The Loneliness of a Pastor on a Holiday

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I’ll admit right from the start. This is an awkward post to write (and no, I don’t need an invite for a cookout this weekend). But with the 4th of July coming up, I thought it might be helpful for pastors, for a pastor’s wife, and for church members to understand what a holiday like this is often like for a pastor.

Many pastors and their families do nothing with anyone on a holiday weekend.

This is something that is hard for someone who is not a pastor to understand.

A pastor knows so many people, and because of this, people in their church think the pastor and his wife have a ton of friends. This is rarely the case. Because they know so many people, everyone in their church assumes the pastor and his family is always doing something with someone. So, when a picnic or pool party rolls around in the summer time, no one thinks to invite the pastor and his family because “they probably already have plans.”

I remember how hard this was when we first planted Revolution. I remember when this became obvious. We were talking to someone about a summer holiday, I can’t remember which one and they were surprised we had no plans. And they said, “But you guys know everybody. I thought you’d have 15 invitations.”

Now, if you are an introvert, you may not care. Chances are high though, if you don’t care, your spouse does.

In the past few years, this has changed for our family by doing a few things:

  1. Invite people over. At first we started inviting people to our house on the holiday weekends. If no one invites you to their house, throw a party and invite people over. Have a great time. Besides you’re the pastor, they’ll want to come over. This is also a great opportunity to model hospitality if your church isn’t very good at this.
  2. Build community the rest of the year. We often wait to build community for when we need it. That leaves us lonely and hurting. You have to build community for the time that you need community, if you wait til you need it, it will be too late. Pour into relationships at other times, be a good friend to others. Many pastors struggle with being a good friend and shutting off work and just being a person.
  3. Teach people what it is like to be a leader. Most people have no idea what it is like to be a pastor or be a pastor’s wife or be part of a pastor’s family. Teach them. Talk about it. Recommend books on it or share blogs (like this one). It isn’t that your church doesn’t care, they just don’t know.
  4. Be someone people want to invite over. The reality is, some people don’t hang out with their pastor or his wife because they aren’t fun to be with. It isn’t that they are being mean, it is just that you aren’t any fun to be with. You might be a grumpy pastor, or a bitter pastor’s wife. Fight against that. Be a friend people want to have. Learn how to talk about other topics besides church or God. Have some hobbies you can do with others.

I hope that helps you as a pastor or if you aren’t a pastor, to know how your pastor might feel this weekend. Have a great holiday!

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Something to Laugh at on Father’s Day

How Motherhood Begins, Continues, And…

Recently, I went through a study with some friends through the book of Nehemiah. I was reminded during the study of our journey to adopt and bringing Nehemiah into our family. Two years ago today, our lives changed with a simple phone call. We often joke how you never know what a day will hold when you wake up and this day is a reminder of that.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Josh was preaching though Nehemiah when God changed the beating of our heart from {we will adopt someday} to {God is calling us NOW to adopt}. Our prayer through this time echoed that of Nehemiah: Break our hearts for what breaks Yours. And our hearts broke for the marginalized and orphaned…

After 6 months the initial paperwork was completed and we were accepted into our agency’s Ethiopia program, our desire was for an infant, just like everyone else. As the wait times increased we decided to pursue a concurrent adoption of an domestic infant.

We met a young birthmom, it would have been easy, she had been under the care of her aunt, had never missed an OB appointment, we fit right in with her and the family, and could imagine ourselves at BBQ’s with them all.

But she did not choose us.

A week later, we got a call telling us, “Come to the hospital, bring a car seat and some clothes because we have a baby boy for you!”

This situation was messy and would require so much more from us than we had imagined.

For our son, Nehemiah, God’s hand has been on him from before he was born. Literally, God saved his life. His birthmom was wandering the streets, she had decided to take her own life and the life of her unborn baby. Yet, God in his love planted a love in her heart for that unborn child which saved her own life and his.

The moment of adoption is surreal. So many things go into that moment that moves so quickly.

We found ourselves at the hospital, signing papers to become the parents of a child we had never met.

After we arrived at the hospital, Josh and I sat for hours in the cafeteria just waiting. We couldn’t talk, read or do anything, our hearts were pounding, just wondering what this boy would be like and how our lives would change. They were excruciating hours. Where all you can do is wait some more. You are so close, but you are just waiting some more.

We don’t know how he entered the world, in a fit of screams or a quietly and observant, he would be two days old when we got that call. He was little, born at 5 pounds and who knows how many weeks. Josh always joked that he looked like Benjamin Button because of how wrinkly his skin was and how he hadn’t grown into it.

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The birthmom’s first words to us were, “do you want to hold him?” The emotions in that moment were overwhelming. The answer was yes, but it was also so sad. We learned again in that moment the heartbreak that goes into adoption. Someone places a child for adoption. All situations are different, but adoption always has hurt in it at some level.

We talked with the his birth parents, took some pictures and just adored this little bundle. The birthdad left in a fit of tears, Birthmom went to another room to be discharged. And we were discharged with our newest son. We were in shock, and felt like we were taking someone else’s baby. Yet we were in love and knew that he was entering our family now.

Nehemiah entered our family and community seamlessly. He was little, but overall healthy.

It was the spiritual warfare that we felt during that time that was so hard. I remember waking up at night with him laying in the bassinet next to me seemingly terrified of him… the times of sensing someone else was there.

The tears that flowed after the endless meetings with birthmom the first few months, hearing her story of abuse and neglect, the oppression and demons that she had fought and was currently fighting. The birthdad spent time in jail, he only made it to one or maybe two visits. It was not clean.

The visits tapered off, partly because of our covenant and presumably because it was too hard for her to keep up her end of the agreement.

We have continued to pray, “Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours.”

We are living that, though it is easy to forget and whitewash our Nehemiah’s journey. I wonder now what to do for Birthmom, she lives in squalor, without a proper kitchen. What is our role in her life right now? But I don’t have answers.

I had huge prayers for her to turn her life around to see and cling to Jesus. Those prayers have not been answered as I hoped. In all, you are reminded that you don’t save anyone. This is what people often say to us, “You saved him.” They mean well and we understand, but we didn’t save Nehemiah. We can’t. He’s a precious child that God loves dearly and has great plans for us, but only Jesus can save him.

When Josh and I are asked why we adopted 2 kids, our simple answer is, “God adopted us. This is the best way we know how to show that the world around us.”

Our lives have changed a lot in the last 2 years. We’ve brought Judah home, Nehemiah is now a tank of a kid and into everything as he’s grown. He brings a smile to our face and loves kisses and trailing after his siblings. We pray that as he grows, he will be like Nehemiah in the Bible. That he will grow as a leader, to be a man, that has a heart that breaks for the things of God. That he in some ways, lives up to the name we gave him.

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Thoughts on Turning 35

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I turn 35 today. It is hard to believe all that has happened in my life in 35 years. If the average man lives 70 years on earth, I’m at the halfway point. That has caused me to reflect on things I’ve learned as I look forward to the next 35 years. Here you go:

  1. Pick something you are passionate about and give your life to it. I knew at 18 that I wanted to plant a church. While it took my until I was 28 to do it, everything in my life led me to that moment. I meet so many men who float through life, aimlessly wandering from one job to the next, unsure of what to do with their life. They also seem to have no idea what makes them passionate, what makes them excited, all they know is they hate their job and are miserable. They look at their life and think, “This is all there is” so they play video games, work a dead end job or look at porn. I just preached on this topic on Sunday, but find something worth giving your life to for Jesus and don’t look back.
  2. Commit to your wifeI met Katie when I was 16 and fell in love. She is everything I could hope for in a wife and more. We just celebrated 12 years and every year gets better and better. We’ve had our bumps and hard seasons but through it all, we’ve pushed through, got closer to Jesus and got closer to each other. I love laughing with her, talking with her, cooking with her, and watching her blossom in her artistic gifts. I have a number of friends on their second marriage or are getting divorced and it is so sad to watch people walk through that or see other couples settle for a mediocre marriage. That is their legacy, that they didn’t stay committed, they didn’t push through the valleys to make it to the mountain top.
  3. Protect your healthWhen you are 20, playing a sport year round, you can sleep in, eat whatever you want and probably lose 5 pounds in the process. Except then you get older. I meet a lot of guys who are starters and they start businesses and churches and then burnout in the process. They don’t exercise, sleep well, protect their finances, their calendars and their health deteriorates. I have a friend who is so burned out he has to take three 1 hour naps a day to survive. You are in charge of your health, no one else can protect it. It is hard to stay motivated to workout and eat well, but the end result is worth it (and the end result isn’t a certain body it is living well and longer).
  4. Make your kids a higher priority than they are. It is easy to make other things more of a priority than your kids. Men make their jobs, they make carting their kids to activities more of a priority than having a relationship with them (and yes you might be at their stuff, but you aren’t building a relationship with them while they do it). Each of our kids are different and like different things. It is a challenge as our family has grown for Katie and I to spend time together, have a weekly date night (because my relationship with Katie is more important to our family than our relationship with kids), have hobbies and friendships and spend time with our kids, but the investment is worth it. Make sure you are having regular daddy dates with them, doing things they enjoy with them, not just watching them do things.
  5. You are responsible for your relationship with God. No one else is responsible for this. Your pastor isn’t, you are. If you aren’t growing in your relationship with Jesus, that is your fault. Men like to pass this off to someone else, but it is on them. Spend time with God. I’m not a morning person, but reading my bible is the first thing I do when I get up.
  6. Read more. Every great leader is a reader. I don’t think this is a coincidence. While women tend to read more than men, if you are a man who wants to accomplish something, you need to keep growing. Don’t be content with what you know, push for more knowledge, more skills, hone the skills you have. If you don’t know what to read, start here and here.
  7. Make some close friends and invest in those relationships. Men are not good at friendships with other men. If you ask most men who their close friends are, you will get blank stares. The older I get the more important close friends are. I’m an introvert so I don’t have a ton of relationships, instead, I prefer to have a few close friendships with people I connect with regularly. Make this a priority. I have talked with a number of men who are in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s who have no close friends and it is tragic.
  8. Find a mentorMen need mentors. They need someone who is further in life when it comes to their career, leadership, being a father and husband, managing money, their relationship with God. Look at your life and see the areas you want to grow in and find someone who is further along in that area. I have multiple mentors in different areas. I simply ask them, “I want to get better at _____, you are better at that than I am, can you help me grow in that area?”
  9. It’s not too late to accomplish goals. If you have a goal, go for it. I have had a goal to write a book and I’m almost there. Too many men seem to have a lot of goals and hopes and never do anything. This leads men to have midlife crisis, feel aimless, have regrets as they look back on their lives. Decide today what is going to matter most in your life, how do glorify God the most and do that. Put your energy towards that.
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Making Room for What Matters | Sleep

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On Sunday, I finished our Breathing Room series at Revolution by looking at how to find breathing room between work, life and everything that has to get done. This week, I want to share 6 simple ways I’ve done that and you can to. I’m going to share one each day so you have time to process them and hopefully put some things into practice.

The first one: Get a good night sleep. 

This might seem like a silly way to start. Everyone knows how important sleep is. We know how we feel in the afternoon if we don’t get a good night sleep. If you have kids, you know that you are a better parent when you get good sleep. You are a better student, boss, employee when you get a good night of sleep. You are more creative, lively and all around, more enjoyable when you get a good night sleep.

Yet, how often do you find yourself laying on the couch watching TV when you should be laying in bed? How often do you find yourself staring at a computer screen checking email, scrolling through Facebook when you should be in bed?

More than you want to admit?

Then you need better sleep.

What is fascinating to me in the Bible is how a day starts at night. When God creates things, when he establishes the Sabbath, talks about time, he starts at night. He starts at sleep.

What if you had the mindset that your day started when you went to sleep instead of when you get up?

It changes how you think about things. Talking about starting your day off right starts at 10pm.

Why 10pm?

That’s when your body begins to shut down.

When people talk about a second wind, they get that around 9:30-10pm. If you don’t go to bed then, you will struggle to fall asleep.

Don’t believe me?

Stay up past 10 tonight and see if it is hard to fall asleep. Go to bed by 10 tomorrow night and see how it goes.

Sleep matters. 

So, how do you get a good night sleep?

It isn’t taking sleeping pills (unless your doctor thinks you should, but even then it probably isn’t a good idea). Here are 5 things to do to get a restful night of sleep:

  1. Sleep in a dark room.
  2. Turn off the ringer on your phone.
  3. Don’t look at electronics before going to bed.
  4. Don’t eat after 8.
  5. Set your alarm to get up at the same time each day.

There are more things you can do, but this is a good start.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how to create margin in your day by staying alert and awake.

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Control Your Own Destiny

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Yesterday was week 17 of a thrilling NFL season. As a Steelers fan, I could hardly believe that we still had a shot at the playoffs after starting 0-4. While it was disappointing we didn’t get in, and one of my sons did cry about it, but it got me thinking: football is easier when you control your own destiny. 

The same is true in life.

It is easier when you control your own destiny. 

Yet, so many people don’t.

Here’s what I mean.

We allow others to dictate what is important to us. What we spend our money on. What things our kids sign up for. Where we vacation. If we exercise or not or have an overall healthy lifestyle. Others dictate how we run our calendars, work habits, and even emotions.

For many people, very little of what they do is what they want to do.

Which leaves them tired, burned out, stressed, lifeless and ultimately, playing catch up instead of walking into the playoffs of life.

Here are 4 things you can do to control your own destiny:

  1. Decide you will. This is the first step of anything. If you are struggling with an addiction, you have to identify it and decide this is the time to change. It is the same with your destiny. Make a conscious choice to control it and put things into place to keep this true in your life.
  2. Accountability and systems to make it happen. You may need to have a friend hold you accountable with this. You might need to put some systems into place. If you have kids, keep the activities they do at a time to one. Not 4, but one. Keep the extra things you do to one. Will this keep you or your kids from having a well rounded, experiential life? I’m not sure, but that isn’t the goal. Who cares if they play 5 sports or do dance, horseback riding, cello lessons and soccer. Oh, you care? Someone else cares for you? Then read point #3.
  3. Identify the fear, idol, or desire that causes you to give away your destiny. This drives so much of what we do. We talked about this yesterday at Revolution. The fear we will miss out or not matter drives so much of what we do and the choices we make with our calendar, money and lifestyle. Stop it. Identify that this is a lie and identify the truth. The person who is driving this in your life did not die on the cross for you and rise from the dead to set you free. Jesus did. If you have trusted in this, you are approved. Your destiny is set. Which leads to the last one.
  4. Trust that God’s destiny is better than what someone else can come up with for you. Approval in God is hard to believe sometimes. The idea that I am approved as a follower of Jesus because of his death and resurrection is hard to believe. I can’t be more approved in him. There isn’t some approval waiting around a corner that I haven’t experienced yet. Because of this, my destiny is set and secure. This is a daily practice of reminding myself of this. Believing my destiny is secure and it is better than what I could come up with or the person(s) driving me right now.

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Merry Christmas!

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From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

I appreciate the time you take as a reader to spend on my blog, sharing what you like, giving feedback through comments and enriching my life through your thoughts.

I hope you are able to spend today with those you love and that it is extra special.

Eat more than you should, hold your loved ones a little tighter than normal and relax because Jesus came to earth and is God so you don’t have to be.

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Balance is a Pipedream

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As the holidays get closer, schedules get busier. There are parties to attend, pageants to go to, rehearsals for Christmas shows, tree lightings, decorations to buy and hang, presents to buy and wrap, food to prepare and all the while, still keeping up with everything else you do.

December 26th will roll around and most people will want to fall over in a heap of exhaustion, but there’s no time. We have to return clothes that don’t fit, clothes that are ugly, buy things that are on sale and get Christmas cards and decorations for next year because they are on sale for 80% off.

Over the next several weeks, people will quietly vent about all that they are doing and will do to friends and family, they will make resolutions in January about slowing down, eating better, working less, checking Facebook and email less, and signing their kids up for less activities. Only to find in February that they can’t wait for summer to hit so they can take a week off and sit around.

But we all know how summer goes.

In these conversations about pace, tiredness, doing too much, working too much, sleeping too little, an interesting work and concept comes up.

Balance.

Whenever someone says they are tired or doing too much, a friend with good intentions will respond, “You need to get balance in your life.” We talk about work life balance. Balancing schedules, checkbooks, planners, and activities.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, balance is a pipedream.

The next time someone tells you that you need to have more balance in your life, ask him or her what that means or looks like. You’ll get blank stares.

No one seems to know.

Yet, everyone is going for it.

Here’s a better way to think about life, work, kids, money, sleep, food and anything else you try to get balance in.

Every time you say yes to something you say no to something else.

Think about it like this. Whenever you say yes to staying up too late watching TV and eating ice cream you say no to a good night sleep, more sleep and a trimmer waist line.

Whenever you say yes to sign your child up for everyone team and activity you can throw at them, you say no to a sustainable pace, family dinners and overall health.

Whenever you say yes to work late you may say yes to a promotion and more money, but you also say no to family time, relaxing, time with friends and unwinding with a good book.

When you say yes to going into debt, you say no to peace in your life and bank account.

When you say yes to that extra piece of pie over the holidays, you say no to health.

Remember, balance is a pipe dream.

Are all these examples wrong? Not at all. You should eat some good dessert over the holidays. You should sign your kids up for fun things. You should buy nice things you can afford and bless others with nice presents. All of those are great things.

Take a minute though and remember last December, last January and February. What did you feel? Exhaustion, a longing for a break and rest that never came.

Now, the question isn’t should I do these things, it is more about, and what do you want to say yes to and say no to. Because, every time you say yes to something, you say no to something else. Every time.

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Christmas Music You Should Own

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I’m not a huge fan of Christmas music, but thankfully, there is some really good Christmas music out there. Here are some of the ones our family is loving this year:

Enjoy!

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Things I’m Thankful For

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Tomorrow is thanksgiving and then Black Friday and then Christmas will be here. In the midst of the holidays, it is easy to fly through them and miss what matters most. I thought I’d take a minute to share some things I am thankful for this year.

  1. My wife. It is hard to believe that Katie and I have celebrated 18 thanksgivings together from marriage and dating. It never gets old. Everyday I am blown away by her patience with me and our kids, the determination she shows in teaching them and her growth in godliness. She wakes up while it is dark out just to read her bible and pray for me and our kids and other needs. Her generosity challenges me everyday. She opens our home up to people, makes them feel welcomed and loved whenever they are here. I love being with her, watching her grow and do things and seeing how God uses her.
  2. My kids. It is hard to believe that I have 5 kids. While transitioning 2 new kids in the last 2 years into our family via adoption has had its challenges, the joys have far outweighed those challenges. Each night as we sit around the table as a family I’m blown away the noise our family can make. I’m also wondering what impact our kids will make in the world. God brought each child into our family for a reason, given us 18 years to train them and disciple them into adults who love Jesus and I can’t wait to see what they do with that. It is humbling and an overwhelming task.
  3. My church. Revolution Church celebrated 5 years this past September. Many churches don’t make it past year one. The things God has brought us through have prepared us for what is ahead. Today, we are stronger than ever before. Our staff and leaders are more talented, gifted and passionate than ever before. Our staff and elders are stronger as a team than we’ve ever been. We are healthier, financially stronger than ever and on track to plant Revolution Church Midtown next year.
  4. God’s protection in our lives and church. While difficulties come every year and I’ve grown to expect them in life, it is amazing to see how God protected us as well. Friends have moved out of our lives, people have left Revolution and those always hurt, no matter what. They are also reminders of God’s protection and his perfect timing. Looking back, I’m able to see how God moved in the perfect way. He brought Judah into our family at the right time.
  5. The Steelers play on Thanksgiving night. While I’m not sure they’ll win, the fact that they will play is a great way to end the day.
  6. My parents living close. My dad is one of my best friends and I love my mom. It was hard living apart from them for so many years and it is awesome having them less than a mile from our house. I love watching the relationship they have with our kids.
  7. Time off. Many pastors either don’t take time off because of ego or because their church won’t let them. I love that I have some down time this weekend and have a great friend preaching for me (seriously, he is really good and you don’t want to miss it). Thanksgiving also means it’s almost Christmas which is a little bit more time to catch my breath and enjoy my family.
  8. Homeschooling. This has become a serious blessing to our family. I don’t talk about it that much because what we do for our family works for our family and I don’t believe homeschooling is the only way to educate your kids. It works for us, our rhythm, allows to be together more and be on mission more strategically as a family. This past year has been a real blessing for that.
  9. Life changing books. Every year I read a ton of books and I’m on pace to reach my goal of 75 this year. I read 3 life changing books this year: Start with Why (the best leadership book I’ve ever read), A Praying Lifeand In Search of Deep FaithIf you want a book to read this month, pick one of those.
  10. A full house. Tomorrow, we will have a full house of family and friends. It never gets old having people into our house to enjoy a good meal. One of the things we want is to use our house to be open to people, to be hospitable. I love how our kids get this vision and ask who is coming over and how excited they get when people are here. A house is a gift from God and is meant to show people his love and grace. I’m hopeful that will happen tomorrow.

What are you thankful for this year?