4 Reasons You Need To Keep A Journal

origin_4762384399-500x257I have been journaling since I was in my very early twenties. I may have periodically done it before that point, but it has been a regular part of my life for at least the last fifteen years. Here’s why I keep a journal, and why you might want to consider keeping one yourself, especially if you are a leader who wants to grow and develop.

1)   My memory is not as good as I think it is. When I look back at journals from the past I can see the highs and lows through the years. I am reminded of conversations, celebrations and insights I had years ago. I can see the growth in my thinking and attitudes. I am reminded of how God has guided me through the years. It is a measuring stick of my thought growth, much like a measuring stick on the wall for growing children.

2)   I can see where I am stuck. If I write the same thing over and over, or I see a pattern of negativity or thinking that is not helpful, it gets very real when I have to write and read those thoughts over and over. Journal keeping has been a way to get out the ugly on a page and then make the decision to move on to a healthier, faith-filled future.

3)   I can record leadership and discipleship insights. I always record thoughts about my daily Bible reading as well as quotes from a current book I am reading. This is one more way that I am able to better remember what I have read and also to interact with what I have read. What stood out to me? What do I agree or disagree with and why? What do I need to learn?

4)   It keeps me writing. If nothing else, journaling puts me in the habit of writing something each day. It may spur a thought for a sermon, a blog, a book or even a conversation I need to have with someone else.

In years past I have done all my journaling in black notebooks and a fountain pen or some other writing instrument. While I still love doing this, I have found that it doesn’t always work with my schedule. When I want to write I may not have my journal, but I always have my iPhone and usually have my MacBook Pro or iPad.

That’s why I have digitized my journaling using Day One. It synchs over the cloud, I can add pictures, and whenever I have some downtime I can add my thoughts and musings for the day. It even recommends questions that may spur your creative writing. I highly recommend it.

No more excuses. Get journaling and grow.

3 Proven Ways to Smash Through Barriers

koolaidRight now I feel totally depleted. The tanks are dry. I am running on empty.

I have been dieting for three months and have been doing two-a-days to keep my metabolism high in preparation for a contest in June. Up until a few days ago I was doing well, but now I’ve hit a wall, a very hard wall. And I am reeling.

Have you ever been there? You know that feeling where you would rather go to bed than face the day, or you are pulled in to the lure of escaping through media or midnight snacks rather than doing what you know you ought to do?

Here’s what I am doing to crush through this wall (like the Kool-Aid guy) and I know it will get me through this tough patch, and just may help you through whatever you are going through right now.

1) Remember the “why” of your goal. I once read a quote that said, “Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.” Often when things get hard we give up. It is not the time to give up now, it’s time be reminded why you made the goal in the first place. Did you want to make more money, grow your marriage or get healthier? At some point you knew that where you were was not good enough. You weren’t happy and you wanted something better for yourself. In my case, I have come a long way, and throwing in the towel now would be a waste of all the hard hours I have put in so far.

2) Re-commit to the goal. The way that I do this is to write about it (this blog) or talk to my wife Melissa or a few of my trusted friends about it. They will quickly get me past feeling sorry for myself and whip me back into the right mindset. No more excuses. I will finish what I started.

3) Re-Ignite. This is where I hit the crazy button. I do what I don’t want to do. I hit the gym, I avoid any junk food, and I trash downtime that does not line up with my goals. I go hard after my goal, and the more I do this, the more the fire gets burning within me. I no longer feel sorry for myself, I feel empowered to do what I have set out to do in the first place.

Whatever your goal, when the going gets tough just Remember, Re-commit and Re-Ignite. The world needs to have more examples of people who will not settle for mediocrity. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to get on the spin bike.

 

PS-If none of this makes sense please forgive me and disregard this post. I haven’t had any carbs for several hours.

Take 3 Steps Away from the Envy Slope

envy4-2Often when people refer to something being a slippery slope, it is said in the context of a fairly banal action that may lead to an unintended consequence if taken to the extreme. When I was in Bible College it was feared that if blue jeans were allowed in class what might be next? People may become so casual they may attend class in the buff! As you can see, some slopes are more slippery than others.

In Psalm 73 Asaph records a time when he came close to the edge of a cliff and almost lost his footing. It wasn’t so much because of an action that he did or didn’t take, but an attitude that he allowed to harbour in his heart.

What was his heart attitude?

At some point we have all been there. We have envied the person next to us, desiring the prestige, position, beauty or bank account that they have. We look at our paltry place in life and long to be like them. For the Christian this can be even more frustrating because many times the wicked prosper while the righteous flounder. What is the deal with that?

Green is often the color associated with envy. However, it is much darker and destructive in reality. When we let envy set in it can lead to very ugly consequences. Asaph found this out first hand as pain and bitterness that had cemented into his psyche because of his envy. It had blurred his perspective-making him foolish and ignorant (vs. 21-22).

So how did Asaph come to his senses before falling off the cliff? He came to a few key realizations:

1)   He belonged to God

We lose perspective when we are straining to see the success of others and fail to see the reality that God does not only like us, but we are loved by Him. We are his prized possession. When you get your mind around that principle it quickly puts things in perspective.

2)   God was still guiding him

One of my favorite sayings is “Do not question in the darkness what God has fully revealed in the light.” When things look bleak it is very tempting to wonder where God is or what his plan is. While others prosper and we are paupers we must remember that God isn’t finished with us yet. He is still guiding us. We just need to make sure that we are following.

3)   He needed to focus on God rather than others

A psalm that started out very bleak ends in triumph as Asaph proclaims “I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do” (v. 28).

If you are falling down the slippery slope of envy today, take a few minutes to refocus like Asaph did. The same God who guided him through the darkness will also guide you. He certainly has done it for me a time or two.

3 Simple Steps to Accomplish MORE this Week

eating-an-elephant On my desk sits a smooth, polished dark rock that has the word “Discipline” written on it. I didn’t happen upon this rock while strolling on a beach, it was one that each person from our church was given and then challenged to personalize by writing a word on it with a silver felt marker.

The word had to have personal significance. It needed to be selected because it was a quality you wanted to improve in your life in the upcoming year. I chose the word discipline in that moment because I knew that almost anything can be accomplished over time with consistency and discipline. I have proven this in my life over and over again, whether it was finishing a degree, training for a race or hitting a deadline at work. Just keep on going, every step counts.

There is an old adage “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Discipline is taking that bite each day when it would be easier to sleep in, watch Netflix or do almost anything other than the task at hand. Taking on a big project, i.e. eating an elephant gets tiring and it is easy to surrender when you get stuck.

Here’s how I maintain discipline in my life:

1)   Set up routines and stick to them. I am writing a book about my spiritual journey and the words are getting dry and feel lifeless. And I am tired. But I set my alarm and am forcing myself to get up and get writing. The crazy part? When I get up and out of bed I write 100% more than I do when I remain in bed. Go figure.

2)   Plan ahead. A few nights a week I make several meals and put them into containers that I store in a cooler I take to work. This keeps me on track with my fitness goal of eating healthy, and ensures that I have a full enough stomach to avoid zipping through the McDonald’s drive-thru when I get a craving. As someone once said, “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”

3)   Be Accountable. I have a few people in my life who have full permission to ask how I am doing in any area of my life. They can ask me how healthy my spiritual life is, if I am eating clean and hitting the gym or if I am writing on a daily basis. They can also ask about my family and thought life. It is very motivating for me to know that I have to answer to someone looking into my eyes about things that would otherwise go undetected.

The main goal of my life is to be a disciple of Jesus. And it is impossible to be a disciple without being disciplined. I know that through a daily routine of doing the small things to become more like Jesus that eventually I will look, sound and be more like Jesus. It’s a lofty goal, but it is worth it.

 

What elephant are you eating right now? If you are getting stuck, keep on going. Take another bite today!

Who’s Your Nancy?

nancyJust a few weeks ago I received a present that made me thankful that I chose to be in vocational Christian ministry. No, it wasn’t a Mont Blanc pen, weekend getaway or a gift card to the Keg (although I have been the recipient of each of these gifts at different points in my ministry and have been VERY grateful for them!) Instead, I saw a Facebook post from one of my former students in Vancouver. She was one of the keynote speakers at a youth conference in Victoria, sharing her passion for Jesus with high school students, just like I had done for her many years ago.

As a youth pastor I saw a lot of students come and go in our ministry. All of them were very special to me, even if they weren’t regular fixtures for a long time. Nancy was one person who was virtually unforgettable from the very first time I met her. She had a smile and energy that could light up and power a small town. Even though she was shy the first few times she came out, I could tell that she was soaking everything up, and she had a real hunger to get to know Jesus better. It wasn’t long before she was embraced by virtually everyone, and we all realized that not only was she not shy, she had the loudest and most infectious laugh we had ever heard!

After her grade twelve year she went on a missions trip with us to the Yukon to run two weeks of kids camps. She was a rock (she could sleep through anything!), and she was a spiritual rock, a true prayer warrior and servant to everyone she came in contact with. When the Spirit got hold of her life not only did she smile even more than before, it was like she was a glow stick from head to toe!  She became a youth leader and was instrumental in leading students into a relationship with the same Saviour she had come to know in such a dynamic way. I would see her periodically drive by the church with a carload of teens and slurpees, just doing whatever she could to engage them in their heart and minds.

Time has marched on and now we don’t see one another very often. But Nancy continues to grow in her relationship with Jesus, and is making an impact in others that I am amazed and so proud of.  She credits me as the reason she is doing what she is doing. Quite frankly that scares me because I’m not sure I was always the best or wisest leader she could have learned from. But it keeps me humble, and makes me want to be a life changer for more Nancy’s out there in my sphere of influence.

Who is your Nancy? Whose life are you pouring in to today? You may never fully understand the long-term impact you will make in even short-term connections.

 

How to Find a Leadership Friend

friendOne of the most powerful gifts that I have been given in my life as a leader is the encouragement, advice, correction and camaraderie from trusted friends. I am under no illusion that I could have enjoyed the success and longevity that I have in pastoral ministry without them. Unfortunately, as the years pass and my experience grows, it is tempting to give in to the lie that I have outgrown the need of confidents who can provide much needed accountability and balance in my life.

Moses, the revered man who led the Israelites out of 430 years of captivity in Egypt, had to learn this lesson on a few occasions. Initially when approached by God to be the one to lead the people of Israel, he was reluctant and would only take on the job if Aaron his brother would be his spokesperson. Shortly after the miraculous exodus and the miraculous plagues that led to it, Moses was comfortably in the lead, walking across the dry Red Sea and causing water to gush out of rocks at the Lord’s command. It would be natural in his shoes to begin to rely on your own strength and take on an “I can do this” mentality.

In Exodus 17, the Israelites are camped out and are attacked by the Amalakites. The Bible records that Joshua assembled an army while Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of a nearby hill. As long as his hands were raised the Israelites were winning, as soon as his hands lowered from fatigue they began to lose. So Aaron and Hur sat him down and held his hands for him until the battle was finally won.

Whether you feel strong or are losing the battle, the same holds true; you need others. I need others.  Here’s how I have been able to find people willing to hold me up.

1)   Be the friend I want to have.

2)   Look for people that I respect and want to be like.

3)   Open up about myself. You have to be vulnerable at some point…

4)   Reach out regularly. Laugh together, talk about life together. Accept wise counsel. Review decisions. Repeat.

The world needs healthy leaders. And leaders need others to be healthy. Get your hands up.

 

 

You Can’t Break Me!

plant-growing-through-crack-in-concreteWhat would it take to break you? I just came back from the gym and I think I may be on the verge of cracking in half…I ache all over. However, the real measure of any great person is how they respond when the heat is turned up and the pressure is on. So how are you when the chips are down and the pressure mounts? Do you quickly fold or go all in?

Noah was quite a man. He was an “all in” kind of guy who trusted God wholeheartedly with his life. In the face of opposition from neighbours, he built a boat. No one had ever seen a boat and there wasn’t any water to necessitate a boat. I probably would have been cracking jokes myself, especially when the project took him decades to complete.

But the rains came down and the floods came up, and Noah and his family got into the ark. And it rained and rained. And rained some more. It must have made the weather of the Pacific Northwest seem like the Mojave Desert. It would be tempting to wonder if God had forgotten about them. 40 days passed without so much as a whisper, except for the constant cries of the animals and I’m sure some complaining by his family. Remember, there weren’t iPads to keep everyone amused on this journey.

But the man who had been faithful during the arduous process of building the ark trusted God. He knew the rains would come, and he knew God would take him to dry land, wherever that was. In Genesis 8:1 we are told ”God remembered Noah and all the animals in the boat.” God didn’t forget about them. God never forgets.

Whatever you are going through right now, God hasn’t forgotten about you. Trust him. Obey what God has revealed in his Word, even if you don’t know what to do in the specifics of your flood. You will make it through. Look to the sky, the rains are going to stop and the rainbow will appear. Don’t let yourself be broken, but lean in to God and let Him sustain you through this storm. He will. I know, because he has sustained me through many in the past, and I know he will in the future.

What kind of a flood are you going through today? Feel free to share. I’d love to pray with you through this storm. Don’t fold; go all in with God today.