First Month Goals: #optimism update

So I told you about my extremely ambitious goals for the year.  I had set intermediate goals for the month of January, and hit most of them.  Sadly, the ones I missed are the big ones and we’ll have to do some catching up.

  • I wanted to get in 120,000 steps.  I made more than 146,000
  • Goal was 10 trips to the gym:  hit exactly, including one in a hotel room in DC
  • I wanted to get under 230 pounds.  Made it!  (goal for end of February is under 224)
  • Make 100 foul shots with each hand:  only made 85.  😦
  • Chin-ups exercise, machine, at 90 pounds.  Check.
  • Select and Italian program:  started Duolingo and have a 14 day streak already and have hit “9% fluent” so I’m pretty pumped about that one.  Only about 2 months until my big trip to Italy.
  • Write and publish 2 blog posts:  barely, but yes.
  • Run 0.2 miles consecutively in a walk/run mix:  made 0.25.
  • Finish one book.  NOPE.  😦
  • Books packed and plumbing done at the old house:  NO.  Double 😦
  • FW worship ramping up:  Big improvement but didn’t quite make the number I had set for the month.

So for February I have some improvement to make, and will look at adjusting the goals based on this month if necessary.  I’m pretty pumped with quite a few of these and their progress, but this month still needs some serious work.

A Chord or a Nerve

I finished a post last week that I started months ago on anger, sanctification, grace, and consequences:

Sanctification, by God’s grace, has led to improvements.  Huge improvements by comparison, but God’s still not done rooting out this particular sin.

Source: Consequences (Change takes time) | #Optimism and Irony

..and this post for whatever reason has already almost twice as many views as any other post in the history of my blog.  I set a new PR for visitors in a day (nothing by a lot of bloggers’ standards and the post keeps getting more hits than anything new.

It was also a deeply personal post (which there have been more than a few of on this blog) but it apparently hit people in a way that they shared and clicked through in droves that I’ve not seen before.

I’m honored (assuming that’s what went on here) that God has used His rooting out of my sin to help others and humbled by it.  I’m also continuing to re-think what I’m best suited to speaking and writing about, and this is new food for thought.  I don’t get caught up much in my “stats” but I do want my writing to be read by others, and when it is I always wonder why.

To my regular readers who are reading even the “less popular” posts:  thank you for sticking with me as I write.  Feel free to give feedback here and on FB or Twitter, constructive and positive, that will help me grow as a writer.  To those who are only reading here and there:  thank you for giving me something to think about.

I don’t know if I struck a nerve or a chord, but I’m glad to see my writing doing something.  Even if it’s just gathering virtual dust most of the time.

Stop Doing That!

Everyone knows about to-do lists.  Some of you use them effectively, and others not so much, and some hate them and refuse to use them.  Being a competitive person, and always wanting to feel accomplished, I have even from time to time on days when the list wasn’t getting shorter write down something I already did just so I could check it off.

Recently I was having a conversation with some other leaders about creating margin** in life.  One of the ways I’ve tried to do this (not much success of late…but I’m working on it) is through an idea a friend shared a while back on his blog:  a “stop doing” list.  See here:

What if this evening at home, or tomorrow with your colleagues, you sat down and created a five item stop doing list? A list of five to-dos, whether related to work, people or other commitments or activities, you decide to stop pursuing. A few items on the list may take you time to work through, but you can develop a plan. To keep the habit up, every occasion you’re confronted with a new consequential to-do, reevaluate your stop doing list. Consider what you would throw out to make room for the new. If you wouldn’t cut anything, don’t accept anything. It’s an easy way to maintain balance and avoid feeling perpetually overwhelmed.

Source: The importance of a stop doing list | It’s Worth Noting

When talking about the stop doing list I always talk about urgency vs. importance.  We tend to (because of human nature, I’d guess) focus on the things we perceive as most urgent (need to be done soonest) rather than what’s most important.  Things that are urgent, but not very important, may not need to be done at all, and the time you spend on urgent, but unimportant tasks, steals from spending time on important, but not urgent tasks.

Candidates for the stop doing list?  Two main categories:  1) something that someone else can d0 (often not quite as well as you) that can be delegated and 2) things that if they’re not done at all won’t matter all that much in the long haul.

One of the people in the conversation asked for examples of things I had put on my stop doing list in the past.  It was funny because it caught me kind of flat-footed and I didn’t have an answer for him right off.  I had to rack through my memory for things I’d taken off the list before.  Once I started listing a few I realized something important:  most of the things on your stop doing list are going to be things you like to do.  Things that, given lots of margin, you’d choose to do just because you want to.

Busy people have usually already stopped doing delegatable or unimportant tasks that they don’t like.  There’s incentive to stop doing things you hate, and so when you’re looking around for candidates for the list, there’s usually not much that you can stop doing that you desire to stop.  So the list, when done right, will be full of stuff that you can stop doing but wish you didn’t have to.  There are conferences and events that I love to attend that others go to instead of me now.  Because I have to cut something and those are valid candidates.  Do I miss attending those events?  Oh yes.  But less than I miss having even less margin in my life.

That’s what makes the stop doing list so hard:  you have to cut out things you like.  But if you’re going to focus on the most important things that only you can do, you have to find margin somewhere.  And you can only cut so much sleep.

So find those things in your life that you can stop, and do just that.  Stop doing that.  You’ll be thankful for it later, even while embracing the sadness of the loss.  Do the most important things, and the tasks that only you can do.  You’ll be better rested and your work will be better for it.

** I hope to write a whole post on margin at some point, but won’t get into it much here except to say you need it, and this (the stop doing list) is one way to get some.

IMG_2500

 

 

The Body

I’m getting old. I’ve been saying that since I was about 30, and I laugh at 30-year-old me regularly for saying that. What in the world did he know? The reason I know it’s really
true this time is that my body aches a lot. Lately, it doesn’t matter if I’ve been sitting or lying down for 30 seconds or 7 hours my body reminds me it’s not what it used to be with creaks and pains every time I stand up. Every. Single.Time.

Though to be fair, as my wife says, it’s not the years…it’s the mileage. And the maintenance. Some of the pains are related to being stupid and lazy, of course. There are tons of people older than me in much better shape than I’m in.

Thankfully the Body of Christ is not having the same problem with deterioration. Jesus is actually making it better every day. But there are some similarities in that, just like when you exercise a particular muscle group for the first time in a while, sometimes we become aware of a part of the body we forgot (or never knew) was there. Our awareness, usually, caused by that part screaming out for attention.

You’ve done that right? Lifted weights or run for the first time in a while and all of a sudden there’s that one muscle screaming for attention…because it got used in a way it wasn’t used to. And the Body of Christ works that way sometimes as well, which makes all of your lives much more complicated than you’d like.

So consider this section from 1 Corinthians 12 (ESV):

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body,  so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is,  God arranged the members in the body, each one of them,  as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all
suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

That “muscle” in the Body screaming for help…that’s verse 26 here “If one member suffers, all suffer together.”

So what does it mean to be a part of the Body? We know it’s painful at times and that our
sin gets in the way of community, but how should we approach this issue?

That’s where Paul’s intro here about “differing gifts” is important. Being a part of the Body means that not everyone is like you. We have hands, feet, eyes, ears and so on. Hands are not eyes. Eyes are not feet.

Being different can be complicated. People that are “not like you” can be annoying, confusing, or even infuriating if you can’t recognize the value of the differences.

When I was in school we had a one day pass/fail class called Critical Thinking. In one of the exercises we took a “test” that divided us into lateral thinkers (connections, divergent possibilities, “big picture”), vertical thinkers (details, logic, analysis) and a middle group. The three groups were then given a picture on the screen to look at and, as a group, describe the picture.

It was a cartoonish drawing of a woman walking a dog and carrying multiple shopping bags and such. I seem to remember she was wearing a hat. What happened next, though, was extremely helpful for me and my understanding of people. They asked us to read off our description of the picture, and the two groups at the ends of the spectrum (more lateral and more vertical thinkers) got pretty animated with one another. The vertical thinkers wrote down things like “3 packages”, “2 blue bags”, “dog is a schnauzer.” The lateral thinkers, though, came up with a narrative about how she was an assistant with an unreasonable boss asked to do chores on her lunch break.

The vertical thinkers were openly, honestly, offended at the lateral thinkers. It was amazing to watch. I think the professor had to cut things off or the boxing gloves were about to come out.

I learned that day that not only do people approach issues very differently, but that it’s important for you and me to understand that the different approach doesn’t make the perspective any less valid. In fact, much like the blind men feeling different parts of an elephant, we need one another’s perspectives to see things more clearly. And when we6-blind-men-hansmiss that it is the perspective that is different and not the principles at play we will start to impugn motives to the other or make other false judgments. And that’s part of what Paul is getting at here when he says in verses 18-20, “18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”

And that’s the second thing about the body you need to remember: we all need the rest of us. Hands are no good without eyes or eyes without feet. Your potential is maximized because of the differences others bring. Now I’m not talking to you here, but the person next to you, right? Every one of you needs to know that the gifts others bring, especially those you find the most frustrating, are what is going to make you the best hand/eye/ear/foot you can be. 20/20 vision is great, but lacking feet to get you to go see something new, or lacking a hand to hold something up so you can look at it from other perspectives…is it better then? And you eyes tend to think the hands are pretty annoying moving stuff around when you just got it to where you wanted.

Can you see how much better things can be if the Body cooperates together, appreciating and leveraging every single gift it has? Some of you are very creative, divergent thinkers. Others are vertical thinkers…everything precise, in its place, and always adding up to details that can be measured. Most of you are somewhere in between and have leanings one way or the other. And all of you bring something unique to the table for your work, your family, your church and for every group God makes you a part of.

So that’s how you need to view the Body of Christ, brethren:

  • Not everyone is like you
  • You need people who are not like you
  • We function best when everyone embraces, appreciates and joyfully lives in the differences, each of you doing what God created you to do

God’s plan for the Body is for every one of us, you and me together, to be the part He’s designed us to be. And when you learn to not only accept, but love that truth you’ll find the gifts of others strengthening you in ways you never even imagined.

 “God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

My challenge to you is to live that truth out with every group of believers that you interact with, and most especially your local church.

IMG_7053

Peace.

I mentioned in the last post that there’s been a lot of life in my life lately, and that it’s been unbelievably stressful. More than I could handle (which needs to be a whole post sometime, but read this to start) to be sure.

I had a trial come up in one of the jobs. It was pretty major, and it centered around some things I’d done, not done, and allegedly did. Controversy isn’t anything new for me…my particular personality has (usually via my sin) caused more than a little of it over my career. Because of the issues around this trial, there was a lot of uncertainty.

I think uncertainty is one of the worst things for me personally. It’s easier for me to handle a certain high pressure situation than an unknown one. Anticipation of problems tends to be worse than the problems themselves. Another part of my psyche, I’m sure, and one that is occasionally humorous after the face.

One good thing about trials is that they can help you see your soul more clearly. There’s always more than enough sin in my soul to be worthy of an accusation, and there’s always more than enough sin in my actions to cause problems for others. And the same is true for you. This one in particular led to some great conversations with people who love me about places I’m succeeding and others where I’m failing…and dissecting both the “why” and “what do we do next.” While painful in the moment it’s extremely beautiful as God, in His grace, points out the filth, helps you to pick the dirt off yourself, and washes you with His Word. In this particular trial I am immensely thankful that my pride rarely got in the way of hearing the correction and encouragement of others.

I was in a teleconference on Monday that settled some things around this trial. Tuesday night, after a particularly emotional and full day at work (I’m really behind and that just adds stress, you know) was date night. On date night, no matter how much work I have to do I leave the laptop at the office. And I realized, halfway through a bowl of chips and salsa (have I mentioned here how much I love mexican food) that I wasn’t feeling weighed down as much. My spirit felt light and unburdened and I had a relaxing conversation with my beautiful wife, uninterupted by my whiney stress-filled soul.

God gives grace in the moments, and He gives peace. Nothing around me had changed in the least…there were still undone projects that needed me to go into the office early the next day. There were still all of the undone things on “the list.” The people I love all still had the same problems. But God gave me peace in the moment.

And this is peace that surpasses comprehension (Phil. 4)…peace that calms your soul when storms continue around you in your life. It doesn’t make any sense to be calm right now, but you are. That’s when you know the peace is a gift from God’s hand and not something you conjured up in your own soul. And God gives you peace because He loves you.

IMG_7078

I Can’t Even

A favorite meme during the new year was “Make 2016 the year that white girls learn how to even.” For those who are internet aware, this is a mild jab at the tendency of some modern internet communication to use shorthand, sometimes not even remembering what the shorthand is for.

In this case, I’m pretty sure it’s short for “I can’t even begin to explain/understand why this is ……”

I can’t even begin to explain why this blog has been dormant for as long as it has. I’m choosing this morning not to go back and find out when my last post was. I’m pretty sure (read: 100% certain) I didn’t post at all during February. I don’t know if I posted during January, especially once the kids video project fizzled out (it had a 3 day power outage helping them get urecoverably behind schedule).

How many blog posts since school got done have started with “I keep meaning to write more and then don’t?” A lot, I’d imagine. Continue reading

A Year

One year ago yesterday I graduated from college. I got all As this time around and it was a 16 month(ish) EMBA program and timehop yesterday reminded me of the event. More accurately I opened up the Timehop app so that I could see what I’d posted that day. My parents came out for it and we had a great time celebrating finally, at age 45, getting a college degree.

I had big plans for the year that we’re completing. A few of them got done, but mostly I’ve been figuring out what comes next more slowly than I’d like. I had ambitious dreams of what I could do when I wasn’t going to school, and came up horribly short on them.

It has been a good year. I’ve gotten two nice getaways with my wife: one to San Francisco and another recently to Mexico. Our kids threw us a surprise party for our 20th anniversary. I’ve started working with a team of leaders at work on bringing their skills to another level. I’ve implemented almost 25% of the ideas I thought I’d get done, which seems awful, but I probably was overambitious.

It’s been a hard year, too. Our old house is still not ready to rent. That weighs on me, but we’re not financially destitute, so we muddle through. We’ve had some rough health issues at home. Some projects have languished and needed more attention that I’m just getting around to giving them now.

As I look back there is so much to be thankful for, and I have been abundantly blessed. I have a wife who stands with me through thick and thin. I’ve realized that rest and relaxation are crucial to being on top of my game, and the phrase “post-vacation dad” has become a regular part of the family liturgy.

This past Friday we had our organization’s annual Christmas party. Most of the evening I spent in shock as I realized how much we’ve grown and how different things are than they were at my first party in 1999. And they’ll be different in huge ways again next year, too. One constant remains: God takes care of us and watches over us and always does what is best for us. And I should neither forget that nor ever cease to be grateful for it.