Most of us would agree: we could be happy if it weren’t for our problems! There’s a huge “Amen!” rising up inside, isn’t there? I feel it too. “Yes,” I think, “If I didn’t have to take care of Kylie’s hedgehog and Jillian’s dog, if I didn’t have to go on yet another business trip, if I didn’t have to…”
Fill in the blank, it’s all the same. We see the obstacles in our lives and assign them blame for our happiness, or lack of it.
Last week, John Maxwell made a point that has changed how I’m choosing to look at these happiness-stealing issues. There is a difference, he argued, between problems and facts of life. Problems are issues that can be solved. Develop a plan, take responsibility for the action, and work the plan. Problem solved.
Other issues are facts of life. There is no solution. Your father left your family, my mother has Alzheimers, my family is scattered all over the United States. No solutions within our grasp. When you encounter a fact of life, treating it like a problem will make you miserable as you search and try fruitless solutions. Instead, learn to adapt yourself. At the end of the day, you can only control yourself.
Use wisdom in knowing what you can control and what you can’t. Put your energy into fixing problems, not facts of life.
One small piece of advice that can raise your happiness level.
I’ve already sensed the trend for 2011 in my life. I’m fighting it, but I know that I’ll give in eventually. Here it is:
Less is More
Not a novel idea, and not my own idea. John Maxwell kicked off our year at Christ Fellowship (as he always does) with a series of messages on finding our fresh start for 2011. This one point, a sub point at that, leaped out and grabbed me by the throat. Less is more.
I’d already picked my New Year’s resolution, which was to simplify.
Now Maxwell was telling me that Less is More.
He went on to remind me of something I’ve known intuitively for awhile: you can only tell a few stories with your life. If you try to tell them all, your words become jumbled. It’s hard for God to speak out of a jumbled mess. But if you edit the themes of your life down to what God has truly called you to, then you can make your life tell the story He planned for you from the beginning. Edit your own story.
I’ve spent today looking back at the past year and forward to the next one. I’m working on narrowing down my field of vision to the story God wants me to tell. I’m still stuck in the chaos of my everyday, unedited life, but I’m working on it.
Simplicity is complicated.
How about you? What story is God asking you to tell in 2011?
Last night and today John Maxwell, who is a teaching pastor at my church, Christ Fellowship, spoke on the topic of generosity. But before you assume generosity means he’s gunning for your wallet, you need to redefine your definition of the word. John’s sermon dealt with living a generous life, and it was one of the best I have heard from him. Here are just a few of my takeaways.
We can bless only because we are so blessed.
Pay It Forward Principles:
- Recognizes that others have helped us.
- Requests that we help others.
- Means getting beyond yourself.
- Is action-oriented.
“The greatest gap in the entire world is the gap between knowing and doing.”
- Is intentional.
- Multiplies when passed on to others.
- Is graded by effort, not results.
- Changes the world, one person at a time.
“God isn’t expecting you to do amazing things…He is expecting you to do something.”
Questions to ask ourselves:
- What have I been given: look backward
- What do I have: look inward
- What can I do: look forward
All very well and good, but before we can go out and make that difference, we have to know what we have to give. We have to know what we are gifted at, what our passion is, and what our opportunity is.
God won’t hold us accountable for gifts we don’t have.
Stat with what you have, not with what you don’t have.
Opportunity is always where you are, not where you were.
Great opportunities to help people seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.
John concluded his portion of the sermon with a reminder that success is determined by your daily agenda, what you do every day. He applied his “Rule of 5”: do 5 things to move your project along every day, and sooner or later you will accomplish your goal. For instance, in writing a book, every day John reads, he files, he thinks, he asks questions and he writes. Every day.
But wait there’s more!
After John was done, he called his dad, Melvin, to the platform. Now it became abundantly clear where John Maxwell got his vision, drive, passion and love for life. Even though Melvin’s wife (and John’s mom) passed away only a few weeks ago, Melvin is still attacking life with gusto. He has started a “chaplains” program for RV parks. He started this ministry when he was 79. He is now 88. At this time he has 40 or more parks in which his volunteers minister. Wow. He’s still impacting his world. One thing he said that inspired me was that as he was listening to John’s sermon, he was confirmed in the rightness of continuing each day to do one thing for the kingdom. This man of 88 is still sitting and learning from his son and others. By this time, John was choking up and there were a few tears in most of our eyes. How inspiring to see someone still so vibrantly dedicated to the work, even with the load of grief that he has been under. To close the service he prayed a prayer of dedication over the people of the church. There is a power of prayer from a righteous man, and I felt it last night. John Maxwell is ok (!!), but his dad really rocked our world!
I am in a post-Maxwellian overload. If you’ve been to any major thought-provoking conference, you know what I mean. Ideas are pouring past my poor brain faster than I have time or energy to write them down. Now some of that may be due to caffeine overload (probably is!), but not all. This Maxwell conference has impacted me more than others I’ve been to, perhaps because the emphasis was less on leadership and more on personal goals and — quite obviously — dreams. I can actually imagine some bosses who took their teams to the conference being nervous. “Dreams? I’m not sure I want my team dreaming. I think I want them working. For me.” It is a tension: inspire people to turn their dreams into concrete reality vs. inspire people to lead others in the work to which they’ve been called. Or signed up for. Dilemma. David and I, in fact, took our top level employee with us. I can’t wait to see what dreams he has, though I certainly hope they include us!!!
So today I am dreaming over Coffee Shop Journal, and my other blog (rarely updated) Dancing Thru her Daddy’s World. I originally separated the two because Dancing had a personal focus while Coffee Shop — theoretically — has a more missional (caffeinated missional…ooh…new description of who I am!) approach. But over time, as you all know, who I am and where I go has seeped into Coffee Shop while Dancing has waited patiently in the corner.
Here, my readers, is my question for you. And for once I need you to pause and comment for feedback, if you would. Should these two blogs be combined or continue their separate lives? Should Coffee Shop remain as focused as this scatterbrained person can make it? Or would you like to have the personal posts mixed in? Today David and I were sitting at a lovely waterway cafe by the intracoastal waterway. I wanted to write about it. But it’s really a Dancing post, not a Coffee Shop post. I’m a woman in conflict!
Another interesting side-effect of the conference is that I have picked up my old-school, handwritten, doodled in and loved journal again. For the past year I’ve not been using it, but today I can’t leave it alone. There are some things that just don’t fit into a digital world, aren’t there. I’ll be intrigued to see how the journaling finds its way into my writing. It always does, in the end.
So help me out, those of you who care…give me a little feedback while I’m still in this super-productive, hyper-creative, change-the-world mood.
And a final word of warning: don’t attend a Maxwell Conference days before you need to be utterly practical because you are throwing a welcome-home-newly-married-couple party for 40 people!
To continue where I left off… this is a picture of my pages of notes. Yes, that is the product of handwritten, furiously scribbled note taking.
Does my dream compel me to follow? The Passion Test
John told an interestng story. A young man comes up to him and tries to get John to invest in his idea, whatever it was. “How much have you invested?” John asked. When the answer was “nothing” John said, “Why should I invest in your dream when you don’t even believe in your dream??”
- If you are average, it is by choice.
- Passion is what sets you apart from the average crowd.
Do I have a strategy to reach my dream? The Pathway question
John, once more, hit me in the gut with this question. On any given topic or project I am more than capable of spending months, years, reading about what I should do, yet never get around to doing what I should do. He said, “Understanding changes minds, but actions change lives.” Take my writing a book goal, for example: there are only so many writing books, classes, magazines to be read. Sooner or later I must write.
- Use the acronym SECURE: State where you are, Examine all your actions, Consider all your options, Utilize all your resources, Remove all non-essentials, Embrace all your challenges.
- John spoke about Twitter when he was discussing Consider all your options. Tempted to dismiss it as a gimmick, he understood the power of Twitter when he saw hundreds of people respond to a tweet about him. He now Twitters. Twitter is a new option for spreading his ideas.
Have I included the people I need to realize my dream? The People question.
No one ever makes it alone. Of all the principles John taught about today, this one I understand. I can’t make it alone and would never want to. The people are what make the journey worthwhile for me.
- Your team helps you move from addition to compounding.
- The team determines the dream.
- Your dream will never be accomplished by a team that doesn’t have the ability.
- If your dream is a big one — a 10 on the scale — and your team is a 2, you will never hit your dream.
- 2’s can’t hit 10’s. They can hit 2’s.
- A nightmare is a big dream and a bad team.
Am I willing to pay the price for the dream? The Cost Question
I had heard John speak on this topic ten years ago at our church. Most churches — and people — fail to grow, he said, because they become unwilling to pay the price. It is a thought that has stuck with me. Today he clarified one issue for me as well. Sometimes it is healthy not to pay the price. If it costs your health, integrity or family it is not worth chasing the dream.
- The dream is free; the journey is not.
- The price must be paid. You will pay it sooner than you think. It will be higher than you think. You have to pay it more than once.
- The higher you go, the lighter you need to travel.
- Be aware that there are tradeoffs to be made for every dream.
- John’s success rules: pay full price (no discounts, short cuts) and pay in advance.
Am I moving closer to my dream? The Tenacity question
The topic of working within your area of giftedness is a hot button for me. So many of us spend all our time trying to do and be things that we just aren’t! I was glad to hear John address this today. He’s currently reading, for the second time, Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. I’ve read that, too, and it is very empowering. When you are working withiny your area of giftedness, the difference between being average and being world-class is a matter of 10,000 hours of practice. It’s like the magic bar of ability…get to 10,000 hours. I’ll put Malcolm’s book up in my sidebar for any of you who are interested.
- Stopping the journey is ok, as long as it is just a rest stop.
- When you stop, all the resources and people and ideas stop, too. They only move when you do: you are the catalyst.
- John wrote 62 books in 60 years.
- His writing process: Think, read, write, file, ask questions. Every day. Every single day. Over and over and over again. Think, read, write, file, ask questions.
- The return on your investment is HUGE on the back end, but small on the front end. Don’t give up.
- Do the right thing, long enough, until the return is big enough.
- Most dreams die because people give up just before they come to fruition. They were almost there, but they let the dream die.
Have you ever been to a John Maxwell conference? Like other conferences I’ve been to, it feels a bit like sipping water from a fire hose. There is a lot to hear, a lot to process, and no time to slow down and do it!
My first quote of the day came from my husband, groggily turning out of bed. “How can you follow your dream if you haven’t had enough sleep?” Indeed.
In the first thirty seconds of the conference John was able to help me clarify why I’m having difficulty following and achieving my dream. He asked us to take two minutes to write down our dream. I was stumped. Issue clarified. Honestly, and oddly for a person who writes daily about her goals and prayers, I couldn’t think of a single “big dream” except my standard one of writing a book. Not a bad goal, but also vague. My life is full of “getting through,” not dreaming.
First session takeaway? Get a dream.
Our break is short and my time is shorter. Look for a real post at lunchtime.
Headed to North Florida, but wanted to give you a heads up on next week:
John Maxwell will be doing a one day seminar at our church again this year. The conference is called “Build Your Dream Conference 2009” He will be focusing on his latest book, Put Your Dream to the Test. I’ll be there all day blogging and twittering, but if anyone is in the area, come on down! This annual John Maxwell day is one of the beautiful parts of having him on our teaching staff! I learned my lesson last year, however…parking will be a bear.
Are any of you reading John’s new book? John has a twitter topic going to share inspiring dream quotes and comments. You can find it by searching in Twitter on #dreamtest. John also Twitters at @johncmaxwell.
There are certain situations that put me into a creative zone, ideas spinning and new connections made. As we all know, coffee shop are one of those places. The music, the scent of the coffee, the buzz of people, the buzz of caffeine! Oddly enough, working out on the elliptical is another creative spot for me. I guess it’s the oxygen to the brain? In any case, my mind races with prayers and people, blog posts, party ideas, future plans. Of course I have no way to write those ideas down! The last couple of weeks, however, I’ve been tapping into my inner John Maxwell. So here it is.
Leadership Lessons I learned in the gym
- We aren’t designed to run alone. Not too long ago David and I hit the gym an hour before it closed. It was practically empty, and I was excited to get to run on my favorite elliptical. It has a great heart monitor that never loses my heart rate (thus changing my cardio program when I’m unaware of it). After a few minutes of light runing, however, I realized that I wasn’t working very hard, and yet I felt exhausted. There was no zip, no energy, no fun. Talking about that workout later, David and i both agreed: it’s harder to work out when you feel like you are only one in the gym.
- We’re all in the same boat. Look around you next time you are in a gym. Everyone there is dong what you are: trying to hold back the hands of father time. We’re all people in varying stages and states. No one escapes the effects of life, and we all have a choice every day whether we do our part or not. In the broad scope of things, our excuses about why we can’t work out are worthless and unnecessary. We either work out and reap the benefit or we don’t and we slide slightly backwards. Time doesn’t really care about our excuses.
- Look around you. I have my best workouts on the days when there is a “pace setter” nearby. Their rhythm becomes part of my rhythm. They keep going so I keep going. In life, even more than the gym, we need to look around and find the pace setters. They are there…God puts them there.
- Look behind you; someone may be watching. In Oregon last week I was running at the gym and noticed a woman on another machine ahead of me by a couple of rows. My eyes settled on her back, and I “followed” her as I ran. She became my pace setter, which was wonderful until a girlfriend of hers came over for a friendly chat. The pace completely stopped…she became one of those recreational walkers. My pace stopped. I stumbled when my pace setter stumbled. So apply that to your own life. Sometimes you are setting the pace for others, and you have a responsibility to keep on task. Life does not stop for you to talk on the cell phone or read a magazine when you are supposed to be running the race. Keep the pace.
- Show up. Sometimes when we are beat up — by illness, or schedules, or emotions — our routine is thrown off and we skip the gym. I just came through three weeks of a crummy illness that kept me out of the gym, and after three weeks it was easy to rationalize just one more day off. But we didn’t. We showed up. And you know what? The workout was lousy. So were the next four workouts. But after that they began to get better again. Perseverance isn’t a popular virtue right now, but it is an excellent discipline. Show up for your life.
- There are no secrets in the gym. Yes, you heard me. I don’t care what kind of gym clothes you wear, if it CAN jiggle, it will. In front of everyone. But that’s ok. We’re all there to get better. In fact, the gym might be one of the few places where people can connect honestly, with out artifice. Ministry can happen there if we have the eyes to see. So don’t worry about the clothes, the look, the cut muscles strutting around you. Just be real. It’s so much easier.
- Be intentional with your iPod. It changes your whole workout. Get the wrong beat and you are sunk. In life, too, be intentional about what goes into your mind. Choosing wisely can fuel your entire perspective.
With my apologies to all of you who are struggling through arctic weather at the moment, this is one of those glorious Florida days that make you glad to be alive: 73 or so degrees, bright and sunny, gentle breeze. It’s the kind of day that kicks my brain and my body into high gear. Music on high, doors and windows open, I’ve been decluttering and cleaning up the last flotsam and jetsam from Christmas and the busy past weeks. Oh it feels good to look at my kitchen and finally breathe again! The picture attached is part of my back porch, my favorite spot to stop and live on a day like today!
As I’ve worked, I’ve been pondering this post, wondering what direction it is going to take. Writing sometimes takes on a life of its own for me. I’ve been pondering three questions today.
- How do I answer the question “What do you do?”
- Why I can’t seem to plan a day and stick to the plan.
- Of all the things I do, what are the ones that matter most?
It would be asking a lot to have answers to those questions, all three of which are huge, life-directional questions brought on by Five, the Starbucks Journal. But to continue with my theme of decluttering and cleaning up, I’ll dump my thought processes here and maybe it will spark a thought or two somewhere!
What do you do?
What a hard question for someone like me. In the old days I’d have settled for “I am raising and homeschooling my daughters.” Sometimes I’d omit the homeschooling part, because that was never part of my identity. Now, though, it’s complicated. Now, my answer has to involve writing, helping run our family business, being an executor and trustee to my mother and her affairs, launching my active girls. When that question comes at church I really don’t know how to answer. My name isn’t found on any ministry roll. I don’t volunteer at any one spot. I’m an elder’s wife, and take that seriously, but does that count? For years my stock answer was “Whatever I need to do.” While that is still true, it’s kind of a squishy answer. You see, I have a very distinct calling on my life in God’s kingdom. I know God has called me, us, to be a “haven” for people…to provide the strength, prayer covering, refreshment, margin, love, direction for others. The “haven” or “refuge” concept is the underlying narrative for all the things that matter to me: building community, taking care of friends in crisis, working for my family. Practically speaking, you who have read my blog for awhile know exactly how that works out in my life. But how do you answer “What do you do?” It would be much easier to say, “I’m a greeter at the 11 AM service.”
Why can’t I plan a day and stick to it?
Quick answer? I’m easily distracted! On a deeper level, though, I’m convinced of a truth that God wants me to learn. I just can’t get it into my head and heart yet. You see, God doesn’t really want me to be so focused on my day plans that I miss the serendipitous assignments he’s giving to me daily in the Kingdom. I don’t always write about them, but honestly every day something or someone pops into my path and my day takes a new direction. I love that! My goal is to be so in tune with what God really wants me to be doing that I stop fussing at all the interuptions. So I guess I’m going to eliminate this question. It’s not a valid one for me at this time and place.
What matters most?
Oh, immediately in my head I hear John Maxwell in his stately tone saying “Today Matters. People Matter. Eternity Matters.” Yes, when John Maxwell speaks all his words are capitalized….my grammar didn’t go out the window!
Answering this question today I think I’m going to skip the philosophical answers to that question (ie: faith, family, Jesus, church…) in favor of the day to day practical answers, since that’s the mood I’m in. So…what matters?
- Margin in my life. I need spaces around the serendipitous events God puts in my path. I need to be able to clear my head, think, breathe. I need margin in my home, my closet, my relationships, my diet plan.
- Reading and writing. Consistent theme throughout my life, but lately I’m sensing a deeper urgency to the writing half. It’s easy for me to dwell in the land of reading. I’m good at it, and there are no risks involved. Writing is a risk. Blogging is a risk.
- Physical activity. I’ve been slowly building up my stamina over the past few months. I’m now running about 4 miles a day at the club, and reaping the benefits of it. Slowly, it’s becoming a priority.
- Less. Maybe it is just the start of the new year, but I’m tossing stuff, eliminating junk, buying less. I just want less.
- Order. I know that goes along with margin, in my mind. I’ve never been a very OCD housekeeper, but lately…
So that’s it, my very self-indulgent blog post. I’m not sure it is worth publishing, but here goes!
Thesis: The value that God has bestowed on people, is the standard by which we should value others. In other words, people matter to God.
Three Reasons Why You Are Important to God:
1. Because of who you are.
- We are made in God’s image, after his likeness.
- Meditation for 2009: “God loves me as I am, not as I would like to be, or as I appear to be, but just as I am.”
2. Because of what you cost.
The fact that God gave us His only Son and that Jesus gave up His life for us, demonstrates…
- The seriousness of sin
- The unconditional love of God.
There is always a price to be paid for friendship and relationship. The people you love need to know that you have paid that price, that they matter to you.
3. Because of what you can become.
- We see our performance and it discourages us.
- God sees our potential and encourages us.
John closed the sermon by reading the old poem (and later, song) “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”. I was looking for one of the musical versions of it to post here (other than people playing guitar in their bedrooms!), but couldn’t find it. Instead, this is the poem read by JD Summer, one of the old-time gospel greats.
This was a great reminder for those of us “in ministry” that the people who sometimes make our life difficult are the treasures that God gave it all for.