3 Questions that Can Change Your Life – Really

3questionsAre you grappling with important questions?

Some people are preoccupied with their image.  (How do I look?)

Some are preoccupied with their success.  (How can I win?)

Others, however, have discovered that one’s life can really change for the good when you deal with some very important questions.

  1. The question of character.  What is the most important thing in life to you?
  2. The question of legacy.  What do you want to be known for at the end of your life?
  3. The question of the present.  At this stage in your journey, what do you need to learn next?

(Thanks to Walter Wright for these three questions found in Mentoring, pp. 2-3.)

Some of us consider such questions but seem to think our thoughts are enough.  Consequently, while we may say what we believe to the the most important thing in life, our actions do not reflect such values.  Or, we may tell others what we want to be known for at the end our our life but them allow our compulsive desires to determine what we do.

Dealing with these questions are game-changers!

What Has Helped Me With Fear

fear (2)Fear.  We have all experienced it.

Of course our fear is expressed in a variety of ways.  Yet some will declare that they have no fear.  When I hear someone desperately trying to convince another of their fearlessness, most of the time it is unconvincing.  In fact, such declarations often leave me wondering why they are so determined to convince another of their fearlessness.

When I hear a person candidly tell another that she or he is sometimes afraid, terrified, nervous, worried or scared, I know I am dealing with someone who is being real and transparent about their lives.

I know fear.  I have been afraid and at times I still deal with fear.  Most of my fears occur in the middle of the night.  I will awaken after sleeping for several hours and then think of something unpleasant that could happen later in the week.  I can sometimes imagine the worst possible outcome.

The resurrection of Jesus can give us great security and confidence for the future (Matthew 28:20). Resurrection gives us power to live in the future. We live in the power of his living presence.

“I am with you always.”

  • How do I make it through this cancer? “I am with you always.”
  • How do I deal with such a difficult marriage? “I am with you always.”
  • How do I go to that high school and live the way God wants me to live instead of lowering my standards?       “I am with you always.”
  • How can I be a person who has the courage to reach out to others who are not Christ-followers? “I am with you always.”
  • How do we rear our children in such a godless world? “I am with you always.”
  • How do we pray believing that things will be different as the result of prayer? “I am with you always.”
  • How can we be a church that is dead? Dead to sin. Dead to self-centeredness. “I am with you always.”
  • How can we be a church where we build up, encourage, and commit instead of give up, cave in, and live in fear? “ I am with you always.”

This promise from the living Jesus really has helped me.  His presence in my life is greater than whatever fear I might experience.

When You Feel Insignificant

billboard_DiscouragedFeeling insignificant?

I am writing this to you.

You may be a preacher or a minister in some role in a remote area. Or, you may be in an urban area but you feel alone and isolated. There are days when you ache with loneliness. To make matters worse, some of your minister friends talk about getting together regularly with others with a kindred spirit. You are certain they have no idea what this kind of isolation is like.

Perhaps you are an elder. You had hopes and dreams of making a impact. You thought you might have the opportunity to address matters that might make such a kingdom difference. However, the group continues to gravitate toward the trivial. You come home from meetings tired and worn out. You didn’t agree to endless discussions of things that are small and inconsequential.

Is Real Life Happening Yet?

reallifelogoFor years, I waited.

My perception of my life was all about circumstances. I saw myself as not being in the ideal circumstances but assured myself that one day things would be different. As I saw it, the present was always lacking in some way. However, things would really be good when, one day, life would be what I wanted it to be.

When I was single, I thought life would really begin when I got married.

When I was in college, I thought life would really begin when I graduated.

When I was in graduate school, I thought life would really begin when I finished the program.

When I was married, I thought life would really begin when we could settle down somewhere.

When we were renting a house, I thought life would really begin when we could own a home.

What We Learn From Diana Nyad


On Monday, 64-year-old Diana Nyad became the first person to swim the 110-mile route from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. She swam for 53 hours with 35 people accompanying her in boats.

Nyad first attempted this feat in 1978.  She then attempted it again three times in 2011 and 2012.  Each time she was unsuccessful in completing the swim.  On Monday, she finished and was greeted by numerous well-wishers on shore.

As she stood on dry land, she spoke to reporters saying:
“I have three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”

I love what she said.

Never, ever give up.

So many people live in resignation.  They consider going back to school, changing jobs, moving to a new place, or learning a new skill.  They step out and find that taking that next step is hard.  In fact, they might experience failure in their first attempt.  I am impressed that Diana Nyad failed to finish four times and then tried one more time.

Life often requires resilience, tenacity and grit.  Taking the next step will often be “easier said than done.”  OK.  Most things worth doing are difficult.  Yes, I pray and I prepare.  However, there are times when you attempt to take on a task and it just doesn’t go well.  Do I have the resilience to push through even when I want to quit?

You never are too old to chase your dreams.

Think about this one.  We hear so many negative messages regarding age.  Some people go on and on about being old.  No, I am not talking about people in their 90s but people who are decades younger.  Yes, I realize that some people have physical limitations related to aging that might prevent them from certain sports or other activities.  However, some people talk about age as if there was little to look forward to.  Yet, I think we were meant for more than to sit in a recliner for the remainder of our lives.

Nyad is right.  One never is too old to chase one’s dreams.  Far too many people shut down way too early.

It looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.

She is speaking about swimming, but this is also true about life in general.  We need others!  We need the prayers of one another.  We need the input and counsel of others.  We need to learn from others.

Far too many of us get to a point in life where we think we have got it down.  We stop growing, learning, and developing.  We become stuck in what we have learned in the past and stop stretching.

We need others!  We need others who will come alongside us, as well as people who are somewhat ahead of us.  Of course, we also need those who may find their encouragement through us.

I don’t plan to swim great lengths.  However, I do plan to think more about these three statements.  Right now, I find them very encouraging.


Which one of Diana Nyad’s three statements means the most to you?

Four Questions that Can Bless Your Life

question-markI once heard a former college president reflect on the years he had served the university.  A colleague had recommended a particular person to him to possibly serve in his administration.  The question from this college president was:

“Is she capable of high level thinking?”

That is a good question for all of us.  Are we capable of thinking about those things that really matter?  Do we ask good questions? Do we reflect on important matters?

Do we take the time to reflect on important questions?

What Has Pushed You to the Edge?

pushed over the edgeLots of people are discouraged.

Have you noticed?

Lots of church leaders are discouraged.

Regardless of the ministry in which you are engaged, there is a likelihood that sooner or later you will become discouraged.  The following are some reasons that may sound familiar.  I have experienced a few of these.  I have seen the others in church leaders I have known.

Some people experience discouragement and some even feel like they have been pushed to the edge.

Ministry Inside.116

hard-lifeMesses are a part of life and ministry.

When my daughter Jamie was seven years old, she decided that she wanted to go fishing with me.  The next day we got up at 5:30 a.m., grabbed our fishing gear, and went to the water.  Her favorite part of fishing, besides catching a fish, was casting. When I say cast, I mean rare back and let it fly!  That is exactly what she did this time. She came back over her head very near where I was kneeling behind her.  I could feel her lure brush the top of my head.  Off came my cap.  The hook was struck to the top of the cap with the minnow flailing about to get free. I took her rod and reel and began to work with it to get the hook loose from the cap.  Meanwhile, I let her use my rod and reel.  A few minutes later I looked at her and saw that fishing line was everywhere.  Finally, in utter disgust, she said, “This thing is a mess.”

This week our area has been dealing with the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.  My office is about a 30-minute drive from West.  We have several families in our church who either live or work, or both, in West.  On Tuesday afternoon, one of our families drove me through much of the area that suffered badly from the explosion.

Ministers and other church leaders deal with messes quite frequently.  Divorce.  Cancer.  Death. Crime.  A member sent to prison.  The child of a church leader on drugs.  The following are five suggestions for church leaders who must navigate through a mess.

1.  Don’t rush to fix the situation.  Quite often ministers will become uneasy with the questions or doubt that may be expressed.  In our uneasiness, we may attempt to rush in with much advice and very little patience.

2.  Don’t pronounce the situation as God showing us this or that or what trying to teach us whatever. The truth is we don’t know why so many things happen.

3.  Do be present.  There is great power in simply showing up and being fully present.  In fact, when words are at a loss and when you don’t know what to do, one’s presence with another or a family can be huge.

4.  Do be a safe place where people can ask the questions that are burning within.  Loss is tough. Sometimes we are in such a rush to move on, we don’t allow others the opportunity to feel loss and its implications.

5.  Don’t be trite.  Some years ago my friend’s wife died of cancer leaving behind this young husband and their young children.  The following Sunday, the minister began the sermon by talking about how he understood the loss that many people felt.  He then proceeded to tell the story of his car being involved in a parking lot fender-bender and how frustrating that was.  Some family members of the woman who died were angry that this minister insinuated that he understood how they felt by comparing their loved one’s death to a fender-bender.



What would you add to this list?


Pray for Boston

boston-marathon-explosion-ap-2-041513The day after the Boston Marathon, we wait for more details.

More than 170 are injured and 3 people are dead.  Two bombs exploding changed everything.

I think about the Richard family and how this particular Boston Marathon impacted them. They were all standing near the finish line. As a result of the blast:

Mom had surgery.

Daughter lost a leg.

Son died.  8 years old!

The scene with its blood and carnage must have been horrific.

Meanwhile, this morning, I saw an interesting line in the Washington Post online.  ‘Pray for Boston’: Prayers stream in after Boston Marathon bombing.  From all over the world, social media sites are being bombarded with the plea to Pray for Boston.  (Moments ago, I looked on Twitter at the number of tweets that were using the hashtag #PrayforBoston.  Amazing!)

Maybe there is nothing more important for men and women across the world to do today than to pray for Boston and for these people whose lives have been drastically changed in a moment.


Five People I Need Around Me

Quote-of-the-Week-EncouragementWho in your life makes you a better person?

I just had lunch with a friend who is such a person.  He is older, wiser, and helped me think through a life issue and a church issue as well.

I am better off for having spent time with this friend.  He is the kind of person who makes me want to be a better man and leader.  I enjoy being with him.

Now I realize that not everyone is like my friend.  Some people complain constantly. Some people enjoy arguing. Some are pessimistic and cynical.  Others are manipulative. Many of us deal with all kinds of people every day.

I have learned that I am better equipped to deal with these kinds of people if I am deliberate about surrounding myself with five different kinds of people.

1.  A joyful person.  I am grateful to know some joyful people.  These are people who may have challenges but their attitude is joyful.

2.  A person who is a learner.  I love being with people who are always learning and growing.  I find that so stimulating.

3.  A person who will help me.  I am thinking of a couple of people who will ask me a question or two and then have the patience to listen.  Through their genuine interest in my life, I feel valued and appreciated.

4.  A person whom I can help.  I get energized by being with a person who genuinely wants my help and will even follow through regarding what we discuss.

5.  A person who believes in me.  I am fortunate enough to have been given this gift through my wife, Charlotte.  I find her confidence in me to be energizing and helpful.

Are all five kinds of people in my life all the time?  Not necessarily.  I do tend to gravitate toward these people. They have a way of adding value to my life and I am better for having known them.


What kinds of people add energy and value to your life?  What would you add to the above list?