Archive for December, 2014

korean bbqKorean Barbecue on Christmas day probably doesn’t sound like your typical Christmas meal, but that’s how I spent one Christmas as an “orphan” college student. With my family living in another country, I was planning on spending Christmas Day just like any other day. But my friend’s family invited me over for Christmas dinner and to spend the evening with them. This was a no-brainer for me as I was a fan of Korean barbecue (and any free food in general as a poor college student). What I remember most about that Christmas, however, was the hospitality of the family and how the simple invite made me feel so loved and part of a community.

This season is a time where we are encouraged to focus on others. Many of us serve, volunteer and give to charities. We’ll buy toys for under privileged kids, serve at a soup kitchen for the homeless, or donate money to the salvation army people ringing the bells outside the malls. It’s a festive season where many go the extra mile for others. Then when Christmas day finally comes, the focus usually turns toward our families, food and gifts…lots of gifts. And there is no need to feel bad about gaining Christmas food pounds because New Year’s is just around the corner and we can just make our annual resolution to lose weight!

All this sounds great, doesn’t it? Serve others during the Christmas season, and then enjoy family, good, and gifts on Christmas day. But what about merging the two? Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with spending time with family on Christmas, of course. In fact, I believe that that is a blessing and should be a value and priority. But what if you could do all your planned activities on Christmas day and still be a blessing to others? How you ask?

invitationInvite people over for a Christmas meal.

Specifically, there are five groups of people that probably don’t have any plans and are hungrily waiting to be invited over for a Christmas meal. This may be the easiest and most impactful way to give Christmas to someone in a very personal way. I know I still remember and am grateful for when different families welcomed me into their homes over the holidays.

Here are five groups of people that you may want to consider inviting over on Christmas…

1. International students

Most international students won’t go home for the holidays and they will likely be eager to say yes to anything American related. They love to experience American holidays and you can also learn about their culture and heritage. It will be a beautiful multi-cultural Christmas.

2. Low income families

There are many families that can’t afford a good Christmas meal. You may know some in your church or through a friend. Invite them over and see a twinkle in their eye when they enjoy that meat!

3. Friends without family in the area

I fit in this category. My parents are out of the country and so holiday meals were always a question mark for me, especially before having a family of my own. If you know that your friends are without family, try sending them an invite.

4. College students not going home

College students will never say no to a free meal and they should be more than willing to help clean up afterwards too!

5. Homeless person

This is probably the “scariest” and hardest group of people to serve and invite but they may be the most grateful people at the dining room table. It will give you a different perspective of Christmas and one that you will never forget.

sweet spotWhack! The sound of the sweet spot. That’s how my friend who was helping me with my golf swing, described the beautiful sound you hear when you hit the golf ball perfectly. When your swings force comes down at the right angle with the perfect momentum and everything is aligned – it creates a deeply satisfying “whack” as the ball goes flying straight towards the goal.

What about in life? When you’re thinking about your particular purpose in life – what is your sweet spot? And how do you find it?

This is something that my church talks as part of its Rooted Curriculum – a ten-week journey with a small group designed to engage you with provoking, life-changing conversations that will help you find your purpose in life and deepen your connection to God.

PURPOSE SWEET SPOTAs part of Rooted, we are challenged to think about three areas of our lives: our gifts, our passions, and our life experiences. The intersection of these three areas is where we can find our sweet spot. Finding that spot allows us to be more confident of our authentic self, calling in life, and make a positive impact on those around us. When we find the “job” that fits this sweet spot, we are able to make the biggest contributions and feel satisfied in the process, because it’s where our greatest joy merges with our ability to make a positive impact in the world.

Of course, finding our sweet spot is not a one-time event but an on-going process, especially as we go through different seasons in life. Regardless of where you’re at, here are some questions that you can ask yourself to help you discover your sweet spot and purpose in life.

1. Gifting: What am I good at? 

What tasks are easy and come naturally for me to accomplish? What are some strengths that more than one person has affirmed about me throughout my life? (If you can’t think of any, don’t be afraid to ask/interview those closest to you for their assessment!)

2. Passion: What do I love to do?

What are things that I enjoy thinking or talking about that’s engaging, stimulating and life-giving for me? What things or topics make me feel called to action or inspired to do something? (They don’t need to be grandiose things! For me, one of my passions would be my championship team Spurs!)

3. Story: What life-experiences have I gone through that shape who I am?

What are the stories of my life that have impacted my personality, identity, and values? Where do I see God’s fingerprints in my past and current experiences that may be shaping the next phase of my life story?

I encourage you to regularly reflect on these questions and be purposeful about finding your sweet spot. I believe this is the space where we are both the most satisfied and God is glorified.

 

 

 

 

staples easyHave you seen Staple’s easy button? When you press it, a recorded voice says, “That was easy.” The concept is that at the push of a button, Staples will make your life easier and better. I wish there was a button that I could press to make me a better leader, don’t you? I believe that deep down inside of every person, we want to make a positive difference in this world, but we grapple with our insecurities and inadequacies. At the press of a button, I wish I could possess the perseverance of Abraham Lincoln or the convictions of Nelson Mandela to make the kind of great impact they had in my own sphere of influence.

As we all know, however, there is no easy button to develop great leaders. Rather, successful leaders developed into their greatness by doing small things well first.  Helen Keller stated,  “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” Great leaders care about doing the small things well – not just the things that garner the most attention. They build good habits in their daily life that create the foundation and opportunities for bigger life-changing moments.

In light of this, here are five easy things you can do this week to make yourself a better leader. These aren’t the flashy tips found in leadership books, nor are they magical beans that will instantly make you grow into a leadership giant – but they are things that have helped me take baby steps to communicate better, build better team relationships and broaden my perspectives. I encourage you to try one or more of these things this week and to be intentional about investing in the small – but significant – details of your leadership life.

evernote1. Write thoughts down

I believe the best leaders are those are learners with teachable hearts and the best way to learn is by writing things down. Use whatever works for you. If you’re old fashioned then use that pen and paper. I prefer to use Evernote (best free app for note-taking). It allows me to create “notebooks” for all things such as random thoughts, blog ideas, sermon notes, meeting notes, to do lists, and much more. Buy a notebook or download Evernote this week and start writing things down. It will help you remember, organize, and process your thoughts better.

2. Read a book outside your typical interests

We all have type of books that we prefer to read. My go-to genres are typically leadership and Christian type of books. To take a break from these genres, I am currently reading Boys in a Boat a non-fiction book about nine Americans and their quest for gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The next book I might tackle may be some kind of fiction – a genre I rarely read. Reading books outside your comfort zone allows you to broaden your horizon and get a glimpse into a different perspective and way of thinking. Ask a friend for book recommendations and read something different this week.

3. Give a specific compliment to your team

Have you ever had someone complain to you that you compliment people too much? Probably not. I haven’t. We often don’t affirm our team members enough and this is perhaps the easiest and best way to edify your team dynamics and relationships. When you notice your team do something well this week, drop them a specific and concrete compliment in person, or through an email, thank you note or text message.

4. Ask questions and listen to your team

Leaders typically are known for their ability to talk more than their ability to listen. Leaders need to be known as both. When was the last time you asked your team for their opinion and really listened? Soliciting and genuinely listening to your team’s opinions will get you more buy-in and perhaps a better idea. At your next meeting, try asking your team a question about an issue or thought you’ve been contemplating and write it down to reflect on later.

relationhips5. Take someone on your team out for lunch or coffee

Relationships are the best investment you can make as a leader. When was it on your agenda or to-do list for the day to really spend time getting to know someone on your team? When you spend that extra time with your team, you are communicating that you see them as a person and not just a worker. Your team won’t forget this simple gesture and time; I always appreciate it!

 

smokeyI was driving through the San Bernardino Mountains when I noticed a sign of Smokey the Bear issuing a red flag fire warning. Knowing that this was a common issue in the dry mountains of California, I was unfazed and kept driving despite the potentially dangerous conditions. Likewise, I believe that many of us see red flag warnings in our relationships, but we ignore them and keep driving on together. I did too! I was dating a girl in high school who was hot, but the relationship wasn’t healthy. Even though I realized this, it was so hard to break it off for numerous reasons – perhaps some of you can relate. Eventually, however, I mustered the strength to break it off.

red flagWhat about you? How do you know you are in a healthy relationship? If you are a pastor or leader advising others, what signs do you look for to measure the health of a relationship? I want help identify some red flags in your relationship that may be causing a relational forest fire, so that you can either work towards a healthier relationship or if not yet married – know when it is time to end one. As Smokey says, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

John Gottman, the marriage guru, has combined science and psychology to research and write books on relationships. He’s so good that he can predict with 94% accuracy whether a couple will get divorced after spending ten minutes with them. He’s identified several red flags and I want to share five of them. This applies to not only those who are married, but also those in a serious relationship.

1. Do you show contempt towards each other?

This is the most toxic of all the five red flags because you are taking away the other’s dignity and showing extreme disrespect. It is not just disagreeing with them, it is feeling and portraying the sense that the other person is “lesser” than you. Signs of contempt according to Gottman include “sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor.”

2. Do you criticize each other regularly?

Criticizing is different from complaining. Complaining is normal and part of relationships, but the more long-term issues arise when complaints turn into criticisms. Complaints address the person’s behavior or actions, while criticisms attack the person’s character. An example of a complaint is, “I was hoping we could spend more time today with the family and I’m sad we weren’t able to do this.” A criticism may be, “You never spend time with us. You don’t care about this family and you only care about yourself and work.”

3. Do either of you get defensive quickly?

When we get defensive, we are saying, “It’s all your fault. I am completely justified in my feelings and actions.” It communicates that we are not willing to admit our role in the conflict and rather shift the blame to the other person. The focus is never on ourselves nor on listening nor showing empathy towards why your significant other even if you really were justified in your actions. This is dangerous because it strips away any grace and compassion towards each other as you increasingly become more protective of your own side.

4. Do either of you stonewall consistently?

This is usually found more in men than women, and it usually happens as the tension escalates. The partner becomes like a stonewall in that they fail to give any verbal or non-verbal response. The stonewaller may do this as a strategy to deescalate the conflict, but it only makes the conflict worse.

5. Starting a fight: Does it start off harshly or softly? 

When you have conflict with partner, how does the conversation start? Gottman shares that in 96% of the time, how the conflict starts will predict how it will ends. The start of the conversation may be harsh or critical. This includes statements such as “Why do you always…,” “I can’t believe you did that again,” or “You never listen to me.” These harsh start-up comments will usually end without resolution and if this pattern continues, it can result in severe long-term consequences—divorce or break-up.

On the other hand, when you start the conversation about something that has upset you in a more softened tone, then the other person is more willing to listen and engage in a productive conversation. Of course, this is not easy to do, especially if you are angry, but there are ways you can discipline yourself to reflect on your emotions first, cool down, and then share what upset you with your significant other more gently and with a more neutral tone of voice.

hopeIf you recognize some of these red flags in your relationship, it does not necessarily mean that you should get out of your relationship. Rather, it’s an opportunity to work on the relationship together through introspection, prayer, communication, and counseling. If you are in a marriage relationship and have these red flags, there is absolutely hope to work through these issues together. On the other side of the spectrum if you are not married and if enough of these warning signs are present and continually manifest in your relationship then you may need to re-evaluate the health and direction of that relationship.