10 Things I’d Tell my 25 Year Old Self about Leadership

I turned 40 this month and obviously, I knew this birthday was coming. I had heard from several people that this birthday puts you over the edge, that it makes you depressed and then others told me it was only the beginning of the most significant part of my life.

Over the last year, I’ve tried to spend more time reflecting, processing and thinking about life and what matters most, what I’ve learned, what is happening in me, in my body, etc.

I thought, as part of my birthday month I would share what I would tell my 25-year-old self. In hopes that maybe this will help you learn from some of my many mistakes and a few things, I got right along the way.

I realize this might seem silly because I can’t tell my 25-year-old self anything and I know that at 25, I’m not sure I would’ve listened to all of the advice, but I think it’s still essential.

So, I’m going to take the significant parts of my life and share some insights (in no particular order):

1. What you think is a big deal now, won’t be later. This applies to more than just leadership, as many of these do, but I spent a lot of times in my 20’s, and 30’s worrying about things, stressing, not sleeping, thinking about things that no longer matter. Emails, calls, meetings, and conversations that I stressed about don’t matter anymore. That doesn’t mean you stop caring, but it helps to keep things in perspective. Just like, most of the people you hung out with in high school, you have no idea where they are.

2. Focus on friendships over tasks and results. As an introvert and Enneagram 8, I am a task and results motivated. It is how I measure things and find fulfillment in life. So I’ve had to work at prioritizing relationships with those around me. Letting people in and moving closer to them in friendships. I’ve had to learn how to turn work off, not talk about the next thing and not read a book about ministry. In your 20’s, you think you have all kinds of time for friendships, but the older you get (and the more kids you have), the harder this becomes.

3. Those friendships will lead to some of your deepest scars but also your most life-giving moments. My darkest and hardest moments as a leader have been at the hands of other people. Having staff members or elders betray me, decide to leave to plant their church and take people with them, being blamed for things I didn’t do. It hurts. And if you sign up for leadership, you sign up for this as well. If you’re a pastor, when you put someone in the role of elder, you are placing yourself, your church and your family in their care and they may not do a good job or hurt you (intentionally or not).

Those friendships will also be life-giving, to you and your spouse.

This was seen clearly for me the other night. Katie and I had a dinner party for our birthday’s, and it was amazing sitting outside with friends from work and our gym. We laughed until it hurt, ate great food and just enjoyed each other. Much of that came from deciding that it doesn’t have to be lonely as a leader.

4. Remember that you will retire from your job one day, so don’t take yourself so seriously. This is hard for pastors because being a pastor is a calling, but it is also a job. So, it is both (so don’t @ me). You will retire from your job one day (or be fired). So plan accordingly. Work accordingly. Think for the future. What comes after retirement, how you will live, etc. Don’t wait to get your financial house in order.

5. Your wife has one husband, and your kids have one father, but the people who follow you can find another leader, and another church. If you’ve been a pastor for any length of time, you have had people leave your church. It is usually surprising who goes and why they leave. The people who have left our church over the years were often ones I didn’t expect and for reasons that sometimes made me fall out of a chair.

One of our goals, when we started our church, was that our kids would experience life as healthy as possible. I asked our teenage daughter the other day if it was weird being a pastors kid. She looked at me and said, “No, is it supposed to be?” Honestly, that was one of the most beautiful things anyone has ever said to me.

I want my kids to love (that might be a strong word), but at least not hate, that I was a pastor. I want my wife to enjoy the church she attends because I’m the pastor of that church. What an honor if you can retire from your church and your family can say they loved being a part of it.

6. Prioritize your inner world. This goes well with #1, but in my 20’s and early 30’s, I was an unhealthy leader. I love to control things, and that reared its head in some ways that were damaging to me and those around me. My team was gracious as I grew and continue to grow.

What helped me the most? Understanding how I’m wired, and learning what it is like to be on the other side of me in a relationship.

We tell couples this, but the same applies to pastors: deal with your junk as fast as possible. Work through the hurt you’ve experienced in life, walk through it, not around it. And yes, you should probably get a counselor. A counselor for Katie and I have been incredibly helpful.

7. Prioritize sleep. Sleep is a secret weapon that we are losing in our culture. But decide today, to sleep as close to 8 hours as possible. If you can, don’t set the alarm and wake up when your body wakes up. Yes, you should still work all your hours and get your job done.

There are seasons where sleep is harder when kids walk in your room at midnight and wake you up. People laugh at us when we tell them that we only watch 4-5 shows at a time and have to take one away if we add a new one. Part of that is, so we get enough sleep. The studies on this are enormous now, so don’t miss it.

8. Prioritize fun. You might be good at fun, but it doesn’t come naturally for me. I have to think through it. I’m often too serious about everything. Make sure you have hobbies as a leader, that you have fun with your team, that you take all your vacation and that you laugh, a lot.

9. Don’t underestimate what you can accomplish in your life. It is easy to look at other more “successful” leaders and feel like you aren’t making any impact. If you look at your life, the people who made an impact on you were faithful, and they stuck around. They made an impact on your life when maybe no one else saw. I can point to key men and women who changed my life, and very few people know their names. If you make a list of those people, I’d encourage you to tell them.

But as you look at your life, don’t give up if you think you aren’t making an impact.

10. Your most significant influence and impact will come much later in your life than you expect. I heard Ravi Zacharias that your most significant impact as a leader comes in your 60’s and 70’s. It has been interesting for me to watch leaders like Tim Keller whose influence has only grown as he’s gotten older.

In your 30’s, you wonder if you missed it or if you’re too late to the party. You aren’t. Your influence and success will look different than you expected it to look.

How to Know You’re Growing and Changing

One of the questions I wrestle with personally or talk with others about is around the question: Am I really growing? Am I changing? Am I on the right path? If we don’t know or aren’t careful, we’ll give up before we should.

It can feel like you are, but then you look at your life and wonder if you are.

It’s like going to the gym, eating healthy, but the scale stays the same, and you don’t see many changes day to day, but over a more extended period, you begin to see it.

If you don’t stay focused on this longer-term picture, it can feel deflating, and you give up.

But how do you know if you’re on the right track?

Recently, I started a new sermon series on the power of your mind when it comes to change. Too often, we focus on changing behaviors, but the reality is our brain is incredibly powerful when it comes to change.

But in that series, I shared from Colossians 1, four ways to know you are on the right path of growth:

1. You can see it. This might seem obvious, but it isn’t always. The Bible calls this fruit, bearing fruit, the evidence of change. Often, we can see fruit in other people but struggle to see it in ourselves.

The test of faith and change is whether or not it makes any difference in how we live and treat others.

Have we changed? Can you see that your life is different, even in small ways?

For most of us, we want the result now, and that is when we’ll celebrate. We’ll mark when our marriage is fixed, or we hit that goal we were after. But to get to that place, we have to celebrate the small steps along the way, the 1% changes we experience and walk through daily.

2. Growing in knowledge of God. Knowledge is not just the ability to retain information or know something. Everyone in America knows how to lose weight: eat less, move more. Growing in knowledge is the ability to apply what you know.

In most places in the New Testament, faith is discussed in terms of belief in Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection.

In Colossians, faith is not just a belief in Jesus but also a faith in the power of God.

N.T. Wright said, To believe that God raised Jesus from the dead is to believe in the God who raises the dead. Such faith not merely assents to a fact about Jesus; it recognizes a truth about God.

Change comes from placing our hope in the God who has the power to raise Jesus from the dead.

3. Being strengthened with God’s power for endurance and patience. We need perseverance and patience when it comes to change because God doesn’t tell us he will take us out of difficult situations or steps, only that he will be with us. We will not be alone.

Hope in the power of God means that we have freedom from bitterness, anger, resentment, self-pity, and hopelessness.

Why? Because sometimes change will take us through our greatest fears.

What if the road that will take you where you need to go is filled with potholes, steps backward and will feel like an uphill climb both ways?

The reality of change that we rarely like to admit or talk about is that it almost always gets harder before it gets easier; it goes down before it goes up. I remember when I weighed 300 pounds and wanted to lose weight. At first, I cut out soda and lost weight. Like 10 pounds in a couple of weeks immediately. Then I put some on. Then it got harder because cutting out soda is one thing, changing portion sizes, not snacking, not having two helpings, that’s harder. Then I had to confront, why was I overweight? What did I look to food for? We can find reasons to make a change and keep it for an hour, for a day. It is when it becomes days, weeks and months that the change gets harder.

Any change will involve endurance and patience. It will not happen as quickly as we like or even the way we expected it to. While different, endurance and patience both carry this idea of not giving up, pushing forward.

You see this when a couple goes in for counseling. They want to see some change right now. But the reality is that they spent years living and interacting in unhealthy ways. That doesn’t switch overnight. Their minds and hearts towards their spouse think one way, and they are having to rewire their brains and work from new patterns of thinking.

4. Gratitude. This one is the most surprising. Gratitude matters because gratitude is a choice you make. It is not a feeling as much as a decision that a feeling follows.

We tell our kids to say thank you. Why? We are helping them to choose gratitude.

Gratitude is a choice. It is a choice to embrace all of life, the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, all of it as a gift.

Gratitude in the small changes you see in your life and how things are changing and moving forward.

Gratitude helps us to see life in new ways and rewire our hearts and minds. The writers of Scripture knew this. Science knows this. It’s time we apply this simple tool.

How does that work?

Just by it writing down, telling a friend, acknowledging the progress you have made.

Friday Five

What a week. Katie’s birthday was yesterday and mine is next week. Always fun that our birthdays are this close, but unfortunately this year we were traveling so we weren’t together yesterday. Life on the run!

I was able to lead a cohort of church planters for Acts 29 through some training, and she was at a conference in Atlanta.

But big plans next week!

Now, onto my Friday Five:

Favorite book:

Last week I read Managing Leadership Anxiety: Yours and Theirs by Steve Cuss. I loved this book. If you’re a leader, you need to read this book. I got so much out of it as it relates to the interaction leaders have with people, what runs through their heads and what happens between people. So helpful. 

Favorite podcast:

This interview with Tyler Reagin on leading a large organization when you’re not a detail person was gold. He got into important (but rarely talked about) leadership topics like self-acceptance and self-confidence. Been thinking about this a lot.

I love Marcus Buckingham’s stuff and how he thinks so differently about leadership, so this podcast interview was incredible. I took a ton of notes and immediately bought the book.

Favorite blog posts:

Leaders are culture makers, and every church has a culture. Too many though are toxic and leaders often feel powerless to change it. I know I have. But this post shares four keys to creating a healthy culture that fights against toxic people and toxic culture.

This blog post: The only metric of success that matters is the one we ignore was powerful, convicting and insightful — lots of wisdom here on the importance of friendships in our culture.

One Huge Overlooked Part of Being Effective & Successful

Recently, I’ve had some conversations with friends and other pastors that go like this: I wish I were more like so-and-so, I wish I had that gift or personality, I wish I was less like me and more like they are.

Being envious of someone else’s gifts and personality is natural.

The more I’ve studied personalities, the more it seems people would like to be anything than what they are.

But, by doing that, you create a ceiling for yourself.

You keep yourself from being productive and successful.

We spend our time being jealous of someone else, wishing we had what they had and we stop growing with who we are.

Recently, I heard an illustration that helped me understand this (I’ve shared this before).

There’s a story about when the British colonized India and the English people were trying to establish a Golf Course.

The problem was that there was Monkey’s that surrounded the golf course and whenever a golfer would take a swing, and the ball would land in the fairway; a monkey would run out, grab the ball and move it or throw it to another monkey.

This was very frustrating.

They tried putting up fences, moving the monkey, they tried capturing the monkeys, and nothing worked.

They couldn’t solve the problem, and so they made a rule for the course that said – ‘from now on we play the ball wherever the Monkey drops it.’

Now, when it comes to your personality, wiring, life, gifts, and talents. You can envy someone else’s, or you can embrace yours. You could wish you were more outgoing or didn’t always open your mouth. You could hope that you were more shepherding or more visionary or more organized, or you could embrace who you are and live from the best version of yourself.

For the longest time, I struggled as a young pastor because I tend to be more of a visionary leader/communicator than a shepherd counselor. Most of the people I knew or pastors I talked to told me I needed to be less of a leader and more of a counselor. Can I grow in how I care for others? Absolutely. But I would apologize for how I was wired instead of growing in those areas. I would downplay who I was, and consequently, I was miserable and didn’t bring how God wired me to where I worked and to those around me.

Maybe you can relate.

There might be something you wish you were better at, but you aren’t.

Maybe you wish you had a different personality or enneagram number than you have. But you don’t.

At this point, you can decide to fight against that or play the ball where the monkey drops it and be who you are and how you are wired and created.

The Power of Your Mind When it Comes to Change

When it comes to change, there are a few different ways of seeing it and seeing why we need to change that keeps us stuck:

  • Some of us don’t think we need to change. We aren’t perfect, but we aren’t terrible in our opinion. There is some hidden system known only to us, but that system tells us we aren’t as bad as an employee, child, parent or spouse as other people.
  • We’ve tried to change, and it didn’t work. So, it must not be worth it. Which takes us quickly back to the first spot, we don’t need to change then.
  • I’d change, but I can’t because and we fill in the blank. That could be something from our past, someone in our present. But the other person is keeping us stuck where we are. This is the person who changes jobs and keeps working for a boss that doesn’t see how amazing they are. The problem is, they keep running out of bosses. In this person, they hold others responsible for their problems, their pain. This is the view that the problem is out there. And as long as the problem is out there, I don’t have to change or take responsibility for it.
  • Or, have you ever said or heard someone say, “That’s not me. That’s not who I am. It was just once.” But it wasn’t just once, and most of the time, we are blind to our blind spots.
  • Sometimes we shrug it off. We’ll say things like, “well that’s just how life goes.” We rationalize things as a way to protect ourselves. We often do this if we grew up in a chaotic home or are related to an addict or an alcoholic. Unknowingly, this is a defense mechanism for us and keeps us from having to engage hard parts of our lives.
  • Connected to this is “this is just the way I am.” I’m just loud; I’m just controlling, fearful, I worry about everything. What this does is it gives us a way out. I don’t have to change because this is how I am. What if, that is causing problems in our closest relationships or keeping us from experiencing life.

When it comes to change, we have all kinds of opinions on the possibility of change and how it happens.

What’s fascinating to me is how the bible, psychologists, and neuroscientists say the same thing about change and your brain (the bible just said it first): The brain, your mind is crucial. It is powerful.

Dr. Daniel Amen called America’s most popular psychiatrist, and a neuroscientist says that your brain is involved in everything you do and everything you are, including how you think, feel, act and how well you get along with people. That when your brain works right, you work right. When your brain is troubled, you are more likely to have trouble in life.

 Craig Groeschel said: You cannot have a positive life when you have a negative mind.

Two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul writing in the New Testament said in his letter to the church in Philippi: Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell (or think) on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The writer of the book of Hebrews in the NT told us: to pay close attention, pay attention to what you pay attention to. The idea of attention, what we focus on is all over scripture.

Why?

As Craig Groeschel says, Your life is always moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts.

It’s the idea that what fires together, stays together. The more you think about anything, no matter what it is, the more your brain gives real estate to that subject. So, and this is key at least for me because I’m not a naturally optimistic person (and let’s be honest, our culture is not optimistic, just turn on social media), but if you repeatedly focus your thoughts on negative experiences (their words hurt me) those negative thoughts get wired more deeply into our brains.

Have you noticed that you recall negative experiences faster and easier than positive ones? It’s called negative bias. We recall negative things; words said to us, negative emotions more quickly and we remember negative experiences longer than positive ones.

It’s why you can remember being left out at school, not picked on the team, what your parent or guidance counselor said in school, the feedback from a boss over a decade ago.

One neuroscientist coined the phrase the survival of the busiest to explain this: that the more we think specific thoughts, both unhealthy and healthy, the more powerful they become.

This is why, the apostle Paul writing in the New Testament said in his letter to the church in Rome said: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Our mental habits, what we give our attention to, shape our brain, which in turn forms our behaviors.

What Romans 12 is telling us is how we align our minds with our feelings and what God is doing in our lives.

I believe to see the change in our lives; we need to understand the power of our minds and how much they shape our heart and behaviors.

Tuesday Mind Dump…

  • Easter week.
  • A busy but amazing week in the life of a pastor and church.
  • I feel like we are flying into Easter week.
  • Judah’s birthday was this past week.
  • Can’t believe we’ve had him in our family for almost six years now.
  • If you’ve been a pastor at your church for any length of time, you know the ebbs and flows of seasons in the life of your church. The same thing happens in a business.
  • You have high seasons, hard seasons, seasons of unity and disunity — seasons of clarity and seasons where things are muddy and unclear.
  • Right now is one of my favorite seasons ever in the life of our church.
  • The unity of our team, everyone working in their area of giftedness, the clarity of our spiritual formation track and growth track is amazing (and working!).
  • We just finished our series #RelationshipGoals, and the response was overwhelming.
  • So many people took their next steps to work on their most important relationships.
  • I had a couple who has been married for almost 50 years tell me they learned something new every week!
  • I can’t wait for this weekend as we walk through the Stations of the Cross on Friday and kick off a brand new series on the book of Colossians on Sunday called Mastermind.
  • I’m also looking forward to having a couple of weeks off from preaching soon.
  • I’m heading into week 11 which is way past my normal rhythm and length of time preaching.
  • So pray for your preacher!
  • You don’t want to skip church this week; you’ll miss something.
  • Have a great week!

What You Miss when You Skip Church

People skip church for all kinds of reasons. You wake up Sunday morning, and you’re tired, the kids are sick or cranky, your kid is on a sports team, you have work or errands to do.

The list goes on.

One of my favorite reasons given to me for why people skip church is: I didn’t think the message applied to me.

I’ve heard this a bunch of times on a host of different topics.

What lays underneath this are two important, and powerful lies.

The first, there are parts of the Bible that do not apply to me.

Now, this person wouldn’t say this outright. They would probably say that the Bible is God’s word and inspired. They would even say it is applicable. But when we say, “I won’t go to church today because I don’t think the topic (giving, evangelism, community, marriage, sex) applies to me and where I am.

Does it apply to them as much as the person next to them? Maybe not. But it shows what we think of the Bible when we say that. It puts us over the Bible and God when we say, “God, there’s a page in here that I don’t need to know about, it isn’t relevant to my life.”

Now again, when this person says I’m not coming to church, for this reason, they wouldn’t tell you this, but this is what they are saying.

The second, my presence at church doesn’t matter.

The church is a body, community, a family. When one is missing, an important piece is missing.

In our digital age, we have lost the power of our presence in people’s lives, and we’ve lost the power of their presence in our lives.

Whenever we skip church, we are saying, “There isn’t anyone at church who will need me to be there, and I don’t need any of those people today.”

Both are strong ideas, but they also tell us something.

The reality is, we can’t make it throughout the week without a community encouraging us forward. We need people to challenge us, help us change, support and inspire us, and help propel us forward. Even if that is only through a smile, a hug or a nod.

We’ve grown so accustomed in our life to thinking every experience has to be about us or an immediate benefit to us. Often, we don’t see the most significant things in our life until later. We also, don’t know what we do for other people til down the road.

Our presence in people’s lives is the same.

So yes, you won’t go to hell if you skip church.

But you will miss something powerful in your life. And so will your church.

12 Ways to Keep the Passion Alive in Your Marriage

Keep the passion alive in your marriage

I came across this list in Daniel Akin’s book God on Sex: The Creator’s Ideas about Love, Intimacy, and Marriage and thought it was beneficial. Use this list as a way to evaluate where you are as a couple when it comes to passion for each other. What are you doing well? What 1 or 2 things could you improve?

  1. Work at it. A lifetime of love and romance takes effort. Few things in life are as complicated as building and maintaining an intimate, passionate relationship. You need to work on it regularly to get through those trying periods that require extra work.
  2. Think team. When making important decisions, such as whether to work overtime or accept a transfer or promotion, ask yourself this question: What will the choice I am making do to the people I love? Talk with your mate and family. Make “we” decisions that will have the most positive impact on your marriage and your family.
  3. Be protective. Guard and separate your marriage and your family from the rest of the world. This might mean refusing to work on certain days or nights. You might turn down relatives and friends who want more of you than you have the time, energy, or wisdom to give. You might even have to say no to your children to protect time with your spouse. The kids won’t suffer if this is done occasionally and not continuously. It will be beneficial for everyone!
  4. Accept that good and not perfect is okay when it comes to your mate. No one is perfect other than Jesus! You married a real person who will make real mistakes. However, never be content with bad. Always aim high, but settle for good!
  5. Share your thoughts and feelings. We have seen this one over and over. Unless you consistently communicate, signaling to your spouse where you are and getting a recognizable message in return, you will lose each other along the way. Create or protect communication-generating rituals. No matter how busy you may be, make time for each other. For example, take a night off each week, go for a walk together regularly, go out to breakfast if you can’t have dinner alone, or sit together for 30 minutes each evening just talking, without any other distractions.
  6. Manage anger and especially contempt better. Try to break the cycle in which hostile, cynical, contemptuous attitudes fuel unpleasant emotions, leading to negative behaviors that stress each other out and create more tension. Recognize that anger signals frustration of some underlying issue. Avoid igniting feelings of anger with the judgment that you are being mistreated. Watch your non-verbal signals, such as your tone of voice, hand and arm gestures, facial expressions, and body movements. Remain seated, don’t stand or march around the room. Deal with one issue at a time. Don’t let your anger about one thing lead you into showering the other with a cascade of problems. If different topics surface during your conflict, note them to address later. Try to notice subtle signs that anger or irritation is building. If you are harboring these feelings, express them before they grow too much and lead to an angry outburst. Keep focused on the problem, not persons. Don’t turn a relatively manageable problem into a catastrophe. Emphasize where you agree.
  7. Declare your devotion to each other again and again. True long-range intimacy requires repeated affirmations of commitment to your spouse. Remember: love is in both what you say and in how you act. Buy flowers. Do the dishes and take out the trash without being asked. Give an unsolicited back or foot rub. Committed couples protect the boundaries around their relationship. Share secrets more than with any circle of friends and relatives.
  8. Give each other permission to change. Pay attention. If you aren’t learning something new about each other every week or two, you just aren’t observing closely enough. You are focusing on other things more than one another. Bored couples fail to update how they view each other. They act as though the roles they assigned and assumed early in the relationship will remain forever comfortable. Remain constantly abreast of each other’s dreams, fears, goals, disappointments, hopes, regrets, wishes, and fantasies. People continue to trust those people who know them best and who love and accept them.
  9. Have fun together. Human beings usually fall in love with the ones who make them laugh, who make them feel good on the inside. They stay in love with those who make them feel safe enough to come out to play. Keep delighting a priority. Put your creative energy into making yourselves joyful and producing a relationship that regularly feels like recess.
  10. Make yourself trustworthy. People come to trust the ones who affirm them. They learn to distrust those who act as if a relationship were a continual competition over who is right and who gets their way. Always work as if each of you has thoughts, impressions, and preferences that make sense, even if your opinions or needs differ. Realize your spouse’s perceptions will always contain at least some truth, maybe more than yours, and validate those truths before adding your perspective to the discussion.
  11. Forgive and forget. Don’t be too hard on each other. If your passion and love are to survive, you must learn how to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 must always be front and center. You and your spouse regularly need to wipe the slate clean so that anger doesn’t build and resentment fester. Holding on to hurts and hostility will block real intimacy. It will only assure that no matter how hard you otherwise work at it, your relationship will not grow. Do what you can to heal the wounds in a relationship, even if you did not cause them. Be compassionate about the fact that neither of you intended to hurt the other as you set out on this journey.
  12. Cherish and applaud. One of the most fundamental ingredients in the intimacy formula is cherishing each other. You need to celebrate each other’s presence. If you don’t give your spouse admiration, applause, appreciation, acknowledgment, the benefit of the doubt, encouragement, and the message that you are happy to be there with them now, where will they receive those gifts? Be generous. Be gracious. One of the most painful mistakes a couple can make is the failure to notice their own mate’s heroics. These small acts of unselfishness include taking out the trash, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, driving the carpool, preparing the taxes, keeping track of birthdays, calling the repairman, and cleaning the bathroom, as well as hundreds of other routine labors. People are amazingly resilient if they know that they are appreciated. Work hard at noticing and celebrating daily acts of heroism by your mate.

Friday Five

What a week. Tomorrow is mine and Katie’s anniversary. Hard to believe 17 years have flown by!

Wednesday, I took my three oldest kids to see Switchfoot and Colony House. Easily a top 10 show and I’ve seen a lot.

The day before, a friend texted me and said, “I have a ticket for the VIP experience and can’t use it, do you want it?” Yes! So we got to meet Switchfoot!

They were super nice and my kids barely talked. Although Gavin did say, “Dad, these guys are your age.” I’m hoping that’s good.

So that was my week.

Oh and this past Sunday was so cool at our church. We’re in the middle of a series called #RelationshipGoals. This past Sunday, the topic was on women and what wives do and instead of me telling wives what to do, I interviewed 3 women in our church. It was awesome. If you want to watch it, you can see it here.

Now, onto my Friday Five:

Favorite book:

Last week I read Eternity Is Now in Session: A Radical Rediscovery of What Jesus Really Taught about Salvation, Eternity, and Getting to the Good Place by John Ortberg and was really challenged by it. One of the things I loved about it was how well it followed the discipleship path that our church has. 

Favorite podcast:

This podcast interview that Carey Nieuwhof did with Kadi Cole on women in leadership at churches was incredible. This is something we have been rethinking at our church and making some changes and I loved what Kadi had to say. Pastors, this is a great podcast to discuss with some female leaders in your church and make sure you listen. The network that I am a part of needs more of this and needs to get better at this.

Favorite blog posts:

I’m a dad of middle schoolers and soon to be middle schoolers so this article about the 3 pressures that a middle school boy is facing was incredibly helpful for me.

Are you about to have the talk with your kids? Putting it off? I know it’s uncomfortable, but here’s a helpful thing to keep in mind.

And last: I am always on the lookout for great books and I love the lists that Brian Dodd puts together for leaders. Here’s his list for the spring. I’ve read some of these but have added the others to my list. Charles Stone’s book is a must-read and Atomic Habits is my favorite book of the year so far (my kids are reading it now).

The 3 Things at the Root of Most of our Marriage Problems & Hangups

A few weeks ago I was speaking at a conference, and I mentioned that I’m not a very good counselor. I said, “typically, you have one of three problems, and the faster I can figure it out, the faster we’ll move forward.”

I’ve said this numerous times in other settings.

But something different happened on this day.

Someone raised their hand during the Q&A and asked what those three things were?

Ready?

  1. Your family of origin.
  2. Being comfortable in your own skin.
  3. Resentment and bitterness about how your life has turned out.

Is it that simple? I think so, and I’ll explain in a moment.

But I believe, almost every time I sit in a counseling situation, any argument I have with my wife, co-worker, child, parent or friend, it comes back to this. Addictions go back to this, hurt feelings go back to this, and missed opportunities come back to this.

Take the first, your family of origin. We underestimate the power of this one. We think we grew up in this kind of family (frugal, wealthy, shouting, alcoholic, the list goes on) and we believe it has little to do with our lives. This family determines so much about our lives, our marriage, career, how we handle money and the way we parent.

I grew up in a family that didn’t talk about emotions a lot or processes them. So guess what I don’t like to do? Talk about feelings and emotions. I don’t even want to cry in front of people (one of the things I’m working on with a counselor).

The second one is being comfortable in your own skin. This is the comparison game we have played our whole lives. Often, we will look at someone else’s marriage, career or talents and be jealous.

Often, what gets us stuck, particularly in our career, marriage or leadership is not being comfortable with who we are. We aren’t skinny enough, strong enough, smart enough, _____ enough. And we stop.

Which leads us the last one is resentment and bitterness about how your life has turned out. All of us have hopes and dreams for our lives and the future. What we struggle with is handling when they don’t play out like we thought or it doesn’t feel how we expected it to feel. Often, it won’t be as amazing as we expected it. We planned to be further up the career ladder, we expected to have kids by now or that they would be different than they are or that our spouse would be different or that we would be married by this age.

At this point, if we aren’t careful, the reason we are stuck is everyone else’s fault. We come up with all kinds of reasons as to why we’ve been overlooked, left behind or why we can’t get past an addiction or let go of something. But, very rarely is it our fault. Now, the reality is, where your life ends up is dependent on other people and they have an impact on it. But we also have a hande in those choices (i.e., where we go to school, where we work, how we invest our money, who we marry). As well, we have a choice in how we will respond to what someone else does. That is within our power to control.

Which is why Your life becomes the total of your choices.

You might think, this sounds too simplistic. It might be, but if you look at any struggle you are having right now in your career or a relationship, my hunch is you will find one of these three things underneath it.