Wednesday, March 25, 2015

If It Matters To You

Psalm 55:22 - Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; The Lord will never allow the righteous to be shaken. 

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The grief of losing a family member. The plans you’re making for the weekend. The heartbreak of a breakup. Struggling to stay on a budget so you can get out of debt. The sting of a betrayal. The shame of that mistake you made years ago that you can’t seem to let go of. The doubts you have about your faith.

Whether it’s a huge crisis or a small dilemma, it all matters. 

Sometimes we wonder if God really does care about whatever that “it” might be in our lives when there are so many things happening everywhere else. Sometimes our problems might seem small when we place them next to the problems facing people around us. And they might be small.

But small still matters. Sometimes it’s the little things that expose big issues in us that God wants to deal with. It’s the little things that stay with us, make us worry and cast shadows in our lives longer than the Empire State Building. 

Philippians 4:6-7 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Paul compels us “not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all human understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine)

The only way to fight worry is to bring God in on everything that’s going in our hearts, in our minds and in our souls. God wants us to be warriors, not worriers! 

Don’t act like “it” doesn’t matter when it does to you. It matters to you for a reason, and you have to work it out with God in order to figure out why. Don’t minimize your pain, your hurt, your cares. Don’t shrug “it” off and say it’s no big deal. Bring God into your situation. 

Whatever “it” is in your life, it matters. It matters to God. He doesn’t have us on some priority list, asking us to wait for Him to solve all the other problems in the world before He listens to ours. He hears your cry for help right where you are because He wants to restore you, sustain you and strengthen you.

Yes, it matters to God because it matters to you and because you matter to Him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Power Of Pizza & Honesty: 4 Lessons From The Revival Of Domino's

Of all the pizza delivery chains out there, Domino’s is my absolute favorite of the bunch. It wasn’t always that way, though.

A few years ago I would have told you that Domino’s pizza was actually pretty gross. Their cheese was dull, their sauce was bland and their crust had the charm of a cardboard box.

Case in point: In a 2009 survey that rated the taste preferences of consumers, Domino’s finished last -- tied with Chuck E. Cheese’s. Ouch.

But when Patrick Doyle took over as the new CEO of the company in 2010, he did something not many leaders and companies do -- they owned up to the fact that their pizza was not very good.

Since then, Domino’s has completely reinvented themselves and it has paid off in a big way. In the five years since Doyle took over as CEO, annual sales have risen to $9 billion (they were at $2 billion when he first took over). That is a lot of pizza and cheesy bread!

So what happened? What led to Domino’s big turnaround? Here are four lessons I’ve gathered from the revival of Domino’s:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Don't Dig Up In Doubt What You Planted In Faith

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven… A time to plant and a time to harvest.” 
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

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Remember those science projects we all used to do every year in elementary school for the Science Fair?

You know, the ones where you would have to conduct an experiment of some sort and then buy those foldable cardboard display board with the wavy borders to show your hypothesis, procedures, results, data and all the other portions of the scientific process? 

I don’t remember much, but I do remember my favorite projects revolved around plants -- not because I had any sort of affinity for plants, but mostly because they were the easiest projects to do. Don’t judge! I was never the crafty type and building a scale model of the solar system or a volcano just didn’t seem worth the effort. Plus, plants don’t run away or explode.

Anyways, one year I decided to plant different types of seeds to see which ones would grow faster. These projects required time and patience. I'd plant them in the same type of soil, give them all the same amount of water and exposure to light and let them do their thing. Some of the seeds grew quickly, others wouldn't -- at least not right away. 

If I decided then and there to dig up the seeds to try and see what the problem was, I’d disrupt the process. I would undo all the progress being made underneath the surface and have to start over. All because I didn't have faith in the process of plant growth. 

The same often applies with the things we plant in faith in our lives.

I may not be a overalls-wearing, pitchfork-wielding farmer, but in a way we’re all spiritual farmers, planting seeds of faith in prayer and hoping for a harvest somewhere down the line.

We have dreams for different areas of our lives and we sow seeds in our relationships, in our finances, in our churches, in our careers… and then we hope that those tiny seeds of faith turn into a crop of healthy marriages, strong families, successful businesses, enriching friendships and fruitful ministries.

Usually, the problems occur in between the sowing and the reaping. It’s making sure our seeds are getting the right amount of water and sunlight and protecting our seeds from the weeds, birds and insects that threaten to sabotage growth.

Most importantly, though, it’s figuring out when to just stay out of the way and let God do the work. It’s practicing patience and not compromising everything we’ve planted by uprooting the seeds we plant before they bloom. When we want everything to happen on our own timetable, we end up digging instead of reaping.

I’ve been staring at a couple of empty fields lately that I hoped would have been yielding some kind of results by now and I’m wondering if I’ll ever see a crop show up. I’m tempted to dig up in doubt what I planted in faith. Maybe you are, too.

Don’t do it. Don’t bail out before the breakthrough. Don’t let doubt uproot your faith. Don’t let impatience override your trust in God and in the process.

Stay the course. Stay committed. Stand firm. Keep sowing. Keep tending your fields.

Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Find Your "Something": Why Your Work Matters

"Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." - Colossians 3:23

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Writers write. 

Simple, I know, but I'm a writer and sometimes I need to remind myself!

We're all hardwired to do something.  

Maybe you're "something" is painting. Painters paint. Or maybe you're really good at building things. Builders build.

Whatever that something is -- and it could be one of a million things -- it's important that we do it.

But maybe an even more important question than what your something is why you do it. There's gotta be something behind your something!  

Why do you write? Why do you paint? Why do you build? Why do you do what you do?


When we hear the word "worship," usually what comes to mind is a music genre or the songs we sing on Sunday mornings. But worship is so much bigger than that.

My pastor, Ed Young, once said that worship is our response to God’s identity (who He is) and His activity (what He does) expressed by what we say and what we do. 

Everything and anything you do and how you do it matters. And our work, along with everything else in our lives, is part of living a life of worship. Whether you are serving chicken sandwiches at a fast food restaurant or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, it matters. It matters to God.

Your work is an act of worship! So whatever it is you do -- whatever your "something" is -- do it in response to who God is and what He has already done for you.  

Write in response to God's faithfulness. Paint in response to God's design. Create in response to God's creativity. Work in response to God's faithfulness. Serve in response to God's grace. Love in response to God's love. Teach in response to God's wisdom. Speak in response to God's Word.

What are you passionate about? What activities do you find yourself gravitating towards, regardless of whether or not it brings you a paycheck? What brings you joy when you are immersed in it?

Find your "something" and go do it. And if you don't know what that something is just yet, keep searching for it. Your searching is an act of worship, too.

When you treat everything like an act of worship, everything changes.    

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Give Yourself A Break

(Note: This is that post I was telling you all about a few weeks ago.)

You wouldn’t have wanted to sit next to me in the family van after a loss in little league.

I’d kick myself for every little mistake -- if I got a hit in three out of four at bats, I’d fixate on that fourth one. If I was pitching and threw a bad pitch that led to an RBI double, I’d replay it in my head over and over more times than ESPN said the word “Deflategate” in the two weeks leading up the Super Bowl.

My parents would try and cheer me up, but I wouldn’t hear any of it (Sorry, Mom and Dad). It didn’t matter to me that baseball is a team sport or that 95 percent of the outcome of any given game was out of my control. Somehow, it was my fault that my team lost. There was something wrong with me.

Even now as a 24-year-old grown adult, I still struggle with that little leaguer mentality. And after a while, it always starts to take a toll.

Some “losses” still bring out the worst in me. Anger. Pride. Jealousy. Bitterness. Discontentment. And I hate that. I hate to see that I still struggle with these things in my own heart. I hate to see failures open up wounds that I thought were healed. I hate admitting my own weaknesses and I’ll beat myself up for having them in the first place.

I start to hear: Joel, look at all the choices and all these mistakes you’ve made -- you are such an idiot. Look at these emotions that are wrecking you -- you are so weak and useless. Look at that failure -- it’s all your fault.

I’ll start to look at my own reflection in the mirror and not like what I see.

I’ve always struggled with grace and forgiveness -- particularly for myself. I’ll demand perfection of myself and when I predictably fail to meet that ridiculous standard, I’ll beat myself up for it.

Maybe you struggle with this, too. I’ll tell you what some close friends have told me: You’ve gotta give yourself a break. We need to give ourselves some grace. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. And we’ll never be perfect. And that’s okay.

God doesn't demand perfection of us. Yet, we somehow expect ourselves to be perfect.

First John 1:8-9 says that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

We can give ourselves grace because God has already extended grace to us as a gift. And His grace is enough.

It’s more than enough. It never runs out. It never fails. It’s always available to us. No failure is final. No pain is permanent. No mistake is too much to come back from. 

Too often we beat ourselves up for things that God has already forgiven us for. We remember things that God has already forgotten. We dwell on the past when God is trying to guide us forward in freedom. We hold on to things that God wants us to let go of.

When we withhold grace from ourselves, when we continually belittle ourselves for past mistakes and failures, we’re robbing ourselves of the joy, peace and rest found in Jesus. Not only that, but it also becomes much more difficult to extend grace and forgiveness to others if we can’t even offer it ourselves.

What are you beating yourself up over? What scenes are you replaying in your mind over and over? What kind of things are you saying about yourself?      

Give yourself some grace. Allow yourself to take a step forward. And another. And then another.

Give yourself a break and relieve yourself of a burden that you were never meant to carry.