Why I’m Taking a Break From My Blog

A quick announcement before I start today:  If you haven’t taken my survey about your greatest frustrations and joys as a pastor, please click take it… only 12 questions.  I will be drawing two names from the ones who take it for two Amazon $20 gift cards… ends today!

THE REAL POINT OF THIS POST

I’m announcing today that I’m taking 2 weeks off from the blog to do three things:

1. Seek God’s direction for the future of the blog.

I started this blog almost 6 months ago, and it’s been quite a learning curve for me.  I’ve really enjoyed it, and have met some fantastic people, and been encouraged by many of your comments, that something I wrote was helpful.

Writing regularly has been a stretch, but has been a helpful discipline for me in many ways, and I’ve truly enjoyed doing it.  But it’s been much more than just the writing.  Trying to do the blog with excellence has meant learning a lot about the behind-the-scenes WordPress things… Additionally, I have been preparing several projects in the background of the blog that I have been working on, including:

  • Video coaching programs for young pastors
  • A coaching program for small church revitalization
  • An e-book on how to recruit more volunteers
  • An e-book and coaching program on how to follow up on guests

These have taken up a lot of time and mental energy, and I am really quite close to launching them.

Recently God sent three separate people to me (in one day) with a message from the Lord.  As Liz and I prayed over it, it seemed to indicate a change of pace was in order… so we’re seeking what to do about that.

At this point, I intend to continue to write, but we will see what that looks like.  I will continue to keep my commitments to those churches that I’m coaching, and pastors that I’m coaching, but will have to wait until after this period of seeking to see if I will open that up to other churches & pastors.

2. Seek God’s power for a fresh season in our lives.

When the Lord sent these messages to us, they also all indicated that God was about to answer some long-standing prayers, and move powerfully in our city.  We are thankful, and walking in expectation.  Specifically, the message was to be ready, ask largely, rest, and watch God work.

The coordination of these messages (all of them unsolicited, and from people who had no contact with one another) was remarkable.  We are waiting with anticipation to see how the Lord will fulfill his Word.

3. Attend the IH Convention in Dayton, OH.

While we are resting & seeking the Lord, we will be attending the IHC in Dayton.  If you follow me on Twitter, I’m sure you’ll see some live tweets from that.

If you’re not familiar with the Inter-Church Holiness Convention, you can check it out here.  The IHC is the largest gathering of people from the Conservative Holiness Movement in the US.  Tuesday thru Thursday, people from the holiness movement gather to hear great preaching, fellowship together, & be encouraged in the Lord.

If you’d like to know more about it, you can find the link to watch live here.  The daily schedule is also posted on the site here.  I’ll be preaching Thursday morning, but I’m not sure if that will be live streamed or not.

Liz and I went through an excellent conference some years ago called “Family ID.”  The conference led us through the process of creating a mission, vision and values for our family.  (Sometime soon, I will write about that…)

One of the 80-something values on the list we created is “Valuing the events that gather holiness people.”  This is why we go to camp meeting, Outreach and Bus Convention, and it’s why we go to the Inter-Church Holiness Convention.

We believe that there is value in gathering with God’s people, being encouraged in the Lord, sharing the journey with a larger circle of Christian family, and being reminded of the heritage of holy men and women in whose line we stand.

So I’m taking time off for that and for family… and I’ll be back, hopefully with a sense of what the Lord is leading toward next.

Thanks for what you do for the Lord as a small-church pastor!  You make an eternal difference!

Pastor, Here’s Why You Can’t Quit

If the stats are right, several pastors reading this are burned out and thinking of quitting… or at least wishing it could happen. The old joke about “writing your resignation letter every Monday” has a grain of truth. You’re burned out. Used up. Frustrated. In conflict. Spiritually drained. Unappreciated.

I don’t know if you’re one of those. I hope not. But odds are, someone reading this said under your breath, “That’s me.”

For the next few minutes, I’m talking to you.

For just the next few minutes, you are a boxer. The bell has rung, ending the round — just in time. Literally, saved by the bell. You stagger back to the corner, battered and bleeding. Collapsing onto the stool, you say, “I’m done. I can’t do it. I’ve got to quit.” A quick swipe of the towel, and I’m down in your face. Through clenched teeth, in a low growl, here’s what I’ve got to say:

“Jesus called you to suffer this.”

Not all pastors are called to blowout success. I don’t know the “Why of heaven” on this. But you know in your gut it’s true — there are too many godly & gifted men through history who didn’t see big numbers. If you see this as the calling of God to face the attack of the enemy, it makes a difference.

“This will not last forever.”

Don’t quit because of a season! You can outlast that critic. Those children will not always be so small. God will answer prayer. Someone will be changed. You will not always feel this alone. Your spouse will not always be sick.

“This is where you prove your grit.”

You must — you MUST. Watch this video. If you’re reading this post on my email list, click through to the blog, right now, and watch it.

Click to watch on Youtube: Facing the Giants VIDEO

“Heaven is worth this.”

I know you’re doubting it will ever be any different, and thinking that you have no more strength. But remember your brothers & sisters in Moslem countries. Remember those have lost eyes, hands, jobs… those who have been tied to stakes and flogged.

They found that Christ was worth the pain.  They found that He satisfies here on Earth, and they proved his supreme worth by what they suffered.  And when we arrive in heaven, whatever pain you’re experiencing will only produce greater glory when you’re in His All-Satisfying Presence.

“This is the price of Christian leadership.”

1 Corinthians 4:9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.
10 We are fools for Christ… We are weak… we are dishonored!
11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.
12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;
13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. (NIV)

This is not new!  You think you’re better than Paul?  Or Stephen?  Or Jesus?

Get your head up. No, look up here. Look me in the eye.

Grit your teeth and say it: I will not quit.

No, don’t you mumble and drop your eyes. LOOK AT ME.

Say it.

SAY IT.

I WILL NOT QUIT.

I. WILL. NOT. QUIT.

Now, call a preacher friend or mentor and tell them you’re not going to quit. Email me and tell me you need prayer, but you’re not going to quit. I will stop and pray for you as soon as I get the email. We are in this thing together. We need you. No more men running for the safety of the rear lines while the shells of the enemy scream overhead!

Now, type I WILL NOT QUIT in the Comments below.

Then, go read this post about action steps you can take if you’re burned out and discouraged as a pastor!

How Living In the Urgent Can Kill Your Creativity

And how to reclaim your life from the stress...

If you haven’t read Stephen Covey’s excellent book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” you’re missing out.  Out of the many helpful things in the book, here’s one I have found most useful:  Covey’s distinction between URGENT things and IMPORTANT things.

  • Urgent things shout at you – flashing lights, ringing phones.
  • Important things will not – maintenance, relationships, planning.
  • Urgent and Important things must be done or things will fall apart immediately.
  • Important, not Urgent things must be done or things will fall apart eventually.
  • Urgent and Important things are like filling up with gas when you’re on empty.
  • Important things are like changing the oil after 3,000 miles.

He draws a matrix like this:

Quadrant 2 graphic

As you can see, Quadrant 1 is Urgent & Important.  Quadrant 2 is Important, but not Urgent.

Now, think about your life in terms of this diagram.

I think of Sunday as a Quadrant 1 day.   If you don’t lead worship, don’t preach… if you fail to do whatever your core activities are, there will be an immediate negative effect.  Some activities eventually change quadrants.  For instance, sermon prep is a Quadrant 2 activity, but Saturday night… it’s moved up.

Here’s why it’s better to do activities while they’re still in Quadrant 2:

1. Living in Quadrant 1 is exhausting.

Living your whole life in Quadrant 1 means you’ll be like Mario, leaping from crisis to crisis, barely escaping destruction at each turn, always inches from disaster.

It means not being able to sleep because of the stress of upcoming deadlines.

That’s exhausting.  Better to live in Quadrant 2, where you do important things before they move into Quadrant 1.

2. Relaxed thinking is better than crisis thinking.

You do better quality thinking when you’re relaxed.  Research is clear: You make better quality decisions when your stress is lower.

In his ground-breaking book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell tells of a study where college students were brought to a snack table, and offered a choice between healthy snacks (fruit, etc) and unhealthy snacks (cookies, cupcakes).  Half of the students were given a phone number to memorize and repeat back after the snack.  Those students were much more likely to choose the unhealthy snack.  Why?  They defaulted, under even that mild stress, to choosing what was immediately rewarding, instead of what was smarter.

3. Creativity flows better when you are not in urgent mode.

Ever think that your creativity goes up right before the deadline?  It doesn’t.  Your desperation does.  You may produce, but it’s not your creativity that gets your sermon finished!  It’s shame, and the potential embarrassment of having nothing to say.

It’s not more creative, it’s just… finished.

Instead, take time and focus early in the week to get in a creative flow.  (I’ll be writing more on this soon.)  You may not think of yourself as a particularly creative person, but I bet that you’re more creative when you aren’t “under the gun.”

4. Creativity is useless when you have no time left to execute.

In Quadrant 2, when you think of a really creative way to present a sermon, you can do it.  You can find that prop, create that Powerpoint, locate that great historical story, find that song that complements, think of that person whose testimony should be shared.

But in Quadrant 1, even if you think of it, you often don’t have enough time to do anything about it. I’ve been there too many times, finishing up a sermon on Sunday morning, when I realized – “You know what would be GREAT?!… ah, never mind, I don’t have time to do that this morning!”

Don’t do it.  Commit to living in the Important, not Urgent.

One final thought:

“What if I’m already overwhelmed?  How do I get into Quadrant 2 when Quadrant 1 is already so full?”

I’m glad you asked.  You can’t just stop doing Quadrant 1 activities.  Everything would fall apart, because they really ARE important!  There are only 2 places that you can find time to do Quadrant 2 activities at first: Quadrants 3 & 4.

Here’s what that might look like:

  • Turn off the phone.
  • Block Netflix.
  • Shut off talk radio.
  • Turn off the TV.
  • Use Stayfocusd to keep off Facebook.
  • Get off Youtube.
  • Turn off your wireless access altogether for 3 hours.

And do something Quadrant 2.  Like this:

  • Prepare for NEXT week’s message.
  • Prep for a series that’s a month away on your sermon calendar.
  • Invest in a key relationship.
  • Learn something new.
  • Do that item you’ve been putting off.
  • Check your calendar for tomorrow.
  • Schedule lunch with someone.
  • Pray.

I think you’ll find that if you’ll do this for a week, Quadrant 1 will be slightly smaller, and Quadrant 2 will be slightly larger.

Now, imagine 6 months from now, if you did that every day!

Pastor, Go Be A Man

There’s a powerful story in Mark Twain’s book, Huckleberry Finn.  Last year, I read this book to my children, and was so struck by this story, that I stopped to highlight it.

In a town Huck is visiting, an angry mob gathers, infuriated over the actions of a man named Sherburn.  Read on if you’re a real man:

Well, by and by somebody said Sherburn ought to be lynched. In about a minute everybody was saying it; so away they went, mad and yelling, and snatching down every clothes-line they come to to do the hanging with.  They swarmed up towards Sherburn’s house, a-whooping and raging… They swarmed up in front of Sherburn’s palings as thick as they could jam together, and you couldn’t hear yourself think for the noise. It was a little twenty-foot yard. Some sung out “Tear down the fence! tear down the fence!” Then there was a racket of ripping and tearing and smashing, and down she goes, and the front wall of the crowd begins to roll in like a wave.

Just then Sherburn steps out onto the roof of his little front porch, with a double-barrel gun in his hand, and takes his stand, perfectly ca’m and deliberate, not saying a word. The racket stopped, and the wave sucked back. Sherburn never said a word—just stood there, looking down. The stillness was awful creepy and uncomfortable. Sherburn run his eye slow along the crowd; and wherever it struck the people tried a little to outgaze him, but they couldn’t; they dropped their eyes and looked sneaky. Then pretty soon Sherburn sort of laughed; not the pleasant kind, but the kind that makes you feel like when you are eating bread that’s got sand in it. Then he says, slow and scornful:

“The idea of you lynching anybody! It’s amusing. The idea of you thinking… you had grit enough to lay your hands on a man! Why, a man’s safe in the hands of ten thousand of your kind—as long as it’s daytime and you’re not behind him.

“…I know you clear through. I was born and raised in the South, and I’ve lived in the North; so I know the average all around. The average man’s a coward… Why don’t your juries hang murderers? Because they’re afraid the man’s friends will shoot them in the back, in the dark—and it’s just what they would do.  So they always acquit; and then a man goes in the night, with a hundred masked cowards at his back, and lynches the rascal.

“Your mistake is, that you didn’t bring a man with you; that’s one mistake, and the other is that you didn’t come in the dark and fetch your masks. You brought part of a man—Buck Harkness, there—and if you hadn’t had him to start you, you’d ‘a’ [never come].

“You didn’t want to come. The average man don’t like trouble and danger. You don’t like trouble and danger. But if only half a man—like Buck Harkness, there—shouts ‘Lynch him! lynch him!’ you’re afraid to back down—afraid you’ll be found out to be what you are—cowards—and so you raise a yell, and hang yourselves onto that half-a-man’s coat-tail, and come raging up here, swearing what big things you’re going to do.

“The pitifulest thing out is a mob… But a mob without any man at the head of it is beneath pitifulness. Now the thing for you to do is to droop your tails and go home and crawl in a hole. If any real lynching’s going to be done it will be done in the dark… and when they come they’ll bring their masks, and fetch a man along. Now leave—and take your half-a-man with you”—tossing his gun up across his left arm and cocking it when he says this.

The crowd washed back sudden, and then broke all apart, and went tearing off every which way, and Buck Harkness he heeled it after them, looking tolerable cheap.

I could ‘a’ stayed if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to.

Isn’t that powerful??!

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A man can speak for himself.

Don’t join the mob just because they’re screaming loudly, and you don’t want to be taken for a coward.

A man takes responsibility for his actions.

A man feels the fear and walks toward the danger anyway.

A man can look his critics in the eye.

A man can take criticism without breaking, because he hears the Other Voice.

A man doesn’t have to run down his opponents.

A man doesn’t have to quit.

I don’t know what you’re facing, pastor.

It may be an angry mob.

It may be spiritual attack.

It may be the forces of hell lining up against you in temptation.

It may be criticism.

And frankly, if it’s one of these, it’s often ALL of them.

Whatever it is, you can face it.

Pastor, go be a man.

If you’re inspired to face your fear, share what it is you have to face in the comments below, and if you’re inspired… share this post!

9 Action Steps for Burned Out Pastors

Steps toward healing and recovery from pastoral burnout

Surveys say that most pastors have felt like quitting in the past 12 months. If you feel like you’re about to crack wide open, drop in your tracks, or get a Pez dispenser full of Tums to keep your stomach calm…You may be feeling as though God is angry with you, and would push you to keep going, do more, try harder… and you’re dead wrong.

Pastor burnout - 9 action steps you can take to recover and heal

Give me a chance to prove it: Check out how God responded to an exhausted prophet.

Four Starter Steps to Fight Porn In Your Home

Pornography is big business in America.  Approximately $12 billion annually is spent on pornography.  To put that in perspective, the 100 largest missions organizations in America received 3 billion in a recent year.  Porn is about equal to the energy drink market in the US.  Close your eyes and visualize all the energy drinks in all the gas stations, grocery stores & Walmarts in America… there you go.  (If you haven’t read my last post on porn, and how pervasive it is in our culture, there are more stats there.)

In the last few weeks, a study on pornography among young people by the Barna Group commissioned by Josh McDowell was completed.  The results were startling.  76% of young people who identified as Christians sought out porn regularly.   Perhaps even more shocking were their views on it.  To quote the news story: “…while 52 percent of young Christian adults ‘would say that not recycling is morally wrong, only 32 percent would say watching pornography is morally wrong.'”

In that kind of world, how do we protect our families, our hearts, our churches?

Here are four beginning suggestions:

1. Build technological walls between your family and sin.

No one in today’s world — NO. ONE. — should have an unsecured, unfiltered internet connection. There are multiple tools available to do this, at reasonable cost (or no cost!). Invest the time. Get them. Learn them. Use them. Here are my favorites:

  •  OpenDNS – this software lives on your wireless router (not the computer), so it filters every device connected to your network. Invaluable, and free. Slightly more complicated to install than other programs. Very dependable in blocking. Not as powerful in monitoring and reporting.
  • Covenant Eyes. Filtering program for computers and phones. No child should have a smartphone or tablet without it. Not free, but excellent.
  • K9 Web Protection – Good, and free.  Custom lists, forced SafeSearch, time restrictions, reports… I’m impressed they can provide this much horsepower for free.  Multiple platforms available.
  • X3Watch – Free phone reporting app, sends your browsing history to an accountability partner. Somewhat weak on what it catches, but free. Barebones option. Also has a paid version of filtering software for computers.
  • Purify – this web service (and Chrome extension) shows Youtube videos, and strips away all the sidebars, comments, suggested videos, etc. Excellent idea for those who need to use Youtube, but dislike the abundance of sensuality & vulgarity in the suggested video thumbnails.
  • Mobicip – A free version & paid version.  Mobicip has apps & filters for all platforms.  I’m currently test driving this one on my Android phone and my PC.

2. Pray like crazy.

While we may fight with digital means, the protection of our homes is fundamentally a spiritual battle. Fasting and prayer for your family simply can’t be replaced.

3. Communicate often.

Cultivate honesty & willingness to share about these things by starting early. Talk about it with your children.

Discuss it with your spouse.  Men, share this parable with your wives:
Imagine that the Scripture condemns eating chocolate. Not only does it condemn it, but it condemns looking at it, and wanting to eat it. Then imagine that everyone ate chocolate. There were books about it. 12% of all websites were about chocolate. TV shows featured it, celebrities discussed their chocolate lives on talk shows.  Popular songs discussed chocolate openly.  Magazines and billboards featured half-unwrapped chocolate bars. Now, how hard is it not to think about chocolate?

Ladies, “Is it really like that?” is a question you need to ask of your husbands. If he’s honest, he’ll say yes.  But the conversation you have after he does will be important.

And you’ll need plenty of this next principle:

4. Create an atmosphere of grace.

I’ll be honest. You can’t build walls high enough to completely solve the problem. You can’t have enough tech tools. You can’t check up enough to prevent the possibility.  Odds are extremely high that your husband, your child, will see something impure.  Perhaps even intentionally.  What then?

Be very careful how you respond.  You have two choices: Law and Grace.

Paul says the law is clear that “the person who DOES these things shall live by them.” (Romans 10:5, NKJV). But the opposite is also true. The person who doesn’t — will die by them. And if the atmosphere of your home is one of law; if you’ve created an atmosphere of law, fear, condemnation, ultimatums… then the threat of condemnation will add to the guilt of their conscience and keep them from coming to you.  They may try to repent & seek forgiveness from Christ, but they won’t seek you out.

Please take it from me as a man who has struggled deeply in this area, received grace from others, & come thru to victory: Grace is more powerful than sin. Law is not… but grace is.

Someday I’ll share my story.  For now — grace, my friends.  Grace.

The Porn Pandemic: Is Purity Possible?

I admit it — I love the Internet.  I liked it from the first time I heard the beep beep boooop of our first dial-up modem, and saw how information came streaming into our home.  Anything I needed to know, type it in… and there it was.

Today, it’s better, smarter, and way, way faster.  My smartphone is always connected.  Google Now learns what I like and search for, and automatically shows me news stories connected to my interests.  Google Drive syncs all my files, so I can retrieve any picture or document from anywhere and send it instantly to anyone.  Amazon lets me order & ship things directly to my door.  My sermons on Youtube have been viewed 5,000 times as of this writing.  I can find the lyrics to almost any song in seconds.

A friend told me once (and I’ve repeated it many times) “Without the internet, I am like any other mortal.”

So you know I’m pro-internet.

But… I have to say this:  Be cautious, friends.  The internet is like nuclear power.  Harnessed, it’s great.  Without proper controls, it’s deadly.

No phenomenon shows this more, or is more pervasive in our culture than internet pornography.

Consider the following statistics:

  • Porn is a $60 billion industry per year worldwide – $12 billion in the USA. ($32.8 million per day!)
  • Pornography brings in more than pro baseball, basketball, football & hockey combined… more than the combined revenues of ABC, CBS & NBC.  Statistically, sports is not “America’s favorite pastime.”
  • Porn sites comprise 12% of ALL sites on the internet.
  • 25% of all search engine requests are porn-related.
  • 28000 people view porn per second.
  • 372 users every second type words to search for porn.
  • In the year 2014, one of the largest pornography video sites reported 78.9 billion video views — 11 for every person on the earth.
  • 90% of kids by age 18 have seen porn on the internet.
  • Average age of first exposure for a child is 11 yrs, usually inadvertently.
  • #1 consumer of porn: boys 12-17.

Now, after you pick your jaw up off the floor, let me hit you with one more: A university attempting to study the effects of pornography, attempted to locate a control group of men who had not been exposed to it, so they could compare them with men who had.  They cancelled the study; they were unable to find men who had not.

In that kind of world, is it even possible to be pure? 

I imagine there were those who felt the same way when Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” (1 Cor. 1:2, NKJV)  I imagine they stopped, shook their head, and looked out the window at the towering mountain fortress of Acro-Corinth above their city.  The ancient writers say 1,000 temple prostitutes engaged in “worship” at the temple of Aphrodite.

How does anyone follow Christ and be holy in the shadow of the 1,000 prostitute temple?

But while it may seem challenging, He calls us to holiness nonetheless.

How do we protect our homes? Our children?  Our own hearts?

Filters?  Rules?  Make sure our kids never have computers?  Or visit anyone with computers?  Get rid of the internet?  (What?! How would you read my blog?!)

In my next post, I’ll be sharing 4 starter steps to protecting the atmosphere of your home against the rampant spread of pornography.

For now, I’d like to hear from you in the comments below, or on my Facebook: What are you doing to protect your home from the pornography epidemic?

What to Do When Life Punches Your Goals in the Nose

My morning routine, which I wrote about recently, was going so well.  Life was starting to hum along again, after the birth of our sixth child.  He was sleeping through the night, I was able to get some sleep & get up and rock my to-do list before dawn.

Then, the baby got a cold.  And started waking up every night.  Twice.  And my 4th child spent the night throwing up. And… you get the picture.

My morning routine for the last week (plus!) has been completely nuked.  I’m sleeping later than I want to.  I shut my alarm off and almost missed an appointment this week.  I’ve accomplished less than half of what I want to on an average morning.

Not cool.

Holding high ideals while still allowing yourself permission to fail is not an easy thing.  Some people have a hard time doing both, so they get rid of ideals.  Or they get a case of perfectionism and make everyone around them miserable.  I’ve done some of both.

I spent years beating myself up for not being better about this or that.

But I’ve adjusted my attitude.  Here are the three things I tell myself.  Hope it’s an encouragement to you, if you’re in a tough season:

How to Build a Morning Routine – Part 2

How I Capture the Most Important Part of the Day

There isn’t one “right” morning routine.  It’s built on your values and realities.  My reality is self-employed (pastor) and 6 kids.  Yours might look totally different.  But for some ideas and encouragement, here’s a walkthru of my morning routine, from start to finish, with tips of what makes it work better for me.

If you want to read the first post I wrote on this, you’ll need to go here: How to Build a Morning Routine In 7 Steps.

First 90: Getting Started Right

How to Thrive In A Tough Season

I know that title is pretty broad — I can’t do anything about some of the frustrations in your life.  I can’t do anything about that guy whose trash blows in your yard.  Or the guy on the interstate who cuts you off with no blinker.  And you really can’t do much about it, either.  Just get over yourself and get over them. 🙂

But there are some larger, enduring frustrations that I’ve experienced that I bet you have too.  And THOSE, I can teach you something about.  It’s the frustration that comes with seasons in your life.

I know you’re familiar with the concept of seasons of the year, but you might not have thought of life in terms of seasons.

3 things you need to remember to keep from being frustrated about seasons:

1. Seasons come in a micro- and a macro- version.

Here are some examples of micro-seasons:

  • Recovery from a medical procedure.
  • Bouncing back from a very busy project
  • Adjusting to a new neighborhood after moving

Examples of macro-seasons:

  • Raising young children
  • Old age
  • Teenage years

For micro-seasons, you just need to wait them out, and take some short term actions — medication, rest, etc.

For macro-seasons, you’ll need to adjust your attitude, check your values, and engage in personal growth.

2. Seasons are not something you can control.

You can’t just decide you’re not going to participate in this season any more.  You can’t stop most seasons of life any more than you can stop spring or winter from coming.

So the solution to the frustration can’t be found in how to change the season… it’s got to be found in how I respond to it.

3. You can’t control seasons, but you can choose your attitude.

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The old saying “It’s not what happens to you, it’s what happens IN you,” applies here.  Author and holocaust survivor Victor Frankl said,
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom….When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

So here are some ways that I have dealt with seasons, while trying to keep my attitude positive:

1. Watch your words.

Early in my ministry, when we were frustrated about a season we were facing, Liz and I would often say to each other, dramatially, “Well, in the grand scale of 30 years of ministry…”  It was usually good for a chuckle, but it did more.  It became a tagline that allowed us to “zoom out” and see the season from the larger perspective.

Be careful of your words.  They don’t just reveal your perspective — they help create it!  And your perspective helps create your reality… Create wisely.

2. Find the funny.

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Kids have been probably the defining season of this part our life.  I have a saying my wife and I have laughed over for the last few years: “Someday, I’m going to change the world, but right now I have to change this kid’s diaper.”  It helps me laugh, and remember the delicious irony of a young kid that thought he was going to change the world through his career in ministry — then had 6 kids, and discovered that he needed to change himself first.

3. Grow.

Sam Chand says, “A leader can only grow up to the level of his tolerance for pain.”  Seasons can be full of pain.

But they are also prime places for “the growth that happens before the growth.”  You know what I mean by that, right?  It’s what Steven Covey calls the “private victory” that always precedes “public victory.”

I know what it’s like to be dealing with a season while wishing to be out “kicking behind and taking names.”  But while you’re waiting, don’t waste the time.  This is captured beautifully in John Waller’s song “While I’m Waiting” from the movie Fireproof. Check it out if you need some encouragement:

These are some behind the scenes areas where you can grow during tough seasons:

  • Attitudes
  • Personal Discipline
  • Family habits
  • Reading
  • Personal devotional time
  • Working on a new skill
  • Improving an old skill
  • Investing in a relationship
  • Seeking out coaching
  • Developing teamwork in your church/family
  • Creating better systems
  • Creating morning and evening routines

Choose your attitude.  Watch your words.  Create your plan.  You’re going to get through this.

Who do you know that’s in a tough season right now?  Share this with them!