Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7 Questions To Ask Yourself During a Transition


In Miami, fall and winter are foreign concepts.

It’s pretty much summer all year round, with the occasional day or two when the temperatures dip below 70 degrees. (Only in Miami will you see people sporting fur boots and coats when that day’s high temperature is a frigid 68 degrees. Seriously.)

A trip to Nashville several years ago gave me my first taste of fall. The oranges and yellows and reds that enveloped the countryside as my flight descended into the city made me feel like Kevin McAllister entering Duncan’s Toy Chest for the first time in Home Alone 2.

The transition from summer to fall is clear: the days grow shorter, the temperatures begin to cool, and pumpkin spice lattes are available at every Starbucks (hallelujah!).

In life, we go through similar transitions. New opportunities. New locations. New friends. New everything.

Whether we’re entering the spring of a new job or relationship or the winter of loss or disappointment, we need to be prepared and ready take on whatever comes our way.

Here are some questions to ask as you transition into a new season:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

5 Words That Will Get You In Trouble

There are five words that, when put together, will open the door to trouble in your life and mine.

Like accidentally pressing the button that opens the gates of a city surrounded by enemy forces waiting to waltz right in, they will end up causing a lot of pain:

“I would never do that.”

We see the celebrity who gets busted for drug possession, the football player who squandered millions and goes broke, the pastor who commits adultery, the politician mired in scandal and we swear that we will never make those mistakes.

In our outrage, we forget that we are just as human as they are. They are tempted just like us. They have weaknesses. They have fears. They have doubts. They bleed. They hurt the same way we do. It just so happens that their blunders are front-page headlines instead of Facebook-spread gossip.

How we respond to the mishaps, failures and sins of others says a lot about who we are. Shamefully, I admit that there have been a number of times when my first response was “I would never do that.” I would think I was a stronger man and a better person because I didn’t make that mistake. I didn’t commit that sin. That’s pride, callousness and hypocrisy on full display.

Don’t hear me wrong, I’m not minimizing the ramifications of their actions. Their moral failures affect many people, not the least of which is their own families. Sin always causes collateral damage. They know it. And they will feel the consequences of the decisions they made -- just like we do. It’s disappointing and upsetting to see people we look up to for leadership fail.

In the end, however, God’s grace is available to them -- just like it is for you and me (and thank God that it is). I pray that they would seek to turn from whatever actions they might be and seek God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of those they hurt.

When we decide to point fingers without reflecting on our own humanity and weaknesses, we can easily become blinded by arrogance and susceptible to fall in the face of temptation in our own lives.

Instead, we should take time to inspect our own lives and find our own blind spots -- and take preventative measures to avoid making colossal mistakes in our own lives.

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

What do you struggle with? Where are your weaknesses? For me, I’ve battled with my temper and my anger for as long as I could remember. My anger has caused me to say things that I still regret to this day and do things that I am not proud of. It wasn’t until I admitted my issues to God, myself and the people I trusted the most that I was able to confront it head on.

The longer we pretend we’re strong enough to overcome our weaknesses on our own or try to hide them in a dark corner hoping no one sees them, the greater the chances become of making some big mistakes. It’s time to get real.

STAY AWAY FROM THE CLIFF

Many people ask “How close can I get to the sin without actually sinning?” That’s as dumb as driving a Ferrari a hundred miles per hour straight towards a cliff wondering when the last possible moment is to pump the brakes before plunging towards a grisly death.

Don’t flirt with temptation. Do not compromise. You will lose. Every single time. Set boundaries far, far away from the cliff.

ALWAYS BE ALERT

First Peter 5:7 states: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

We are facing an enemy who is crafty, slick and resourceful. He will set out bait, specifically tailored for you, and will cast it out hoping you sink your teeth in -- only to feel the sharp pain of the hook if you’re not paying attention. Always be aware of what’s happening in your life and around you.

And don’t put yourself in vulnerable positions by abiding by the H.A.L.T principle. Do not make any big decisions -- our put yourself in places where you know you’ll be tempted -- when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. It’s a recipe for disaster.

ESTABLISH A SYSTEM OF ACCOUNTABILITY

When predators hunt, you won’t see them go after the herd; they will single out the loner and then go for the kill. If you think you can fight off a fierce predator by yourself, good luck.

Instead, find a few people -- maybe even just one person -- to keep you accountable. Someone who knows everything and will keep you in check. These people -- a family member, close friend, mentor or pastor -- will serve as the voice of reason in your life. There is power in numbers, so get plugged in to a group or community that will help you move in the right direction.

We should always seek to live lives according to God’s Word. We should always seek to honor God and others with our actions, our words and our thoughts.

But we will fail. We all fall. There is no way around it. But humbly acknowledging our weaknesses, setting boundaries, being alert and finding people that will hold us accountable helps steer us far away from decisions that will destroy our credibility, diminish our influence and hurt ourselves and those around us.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Weight

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” - 1 Peter 5:7

* * * * * * * *

If you've been in an airport for more than five minutes, you've probably seen them.

Those frantic travelers lugging around bags filled with stuff that slows them down, their faces contorted like Olympic weightlifters, one wrong step away from everything just spilling out on the floor.

It’s easy to walk through life like that without even realizing it.

The weight of expectations. The weight of responsibility. The weight of everybody’s opinions. The weight of doubt. The weight of guilt. The weight of worry. The weight of fear.

It all adds up, one bag at a time, piling on until we feel crushed by it.

The weight of it all has driven me into fear. A lot. It has driven me to tears. A lot. It has driven me to feel like a five-year-old version of myself struggling to stay afloat in the deep end of a swimming pool. Every single time.

I think a lot of times we feel like we need to carry this burden on ourselves. Like we’re expected to and need to be strong enough to press on, one sluggish step at a time, until we reach some destination that always seems just out of our reach.

The truth is we don’t. We think everything depends on us. It doesn’t.

If you are tired, weary and broken, there is refuge. There is rest. There is hope. It’s all found at the feet of Jesus.

He wants your weight and mine. All of it. He wants to take whatever it is you’re still carrying, whatever it is you’re not willing to let go of or don’t think you can let go of. He can handle it and do more with it than we ever could.

In exchange for worry, He will give you peace. For all that anxiety, you’ll get comfort. In doubt's place, you’ll get a quiet assurance that it will all be okay. Instead of perpetual exhaustion, you’ll get rest. You'll get freedom when you lay down the chains of other's expectations. It's the best transaction you could ever make!

He wants you to cast your cares on Him, because He cares for you. He wants to give you peace and rest, because He loves you.

Let Him.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Finishing What You Started

I have nothing to post for Thursday.

That’s what I thought yesterday. Then I browsed through my Google Drive folder where I usually begin to write and brainstorm ideas for posts and counted all the posts I had started, just sitting there waiting to be done.

There were eight. Eight posts that I started, began to take form… and then at some point, I moved on to something else. And then another thing. And another.

I did have something to post for today. I just didn’t one of those eight posts done.

Why didn't I finish those posts? A combination of laziness and excuses -- the two mortal enemies of finishing. I told myself I would finish them later. Or that it would take too much effort. Or that there’s no time.

We need to kill laziness and show excuses the door. They have no place in the creative process. They are the quicksand that drags us down into stagnation.

If we aren't careful, we’ll look back and see a trail of neglected projects -- monuments of our laziness and shrines of our excuses. We’ll be left with a bunch of what-ifs, unrealized potential and little else.

I don’t want to live a life marked by excuses, laziness and unfinished business. I hope you don’t, either.

Starting is hard. So is finishing. Finishing takes time. Finishing demands sacrifice. Finishing requires patience and perseverance. Finishing means doing some research, getting up a little earlier in the morning, and doing the necessary work.

One finished product has more power than eight that are just lying there waiting for me to finish them. No one reads a half-finished novel that never makes it to the shelves of a Barnes & Noble. No one hears the song missing the bridge that never made it to your SoundCloud account.

Before I start anything new, I'm going to go back and finish what I started. You’ll be seeing those eight drafts finished soon.

If you’ve started something, go back and take the time to finish it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My First Twitter Hater

When I checked Twitter on Sunday morning, I was greeted with a surprise: my first Twitter Hater.  

Nobody likes haters. More often than not, they are usually anonymous and distant people marked by bitterness. They hide behind a keyboard and a computer screen to spew their nonsense. They love to rain on parades, pop balloons at birthday parties and snicker in the dark corners of their basements (or their mom’s).

Their line of attack goes something like this:

1. Ridicule your work
2. Insult you
3. Tell you to shut up

All in 140 characters or less.  

This Twitter Hater probably lives 1,723 miles away from me. He could be a disgruntled potato farmer living in Idaho for all I know. If a complete stranger is willing to take the time to look at your work and then take even more time to craft a laughable negative rebuke of it, that’s a compliment!

But for a brief moment, I got a little defensive as I read this Twitter Hater’s comment. Naturally, we all want to be universally liked and admired. But any time spent in the real world will tell you that simply is not possible.

Cheap shots come from the cheap seats. Don’t give someone in the nosebleed sections the power to call the plays in your life.  

The only way to never get a negative comment is to never speak up. The only way to never get a 1-star review on Amazon is to never write a book or create a product. The only way to never get a Twitter Hater is to never tweet.

If you have the audacity to chase a dream or something you are passionate about, expect to have haters. When people start throwing rocks in your direction, that usually means you’re doing something right.

Haters like to tear down things they were too lazy to help build. Haters love to rip apart dreams because they are too afraid to dream themselves. Haters want to rip people apart because it makes them feel better about themselves.

Don’t get dragged down to their level. When the haters start coming out of the woodwork, don’t give them the satisfaction of shutting up. Instead, speak louder, work harder, keep hustling.

When the Twitter Haters enter your life, just smile. It means you are on the right track.