of that is useful. We need to have our routine disrupted occasionally to shake us out of the ruts we’ve found ourselves in. But in times of crisis and uncertainty, some sense of normalcy is needed.

The first few days after things started to change, my daily routine had to be set to the side. It became early mornings and late nights talking to people, writing, thinking through some issues, having meetings and just trying to prepare for what was going to take place. This crisis was affecting the church I pastor and the business I own as well as my family. My entire day is rarely planned out, but I have a morning routine that I do my best to guard.

I am usually up no later than 6 AM. I read my Bible and pray, read at least one chapter in a book, exercise, spend some time writing and three days a week I do a live video at 7 AM. I rarely take appointments prior to noon. All of my sermon prep is done during the mornings. I try to guard this time. Whenever it is disrupted it can affect the rest of my day. My goal is to have done by noon anything that has to be done so that I can deal with what someone else needs done for the balance of the day. Even on Sunday, I have a morning routine. Though we have not had people in the building, I have still preached for our live stream and I have kept the very same routine.

Once it became clear that this crisis was going to last for a period of time and that there would be challenges to deal with every day, I determined that I wanted to make sure I kept my morning routine. I wanted that part of my life to look as normal as possible so that I could deal with the abnormal things that were coming at a rapid pace. I cannot control many of the things that are changing around me, but a little normalcy in my life will allow me to deal with the things I cannot control a little better.

I am sure much of your daily routine has been upended as well. I encourage you to find parts of it that you can keep. It will bring some normalcy to your life when you need it most. Everything doesn’t have to change. Some things can and should remain the same. Some of your life may need disruption but some may also need to remain steady. It will offer a strong foundation for the changing days ahead.

 

3 Good Things That Can Take Place Right Now

Strange. Challenging. Unusual. Unprecedented. All of this and more. There are so many ways to describe the time we are experiencing in the world with the Covid-19 virus pandemic. Especially here in the United States where we think we are exempt from things like this. Almost every area of our life is being affected by the current challenges.

It is easy to find the bad and talk about the stress, but what good is taking place right now? What things should be taking place that could be beneficial to us? Here are three good things that could be, and should be, taking place in your life right now. 

 

 

Stretch Yourself

Whether you like it or not, you are currently being stretched. You are having to learn to work from home or be a school teacher for your children. Things that just a few weeks ago were not on your agenda. Most of us are learning just how little control we actually have on the things going on around us. We are being challenged relationally, either because we cannot visit the people we love OR we are forced to spend more time with our family.

This is a perfect time to stretch yourself. Instead of complaining about working from home, learn some new methods that make you more productive. Learn a new language or skill with the extra time you have been given. Improve a skill that has gotten rusty. Work on that relationship issue that has been overlooked for years and is now the elephant in the room. Read a book that is out of your normal genre. If you don’t read at all, just start reading. Things that are regularly stretched stay pliable and can usually adapt more easily in times of difficulty. Things that do not regularly stretch become brittle and often break with the slightest movement. Stretching is good and it is better to do it by choice than to break by force.

Prepare for What’s Next

When we come out of this, things are going to look completely different than they do now. The job landscape will be different. The economy is going to be different. Many people are going to be without jobs. Why not prepare for that now. Some people hate the job they have. Why not use this time to prepare for a new one? Learn a new skill or cultivate a new relationship in a place that you want to be.

There are going to be opportunities coming out of this crisis. Opportunities to invest or start something new. Most people’s finances are going to look different than they did pre-quarantine. Are you looking at that and preparing?  Instead of hiding in the dark, use some of this time to prepare for the sun to rise again. It will. What will you do when it does?

Refocus Your Priorities

It is always amazing to see how priorities come into focus in crisis. I asked a question recently on social media: “What one thing are you most looking forward to in the future?”. Overwhelmingly the responses had to do with seeing family or being with family again. Just a few weeks prior the answers would have centered around an event they wanted to go to or a life goal they hoped to achieve. Crisis suddenly revealed the priority of the family. Teachers suddenly have great value as parents work through trying to work with them at home. Even the appreciation of a simple thing like toilet paper seems to rise to the top of our list.

In the busyness of life, it is easy for our priorities to become misguided. Jobs take precedence over family. Time gets compromised. Relationships get pushed to the back burner. What we really need in life takes a back seat to the things culture thinks we need. Now is a perfect time to realign your priorities and develop ways to keep them first, even when things return to some normalcy.

There is no question we are all facing challenges. These are not easy days. But there are some good things that could be and should be taking place right now. Be determined to grow when others are falling apart. Good things can happen even in the worst of times. 

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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.