The Undiscovered Country (by way of the Untraveled Road)

  
As I write the title to this, it occurs to me I have most likely used it as a title in the past… I say that because the idea of the undiscovered or unknown appeals to me very core as a human being. And also, because it happens to be the title of my favorite Star Trek movie.
Either way, it is going to be recycled by me today. 

As I think towards the future, I wonder what it brings for me… for my family. Many of us wonder this same thing. We wonder what comes next for us? What does this year hold in store? What can we expect to get/do this year? Where will our jobs/careers take us over the next year? What will our families be like? Some of these questions are easily answered, or at least an answer to them is easily inferred. But others of them, we may never know the answers. 

As I look ahead of me, I see many thins ahead. I see a future with almost limitless possibilities. I see a road ahead of me that is untraveled and unknown. I see a horizon of possibilities and a future without restraint. 

What holds me, or us for that matter, from achieving what we want or what we see possible? This is not some self-help, happy-ending, health & wealth theology. This is a practical questioning of what is holding me back from reaching the goals or desires I set ahead of me? It is encouraging you to ask the same question of yourself. 

Commitment. Discipline. Follow through. If you read my last post, you will undoubtedly know I admitted to lacking the follow through to make my dreams reality. What can I do to change this? I’m not sure I know the answer to that. 

I bet it begins with envisioning a future where I follow through. I bet it starts with a dream of an Eli who not only dreams the dreams, but he makes the dreams reality. 

What does the undiscovered country, the untraveled road look like ahead of me? It looks strangely similar to a vision of an Eli who not only dreams the dreams but he goes beyond the dream to a practical application of the dreams to make them reality. 

What does that look like? Hopefully, it looks very different than the road behind me. 

Razor’s Edge

  
Maybe it’s just me, but I find I live life on a razor’s edge. 

What I mean is this: each day has the propensity to be a good day or a bad day. It all depends on which way I lean. Which way am I going to go. Which direction do I allow my day to be taken. 

If I allow my day to be dictated to me and don’t specifically take steps to make it a good day, it won’t be one. It’ll be a bad day. This shouldn’t be surprising to us. We live a world marred and broken by sin. We live in a world where selfishness and sel-gain are the order of the day. Our world is broken and leads towards destruction. So it shouldn’t be surprising that our days can easily become bad days full of pain and suffering. 

On the other hand, if I wake up and determine to make this day a good day it is more likely than not thT it will be a good day. I know what you are thinking, some days are always going to be bad due to their circumstances. True, but our perspective incredibly affects our outlook on life. Perception is 9/10 of the law, right? We can’t always make everyday an epic specimen of existence, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying. Here’s four practices I utilize in my efforts to make everyday a good day:

  1. Remember today is a new day. P.O.D.’s song Alive starts with the words, ‘Everyday is a new day, I’m thankful for every breath I take’. I often find myself reciting these words at the conclusion of a tough day or at the beginning of the day. Everyday is a new day. Today doesn’t have to be like any other day you’ve ever had. 
  2. People depend on me. I’m a dad, husband, boss, mentor, friend and role model. People are looking to me to gain insight on how to handle their lives. People are looking to me to learn something. People are relying on me to be strong and consistent. I am not an island. People need me to be the best I can be today. 
  3. God has blessed me beyond what I could ever deserve. Even in my darkest moments, my life is favored and blessed. As a child of God, I am in dwelt by the Holy Spirit and therefore have found favor with God. He loves me. He watches over me. He is preparing a place for me that is free of pain, suffering and hurt. 
  4. The last practice is somewhat more practical in nature and may qualify as more than one practice, but whatever. I use everything at my disposal to make each day good. Counseling, prayer, reading the bible, wise counsel from friends, self-help articles and books, time with my kids, video games, anything. God has blessed me with a myriad ofresources at my disposal to make my day good, all I have to  do is reach out and use one of them. Surprisingly, God doesn’t want me to be miserable. 

I still have bad days. It happens more than I want. But those are the days when I let life happen to me and not the days when I happen to life. Decide today to be more than conquerors and Almagest today a good day. 

Listening Ears

dog listening

I consider myself a pretty good listener. I try to cultivate a slow tongue and hear what you have to say. I make a conscious effort to allow you to speak, to allow you to communicate your point of view your side. I would like to think I make rational decisions after having weighed all the facts and heard all that needs to be heard.

Granted, I’m not always like this. Ronda will tell you I am an interrupter. And I am… at times. There are moments when I don’t want to listen. When I don’t feel like I need to listen. I honestly don’t believe those times dominate my ears. In my judgment, I listen pretty well.

The other morning, I was having a conversation with a professional who was not a good listener. She interrupted me multiple times and would not stop until I closed my mouth and heard what she was saying. This didn’t stop throughout the entire conversation, even after the second time I said, ‘as I was trying to say’.

This was very frustrating to me. I felt as though this lady would not allow me to get a word in edgewise. Do you ever feel this way? Do you ever feel as though people are some consumed with getting their voice heard, that they don’t hear yours? It almost doesn’t matter what you have to say, because they don’t want to hear it. They are sure what you have to say doesn’t matter. I find it annoying when I encounter people like this.

I have been reading through the book of James a lot lately. At my church, we are going through series of sermons in the book so I have taken this opportunity to study the book as well. This morning I read from James chapter 1, where James encourages us to be ‘quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger’. These are great words of advice for several reasons. I think our interactions with others would be improved if we would make a reasonable attempt to live this out… not just because the Bible says so. Here are three reasons why it is a good idea to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger:

  1. When we don’t listen to others, we dismiss them. Not only do we risk dismissing a potentially good idea from them, but we are dismissing them. Not just their ideas or thoughts, but them as well. When we are dismissive of others, it communicates they don’t matter. We communicate to them they are important, their voice isn’t worth hearing. We communicate t them they have nothing to add or say of value. Nothing that could be important or beneficial to hear. When we are slow to hear, we are dismissive of others and being dismissive doesn’t build relationship it tears it down.
  2. When aren’t slow to speak, we often end up putting our foots in our mouths. We’ve all been there haven’t we? We open our big mouths and say something we think to be informed by the truth, only to find out we don’t have all the information and we were wrong… and we look like fools, idiots really. I always think about the apostle Peter when I think about putting my foot in my mouth. On one occasion, Jesus was telling his disciples he was going to have to suffer at the hands of the religious leaders. When Peter heard this he was, “There’s no way I’m going to let that happen to you! I will take them out! I will introduce them to my little friend!” Jesus responds with the classic, “Get behind me, Satan!” Open Peter’s mouth, insert foot. Peter didn’t fully comprehend what was going on, opened his mouth and Jesus likened him to Satan because to stop the imminent suffer would have been akin to stopping God’s perfect plan. Being slow to speak allows us to gather enough information to speak with wisdom when we do speak.
  3. When are are quick to anger, it has a tendency to be unrighteous anger. Ephesians 4:26 reminds us to not sin in our anger. For me, this is a prescription to not be angry… because I don’t seem to be able to be angry and not sin. I’m a work in progress to be sure. Either way, if we easily anger there’s a pretty good chance we aren’t being angry in a sinless layabout things we should be angry about. Short fuses rarely lead to righteous anger. Again, it is a matter of having enough information to know whether our anger is justified or not, whether it is something ‘worth’ getting angry about. I suppose we need to understand what would qualify as ‘worth’. In my mind, righteous anger is warranted when the issue at hand would also anger God. If it is an injustice or situation where God would be angry, then we can be angry as well. Too many times we et angry quickly, when choosing grace and mercy would have been better choices. If we are slow to anger, consider and think rationally through the feelings of anger we are feeling we will better equipped to be angry at the right time about the right things.

We should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger… essentially because it promotes the most healthy and best relationships with others. It is the best way to interact with others. I don’t always get it right. I miss the mark, often. James encourages us to slow down and make more of an effort to get it right.

A Future of Freedom

  
What would it be like if you woke up tomorrow and all your problems were gone?

In solution focused therapy, this question is often posed by the therapist to motivate the client to imagine a future without the ailment bringing them in for therapy. This question excites and empowers the client to imagine a future of freedom… freedom from what plagues them… freedom to live unbound by labels… freedom to live without the weight of their troubles upon their shoulders. 

This question is meant to evoke feelings of hope and courage for a future that is different. It seeks to break the cycle of dysfunctional thinking the client is trapped in. It aims to change perspective. 

I dare to say, it is one of the most powerful questions that can be asked in therapy. It has the ability to re-capture the excitement of life. 

The only drawback to this question, is sometimes we aren’t ready for it. We aren’t ready to dream, to hope, to envision a future of freedom. We aren’t ready because we are too happy in our misery. Sure, everyone wants freedom inside their core… but we also revel in the familiar, in what we know, in what is comfortable. Which means, it can be easier to wallow in misery and not hope for a future of freedom. 

This is what keeps us from breaking free from our ‘prisons’… it’s not that our prisons are inescapable, as much as we don’t want to escape. We limit ourselves. 

We don’t have to live this way… we don’t have to live chained to our problems, our issues, our baggage, the things that hang us up. We can be free… free to live lives unchained and unfettered to the junk that brings us down, holds us back and keeps us from moving forward. 

The miracle question allows us to realize this possibility. It allowsus to envision a future of freedom. We must be courageous enough to dream for a future of freedom. More than that, we mis be courageous enough to take the next steps to realize that freedom. 

The first step to overcoming a life chained and fettered by issues, baggage and ailments is to dream the miracle question… dream what life would be like free. The next step is working to make that dream a reality. 

What would it be like if tomorrow you woke up & all your problems were gone?

A Certain Point of View

watson mill

Luke: You told me Darth Vader betrayed and miurdered my father.

Obi Wan: What I told you was true, from a certain point of view.

Luke: A certain point of view?

Obi Wan: Luke, you will find many of the truthes we hold are from a certain point of view.

We have all heard the cliché, possession is 9/10 of the law. I think it is equally true, if not more true, to say perception is 10/10 of reality. Our reality is shaped by our perspective – our interpretation and understanding of the events and external stimuli we encounter. How we perceive the world around us becomes our reality. We approach life, situations and problems based on the way we interpret the external influences on us.

What’s the big deal about this? So what? This is critical because it sets the framework for how we react to life. I have been told I’m a ‘the glass is half empty’ kind of guy. I tend to have what some call a pessimistic, defeatist outlook. I would argue, it’s a practical, reality-bases outlook but whatever.

Many circumstances we face can swallowed much easier if we have a proper perspective. As I got up and got ready for work, ate breakfast, drove to work and arrives do late what was the cause? Did my alarm clock purposefully not go off at the appropriated time? Did my boys refuse to get dressed solely to irritate me? Was every other driver on the road setting out to get in my way? Is the world just avainst me today? Or did I have a unique set of circumstances which led to me arriving to work later than I planned? Did these circumstances allow me a few more minutes with my family this morning? As annoying as it is to catch every redlight, I can’t help but wondering what I may have avoided on the road by being stopped at those lights.

Our perspective sets the tone for our attitude and outlook on life. Here are three ways to keep perspective in perspective:

  1. Remember we aren’t alone – We barely are facing a situation which has never been faced before. We aren’t the only ones who have suffered in the way we are suffering and likely not the only ones suffering in this way currently. Remembering we aren’t alone is powerful in dealing with whatever life is throwing at us, because we know we don’t have to do it alone, all by ourselves.
  2. Remember there is a lesson in this – I have come realize even the difficult times of my life have taught me something… especially, he difficult times in my life have taught me. It is through the fire that the core of my being has been forged and made me into the man I am today. I am who I am because of what I have learned in the midst of the chaos that has been difficult times in my life.
  3. Remember someone may need our help –  It is possible there are others around us who are also suffering who need us to be there for them in the difficult times. If we can look around us and see those around us who are suffering, we could be in a position to help those who need it. Maybe we are both on the same journey and we are farther down and have words of encouragement to share. Maybe we have already conquered what they are struggling with. Maybe they can find strength and the ability to carry on because of what they see in us.

Life isn’t always easy. We don’t have the ability to control life, but we can control how we approach it and we can control our response to it. Are we going to assume we have to accept the garbage we face in life or are we going to try to look at life in such a way that we can make the most of it?

Make a Choice

  
For my job, I needed to get certified in First Aid/CPR. As I was completing the class, during the introduction the course stressed the need as a bystander when seeing an emergency you must decide to act. First and foremost, you have to make a choice. Make a decision. Either get involved or walk away. 

This is true for everything in our lives. We have to choose, make a choice to engage… to do something. That something is either walk away or get involved. 

This is especially true within relationships. This is true when we someone hurting, whether that hurt is physical, emotional or mental. Each day we make numerous decisions to get involved or to not to get involved. What is the difference between the two? Why do choose to engage in one situation and not another?

Sometimes we choose not to get involved because we don’t want to be bothered. It always takes less effort to disengage than it does to engage. Disengaging is actually the opposite of choosing to engage in a relationship in that it actually does harm.  Not only does it not strengthen the relationship, it causes it to be weakened by causing separation. 

Sometimes we don’t engage because we don’t know what to say or do… we feel unqualified or unequipped for engaging in a way that would be helpful. Oftentimes, if we wait until we are properly equipped or qualified we will never engage. 

Other times, our selfishness gets the best of us and we don’t engage simply because we can’t see past our own problems. We deceive ourselves into thinking we are the only ones with problems or that we are somehow the only ones suffering. We are self absorbed and uncaring of those around us. 

Each day, multiple times in them we will face situations where we must choose to engage or walk away. It’s up to us to prioritize relationship, to prioritize people, to decide to engage and invest in those we care about. 

Bandwidth

BandwidthI am not a techno-wizard or computer geek or any kind of over the top tech-savy intellectual giant by any means. I know enough to get by… maybe enough to be dangerous with my knowledge. But, as I understand bandwidth it speaks to an amount of capacity something is able to handle. For instance, your internet has a specific amount of data that can flow down to your computer and back up to the internet. This is bandwidth. This is the amount of information that can come and go freely. When the bandwidth gets bogged down or bottled up, the info doesn’t flow freely and slows down dramatically. Causing issues. This is one reason why cable modems have been superior to DSL modems in the past. Cable modems have a specific amount of bandwidth dedicated to your specific location while DSL modems dedicated to say the block and if everyone is using the DSL modems to stream Netflix at the same time, no one will enjoy it.

We as humans, have a certain amount of bandwidth. I have noticed bandwidth within humans is a lot like pain. My threshold is not your threshold. You may find it very painful to have your fingernails clipped, while I may enjoy bamboo shoots under my nails. It is all relative. So is bandwidth. For a variety of reasons, we each have our own level of bandwidth and capacity to manage tasks or responsibilities.

One lesson I learned at H2O Church Orlando, is I have the tendency to overestimate my bandwidth. I was not unique in this. The other pastors at H2O had the same problem. John and I used to say, ‘for guys like us who are able to do so many things very well, it is hard for us to not overcommit to stuff that needs to be done.’ It was a half-joke, but also true. When you bandwidth allows you to accomplish much and when you are talented at many things, you tend to overestimate what you can and can not do therefore overextending yourself and overloading your actual bandwidth.

Going hand in hand with the lesson on overestimating my bandwidth and thereby over committing myself, I had to learn how to determine what were reasonable additions to my proverbial plate that my bandwidth could handle. What I had to do was come up with a strategy to realistically assess whether I could handle the added responsibilities and pressure. What I began to do (with varying degrees of success along the way) was ask myself these questions:

1. Is this something that is important to me? The first place to start is by determining whether the new task is something you actually care about. Are you passionate (I dislike use of that over-played word), excited, fired up, really interested and care strongly for the new responsibility? IS this something you see as a priority and needs to be done and you have the interest and skill set to do it? If you can’t answer yes to this question, you should strongly reconsider taking on this new thing whatever it is and however vital it is. There is nothing more taxing and stressful to our bandwidth than to take on something we could care less about.

2. Do I have the skill set to do this? I alluded to it in the first question, but this is a deeper exploration of the required skills and abilities to accomplish the responsibility in question. There are a wide range of things I am good at. There are even a handful of things I am really good at. There is a plethora of things not falling even remotely close to my wheelhouse, things I am not good at at all. When considering taking on new responsibility, we have to realistically assess our abilities and what it is going to take to successfully accomplish the task, not just do it. If the new responsibility doesn’t fall within the range of things we do either good or really good, we shouldn’t do it. While still taxing and stressful to our bandwidth, taking on things we aren’t skilled to do also is detrimental to the responsibility in question because it could fail due to our inability to accomplish it and our unrealistic assessment of our skills.

3. The third question I ask myself is, does it fit into my schedule or am I willing to rearrange my schedule to make it fit? This is critical. If we are super excited on fire about something we are over the top skilled to do, but have no time to do it… why are we taking it on? No matter how excited we are or how skilled we are, if we can’t find time to do it, it won’t get done. It just won’t. And what have we accomplished by adding something else we don’t have time for into our schedules? Nothing. We haven’t accomplished anything… literally, cuz it didn’t get done. I have found by adding every minutiae to a calendar so I can see how everything fits, is very useful when determining whether something can be done or not. I used to be super-organized (I have slipped dramatically in recent years), but this kind of organization and control over my time has been exceedingly helpful in making an informed decision about whether I can realistically do something or not.

Our bandwidth is not limitless. There is a finite amount of space we have and ability to realistically commit to various responsibilities taxing our lives. We will be better served and more effective in everything we do, if we ask ourselves these three questions when looking to add something new to our lives. If we want to be successful in what we put our hands to, we have to realistically assess if our lives are arranged in such a way that we may be effective in this new responsibility. This isn’t just a good idea, its scriptural. Paul writes in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,”. If we are overcommitting ourselves and adding more things we aren’t capable of actually doing we are not giving God what he deserves. We are not doing it ‘heartily’ or to the best of our abilities.

I am learning to be realistic about myself and my bandwidth. I have also found there is much more joy in being able to say yes to what I can accomplish and accomplishing it than there is adding something I can’t handle and not finishing and having to step away from it because I am unable to follow through and complete. These questions may not be the solution for you, but I bet they are a good place to start.

Do you have any advice or processes which you use to think through what your bandwidth is capable of? I’d love to hear them.

Reinventing Ourselves

image1How often do we approach each day as just another day? How often do we come to the end of a year and face the beginning of the next one as thought it is just another day or just another year?
It is likely we nonchalantly go from one day to the next without a second thought, but it rarely happens that we go from year to year without making a big hoopla, big to do or ordeal out of the passing of one day and coming of another. Why? Is there something more special about the first day of a new year? It has 24 hours like all the rest. It falls within the context of a normal week and a normal month.
What makes it so special? It feels as though the end of the year and the beginning of the next allows us a second chance. It feels like the end of the year gives us a chance to start over. To begin anew. To start fresh. To reinvent ourselves.
Here we are, a couple days into 2015. I don’t know what 2015 looks for you, but I know for me it is going to be one full of transition, full of excitement and full of God moving in the life of my family in radical ways.
I typically shy away from making new year’s resolutions, mainly because I don’t keep them past the first day. But this year, I have set some goals for myself. Audacious goals, actually. I’m not calling them resolutions, but goals rather. I have a strong list of goals I want to accomplish in my life in 2015.
Discipline.
You can narrow down all my goals into one word, and that word is discipline. Not that I am an undisciplined person, but I feel like I could have more discipline in my life. I came to this realization about 6 months ago. I began working on becoming more disciplined, but still have ground to cover.
Everything I do over the next 12 months will be in an effort to create more discipline in my life. Becoming a better father, a better husband, a better leader, and a more complete person has at its heart becoming more disciplined. I am working to create more discipline in my training, in my eating, in following through on responsibilities and in my spiritual life.
I don’t know what your success has been with resolutions, but I encourage you to take advantage of the beginning of 2015 and use it as a fresh start to reinvent yourself to become the person you have always wanted to be. You are the biggest obstacle to setting new goals for yourself this year. My goals are big. They are audacious.
In 2015 I plan to reinvent myself. I plan to become the Eli God has called me to be. I plan to be a better father, a better husband and a better person. I am not content with selling myself short any longer
I am capable of more.
And so are you.

Setbacks

20121116-112443.jpg

Setbacks. Roadblocks. Speed bumps. Pot holes. Getting knocked down. Challenges. Obstacles.

Whatever you want to call them we all experience them.

I love to trail run. Running is sublime in and of itself, but being able to commune with nature and enjoy the run in that environment is truly a pleasure. The downside to it is that I often get so wrapped up in the moment and the joy that I often don’t notice a root sticking out of the ground invariably I trip and fall. And it hurts. It is surprising. Did I mention it hurts? But you get back up and you keep going. You finish the run. And you don’t hesitate to trail run next time either.

This week, brought me my biggest setback in my counseling program. I have to withdraw from my internship. It really sucks. But it is ok. It is out of my hands. The site I was interning at, didn’t have the number of clients coming in regularly that I need in order to complete the hours I needed to complete. So in order to not jeopardize my placement in the program I am withdrawing, reloading for January and I will start again.

Throughout our lives we will encounter roadblocks, setbacks, challenges, obstacles. What do we do when we encounter them? Do we stay on the ground? Do we admit defeat and give up? It would do no good to give up the trail run after tripping over the root, because you would be stuck on the trail and possibly become food for the next skunk ape to pass by (I live in Florida and the skunk ape is our version of Bigfoot).

We can not let these setbacks define us. We have to be defined by our response to the setbacks. And our response to these setbacks needs to be to get up and try again. We can’t let a few setbacks stand in the way of our goals, dreams and becoming the person we want to be.

Reload.

Start again.

Keep trying.

Don’t give up.

This is by far the biggest obstacle I’ve encountered in this program, believe me there have been many setbacks, but it will not defeat me. It will not cause me to give up. I will not admit defeat. I will not fail.

What defines us is not whether we experience a setback or not… it is what we do after we encounter them. Do we get back up? Do we stay the course? Do we finish the run?

Not allowing the setbacks to stop us is more descriptive of who we are.

Get up, keep going, don’t stop.

That’s what I’m doing. How are you going to overcome your setback?

The Sum is Greater than the Parts

**Sorry for the formatting issues, not sure why it’s doing this and can’t make it go away!!**

No doubt you have heard this cliché more than once in your life. Do you think it is true? Is there any truth to the whole collection of pieces being greater or more substantive than the individual pieces?

Think about the pieces in a cup of coffee. Milk or creamer is good by itself, especially if preceded by cookies. Sugar or another sweetener is also good to munch on, just ask any horse you know. Or what about white chocolate? If you ask me, the greatest of the chocolates. And then there’s the coffee, superb on its own. Steam the milk, add the white chocolate, press the

coffee and a white mocha espresso drink is fabulous. Soin this case the sum of

those parts are greater than the individual parts.

What about a person’s life? Can all the parts, the nuances, the mistakes, the victories, the everything that makes someone who they are be greater when compiled together than if each part was taken to stand alone? I certainly hope so. I tend to think a lot. Too much. I think too much about choices, decisions I’ve made and whether they were the right ones or not. I’m daily plagued with the fear that I’m totally screwing up what my life is supposed to be. If it were just me, I could muddle through that. However, I have a wife and 3 kids and a dog… The stakes are a little higher.

What causes this constant second guessing,  this fear, this worry that I don’t have it all figured out and I’m just wandering aimlessly

through my life? If I knewthe concrete answer to that I could probably stop it.

Maybe I do know… At its core, it’s probably a fear of failing. But then the question

is why do I fear failing so much that it practically controls every move I make? That’s the $1 million question.

When I look back on the scope of my life, I see very little in the way of forward progress or movement. I see a lot of lateral shifting. I see a lot of fear-motivated decisions. I see mistakes and failures. I see that if I look at each piece of my life, a dismal picture of who I am is painted. I haven’t accomplished much of note in my life. In many ways, I truly have failed in life.

If I look at my life with blurred eyes, or in my peripheral, focusing more on God and the work he has accomplished in me the greater-ness of my life begins to take shape. My life isn’t about me. It’s about God. It isn’t about what I have done, it’s about what God has done. When I look at the total collection of experiences, mistakes, lessons learned,

growth that has occurred, the few good things I’ve done, that’s when the sum of who I

am begins to take shape and prove itself to be worth more than each part on its own.

I have I failed? Yes. Will I fail again? Yes. Have I been afraid? More than you  can know. Will I continue to make fear-motivated choices? Probably.

But maybe just maybe, I can learn to lean on the God who has brought me this far, who has always made the most of me in each situation, who has loved me as

his child and heir even when I haven’t lived up to it.

I am valuable, because God says I am… And so are you.