The Ten

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One of the first books I ever read in college was The Rule of St. Benedict. It was written as a set of instructions for incoming monks of the Benedictine Order. St. Benedict gives instruction as to how the men in the monastery are supposed to spend their days. There are sections on praying, working, bedtime habits, meals, governance, and other things that seemed tedious for me to read at the time (especially as a freshman in college who was just starting to find out what true freedom looked like).

These days, however, I look back at that book with much appreciation. St. Benedict wasn’t trying to control the lives of the monks in the monastery, but purpose and order. This is something I long for the older I get. So, I set out pondering my own rules of what I would want for my life and the lives of those who would want to be a part of my monastic community. Below are my “Ten Things”.  In the days and weeks to come I will set out writing about each of these and why they are important parts of my life. I believe this will be a valuable experience in what is important and what is not.

  1. Pray
  2. Read
  3. Write
  4. Fast
  5. Serve
  6. Whisper
  7. Work
  8. Rest
  9. Listen

Dr. Russell Moore Symposium

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I recently was able to attend a symposium hosted by Cornerstone Church in Ames with Dr. Russell Moore.  Dr. Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, or ERLC, the moral and public policy agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. Cornerstone Lead Pastor Jeff Dodge hosted the conversation with questions for Dr. Moore before opening the floor for questions from the audience.

I was drawn in by his compassion for people that he doesn’t agree with, and his highly intelligent arguments to modern ethical issues.  For anyone interested in engaging culture with the Gospel, I highly recommend watching.  He has also authored a few books which can be found here.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH

 

Prayer of the Distressed

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Feeling overwhelmed? Feeling like you’ve been swallowed up? Here is a prayer of someone who felt the same way.

Jonah 2:2 NIV. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.

There is no depth you can be at that God cannot hear you…or reach you.

People Pleasing

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Yesterday was President’s Day.  It doesn’t mean much to people anymore. It’s a holiday invented to honor our supreme national leader (and give government agencies the day off).  I was reminded, however, of something that President Abraham Lincoln said:

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

These words, by poet John Lydgate, were used by President Lincoln to talk about the demands of leadership and meeting people’s expectations. Recently, I have had a lot of expectations to consider.  Due to stressful circumstances in my life, I have been forced to look at who I am and how I do things. This isn’t something that is new. In fact, this is how people grow in maturity. We adapt. We grow. Yet, in this phase of my life I am realizing that the path isn’t always clear. The “grey areas” of life seem to grow and I have been stuck wondering, “where do I go next?”

This is when people give me their thoughts and ideas, and I am brought to wonder how I-and if I-should meet the expectations of those looking into my leadership. The more people I ask, the more opinions and directions I am given and the more convoluted the way seems to be. Who do I listen to? Who do I ignore?

Here are a few questions that run through my mind as I seek to meet the expectations of some, and try to lead them all:

  1. Who are my “Arm Lifters”?  In Exodus 17 Moses and the Israelites are in a battle with the Amalekites. Moses is told by God to go onto the hilltop and raise the staff of God above his head. When he does this the Israelites are victorious over their foes. But holding your hands over your head is hard to do for an entire battle–and Moses wasn’t a young man. So, Aaron and Hur sit Moses down on a rock and lift his arms for him. The hold his arms up. We all need people like this. These are the people we need to listen to and trust.
  2. Am I being asked to go against my character or nature?  Sometimes people expect you to be someone else. In this world of cult of personality it’s easy for someone to put the expectations of another leader onto you. “That church has 1000 people” they may say. Or, “this author has a different approach”. I’m not saying that these are bad things (how could I?). What I am saying is that some of the expectations that leaders encounter are due to unrealistic expectations that are put on them because of some persona incognito. We must ask ourselves if the expectations being placed on us are unrealistic for who we are and what we know we can accomplish.
  3. Why do I want to meet these expectations?  Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book The Power of Other, talks about the human’s desire to please others. That sometimes our drive to please them causes us to make compromises in who we really are.  As a leader it is important to understand why you want to meet an expectation of the people you lead. Do you desire to be accepted? Are you trying to please them so they will do your bidding later? Our motivation to meet expectations should be considered. Sometimes leaders have to make decisions that will be unpopular, but they are the right decision. Sometimes we move people to a place that isn’t easy. A strong leader knows what is motivating them to meet the expectations of others.

President Lincoln was wise to point out the obvious. We CANNOT please everyone…not for very long that is. So, we must know why we make decisions. Why we listen to some, and ignore others. Why we stand for something that others might not. That is leadership.

How to Have a Tough Day

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Tough days are something we all have from time to time. The key is: How do you handle them? Here are a couple of quick tips in how to have expected tough days that won’t keep you down.

  1. Wake up early for it. No point in trying to sleep through it. Meet it head on. There is something about being fully awake for a difficult day that prepares you for obstacles unlike just trying treat it like normal.
  2. Create alliances. When you know you have tough things to say, hard things to do, or difficult news to hear, it helps if there are others that are there to make it as painless as possible. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to hurt. Only that it will hurt considerably less.
  3. Admit that it’s tough. My toughest meetings have almost always been prefaced with “this isn’t going to be an easy meeting for you.” It sets the stage for the difficult journey that is required.
  4. Understand your “dark issues”. Are you a child of divorce with abandonment issues? Are you so afraid of conflict that you sweep everything under the carpet? Do you yell when you’re stressed? Know these things (and more) about yourself in trying times. Say them out loud in the midst of them. “I normally yell at times like these, but I want to have a calm tone with you…” or “I normally run from situations like this, but…”
  5. Ask for feedback.  Sometimes our perception isn’t what is exactly happening. Get others to give their input as to how the difficult situation is being handled.
  6. Seek love. The Bible is right that love “covers a multitude of sins.”  When we seek to show love in the midst of the worst situations it can only be beneficial.  Even more that being understood or agreeing, feeling love and showing love can get you through some pretty tough stuff.

So, next time you’re preparing for a bad day, think of a couple of these and I know it will help.

2016: A Look Back

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It is a tradition every New Year that Karla and I look back at the previous year with review and introspection. Here are the “highs” and “lows” of 2016.

  •  Spring Break trip to Laguna Beach, FL
  • College visit weekend for Grace (University of Iowa, Bradley University, University of Chicago, Loyola University, Lake Forest College)
  • Seth wins U14 Iowa State Cup in soccer
  • Seth plays in regionals in Indianapolis, IN
  • Grace goes to state for the 3rd time in IHSSA storytelling
  • Karla gets new job in West Des Moines School District
  • Brandon and Karla do Whole30 for 6 months losing much needed weight
  • Grace declares University of Iowa as her college destination
  • Westwind Church celebrates its 8th birthday
  • Jason and Tara Bollback move to Iowa to join the Westwind team
  • Brent and Kari Minter leave Westwind to lead church in Ankeny, IA
  • First ever St. Oktobrick’s Fest party: It’s a holiday I invented combining Irish and German cultures
  • Major house remodeling project
  • Seth gets his driving permit
  • Grace travels to Albania for mission trip
  • Karla helps pack up and sell her childhood home
  • Seth gets braces
  • Grace turns 18…nine days after she would be allowed to vote
  • Close out our foster care license
  • Nate and Jamee Heemstra join the Westwind team

A Yearly Consideration

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A year ago I didn’t know the difference between a “whip” and a “nae nae”. I couldn’t fathom that the Hawkeyes would ever end their season undefeated. And, I didn’t know that a world could be held in fear by the violent acts of just a few people with guns. What a difference a year makes.

So, what will this year bring? What unimaginable events will take place in your life that will give you pause for consideration at the end of 2017? For some, it is marriage, graduations, new career paths, births, new starts. For others, 2017 brings the news of serious illness, a family death, or other tragedies that may be too terrible to think about.

The Bible talks about the duality of life in the book of Ecclesiastes:

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:
a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot;
a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build;
a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
a time to search and a time to count as lost;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (HCSB)

This passage shows that life is full of high times and low times. They are to be expected. What matters is how we meet those times—how we face them head on.

Having our minds set on eternal things like God, faith, and love helps us with perspective as we deal with any event in the coming year. We recognize that temporal things fall away and all that remains is what is truly substantive. When we think of the eternal we desire to be around others who do the same, those who have eternity’s values in view. At Westwind Church we encourage people to connect with others in order to experience eternal values lived out in everyday life. This helps us experience the “occasions” that the writer of Ecclesiastes forewarns.

What will this year bring? I cannot tell you. But, what I do know, is that without the right perspective, and the right people beside you, it will be much more difficult. Maybe this is the year that you concentrate on your faith, which will help you no matter what comes your way.

Spicy Snack Mix

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Ever just want something for Thanksgiving just for you? When I get to wanting something like that I make spicy snack mix. My sister-in-law has the recipe, but this is a sweet and spicy caramel topped treat that I love for the holidays. If you want to make it a tad more masculine I would suggest putting some beef jerky bits into it (seriously).

Fair and Square

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As I’ve watched news coverage post-election of President Elect Donald Trump it has been interesting to see their take on their own coverage of the Clinton and Trump campaigns. They still seem stunned that this is happening and many believe it’s because of the two reasons.

First, the celebrity status of Trump is said to “transcend media”. He has over 39 million followers on different social mediums. In one tweet he can spread more news than CNN and NBC combined.  There are articles on how much was written about Trump in comparison to any of the other Republican candidates or Hillary Clinton. Trump used even negative media attention to his benefit. Now it seems as if the media is sorry they used Trump’s status to boost ratings because in actuality they were promoting him.

Secondly, the collective media seems to center their hate on CNN and the New York Times who both boldly proclaimed that Donald Trump had a tupe’s chance in a hurricane of being in the White House come January. The NYT proclaimed with charts and projections that would make a bookie drool. Their front page looked more like a sports book board in Las Vegas than a newspaper website. At one time Trump had less than a 5% chance of winning according to their graph. He was also the least likely of all the Republican candidates (according to their multi-colored graph) to have a chance to beat Clinton. CBS, MSNBC, ABC, and CNN all stood behind the NYT and their projections which is why they all looked so flabbergasted on election night.

I have argued for quite some time that the media was quickly becoming the 4th branch of U.S. government. Their power was becoming too emboldened. Perhaps this recent demonstration of the news actually losing its investigative edge and becoming more editorialized will reboot the news media. However I don’t think it will happen because people tune in to hear bad news and television reporting has become sensationalized celebrities spouting bipartisan talking points which is just as culpable for tearing this country apart as our two party system. Tune in and see.