Friday, January 20, 2017

What Do You Want?

Everybody wants something.  Every one of us have desires.  We want to get somewhere in our life, we want to progress and reach the level of success that we are hoping for.

However, most of us spend a lot of time talking and interacting with others, but after the exchange we find ourselves no further along toward reaching our goal.  

I want to share something I have learned that has really helped me in my pursuits and my objectives.  In every conversation I have, In every interaction I am faced with, in every meeting I am a part of, I always prepare ahead of time by first answering this question:

What do I want?

I first take time to stop and force myself to work through these issues:

What is it I really want out of the interaction with this person?

What is a reasonable expectation to hope for out of the conversation?

What do I hope to accomplish out of this meeting?

I’m talking about making every interaction INTENTIONAL.

Most of us go in to interactions with people with our most primal desire to be heard, to be understood.  We FEEL BETTER when we have shared our heart.  If we have conflict with the other person, or if the other person has hurt us, we start from a place of emotion and prejudice of how the person makes us feel.  We are too close to the situation that we cannot see objectively beyond the hurt to see the path to progress ahead.

I see this in team meetings as well.  A lot of people share what they see, what they experience.  Others share big ideas and talk about what they used to do in their previous organization. Most share their frustrations or challenges they are dealing with.  Others who are task-oriented tend to rush the conversation by just getting the specifics of the upcoming event or task that they feel responsible for.  They want to know how many shirts to order, which songs are picked, what time to show up.

All of these feelings and all of these tendencies are not bad - at all.  They are natural, they are healthy to share and to express.  To ignore these and just cut to the chase in every interaction would be denying people the opportunity to connect and to relate in a healthy way.  By all means, there is a time and place where people should be able to share their feelings, experiences, and acquire key information.  

My point is to make sure to not miss the MOST IMPORTANT reason for the meeting - that is, to not leave the interaction with the person or leave the meeting with the team without the desired outcome.

I have learned this when I have had to meet with a difficult person about something that wasn’t going right, or was stuck.  I found myself frustrated with them.  And because I am a more outspoken person, I could easily give them a piece of my mind.  I could easily make them feel my pain in the situation.  However, this wisdom-skill of restraint, discernment and intentionality forced me to ask myself before the meeting: 

What do I want from this?

What is the favorable Outcome?

Asking this forced me to be strategic in how I directed the conversation.  To get what I wanted, I had to help them get what THEY wanted.  We call this a WIN - WIN.  

For someone that has hurt me or offended me, my reaction is to maybe hurt them back, or to be defensive and close up myself emotionally.  But when I realize what I really want is healing in the relationship and health moving forward, I go in to the conversation with tenderness, with a desire to first listen to them, and to share my feelings of what is important to me.  I surround everything I say with honor, love, affirming, believing the best about them, while clarifying the hurt or the offense, so I ensure that it won’t continue happening.

When I lead a meeting with a team, I state at the beginning what the purpose and what the desired outcome is.  I clarify the time duration of the meeting and I always start with a brief coaching on the proper mindset we all need to have as we begin sharing and discussing.  And while I allow for plenty of sharing, brainstorming and even fun, I constantly bring re-focus to the conversation.  I rarely do this in a harsh, directive way.  Rather, my style is to ask a leading question, either to the group, or to call someone out to ask their opinion.

In all of these scenarios mentioned, one thing to define and to declare is your expectation.  And when you say it, say it clearly, and slowly.  You may need to say it a few times in the conversation, both at the beginning and then repeated towards the conclusion.  Most of the time, I also give it in writing in the meeting.  To do this, I first have had to first take time to really think “What do I want? What is truly important?” If you are realistic, and if you understand that people are a work in progress, then you reduce some of your ideas and dreams down to what is achievable and reachable for this person or this team.  In dealing with a difficult or hurtful person, you realize you may not be best buddies, but how can you understand eachother so as not to push eachother’s hot buttons.  For a team, how can you challenge them to stretch to great things, but break down the big goal in to bite-size, incremental steps.

Action Steps
Sharing Expectations clarify the focus of the mission.  Assigning action steps give legs so that the mission can get moving.  Give assignments to both you and your people as you come out of the conversation.  And then commit to a written deadline that you will personally follow up on.  This brings accountability to all parties.  When you set action steps, you give more credibility to what you have shared or advocated for by acting on what you are saying - and…to what they were advocating for.  Too many of us are all talk, but not much walk.  And we wonder why our voice is not heard.  I have learned that if I want a voice at the table, I first must BRING SOMETHING to the table.  I hate to use this analogy….but it’s kind of like going to a Poker Table in Las Vegas and sitting down asking for cards to join in on the game.  The dealer is going to stare at you and say “place your bets.” If you want to play, you have first got to pay.

To get where you want to go, you have do what is necessary to get there.  Resist your need to always be heard, to be understood.  Restrain yourself from trying to “win” every argument or control the conversation or meeting.  Rather, always keep focused on your intended outcome.  Only say things that help people move toward that outcome.  Intentionality uses more of positive affirming and less of negative conflict.  Intentionality paints a picture of how great the future can be when we work together, not rehearsing the hurt or the failures over and over.  Intentionality asks more questions allowing space for other people to actually figure it out for themselves, rather than spelling it all out for them.  To be intentional in your meeting, you carefully select every word and choose the right time when to speak it.  Some of the most successful meetings I have been in is when I said very little.  I let people get all of their feelings and ideas out, and then concluded with:

  1. Affirming their feelngs and ideas
  2. Re-focusing the conversation on the shared goal
  3. Stating Expectations
  4. Making Assignments
  5. Asking one or two leading questions to spark their creativity on how they can accomplish those assignments to meet the expectations

In every interaction you walk in to, take time to decide what your desired outcome is.  It must be a WIN - WIN for you and the other person.  Say things that help you both move forward toward the shared goal.  

Know What You Want

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Holy Work

Did you know that your work is special?
Have you ever thought of your work as being sacred?

Now you're reading this and thinking "where in the world are you taking this?"

Your work, I mean EVERY TASK in your schedule is holy.  It is holy unto God.

Now you're thinking, or saying out loud "what is holy?? Like when Robin says to the Caped Crusader "Holy Ice Cream Cones, Batman!"

The word HOLY means set apart.  It can mean set apart from the normal, from the familiar.  

The word HOLY also means set apart for something special, something selected above everything else.  

In the Bible, it says that the Angels in Heaven sing a song to God perpetually that has one word as the stand-alone lyric:

"Holy, Holy, Holy"

The Angels are in the literal presence of God in all of His majesty and splendor; and when they look upon God sitting on His throne, their description of Him, their response is to call him Holy.  Set apart from the normal and usual, and set apart for specific and sacred place from all other beings.  God created all things in heaven and in earth; but God, Himself was not creatED. He is the CreatOR.  There is none like Him.

So consider now your work.  I'm talking about your profession, whether it be a business you run, a class you teach, a company you work for.  I'm also talking about the tasks you have to manage, like doing dishes, washing clothes.  If you have children you care for, you understand the word "work" very well.  Making dinner, then checking that everyone is doing their homework.  You have a spouse that forgets some of their responsibilities, so you have to now do their tasks, like paying the bills, or taking out the trash.   You get it.  

All of this is holy unto the Lord in Heaven.  And here's why:

When you do it for God, you acknowledge that you are really working for Him.  And you are really acknowledging that He is real, and that He has first place in your life.  

And if you have ever read much of the Bible, you read stories of people just like you who had problems and stresses and fears.  They had tough work on their plate, and were in difficult places in their lives.  But they acknowledged that God was true and faithful.  They listened to God promise them that if they worked for Him, and put God first in every task, that God would make good on His promises to bless them.  These people understood that doing their work well was an act of acknowledgement, of WORSHIP of God.  

As a pastor at Christ Fellowship in South Florida, I have the privilege to lead a church in Stuart.  I love working with people and helping them learn about God's love for them and His plan for their life.  I love to get to lead teams of people to go out in to our community and serve people.  I love the Sunday services that we produce with the message taught from the Bible, and the music, and all of the activities we offer.  That's the fun part.

The part that I struggle with doing honestly is the physical labor in the set up of the church - and there's a lot of it.  For the first years of our Christ Fellowship Campus in Stuart, we met in High Schools, as we did not yet have a permanent location.  We had 50 road cases that we stored all of our equipment in.  We literally found a way to pack an entire church in to road cases.  It was kind of like being a traveling salesman who constantly lives out of his suit case in hotels.  Every Sunday after our 3 morning services, I would have to rally people to stay to help me tear down the church, pack up the fifty road cases and wheel them back in to the storage containers across the school property; then, start sweep and straighten the school for Monday's classes.  Let me tell you, getting tired volunteers after 3 services to stay and skip Sunday lunch with their family to tear down was tough.  Doing it EVERY WEEK for seven years was nothing short of a Biblical miracle, right below Jesus raising a guy from the dead!

I was at my most tired at that time on Sunday, yet I knew as the leader, I needed to roll up my sleeves and work hard so that others would follow my lead.  And I have to admit to you, there were times that I was so frustrated that I had to pull road cases and tear down heavy speakers.  I had to plead with  people to please stay, and then give them all assignments to do.  My stomach was grumbling and I could visualize my wife and kids sitting at a restaurant with church friends laughing and chowing down on a plate of food.  My favorite thing in the world is sitting in a restaurant with my family and friends eating great food.  

OK - enough whining :)

I remember one Sunday as I was pulling two heavy road cases down the hall by myself, I thought about Jesus carrying the cross down the road in Jerusalem up to the hill where He was soon to be killed.  I thought "what Jesus had to do was so difficult and so painful.  Yet his pain was accomplishing a Holy purpose.  Jesus did not complain one moment when He did His assignment.  Jesus understood that He was holy, and His work was holy -  Set a part for a holy purpose.  
He understood that He had to pay a higher price, because He was not doing His will, He was doing the will of God in Heaven - and that was that God was saving all people from death, through the sacrifice of His Holy Son Jesus.  Jesus willingly suffered so we could not suffer.  Jesus willingly sacrificed so we could have life.  WOW! That is a sobering thought.  

Suddenly, my stomach stopped growling.  Suddenly, I pulled harder.  And when I finished with those road cases, I went back and pulled more.  It somehow motivated me.  I had a gratefulness in my heart that I could identify with Jesus in working for God for a holy purpose.  I knew that me tearing down our equipment that we were able to have a church in a school, where many people were coming and experiencing the love of God, some for the very first time.  Suddenly, it didn't bother me that only a few faithful volunteers stayed with me to do the work of the church.  It was an HONOR and PRIVILEGE to serve Jesus.  It was my act of worship.  I felt God's face smiling down on me saying "thank you Matt for doing this work.  Thank you for caring about what I care about.  Thank you for making a church in a school where people can come meet with me and learn about my plan for them."

You might be tired of serving in your church.  You might be worn out and spent in your job.  Nobody appreciates you.  Nobody notices your long hours.  No one has offered to help carry your load. Maybe at home you feel alone and forgotten and feel like giving up.  

I just want to remind you that every task you do, every menial task, every difficult project - it all is holy unto God.  It is special to Him.  Your work has a purpose, it has meaning.  And if it is hard to do,  if it is painful, that is sometimes alright.  God appreciates what you are doing.  And He will bless you.  I have been SO BLESSED with my work at our church.  I love what I get to do.  

See your work as Holy

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Test Your Boundaries

My daughter Madison and I have such a great relationship.  One thing we do together is go on walks.  

One morning, the weather outside was unusually cool for South Florida .
(60 degrees... Yeah!) We quickly bundled up, which we rarely get to do, and started off on our journey around our neighborhood.  

Our conversation centered around reflecting on lessons learned this past year.  When I asked Madison what God had taught her, she immediately recollected one moment when she was singing in front of a lot of people at our church.  My daughter is a GIFTED singer and musician.  Madison is my pride and joy.  She sings in church a lot and does such an amazing job!  She has been my personal project since she first climbed up on to our piano bench at home at age 5.  

Madison shared with me how one song she sang in church ended big and she had practiced building up at the end by hitting a high note.  She wasn’t sure of the note with it being a bit beyond her natural vocal range, but she decided to go for it.  However, in the church worship service when she sang the high note, her voice cracked.  She quickly stopped singing and let the song end.  Madison told me how awful she felt on platform with everyone looking at her.  Most people did not notice her mess up, but that moment messed her up mentally for quite a few days after.  She had thoughts of discouragement, of feeling like she is not as good as other singers who she had heard nail that high note at the climax of the song.  She started to doubt herself.  But because Madison has a solid identity in who she is, Madison slowly got back on her feet and started singing with confidence again.

Madison said “that event was a time when God was refining me.” Wow! Awesome that she would see how God used her failure as a refinement in making her better and wiser.

Madison then asked me “Dad, how do other singers know how far their voices can go? The great singers who I admire seem to sing with such confidence and sound great every time they perform.”  I explained that those great singers know the make up and the limits of the their voice.  And the only way they know that is through much trial and error.  Great singers and great performers have experimented with their voices and with their skills so much that they have developed a confidence in how far they can go, how hard they can push themselves.  I told Madison “it was good that you went for that high note.  If you don’t step out and take the risk, you would never know the full expanse of your voice.”

This is a great challenge for you and for me in our own lives:

Test Your Boundaries

Stretch out.

Take a risk.

Be willing to experiment, to try something bold that you never thought you could do.

I’m not talking about doing something unsafe or unwise.  I’m talking about thinking bigger, believing for more.  I'm challenging you to clear your schedule, start with a clean slate and have a greater vision for your life, for your future.  And to do that, you have to be willing to remove boundaries that have always been there - excuses, obstacles, self doubt, fear of failure, fear of what people will think.  

Now to clarify - there need to be SOME boundaries in your life that you respect and keep.  Healthy relationships, commitments, honoring, self discipline, wisdom, accountability.

However, when it comes to your calling and your passion, you must blow up your usual framework of rules that “I can’t do this” or “I could never accomplish that” and test yourself.  

Here are some practical tips to begin to test your boundaries:

Say “I can” and “I will”
Change your internal voice by literally saying this out loud to yourself.  Coach yourself, encourage yourself.  Your mind is powerful, it is complex.  If you can change the voice in your head to a positive word, your heart and your body will fall in line.  It is amazing how when we first say “I can do this”  and “I will try this”, we can begin to believe it.  And you cannot step out and try something bold and daring with a negative thought of “I’m not sure I can do this.”  As Yoda said in my favorite Star Wars movie, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK:

You Need a Coach
Get around positive people who will coach you, who will encourage you and push you.  I do.  And when you don’t have access to people, find Coaches on Youtube or online.  I will watch Pastors, Motivational Speakers, Coaches online speak to me.  I need that - it helps me get off my chair and get to work, get to trying bigger things.  You need that.  You won’t move on your own.  You are made to respond to a Pastor or a Coach to call you out and call you up.

Take a Risk TODAY
Whatever your passion, whatever your calling, do something TODAY towards fulfilling it.  Do something TODAY that stretches you.  Make a call, visit someone, send the e-mail, write a page for your book, write that song.  Get on the treadmill.  Drop down and give me 20! Do SOMETHING NOW.  If you are scared, join the club.  But don’t let the fear paralyze you.  Don’t let embarrassment stop you.  As Coach Tom Mullins says “Suck it up and get tough!!” 

Let me Coach you now.  You have more in you than you are showing… A LOT MORE in you.  You are only at 40% capacity.  But you will never reach that “high note” unless you go for it.  Take a deep breath and belt it! And if you crack, don’t sweat it.  That’s how you learn.  And don’t let that intimidate you to never try the “high note.”  Everyone has a “high note” to hit.  Everyone has a 3 point shot at the buzzer they were destined to make.  Keep testing your boundaries.  Keep experimenting.  If you fail, try again…and again…and again.  You will learn, you will get stronger, and braver.  You have the muscles, you just have not yet fully developed them.  You will go farther than you ever thought possible.  

Test Your Boundaries