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4 Things (and a bonus) We Can All Apply From George H. W. Bush

As a part of my recent writing about things I am learning and taking away from different places, I want to share with you some things I took away from a recent visit to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. This was an important visit to me. He was part of the first presidential election that I can recall. He ran against Ronald Reagan in the primaries and later became his running mate as Vice President. He would also win the election for President of the United States in 1988, which was the first year I was eligible to vote. In my adult life, the Bush family has been one of the most prominent names in culture.

There are so many things we could take away from his life and his service, and I certainly have some other notes that I want to remember. But I was walked through this library and museum, there were four things that I think all of us can learn from and grow a little ourselves.

He Loved His Family

First, he loved Barbara. This has been prominently on display for the world to see recently as they both passed away less than one year apart. As the country mourned their passing, one thing that was highlighted over and over again was their love for one another. The letters they wrote to one another over the years showed the depth of the bond that they had. As with any marriage that is strong, that loved spilled over into how they loved their family. It has been said that the best gift a parent can give their children is to love their mother or father well. Not only does it set an example, but it helps them see how much you love them. In spite of pressure-packed schedules their entire married life, they were intentional about time with their family and letting one another know how important they were.

Family Affected How They Treated Others

Their strong family bonds and their love for one another affected how they treated people outside of their family. There are several stories that have been shared over the years from people who had the opportunity to spend time with them and how loved they felt. They treated people with respect and dignity. Even in moments of deep disagreement, there was respect shown. No one is without moments when we fail. But the Bushes have a lifetime of examples of how they treated other people well.

He Gained Lots of Experience

Possibly the one thing I noticed above all else was the fact that we may not have had a president with a more broader palette of experience that “41” as he was affectionately called. He served in the Navy. He started and ran a successful business. He served in the US House of Representatives, as an Ambassador to the United Nations, Liaison to China, Director of the CIA, professor at Rice University, Director of the Council on Foreign Relations and Vice President before becoming President of the United States. That is an extremely broad resume and he most likely would have been president for two terms without Ross Perot running as a third-party candidate. The experience that he gained through each of those jobs allowed him to have a broad impact but also allowed him to have an influence on a large stage. Don’t be afraid to gain a breadth of experience. The broader your experience the better you can lead.

He Did Not Forget People Who Helped Him

Not only did he write notes to Barbara, but 41 was famous for notes that he wrote to everyone. He regularly thanked people for their help or reminded them he was thinking about them. Often these notes were about something that many people had long forgotten. One of the notes on display that stuck out to me was one written to the commander who taught him how to fly in the Navy. He was President at the time, but the note accompanied a photo of one of the planes he learned to fly. He thanked that commander for being so patient with him during training and told him he appreciated him for setting him on a course that would later allow him to become President. He did not have to remember that commander, but he chose to not only remember him but to thank him as well. You did not arrive where you are on your own. Don’t forget the people who helped you get here. Maybe even take the time to tell them.

Bonus

As I was writing this I remembered an observation my wife Barbara made while we were going through the library. She is going through her own transformation at the moment but she remarked about halfway through as she looked at photos that Barbara Bush never tried to look young or hip. She accepted who she was and loved being a wife and mother. Her hair was white at an early age. She did not try to be on the cutting edge of fashion. By some standards, she even looked “old” in her 40’s. Barbara (my wife) was impressed at how comfortable Barbara Bush was in her own skin. I think it is an area where all of us could grow. Learn to be comfortable with who we are instead of trying to be what we think someone else wants us to be. Wife and mother are two of the most important jobs in the world.

Don’t forget to take an opportunity to reflect every time you have a new experience. You may find certain things you can apply to your own life that will make a difference. Live a life that is constantly growing.

4 things that stuck out to me about Lyndon B Johnson

One of my favorite things to do is learn about former US Presidents; how they lived their early life and the path they took to the presidency. When we travel and are close to a presidential library, we try to visit. On a recent tour of Texas, we stopped at a couple. The first presidential library we toured was the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. 

 

Johnson was the 36th President of the United States serving from 1963-1969. He was serving as president when I was born. A Democrat from Texas, he served in the House of Representatives as well as the Senate before being selected to be Vice President for John F. Kennedy. I always like to listen to the speeches that were selected and look at the quotes they have posted. As I visited the library and museum, there were a few things that stuck out to me that I wanted to share.

 

You Don’t Always Get To Choose The Time

The country has a vibrant young president with small children whom people love when a sniper suddenly kills President Kennedy in Dallas. It is then that Lyndon Johnson is sworn in as President while on Air Force One. He may have had aspirations to be president during his life, but this was not the timing he had in mind. As Jackie Kennedy stood on one side and his wife Lady Bird Johnson stood on the other, he took the oath of office to be president. A nation that is in crisis, grieving, and mourning is now suddenly his to lead. This is not a moment anyone would want. But when you are the Vice President you have to be prepared. When it is time to lead you must lead even if the circumstances are not ideal. As a matter of fact, your time may come at the worst possible moment. It is in those moments when we must step up and use the abilities we have been honing. We do not always get to choose the timing. We do get to choose how we lead in those moments.

 

Goals

In a speech given at the University of Michigan in 1964, Johnson laid out 16 goals he had for achieving the “Great Society”. He had a vision for America and the way we would arrive there was through these 16 goals. Do you have a vision for your life? Your business or your family? If so, how do you intend on getting there? Setting goals is an effective way to move forward.

 

He Was Concerned About People

A leader who is not concerned about people is not a good leader. LBJ was concerned about people. He wanted to do something about segregation and racism. He was concerned about the treatment of people of color in the country. He wanted to end racial injustice. He was concerned about poverty. He wanted to put an end to the constant suffering poverty was causing families. He wanted everyone to have an opportunity to get an education. He believed that education would help solve the poverty problem. He wanted to raise the quality of every single American’s life. Great leaders are concerned about people. Poor leaders are only concerned about themselves. 

He Had Priorities and the Country’s Best Interest

LBJ suffered with health problems and was concerned about dying. Though there are varying accounts of what led to not seeking the Democratic nomination for President in 1968, the museum presented the case that his health was failing and he wanted to finish some important legislation. He had to choose whether to campaign or to complete one of his goals. He chose to complete one of his goals and leave the presidency to someone else. After the turmoil with the Vietnam War, he also felt it was time for the country to heal and that someone else might be better to do that. It does not appear that power or position were his most important objectives. His most important goal seemed to be doing what was in the best interest of everyone. Sometimes we can become so enamored with power and position that we forget what is important. We still need to live out our values and priorities and make sure we are putting the interest of others at the front and not just ours.

I am a firm believer you should be learning and growing every day. There are so many people and situations that we pass right through on a daily basis, never taking a second thought about how we could learn from them. This is my big take away from the Johnson Library. I am better if I am learning and growing. 

7 Things I Took Away from Lakewood

Barbara and I visited Lakewood Church in Houston, TX on one of our recent trips. The church and its pastor, Joel Osteen, are controversial for many. I was much more aware of this than Barbara. I still wanted to visit. This is not a post to defend or condemn, so I would ask those comments get shared somewhere else. When traveling, sometimes I visit a church because I want to hear the pastor. Other times I go to check out their facility. Occasionally I just want to see how they do things and experience their service. We got a hotel just across the street from the church and Sunday morning we headed over.

When I visit a church I am always looking for new ideas and better ways to do things. I want to walk the entire complex and take pictures and make notes. I did all of that. Sometimes people wonder what things stick out. Usually, only my staff hears about these things and then still only a few. I just thought I would share publically a few of the notes I made while I visited.

Smiles Matter

I know an image just popped into your head. There are plenty of smiling Joel Osteen jokes. But every volunteer we came in contact with had a smile on their face. As a matter of fact, the young lady who was assigned as our host said that was what caused her to become a volunteer. Pastor Joel had mentioned that if you could smile they could use you and she signed up. I will explain the host situation later. Smiling makes people feel welcome and most often they will smile back. It can change the entire atmosphere of a room. Your smile matters at church, and everywhere else. 

Engagement Is Critical

Occasionally when I visit a church I will let them know ahead of time and they will go out of their way to make me feel welcome. This was a last minute trip so I had not done that. But everywhere we went to that church, a volunteer engaged us. They asked if it was our first time there. They offered to help with any information. One of the people who engaged us was the head of their host ministry. These people specifically engage new people. She went and found us a personal host and gave us each a devotional. They didn’t interact with us because I was a pastor. They interacted with us because they did that for everyone who walked through the door. One of their hosts went from row to row after you were seated to talk with you. Having lots of people was not an excuse. They engaged people and of course, it makes you want to come back.

Energy

From the first single note that was played, there was an enormous amount of energy. Every single person on that stage was fully engaged and giving everything they had. When the pastors walked out on the stage a few minutes in to greet and pray, they came with energy. For the first 40 minutes, there was not a single silent moment. It was geared to draw you in and get you engaged in the service. The songs were connected in a theme that just built the energy in the room. Add to that the presence of the Holy Spirit and you have a power packed moment.

Prayer

In my entire life, I have only been to one other church that spent more time dedicated to prayer than Lakewood. There were pastoral prayers, corporate prayers, extended prayer time to pray for specific needs and a time for people to come to know Jesus at the end of service. The time to pray for specific needs was during the middle of the worship set. They had pastoral staff and prayer team members across the front and at every section in the building. They took time with each person. As long as was needed. This lasted 10-15 minutes. Enough time to sing at least three songs. Prayer is a significant part of their church.

Testimonies

I grew up with testimonies in church. Anyone who wanted to testify could. We even had testimony services. Some were inspiring. Some were embarrassing. Others were just too long. They scare me to death. But during the service, they brought a gentleman and a couple to tell what God had done in their lives. The gentleman was sober for 10 years after finding Christ at the church. The couple’s marriage had been restored and they had learned to handle money and get out of debt through classes at the church. Seeing what God was doing was powerful.

Pastor Was Engaged

There are over 50,000 people each week attending Lakewood. Clearly, he cannot know everyone, but Joel Osteen did his best to engage every single person he could. First service was at 8:30 AM. After that service, he went to the lobby where he did a baby dedication for a family in the church and then greeted anyone who wanted to talk to him until time for the next service. When the service started, he was on the front row worshipping. He hit the stage about two minutes in with energy. He prayed with people at the front during prayer time. He was in the service the entire time except just after prayer time when he went out to collect himself before the message. He was out one song. When service was over he was back in the lobby greeting people. I have been to a lot of megachurches. That is something you just don’t see. For about 6 straight hours there was no letup. I was impressed.

Stand To Acknowledge Christ

He asked them when he got up to preach to stay until the end because it was important. Leaving at the end of the sermon is the worst time to leave by the way. At the end of the sermon, he didn’t ask everyone to stand. He asked those who wanted to know Jesus as their Savior to stand. He was very clear that is was something they could not be ashamed of. That was a new one for me as well. People all over the room were standing. There was a man just to my left with tears flowing down his face. He was having an eternal moment and my heart was thrilled for him. We should not be ashamed to ask people to acknowledge Christ.

You can have the theology debate on another blog. You can learn something from everyone. I learned a few things. I was reminded of a few things. Most importantly I left encouraged. Be a lifelong learner. You will never regret it. 

 

Why I Choose To Say Happy Anniversary

Social media makes it easy to remember everyone’s birthday. Facebook sends you reminders for everyone on your list of friends who has a birthday. Now, this is beneficial for Facebook to know because it is one more piece of information for them to use for marketing. But it is also a great tool for you to remember the big day for your acquaintances. Snapchat and Twitter offer different reminders and chances for you to wish a happy birthday to someone you know as well.

For a few years, I did my very best to keep up with wishing everyone a happy birthday, but it became quite hectic with a full friend list. They make some apps that can help with that. In general, when people write a birthday message on my wall, I do my best to read it and at least acknowledge it by liking the post. Every single one of those means something to me and I believe they do to most of the people who receive them. I don’t discourage anyone from offering birthday wishes to people. It can lift the spirits of the people reading them. I still do occasionally myself.

What I have chosen to do every day is to make sure I wish every married couple that I can a happy anniversary. Facebook makes this easier because they have picked up on that so when people make an anniversary post, it almost always shows up in my news feed. It is not that birthdays are less important. You are alive and that is an accomplishment. But it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get older. My life experience has shown me that it takes a lot of effort to stay married.

I admire people who work at their marriage. Barbara and I know from personal experience the investment it takes to make a marriage successful. It requires individual growth as well as growth as a couple. This requires time and intentionality. Good marriages do not happen by accident.

So, if I miss your birthday, it is not that I do not like you. But I promise you I will do my best to wish you a happy anniversary. Because I know it took some work to get there, I want to cheer you on to have many more great years together.

Three Easy Traps

Have you ever looked back at a situation and asked yourself “How did that happen to me?”. I have found myself in more than one of these situations. Our path is filled with traps that we easily fall into if we are not careful. Some of them are unseen but most are avoidable. The problem is that we typically don’t realize we are in a trap until it has cost us something.

Some traps are set intentionally by other people. They work for their benefit. They want to sell you something or use your time. Even in those situations, we have a choice we can make. My experience is that when I find myself in one of these traps I was either not paying attention or I decided I could overcome the odds. There are several of these that I could talk about, but I want to talk about the three most common traps that I have seen.

 

Spend Too Much
An overwhelming majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Bankruptcies are high. Debt is at a staggering rate. All of these things point to the clear sign that we have fallen into the trap of spending too much. The unfortunate part is that many people are oblivious to this until they are in real trouble. Sometimes we excuse the problem with things we call “emergencies” or “seasons of life” believing that we will get out of it shortly only for the pattern to continue while we get deeper in a hole. We can even go as far as to believe we are “making an investment” when it is just going to break our back with debt that may never pan out the way we hoped. Spending too much can create stress which affects our body and puts tension in our relationships. We can get out of this trap but it can be painful and can often take years. Our best option is to stay aware of our financial situation.

Wait Too Long
The opportunity of a lifetime is only as good as the lifetime of the opportunity. Doors do not stay open forever. Waiting too long is rarely good. There will be the occasional situation when waiting longer provides us some benefit, but in general, it causes us to miss many opportunities. There are a couple of things that cause us to wait too long. Some people are simply procrastinators. They are going to put everything off until the last possible moment. It doesn’t matter if it is something insignificant or extremely important. Their default programming procrastinates. Eventually, this catches up with you and there is always a price to pay. Another thing that impacts waiting is fear. We are afraid. We can be afraid of a number of things. It might be a fear of failure. It could be fear of the unknown. We might even be afraid it will work out. Fear has the ability to paralyze us so that nothing can get done. If you are a procrastinator, it is something you need to work to overcome. If you constantly fight fear, find small ways to succeed until you gain the needed confidence. Don’t allow waiting to become a trap.

Going Too Fast
We live in a world that is enamored with speed. Everything is about how much faster and easier we can make something happen. Now more than ever we have to be aware of the speed with which things are moving. But it is also possible to just go too fast. At certain speeds, we depend on our memory functions. Impulse tends to take over and we do what we can see at the moment. When we are moving too fast we often do not take the time to get wise counsel about the things we are considering. There are only a limited number of things we can consider at high speeds. Sometimes important things get ignored that will cost us in the long run. I tend to lean more to speed than I do to waiting and may even think it is usually better. But know that speed can be a trap and may do more harm than good at times.

Maybe one or more of these have caused you problems. We may fall into a trap from time to time, but we can miss most of them if we are a little more self-aware. Wherever you struggle the most is a great place to start. It is always better to avoid a trap than to have to escape one.

The Difference Between Relief and Help

In a devotion I was reading recently I read a quote that really struck me. It said, “Many of us pray and pray hard but very few of us actually submit”. There are many things that I pray about on a daily basis. Currently, there are a few things that I am praying about diligently. They are things that are really important to me. As a matter of fact, when I read that quote, one of those things immediately came to my mind. I began to ask myself if I was really submitting to God about that issue. Did I want help or just relief?

I have been pondering this question now for a few days. There is a significant difference between the two. I know for myself that I am often looking for relief but I am not very open to the help. As a pastor, I encounter people on a regular basis who have that same struggle. I would even say that the majority of people are looking for relief and not help. Debt relief. Marriage relief. Pain relief. Work relief. Most often we are not looking for help. You may be asking, ”What is the difference?”. This is my summary of the difference between help and relief.

Relief
Very few people are interested in changing their actions. What they really want is the removal of the consequences of their actions. When we get relief, we are usually not solving a problem but only temporarily removing the symptoms of the problem. The debt consolidation loan gives us temporary relief but when our actions do not change we end up in a worse position than where we were before. We get pain relief without discovering what is actually causing the pain, or if we know, we choose not to make the changes to ease the pain permanently. Sometimes pain relief can mask something that is causing us great harm. Even the method of relief can be harmful to us. I prefer not to take a lot of medicine but if I get a headache I have no problem taking an Excedrin. But these pain relievers over time can do our body harm and cause other problems. There are certain things that I know to do to help avoid headaches, but sometimes I choose the relief over the help. Even when we have relief at work unless we quit we still have to go back. Our relief is temporary. There may be things that you can do on your job that requires help instead of relief and you may enjoy it more.

Help
The most difficult part of getting help is coming to the realization that we do not have all of the answers and we cannot do it alone. Getting help requires us to acknowledge that someone may have a better perspective, idea or that we are just not superhuman. The other thing about help is that sometimes the results are not immediate. We can take a pill and get almost immediate relief. Sometimes with help, we do not see any improvement immediately. A few years back I went to the chiropractor for an issue with my back and it took several visits before I saw any improvement at all. Most help requires a certain amount of discipline. If we are getting financial advice, it requires us to be disciplined to follow a plan to get the results that we want. If we are getting marriage counseling, we have to put into practice the things that we are seeing and understanding. Help allows other people and information into our lives to make it better over a long period of time.

We may not get the immediate relief we desire when we seek help, but the long term health of just about anything is better when we accept the help we need and stop masking the symptoms with relief. Sometimes relief might be necessary and even acceptable, but help is what most of us need. Be willing to accept it.

3 Times I Wish I Had Listened Better

Some people listen better than others, but everyone has moments when they just do not listen well. There are many reasons why we miss things we should have heard. Sometimes we are distracted, or we think we already know the information so we “zone out”, or we think we know better than the person speaking so we ignore them. There are even moments when we do not think what is being said is important or relevant and we just pay no attention to the information being dispensed. In most cases we do not intentionally ignore, our brain takes over and we just shut them out.

One of the reasons this happens is because to listen intently requires a lot of focus and energy. It requires us to be intentional to take in the things that are being said. One of the reasons that the staff hiring process is so exhausting for me is because of the early phone interviews with the candidates. I may do 40-50 calls in short period of time and most of them cover the same information. I ask the same questions over and over again. When done, I am usually wiped out because I have had to intentionally focus on each conversation to make sure I had the information I needed. Listening rarely happens by accident.

Looking back over my life, there are some specific places where I wish I had listened better. Had I been more intentional, it would have solved some problems for me both then and now. Instead, there were things I missed that created problems and issues that at times were painful. Recently I have been thinking about this some and recognized three areas I wish I had listened better.

Relationships
Not just any relationship. Every relationship. There is not a single relationship I have ever had that listening better would not have eliminated certain pain and problems. Marriage would be better. I would have been a better parent. My friendships would have been different. One of the greatest challenges of any relationship is communication and half of communication is listening. I have missed hints from my wife, important stories from my children and concerns of my friends. Every single relationship in my life would have been better had I been more intentional about listening.

Education
I did pretty well in school. I certainly had my moments when there were struggles but my grades we decent. One of my biggest hindrances in listening while in school was I didn’t think I needed it. Not that I did not need to learn, but usually I comprehended things fairly quickly and so my brain moved on to other things. During those times when things were being repeated and rehearsed, I missed important information. Some of the things I missed during those moments had nothing to do with the subject at hand. Sometimes it was the teacher offering some nugget of wisdom or watching people interact who were struggling in an area I was not. These things just passed right by me and I missed something that may not have benefitted me immediately, but certainly would have been a guide later.

Spirit
I come from a perspective of faith. Obviously part of what I do is pastor a church. So if you stop reading here that is your choice, but this might be something you need to listen to. Some of the moments I have most missed it in my life was when I ignored the Holy Spirit speaking. Sometimes it was conviction about something I needed to change. This blog may very well be one of those times the Holy Spirit was speaking conviction to me. Sometimes it was a change I needed to make or a truth I needed to accept. Other times it was guidance and direction that I was ignoring. In each of those times, there was some cost extracted for ignoring the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Some of my most joyous and refreshing moments came because I listened. Some of my most painful experiences came because I did not. I would encourage you to do the work to listen. You cannot go back and “re-hear” what you missed. But you can start today with intentional listening. It will change almost every part of your life.

When You Think You Suck!

Recently I preached a sermon and was completely frustrated with it. We have two services so I got another opportunity, but I hate to feel like I completely missed it. There were things that happened that morning that I could blame, but those things happen on a regular basis and it doesn’t have the same effect. When my wife came into my office between services I said that it was a terrible sermon. I later sent the staff a message of a humorous picture that made me feel better because I was sure that sermon was in the top 10 worst I had ever preached. That was probably not completely true. I preached some pretty bad sermons when I first started out. But when things do not go the way you intend you often think the worst.

My perspective changed a little as the day went along. I was able to process the sermon, the day and the situation. A little perspective goes a long way. I thought I would share a few things that helped me get my mind right and look at the day a little differently. Maybe they will help you when you have a similar situation.

You Have Those Days

The greatest baseball players in the world go hitless from time to time. As a matter of fact, a great baseball player will only get a hit 3 out of 10 times. Similar statistics could be given across most other sports and professions. Every single person has times when they are not at their best and everything does not go exactly right. Don’t beat yourself up. The best in the world have days when they are not performing very well either.

 

You Are Not Quitting

The fact that you are there doing something is a sign of progress. You are not quitting. We all know the quotes about quitting. There is something to be said for showing up and doing the job. You doing the work is more than many other people are doing today. You have an opportunity and you are attempting to take advantage of it, even if it is not as great as you would like it to be. Don’t let a single bad day cause you to quit and rob you of the good days that you will have. Good days do not last forever, but bad days do not either.

 

Good Is Still Happening

This is the best perspective-changer I know. In my job as a pastor, I have to trust God to do most of the work anyways. The Apostle Paul would write that he plants and Apollos waters, but it was God who increases things. I received a message from someone later on Sunday afternoon saying that the message was right on time in their life. God was taking my failing efforts and working it in someone’s life exactly as they needed. Even in places where you do not consider it to be overly spiritual while doing your job, good is happening even if you cannot see the effects immediately.

We all have days when we feel like we suck. A little perspective will help you get over it quicker. Don’t get too sad when you fail or too happy when you succeed. If you do, life will feel like a roller coaster. Understand that both things happen in everyone’s life. Neither lasts forever.

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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.