Monday, April 28, 2014

How Something You Hate Actually Makes Your Life Better

Posted by Michael

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God…”
                            -Hebrews 11:6

Do you hate uncertainty? 
       The uncontrollable moments of life? 
               Problems that seem to lack solutions?
                     Questions that have no clear answers?

Me too.

But God seems oddly ok with our inabilities.

In fact, if the writer of The Letter to the Hebrews from the New Testament is to be believed, it’s in those moments that we are able to please God the most. With that in mind, here are a couple of thoughts on pleasing God….

1)Quit playing in the kiddie pool.

The kiddie pool represents the safe places in life. In these places, like in shallow water, nothing is required of us. We can anticipate and control anything that might happen in water that’s knee deep, but that’s not where we were created to be. We were made with the deep waters of life in mind. We were fashioned to risk the big waves and unforeseen storms that come miles away from shore. Those places feel dangerous, but those are the places where God lurks. We please God when we dream dreams that are too big for us to accomplish on our own, when we love people that are impossible to love, and forgive people that are the most guilty. It’s in those spots that God steps in and provides all that we cannot. Maybe we accomplish feats that we never thought possible, or maybe we fall short, but find that we have been changed for the better in ways we never expected.


God did not create a world that you can handle on your own, so lean. Lean into God when life doesn’t make sense. Lean so far that if God doesn’t come through, you’ll fall flat on your face.  The further you lean, the more of his strength you will find. Leaning is counterintuitive. We were raised to take care of life as independently as possible, which means that leaning isn’t natural for us. It requires practice. So, lean on friends and family members to help you when you need it. Lean on the experiences and mercy of others. Ask for help and accept it when it is offered, even if you secretly believe you can do it all on your own.

The things we lack like insight, ability, and control, are the empty spaces in our life where God wants to pour His love and hope. The more we admit how much we lack, the more space we have for God to pour into us. So, I hope your day finds you gloriously inept, brilliantly incompetent, and hopelessly over your head. Those are the places where God meets us and life becomes truly beautiful.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How To Successfully Make Decisions

Posted by Michael

“The best companies don’t necessarily make right decisions all of the time, but they make clear decisions and get people rallied around them.”
                                                                -Patrick Lencioni

Whether you are running a company, your family, or just your own life, clarity makes all of the difference in the world. Clarity gives direction and relieves stress. It’s impossible to make the right decisions all of the time, which leaves us with two options: 1) Delay or make hazy/half-way decisions to avoid being wrong or 2) Make clear, honest decisions and give yourself the chance to be right. Bad decisions aren’t what normally derail us, it’s the lack of a decision that will bump us off the tracks. A couple of things to consider as you face the decisions in front of you:

Face your decisions one at a time

I know that you have a millions decisions and they all feel like they have to be made today, but you need to step back, take a deep breath, and say these words with me: “it’s not going to happen.”…at least not at this moment. What you can do this moment is make one decision. You can tackle one thing right now and put it behind you. That’s progress and that’s how mountains get moved, one rock at a time.

Remember that bad decisions are not the end.

Bad decisions are not fun. They have consequences for us, and oftentimes for the people we love. We want to make the best decisions we can, but we will never be perfect. Our destiny of imperfection is not a reason to avoid making decisions however. Making a bad decision isn’t the end of the road, no matter how painful it feels. We when find ourselves in a bad place, cursing ourselves for going left when we should have turned right, we simply need to stop, take a look at the landscape and make a new decision. Step by step we can get back to the direction we want to go in, and usually find something unexpected and good along the way. Most of the amazing discoveries in history have come on the coattails of a bad decision or misstep.

People don’t rally around perfection. They are drawn to authenticity and humility. So, make your decisions, and if they blow up, make some more. Make them the best you can, but make them regardless, you’ll find courage and increased confidence as you go.

Quotation from Patrick Lencioni's The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family: A Leadership Fable About Restoring Sanity To The Most Important Organization In Your Life.

Monday, April 21, 2014

3 Questions That Will Make Or Break You

Posted by Michael

1)Do I Really Want What I Am Chasing?

Life is too short to spend all of your time grinding through things that make you miserable. Many of us (perhaps you included) were told what a successful life looked like somewhere during high school or college, and we’ve been chasing it ever since. The only problem is that we don’t often stop long enough to ask, “Do I really want what I am chasing?”. Becoming a lawyer, running a marathon, landscaping acres of yard to perfection, or even climbing Mt. Everest are great things, if you want them. The sad thing is that most people haven’t stopped long enough to consider what might bring them joy. They have just adopted what others seem to think are worthwhile achievements. The greatest achievements in the world will always leave you empty if they aren’t what your heart desired in the first place.

2)Are my relationships consistently taking more from me than they are giving?

Relationships are wonderful, in fact, I believe that they are the core of a meaningful life. Unfortunately, like all good things, relationships can be twisted to cause pain rather than enjoyment. You should absolutely have relationships in life where you are the primary giver. There should be people who have needs that you can and do address. It may be that you mentor them, financially provide for them, teach them, or applaud them. Having only those types of relationships in your life, however, is not healthy. It’s impossible to give in healthy ways if you are not receiving care and encouragement yourself. If you list out your significant relationships on a piece of paper and find that they all only take from you, then you are heading down a dangerous road! Health comes from equal parts give and take. Yes, you can give, but you must also take!

3)Do I have a dream?

Dreams for the future are a critical part of an enjoyable life. Dreams are not a waste of time, instead, they help clarify and prioritize our time. Dreams of what could be give us the courage to take risks and challenge the status quo. When we take time to imagine who we would like to become and where we would like to go, we are often rewarded with much needed motivation. The daily grind of life can steal all of our focused thought and energy (it needs some, but not all!).  Taking time to dream ensures that we won’t get bogged down in the details of life. It also gives us energy to attend to and prioritize those details in more productive and successful ways.

I hope you will carve out a few minutes this week and review these important questions in your own life. You matter deeply and I want your journey through life to be meaningful and enjoyable! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Inspiration

Posted by Michael

In keeping with National Poetry Month, I could think of no better poet for a Good Friday post than William Cowper, and no better poem than the one listed below:

God Moves In A Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines 
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up his bright design,
And works His sovereign will

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, 
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Cowper battled deep depression throughout his life. His mind lived in dark, hopeless places more than it enjoyed the light and joy of life. It is for that reason that I am blown away that He speaks of God by saying, “Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” For all of life’s pain and troubles, for all the hope that he seemed to lack, Cowper still believed that behind all of the darkness and pain, God cared for him and meant him well. I pray that if this Easter finds you discouraged or confused, that you will know that behind the troubles and challenges of life, God is there, He cares, and will not leave us in our pain forever, but will turn it into something beautiful.

Picture courtesy
Poem courtesy

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

3 Ways To Reduce Your Anxious Thoughts

Posted by Michael

Life is unpredictable and uncontrollable. Everyone would admit that to be true, but few of us like it. Anxiety is what we feel when the uncertainty of life becomes overwhelming. Our minds frantically bounce from one thought to the next trying to fix, repair, predict, prepare, relate, or overcome. As our inability to control everything becomes apparent, so does our discomfort. Soon the headaches, backaches, or stomach pains set in. The small healthy fire that burns inside of us to be productive, rages into a forest fire that consumes all of our thoughts and energy. If your anxiety has become a common companion during your week, try out these three things to help control the flames:

Divide and conquer.

It seems impossible to ignore our anxious thoughts for an entire day, but 10 minutes is a reasonable start. When today’s anxious thought comes crashing in on you, decide to set it aside for 10 minutes. For example, if you are stressed about how you’re going to pay for your child’s college education in a few years, resolve to set the issue aside for 10 minutes. Say to yourself, “I will not think about the college issue for the next 10 minutes”. If after that time, you decide to pick the thought back up, you can. If you would like to set it aside for another ten minutes, then that’s your prerogative as well. Remember, it’s not laziness or procrastination to set aside a topic until a time when our brain can think more clearly about it! Once your mind is clear enough to find the first step in the task at hand, you are ready to proceed. One step taken is better than 10 steps obsessed over. Often times the overwhelming size of the forest keeps us from chopping at the first tree.

Give yourself permission to rest.

The more exhausted we become the more intense our anxiety can be. When we are tired, we are unable to think as clearly and life feels like nothing more than 1000 issues that we can’t resolve, swirling around all at once. Battling anxiety requires a great deal of mental energy. So, as hard as it can be, set a time to be in bed and stick to it. Tell yourself (out loud if necessary) that your day is over and you cannot accomplish anything else until morning. At that point, stop making lists (either on paper or in your head), let go, and go to sleep. This may take some practice and could include a few nights of staring at the ceiling, telling your brain to knock it off! But stay committed to the routine and your body will adjust.

Repeat after me: “who I am is more than what I do”.

It’s incredibly tempting to believe that I am only doing well when I have done everything, and have done it perfectly. But that’s just not the case. Life is hard and we are imperfect. Even at our best, some tasks are impossible. Who you are is more than just a reflection of how well you perform. You can control your effort but not always the outcomes, so show yourself a bit or mercy. Think of all of the imperfect people that you love, odds are, several of them love you back just the way you are.

Implementing these three things into your life will reduce your anxiety and give you greater clarity in your thinking. We may not be able to avoid all anxiety in life, but we can keep it from controlling us!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Friday Finds - April 11 (One Day Late!)

Posted by Michael

Ok, it's a day late, but here is some worthwhile reading from around the web....

Pete Greig and the team at 24-7 Prayer do an amazing job of examining and explaining the spiritual life. They have a current podcast series that includes a short video each day leading up to Easter. The series is called Anagnorisis (referring to the moment in a story when a character finds out something crucial about themselves), and is available here:

Many thanks to Mindi for alerting me to this incredible article in the New York Times. The power of forgiveness is overwhelming.  This forgiveness story picks up in the remnants of the nightmarish genocide in Rwanda. Very simply, forgiveness wins.

And in case you are feeling down this weekend, and just need a bit of inspiration, here’s a clip of a two-legged dog who refuses to allow his limitations to spoil his fun at the beach, courtesy of

Photo courtesy of the above article from

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Inspiration (Part XII)

Posted by Michael

In keeping with our poetic theme for National Poetry Month, today's inspiration is the poem "Don't Quit". I hope that wherever you find yourself today, you are able to find the perseverance and the courage to endure in the pursuit of your dreams.

Don't Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he'd stuck it out.
Don't give up, though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are -
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.
-Author Unknown

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The 2 Universal Needs We Ignore The Most

Posted by Michael

No one wants to be thought of as needy, but we all have needs. Some needs are basic and easy to admit and address. We all need food and relationships with others. These needs are obvious and for the most part are attended to by most people. It’s the needs that we ignore that cause us the most damage, and few needs are as overlooked as the following two:

The Need for Order: 

Each person on the planet was born with a need to move things from a disorganized state to one that is more organized. Most of our lives are spent trying to bring order out of the chaos around us. As a society, we design roads, implement laws, and build neighborhoods. At home we weed our flower beds, discipline our children, and throw outdated food out of the refrigerator. All of these things are our attempts to restore order. We were made to order things and will experience a great deal of frustration and anxiety when we don’t.  Order allows our minds an unobstructed view of whatever it needs to focus on. An organized structure to our lives gives us clarity, and clarity is the primary catalyst of motivation. Some of us are more ordered than others. Order doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the cans of food in the pantry are alphabetized and turned with their labels facing out. Everything in our lives does not have to be expertly ordered, but we must have some corner of our world that is organized and predictable for us to have peace. Your tool shed, your bookshelf, your daily planner, whatever that place is for you, keep it ordered, and you’ll have an anchor that allows you to take a deep breath and relax.

The Need to Understand: 

We were all born with a natural sense of curiosity. Some people question everything and spend hours on Facebook and Instagram to see what everyone else is up to. Others like to pop the hood of their car when there’s a problem and dig around until they solve it. The desire to understand comes from a deep and legitimate need to make sense of our world.   Personal growth is contingent on being exposed to things we do not understand. Our attempt to make sense of new people and ideas brings with it a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Our quest to understand our world and each other drives our hunger to learn, and learning drives our growth. People who do not explore their world in an attempt to gain greater understanding can often feel depressed and lethargic.

When it comes to understanding, extremes are dangerous. Feeling that we need to fully understand everything is exhausting and thankless. Also, it can lead you to try to demonstrate your vast understanding to others, and just a word or warning: people hate that! On the other extreme, it’s arrogant and shallow to feel that you now know and understand all that you will ever need to. Health comes when our understanding of the world around us grows a bit at a time. You can’t understand it all, but you can seek to understand more today than you did yesterday.


                                                        “A single moment of understanding can
                                                                flood a whole life with meaning.”

So, whether it’s cleaning out your closet or taking up a new hobby, take some time this week to address your very natural needs for order and understanding, you’ll be glad you did!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Finds - April 4

Posted by Michael

It's Friday, and here's some of the stuff I am reading.....

Micha Boyette has a new book and a new website. If you haven’t met Micha, do so now, you will be glad you did.....

Meet Micha

If you want to give your brain a workout, Peter Rollins is always a good choice. Here’s his take on the movie everyone seems to be talking about, Noah.

Peter Rollins on Noah

In case you’ve been wondering, here’s the answer to the question, “How much pee in a pool is too much pee?”……

How Much Pee Is Too Much Pee?   

Have a great weekend!!!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Inspiration (Part XI)

Posted by Michael

April is National Poetry Month, so this month's inspiration will come in poem form. One of my favorite poems is by Rudyard Kipling, entitled, If.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Photo courtesy: