Friday, September 30, 2016

The Great Unknown Is Just The Future Version Of The New Normal. Fear Not.

Why do most of us fear the unknown?  Isn’t the unknown just the future version of the new normal?  
In 2003, my wife gave birth to twin boys.  They were premature and spent four weeks in the hospital gaining weight and stabilizing.  I recall the fear I felt as I drove home from work the first day that our babies were home with us after we left the hospital. They were our responsibility now.  No nurses to do the job when we felt overwhelmed.  Just Sara and I.  Thirteen years later, we’ve added two more boys to the mix and I can’t imagine not having a house full of kids.  It’s the new normal.
In July of 2009, I walked the parking lot of an East Tulsa hotel.  The gravity of the move I was about to make hit me.  I was about to move my family from a stable life we knew well in Pennsylvania to a completely unknown and new life in Oklahoma.  The fear inherent in all the questions hit me hard that night.  What if this new endeavor we’re jumping into in Tulsa fails?  What if this experience hurts or even scars my kids for life?  What if this puts a strain on our marriage that we can’t recover from?  Is this something a responsible – or even sane – man does?  We moved in December of 2009.  After seven of the most challenging and most growing years ever, we love living here and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  It’s the new normal.
Change is usually scary, but not often fatal.  In time, the things you may fear the most become your new normal.  The mistake we often make is to run from the fear at the decision point.  If we do that, we never know what could have been.  If we can find the fortitude to lean into that fear, no matter what the outcome, the thing we feared the most becomes the new normal . . . in a surprisingly short period of time.  Is there a decision or move you should make, but fear is holding you back?  Of course, I’m talking about a decision where the cost has been counted and you’re convinced it’s a good and right decision, not a flippant gut-level decision.  If you’ve done your homework, and you are truly convinced it’s right, lean into your fear.  Isn’t the unknown just the future version of the new normal?  
I’d love to hear your story, as it relates to this topic.  Will you share it?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Stuck and Clueless? 5 Steps To Get You Unstuck

I received an email this week from a friend from college.  He's had some difficult circumstances to navigate. He and I have talked some about these over the last couple years and this week and he made a statement to me that is both heartbreaking and all too common.  After describing some of his recent circumstances, he said, "So, here I am with a ton to be thankful for and a huge story to tell . . . I'm not depressed or even sad; I'm just stuck and clueless at, let's just say, 46 now."

Can you relate?  I sure can.  It wasn't many years ago that I was living in the same kind of "stuck and clueless" wilderness. I knew I had a lot to offer, but I didn't know what to do or how to do it.  Maybe you've felt the same?

Let me offer you 5 steps to help get you unstuck.
  1. Step away from what you don't want.  So, when you are thinking steps to get unstuck or to get a clue, some of the most important steps to take are steps away from what you don't want . In my case, I made a decision to leave a situation that was a poor fit. Interestingly, this poor fit was a church I planted and the fact that I fit poorly in an organization I founded may be a poor reflection on my leadership, but that is what it is and I can own that. Not only did I decide to leave, I promised myself that I would never take another position in a church that does not fit me.  For me, that means no small, traditional or unhealthy churches.  What is a "poor fit" for you might be a whole different thing.  But, you have to decide to step away from that which you don't want.
  2. Surround yourself with the right people.  Specifically, this would be people who believe in you and who are in places you want to see yourself one day. Specifically for me, that meant being around my coach, Brad Sprague and the staff at City Church in Tulsa. Surrounding myself with those people helped tremendously, from both an intentional work standpoint (ie. life planning and coaching) and just the positive energy and friendship they imparted to me.  You are the sum total of the people who are closest to you.
  3. Test new waters.  Although my only professional experience had been in church ministry, I tested the waters in both the corporate and church worlds. I interviewed for one position with Farmers Insurance and three different positions with LifeChurch. Those were both organizations with available positions that looked like a good fit for me, but as I got closer, I saw that they weren't. That's not a poor reflection on them.  It's just the simple truth that some of us fit some places and some of us fit other places.  But the value in testing the waters like this is in eliminating clutter in your mind (and heart) and focusing your vision. 
  4. Articulate what you do want.  Once you eliminate a bunch of stuff that you know you don't want, you're able to focus on what you do want. I'm way over-simplifying this, but through much prayer, thought and counsel, I came to a simple decision that I wanted a church staff position at a large (or on it's way to being large) church that was really doing something significant. In addition to that, I was set on serving under a pastor that I could really look up to and feel very well lead by. And I'm not at all implying I did not look up to or was not well lead by other pastors I've served under.  This just became a clear piece as I pictured my ideal scenario.  If you don't know where you want to go, you certainly will never arrive.
  5. Step toward what you do want.   Shortly after I was able to articulate exactly what I was looking for,  I shared that with a small network of local pastors here in Tulsa.  One of them texted me within days to say Solace Church was looking to add someone to their team. I knew of Solace and I knew our pastor, Matt Blair, but this was not a church on my radar at all. To make a long story short, I've been at Solace Church almost four years now.  The more opportunities you step toward, the more will present themselves.
While my role and responsibilities at Solace have evolved significantly and I've taken many more steps in personal growth and personal vision building,  the steps listed here were what got me out of that stuck and clueless spot into a place of stability where I could build new vision for all God has called me to do in this world.  I hope these are helpful to you.

Friday, September 16, 2016

If Disappointment Has Become Your Companion . . .

This is a repost from an article I wrote Nov 12, 2013.  I can still recall the emotions I felt as I wrote it. Nearly three years later, I'm in a completely different place and every word I wrote that day (much of which is God's Word) has proven to be completely true.  I hope this encourages you through your disappointment or heartbreak today . . .
If Disappointment Has Become Your Companion . . . (Repost from Nov 12, 2013)
If that’s the case, I can understand.  The last year of my life has been one full of large-scale change.  I’ve ventured out into some new areas to pursue what I believe God has more uniquely gifted me to do.  As you can imagine, that has not set well with everyone I know and it has not been easy.  I knew that would be the case, up front, but I could not have guessed how hard and full of disappointment it would be.  
I’ve been turned down and told “no” more times in the last year than in all my other years combined.  Probably twice as much.  And each time it is disappointing.  I’ve had job interviews that I thought sealed the deal and I would get an offer for sure.  No dice.  I’ve pitched vision and plans to people who I thought would be as excited about them as I am.  Not the case.  In fact, just last night, I got word from a pastor, whom I had hoped would hire me for some extensive coaching with his staff, that the time wasn’t right yet.  That too was disappointing. 
But last night, as I was tempted to feel sorry for myself and say silly things like, “I’m just getting used to disappointment” I was instantly reminded of this:


26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Many other translations simply say, “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”  It’s true.  All things – every detail – are worked into something good.  Even the disappointments.  Keep your head up, my friend.  Keep your faith high.  Disappointment does not need to be your companion, just another tool to shape you into all God has in mind for you.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

How To Overcome The Victim Mentality (with a special bonus video)

Are you at all like me?  Do you click on these kinds of posts just so you can share it with your mother-in-law or your deadbeat brother or your spouse?  Maybe so.  But, before you copy this link and send it on to all those needy souls, pause a moment and consider yourself.

This past Sunday at Solace ChurchMatt Blair, delivered an especially powerful message entitled "The Victim Mentality". I tuned in right away and almost immediately was thinking of people I knew who could benefit from this Biblical and practical information.  Then it hit me.  I do this too.  I play the victim.  Not in all areas of my life, but I sure do it when it comes to my kids.  I do it when it comes to my wife.  I do it when it comes to my job, my past failures and even my future goals and dreams. How about you?  

For me, this was a wake-up call about Biblical truth and personal responsibility. Below are some bullet-pointed thoughts that can serve as a filter to help you identify where you might be in various areas of your life.  Read them through and use the filter.  Then take 30 minutes and watch the video of Matt delivering this message last Sunday. You can learn a ton from Matt.  He's not only my pastor and my boss, but he's my friend and one of the most fantastic leaders I know.  
The victim says . . .
  • "Someone else made me do it."
  • "It's not my fault."
  • "I couldn't help myself."
What's appealing about victim status?

  • I don't have to take responsibility.
  • I don't have to ask for forgiveness.
  • It gives me justification for my actions.
How does the victim think change will come?

  • If they stop treating me so poorly . . .
  • If my circumstances change.
  • If God will take this from me.
How change really comes . . . When we filter our circumstances, as challenging and unfair as they may be, through the reality of God's Word.

Watch this video.  If you need to put something else aside to watch it, do that.  It is worth your time.  Here's the bottom line. You and all those you love can get free from the victim mentality.  If you choose that freedom.  Get started.

Friday, September 2, 2016

3 Steps To HUGE Person Growth

(One of my bookshelves at home)
We've all heard the saying.  "Leaders are readers and readers are leaders."  Well, it's mostly true.  Maybe you could substitute the word "reader" for "learner", but the concept holds true.  Here's the part that bothers me, though. On average, I have the same conversation with leaders about three times per week.  It goes like this.

Me: "Do you like to read?"
You: "Oh yes, I love reading."
Me: "Me too.  What have you read lately?"
You: "Uh, well, I've really been meaning to start reading.  I know I should, but . . . "

You can fill in the excuse.  Look, I know that everyone doesn't love reading and I get that the amount of reading you do will vary, depending on the season of life you're currently in.  So, please hear me loud and clear.  This is not written to induce guilt on you if you're not reading.  This is meant to challenge your excuses and get you reading if you truly do want to become a reader.  Also, I'm not talking about reading romance novels here.  If that's your thing, more power to you, but I'm talking about reading that actually challenges you to grow.

Here are 3 simple steps that can get your reading.

1.  Escape the comparison trap.  It seems like most of us who are not reading much seem to feel guilty about it, especially when we run into some guy talking about how he reads a book a week.  A book a week!?  You'd be happy to read one this year, right?  Well, that's really the crux of it all, isn't it?  Consider this.  A good reading goal for you may not resemble anyone else's reading goal.  One of the most surefire ways to sabotage yourself is to set unrealistic goals.  Maybe book-a-week guy really does read that much (or maybe he's a dirty liar), but whatever the case, you can't compare yourself to him.  He may be a single dude with unbelievable amounts of time to spare and you may be a mom working full time with three kids.  Not exactly apples to apples.  Get real about what you can do.  Did you know that you can read 12-20 books per year if you set aside just 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week?  I'm serious.  Imagine how much you'll grow in the next year if you read 12 books!  Heck, if you're not reading at all, imagine how much different you'll be if you read just 3?  Don't get tripped up on what someone else does.  If you do better this year than you did last, that's growth and that's the goal.

2.  Build a reading list around your goals.  I'm assuming you have goals.  If you don't, you should.  There are too many people you could be helping in this world.  So, don't be so lazy as to not work toward some goals in your life.  Your goals are not just about you.  If you don't have any goals, presently, read here to get some help setting some goals.  Now, once you have goals set, consider building a reading list around those goals.  For 2016, I set goals in six key areas of my life.  I chose two books for each area and made those 12 books my reading list for the year.  My wife got me a Fitbit for Christmas last year.  It was really thoughtful, but it didn't really help me much.  So, I returned it to Amazon and bought my twelve books instead.  Once I'm finished with one, I just pick out the next one.  It's not the only system you can use, but it's a great place to start if you have no plan.

3.  Use simple technology to help you.  I'm not saying you need to go and buy a ton of tech to be a reader.  Personally, I prefer a hardcover book with a pen and a highlighter.  But, I bet you own a smartphone.  (I only have one friend, that I know of, who still uses an old flip-phone.)  So, assuming you have a smartphone, let me suggest two free apps that can be a world of help.  
  • First is an app that plays audiobooks - maybe i-books or Audible.  Granted, audiobooks aren't for everyone, but if you can absorb them and learn that way, you can redeem a whole lot of time in the car.  Or on the treadmill.  Or on a plane.  You get the idea, right?  Of the 16 books I've read so far this year, two have been audiobooks.  I finished one in a single day on a car trip to Dallas and back.  How do I know how many books I've read so far?  Glad you asked.  That brings me to the #2 app that can really help you get reading.  
  • GoodReads is a free app that lets you create different reading lists, add books to them just by searching them in the app, track your progress (by%) and leave ratings and reviews for the books you've read.  Over the last few years, I've tried several different ways of creating my "want to read" list.  I've kept lists in Evernote.  I've tried to do a paper list.  I created a Google Doc for it, but nothing works like GoodReads.  The search, list, and progress features are all in one place.  If you've taken the steps to decide what you'll read, GoodReads can keep you on track.  Oh, and you can also be friends with other people with GoodReads accounts.  You can see what they are reading and all that good stuff.  Look me up  - Jason Fitch.  I'd love to see what you're into.
One more thought.  I often hear people say something like this.  "I usually only read the first couple chapters of a book. After that, it's all a repeat anyway."  How arrogant.  I get this is true in a small percentage of books, but here's the truth.  In this case, you've either chosen your book very poorly or unwilling to press in and engage the deeper learnings. Either way, it's your fault, so get over yourself.  If the book is worth starting, it's worth finishing.  In the rare instances this is not true, just move on. There's no need to act like every book out there can't keep the attention of your brilliant intellect.  You're not that good.

Well, I hope these thoughts are helpful to you.  Please share some practical ways you've gotten yourself on the path to growth through reading.  I'm looking forward to hearing what you've done!