Mentors

Mentor defineA big brother. A father. An uncle. A grandfather. A best friend’s father. A youth leader from church.

Every person, but young men especially, need an older man to pour into their lives. We need someone to help us learn how to be a man. In our society, we put a lot of pressure on young women but there is also a lot of pressure put on young boys to become manly men. There are certain things that men must know. Things it is expected as a man we are aware of. There are also expectations for men which will dramatically change the world all of the men on the planet would get it right. Once these boys develop into men and then as they take on the roles of husband and father, the expectations only get higher.

How do boys learn to be men? How to boys learn the critical ‘man-stuff’ they need to know? The same way any of us learn anything – someone teaches us.

We need someone who will teach us how to treat women. Women are to be treated with dignity and respect, not as objects for our use and abuse. Boys and young men need someone to teach them the proper way to speak to a woman. The proper way to treat a young woman. I am not necessarily a supporter of the whole idea of courting, but certainly something has been lost in the way our youth and young adults are approaching dating. It has lost the special-ness and wonder it once had. It is now a commonplace, ordinary thing and not something that is special. We have lost to excitement and mystery of entering into a relationship with the opposite sex. There are a myriad of societal issues that could likely be traced back to this… that is a discussion for another time! As boys we need someone to teach us how to treat girls and ultimately women.

We need someone to teach us the mystery, wonder and exhilaration that is fire. This is essential to being a man. Other men will immediately gauge the usefulness of a man based on whether he can build a fire. Whether you use raw elements, a flint stone, lighter fluid or straight gasoline a man must be able to make a fire. This ties into a man’s overall outdoorsyness. Men are supposed to skilled outdoorsmen, too. How good of an outdoorsman can you be if you can’t start a fire.

We need someone to teach us how to properly grill meat. Any meat. Dead animal cooked over open flames is quintessential manhood. Without this ability, is a man really a man? Grilling is more than utilitarian preparation of food, it is an art form. It is something special.  Magic happens when meat is grilled.

We need someone to teach us sports. Almost without exception, it is not possible for a group of men to arrive at a park, field, friend’s house or church without some sports equipment. It could be as simple as a football, soccer ball, Frisbee or a baseball and glove. It would seem as though men are hardwired to play sports. In a group of dudes, even the ones that aren’t ‘athletic’ will find themselves getting drawn into the exhibition off sports. While we seem to be inherently keyed into sports, we still must have someone take the time and interest to cultivate the athlete inside of each of us.

Who teaches us these critical life lessons? It is often our father. Sometimes it is an older brother. It can be an uncle. Maybe a grandfather. Maybe it is your friend’s father. Or it could be a youth leader from church. Or maybe it is all of the above. As boys and young men we need someone to teach us important skills and lessons we need in life. We need someone to mentor us.

We all do. We all need someone to pour into our lives and help us to grow. It doesn’t have to be a perfect mentor. It just needs to be someone who cares about us enough to walk through life with us for a season. Mentors change. Seasons and times of our lives change and what we need out of mentors change. But, no matter the season of life we are in we need mentors.

Who has been a mentor to you? What have they taught you? Who have you been able to mentor?

Goal Setting

Clear strategy and solutions for business leadership symbol with a straight path to success as a journey choosing the right strategic path for business with blank yellow traffic signs cutting through a maze of tangled roads and highways.

Sounds simple, right?

Make a plan, devise a strategy for what you want to accomplish in a given time frame. Make a plan of attack and accomplish things. This isn’t always the case though, is it? There are many roadblocks that get in the way of us setting goals and then sticking to the goals to make them happen.

I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that I am a goal-oriented person, but I am a task-oriented person and I like to set or plan tasks for me to accomplish. Without a daily and weekly task list, I would never get anything accomplished with the exception of trolling Facebook and Youtube. Setting goals in my mind is like making a task list, but on a bigger scale. A task list breaks down the goals into measurable, accomplish-able action steps. Setting goals and then breaking the goals down into tasks is one of the things I have been stressing to the young men I work with at Grace Landing.

Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of having a plan is very enticing to me. Knowing where I am going and how I am going to get there is comforting. I like the expected. I like to know what is coming. I don’t like surprises and I certainly don’t like the unknown. I have identified in my life 3 obstacles to setting goals that I have overcome and 3 corresponding helpful tips to setting goals.

Three obstacles to setting goals:

  1. It feels silly. Ok. Sometimes it does. It does get a little tedious constantly writing a script for the day and then sticking to it. There is little freedom to ‘go off script’ in the way I organize and arrange my day. It feels silly as an almost 40 year old adult, I have to make plans for how my day is going to transpire. It can feel silly and even childish, as though you don’t have the knowledge or discipline to do what needs to be done.
  2. It’s kinda hard when you are just trying to keep your head above water. I can relate to this. I have spent many days feeling like I was drowning, just barely keeping my head out of water. This inability to see beyond the moment at hand makes it hard to set goals. Feeling as though this is how it will always be, is a misguided belief. At some point, you will be done treading water and then what?
  3. I have no idea where I want to go or what I want to do or what I want to be. We tell ourselves we are still trying to figure it out and box ourselves in. We have created a box, a prison if you will, that we are powerless to overcome.

Three helpful tips to setting goals:

  1. Don’t worry about feeling silly. So what? If what you need to do in order to be successful is make a plan and then stick to it, what does it matter? There is still freedom in my days to have fun and be spontaneous… after I finish all the tasks I need to accomplish. Haha! But seriously, I have built into my tasks and schedule spontaneous times, or times where it is ok for me to stop what i am doing and do something unrelated to work just for fun. You can’t worry about feeling silly because at the end of the day when you have finished everything you need to get done you can relax and enjoy yourself, not worrying or panicking about upcoming deadline because you are ready for it.
  2. The obstacle of feeling like you are drowning is a tough one to overcome, because it makes sense. This is an intense fear of mine… drowning. But, I know that by slowing down and taking each day as it comes to me I can make a plan of attack and get done needs to be done. Being able to step back and take big picture view will help you in getting past what is going on right now so you can see the goal setting was worthwhile. At some point, you not be treading water and if you don’t have a direction to go, you will continue to tread water and go nowhere. Goal setting is the big picture, beyond the current sensation of drowning.
  3. Hogwash. There is no box I fit in, let alone one I can’t break out of. This is the epitome of shortsightedness. Have you ever considered you don’t know where you want to go or what you do or what you want to be, because you never actually spent any real time reflecting and planning? Is it possible, there are no goals because you have been too afraid to dream about what you could accomplish and rather live in the security of the self-imposed prison? Maybe. Dream. Dream big.

Not that I am the authority on any subject, but I struggle the same as the next dude. Here’s how I have implemented goal setting and task listing. Were these thoughts helpful to you? What have you done to help in setting goals?

Personality Traits

12376021_10207343192765606_7619104238804070029_n

I have always been fascinated by personality theory… or at least as long as I’ve be aware of something called personality theory, which in reality has only been about 10-15 years. So not, literally always… just always that I aware of.

At any rate, it is interesting to me to think through the differing qualities and characteristics which make us individual human beings. The intricacies making each of us tick, slightly different than the next person. Understanding who a person is at their personality core will help you to understand how to interact with them in the most effective way. Understanding how they view the world, how they frame and interact with the their internal world and the external world.

I spend a lot of time thinking about stuff and processing internally. Maybe this is why one of my professors suggested I was an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. On a side note – I am not an introvert, I am undoubtedly an extrovert who will at times do introverted things. Make sense? Not to me either. But in these times where I spend time thinking, I think about my personality and the pieces of that are holding me back. Or maybe not holding me back as much as u become aware of them as I attempt to become the person I am seeking to be.  I am a visionary. I dream. Big. A LOT. I have great plans with executable ideas requiring follow through. These dreams require organization and delegation of tasks.

Here’s my dilemma, I have very poor follow through.

My problem isn’t organization or administration. I’m not the most organized or the best admin, but I’m not the worst.

My problem isn’t ideas… God knows I have billions of earth-shattering, ground-breaking, life-altering ideas.

My problem isn’t communication… I am an excellent communicator.

My problem isn’t with motivation, of others… I  magnetic and able to motivate others towards an end.

My problem isn’t even with valuing the dream, idea or end in mind. Or even my commitment to the idea at hand. Admittedly, my actions often (regularly) belie my commitment.

My problem is my personal follow through. I have been aware of this for some time now. This year, 2016, one of the personal goals I am setting is to do a much better job with follow through. I am committing to doing better about finishing what I start. I am also committing to NOT committing to things I know I am not going to be able to finish. There is a beauty in saying ‘no’. I heard it said the greatest enemy of the best is good. Committing to do good things we don’t have time for inhibits us from being able to complete the best things we can. I am committing to my best in 2016.

I am setting several personal and professional goals for 2016 (they aren’t resolutions, so its ok that they aren’t totally in place and rolling on 1/1/16). I am setting goals to move me forward personally and professionally.

Wisdom

  

It’s 8:30 on a Friday night and I’m on I-75 in the middle of South Georgia. Why?
I’m heading to north Georgia with two of my independent living youth. We are headed for the culmination of a mentoring program they started on the spring. It feels a little odd to be wrapping up the mentoring program I wasn’t really a part of. But tha s kind of how it goes. 

I have mixed feelings about being away from home this weekend. Without letting the cat out of the bag, there’s a lot going on back in Orlando. Ronda and I are in the midst of praying through a big situation for us. On one hand, I want to be there with her. One the other hand, I’m looking forward to the space and clarity that comes with spending a weekend in the woods. 

I suppose that means this weekend has a twofold purpose for me. To capstone the mentoring program and solidify my place in the lives of these youth as a mentor. And to allow God to speak to and mentor me this weekend. I have high hopes for this weekend. I’m trusting God won’t let me down. He doesn’t usually. 

The Celldweller song ‘The Last Firstborn’ is playing. That song always make me think of the Apostle Paul. He claimed his apostleship cake as one untimely born. I feel that way. Not that I’m an apostle, but that I often wonder about God’s choice to love me and use me to fulfill his purposes. But he does. And I believe this weekend he is going to teach me as much as he teaches these dudes with me. 

In some ways, I really need to hear God speak to me this weekend. I need it more than I have in quite some time. We started a new sermon series at church last week on the book of James. I’ve been reading it this week. In chapter 1, James says any who lacks wisdom should ask God in faith that he give generously to the obedient. That’s where j find myself. Asking for wisdom. Asking for God’s spirit of be upon me and inform my decision-making. I want to be a spirit-filled wise leader of the family and ministry God has trusted me with. 

This seems like a good place to close… God grant me your spirit of wisdom to be a wise leader of the people you have given to me. 

It’s all about People

baby eliw

I’m not the best dad this world has to offer.

I’m not the best husband this world had to offer.

I’m not the best brother or son this world has to offer.

I’m not the best friend or co-worker this world has to offer.

 I’m not the best director or supervisor this world has to offer.

But what I am, is implicitly aware one of the things that matters most is relationships with people. People matter more than most other things. The relationships we build with people matter more than most other things. In my line of work, building authentic and trusting relationships are critical. It is the bedrock upon all of what I do is built. I am in the business of people. And people want to know you care about them. People want to know they matter to you.

I have learned there are three sure-fire ways to torpedo a relationship and totally destroy a chance to make an impact in someone’s life.

  1. Sarcasm – This is tough for me, because I fancy myself a sarcasm expert. My ability to use sarcasm extends beyond the average person’s ability. I am really good at it. I can use sarcasm in every scenario. There is no situation where a healthy dose of sarcasm isn’t warranted. Sarcasm is cutting, injurious and it tears down instead of building up. It is the antithesis to building relationships.
  2. Belittle them – This is easier to do than you would think sometimes. It is easy to answer with a short, terse answer that hurts. Belittling comes in many shapes and sizes, but it often looks like treating them, their experiences or ideas as stupid. When we do this, we communicate they are not valued and their ideas aren’t valued. Belittling someone makes them feel small and insignificant.
  3. Dismiss them – Dismissing others tells them they don’t have value. Not just their ideas, but they themselves aren’t valued, aren’t important, they aren’t relevant, that they don’t matter.

On the flip side, I have learned there are at least three ways to build any relationship, deepen it and show those in it you care about them:

  1. Put people first – No matter else is going on, what the heat of the matter is… focus on caring more about the person than the issue. Issues will come and go and aren’t want really matters… people do. Show people you care by placing them above whatever the issues at hand is. More than that support your people. Let them know you have their back and this issue is in no way going to affect your relationship.
  2. Be humble – If you are like me, this is hard. Not because I’m overly prideful (although I am at times), but because this includes a significant amount of vulnerability to admit when we are wrong or to allow others to speak into our lives for purposes of improvement or to offer advice. Humility says, I don’t have all the answers and maybe you can help. Humility is keeping a proper view of ourselves and out limitations. Humility doesn’t have to be right or have the last word.
  3. Put yourself in their shoes – Trying to understand their perspective will go a long way to building your relationship. Being able to consider their side of the story or to see where they are coming from will help you to put them first and remain humble. Understanding their side helps us to understand why they are acting the way they are, it helps us to know their heart.

People are important. People need to know they are important to us. We have to make efforts to ensure people know we care about them and that we are committed to building an authentic, trusting relationship with them. Will you take the extra effort and focus on the relationships with the people around you?

Impossible Tasks

Have you ever had a job or supervisor where you were consistently given tasks which you were sure were near impossible to accomplish? Over the history of my work experience, I have found myself in the position where I was given tasks I wasn’t 100% sure I was able to complete.

This got me to thinking…

Was my supervisor aware of the near-impossible nature of the task? Did they have an accurate understanding of what it was going to take to accomplish the task? Were they totally unaware of what was going to be required? Did they care? Were they so focused on the end result of the task, the steps it would take to get to the end were irrelevant?

Did they expect failure? With some past supervisors, this is a legitimate question. I expect that some actually wanted me to fail. But for the others, did they even consider failure was possible? Had they considered what failure would look like? Had they considers what would be the next steps if failure occurred?

I suppose it is possible they knew they were asking the impossible of me, but expected I would be able to pull off a miracle and get it done. If this is the reasoning there could be one of two things motivating this approach: their expectations are just too high and unrealistic; or they see something in me I don’t see and they know I am capable of the impossible.

I’d like to believe the latter.

Working in a high-pressure environment is made a little easier if you believe your superiors are committed to and believe in you and your potential as an employee and person. High demands and unrealistic timetables and deadlines cease to be traps for failure as they turn into moments for surprise and wonder or for you show what you are capable of accomplishing. They become moments for you make yourself into a linchpin, to become invaluable to your organization.

Next time your supervisor gives you an unrealistic task with an impossible deadline, consider maybe they expect more from you because they see you are capable of more.Evernote Camera Roll 20150611 084659

Leadership lessons from Paul

Paul wrote a couple letters to the church in Corinth instructing them on the ins and outs of their faith. Paul came under heavy criticisms from this church, a church he labored long and hard with. Paul was attacked by false leaders who had come into the church after he planted and began to fill the heads of the Christ-followers there with misguided thoughts and beliefs. Paul was attacked by false leaders. Leaders who came to the church with less than reputable purposes. Paul’s ministry was attacked by these false leaders. They attempted to lead the Corinthian believers astray and discredit Paul in the process.

The false leaders attacked his character, his influence, his calling and his humility, claiming he was not called to lead. They claimed he was inadequate. They claimed he was not worthy of the task to lead the church he had planted. They called into question his integrity.

Paul countered with several arguments, the first of which was he compared being in ministry to a celebration ceremony of a king who has defeated his enemies. He connected the idea of the king who celebrates his victory with his life being used as a vessel to spread the Gospel message. As a king enters in celebration he has aromatic incense spread before him signifying life to those who have been victorious and death to those who were defeated. Paul says we are like the urn that spreads the incense. It is the message of life or death to those that hear it. Furthermore, as the urn we are not worthy to be in the celebration because we did nothing to celebrate except be the vessel that spreads good smells. None in reality are worthy to partake in the celebration and triumph. I think this leads us to an important piece of being a good leader. A good leaders needs to be  implicitly aware of their own insufficiency, being aware of their need for the grace of God.
Paul also responded by not abdicating his leadership. He didn’t back down from his assertion he was a leader. He realized people are fickle and sway easily when they hear lies from others about their leaders. He wasn’t willing to walk away from all his hard work and the people he built into for years. A little bit of hardship and difficulty weren’t going to be enough to sway him from his ministry to the Corinthians.
The critics asked for letters of recommendation, he claimed his credentials for leadership were the lives of the Corinthians. A leader’s influence is measured by the impact they have on the lives of those around them. Paul in effect said, I don’t need letters of recommendation because you know me. You have seen me, my life. You have seen the changes made in the life of the people around you because of the message of Christ they heard from me. Paul appealed to the changed lives and the impact he had on those around him as his letters of recommendation.
Paul was very sure about his calling. He never vacillated. Those who are unsure of their own vocation cannot possibly be effective leaders. Nothing is more debilitating than a leader who has self-doubt. When we question and doubt where God has placed us and the work he has set before. When we are certain of the mission and purpose God has set before us, we will view everything we do as a privilege and a part of accomplishing the purpose God has set before us. We have to have absolute confidence in what we are doing or else every trial, every hardship will threaten to derail you. I have been there before. I have lacked vision and clarity on where I was and what I was doing and every speed bump became a mountain.
We must have confidence in our calling, but at the same time understand there is nothing about us that makes us intrinsically adequate for the task God has called us to. Realizing our weaknesses and shortcomings allows us to rely on God for strength. God calls us to work for him not because of something we have a value for him, but he calls us for the work that he can do in us and through us. God makes us worthy of the calling he puts on our lives.

Photo by: John P. Nordin

Photo by: John P. Nordin

Tension is Good

Sitting in the worship waiting for Andy to hit the stage to speak to us this morning at Catalyst.

The theme of the conference is Tension, focusing on Tension being good.  Wanted to think on this for a minute.  This seems counterintuitive for us.  We like peace, harmony and lack of discord.  We don’t like for the boat to be rocked at all.

But isn’t Tension good?  It creates a space for us to make change, think things through differently. To challenge the ways that we have always done things.  It allows us to get beyond the sacred cows that too often get hung up on and refuse to leave behind. Tension is good because it allows for more people to join the conversation we are having.  Getting people to join in and share their story within our story is the key to effecting change in those we encounter.

People don’t want a monologue. They want a dialogue. Will you join the conversation? Will you join the discussion and be the catalyst for change?