Poetry Saturday—A Man With An Aim

Give me a man with an aim,
   Whatever that aim may be,
Whether it’s wealth or whether it’s fame,
   It matters not to me.
Let him walk in the path of right,
   And keep his aim in sight,
And work and pray in faith alway,
   With his eyes on the glittering height.

Give me a man who says,
   “I will do something well,
And make the fleeing days
   A story of labor to tell.”
Though the aim he has be small,
   It is better than none at all;
With something to do the whole year through,
   He will not stumble and fall.

But satan weaves a snare
   For the feet of those who stray,
With never a thought or care
   Where the path may lead away.
The man who hath no aim
   Not only leaves no name
When life’s done, but ten to one
   He leaves a record of shame. 

Give me a man whose heart
   Is filled with ambition’s fire;
Who sets his mark in the start,
   And keeps moving it higher and higher.
Better to die in the strife,
   The hands with labor rife,
Than to glide with the stream in an idle dream
   And lead a purposeless life. 

Better to strive and climb
   And never reach the goal,
Than to drift along with time
   An aimless, worthless soul.
Ay, better to climb and fall,
   Or sow, though the yield be small,
Than to throw away day after day,
   And never to strive at all. —Anonymous

4 + 4 Strategies To Eliminate Distractions To Your Prayer Time

There’s a quote that has been the theme for this series on prayer: “Prayer pursues joy in fruitful fellowship with Jesus, knowing that God is glorified when we bear fruit in answer to prayer. Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer? Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.” —John Piper 

And unless I’m badly mistaken, the most obvious thing we need to plan to eliminate is distractions. 

Some people say they can juggle a lot of things at once. “I’m a really good multitasker,” they say. But science says differently. MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller concluded that our brains are “not wired to multitask well…. When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” What is that cognitive cost? “Multitasking can drop IQ as much as 15 points, essentially turning you into the cognitive equivalent of an 8-year-old” (Inc. Magazine). 

If the devil can make you think you can multitask prayer with other things, he has seriously inhibited the effectiveness of your prayers. 

Jesus was not a multitasker—but He was singularly focused on His Father’s plan. And yet He accomplished more in His three years of public ministry than anyone else in history! 

Here are 4 strategies to help you get ready to pray:

  1. Try to have your prayer time in the same place and at the same time. Your brain likes routine and it will help you zero-in during your scheduled prayer times. 
  2. Silence your cell phone or other noisy distractions. 
  3. Keep a notepad handy for random thoughts that pop into your head. Writing them down will keep your brain from switching back-and-forth to them.
  4. Focus on listening, not on talking—Eugene Peterson said, “Prayer is first of all a means of listening. Prayer is an act of attention.” 

When we get right down to it, prayer is spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:10-18). In the context of warfare, the word strategy means the maneuvering that takes place prior to the battle. The devil is a masterful tactician, and he will do everything he can to keep you distracted. 

That’s why three times Peter tells us to be clear-minded and singularly-focused in our thoughts SO THAT we can pray without the hindrances of distractions (1 Peter 1:13-14; 4:7; 5:8-9). And Paul tells us to take all our thoughts captive, so that no un-Christlike thoughts are inhibiting our prayer time (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). 

Here are 4 strategies to help you stay focused in prayer:

  1. A—adoration. Enter into God’s presence with a Psalm or worship music. 
  2. C—confession. Deal with unconfessed sin, unforgiveness, or relationship strife as quickly as possible (Psalm 66:18; Matthew 5:21-24). 
  3. T—thanksgiving. Paul counseled us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition WITH thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).  
  4. S—supplication. Intercede for your brothers and sisters in the battles they are facing (James 5:16; Job 42:10; Ephesians 6:18).  

Remember—

Prayer isn’t preparation for the battle; prayer IS the battle! Let’s not be distracted from that!

20 Facts & Tips About Your Body Clock

I really enjoyed reading The Secrets Our Body Clocks Reveal (you can read my full book review by clicking here). From this book, I’ve begun implementing a few of the tips I discovered. Here are a few of the facts and tips that I found interesting. 

  1. “Most of us reach our peak of alertness around noon. … We are least alert during the early morning hours—specifically, between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.” 
  2. “Your immediate, or short-term, memory is best during the morning hours. … Your long-term memory is a different matter, however. Afternoon is the best time for learning material that you want to recall days, weeks, or even months later. … How well you remember things depends on when you learn them, not when you recall them.” 
  3. “On average, we tend to do best on cognitive tests—things that require the greatest mental effort—during the morning hours, particularly the late morning hours.” 
  4. “All of your senses—taste, sight, hearing, touch, and smell—are their keenest during the twilight hours of late afternoon and early evening.” 
  5. Tips for keeping your daily rhythms on beat: (1) get out in the sun for at least fifteen minutes each day, and (2) try to follow a regular daily routine.
  6. “Fortunately, there is another way to avoid the Monday morning blahs. Stay up as late as you like, but make sure you get up at your regular wake up time. In other words, don’t sleep in. And don’t take naps during the day. Then, when night rolls around again, you’ll find yourself able to fall asleep at or before your regular bedtime, and you’ll avoid pushing your cycle ahead.” 
  7. “Scientists have also discovered that short naps (twenty minutes or less) are just as revitalizing as long ones—and less disruptive to regular sleep rhythms. In addition, regular nappers wake up more refreshed than those who take only an occasional nap. When naps are part of the regular daily rhythm, they are less disruptive.” 
  8. “Generally, our moods peek around four hours after we awaken.” 
  9. “A regular exercise program can go along way toward easing the physical effects of stress. … The exercise program must be regular, however; sporadic physical activity, such as an occasional game of tennis or softball, or an activity that is not appropriate to your physical condition, can be a harmful stressor.” 
  10. “Melatonin’s daily rhythm is similar to that of legendary vampires: it appears at the onset of darkness and begins to disappear at the break of dawn. In other words, darkness triggers the chemical’s release; sunlight suppresses it. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that melatonin reaches its seasonal peak in the body during the dark winter months.” 
  11. “Beards tend to grow the most on Sunday and the least on Wednesday.” 
  12. “If you wake up in the morning with a temperature of 99° F, you are very likely coming down with a cold, the flu, or some other kind of illness. But if you have that same reading around dinner time, you may be in perfect health. The reason, of course, is that your temperature rises during the day. A high reading early in the day is a greater indication of illness than the same reading late in the day.” 
  13. “Take a commonplace drug like aspirin, for example. When swallowed at 7:00 a.m., aspirin stays in the body for up to twenty-two hours. When the same dose is taken at 7:00 p.m., it is completely out of the body within seventeen hours.” 
  14. “When you know your rhythms are out of sync, be aware that you are particularly vulnerable to illness. It is the time to be extra careful about keeping your distance from people with the flu or other viruses.” 
  15. “The best thing you can do for a tension headache is to learn how to relax. As soon as the headache begins, lie down, if possible, so you can take the strain off your neck, since this is the location of most of the muscles that tense up and cause a tension headache. Close your eyes and breathe deeply to return oxygen to your strained muscles. Better yet, ask a sympathetic friend or loved one to gently massage your neck and shoulders.”
  16. “Eat your biggest meal at breakfast, your next biggest at lunch, and your smallest at dinner.” 
  17. “About every ninety minutes, most people experience an urge to put something into their mouths. … Generally, it will pass in about fifteen minutes.” 
  18. “According to recent studies conducted at Northwestern University, both morning and night people perform simple mental tasks better during the morning hours after consuming the caffeine equivalent of one to three cups of coffee. But when the tasks become more complex, only night people do better under the influence of caffeine. For morning people, the higher dose of caffeine, the more mistakes they make.” 
  19. “Carbohydrates help calm and focus your mind.” 
  20. “Protein foods increase your alertness and help you feel more energetic. … Protein can be eaten either alone or with a carbohydrate food to energize the mind. For carbohydrates to have their calming effect, they must be eaten alone.” 

I’ll be sharing some of the research that Susan Perry and Jim Dawson uncovered about the importance of sleep soon, so stay tuned! 

Self-made Or Spirit-led?

“And behold, two men were conversing with Him—Moses and Elijah, who appeared in splendor and majesty and brightness and were speaking of His exit from life, which He was about to bring to realization at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:30-31)

Jesus was constantly making decisions that kept Him on the path straight toward Calvary’s Cross. He would let nothing deter Him from God’s appointed mission. Even when His own friends and family urged Him to find another route. 

It was at a moment like this—when Jesus had yet another choice to make about what path He would follow—that Moses and Elijah talked to Him, reminding Him of the ultimate outcome of His obedient and correct choices. 

At every crossroads—at every decision point—Jesus chose correctly. He chose to do God’s will for His life. He could have decided to do things His own way, but He leaned into the unmistakable voice of the Holy Spirit pointing Him toward the right path.

What does that mean for us today?

I have failed to make the right choice.
That means that I could have chosen correctly.
Jesus was human just like me.
Which means He had choices too.
He always chose correctly, even though the other possibility was there.
So the question is: Will I try to be a self-made man or a Spirit-led man?
I cannot be both.

Notes From The Global Leadership Summit

I had an amazing time last week at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. Every year I came away with some many thoughts, and a brand new passion for the various leadership roles in which I get to serve.

Below are just a few of my notes that I jotted down during an intense two days.

Hybels - everybody winsBill Hybels—The Lens Of Leadership

“Everybody wins when a leader gets better.”

“Armed with enough humility, leaders can learn from anyone.”

Hybels discussed four leadership lenses:

1.   Passionate leader (depicted by vibrant bright red frames)

  • They understand unbridled passion in leadership.
  • “Passion is like protein for the team.”
  • A motivated worked will outperform an unmotivated worker by 40%.
  • People are more motivated by working for a passion-filled leader than they are by compensation or perks.
  • Passion comes from a mountain-top dream, or a valley-deep frustration of current settings.

2.   People leader (cool frames, but cracked lenses)

  • An organization will only be as healthy as the top leader wants it to be.
  • This world needs more pastors of businesses, factories, medical offices, military units, etc.

3.   Performance leader (self-adjusting glasses)

  • Leaders ask: what progress should be made? how do we measure this? what doesn’t need to be measured?
  • Every worker wants to know how they are doing. For the leader, it’s cruel to hire someone and never let them know how they’re doing. Every staff member should get an update at least every six months.

4.   Legacy leader (sunglasses with a rearview mirror [cyclist])

  • Every once in awhile we need to look behind to see what legacy we’re leaving behind.
  • Leaders should reflect on this annually.
  • If my leadership assignment were to end today, what legacy would I leave?

Mulally - overcommunicateAlan Mulally—CEO Boeing and Ford Motor Company

An average commercial airline has 4 million parts!

  • People first
  • Include everyone
  • Create a compelling vision
  • Present a workable strategy
  • Set clear performance goals
  • Relentless implementation
  • Share lots of data
  • “Over-communicate the plan and the current status against the plan.”
  • Instill a positive can-do attitude
  • Keep your emotional resilience
  • Have fun

 

Melinda Gates - hear the criesMelinda Gates—Gates Foundation

Melinda says of herself, “I am an impatient optimist. We are changing the world, but we need to change it faster.”

 

“At the end of the day, you have to hear the cries of those in need, let your heart break and act in courage.”

Jossy Chacko—Empart

“All of us have been entrusted with something. What are we doing to leverage it?”

In thinking about the parable of the talents … “To Jesus, faithfulness is not just sitting with what you have been given, but multiplying what you have been given. God’s mission is not maintaining.”

“Playing it safe is not enough for a follower of Jesus Christ.”

Three principles for expanding our leadership reach:

Jossy Chacko - faithfulness1. Enlarge your vision

  • “When people hear my vision, they should know the size of my God.”
  • “An enlarged vision should keep us driven.”
  • “Do not be confused about what people say about your vision; trust what God has said to you.”

2. Empower your people

  • “Leadership is about taking wise chances and giving people opportunities.”
  • “Your leadership reach will be determined by your empowerment choices.”
  • Three things to keep in mind: (1) Focus on building their character before empowering them; (2) Empowerment has to be through relationship; and (3) Make sure we have agreed on the right outcomes, and have the right way to measure them.

3. Embrace risk

  • Faith = risk. Without faith it is impossible to please God = without taking risks it is impossible to please God.
  • Paradigms to be changed: (1) See risk as your friend to love, not as your enemy to be feared; (2) See comfort and safety as your enemies; and (3) Increase your pain threshold.
  • “Your leadership capacity is in direct relationship to your pain threshold.”
  • “Don’t allow the fear of losing what we have to lose what God has in store for you.”
  • “By me not taking risks, who is missing out?”

Bradberry - EQDr. Travis Bradberry—TalentSmart

All inputs into the brain travel through the limbic system first (emotional center) before the inputs travel to the frontal cortex. The EI (emotional intelligence) center is in the front of the brain, just above the left eye.

Only 36% of people are able to accurately identify their emotions as they happen.

EQ (the Emotional Quotient that measures emotional intelligence) is not IQ.

EQ can be improved all throughout life.

Four components of emotional intelligence:

 1. Self-awareness: knowing my emotions, and knowing my tendencies. I need to lean into my discomfort if I want to improve.

   2. Self-management: what I do with this increased self-awareness. This is not “stuffing” my feelings. The biggest mistake is only trying to manage negative emotions; positive emotions need to be managed too.

   3. Social awareness: focusing more on others than on myself.

   4. Relationship management: using the first three skills in concert. Seeing how my behavior is affecting the other person, and then adjusting accordingly.

 

How to increase my EQ:

  1. Control stress—stress under control is healthy; chronic stress is unhealthy. Gratitude reduces the stress hormone cortisol.
  2. Clean up my sleep hygiene—sleep cleans up toxic hormones in the brain. To get better sleep: (1) Don’t take any kind of sleeping pill; and (2) Reduce “blue lights” in the evening.
  3. Reduce my caffeine input—especially after noon.

Ideal team playerPatrick Lencioni—Author

Three qualities of an ideal team player:

1.   Humble

  • Lacking self-confidence is not humility.
  • “Denying skills and downplaying abilities is not humility.”

2.   Hungry

  • Strong work ethic
  • Driving hard

3.   Smart

  • Not intellectual smarts, but people smarts = EQ

“To develop people, we have to have the courage to humbly and constantly talk to people about their ‘stuff.’”

McChesney - execution disciplinesChris McChesney—Franklin Covey

Rahm Charan asked:

  • Q: Do leaders struggle more with strategy or execution? A: Execution.
  • Q: Are leaders more educated in strategy or execution? A. Strategy.

“The hardest thing a leader will ever do is drive a strategy that changes someone’s behavior.”

There are four disciplines for making changes in human behavior:

1.  Focus

  • “Focus on the wildly important.”
  • If a team focuses on 2-3 goals, they are likely to get them done. But if there are 4-10 goals, momentum is killed. At 11+ goals, the team is going backward.
  • We narrow the focus by coming up with a WIG: wildly important goal (this lives at the intersection of ‘really important’ and ‘not going to happen’).

2.  Leverage

  • “What are the fewest number of battles necessary to win the war?”
  • “When you want to go big, don’t think big, think narrow.”
  • One WIG per team at the same time. Everything else is in sustainment mode.
  • Make goals like this—“From x to y by when.”

3.  Engagement

  • “The biggest driver of engagement is when people feel like they’re winning.”
  • “Do the people who work for me feel like they’re playing a winnable game?”

4.  Accountability

  • Everyone needs to answer: “What are the things I do that have the biggest impact on the WIG?”
  • After sharing the scoreboard, allow people to determine what they need to do next. The people need to determine their own next moves, not the leader. The leader pulls this out of people.

Erin Meyer - contextErin Meyer—INSEAD

On The Culture Map communication is divided into Low vs. High Context:

  • Low = feel we don’t have the same context or relationship. We feel we need to explain things very simply and explicitly.
  • High = we assume we have a larger body of shared reference points. We feel communication is more implicit or nuanced.

Anglo-Saxon countries are typically low context.

Latin American are mid-low.

Asian countries are usually high context.

In low context we tend to nail things down in writing, where in high context we leave things more open to later interpretation.

“Context impacts communication. … We need to read both the messages ‘in the air’ as well as the explicitly stately messages.”

“In a high context culture, repeat things less, ask more questions, learn to ‘read the air.’”

 

Maxwell - 3 questionsJohn Maxwell—Author 

“Good leaders lift.”

“You have to find the people before you lead the people.”

“The one thing leaders have to get right—they must intentionally add value to people every day.”

 

Five things that intentionally adds value to people:

  1. Value people—“God values people I don’t know; He even value people I don’t like.” “Are we going to spend our lives connecting with people, or correcting them?”
  2. Think of ways to add value to people—“Intentional living is thinking upfront on how to help people.”
  3. Look for ways to add value to people.
  4. Do things that add value to people.
  5. Encourage others to add value to people.

If you attended the GLS, please share in the comments below something amazing / challenging / paradigm-busting that you learned. Let’s all keep on learning!

Links & Quotes

link quote

Do you suffer from any of these? Things that hold us back from serving others.

Dave Barringer shares 10 subtle actions that you should pay attention to in your marriage.

“Let me warn you of second-hand spirituality; it is a rotten soul-deceiving deception. Beware of all esteeming yourself according to the thoughts of others, or you will be ruined. … O I do pray you, do not be satisfied with being persuaded into something like an assurance that you are in Christ, but do know Him—know Him for yourself.” —Charles Spurgeon

“Sinning is believing a false promise from the world above a true promise from God.” Read more in Jared Mulvihill’s post We Should Be Weeping.

Eurasia Northwest has a really cool infographic on the use of healing words in the Bible.

Seth Godin says, “The chances that everyone is going to applaud you, never mind even become aware you exist, are virtually nil. Most brands and organizations and individuals that fail fall into the chasm of trying to be all things in order to please everyone, and end up reaching no one. That’s the wrong thing to focus on. Better to focus on and delight almost no one.” Check out the rest of his post Almost No One.

[VIDEO] This year’s NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers is doing some cool stuff for kids―

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

My son is playing baseball for his high school this season. Whether I’m at a game or a practice, whether the Red Hawks are up to bat or out in the field, I hear the phrase over and over again: Keep your eye on the ball!

Pretty good advice. It’s awfully hard to field the ball when you are distracted by something else. It’s next to impossible to hit the ball when you don’t watch it all the way from the pitcher’s hand.

As a pastor, people tell me frequently about a stumble into sin, a failure in their marriage, a relapse into their addiction, a slip of the tongue. And I want to repeat the phrase over and over again: Keep your eyes on Jesus!

It’s awfully hard to say no to sin that seems so attractive when you aren’t looking at the surpassing beauty of Christ. It’s really hard to stay committed in your marriage when you don’t look at the perfect Bridegroom. It’s almost impossible to stay morally clean unless your eyes are fixed on the perfect Savior.

Charles Spurgeon gave this warning —

Some creature steals away your heart, and you are unmindful of Christ upon whom your affection ought to be set. Some earthly business engrosses your attention when you should fix your eye steadily upon the Cross. It is the incessant turmoil of the world, the constant attraction of earthly things which takes away the soul from Christ.

I love the chorus of the old hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

Keep your eye on your Savior!

4 x 4

Have you ever heard the statement, “He’s so thick-headed you have to hit him over the head with a 4-by-4 to get his attention”? Sometimes I’m that guy.

Okay, I’m not that dense (or maybe you should check with Betsy on that), but sometimes I do need some help. Especially in the area of setting and accomplishing goals.

So Betsy and I are working on something new. We picked four goals to accomplish in the next four weeks (4 goals x 4 weeks = 4 x 4).

We took one verse of Scripture about the life of Jesus as our guide — And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52). This one verse show the balanced way in which Jesus grew, so we have set our four goals in these areas:

  • Wisdom — a mental goal.
  • Stature — a physical goal.
  • Favor with God — a spiritual goal.
  • Favor with men — an emotional/social goal.

Even though we’re only four days into our first week, having this 4×4 is really keeping me motivated and on task. I’ll give you an update when we’ve finished our four weeks.

Another thought that’s keeping me focused during this is what’s happening in me during the process of pursuing these 4×4 goals. Zig Ziglar said it this way, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

Do you have any big goals you’re working on? What do you do to keep yourself motivated and focused on your goals?

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