Testify: John 1.29-34

Testify

Statue of John the Baptist in Prague near St. Vitrus Cathedral.
How can we be like John and testify about Jesus?

Testify!

I really love the word “testify.”  I’m not sure when this love developed or why exactly.  Growing up “testify” only seemed to be used in legal dramas on TV and in church.  So, maybe that’s where my love comes from — I’ve always like TV shows about lawyers (Boston Legal anyone?) and I’ve been going to church since nine months before I was born.

Another reason why I like the word is that it’s what John, one of my favorite people in the Bible, is always doing.  A great example of this is found in John 1.29-34:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

Before Jesus comes on the scene (in John 1.19-28), what does John do?  Testify!  Then, in the passage quoted above, when John sees Jesus and baptizes him, what does he do?  Testify!  And in virtually every other appearance of John in the Fourth Gospel, what does he do?  Testify!

Pointing to Jesus

You may have noticed that paintings and statutes of John almost always have him pointing.  And he’s not just pointing at nothing or at something different each time.  Instead, he’s always pointing to Jesus.  Painters and sculptors must have read their Bibles because that’s a great visual depiction of what he does with his words in the pages of the Gospels.

We see this very clearly in John 1.29-34.  John sees Jesus and screams out that Jesus is the Lamb of God.  John says that his whole purpose has been to reveal Jesus, to point to him so that others can see.  Then he says that not only does he want to draw attention to Jesus, he wants to testify about him correctly: Jesus is the Chosen One, the Messiah.

So What?

Why does what some guy named John did a long time ago matter?  Well, to me, it matters for lots of reasons, but there’s one that really stands out: John can serve as an example for us today.

John testified about Jesus, so what should we do? Testify too!

But how?

  1. With Our Words: Don’t be lured into the “preach with your life” trap.  We are called to use our words to testify about Jesus.  Does that mean we shouldn’t focus on how our lives testify to Jesus too?  Of course not!  But we must be willing to use our words!
  2. With Our Attitudes: One of the chief characteristics of John was his humility.  He was really popular and his ministry was growing and growing.  People knew who he was.  He was a regional celebrity.  He could have tried to capitalize on this fame.  Instead he used it to point people to Jesus, to testify about Jesus.  That’s humility!
  3. With Our Actions: Yes, we should preach with our lives too!  How we live matters and how we go about our days can strongly testify about Jesus.  But the challenge here is to be intentional about testifying with our actions.  In our natural state we’re tempted to be selfish and point people toward how cool we are.  But when we are intentionally putting effort into testifying about Jesus with our actions, we’re less likely to be less selfish.

 

What do you like about John the Baptist?  How do you think we should testify about Jesus?  Let me know in the comments below!

Lessons from My Weight-Loss (Honesty)

honesty

By: The U.S. Army
How important is honesty?

Is Honesty Really the Best Policy?

Um, yeah!

One of the best examples is how important honesty is when trying to lose weight.  This may sound surprising to some of you, especially if you’ve never really struggled with your weight.  But it can be very, very difficult to be honest with yourself about what you’re really consuming and what’s it done to your body, self-image, health, etc.

What do I mean?  Let me give you an example.  The day that I came to the realization that I needed to lose weight ended with me taking the first honest look at my food intake ever.  I can truthfully confess that before that day I had never sat down and took a good, hard look at what I was consuming.

The results were rather shocking.

At that time I needed to consume 2500 or so calories a day to maintain my weight.  But when I calculated how many calories I consumed the day before I started losing weight, the number almost reached 4000!  And, sadly, that day was not exceptional; it was just a normal ol’ day!

That level of honesty with myself helped kick start my rear-end into gear!  And the more honesty I dished out to myself, the more motivated I became to change.  I took measurements.  I found out my bod fat ratio.  I discovered my body mass index.  The result of all that honesty?  I discovered that I was obese and ready to change!

How Honesty Can Help Us Become More Missional

How does this weight-loss lesson about honesty apply to becoming more missional?  I think the answers are pretty self-explanatory:

  1. Appraisal — How is your life lining up with the mission of God?  From the opening pages of the Bible to the very end of Revelation God has revealed the fact that he’s interested in reconciling all things to himself through Jesus Christ.  Are you regularly joining God in this mission?  Are you doing something besides just giving money?  Are you getting your hands dirty?  Are you involved in making disciples and deepening the discipleship of those who already follow Jesus?  Remember, it’s important to be honest.  If you don’t take the honesty portion of this journey seriously, none of the other steps will be effective at all!
  2. Progress — How are your progressing in being more in line with the mission of God?  Jesus certainly doesn’t expect you to have it all down pat right from the beginning!  His closest friends and disciples didn’t have it all figured out even though they had been in an intensive, hands-on training program for three years!  In other words, it’s perfectly typical not to have it all figured out.  But it’s important to be honest about where you are at in the process.  Now some of us will be tempted to minimize any progress we’ve made, choosing instead to focus on how much more missional we need to become.  But others of us will err in the opposite direction, over-estimating our alignment to the Missio Dei.  Whichever way you lean, it’s extremely important to be honest so that you can have a true picture of where you’ve been and where you need to go.
  3. Need — Are you being honest about the fact that you can’t do everything alone?  Are you able to admit and act on the facts that you need God to empower you and you need a community to encourage you to be all that God desires you to be?  Honesty in this area can be really hard.  Some of us are just wired from a very young age to achieve and to do so on our own.  If that’s you, then it’s high time that you took a dose of honesty!  No one can do this thing alone.  In order to be missional in the most effective and worshipful way, we must admit that we need God and we need one another.

So I hope you’ve seen how important honesty is when talking about becoming missional.

How else can being honest help us become more missional?  Let me know in the comments below!

Death, Regret, and Change

Death

Dragonflies1113 / Pixabay
Death can cause us to take stock, to look back, and, hopefully, to change for the better.

Death Brings Pain

When someone dies, for whatever reason, it always causes pain in those who were close to the deceased.  The amount, duration, and intensity of that pain depends on a myriad of factors, thus, each person will experience it differently.  I’ve had several different experiences to illustrate this.  When my paternal grandmother died it wasn’t a surprise; her life was slowly being sapped by cancer and dementia.  In fact, her death, though sad, was sort of like a relief since we all knew that she wasn’t in pain anymore.  But during my early 20s a friend’s wife died of a brain tumor.  Her death hit me hard since she was so young and since we all thought her cancer was in remission.  As a result of her death I spun out into a period of depression and serious doubt that lasted for months.

But one particular sort of death seems to bring with it unique pain.  Suicide.  When a friend takes his or her own life it raises up a bunch of different emotions — anger, frustration, sadness, grief, regret, and confusion.  It’s hard not to play the “What could I have done differently?” game with yourself.  In these situations I will start to feel guilty for letting our friendship lapse to some degree.  I’ll wonder if I could have reached out more, cared more, prayed more, loved more.  But intermixed with these regrets will be serious periods of anger over the selfishness of suicide.  And right around the corner from anger will be some more regret followed by a dose of nostalgia.

Coping with the suicide of a friend or loved one is hard; there’s just no other way to say it.

Death

derdento / Pixabay
After the sunset comes the sunrise; after someone’s death comes opportunities to grow.

Death Brings Opportunities for Growth

Thankfully, the death of someone close to you doesn’t get the final word.  Those who loved the deceased, however they died, suicide included, have the chance to learn from the experience.  In fact, in my life and experience some of the richest times of positive change in my life followed the death of a friend or relative.

After my paternal grandmother died I entered a time of grieving, albeit a relatively short one.  Soon after her death I began college and started understanding what life had for me.  My grandmother’s death helped me put things into proper perspective because during my first semester or two of college she was on my mind quite often.  I would wonder to myself things like this: “What would Grandma think?  Would she be proud of this or that decision?”  Her death really helped me live well.

After my friend’s spouse died I grieved a lot and for a long time.  I had never had my faith in God rocked as hard as her death rocked it.  But after a slow process of recovery, spearheaded by my amazing wife, I came through my grief and was able to minister to the youth to whom I was called better and more maturely.  I gained a greater love and respect for my wife and the others who helped me through this dark time.  And I’m still thankful to this day that I went through this long period of doubt (not my first or my last!) because it has helped me understand the faith journey of others much, much better.

But standing in the wake of  a suicide is different…or at least it seems different.  So I’ll share what I’d like to learn from it: how to be more authentically connected to my friends and family; how to cope with regrets that have no possible solutions; how to stay better connected to friends and family despite distance; and how to love someone no matter what choices they’ve made.

death

By: Chris Brown
Good bye friend.

God, grow us, guide us, and change us for the better through the deaths of those we love.  Remind us that it was through the death of Jesus that all of humanity was given hope.  Help us find hope in the now.  In Jesus’ name; amen.

Arrogance: What’s Wrong with It?

arrogance

Richard Sherman during 2013 Seattle Seahawks training camp. After the AFC Championship game, Sherman made some comments that many have interpreted as highly arrogant. What do you think?

Why Talk about Arrogance?

Thanks to a crazy post-game interview by Seattle Seahawks standout cornerback Richard Sherman, arrogance has been on my mind.  Click on the link in the previous sentence to watch a video of the interview or you can read what was said here:

Erin Andrews: Richard, let me ask you; the final play, take me through it…

Sherman:  Well, I’m the best corner in the game!  When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get!  Don’t you ever talk about me!

Andrews: Who was talking about you?

Sherman: Crabtree.  Don’t you open your mouth about the best!  Or I’m going to shut it for you real quick!  L-O-B!

Andrews: Alright, befo-…and…Joe, back over to you!

I don’t want to judge Sherman directly.  Instead, I want to examine why I didn’t like his comments.

So, why didn’t I?  One word: arrogance.

Again, I want to be clear, I’m not accusing Sherman of being arrogant.  What I’m saying is that his comments certainly sounded awfully arrogant.  I mean, the guy talked about being the best twice in the matter of fifteen seconds.

And when I heard Sherman’s comments I immediately cringed.  And as I’ve thought about why I cringed, it forced me to think a bit about arrogance and how it comes across to others.  As a follower of Jesus and/or as a leader, this is an important topic.  How people perceive you is a big deal!  It can make or break your witness to someone and it can sap whatever leadership capital you may have built up over time.

arrogance

Silly cat!

So, What’s Wrong with Arrogance?

  1. As Sherman’s interview plainly illustrates, it can cause you to belittle those around you.  Even if you are the best at what you do or even if you are qualitatively better than others, no one wants to hear it.  No one.
  2. Arrogance can cause the people around you to be uncomfortable.  Just listen to Andrews’ final response to Sherman.  She’s clearly uncomfortable in that situation.  When you tell the world that you are the best, it makes others not want to listen to you or be around you anymore!
  3. Being arrogant can also lead to being over-scrutinized.  If you go around telling everyone how great you are, then the moment you do something stupid, silly, wrong, or just mediocre, people are going to notice!  They are going to remember that you said you were the best and point out to you how you really aren’t!
  4. Those with whom you are associated are affected by your arrogance also.  Seahawks’ players and coaches are having to answer questions now about Sherman’s post-game tirade when they’d rather be talking about football.  The same is true in reality.  When you are arrogant those around you are forced to either defend you, explain you, make excuses for you, or distance themselves from you.  None of those things are very considerate of the people closest to you!
  5. Lastly, arrogance is connected with self-centeredness, disagreeability, poor work performance, and lowered cognitive abilities.  In other words, being arrogant can cause people not to like you and it can hurt how well you are actually doing whatever it is that you are doing.  [SOURCE]

So, what does all of this mean for followers of Jesus and/or Christian leaders?  Don’t be arrogant!  We must fight against our natural tendencies to toot our own horns!  We need to remember that we are all messed up and broken sinners in constant need of God’s grace and anything that we do well is only thanks to the blessings of God and the help of others.  In other words, we need to live out Philippians 2.3-4:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

What do you think?  What affect does arrogance have in our relationships?  Let me know in the comments below!

Language in Leadership

language

By: Kheel Center
The power of the spoken word, of language, has long been known to have great influence to help create change for an intentional leader.

Does What We Say Really Matter?

Surely you’ve heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  And that people care more about what you do than what you say.  And that your body language communicates way more than your words do.

What do these conventional sayings have in common?  Each, in its own way, seems to be saying that verbal communication – language – is not as important as other things, such as images, modeling, and posture.

Don’t get me wrong: graphics, behaviors, and how we hold ourselves are important, vitally important even!  But their importance in no way diminishes the value of actual spoken language.

What we say matters.  How often we say it matters.  The manner in which we say it matters.  The contexts in which it is shared matters.

Language can make a huge difference one way or the other for a leader.

And perhaps the most important kind of language that we have at our disposal is the analogy.

Leadership Language and Analogies

language

By: Peretz Partensky
The USS IKE Aircraft Carrier

An analogy is a language tool used in which the speaker compares one thing with another, usually for the purpose of clarification.

Here’s an example — Sometimes large institutions are compared with aircraft carriers.  The analogy usually is referring to the fact that it takes miles and miles for an aircraft carrier to turn, not to mention the fact that it takes the cooperation of lots and lots of people to execute the turn.

The implication is clear: when a speaker uses the aircraft carrier analogy he or she is communicating that the institution is slow and cumbersome.

There may be truth in this analogy for a given institution.  Maybe there’s a ton of red tape to wade through in order to get things done.  And perhaps it takes the shared vision and effort of several people and/or departments in order for real change to happen.  Great.

But what if the language we are using isn’t helping the situation.  What is actually being communicated by constantly referring to the institution as an aircraft carrier?  At best that change is slow and hard-fought; at worst that change is so difficult that it shouldn’t even be attempted.

And if an analogy like this is being used over and over and over again within an institution, it can begin to influence the entire culture of the institution.  Sticking with the aircraft carrier analogy — if it gets repeated a bunch, then a culture begins to be created in which real change is almost never attempted.

Time for a Change of Language

As leaders, no matter the size of our influence, it’s our responsibility to pay attention to the language being used, especially the language that we use ourselves.  So, if you find yourself in a situation in which a somewhat negative analogy is being used (such as the aircraft carrier analogy), start using a new analogy (like a sports team) or re-vision the old analogy (“you know, aircraft carriers do, in fact, turn!”).

One of the key traits of a leader is the ability to change institutional culture.  And perhaps the best tool to bring about change is language.

Negative language will promote decline, decay, and disillusionment (forgive the alliteration!).

On the other hand, positive language will help develop vitality, vigor, and verve (okay that one was on purpose!).

 

What do you think?  How powerful is language in creating institutional culture?  Let me know in the comments below!

Entrepreneur: A Missional Calling?

entrepreneur

By: AJ LEON
How can God use the spirit of an entrepreneur for his own purposes and glory?

Inspiration in Unexpected Places

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that inspiration comes when and where it’s least expected.  This week it was in the waiting room of the local GM dealership.  My car had a part recalled and it needed to be replaced before I could renew my state registration.  So, naturally enough, I brought something to read.

That something was Sacrilege by Hugh Halter.  It’s a great book!  It’s a fresh look at Jesus and a clarion call for followers of Jesus to live like Jesus did.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I finished a couple of chapters and was scared that I wouldn’t have enough time to finish a third.  So I grabbed the first non-car, non-fashion magazine that I could find – Entrepreneur Magazine from January of 2014 to be exact.  After flipping around a bit, I stumbled across an article that caught my attention called “Do You Have What It Takes?” by Joe Robinson.  In the article there are seven traits listed that are said to be possessed by the best entrepreneurs.

Seven Traits of an Entrepreneur

  1. Tenacity — “You have to be able to live with uncertainty and push through a crucible of obstacles for years on end” (48).
  2. Passion — “It’s commonly assumed that successful entrepreneurs are driven by money.  But most will tell you they are fueled by a passion for their product or service, by the opportunity to solve a problem and make life easier, better, cheaper” (48).
  3. Tolerance of Ambiguity — “This classic trait is the definition of risk-taking – the ability to withstand the fear of uncertainty and potential failure” (48).
  4. Vision – “[T]he ability to spot an opportunity and imagine something where others haven’t” (49).
  5. Self-Belief — “You have to be crazy-sure your product is something the world needs and that you can deliver…” (49).
  6. Flexibility — “Business survival, like that of the species, depends on adaptation” (49).
  7. Rule-Breaking — “Entrepreneurs exist to defy conventional wisdom” (49).

What Does This Have to Do with Following Jesus?

If you’re like me, then you may have felt that some, most, or all of those characteristics describe you!  If so, great!  God may have something exciting in store for you.  But, as almost any entrepreneur will tell you, it’s going to be tough from the beginning.

Maybe the phrase in the article that stood out the most to me was “a crucible of obstacles.”  Starting something new for the sake of the Gospel is going to be difficult.  There will be resistance from lots of folks, including other followers of Jesus.  But if God is calling you to do something, then go for it!

So if this list does describe you, what kind of role might you have in God’s mission in the world?  Ephesians 4.10 lists some roles that folks in the church can fill.  I don’t think this list is complete but it is helpful to those of us who might be thinking what we should be doing for the sake of God’s kingdom.  The roles listed are apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher.

For a long time now the Evangelical church in America has celebrated the last two on that list: pastors and teachers.  This makes sense in the attractional church model.  But with America increasingly becoming more and more like a mission field full of people in need of a fresh encounter with the Gospel, the focus on pastors and teachers needs to change!

Therefore, those of you who identify with the seven qualities listed above might fall into the role of an apostle (one who is sent out by God to do trailblazing work), a prophet (one who speaks God’s truth to whomever, no matter the consequences), or an evangelist (one who has a heart that beats for those who do not know Jesus yet).

And maybe God is calling you to put the skills of the entrepreneur that you possess to work for the kingdom instead of for your bank account, suburban security, or 401k!  Only God knows, so ask him.  And when he answers, obey!

What do you think?  Do you have the traits of an entrepreneur?  How might God use you?  Let me know in the comments below?

Decision: Bad, Good, or Great?

decision

geralt / Pixabay
One option is good, one option is great. How do you make a decision?

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

You have a decision to make, you’re under a time crunch, and lots of people are counting on you!  What do you do?

Let’s practice: Make a decision between running forty miles or eating your favorite meal.  Which did you choose?

Here’s another: Would you rather get punched in the face or spend two hours doing your favorite hobby?

One more: Would you rather run over someone’s pet with your car or land your dream job?

These are all ludicrous, right?  Not many of of us would have a hard time making any of those decisions.  Deciding between the bad and the good is surprisingly easy.  There’s an important caveat though: It’s easy to make a decision between something good and bad in a vacuum.  Given pressure, temptations, etc., things could get more tricky.  But, in general, it’s fairly easy to see the difference between the bad and the good.

Making a Decision between the Good and the Great

This one is harder, both in a vacuum and in the real world.  How do you do it?  It’s not as easy to give examples for this one since everyone’s definitions of “good” and “great” are so driven by personality, context, culture, etc.  But when you’re faced with a decision like this, you know it.  In fact, almost any decision that you’ve ever struggled with is likely one in which you had to pick between something good and something great.

Things can get even more complicated though.  Usually when you are actually making the decision, both options seem good or both options seem great.  It’s not until weeks, months, or years have passed that you can see which one was really just good and which one was great.

So what do you do?  How do you make a decision between the good and the great?  Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Obvious: If it seems plain to you from the start which option is good and which option is great, fight hard for the great.  Why would you settle for pretty good when super-awesome is within reach!?
  2. Patience: Take as much time as possible.  Unless there’s a rush, there’s no rush.  You never know, by taking your time on the decision, the good and great might reveal themselves, thus making your choice much, much easier!
  3. Legal Pad: Whip out the legal pad, or Evernote, or whatever you take notes on, and make a pros and cons list.  Split it up into time chunks: 1 month, 1 year,  5 years, and beyond.  Then for each time category think of the pros and cons of each option.  This will help you build in some perspective from the start of the decision-making process.
  4. Cons: Someone along the way gave me some excellent advice — they said to make decisions based on the cons.  Everything that seems good to you should have a long list of pros.  But everything in life has cons.  Making a decision based on which cons you can live with is a solid piece of advice!
  5. CommunityWhen you’re in your process (not after!), ask some friends, confidants, and/or mentors to help you.  You’re not asking them to make the decision for you but instead you’re asking them to talk to you about how they make decisions and to help you see any red flags that you may have missed.
  6. Prayer: If you’re a person of faith (or even if you’re not!), pray and invite others to pray for you.  God may choose to reveal to you which option in your decision is good and which is great.  Either way, connecting with God during a time in which a difficult decision needs to be made will deepen your relationship with him.

How do you make decisions?  How do you decide between the good and the great?  Let me know in the comments below!

Unexpected Missional Encounters

unexpected

By: Porsche Brosseau
The grocery store is a great place to have an unexpected missional encounter!

Not long ago I was at the local grocery store when something unexpected happened.

Let me set the scene: It was about 11:30 in the evening, which is when I love going to the store (less people, which is good for me since I’m an introvert).  I’m in a hoodie because it’s cold-ish outside.  And I’m in a hurry because it’s pretty close to bed time.

Now back to the story: I go to the back of the store to pick up some milk and then grab some fruit.  On the way to the registers in the front I see a clearly disoriented woman who is wearing an overcoat and some pajama bottoms.  I have a feeling that she might be homeless or maybe a college student who is confused.

Either way I don’t want to talk to her.  I am an introvert after all.  But she’s block my path to the registers.  So I move as far to the side as possible, trying to avoid this woman.

Then I hear, “Do you go to church?”  I think to myself: Please don’t let it be THAT woman.  I turn around and it is.

“Um, yes,” I stammer quietly.

“Which one?”

“Lake Avenue Church right down the street.”

“Oh great!  I went there last weekend!”

Now I realize that I need to engage fully, so I put the milk down and turn toward her.  At just the same moment there’s a normal grocery store noise behind her.  She turns around to see what it was and then back toward me.  Her eyes start darting around everywhere like she’s a bit paranoid.

“So, how did you like it?” I ask, breaking the awkward silence.

“It was great.  I met lots of interesting people.”

“Awesome!”

“Are you a pastor there?” She inquired.

“No. But I am a leader of an adult community called Crossroads.”

“Cool!  I saw that group on the website.”

“You should check us out then!”  I then introduce myself officially, tell her the details of when and where we meet, and then say goodbye.

She just keeps standing there in the same spot and I hit the checkout.

 

It was a strange and unexpected experience to say the least!  And I wasn’t really keen on having it in the first place.

But I’m glad that I did!  And this experience reminded me that I need to be more open to whatever and whomever might cross my path.

 

A Few Thoughts about My Unexpected Encounter…

  1. To be missional we need to be ready and available for what God might have in store, no matter how unexpected.
  2. Don’t be like me and try to avoid people just because they may prevent you from completing one task or another.
  3. We have to be willing to invite people into our community, no matter what kind of first impression they may have made.
  4. Lastly, we need to learn from our unexpected encounters so that we can take steps to be more missional in the future.

 

What do you think about this unexpected encounter I had?  Let me know in the comments below.

Five Ways to Deal with Adversity

adversity

By: Forest Service Northern Region
Seeing a black bear on a hike is some adversity that can cause focus!

My wife and I were on a hike recently in the local mountain range just northeast of our home.  We were doing what we always do on a hike: solving the world’s problems by chit-chatting together.  Then, at least a quarter of a mile down the path, we saw a black bear cub.  Immediately the mantra “Where there’s a cub, there’s a mama bear” came to our minds and we got a bit scared.

The cub was blocking the only path we knew between us and the car.  What should we do?

Here’s what we ended up doing: I asked my wife to keep her eyes on the bear and I opened up my pack.  I pulled out my nice-sized pocket knife that I carry with us on hikes.  Then we switched and she grabbed her pepper spray.  Luckily the bear started down the path going away from us, so we followed slowly.  Along the way I picked up an old signpost that I could use as a distraction/weapon as a last resort.

After following the bear for ten or fifteen minutes it went off the trail and we lost sight of it.  That didn’t matter much.  In fact, it may have made matters worse.  Until we were in the car and driving back to our place I didn’t lose focus on protecting my wife and myself from a bear attack!

How to Face Adversity

In my experience nothing creates focus or intentionality quite like adversity.  Now please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that you or I should go out looking for adversity all willy-nilly.  That’s just stupid.  Why?  Because adversity will find you!

And when it does, you have two choices really: 1) prepare to confront it head-on to the best of your abilities or 2) completely freeze up and be consumed by it.  From experience let me tell you that number 2 just doesn’t work as a long-term strategy!

So, here are a few tips that I’ve learned about how to focus when facing adversity:

  1. Have a well-stocked pack: I’m not sure what we would have done to feel safe on the trail if we hadn’t packed well.  The same is true in life.  What do you have at your disposal at a moment’s notice?  If faced with a tough situation do you have the resources and relationships to make it through?
  2. Come up with a plan: I’m pretty sure that my pocket knife and my wife’s pepper spray would have probably made the bear more angry than anything, but it was a plan, however ill-conceived!  When faced with adversity almost any plan is better than no plan.  So when tough times come, take a moment, breathe, and come up with a plan using the resources and relationships that you have.
  3. Proceed with cautionThere’s absolutely no need to rush into things, at least not in most cases.  Take your time.  Most real cases of adversity aren’t easily solved or overcome.  There’s no need to rush a bear on a hiking trail after all!
  4. Keep your eyes open for help: While following your plan carefully you may find something else along the way to help you, like an old sign post!  It’s always good to use whatever new resources present themselves when faced with adversity.
  5. Learn from the adversity: One of the first things I did when I got home (after sharing the bear-sighting on Facebook, of course) was to learn some things about hiking safety so that we might be better prepared for the next bear encounter we have.  Luckily for us there’s a wealth of information out there.  The same thing is true of the adversity we face in life: once we get through it, we need to learn from it.  To put it back into hiking terms, what do we need to add or subtract from our pack to help us deal with this same kind of thing in the future?

How do you deal with adversity?  Did I leave anything out?  Let me know in the comments below!

5 Ways to Make Your New Year Great!

new year

By: bayasaa
How can this new year be great?

Every year over the holidays a nagging feeling begins to grow.  We all start wondering how the new year will be our best year yet.  We think about what kinds of promises we could make to ourselves or our loved ones that might help us succeed.

But, you know the drill.  We make 12 resolutions to do this or that.  But by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around we’ve failed at almost all of them in one way or another.

Well, how can this year be different?  I haven’t the slightest!  But I do know that there are some basic things we could all do to help every year be great.

Five Ways to Have a Great New Year

  1. Make no more than five goals.  Don’t think of your resolutions as resolutions.  We all know how we do when we resolve to do something…  Instead, form goals.  Don’t make too many or too few.  Five seems about right.  Don’t shoot too high, but don’t make the goals too easy either.  I like to think of them as stretch goals.  Imagine what seems doable, then stretch it just a bit.  For example: your may have a goal to save 3000 dollars this year for a specific purpose.  Great!  That’s 250 bucks a month.  So to stretch this goal just a bit, up your saving amount to 275 bucks.  Then, each month, check in on your goal to see how you are doing.  If you are able it would be good to find a person or two to hold you accountable to your goals also.
  2. Read at least twelve books this year.  The average American apparently reads around 17 books a year.  That seems like a lot!  But it is encouraging to know that folks are still reading.  So, here’s a suggestion: read one book a month.  It doesn’t have to be huge.  It doesn’t have to be one genre or another.  And it doesn’t have to dovetail with your vocation, but it could.  In fact, it might be good to alternate “useful” books with “fun” books each month.  For me that would mean reading one biblical studies/theology book and then one fiction book.  The purpose of this idea is not to just crowd your house or e-reader with more books.  And the hope isn’t to make you look or feel smarter.  The purpose is for all of us to be involved in some continued development and some stress-reducing downtime.
  3. Make prayer a habit.  I’m not going to prescribe to you exactly how you should pray or exactly how often you should.  But I will say that it’s highly doubtful that in 12 months from now you’ll regret having spent time in prayer.  My wife and I have found praying together and as individuals each day to be helpful.  You may want to do what we do or you may want to do something totally different.  Either way, my encouragement to you is for you to pray and to do so often!
  4. Have fun!  Would it be crazy to plan something once a month or so for the sole purpose of having fun?  You may even want to do it more often than that!  These fun things could be anything at all: taking an architectural tour of the town your live in; playing touch football in the park; going hiking; picking up a new hobby; throwing a party; attending a party; etc.  You really could do anything.  The point, however, is that if you plan to do something fun each month, then you’ll always have that to look forward to when things get tough (and we all know they will!).  So, you have full permission to have a blast!
  5. Invest in your community with your time and talents.  During the upcoming new year it would be awesome if all of us spent more time giving back.  There are literally millions of ways that we could serve folks in our neighborhoods.  Here are a few ideas off the top of my head:
    • Contact the principal at your closest school and ask how you can help out.
    • Find a local foster-care agency and see how you can be a blessing to the kids who are served there.
    • Volunteer regularly at your church.
    • Help kick start or continue a “beautify your park/town” initiative.
    • Be a mentor or a tutor for kids in your neighborhood through local non-profits.

 

What do you think?  What are some other ways that you can make the new year great?  Let me know below!