Three Reasons Pain Is Actually Good for You

Today our two-month-old grandson got his first shots. I believe the quote from his mother was: “Poor guy screamed and cried so hard he turned red and could barely breathe. But he calmed down fast and is now sleeping.” The little pinch of those shots is necessary to keep away the much more devastating pain of illness and disease.

Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week, intentionally makes things uncomfortable for himself. Tim has written numerous bestselling books, has been involved in multiple start-up companies in Silicon Valley, and has a wildly successful podcast. He could be very comfortable, sit back relax, and be lazy.

But he puts adversity in his own path. He works out religiously and is careful about the food he puts in his body. He’s learned it from other successful people. He knows that no one, no matter how rich, goes through life without difficulty. We might as well be ready for it.

I confess to being lazy sometimes. It’s so much easier to simply remain comfortable, neglect exercise, and eat whatever I want. But becoming mentally tough and doing difficult things is often the better way to go. Here’s why:

  1. Pain now prevents pain later. Like our little grandson’s temporary discomfort, our own pain now will prevent greater pain later. The “pain” of exercise and eating right will prevent the greater difficulty of too much weight, disease, or getting back into shape later on down the road. Other types of pain in our lives do the same.
  2. Adversity builds character. If things are always comfortable, when diversity comes it can be devastating. But if we train ourselves with smaller adversities now, they will make difficulties down the road (perhaps?) a bit easier to take. Character is a much undervalued virtue in this day and age.
  3. Our own pain enables us to help others through theirs. Not only is this practical, it is also biblical. The Bible teaches us that sometimes we go through difficulty so that we can help others. Our experience with a certain adversity will enable us to help others who celebrate that very same adversity.

Adversity and difficulty right now can be a gift. Let’s try to look at it that way. In a sinful world, pain is inevitable. We pray that it will be minimal. And we pray that it will help us to help others.

What other reasons do you have that pain can actually be good for us?

When Change Comes at Just the Right Time

Something earth shattering is taking place in the next couple of weeks. Our congregation is going to a brand new format for our worship folders (bulletins). Change is never easy. But for some unknown reason, change seems to be especially difficult in Christian congregations. To be fair, people like to be comfortable in church. Transitions are apt to move people out of their comfort zones. And that can be difficult.


So we’re moving from a 14-page book-like thing, to a large, tri-fold piece of paper. The entire service will no longer be printed out. The new format will include an outline of the service, announcements, prayer requests, a weekly schedule, and all kinds of other information. We already present the entire service on screens in front of the church. Now people will be reliant on those screens and the hymnals in their hands. It’ll be “hard.” It’s a big change.

But maybe this change is coming at just the right time. The new church year is starting. After a long, hot Florida summer people seem just a little bit complacent. We’re on the verge of some major renovations and repairs to our buildings and property. So maybe, just maybe, this little jolt will be enough to bring a bit of life and light a little spark. In the grand scheme of things it’s small; but it’s big enough to open some eyes.

Here’s what can happen when change comes at just the right time:

  1. It shakes people out of complacency. When things are the same day after day, or week after week, it’s easy to get lulled into a sense of sameness. People get too comfortable. Comfort is OK for a couch or for a good night’s sleep. But when you’re trying to move forward and accomplish things comfort can hold you back. A little discomfort can be good for people or groups trying to move forward in significant ways.
  2. It breaks people of monotony. When boredom sets in it’s tough to get people motivated. But when they’re just a bit on edge their eyes are opened, their senses are heightened, and their wills are piqued. Responsible change breaks monotony and often inspires motivation.
  3. It wakes people to new possibilities. When even small change takes place it allows people to see that larger change can be good, and possible, as well. If we can make it through the trials and challenges of smaller change, our brains are awakened to the fact that overcoming larger obstacles might just be possible as well.

So, we’ll see how the new bulletin format goes. But I’m even more interested to see how the larger changes and challenges on the horizon are met. I’m willing to bet that they’ll be met with a bit of skepticism and fear. But I’m also willing to bet that the same skepticism and fear will turn into massive motivation and larger victories ahead. Stay tuned

What’s your attitude when you face changes in your life?

A Question I Ask Every Time I Meet Someone New

Don’t judge me. I took some training in community organizing. Utter the phrase “community organizing” these days and you’re apt to get an eye roll or a sigh. But I spent some of the most enlightening times of my life organizing people to bring about effective change in an urban neighborhood. One of the keys of community organizing is sitting down face to face with other people and asking a question.


The key to organizing people is to build relationships. Relationships start with two people sitting down face to face, talking to each other, but mostly listening. The organizer, the one trying to accomplish things and get stuff done begins by asking a question. Sure, you might start by asking your counterpart to simply tell about themselves.

But a better, more revealing question is:

What are you struggling with right now?

That question alone helped us to find the pain of the people who lived in our neighborhood. It helped us to empathize with struggles and begin to plan solutions for people who really needed help. Asking that question propelled us toward things like getting stop signs on corners that needed them. But it was also the starting point of getting banks to set aside $35 million to renovate the abandoned homes they owned in our community.

The money from the banks was great, and all. But what I really appreciated was that I got to know, and got to be friends, with people I would have never known before. I’m pretty sure I would have never been in the same room as some of them. But despite our profound differences, we became friends. We worked together to accomplish much.

People in sincere relationship with one another can put aside differences and make things happen. That’s why starting with this simple question, and then paying attention to the answer, will improve a great many things.

So, How can that apply to your job? Where can that improve your church? How could asking that question improve relationships in your family? What positive change will happen tomorrow simply because you asked this question?

Go ahead and give it a try.

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The Two Keys to Measuring Your Effectiveness as a Leader

The election is now over. It’s time for the new president to lead. Based on what I saw from both of the campaigns, it will take a great deal for our new president to prove his or her effectiveness (this was written before the election results were revealed).


I just so happened to be listening to a leadership podcast today. The guest was Dr. Henry Cloud. Dr. Cloud is a clinical psychologist and author. He works with leaders of organizations both large and small. His book, The Power of the Other, says:

the best performers draw on another vital resource: personal and professional relationships that fuel growth and help them surpass current limits.

In the podcast, Dr. Cloud said that the two keys to a good leader are:

  1. Results: Can you measure positive results in some way, shape, or form?
  2. Relationships: Do people value their relationship with you?

If you really want to measure your effectiveness in these two areas, Dr. Cloud gives the following advice. Every leader has a “wake,” like a boat. The people in that wake are the ones who know and feel the effectiveness of your results and relationships. So Dr. Cloud says that in the next week you should ask three people to have coffee with you: someone “above” you, one of your peers, and someone “below” you. When you have coffee with them, ask each of them these two questions:

  1. How do you see the effectiveness of the results over which I have control?
  2. How do you view the relationships I have with others, including my relationship with you?

Then sit back and listen.

You will learn a great deal about your effectiveness from those three conversations. Strengths in these areas will be revealed. You will also discover ways you can improve as a leader.

We are all leaders in one way or another. If you are a mother, a father, an employee, a boss, a teacher, or a student, you are a leader. That means it would do you well to work on sharpening the way you produce results. It would also do you well to improve the many relationships you already have, or in which you will soon find yourself.

Good, effective leadership goes a long way to improving not only your own life, but also the lives of others. Isn’t that one of our calling as Christians? Provide positive results. And improve relationships with others.

Now if only our new president will do the same.

How do you measure the effectiveness of a good leader?

Tapping Into the Real Potential of Possibilities

This weekend some good friends of ours when to visit their daughter who’s in college. She attends a university out of state. It really made me miss the days when I got to do the same thing. Fall reminds me of college visits as our kids contemplated where they would go to school. In the end, both of our children went to college out of state, each nine hours away, in two different directions. We missed them greatly when they left. But it was so very much fun to help them decide on schools, and then to visit them when they were in the midst of their studies. Part of the fun was to think about all the possibilities that lay ahead.


The potential of possibilities has always excited me. It should come as no surprise. Strengthsfinder 2.0 tells me that one of my strengths is that I am Futuristic. It says, “People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.”

That’s why I loved encouraging our children to dream. It’s why when we visited colleges we wouldn’t let them think about the money…just the possibilities. It’s why when they were in school we encouraged them to dream big as they thought about future careers. “Only an ant says I can’t,” I would say.

Those college “possibilities” have now turned into careers for our kids. But they still live under the idea that most anything is possible if you set your mind to it and work hard. I try to instill that same mentality in everyone I coach or lead. People ought to live life knowing that roadblocks may come and go, but possibilities always present themselves if you will only keep your eyes open.

Yes, I miss those cherished years when our kids were in college. But now the whole idea of possibilities has gone to a whole new level in our family. Our daughter, Ashlyn, and her husband, Josh, are expecting their first child in early January.

Talk about possibilities. Here’s a whole new life to encourage, lead, guide, meld, and mold. I know Ashlyn and Josh will do it in amazing and refreshing ways. That’s just who they are as people.

I want to encourage you today to dream of the possibilities that lie before you:

  • Don’t give up.
  • Work hard.
  • Dream a little.
  • Dare to think of the future.
  • Keep going.
  • Invite others to come along.
  • Write down your vision.
  • Doodle.
  • Have a plan.
  • Brainstorm.

Possibilities are one of the great gifts of life. Don’t be afraid of them. Embrace them. Then do what it takes to make them happen.

You just might be surprised.

What possibilities are running around in your mind right now?

Every Organization Needs an Energetic Difference Maker

The Thursday Night Football talking heads love to make their predictions for the big game. Not only do they predict which team will win the game. They also predict whom will be the “difference maker” for the winning team. Every analyst predicted that my Green Bay Packers would win the game and beat the Chicago Bears. The Difference Makers they selected were interesting choices.


Every organization needs an energetic difference maker. I’ll give you two examples:

  1. Community Event Difference Maker. Six churches in our area, including ours, are putting together a “Funtoberfest” for our entire city. One of our local pastors dreamed up the idea. He asked the other churches to come alongside. He runs the meetings. And He makes the connections in the city that make a real difference. Advertising is indicating there may be upwards of 2000 people at the event. No one church could have done this on their own. Nor could all of us have done this together had we not had a true Difference Maker.
  2. Church Event Difference Maker. Our own church recently put on a Trivia Night fundraiser. We had a great committee, effective meetings, and many people doing many different jobs. But our church’s business manager was the catalyst that kept things moving on a day-to-day basis. She paid attention to detail at the event. Then, after the event, she took the initiative to write thank you’s to the many people who helped us out.

It’s difficult to do much of anything in an effective manner if you don’t have a Difference Maker. My wife is the one in our family who is an organizational genius and has always kept us on task. Our daughter is a Difference Maker at her job where she oversees many people and keeps them on task.

Our son-in-law has stage managed numerous plays and musicals. He’s the glue that keeps it all together. I once sat in the booth with him during a show. In the middle of the first act one of the actors got sick and left the stage. I witnessed the way he calmly assessed the situation and took care of it. No one in the audience knew what happened.

Difference Makers really make a difference.

How can you be a Difference Maker today in your home, at work, or at church?

Five Things Many Pastors Fear

October happens to be Clergy Appreciation Month. After a wonderful celebration for my 25th anniversary in the ministry, and recognition in our worship today, I feel very well appreciated. I serve a congregation that loves me and honors me more than I deserve. It can most certainly be debated whether a whole month should be set aside to “appreciate” clergy. Other professions deserve just as much, if not more, appreciation. In addition, it seems like we are called to do our duty and nothing less. And yet the very existence of things like Clergy Appreciation Month and the high demands of the vocation cause fear in some pastor’s hearts.


Here are five things that some pastor’s fear. Some of them are founded. Others are unfounded. But they all are a legitimate concern for many pastors at one time or another.

  1. Losing members. Pastors shouldn’t take it personally. But when someone leaves the church they most always do. They feel as though it’s a personal judgment on their ministry.
  2. Low attendance. When attendance goes down many pastors ask, “What am I doing wrong?” It may just be a combination of many factors such as natural transition, people moving, deaths in the congregation, or the time of year. But pastors are passionate about the Gospel and want people to hear it on a regular basis.
  3. Missing someone’s need. As much as some might think, pastors can’t read people’s minds. They fear missing a hospital visit or some other kind of personal need. But if they don’t know what the need is, they can’t meet it. Tell your pastor what you need. He* will be happy to respond to the things he knows about.
  4. Inadvertently offending somebody. Sometimes decisions are made for very good reasons, and due to human nature a decision offends someone. I can assure you that there is hardly ever (never?) any intent to offend someone when a decision is made. But the fear is that when someone is offended a member will be lost or attendance will go down (see #1 and #2), and the pastor will feel personally responsible.
  5. People who are unwilling to be themselves. Pastors love people. And since pastors are sinners just like everyone else, they know we’re not all perfect. Pastors really appreciate it when people are comfortable enough to be themselves without putting on a front or facade. Be who you are. Your pastor loves you for who you are.

The key to overcoming these fears is to remain confident in the One who drives out all fear. Our God give peace to all people, even pastors. He assured it by the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. He forgives all those who offend or are offended. He covers all misunderstanding and sin with His grace.

What fears do you have in your vocation?

*I intentionally use this pronoun because it is the accepted practice of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, of which I am a member.

Using Core Values to Set the Tone of Your Life and Work

Our brand new daughter-in-law, Emily, is the founder and owner of a jewelry business called Consider the WldflwrsThis weekend we had the rehearsal dinner for the wedding at her studio and shop in Nashville, Tennessee. As we were setting up and getting ready I noticed a piece of newsprint on the wall that listed the eleven core values of her business.


I was struck by their creativity, morals, and excellence. I’d be happy to shop at a place that has values like these and exhibits them in their work and business interactions:

  1. Positive, servant-hearted team members
  2. Dependable and reliable
  3. Quality products, photos, and storefront
  4. Righteous living
  5. Professional (expert guidance, qualified)
  6. Surprise “WOW” element
  7. Vehicle for opportunity
  8. Self-employed mentality
  9. No gossip
  10. We do work unto the Lord
  11. Excellence in the ordinary

What about you in your daily life and work? Do you:

  1. Have a positive, servant heart headed into work? If not, it’s either time to change your attitude or change your job.
  2. Find yourself being dependable and reliable? If not, try to step it up and make it happen. Your employer deserves it.
  3. Produce quality work? If not, what can you do to make it better?
  4. Exhibit righteous living? We are both sinners and saints. But the more we immerse ourselves in the Bible and the things of faith the more we live outwardly righteous lives.
  5. Carry yourself professionally? Believing you are a professional is a big step toward really being one.
  6. Surprise people with a WOW element in your work? If not, brainstorm some ideas to do that. Under promise and over-deliver.
  7. Keep your eyes open for opportunity? If not, where do you see a chance for opportunity to grow as an individual or as a business today?
  8. Work as though you’re working for yourself? When you do so the quality and quantity of your work goes up, whether you are an entrepreneur or work for a big company.
  9. Gossip? Don’t.
  10. Do your work unto the Lord? After all, He’s the one who deserves our best day in and day out.
  11. Create excellence in the ordinary? If not, how can you produce something excellent that on any other given day seems so ordinary?

It seems to me that following these core values will set an incredibly positive tone for your work and life. Give it a try today and let me know what insights you find when you do.

What are your core values?

Why We Need to Be Uncomfortable Once in a While

This week when we got home from vacation the first thing I did was unpack my suitcase. It’s always what I do the minute I get in the door from any kind of trip. I can’t wait to get my clothes and toiletries all back in their proper places. I love going on vacation. But I also love coming back to the comfort of my own home. I don’t like being uncomfortable.

Andy runs through Shenzhen Airport with check-in luggage.

We spend much of our lives searching for comfort. Thankfully air conditioning was invented. Cars provide an easy ride to and from work. Clothes are far more comfortable than they used to be. We now have “wicking” and fiber that stretches.

But sometimes being uncomfortable is a good thing. It keeps us from complacency. It propels us forward. It gives us motivation to move ahead.

Unpacking a suitcase after a trip leads to the comforts of home. But unpacking our thoughts can be uncomfortable. When we unpack why we feel a certain way it might lead to some discomfort about our background or why we are the way we are.

We’ve been doing some unpacking recently at our church. I don’t know about yours, but ours has seen a declining attendance over the past year or so. We have lost pillars of our congregation to a new life in heaven. And the new members that take their places often see regular church attendance as once a month or so. You can read more about that here.

Our church leadership has been ready, willing, and able to get out of our comfort zone and try new things:

  • We reworked the structure of our governance
  • We went to policy-based governance
  • We challenged people to put something in the offering plate every Sunday
  • We challenged people to focus on a statement of Jesus every day for forty days

We have been unwilling to unpack and simply put things back where they were. Though we value worship using the historic liturgy, we recognize that the things that go on outside of worship can have a great deal of variety. They might even bring some much needed discomfort to shake us out of our spiritual complacency.

So go ahead and unpack. But don’t get too comfortable.

Sometimes it pays to be uncomfortable. It might bring about something new and something you’ve never thought about doing before.

What value do you see in being uncomfortable?

Why I Really, Really, Really Like My Dental Hygienist

I know it’s an odd thing; and, no, my wife has nothing to worry about. But I love my dental hygienist. I’ve been going to the dentist most of my life, and many of the dental hygienists I’ve had have been sadistic torturers. They were rough on my teeth. They were tough on my gums. And they often had a personality to match.

Smile 2

But the reasons I really like her go more deeply than that. The way she does her work and cares about her job are a lesson to those of us who want to lead and inspire others. It doesn’t matter what your job or position is, you can make someone’s day better in a few simple ways.

Here’s what my dental hygienist does:

  1. She spends time getting to know me. The first thing my dental hygienist does, even before we get to the examination room, is to engage me with meaningful conversation. She remembers from my last visit details about my life. So she asks me about my daughter’s job, my son’s wedding, and how my wife is doing. And she’s not one of those hygienists who likes to keep the conversation going while I have my mouth wide open. She knows when to simply go about her work and save the conversation for later.
  2. She is careful and care full. She is not one of those torturous souls who loves to inflict pain. In fact, she’s the most gentle hygienist I’ve ever had. She takes her time, but she’s not too slow. Instead, she is careful. And I can tell that she cares about her work because she is meticulous. I have yet to have her stab my gum or be too harsh with the floss.
  3. She sends me a thank you note. Yes, really. A few days after I go to the dentist I receive from her a handwritten note thanking me for coming in, mentioning some things she gleaned from our conversation, and telling me that she’s looking forward to my next appointment.

Here’s what you and I can learn from her:

  1. People appreciate being “known.” How can you get to know someone today on a deeper level? Take the time to have good conversations, including plenty of time for listening to the other person.
  2. People appreciate attention to detail. No matter what you are doing in life there is always the opportunity to do it well. Excellence and care seem to be in high demand yet short supply these days. Make it your business to be careful and care full.
  3. People appreciate being thanked. When’s the last time you received a written thank you note in the mail? I bet it was the first thing you opened in the stack of mail. We love the personal touch. There aren’t many things that have a more personal touch than a handwritten note.

How do you show people you care?