End Well: The Last 90 Days

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October 1st began the last 90 days of the year. We are in the last quarter of 2018 and the new year will be here before we know it. It’s tempting to begin thinking and planning for 2019 and miss out on what these next few months could offer. But there is still plenty of potential in 2018.

Let’s think back nine months ago to January 1st. You had dreams, plans, and goals for the new year. Some of them you may have abandoned before February 1st. But hopefully, you continued to pursue a few of them.

October is a great time to evaluate the last nine months. How far did you get? Did you achieve some of your goals already? Perhaps you made progress, but not as much as you had planned. What do you need to do to modify the goal?

Is there one practical step you can take this week? This month?

Let’s not waste this time. Let’s not quit on 2018 prematurely. We still have time to make it happen. Set aside an hour to brainstorm. Meet with a friend for some feedback. And let’s leave 2018 swinging for the grandstand!

Three Questions to Ask Yourself

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In Luke’s Gospel (chapter 15), he tells us that the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen. Then he says that the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law were gathering amongst themselves and complaining…mostly about Jesus and “the sinners”.

These two verses tell us so much about faith and life. They suggest there are positive ways to live that will help us be better people. But they also suggest there are negative ways to live that are detrimental to our spiritual well-being.

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I see three questions that we can ask ourselves as a spiritual health check. No. The first one is not whether you should have another donut. The answer to that question is yes, of course! The questions are these: What are we listening to? Who are we gathering around? What are we talking about? 

What/who are we listening to?

I confess that I am a podcast junkie. I listen to podcasts like most people listen to music or the news. And then there are the audiobooks. Best invention ever! I’m an audio learner and this current technology is my sweet, sweet friend. My podcast repertoire and audiobook shelf are filled with lots of authors and genres, although non-fiction is my favorite. It’s important to me that I am not living in an echo chamber listening only to people and ideas that are “just like mine”.

I wonder if this is what intrigued the “sinners” who gathered around Jesus. He was introducing ideas they had never heard. And they were loving it. The Pharisees were not loving it, however. They were upset that Jesus was coming along with a seemingly “new teaching”. I guess that’s why Jesus felt the need to repeatedly clarify that He was not giving a new commandment and he did not come to “demolish the Law”. The “sinners” were listening to Jesus. He was someone very different from them with new ideas. The Pharisees were listening to themselves and others who thought like them.

As leaders and influencers, I believe it is important to pay attention to what we are listening to. I’m not saying that we should censor what we are listening to. But we need to pay attention to it. It is beneficial to listen to and reflect on it. Does it leave us feeling anxious? Why? Does it leave us feeling discouraged? Why? Does it energize us, teach us, inform us, make us better leaders and humans?

Who are we gathering around?

In Luke’s Gospel, the “sinners” were gathered around Jesus; an influential leader of the day. Jim Rohn says we are the average of the five people we spend the most time around. I’m not sure how much social science backs this up, but I know that other people influence us and we influence them. If we, like the Pharisees, spend most of our time with negative people, then we will begin to see negativity all around us. The people in our lives influence our perspective in both positive and negative ways.

I hope you don’t hear me saying to remove all of the negative people from your life. Some of them need our influence. But we can be intentional about the amount of time and quality of time we give these relationships. I have found it helpful to limit interaction with certain people in my circle. And I have been more intentional to add people to my circle who can help me become all that God wants me to be.

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What are we talking about?

What are we talking about when we gather with others? A community is important. It gives us space to connect, grow, love, share, and become more than we can become on our own. But what do we talk about? Do we talk about trivial stuff? Do we share thoughts and ideas? Do we process our feelings? Do we talk about family, marriage, faith, health, or Hollywood?

I am an introvert. For me, small talk is my nightmare. I do it because it’s an icebreaker. But give me a deep conversation that requires me to use my brain and I can talk for hours. It energizes me. I am always looking for the person in the room that is ready to engage in something deeper than the surface. But not everyone feels the same. Maybe you spend your entire day thinking about solutions. And, at the end of the day, you need mindless chatter. Whatever our choice, I think our conversations influence our attitudes the same as what we listen to and with whom we hang out.

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At the end of the day, let’s ask ourselves these questions. What did we listen to today and did it inspire us? Who did we gather with and draw into our circle of influence? And what did we talk about?

When we stop to reflect on these things, it can give us insight into the people we are becoming. And it can help us wake up to the better things life has to offer.

 

Podcast: This is Her Story

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We’re up and running!

It was more than a year ago when I started to contemplate the idea of launching a podcast. I had a vague idea of the premise. But mostly I knew I had things I wanted to say and perhaps this was a way to do it.

We all have things we like and dislike about ourselves. And, like most people, the dislike list is longer than the like list. But at the top of the dislike list is my voice. God, of course, decided to play a cruel joke on me and call me to be a preacher. And if I’m going to be a preacher, then I might as well also start a podcast. Apparently, I’m also a masochist, but I digress.

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As a child, I was always thinking. I had big ideas and strong opinions and most of them I kept to myself. It was difficult enough to get my thoughts on to paper. Speaking them out loud? Ugh. Let me stay behind the scenes. And that’s what I did. I grew up to be a photographer. Photography let me say a thousand words without opening my mouth. Then one day it changed. It was too painful to keep quiet about the things that mattered most.

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That’s sort of what happened with the podcast. There were so many things I wanted to share, but too many to know where to begin. And then I heard a story. The story was of a teenage girl with a call to preach. She was wrestling and questioning. But, what bothered me most, was that she was questioning her right as a female to answer the call to preach. *Sigh*

My first thought? We need to change the internal monologue of women in the church. In order to do that, we need to change the dialogue in the church. And in order to do that, we need to start telling better stories. And, together, we could learn to tell better stories and, perhaps, even change the world.

This is Her Story is a podcast that wants to tell better stories…about women…in ministry. I’m not sure that another theology class will do it. But women clergy being used by God to change their communities? That will preach louder and stronger than any theological textbook! We could drown out the naysayers with our stories of faith. We could lay a foundation for a new generation that begins to see women and men proclaiming Good News while they are standing side by side. And we might even see a resurgence of the Kingdom of God when the fullness of the Gospel is being fully represented by men and women.

I hope you will take a listen. I hope you will be encouraged and challenged. And I hope you will share it with others. Let’s tell better stories…together. And let’s change the world with our voices!

 

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