Take Another Step

Talked with a friend today who told of his struggle to blog consistently.  Granted, this guy has more than one absolutely legitimate reasons… not excuses, but genuine reasons… why he has not been able to blog like he wants to.  And I love that he’s bold enough to say he wants to keep going for it.

But he asked me… as have a few others… what my key to blogging six days per week for the past year has been.  And truth be told, this really applies to more than blogging.  It’s really what it takes to be consistent with anything in life.  If I could narrow it down to the three biggest contributing factors, they would be:

1) Make it about something bigger than the action itself.  For me, writing the blog daily was originally about all the people I could encourage, and about me learning to write daily so that I could author books.  Find a cause that gives you a bigger motivation to stay committed day after day.

2) Make yourself accountable.  When I launched my blog, I told a crowd of leaders at a leadership event that I had started a blog and would be writing it six days per week.  And when I started the blog, I announced it to all those who read it that I would write it six days per week.  Now that all those people had heard me say it, I had to be a man of my word and maintain my integrity.  Sometimes, I would be busy and realize at 11:30 at night that I had not blogged yet that day. I would determine that I would write quickly and post by 11:59 because I committed to write six days per week.  Knowing that someone might call me on it has kept me writing.

3) Just do it today.  There have been times I haven’t had anything to write for an entire week, but I would just try to find something to write for that day, and not worry about the days ahead.  All I have to do is check today off the list. Little by little, a little becomes a lot.  Tomorrow, I will write my 300th blog since starting.  That didn’t happen all at once.  It happened one day at a time.

It’s about consistency, but cut yourself a little slack.  Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always succeed.  Just put one foot in front of the other, and take that next step in the right direction.

One last suggestion… ask God to help you do what you’ve committed to do.  He wants you to succeed.  And He knows how to help you.

Now, having kept my commitment today, I’m going to bed… but I’ll be sure to write again tomorrow with the Lord’s help!

Believe It Till You See It

A couple years ago, PR31 and I heard a message in which the preacher suggested keeping something tangible in front of you in order to keep the vision of what you are believing God for at the forefront of your mind and to give some “substance” to your hope.  So, two years ago on my birthday, she made me this simple set of bookends and gave them to me as a present.  She explained that she believed one day my books would sit between those two bookends.

Those bookends have been sitting for two years now on the end table next to my recliner where I have my time alone with the Lord each day.  Every day as I would pick up the Bible and other people’s books to read, I was reminded that one day my books would be sitting there… filling that empty space.

I set that first copy of my first book in the space yesterday, and my faith became sight.  What I had believed for… that vision I kept in front of me each day… that which I hoped for… became reality.

And here’s the rest of this story… I don’t plan to let that be the only book sitting between those bookends. I will leave a little space… always a little more… to make room for the next book!  Now my faith has bolstered my hope, and I can believe for even more!

Faith is the substance of things hoped for… What are you hoping for?  Let me encourage you to get something today that symbolizes that for you, and put it somewhere you will see it all the time.  That way you can keep your faith up for it.

Better yet… If you know and love someone who has a dream they are believing God for, why not do for them what PR31 did for me?  Get them something… or make them something… that will stir their faith and cheer them on toward that dream!

More news to come in the next several days about how you can get a copy of my book.  It’s called, I Got A “D” In Leadership: Anyone Can Lead.  It will be available in paperback and Kindle versions, and you’ll be able to get it on this site under the books tab in the menu… or at amazon.com.

The Making of a Marriage… Or Any Other Great Relationship- Part 3

I was in my last year of college, and I was talking with one of my professors about what my life might look like…my future… marriage… you know, just light casual conversation.  And she gave me some incredible advice that served me well.  That stately little powerhouse of a lady told me to make sure I married a young lady who was my equal because we were going to be partners in marriage.

She went to say that I should choose someone who was strong enough to challenge me in all areas of my life… because that would push me to always be moving forward in order to be the leader in our family.  She went on to clarify that by saying I should be the leader did not infer that I would better than my wife or superior… just fulfilling my role and responsibility.

She talked about the fact that in a marriage, both the husband and the wife are partners… equals.  But she went on to say that, although they are equals, each one has a unique, God-given, God-designed role.  My role was to lead and give her an example… to stay far enough ahead of her to challenge her to press forward for more, but by choosing a strong spouse that I would never be able to run off and leave her behind.  And yet not someone so strong that she could run off and leave me in the dust.

It boiled down to finding an equal, and respecting that she was my equal… my partner in this marriage.

That was amazing advice… and I am so glad I took it!  And boy did I evermore find an equal in PR31!  That girl keeps me on my toes.  Her generosity challenges my faith to believe I can be more generous.  Her prayer life challenges me to stay more in-tune with the Lord.  Her discipline and commitment level challenge me to  do more than not quit, but to take it up a notch.

Neither one of us has ever felt superior to the other that I can recall.  We are in this thing together… equals… partners.  We respect each other.  And we respond to each other as we fulfill our roles in the relationship.

To view someone as your equal is to show them the respect they deserve… and who wouldn’t want to spend their life in a loving relationship with someone who feels like that about them?

This works in other relationships also…

What if bosses treated their employees as equals instead of subordinates?  What if parents treated their kids with dignity and respect as equal members of the family?  What if students treated their teachers like real people just like themselves?

Respect.  Dignity.  Equals.  Partners.  In this together.  This is a great way to build a great relationship.

So why not give these three ideas a try over the next week… or month?  Why not learn to apologize well… communicate clearly… and give respect?  It could end up making a marriage… or any other relationship great!

The Making of a Marriage… Or Any Other Great Relationship- Part 2

PR31 and I had been married about six to eight months when we went to stay with her folks for about six weeks in between jobs.  During that time, we went to the young married couples Sunday School class that her mother was teaching.  The class was packed because she was an incredible teacher. She was way ahead of her time in utilizing video curriculum to elevate the excellence of the class and kick off discussions.

One of those video series she used was by Gary Smalley.  Well, PR31 and I got intrigued with them… and since we lived with the teacher, we had access to the videos whenever we wanted.  And since we were in between jobs, we had time to watch them.

One of the greatest takeaways we gained from those videos was a session he shared on communicating with word pictures to help the other person understand how what they said to us made us feel.  The illustration he gave was of a couple packing to go on vacation.  The husband pinches the wife’s side and asks if they are going to eat desserts on this vacation. He is only joking and means the pinch as a loving touch and the question as a joke, but she takes it as him saying she is overweight and doesn’t need any desserts on vacation.  Smalley picks up a small rock, a pebble, from a table and drops it on the floor… and says this is what the husband thought he did.  Then he picks up a huge boulder and drops it on the floor with a loud thud… and says this is what the wife felt when he said it. He used a word picture to help the audience understand what each was thinking and feeling. And he urged couples to find some way to help their spouse understand better what they were thinking and feeling.

This was nothing new… just sort of new to us.  I mean, Jesus used word pictures all the time to help people understand what God is like… and what matters to Him… and how God feels about certain things.  We call them parables… “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” or “Suppose one of you…”

Well, this Word picture thing sounded like a good idea for helping us learn to communicate in our marriage.  And low and behold, that Smalley guy is one smart cookie.  It began working for us… and it still does.  We even use it with our boys now.

Sure, it takes a while to figure out how to figure out the best word picture to share with a person. But you figure it out. It might go something like, “When you rub that dry napkin between your hands, it’s like someone raking their fingernails down a chalkboard… it drives me nuts.”  Don’t give up.

Sometimes the word picture doesn’t really convey the truth. So we added our own part as a disclaimer before the word picture.  We might say, “Let me try a word picture to explain how this makes me feel.  But if I mess it up, please let me walk it back and try again to get it right.”

Basically, this slowed the conversation… gave latitude for attempts at communication… and extended grace to the other person when they were genuinely trying to express thoughts and feelings in love.  These are always good for your marriage.

Over time, we built up enough word pictures which we both understood that we could say, “Okay, you know how you said… Well, think of that because this thing makes me feel exactly the way you said that makes you feel.”  Suddenly, the light would go on for the other person, and resolution came a lot more quickly because we now shared a common word picture that gave us a handle on how the other person was feeling,

So go ahead… give it a try the next time you feel your blood pressure rising because of something your spouse just said or did.  You can make a great marriage.  And hey, it works with any other relationship as well.  You can have a great marriage… or friendship… or parent-child relationship.  Anyone can do this.  And you’ll be glad you did!

The Making of a Marriage… Or Any Other Great Relationship- Part 1

Over the years, PR31 and I have had people ask us on multiple occasions what we think are the keys to healthy marriage/relationship.   Usually, one of the keys we give them is a handy little family rule we established in our marriage early on, and it basically went like this…

If you took a really strong stand on something… opposing what your spouse thought or said… and you were found to be wrong, then you had to say, “You were right. I was wrong. I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?

It’s not too bad when the other person has to say it.  In fact, it’s a little gratifying.  The only problem is that Angela rarely had to say it, and I had to say it often.  At least to begin with.

But soon I got tired of having to eat crow and swallow my pride.  Eventually I learned the lesson this little rule was intended to teach when we instituted it… Don’t be so hard-nosed and opinionated that you think you’re the only one in this world who knows anything.  Initially in our marriage, I would fiercely defend my correctness, only to be proven wrong on multiple occasions.  It soon occurred to me that my sweet wife often knew as much or more than me on plenty of topics, and I should learn to listen instead of argue.

It worked both ways, and it also didn’t take long for both of us to agree that we would rather hear the other person’s ideas, consider them as possibly being right, and search together to discover the truth.

The next step of that journey was to not rub it in the other person’s nose when you were right and they were wrong.  Again, it only takes a few times of finding yourself on the other end of that stick to know that there has to be a better way.

Our relationship is better now… more than two decades later… because we learned not to make such a big stinkin’ deal out of every little thing we might disagree on.  Some people suggest that couples have to argue to have a healthy relationship.  I disagree… I mean, it’s possible that I could be wrong… but it seems to me that instead of arguing, perhaps a better choice would be to find a way to disagree agreeably until you can both discover the truth together and agree on it.

And if I’m wrong, you can be sure that I will be the first one to admit it.  That’s been one other outcome of that little life experiment… an attitude that makes us quick to apologize when we discover we are wrong.  Real apologies.  Sincere apologies.

In loving relationships… whether marriage, parent-child or even best friends… love apologizes.

For the record, there are still times one of us has to abide by the family rule and make the statement, but those times are much fewer and farther between than when we first began.  I, for one, am glad for that!

Take Five

Have you ever stood in your closet for much longer than was necessary trying to decide what to wear? Sadly, I have. 

Have you ever fretted over a bad decision and let it ruin your day?  Sadly, I have.

Have you ever said something and the moment the words slipped through your lips you immediately wished you had never spoken them?  Sadly, I have.

Too many times I have let something minor that seemed earth-shattering and life-defining at the moment become way bigger in my mind and emotions than I should have.

In Matthew 6, Jesus says to those listening that they shouldn’t let temporary issues cloud what really matters.  In fact, He says that all our worrying cannot even add a single moment to our lives and so it is pointless to let a molehill turn into a mountain in our minds.

So here’s my recommendation for you… and me… and all the others out there who struggle to keep life in its proper perspective on occasion… Take five.  Ask yourself…

– Will this really matter five minutes from now?

– How about five hours from now?

– Will I be concerned about this five days from now?

– Will this bother me five weeks from now?

– Is anyone at all going to care that this happened five months from now?

– Will I or anyone else even remember this five years from now?

– Will this have had any significant bearing on my life five decades from now?

– And lastly, five hundred years from now, when I am long gone and I have passed on into eternity, will this choice… this instance… this incident… this action… have made any difference… made any eternal impact on mine or anyone else’s soul forever?

Most of the time, when I practice taking five, I don’t get past five hours or five days before I realize that many things I think are such a big deal at the moment are truly trivial.  In fact, I was looking at old family photos recently and things that seemed like larger than life issues then, I had completely forgotten about now…. some of those less than five years ago.

So let’s take five when we get uptight.  Let’s take five when our heart is broken.  Let’s take five when we don’t get our way.  Let’s take five and get a little perspective… which just might help turn the situation around and respond more appropriately to it.

6 Keys To Being A Great Friend

Not-So-Great-Friends Anonymous

If you’ve ever said the words, “Let’s get together sometime,” and then never done it… raise your hand.

If you’ve ever said the words, “Let’s stay in touch,” and then not done it… raise your hand.

If you’ve ever said the words, “You are one of my best friends in the whole world,” and yet hardly ever do anything with that person… only talk with them a couple times a year… barely send a text per month to them… forget to wish them happy birthday on Facebook even though you saw the notification… raise your hand.

Phew!  Good, I thought I was the only one.

If you read the post this past Saturday, then you know that I went to a funeral which motivated me to consider how I’m living life… how I’m loving people… how good a friend I’m being.  I mean, we all want great friends, but the King James Version of Proverbs 18:24 says that if we want to have friends, we have to be a friend to others.  I’d like to suggest that we could expand that to say… if we want to have great friends, we have to be a great friend to others.

Quest

But I haven’t always been the greatest of friends to those I consider friends to me. (Case in point is the story from my post on January 27th.  You can read it here.)  So this week… if you are a fellow struggler in the area of being a great friend… let’s begin a quest together.  Let’s look at 6 Keys To Being A Great Friend.  And for added value, I’ve invited one of my best friends to be a guest blogger with me this week.  I will introduce you to this incredible person later in the week… you’re going to love them as much as I do.  For now, let’s just look at the first key.

If we’re going to be a great friend to those in our lives, we really must be…

Key #1 – FAITHFUL

Let’s just start with this.  To be a great friend, we have to be in it for the long haul.  We can’t give up the first time we get upset with the other person.  We can’t bail out the first time we have to give more than we receive in the relationship.  We can’t quit because we are separated due to geography or schedule.  To be a great friend requires faithfulness on our part.

Faithfulness isn’t glamourous.  It isn’t sexy.  But it is attractive.

Faithfulness isn’t easy.  It isn’t without effort.  But it is simple.

I’m talking about commitment instead of convenience.  Our motivation has to be faithfulness instead of feelings… if we want to be a great friend and thereby have a great friendship.  And I want to be a great friend.

Some of my best friends in life… okay, I’ll be more transparent… ALL of my best friends in my life… simply refuse to quit being my friend.  Regardless of my ridiculousness, they stick with me.  Regardless of my lack of faithfulness, they remain faithful.  Regardless of how much I may frustrate them, they come back like they are gluttons for punishment.  They reflect who I know God to be… faithful to me in spite of me.

That’s the kind of friend I want to be.  It’s a great friend who is faithful to you… committed to you.  It’s a truly great friend who says, “I’m not going away.  You can’t get rid of me.  You’re stuck with me as a friend whether you like or not.  I’ve chosen to be your friend and I’m not changing my mind.  So, you might as well get used to it because I am determined to see us have a great friendship.”

Challenged

This past week, I had the opportunity to make a decision to be just such a friend.  It hasn’t even been a week yet… so I will say that I made a decision to be a great friend.  Only time (and my actions) will tell if I am faithful to that person and turn out to be a great friend to them.

But I was motivated by a past failure to be a faithful friend.  Several years ago, a really great friend of mine went through an incredibly difficult time in life.  I reached out to him initially, but gave up after what I felt like was him pushing me away.  About a year ago, I found out that I really hurt him by giving up so easily on our friendship.  He felt like no one stuck with him when he needed it most.  He realized that he was a little raw and pushed some people away, but he felt like his true friends would stick with him.  I loved him.  I wanted to be there.  But I wasn’t willing to push past the awkwardness and discomfort to be faithful.  As a result, we’ve had to start over and try to rebuild that friendship.

I haven’t arrived, but I am working toward being a great friend.  And I’m starting with being a faithful friend.

If you’re ready to go on this quest with me, then let’s take that first step by letting our friends know we are going to stick with them in life… we are going to be FAITHFUL!

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Speaking of faithfulness, be sure to stick with this blog all week to discover the “6 Keys To Being A Great Friend.”  And hey, speaking of friendship, why not invite a friend to read it along with you this week?  Maybe you can challenge each other to be great friends.

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