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Sharks in the Water!

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A few months ago my wife and I visited our son and daughter-in-love in North Carolina. In addition to all the other fun things we did we were able to spend the day along the coast for a day of sun, beach and ocean.

Of course the day would not have been complete without taking lots of pictures of the coast and…yep…you guessed it, selfies! The one included in this blog was one taken during the day and posted immediately for all our friends to see.

We wanted everyone to see how wonderful our lives are. We bombarded social media showing how we simply go from one vacation destination to the next. We’re living the dream! Our lives are filled with sun, surf, sand and sharks!

Wait a minute! Did someone say sharks?

No sooner had I posted the picture than my comments section lit up with people telling me North Carolina had more attacks from sharks than any other state!

A scroll down Social Media Lane would tell us that everyone’s life is absolutely perfect, shark free one might say. Actually no one would say that, I’m just carrying on the shark theme. I’ll fin…ish in a moment.

How do we know this? We see posts of perfect family outings, exquisite meals, elaborate celebrations, shots of bare legs, from the knees down to the toes, lounging by the pool (STOP IT!), and Five Ways to Increase the Number of Your Twitter Followers.

We even have bumper stickers that tell us, Life is a Beach. True. Life is beautiful and a gift to each of us, but there are sharks at the beach, actually in the water, but you know what I mean. People have to navigate rough waters while on their beach, called life.

So, while you’re basking in the sun, in your new Speedo (please don’t), take a moment to encourage someone who is neck deep in shark infested waters.

 

What’s the most creative way you’ve sent an encouraging word to someone?

 

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Leadership Lessons from Luke 1.5-7

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Does God work in our barrenness?

Right from the start of his book, Luke draws our attention to a couple named, Zechariah and Elizabeth. The two of them are referred as, “both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commands and statues of the Lord.”

But…

“they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren,…”

Five years ago these verses would have never impacted me the way they do as I sit reading them today. You see my son-in-love, Griffin and daughter, Bethany have walked through several miscarriages over the past couple of years.

I have known Bethany her entire life and Griffin for approximately 12 years. Although neither is perfect, they love God, are respected leaders and do their best to walk blamelessly before Him. I’ve been amazed at how this young couple has handled life in the midst of their pain and suffering.

So it is that I read this passage and realize that Zechariah and Elizabeth, although barren and advanced in years, continue to serve God faithfully. What is fascinating is that in the midst of personal suffering, they continued to personally serve and sacrifice. I find this same heroic mindset in Griffin and Bethany.

Elizabeth’s barrenness was not a result of sin as we tend to conclude of those who face struggles in life. No, their miracle baby, John, was delivered with great purpose to announce the great Deliverer, Jesus.

After several miscarriages, Griffin and Bethany are due to deliver their own God ordained miracle in January. What does God have in store for this bundle of miraculous joy? Only time will tell.

Leaders are not without struggles or suffering. Should you find yourself questioning God, yourself or your own struggles, remember that our momentary struggles can be seen as a part of God’s greater plan.

Leaders have simply learned how to continue to trust and walk with God in the midst of life’s most difficult moments.

Could it be that the struggle you find yourself facing today is meant to ultimately birth greater purpose in your life and the lives of others?

You can connect with Bethany’s story on her blog, http://bethanymcgrath.com/

 

The Storms of Life

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Tomorrow my wife of 33 years is having surgery. Doctors are removing her thyroid due to cancer. This procedure marks four years we’ve been caught in what I’ll refer to as the storms of life.

This surgery comes four years after I had my thyroid removed due to cancer. My surgery came just two weeks following the death of my wife’s mother. During these four years we’ve also experienced the passing of my wife’s father.

The storms continued as I was released from two ministry positions in a 13 month period. Our son and daughter-in-love were also released from their ministry positions. All due to budget issues.

Our son-in-love has battled medical issues and his wife, our daughter, has endured six miscarriages. They are expecting their first son in January of 2017! Our other daughter and son-in-love experienced a miscarriage of their own this past May.

In July of 2015 I went through four surgeries, three ER visits, and three hospitalizations in a three-week period. Only one surgery was scheduled. The remaining three were considered emergency surgeries. Three months later I had a final procedure needed due to one of the surgeries.

Finally, I’ve not had a steady income since the Spring of 2015.

I say all of this for one simple reason. God has been faithful. He has been with us through each storm.

Bottom line is that we all go through storms. Storms are inevitable in life. Through it all, God has been by our side, comforting us, providing for us, loving us.

May the God of peace, speak peace in the midst of storms you are or will face.

Peace.

 

Photo:The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt.

Oh, How I Miss Garbage!

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The other day I took out the garbage. I know…I know…you do too. So what’s the big deal?

When I went to throw the garbage in the big, blue, plastic container I noticed how empty our container was. Still not a big deal? Keep reading.

Just yesterday (not really, just seems like it) our big, blue, plastic container was filled each week for the big, blue, metal garbage truck. What has happened to all our garbage? Where did it go? Why do we only have one bag a week rather than five or six bags a week?

It graduated and moved on. No, the garbage didn’t move on. I was just using symbolism.

Our kids graduated and moved on. No, they are not garbage. I love my kids. Stop getting ahead of me. Let me finish.

As each child moved on the amount of garbage collected and placed by the curb on Wednesday night diminished. My wife and I don’t produce near as much garbage as when there were six of us living at home.

My weekly trip to the curb with my big, blue, plastic container is a reminder that my kids have graduated and moved on.

Oh, how I miss garbage!

Why I Don’t Like My Prayer Life

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A few years ago I was able to go to Israel. One of our stops included the Garden of Gethsemane. The place where Jesus prayed, prior to His death on the cross. Looking back on this…

I discovered something about myself through my own prayer life.

I don’t like the way I pray. Why? Because it reveals so much about who I am, who I’ve yet to become and what’s in my heart. I found, through my prayers, that I’m pretty selfish.

I guess I’ve known this for some time, as I’ve often prayed, “help me not to be so selfish.” However, even in that prayer it reveals my selfishness. I hate to admit this but my prayer life has become about me.

I don’t know how long this has been going on and I guess it doesn’t matter. What does matter is turning the corner on this, and soon. So beginning today my prayers will be less about me and more about others.

This morning several prayers were offered up for extended family members and friends. My speaking with God included other nations and my own community. Prayers for another pastor and his wife were uttered as well as a couple facing a major surgery.

My pastor and his wife were included as well. God heard me offer up prayers for my wife, kids (who aren’t kids anymore) and grandkids. My final words came in the form of gratitude for all God has done in and through me and for others.

Perhaps moving from ‘I’ centered prayers to ‘other’ centered prayers is an answer to my selfishness, greed, lusts, pride,…well the list continues.

So here goes…how can I pray for you?

12 Christmas Gifts That Outlive You

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The average person will spend about $800 on gifts this year. Tragically one year from now the giver of gifts will have little to show for it. To leave a meaningful gift is to leave one that outlasts you…one that costs YOU something. Something you can’t put a price tag on but has incredible value to the recipients.

So why not make Christmas a bit more spectacular this year? Not that your previous holiday celebrations have not already been marvelous. But what about doing something a bit extraordinary?

Each of us have our favorite holiday traditions. My favorite is having the family come over to open stockings and then have a hearty breakfast. By all means, keep those…just add one or two others. Why not do something outside the wrapped Christmas box?

If you’re reading this blog (thanks!), you’ve celebrated at least seven December 25ths, (more than likely several more than that). Why not do something that creates more of a life legacy and less of a pile of discarded wrapping paper. A gift that’s truly long-lasting and huge!

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So in the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas, here are 12 gift suggestions that outlive you.

  1. Invite someone in your neighborhood/community who doesn’t have family to join you for dinner
  2. Sponsor a child – http://www.compactfamilyservices.org/home
  3. Help serve dinner or lead Christmas carols in a nursing home
  4. Give a gift to a child – http://www.prisonfellowship.org
  5. Surprise a police officer with a coffee gift card
  6. Feed a child – http://www.feedone.com
  7. Purchase a tree w/lights for a single parent family
  8. Donate coats, blankets, clothes to a homeless shelter
  9. Volunteer as a family at a soup kitchen/shelter
  10. Give an offering to your favorite charity
  11. Give a handmade ornament to co-workers
  12. Purchase a small gift, given with a message of encouragement, to hand out to people you come in contact with during the day. These could include grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, waiters, mall security, bank tellers, etc…

In other words do something for someone who can offer you nothing in return. Make this holiday truly a holiday about giving. After all isn’t this the reason Christmas began in the first place?

What new tradition will you add this Christmas?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/340205887/”>Stuck in Customs</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tuliobertorini/3159130543/”>tbertor1</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

7 Career Coaching Questions to Ask

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Are you in your sweet spot when it comes to your career? In other words is what you’re doing today what you were made to do? Too many individuals spend their entire life simply doing a job. Yet changing careers at any point in your life requires a risk, with great amounts of uncertainty. So the question becomes, do I stay in my present role, one that requires no risk, and leaves me unfulfilled or do I take a risk, step out in order to fulfill my mission?

With the new year approaching, many make goals, re-evaluate dreams, and make some sort of mental ascent in order to tackle the coming year with a fresh perspective. Could it be time for you to take a step of faith? Embarking on a faith journey demands tremendous trust in God and on-going support from others. What you’ll find with the seven coaching questions are quintessential steps necessary to help you on your journey.

Imagine for a moment your journey is an intense back-packing trip. For the novice hiker, making such a trek could spell disaster. Yet for the seasoned hiker, all the potential danger found along the path, goes unnoticed in comparison with the  beauty discovered along the way. For the seasoned hiker to experience the beauty, he must first pack and prepare for the future expedition.

Glacier National Park Moving forward with your goals requires no less preparation.

So back to the original question. Are you in your sweet spot when it comes to your career? Once you’ve answered this question, the next seven questions begin to make sense. Answering these questions is no guarantee of success, but they will certainly get you on your way. Consider them the preparation aspect of your career climb.

So here they are…

  1. If the sky’s the limit, what would you like to do? What is it your passionate about? What gets you up in the morning?
  2. Who are the people in your life today/networks you have, who can best help you reach your goals?
  3. What books, podcasts, articles are you reading/listening to that will help you reach your dream?
  4. What character trait(s) do you need to strengthen/change to move you closer to your passion?
  5. Who are you currently mentoring with the sole purpose of helping them reach their dreams?
  6. What is one thing you can do today that propels you further in fulfilling the desire of your heart?
  7. What is holding you back from taking that first step?

And the bonus question.

When will you begin?