Oh, to be young and fuzzy!

Are you longing for the good old crawler days?

 

Recently, I got to accompany my 13-month-old grandson on his first trip to the Fort Worth Zoo. A few days later, I did the same with my almost 3-year-old granddaughter. In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, this grandpa thing is a good gig!

Now, a day at the zoo is a pretty good day for any reason, especially the Fort Worth Zoo, which is one of the top 5 in the nation.  But, of course, that’s not what makes the grandpa gig special. That’s all about seeing smiles of delight and hearing squeals of wonder from these little people whom I love more than life itself—and experiencing those in the same locale where I experienced it with their parents more than two decades ago.

Most exciting of all, no matter the age, is the chance that there might be a sighting of the amazing caterpillar!

Oh, you mean you don’t get excited about a fuzzy worm exhibit? Well, apparently the zoo doesn’t either because they are not highlighting caterpillars.

In fact, I’m not aware of any place where caterpillars are the featured attraction.  I did a quick Google search to see if I could find such a place, but the only caterpillar exhibitions I could find were featuring trucks and tractors.

You can, however, find places around the country that celebrate butterflies (or those formerly known as caterpillars). I found one website where you could search for butterfly houses and gardens by state and by country.

During my personal devotional time on a recent morning, I read Isaiah chapter 43. There were several verses that I highlighted, but the passage that stuck out the most was Isaiah 43:18-19.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

This verse made me think about caterpillars. Caterpillars are not without purpose or value. But their purpose is not fully realized until they emerge from the cocoon and take flight. 

Who longs for the days of crawling?  Can you imagine a Kaleidoscope of butterflies (that’s the collective name for a group of them) sitting around reminiscing about the good old fuzzy crawler days or comparing the merits of various cocoonages? (That word I made up).

Unfortunately, too many of us are stuck in our cocoons longing for the good old caterpillar days instead of moving forward in God’s stream of ongoing creation.  I see it all the time.  We miss amazing opportunities to take flight while we crawl around bemoaning the loss of what used to be. We live from memory instead of vision.

Our lives matter to God and He is always up to something new. That is not in question. What is in question is whether we will resist it, deny it, or join in and cooperate so that we can soar.

How will you be alert and watching for what God is doing today?

Four steps to avoid becoming a slave to your technology.

These tools are supposed to serve us, not enslave us.

 

I love technology!  I love gadgets and tools and apps!  I love my iPhone and iPad and MacBook (yes, I drank the Apple kool aid a few years back)! I’m a junkie for learning and productivity and effectiveness. I’m a sucker for gadgets and apps that make it easier to complete tasks faster.

In fact, I can spend an entire day being completely unproductive while working with productivity tools.  Do you see the problem?  Can you relate?

Before there was such thing as an iPhone or iPad, I wrote in my book, Culture Wars, “You may have joined the Adrenaline Culture if you don’t own a watch or a telephone—they own you.”

Wow!  Maybe I should go back and read that book again!

It is so incredibly easy for us to become slaves to the very tools that are, theoretically, designed to assist us.  We are constantly available and interruptible, so much so that we can’t manage to finish a conversation with a flesh-and-blood person in front of us because of the intrusions of our devices.

 

It is easy to become slaves to the very tools that are, theoretically, designed to assist us. Click To Tweet

 

Not only that, we have created the expectation that we are instantly accessible – all day, every day.  Because of that, we have people in our lives who become incredibly frustrated with us if we don’t answer every phone call, instantly reply to every text message, and respond to email within 30 minutes.

Well, my friends, it is time to show our technology who’s boss! 

Wouldn’t it be great if it were that simple?  The truth is we didn’t get here overnight, and we won’t regain balance and margin overnight either.  But, if we don’t start with some positive steps in the right direction today, we won’t be where we need to be tomorrow, or next week, or next year.

 

So, here are some suggested baby steps:

  1. Deliberately take some time every day to be unavailable.  Start with 15 minutes a day that you are actually not in the same room with your technology.  Take a walk. Take a nap.  Do something unconnected and unplugged.  No excuses (I might miss an important message … I might need to take a picture … What if there is an emergency …).
  2. Set boundaries and expectations. Plan in advance how you will respond to and process phone calls, texts, and emails.  Voice mail is a wonderful tool.  My outgoing voicemail message actually tells people that I only check it a couple of times per day and asks them for specific information so I can be prepared when I return the call.  Because I have set that expectation, I can truly check messages on my schedule instead of someone else’s. 
  3. Schedule the technology interactions that you can.  Determine in advance the 2 or 3 times a day that you will check and respond to email.  Try this: 30 minutes mid-morning, 30 minutes mid-afternoon, 30 minutes at the end of the work day.  If you can’t manage a complete day’s worth of email in 90 minutes, your problem is bigger than technology.
  4. Wherever you are, be all there.  Don’t let technology rob you of real, human interaction.  Always choose your family over your technology.  Always choose conversation with your lunch companion over the call that comes in during lunch.

 

Always choose conversation with your lunch companion over the call that comes in during lunch. Click To Tweet

 

There is so much more I could say on this matter.  But for now, let me remind you that your life matters to God.  If your technology doesn’t support that as your assistant, you may need to fire it as your boss.

Please give me a rating (unless you don’t think I’m perfect)

The uselessness of fake feedback

 

You’ll be receiving a customer feedback survey on the service you received from me.  I will be in trouble with my manager if I don’t get all 10’s.

Yes, that is what she told me.  I won’t tell you which company because it doesn’t matter.  The not-so-subtle message is, “Tell everyone we’re great or keep your opinion to yourself.

“Fake news” is a big thing currently,  but it’s not new.  Neither is fake feedback. As far back as I can remember, people have asked for my opinion.  They really want it.  It really matters.  Unless I don’t agree with them or have a suggestion about how they might think about it from another perspective.  In that case, my opinion is not so valued.

 

Don’t try this at home, boys and girls:

She: Does this shirt make me look fat?

He: Does this shirt make me look stupid?

She: Wrong answer.

Me: The above scenario was entirely invented out of my warped imagination.

 

Now, in fairness, I understand the pressure of getting good ratings in our very public, social media-driven world.  Get enough 1 or 2-star Yelp reviews and you start to lose potential customers.  Get enough 1 or 2-star Amazon reviews and nobody but your friends and family will buy your book or other product (and they will only buy it if it’s on sale).

A friend told me that back in the day before online reviews, his company had a training about customer service.  They said that, on average, the person who has a positive experience will tell three people.  A person who has a negative experience will tell seventeen!

Now, make that as simple a clicking stars online and you’re messing with someone’s livelihood.  After all, who takes the time to go and read the reason for those low ratings? 

So, I get it.  The pressure is there.

Is there any lesson for us beyond, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”

 

Here are some possible lessons:

  1. If you are going to give feedback, start directly with the person whose service, product, or interaction you are “rating.”  Talk to people!  Allow for questions and conversation.  Anyone who is truly interested in your feedback wants to know how they can get even better.
  2. Unless you have been hired by someone as a critic, it is not your job to protect the world from someone who offered you less than you expected.  I would go on with this explanation, but those who find the need to publicly point out every shortcoming have already dismissed me.
  3. If you are going to give a rating, make sure you are rating the right thing.  I actually got a 1-star review of one of my books on Amazon from a person who didn’t read it.  She gave a 1-star rating because she ordered the electronic version instead of the paperback and she doesn’t read eBooks!
  4. Give more praise than criticism.  Poor service/products and bad attitudes will eventually be weeded out by actual experience. Help people find the hidden treasures and the roses among the thorns, rather than the thorns on the rose bushes and the dirt under the treasure chest.

As those who understand that our lives matter to God, we understand there is a better way: “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15)

Truth spoken in love trumps online clicks every time.

Eat this book!

A review and recommendation of "5Q"

Photo credit: 5qcentral.com

 

Why do we read books?  I mean, seriously, have you ever thought about that?  Sometimes the answer for me is, “Because I can.”  It is one of the great joys of life.  I can get caught up in a great story.  I can learn something new.  I can be mad, glad, and sad — sometimes all within the same book. I can go places I’ve never been and perhaps never will go.  I can identify places I must go.

I hope you get the point.  Reading for me is like eating.  And as someone who has recently had to focus on a heart-healthy diet, I’m often asked about my diet restrictions.  I tell people, “I can eat anything I want.  I just have to want to eat better things.”  

A couple of days ago I completed a feast of a book. It contained some of my favorite tastes, but also some flavors that were unfamiliar. There were bites that were tender, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, but also some chewy pieces that required some effort. 

If you were to ask me whether it falls into the “tastes good” or “good for you” category, I’d have to say, “Yes!

Alan Hirsch’s book, “5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ,” is tender and chewy, nutritious and delicious, strange and familiar—and it has made me hungry for more.

This year marks 40 years in church ministry for me, but I’ve been a little late to the party when it comes to concepts of “the fivefold, APEST, and 5Q” (used interchangeably within the book). My tradition, education, and experience — while not falling completely into the charismatic or cessationist camps — have not made much room for those concepts.

The Ephesians 4 listing of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds (Pastors), and Teachers was typically presented alongside the other “spiritual gift” passages (primarily Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12) as indications of how God has equipped certain members of the Body of Christ with certain ministry capacities.  The main difference in the Ephesians passage was usually presented as specific roles entrusted to leaders for the sake of equipping and empowering all the members for ministry.

The idea that these capacities are actually ALL essential for a healthy Body, made about as much sense as suggesting that any other individual spiritual gift was necessary. “Your church isn’t a healthy church if you don’t have someone with the gift of giving.  Ok, maybe that’s true, but we have who we have, right?  We can’t make people gifted in ways they are not.  You see the dilemma?

But I’ve heard enough about APEST and missional — and the name of Alan Hirsch — in recent years that I was intrigued when I heard about the book.  So I came to it, as he says in the introduction, “with soft eyes” and an open heart. 

Can I just say that it makes sense? He spent enough time laying the theological and Biblical framework that I was prepared for some practical teaching and explanation. I was not disappointed.  The unfamiliar tastes began to meld together in such a way that they simply tasted right and I wanted more.

I refuse to blame any of my teachers or mentors for the gap in my understanding.  I take full responsibility and recognize that I may have just missed it.  But I’m not finished learning and I came away from this book with: (1) a fuller — and I believe more Biblical — understanding of God’s intent for the Body of Christ, (2) a reference guide to continue growing in my understanding and practice, and (3) access to an online toolkit to help me turn knowledge into ministry.

I can’t recommend “5Q” highly enough for anyone who is truly interested in seeing the Body of Christ visibly manifest in the world in all its fullness.

 

For More Information

Order the book from Amazon

Order the book directly from 5Q Central (iBook, Kindle, Paperback)

Find out more about 5Q Resources

 

Stop putting God first in your life!

In search of God-centeredness

 

What are your priorities in life? Let’s not even talk yet about the order of your priorities.  Let’s just identify the priorities themselves.

Let’s see … there’s work (gotta pay the bills, right?), family (they are the reason we have bills),  hobbies (“me” time), friends (we don’t want to get isolated), church (don’t want to get in trouble with God), education (we don’t want our kids being “ignernt), work (yes, we’ve already listed that one, but the bills were a little more than we anticipated), and God (church is not the only place we think about Him … hopefully).

Maybe we better throw in some community service (if it helps us look good and make some “connections,” makes us feel better about ourselves, makes our communities safer for our kids, or supports the causes that are important to us).

I hope that doesn’t sound cynical.  That’s not my intent.  I do think, however, that we tend to identify priorities based on a self-centered approach to life.  By self-centered, I don’t mean selfish or self-absorbed.  A person can be self-centered and generous towards others at the same time.

I think of self-centered this way: every decision is determined by my preferences, my values, my passions, my beliefs, my needs, my desires, my goals, my vision, my energy, my time, my priorities, my calling, my ministry …

So, if I am a person of faith and I start to order my priorities according to the way I have likely been taught in church, it looks a lot like this: God first, then family, then work, then self.  So, how does that work?

Well, God first means that I pray and read my Bible every day and go to church as much as possible. Perhaps community service falls under the “God first” category and I’ll support an organization that is consistent with my faith perspective.

Family second means that I will give as much time and attention to them as possible. I’ll put education under this and try to provide for their current and future needs.  I’ll also make sure that they are in church so that their faith journey is nurtured.

In my work life, I’ll work hard and long and give the very best to my employer so that I can advance, earn a good living for my family, support my church, and set aside something for retirement.

And then whatever is left, I can think about hobbies and personal needs, since self is last.

Sounds good, right?  Except God doesn’t want to be in first place in your life. 

What?  Heresy!  Blasphemy!

I’m not suggesting that anything other than God belongs in first place.  I’m suggesting that putting God in any place in your list is still self-centered.  Our lives matter too much to God for us to live by a list. I’m suggesting that our lives need less prioritizing and more centering.  And what belongs at the center is not a what, but a Who.

 

Our lives need less prioritizing and more centering. #godcenteredliving Click To Tweet

 

God wants to be the center of your life.  God wants to be your life and live His life through you.

“And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” (Colossians 3:4) [emphasis mine]

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) [emphasis mine]

So, what does a God-centered life look like?  I’ll talk about that next week.

When is it time to quit?

Debunking the myth of "Winners never quit!"

“Quitters never win and winners never quit!”  (Vince Lombardi)

“… never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in … “ (Winston Churchill)

“Never give up! Never surrender!” (Galaxy Quest)

I could speculate that more people are familiar with Tim Allen’s character in Galaxy Quest than with Lombardi or Churchill, but that is a whole different speech.

The point is that endurance, effort, determination, stick-to-it-ive-ness — TRY HARDER — is the secret to greatness and significance.

Try harder!  Give 110%!

May I offer another quote?  Thanks for your permission.

“When the horse is dead, dismount.” (Various)

You see, my friends, the real secret to greatness is not determined effort; it is wise and focused effort.  It is not giving 110% to every task; it is giving precisely the right effort to the right task at the right time.  It is not simply doing things right; it is doing the right things.

And sometimes the very best thing to do is quit. 

Quitting something doesn’t mean you are a “quitter.”  Putting “er” on the end of a verb and changing it to a noun indicates that the nature of the noun is to habitually do the verb. You can take the time to re-read that sentence if you need to.  The point is that if you are a quitter it means that you habitually quit.  That’s the part of the Lombardi quote that is absolutely true.  If all you ever do is quit, you won’t ever win.

Quitting something doesn't make you a quitter. It may be a display of wisdom. Click To Tweet

The little-known part of the Churchill quote continues, “never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”  Sometimes continuing forward is dishonorable and foolish. (Click here for an audio recording of the entire speech)

Four suggestions to know when to quit

So how do you know when to quit? I certainly couldn’t give every scenario, but here are four suggestions (along with some hard questions):

  1. Quit when the only reason you can think of for doing this is that you have always done it this way and you don’t know another way. (So, you’ve decided to quit learning?)
  2. Quit when it is taking more and more effort and resources to achieve diminishing results. (So, you’ve decided that working harder is more valuable than working smarter?)
  3. Quit when you are more worried about what people will think if you change it than you are about what God will think if you don’t. (So, you’ve decided to be insecurely driven by the whims of self-centered people rather than confidently trusting in the faithfulness of the Eternal Father?)
  4. Quit when you know it is not working, but you are concerned that you will have wasted the resources you have already invested in it. (So you’ve decided to waste some more?)

Maybe the most important thing to quit is worrying. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Your life matters to God.  He knows how where your effort would be best spent.  He knows what you should quit.  Spend some time listening to Him.

How about joining me for a cup each morning?

Membership open through June 30

Hey, Friends! During the month of June, I am opening membership in my private Facebook group, Dr. G’s Morning Cup of Encouragement. I post a brief and encouraging devotional each Monday – Thursday morning (most of the time). No whining or politics; just encouragement drawn from my own time with the Lord each morning. I’d love to have you join me at https://www.facebook.com/groups/DrG.cupofencouragement/

What God has did, He done good.

The secret to contentment

There was a particular look in her eyes, a warmth of expression, a glow of deep and abiding contentment, a simple and plain elegance in an unexpected place.  That’s what I remember about her.

That, and one simple statement.

We were on the island of St. Maarten with the North Texas Singers and we had just presented a concert in a nursing home.  Our group of 45 had crowded into a small meeting room with as many residents as the staff could wheel in.  It was hot in that room!

Many of the residents wore the same expressions that you would find in any nursing home anywhere.  But she was different.

After we sang, we tried to interact as much as possible with the residents as we moved toward the exit and our awaiting bus.  I didn’t get to have a conversation with her, but Mrs. Sweetie did.  She reported later that this lady had been a resident of that facility for some time and was grateful to be in a wonderful place with actual windows and doors.  That had not always been her experience.

And then she said it – the statement that neither of us will ever forget.

“What God has did, He done good. And I am happy with what He did.”

In a world where many people spend their lives with a sense of discontent and disappointment, focusing on what they don’t have, feeling robbed and cheated by life and by those who have more, that statement may be the secret to really believing that our lives matter to God. 

“What God has did, He done good.  And I am happy with what He did.”

In a well known passage of Scripture, the Apostle Paul said, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

You may not be as familiar with the first part of that.  Oftentimes, the focus is on verse 13, “I can do all things …” and the implication is that I can accomplish anything with the help of Christ.  I’ve got the power!

But that’s not what the verse means in context.  I do have the power, but what I have the power to do is live a life of contentment – a contentment that is not dependent on circumstances.  I can look at my life and say, with confidence, “What God has did, He done good.  And I am happy with what He did.”

An old hymn says, “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed; When you are discouraged thinking all is lost; Count your many blessings, name them one by one; And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

I’m thinking that today, in the midst of all the craziness in the world, is a good day to count some blessings.

“What God has did, He done good.”

Focus and Simplify with the 5 D’s of Response

It's not just for email

We are alike, you and I. Scary, huh? We don’t all do the same things, but since we live in the same world, here’s how you probably are like me:

You get more requests to do things than you can possibly honor.  If you tried to do them all, you would be constantly hopping from one item to the next—all on other people’s agendas—constantly pushing your own life to the back burner, hoping for time to catch up.

Oh, that’s not a hypothetical scenario?  You really are experiencing that?  I have good news for you (and me).  It is possible to focus and simplify our lives through the 5 D’s of response.  (Please note: I said “possible” not “easy.”)

This is not my list.  I’ve seen it from several sources (here’s one from Michael Hyatt), but it is usually presented in the context of managing email.  But it seems to me that it is an effective way of responding to requests that come in any format.

If you are not getting more requests than you can honor, feel free to stop reading now.  See you next time!

For everyone else, here are the 5 D’s of Response. 

  1. Do it.  If the request is something that you can do right now and you can do it in two minutes or less, then do it and get it done.  Some things really are that simple and it keeps all those little requests from turning into a long list.  The two-minute rule is from David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity.
  2. Defer it. If you are the right one to do it, but you can’t do it right now, then schedule the action.  Put a deadline on your calendar and schedule the time necessary to work on it. I mean put the work time on your calendar and treat it like an appointment with your most important contact.  Defer is not ignore or procrastinate.  Only things that get scheduled get done.
  3. Delegate it.  The fact that you could do it doesn’t mean that you are the one that should do it.  If there is someone else who could or should do it, then delegate without guilt.  There is nothing wrong with saying, “I’m not the best person to do that, but here’s a name of someone who might be able to help you out.”
  4. Delete it.  Some requests do not require action or response. You are not obligated to return calls or emails to people you don’t know.  You are not even obligated to return emails from people you do know if the email has gone out to a long list.  “Delete” is my favorite button on my keyboard.
  5. Designate it.  Some things don’t require an immediate response and don’t have a fixed date, but there is information that would be handy for future use. Create a filing system, either electronically for those requests that come via computer, or a notepad and file folder for those requests that come in other ways.  You want it to be easy to access. (Searching through 3000 old messages in your inbox is not a good way to do that). Then put a date on your calendar every 6 months to spend 30 minutes looking through your file to see what needs to be kept, deleted, or done.

Remember, I didn’t say this was easy, but I’m convinced that one of the biggest frustrations most of us experience results from the fact that our lives are just too cluttered with maybe’s and someday’s. Jesus said, “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’” (Matthew 5:37)

One of our biggest frustrations results from lives too cluttered with maybe’s and someday’s. Click To Tweet

Your life—the one God gave you—matters to God.  Live it wisely.

Don’t forget about the Real World

Don’t let “real world” reporting rob you of opportunities for real world living.

Never has there been a time when “news” was more in the news than it is today.  Of course, for the past few months, when “news” is in the news it is more often than not preceded by the word “fake.”

Our culture has been news-obsessed for awhile, but now we have added the obsession with fake news. What’s the definition of fake news?  Well, that would be news whose bias is different from my own.  (He said with tongue firmly planted in cheek)

So, what sources do Americans trust to get their real news about the real world?  According to a recent article from the Barna Research Group the top trusted sources are: TV news (69%), Local newspapers (50%), National newspapers (44%), Online news/content sources (42%), Social media news capabilities (34%), Magazines (25%).

May I give you a warning about ALL those news sources? Don’t get so wrapped up in keeping up with the “real world” that you forget about the real world.

That was confusing, wasn’t it? Let me explain. 

I can think of 4 reasons to limit the amount of time you spend engaging with “real world” news.

  1. There is no such thing as unbiased reporting.  Let me say that again: NO SUCH THING. That doesn’t mean that everyone is fake or can’t be trusted.  It means that it is impossible for anyone, including you and me, to be unbiased about anything that matters.  The only time we are really upset about bias is when someone’s bias is different from our own.  Unless you live in isolation, you are going to come in contact with biases that ruffle your feathers.  For the sake of your own mental, emotional, and spiritual health, it is good to limit the time you spend with your feathers ruffled.
  2. Every news source is going to highlight things that are predominantly negative. The old adage is true: if it bleeds, it leads.  We don’t have the option of living in a world of only sunshine and daffodils, but we do have the choice of the proportion of negativity we allow into our consciousness.
  3. We have no control and little influence on the situations that are reported.  In Stephen Covey’s classic book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he talked about the circles of concern and influence.  Your circle of concern is large and contains issues about which you are concerned but over which you have no influence.  The circle of influence is much smaller, but contains issues over which you actually have influence.  Don’t miss this great wisdom: giving more time and energy to your circle of concern actually shrinks your circle of influence because you only have so much time and energy to give. Giving more time and energy to your circle of influence actually causes your influence to expand.
  4. The real world is not found on tv or any other media outlet. It’s found in your house, on your street, at your workplace, at your church.  My real world starts every morning when I get up and spend time with the One for whom my world matters.  It continues when I give Mrs. Sweetie a good morning kiss and cup of coffee.  And it rolls on from there.

Don’t let “real world” reporting rob you of opportunities for real world living.

Don’t let “real world” reporting rob you of opportunities for real world living. Click To Tweet