It’s always an inside job

It’s always an inside job

I used to think that Facebook was my problem. 

Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine.  It felt great in the moment.  

Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later.  At present, I rarely check the platform.  Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline.  Not much has changed.  I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon.  Addiction defeated, problem solved right?

Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty.  So, I was stuck inside the house.   I had some choices to make.  I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash.  All decent options.

I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem.  I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day.  No need to do that.  Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end.  Simple enough.  Let’s read!  I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.

At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news. 

The battle was on! 

I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book.  Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down.  Problem solved!

I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book.  Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?”  My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call.  I’d better keep it with me while I read.  I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout.  In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again.  After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight.  A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel.  I had been ambushed!  It was an inside job!

It’s always an inside job!

My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News.  My problem is my heart.  If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly.  Yes, I have a few Godly desires.  But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God.  There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news.  However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.

Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives.  A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.

As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness).  I read the passage and something changed.  A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.

Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection.  We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…”  I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises.  In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!” 

Is that what James 4 is about?  We don’t have because we don’t ask? 

You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.” 

James 4:2b-3 ESV

We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions.  Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages.  God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.

Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God?  Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.

How worldly is your prayer life?


Read previous post: “Help us advocate for John and other kids in foster care”
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Last weekend, I took my 9 year old son (Nelson) for an overnight camping adventure at our ranch.

I had three objectives. First, to invest time into my son’s life. Second, teach him practical outdoor skills while feeding his sense of adventure. Third, each activity was designed to point him toward authentic manhood. All the while, pushing him outside his comfort zone surrounded by God’s amazing creation.

Upon arrival, I gave him a gift. It was a small field med-pack with a headlamp (red light), a striker, one chem-light (aka: glow-stick for all you ravers), a multi-tool, a small LED light to illuminate the inside the bag at night, a zip-lock with several cotton balls soaked in Vasaline petroleum jelly, a small first aid kit, a wrist compass and a two-way radio. I instructed him to keep the pack with him at all times.

Before sunset, our first lesson was to learn how to start a fire without conventional ignition, like matches or lighters. We gathered rocks, tinder and wood. Then I demonstrated how to ignite a tinder ball using a striker and a cotton ball covered in Vasaline.  Nelson practiced a few times before dinner.

Night came and temperatures fell. Stars filled the clear sky. Nighttime noises in the country surrounded us – crickets, frogs, locusts, owls and coyotes

We dawned our packs and made our way down to the pasture gate in the darkness. I instructed him to turn on his red-light head-lamp and close the pasture gate behind him. I prayed and read Bible passages about loyalty, leadership and humility over him. We turned on our two-way radios and tested our comms. Loud and clear.

“What are we going to do, dad?” he asked with a great deal of uncertainty.

As I put the compass on his wrist, I said, “Son, I am going to walk 250 yards down the path. You will stay here until I call on the radio. When I call, you will begin walking on a southwest heading, keeping on the path. Do not wonder off the path. As you know, there are cactus, snakes and trip hazards out here.” I continued, “Down the hill, there is a tree with a green chem-light hanging in it. I will meet you there.”

Coyotes were howling all around and the moon was not quite high enough to give much light. The red headlamp only emits enough light to illuminate the ground a few feet in front of you.

With his voice a little shaky, he uttered the words I expected, “Dad, I’m a little scared.”

I replied, “Son, there is nothing to be afraid of – this is just a new environment for you.”

I continued, “You have your radio and red light. You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you. Stay on the path, use your radio and your compass. I’ll meet you in a few minutes at the tree. I love you.” I shut off my headlamp and made my way into the darkness.

You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you.

When I arrived at the tree, I made the radio call to Nelson. I could see his red light up the hill begin to move toward my position. He radioed that he was still afraid. I encouraged him to keep walking down the hill. “I can see you. You are doing a great job son. Keep going!”

As he approached our meeting point under the tree, he couldn’t see me in the darkness. So, I called out to him without the radio. Nelson trotted over to me. He was so excited, I was too. Hive-fives and hugs around the board. I congratulated him and read Bible passages on purity, honesty and self-discipline to him.

After a drink of water and another radio check, I told him we had a second objective – further into the pasture. The terrain is rocky with a little creek running through it. There would be another tree with a chem-light hanging in it. I walked ahead into the dark to the meeting place and called him over the radio to begin walking. He could hear my voice but couldn’t see me. But, I could see him.

He arrived at the tree excited and confident. I instructed him to take off his pack, get out his striker and fuel. “Are we going to start a fire here?” he asked. I replied laughing, “YOU are going to start a fire!” We cleared a small space and he gathered tinder. With minimal guidance from me, he assembled a small bundle and put the petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball in the center. After several minutes of failed attempts, he produced a giant spark that landed in the center of the bundle. We had fire!  The boy had built his first fire.  I could see his self-confidence and satisfaction on his face.

As we hovered over the tiny flames, I read scripture about excellence, integrity and perseverance over him and I prayed. He was so excited. We put out the tiny fire, put on our packs and headed back to the pasture gate where we had begun.

This time Nelson would lead the way and I would follow. We talked and laughed as we walked in the darkness. Looking forward to building a camp fire and roasting some marshmallows. We would sleep beneath a blanked of stars.  Nelson had conquered fear, learned something about listening to the father’s voice in the darkness and learned perseverance through fear and adversity.

 

Further consideration…

Maybe you are in the darkness right now. The darkness can be a dreadful place. However, our heavenly father can see us and we can hear his voice in darkest night. You can call out to him. He will answer.

Special Note: The ideas for this activity with my son originated with a book called “Raising a Modern-Day Knight” by Robert Lewis and operations with Ironcenturion. Thanks guys for your creativity and leadership.


Read previous post: Remember when Jesus prayed for us? (a reflection)
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Goal Setting – a proven system

Goal Setting – a proven system

I’m often asked how I go about setting goals.

So, I decided to share my goal setting system. You may not be a goal-setter.  On the other hand, you could be goal guru.  Wherever you find yourself, I hope you find value here.

First, I have not always been a goal-setter. I was aimless for many years until someone (Dave Ramsey) taught me how to set goals. More importantly, I was taught ‘why’ I needed to set goals.

Second, I am not claiming that my process is the only way to set goals. Nor is it completely original. I am drawing from great leaders from whom I’ve learned over the years.

Thirdly, I’m not going to get into the ‘why’ of goal setting here. This article is for the individual who knows ‘why’ goal setting is important but needs a fresh look or wants to go a little deeper. I ask the men I mentor and leaders I work with to set goals using this method (or a variation). If we are setting goals using similar methods – we are speaking the same language.

FYI – I set my annual personal goals in March (as not to get mired by the ‘New Years Resolutions’ of others.)

I. Goal Setting Basics

Your goals must:

  • Be SPECIFIC
  • Be MEASURABLE (achievable)
  • Be YOUR OWN (don’t let someone else set your personal goals)
  • Have a TIME LIMIT
  • Be in WRITING (keep where you can see them every day)

Example: “I want to complete the XYZ half-marathon (13.1 miles) on October 1, 2018.”

 

II. Undergird your goals (the ‘whats’)

For each goal ask the following questions (write down the answers)

1. What are the benefits of reaching this goal?
2. What are the obstacles?
3. What help is needed?
4. What is my plan of action?
5. What is my time-budget?

Using the example: “I want to complete the XYZ half-marathon (13.1 miles) on October 1, 2018.”

1. Benefits: I will be healthier, stronger and gain a sense of accomplishment
2. Obstacles: Procrastination and busy schedule (work and family)
3. Help needed: Accountability and encouragement – perhaps a training coach or partner
4. Plan of Action: Training plan – weekly running and conditioning schedule, diet changes, journal results
5. Time Budget: Weekly time set aside for training leading up to the half-marathon

III. Balance your personal goals

I recommend setting goals in 7 areas of life (Zig Ziglar’s ‘wheel’). This will keep you from becoming lopsided. Unbalanced goals will cause problems in other areas of life. Think of driving a car with a flat tire.

Set goals in these seven areas:

1. Personal (relational)
2. Spiritual
3. Family
4. Financial
5. Career
6. Intellectual
7. Physical

IV. Share your Goals

My biggest obstacle in reaching my goals is me. I must admit I need help (and I consider myself a self-starter). However, life gets busy and I know I’m a magician at creating busyness that pushes goals aside. Its a form of procrastination. Therefore, I share my goals with folks who will hold me accountable. I give them permission to press into me and ask me how I’m doing. They are my cheerleaders as well.  I need someone to speak into my life and tell me to get moving or be there if I need help. (Great book on this is ‘Power of the Other’ by Dr. Henry Cloud)

I can’t say it enough, share your goals!

V. Going deeper with goals

Personal Mission Statement: If you want to live a life that matters and makes a difference in the world, create a personal mission statement. It is your ‘why’. It tells the world who you are and what you are about. Here is my mission statement.

Prayer: As a Christ-follower, I am intentional about prayer. I need wisdom, vision and strength to set and achieve goals. In addition, I want my goals to be in line with God’s will and purpose for my life. Pray in each of the seven areas of your life and ask God to provide direction.

Bible Verses: It is vital to me to have a bible verse as the foundation of my goals. I usually have one for the entire year. This verse undergirds all of my goals and acts as a theme for the year. When times get tough, I can fall back on God’s Word for strength. This reminds me whose ultimately in charge.

Reflection and Reporting: At the end of the year, I reflect and report on my goals. I share this with the team and invite feedback.

VI. When you FAIL – and you will FAIL

Every week I try to experience three things:

1. Accomplish something difficult
2. Learn something new
3. FAIL at something

Failure is a good thing. I do not hit all of my goals every year. If I did, my goals are not challenging enough. We need failure. We learn more from failure than success. When I look back over goals I’ve failed to achieve, I learn where I failed and why. I learn and also see PROGRESS! We may have failed to reach our goals but we make progress.

 

Encouragement for you

In conclusion, below are some quotes I keep in mind when it comes to goals:

“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” – Zig Ziglar

On being SPECIFIC: “Aim small, miss small” – Chris Kyle (US Navy SEAL Sniper)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint (or perish)…” – Proverbs 29:18

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

I hope this is helpful.

Now, get after it!


Read previous post: Three Strikes and you’re NOT out – a comeback from failure
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.