5 Obstacles Between You and the Work You Love

Many of us know what we love to do but do something else with our time.  Why?  What obstacles are standing between us and what we love?

horse and jockey jumping gate

Recently my blogging has waned, and part of that change was planned.  I have much on my plate and I decided not long ago that writing three times a week is unreasonable for my stage in life.

The part that was not planned is not blogging at all.

I have always enjoyed writing, but particularly so in the past two years.  I have enjoyed connecting with people through ideas I share, but writing has also stretched my mind and helped me to process my own heart issues.

Recently, though, I have found myself not writing at all, and I have begun wondering why that is the case.  What obstacles have been keeping me from writing, which I love?

Here are the obstacles I found.  Some of these obstacles are not within my control, but some are.  Perhaps you can relate.

  1. Life Chaos.  Some life events are beyond our control.  Three times this summer I have had the boys by myself for a week at a time.  I love my boys and I want this special, focused time as a family, but managing a full time job and having the boys with me 24/7 ups the chaos in my life.
  2. Exhaustion.  I have been very tired this summer.  Some of this is due to obstacle number 1, but much of this is due to the fact that I am a night owl with morning responsibilities.  I can change the second one.
  3. Changing Priorities.  Sometimes being drawn away from things we love signals a change in our priorities, as it has with me.  This summer I have not been as diligent at protecting time for me, thus my writing and other things have suffered.  Priorities can also change for good reasons, such as the fact that I have not written as much in order to focus on other projects and relationships.
  4. Difficulty.  Doing what you love can be hard.  Now that I have been writing steadily for two years I have to work a little harder at finding fresh topics.  I am very human; I like easy things, not hard ones.  I tend to think what I love should be easy, which is rarely the case.  We value the things we earn more than the things we take.
  5. Laziness.  I will admit it.  I like to do nothing.  At all.  Sometimes this takes the form of much needed and healthy spiritual retreat time.  Other times, however, I want to do nothing because it means I can, well, do nothing.

Those are my obstacles.  What are yours?

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Re-Post: Do Shortcuts Work in Relationships?

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

In any sort of relationship you will face conflict.

  • “Your comments made me feel inferior.”
  • “Oops.  I forgot to pick up the keys to the car.”
  • “You were not listening to me; I did not feel like you were on my side.”

We are patently human.  You will regularly experience conflict and tension.  The importance of conflict is not in the nature of the conflict but in the nature of your response.

Our tendency as humans is to try to find the shortcut to resolution.  My natural tendency is to placate, to try to make the other person feel better.  What is usually necessary is some time, discomfort and wrestling before bringing the issue to a full resolution.  I personally have to choose to enter that zone of discomfort for my benefit and the benefit of the relationship.

We all have choices every day.

  • You can move towards someone or away from them.
  • You can engage conflict or avoid it.  (Warning: Avoided conflict will always find you somewhere else.)
  • You can be stingy or generous.

To be human is to choose.

Here is the choice we each need to make:

  • Will we be the people who stick with a relationship for the long haul, through miscommunication, pain, hurt feelings, and scarcity, as well as through abundance, laughter, and celebration?
  • Or will we be the people who avoid conflict and pain and look for relational shortcuts?

Shortcuts do not give lasting rewards, but discipline and perseverance pay off long into the future.

What choice are you going to make today?

What Parenting Is Teaching Me About Leadership

Some people grow up wanting to be parents, confident they will be great parents.  Other people try to avoid having children and end up being reluctant parents.  Most of us are somewhere in between: wanting children but not sure if we have what it takes.

Father and son

11 years ago I was one of those parents excited about having a child but a little concerned about what parenting would actually be.  Finally, six months after my oldest son was born, I fully grasped the idea that no one was going to come pick him up.  I was his dad and he was staying.

I learned at that moment that sometimes we are never ready for the position God gives us; we grow into those positions.

Now, 11 years and two boys later, I am learning something else: how to let someone else win.

This afternoon I have been enjoying our Sunday afternoon ritual of video games and popcorn.  These days I often lose because my boys are just better than me.  Other times I am beating them fair and square and I enjoy it.

Truth is, though, sometimes I know I would be better off if I did not beat them multiple times in a row.  I realize I would have a much bigger win if I found a way to let them win.

As leaders we face similar choices.

  • Worship leaders can lead worship every week in every service, OR they can train other musicians to lead worship.
  • Pastors can speak in the services every week, OR they can train others to speak.
  • Music directors can insist on doing all of the arranging themselves, OR they can train others to arrange.
  • Drama leaders can write and direct all of the sketches, OR they can train others to write and direct.

God can work through us when we do everything ourselves, but when we share the ministry with others God can do much more.  Leaders who follow Christ are naturally going to train others to follow in their footsteps because Christ did not cling to his place of leadership; he gave it up and came to earth to redeem us.

When we give away the ministry we are leading like Christ and modeling for others what it means to be a Christ-like leader.

Where can you give away your ministry?  Who can you train to take your place?

Community Brings Perspective

Perspective comes in community.

Left to myself I can only create a one-dimensional view of the world.  Add another person and suddenly I start to get depth perception and perspective.

Growing up my family regularly drove long distances together overnight and thought nothing of it.  My mom made curtains for the car and as we rolled across the Tennessee line headed south from Ohio early in the morning we would change clothes.  We counted cars and read books and slept in between the suitcases in a day before child safety seats.

I have now met several people for whom trips like that create anxiety and sleep deprivation.  What I took for granted I now realize was somewhat unusual.  Many families are not comfortable travelling long distances in a car for 20 plus hours at a time.

Left to myself I would have stayed in a one-dimensional world.  Left to myself I would arrogantly assume that everyone sees things just like I do.

Now, in community, I suddenly begin to see a world of different perspectives.  When James the brother of Jesus says we should be “Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” he is helping us maintain a guardrail against selfish and one-dimensional thinking.

In what part of your life are you clinging to a one-dimensional view of the world, and who can help you gain perspective in that area of your life?

Do Shortcuts Work in Relationships?

In any sort of relationship you will face conflict.

  • “Your comments made me feel inferior.”
  • “Oops.  I forgot to pick up the keys to the car.”
  • “You were not listening to me; I did not feel like you were on my side.”

We are patently human.  You will regularly experience conflict and tension.  The importance of conflict is not in the nature of the conflict but in the nature of your response.

Our tendency as humans is to try to find the shortcut to resolution.  My natural tendency is to placate, to try to make the other person feel better.  What is usually necessary is some time, discomfort and wrestling before bringing the issue to a full resolution.  I personally have to choose to enter that zone of discomfort for my benefit and the benefit of the relationship.

We all have choices every day.

  • You can move towards someone or away from them.
  • You can engage conflict or avoid it.  (Warning: Avoided conflict will always find you somewhere else.)
  • You can be stingy or generous.

To be human is to choose.

Here is the choice we each need to make:

  • Will we be the people who stick with a relationship for the long haul, through miscommunication, pain, hurt feelings, and scarcity, as well as through abundance, laughter, and celebration?
  • Or will we be the people who avoid conflict and pain and look for relational shortcuts?

Shortcuts do not give lasting rewards, but discipline and perseverance pay off long into the future.

What choice are you going to make today?

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

No one has had a greater impact on me than my father.

I have had great professors, teachers, pastors, mentors, and even friends, but none of them will ever come close to matching the impact my father has had on me.

Even though my father is a flawed human being, he still has made a lasting impression on me, and this gives me hope.  Some of the most impressive messages my dad preached had to do with his failings and how he dealt with them.

I want to be like that.  I want to make a lasting impression on my two boys.

I get the feeling that time is slipping through my fingers and soon my boys will be all grown up.  Am I really making the most of these young years?

Then I look at dad and remember that even though I have flaws and even though I have had failures, I can still make a difference.  I will make mistakes in the future, but I know I can still have a positive impact on my two precious boys.

Here are a few things my dad has modeled for me.

Integrity.  If dad says he will do something, he will do it.  Every time.  When we are doing masonry, dad will never cut corners.  If a customer is not happy, dad will work with them until they are, even if he has to eat the cost.

Work ethic.  Life has not been easy financially for mom and dad, so they have had to work long hard hours.  Dad never complains; he just chooses to enjoy his work.  He works holidays and Saturdays if necessary to get the bills covered.

Grace.  I remember slamming the door in front of my mom and hearing her talk later about how dad would tell her to give me space, that I was just in a stage.  I have had the door slammed in my face a time or two by my boys, and I now appreciate how hard it must have been for them to make that choice.

Humor.  When I was in junior high my dad and I were working on a house and the drywall workers had their radio cranked way up on some country station.  After hours of this dad walked over and lightly asked, “Could we listen to the birds chirp for a while?”  I don’t think it made a difference, but I give him serious credit for being willing to inject a little fun into a potentially stressful situation.

Passion for God.  Dad’s favorite topic of discussion is how God is working in his life or in the lives of others. Dad celebrates God every day.

If I grow up to be half the man my dad has been, I will be happy.  Very happy.

How about you?  How has your father impacted you?

How Do I Make My Volunteers Feel Valued?

Simple.  Value what they value.

“Easier said than done,” you say.

Perhaps, but I doubt it.

Here are some ways to find out what your volunteers value:

  1. Ask them.  I am amazed at how often I or anyone else can miss the obvious.
  2. Remember what you valued when you were a volunteer.  You haven’t been a leader all your life, most likely.  What did you care about when you were just a band member?
  3. Listen to what they talk about.  Again, this is blatantly obvious, but I can miss it sometimes.
  4. Ask them about the best gift they have ever received, and why it was the best gift.

In the past I have found that volunteers value several things.

  1. Time.  Especially with families, time is of the essence, as they say.  One of the best ways you can value your volunteers is by beginning and ending on time.  I try to make it a point to begin on time regardless of whether or not everyone has arrived.  There has to be a benefit to arriving on time or early, and there needs to be a penalty of arriving late, even if the penalty is unspoken.
  2. Appreciation.  Volunteers will pour out their lives for you if you simply thank them sincerely for what they do.  Incidentally, you also need to live out your appreciation.  You can’t bawl out your musician for destroying a musical phrase, then “thank” them for sacrificing their time to be on the team, and then expect them to feel appreciated.  Your attitude and actions, as well as your words, need to be appreciative to them and their families.
  3. Pastoral leadership.  Being a pastor really has nothing to do with ordination or licensure.  Pastoral leadership has everything to do with your heart.  You can be a janitor and also pastor your volunteers; you simply need to care for them, ask them about their lives, pray with them, and follow up on their concerns to see how they are doing.  Just because you are not ordained does not mean you get to care less; you must still pastor your volunteers if you want them to grow and love serving with you.

What do your volunteers value?

To go deeper, check out this post on empathy by Seth Godin, “If I Were You . . .”