What to Do When God Makes You Wait
Read the full post: What to Do When God Makes You Wait
September 28, 2017
EXPOSE | Stay Focused When God Makes You Wait

"I was always amazed to watch them sit there. Flies crawling into their eyes, sweat burning their bodies as it seeped through their clothes and dried in layered cakes of salt. Pure misery and pure focus. The ones who progressed through training were the ones who were able to remain completely focused on what really mattered while ignoring the things that would have to wait." - Eric Davis, Navy SEAL sniper instructor on "beating distraction"

EXPLORE | Stay Active When God Makes You Wait

A Navy Seal sniper is probably the only person that could give God a run for his money in a staring contest. Nothing comes between the purpose and the prize. Giving any real consideration to emotion, desire, or physical need isn't an option.

When God makes us wait, we too must lock on to what matters most, while ignoring our nagging questions and lingering doubt, which multiplies the longer we need to wait, and is further compounded when an answer is most urgently needed. But we'll also see that it is neither a solitary or sedentary endeavor.

"Quietness without diligence can make us passive, lazy, negligent, and lead to escapism. But diligence without a quiet heart is just thinly disguised self-reliance." - Brian Hedges

EXECUTE | What to do When God Makes You Wait

Why God Makes You Wait

Because I want to focus mainly on what to do while we wait, I will only highlight the consensus around the important reasons why God makes us wait. It is a necessary support for our maintaining the focus and endurance in our remaining active while we wait. If each of these were reasons were measured by a meter, God is committed to moving us from where we are now, to "burying the needle". So, where are you on the dial?

- Sanctification - where are you on the 'milk vs. meat' maturity meter?
- Motives - where are you on the 'my motives are true and pure' meter?
- Faith - where you on the 'oh ye of little faith' meter?
- Appreciation - where you on the 'I deserve this vs. everything is a gift' meter?
- Patience - where are you on the 'I'm a brat' meter? "Never having to wait makes you a brat." - Jim Butcher
- Intimacy and dependency on God - where are you on 'I'm all in--I can't get any 'more in' than this' meter?
- "Fit" to receive His mercy or grace - where are you on the "God delays his mercy because you are unfit to receive it" (Tim Challies) meter?

Further Reading:
4 reasons why God makes us wait
5 reasons God makes us wait
4 things you need to remember when God makes you-wait
why God makes you wait (Tim Challies)
5 reasons why God calls us to wait
why does God make us wait (Jim Butcher)

What to do While You Wait

As you can see, there are some very good reasons for why God makes you wait. But what to do with that time? There is a line from the movie Facing the Giants that properly frames the approach to waiting:

"... I heard a story about two farmers who desperately needed rain; and both of them prayed for rain. But only one of them went out and prepared his fields to receive it. Which one do you think trusted God to send the rain?" - Facing the Giants "prepare your fields"

There are two ways to approach waiting: passively or expectantly. Waiting, should be an active process. We should approach waiting with eagerness. Here are some suggestions for "active waiting":

Be present and keep your eyes open.

Staring toward the sky waiting for an answer is not going to be good for anyone. "Stop and and love those around you." In other words, if you can't be working on what you're ultimately waiting for, then be useful to those around you.

Rehearse God's faithfulness.

Part of our being so easily distracted is that we're taken away by the 'not yet answered' questions. Reminding ourselves of God's past faithfulness can level the impatience.

"Waiting on God is a regular refrain in the life of faith. It is an expression of the healthy heart’s desire: “O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul” (Isaiah 26:8). Few things will pass the time as effectively and richly as counting your blessings and naming them to God." - David Mathis

Push the weight of faith back onto God.

Our faith doesn't stay put, so check back frequently to see that it hasn't moved from where it should be (on God).

"Move the weight of your trust off self, where it keeps gravitating back, and consciously reorient on God." - David Mathis

Is this a crisis or an inconvenience?

Confirm that you're asking about, and waiting on, a need, not a want.

"When I’m frustrated that I’m not hearing from God, I ask myself if my petition is a want or a need." - Lori Freeland

Get quiet.

Like we mentioned above, we need to be actively swatting away those distractions that will get in the way of our waiting properly. Not the least of which is to put us in the best position to listen.

"When you get quiet, you can focus your mind on God and what he wants to say to you." - Rick Warren

"...we need quietness. This is the opposite of a fretful mind, a troubled, anxious heart." - John Owen (17th century pastor)

Remain faithful while we wait.

In the same vain as what was mentioned above, but even beyond our families, we need to remain faithful in doing right and doing good.

"Quietness doesn’t mean passivity, lethargy, or spiritual sloth. Waiting also involves faithfully following the Lord in everything we know to be right. As the Psalmist says, “Wait for the Lord, and keep his way” (Psalms 37:34)." - Brian Hedges

Further Reading:
What to do when you're waiting on God
The waiting is the hardest part
How to wait on God without losing faith
What do you do while you wait on the Lord
Why is waiting on God so hard

Waiting can be one of God's most effective tools. The timing can be just as prescient as the substance of His response. Indeed, the longer we need to wait, the more attentive we become. With our being properly active while we wait, is when God goes to work.

Don't waste the waiting. God doesn't.

Read the full post: What to Do When God Makes You Wait
category: issue 42, soul    tag(s): , , ,

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The Bucket List is a Cover Up: Part 2
Read the full post: The Bucket List is a Cover Up: Part 2
August 28, 2017
[read The Bucket List is a Cover Up: Part 1]

It was Blaise Pascal that pointed to the "infinite abyss" in our souls and stated it could only be filled by God himself. If he is right, then we could never put together a bucket list that would sooth this deep soul ache. Indeed, it is only the abundant life that God provides that would truly satisfy.

But if it is a list you want... I wondered what it would look to capture a glimpse of the abundant life from each book of the New Testament. Mind you, we can't gain this life--it is ours to receive. Here then is a bit more of what it looks like:

14. Don't allow idleness to derail you.

How close are you to being lulled into idleness? Who do you surround yourself with, or find yourself in the midst of? Is "I deserve a break today" costing you?

"Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness... For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you." - 2 Thessalonians 3:6-9

15. Begin a godliness training regiment.

"How bad do you want it?" It's a lot like a Nike commercial. But a race like no other. Train accordingly.

"If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." - 1 Timothy 4:6-8

16. Consider yourself a servant... not the master.

How does your mindset need to change in order to fulfill your new role? A servant penetrates from the bottom up.

"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness" - 2 Timothy 2:24-25

17. Become qualified. Be ready for the call.

Whether you'll actually be one or not, do you pass the test? Is your life characteristic of an elder?

"For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." - Titus 1:7-9

18. Fully vouch for someone.

There's nothing like a brother that will lay down his life for you... and, stand up for you.

"So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account." - Philemon 17-18

19. Resist until it draws blood.

How hard do you fight to stay in the race? Is your struggle with sin much a wrestling match?

"In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." - Hebrews 12:4

20. Count it all joy. All of it.

While we're on this theme of training... no pain, no gain. In this case, it leads to our "lacking in nothing".

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." - James 1:2-4

21. Silence a fool.

Literally--do good to the point it silences those that say in their hearts "there is no God." Let your works quiet the denier.

"For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people." - 1 Peter 2:15

22. Build a 'thick layer' of faith.

Falling is painful. And, seemingly unnecessary. Add each of these layers to supplement your faith.

"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love... for if you practice these qualities you will never fall." - 2 Peter 1:5-8, 10

23. Stop loving the world.

Do not harbor any affection for anything that has been made. End the love affair, however subtle; break up with the world.

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." - 1 John 2:15

24. Make someone's joy complete.

Seek a face-to-face visit, and bring a full understanding of hope, love and truth--bringing joy to fruition.

"Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete." - 2 John 1:12

25. Only emulate those who have "seen God."

Who do you admire? Who do you seek to take after? Whose words do you eagerly receive?

"Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God." - 3 John 1:11

26. Contend for the faith.

Contend, not fight. Distinguish yourself by firmly, yet lovingly, asserting true faith.

"I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." - Jude 3-4

27. Complete your work.

Have you finished what God has called you to? Where have you stopped short? Pick it back up and see it through to completion.

"I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God." - Revelation 3:1-2

Read the full post: The Bucket List is a Cover Up: Part 2
category: body, issue 41    tag(s): , ,

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The Bucket List is a Cover Up: Part 1
Read the full post: The Bucket List is a Cover Up: Part 1
July 30, 2017
EXPOSE | Staring into the "Infinite Abyss"

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?

This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”
- (emphasis mine) Blaise Pascal, Pensees (New York; Penguin Books, 1966), 75.

"...I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." - (emphasis mine) Jesus (John 10:10)

EXPLORE | No Bucket List Compares

Life abundant. Can skydiving even compare?

Truly understood, could collecting extreme experiences even come close to satisfying the God-designed ache within our souls? Given the popularity of "bucket list", you'd think so.

Because it is designed by God to only be satisfied by God, filling this "infinite abyss" is going to require more than a bucket and a list.

Glomming on "supposed soul-satisfying" layers can only temporarily distract us from this gaping hole in our soul. No physical effort, no matter how extreme, could address a spiritual problem. We're not only the wrong person for the job, we lack the right tools. Only Jesus can span the width, depth, and breadth, that is this spiritual chasm.

"Jesus, on the other hand, not only came to bring spiritual life to people, but He came to bring the best quality of life to them. The eternal life that Jesus imparts is not just long, but it is also rich. He did not just come to gain sheep, but to enable His sheep to flourish and to enjoy contentment, and every other legitimately good thing possible." - Dr. Thomas L. Constable

There simply isn't a bucket list that could account for the plentiful quantity and quality of life that Jesus provides. When He provides life, is it life that is "all-around, "more than", beyond what is anticipated, exceeding expectation, going past the expected limit." - Strong's Concordance definition of "abundant"

What would it look like to kick the bucket [list] for the abundant life?

EXECUTE | Plugging the Hole in the Soul

I don't want to imply in any way that the abundant life could be complied into a list. In my tour of the New Testament (half now, the other half will be highlighted in Part II), I plucked out possibilities from each book to help explore what God intended by "life abundant" in ways we may never have before.

1. Fast for longer than a day (in a healthy way, of course).

Or, fast your way through a challenging trial.

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry..." - Matthew 4:1-2

2. Command a mountain to be "taken up and thrown into the sea."

You've probably heard the expression, 'faith that moves mountains.' Have you ever prayed in this way? Or, rested in God with such confidence, as to have no doubt when believing great things?

"Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him." - Mark 11:23

3. Cleanse the temple... at least once.

It may not require you to flip tables, but, when conviction erupts, your voice should be heard. Is there correction you need to bring to where you fellowship?

"And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”" - Luke 19:45-46

4. Track down the answer to your most perplexing question of/about God.

What is that one thing you just don't get about God? Maybe it is something you've been hiding from? Or, something that keeps tripping you up over and over? Going directly to Jesus, even in the cover of darkness, is the way to address it.

"Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”" - John 3:1-4

5. Give 'til it feels incredible.

Give past the point of obligation, until you're giving cheerfully; realizing that what we own is not ours to keep, but ours to share.

"Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common." - Acts 4:32

6. Do not be ashamed.

Do you fear being exposed as a follower of Christ? Is it dependent on the situation? What next step could you take to begin dialing back the defenses?

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." - Romans 1:16

Look, all I need is one sixteen
To brag on my king
Romans 1:16
We brag about him daily ‘cause he runs this thing
Can I do it?
Yes, sir
Can I do it?
Yes, sir

From "One Sixteen" by Trip Lee

7. Begin treating your body as a temple.

And we're not just talking about dieting. If the Spirt of God was an invited guest, what should the place look like?

"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" - 1 Corinthians 3:16

8. Let God's grace be sufficient.

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." - 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

9. Live one whole day by the Spirit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23

10. Speak the truth. Only the truth.

Truth is what you have left when you put away falsehood. How many relationships would have otherwise been strengthened and healed had the truth been spoken?

"Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." - Ephesians 4:25

11. Count all as loss.

What are you counting as gain that isn't Christ?

"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish..." - Philippians 3:7-8

12. Kill every idol.

It is so serious, God wrathfully opposes it.

"Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come..." - Colossians 3:5-6

13. Remember, your faith will be reported on.

What would your report look like? Would it be longer than a paragraph? Write down what you think it might look like, and then ask a close friend take a red pen to it.

"But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love...Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith." - 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7

The abundant life is full of the unexpected--leading us through unique, heart pounding circumstances that are truly life-changing. Aside from the fact that it doesn't require any special equipment, travel, or that you use up precious vacation time, you won't need to share your list with anyone--it will be self-evident.

Read the full post: The Bucket List is a Cover Up: Part 1
category: body, issue 40    tag(s): , ,

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Judge Not? You Be The Judge of That
Read the full post: Judge Not? You Be The Judge of That
June 6, 2017
EXPOSE | We Love Straining Gnats

"Our fallen nature is profoundly selfish and proud and often hypocritical, judging ourselves indulgently and others severely. We are quick to strain gnats and swallow camels (Matthew 23:24), quick to take tweezers to another’s eye when we need a forklift for our own." - Jon Bloom

EXPLORE | Read On. Read Often.

"Judge not." It's so useful. A ready-made defense for any occasion. Which may very well be the reason why many believe the "judge not" verse to be one of the most widely misinterpreted verses. How convenient to be able to throw a "judge not" at the end of your judgement.

Take for instance the following yard sign. There are a few homes where I live that have it proudly on display.

First of all, ice cream is everything. But I won't go there.

Obviously a judgement has been made. Actually, a judgement has been made about a judgement, and seems to be displayed in such a way that their judgement is not open for judging.

Our misuse of this verse makes it very convenient: judge not--unless you're the one judging.

Bloom's quote above takes us where we need to go to properly understand this verse. In order to get to the right understanding, it will require that we get past the first two words.

There is a rule of thumb that is helpful in this case: "read on, read often" as context and repetition bring clarity. The further we read, and the more frequently we read it, the clearer things become. When we stop short, we become short-sighted and our understanding is stunted.

EXECUTE | Judge Not? Or, Judge Correctly?

Let's first apply 'read on'. Here is the portion of Jesus' sermon in context:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." - Matt. 7:1-5

Even after a cursory reading, it would seem that the intention is that we judge correctly, not that we would refrain from judging.

"Obviously, what Jesus condemned was the hypocritical judgment of those who held others to a higher standard than they themselves were willing to live by. He was certainly not suggesting that all judgment is forbidden. In fact, Jesus indicated that taking a speck out of your brother’s eye is the right thing to do—as long as you first get the log out of your own eye." - John MacArthur

Overview on judging correctly.

"Jesus takes judgment very seriously. He is the righteous judge (2 Timothy 4:8), who is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). He does not judge by appearances, but judges with right judgment (John 7:24). Every judgment he pronounces issues from his core loving nature (1 John 4:8)... Therefore, when we judge, and Scripture instructs Christians to judge at times (1 Corinthians 5:12), we must take great care that our judgment, like Christ’s, is always charitable." - Jon Bloom

Tips for judging correctly.

Tip 1: Remember the 'Golden Rule.'

Judging would look entirely different if we would simply keep in mind the golden rule: "Do unto others..." In fact, this approach would remedy a number of things that ail us. Approach the situation with humility and judge in a way that you would want to be judged.

Tip 2: "Innocent Until Proven Guilty."

The principles of the 6th Amendment provides a good framework for exercising judgement: be fair, don't draw it out, or do it in secret. In other words, there should be due diligence in our due process.

"The first way to take great care how we judge is to be slow to pronounce guilt when evidence is scant or hearsay or ambiguous." - Jon Bloom

Tip 3: Make Restoration the Goal.

Even if we judge correctly, there needs to be a purpose. Will you and the other party be better for it?

"When evidence does confirm that a transgression has occurred, a second way we take great care how we judge is to “aim for restoration” (2 Corinthians 13:11)." - Jon Bloom

Tip 4: Maybe Judgement Isn't Necessary.

Does the situation require your involvement? How are you responsible if you are required to be involved? If you're not required, don't hover.

"If we’re not personally involved or are distant observers, we can still aim for the person’s restoration by, if possible, not saying anything. A wise rule of thumb: the greater our distance, the greater our ignorance." - Jon Bloom

Tip 5: Be Ready to Receive Judgment.

Judgement goes both ways, so expect it, and be ready to receive it.

"Criticism is a fact of life and a powerful training tool when we understand how to put it to use." - Diane Gottsman

Preparation includes being able to pluck out the truth from the feedback and determine to apply it accordingly. That may require you to have to sift through any emotions to capture those nuggets that God is intending to use to help you grow. And be sure to discard the rest.

Life requires that we are discerning, and in some cases, express our judgment. What is not necessary is that we are judgmental.

Read the full post: Judge Not? You Be The Judge of That
category: issue 39, mind    tag(s): , , ,

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Finding the Inspiration to Make Prayer a Priority
Read the full post: Finding the Inspiration to Make Prayer a Priority
May 9, 2017
EXPOSE | "Quick" Morning Prayer?

"If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer."- Martin Luther

EXPLORE | What is First, is Foremost

I don't think he was joking. He was a monk, and monks don't play.

It was E. M. Bounds that said "God's acquaintance is not made by quick visits." I'm pretty sure he was thinking of Martin Luther praying when he said that. He knew how to make prayer a priority.

Praying is still a pretty big deal in America. In 2014, Pew Research found that 55% of us pray every day. However, they didn't ask how many people pray for at least 2 hours a day. You don't need a survey to ask a question you already know the answer to.

If you've every wondered, "How do we apply wisdom in all things?" This would be your answer: make prayer a priority.

I like this definition of priority: "the right to take precedence..."

Prayer certainly has that right. Because of its value and benefit, it is set apart, above and before all things.

Pat Morley reminds of this in his devotional "The Charge To Put Prayer First", that "as Paul gave Timothy his charge to serve God, he simultaneously said, "First of all...pray.""

"This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child... First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior..." (1 Timothy 1:18, 2:2-3)

Putting prayer in its proper place, gives light to our path, and the ability to navigate its twists and turns. Now, to put it in its proper place.

EXECUTE | Finding the Inspiration to Make Prayer a Priority

If Martin Luther felt that his life required 3 hours of prayer every day back then, I wonder what he would recommend if he were living today? When I think about making prayer a priority, that is where my mind goes. What will it look like to make prayer a priority? I found six points of inspiration to help inch prayer towards the top of our list of things that 'have the right to take precedence':

Our method is madness.

It may be time for disruption. Not anything too creative or fancy, just a solid change up on how we approach this labor of love each day.

"...the problem isn’t that we pray about the same old things; the problem is that we tend to say the same old things about the same old things." The solution? "Pray the Bible. In other words, slowly read a passage of Scripture and pray about all that comes to mind as you read." - Don Whitney (professor of biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky)

Careful who you listen to.

Self-talk can be useful, however, it also means we can easily become our own worst enemy. This may also be true when we pray.

"The two most important personal spiritual disciplines are the intake of the Word of God and prayer — and in that order. For it is much more important for us to hear from God through his Word than for God to hear from us in prayer." - Don Whitney

The best time to pray best.

A sermon from Allistar Begg on 1 Peter 4:7 puts a point on our need to be at our best when praying at this point in time. The worse things get, the better we need to be at how we go about praying.

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers." - 1 Peter 4:7

Pray before we do it. Pray as we do it. Pray for those we're doing it for.

If we truly want what is best, and what is best for others, we will necessarily 'surround it with prayer.' Before, during, and after.

"Bunyan reminds us that we can do more than pray after we have prayed, but we cannot do more than prayer until we have prayed. To “pray without ceasing” certainly means at least this much: to pray as you work, as you drive, as you think—in whatever you do... And view prayer as the most important thing you can do for others." - Joel Beeke (pastor and theologian)

Do you have good 'prayer posture'?

As our bodies are positioned for prayer, so goes our souls. I wonder if this was part of what Paul meant by his 'buffeting his body'? We don't want what our body is saying to contradict what our heart intends to communicate.

"Kneel, stand, close your eyes, look to the heavens — when your body is focused, it’s often easier for your soul to follow. If able, pray out loud. I’ve found that just softly whispering during my private prayer time is quiet enough that it doesn’t inhibit the flow of my praying, but loud enough that it keeps my mind from wandering. As C.S. Lewis observes, “The body ought to pray as well as the soul. Body and soul are both better for it.”" - Bonnie McKernan

Having the right expectation of prayer.

God gives us His best. That is, Himself. We get ahead of ourselves when we go to Him in prayer expecting anything more than Him.

"If we never gained anything from prayer but the communion with God that prayer really is, that should be sufficient to make prayer a constant thing. Imagine the reality when you pray of entering into the very throne room and communing with the living God of the universe... True prayer brings the mind into the immediate contemplation of God’s character and holds it there until the believer’s soul is properly impressed.” - Chrysostom (early Church father)

It helps to pray in order.

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. If we don't get any further than seeing Him for who He is, then we would do well to stay there, at least for a while.

"...before you ever begin to pray for you, you begin by praying on Gods behalf. “Hallowed be Thy name.” That’s the first petition. The second petition is, “Thy kingdom come.” The third petition is, “Thy will be done.” And then you can say, “Give us,” “forgive us,” “lead us"... "Hallowed be Thy name"... opens up a whole dimension of respect and reverence and awe and appreciation and honor and glory and adoration and worship for God." - John MacArthur

Making prayer a priority, means our "priorities" will be prioritized. That is, what we think is important will get the scrutiny of God's loving, eternal, fatherly knowledge and will. Through prayer, we stand the chance of knowing what is truly a priority.

"...prayer is God’s way of bringing our priorities into line with his. God wills to make great things the consequence of our prayers when our prayers are the consequence of his great purposes." - John Piper

Read the full post: Finding the Inspiration to Make Prayer a Priority
category: issue 38, soul    tag(s): , ,

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Developing Poise: Keeping Your Cool When Things Get Hot
Read the full post: Developing Poise: Keeping Your Cool When Things Get Hot
April 25, 2017
EXPOSE | Poking at Poise

"Can you take a reprimand without blowing up? Can you take a turndown without being visibly discouraged? Can you laugh with the others when the joke is on you? Can you keep your spirits up when things go wrong? Can you keep cool in emergencies? The natural leader answers all these with a confident yes." - Donald A. Laird (quoted in "The 5 T's of Mastering the Art of Poise")

EXPLORE | Steady... NOW! Poise is profound. It means being stirred but not shaken. Like the soldier in the picture... still 'sword up' even in the face of 'enormous shoe-sized odds'. It is the only thing I can think of that allows you be a force while remaining still.

We'll find poise defined as "a dignified, self-confident manner or bearing; composure; self-possession." But Earl Wilson provides a little more insight into how it actually feels: "...the ability to be ill at ease inconspicuously."

There is a certain tension with being poised. We are required to remain focused, steadfast, and perseverant, in the midst of a situation that is asking more from us than we feel we possess. Recall the scene from the movie Braveheart where William Wallace is directing his clan during the Battle of Stirling Bridge as the English race toward them on horseback... "steady... hold... hold... HOLD... HOLD... NOOOOOOOOOWWW!!!"

There is a right time to wait. There is a right time to act. This sensibility is an underlying trait of wisdom. You certainly need to know what to do, but it requires that it be coupled with when it should be done.

EXECUTE | Powerfully Poised

How do we gain this command of composure and timing? Before we get into some practical ways to develop poise, I'd like to introduce a few foundational thoughts.

Don't let feelings lead.

I didn't say, 'don't feel.' But what we need to address is the position we give our feelings. They need to be present, but they just can't lead.

"...composure is...a deep-rooted strength that is irreplaceable. You’re not a slave to your emotions. They are contained and controlled in the healthiest way... Poise is the balance of strength and elegance... It’s in the way you walk with confidence, in the way you move with a gentle ease, and in the way the tone of your voice is both calming and sure."- Annie, Living Charm blog

Quick to listen, slow to speak...

... and be even slower to anger (James 1:19). Lead with listening, and we'll be less likely to speak. A closed mouth can sometimes make all the difference. Not to mention the role in plays in leading us to anger. Mouth closed. Ears (and heart) open.

You are from God... and have overcome...

Poise is most necessary in trying circumstances. But trying circumstances can overwhelm. Fear not, as we remember that ...greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). The war is won, the battle requires us to depend on the Force greater than anything we will encounter.

The Poise of Jesus

I came across a couple of descriptions of the poise that Jesus displayed. It is both an inspiriation, but a reminder that we can realize divine poise in the power of the Spirit.

“It is an interesting fact that though Jesus was speaking constantly in public for three years, not one of his enemies was able to catch him in his speech, and when at last they convicted him they had to do it on a trumped-up lie. This also is noteworthy that not one of the enemies of Jesus was able by unfairness or falsehood or hatred to push Jesus into a hasty word or an unrighteous mood. Most men are so poorly balanced you can push them with very little pressure . . . into an unchristian disposition. Jesus was so firmly poised that under the pressure of the most venomous vituperation that has ever been hurled against a man, he stood erect, unmoved, and immovable. His poise was divine.” - GodTreks.com (as quoted from The Character of Jesus by Charles Edward Jefferson)

"There is a grace about him which does not fade, there is a sanity about him which compels respect, there is a charm about him which woos and wins the heart..." - GodTreks.com (as quoted from The Character of Jesus by Charles Edward Jefferson)

Practical Tips for Developing Poise

One source that offers us some good tips on developing poise comes from The Art of Manliness. Brett and Kate McKay focus on Donald Laird's recommendations for increasing poise in their article "The 5 T's of Art of Poise". There are three that I would like to highlight:

"Think About the Other Person". Thinking about them keeps us from thinking about ourselves, which keeps us from being self-conscious and becoming unnecessarily nervous.

"The natural leader has power over others because they can sense that he is thinking about them." - Donald Laird

"Take Slow, Deep Breaths". As you wait to speak, breath. Slowly.

"When your voice begins to rise, poise starts to leave. Take two deep breaths and lower your voice." - Donald Laird

"Talk Your Troubles Over". This can definitely dial down the anxiety you may be feeling, whigh works against our need to be poised. The other suggestions that Laird makes help address the symptoms, but doesn't remove the cause.

"The cause, that feeling of uncertainty, needs to be removed...Concealed disappointments, suppressed worries, and restrained tantrums create a backwash that sweeps poise out to sea." - Donald Laird

In her article "6 Tips for Creating Confidence and Poise", Hilary has one tip that relates to the first thoughts I shared on poise. Ask yourself, "what's the worst that can happen?"

"Asking yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” will help you get a realistic picture of potential consequences, which turn out to be less dire than what we first thought." - Hilary Hutchinson

The bottom line is that we have every reason to be powerfully poised:

"The Christian faith makes it possible for us nobly to accept that which cannot be changed, and to meet disappointments and sorrow with an inner poise, and to absorb the most intense pain without abandoning our sense of hope." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read the full post: Developing Poise: Keeping Your Cool When Things Get Hot
category: body, issue 37    tag(s): , ,

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How to Really Leverage the 5 Hour Rule
Read the full post: How to Really Leverage the 5 Hour Rule
April 14, 2017
EXPOSE | The 5 Hour "Phenomenon"

"Over the past year, I've explored the personal histories of many widely admired business leaders, including Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Mark Zuckerberg... despite being extremely busy, [they] have set aside at least an hour a day (or five hours a week) over their entire career for activities that could be classified as deliberate practice or learning... I call this phenomenon the five-hour rule. (emphasis mine)" - Michael Simmons, co-founder of Empact, with Ian Chew and Shizuka Ebata.

EXPLORE | Logging Some 'Lab' Time

Of course, the focus isn't the celebrity, but the daily discipline. Where it will lead, is for God to determine. But the fact that this 'rule' has been played out in significant ways in these people's lives, warrants some further investigation, and, quite possibly, a fair amount of integration into our own lives.

In the past, we've highlighted the implications of becoming a morning person, and the role that being a learner plays, so this idea of "deliberate practice or learning" throughout the week aligns nicely. It might be best understood in the context of a lab, where you move from concept to experimentation. So, in practice, it isn't just reading or planning, but includes trying and applying.

This '5 Hour Rule' could be considered a reductionist view of the more profound concept put forth by Cal Newport and detailed in his book "Deep Work." For me, it was a fascinating look into the subject of mastery. Newport explains how "it enables you to quickly (and deliberately) learn complicated new skills and produce high-value output at a high rate."

What does it take to master a particular skill or knowledge, but the extended, intensive, immersive, exercise of deep focus. Therefore it favors the person that can achieve lengthy, concentrated focus, and can have a significant impact. Cal emphasizes that "Deep work is becoming increasingly valuable at the same time that it’s becoming increasingly rare. Therefore, if you cultivate this skill, you’ll thrive." Though the benefits outweigh the costs, one major challenge with being able to apply the concept of Deep Work, is the large block of time it demands, and the effort it takes to protect it. Newport recommends extended hours, or even days, of uninterrupted focus. Not too many of us have that kind of flexibility. Enter in the 5 Hour Rule. You could loosely define it as a 'normal person's application' of Deep Work.

Now the question becomes, what is worthy of my time?

EXECUTE | Leveraging the 5 Hour Rule to Become Wiser

I first want to briefly unpack the 5 Hour Rule. The greatest benefit from this daily practice requires the right pursuit. With that in mind, I wanted to offer an outline of how you could begin, or further, the "deliberate practice or learning" of wisdom. I feel that there is no greater pursuit than to know what we need to know, and do what we need to do. This is explained a little further in The Right Life Manifesto.

Understanding the 5 Hour Rule

During his research, Michael Simmons observed three activities that he then used to develop the rule: "reading, reflection, and experimentation." This process is especially beneficial as it takes us through to application and thorough integration.


Simmons cites this daily activity among the billionaire entrepreneurs he researched as lasting anywhere from one to three hours a day. The main principle here is that we are ingesting something worthwhile each day for a significant amount of time. Your best bet is to not time yourself, but give yourself a window to allow yourself the room to sift through a complete thought (whether a chapter, or section of a book, etc).


"AOL CEO Tim Armstrong makes his senior team spend four hours per week just thinking. Jack Dorsey is a serial wanderer. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner schedules two hours of thinking time per day. Brian Scudamore, the founder of the $250 million company O2E Brands, spends 10 hours a week just thinking." - Michael Simmons

What does that look like? Simmons referred to some who will contact a friend or mentor to help them think through an idea, others will take to journaling through what they read and what it caused them to think. I need this part of the process to capture the ground I've gained. Otherwise, I run the risk of forgetting and having to start over. Besides, what's the real benefit of reading or taking something in, if it is not fully absorbed?


"Throughout his life, Ben Franklin set aside time for experimentation, masterminding with like-minded individuals, and tracking his virtues. Google famously allowed employees to experiment with new projects during 20 percent of their work time. Facebook encourages experimentation through Hack-a-Months."- Michael Simmons

This is where things get real. Reading and thinking about it, although necessary, don't get us very far. This last step is where we work it out. Where what we've been focusing on becomes clearer to us, more certain, and we're able to wield it fruitfully.

Applying the 5 Hour Rule to Wisdom

With there being so many things you might want to use this process to pursue, may I suggest a good starting place? Regardless of what you might choose, I highly recommend steps 1 and 2. Step 3 is key, because it has the potential to be absolutely life-changing.
  1. Begin by implementing the 5 Hour Rule.  Determine your daily window for what you'll be 'ingesting'.  Give yourself enough time that you're not feeling like you have to watch the clock.
  2. In the first two weeks, read Deep Work by Cal Newport.  This will help fully sell you on the idea of establishing distraction free focus, and the benefit of being able to "quickly (and deliberately) learn complicated new skills and produce high-value output at a high rate."
  3. Use the schedule you've adopted (for the 5 Hour Rule), and the concept of Deep Work, and focus it on the understanding and practice of wisdom.  Here are several ideas to consider to get you going:
    • Begin your 'deep dive' into wisdom by reading a section of Proverbs a week and dissecting it
    • Create a list of key quotes from Proverbs, and memorize them
    • Read pages 1-9 of the paper Practical Wisdom and Organizations.  It is based on the book Practical Wisdom by Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe.  In it, they establish a solid framework for the background and context for reviving practical wisdom.
    • Assume that wisdom is essentially doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time.  Use this as a checklist for areas or relationships in your life where you'd like to see wisdom improve.  What do you need to start doing?  What do you need to stop doing?  In what way should they be started or stopped?  When is the right time for this to occur?  God loves answering these questions.
    • A part of an accurate definition of wisdom includes 'doing'.  How can you take the outcomes from applying the 5 Hour Rule and pass it on?
    • Establish the habit of wisdom as the basis for the way that you approach life.
Garmin, for their GPS smartwatch, has a current ad campaign that uses the phrase: Beat Yesterday. As it is with so many talented athletes, it isn't that they practice, but how they practice. Intentional, deliberate, performance-based practice leads to real growth and effectiveness. You're realizing your greatest potential when you demand that you be better today than you were yesterday. Use the 5 Hour Rule to create the space and process with which you pursue and exercise wisdom in all things.

Read the full post: How to Really Leverage the 5 Hour Rule
category: issue 36, mind    tag(s): , , , , ,

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The Ultimate Dare: Trust with ALL Your Heart
Read the full post: The Ultimate Dare: Trust with ALL Your Heart
March 21, 2017
EXPOSE | The Ultimate Dare

While it is presented as a command, it sure feels like a triple dog dare: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding..." - Proverbs 3:5

Not half, or most, but ALL your heart.

Trust--complete trust--is a thing to behold.

EXPLORE | Seeing is Believing?

"Who wants to get in?"

Charles Blondin, the world famous tightrope walker, is said to have uttered words to that affect to an audience nervously watching as he crossed Niagara Falls pushing an empty wheelbarrow.

Blondin was the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. But not only was he the first, he did so repeatedly. At first he crossed alone, but eventually went on to cross with a number of different objects--even stopping at one point to make an omelette.

Not surprisingly, no one took him up on his offer. But why? He repeatedly proved he could do it, right before their very eyes!

Intellectual assent cannot hide true belief. We'll find that to be the case when understanding is called on to act. Belief is something we demonstrate.

Regardless of whether or not he actually asked for this level of audience participation, the story paints the perfect picture of our challenge with this command: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart..." Our minds tell us we shouldn't have an issue with this, but our hearts drag their little feet.

When given the choice, we pass up the opportunity to hop in the wheelbarrow.

EXECUTE | Take the Dare

Why is it so difficult to trust in something so completely trustworthy? How is it possible that we would stop short when we have every reason not to, only to trust in something less worthy? Jon Bloom frames it perfectly when he says: "...it is not the one who trusts in the Lord that is irrational, but the one who leans on his or her own understanding. It is insane to trust such pitifully limited understanding when one can trust the unlimited understanding of God."

Here are a just a few things to weigh when questioning where we ought to place our trust:

Understand and accept that "our understanding" is severely overrated.

What comes before a fall? Pride. Thinking more of ourselves than we ought, only brings on the heartache:

"So many of the things that cause us the most difficulty and heartache in life, the source of so much of our anxiety, fear, doubt, and anger with others and with God, is the result of leaning on our own understanding." - Jon Bloom

Understand and accept that there is no one more 'for you' than God.

Including ourselves. We don't even have our best interest in mind as much as, or as truly, as He does. True pleasures are found at His right hand (Psalm 16:11). That is, 'in the wheelbarrow.' Trusting wholeheartedly in the Lord, and not our understanding:

"...preserves for us all the pleasures God provides us in the world. To not do this is the height of foolishness and the path to misery." - Jon Bloom

Understand and accept fear, so as to not fear it.

There are things to be feared, but fear them in context: in light of the One who is to be feared above all.

"...it’s important to note that when Jesus rebuked the disciples, it wasn’t merely because they feared the storm. Fear of a danger stronger than we are is appropriate, right in line with God’s design. Jesus rebuked them for fearing the lesser power over the greater Power." - Jon Bloom

Understand and accept that we are to obey God's Word, not just agree with it.

They saw. They agreed. They stood there. That is how the bystanders watching Blondin responded to his invitation to catch a ride in his wheelbarrow as he crossed back over Niagara. God is not looking for consent. His Word is meant to lead us away from our foolish mind towards God's way of thinking:

"If I’m reading the Bible for excuses for what I want anyway, my heart has already drifted from the Lord. But if I trust him wholeheartedly, I will let the Bible challenge my most cherished thoughts and feelings." - Ray Ortlund

Go ahead, take the dare. "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him."- 2 Chron. 16:9

Read the full post: The Ultimate Dare: Trust with ALL Your Heart
category: issue 35, soul    tag(s): , ,

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Boldness is a Pretty Peculiar Thing
Read the full post: Boldness is a Pretty Peculiar Thing
March 7, 2017
EXPOSE | What Makes You Interesting?

"An interesting person is interesting to us because she combines two things: Truth and surprise." - Seth Godin

EXPLORE | What's Better Than Being Interesting?

By 'truth', Seth is referring to having conviction. Beyond preference, we are compelled to stand firmly on what we have been convinced is true. And then 'surprise' is having to do with shaping your presentation to delight your audience. In other words, your providing what someone needs to hear, the way they need to hear it.

What I hear Seth describing could probably be summed up in one word: boldness. One definition describes it as "the quality of having a strong, vivid, or clear appearance." The strength of the truth, clearly presented--at the right time--can be very surprising.

When boldness has come to mean having more to do with the 'sizzle' than the 'steak', wielding the 'straight stick of truth' (as I've heard Janet Parshall describe D.L. Moody's quote) will be viewed as very peculiar.

“The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.” - D.L. Moody

Breaking through with the truth looks a lot like that scene in the movie where the main character is running toward the monster, while the whole of humanity is running the opposite direction in an attempt to escape. Understood this way, 'interesting' probably won't cut it. Delivering the truth in a timely, compelling way in the face of opposition will be perceived as very peculiar.

EXECUTE | How to Get Peculiar--In a Good Way

Truth + Surprise. I think Seth is on to something with this combination. Let's take a closer look at each as a means to our unleashing our peculiar.


The truth is powerful. It alone is enough to shock, spark, stir, split, penetrate, divide, pierce, melt, and ultimately, free. Truth is pure. Truth brings life. Nothing good comes from ignoring the truth. God offers freedom through the Truth (John 8:32), and is in opposition to its suppression (Romans 1:18).

Because of the effort that goes into denying, suppressing, blocking, and otherwise avoiding the truth, being that 'straight stick' is not only peculiar, but potentially dangerous.

There is so much riding on the truth.

How well do you know the truth? How well do you handle it?


Many would agree that Pixar has this concept down cold. The almost magical way they can penetrate a heart, any heart, by brilliantly telling a good story. They are able to get us to lower our guard and deliver their message with relative ease. Jesus was similar. He could disarm anyone, and deliver the truth in such a way that it would stun the recipient, and amaze bystanders.

But maybe surprise is not currently a part of your repertoire.

"You're not born uninteresting [read: unbold]. But it's entirely possible you've persuaded yourself to be so frightened of the consequences that you no longer have the passion, the generosity or the guts to be interesting [read: bold] any longer." - Seth Godin

Boldness is something we lose. Get it back. There is something to be said about regressing back to a child. They are unashamed of saying it like it is. Add just a bit of tact, and unleashing the truth might even be welcomed.

Boldness is conviction lived out loud. It is unmistakable and uncontainable.

Are you peculiar? You ought to be. It's better than being interesting. And, we were meant to be. Our part in this world was intended--and is needed.

Read the full post: Boldness is a Pretty Peculiar Thing
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Relieving “Head Knowledge” Before Your Head Pops!
Read the full post: Relieving “Head Knowledge” Before Your Head Pops!
February 18, 2017
EXPOSE | Head Knowledge vs. Heart Knowledge

"How do we go from the instruction of Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding,” to the personal affirmation of the writer of Psalms 56:3–4, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid”? In other words, how do we go from head knowledge to heart application?" - Josh Squires

EXPLORE | The Danger of Head Knowledge

Take a good look at the picture.

That could be your head.

Okay, maybe not literally. But spiritually, that actually is what can happen if we're not careful.

It's what our heads look like if all we do is store up knowledge: like an orange on a toothpick. Strong in the head. Weak in the body. Which is precisely what we're trying to prevent with this blog.

Wisdom is more than knowledge.

Knowledge puffs up, if there is no place for it to go. If we're not doing anything with it, the heart grows weak, and the body... withers. In other words, head knowledge should lead to action.

James makes a pretty clear, bold statement about keeping it all in our heads: "But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves." - James 1:22 (emphasis mine; in this case, I appreciate the way the NLT renders this verse)

Unfortunately, gravity is no help here. It isn't a natural occurrence.

EXECUTE | What To Do if it's "All In Your Head"

I'm reminded of the phrase, "it's all in your head." Of course, we use that phrase to infer a level of psychosis. However, it may not be too far-fetched when discussing that "our knowing is void of the reality of doing." Consider these approaches to help our head knowledge flow out through our hearts:

Focus the heart on the mind.

"The Bible speaks of the brain as the center of our thinking and has much to say about the condition of our minds. The heart represents our affection, emotion, and personality... In Matthew 23, Jesus censured the scribes and Pharisees for studying the Law without applying it to their lives." - Dr. David Jeremiah

Setting our affections on what we know to be right and good can be the tipping point for moving from knowing to doing. Eventually, we'll care enough to act.

Don't be persuaded by the path of least resistance.

"Have realistic expectations for the presence of both suffering and service in the Christian life... "Paul is clear in both Romans 5 and 1 Thessalonians 4: Belief in God’s promises doesn’t shield us from pain but rather redeems it. The gospel tinges our pain with hope and thereby makes it more manageable, more purposeful — not nonexistent." - Josh Squires

There may be a bit of paralysis when we are mentally focused on finding the path that has the least amount of obstructions. And we should know that we are to expect opposition when doing what God has called us to.

More God coming in, should lead to more God going out.

"Scripture memorization is vital. It is a forgotten art in the age of the search engine, but being able to recite one or more of God’s actual promises from his word rather than just some general Christian truth is crucial." - Josh Squires

Both meditating on Scripture, and memorizing a hymn or song that accurately communicates God’s truth, can be used by the Spirit to prompt action. Knowing what to do goes hand in hand with being able to apply it when it is needed. God will provide both opportunity and means to act as we are sufficiently taking in His truth. And given music's emotional power, it can drive our affections toward doing. Others first.

Focusing on others should also be a proper motivator for moving from knowing to doing. Others may have need of what we know. How is it that they benefit from it if never leaves our heads?

Obligate yourself.

"Applying God’s promises of grace and comfort to our hurting, fearful, or angry hearts is where the rubber meets the road for many Christians." - Josh Squires

A first step, or, perhaps a new step, may be to obligate ourselves to a need in the church or to someone we know is struggling. Practice the action we need to take to allow the freer, and more consistent, flow of head knowledge into "full knowledge". It is called "epignosis" and has the sense of knowing from having experienced something first hand. In other words, you know honey is sweet not because you read that it is, but because you've actually tasted it. Action begets action.

Nothing changes... nothing gets better... no one feels love... no one is appreciated... nothing is corrected, guided, or stopped without our pushing knowledge down through to our heart and out our limbs and lips.

Nothing wrong with gaining knowledge. The problem comes when we don't do anything with it.

Read the full post: Relieving “Head Knowledge” Before Your Head Pops!
category: issue 33, mind    tag(s): , , , ,

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What Does Spiritual Growth Look Like?
Read the full post: What Does Spiritual Growth Look Like?
January 24, 2017
EXPOSE | Growth is Not Optional

“Because you are already new in Christ, be about becoming what you are... Don’t ever think spiritual growth is optional or marginal in the Christian life.” - John Piper

EXPLORE | Not Self-Improvement or Sin Management

It's a New Year... and? What are you going to do with it? Will it be better than the last? How?

Sorry, didn't mean for all the pressure. But, whether you've decided to establish a New Year's vision, or, the annual attempt at resolutions, hopefully your intending for some new, better, or more right things to happen this year.

With self-improvement getting such attention this time of year, it might be too easy to hear 'spiritual growth' and think 'self-improvement'. Our 'being better' is not spiritual growth. And, it probably doesn't mean 'doing more.'

Then there's this issue of control. We may be tempted to think that we just need to be more in control of what we do: doing more of what is right and less of what is wrong. Yet, 'sin management' doesn't quite get at the heart of it either.

If Piper is right, and we're not to treat this with passive indifference, what exactly should we be looking for? A non-stop, fiery passion? Superior recall of obscure verses from the Old Testament?

The risk here is to get formulaic or throw a checklist or two together, but spiritual growth is first, and perhaps primarily, a question for the heart.

EXECUTE | From a Flicker to a Flame

In order for their to be spiritual growth, there needs to be a spiritual foundation. That is, you truly have this new relationship with God. With that in place, we need to "be about becoming what we are" as Piper prescribes above.

But as I just mentioned, this isn't a time for a checklist. To help curb that tendency, consider asking yourself this series of questions--aimed at the heart--to establish a working understanding of the make up of spiritual growth. Are you: desiring, discerning, docile, dieting, doing, or displaying?

Desiring. Are you fanning the right flame?

Whether or not you're willing to ask the question about spiritual growth should give you a clue. Where do your desires lie? Do you truly want to grow, or are you just guilt ridden over feeling that you should? Forcing yourself to be honest with your answer allows the heart to soften, where God can begin to fan into a flame, what at the moment may only be a flicker of desire for what is crucial to our spiritual growth.

Discerning. Do you know why you're doing what you do?

It can be so appealing to just run the table on Christian activity. Surely doing so will at some point, in some way, meet most expectations God would have for us. But alas, becoming a blur of activity at church will only temporarily fool some of the people.

"The power lies not in what you’re doing to follow Jesus but in why you’re doing it. The gospel invites us to receive, embody and proclaim the truth that Jesus died to save a wretch like me; it invites us into the freedom and joy of Kingdom life." - Alan Briggs (Here's What Spiritual Growth Looks Like)

Docile. Are you teachable and obedient?

By docile, I don't mean domesticated. But that you're submissive in a way that promotes learning and receptivity to instruction. As Alan Briggs succinctly points out, "disciples learn the desires of Jesus and obey."

"The pathway to maturity... is not first becoming an intelligent person, but becoming an obedient person..." - John Piper (The Key to Spiritual Maturity)

"Where you go I'll go, where you stay I'll stay, when you move I'll move... I will follow you..." - artist Chris Tomlin from his song "I Will Follow You"

Dieting. What are you consuming?

Is there a maturity and discipline about what you allow into your life? Is (real) prayer a priority? What is bookmarked in your browser? How many apps to you have to view your favorite shows vs. apps to read the Bible, or devotionals, etc?

"Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." - Hebrews 5:14

Doing. Are you actively participating in what God is doing?

God doesn't call us to be innovators. We shouldn't view spiritual growth as a challenge to come up with a new thing. He has a plan that He desires us to be part of. The groundwork has been laid, the mission is clear; now report for duty.

"In the roughly 50 commands Christ gives throughout his ministry, he never asks us to start new things... The disciples weren’t entrepreneurs; they were servants... There’s no need to try to start a movement; just join one." - Alan Briggs (Here's What Spiritual Growth Looks Like)

Displaying. Are you known by your love?

If a poll were taken and people were asked to describe what you were known for, how do you think they would answer? And, if they mentioned love--love of what?

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13:35

This series of questions will help unveil not only what spiritual growth looks like, but where you are on that trajectory. Because growth is not optional.

Read the full post: What Does Spiritual Growth Look Like?
category: issue 32, soul    tag(s): , ,

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How About Setting a New Year’s… Vision?
Read the full post: How About Setting a New Year’s… Vision?
December 21, 2016
EXPOSE | The Time for Vision

"While I’ve long been a fan of goal setting, my ardor for it has cooled a bit... I’ve come to think that focusing too much on goals can actually get in the way of living a truly flourishing life." - Brett McKay

EXPLORE | How Are Those Goals Working For You?

So, are you going to do it again this year? Set some goals, see what happens?

In and of themselves, goals are wonderfully appropriate. But my list of New Year's resolutions often look like a bunch of strangers threw in a couple of ideas each in an attempt to solve EVERYTHING.

"There are problems with goals. Suggesting that is heresy to many. Goal setting has been such an important concept in the vernacular of success that some have come to view it as sacred." - Mark Sanborn

While it is important and necessary that we intend for certain things to happen, even a brief reflection on some of the questions raised about goal setting could be enough to keep us from being sucked into the whirlwind of setting some wild, hairy, bodacious, ultra, supersonic goals (or whatever the current goal setting buzzword is) this year:

Are your goals guiding you, or controlling you? It's the difference between being goal-oriented and goal obsessed.

What is your motivation to set/pursue the goal? Guilt? Someone told you to? Everyone is doing it?

What will happen if you set the goal too high? Too low?

These and other thoughtful questions have been raised about goal setting that might not only temper our rush to bang out a list in time for the New Year, but help us see beyond "the list" to the better pursuit of setting a vision for the New Year.

What would the next year look like if we were to adopt a vision instead?

EXECUTE | The Drawbacks of Goals

What is it about goal-setting that should give us concern? In his article for Psychology Today, Ray Williams cites some of the behavioral implications of cranking up the intensity around goal-setting:

- We place unintended stress on those around us

- It can blind us to important issues that appear unrelated to our goal

- There is an overemphasis on short-term thinking

- We will sometimes adopt riskier decision making

- It can promote cheating

- And, can create an unnecessary culture of competition

In the quote above, Brett McKay observes that "goals can actually get in the way of living a truly flourishing life", further supporting the caution we should have when setting goals. He identifies that goals can:

- Lack a deeper meaning

- Cause self-defeating, single-mindedness

- Lead to depression and angst

However, it is not that we should avoid goals altogether, but instead, set and implement them carefully. I believe that goals are more suited to "guide our activity toward being purposeful." What is that purpose that would allow goals to fulfill their proper role? A vision.

The Significance of Having a Vision

In his article, Vision Over Goals, Brett McKay talked with Dr. Jeff Spencer, a former Olympian and current coach to world-class athletes, who saw first-hand the great let down medal winners experienced after returning home from the the Olympics. While there is an overwhelming sense of "now what do I do?" for most athletes, others were able to continue on. The difference? Those able to continue on had a "vision for their entire lives."

McKay identifies these advantages a vision has over goals:

A vision provides purpose and significance. Goals can’t tell you WHY you’re doing something. They just tell you WHAT to do. If you’ve been achieving goal after goal in your life, but still feel empty, it’s likely because you’ve made goals the ends in and of themselves.

A vision provides room for adaptability. A vision provides an overarching ideal and aim in life, but then allows for pivoting to different path.

A vision provides long-term vitality. You don't complete a vision. It provides an ideal to keep aiming for even when you’ve completed a goal. And you avoid the syndrome mentioned above that Dr. Spencer discovered with Olympic athletes: "now what?!"

We can see these last two points borne out, for instance, in what Paul says in Romans 8:29 "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed into the image of his Son." Talk about a vision.

This isn't a goal to be reached, or even a pursuit, but more of a path to be walked; a journey with a specified direction. However, what that path looks like can be very different from the path others take, and far different than what we would have ever planned.

This highlights a military principle that might be helpful to keep in mind as we understand our pursuing a vision for our lives. The details may be unique to your path, but the destination and direction is based on the overarching Commander's Intent:

"Commander’s Intent is the description and definition of what a successful mission will look like. [It] fully recognizes the chaos, lack of a complete picture, changes in enemy situation, and other relevant factors that may make a plan either completely or partially obsolete when it is executed. The role of Commander’s Intent is to empower subordinates and guide their initiative and improvisation as they adapt the plan to the changing battlefield environment." - Chad Storlie, Manage Uncertainty with Commander's Intent

With life sometimes feeling a bit like a battlefield, all the more reason we depend on God (as Commander) and His vision (intent) for our lives. He brings definition and direction and confidence in the chaos.

How might 2017 look if we set goals that give purpose to our activity toward fulfilling the Commander's Intent?

This will be the last issue of the year. Have a terrific Christmas, and let's do this again next year!

Read the full post: How About Setting a New Year’s… Vision?
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In Defense of Coffee’s Goodness
Read the full post: In Defense of Coffee’s Goodness
November 22, 2016
EXPOSE | Vice or Virtue?

"Coffee is serious business. We Americans drink about 400 million cups of it per day and spend several billion dollars on it each year. It's the most popular drug on earth, and certainly the most socially acceptable... Yet it’s also considered to be a vice, one of those substances that “everyone knows” is bad for you. Is it?" - Mark Sisson

EXPLORE | Good to the Last Drop

My have I grown. I used to have to pump so much chocolate into my espresso drink that there was hardly room for the coffee and milk. Not so any more. No chocolate. All coffee. And now that I'm "all grown up", I wonder about what it may or may not be doing for me--and to me.

While most of us probably don't wake up each morning looking for preventive cancer options, this bit of news should have us smiling all the way to the coffee machine: coffee helps protect against several cancers, reduces inflammation, increases mortality, and even helps mitigate sun damage. But as good as that can be, we need to keep in mind the downsides of getting too much of a good thing.

As the winds of New Year's resolutions build, Mark Sisson gives us more than enough reasons to be confident about keeping this on the list of things to enjoy in the New Year--in case there was any question.

Let's celebrate it's goodness.

EXECUTE | Coffee is all That

In addition to the long-term health benefits, there are also to more immediate advantages that coffee provides by way of performance. Mark gives us a clearer understanding of what those are, and how to avoid some pitfalls:

Good for the brain:

"It boosts executive functioning and working memory... and also improves your mood and makes you think you’re drawing from a bottomless well of mental energy..." - Sisson

I know, I had to look it up to be sure. Executive functioning "is a set of mental skills that help you get things done" and includes the areas of: "working memory, reasoning, flexibility, and problem solving as well as planning and execution."

Good for the body:

"Whether it’s endurance, HIIT (high intensity interval training), sprint, badminton, resistance training, or almost any athletic pursuit you can name, a cup or two of coffee before your workout can improve performance... And contrary to popular belief, coffee does not dehydrate you." - Sisson

Good for the diet:

"It is the biggest dietary source of polyphenols... in the real world, where most people drink several large cups of coffee each day, it is the the primary way we get our antioxidants." - Sisson

One of the pertinent cautions Mark provides is the impact of coffee on our sleep. While we may use coffee to "mitigate the cognitive deficits" from getting less sleep, drinking it in excess or too close to bedtime can be disruptive:

"Drinking it at night impairs melatonin secretion and reduces sleep quality and quantity.

Drinking it all day maintains alertness and cognitive performance, but detracts from sleep quality and quantity.

Having a double espresso three hours before bed phase-delays your circadian rhythm by 40 minutes, effectively pushing back the regular bed time." - Sisson

Some key "don'ts" from Mark:

Don't settle on one brewing method. Change it up to find your personal preference. Brewing method does make a difference on both the taste, and, the time it takes to get to that first cup.

Don't drink it first thing. What?! Here's what Mark is citing: "Cortisol follows a circadian pattern. Right before you wake up, cortisol spikes to prepare you for the day. Right after you wake up, it spikes again, pushing you to the highest levels of the day. Drinking coffee when cortisol is high is somewhat redundant. Since you’re getting less of an effect from the coffee..."

He recommends waiting about an hour after you wake up to have the first cup.

Don't drink it when you don't need it. Again, WHAT?! It seems that the best way to leverage coffee is when you're ready for it: "Coffee works much better when you’re well-rested and those adenosine receptors are clean as a whistle. That’s when coffee truly shines. Rather than waking you up, it propels you forward to productivity, optimism, and greatness."

Don't worry about going organic. "Studies show that coffee processing destroys the vast majority of coffee pesticides..." Between the washing and roasting of the beans, in a recent study that Mark cites, "none of the 12 studied pesticides were detectable."

Bottom line, starting each day with a cup, just. feels. right. But we can, knowing that there are some very good reasons to do so.

Read the full post: In Defense of Coffee’s Goodness
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Trump or Hilary or Does it Matter?
Read the full post: Trump or Hilary or Does it Matter?
November 8, 2016
EXPOSE | Yet She Will Thrive

"The Early Church thrived in the midst of a hostile non-Christian world—not because they were more numerous or more powerful, but because they were both radically distinct and culturally relevant." - Ed Stetzer

EXPLORE | The Harder the Better

Certainly the presidency, not to mention our form of government, matters. As does exercising, with sincerity and understanding, our right to vote. If you've been with me since the beginning of this blog, you know that I've not said one peep about politics. And I'm not about to. Because when it comes to how we should live, does it really matter who is president, or for that matter, that we even have one?

Not that I'm in favor of dictatorship, but to Stetzer's point above, early church history would indicate that trying circumstances can bring about the best outcomes. If we think loving our neighbor is tough now, all indications point toward it not only becoming even more difficult, but exceedingly fruitful at the same time.

The greater the darkness, the more impressionable the light.

Light has such distinction when viewed from darkness. There is contrast. It interrupts nothingness, with something. Something desirable. To be sure, the Light we represent will be most noticeable in the darkening of these Last Days.

EXECUTE | Be Distinct AND Relevant

Come what may, according to Stetzer, distinction and relevance are crucial factors for the church (and, each of us individually) going forward:

Be radically distinct.

Being distinct naturally occurs as long as we remain true. If we are truly a follower of Christ, we'll more than take care of the "radically distinct" part. In other words, be who we are.

"In the midst of a society that is growing more and more antagonistic toward Christianity, the first to abandon ship are going to be the ones who never really believed in Jesus anyway... Nominalism is dying. And I say, “Good riddance.” I, for one, am ready for the gospel to mean the gospel, and for Christians to be known as Christians. People need to see that “Christian” isn’t just a check-box on a questionnaire, but it’s a life changed by the gospel." - Stetzer

Be culturally relevant.

What does it mean to be relevant? Is it to be liked or laughed at? I think it was a coach that once said to us players during training, "if it don't hurt it don't count." The pain means it's working. But more than that, can it be that what makes us relevant is what we value?

"Many of our churches stand as visible reminders that we’ve valued our sub-cultures more than the people to whom we’ve been sent, and we’ve refused to change... People shouldn’t come into our churches and primarily find the culture bizarre. They should find the message of the gospel bizarre.

We don’t contextualize to minimize the confrontational claims of Christianity, but to maximize them. It’s a matter of putting the gospel into language that our neighbors can hear and understand.

If we aim for being distinct or relevant, we miss out on the heart of Jesus. He embodied both, and He calls His Church to do the same today." - Stetzer

Vote. Keep calm. Exercise wisdom in all things. And be ready with an account for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15), with appropriate distinction and relevance.

Read the full post: Trump or Hilary or Does it Matter?
category: issue 29, soul    tag(s): , ,

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Slowing Down: The Hurried Life is No Way to Live
Read the full post: Slowing Down: The Hurried Life is No Way to Live
October 25, 2016
EXPOSE | We Are "Off Pace"

"If we compare our pace to the pace of Jesus’s life, there aren’t many similarities. Jesus was never rushed. He wasn’t overwhelmed by life, even though He had an enormous mission to complete in a very short period of time... Culture’s obsession with busyness and hurriedness isn’t just a scheduling problem. It’s a heart problem.”
- Frank Powell

EXPLORE | Only Do What You Are Called To Do

Life has become a flywheel. In all our efforts to be efficient and to do more, we've got that sucker spinning pretty good. As Powell states above, busyness flows from our hearts. So, we need to ask, Who or what would lead us to such hurriedness?

There are those things that we have been called to do--and everything else. The "everything else" is optional. That allows us to thrive as we slow down.

We are simply too hurried. Jesus wasn't. We don't have to be.

EXECUTE | Implications and Suggestions for Slowing Down

I believe this to be the way with most things in our lives: they impact more than just one area. As much as we like to believe that we can compartmentalize, what we believe is just physical, actually has spiritual implications as well.

First, we'll look at what Frank Powell raises as spiritual implications of a "hurried life". The foundation and starting point for all that we do. Building on that, I'll introduce you to someone that I've not mentioned up until this point. Mark Sisson. If you're looking for an in-depth, on balance approach to being healthy, he is your guy. He offers some practical ways to help us free up our perspective so that we can make the most of our time.

The Spiritual Implications of Not Slowing Down

"I don’t believe God is impressed with an exhaustion. He isn’t glorified when you take on so many responsibilities that your soul floods with unrest and discontentment. Feeling burnt out isn’t a badge of faithfulness. Take your foot off the gas. Slow down."
- Frank Powell

A Hurried Life Destroys Your Relationship With God. "As Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Unless you spend extended periods of time alone with God through prayer, solitude and sabbath, the speed of the world will skew your understanding of God. Anxiety, unrest and discontentment will hover over your life like a dark storm cloud."

A Hurried Life Decreases Your Capacity to Love Others. "It’s not a coincidence that the great love passage, 1 Corinthians 13, begins with “Love is patient...” Considering the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others, you need to consider whether your hurried life is costing you more than you realize."

A Hurried Life Increases the Power of Temptation. "Through temptation, Satan tries to decrease the time between impulse and action. And, in our instant gratification culture, Satan has masterfully deceived people... When you nurture patience and learn to wait, you trust God to give you the things in time that Satan says you need now."

A Hurried Life Numbs You to Injustices. "When your life moves at freeway speed, you have no time or energy to consider the world outside of your lane. You become desensitized or unaware of brokenness in the world. Your heart becomes calloused to the things that break God’s heart."

A Hurried Life Increases Narrow-Mindedness and Legalism. "Information increases knowledge. But knowledge alone leads to legalism... Truly knowing God requires discernment and wisdom. These grow incrementally through reflection, solitude, prayer and Christ-centered community. The difference between knowledge and wisdom is the difference between having minimal knowledge about God but recognizing Jesus (Disciples), and having a wealth of knowledge but crucifying Jesus (Pharisees)."

Hurried Life Clouds Your Purpose and Diminishes Your Passion. "But God’s idea of purpose isn’t about doing. It’s about becoming. So, think about these questions: Are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control increasing in your heart? Are you a man or woman of integrity? Are you trustworthy? Do the people who know you most respect you?"

Powell is right, it is a heart issue. We need to care for the very basis from which flows all that we are called to do. Starting here ensures that we will be able to separate what we are called to do from the "everything else." Now, from Mark Sisson and a couple of others, I wanted to highlight some practical ways that we can look at how we handle the time we are given.

Slowing Down and Making the Most of Our Time

"An important piece of living well as you age that most never consider is taking advantage of the fact that time perception is entirely a construction of the brain. By slowing down the perceived passage of time, you seemingly have more of it and live longer—and better."
- Mark Sisson

Stop thinking of time as money (even if it is). "Increasing value breeds scarcity, even if it’s just the perception of scarcity. So when we think of our time as money, our time gets more valuable—and more scarce... instead of packing our schedules full of interesting experiences, we work longer to make more money. Reading for pleasure becomes wasteful. Sitting down to dinner with the family is an extravagance you have trouble justifying. The time we do take as leisure becomes more harried with worry we could be doing more."

Embrace novelty. "Time passes slowly for children in part because everything they’re experiencing is new and takes up a larger portion of their memory. Each experience is fascinating. Compare that with the average adult working a 9-5. Novelty is about trying something, almost anything, new... it might be as bold as the bucket list items, or as subtle as taking a different route to work, or eating lunch outside--give your brain something to remember.

Work smarter. "Working smarter is keeping work contained. Optimize work to make the most of work, so that you can make the most of 'not work'.

Move. "Everyone knows that the faster you move through space, the slower time unfolds. We see this in sci-fi movies about astral explorers aging more slowly on interstellar journeys, but there’s no reason it doesn’t also work on a local, micro level, even if just barely and mostly imperceptibly. Try it out if you don’t believe me. Spend one day exploring the city on foot. Walk briskly, bike, whatever you want. Just physically move through space without stopping."

Disconnect. "Scientists think our relationship to technology has sped up our perception of time. In a series of human experiments (results awaiting peer-review), researchers discovered that people who are constantly connected to technology perceive time to flow faster. What was actually 50 minutes felt like an hour to the tech addicts, who were more anxious and stressed about time running out than the folks who used technology less."

Plan trips. "Planning a bit, even if it’s just a skeleton plan, gives you something to look forward to... Throwing together a rough itinerary several months out, one that leaves plenty of room for improvisation, can really increase the density of your experience and thus slow your perception of time."

Go into nature. "We’re slaves to the clock. In the wilderness, there are none. Rather than seconds and minutes, out there time is measured in seasons, sunrises and sunsets, temperature changes. It’s a much grander thing embedded in the landscape itself. The linear tick of a digital display cannot hope to contain it."

I include two bonus "lifehacks" in the full post.

Life is worth living at a pace that allows us to exercise wisdom, not to mention avoid the spiritual and physical implications of living in a hurried state. What begins as a heart issue must necessarily be framed practically. Is your heart 'on pace'? And if so, have you built the requisite 'guard rails' from sliding back into the busy life?

Read the full post: Slowing Down: The Hurried Life is No Way to Live
category: body, issue 28    tag(s): , , , , ,

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So Many Things, So Little Memory: Remember More, Faster
Read the full post: So Many Things, So Little Memory: Remember More, Faster
October 11, 2016
EXPOSE | We Can Better Remember

"While it was once thought that the capacity of each individual’s working memory was something they were simply born with, research from the worlds of cognitive science and psychology are showing that we can actually train it to become stronger and faster." - Brett and Kate McKay

EXPLORE | The Role of Working Memory

Fortunately, we do use more than 10% of our brains, but it may not feel like it sometimes. I get stumped most Mondays at work by someone asking me what I did over the weekend. Sigh. And then there's the classic challenge of reading a book and not being able remember what you read!

In their article on improving our memory, the McKay's define Working Memory and it's importance this way:

"Whenever we perform tasks that require reasoning, comprehension, and learning, we use our working memory. Our working memory allows us to hold relevant information in our brain while we do something else at the same time. It’s a short-term storage tank for thoughts and ideas that you can retrieve at the ready... Working memory also plays a vital role in focus and attention... allows us to ignore irrelevant information, including distracting thoughts... [and] the ability to stay focused make us more productive..."

So, it looks like I have two options: stop reading, or, find a way to improve my working memory. If you opt for the former, well, I guess you can go do something else. But, if you're facing facts, then we'll move on to what we can do about remembering more, more quickly.

EXECUTE | Toward a Better, Faster Memory

When bringing about change in our lives, it rarely is a sole factor that needs attention. More often than not it is a package deal. Such is the case with improving our memories. Working to derive a consensus, I found these 7 tips to be most significant:

Give it meaning. "One killer technique is to come up with real-life examples of principles you've just uncovered. If you've just learned about slant rhyme, you could read poems that exhibit it. If you've just discovered heat transfer, you could think of the way a warm cup of coffee disperses warmth into your hands on a cold winter's day."

Exercise. "Exercise enhances blood circulation and oxygen to our brain, giving it more functionality."

Train your mind. "...there is no doubt that mind exercises can significantly enhance our memories and reduce brain-related diseases. The rule of thumb is, if you need to take a mental break from the activity, it’s good training for the brain. But we need to play the right kind of brain-training games. One type of game has been shown over and over to improve working memory. It’s called the “dual n-back game”."

Teach someone. "As research shows, it turns out that people retain: 90% of what they learn when they teach someone else/use immediately."

Meditation. "...there are some physical benefits: "The physical benefits of meditation include lowering blood pressure and alleviating depression, and, it can also improve your working memory. And the meditation sessions don’t have to be long to get the benefits. Eight minutes of daily meditation will do the trick."

Sleep. "Researchers have found that individuals who get a full eight hours of sleep perform up to 58% better on working memory tasks than individuals who get less."

Avoid fluency. "When you're reading something and it feels easy, or you forget something immediately after learning it, you're experiencing is fluency... Therefore, we should force ourselves to recall a fact."

Read the full post: So Many Things, So Little Memory: Remember More, Faster
category: issue 27, mind    tag(s): , , ,

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Sing Like Men
Read the full post: Sing Like Men
September 27, 2016
This is a guest post by Ryan Shelton, Worship Director at Winnetka Bible Church, Winnetka, Il.

One way to determine the value of a thing is by recognizing attempts at its forgery. A cigar labeled “Made in Mexico” certainly was, but you would be suspicious of one claiming Cuban import. So for something as valuable as Biblical masculinity, expect to find a host of imposters standing in for the real thing.

A prevalent pseudo-masculinity as old as time is the species of stoicism that treats the affections as suspect and emotion as feminine. It is especially easy for men to prize our God-given mandate to “work and keep” creation by our labor (Genesis 2:15), and view interpersonal relationships as distractions from our real purpose. But the first recorded words of the human race are Adam’s love poem upon sight of his fashioned bride (2:23). The eternal fountain of interpersonal love between Father, Son, and Spirit is the very blueprint of the image of God in man, created intrinsically relational (1:27).

Solitude is not good, according to God (1:18), and by implication it is not good for men to entertain a fantasy of isolation in their emotional lives in the presence of family and friends. The apostle Paul follows his exhortation to “act like men, and be strong” with “let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). Deep and passionate love for your wife and children, love for your friends, and love for your Heavenly Father are not the enemies of masculinity, but its proof.

If it’s true that passion for God is your duty as a Christian—as Jesus clearly taught when he singled out the call to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” as the greatest law—what can we do when we don’t? Puritan pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards wrestles with this question extensively in his treatise, Religious Affections. He highlights four primary means that God may use to warm our naturally cold hearts to godly love: prayer, singing, sacraments, and the preached word. The first two, prayer and singing, he calls “duties” because the activities originate from us and proceed out. The second two, sacraments and Word, are means of grace we actively receive with faith-filled expectation. For the rest of this article, I will focus on the role of singing as a habit of grace given to us by God to put to death counterfeit masculinity and heartless religion.

Singing, especially in our weekly worship gatherings, is a uniquely suited gift to help men grow in God-honoring emotions. Knowing, as men, the particular danger toward stoic living, thinking carefully about how to wield the gift of song is a great area of Christian wisdom for us to explore.

And the duty of singing praises to God, seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections. (Jonathan Edwards, Works: Vol 2, The Religious Affections, 115).

Some men may find singing to be an uncomfortable form of expression, because they do not find in themselves the affections to be expressed by loving prayers of adoration or hymns of exhortation. But I find Edwards’ insight instructive here. We don’t only sing because we feel, but we also sing in order to feel. Singing requires a great deal of physical involvement: demanding posture, deep breathing, vocal exertion, bodily energy. It has a unique capacity to take mental truths and involve our whole person in response.

Does this mean I am advocating a “fake it until you make it” approach to Christian spirituality? Not at all! There is a vast difference between passionate singing to deceive others, and participating in a spiritual discipline with prayerful expectation that God might make it so. One is hypocrisy, the other, wisdom. And as you participate in the public celebration of God’s great love for his ransomed people, your voice becomes one of the catalysts for received grace in your brothers and sisters in the assembled church. To paraphrase the apostle Paul, Sing like men: let everything you do be done in love.


Ryan Shelton (@SheltonRyan) is a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He lives in the Chicagoland North Shore where he serves as the worship director of Winnetka Bible Church. He is co-author of Promised Beforehand: Readings for Advent.

Read the full post: Sing Like Men
category: issue 26, soul    tag(s): , , ,

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True Grit. Being Wise is Tough Business – Part 2
Read the full post: True Grit. Being Wise is Tough Business – Part 2
September 13, 2016
EXPOSE | Being Constantly Tenacious

"...grit... sometimes it is stronger, sometimes weaker, but the constancy of your tenacity is based on the degree to which you can access, ignite, and control it." - Margaret M. Perlis

EXPLORE | Grit: Passionate AND Perseverance

Passionate perseverance. It is grit distilled down to it's simplest form. Which is the focus of Part 2.

If you read Part 1, this may feel like we're approaching the topic of grit backwards. Maybe. Part 1 was meant to be more of a 'drive-by' on the idea of how grit can be seen as disciplined behavior, which is an essential part of being wise. It provided a checklist of sorts to help us see where we're at on the 'grit meter'. But most importantly, we tied those behaviors to the foundation of what I would call 'True Grit' (a life based on biblical principles and values).

EXECUTE | The Characteristics of Grit

At the beginning of this post, Margaret reveals that our "constancy of tenacity" is based on our ability to consistently stay connected to, and in control of, these characteristics:

Courage. "...your ability to manage fear of failure is imperative and a predicator of success... Fear of failure is characterized by an unhealthy aversion to risk (or a strong resistance to embracing vulnerability)."

Conscientiousness. "...Conscientiousness in this context means, careful and painstaking; meticulous."

Long-Term Goals and Endurance. "...long-term goals... provide the context and framework in which to find the meaning and value of your long-term efforts, which helps cultivate drive, sustainability, passion, courage, stamina…grit."

Resilience. "...resilience is the powering mechanism that draws your head up, moves you forward, and helps you persevere despite whatever obstacles you face along the way. In other words, gritty people believe, “everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end.”"

Excellence vs. Perfection. "Perfection is pedantic, binary, unforgiving and inflexible... Excellence is an attitude, not an endgame... bound with the notion of fulfillment of purpose... closely associated with virtue... it prioritizes progress over perfection."

Passionately persevere (read: Be strong and courageous - Joshua 1:9) in doing those things that truly matter. The life of wise is lived out in this way. What defines us is not just what we do, but how we do it.

Read the full post: True Grit. Being Wise is Tough Business – Part 2
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True Grit. Being Wise is Tough Business – Part 1
Read the full post: True Grit. Being Wise is Tough Business – Part 1
August 30, 2016
EXPOSE | True Grit is Where Few People Go

"Developing grit is all about habitually doing the things that no one else is willing to do." - Travis Bradberry

EXPLORE | Understand That True Grit Should Be Familiar

True grit. John Wayne, right?

"Baby sister, I was born game and I plan to go out that way." - Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) from True Grit

That about sums up how the Merriam-Webster dictionary describes grit: “firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.” It can make you a beloved hero, or, when misdirected, a hated villain.

Travis Bradberry's article on grit highlights the work of Angela Lee Duckworth. As a seventh grade school teacher, she began noticing the 'extra something' some students had that allowed them to outperform their peers. She left her teaching career to pursue graduate work focusing on that 'extra something'. Angela discovered that the majority of successful people all shared one critical characteristic: grit.

"Grit is... the passion, perseverance, and stamina that we must channel in order to stick with our dreams until they become a reality." - Travis Bradberry

I think it fair to consider using a 'grit meter' to help us look inward and appropriately evaluate neglected or underdeveloped areas or characteristics in our lives.

Not surprisingly, this list should seem very familiar. Indeed, to someone seeking The Right Life, this list may not even be news. And we'll see this more in True Grit. Being Wise is Tough Business - Part 2.

So why would I ask you to spend any time with it? Well, here are 4 reasons:

First, it is reminder that God is the source and originator of what it is to be successful, and, enabler of the necessary qualities therein.

Second, it provides us a look at the current mindset of those seeking success, and provides a way to build a bridge from these characteristics to the true source of real change and success.

Third, it reinforces that there truly is nothing new under the sun. The world is taken by the outcome of a life marked by biblical wisdom, but wants nothing to do with the Source of all that is right and good. Such is the pursuit of man.

Lastly, it does serve as a good checklist for understanding that 'extra something', and the connection to their source (i.e. this is where it should seem familiar).

EXECUTE | Getting 'Gritty' With It

In Part 1, we'll take a look at Bradberry's suggested 'grit list' not so much as a means to make your dreams come true, but as a context for reflection and adjustment. This is a summary of that list, but in the full post we can see how they actually spring forth from what could more appropriately call 'True Grit'.

"You have to make mistakes, look like an idiot, and try again, without even flinching."

"You have to fight when you already feel defeated."

"You have to make the calls you’re afraid to make."

"You have to keep your emotions in check."

"You have to trust your gut."

"You have to give more than you get in return."

"You have to lead when no one else follows. "

"You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that exceed expectations."

"You have to focus on the details even when it makes your mind numb."

"You have to be kind to people who have been rude to you."

"You have to be accountable for your actions, no matter what."

True grit. Being wise is tough business. It requires a consistent, thorough examination of the heart, and a Pauline-like perseverance to serve God and others with excellence.

Read the full post: True Grit. Being Wise is Tough Business – Part 1
category: issue 24, mind    tag(s): , , , ,

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Why You Should Read the Entire Bible Once a Year
Read the full post: Why You Should Read the Entire Bible Once a Year
August 16, 2016
EXPOSE | He is Wisest Who Masters This Book

“When all your favorite preachers are gone, and their books are forgotten, you will have your Bible. Master it.” - John Piper

EXPLORE | Now is the Time for Mastery

Have you ever read the entire Bible? Think it better left to a bucket list? Or better yet, the New Year's resolution? Of course the right answer is that the right time to start doing the right thing is--right now.

I will admit, things move a little slow in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. But hey, those were slower times. The thing is, God doesn't do 'unnecessary.' Those books, along with the others, are meant as a whole, for our understanding of what He has chosen to reveal about Himself specifically. And if we're to handle life properly, we'll need to be understand what God says about how we should go about doing that. It makes perfect sense. The time for mastery is now.

EXECUTE | 5 Reasons to Read the Entire Bible

There are at least 5. But what Jeff Robinson provides in his article for the Gospel Coalition are strong arguments for not only reading the entire Bible, but doing so now.

1. "It helps you learn the overarching story of Scripture."

2. "It will improve your ability to interpret and exegete Scripture."

3. "It will keep you habitually in the Bible."

4. "It will ensure you are engaging (and being engaged by) Scripture at least as frequently as you’re engaging other books."

5. "It will force you to navigate those tricky, less traveled roads of Scripture."

If not now, when? And if not now--why? Here is a great place to start.

Get the whole story. Unleash the power of the whole book. Let's get to it.

Read the full post: Why You Should Read the Entire Bible Once a Year
category: issue 23, soul    tag(s): , , ,

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You Need to Become a Morning Person
Read the full post: You Need to Become a Morning Person
August 2, 2016
EXPOSE | Morning People Are Better. So There.

"..as it turns out, morning people do have a little bit of an edge over night people." - Michael Hyatt

EXPLORE | Your Best Day Starts Early

Actually, there are a number of reasons that should convince you to seriously consider becoming 'one of us', or at least give it another try: the impact it will have at work, it lessens stress, you'll be more reliable, more alert, and could lose weight. Sounds almost magical, doesn't it?

Here are a few of the reasons I've used to argue for becoming a morning person:

Feed yourself first. This puts you in the best position to help others. You get what you need, and you'll be able to provide what others will require of you. Reserve the best, most productive time of the day for yourself.

Routine is good. Get your morning plan or routine together because as Michael Hyatt say, "a morning ritual can be something that really sets us up for a productive day if we really think through it intentionally."

Take control of your day. Lose control of your mornings, lose control of your day. A good, productive day starts the night before by dealing with any sleep issues.

Use it before you lose it. Take the energy of those first few hours in the morning, with no interruptions, to surge forward on things that matters most. When you hit the office, that time and energy becomes someone else's.

EXECUTE | Creating Your Morning Routine

In his This is Your Life podcast (season 6, episode 9), Michael Hyatt offers 9 "easy steps" for becoming a morning person. This is based on an article he wrote on establishing routines, which is what he is suggesting as an approach to mornings. Intentionally create a morning routine to pave your way to becoming a morning person. Here are a few of those steps:

Change your story. Stop saying to yourself, “I’m not a morning person.”

Determine what's at stake. What would happen if you don't change? Well, for one, things stay that same... as in, they don't get better.

Commit to six weeks. "I used to say 21 days... but there has been a lot of research on habits, and all of the research I’ve read says you can’t really change a habit in 21 days. It really takes more like six weeks..."

You need to become a morning person. Don't sleep through this tremendous opportunity! Wake up when you need to and leverage this most important part of the day. This is about "self-care" and getting into the right position to use your day most effectively, to have the greatest impact, and to plan for wisdom in all things.

Be sure to read the full article to get the rest of Michael's tips, and some links to a few other helpful articles.

Read the full post: You Need to Become a Morning Person
category: body, issue 22    tag(s): , , , ,

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Creativity: One of Wisdom’s Most Compelling Acts
Read the full post: Creativity: One of Wisdom’s Most Compelling Acts
July 19, 2016
EXPOSE | Creativity's Wide Range of Influence

"Creative personalities are both constructive and deconstructive. They find use in being both cultured and primal. They are sane, but they are also crazy!" - Esther Rivera

EXPLORE | Bond. James Bond.

To say it is a little like being 007 is not exactly an overstatement.

There is something inherently powerful about taking what you know and your unique experience, and doing some amazing things with it. With our without the Aston Martin.

However, it is not for the effect of being amazing, but the need for the right action to be taken in even the most desperate situations. It is a purposeful, beneficial response in the moment where we apply our knowledge precisely when needed--many times requiring a creative solution.

EXECUTE | Rethinking Creativity

What does creativity have to do with being wise? I think a large part of it has to do with freeing our minds and hearts to pursue new and effective solutions. Our inability to express ourselves creatively may mean we're missing a whole dimension of problem solving, and undermining our confidence to even initiate a solution.

Here is a brief outline from the full post to help us to rethink creativity as it relates to our being well-rounded in our exercising wisdom in all things:

Life demands creativity. Given life's growing complexity, meeting needs and solving problems require that we think and act in ways that applies our understanding and experiences to new, ever-expanding, and unexpected situations.

Get your boogey back. Have you lost the creative ability along the way? Has it been 'locked up'? Keep in mind that it may be more painful, and even costly, for it to stay locked up. It does no one any good if we gain knowledge and never express it constructively, if not creatively.

Don't give up. "...research finds that one common factor often gets in the way: we tend to undervalue the benefits of persistence..."

Unleash your creativity. Is your environment contributing to your not being emotionally healthy to able to find a creative solution? Our work environment may be a factor. Are there any other environments in your life that may be keeping you from regaining your innate creative abilities? Author Ann McKee emphasizes that "taking better care of yourself" is essentially to being able to unleash our creativity.

I'm too busy to be creative. Lastly, a response to that age old excuse of being too busy from Dana Rousmaniere: "People get on Facebook and say to me: “I have no time to be creative.” And I think: cancel your Facebook account. If you have time to get on social media to tell me how busy you are, then you have time to pursue your creative interests."

Consider the genius in the unexpected response from King Solomon when confronted with two women both claiming to be the mother of the same child. Wisdom is not just a knowledge issue, it is a practical issue as well; that is, what we know has to be applied--we need to do something with it. Our creative ability gives us range and diversity when applying what is necessary.

Read the full post: Creativity: One of Wisdom’s Most Compelling Acts
category: issue 21, mind    tag(s): ,

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Why Does Church Feel Like God is Wasting My Time?
Read the full post: Why Does Church Feel Like God is Wasting My Time?
June 21, 2016
EXPOSE | It's Me, Not You

"I’m a grown man. There is only one person responsible for me not eating and not growing. It’s not a family member. It’s not the church. It’s me... The role of a church is not to tell us what we want to hear or to offer all the programs we like. The role of the church is to make disciples of Jesus." - Tyler Edwards

EXPLORE | Church: Who's Failing Who?

Buffets have wrecked us. But we asked for it. Give us more to choose from! Enter in: the buffet. Who doesn't want sushi with their spaghetti? The trouble comes when we begin to view other parts of our lives through these same 'buffet-colored' glasses.

When applied to church, it can leave us wanting and wandering. But is it the church's fault? Sitting back and expecting it to satisfy us will usually result in one or both of the following: you never end up being satisfied, and/or, you get something that has no business calling itself a church.

Do you feel like church is letting you down? Or, could it be argued that you are letting down the church? You see, just as we have expectations of church, the church, and biblically so, has its expectations of us as well. When you get both sides of the story, who is failing who? A question I will admit I wrestle with most Sundays.

EXECUTE | Your "New" Church Plan

Church is strategically designed for a spiritual exchange like no other. It's crucial, and therefore essential. Oh, and God requires it. How dare we waste this opportunity.

I've broken down the plan into 3 categories that helps take a well-rounded assessment of our relationship with church. Here are brief excerpts from each category:

Cleave - consider and connect

"You must seek God's will and be led by the Holy Spirit in selecting a church. Also you need to evaluate how you and your family can contribute to that ministry so it is not just another church, but truly a church home... A church is a gathering of those who have been called by God to salvation, to redemption, to adoption, to conversion, to justification and ultimately to glorification." - John MacArthur

Weave - commit and submit

"Membership in a local church involves commitment to worship the Lord corporately, edifying brothers and sisters through mutual exhortation and service, cooperating in mission, and holding each other accountable to walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord as a witness to the truth of Christ in the world... The New Testament teaching about church government and church discipline would be meaningless if some form of commitment to mutual accountability in a body of believers were not expected. " - Bethlehem Baptist Church

Leave - decide and depart

John Piper provides general guidelines we can weigh when considering whether or not we should leave our local church.However, he quickly admits the decision never quite presents itself as that black and white. So, he advises that: "When the weaknesses, or the errors, or the sins of the preacher or the preaching reach a combined extent that when you consult mature Christians they think your faith and obedience would be damaged if you stayed, and your usefulness there doesn't outweigh the pitfalls, you are free to go."

God never wastes a moment. Ever. That is why we must not only take every moment captive, but take seriously His command to love and serve His church. It starts with a proper understanding of what being a part of the church really looks like, but necessarily follows with our commitment to it, fulfilling our role and responsibility. But, if the time should come for us to leave our local church, it too can be--must be--done with humility and wisdom.

Read the full post: Why Does Church Feel Like God is Wasting My Time?
category: issue 20, soul    tag(s): ,

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The Value of Being Cheaply Entertained
Read the full post: The Value of Being Cheaply Entertained
June 7, 2016
"...since 2003 the amount of time Americans spend either attending or hosting social events has declined by 30%... in 1970 the average American spent $850 on recreation each year, while today each person spends $2500... what this data suggests is that while we don’t recreate as often, when we do, we tend to choose more expensive activities to engage in." - Brett McKay

Have we lost the art of 'cheap recreation' as Brett McKay suggests? And, at what cost?

Being a single-income family living in a very expensive city, we have come to depend on--and enjoy--our ability to be cheaply entertained. It makes the times we do spend a little money so much more enjoyable, because it's special, and has also helped us realize that we don't need to really spend any money to have valuable, meaningful time together. Our time together becomes more beneficial the more we depend on ourselves for the experience, and in the end, we spend less and profit more.

Have we over-complicated our social interactions, and in the process stripped away it's intended benefits?

Brett raises some strong arguments for cheap entertainment:

- The cheaper the recreation, the more often you can do it.
- Cheap recreation can involve all of your friends, regardless of their financial status.
- Cheap recreation gives you the chance to improvise and create.
- Cheap recreation often provides more adventure/memories.

Let me challenge you with a few of questions:

- What is necessary to create the most valuable, meaningful experience?
- How much should we really invest in being entertained?
- What would your wife say to your suggesting saving money and investing in quality time for your family?

In the full post, I highlight how being cheaply entertained can impact your family, and 7 ideas to warm up your thinking about the time you spend together as a family and with friends.

Read the full post: The Value of Being Cheaply Entertained
category: body, issue 19    tag(s): , , ,

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Find the Work You Love, or Love the Work You Find?
Read the full post: Find the Work You Love, or Love the Work You Find?
May 24, 2016
"We often repeat the exciting points of these stories—Moses rising against Pharaoh and Jesus healing the lame and raising the dead—rather than the years of preparation or confusion that preceded them." - Liuan Huska

Finding the work we love can sometimes feel like the impossible dream. Probably because we're not sure what to dream. Did you dream of being where you are now? It seems more likely that the work finds us. Whether one day your calling out a Pharaoh, or seamlessly continuing on in the family business, or getting a degree in one field but make your living in another.

Then of course there are TED talks that intend to be very motivational, but in the end have the tendency to make us feel like we're missing out if we're not pursuing (or finding) our dream job. The idea of pursuing our dream job or career vs. being patient to see how things develop, is probably a necessary tension, but when considering where we should be headed we shouldn't automatically discount where we are right now.

Regardless of where you're at on the spectrum of finding the work you love or loving the work you find, I came across an article from Marshall Segal that helps establish the right perspective we should have of our work:

Aspire to Make Much of God - "“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whatever you do: privately and publically, recreationally and vocationally, Sunday and Monday. God’s greatest work in the world is to make himself look exceedingly great in the eyes of people everywhere."

Aspire to Do God’s Work - "Your work is God’s work because you cannot do it without him. Nothing, vocationally or otherwise, will please God if it is not done in faith, that is, actively trusting and treasuring Jesus."

Aspire to Find Your Joy in God, Not Money - "No one can love God and money (or success or recognition or perfectionism or promotion). It’s not that it’s bad advice for your health. It’s impossible (Matthew 6:24)."

Aspire to Confound the World - "Will you work in a way that conforms to this world? Or in a way that confounds it? Spirit-filled followers of Jesus are to be distinctly, noticeably different from people who do not know and love our Lord."

Aspire to Provide for Your Family - "We serve a providing God (Luke 11:10–13; James 1:17), we image his providing love for us when we provide for those entrusted to us. Practices like planning, budgeting, and saving are not faithless acts. In fact, that kind of stewardship will glorify God greatly when they’re done in love for him and your family. "

Aspire to Overflow to Others - "For the glory of God, you should aspire to provide for yourselves, but it shouldn’t end there. God has much more in mind for your money than simply your family’s food, rent, and gasoline... No, godly work isn’t merely concerned with me. Truly Christian careers, in whatever industry, meet the needs of others."

Aspire to Build and Protect the Church - "God saves the world through the church (Ephesians 3:10). It’s his only means of carrying the message of the gospel to all the workplaces and peoples around the world... And our victory through the church is sure (Matthew 16:18), so no true investment there will ever be in vain. "

Aspire to Work for What Lasts - "Lastly, work for what lasts. Have in mind that this life is short, and everything not done for Christ will be in vain. Defy the deceitful notion that we have to build up and acquire here. "

Read the full post: Find the Work You Love, or Love the Work You Find?
category: issue 18, mind    tag(s): , , , ,

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Humility Can Lead to the Greatest Things
Read the full post: Humility Can Lead to the Greatest Things
April 26, 2016
"The greatness I am scrolling through on social media, the power I see on television—these things I find myself longing for and envying—these things are not greatness. They are a sham." - Ann Swindell

I feel that the more I read, the more I'm confronted with how great being great is: How to have great ideas, great strength, great influence. It can prove to be quite a draw. Getting lost in thought about what that might look like, I begin to feel a tinge of guilt. Is it that I want true greatness, or to be seen as great?

I read far less about how great being humble is. Could it be that not many people feel being humble is that great?

However, we're still not without our stories, and at least respect, of people being great by having brought out the best in others. In their humility, they thought less of themselves and more of those around them. What was great, is that others became great--or greatly benefited.

One only need consider the leadership in the founding of our country to have a sufficient example of this.

It may not initially look great. And in most cases, it won't feel great. But you can not miss the greatness of the outcome.

What do you think of the idea that it is possible to be greater still by being humble?

"Greatness is smallness, servanthood, humility. It is not power, ideas and influence." - Ann Swindell

Read the full post: Humility Can Lead to the Greatest Things
category: issue 17, soul    tag(s): , , , ,

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Can Quitting Make You a Better Man?
Read the full post: Can Quitting Make You a Better Man?
April 19, 2016
"Doctors and scientists recommend that folks consume no more than about 300-400 mg of caffeine a day. I didn’t know it, but I was averaging over a 1,000 mg a day." - Brett McKay

As I read Brett's article, I began to dwell on the old adage that "Winners never quit. Quitters never win." Or do they? It would seem that quitting is a legitimate option for winners. In fact, I would submit that the wise know when to start, stay, and stop.

Being wise is a way of life. And because even the subtle things in our lives can be the villain (i.e. coffee), the process of becoming wise is about applying basic forensics. Examine the evidence. Make the right decision based on the evidence.

As we apply forensics to our daily love affair with caffeine, Brett highlights the upside to quitting coffee:

- Decreased depression and anxiety
- Less irritability
- Clearer skin
- Lower blood pressure
- More money (i.e. say goodbye to Starbucks)
- Greater antifragility (read his article linked below, it has a link to this concept; but suffice it to say that you're not just resilient, but that you bounce back stronger and better.)
- Better sleep
- Caffeine will actually work when you really need it

I found it almost impossible to argue his points. It's always the ones we love that hurt us the most, right? Can quitting make you a better man? Absolutely. And thanks to Kenny and his catchy hit song for making this piece of advice so memorable: "Know when to fold 'em..." - Kenny Rogers

Read the full post: Can Quitting Make You a Better Man?
category: body, issue 16    tag(s): , , , ,

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Want to be a Good Leader? Learn to learn.
Read the full post: Want to be a Good Leader? Learn to learn.
April 12, 2016
"Research shows that leaders who think and act from the same assumptions and behavioral repertoires they’ve used for years are prone to stagnate, under perform, or derail... To sustain success, you must develop learning agility." - Monique Valcour

While Monique is talking in terms of our careers, it is probably best asked of all areas of our lives: Are you disciplined, defunct or on your way to being derailed?

Valcour identifies what may be a new phrase to some: learning agility. I've not heard learning described this way before, but it is very intriguing:

"Learning agility is the capacity for rapid, continuous learning from experience. Agile learners are good at making connections across experiences, and they’re able to let go of perspectives or approaches that are no longer useful."

Considering this approach to learning, it should not just be confined to our careers, but becomes a necessity in our roles as leaders.

In order to be a good leader, we will also need to commit to being a good learner.

Here is a quick overview of Monique's 4 ways to become a better learner:

1. Get feedback. You may not need to take it as far as a coach, but get an honest person to provide perspective and help with blind spots. "As research on growth mindset by psychologist Carol Dweck has found, if you hold the view that there is always more to learn and embrace the process of wading into unfamiliar waters, you can free your thinking, dissolve your fear of failure, and power your success."

2. Experiment with new approaches or behaviors. To explore this from a couple of different angles, Monique suggests: "...asking yourself questions such as “What’s one thing I could do to change the outcome of the situation?” and “What will I do differently in the future?” You can also conduct thought experiments, unearthing possibilities from trying out a different point of view."

3. Look for connections across seemingly unrelated areas. This is a good argument for taking the lessons learned from life, work, relationship experiences can be of even greater benefit. Developing learning agility is maximized when we "choose a domain you have expertise in but that’s unrelated to your work and ask yourself how you might apply that knowledge to your current challenge."

4. Make time for reflection. I'm seeing this come up more and more. Something recently I read pegged Warren Buffet as someone who spends more time thinking than doing. Here's how to put 'doing less' to work for us: "A growing body of research shows that systematically reflecting on work experiences boosts learning significantly. To ensure continuous progress, get into the habit of asking yourself questions like “What have I learned from this experience?” and “What turned out differently than I expected?”

A little discipline toward this could not only go a long way to keep us from being defunct or derailed, it can also mean that our leadership will remain impactful.

Read the full post: Want to be a Good Leader? Learn to learn.
category: issue 15, mind    tag(s): , ,

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Be Anxious For… Nothing. And No Faking It.
Read the full post: Be Anxious For… Nothing. And No Faking It.
April 5, 2016
"Anxiety is the most predominant form of mental illness in our country, plaguing both young and old, showing up as post-traumatic stress syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, even phobias and generalized anxiety disorder." - Vince Miller

As much as we welcome being able to instantly know what's going on in the world, it seems that at the same time we're opening up ourselves to a seemingly endless source of anxiety. Even what God says about being anxious brings on a little anxiety: "Be anxious for nothing..." - Phil. 4:6

We are told not to be anxious, and there is no good reason to be, so why do we still do it?! “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" - Matt. 6:27

And can we, as Miller's article suggests, 'leverage it [anxiety] to our advantage'?

Don't be anxious, but instead:

- Identify legitimate concerns. Should we be worrying about it?

- Transfer control. Are we thinking too highly of our ability to address our anxiety?

- Deploy 'anxiety management'. Phil. 4:8 is a great process for managing anxiety: Pray, ask, thank, and share.

Leveraging it to our advantage: Miller sees 3 ways that our response to anxiety can be leveraged to our advantage:

- We shift our focus to what really matters.

- We evaluate how we relate to God.

- We transfer trust and concern to God.

Read the full post: Be Anxious For… Nothing. And No Faking It.
category: issue 14, soul    tag(s): , , , ,

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How We Can Avoid Being Just a ‘Person of Success’
Read the full post: How We Can Avoid Being Just a ‘Person of Success’
March 29, 2016
"...is being successful really that difficult? Well, yes it is. It will require a lot of you... But do we tend to over complicate the process? I believe they boil down to these five attributes, which when worked on individually, result in successful outcomes." - Mike Templeman

Do we really need more successful people? Careful that you answer the right question. I didn't ask whether or not the world needs more people that are successful. The question is whether or not we need more people who are successful at being--that is, successfully living rightly.

Something else Templeman prompts us to grapple with is the definition of success. He doesn't presume that we're all aiming at having the most, or being the best. His broader definition seems quite appropriate: "the accomplishment of an aim or purpose." In other words, we are not bound by the common interpretation of success (i.e. wealth, extravagance), but instead are encouraged to view this more broadly and meaningfully.

What then should be our aim or purpose, and how can we avoid being just a 'person of success'? Here are 3 steps to consider:

1. It's about being, then doing. Who we are comes before what we do, and it necessarily begs the question: Who are we? Answering that is a fundamental exercise in understanding who God has created us to be.

2. Define success--for you. We stand accountable for how we define it, as well as how we get there.

3. Build a foundation for success. The first two points will be the motivation and underlying support for implementing the attributes Templeman identified: Trustworthy, Work Ethic, Critical Thinking, Short Memories, and Desire.

Read the full post: How We Can Avoid Being Just a ‘Person of Success’
category: body, issue 13    tag(s): , ,

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Impress to be Impressive?
Read the full post: Impress to be Impressive?
March 22, 2016
"If you want to be likeable and memorable you have to step up your game... here are 17 quick and easy ways to make sure that the people you meet will be impressed and want to make the most of your relationship moving forward." - Kevin Daum

We shouldn't be unnecessarily concerned with what people think of us, but we should care a great deal about how and what we communicate.

I am reminded of Stephen Covey's principle of 'beginning with the end in mind.' There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to make a good first impression. But should we instead look at making the right impression, as that will serve as the basis for a long-term, mutually beneficial future relationship.

Taken together, these 4 tips from Kevin's aritcle make up a 4-step process of moving beyond that initial impression toward fostering an ongoing influence and benefit to them.

Research the people you are going to meet.

Leave people with something of value.

Show genuine appreciation.

Follow up immediately.

Read the full post: Impress to be Impressive?
category: issue 12, mind    tag(s): , ,

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Temptation: A Growth Strategy?
Read the full post: Temptation: A Growth Strategy?
March 15, 2016
“Temptation is like a knife, that may either cut the meat or the throat of a man; it may be his food or his poison, his exercise or his destruction.” Tim Chaddick quoting seventeenth-century English preacher John Owen

Up to this point, if you would have asked me what our response to temptation should be I would have given you the one word response I was taught: flee!

Consider thinking of our response as you would an evacuation plan. The idea is that there is intention and purpose in our escape, not just urgency. Less panic, more controlled response.

When looking further at Jesus being tempted in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11), there are several points we should remember:

Temptation can find you wherever you are.

Temptation can tempt you no matter who you are.

Temptation will find you.

Temptation doesn't mean you can't respond with control.

The growth comes from identifying the lie, but then responding to it with truth.

Read the full post: Temptation: A Growth Strategy?
category: issue 11, soul    tag(s): , , ,

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Election Check-in. Ready to Demonstrate?
Read the full post: Election Check-in. Ready to Demonstrate?
March 8, 2016
"Regardless of where you fall on the scale of interest [in the election], the most important question is how Christians should conduct themselves during this election season. The world is watching God’s people, not just for how they vote, but for how they act both online and in conversations with family and friends." - Daniel Darling

The world is watching. Not just to see who will be elected our next president, but how we get there. The character we demand to see in our candidates should be no different than the character qualities we demand of ourselves.

There are several ways we can handle this election season and 'demonstrate' not just class, but real answers to desperate needs.

Demonstrate responsibility.

Demonstrate where we are to place our hope.

Demonstrate how to handle disagreements.

Demonstrate how to get things done.

Demonstrate selflessness.

Read the full post: Election Check-in. Ready to Demonstrate?
category: issue 10, mind    tag(s): , , , , , ,

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Can We Learn From Our Mistakes?
Read the full post: Can We Learn From Our Mistakes?
March 1, 2016
"... Be very careful when you dig up the past... For the most part, it isn’t helpful when you’re facing a current decision, and trying to learn from your mistakes can be a very ineffective way to change future behavior for the better." - Kelly Haws, professor of marketing at Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management

Well, Professor Haws isn't saying that we can't learn, but that our inability to look back with accuracy keeps us from making the right corrections we might need to make. Her research shows that we are better off looking at the hear and now and where we want to go rather than try to evaluate our past to move forward.

We should learn from our mistakes, but be able to free ourselves from the negative impact it can have on our future by accurately recalling the truth from those past mistakes, and giving the right priority to our future planning:

Capture what did and did not happen when we make a mistake.

Capture the truth and take it with you as you move forward.

Look forward with effective goal setting to keep from looking back.

Read the full post: Can We Learn From Our Mistakes?
category: body, issue 9    tag(s): , ,

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How DID  we get the Bible?
Read the full post: How DID  we get the Bible?
February 23, 2016
"Whether it’s answering the questions of young inquisitive minds, skeptical classmates, or hostile strangers, sooner or later we’re all forced to reckon with how we got the Bible, how its books were chosen, and whether we can trust it today." - Ivan Mesa

How we got the Bible is replete with miraculous movements of the Holy Spirit. Taking a look is not just a lesson in history--it is inspiring. Having the understanding of how God captured what we hold in our hands today energizes our investment in studying and applying it, so that we're not only ready to handle inquiries, but that our confidence in it's authority will radiate throughout the leadership of our families, churches, and communities.

President George Washington is quoted as saying "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and Bible.” What did he know about the Bible that would cause him to say that? What would you say if someone asked you "What's so special about the Bible?"

I've highlighted several questions, quotes, and references to help us start poking at how we got the Bible.

Read the full post: How DID  we get the Bible?
category: issue 8, soul    tag(s): , , ,

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Peace Then Calm Under Pressure
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February 16, 2016
"Mistakes and pressure are inevitable; the secret to getting past them is to stay calm... New research shows that most of us go about staying calm the wrong way." - Travis Bradberry

Calm, and even confidence, comes from our heading in the direction of the cause of nerves and turning our "anxiety into energy and excitement." From a 'firm foundation' (God's strength in our weakness, not losing sight of the peace we have in Christ, and being slow to speak), we can exercise Bradberry's approach to calm: "Staying composed, focused, and effective under pressure are all about your mentality. People who successfully manage crises are able to channel their emotions into producing the behavior that they want."

Questions to ask are:
How do I really want to respond to this situation?
What's the worse that will result?
Will this matter in 5 years?
Am I overly focused on me, and not the problem?

Read the full post: Peace Then Calm Under Pressure
category: body, issue 7    tag(s): , , ,

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Hooray for Hollywood?
Read the full post: Hooray for Hollywood?
February 9, 2016
"I can now try to marry Hollywood’s desire to get to a faith-based audience, and try to get us as people of faith wanting to have films made that have broader reach and have high production value.” - David Oyelowo, actor

We'll need to wait and see what that ends up looking like, but I do look forward to that day, and what that could mean for the gospel. In the meantime, what if we were to pose that same question to ourselves? What does our presentation of the gospel look like? How might we increase or improve our 'production quality?' Are we willing to have the same expectation of ourselves that we do of Hollywood with how the truth is presented?

Given the importance of the 'what' (the Gospel - God's Good News), shouldn't there be great effort put toward the 'how' (our presentation)? What would Hollywood find if they decided to research your life to see how the gospel should be presented? Be sure to read the full post for some additional insight and probing questions.

Read the full post: Hooray for Hollywood?
category: issue 6, mind    tag(s): , , , ,

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iPhone, You Complete Me
Read the full post: iPhone, You Complete Me
February 2, 2016
"With so much of life tied up in my constant connectivity, I started to expect everything to always involve my phone. If I wasn’t using my phone, I felt like I wasn’t doing anything." - Adam Jeske

In his article on tech addiction, Adam Jeske raises the concern of spiritual consequences as one thing that needs to be considered. Which should be our highest concern, as the detriment of which will be felt far and wide... and deep. I want to highlight two of the passages he directs us to as we evaluate the impact of our use of 'tech': Philippians 4:8 and Psalm 46:10.

How often is our time on social media [et, al] helping us to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy?

"Is our constant connectivity keeping us from being still and knowing God is God?"

Read the full post: iPhone, You Complete Me
category: issue 5, soul    tag(s): , ,

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Are You Fulfilling Your Sunday Responsibility?
Read the full post: Are You Fulfilling Your Sunday Responsibility?
January 26, 2016
“When it comes to the routine of corporate worship in your local church, do you think much about your responsibility in your Sunday services? [There] is a responsibility that every believer shares. And sadly, today, very few fulfill.” – John MacArthur

Our study of the Scriptures needs to be taken very seriously. We have a responsibility not only to our pastor as a member of the body of Christ, but to our families and other men. When Peter says that we are to be able to give an account of the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15), it will require us to think critically and biblically--which is our first responsibility.

Read the full post: Are You Fulfilling Your Sunday Responsibility?
category: issue 4, soul    tag(s): , , ,

What do Curiosity and Humility Have to do with Success?
Read the full post: What do Curiosity and Humility Have to do with Success?
January 26, 2016
“When you approach people with curiosity and humility, they feel validated. They experience your interest in what they think and do and how they do it... They may also share useful or important information with you...” – Rhett Power

In the business world where 'success at all costs' is too often expected, genuine curiosity and humility require a concerted effort. Our focus on learning doesn’t excuse us from caring for the person we’re learning from. We're on the hook... others first.

Read the full post: What do Curiosity and Humility Have to do with Success?
category: issue 4, mind    tag(s): , , ,
Take Every Moment Captive
Take Every Moment Captive
Read the full post: Take Every Moment Captive
January 26, 2016
"In many ways, the perception that we have time to become the men we want to be leads us to become lazy and drags us farther away from the image of Jesus to which we hunger to conform." - J.R. Duren

We should view time in light of the part we plan in God's plan. The article Mr. Duren wrote highlights 3 lessons he learned about time that challenges us put the magnifying glass over how we spent our days. I've taken those lessons and created questions we can ask to help us shape how we handle time.

Read the full post: Take Every Moment Captive
category: body, issue 4    tag(s): , ,

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4 Key Pillars of True Manhood
Read the full post: 4 Key Pillars of True Manhood
January 19, 2016
"Sons need their dad to show them how to be a man. My dad was amazing in so many ways. He taught me a lot... However, somewhere along the way, there were things that were missed in bringing me into manhood." - B.J. Foster

What I'm calling 'pillars' could serve as both a way to reflect on our own manhood, but also serve as the basis for a good plan to intentionally help others to make this essential transition. The article highlights: Identity, Belonging, Voice, and Celebration. Are you in a position to implement a 'manhood plan'? To use these, and other characteristics of godly manhood, to help guide (think: our nephews, the neighborhood kids that play with ours, in addition to our sons) others toward this all important destination?

Read the full post: 4 Key Pillars of True Manhood
category: issue 3, soul    tag(s): , , ,

Manage Your Mental Focus
Read the full post: Manage Your Mental Focus
January 19, 2016
"Mentally strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong." - Amy Morin

I'm calling this an assessment. It is provided as more of a list, even a checklist, but in order to be beneficial it needs to be penetrated a little more. So, I've turned Amy's list into questions we can ask ourselves to better assess our mental focus. Here's a sample:

   Am I spending too much time focused on self-doubt, or what-ifs?
   Am I releasing ground that I am called to/appointed responsibility over?
   Am I resistant to the transformation God is intending for me?

Read the full post: Manage Your Mental Focus
category: issue 3, mind    tag(s): , , , , ,

Refining Your Routine: Replacing Bad Habits
Read the full post: Refining Your Routine: Replacing Bad Habits
January 19, 2016
"It's one thing to complain, whine, and vent at our frustrations in life. But does that really get you anywhere? No matter how much you complain, nothing will change if you don't take the wheel and actually do something to make your situation fulfilling." - John Rampton

Reading the full article won't reveal any real secrets, so I'll save you the longer read by highlighting the 2 things that may in fact help you become a little leaner in your approach to living wisely by highlighting waking up early, and replacing bad habits.

Read the full post: Refining Your Routine: Replacing Bad Habits
category: body, issue 3    tag(s): , , , ,

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read more, remember more
Read More, Remember More
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January 12, 2016
"We all hear about about how Bill Gates and Ben Carson would stay home and read books relentlessly. Reading may not be an easy habit to develop, but it's one that can help you expand your business." - Daniel Allay

You may not have a magic number, but reading more, and developing the habit of retention, can have profound benefits. So I'm not suggesting setting a personal best for number of books read in a year, but even if it is 12 (one a month), and you're able to integrate the most appropriate parts--for you--into your life, that will certainly be a win. Based on Allay's 5 tips, I've created an action plan.

Read the full post: Read More, Remember More
category: issue 2, mind    tag(s): , , , ,

Fear Him and Have Nothing To Fear
Read the full post: Fear Him and Have Nothing To Fear
January 12, 2016
"What kind of heart and faith pleases God? In this lab, John Piper looks at several texts to try and understand what it means for us to fear God."

John Piper describes God as being our dread. At first glance you're sure he has this wrong... but if we want to please God, it begins with fear: "...the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him" (psalm 147:11). That fear, or dread, drives us toward Him; He becomes our sanctuary. Fear can be a very good thing, and we'll look at 3 benefits of biblical fear.

Read the full post: Fear Him and Have Nothing To Fear
category: issue 2, soul    tag(s): , , , , ,

How Long Will We Wait to Speak Up?
Read the full post: How Long Will We Wait to Speak Up?
January 12, 2016
"Into a world that considers any exclusive truth claim to be the height of bigotry, we must lovingly speak that Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him]” (John 14:6)" - Jon Bloom

We need to speak up in order to: bring clarity to chaotic thinking, better understand how God will choose to use us, and accept the cost of being a follower.

Read the full post: How Long Will We Wait to Speak Up?
category: body, issue 2    tag(s): , , , ,

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Feelings… Nothing More Than Feelings
Read the full post: Feelings… Nothing More Than Feelings
January 5, 2016
"Feeling like a failure has little correlation with actually failing... Here's the essential first step: Stop engaging with the false theory that the best way to stop feeling like a failure is to succeed." - Seth Godin

Feelings can, and will, distract us from the truth. What we feel can change. What doesn't change is the truth. Start there. Know the truth--about yourself, and your situation--and believe it. The truth sets us free from how we may be feeling when we actually believe it. That's the clincher.

Read the full post: Feelings… Nothing More Than Feelings
category: issue 1, mind    tag(s): , , , ,

What God Thinks of You
Read the full post: What God Thinks of You
January 5, 2016
"We all want to know who we are. We seek and search and try to “find ourselves.” Many of us have taken personality tests and other assessments. We learn that we are a lion, a beaver, an ENFP, an activator, a competitor, a high I, high D." - John Rinehart

While the different personality tools can help provide one dimension, adding the layer of family and friends can bring it more to life--the broadest and deepest understanding of who we are comes from God. His view of us is what really matters most as He is the source of who we are. This makes for a good morning mantra. Start each day with the truth--of who you are and who God is.

Read the full post: What God Thinks of You
category: issue 1, soul    tag(s): , , ,
Don’t Give Up… Just Yet
Read the full post: Don’t Give Up… Just Yet
January 5, 2016
"Fact: 99 percent of people who start marathons finish them... the real lesson, according to entrepreneur and endurance athlete Jesse Itzler, "is that we have so much more in our reserve tank than we think we do." - Jessica Stillman

There are at least two considerations here. First, we do need to keep in mind that we probably have more to give than we're either we like we do or are willing to admit. But on the other end, we also need to know our limits. When I first read '40% remaining', I thought that kind of high, did you? Feeling like you want to quit after only giving 60% seems a little wimpy. I know I would have never admitted to my hockey coach that I wanted to quit after having given only 60%! What happened to 'leaving it all on the field/rink/ring/arena'?

Read the full post: Don’t Give Up… Just Yet
category: body, issue 1    tag(s): , , , ,

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