Before you go back to the office…

Leadership, Personal Growth

Aren’t we all incredibly grateful the eye of the Coronavirus seems to be passing by! Before you go back to the office after the COVID-19 “safer at home” restrictions, consider how you would like to return:

  • Are there things you have committed to do better as a leader?
  • Are there things you have experienced during this season away that you know you need to improve?
  • What are the things you will STOP doing?
  • What are the things you will keep doing?
  • What new things will you practice?

Something needs to change

Through this shelter at home season, work has likely been more complex and hurried, not less. As you reflect on going back to the office to work, are there things you’ve considered changing and priorities you would like to address? Perhaps you know there are things you would like to change about your leadership, workflow and leadership techniques.

But maybe an issue is not knowing how you’re doing as a leader. Is there a place to be able to assess your leadership, your style, your pace? Other than going to a conference (which is unlikely for a while), or heading back to school, is there a place online for clear assessment, growth and development?

Become a better leader? But how?

Between your final Zoom meetings this week as you are working from home, take time to invest in yourself. Kick the tires of your leadership capacity and blind spots before you take yourself back out on the track. If not, it could be that you are down the road 6 months in the same situations with no change.

GiANT.tv

Go to GiANT.tv and sign up. While this resource is worth every penny, if you sign in now with affiliate link ‘raygriffinonline’ you receive a month free.*

This resource will help you assess, train, and learn core concepts of leading in the 21st century. There are so many modules in a wide array of leadership principles. You’ll find videos, and a toolbox of easy to apply leadership and growth insights and other goodies.

Still learning and growing

I have used these principles for years, and even last week, invested time in a GiANT.tv “pathway” on delegation. The lack of delegation for me is something I know I need to leave behind when I go back to the office for work.

There are communication principles and strategies that I would love to share here, but trust me, as we go back in the pressure cooker of how to say what the new normal is, when and to whom will be critical. You can find insights like this at GiANT.tv.

You’re about to be back in the office. I am glad. But, are you ready?

OKC April 19, 25th Anniversary

Personal Growth

25 years ago on April 19, a deplorable plan and act was executed in Oklahoma City. Here’s a video I was honored to be a part of in an effort to continue to bring healing to the city I call home.

My thanks to the men who served then and share now of that experience – they represent a host of heroes and families who still walk through healing.

I would also share thanks with videographer, Jesse Wallace, who took an idea and made it come to life.

Moving Out of Confinement

Personal Growth

Since mid-March, my family has experienced school and work from home with our city’s safer at home policies. When I was out for a walk in my neighborhood, there was a lone commercial jet flying overhead. While I was walking, my mind wandered to trips I’ve been on, near and far. I reminisced about those adventures, the beauty experienced and the fun and challenge of exploring distant places. Watching that jet zoom across the blue sky wondering where they were going, longing to be back out in the big wide world again with them, I was reminded of a truth.

Phasing out of home confinement coming soon?

Word is spreading that our sheltering at home is lifting soon or at least eased. Soon, we will move to another “new normal” of daily life and work. It is likely we are out and about again with some continued restrictions. I am grateful for that. In our collective home confinements I have grown ever fond of what we had:

Large gatherings like sports and concerts

Strolling with Jennifer in a packed mall or shops

Cruising a car show

Hitting the open road or skies to anywhere

Enjoying a park or amusement park with the family

Exploring a new place

Definitely church life!

But I actually long for more…

I watched the jet easily cruise at altitude across the blue sky pondering the destination of those aboard. Wishing I were traveling too, I also had the dull pang remembering that no place or experience in the end actually seems to fill the longing that tugs at my heart. Any experience, while definitely appreciated – especially now – still falls short of something.

Have you felt that way before?

Not too long ago my family and I traveled to a place I would say is stunningly beautiful. The refreshment exploring this paradise with my family was incredible. But, even that trip fell short as I shared here. Have you felt that before, that even in the best location or experience there is still a longing for more. Somehow it is good and appreciated, but not all right yet with a longing for things truly being as they should be.

  • As the engines begin to fire back up in our normal lives,
  • As the hustle and bustle takes back over for many and our schedules press for every moment,
  • As opportunity to do things that we enjoy like vacations and trips,
  • And as that sense of longing for more beyond all that grows…

This life’s quarantine is lifting some day

Are you ready for the ultimate release from this home/life’s restrictions? This life’s confinement is coming to a close someday. An early leader in the Christian faith, Paul, said it this way. Our lives in this body are much like living in a tent or shelter. He shared that we “groan” in this life with its burdens looking for more. He shared that when those who know Jesus personally leave this old broken body and world, our current home confinement, we are with the Lord where He is.

Jesus described this new place as Paradise. It is a New Heaven and New Earth. In the Old Testament, we see a shadow of what is to come as “The Promised Land,” a place of peace, rest and abundance. It is moving into, for those who know Jesus, the place He promised He was preparing, a new dwelling made just for them. It is a place that has no sin, death, sickness, and a place where all tears are wiped away.

If you want to experience that place, where we are really released from confinement, don’t wait to make Jesus Lord of your life today. Here’s the hard truth, Jesus is Lord whether you confess that or not. The issue is about you and your belief, will you accept Him as Lord of all, including your life? Don’t wait to simply follow Him – all the way out of this life to the next!

2 Peter 3:13

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

COVID-19: Managing Anxiety and Stress

Personal Growth

We are all living in extraordinary times. The COVID-19 virus pandemic has thrust the globe into an experience that is unparalleled. We are all experiencing financial, social, emotional, and for some, physical impacts. From the global economy to households living lives in new ways, it seems every area of our lives are being pressured and changed.

The primary question then becomes, “When will this all be over?” Who knows? A secondary one is, “What will be the ultimate impacts on lives and livelihoods?” It is in the midst of this storm, that it becomes critical in how we manage anxiety and stress.

I have had numerous conversations about staying healthy in mind, body and spirit in these days of social distancing and apprehension. Here are the common threads that seem to be key components.

Recognize you are stressed and anxious

To recognize or realize you are stressed or anxious may seem paradoxical, but denying or refusing that all of this is taxing would be an error. This is big. Just for our family, we have moved a college student home, a daughter is now doing classes online and has lost her job temporarily. As parents our normal routines and schedules have been dramatically changed, as I now also work from home. There is a grieving to it – plans we had have been canceled. Normal routines of life, from our church community life to simply running errands, have been changed.

Yet, all of our own family’s impacts pale in comparison to those who:

  • Are now unemployed.
  • Have had to be quarantined.
  • Live in a stressed environment, with the social, economic and work restrictions compounding a toxic relationship situation.
  • Are grieving the loss of a loved one who has passed away and are unable to have a funeral because of social distancing.
  • Are infected by the Coronavirus.
  • Have had a love one die due to the Coronavirus.

To dismiss or diminish the stress and anxiety would miss the next point:

Deal with the reality of the stress and anxiety

To dismiss the stress and anxiety as nothing would be a mistake. On the other end of the spectrum, to add pressure to your yourself that you “shouldn’t feel that way” or you “should just stop it” would also compound the situation.

A healthy approach is to recognize how you feel. I’ve heard feelings described as the temperature reading on the thermometer, but how we deal with them as the thermostat. Just like adjusting the comfort level in our homes, you can feel the temperature, and you turn the air conditioning thermostat to bring it to a comfort level.

How do you find comfort? Wrong ways:

There are some ways that can compound the stress:

  • Numb or zone out with alcohol and or drugs.
  • Turn to sin to “escape” the reality of the situation.
  • Isolate yourself from healthy relationships.
  • Let common elements of Christian discipleship fall off (personal devotion and prayer, journaling, accountability, mentoring).
  • Distance or absence from church resources – Not participating in online services, or connections in a small groups.
  • Become bitter, sarcastic or cynical, snapping at others and yourself.
  • Get lost in an endless and frightening news cycle, especially from what could be hyper-sensationalized social media or news outlets.

How do you find Comfort? Right ways:

The are some very real ways to reduce the impacts of the stress and anxiety. Like turning the thermostat, these are some of the dials you can turn:

  • Again, identify it. Own it. “I am scared.” “This has me totally stressed.” “I cannot believe I lost my job, and now my savings – I don’t know what we are going to do.” Identify the feelings, identify the reality.
  • Connect online with your church.
  • Do a video “reunion” or video call with family.
  • Call or video connect with friends and co-workers.
  • Stay connected in your neighborhood. Talk with neighbors.
  • Journal your feelings and journey.
  • Give – minster within the COVID-19 guidelines to Senior adults or others in need. Find a call list and check in every other day or so.
  • Within guidelines, work at a food-bank or distribution center.
  • Give support to those in the health industry.
  • Do an online call or conference with a Pastor or Counselor for guidance and to pray as an individual, couple or family.
  • Be ready to give crisis abuse or suicide hotline information to anyone in need.
  • Find something to complete. So much is incomplete and unknown – tackle something that has a sense of accomplishment. A guitar lesson online, cleaning out a junk closet, writing, finishing a home or lawn and garden project.
  • Exercise, eat well – take care with caffeine. Rest.
  • Take walk breaks outside without your phone or other devices.

The Main way to find Comfort:

Turn to God. Take the grim reality of how you feel, and tell God. Tell Him exactly how you feel. Tell Him precisely about the things that are going on: lost job, lost wages, lost sleep, lost loved one – take it all to Him.

A favorite of mine captures taking our raw emotions to a loving God in Psalm 118:5

“Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.”

A key verse from God’s Word found in Psalm 94:19 says:

“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.”

Later it says in Psalm 94:22

“But the Lord has been my stronghold,
And my God the rock of my refuge.”

  • Connect to God and His Word.
  • Pray your heart to God and share what you are reading with Him.
  • Meditate on God and the truth of His word. Let it marinate in your soul. Stop, rest, think, ponder and reflect on Him. Breathe.
  • Connect with your church.
  • Connect with a Christian small group.
  • Talk and pray with a Pastor or friend. Call or video chat. Simply talk and pray with someone.
  • Read inspiring and encouraging works. There are books, blogs, social media outlets and other resources that point up!

Bottom line, you are not alone. We will move through all of this together. God is teaching us! Trust Him now.

Steps Foward – Growing Professionally and Personally

Leadership, Personal Growth

Are you working to challenge yourself to grow and change personally? Are you working to help an organization grow and change? As the saying goes, if you are not moving forward, growing, you are dying. Here are some things I am using on this journey of personal and organizational growth.

Organizational Growth

Through the years I have had the opportunity to serve with some incredibly capable leaders. One leader used a process for long range planning that helped teams think about:

  • Ministry – What do we believe our Mission and Vision is for the future?
  • Personnel – Who will it take on a staff team to complete the Mission?
  • Facilities – What physical resources will be needed to accomplish the Mission?

This type of planning set us up years ago to experience what is reality today! As a matter of fact, much of this plan is still in place. But we can see clearly the need to update and adjust. Here are two key ways we are currently doing that:

CAMPUS AND FACILITIES

Our campus now pairs two separate church campuses as one. The church is experiencing great growth. How do we expand the current campus for growth now and in the future? How do we marry the two campuses to be one, parking, flow, ministry outlets? Thankfully we have a Long Range Planning team in place. And this group has hired an architectural firm skilled in campus master planning to help us! I am hopeful this journey and the insights of this group, and our prayers, will guide us to a plan that will bless for years to come.

STRATEGIC PLANNING

We are also working with a leadership consultant on strategic development. Lead staff are entering into a process of team growth, mission renewal and strategic planning. We are seeking a fresh mission, and accountability of clear objectives. It would be easy to simply say “let’s grow,” or to keep running headlong into busy-ness. Instead, we want to take a fresh look at our community, our mission, and our responsibility to do what is before us.

Personal Growth

MEANINGFUL TRAINING

This year is a bigger one for me. I turn 50, and will have been in ministry for 30 years. Much like strategic planning on the organizational front, I am working through the same process personally. What is my mission, am I equipped to handle the changes ahead? Last year I completed specialized training that was fulfilling and is a meaningful tool in my own mission.

KEY BOOK

A key book that is fitting for this season is Didn’t See It Coming by Carey Nieuwhof. His frank transparency in sharing his story of navigating life-change has been encouraging! He shares practical steps and biblical insights for staying fresh, energized and living fully. Whether you are turning 30, 40, 50 or beyond – get this book.

If I can help you on your personal and organizational growth journey I would be honored to do so! Find out more HERE.

Russ Taff: Reflections on Grace and Our Expectations

Personal Growth

Over the Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to chill out a bit and watch some shows. Obviously, there are tons of options to watch out there – from movies and DIY shows to mini-series. While scrolling, I came across a documentary on Russ Taff, Russ Taff: I Still Believe. Taff is one of my all-time favorite Christian artists along with Michael W. Smith, Sweet Comfort Band/Bryan Duncan, and Petra (yes, I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s). I enjoyed groups like DeGarmo and Key, Whiteheart and PFR, then later on to DC Talk and MercyMe. I remember Christian bands and artists though being rare in my early years with groups like the Imperials and Dallas Holm at the forefront. All I can say is, the volume of artists today owe their success in some way to those on the early trail – those like Russ Taff.

Painful Turn

The documentary on Taff was a such a nostalgic walk down memory lane for me. There was a fascinating trove of background information on Taff, in particular his early path to The Imperials. But, the retrospective took a painful, yet ultimately redemptive, turn when it dove in to a too common theme for many artists and those in the spotlight: Drive, success, pressure, purpose, disillusion, escape/addiction and its effects.

Unreasonable Expectations

Too common in this type of situation would be many of us who may have an automatic response: judgemental thoughts about that person’s failure, or their inability to cope. But as I watched the story unfold, I became convicted. Could it be that I was part of the pressure, the churn? What about our expectations – expecting too much – performance, perfection, personality, availability? It almost seems that those in the spotlight are treated like a bottle rocket. We light the fuse on these talented folks, expecting superhuman feats and perfection to watch them be consumed, literally.

Escape and Addiction

For the person in the performance crucible, the trap and allure of addiction is real. Yet there is Hope. One of my friends, Lance Lang, launched Hope Is Alive (HIA) out of his own battle and victory. He discovered some huge gaps in what those in the war on addiction need – a place to land and rebuild – and he and HIA are directly providing for this need! There is a structure for grace and mercy all in the surroundings of support and encouragement. I thank the Lord for HIA.

Another brother in Christ, Seth Haines, is also a great resource of help and direction. His journey in brokenness and redemption moved him to write Coming Clean, a heartfelt and transparent story of his own journey. His words of wisdom on both sides of his experience would help anyone – be that to avoid a perilous trail or find the way back to the right trail.

Healthy Perspectives

As I continue to reflect and ponder on this documentary, I wonder what could be some simple, healthy perspectives?

First, what about our expectations? What do we expect of people? Is it unrealistic? Or will we work to give people a break – on performance and expectations. There is a certain irony in the fact that I find myself as a consumer of this very documentary on Taff. Another issue to wrestle is when people crash, mess up/sin (and we do) what will we do? Rubberneck and condemn, or forgive and lend aid?

The Bible says:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

Second, to those of you out there who give their time and lives in performance, thank you. I pray the Lord gives you His peace and rest.

Neighborhood Improvement

Discipleship, Personal Growth

Inspired by a movie…

The family is all home for Thanksgiving break. This is a new season for us with a son now away at college. With some time to have fun together, we selected a movie to see at the theater – choosing a movie about Mr. Rogers over a race-car movie. My expectation was rather low for either, simply happy to be with my family! But, to my surprise, the movie about Mr. Rogers was moving, and inspirational. This movie is literally thought provoking, or perhaps better said emotion provoking. As I walked away from that movie and disposed of an empty bucket of popcorn and teary napkins, I am better for being reminded of the following things as I work on my own Neighborhood Improvement:

People are valuable

The value of all people, right where they are, just as they are, permeates the movie. Rom 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus focused the majority of His passionate anger toward the religious elite, the self-righteous. The elite looking to the outside – prestige, power, “success” – those who make those as connection points. But Jesus dialed into the heart. Most often He shared his ministry of connection with the broken, outcast, sick and abandoned. As we all know, regardless of our outward trappings each of us are broken, outcast, sick and abandoned. Ephesians says it more strongly as being “dead in our sins.” As Jesus accepts us as we are, I am not saying Jesus leaves us as we are, but he takes us as we are and shapes us and makes us ultimately to be like Him.

Be present

Often Mr. Rogers would avail himself to be available with people, or rather individuals. He did not multitask. Mr. Rogers did not speak so much to groups in conversation, but often zeroed in on one person even in those groups. He was present, and that person would know they were heard, understood, and accepted. It is fascinating that the premise of his television program was to speak into the camera as if it were to one person. Just as Nicodemas came to Jesus in the night to ask soul searching questions, or just as the woman at the well explored her life with the Master – both of these and many many more experienced the Truth personally.

No one is perfect

As shared by Mr. Rogers, while seemingly saintly, he was a jar of clay like us all. He met people where they were because he was also very familiar with his own shortcomings, in the past and present. But, he did work at it. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says,

“But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

and Paul declared in Philippians 3:12,

[ Straining Toward the Goal ] “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

Impacting your own neighborhood

It is not uncommon for Neighborhoods to band together for clean-up, safety teams, and overall neighborhood improvement. What if we also took time to restore our neighborhoods relationally. Building and maintaining relationships today is tough. Our culture seemingly stokes and pits us against one another creating sides and divisions. Not to mention the fact that there is an enemy who prowls about seeking those he can destroy; individually, in marriages, families and communities. Chaos and anarchy are his MO, for all time.

Book – The Art of Neighboring

The staff where I serve recently walked through the book The Art of Neighboring. This great read gives some straightforward context and descriptors of neighborly life today, or rather the lack thereof. And then it turns to ways to combat our isolation. Obviously there is a goal of permeating our relationship with the Gospel, while living authentically and transparently with those nearest us, even if we live in ways that do not align. I confess I am not a perfect neighbor. I get tired of other’s Christmas lights being up too long, barking dogs, and cars going too fast with stereos too loud and the like. But, I’m guilty of not being present, not looking for ways to connect and help in my own neighborhood improvement. This is where the Lord planted me. The need to be a neighbor who cares is my responsibility.

It’s Thanksgiving, how will you connect with your neighbor?

Tips for a Beautiful Green Lawn.

Personal Growth

We live in Oklahoma, a place where we have 4 distinct seasons. Sometimes it can feel like we experience them all in one month! That makes growing things a bit interesting around here. I have never been a massive lawn guy, meaning I have basically focused on the bare minimum. My strategy has been to keep whatever is growing out there mowed and edged. The reality is we have had a disappointing lawn with areas where no grass grows and bright red clay soil proudly indicates my lack of a green thumb.

But no more…

Today our lawn looks like this:

Here are some tips for a green lawn that I gratefully learned from others.

Tip #1 Ask for Help.

I have a great friend at church, Troy, and he is a landscaping professional. Unashamedly, I confessed our situation to him and he agreed to come take a look. When he came out he gladly and generously gave insights to all I am about to share with you. Thank you Troy!

Tip #2 Install a Sprinkler System.

It would be a bit pointless to do the following steps to have a green lawn and not have a way to keep it hydrated. So the very first step was to address the fact that we had no way to irrigate the lawn other than me dragging out the sprinkler whenever I remembered to do it! Troy had a great guy he recommended that installed a thorough system for the yard and beds. He explained all the differences in the type of sprinkler heads needed for each area and they work great. The master system, Hydrawise, is WiFi based and I can run it from my mobile devices – anywhere on the planet – and access its schedule and any issues. It is totally cool. I can’t help but make the “Tim the Toolman Taylor” grunt when I fire this up when friends are over to visit!

Tip #3 Get Rid of What You Don’t Want.

Even before we had the irrigation system installed, Troy shared about weed control and fertilizer. Here’s the deal, for the type of lawn we are going for, you cannot use weed control. It will kill the grass. So about June before we panted seed in September, I called and canceled our weed and feed company. And that’s a good thing, since my water bill $ went up!

While this may seem like a weird thing to do, stopping the weed kill makes sense as I have experienced it. One, my taller, healthy grass is winning the battle over pesky weeds. Two, my healthier lawn is green – if there are weeds, they are now concealed in an ocean of green grass, not dormant brown bermuda.

We had to scalp the bermuda grass. We don’t want bermuda, that is, we want the new grass to overtake it. So Troy coached me up on an important and key date – September 15. Whatever I was planning to do with the grass, it needed to happen on Sept. 15. This date is when the summer grass, like bermuda, begins to go dormant for the winter. By the 15th, I had scalped and bagged my lawn a couple of times. Great thing, the shady areas were already bare! I broke up the soil in some spots with a stiff garden rake. I had used an aerator a summer or so back and the soil surprisingly is still not too hard.

Tip #4 Plant What You Do Want.

The next tip Troy gave was to make a trip to our local feed and seed store. I think local is important. No offense to the big box stores, but local pros know Oklahoma’s extreme soil conditions and extreme weather conditions. Sure enough, the good people at Eckroat Seed Co. know what they are doing. Troy recommended two blends they have to be able to address the two areas of my lawn that are really distinct – sun and shade.

Before we seeded and after a lawn scalping, I made a quick trip in the F-150 to get a bed full of fresh topsoil from our friends at Murphy’s products. We have made many a trip to get their rich mix. We have also used their mulches in the past. A few wheelbarrow loads later and we were ready for seed.

For the sunny areas which is the majority of my lawn, I used a blend they call “Premium Tee.” When I mention “plant” what I mean is I have gone around the yard with a garden rake or leaf rake to sweep up any debris or old grass clippings, and to break up the soil a bit. Then I loaded up the seed in a common spinning spreader and covered the lawn. I would go back and hand sprinkle areas that I could see needed more attention or seed.

For the shady areas, I used a blend they call “Endo-Shade.” Wow, this stuff is amazing. Through the years I had attempted coverage in some tough shady spots with other grasses, but this stuff has outperformed anything like that.

Tip #5 Maintenance.

First thing to address here is watering. Especially when the seed went down, we aggressively and frequently watered it. After just a few days, those tiny bright green slivers of life began to pop up. Now we keep it good and moist on a regular, every other night, cycle.

Second, fertilizing. Since I stopped the weed control, that also meant we stopped the feeding. Now I do the fertilizing using a mix from Eckroat. I actually put this blend down liberally right after seeding, and have done it numerous times since.

Third, mowing. I have learned to raise the deck of my mower. What I want is a deep thick lawn. Taller grass reaches further down in the soil and taller grass chokes the weed growth. I actually had my mower set on its highest position, but I have dialed that back one level now.

Some Final Thoughts…

I am so thankful to have the lawn looking great, and it is fun to talk about it when we have guests. This journey has reminded me of some principles:

  • Ask for help in life, and then follow the direction.
  • In life, get rid of the stuff you don’t want, and work toward what you do want.
  • When healthy things are growing, bad things will diminish.
  • Pay attention to staying healthy physically, emotionally, mentally, in relationships and most importantly spiritually.

Remember that we will reap what we sow. Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.Biblegateway

Hey Troy, thank you, and everyone remember September 15!

John Williams – Creativity and Hard Work.

Personal Growth

Through the end of May and the first part of June I traveled quite a bit. My wife and I racked up Over 5000 miles, crossing 13 states, spending nights in 9 hotel and dorm rooms. The trek took us on a journey to Boston on a church trip, and then Jennifer and I went to Birmingham for a convention. There is more to share about both journeys, but I want to focus on one take-away from the Boston trip.

Fruits of Labor

While our group explored the Freedom Trail, Concord, and Plymouth, one outstanding encounter happened at a Friday night concert at The Boston Pops. They were hosting a John Williams tribute night. That’s right the John Williams music that is the movie soundtrack of my childhood – Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Close Encounters, and many more!

Boston Pops Conductor, Keith Lockhart, was a joy to watch as he conducted these all too familiar tunes under the flash of the movie screen above him. I was in awe as these musicians, pros, the best likely in the world at their craft seemingly played with ease the scores that evoke so much emotion. The music swelled and flowed and carried us all along for a grand ride through these iconic films. My wife mentioned that at times she felt so absorbed in the moment to forget that the music was being performed in our presence.

Certainly the conductor and musicians are quite arguably the best. But, the music did not “just happen.” We were experiencing something that had taken countless hours to create.

Focused Creativity

The Pops conductor would lead the orchestra through incredible sweeping pieces, and then take time in between songs to describe details from that particular piece. But, even better, he would segue to Williams himself in video interviews describing his process behind the scenes. Williams shared how tunes and notes were chosen, to his special relationship with writers and directors. He gave so many incredible stories that were a real thrill to hear.

But one thing struck me. One thing has been a major takeaway.

Get to Work

With easy online access to Williams’ talent and creativity, which is immense (just google it), he shared about his own work ethic. Williams, 87 years young, shared that even now, he has a robust routine. It consists of him working 6 days a week (likely 6.5) and involves working in a studio with his favorite pianos, writing out scores of music. From early in the morning, until the evening, he stays focused on the hard work of writing. He mentioned he takes a break for a lunch and a walk mid-day.

You see, I believe many like to assume that, “Oh, he’s just talented,” or “It is easy for him to write like that,” and that is an error. A serious error. There is no doubt this man has been given much in creativity and ability. But, it is nothing without his drive to put pen to paper, or pencil to score in this case. John Williams truly displays creativity coupled with hard work. He quipped in the video dialogue that what has taken him hours on end to dream, create and write out – it takes the brilliant musicians who receive it only moments to play it!

All Thrust No Vector, OR Focus

From this experience, I am encouraged by the coupling of creativity and work ethic. I have a dear friend who is a veteran pilot and current airline captain. He mentioned that through his years he has come across many a young pilot who are “all thrust and no vector.” Meaning, you can have passion, zeal, creativity deluxe, but if there is no channel like a river bed, or no trajectory for a million dollar jet, that energy may never be captured or even released, or worse crashed.

Through this encounter with the heart and mind of John Williams, I am encouraged by two things: that age is relative, and that harnessing creativity takes hard work. I believe we have all been given unique skills, abilities and creativity. Are you working at your creative side and production or simply hoping something just happens?

If you are ever in Boston, definitely go to The Pops – you will be glad you did! Until we return, I do hope to purchase/download this gem that was mentioned at the concert: (Affilitate link used) “Lights, Camera…Music, Six Decades of John Williams.”

Recommended Church Assessment

Discipleship, Leadership, Personal Growth

It is just about time for my annual check-up at the doctor. I know, not real fun stuff to blog about. But attempting to eat right and trying to exercise is only one part of being healthy. Check-ups, wellness checks, and assessments are part of a healthy journey. I can think I am fine, but it helps to know to what degree I am okay.

Have you ever wondered how healthy your church is? Would you know how people in your church rate their own spiritual growth and health? What would the results of some key metrics tell you about their personal maturation, relationship with God and others, heart for the Gospel, their own worship of God individually and corporately? You see, it is one thing to guess how we are doing. It is entirely another to actually investigate it.

Assessment Tool: Transformational Church

In 2018 the ministry staff at my home church began exploring a way to assess our spiritual health and maturity. We wanted to find a tool that would help us dive into some key metrics of overall spiritual health. One of the lead staff found Transformational Church Assessment Tool. By the developers’ own admission, they know no assessment is flawless. However, it is powerful and incredibly well-rounded in its exploration of key areas of growth and maturity.

Personal Impact

This tool is being used by our church to seek out how we are really doing as a group/body (confidential individual results). We wanted to get past some overly simplistic metrics like “how many attend.” It also has another powerful component. I am now readily aware of how I am doing personally. The assessment explored areas of maturity in my life about my personal discipleship, sharing the Gospel, private and corporate worship, giving, my gifts and serving others. But here’s another bonus. Many of you are likely aware of the “Hawthorne Effect.” I do not mean to refer to this effect being used in some manipulative way. The reality is I am now more conscious and aware of what I would call “accountability.” What was unknown in my life or a guess before is now known.

Church Impact

We have developed this year’s entire Theme around being aware of our growth and pursuit of following Jesus. In college I had a class called “Concepts in Fitness.” We had to do a pre-test and post-test that involved max sit-ups, push-ups, mile run time, etc. Part of the grade was to track improvement of our health through the semester by the post-test. Hence, that is our goal this year: at the end of 2019 our church is more aware of our strength level of our discipleship and key areas of improvement. And more importantly, our goal individually. We are challenging each other to grow in key areas. I want to and need to grow in key areas. Areas that I am now aware of clearly. We are providing resources to enhance growth in those aspects of discipleship, and encouraging each other in the journey!

Please share any insights you’ve discovered on a path such as this. For you!