30 Days of Intentional Living

Day 16: Create a Memory and Visit it Often

Intentional Living Day 16

In the mid-90’s, I led a youth missions trip to Arizona.  Our group of 14 teens and 3 youth leaders boarded an airplane to fly from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Phoenix, Arizona.  After a long flight, we relaxed in a hotel.  Then, we boarded a bus the next morning for a 4 hour drive to our work location at a school in the desert.

There was nothing remarkable about the trip out or back, or the work that we did in the 100 degree plus temperatures.  As a matter of fact, until sitting down to write this post, I hadn’t thought about the actual details of the trip for quite some time.  We did the usual things…paint, clean, lay tile, play basketball, etc.

But, there is one story from that trip that we still talk about today, over two decades later.  It’s the story of two van loads of teens and youth workers driving through the desert in Navajo Nation enjoying the beautiful scenery.  It’s the story of coming across two Navajo women in an overheated truck stranded alongside the road.  We filled their radiator with a tube of “stop-leak,” a gallon of spring water, and a lot of prayer.  We followed them on their journey to make certain that they arrived home safely.

What was unique about that encounter was the fact that there was no scientific reason that water and stop-leak should have gotten them very far in the heat of the desert sun.  Yet, we followed them for miles while they took time to stop and show us the beautiful scenery from their viewpoint.  We learned that the beautiful mountain range we had been enjoying was actually called “Indian chief praying.”  Our eyes were opened to the beauty of those mountains as we began to see an Indian chief laying on his back looking to the heavens with hands folded in prayer.

You see, we still look back on that trip and talk about it from time to time.  The main lesson that we learned was that God would listen to the prayers of a group of high school students who only asked that He keep the truck running until the two ladies got home.  We saw God work a miracle that day right in front of our eyes.  We also had the opportunity to share with their families about God’s love and point them toward a church they could attend right down the road.

I don’t know whatever happened to those families after we left and headed back to our school to finish our work week.  But, one thing I do know, we created a memory that will last a lifetime in the hearts and minds of those teens and youth leaders.

John’s point for today was to intentionally create memories.  You have to be intentional to create a memory!  He asked two questions of his children during every trip they took as a family.  They were:  What did you love?  What did you learn?  Everything we do can become a memory of what we loved and share together, if we take time to learn from that situation or memory.

When you create good memories with others, you become bonded.  When difficulties come, you revisit those memories and it keeps you focused.  

To this day, I look back on that experience in the desert in Arizona as a time when I witnessed a miracle of God happening right in front of my eyes.  If I ever have an occasion to doubt God’s faithfulness, I only need to revisit that, and many other memories, that I’ve made over the years – and it brings my life back into focus!

ACTION POINT:  Make a list of memories that you need to revisit.  If you’re list is short, make an intentional plan right now to begin making memories with your family, your employees, your friends, your staff members, or anyone else you interact with on a regular basis.  Then, revisit those memories.  They will serve as an anchor point for keeping you focused in life.

30 Days of Intentional Living

Day 15: Is Your Glass Half Empty or Half Full

Intentional Living Day 15

Are you giving out of abundance, or holding back out of scarcity?  In this lesson, John Maxwell drew a contrast between those who give to others out of an abundance mindset and those who held back out of a scarcity mindset.  Which are you today?

We’ve been talking about living a life of significance.  We’ve been talking in this series about living intentionally so that we can make a difference in this world.  To use these two terms, those who make a difference and live an intentional life are those who have an abundance mindset.  Those who don’t live a life of significance are those who go through life with a scarcity mindset.

The difference between the two is simple:  do you see the glass as half full or half empty?  Half full means that the focus is on what we have left to use.  It means that when we give away a bit of our time, or something of ourselves to others, we believe that the glass can be refilled.  That is an abundance mindset – there is always more to replace what we have given away.

A scarcity mindset focuses on the fact that the glass is already half empty.  It focuses on what we’ve given away.  It makes us hold onto what we have left because we do not believe that the glass can be refilled.  We see things through the lens that what we currently have is all that we will ever have.  When the glass is seen as half full, we do not live a life of significance.  We do not live an intentional life that focuses on adding value to other people.  We simply go through life maintaining what we already have.

I have the opportunity to sit on many boards and committees and I see the abundance/scarcity mindsets play out in almost every meeting.  Those who believe that what they have can be replaced or refilled will try new things and spend their organizations money to further the goals of the organization.  Those with a scarcity mindset hold on to their money and do not try new things because they believe that they may need that money someday when they no longer have the resources coming into the organization.

A funny thing begins to happen with each of these groups.  Those organizations with a scarcity mindset somehow always seem to fade away and eventually die even though they tried to hoard their financial reserves to avoid that very thing.  Those with an abundance mindset have learned that the more they give away, the more they receive back.  The first organizations never makes an impact on this world.  The latter organizations are the ones that change the world.

Again, I ask the question on a personal level.  Which mindset do you follow in life?  Are you one who sees the glass as half empty (scarcity) and focus on keeping what you have?  Or, are you one who sees the glass as half full (abundance) and focus on what you can give away to empower others?  The answer to those questions will greatly determine the impact that you will have on this world!

 

30 Days of Intentional Living

Day 14: How Opportunity Really Works

Intentional Living Day 14

In today’s lesson, John Maxwell taught about doors of opportunity.  Right in front of you and I is a door that represents an opportunity that you and I have to make a difference in someone’s life.  It may be that you have the opportunity to come alongside someone and lift them up.  Or, it may be an opportunity for a new direction for your life, your leadership, or your family.

Many times we’ve heard people say that we should walk through the open door that is right in front of us and we’ll understand what it is that God has for our life.  The reality is that the open door in front of you only opens up the next step in your life’s journey.  When you go through that door, you go into a room that has another door in it.  There, you find another door of opportunity. and the process goes on repeating itself.

Here’s the problem!  We want one open door to give us all the answers to our future.  We want one open door to show us everything we need for the rest of our lives.  The problem is that it rarely, if ever, does.  What we find, instead, is that one door opens to a room that has everything we need for the next step in our journey.  It’s at this point that we have a decision to make:

  • look through that room and discover everything we can, learn everything we, and get prepared for the room behind the next door.  Or,
  • get discouraged and give up because we didn’t find the complete answers that we wanted.

Far too many people choose the second response.  Because we didn’t get all the answers that we need, we give up and accept the fact that we can’t go any further toward that future.  Instead, we stay right where we are and we miss out on the blessings that come from opening door after door after door.

Instead, why not learn from what you find in the room?  Look around and discover something new.  Learn from it and grow.  Then, you’ll be prepared for what comes behind the next door.

When I graduated from college, I had plans on entering seminary right away.  My wife and I had even gone out to the seminary and toured the campus.  But, then, God changed our plans.  Even though it became frustrating and everyone was saying head to seminary now, we continued hanging out in the room of looking for a youth ministry position.  Finally, 5 months later, we moved to a new church to become their youth pastor.  Then, 10 months later, God clearly showed us it was time to head out to seminary – a full year later than we had planned.

Quite honestly, those were two very confusing doors in our lives…until I graduated seminary and began to understand the delay.  It was that 1 year delay in our plans that set our lives on a very different path that God had for us.  Would it have been great to find all that information in the first room behind the first open door of opportunity?  Yes!  But we would have missed a very important lesson…

Most of the time, the journey is more important than the destination!

You see, we want to know all the details up front in our life’s journey.  So, when most people open the first door of opportunity, they give up because they didn’t get the answers they were looking for.  But, when a leader, living an intentional life, opens the first door, they don’t give up.  Rather, they see an opportunity that leads to an opportunity that leads to an opportunity.  They begin a journey that will lead them to their ultimate destination.  But, they learn that the journey is sometimes more important that the destination.

ACTION STEP:  What door of opportunity is staring you in the face right now?  Will you walk through it, knowing that it most likely will not give you all the answers for which you are looking?  Will you learn what you can before going through the next door of opportunity, and the next?  Or, will you give up because you don’t have all the answers immediately?  Here’s your action step:  CHOOSE WHICH PATH YOU WILL GO ON.

I hope you choose the door of opportunity.  Enjoy the journey.

30 Days of Intentional Living

Day 13: Significance Puts Cooperation Ahead of Competition

Intentional Living Day 13

When is winning, really losing?  Have you ever had an experience where you won at something, only to feel empty and alone in the celebration because you ran over everyone around you?  Oh, you might have come in first, but you stepped on everyone else to get there.  That is when winning is really losing.

In our desire to win and be successful, we sometimes win at the expense of others.  As church leaders, when we view the people in our church as tools to accomplish our goals, WE LOSE.  In our organizations, when we view our employees as workers to accomplish our goals, WE LOSE.  In our relationships, when we view our spouse or our friends as having the role of making our life better, WE LOSE.

Why?  Because we are living with a self-centered approach to life.  We put ourselves at the center of our world.  Then, everything and everyone else is peripheral.  They are there simply to help us achieve our goals in life.  That’s being self-centered!  Check out this quote from John Maxwell:

 “Self-centeredness and significance CANNOT peacefully coexist.”

It’s really amazing how things change when you move yourself to the peripheral of life and move others toward the center.  As church leaders, we help people grow and develop in their relationship with Jesus and in their leadership skills.  Then, we find that the goals of the church are being reached.  In our organizations, we train, encourage, and add value to our employees.  Then, we find that the companies goals are being met and our employees stay at our company longer than most because they want to be a part of that type of environment.  In our families, our relationships are strengthened when we put the needs of our spouse, our children, and our friends above ours.  Then, we find that our needs are met, as well.

While that may sound like an unusual direction to take, it really is nothing more than following the model Jesus left for us.  He exemplified agape love in all that he did.  That kind of love is characterized by being self-less, unconditional, and giving.  When we model that kind of love in all our relationships, WE WIN!

So, instead of competing for the win, empower others to succeed in your organization.  Then, together, everyone will win.  In order to live a life of significance, you really do need to put cooperation ahead of competition.

ACTION STEP:  Where in your life right now are you fighting for a personal win at the expense of others?  Write out a list of things that you could do in that situation to help the other person succeed.  Then, do those things and add value to their life.  In so doing, you will find a life of significance and you both will WIN.

 

 

30 Days of Intentional Living

Day 12: Weigh Risk and Reward When Making a Difference

Intentional Living Day 12

By nature, I am a calculated risk taker!  By that I mean, I weigh the opportunity for reward before taking a risk.  If the reward potential is high and the risk seems doable, then I am the kind of person who will jump in to see something happen.  What about YOU?

If the reward of doing something different with your life was high, would you risk it?  If the reward of doing something significant with your life was high, would you risk it?  If the answer to those questions is a “yes,” then it is quite possible that you are living an intentional life.

In today’s video John shared about risk-taking and reward.  He gave three questions that we should use to evaluate whether or not the reward was worth the risk (his questions in bold, with my thoughts following):

  • Are the potential rewards greater than the risk?  In other words, if you take action at this point, does the potential outcome outweigh the potential risk to attempting that action?  Most people just stop at the word “risk.”  What sets an individual apart who wants to live intentionally is the fact that risk doesn’t cause you to stop dead in your tracks.  Instead, risk is simply evaluated before action is taken.  Which brings us to John’s next question.
  • Is what you hope to do achievable?  Part of the process of risk assessment is taking the time to determine if the desired outcome is achievable.  So, we gather as many facts and details as we can about the situation.  Then, we move forward if we believe that what we are attempting is achievable.  If we determine that what we want to do is not achievable, then moving forward is not intentional living, but, rather, simply foolish.   For example, at 49 years of age and only 5′ 10″ tall, attempting to play basketball in the NBA is simply foolish.  No matter how hard I might try, I’m simply too advanced in years and vertically challenged to play with the big boys (my lame attempt at being politically correct).  Once we have determined that the reward is greater than the risk and that the outcome is achievable, then we have one last question to ask.
  • Can you recover from the downside?  If things don’t go as planned, could you recover from the failed attempt?  That is an important question.  Put in financial terms, what happens if you put your entire retirement savings into that new stock offering and it tanks.  Can you live without your retirement money?

Obviously, we are talking within the context of people – adding value to other people’s lives.  So, is the reward of investing time and energy into someone worth the potential outcome?  Is it achievable and what happens if it doesn’t work out?  Or, as John would put it, what happens when people disappoint you?

The application of the risk/reward questions is vast.

  • Is that new hire at your company worth the risk?  They are low on experience, but high on potential.  You think you can develop them into a productive employee, but what if you’re wrong and they fail miserably?
  • That potential ministry leader at your church – what if they fail and you lose both the ministry opportunity and the people involved in that ministry?  But, what if they succeed and the ministry touches many lives?

These are the types of questions we, as leaders, need to be asking on a daily basis.  Weigh the risk against the reward, then go and make a difference.

As for John, he would say “It’s worth taking a risk for people, because people have great value.”

ACTION STEP:  Identify one big risk you are considering taking right now.  List the answers to each of the three questions on a sheet of paper.  Before acting on it, think and pray about your potential decision.  If you feel the risk outweighs the reward, then stop.  But, if your answer to each of the three questions above is “yes,” then get to work and let nothing stop you – after all, it might just change your life, the other person’s life, or the life of your church or organization!

 

 

30 Days of Intentional Living

Day 11: Now is Always the Right Time to Make a Difference

Intentional Living Day 11

Today, John shared a quote from Andy Stanley. Andy said, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” Many times we look at a problem that deeply moves us and we get paralyzed by the complexity of the problem. So, instead of doing what we can right now with the resources that we’ve been given right now, we do NOTHING. Andy Stanley’s quote challenges us to start by doing for one person what you wish that you could do for everyone. What an amazingly simple way of getting started. Today is the time to make a difference in one person’s life. Will you accept the challenge?

A few years ago, the church that I was privileged to pastor raised money to build a well in Haiti. It was a life-changing decision for many. We sent the money through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries to build a well on the grounds of the Pernier Church of the Nazarene in Haiti. The wells provides fresh water to the people in the neighborhood surrounding the church. We couldn’t solve the entire water problem in the nation of Haiti, but we could help a few hundred people.

That experience has challenged me to help make a difference in the lives of more people in the nation of Haiti. Beginning in December 2015, Gentle Shepherd Church of the Nazarene (the church that I now pastor) raised money to build yet another well in another area of Haiti. As the well is being built, it too, will serve to provide fresh water to many families in one small town in Haiti.  My point in sharing this is simple. You and I have only one lifetime to make a difference in this world. I am choosing not to wait until I can solve the entire problem. Instead, I am choosing to be intentional by making a difference TODAY! Will you join me?

ACTION STEP:  What is the one problem that you wish you could solve if you only had the resources to do so?  Now, determine one small step you can take in solving that problem in the life of one person.  Finally, to use a slogan from the company Nike, just do it!  Remember, you can’t change the world, but you can change the world for one person.

30 Days of Intentional Living

Day 7: Your Second Clue About a Life That Matters

Intentional Living Day 7

Yesterday, we said that the first clue to gaining insight about a life that matters is to discover what moves you emotionally and makes you cry.  In other words, what makes your heart break over things that are wrong in the world.  You can see that post here.

The second clue to discovering a life that matters is to identify what makes you happy in life.  It is no surprise that, as leaders, what makes us cry and what makes us happy are closely intertwined.

In my last post I stated that what makes me emotional (i.e. cry) is people not living up to their God-given potential. As I reflected on today’s teachings, I quickly answered John’s question about what makes me happy (i.e. sing). It is simple. What makes me sing is helping someone to live up to their God-given potential – whether it is someone stepping across the line of faith and giving their lives to Christ, or someone who learns a new principle or teaching that opens up the door of potential in their lives. Adding value to others and helping them achieve success in their lives is a very fulfilling experience.

What I discovered in this lesson is that both are intertwined.  What makes me sing/happy in this life is helping to change the outcome of something that makes me emotional/cry.  Using the examples from my previous post…

  • Martial arts – helping that under-performing student discover and live up to their full potential.
  • Pastor – helping someone discover how God created them for a relationship with Him and for a purpose in this world.  As they discover that purpose in this world, they begin to live up to their full potential.
  • Coach – helping a church and its leaders discover how they can change a few simple things about their organizational systems and get great results in living up to their full potential in God’s Kingdom.
  • Business – helping a business owner or manager discover a few simple changes that make all the difference in how they relate to their customers and employees.  Then, the business begins to find it full potential in the community.

I’ve learned two steps to discovering a life that matters:  (1) what concerns me is people/organizations not living up to their full potential; and (2) what excites me is helping people/organizations live up to that full potential.

So, today, what makes YOU sing? You might just discover that the answer is closely related to the answer to the question of what makes you cry. Then, you, too, will have the second major piece of the puzzle to experiencing a life of intentional living. So, take a moment and discover a clue to living an intentional life.

ACTION STEP:  Take a few minutes right now to make a list of the things that make you sing (happy) in life.  As you read over your list, you’ll begin to discover your path to a life that matters.

30 Days of Intentional Living

Day 10: Help Someone Believe in Himself

Intentional Living Day 11

John started today’s lesson by asking the question “Who in your life needs to borrow your belief?” So many times people fail to accomplish their goals in life simply because they stop believing that they can make it to that goal. They are defeated even before they begin. So, John challenged us to share our belief with someone. By that, he means that we need to let someone know that we believe in them so strongly that our belief in them helps to raise them to a new level of success, thereby, adding value to their life.

I have a favorite phrase that I say whenever I have the opportunity. Your actions ALWAYS follow your beliefs. In the context of our faith in God, our actions will always follow what we believe about God. If we believe God is loving, then our actions will be loving. If we believe that God is harsh and is always beating us down, then we will beat down those around us to make them do what we want. Our actions ALWAYS follow our beliefs.

The same is true in your organization.  What you believe about the leaders of your organization will determine your actions.  If you believe your leaders have your best interests at heart, as well as the company’s, then you will perform well at your job in the company.  If you believe your leaders only have the company’s best interests at heart, then you will under-perform and be unfulfilled in your career.

The same is true of our belief in ourselves. If we believe that we accomplish a goal, then, no matter how hard the path or the obstacles in our way, we will accomplish that goal. However, if we believe that we cannot accomplish that goal, we may not even attempt to begin striving toward that goal. That is why John has suggested that we ‘loan our belief’ to someone else. When they don’t believe they can do it, we come alongside them and tell them that we believe they can do it. Then, as they begin the journey and get a few successes under their belt, they will begin to believe in themselves. It all begins with you and I demonstrating that we believe in someone.

The opposite can be true in our lives, as well.  Just yesterday, my younger son said “Dad, your being really harsh and negative.”  His comment was in relation to something I had just said about lack of hope about a positive outcome in a particular situation.  He and I both knew my comment was a comment of sarcasm toward the particular position we were discussing.  But, I was reminded how our words influence others.  If someone had heard our dialogue out of the context of the “sarcasm” in which it was intended, they might have thought we were being negative toward that particular situation and had no hope that anything would change.  The morale of the story – choose your words wisely and lend people a little bit of your belief that they can improve.

Who are you going to believe in today and how are you going to demonstrate that belief to them?

ACTION STEP:  Identify one person that you are going to encourage and build up the next time you see them.  Determine how you are going to do it and what you are going to say.  Then, intentionally encourage that person to believe in themselves and you will add value to their life.

Posting Issue Resolved

The issue that I had with posting to this blog has been resolved.  Unfortunately, that has meant that we are behind in getting our daily posts up for the 30 days journey.  I will post 2-3 posts per day until we are caught up.  Hopefully, you’ve continued in your 30 day journey each day.  Simply review that day that corresponds with my post and we’ll be back on track soon.  I apologize for any confusion this has caused you.

30 Days of Intentional Living

Day 9: Knowing What to Put In Your Calendar First

Intentional Living Day 9

When it comes to your calendar, either you will fill your calendar or someone else will. It is so easy to get your calendar filled with appointments that you fail to have time left for the important things in life. Today, John stressed the importance of placing time with your family in your calendar first. That way, they never receive the leftovers of your time. As pastors and leaders in the church, it is important to keep this a priority. However, there are times when our busy schedules takes us away from our family for longer periods of time. When that is the situation, trying to plan extra family time on either side of that time away whenever possible, shows them that they are an important part of your life.

We must remember that our families are vastly more important than our ministries. If you are having trouble with that statement, let me put it another way. Our families are the most important aspect of our ministries. Growing up as the son of a pastor, I learned from my father the importance of taking time for family in the midst of serving God in ministry. That is something that I trust I have passed along to my two adult sons. There are only three people in this world that have “interruption privileges” in my life – my wife and my two sons. At any time, they can contact me and “interrupt” my schedule if they need me. They can even interrupt me in a meeting if it is something time-sensitive and urgent.

Here is a list of some of the things that find their way onto my calendar BEFORE MY APPOINTMENTS:

  • My quiet time with God – time to pray, read the Bible, and reflect on what God says to me
  • My date night with my wife – plan a night each week where it is just you and your spouse and let nothing interfere with that time
  • My time with my family – even though my two sons are grown, when they are in town I prioritize time with them
  • My planning time – time away from the whirlwind of my busy schedule to spend some “balcony time” reflecting and planning for where I am heading nextMy vacation time – time away to recharge and rest
  • My growth time – time to study, attend a conference or an online webinar, or just read a book
  • Then, I plan my schedule and calendar my work/church responsibilities

How would your life change if you put your family in your schedule first?  How would it change if you put some of the other items in my list on your calendar first?

ACTION STEP:  Set aside 15 minutes to look at your schedule over the next month.  Plan in some of the things in my list, or make your own list of priorities.  Then, schedule the other events in your life.  Either you fill your schedule with what is important to you (intentionally), or someone will fill your schedule for you.  The choice is yours.