9 Things You May Not Know About Introverts

By | Encouragement, Family, Introversion, Leadership | 22 Comments

I’ve been an introvert all of my life. I was born that way – or at least I’ve been this way as far as my memory carries me. As a child, I remember at social gatherings people asking me if there was something wrong with me. Because to some people it’s “wrong” to not be talkative. I had to force myself to engage others all through high school. And, I wasn’t a recluse. I was elected student body president of my high school. I was just quieter than some people.

And, if you’re really an introvert. I just said some things you understand.

The major problem with introversion, which, by the way, is not a disease – and not a problem – is the misunderstanding of it. People act like it’s a personality flaw. But, it’s not.

Introversion is a preference in how we respond to life. Nothing more. It’s a wiring. But, there’s no flaw in the wiring.

So, I’ve attempted to change the misunderstanding to understanding. Helping you understand introverts.

That’s the point of this post.

Here are 9 things you may not know about introverts:

We can be very social. You should see me on Sunday. We can even be the life of the party if we choose to be. I have entertained rooms before – as an introvert.

We have humor. We may even be very funny. You may have to “wait for it” – and pay careful attention. We usually have time to think about it before we project our humor on the world, so it might be a dry wit. And, when we let you see our humor – be prepared to laugh. Laugh hard.

We love people. Seriously. We do. Deeply. Just because you may talk more than us doesn’t mean we don’t love as much as you do. Introverts are often very loyal to the ones we love. Just like extroverts may be.

We are unique. We are unique from other introverts. We aren’t all alike. And, we are somewhat offended with a stereotype. (Just as any other stereotyped person is.) Introverts have a realm of introversion. Some appear more extroverted than others. Some more introverted.

We aren’t afraid of people. We usually don’t need you to speak on our behalf to remove our fears. Fear is not the reason we are introverted. It’s a personality.

We don’t need help formulating thoughts. I realize it seems at times that we don’t know what to say, but usually it’s because we are processing, taking our time, or simply don’t want to interrupt everyone else who seems to be talking incessantly. Believe me, thinking is not a problem for most introverts. We do it quite well.

We don’t always want to be left alone. Yes, we may like our time alone – or at least our quiet time, but we don’t have to be alone. Personally, I don’t enjoy life as much when Cheryl isn’t around. Even if we aren’t talking non-stop, I like her in my company.

We can have fun. Some extroverts think we can’t. Because to them more fun is more conversation. But, we can have fun. Lots of it. And, there doesn’t have to be constant noise to do that. And, sometimes there does. And, my definition of fun may not be yours. And, that’s okay. But, let’s hang sometime and I’ll show you how it’s done my way!

We aren’t weird. Well, maybe. But, it’s not because we are introverts. Something tells me at least one of my readers of this post will be weird. (I’ve got some weird tendencies – I guess we all do.) You may or my not be introverted.

So,there are a few things you may not know about introverts.

Anything else you could share?

7 Things I Love About My Wife

By | Encouragement, Family, Marriage | 12 Comments

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD. Proverbs 18:22

I posted this over 6 years ago, but things have changed. My wife is a different person. She’s a grandmother (Granna). We are more seasoned as empty-nesters. She has found some new rhythms in ministry and new opportunities to invest in others and serve.

But, many things remain the same.

Here are 7 reasons I love my wife:

She loves God more than she loves me – I love her faith and commitment to Christ. She challenges me in my spiritual walk. She consistently shares her faith with others and her prayer life is so much stronger than mine.

She knows how to love – No one loves people like Cheryl loves people. I’d bet money on it if I were a betting person. The odds are out of this world. Cheryl especially loves her family and friends. You’re blessed if she’s in your life and, even more so, if she gives you one of her famous hugs.

She laughs when no one else laughs – She still gets my jokes and thinks I’m funny. Girls, you have no idea how important that is to a man.

She invests her everything into everything – Cheryl is a giver. She gives her entire heart and being to others. (I often think she still works part-time just because we couldn’t afford her level of giving otherwise.) If you’re in her life, you’ve most likely been a reciprocate of her generosity and thoughtfulness.

She is my partner – Cheryl loves doing anything with me. Anything. I don’t always understand it, because her mother or friends would probably be better at picking out the home decor, but she would always choose me even for things like this. One reason I reserve Saturdays for her – whenever possible – is she fuels on time together. It’s her love language.

She’s got my back – If you want to see the sweet, gentle, kind Cheryl get upset, just say something negative about me (or our boys). She has a strong side and it’s seen best with her defending someone she loves. It’s comforting knowing, regardless of how difficult my life and ministry might be, Cheryl is always in my corner.

She respects me – In marriage counseling and teaching, I always share this as a man’s greatest need. It’s even commanded in Ephesians 5. Cheryl does this like a pro. I can honestly encourage the women in our church to follow her example here.

These are 7 things I love my wife. There are many others. I’ll start with these.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Cheryl!

(Feel free in the comments to tell me why you love your spouse.)

5 Simple Tips to be a Better Dad This Week

By | Children, Family, Parenting | 8 Comments

I don’t know a lot of dads who don’t want to improve in their role as dad. I grew up most of my years at home without a father active in my life. To be honest, I never understood why he would choose to leave his family, but years later, after I was an adult, my father returned and made amends with his family. In spite of all the pain he caused, knowing what I know now, he really did want to be a good dad.

I love the young dads in our church. I’d also love to encourage them. For all the dads with children still in the home (and even for those who no longer do) this one is for you.

Here are 5 tips to be a better dad today this week:

Review your calendar for the week – every week.

We have to make sure our family is getting some of our best time, as much of it as possible. Children often spell love T I M E. Especially when they are young, children want a dad’s time as much or more than anyone else’s. Sometimes work or other responsibilities take us away, but I’ve also learned we have to be intentional. There are seasons and things to which we can say no. I gave up golf when my boys were young. There just wasn’t enough time to do golf, work, and give my boys the time they wanted. I wanted my boys to love riding in the golf cart while I played. They didn’t. But, at this point in my life – with adult sons – I know I made the right decision.

Another changed happened in my work life. This one I didn’t instigate. Others did for me. (I think God may have even had a part, because the decision of others helped lead me into ministry.) I had a job opportunity I still believed was tailor made for me, but it would have required an extremely heavy travel schedule. At the time, my boys were in critical years of development. I wanted the job so badly, but they went another direction. My boys and I were the real winners in their decision.

As much as it depends on you, rework your schedule if needed.

Plan a date night with your wife.

Protect your marriage. Ultimately your family is protected by regular investments in your marriage. Model for your kids what a good marriage looks like.

I realize there will be single dads read this post. You may even wish you could plan a date night with your wife. Here’s the thing, you can’t erase the past. And, you certainly don’t have to have a perfect marriage to be a good dad.

But, if you’re blessed with a good marriage now do everything you can to protect it. It’ll prove to be a blessing to your kids – and you when they are gone from the house.

Keep a prayer list for each of your kids.

One way to do this is to write prayers you have for your children on index cards and place the cards where you will see them often. What are their greatest struggles? Their fears? The parts of their character, which need the most development? What do they dream about doing some day. This may require you to spend more time asking them questions and getting to know them better, but that’s worth the effort also.

You can also pray for their future spouse, career, and walk with God. One of my most frequent prayers for my boys is they would “love Jesus with all their heart.”

Pray for this list daily – even several times throughout the day if possible. It will help you develop your own prayer disciplines and God does answer prayers!

Plan long-term.

Take thirty minutes this week to plan an intentional retreat with you and each child sometime in the next six months. Make it intentional. Make it fun and character building. Plan questions ahead of time to stir meaningful discussions with them.

You don’t have to spend money on this, but you could if you wanted to spend the night somewhere. They will look back on these occasions with fond memories for years to come.

Turn off electronics.

I saved the hardest one for the last suggestion. But, seriously, it is hard, isn’t it? You work hard. You come home tired. You just want to veg in front of some screen. I get it.

But, I speak from experience, these moments will pass so quickly.

What if you used this disconnected time to play a game with your children? What if the time spurred a conversation? What if the conversation changed the way a child looks at life? What if this created a moment which impacts the child forever? Those memories start, as all memories do, in a moment – often a very intentional moment.

I realize this list is impossible for some. You have work commitments, which have you out of town this week. Your children may object at first to a change in schedules, which interrupts their schedule. You can’t force it. You may be separated from your child for custody reasons. You may have to build slowly to complete some things on this list. You may have to be more creative.

The key is to be intentional as a dad. And, that’s really the whole point of this post. The simple tip to be a better dad is to think about it more intently. And, this seems to be a great week to start.

(By the way, I would suggest this works for moms too. I’ve just never been one.)

4 Easy Steps Towards Being a Great Parent

By | Children, Family, Parenting | 3 Comments

Parenting is hard. I have two wonderful adult children, but I’m still wondering why God blessed us with such grace. Looking back, I’ve learned there are a few principles, which actually work.

The title says these are “easy and they are in some ways. None of these are hard to remember. None of these are hard to implement with personal discipline. But, living them daily, in addition to the normal stresses of life, can seem very difficult at times.

But, in my opinion, great parents are continually working at them.

Here are 4 principles to be a great parent:

(Or the best parent you can be.)

Be present.

Be there for your kids. Stay committed to them throughout their life. Be willing, especially in the formative years, to sacrifice your time for them. They’ll know whether or not you really want to be with them. And, something positive happens when they have your full attention. They model you. So it is also important you live a life worth modeling.

Be intentional.

Make a plan for each individual child based on their needs and work the plan. Of course I would encourage you to introduce them to Christ and involve them in church regularly. But, also help them with their school work. Teach them Biblical and life principles. Do what’s best for them even when it isn’t popular with them. Always remember you are the parent. They will someday be glad you remembered.

Be relational.

Let love reign. Keep grace flowing. Provide healthy discipline, because you love them and they need it at times. But, be patient, recognizing they are learning even when it seems some days they are not.

Don’t ever let them think they have to earn your love. You may not always approve of their actions, but be sure they have no doubts you approve of them. Spend time with them doing what they enjoy doing. Sacrifice your time to play with them, even at the end of a long, hard day. It will be worth it. They will never forget the sacrifice you made.

Be consistent.

Keep doing the right thing – always and continually. Over and over again. That’s what the great parents do. And, it may be the thing people forget to do the most. Its easy to give up, but the win is in the continuance.

Even if you do everything you know to do, children are unique individuals with wills of their own. They will make choices in life, and mistakes, just as you did and do.

Parenting IS hard, but you’ve got this. And, the reward of seeing adult children thrive is worth every sacrifice.

12 Challenges for the New Year To Make Your Life Better

By | Change, Christians, Encouragement, Family, Life Plan | No Comments

The verdict appears mixed among the people I know of whether of not they make resolutions for a new year. And, I understand, many have tried before – it didn’t work – and so now they are like “why bother?”.

I believe there are probably some principles in place as to whether or not a resolution succeeds. For example, is it reasonable? Is it measurable? Is it sustainable? Do you have accountability in place? But, I wonder if the term itself is a problem for some people. RESOLUTION. I hereby resolve! Sounds kind of formal, almost intimidating, doesn’t it? I hate to say I’m resolving to do something where chances are good I won’t.

I do believe strongly, however, we should work towards continual improvement in our life, whether this begins at the first of the year or in the middle doesn’t matter as much. But, the new year does provide a nice, clear place to start.

So, I want to offer a spin on the old resolution tradition and offer a new word.

Challenge.

How does that word resonate? Do you ever challenge yourself to do better? It’s easier than saying I resolve to do this. You’re not saying you will – you may not even be able to – it will be a challenge, but you’re willing to give it a try.

Let me give you some examples, some which may be challenges for you want to consider. I can almost guarantee if you meet just a few of these challenges your world will be better. You won’t need to meet all of them, just the ones most “challenging” to you. But, you’ll have to trust me in this – meeting them or even improving upon them – will brighten your life.

Here are 12 challenges for the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else

God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake. The more you live the you He intended the more you’ll enjoy the benefits and blessing. There’s something you can offer this world no one else can. Comparison only leads to disappointment.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens

And, the challenge here for you may be to quit trying to carry everyone else’s burden. God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can do it anymore – and ask for help. In your weakness He is strong, but you’ll have to admit your weakness before He usually allows His strength to kick into full gear.

Start embracing today

You can keep hoping your life improves – that this would happen or that would happen. The Apostle Paul said he had learned “the secret of being content”. I’ve personally defined contentment in my life as “being satisfied with where God has allowed me to be in life – right now.” When you begin to find contentment TODAY becomes a great day – in spite of the challenges it holds. Perhaps your greatest challenge in the new year will be embracing where God has you now and waiting more patiently for what He will bring in the fullness of time.

Let the past go

As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”. So simple, yet so profound! It speaks volumes to me. If the tree fell there it lays. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s done. Finished. On the ground. All you can control now is your response to the tree which fell. If grief is holding you back by all means grieve. Its healthy to mourn a loss. (Get help if needed.) But, at some point you will need to move forward. If it’s regret then reconcile the loss. If it’s guilt, or disappointment, or anger – whatever “it” is from your past deal with it now. Admit the tree fell. It hurt. It stinks. You probably wish it hadn’t happened, but, I challenge you to move forward in the new year.

Accept God’s grace

It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But, denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it. Is the guilt of your past keeping you from enjoying all the blessings of being a child of God? Has there never been a time you received the gift of salvation? Have you been living more like a prodigal in exile than a child of the King? If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. If the Son has set you free you are free indeed! I challenge you to embrace grace in the new year.

Live free of grudges and bitterness

The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness. Someone reading this is holding on to a grudge, some bitterness, maybe anger – and it’s keeping you from fully enjoying life. Every time you hear a person’s name or see them you are reminded of the injury they caused. And, it’s hurting you more than it is them. Chances are they’ve moved on and you’re still struggling. Isn’t it time to let it go? (Let it go could be a “Frozen” song you need to sing to yourself.)

Remember other people exist

Don’t be selfish or always command your way. People, even the best people, will never perform to all of your standards. Honestly, is it even fair to expect it of them? They may not even agree with you as to what is important. You cannot hold people to unrealistic expectations and not be disappointed often.

And, here’s a note to those of us disappointed with the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we can’t expect that everyone sees the world as we do. Of course, there are biblical principles through which we view the world and live, but can we really expect people who aren’t believers to embrace them?

Admit mistakes readily

Sincere humility is an attractive quality and it helps to free you from future regrets or guilt. We all can have “perfectionist” tendencies, yet none of us is perfect. If you want to live with less self-induced stress this year, admit you don’t have all the answers and sometimes you have none.

Give generously

Giving opens the heart to joy and contentment. Something happens when we give to others which causes us, though we have less, to feel like we have more. And, there are many needs around us. I challenge you to give more in the new year and see how it makes your life better!

Protect your heart

“Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also. Most likely there are activities, or people, or places where your heart is most easily injured. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can be aware so you can “guard your heart”. And, when you are aware you may be injured you will build guardrails to lessen the damage.

Take a new risk

The adrenaline of attempting something you’ve never done before fuels you for future success. It could be something you’ve always wanted to try or something you know God wants you to do, but, for whatever reason, you’ve resisted. Especially if it’s God-honoring, not sinful, will make your life or other’s life better, then what are you waiting for? Don’t let fear or thoughts of your inadequacies be your chief motivators in the new year. I challenge you – GO FOR IT!

Think and act eternally

There is more to this life than the world we know today. Thankfully, I might add. Jesus said to “store up treasures in heaven”. Whenever possible, I challenge you to consider the eternal consequences of the decisions, investments, and actions of your life. Jesus said to live in this world, but not be of this world. How are you making a difference in the world to come by your world today? The more intentional you are the more treasures you build for a future reward.

Which of these challenges are you willing to accept?

(I posted this in a similar form a few years ago.)

10 Life Lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

By | Church, Culture, Encouragement, Family | One Comment

“It’s a Wonderful Life” has to be one of my all-time favorite movies. I have probably seen it thirty times or more.

I read recently, the movie was not a success the first few years after it’s release. No one could sit through the hard part to get to the happy ending. Aren’t we like this with life sometimes?

One of our local, historic theaters has shared the film for Christmas on the big screen. There is something even more wonderful about “It’s a Wonderful Life” in this setting.

Having watched the movie so many times, I once took time to reflect on how many life lessons this movie provides.

Here are 10 life lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life”:

It’s not just about us. Other lives matter. We are better, richer, because of other people.

When we hurt, we hurt others. When we are in pain, we tend to feel we are suffering alone, but this is never the case. When someone we love hurts – we hurt.

We can’t hide our pain from people we love. They know. They may not know how to help or even how to express their concern – at least not in a way we will receive it – but they know – and care.

We need community. We really do need people in our life. We never realize this more than when we are in need. (I can’t imagine my life personally without the church.)

There is power in cooperation. We can do great things when we work together. I love this quote by Aimee Semple McPherson, “With God, I can do great things! But with God and you, and the people who you can interest, by the grace of God, we’re gonna change the world!” So true.

We seldom know the impact we have on others. Or, the good we are doing. I think God may protect us from foolish pride this way – thinking it is all about us. But, when we care – when we love others – when we strive to make a difference – we make a bigger splash on humanity than we could ever measure.

Character speaks louder than cash. Every. Single. Time. I’d rather have my integrity than a stuffed wallet any day. And, I’d rather have friends I can trust – and strive to be like – than friends who can buy my lunch.

“All you can take with you is that which you have given away”. (Peter Bailey) There are so many Biblical principles in this movie – this is one of them. Storing up treasures where moth and rust cannot destroy – it really does make for a wonderful life.

No man is a failure who has friends.” (Clarence) You can’t watch the movie and not wonder if you’d have friends come through for you as George Bailey did. I’m reminded the best way to have a friend is to be one. It worked for George – and it still works today.

Our life matters. Your life matters. (“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” – Clarence.) God makes no mistake with His creation. He has a purpose for every soul, in which He breathes life.

What did I miss?

4 Do’s and Don’ts to Help Ministers at Christmas

By | Church, Family, Leadership | No Comments

I have posted some of these thoughts several years ago, but decided the subject needed mentioning again. One of my goals in ministry is to help protect the ministers and their family. Through this blog I reach thousands of men and women who serve God in a vocational role. My heart is heavy when I hear from those who are drowning with burnout and whose family is suffering.

Having been on both sides of the pulpit – as a pastor and a layperson – I have a unique view of the pastorate. I am very thankful to be serving in a healthy church, which encourages my family time, but I hope to encourage those who struggle to balance family and ministry.

I also realize the size of my church helps. We have a great staff and dedicated, trained volunteers. We even have several retired ministers in our church who can help fill in when needed.

With the Christmas season here – and really thinking into the new year – I thought I would share a few things you can do and a few things not to do to support the ministers you probably love. The reality is the December calendar is packed with activities – as they are for everyone. The difference is many times a pastor doesn’t feel the freedom to control their schedule. People in ministry have accepted a call of God to care for people. Most ministers have a hard time saying no to people and can easily become overwhelmed with the never-ending demands of their time. That’s especially true during certain times of the year.

If a minister is not careful, they will spend so much time with others their own family will feel neglected.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to support your pastor or minister:

DO:

  • Pray for them during the holidays (and always). Encourage them. People in ministry usually have tons of critics. Find some time to encourage them. It may be their greatest gift. This is an especially stressful time for everyone, but in some professions, such as ministry, its not a slower time. Its a busier one.
  • Let them off the hook from attending every social event. They simply can’t do everything and still be ready for Sunday, care for the rest of the church and their family.
  • Invite them to your social – without an expectation they will come. They will love knowing you thought of them and wanted to include them. And, if they do come, try to you see them as regular people who like to have fun. Dont make them talk Church unless they want to and they dont always have to be the ones to pray.
  • See if they have specific needs at the holidays. Many ministers, especially in smaller churches, have a hard time financially at Christmas.

DON’T:

  • Expect them to be everywhere. It’s simply impossible – and unreasonable.
  • Make them feel guilty when they can’t make your event. They will likely take it personal and it will weigh heavy on their heart. They wouldn’t be in ministry if they didn’t love people. And, some of them even struggle with being people-pleasers. Don’t take it personal. It probably isn’t. It may simply be practical. They simply can’t be everywhere and do everything – just as you probably can’t – or shouldn’t try.
  • Hold them to a higher standard than is realistic. Remember, they are simply human.
  • Place unrealistic expectations on the minister’s family. They probably enjoy just being a family – as your family does.

Find ways to support those who have accepted God’s call to ministry. You would be amazed how a small gesture can make a difference in their life and the life of their family. Plus, you’ll be playing a part in Kingdom-building – strengthening one of God’s servants.

Pastors/Ministers, what else would you add to my list? Do you feel especially stretched this time of year?

7 Christmas Gift Suggestions for Your Wife

By | Culture, Encouragement, Marriage | No Comments

Im going on a wild hunch there are some men who haven’t even thought about what theyll get their wife for Christmas yet. I understand. It probably still seems early to Christmas Eve shoppers. (I used to be one of those who loved to shop Christmas Eve – now its one of my busiest work days.)

Maybe you’ve thought about what youd get your wife, but the problem is you still have no clue what to get her. It’s the same problem every year. Gift card may be what you’re thinking. Cash perhaps. Let your daughter pick something up if she’s old enough.

No sweat. I understand. I’m here to help this year.

Here are 7 suggestions to get your wife for Christmas:

Make a coupon book

A date night a week – or a month – or make up 12 random dates. A movie. (One she picks.) A walk in the park on a sunny, Spring day. Dance lessons. A cooking class. Print a coupon for each. Then give her access to your calendar and let her claim them as needed.

Break a bad habit

She cares about you and who you are and what you do impact her. Perhaps you need to lose weight, so she worries about you. You need to quit smoking. Or, maybe it is the way you talk to her. Perhaps you are super critical of her or you talk down to her sometimes. You know its a bad habit, but youve just never improved. It may be as simple as never picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor. Whatever it is she may have subtly – or not so subtly – tried to suggest a change in you. You agree with the change, but haven’t made it. Just make it. Merry Christmas to you and her. (Habits stick when repeated 4-6 weeks Im told.)

Give her the gift of you

To make any relationship strong takes time and commitment, but we all get distracted by life. Make a commitment to speak less and listen more in the new year. Perhaps you symbolize this with a token of some sorts. Wrap up the remote and give it to her. Would that do the trick? Maybe its a golf club – one of yours – symbolizing youll give her more of your free time. Maybe its access to the calendar on your phone. You know the distractions in your marriage. Give her the gift of time with you in the new year.

Open a savings account

Put $100 or $50 – whatever you can afford, into a savings account. Label it “future investment in us!” Is there a family trip she’s dreamed about? Perhaps there is somewhere you always promised to take her. Take the first step this Christmas to make it happen someday. A great way to build relationships is to have something to dream about together.

One night in a nice Bed and Breakfast

Many men shy away from these, and many women do also, but for Cheryl and me, some of our most romantic moments were one night trips to a bed and breakfast. Make sure you get a private bath. A comfortable bed and a room with a view is great. If you plan ahead you will spend less than a really great hotel and the experience of reconnecting can be amazing for both of you.

Plan a gift together.

This isnt for everyone. You know your wife. Some women have to have something to unwrap on Christmas. For Cheryl, shes just as satisfied if we are planning our Christmas giving together. We jointly agree to take a trip together as our Christmas gift to each other. We agree on something we want to buy for the house. This works for us. It might for you.

A trip away – in May

This is one of my best gift ideas. And, it doesnt have to be May – just sometime later in the year. This isn’t as needed for us now, because we are empty-nesters and can travel when we want, but this was the rockstar gift when our boys were home. This is brilliant on several points. It builds positive emotions leading up to the trip. When she was having an exceptionally stressful day she could remember – at least we were getting away tougher soon. In addition, we could plan the trip at Christmas, but pay for most or all of it later – which helped stretch our Christmas budget. (To do this I would often ordered brochures from a place I know we have thought about going and wrapped them in a pretty package. Sometimes I made reservations, sometimes I just picked the place. Either way, it is your responsibility to handle the necessary arrangements to make it happen.)

Do you get the idea that these are more about time than even money? I’m convinced it’s what most women want from their husbands. I realize some will say their wife once did, but doesn’t now. If that’s true, it’s probably an indication of a bigger problem. It may even be because she wanted you then and you weren’t there. Maybe the answer is to give her more time now.

Now I should also encourage you to be responsible. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Many of these are very low cost ideas. Some you can budget for and pay later. Chances are good you are going to get her something and I’m guessing some of these might be better than a dress shop gift certificate or another pair of those ugly pajama bottoms.

Your marriage and your wife is worth the extra effort. This year, think through your gift. Be purposeful. The woman you love is worth the effort.

What gift ideas can you add to the list?

7 Suggestions to Have the Best Christmas Ever

By | Church, Culture, Encouragement, Family, Jesus | No Comments

It’s Christmas time again. Seems to come every year about this time. The most wonderful time of the year.

There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories
Of Christmases long, long ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

(That could almost be a song. Wait a minute – I think it is.)

But, if you’re like many of us, Christmas will be over before you took time to enjoy it. You might even get past Christmas, realize how fast it passed, and so you set some new year’s resolutions to slow down and – maybe – enjoy Christmas more next year.

What if you could do that this year? Why not? Sounds like a good goal to me. Enjoy the celebration of Christmas. The birth of our Savior. Relish the time with family. Savor every moment.

Here are 7 suggestions to make this the best Christmas ever:

Set a limit on expenditures.

Something happens when Christmas becomes more about the value of the gifts than the value of the season. More, more, more only produces energy in a direction that can never really be sustained. (Read Ecclesiastes 5:10) Start with a budget. Be realistic. Stop comparing. One problem for many of us is that we are trying to compete with everyone else. Obviously, if you have more money you can spend more money (and less — less). But, make it your goal to invest more in people this year than in things you can buy. And, don’t feel obligated or pressured to buy gifts you can’t afford for people. It will only be a temporary satisfaction and produce a lot of guilt in the new year when you see those credit card bills start arriving in the mail. (And, usually the guilt starts as soon as the cashier hands you the receipt or you push the purchase button online.)

Set boundaries in relationships.

This is especially true for younger couples and families, but really for most of us. You can feel pressured by extended family and friends to be a dozen different places. Remember, you aren’t responsible for pleasing everyone — in fact — you can’t. It’s impossible. (Some have a harder time with that than others.) Don’t let everyone else determine your Christmas schedule. You may have to have some difficult, but direct conversations with relatives or friends. Again, be realistic. You can’t be everywhere. There are some places you can’t (or shouldn’t) avoid, but, as much as possible, control your schedule rather than having it controlled by others.

Plan and prioritize your time.

This is similar, but also includes how we spend our own time at Christmas. There are usually more demands for our time than time for our demands. Just as you did in creating a money budget, create a time budget. Set aside some time for you to celebrate Christmas as an immediate family — or in a way where you best celebrate. Then build around that time. It’s okay to say no. (Do you need to read that sentence again?) If you don’t, you’ll run out of time before you feel you ever really celebrated. It’s hard, but again, you’re trying to actually celebrate Christmas — the birth of baby Jesus. That’s hard to do when you have lost all control of your time.

Lower your expectations.

That you have on others and on yourself. Sometimes we set very unrealistic expectations on what others will buy or how they will respond to what we buy. We look for the “perfect” gift — to give or receive — and our enjoyment of Christmas is based on that search — rather than the real joy of the season. We also set unrealistic expectations on relationships. We watch too many Hallmark Christmas movies where everything works out in the end to the perfect holiday celebration and when it doesn’t happen at our house quite like that we get disappointed. Remember, we aren’t characters in a movie. We are characters in real life. Real life is almost never perfect. Learn to enjoy your celebration with all the quirkiness that makes your family unique from every other family. (Because every family is quirky in some way — in real life.)

Practice healthy disciplines.

Sometimes in the name of “celebrating” we over do it only to have guilt about it later. Don’t overeat or over-indulge. You will occasionally – it’s part of the season — but, be reasonable. Keep exercising. Sample rather than eat full portions. You’ll feel better and have less regrets after the holidays have ended.

Serve others.

Find and establish a Christmas tradition of service. Whether it’s serving at a food kitchen, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, or just picking up trash along the side of the road, you’ll better appreciate Christmas when you serve. The real meaning of Christmas is based around serving others. The baby born at Christmas came to be a servant. The best way to celebrate His birth is to give back expecting nothing in return. You’ll be the bigger recipient when you do.

Remember the reason for the season.

Yea, I saved the best and most important for last. On purpose. It’s also the one we push to last if we aren’t careful and the ultimate purpose of this post, so I wanted it to be the last impression on your mind. Jesus — the reason for the season. It’s simple — even cliche, but, it’s true and it’s powerful — if you do it genuinely. In the midst of the madness, rediscover the miracle of Christmas. A Savior — who is Christ the Lord — has been born to you. Establish a tradition that helps you best identify with the true meaning of Christmas. You could take time to explore a character of the Christmas story you’ve not considered previously. Research elements of the setting and culture. Read the major passages in Matthew and Luke repeatedly through the season. Listen to only Christmas music. Attend special Christmas services. Whatever works for you. Be intentional to practice celebrating the real joy of Christmas.

Not all of these will apply to everyone, but my guess is if there are a couple here you need to work on – to better celebrate Christmas – you already knew it. As we begin the rush of the Christmas season, pause right now, take a few deep breaths, and let’s make this the best Christmas ever.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

4 Thoughts On Finding a Mentor

By | Church, Family, Leadership, Life Plan | No Comments

I have had many mentors who have invested deeply in my life. I am who I am partly because of the intentionality of others pouring into my life. They have made me a better leader, better husband, father, friend, and person.

One of my more recent mentors was a godly businessman who agreed to meet with me periodically. He didnt even think he had anything to offer me, but as I observed his life and ways I knew he did. He was twenty plus years older than me, had been extremely successful, and his leadership skills were off the charts. So, of course, I could learn from him. And, I did.

One of the more frequent questions I receive is how do I find this kind of mentor?

Well, I think they are all around, but if you want to find a mentor, you’ll have to be intentional.

Here are a few things to consider:

Observe people – Who are people already in your life? You go to church with them? You see them in business or social circles? They are in a civic club you attend? They work out at your gym? Most likely you have potential mentors around you if you are consciously looking for them.

A word to my pastor friends. I do not believe every mentor in your life has to be another pastor. We may be thinking too highly of our profession if we cant learn leadership (or life) principles from those in secular positions. Obviously, we should choose mentors who have high character and integrity, but we can learn from those who are not in ministry. Some of the godliest people I know are in the business world – and Im glad they are – and I can learn from them.

Find someone with qualities you aspire to have. Think of an area where you feel you need to grow and look for people who seem to have excelled in those areas. In my experience, they will often share with you times of difficulty in getting to where they are today. Youll learn from their challenges.

I once recruited a mentor simply because he was one of the most humble people I had ever met. It was a quality I admired and wanted to emulate in my life. I knew I could become proud if I’m not careful and I had observed him to be both successful and humble. And, thats what I told him in our initial lunch meeting together. I wanted to hang out with him because I had observed him to be both. Simple. Honest. And, it proved to be effective. This man and I no longer live in the same city and yet he continues to check on me periodically and every time he encourages me.

Ask them to meet with you. I usually find a hesitation in people in making the first ask, but equally true has been how receptive people seem to be willing to meet with me when I do. This obviously needs to be reasonable. I probably shouldnt expect Bill Hybels to mentor me, but there are plenty of pastors (and those who are not pastors) who have much for me to learn if I will make the ask.

If it seems to go well on the first date, ask them to meet with you periodically. It doesn’t have to be often. It could be every quarter or every six months. You’ll learn valuable life lessons from them each time you meet.

Know – in a general sense – what you want to learn from this person, but then each time you get together come with questions for the person. You do the work to prepare for meetings unless the person takes this initiative. Most mentors will not feel they know how to mentor you. And, thats okay, you can take the pressure off of them simply by having good questions, which glean from their experience in whatever area you are trying to grow.

Its okay to move on when its time. This doesnt have to be a lifetime arrangement. It could be. I have a few mentors who have been in my life for 25 years or more. I dont speak to them often, but they remain available to me and still periodically invest in my life. I also have had some mentors who were there for a season of my life. When I began to enter the world of adult parenting I had a mentor who walked through how things would be different for Cheryl and me and how I would relate to our sons. I have even been mentored through a change I was leading and my mentor and I only met one time.

I think we over-complicate the subject when we put too many parameters around what a mentoring relationship looks like. It can be a fairly simple process. Theres something you want to learn, find people who seem to have already learned it, meet with them and soak in their experiences, and then repeat often.

If you are serious about being mentored youll look for opportunities to allow people to speak into your life. Youll have many mentors. And, your life will be richer.

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22