life

Holiday Survival Guide

Unknown-3Let’s face it, the frenzy of the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons seem to come earlier and move faster along with a “Christmas Wish” list that grows almost as long as the lines at the mall. Then there are the obligatory events, parties, concerts, fundraisers, year-end meetings, and a new year beckoning for us to be at our visionary and resolved best as leaders.

How do you keep from getting caught up in the merry madness? Here are 5 ways to survive the holidays, maybe even enjoy them again…

1) Declare your intentions now. Talk about your desire to avoid the mayhem this year with your spouse, kids, lead team, co-workers, etc. Ask them for input into how, together, you can avoid the overkill that so often accompanies what one classic song describes as, “The most wonderful time of the year.”

2) Plan on doing (and spending) less and experiencing more. This doesn’t mean taking a page out of the “Christmas with the Cranks” playbook with an all-out boycott. It does mean choosing to say “No” to some otherwise festive events that, collectively, only serve to bring out the “bah-humbug” in all of us. And, why not opt for more thoughtful and less expensive gifts for your loved-ones and friends? This may just start a trend everyone will be grateful for and happy to follow.

3) Eat less, exercise (and sleep) more. Determine to enjoy your favorite holiday foods in moderation and to stay active. And, no, “Black Friday” doesn’t count as aerobic exercise. Get the rest you need by going to bed a little earlier and, when that rare opportunity presents itself, take a “power nap.” Why wait until the New Year to resolve and live healthier?

4) Serve together. What if you gathered your family or small group and traded a day looking for a parking space and standing in crowded lines shopping for an afternoon volunteering at a homeless shelter or evening caroling at a nursing home? Do this with no other agenda than to be a blessing to others.

5) Hit the “pause” button often. No, we can’t always drop everything for several hours. Still, be intentional about some 15-30 minute moments of reflection daily, social media free! Make a list of all the people and the things you are most thankful for. Read the Christmas story (Luke 2) slowly and reflect on what “Immanuel, God with us” really means to you.

You don’t have to settle for merely surviving this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Determine to take back this holiday season and discover again the true reasons for the season.

Lonely Leadership

UnknownLeadership can be a lonely life. Beyond the online image of big events, conferences, retreats, lunch meetings, speaking engagements and more… leadership can leave you feeling isolated and wondering if anyone “gets it” or the world you live in. It’s easy to find yourself increasingly lonely and longing for something missing in all of it.

My wife and I find ourselves in just such a season as I have “moved” to a new assignment while she finishes teaching at a university in another state. Not fun. So, I came up with 5 Ways to Beat Leadership Loneliness while battling a little loneliness myself…

1) Admit you are lonely. It’s okay. While you may be surrounded by busy people in the course of your work, you can still be starved for meaningful relationships that have nothing to do with meeting your next goal or pulling off that upcoming event.

Admit to yourself, your family and a few trusted friends if you find yourself growing isolated. And, while there is solace in solitude with the Lord, isolation is a different matter. Someone has said, “Isolation is the devil’s home court.” Admit it… you miss people. That doesn’t make you weak, that makes you human.

2) Know your limitations.

You crave relationship.That’s okay. We were created for it! No, you don’t need more work related interaction, you have probably had enough of that. You need people to share the real stuff of life with. You may actually find the extremes of busyness increasing right along with isolation in a bizarre and dangerous irony. How do you know when you are reaching an unhealthy place? Read on…

3) Know your temptations.

Loneliness can lead to lesser things, much less and much worse. Let’s face it, we are all tempted to self-medicate when we are in pain. The enemy knows this and will be right there to “help” with temporary “fixes” that distract from or make the pain of loneliness go away for the moment. Everyone is tempted by some of these… from comfort eating to extreme sports/exercising, pornography to workaholism, binge watching favorite shows to substance abuse, “retail therapy,” and more. How do you keep from falling into these traps?

Know what really tempts you and let a few trusted people in on it (Hint: They may already know!). Draw close to the Lord through worship and the Word. Bring others around who will encourage and hold you accountable. You can live above these temptations! Speaking of accountability…

4) Stay open.

We all need some “alone time.” However, again, it’s easy to become a “hermit” and simply shut out the rest of the world. Resist the temptation to get comfortable with being alone. Stay open to friendships and the accountability they bring. Seek out conversations about things that truly matter. Be willing to ask and, more importantly, be asked questions about your life and leadership. Be there for others as much as you need them to be there for you. Whatever you do, don’t get too used to leading and living as a “party of one.”  We were made for fellowship with God and others!

5) Be active.

Don’t be busy, be active. Find a few things that fuel you spiritually, emotionally, physically and relationally. Find some things you and your spouse, kids or friends also enjoy and get into it! I like to hike, write, work out, read, and a new hobby of kayaking… anything outdoors! Be intentional about carving out regular time to restore, even rest. You will be a better person for your family and leader for your church/organization as you stay active and healthy.

I’ll admit it… I don’t get lonely sometimes, I get just plain pathetic. I need the company of the Lord, my wife, my friends, and a long trail to wander on with them!

What about you? How are you actively beating leadership loneliness? Share your thoughts below…

The “Be There” Dare

images-11Are we really there when we are there? While social media has many redeeming qualities, could we be missing something with our constant posing for pictures and pausing to post? Worse, could we actually be manipulating the experience and messing it up by making it more or less what it could be if we just lived the moment? According to researchers, “One of the most bizarre premises of quantum theory, which has long fascinated philosophers and physicists alike, states that by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality.” (Weizmann Institute Of Science, February 27, 1998; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/02/980227055013.htm)

Here’s my challenge to you, take The “Be There” Dare…

What is the “Be There” Dare? It’s simple. Experience something without pausing for pictures or posting. If you are alone, resist the temptation to invite the rest of the world via another “selfie.” If you are with family and/or friends, refuse to record the moment with anything other than your shared memories. Just be there.

Before anyone protests or reports me to the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat “police,” or I run afoul with any of my photographer friends, please understand. I’m not suggesting we stop recording our memories with family and friends altogether, let alone promoting some “boycott” of our favorite social media sites. Some of you have already observed the irony that I’m plastering this dare on multiple social media platforms.

What I am suggesting is that we enjoy some uninterrupted moments of life for the value of those moments with the people we love. There may just be more to this than meets the eye. Here are 3 reasons I dare you to “Be There…”

1 – When you are there, you will be more there.

2 – When you have simply experienced it, you and those you experienced it with will have it as a shared bond.

3 – When you do reflect on it, you will have only your memories from which to paint the picture of what you shared together. We may just be “forced” to re-weave the moments in a more meaningful way. We will have to remember, reflect and rehearse the experience by engaging in the art of conversation. In doing so we create yet another moment of purer experience… and again and again each time we do so.

There you have it. Something tells me that you have some moments to live that will be more than you have known, more than you have shared. Less will truly be more.

Be there. I dare you.