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.

 

Be someone (#plantwhatyouwanttopick)

someoneHere is a sampling of the conversations I had last week with people who are experiencing tough times…

  • A man who survived multiple affairs and is working to put his marriage back together.
  • A lady who is going to die any day now.
  • A dad whose young son has cancer.
  • A man whose wife wants to leave him because he has functioned as a child when she needed a man.
  • A man who is trying to figure out the concept of boundaries.

 

My heart hurts for these men and women. As I listen to them and reflect on their stories I realize a few things:

  • Everyone needs someone who will listen to them.
  • Everyone needs hope.
  • Everyone needs instruction.
  • Everyone needs love.
  • Everyone needs someone

Whether you are trying to die well or live well, at some point you will need someone.

I hope you have someone. I hope you have multiple someones.

If you don’t, can I suggest something that can make all the difference in the world?

Be someone for someone.

Do you ever listen to anyone, or are you the one always talking?

Do you ever help anyone, or are you always the one asking for help?

Do you ever offer to pray for someone, or are you always the one asking for prayer?

If you want these things you must do/be these things! What you plant is what you will pick! If you plant isolation, you will pick loneliness. If you plant anger, you will pick anger. If you plant love… you will pick love.

The good news is that you can plant things that will be good picking later!

Jesus taught us how to do this:

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NLT)

If you want someone to be there for you… then be there for someone! In other words, plant what you want to pick!

When I listened to these stories last week I realized, some of these people have been someone for someone and now, when they need someone there is someone. Others are lonely… struggling… trying to do it alone.

I urge you to start being someone for someone today… because you never know when YOU might need someone.

#plantwhatyouwanttopick

 

Don’t lose what you’ve gained

Last night I was reading the little letter that St. John wrote to a friend of his. He said something really important in this letter:

Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. (2 John verse 8)

You work hard to gain: spiritual vitality, physical strength, intellectual capacity, vibrant relationships, etc.

The crazy thing is that if you stop working… you start losing.

Most things of value are not “once secured always secured.” They must be nurtured and protected.

A huge mistake lots of people make is to work really hard to achieve a goal… and then once they achieve it they stop doing what got them there in the first place!

Some examples:

  • People compete in a bodybuilding show… after the show they gain a ton of weight… and often stop eating and lifting.
  • People go to church because their life is falling apart… it starts to get better… they quit going to church.
  • People pay attention to their marriage because divorce is imminent… it gets better… they decrease their intensity.

If you want to get it… you’ve got to work hard for it.

If you want to keep it… you’ve got to continue to nurture and protect it!

I urge you to look around you. Who/what do you love? Who/what have you worked hard to achieve? Then ask yourself, “If I keep doing what I’m doing will I keep/grow this thing I love so much?”

#dothework

Get uncomfortable

comfort-magicI’m 41 years old.

I like to be comfortable. Everyone does.

What I have realized though is that what is comfortable for me is rarely good for me in the long run.

What is comfortable is a box of Little Debbies and a Netflix binge. What is comfortable is sleeping in… spending as much money as I want whenever I want… saying everything that comes to mind… skipping the gym… not studying my Bible or reading good books… etc.

Yes, when I read that list of things I realize that my tendency is to be a sluggard. I work. I like to work; but if I only did what was comfortable I would work much less on things that are much less meaningful. I’m guessing you would too.

I realize something else…

As I get older there are fewer things that make me comfortable AND I love those fewer things more!

The problem here is that if I allow myself to only do those things atrophy will set in: physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, and relational atrophy. I’m not okay with that.

What makes me (and you) stronger is resistance… discomfort! The truth is that if you are not regularly uncomfortable then you are not growing… and if you are not growing then you are diminishing (because nothing is static).

So here’s the question: What are you currently doing that is making you uncomfortable?

  • What books are you reading that are stretching your mental capacity?
  • What are you doing with your exercise and eating that are making you uncomfortable… but better?
  • What risks have you taken lately that have pushed the envelope?
  • Have you had a difficult conversation lately? One that you started with a lump in your throat, sweaty hands, and a dry mouth? Tim Ferris said that “the level of success in our lives is directly proportional the number of difficult conversations we are willing to have.” Are you having them?

Look… you can play it safe and choose comfort for the rest of your life. That will result in a weaker, smaller life that is impoverished and boring.

OR, you can move into the discomfort zone. This is where growth happens!

Right now I’m working on an experiment in my life that is moving me into the discomfort zone. I’m calling it “Six Weeks of Awesomeness.”

I have identified a total of six actions I want to execute and/or six habits I want to establish by the end of six weeks. Some things require daily attention (habits), and some things require a block of time on the calendar (actions). The truth is that all of these things are a little out of my comfort zone… none of them makes me extremely comfortable… but all of them will make me a better man when they are completed and/or established as routines in my life.

Does that sound like something you know you should do? How about joining me?

If you decide not to do”Six Weeks of Awesomeness”, then at least consider this question:

What are YOU going to do to move out of your comfort zone and into a place of discomfort and growth?

 

Three ways to change yourself

Every month I write an article for the Brutal Iron Gym newsletter.

For now this is a free newsletter packed with good information and inspiration. If you want to receive it send an e-mail to brutalirongym@gmail.com!

This is the article I wrote for the June edition of the newsletter!


 

3 waysI’m a huge fan of getting better! In fact, one of my goals is to get better as I get older. Part of my plan for making that happen is by reading… constantly acquiring new ideas. One of the ideas that I ran across recently was something that I can’t wait to share with you! It has to do with how to change yourself!

First things first though… I am of the opinion that YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU! You are where you are because of the decisions you have made up to this point! You made food choices, relational choices, recreational choices, etc. that have created the man/woman you see in the mirror today.

The good news about this is that if your decisions have led you to the place you are currently, they can also take you to another place! Decisions followed by action are powerful tools!

Having said that, there are powerful forces that influence our decisions on a regular basis. Let me share the three most powerful (I owe this line of thought to Darren Hardy’s book “The Compound Effect”).

  1. Input
  2. Associations
  3. Environment

Let’s look at each one for a minute…

Input

This is the “stuff” that goes into your mind.

Think about it… what does your mental diet consist of? Facebook? Netflix? TV? And there’s always the silly nonsense we can gorge on via Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. (BTW, I have all of these and from time to time I actually learn some stuff from them!)

You know, if you drop a blob of mud into a perfectly clean pool that little bit of dirt will dilute the water! BUT, if you drop ten 5-gallon buckets into that pool… you’re going to have a mud puddle! That’s what we do to our mind when we fill it trash that does not inspire and motivate!

I’d encourage you to start filling your mind with positive inputs by reading good books, listening to inspiring podcasts, and talking with people who are already doing what you want to do, because at the end of the day… if you want to change you, the first thing you should consider is your mental diet!

Associations

Oh, this is a biggie!

The people you hang out with will, according to one study, “determine as much as 95% of your success or failure in life.”

Think about it, if you hang out with powerlifters, you’re probably going to end up lifting heavy stuff! If you hang out with bodybuilders, you’re likely to end up eating lots of chicken and blowing out your shirt sleeves! If you hang out with people who binge on Moon Pies and Chocolate Milk… well… you’re going to blow out some clothes too… just not the sleeves.

Seriously, I don’t need to spend a lot more time teaching this point because you know it… the people you hang with will help you or hurt you.

If you want to change you then you might just need to get some new friends.

WARNING, shameless plug forthcoming…

I recently wrote an entire blog post about this subject titled “Who’s In Your Circle of Five?” I encourage you to go read that… when you’re done with this post!

The third influence in our lives is…

Environment

Your environment is the sum of all the things around you: people, art, furnishings, words, etc.

Think about it like this… how do you feel when you walk into Brutal Iron Gym? Got it? Now think about this, how do you feel when you walk into your doctor’s office? You feel completely different because the environment is completely different.

Your environment is a huge influence on the person you are!

Some things that I like to include in my environment are: positive music, encouraging words, sunshine, hugs, high fives (BTW, I prefer high fives in the gym), good books, etc.

Let me ask you this, if I were to walk into your environment (e.g. your house, office, car, etc.) would I be inspired or feel like taking an entire bottle of Xanax?

The point here is this…

If you want to change you, you can hasten that process by changing your environment!

So there you go!

Three factors that will help you change the person that you are and become the person you want to be:

#1 Input

#2 Associations

#3 Environment

Oh, and now that you’ve finished this post, go read this one about building your Circle of Five!

We might not be communicating

group-of-people-talkingFor the last several years I have made an effort to make friends who don’t look/believe/act like I do.

From racial to sexual to theological differences… I have made a lot of great friends.

I’ve spent a lot of time drinking coffee, eating sushi, and lifting weights with my friends. I’ve listened… and from time to time I’ve talked.

Over the last few years I’ve learned a few things, but perhaps the most important is something that’s been crystallized in the last few weeks.

Let me explain…

I am a heterosexual, conservative, white, middle class man. I have a set of presuppositions that I typically bring to any conversation. I have realized a problem though…

Many of my friends don’t have the same presuppositions.

If this is not taken into consideration, communication problems will ensue.

For instance, I base my decisions on what I believe God wants or doesn’t want. My friends who do not believe there is a God obviously don’t include Him in their decision making process.

Now here’s where the miscommunication happens…

In addition to being a friend, I am also a pastor. Every week I stand up and teach at Church180. I love being a pastor. I love teaching. I love talking about God and showing how His ideas work in our lives!

HOWEVER…

I make a HUGE MISTAKE if I assume that everyone in our church starts with the idea that there is a God… or that He is actively engaged in our lives. Not everyone believes this!

I’m realizing that if the church is not careful, we are going to be talking to a group of friends that have no clue about what we’re saying… because we’re not starting with the same set of presuppositions.

I presuppose that there is a God. I presuppose that humanity is made in the image of God but is broken by sin. I presuppose that Jesus was a real man who died for my sins, was buried, and resurrected to life three days later and now lives inside of those who believe in Him… empowering them to live lives of l0ve, courage, wisdom, self-control, etc.

I presuppose all of that. My friends don’t.

The result? Much of what I may say may not make sense to them… because we start with different presuppositions.

So how do we fix this?

Well, the last couple of years I have done a lot of listening. A LOT of listening.

I ask questions and then listen. I have listened to black men talk, gay men and women talk, atheists and agnostics talk… and I have learned… A LOT!

The more I learn, the more I realize I need to change my starting point in conversation and teaching from what I believe to what we believe.

No longer can I assume that everyone in the room has the same starting point as me. I must assume that many in the room will start with different presuppositions than myself. I must respect that/them, seek to find common ground, and start there.

How do I find common ground?

LISTEN! Listen to your friends who don’t believe, look, think, or act like you do… let them show/tell you what’s important to them… what they value… and start communication there!

We may be miscommunicating because we have not taken the time to listen!

To use the words of Steven Covey, “Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.”