What Are You Passionate About?

It all started a few days ago when I read a tweet by Allison Vesterfelt (you really should check out her blog, you know…it’s really that good) that said: “Instead of asking people what they do, ask them what they’re passionate about. Great advice from @theminimalists (you should check them out, too).” So I posted the statement on my Facebook page, and that’s when the fun began.

Passion

As people “liked” my post, I specifically asked them what they were passionate about. People were readily willing to answer the question. What great and interesting answers there were:

  • Baking!
  • Accompanying other musicians on the piano
  • Kids. From teaching Sunday School to coaching soccer. I love working with kids.
  • My family
  • Good words. However they are expressed.
  • Helping my students be the best they can, my family, and following the Lord
  • Training, equipping, and encouraging people in the gifts God has given them

Then someone asked me what I was passionate about. The funny thing about your passions is that they are right at your fingertips. You don’t even have to think about what they are. You know immediately.

So, I said: “I’m passionate about helping and encouraging people to chase after their dreams.” I immediately thought about how I helped our kids do that. I thought of how I loved encouraging college students to do it in my thirteen years of teaching at a university.  I thought of how, even now, I have a mentoring group of four young men that I love encouraging to pursue and follow after their dreams. I provide them materials to read that will help them think and dream. I encourage them to write down goals. I enjoy one-on-one time with each of them to provide personal encouragement.

But that isn’t my only passion. The small amount of space on social media won’t allow for my other passions, things like:

  • My family
  • Music of all kinds
  • My relationship with my Savior
  • Biking
  • Date nights with my wife
  • Eating good food
  • The Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers

We are complex people who have many and various kinds of passions. But it sure is fascinating to ask someone what theirs is, and hear which is the first to come out of her mouth. It gets deep into the depths of a person with one quick question and answer.

So I’m going to ask you. I want to know you better. I want to learn from you.

What are you passionate about? 

How’s a Dad to Feel When His Daughter Goes Wedding Dress Shopping?

When our daughter got engaged in December, I had no idea what I was going to face in the coming days and weeks. Who knew that one of the first things to be done following an engagement is to go shopping for a wedding dress? Apparently it takes months for the wedding dress to be delivered once it is ordered. Then it needs to be altered, which takes even longer.

Ashlyn & Me

So less than a month after the engagement, off went my wife with our daughter and her future mother-in-law and sister-in-law. I may be an unusual dad, but I was feeling just a little left out. I wanted to go along. I wanted to feel a part of it all. I have never minded shopping, and this seemed to be one of the most important shopping days of my daughter’s entire life.

But “left out” wasn’t the only emotion I was feeling. My emotions were all over the map. So I decided to have a little fun with it and ask my Facebook friends just how I was supposed to feel while my (only) daughter was shopping for a wedding dress. Answers were predictable, poignant, even funny. People posted things like:

  • Lucky if he doesn’t have to go along.
  • Happy, and proud, and excited. Also a little left out of the fun, she’s all grown up, is this really happening? Shall I go on?
  • Happy, excited on the surface, a little wistful below, and profoundly glad that God has brought two beautiful people together.
  • If it’s anything like how the old babysitter feels, then I wish I was there to hug you.
  • I’m going to go with sadly elated.
  • Broke.
  • Old.
  • Very poooooor!
  • Happy but sad at the same time.

Yep. I pretty much felt all of those things. For some reason I kept having flashbacks of the moment she was born. I was wondering how this all happened so fast. I was incredibly happy for her. I was melancholy for me.

Time has a way of passing and stealing away moments that you wish would last forever. But time doesn’t stop. It keeps going and keeps on giving gifts that come into the present.

That’s why my wife, Tammy, and I always made a point of enjoying each and every stage through which our kids went. And that includes this present stage. It means that we will have a wonderful new member of the family and a whole new phase of life that will produce all new moments and memories.

In the mean time, we went to the bridal store last Saturday. I got to see Ashlyn try on her dress. I pulled out the credit card and paid for it. And I recognized that the little baby who made me shed tears of joy when she was born, is at the phase and stage of life that will probably make me shed more tears over time gone by, over moments that have passed, over memories about to be made, over my little girl becoming a married woman…always mine, but also now belonging to another whom we love like a son.

So, how’s a dad to feel when his daughter goes wedding dress shopping? The whole gamut of emotions.

But mostly blessed.

How would, or will, or did you feel?

A Simple Way to Say More Than Just “Thank You”

Sometimes “thank yous” can be pretty empty. I’ve experienced plenty of empty “thank yous” in my life, and I’m sure you have, too. A simple “thank you”…just those two words…may, at times, not be enough. One can almost always tell whether or not a “thank you” is sincere.

Thank You Green Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

Sometimes someone says “thank you” because they’ve been told to, or they feel obligated, or they don’t know what else to say. It’s understandable. But I try not to get myself into a similar situation. When I say “thank you” to someone, I want them to know that I really mean it. If not, I try not to say anything at all.

Here’s how to make sure the recipient of your “thank you” knows that you are sincere:

Add a specific compliment to your “thank you.”

For instance, I know how intimidating it can be to preach in front of other pastors. So whenever I sit at the feet of another pastor and listen to his sermon, I always thank him for his message, and I add to my “thank you” a specific thing I liked about the sermon. It gives me the opportunity to listen carefully, and it provides affirmation for the one who has preached.

When our son, Ben, played his recent CD release show with his band, My Red and Blue, he made sure to thank each of his band mates for all they had done to help him. As he did so, he made sure to compliment them specifically for the way they had played, or the time they had put in, or all they had done to make the evening a success. It’s money in the bank. People are much more apt to loyal and helpful in the future if they sense your sincerity today.

So give it a try today. Add a specific compliment to your “thank you.” You’ll feel good about it, and the recipient of the “thank you” will feel truly thanked.

How do you make sure people know that your “thank yous” are sincere?

If You Don’t Change, You’ll Face the Far-Reaching Consequences

Failure to change and keep up with the times has consequences far more reaching than you may know. Last night we had to go buy a computer for my wife, Tammy. We have two other perfectly fine computers in our home, both in working condition.

Time For Change

So, why, you may ask, did we have to go buy another one? Tammy is employed by a charter school of the Seminole County (Fla.) public schools. The online resources they use for report cards and other tracking can only be accessed through the use of Internet Explorer. And Internet Explorer does not work on Macintosh computers. Both of the computers in our home happen to be Macs (I wouldn’t have it any other way).

As a result, Tammy couldn’t use our computers to do any work at home. And that put her at a distinct disadvantage. So we had to invest our hard-earned money on an inferior machine, just so she could get on an inferior browser to go to an inferior web site to do work she needs to do at home.

Ridiculous.

Failure to keep up with the times, to invest in state-0f-the-art technology, to do what it takes to be on the cutting edge has consequences of which you may not even be aware. Some bureaucrat refuses to change and update software, so the consequences have an impact on the family budget of workers in their schools. Can you say “short-sighted”?

Our world is changing and advancing faster than ever before. Those who keep up (as best they can) will benefit. Those who fight change will face ever more far-reaching consequences. It’s hard work to keep up with everything. But keeping up will mean easier connection with those you serve, those you hope to reach, those you work with, and even those who work for you. There will be less resentment and more buy-in from all of your constituencies.

Instead of making life frustrating for others because of reluctance to upgrade, bring about change that makes peoples’ lives easier, more meaningful, and faster to connect with others. Upgrading technology may seem impersonal. But streamlining life brings people together and makes for happy employees, faithful customers or members, and less frustrating interactions.

It may seem silly or even obvious, but it’s more important now than ever before to 

  • keep up with the times
  • invest in state-0f-the-art technology
  • and do what it takes to be on the cutting edge

What are you doing to make sure that you are bringing about positive change in your life, organization, or company?

What Training for a 100 Mile Bike Ride Taught Me About Setting Goals

It was either crazy or foolish. I told our congregation I would ride my bike 100 miles in one day to raise money for a pending deficit. The deal was this: 1. I ride 100 miles; 2. They pledge what they can to help ease our end-of-year deficit.

Bicycle Ride

So I started riding. And riding. …And riding.

The pledges started rolling in until they totaled almost $26,000. And my bike wheels started rolling until I was riding 100, 125, 150 miles per week.

Over those many, many miles of bike trail I have learned some lessons about major goals that roll right into the rest of life:

  1. Give people something to rally around, and they will respond. If we had just simply said, “Please consider decreasing our deficit by making an end-of-year gift,” we probably would not have received a fraction of what will be taken in as a result of this ride. When people had something to rally around, the response was quick and generous, with “lead” gifts paving the way.
  2. When you set a goal, announce it out loud to a group of people. It’s hard to go back on a goal that others have heard come out of your mouth. In fact, chances are that you will achieve your goal.
  3. Learn from others who have gone before. When I set out to train for my “century” ride, I did all kinds of research to find a training plan that would work for me. Without doing that, I may not have been ready, or I could have injured myself, or I may have had to “reinvent the wheel.”
  4. Enlist a partner. When I announced I would do the ride, I encouraged anyone who could to ride along with me. I made special mention of it to the four young men in my mentoring group. One of them, Justin Fricke, took me up on it. Justin is a self-proclaimed “weekend warrior” who’s been training both alone and together with me…and blogging about it. When we ride together the time goes much faster and our common encouragement and support helps when muscles fatigue and bodies get tired.
  5. Stick with it. Blogger, Seth Godin, talks about “The Dip”: pushing through that time when others might just quit. There have been mornings when I have felt like staying in bed, when I haven’t felt like pedaling any further, when I feared yet another steep incline (in Florida inclines aren’t natural…they’re bridges over roads). Yet I couldn’t let all those people  down (see #1), and I couldn’t let myself down.
  6. Get support. Often, to accomplish a goal it takes more than individual fortitude. It takes help and support along the way. A group of young adults in our congregation are going to be the “support team” for our century ride. They will meet us along the way with liquids, nourishment, encouragement, and anything else we might need. It really helps to have someone cheer you along as you set out to accomplish your goal.

Don’t shy away from goals that stretch you a little…or a lot. If I can ride a bike 100 miles, there’s so much you can do, too.

What advice do you have to help accomplish a big, hairy, audacious goal?

Surprise! Not Everyone Likes You

Apparently not everyone likes me. The other day our congregational president was calling members of our church, following up on our recent stewardship effort. One call put him in contact with someone who hadn’t been to church in quite some time. When our president inquired “why,” the response was: “I was a Pastor (“so and so”) fan; not much of a Pastor Eggebrecht fan.”

Hmm. Really?

Dislike

I guess there are worse reasons not to attend a church. It just sort of felt so “personal” when this information was relayed to me. OK, I’ll admit it, I was hurt. I know I shouldn’t have been. And I know that, as a leader, not everyone will like me. But that doesn’t take away the fact that I’m a human being who has feelings.

As a “pastor type” I want everyone to be happy. I feel a certain burden and responsibility if someone doesn’t like “church” because they don’t like me.

But this isn’t the first time. And it won’t be the last. We live in a fallen world filled with people and personalities, some that get along and others that don’t. Sometimes personal preferences are just that: preferences.

What I’m trying to teach myself is that it’s OK if (surprise!) not everyone likes me. It’s perfectly fine if someone finds a place or a preacher with whom they can better connect.

It isn’t easy for me, because like everyone else I want to be loved. But people in public, visible positions of leadership will not always be liked. The other day I read a tweet by Andy Andrews that said, “If you need everyone to be happy, you should be a wedding planner not a leader.”

I don’t want to be a wedding planner (that’s another story for another day). So I better get used to everyone not being happy. Not that I won’t try to make that happen. I just won’t expect it to happen.

So don’t be surprised when not everyone likes you. Especially when you’re out in front doing uncomfortable things, blazing trails, making well-thought-out changes, or simply being you.

What’s your response when you discover someone doesn’t like you?

You Never Know When You’ll Have an Impact

You never know when you’ll have an impact on someone, so keep your eyes open for opportunities. I’m not sure my eyes were open when I entered the college classroom to teach a theology class. There, sitting at the back of the room with one of his friends, was Tanner. Before the class even started Tanner began to engage me and the entire class with his humor. He was already joking about the amount of homework, or some inside joke he had with one of his friends, or what the first assignment was going to be.

Tanner

Of all the students in the class, Tanner was the one I thought I might impact the least. I wasn’t sure that he’d be engaged or anxious to learn what we had in front of us. But as the class proceeded over the next few months, I found Tanner to be thoughtful in his response (albeit, often with a joke included!), faithful in his studies, and ready to take on challenges.

It turned out that wasn’t the last time I had Tanner in one of my classes. Nor was it the last time I would encounter him in everyday life. There was the time my wife and I gave him and his roommates a large screen TV. There was the time I ran into him in the university library and had a great chat. There was the time he came and visited our new congregation in Florida, even after we had moved away from Milwaukee.

And there was the time he asked for support for his Kickstarter campaign to record a “spoken word” album…and the time he asked for a reference for a job he desperately wanted.

Then there was the time I opened up the CD packaging for his dream-fulfilling “spoken word” album, only to see my name listed amongst those he was “thanking.” It brought me almost to the point of tears. I wondered what I had done to be thanked. Really all I had done was recognize a person with unique gifts and talents, and encouraged him at times along the way to pursue his dreams. Apparently that encouragement meant something to Tanner. And it meant more to me than he will ever know that he simply thanked me for having a small part in pursuing his dream.

This is what all adults ought to do, not only with their own children, but with any younger people with whom they have influence. Encourage them to dream, and hope, and live, and love, and chase after what makes her heart fly or his adrenaline rush. It’s the reason one of the highlights of every month is to meet together with four young men who have become a part of my year-long mentoring group. We read. We encourage one another. We push each other. We joke around. We support hopes and dreams. We value open and honest discussions.

And I see right in front of me dreams being planned and pursued, and even coming true.

So thank you, Tanner, for the “thank you.” You have had an impact on me by making me realize that a little encouragement goes a long way. I will never forget the joy and laughter you brought to our classes there at good old CUW. But more than that, I’m looking forward to seeing where your life leads next.

And, by the way, Tanner also got the job.

Whom is it in your web of relationships that you can impact and encourage to chase after her or his dream?

God Uses Even Jerks

God has always used jerks. He used people like Abraham, David, and even Paul. All of them had their jerky moments.

John Mayer

He even uses jerks who don’t even know they are being used by Him. Like John Mayer.

Not long ago I was on a flight from San Antonio to Orlando. One of my favorite places to be is 30,000 feet in the air. It’s free from disruption and interruption. It’s a great place to do some reading and to put ear buds in and listen to some music. For me, it’s a pleasant, solitary experience in the best possible way.

So after we climbed high enough to be allowed to operate electronic devices, I decided to turn on some John Mayer and read a good book. Now John has had his problems and issues. Many people would consider him a jerk. But in that moment, on that plane, with his music playing in my ears, God was using him to bring pleasure into my life.

As I listened to John Mayer’s music, I was taken back to times and places I had forgotten. I was filled with a spectrum of emotions. I was overwhelmed by songwriting brilliance and incredible skill on the guitar.

One of the reasons God gives us vocation in life is to serve others. Sometimes we do so without even knowing it. John Mayer has been given the vocation of entertainer. And that’s what he is, in the best sense of the word…at least for me. He brings pleasure and emotion through his music. I guess you could say I had a “music high” on an airplane high above the ground.

John Mayer’s “jerkiness” is well-documented. But he and his music can still be used in a way that serves others. He certainly serves me when his music is introduced into my life at just the right time. Like music often does, it takes me back to places and times that mean a great deal to me. It rouses emotion that brings a good kind of melancholy, a pure kind of joy, and an encounter with certain kinds of truth.

In the end, we’re all jerks, because we have all fallen far short of the will of God. And yet He uses us to serve others in ways that we may not even know. No matter what your “vocation” may be, it is a gift of God to others.

So thanks, John Mayer, “jerk” that you may be, your music serves me in ways you probably don’t even know or understand.

Whose music speaks to you and serves you more than any other?

Ryan Braun, Aaron Rodgers, and the Price of True Friendship

Ryan Braun and Aaron Rodgers, the stars of my two favorite professional sports franchises, are in the midst of teaching us a lesson on the price of true friendship. I wonder how it will turn out.

Ascension Pentecost

To know me is to know that I am the die hard of all die hard Milwaukee Brewers fan. I have been a fan since they came to town in 1970. For thirteen years we held a partial season ticket package. I have all manner of clothing that reflects my fandom. My car now sports a Florida license plate on the back, and a Milwaukee Brewers license plate on the front.

Even after allegations of steroid use (and an overturned “failed test”) I supported the now-suspended Ryan Braun, naively believed him, and even defended him to those who (more rationally) didn’t believe his lies. I am hurt, disappointed, and still sorting through all my other feelings.

I don’t know Ryan Braun personally, but I’m certain those who do know him have feelings that are much more magnified than mine. In fact, some, including Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, have come out and spoken about it. Rodgers is reportedly very disappointed that Braun repeatedly lied to his face. The quarterback says that he believes in forgiveness, but won’t say if he still considers Braun a friend.

It seems to me that’s exactly what true friendship is all about. Far be it from me to criticize my favorite football player and the “idol” of all “Packer Nation,” but true friendship means forgiving and forgetting. It means doing whatever one can to “put the best construction” on our friend’s behavior, call him to repentance, help him in his rehabilitation, and stick with him through thick and thin.

True friendship has a price. Sometimes it costs our comfort, a bit of our own dignity, and maybe even part of our reputation. In fact, true friendship means backing our friends with our very life.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And we all know what He did for His friends.

Now, I’m certainly not putting Aaron Rodgers on par with Jesus. But if I would ever mess up as publicly as did Ryan Braun, I would want (no, need) a friend who stands by me, forgives me, calls me to repentance, and helps me to rehabilitate my life.

I bet you’d want the same.

And it’s actually what we get. Regardless of whether we mess up publicly or privately, we all mess up (i.e., sin). We all need the perfect Friend who is, in fact, not only willing but in actuality does give His life. We have a Savior who has given His life for us. He covers over the ugliness of our sin, forgives us, enables our repentance, and rehabilitates our lives.

I’m told that Aaron Rodgers is a Christian. In light of that, I ask you, Aaron, to not only forgive your friend, Ryan, but to continue to be a friend to him.

In your opinion, what is the essence of true friendship?

Home Isn’t Just Where the Heart Is

They say you can’t go back home. But that’s what we did recently for our first vacation since we left Milwaukee one year ago. My wife, Tammy, and I went back home, but it really isn’t “home” any more.

Home

In a sense, Milwaukee will always be my “home,” because it’s where I was born and raised. We still have family there, and wonderful friends. But since then “home” has been St. Louis, western North Carolina, the Washington, D.C., area, and then Milwaukee again…for another fifteen years.

Now we live in Florida. Yes, it’s hot and humid in the summer. Yes, it’s a sea of strip malls. Yes, we have alligators occasionally roaming our neighborhood.

But this is now home. The winters are wonderful. The people we have come to know are great. Our parish has become a family to us.

Yet what really makes it home is that we, Tammy and I, are here together. Our kids now think of this as home. It feels like home when I drive up to our house after a long trip. It’s a place of rest, a place of peace, a sanctuary and fortress against all that the outside world would throw at us.

It is, of course, a shadow of our true Home. Our lives as Christians lean in that direction. When we get to that Place there will be a true sense of togetherness, community, and family. There will be rest, peace, sanctuary and fortress against all that could ever again harm us or make us sad.

They say you can’t go back home. But “they” don’t understand that home is not just where the heart is, it is where our true life lies. We lean toward it and long for it.

What about your home is it that reminds you of your true, eternal home?