Category: Productivity

Why Time Matters

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I have noticed with increasing regularity our innate disregard for time. It is evidenced by medical practitioners who make us wait way beyond an appointment time, people that show up late for appointments, children with consistent lateness to school, leaders who begin meetings late, churches who start programs beyond the time advertised, church goers showing up late for church or those who are always “running late.”

More than 300 years ago, François Fénelon, a 17th century cleric, understood the value of time. He wrote, “Time is precious, but we do not know yet how precious it really is. We will only know when we are no longer able to take advantage of it…. Liberal and generous in every way, God in the wise economy of his providence teaches us how we should be prudent about the proper use of time. He never gives us two moments at the same time. He never gives us a second moment without taking away the first. And he never grants us that second moment without holding the third one in his hand, leaving us completely uncertain as to whether we will have it.” A.W. Tozer wrote, “Time is a resource that is nonrenewable and nontransferable. You cannot store it, slow it up, hold it up, divide it up or give it up. You can’t hoard it up or save it for a rainy day–when it’s lost it’s unrecoverable. When you kill time, remember that it has no resurrection.”

Time is precious and our most valuable commodity. Yet, as important as it is we seem to have a consistent disrespect for it. We use expressions like, “I’m just killing time” or “I’m just wasting time.” It is not until we are talking about time ending that we begin to quantify it, which is when we begin to say things like, “His days are numbered.” In all actuality our days have always been numbered. Literally every day, hour and minute of our lives should be numbered.

Ask a student who has failed a grade how important a year is; a mother giving birth to a premature baby how important a month is; a businessman whose flight was delayed how important an hour is; a man who had a heart attack requiring CPR how important a minute is; a person barely missing a head-on collision how important a second is or an Olympic athlete missing a gold medal how important a millisecond is.

Time matters because:

  1. It is a proof I live with principles. Time comes from God. It is a gift. It is so much of a gift that we call the very moment we are living in a “present.” A person who wastes time is wasting or not caring for a gift. If we can’t be trusted with time it can be easily argued that we can’t be trusted with money, gifts or opportunities. Being chronically late may be saying, “I can’t be trusted.” When we schedule an appointment we are establishing an opportunity to show that we are capable of doing what we say we will do. When I say, “I will meet you at 3:00 pm” and we show up at 3:15 pm it may be saying, “Don’t believe what I say.”
  1. It is proof I want to see progress. There can be no progress as long as we procrastinate. As we learn to live in the moment it becomes a catalyst to propel us into greater things in the future. The best predictor about tomorrow is my management, stewardship and decisions today.
  1. It is proof of how I see people. People are the prize and they should matter to us enough to give them our time, be on time and give us undivided time. When we give someone our time we are saying, “You matter to me because I am giving you what I can never be given back.” There will always be something else to do, somewhere else to be, an email or text message to check or a Facebook status to “like.”
  1. It is proof I have priorities. Saying, “Yes” to an activity, meeting or commitment is also saying “No” to another. Our calendar is a statement that we will not allow the moment to crowd out the important and that we are not victimized by the “tyranny of the urgent.” Priorities will always be scheduled and when they are we don’t miss those appointments because we have already determined it to be important to us. We don’t just miss dinner with the family, miss church, miss a meeting or miss a rehearsal but rather have chosen to not see it as a priority.
  1. It is proof I am clear on my purpose. When we are certain of what our God given assignment is we are less likely to accept meaningless and unproductive invitations. Our activities and commitments should strengthen and support our ultimate goals.
  1. It is proof that I am planning. Technically we don’t manage time we only manage ourselves. Stop saying, “I don’t have enough time” because we have as much as everyone else. Instead of starting with tasks, start with time allotments and plan what is needful and impactful for your life. Plan to be with God. Plan to be with family. Plan to be happy. Plan to finish school. Plan to retire. Plan to go to the doctor. Plan to take a vacation. Plan to sleep in. When we don’t plan for ourselves others are happy to do it for us and that can lead to a rather unfulfilling life.

God the provider of our time best communicates the urgency and importance of our time. Psalm 90:4 tells us, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” A “watch” was equivalent to three hours. If normal life expectancy is 70 years (Psalm 90:10) and a thousand years equals three hours, we find the following:

70 yrs. x 3 hrs. /1000 yrs. x 60 min/hr. = 12.6 min = 12 min 36 sec. So the next time you are late remember we only have 12 minutes and 36 seconds anyway.

Don’t let a life end waiting on you.

Why do you think time matters? I welcome your feedback

The “WELLS” we drink from

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Wells are not something we think about because we have ample clean water in this modern day culture of ours.

A well is basically a hole that has been drilled, bored or dug into the ground to access water. One of the first steps in establishing a healthy community is to ensure access to clean water. This clean water is necessary for drinking, sanitation and for irrigation. This requires someone dig a well, the people use the well and the well be protected from contamination and blockage. But my real interest in wells is not so much scientific or geological as it is metaphorical. I would have to credit former Morehouse College President Dr. Robert Franklin as the one who first got me thinking about wells when he established the expectations that all Morehouse Men must meet. Even in our daily conversations we subconsciously place a lot of emphasis on wells.

“All’s WELL that ends WELL”

“He’s alive and WELL”

“Leave WELL enough alone”

If we are going to do WELL, be WELL, represent WELL and finish WELL then someone is going to need to dig some WELLS, drink from those WELLS and maintain those WELLS. The Dominican priest and theologian Gustavo Gutierrez was correct when he said, “We Drink From Our Own Wells.” Could it be that our society is not healthy because one of the first steps to being healthy is clean water and in this modern culture of digital media, entertainment and influence we have begun ignoring our wells? I guess it is indeed true that “you never miss your water until your WELL runs dry.” What wells am I referring to?

Well ENGAGED – We must become more active and involved in our community and in the lives of our families. A lack of parenting coupled with complacency must be two of the more pressing issues of our day. When parents allow television programming to engage their child more than they do, there is a problem with the well. Television actually changes the way the brain develops, shortens attention span and even changes brain chemistry. Despite the digital craze around learning there is still no substitute for a caring adult in the life of a child.

Well EDUCATED – It is a “type of salvation.” No, education can’t get me to heaven but is sure makes the trip around earth a lot easier. The world is changing and we must keep pace. Education is vital to advance contributions to civic, political and community life. Education is necessary for its role in advancing social justice and to open the worlds of cultural and artistic excellence. Being well educated means being well read. It is too much we need to learn to ever have gaps of idle time. We should always have a book with us. Until we, as a society, value conjugating the verb “ to be” as valuable as running a touch down, dunking a basketball or gyrating on stage then the water of a respectful, balanced society will not flow.

Well EMPLOYED – Work will always be a tool for life fulfillment. I am grateful for the work ethic instilled in me by my parents. It is this work ethic that breaks the spirit of entitlement and ensures that we contribute to our surroundings. Everyone should be required to do something in the place they dwell in. If everyone in the home benefits from the environment then each person should have a definite, measurable and active role to play while there. It is dangerous to raise children who will become adults with an unrealistic, unmerited expectation of a favorable outcome at the hands of someone else. Watch how easy it is for a person to eat your food and leave the plate on the table or to walk past something on the floor or to leave a bed unmade.

Well ENTRUSTED – Integrity is always going to be en vogue. Whatever we do we should do it well and to the best of our ability. We should finish what we start; return things where we got them; pay back the money we borrow; keep our promises; be punctual; not allow circumstance to dictate our behavior; and just learn to show up.

Well EXPOSED – There is more to life than the family, county, city or school I grew up a part of. Until we learn to value experiences more than things we will forever be stuck in a shallow world that only the least desirable fish swim in. Exposure, especially through travel is a means of personal development and aids us in both appreciating where we come from while simultaneously creating in us a desire for better.

Well EXPRESSED – Before people really know us all they can do is see us and hear us, so self-expression through our wardrobe and our words become paramount. We have always worn clothes so I guess this well has just become contaminated and is evidenced when pajamas are worn in public; underclothes are readily displayed; sunglasses are worn inside; women abandon dresses and men disdain a blazer and tie. Compare the attire and apparel of the college students sitting at the Woolworth counter in 1960 to protest segregation and the college student of today or the clothing worn while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge bridge-crossing compared to clothing today while just crossing the street sagging-pants

Our words are representing us no better. We must be well spoken and strive for meaningful and valuable conversation learning how to effectively communicate our complex emotions and ideas.

Well ESTABLISHED – This means we must become grounded enough and stable enough to be able to give back to our society. Whether we are a Jew embracing the Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם) meaning “repairing the world” or “perfecting the world; “ A Muslim paying Zakat (a proportion of surplus wealth which must be given on a yearly basis to poor and the needy) and voluntary charity; or A Christian loving our neighbor as ourselves and being our brothers keeper we all have a personal responsibility to be keepers of the wells that other people will drink from. When we are mindful of the wells we are digging and the wells we are drinking from I would imagine we could all say, “It is WELL with my soul.”

What WELLS would you add to my list to ensure our society remain healthy? I welcome your feedback.

Determined To Thrive

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For a season of my life I worked as a Pharmacy Technician in a local hospital while paying my way through college. My job was to fill prescription drug orders for inpatients. One of my assigned areas was the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It was not uncommon to read on the patient record the diagnosis, FTT. FTT was short for Failure To Thrive. When a child is below a healthy weight and shows evidence of being underdeveloped he/she is given this diagnosis. Typically FTT is discovered during infancy and can be a result of any number of causes. What is interesting is that even if you have many healthy organs and normal operating systems, the entire person is still considered FTT.

Such is the case with many of us. We have areas in our lives where things are in order and operating in a healthy manner yet there is still that underlying issue that has consistently gone unaddressed and as a result we fail to thrive. Consider the potential impact of a toothache. Your heart, lungs and every major organ in your body could be operating perfectly. But an aching tooth could easily render you ineffective, distracted and uncomfortable. In the same way we must address as a lifestyle our wholistic health. What does it mean to thrive? To thrive is “to increase in stature; grow vigorously; to prosper in any undertaking.”

We are all familiar with the expression, “taking two steps forward and one back.” Thriving is about addressing the entire person. Thriving is about ensuring we continue taking steps forward and when we must take a step back it is part of an intentional strategy to exponentially and synergistically improve our lives. Thriving is about cultivating the entire person, specifically:

  • Spiritually because only a Biblically based value system and personal relationship with God is able to empower us in a way that stands the test of both time and eternity. Our value system cannot be built on the shaky foundation of culture, politics, race or socioeconomics. Only a foundation of truth is solid enough to not collapse under the weight of personal agenda, bigotry and injustice.
  • Physically because God still places his Spirit inside of a body. When we are sick, tired or out of shape it has an adverse effect on how we perform tasks and responsibilities. What I put in my body; where I take my body; Who I let touch my body and what I do with my body all impact to what extent I thrive.
  • Emotionally because it is unhealthy to ignore our emotions and they’re ability to be used by God to assist us in decision making. Although we should not make emotional decision we should also not make decisions before we have taken the time to inventory, assess and address our feelings. Grief, anger, fear, joy, trust are all God given. Learning to process our emotions is a necessary practice.
  • Socially because relationships matter. The state of our family matters, as do our friendships and casual fellowships. Those we spend time with have a powerful and valuable “banking property.” We give them “card access” to our time, feelings, dreams, resources, ideas, experiences and mind and on a regular basis and in many instances a daily basis, transactions are being made. If we wouldn’t trust a person to our ATM card with the pin we should question why we give them access to our personal resources that are much more valuable than money. Our time should be spent with those who already value themselves, are willing to make an investment in others and are willing to participate in a mutually beneficial relationship.
  • Intellectually because good decision-making requires critical thinking and the ability to synthesize a variety of data. Reading and exposure to multiple facets of life and the world around us ensures we understand our options and the consequences to our choices.
  • Financially because it costs money to live in this society. Without the ability to knowledgeably earn, invest, spend and give we place ourselves in a perpetual cycle of “time for money.” Eventually we run out of money before we run out of time. The objective is for our money to outlast our time.

You might be now wondering, “How in the world do I balance all of this?” This is perhaps one of the most practical aspects of Christianity. Our Christian beliefs are holistic. We believe that everything is within the purposes of God and the care and growth of the total person is in perfect harmony with God’s redemptive purposes. More and more I am convinced that we dishonor the name of Christ when we “cherry pick” the aspect of life we are most proficient at and ignore the others in some ritual of self-glorification. The man who manages his money wisely but ignores his obesity is no more justified than the man who is in great physical health but refuses to pay his debts. The church protesting abortion but ignoring racism and injustice is no more validated than the church protesting racism and injustice but ignoring abortion. The Deacon who teaches Sunday school but pays his employees poorly is no more justified than the member who misses Sunday school so they can work overtime. It is this lack of balance that is causing our failure to thrive.

Will you join me with a lifestyle change that will result in our determination to thrive?

What will you do to thrive? What area of your life is lacking and has the greatest potential to cause you to FTT?

I welcome your feedback.

Depression from a Pastor’s perspective

images-23The recent apparent suicide of famed actor and comedian Robin Williams was my motivation to address the greatly misunderstood and under recognized issue of depression. This blog is way overdue, as this same tragedy has hit the church community several times this past year. Many have heard the story of the most famous and popular clown in harlequinade and pantomime. His name was Joseph Grimaldi. He was known for making audiences laugh as he entertained them in ways people had never seen. At an early age he was forced into retirement due to medical and mental ailments. The doctors not knowing what to do for him thought that what he needed most was a good healthy dose of laughter so they recommend he go see the performance of the clown named, “Grimaldi.” He then looked at the doctor and responded, “I am he.” Grimaldi died penniless at the age of forty-five.

It is wrongly assumed that fame, money, success and influence disqualify a person from exhaustion and depression. It does not. Too many of us have what the 16th-century Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross calls, the “Dark Night of the Soul.”

Some of the most gifted, anointed and intelligent people can suffer from depression. Musical genius Ludwig van Beethoven, The Presbyterian minister and president of Princeton, Ashbel Green, Super Bowl Quarterback Terry Bradshaw, thirtieth United States President Calvin Coolidge, Princess Diana, writer Charles Dickens, novelist Ernest Hemingway, singers Billy Joel and Janet Jackson and even in the Bible we find King David, Elijah, Nehemiah and I would even argue Jesus Christ himself for a brief moment while in the Garden of Gethsemane all battle bouts or moments of depression.

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of inadequacy, dejection and despondency. Depression is that “thing” that eats away at your insides causing you to feel less than. Depression is that feeling of aloneness in a room full of people. Depression is that feeling of maybe everyone would be better if I weren’t here. Depression is the feeling of it’s never enough, I just can’t do this, no one understands me, and no one is for me. Depression can be painful and disabling. Just as we must fight to keep the weight off in a physical sense, we must fight to keep the weight off in an emotional sense. Maintaining emotional health must become a priority for people that are in the public eye and have high demands and expectations placed on them. I can write first hand about this because very few occupations and callings carry the high percentage of alcoholism, drug use, suicide and depression as Pastoral ministry. According to the New York Times, “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade their life expectancy has fallen.” Whatever your occupation allow me to share some of my thoughts on how to battle this demon of depression.

  • Have a healthy outlet. Too often our outlets become activities that are equally damaging to us as the depression. Eating and drinking are NOT good outlets. I recommend some type of physical, recreational and preferably outside activity. One of my favorite outlets is my motorcycle.
  • Get missing. Only God is omnipresent. Too often we function as if we need to be at everything. We do not. Choose wisely and as far in advance as possible what you will attend and don’t let people guilt trip you for not being available all the time. The Bible says of God that He doesn’t slumber or sleep. We need to do both.
  • Get off the roller coaster. If you like rides then go to an amusement park but don’t allow people or positions to take you for a ride. Being up one hour and down the next can slam wear you out. Learn to manage your expectations, not stretch the reality of things, be honest with yourself and know your triggers and buttons.
  • Live between the “C’s.” We all have two sets of extremes in our lives. We have the critics on one end who regardless of what we do find fault and something negative to offer as if we have been placed on this earth to please them and them alone. Or we have the compliments on the other extreme where no matter what they keep stroking your ego and patting you on the back even when it isn’t warranted. Ignore both and live between the two. The reality is we allow people to pull us in their direction and this pull can be taxing and overwhelming. None of us are as good as everyone says nor as bad so maintain a healthy and balanced self-perception that isn’t dictated by others.
  • Seek professional help. Especially us “Christians.” If someone gives their life to Christ and hobbles down the isles of some church with a cane because they have a broken leg you are going to encourage them to go to the doctor and get a splint or cast placed on it. In the same regard mental illness requires medical attention and not just spiritual anecdotes. There is nothing wrong with going to a counselor, support group or seeking medical attention.
  • Get a life. Despite what we have been told we are not what we do. We are human beings and not human doings. We function best when we learn to “be” before we learn to “do.” Too many of us have an identity crisis and we see ourselves in light of our occupations or relationships. This is an unhealthy view of your true self.
  • Turn off. Too often we are expected to be “on” all the time. We all need people and environments that love us and accept us when we aren’t on our best behavior and having our best thoughts. We all need a safe place to be vulnerable and unprotected. A place where our hair isn’t in place, clothes aren’t ironed, face isn’t shaved, words aren’t being measured and struggles aren’t being judged.

My heart goes out to the people who have lost family members and friends due to depression. May we all learn to manage our mental health and be mindful of the pressure we place on others and ourselves.

What do you recommend as a possible solution to help battle depression? I welcome your feedback.

10 Life Lessons from March Madness

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Who doesn’t love the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness? There was a time in my life that I would be able to attend many of the games in person but the demands of pastoral ministry in North Carolina have left that near impossible these past nine years. So, like many NCAA enthusiasts I am resigned to living out the excitement at home as I check my brackets on a weekly basis. The odds makers stated that eighty percent of everyone that completed a bracket had lost after the first game. My final four brackets had Florida vs. Virginia in the South and East and Baylor vs. Michigan in the West and Midwest with Florida wining it all. I still predict Florida to win it all but I must say I am still a sucker for the underdog so for the fun of it I am giving Kentucky my vote. But the real value of the NCAA Tournament for me is in the life lessons. The games were more meaningful for me to watch, as I stayed clued in for how I could relate it back to everyday life. As you watch the Final Four consider some of these lessons:

  1. I don’t always get to play another game. So often in life we approach our opportunities, friendships and relationships like we always have tomorrow. There is a day called, “too late” when we no longer get to pursue our greatest dreams, hopes and aspirations. While you are still playing (have life) pursue your greatest hopes now, while you can.
  2. Games are won when the basics are mastered. I remember my father teaching me how to dribble a basketball when I was a very small child. He placed folding chairs in the basement of our home teaching me to dribble with both hands. Yes, we see remarkable plays but the team that can make free throws, dribble, pass, play solid defense and make few mistakes is going to win the game. Like life, games are won not based on sensational play but solid and stable play. Spend your life being solid, making few mistakes and being accountable and responsible on the court of life.
  3. My weakest areas must be developed. I am sure we have all seen games lost over missed free throws or low percentage shooting. In life, we assume that our strength in an area will automatically compensate for my weakness in another. This is not true. I have seen preachers with great style but no substance. This is always a formula for long- term failure. Each of us must identify where we are weak and then develop a strategy for strengthening that area. It is in the strengthening of our weaknesses that we take the strain off of our strengths. This is essential because when our strengths get strained they get reduced to weaknesses.
  4. My mental game is as important as my physical game. Have you ever seen players make mental mistakes? Of course. This is usually a result of fatigue or frustration. Games are lost when our head is not in it. This is where compartmentalization comes in. We must learn to focus on the matter at hand. Admittedly, this is a difficult discipline. I am learning this requires a regular purging of the emotions that are not associated with my current activity. In basketball this means not allowing the frustration of the last play to hinder me on this next possession. Keep the past in the past. Keep the present in the right container remembering that not everything even deserves a container.
  5. Learn to anticipate what’s next. Rebounding is so important in basketball because you can’t score without the ball. Time of possession in every sport is important. Anticipating when and where the ball is coming off the rim or backboard is required to be a good rebounder. So often in life opportunities pass us by because we had no clue what was about to happen next. One reason I have learned to pay attention to politics is that very little happens over night. A new or expanded highway may take five or ten years to complete but the result is a subsequent increase in real estate values. When we have an idea of what is next we can be in place ahead of time and benefit from good positioning.
  6. Assists matter. One of my old basketball coaches would remind us that there needed to be “three touches” before someone shot the ball. Nobody likes a “ball hog.” When I was running ball in North Philadelphia, it was not uncommon to hear someone say, “Give up the rock, man.” In basketball and in life we must learn to share the ball and to help other people score. We all win when the people we share life and experiences with succeed.
  7. Expect the unexpected. In any NCAA game an upset is possible. A key player can be injured or just have a bad game or some ninth or tenth man could get hot from just past the arc and have the game of his life. Yes, anything is possible. I am learning to live my life with a spirit of expectation and anticipation because any day could just be the day when the unthinkable and unexplainable occurs in my life. I look forward to that day.
  8. A work ethic is essential. Hustle, man! I loathe seeing an easy score because an opposing team didn’t hustle down the court. I learned from my father the value of hard work. The game is played on both sides of the court and both require our absolute best efforts. Too often we turn in marginal or sub-par performances because we simply didn’t give it our best.
  9. Don’t wait until game day to make the play. I remember be a young minister laying out my Bible on the iron board and preaching my sermon in the mirror. I still made mistakes in the pulpit but I made fewer of them because I was already working on the plays. Practice. Practice. Practice. And remember it is not practice that makes the master but perfect practice makes the master.
  10. Everyone needs a coach. Those players aren’t out there by themselves and we are not in this life by ourselves.They have people to develop their skills, draw up plays and evaluate their performance. All of us need people in our lives to evaluate us on the court of life. With each passing day I am learning the value of having people that can speak into my life and that I will actually listen to. They are making me better.

Who did you have winning the NCAA Championship?

What life lesson have you learned?

I welcome your feedback.

Life and Daytona Beach Bike Week

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Every year I make my annual pilgrimage to Daytona Beach, Florida for Bike Week. No year seems to be a good year to go with the demands of my schedule but I find a way to get there on Wednesday and to return home on Saturday so I can be back in the pulpit Sunday morning to preach. This year was no exception. After driving all night I checked in at the hotel in Palm Coast and early Thursday afternoon started riding. As usual, the ride was an amazing outlet. I thought I’d share some of the discoveries I had this year.

Scenery. Deciding to skip the fast route on Interstate 95, we made our way down to Route AIA, which is Ocean Shore Blvd. The view is breathtaking as you travel south for 20 miles or so through Flagler Beach, Ormond Beach and into Daytona. You are literally yards from the beach and ocean and during most of the ride you are looking toward the water in awe of the ocean and the beauty of nature. The only thing missing is the sound of the waves beating against the beach but the pipes on my bike won that war. It made me realize the importance of changing our scenery and our environments. Too often we become complacent and an occasional change in our lens is helpful for gaining an appreciation for all that life has to offer. Maybe it isn’t a ride in Florida but could just as easily be a stroll in the park, a day at the state park, a walk around a museum or an hour drive in any direction. We can be so busy moving fast that we neglect to enjoy the scenery and lose awareness of where we are going and why.

Stories. You have to go to Bike Week to appreciate it fully. But, every imaginable motorcycle is there and every type of rider. Everyone from laborers and lawyers, divas and doctors, executives and engineers, bankers and bakers, preachers and politicians, teachers and techies. We come from every state and many foreign countries. I could not help but to think, “man, we all have a story.” Some of us were there to run away and others were there to just get away. Some were divorced, some happily married and some widowers. Some had Ph.D.’s and others less than a GED. Yes, we all had stories. Isn’t that just like life? Everyone we encounter has some background, some past, some history with them. We should be careful in judging anyone. The important thing isn’t what you are riding or what you come from but rather the fact that you are still around to enjoy the ride and to finish telling your story.

Starts. I for one was there to start over in some areas of my life. As I rode and contemplated my life, the people in my life and the decisions of my life all I could think was this could be a defining moment for me. What if I could go back new, clearer, more resolute and more determined? What if I could begin again? Clearly, I couldn’t be the only one of over half a million bikers making some decisions as he rode. Life is that way. At some point what matters is our willingness to begin again. We all have the power of choice. We can choose to be different and we can choose to be better. And we can make that choice today.

Soul. Probably my favorite thing to do at Daytona is to go over to Mary McLeod Bethune Drive and hang out in the “hood.” This is unofficially called the “dark side.” The music, the food and the people watching can keep you busy for hours. It was my reminder not to neglect the soul. The soul houses our intellect, will and emotion. Spend some time catering to that part of you that feeds your personality. It’s ok to do your dance, hang with the folks and enjoy culture. Caesar Chavez, a civil rights activist and co-founder of the National Farm Worker’s Association said, “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.”

Support. Twice while in Daytona I witnessed riders who dropped their bikes. You have to understand the bike I ride is almost 900 lbs. Many bikes are much heavier than that. Often when you drop your bike you need help to get it back up. I am always in awe of the bike culture and how we quickly run to each other’s rescue. No one cares why the bike was dropped. What we care about is getting that rider back up and on their bike. People will stop riding and begin to run to the succor of that other rider who almost invariably is a total stranger. Yes, some riders drop their bike because of their own neglect and other times because of poor judgment or uncontrollable road conditions. None of that matters to us. What matters is getting that bike up and making sure our fellow rider is able to go again. In life we all drop our bikes. Those bikes might be in the form of relationships, finances, health, reputation, careers, decisions or family. If we could adapt this same perspective of helping each other up rather than talking about why a person has fallen or ignoring their fall or even speculating how many other times they have fallen that we didn’t know about. Help somebody up. Get somebody riding again because after all one day you may drop your bike and when you do, wouldn’t it be great if someone just helped you up and left you with your dignity and hope for the future as you kept on riding.

What outlet do you have and what life lesson is it teaching you? I welcome your feedback. 

The Five Absolutes of Achievement

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The Eighth Commandment admonishes us not to steal. Embedded in this Biblical standard is the expectation that we obtain, achieve, possess. There are only three ways we can obtain anything. First, by gift. These are those possessions that we have done nothing to earn but someone has found us fitting enough and deserving enough of them. Air and water are two great gifts that we rarely think twice about and of course the greatest gift is our salvation. Second, by work.  Work was created before Adam sinned and must never be viewed as a result of sin. Actually, it is a sin NOT to work. When we receive as a result of our work it produces a sense of self-worth and self-respect. We must be mindful that most of what we will ever possess comes by way of our working for it. Yes, occasionally I may get a good grade because the exam was graded on a curve (gift) but generally my grades in both the classroom and life are a result of our work ethic. We are entitled to very little in this life. Most of what we will experience and enjoy will be the result of sweat, labor, blood, tears and sacrifice. Finally, by theft. This is the whole reason for God telling us not to steal. In this life there will be moments when all the gifts have been opened and when we have acquired all we can through our hard work and gaps will still remain. When those gaps surface when our deepest longings and desires are yet to be fulfilled we must trust the timing of God. I am learning that acquiring by ill gain is far worse than not having at all. When these moments surface and they will for all of us, keep these five imperatives in mind and do your best to practice them.

Prioritize your time. We have all been allotted only so much time and even the longest life is short in view of eternity. A.W. Tozer once wrote, “Time is a resource that is nonrenewable and nontransferable… when it is lost it is unrecoverable. When you kill time, remember that it has no resurrection.” Achievement requires great time management. I am relentlessly working on getting everyone and everything that matters to me on my schedule. More and more I am learning that if I do not schedule it, it probably will not get done. I am also learning that idle time is still the devil’s playground. People that are busy doing things that matter don’t have time to do things they will regret.

Perfect your titles. We all have them, Janitor, Teacher, Doctor, Attorney, Husband, Wife, Student, Pastor, Christian, etc. As we take a step back to consider what these titles mean – the characteristics, expectations, demands and potential results – it will challenge us to recommit ourselves to be the best of it we can possibly be. Too often, we are more focused on getting to the next rung of the ladder having not steadied ourselves and mastered the rung we are on. Additionally, we must be careful not to claim titles we are simply not deserving of. Too often we exaggerate our accomplishments and apply it as a topical sedative over our failures and like of drive with the hope of numbing ourselves from the truth that we can do better and we have not earned it yet.

Participate with your talents. Each of us has been given very unique and specific gifts from God. My experience is people are successful in the area or areas they have been gifted to be successful in. Writers rarely become successful by playing athletics. Baseball players don’t become successful playing hockey. When we endeavor to gain our success in areas outside our place of giftedness or “calling” we steal the needed investment capital from the area of my purpose. Most of us need all the time and effort we can muster to achieve and rarely do we have the luxury of expending the time, energy or resources in other endeavors. I am convinced that each of us can live a good life when we identify and commit ourselves to a very unique role and specific assignment. You have something that is marketable to our society. Find it, focus on it and relentlessly invest in it and you.

Present your tithe. Obviously as a Christian I believe in giving ten percent of my income to God through a local church. The significance of this strategy is first to teach us about prioritizing our finances. It is to teach us that not all we attain or achieve is for us. It is to teach us that the real measure of our worth is not found in our money. It is to teach us that there are no free lunches and that each of us has a proportionate, proper and perpetual responsibility to give. Our achievement cannot be money motivated. Our earnings are a by-product of our calling but not the reason for our calling. I have often said, “I don’t Pastor to live but rather I live to Pastor.”

Publicize your testimony. Share your story because you have one. Our forward focused mentality can often rob us of the encouragement of our previous successes and the distances we have already traveled. It is true that although we may not be where we ultimately desire we are not where we used to be. Look in the mirror from time to time and speak to yourself about yourself and celebrate how far up the ladder you have gotten and let that be motivation for you and for others to take another step today.

Success like failure may not be an exact science but it is a deliberate one. Whatever you want in your life you must be intentional about it. If you intend on achieving you must be absolute about it.

What is your absolute for achievement?

The Twelfth Man

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Admittedly, I am not a huge football fan although I do like the game. My point is I don’t like it enough to write a blog about it as I am far from an expert and certainly not a sports columnist. However, something occurred in professional football this past Monday night and I felt compelled to write about it. The irony is what occurred was probably more about what happened in the stadium than on the field.

As the Seattle Seahawks went about an easy defeat of the New Orleans Saints a sound was heard from the 68,000+ fans in the stadium. This sound was so loud it actually registered the equivalent of a 1 or 2-magnitude earthquake. The University of Washington operates a seismometer near the stadium that was able to register the stomping of the crowd as an actual earthquake. It reportedly was so loud in that stadium that another 12 more decibels would have resulted in ear drums beginning to rupture. This is the power of the twelfth man.

In a football game, each team is allowed eleven players on the field. When the fans in the stadium begin to harness their energy in the form of cheering, clapping and stomping, it results in the effect of an additional player being on the field, thus the term “twelfth man.” It teaches us that the presence of fans can have a profound impact on performance. It got me to thinking how much more productive our lives might be with the presence of people or several people who were there to encourage us, inspire us and motivate us. Too few of us have a cheering squad or a fan base to help keep us energized. Too often the activity on the sidelines of life can be that of criticism, cynicism and complaint. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” I am convinced that most people are just a single step or decision away from significant life change, yet just prior to taking the step they get discouraged. It is the presence of the twelfth man, that encourager, which will make the difference. Encouragement is so necessary that not even God leaves His will, anointing and his favor alone without it. I know that this is a possibly highly controversial statement but the Book of Acts proves this point. Barnabas was called the “son of encouragement” and he played a critical role in motivating others during the formation of the early church.

Consider these techniques to become that force of encouragement for someone or said another way, the playbook for the twelfth man:

Point. Point out what people are doing right and not just what they are doing wrong. Too often we are slow to speak when something is right but quick to speak when something is wrong. As you witness a person growing, making good choices or even their attitude improving, it is a motivator when you point it out to them. Words are very impactful. A kind and encouraging word can take a person far on their journey while a harsh word could be the proverbial nail in their coffin.

Pray. We can’t always be present with the people we desire to inspire nor can we always get them on the phone so when these times of physical distance are present, pray for them. I am learning that prayer transcends both place and time. A prayer that is whispered to God today may stay suspended in the atmosphere for years until God is ready to move on it. This means prayer is never a wasted activity. I do caution you to be honest regarding whom you are praying for. If you tell someone that you are praying for them, then please be praying for them. It is encouraging to know that others are sharing their personal God moments with us.

Purge. Take something off of someone. Discouragement is often a result of workload, fatigue and failure. Too often we stand idle gazing at the juggling act while never offering to take one of the balls up in the air ourselves. In similar fashion purging is about being careful what we add to the plate of other people. I am certain we can all think of many examples when someone else could have been asked and not the person we see who is already overloaded and burdened down.

I am convinced that many people who had great potential, promise and purpose never fully evolved into all that was possible because they were missing one thing – the twelfth man. The game changes when the encourager is missing.

Who has been your twelfth man and who are you the twelfth man for?

A Wasted Mind

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The slogan, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste,” has remained unchanged for more than three decades. Launched in 1972 to encourage Americans to support the United Negro College Fund, this campaign has helped raise billions of dollars and has helped to graduate more than 350,000 minority students from college. One of my former mentors, now deceased Pastor, Congressman and UNCF President, William “Bill” Gray probably did more to champion these efforts than anyone in history. Now this slogan has become part of the American vernacular and the one that I blog about today.

In this writing I would like to encourage us to be diligent and intentional about not wasting our mind.

The mind is complex. Nerves reach from your brain to your face, ears, eyes, nose, and spinal cord… and from the spinal cord to the rest of your body. Sensory nerves gather information from the environment around you; send that information to the spinal cord, which then speeds the message to the brain. The brain then makes sense of that message and fires off a response. Motor neurons deliver the instructions from the brain to the rest of your body. The spinal cord, made of a bundle of nerves running up and down the spine, is similar to a superhighway, speeding messages to and from the brain at every second. In any given second there could be an accident on this “neurological superhighway.” Since the traffic is already heavy, it would be smart to be selective around what you allow to enter onto this highway.

The Bible is clear in it’s teaching that how a man thinks determines what manner of man he really is. Proverbs 23:7 tells us, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…

John Milton, the famed 17th century English writer of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, wrote – “The mind is it’s own place and in the mind we can make heaven of Hell or hell from Heaven.”

The mind is very important! Whatever a person focuses his mind upon is what that person reproduces in his life!  We need to monitor what’s on our mind.

Our thinking affects how we feel. In you are experiencing frequent emotional ups and downs, your feelings reveal where your mind is focused. Not only does our thinking affect how we feel, it determines our final destiny. How is this possible? Thoughts become words. Words become actions. Actions become habits. Habits determine character. Character drives your destiny. In a very real way our thoughts become self- fulfilled prophesies so we must guard what we think about. Here are three “mind wasters” to be aware of:

 Indifference is a waste of your mind

This happens when we refuse to think about anything. Our minds are muscles that must be exercised. As I travel nationally there seems to be an increase of people that simply don’t desire to build their mind. I am learning that we must “do the hard work” of not being idle in the mind. With the rise of social media, videos and television it is so easy to find us attracted to entertaining people who are also empty people. When I leave the home each day I put some effort into how I look. In the same way there should be effort put into what’s in and on our minds. If my shoes are filled with feet, my shirt filled with a chest, arms and a neck and my pants with a waste and hips and legs then shouldn’t my head be filled with a fully formed and functioning mind? Care about what’s on your mind.

 Ignorance is a waste of your mind

I don’t know if there is a more fertile place for negativity and failure to incubate than in ignorance. My personal definition for ignorance is a “dark place in my mind.” It is difficult to make good, healthy choices if we are stumbling around in darkness. Yet, the moment light is introduced it changes my entire landscape. It is important that we develop our minds both wide and deep. There should be some areas of interest that we possess detailed information (deep) and there should be many areas that we know something about – enough to hold an intelligent conversation or at least ask a relevant question (wide). What little do you know a lot about and what a lot do you know a little about?

 Inundation is a waste of your mind

To be inundated is to be overwhelmed or flooded by things or people to be dealt with. When the activity of our mind is more about what I am thinking about then it is about what I am doing with my thoughts then I have arrived at an unhealthy state of mind. Too often we get so absorbed and taken over by our thought patterns that it leaves us incapacitated and incapable of moving forward. Healthy thoughts don’t keep us in the bed feeling sorry for ourselves but rather motivate us to get out the bed and to do something significant with this life we have been given. The lowest form of our thinking is about people followed by events. The highest form of our thinking is around concepts and opportunities. Be careful when your thought life has you so preoccupied with individuals that there is no room for ideas.

Perhaps you can identify an activity or characteristic of a wasted mind. What are you doing to keep from wasting your mind? Please share in the comments area of my blog and thank you for reading.

I’m A Quitter

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The older I get and I suppose the wiser I become I see that much of the wisdom of my youth was flawed and stifling to my growth. Incessantly it was drilled into my young mind that, “quitters never win” or “nobody likes a quitter.” It seemed sound advice but I have learned that the opposite is true. You need to be a quitter to win. And so I confess to the world and hope you will also that, “I’m a quitter.”

The kind of quitting I am talking about isn’t about weakness but rather about strength. It isn’t about defeat but rather victory. It isn’t about giving up but rather finding a way to continue on. I had no idea I was living a life of such disillusionment. I was really living in a world of pretend perfection and every time I discovered something wasn’t really perfect, and after all what is, I was ready to give up that thing rather than to just quit believing my own illusions. So when we discover that our child, spouse, mate, church, Pastor, parent or career isn’t perfect we don’t quit the relationship but instead we quit having the illusion of perfection.

Just quit!

I can’t begin to tell you how often I prayed for God to give me strength and to be totally transparent often I did not feel like He did and I could never understand why. Now, I know it was because God never strengthens us in support of the wrong things only the right things. Let me illustrate this point. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 22 Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives to pray. When he arrives he prays “this cup pass from me.” Meaning I want to quit doing my assignment. Then when he announces he instead will quit desiring his own will we are told that an angel comes to strengthen him. He is not strengthened to quit the assignment he is only strengthened when he quits to the thing that is holding him back. The problem wasn’t his assignment of the cross. His problem was his own will. Only when we die to the right things can we live for the right things.

Such is the case in our lives. We also will go through seasons of wanting to walk away which means we will come to the point of recognizing the only way to move forward is to quit. The problem surfaces when we don’t spend the additional time being clear what exactly we should be quitting. So when these moments of quitting come, I should not quit the marriage, the relationship, the church or the ministry. Instead I should quit listening to gossip, quit being arrogant, quit being sensitive, quit being judgmental, quit having a critical spirit, quit being defensive, quit lying, quit looking for my worth apart from God. This one simple yet profound strategy can and will save you from years of heartache.  Have you ever notice how often the same emotions and challenges occur even though the relationship or the church or the job is different? This is because the real issue wasn’t what you were in. The real issues were those things surrounding it that was stealing the life from it. Here are four thoughts to help you die to the right things.

  1.  Know yourself. We all know what gives us life. We know what wears us out and what excites us. Retain that which gives you life and remove that which doesn’t. For example, does your church give you life? Probably, yes! Does the gossip you hear in the church give you life? Probably, not! Then quit! Quit gossip but not church. You can go through this same exercise with every other relationship and activity in your life.
  2. Don’t be arrogant. We exercise certain arrogance when we have convinced ourselves that we don’t need to experience any suffering, pain or loss. Think about the advice we get, “you don’t need to go through that.” Well, maybe what I should be dying to be not this temporary feeling of pain but this permanent attitude I have developed that life is only beautiful and never hard. Remember, there is a season for everything.
  3. It’s okay to be vulnerable. We have a need to be powerful, strong and self-reliant. When we are controlled by this attitude of always being against something and having to always stand up for ourselves and something then we miss the opportunity to show those that matter in our lives that we are safe and approachable.
  4. It’s okay to be wrong. Many of us will win the argument and the debate but it will cost us the relationship. Instead of dying to the relationship perhaps we could die to our need to always be right.

I’m a quitter. I quit letting anger, fear, bitterness, resentment and sin introduce me, make decisions for me and represent me to others. Too many of us are not known apart from these emotions. When you finally quit you will not lose your self but rather you will finally have a self. We are the sum total of all we allow to live in our lives. It’s time to die to the right things.

What are you going to quit? I welcome your feedback.