Stop worrying about your clothes

nothing-to-wearRight now I’m really busy.

This weekend I will officiate at a wedding, preach a sermon, and then carry out my pastoral duties at a funeral… the funeral of a friend.

This busy weekend comes right in the middle of a teaching series I am doing at church called, “Making Space.”

As I am preparing to teach this weekend, I am reflecting on some words spoken by Jesus. These words are incredibly appropriate for every busy person… especially people who are driven and slightly distracted!

I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:25-34 NLT)

This is certainly not a call to forgo planning, hard work, or physical well-being. What it is is a call to STOP making secondary things the primary pursuit of your life.

I’ve realized this: when you pursue the primary things, you get the secondary things thrown in. BUT when you pursue the secondary things first you may never get the primary things.

Looking back over my life, I see that I have often allowed busyness to distract me from the primary things (God, relationships, physical well-being, emotional vitality, etc.)… and the result is rarely good.

The times in my life of which I am most proud are the times when I have kept the primary things in focus and enjoyed, subsequently, the secondary things.

So as I work through this busy season in my life, I encourage you to join me in processing what takes up space in your mind:

  • Is it clothes or close friends?
  • Is it paper or people?
  • Is it your job or your God?
  • Is it primary or secondary?

Give it some thought… and then take some time to make necessary adjustments. You’ll not regret it!

Making space in a packed life

Making Space1“When good things begin to happen, other good things begin to fall through the cracks.”

That is exactly what happened to the leaders of the church when it was in its early days. It’s something that happens to leaders today too. Things start going well, and then things start falling apart, and it’s often the important things that go first: spiritual vitality, relationships, physical well-being, emotional strength, mental growth, etc.

Look at this story found in the book of Acts (6:1-7) (I’m going to insert comments in bold throughout this story):

…as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.

Believers were “rapidly multiplying.” That’s a good thing.

Meeting basic needs, like distributing food to the poor, is a good thing, but it was falling through the cracks because the leaders were too busy… they had no space in their lives.

When good things start falling through the cracks “rumblings of discontent” will soon follow. Sometimes those rumblings come from inside your home. Sometimes they come from inside your body. Sometimes they come from the organization you lead. 

How long it takes for them to come and from where they come are different for each person. What is always true though is that when good things get ignored the rumblings will come.

So what do we do? Look at what the Apostles did:

So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”

They made a decision to let go of some things. They did not STOP them from happening, but gave them over to others to execute.

Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.

Look at what happened when the leaders let go of those extra responsibilities and focused on their sweet spot…

So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.

Things went gangbusters when the leaders made space in their lives to function in and lead out of their sweetspot!

Now here’s the thing, if you’re in any kind of leadership position, you are going to be responsible for LOTS of people and details… and if you insist on handling everything you will soon run out of space in your life and the rumblings will begin.

Here’s something we talked about yesterday at Church180:

The things you hold onto will determine how far you go.

If you insist of doing everything and letting go of nothing… you will run out of space, the people around you will become discontent and unfulfilled… and you and your organization will soon flatline.
The alternative is letting some things go either by choosing to STOP doing them or HANDING THEM OFF to other people.
Making the decision to “hand off” is tough… especially if you love and feel the responsibility of your organization, but when you do hand off you will discover that there are incredibly passionate and capable people around you that can do things so well that the organization will be happier, healthier, and more vibrant than when you were trying to do it all yourself!
So are some self-evaluation questions for you (and me):
  • Are good things happening in your life? Business? Church? Organization?
  • Have you taken time to determine if other good things are slipping through the cracks as a result?
  • What do you, the leader, need to focus your energy and time on doing?
  • What do you need to stop doing?
  • What do you need to hand off to a team?
  • Are you willing to let go of some things and trust others to do them?

As you’re processing this, remember that the things you hold onto will determine how far you go!

If you are interested in hearing how I taught this story yesterday you can watch it here.

 

How to spend time with your kids

double-date-copy-2I am a busy guy. I’d bet a dollar you’re busy too.

I’m a husband to one lady and a dad to six ladies!

I am a full time pastor and a part-time personal trainer.

There are always things to do, and I make a valiant effort to get them done.

What I have learned though is that things will wait, but people won’t.

The project I’m working on will be there tomorrow… my ladies may not. If I am not available to them, they will go to places and people that are. I have a responsibility to invest into their lives… and they’re not going to wait, so I need to invest time into them now! And the same is true for you and your kids.

Because we’re so busy, how do we systematically make time to invest into our kids?

I have written about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again…

I date my daughters. Every one. Every week. (the picture I shared is of a rare double date… it was just too cute not to share!)

Right now I am not able to spend as much time on dates as I used to, but every week each girl gets a 30 minute date. Here’s how that looks:

  • Monday: 3-3:30 Ashton; 4-4:30 Lexington.
  • Tuesday: no dates
  • Wednesday: 3-3:30 Karis; 4-4:30 Reagan
  • Thursday: 3-3:30 – Riley; 4-4:30 Dallas
  • Friday night – Family night
  • Saturday – 6:30 – 9ish a.m. – The First Lady (The lovely and talented Mrs. Peterson)

These dates are not expensive; for the girls we budget $1 per date (Sherri and I spend $12 on our date). In fact, the last year or so the girls and I rarely even spend our $1! We purchased a key chain from Wendy’s that is worth one Junior Frosty every time you present it! So, for a one time purchase of $1, I get six Frosty’s a week.

What can you do with $1 and 30 minutes? Check this out:

  • Eat a Frosty and play Memory
  • Eat a Frosty and play Truth or Dare
  • Eat a Frosty and ride through the country singing songs as loud as you can
  • Eat a Frosty and tell stories
  • Skip the Frosty and go to Family Dollar to spend the $1 that is budgeted
  • Eat a Frosty and play basketball in the driveway (no one else is allowed to play with us when we are on a date)
  • Eat a Frosty and read a book together
  • Completely blow the budget and go to Wal-Mart to buy Shopkins. (Frosty is optional on this one)

I really don’t buy the excuse that says “I don’t have time/money to date my kids”. I call “baloney” on that. You can do it. Will you?

There’s another way too…

I call it “Filling in the cracks.”

My mornings start early (4 a.m.), and I usually train clients at the gym from 5-7 p.m. So both morning and evenings are full. Because I start so early, I try to be in bed by 9 p.m. There is not a lot of time for extras right now so I’ve been taking advantage of two “cracks” of time I have with “the ladies”

  • 7:30- 8 a.m. I play basketball with the middle school girls (or get a makeup tutorial from one of them) while Sherri takes the elementary school girls to school. When they leave for school I head up to my office and get to work.
  • 3:30-4 p.m. I play with the elementary school girls while Sherri is picking up the middle school girls from school. When they get home I go on my second date of the day and then head out to the gym for my evening clients.

The point is that there are “cracks” in your day when you have access to your kids! Fill those cracks! Play a game. Listen to their stories. Enter their world for a few minutes. You’ll be surprised at the treasure you will find in those cracks!

So there’s two ways to find more time with your kids:

  • Schedule a weekly date
  • Fill in the cracks

I know we’re all busy… but someday we won’t be, and when that day comes I do not want to look back with regret because I didn’t spend time with my kids.

How about you? What are some ways that you make time to spend with your kiddos?

Making space

chaotic_craftroom(DISCLAIMER: this is not a room in my house. Mrs. Peterson would skewer me if I ever posted a picture like this of a room in our house… if such a room existed.🙂 )

We just started  a new teaching series at church called “Making Space.”

As I’ve been thinking about this series and in preparation for it, Sherri and I have been working on something for the last few months… a little project that literally makes space in our home.

We’ve been getting rid of stuff! Trip after trip to Goodwill… we’re making space!

We started doing this after we started reading some books (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, etc.)

We realized that all the stuff we had took space in our home, our minds, our calendar, our budget, and our lives… so we’ve started downsizing!

I never knew how freeing it was to get rid of stuff! Stuff like the clothes we never wore, the books we never read, the toys we never played with, the games we never utilized, and on and on and on…

All around us is stuff we never use that just takes up space.

Now that we’re getting rid of it, we spend less time organizing stuff we never use and cleaning clutter we rarely pay attention to… and it is freeing us to spend time on the things and with the people we love!

I’m no home-cleaning guru but I’m telling you what, making space in our closets, garage, and rooms is doing more than cleaning out physical spaces… it’s also cleaning up spiritual and mental space!

Have you ever stopped to wonder how much energy (spiritual, emotional, etc.) is consumed by the “stuff” you have in your space? Based on my experience, and the wisdom gleaned from the experiences of others, it’s a lot more than you might realize!

If you’re thinking about making space in your life, I would encourage you to start with the physical and see what flows out of that!

Maybe it’s time for a trip to Goodwill!

If there is a God… why does he allow evil things to happen?

exhausted.jpg

I hear this question a lot. I’ve even wrestled with the “why God?” question myself.

This morning, while reading St. James I had a thought about this matter.

Let me show you what I read and then I’ll share the thought:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4 NLT)

So here’s what I thought…

When we ask the “Why does God let this happen?” question we make one or more assumptions:

  1. This life/world is all there is.
  2. I’m as good as I can get.

Let’s break them down.

This life/world is all there is.

The “why God” question works if this life and this world is it… beginning and end. “Why would you let my one shot at life be this awful?” is a fair question if this is all there is.

However, Christians, and other faiths, believe that this life/world is NOT all there is! There is something after this life: experiences to be had, relationships to be enjoyed, and rewards to be received. The opposite of these is true as well. In short, the Scriptures teach us that there is more after this life.

Christians live our lives in this world with the hope that this is NOT all there is! There is more, and that faith helps us navigate suffering, evil, and death. While we grieve and feel pain we are never without hope… because we know there is more.

The pain, suffering, and evil in this world is in direct correlation to the abuse of our free will (but that is a subject for another day). The good news is that regardless of what it looks like here, there is another place… another set of experiences waiting to be had… and that knowledge gives us hope.
This optimism allows us to fully enjoy the good times and courageously navigate the hard times in this world.
And now the second assumption, the one that was highlighted in St. James letter…

I’m as good as I can get.

St. James teaches us that suffering and hard times make us stronger. Anyone who goes to the gym understands this. In fact, we’ve immortalized this idea with a slogan: “No pain, no gain!”

Once again, we see that what is true in the gym is also true in life! Pain makes us stronger… at least it has the potential too if we navigate it well.

For those who say “Why God?” may I suggest that this pain may in fact be your path to a better you? Pain is the flashing light on the dashboard of our lives that finally gets our attention!

C.S. Lewis famously said:

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

As I was processing these thoughts this morning I spent some time journaling and ended with this note:

Suffering, pain, and even evil may actually be the doorway through which we pass into eternal life or a better life.

So, I think that both of these assumptions are wrong: this life/world is all there is, and/or  I am as good as I can be.

I believe, on the other hand that…

This life/world is NOT the end for us. There is something else… so an end here is the first step into there.

I am NOT as good as I can be. I need to get better… and then do it again which means I will need pain and suffering… often delivered in the hands of evil.

If you are in that place… suffering… St. James tells us what to do in the sentences immediately proceeding his instruction on suffering. He writes:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. (James 1:5-8 NLT)

I hope you’re not suffering, but if you are I hope you give some thought to these two ideas, and then shoot me a note. I’d love to hear from you!

When you’re the best man in the room… go to another room.

gym-etiquette_2101068c1This morning I had a conversation with someone about the value of setting goals.

This person is trying to figure out what goals to set. For all intents and purposes this person is doing well: physically attractive, financially set, intellectually sharp, relationally fulfilled. What else could someone want? Right?

We talked for a while and I began to ask some questions… questions that have me thinking and might be helpful for you to process as well:

  • What happens when you’re the strongest person in the gym?
  • What happens when you’re smartest person in the room?
  • What happens when you’re the best… or at least better than those around you?

Not always, but often, you will begin to stagnate. You will be tempted to settle… because you’re already at the top (as least as far as you can tell).

You may be tempted to pride… after all, you’re stronger, smarter, richer, prettier, funnier, etc. than the rest of your friends so what else is there to do but keep doing what got you there?!

That’s a dangerous place to be!

John Maxwell teaches a principle that goes something like this:

If you’re always the biggest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

I’ve found that when I am surrounded by people who are better than I am, it makes me want to be better! It makes me think deeper, dream bigger, work harder, and stick with it longer!

The gym where I train is filled with strong people! Heck, the women in our gym are stronger than the men in most gyms! There are multiple men who are deadlifting over 600 pounds and squatting well over 500 pounds. Benching 300 pounds at our gym won’t even get you on the “strongest lifters in the gym” board.

In most gyms I’d be considered a pretty strong dude. In Brutal Iron Gym, when I do a heavy lift my buddies look at me and say, “Are you done warming up yet?” (Then they celebrate my lift… because that’s how we roll at BIG).

I like that… I like it because it drives me to work harder and be better!

Being surrounded by people who are better than I am makes me want to be better… and it shows me HOW to be better!

The same is true in every other area of life:

  • I want to be a great husband… so I need to spend time around awesome husbands.
  • I want to handle my money well… so I need to spend time around people who handle their money well.
  • I want to represent Jesus well… so I need to hang out around people who live out their faith consistently and well.
  • I want to be a great dad…
  • I want to be a great leader…
  • I want to be a great communicator…

You get the point.

If you want to be better you can’t always be the best in the room! You’ve got to put yourself in environments where you are surrounded by people who are better than you.

Now here’s an important caveat:

This is not a call for us to self-denigrate! This is not the time to begin private messaging yourself saying “You’re no good” or “You’re never going to be that good”… etc. NOPE! This is the time and place to be inspired… to ask questions… to take notes… to see how those better than you are performing so that you can perform that way too!

So, if you’re not sure what goals to set or how to get unstuck… get around people who are better than you! I think you might just like what happens when you’re not the best person in the room!

Why pastors don’t always preach

 

preacher in a seat

This past weekend I didn’t preach at the church I love!

I LOVE to preach, but I don’t always preach.

Sometimes people wonder why preachers don’t preach every Sunday. They may even wonder what they do when they’re not preaching. Those are fair questions.

Here are the reasons I don’t preach every Sunday:

Family Vacation.

Every preacher/pastor should do this… I mean completely disconnect and pay attention only to your family. (BTW, many business owners would do well to do this too.)

Pastors spend their lives concerned with the lives of other people… that is their calling, and they should do that. However, it is not for no reason that we see pastor’s kids turning rebellious and hating the church. In many cases, it is because their parent (usually the father) paid more attention to the people in the church than he did the people in his family.

At our church, we tell our pastors, “If you’re not leading your home well, you are not qualified to lead our church… so make sure your home is in order.” This comes straight from St. Paul.

Pastor/leader, your family regularly needs to be the focus of your attention without having to compete with phone calls and emails asking for your time and energy elsewhere. Make sure you do it while there is time.

The church needs to hear from other teachers.

If you’re a parent you know this… you can tell your kids something over and over and over… then someone else comes along and says the same thing and your kids go “OH!!! I get it!”

Pastors are responsible to teach and model for the church what God calls us to in the Scripture. They/we do our best, but sometimes a fresh voice with new insight is just what is needed for the church to have that “OH! I get it” moment.

Some pastors hesitate to bring in guest speakers because they are afraid that the speaker might be better than they are! Listen, if you’re that bad people aren’t going to come week after week to listen to you. Besides that, you and I are not the best preachers out there. There’s always someone who is funnier, smarter, more passionate, and more experienced… and the people of your church are probably already listening to them on iTunes!

If you don’t take a break because you’re scared that your replacement might be a better teacher than you then you need to take some time off and do a heart check!

Not preaching gives me time to prepare to preach better sermons.

Carey Nieuwhof is a pastor, thinker, and writer who writes often about current trends in the church. In a recent article he addressed this matter of preachers preaching less. He wrote:

a growing number of preachers are realizing that preparing 52 excellent Sunday messages is increasingly difficult. Personally I’ve cut back from writing 70 messages a year a decade ago to about 35 a year today.

The result? I’m a much better communicator.

What’s creating all this change?

Simple. It’s the wide availability of digital options.

A decade ago, people who attended your church only really ever listened to you. Now they can hear anyone for free.  And they do.

As a result, the local pastor is often being listened to alongside today’s best communicators, and local pastors are opting for quality over quantity.

At some point, quantity and quality compete. And in today’s digital landscape, innovative leaders are opting for quality.

I’ve found that when I teach less, I teach better. Cranking out new material every week is something I love, and I find that when I take a break I am more passionate, clear, and thoughtful when I teach.

Finally…

Pastors do more than preach.

Just because you don’t see your pastor on Sunday doesn’t mean he’s not working! Meetings, weddings, funerals, study, planning, praying, thinking… all of that happens during the week.

Just because he’s not there on Sunday does not mean he/she didn’t put in a full week!

BTW, people who joke that “preachers only work one day a week”… I know they’re trying to be funny, but they don’t understand what St. Paul wrote:

“I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” (2 Corinthians 11:28-29)

Pastors go to sleep with the people of their church on their mind… and they often wake up with those same people and situations on their mind… praying for them, thinking about them, wondering how they can help….

So what do preachers do when they’re not in church?

I can’t answer for every preacher but I do one of four things:

I visit another church.

Every preacher should do this! We forget what it’s like to visit a church for the first time. We forget what it’s like to be in a place where no one knows your name.

If we want new people to come and feel welcome in our church, then we need to know what it feels like to be a stranger in a church!

I take time to learn something new.

Sometimes a conference runs into a weekend and it requires that the pastor be gone on Sunday.

I speak at another church or conference.

Most pastors have an allotted number of weekends for speaking opportunities outside of their local church.

I do what you do sometimes… sleep in and chill out for the whole day.

Yep. That happens sometimes too!

So that’s why pastors aren’t teaching every Sunday and some insight into what they might be doing.

If you’re a pastor, what would you add to this list?