New Year New Books: For Leaders

Here are three of my favorite books for leaders. I read them last year and think they would make a great addition to any leader’s reading list for 2018.

Extreme Ownership by Leif Babin & Jocko Willink

I first heard about Extreme Ownership from a friend. We were jogging and he was telling me about the first chapter. A group of U.S. Navy SEALS were leading an attack in the most dangerous area of Iraq when something went horribly wrong. The response from these SEALS caused me to tear up on the spot.

My friend gifted me the book and I have done the same for several others. It’s that kind of book. At first though, I didn’t think it was for me based on the title. I was interested in the subject but considered this an area I was already strong in. I didn’t think I needed another lesson in taking ownership. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

What I like about his book is not just the leadership lessons it teaches but how those principles are presented. Each chapter takes you through how the concept was applied by Navy SEALS in battle situations then in business meetings. I have found it changing how I relate to situations at work and even in my family.

It is a great book and one I recommend to every leader in 2018!

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

His TED talk is legendary but I finally decided to go through the book as well. If you ever stand on a stage or have to convince others to get behind and idea or product then I would suggest you read this book.

Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

I am embarrassed to say Amy actually bought this for me as a gift, and it took me over a year to begin reading it. I couldn’t figure out why she got it for me. Then as I kept reading other books this one was referenced over and over again like some sort of primer for leaders. I was sorry I waited so long to learn these principles on what and who causes good ideas to take off.

Malcom Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History, has also become my favorite podcast. If you have spent anytime with me in conversation in the last six months then you have most likely heard me share an anecdotes from this addictive podcast. Check it out here: http://revisionisthistory.com.

 

Bonus Book: The Way of the Shepherd by Kevin Leman and William Pentak

I didn’t read this book for the first time last year. I read it for the third time. We took our practicum through it and everyone loved this short parable that shares 7 biblical princes from shepherding that help you lead better.

What Fasting Is Not

Thoughts on What Fasting Is and Isn’t 

We are in the prime fasting season for many church goers. Fasting is biblical and can produce tremendous results in our spiritual lives. It also requires an element of sacrifice that can cause even the most ardent believer to look forward to the end of a beneficial fast. Be honest, I know I am not the only one!

I have seen different types of fasts over the years. There is the Daniel Fast, the Media Fast, and others that are very helpful. Then there are things that get mixed in with fasting that don’t really have anything to do with a spiritual fast. I once had a friend tell me his fast was going to the gym every day at 5AM. Another friend told me he was fasting Coke while still drinking every other kind of soda. Some of the things people call fasting are funny and others just show there needs more explanation on the subject.

That is why I want to share these four observations of what fasting is not.

4 Things Fasting Is Not

Working out is not fasting

At the beginning of the year people make the decision “this the year” they are going to get in shape. While a good thing, focusing on lifting weights and burning calories is not the same as focusing on God. I think the timing causes us to spiritualize something that is good and beneficial but it is definitely not a fast.

Perfection is not fasting

A moment of weakness or falling short should not derail your fast. If you get hungry and need to eat some nuts then don’t follow that up with a trip to the buffet at Golden Corral and give up on fasting. Tomorrow is a new day.

Binging and Purging is not fasting

It’s easy to turn fasting into a diet, but then you miss out on the spiritual benefits. The purpose of a spiritual fast is to spend the time you would be eating drawing closer to God and/or serving others (see Isaiah 58). My suggestion is to not just skip a meal and then eat twice as much later or make your fast only about eating more healthy. Instead, consider packing a devotion instead of a sandwich for lunch or take a walk to pray instead of working through your meal break.

Loneliness is not fasting

Don’t do fasting alone. Get with some friends even if they have different goals. Pray with and for each other. Write down your fasting plan (this helps me not change my fast when I inevitably want to) and pray for and with each other.

What is Fasting?

Fasting is a time that we set aside to give up food or other things in order to draw closer to God and serve others better.  It helps us refocus our attention on God by unplugging from the world. It can reset our perspectives and help us detox from things that pollute our souls.

While you may become a better you and go through some sacrifice during a fast those things are not really the point. Hopefully at the end of your fast you find yourself closer to God and being a better reflection of Him to those in your world.

There are lots of resources on fasting. I have included a few below for your reference.

Fasting: Opening the door to a deeper, more intimate, more powerful relationship with God

7 Basic Steps to Successful Fasting & Prayer

Awakening: A New Approach to Faith, Fasting, and Spiritual Freedom

A New Year Not About Me

5 Ways to Make 2018 About Others

I read the headline of an article the other day that said Meghan Markle is not setting a New Year’s Resolution. I guess that is supposed to make the rest of us feel like we don’t need to make resolutions either. I didn’t read the article but if I was writing it I would say that she is marrying a prince in 2018 so she really doesn’t need a resolution. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

For the rest of us though, we are looking at 2018 and thinking about goals and how we can better ourselves. If you are like me, just about every New Year’s Resolution you have ever made is about yourself.

I noticed the end of 2017 my focus became a lot about me. Looking through my social media feed at the end of the year I noticed a lot of pictures of me and my family and not a lot of attention being brought to others. I don’t want that to happen again in 2018. So I want to resolve to make 2018 more about others. Here are 5 ways I am going to try to do that.

Be Interrupted

It’s never convenient to join in someone else’s moment of need. If you are waiting to have time for other people’s crises then you will never have time to be a help. You are either there or you aren’t. Accepting the fact that you will have to be inconvenienced to experience the joy of helping someone else is a given.

Celebrate Others

I want to genuinely celebrate other people’s wins and not just wonder about when I am going to get my next win. We all win when we celebrate each other’s wins. It’s a win, win, win.

Ask Why

When someone disagrees with me my usual response is to lawyer up so to speak. I start formulating the plan of attack to prove them wrong. The only problem with this is that I don’t learn anything in the process. Next time someone says something that disagrees with my perspective I want to ask why. Maybe I will learn something I never knew before.

Schedule Serving

I don’t want to just wait until I am inspired to serve or give. If this is a value then I need to schedule it. I also know that I cannot serve every time there is a need or I will end up burned out, exhausted, and no good to anyone. My goal is to find the best opportunities on my calendar for me to serve and commit to those.

Intentionally Collaborate

I want to bring other people into my circle. I don’t want to win by myself. I want a small group of accountability. Mentors and friends that are helping me along. I want to share my ideas with others that can accelerate them beyond what I could on my own.

Eat Away at Selfishness

Bonus: Does anything eat away at selfishness like giving? I want to be a bigger giver in 2018 and hopefully snap out of some of my selfish ways of thinking about money. I want God to give me resources not just to make my life better, but to make others lives better as well.

These are just a few random thoughts on making this New Year not about me. What are you going to do to not make 2018 about you? Is there an area I didn’t cover that you have ideas on how to make it more others focused? Let me know and share this post to see what others may add.

Dare Greatly

Overcoming Critics While Daring Greatly

2017 is almost over and I thought I would share one last post to wrap up the year. This is not an encompassing post to process all of 2017, but rather just a final thought.

The Critic

When I began my first position in full-time ministry in 2005 I framed a copy of “The Critic” to be displayed in my office. It’s a lengthy quote from Theodore Rosevelt but is worth the read.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Some people just like being a critic. Criticizing can even become part of your identify without even realizing it. A critical mindset is dangerous. It will cause you to justify the fear that keeps you from standing out and making a difference. Most critics can be found putting more energy into finding fault in others instead of next steps for themselves.

The Solo

When I was in Jr. High I played the drums. I chose this because if you are going to be in the band you might as well pick the coolest instrument possible. Our school’s symphonic band was actually extremely good. In preparation for our most important state-wide competition I was given a solo. This was a big moment for me. The only problem was the more we practiced the more I got it wrong.l I didn’t think I would ever get it right. To highlight my embarrassment one day after band practice a girl put me on blast in front of a group of friends.

“Why can’t you get your part right? You are going to ruin the competition for everyone!”

That stung pretty bad. Mostly because it was true. It’s true I was doing horrible, and that if I didn’t get it right it was going to ruin it for everyone.

Never Trust a Clarinet Player

You know what was also true though? It was true that I was given a solo and she wasn’t. It was true that she could hide in a large section of clarinet players and no one would ever know if she played or not. It was also true that the only reason she had the opportunity to criticize me is because I had the opportunity to stand out. If you can’t take the criticism then don’t do anything worth noticing. If you want to make a difference then you have to be willing to accept the criticism thats come along with being different.

Must critics like being a critic more than they actually want people to benefit from their criticisms. They are normally stuck in places where their decisions won’t make a difference but they are willing to criticize you as you make decisions that could. Don’t listen to someone hiding in the clarinet section when you have been given a drum solo. (Did I take the band illustration to far? If so, I apologize. Also, sorry to all the not-so-evil clarinet players at there. I am sure there at least one or two.)

The Crescendo

Eventually our competition came. Up to the final practice everyone in the band, especially our conductor, was nervous about whether I would be able to execute my solo. When the moment came and the entire band become silent I lifted my drumsticks to perfectly play the beat I had practiced so many times. We received the highest rating possible at that competition, but the most important lesson for me was to never listen to someone in the clarinet section on my way to do something that stands out.

Later on I would see this quote from Theodore Roosevelt. It would remind me that the only reason someone has the opportunity to criticize is because I am doing something worthwhile that they are not or they would be helping. I do not want a cold and timid soul. I want to know the thrill of a worthy cause and be someone who dares greatly. Here is to 2018 and daring greatly.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Roberies

Here is our virtual Christmas Card from our family to yours! We are excited to celebrate the birth of our Savior this Holiday Season and wish you all the best in the New Year. We also hope you get something special under the Christmas Tree as well. That’s never a bad thing!

 

I want to thank you for coming to this blog to read from time to time. Some may say that is the gift that keeps on giving.  🙂 I really enjoy sharing this journey with you, and I am looking forward to next year and many great posts. Merry Christmas!

 

Bullies and Bravery

A mom’s post of her brave son speaking out against bullying has gone viral. More than 21 million people have watched the video of Keaton Jones weeping and is shaking as he describes the horror he faces at school in the midst of bullying. I admire his courage and strength. I appreciate the outpouring of support to him and his family. I am also left wondering what else can be done?

Here is the post from Everything Tennessee that I saw.

My first reaction is to be angry at the kids bullying him or maybe even the school for not doing more to protect him. As I thought about it more though I realized that Keaton represents many more people in various situations who face this kind of treatment everyday.

I hope Keaton continues to be rewarded for his bravery, but I hope things do not stop there. One of my favorite gestures is from Chris Evans, aka Captain America, who invited Keaton and his family out to the premiere of the Avengers movie in Los Angeles.

I hope the #StandwithKeaton movement continues to gain strength. I also hope it sheds light on the bigger picture of bullying. I hope others step up for their friends and stand up for those who can’t speak for themselves. I hope we realize that it is all of our responsibility, not just school administrators, to make sure children can learn in safe environments of mutual respect. I hope that we realize that bullying takes all kinds of forms throughout life and silence gives bullies more power than anything else.

So back to my original question. What else can be done? We can do more by breaking the silence and starting conversations. Ask your kids about bullying. You don’t have to know what to do. Just talk to them. Realize that in the case of children that a bully may be a victim themselves. Speak out against bullying of all kinds. No more college students need to die in pointless initiations. Harassment and abuse in all forms can be stopped when brave people speak up.

Some people wonder why victims in these situations don’t say something more often? Why do they sometimes wait so long to speak out? I have seen people react online by saying that kids just need to “toughen up” when bullied. I get why some would wonder that but that also misunderstands the conditions that create abuse, harassment, and bullying. These things happen when there is an imbalance of perceived power. Often times the victims feel powerless to defend themselves and hopeless that anyone else will help and can even feel the mistreatment is their fault.

What can you do? Support those who speak out. Speak out yourself. Don’t blame others. Find a way to take a small amount of responsibility in your own life for these types of situations.

I know this isn’t a normal blog for me. It is still kind of fresh and raw, but this video of Keaton hit me hard. Proud of you Keaton. And I am proud of anyone who finds the strength to stand up to the bullies in their lives. I pray you also find the peace and forgiveness that come through Christ.

 

 

Navigating Difficult Seasons

The surprising path to fulfillment

Sometimes the path out of your place of ordinary and into your place of extraordinary is through a place of discomfort. And by sometimes I mean every time.

In Ezekiel 20:10 God says that He lead His people out of Egypt, a place where they were in bondage to slavery. But what he says next is telling. He doesn’t say he lead them straight to the Promised Land, the place where they would ultimately enter into their rest and blessing. He says He led them first into the wilderness, a place of testing and discomfort.

Yes, God leads us to seasons in the wilderness. Jesus was even lead into the wilderness before His public ministry began. There is a place of discomfort between drudgery and destiny that we have to embrace in order to reach our place of fulfillment.

Why difficult seasons are necessary

In order for things to get better they first have to change. The discomfort of changing is the space in between Egypt and the Promised Land. It is possible to get comfortable with a negative situation. We can almost identify with it to the point that even though we are complaining about it we will do little to change it or even allow others to help us change. We get comfortable in Egypt.

What really keeps us from fulfillment

It is the space in-between Egypt and the Promised Land that keeps us from entering into God’s best from us, not the circumstances of Egypt. It is in this space that God sets us apart and speaks to us things we need to maintain what we receive in the Promised Land.

The question is, Do we have the courage to step out into the space in-between our ordinary and extraordinary?

A Little Something Extra

Letting Go So That You Can Receive More

Have you ever felt like you were putting too much pressure on yourself or felt bad for not doing more in the area of your faith? Your Christianity should be refreshing not exhausting.  This wasn’t always the case for me.

A Little Something Extra

In Louisiana you often hear the word “Lagniappe” being used. It means “a little something extra.” It’s something that can bring a smile to any cajun’s face as he or she expects to receive an extra piece of boudin or another scoop of jambalaya for dinner. When you get something more than you expected, you are experiencing “lagniappe.”

I used to be good at lagniappe, but not in a good way. I would always try to do a little more than everyone else. Not at work or in school, but in my faith. I would try to outperform – add a little lagniappe to my Christianity. One of the most regrettable examples of this was the first time I almost asked out Amy on a date.

When A Good Thing Becomes a Bad Thing

When we were in college, Amy and I were part of the same young adult ministry. Every year around Christmas time there was a banquet where we would dress up and ask out dates. It was something everyone looked forward to. I knew I wanted to ask Amy, but before I did, I committed myself to filling two rows (about 30 seats) with people I had invited to our monthly youth service.

While I was out trying to build my miniature ministry empire, someone else asked Amy as his date. She said yes, and I was crushed.

Here I was, trying to bring more people to church, and yet God was going to allow someone else to steal my date. Things didn’t seem fair. I was doing more, but getting less. A few days later I filled my rows but my heart was empty. Ok, that is a little dramatic. I filled my rows, but I was still without a date for the banquet. The lesson here is that a good thing can become a bad thing when it is done out of religious duty instead of relationship and joy. Your faith in Jesus should lift burdens from your life not add them.

Receiving God’s More

There are many things God wants to give us that a religious perspective will tell us we do not deserve and cannot have. This type of thinking will have us settling for less than God’s best and cause us to push our dreams off to the side.

God is not in Heaven holding good things back from us because of our lack of perfection. Out of His perfection He wants to give us good things that we couldn’t achieve or don’t deserve on our own. Religion says we have to wait until we are good enough to step up or step out. Grace helps us realize that we will never be good enough anyway. We will always need to rely on God and trust Him.

Lagniappe is supposed to be a good thing. We should enjoy the little something extra that God wants to give us instead of putting up barriers in-between us and what God has called us to do. Many times these are simply just excuses that allow us to avoid the fear of failure or rejection that we will have to face to do anything meaningful for God.

What would you do if you couldn’t fail?

What is God asking you to do?

What areas are you being confined by fear instead of led by faith?

If you would like to explore this topic more check out this book:

Are You Experiencing God’s Goodness?

3 Reminders of the Goodness of God

God desires to do good things for us, but what do we do when we feel like we are not experiencing this in our lives? Does God withhold His goodness in certain circumstances?

Absurd Goodness

In our family we try to help our kids feel confident being themselves and comfortable being with us. This has some awesome advantages and sometimes funny disadvantages. Our 6-year-old tells us nearly everything that happens when we are not around her because she doesn’t have a fear of us overreacting to bad news. The flip side of this is that she also gets a little too familiar with us and starts to bark out orders.

When she was younger she once told us that, “If you don’t buy me that toy, then I am not going to let you buy me things anymore!” Wow, what a threat! We laughed at the absurdity of her perspective that not allowing us to do good things for her would be a punishment for us instead of her.

Just as I had to shift my daughter’s perspective on her relationship with me as her father in that moment, I believe God has to sometimes shift our perspective of Him as our Heavenly Father.

Hebrews 11:6 – “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

We know faith is required to come to God. But did you also know that this faith must also lead to you believing that God is good and wants to do good things for you? Here are three reminders of the goodness of God:

God wants to do good things for you.

Sophie thought she was punishing me by saying she wasn’t going to allow me to buy her things anymore. And while that is a very silly way of looking at things, I hope that I would trust in the goodness of God in this way. We need to trust that even when things are not going the way we expect, we are still experiencing His favor. Sometimes the goodness of God comes in a blessing, a delay, and even in a redirection.

Honoring God leads to good things for you.

The first prerequisite for coming to God is faith. Faith requires that we honor a God we cannot see over circumstances that we can see. We cannot earn God’s forgiveness. We receive this through faith. But there is more to this new life than just forgiveness. We open the door to that more by putting God first in principle and action.

God is not overlooking you.

God does not miss the fact that we suffer injustice. He is ultimately in control and will make things right. Pain in this life is not a sign of the absence of God, but rather humanity’s need for God. If we only honor God when we experience good things would that really be faith? I don’t think trust could be defined that way in any relationship.

God wants us to be comfortable being ourselves. He wants us to be able to come to him in our strength and weakness. He is the source of that strength and Healer of our brokenness. There is no safer place, but we cannot enjoy this if we don’t remember that we must come to God in faith, believe He is good, and trust that He wants to do good things for us.

If accepting God’s grace, mercy, and goodness towards you has been difficult, then here is a book that may help you in that area. I know it helped me ton.