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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.

4 Reasons We Fail To Do The Will Of God

If you are a follower of Christ, one of the things that is a part of your faith is to know the will of God for your life. What does God want me to do? Where am I supposed to be? What is my purpose? It is something that deep inside, we all want to know.

The question that I want to address today is what keeps us from doing what we already know to do? It is one thing to have no idea what God wants you to do, but it is a different situation when you know, yet choose to do something different. Are their common reasons why people choose not to follow the path God has for them? Are there some common experiences all of us have in responding to the will of God?

I believe there are some common reasons why all of us struggle to live out the plan of God for our lives. I would contend that these reasons also apply to people not of faith, though you may not acknowledge the last one as valid.

Uncertainty

This is probably the first thing that trips us up; we are just not sure what we are supposed to be doing. Uncertainty will keep us from taking any action. When we are not sure, we usually do nothing. We feel like a deer caught in headlights paralyzed over which direction to take. We take none and get ran over.

Fear

Fear can bring life to a grinding halt. We are afraid we are going to do the wrong thing. Afraid doing the right thing will result in a disaster. Afraid of what people will think. How people will respond. The consequences if we are wrong. We are afraid that even if things turn out perfectly, it will be so drastically different from what we know now that we will not like it. Fear is a real obstacle to doing the will of God.

Attachments

I was not sure what word to use here, but attachment seems to sum it up best. We become attached to people, places and things and those attachments create difficulty in doing anything that may potentially separate us from any of them. Debt is another attachment that hinders us from living out our purpose. Letting go of what we have to receive what we need is one of the hardest things we will ever do.

Sin

It is has been said that the greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing. Often the very thing that keeps us from living out the purpose and plan of God for our lives is just deliberately ignoring things that we know we should have abandoned long ago. Rarely have I been surprised when I missed what God wanted me to do. Way too many times it has just been because I liked the poor choices I was making more than I wanted to do the will of God.

Why do you fail to do the will of God? Which one of these resonates most with you? If we are aware of where we consistently get stuck it will help us get past that obstacle and fulfill the purpose and plan God has for our life.

What Happens When We Are Stirred?

In the church tradition that I grew up in, the word “stir” or “stirring” was commonly used. You would hear phrases like “I feel a stirring in my spirit” or a prayer that might include something like “stir our hearts Lord”. From a spiritual perspective we all need stirring from time to time. Recently I have found my own spirit being stirred. The struggle has been that stirring does not not always mean the same nor does it necessarily create what we were hoping for. Stirring muddies things up instead of making things clearer. As a matter of fact, I have found that stirring rarely brings clarity as much as it brings awareness.

Being “stirred” has a different meaning for every person. Stirring may create things in your life that it does not in someone else’s. The outcome of you being stirred may be completely opposite from the result that someone else gets from being stirred. Here are four ways that you can experience stirring in your life.

It Can Cool Down or Rekindle

Stirring can cool something down or it can rekindle a fire. Hot liquids are often taken through a stirring process to cool them down while coals that are about to go out are stirred to rekindle a fire. Something that is too hot is not as useful and something that is supposed to be on fire but has gone out is not effective. Sometimes stirring in our lives is cooling us down to a more useful state while at other times it is rekindling a fire so that we can be used again.

To Combine Things

The first thing that comes to mind is a liquid that has separated, but there are so many other times when stirring is used to combine things. This method is frequently used when cooking. When a new ingredient is added, the mixture is stirred until it is completely integrated. Often new things need to be added into our life and we are stirred until that new ingredient is fully integrated. Without the stirring we would not have the unity.

When Something Moves

“Well, you are finally stirring” is heard quite often in a household with teenagers. It is a sign of life or a sign or movement. Occasionally, the stirring we need is just to get moving again; evidence of some sign of life. It is so easy to find ourselves on the sidelines of life while everything passes us by. Sometimes we just need to be moved.

To Provoke

I can relate to this one as I have been called a “pot stirrer” from time to time (I have probably been called a stirrer of something other than a pot as well). I find humor at times in provoking people. There are times when this can be harmful, but there are other times when people only act if they are provoked. Sometimes our stirring is a provocation to get us to do something – to respond. Otherwise, we just passively ignore things that should matter. Many of the greatest movements in history came because someone was provoked. Provocation may be the stirring you experience.

I don’t know if you are experiencing a stirring in your life right now or not. I am, and I can see several of these things playing out at one time. At least now you can refer back and understand that stirring comes in different ways for different results. What you are experiencing today may be pushing you toward the one thing you need the most in your life right now.

How To Fix A Fight

The last couple of weeks I have been sharing about tensions in relationships. We have talked about things that can lead to a fight and the anatomy of a fight . Though none of us want to end up with a relationship conflict, we need to be able to deal with the fallout when it is over. I hope that the previous articles have offered you some insight that will help you avoid some of the major conflicts that you could have in your relationships, but in those instances when it was not avoided, there are some things that I think you should do after the fact to try to fix the damage. Here are three things that can help you when you find yourself in those unfortunate moments.

Apologize Quickly

We all want to be right. No one wants to be wrong. But if we have arrived at a place where we have a major conflict or a fight in our relationship, there is usually plenty of blame to go around. The sooner you apologize the quicker you can begin the healing process. I know some people say that actions speak louder than words, but this is one instance when that is not true. Apologies are the starting point to reconciliation. It is the recognition that something is wrong and needs to change. You cannot apologize too soon after a conflict.

Speak Kindly

Undoubtedly there have been plenty of unkind words spoken in a fight; a lot of things that should never have been uttered. After apologizing, it is critical that we are intentional about speaking as many kind words as we did hurtful ones. There may be a need for silence, but it cannot last forever. We need to speak up with words of healing and affirmation. Words are a vital part of starting a conflict and just as important in overcoming one.

Be Affectionate

Every man just read the word “sex”. This may include sex, but that is only a part of it. A simple hug can speak volumes that words would never be able to explain. The touch of a hand or a head on the shoulder communicates loudly to our partner that we love them and care for them. The gentlest touch can resolve more tension than a thousand words. AT&T used to have a slogan “reach out and touch someone”. Being affectionate is critical to the resolution you need in your conflict.

None of us want to find ourselves in a major conflict, but we do. When you find yourself there, these three things will be invaluable in resolving the issue and moving on with life. I hope you don’t have to use them often, but when the time comes, I do hope you will.

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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.