Get PROMOTED and gain FAVOR at work!

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????????????????????????????????????????Here’s how I got my first salaried job.  I walked in for the interview and told my future boss, “I feel like God told me I’m supposed to work here and serve you.”  I was supposed to have a college degree.  I was supposed to have a resume showing admin experience.  I should have been laughed out of the room.  What happened was the opposite.  Over the next two years I was given responsibility over areas that a 20-year-old had no business running.  I was trusted to help manage a multimillion dollar department.  I was set on a trajectory toward management that has elevated my entire career.

I don’t recommend you go to interviews telling people God told you that you were going to get the job.  That part was foolish.  I shared that because it shows how God was posturing my heart toward my boss and the job I was pursuing. Here’s the radical posture I’m suggesting: God has sent you to serve your boss and the people around you at work.  If you will assume that posture, you will never stop being promoted and growing in favor at work.

The Bible says that “he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)  I wonder, is your posture toward your boss and your coworkers working for you or against you?  What could you do today to communicate your willingness to serve?  Get out there and serve the people God has put around you.  Your promotion is just around the corner!

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Keys to Avoid Moral Failure

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There’s nothing that troubles my heart more than watching a spiritual leader morally collapse.  It brings such a wide-range of emotions.  I feel for the people who looked up to the leader.  I feel for the community that was supposed to be reached by those people.  I feel for the leader, their family, their calling.  I feel for myself.  ‘If it could happen to him, what about me?’  I get sad.  I get angry.  I feel loss.  But then, I quickly develop a sense of resolve.  ‘This doesn’t have to happen.’

Leaders don’t just spontaneously-combust.  That’s just how it looks the moment we hear about it.  The truth is that the seeds of that public failure were quietly sown long before they produced public fruit.  Those seeds were nurtured in an environment that allowed them to grow undetected.  Then, at the opportune moment (for our enemy), the disgusting fruit produced after the very kind of disgusting seed it came from.  Had the seed only been identified and destroyed, we would still be benefiting from all the good things these leaders have to offer.

What about you and me?  Will we identify the seeds of corruption in our own lives before they take root and destroy our lives?  No one else can do it for you.  Most people will never even know your secret battles unless some public fruit is displayed.  So, here are some tips to take with you into your personal struggle with evil.  By the way, if you want to win that battle, YOU WILL.  So don’t worry about it.  Just commit to smash those nasty seeds and cultivate the good seeds that Jesus has already sown into you!

Keys to Avoid Moral Failure

1.) Make it Personal.  It’s easy to exist in a community – even a Christian community – without ever personally engaging with God.  It is totally awesome to go to church every week and to attend prayer meetings and small groups.  Do that and also spend alone time with God.  I’ve found it’s possible to put on a great show in front of other people even when you’re silently slipping away on the inside.  If you’re always with others, you may even convince yourself that everything is fine.  I’ve also found that it is impossible to seek out one on one time with God and not immediately be confronted with your true state.  Don’t be afraid of that.  That confrontation is the beginning of setting everything back on course.

2.) Honor the Word.  I’ve noticed that I don’t hear my kids anymore.  Years ago I started tuning out all their play noises so I could focus on other things.  As a result, I occasionally don’t even notice when one of my kids is standing right in front of me asking for something.  Terrible, right?   Consider how we do that with God’s Word.  The more we get used to hearing the Word and not acting, the less sensitive we become to it.  Eventually, the very tool He gave us to help us grow toward Him is useless to us.  Honor the Word and He will always be able to speak to you through it.

3.) Have Quality Conversations.  Genuine relationships with other people are a powerful tool for staying on track.  The problem is most of us don’t take advantage of those relationships.  We prefer to keep conversation surface-level and about others.  What if you found one person this week and created a quality conversation, one where you talk about what God has speaking to you about in the Word and in your time with Him? Going public with what God is challenging you with is a powerful tool.  Don’t waste your relationships on gossip and pop culture.  Mix in some quality.

4.) Be Under Authority.  Each of us need someone looking out for us that we’re accountable to.  Lone-rangering is a recipe for moral compromise.  Justifying your actions, behaviors, whereabouts and words to someone else may seem like extra work, but it’s worth it.  Just the process will help you avoid traps and self-deception.

5.) Focus.  With everything else covered, all that’s really left is to focus on doing what God has called you to do.  That won’t leave you with much time for any nonsense.  Assuming you’re putting to practice these other keys, simply being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there will keep you on track most of the time.

What about you?  What keys have you found for avoiding moral failure?

What does Honor look like today?

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A friend of mine shared an experience with me.  She had been invited to a dinner party with a group of professional athletes.  At some point during the dinner, she needed to excuse herself from the table.  When she stood up, she froze, perplexed by what was happening.  Every man at the table had just stood up with her.  It took my friend a moment to realize that these men had adopted in their social circle a practice of honor that has long since been abandoned by many, to stand when a lady enters or leaves the room.

My first reaction to this story was to roll my eyes.  Where do these guys get off bringing back some ancient custom?  Was it just a ploy to be different?  It was weird.  But then I thought, this custom came from a time period in history when society was so determined to honor people, that they adopted a code of conduct to express it.  These gentlemen were simply instituting a simple practice in their circle to uphold the same value.  What if our entire society became so committed to honor one another that we adopted a code of behavior that reflected that commitment?

Then again, outward expressions of honor are pointless unless they stem from a genuine heart that places value on other people.

So what does honor look like today?

Honor starts in the heart.  We can stand up when a lady leaves the room.  We can address elders with titles of respect.  We can hold the door open.  But none of it means a hill of beans if our heart isn’t postured right.  Honor means to value.  Dishonor means to treat as common. True honor begins with a decision to value someone more than yourself.  Don’t put the cart before the horse.  Develop honor in your heart.  The code of conduct will follow.

Honor is expressed in actions.  A heart that truly values another person will always drive you to action.  Once you’ve put someone else first, actions follow.  It’s more than just customs and conduct.  It’s determining to let the honor you’ve cultivated in your heart express itself.  Here are some examples of actions that honor may have you take in different relationships:

  • Spouse – Writing a note to show appreciation for how they handled something.
  • Boss – Looking for ways to help make their job as a leader easier.
  • Pastor – Showing up to Church on-time, ready to soak in every word.
  • Friend – Taking time to understand what they’re going through.
  • Politician – Saying a prayer that God will help them lead.
  • Parent – Asking and weighing their advice in a difficult decision.

Just a thought, what if we rebuilt honor in to our society?  What would it look like?  Would it benefit us?  What do you think?

 

Love is Overrated

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First off, I’m a hopeless romantic, so put down the stones and let me explain myself!

I haven’t been single for over a decade, so feel free to dismiss my opinions, but I don’t think the problem in the dating world is a lack of qualified suitors.  In fact, the problem is too many options!  Not too many decades ago, it was very unlikely that you were going to meet someone who would come in from a distant land and sweep you off your feet.  Pickins’ were slim.  Look around you…what you see…those are your options!

Contrast that with today.  Mr. or Miss Wonderful may just stumble into your world at any minute.  The possibilities are endless.  You can even go online and build the perfect suitor profile and bring them to you!  With so many potential options, it’s hard to commit.  You know the people around you aren’t perfect, so why settle? …especially when someone better may show up any day.

So how do you navigate the new world?  How do you avoid ending up with the wrong person but also make sure that fear of commitment won’t keep you single forever?

Here are some ideas to help:

1.) Narrow your options: Believe it or not, who you marry is not the only important choice in your life.  You can narrow your options simply by deciding what else is important to you.  For me, faith in Jesus and resolve to help build His church are primary values for my life.  Eileen (my wife) stood out to me as someone who shared those values from the very beginning of our relationship.  Without that, it would have been a non-starter.  What values are important to you?  Can that help narrow your options?

2.) Forget perfection: You’re not perfect.  No one else is either.  Besides, the real awesomeness of relationships is that they force us to deal with our imperfections.  Don’t look for someone who is perfect.  Look for someone who is willing to grow.  If you’ll be willing as well, together you can help each other become so much more than either of you could be on your own.

3.) Love is overrated: OK, here it is.  I think the “in love” feeling is hype.  The truth is that feelings come and go.  There are days you’re gonna be so passionately love-struck that you can’t separate from each other.  Other days you’ll hope they don’t even call because you can’t bear the thought of talking to them.  To make long-term decisions on feelings, no matter how deep, is to build your future on a very shaky foundation.

True love is born of commitment, not feelings.  Jesus said that there is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life.  True love is the result of someone committing to lay down their individual life (desires, plans, feelings) for another person.  That’s why two people in an arranged marriage can find love.  Love came out of their commitment, not the other way around.  So don’t freak out if you don’t feel enraptured with passion every second of every day.  True love is much bigger than that.

4.) Try Someone On.  I used to believe in a strict dating guideline, that you shouldn’t date unless you felt the relationship was headed toward marriage.  Now, though, it seems like that puts too much pressure on relationships in the early stages.  I think the goal should be to learn as much as possible about someone’s values, strengths, weaknesses and willingness to grow with as little wounding as possible.  Perhaps my next post will be how to avoid wounds in dating relationships.  For more direction on “trying someone on”, though, see my previous post.

What about you?  What ideas do you have about navigating today’s dating world?

 

Not Married…Just Sleeping Together

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I’m confronted with the idea quite a bit:  “How will I know if my future spouse and I click in the bedroom unless we try it out, first?”  It seems logical enough of a question.  But that’s only because the question itself is framed in a cultural myth…that the honeymoon is the culmination of a couple’s sexual relationship.  Let me offer a different perspective.

What if the honeymoon was only the beginning of a sexual relationship that gets sweeter and sweeter your whole life?  How much experience would you need to get started?  The answer: absolutely none.  The truth is that God designed us to crave our first and most frequent sexual experiences.  If you want to be enraptured with sexual desire and passion for your spouse, wait until you have a spouse and start your sexual experiences together.  In the meantime, if you want to “try-on” your potential spouse, consider these areas:

4 Ways to “Try-On” a Potential Spouse

1.) Ride out multiple seasons together: Everyone looks great when they’re on top of the world.  But life throws different seasons at us.  Some of those seasons are difficult.  How does your significant other hold up under the pressure of the hard seasons?  If possible, don’t rush into marriage before allowing time to observe their character in the ups and the downs.

2.) Get Spiritual: I’m amazed at how many couples don’t even bring up spiritual questions while dating.  Can you imagine if the first time this comes up is deciding whether you’ll raise your child in church? Figure this stuff out before marriage.  Ask the tough questions.  Dig into yourself, too.  What is your level of devotion going to be to God and His House the rest of your life?  Are you attaching yourself to someone who will go there with you?

3.) Embrace Conflict: Most of us want our serious relationships to work-out.  And by “work-out” I mean to end in marriage.  As a result, it’s easy to avoid conflict while dating.  We cover up issues and try to make our relationship look perfect.  We save the good fights until we’ve already gotten hitched.  Why not jump into conflict before marriage?  How do you handle it?  How does he/she handle it?  A good conflict will tell you so much more than a dozen perfect dates.

4.) Talk about money:  Money issues are a leading cause of divorce.  But I rarely hear dating people talk openly about their financial convictions and habits.  Bring it up!  Observe earning, saving and spending patterns.  Ask about debt.  Then, refer to #3.  It’s better to have these discussions upfront.

If you want to “try on” a potential spouse, I recommend these four areas.  Leave the sex for the honeymoon!  What areas are you exploring (or wish you had explored) in your potential spouse?

Should Every Generation Start From Scratch?

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I think I’ve always held a pretty good external appearance of honor toward my parents and other figures of authority.  Growing up, I learned quickly how to say and do the right things.  My mom still tells me she never considered me to be dishonoring.  But I know in my heart that I’ve struggled over the years with believing that I know best about pretty much everything.  You may not think it’s possible, but I’ve even approached spirituality with a strong undertow of dishonor.

My parents are some of the most God-fearing people I know.  They’ve committed to live holy lives that honor God.  They’ve been faithful to each other and to raising a God-fearing family.  They’ve served in their church my entire life, supporting the work that God is doing there.  They’ve stood against empty religion and sought to share the genuine life-changing relationship that God has given them with others.  They use their gifts and their talents to help others find a deeper more meaningful relationship with God.  But, if you had run into me the summer before I went to college and asked me about my parents, you would have thought that I was being raised by faithless, compromising, religious wannabes who didn’t know the first thing about a real relationship with God.  In the midst of true revival in my own life, I stopped looking to my parents as sources of guidance and wisdom.  Over the years, I’ve realized that in many areas I was not benefiting from their input, but charting my own course.

Our culture celebrates the value of independence and self-reliance.  It’s almost perceived a weakness to seek out advice and support from others, especially your parents.  We make fun of children who live at home past high-school and we write-off the successes of those who build on the platforms and wealth they’ve inherited.  Faith, knowledge, wealth, wisdom…there have been times where anything that I didn’t come by on my own, I didn’t consider valuable.  A real man would have provided for himself!  Maybe you can relate.  I still struggle to place the same value on what I can learn from my parents, teachers and from my pastor as what I can come up with on my own.  The truth, though, is that we shouldn’t be starting from scratch with every generation.  I appreciate the confidence that comes from nurturing independence in children, but I’m also learning the importance of making sure we value the people God has given us to learn from.

What have you gained from your parents or other mentors?  How much value is it to you?

It Takes More Than One Generation

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My Pastor often describes the relationship of two generations as a river.  The younger generation is like the water that is charging downstream, full of excitement, passion and fervor.  The older generation is like the banks of the river that channel that water in the right direction.

Imagine a river with no banks.  The water would spread out all over the place, expending all of its energy in every direction until it was completely spent and worthless.  Living our lives outside of honoring relationships with previous generations sets us up for ineffectiveness and instability, but the guidance of fathers and mothers focuses our efforts and channels our energies into a force to be reckoned with.

What often looks like a parent boxing a child into a set of parameters or limiting their potential is really providing the stability necessary for real growth and effectiveness in the life of the child.

How have you seen older people channel your passion and energy?

Many Competing Priorities? Why rigid time-management will NEVER bring “balance” to your life

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Several times in my life I’ve attempted to sit down and write out an ideal weekly schedule to live by…divided into 15min increments.  You know the drill…Monday: wake-up, read the Bible, pray, make breakfast, eat breakfast…  It was as if life was a weight-balance scale and if I could arrange all the competing priorities perfectly my life would have perfect balance.  Yet, every time I developed the perfect schedule I was never able to execute.

Here’s the problem I discovered.  Those weights…those competing priorities…they don’t weigh the same from week to week, or even day-to-day.  Wives get pregnant (how does that happen?).  Children develop bad habits that have to be addressed (another mystery).  Projects have deadlines.  Relationships have needy moments.  The weight of each of these competing priorities is constantly shifting.  You can’t expect to set a balanced scale and never tend it again.  To have constant balance, your scale must be adjustable.

Here are a two ideas to help your time-management system respond to this reality:

1.) Do your daily-planning…weekly: Many people develop a daily task list.  That’s a wonderful tool, but it doesn’t allow for big-picture thinking.  With many competing priorities, you’ll need to set aside a time each week to reflect on which priorities need your attention and when you’re going to be able to focus on them.  With daily planning alone, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important.  Here are some important components of your weekly planning session:

  • THINK.  Rigid time-management systems tell us where to be when so we don’t have to think about it.  But your weekly planning should have thinking time built-in so you can use common sense to help balance your life.  Family doing great, but you’re about to lose your job because of your performance?  I might get crucified for saying this, but maybe you should drop family movie night and work late on Thursday!
  • VALUES.  Use your weekly planning time to remind yourself of what’s important to you.  Make sure your time-management choices reflect those values.  There is nothing that will drive you more insane than knowing that you’re not living by your values.
  • RELATIONSHIPS.  Don’t just think in tasks.  Think in relationships.  Do you have a list of relationships that are most important to you?  Look at each person on your list and ask yourself what you would need to do this week to enhance that relationship.  Then, schedule it in.
  • BIG PROJECTS.  Most really important things can’t be accomplished in a day…or even in a week.  Break that big project down and ask yourself what you need to accomplish this week to move things forward.
  • TASKS.  There are always little things that have to get thrown in.  Schedule a few of these each day and knock them out after you finish your big items.

2.) Look for Opportunities and jump on them (be flexible): Another problem with rigid time-management systems is that we don’t know everything.  If we knew everything that was going to happen in our lives and in the lives of people around us, maybe we could build a schedule that would make the most of every opportunity.  Reality, though, is that unknown opportunities spring up everyday that can help us advance our professional and relational goals.  (i.e. – Thursday isn’t my day to pick the kids up from school, but it looks like I will win some real relational points with my wife if I can go pick them up today.  A minor adjustment to my routine and a great relational win!) If we look for those and respond to them, we can take full advantage of each day.  We must be willing to deviate from our schedule to jump on the unexpected.

Do you have competing priorities?  How do you manage it all?

Defining Reality: A Powerful Leadership Tool You May Be Overlooking

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Everyone knows that one of a leader’s greatest responsibilities is to communicate a clear and compelling vision for the future.  However, there is a very powerful leadership responsibility that is often overlooked: defining the present reality.

There are hundreds of ways for the people in your organization or team to interpret the reality they work in.  Some will compare your organization with other organizations.  Some will judge based off some glorious past.  Some will go by their feelings or personal situation.  Left to chance, each person will have a different interpretation of where the team is.

Even if you’re able to communicate a compelling vision of the future, you’ll never find agreement on a pathway to get there.  Each person would start from a different point to reach the agreed upon destination.  A great leader must find a way to not only show people a glorious future, but to define the starting point.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality” Max De Pree

Here’s an idea for making the most of this leadership tool:

Define Reality in the context of where you’re going: The Vision should be the point of comparison that defines your present reality.  Any other measure is less powerful and potentially distracting for your team.

Ex: Your organization probably has all sorts of problems.  Part of defining the present reality is choosing which ones are BIG problems and which ones really don’t need that much focus.  You can’t FOCUS on everything at once.  Use your leadership influence to highlight the problems that stand in the way of the vision and downplay the problems that don’t.

Comparisons with the past, other organizations, and industry best practices can be helpful analysis, but they are not a powerful leadership tool until they are brought into the context of a vision for the future.  An intentionally defined present reality that is communicated in the context of a compelling vision will bring a great alignment and focus to your team.

What other ways could you use defining the present reality as a leadership tool?