Gaining Control of My Time (Or Losing Control)

Image Goes HereGOAL: BUDGET MY TIME EACH DAY AND EACH WEEK

GOAL SUMMARY:  I want control. Don’t we all? I want to look back at the end of a 24 hour period of time and say, “I spent my day in a way that was productive, useful, and enjoyable.” But so often, I seem to get to the end of the day barely breathing… having the time to reflect back on what I did seems like a dream. Why is that? If I’m doing what’s important to me, and reflecting on my day is important to me, it seems that I should have the ability to “pencil in” reflection at the end of my day, right?

Perhaps the problem. I’m pencilling in the must-do priorities of my life and letting the crisis of the moment take control. There’s nothing wrong with dealing with a crisis, if it is, in fact, a crisis. But I have a feeling that many of the things I rearrange my minutes, hours, and days for each week are probably not quite as important as I make them out to be – important enough to rearrange the things I really want and need to do. I’m not real keen on blocking out every 15 minutes of my day ahead of time, or even after-the-fact. Perhaps that’s the only way to do it. I have a feeling it’s not, though. I want control, but at the same time, I’ve come to realize over the past several years that “being in control” is really not all that great of a place to be in, either. As Psalm 21:31 puts it:

The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
   but the victory belongs to the LORD.

I just read this psalm yesterday in my daily bible reading plan. It sunk home just a few minutes ago as I wrote that all too familiar phrase, “I want control.”

I really don’t. I want God to have control. I want victory that comes through him, not just through my own preparation and execution. At the same time, though, God seems to say, “Here Chet. I’m going to give you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year. And every four years I’m going to throw in a bonus day, just for you. Now use them.” So I’m going to try and look at this productivity goal planning sheet as a plan to budget my time, just like I budget my money. There’s only so much to go around, and while there are some “have to’s” that have to be paid for regardless of my desire to pay for them, there are also some “must do’s” that are important to my long term priorities, dreams and goals. Then there are the crises, the situations that pop up, and the things I’d like to do but will just have to squeeze in when I have some spare time.

I guess we’ll see where this goes.

 

GOAL:

Budget my time each day, and each week.

TARGET DATE:

MM/DD/YYYY

TODAY’S DATE:

August 31, 2010

REWARDS FOR ACHIEVEMENT:

  • I will be able to look back at the end of a day / week and say, “that was time well spent.”
  • I will be prepared to say “yes” or “no” to decisions that require my time, because I will be able to see how they fit into the bigger picture.
  • My priorities will take first place in the way I spend my time, and I will be able to measure if I am keeping them there.
  • I will gain the motivation to get up and get moving early in the morning.
  • I will have the support to back up going to bed “on time,” and I will know what “on time” means.
  • I will be able to break the rules every once in a while, knowing that flexibility itself is one of the things I greatly value.

CONSEQUENSES OF NON-ACHIEVEMENT:

  • I will continually be trying to maintain or reclaim control of my time each day.
  • I will succumb to other’s priorities, and forever be trying to please them by getting to their tasks on their schedule (and I cannot do that).
  • I will get worn out, exhausteed, and burned out, even on the things I love.
  • The things I really want to do will never get finished or maintained.
  • I may never really take the time to find out what’s important to me.

AFFIRMATIONS:

  • I have priorities in life. They are important, and need to be done. I recognize that if I don’t do them, they will not get done.
  • I play an important part in the Kingdom of God. God has more than just expectations for me to meet… He has desires for me, things He longs to see me do, and I want to do them.

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

I will not be prepared when a new day / week rolls around.

  1. Plan ahead for each day, week, month, year, and even blocks of years. Get more specific as the time frame grows smaller, but don’t be afraid to plan out years in advance.
  2. Write it down. In a common place. Don’t make an appointment without (1) evaluating it against my priorities and (2) writing it down.
  1. Find a system to do this type of planning.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

Something will “come up” that must be dealt with.

  1. Be willing to say “no” and “It will have to wait,” even to the most urgent of crises.
  2. Plan for these events, possibly on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.
  1. Practice saying “no” and “let me get back to you.” Make a note of times I do, see hwo they fit into my priorities and goals, and reward myself for keeping my priorities.
  2. Block out time, either specific times of the day, or an amount of time during the day, for unforseen events.
  3. Review each day to see what “changed” my schedule / plans for the day. If it was important enough to be there, plan ahead for it next time, or make room for it in another way. If it wasn’t, make a note, figure out how to say “no” next time, and plan for that.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

I may not even know what my priorities ARE.

  1. Make a list and keep it in a place that I’ll see on a regular basis.
  2. Block out time for priorities. Even if they are large blocks such as “work” or “play,” they will at least be there.
  1. Make a “top 10” list of priorities. Be willing to change it as I learn more about myself and what’s important to me. Put the list somewhere where I will see it every day.
  2. Continue with the calendar idea, but think about using a different method to track billable time versus planning time.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

My priorities will change, or I will feel that “I don’t know what my priorities are yet” so I’ll feel like I can’t plan ahead in light of what they might be in __ days / weeks / months.

  1. Start small.
  2. Be willing to adjust. In fact, plan to adjust. Be intentional with pencils and pens, as some things may need to change.
  3. Be willing to back out of something if I identify that it is not what I should be doing.
  1. Start with priorities I know won’t change, such as family, time spent providing for family, spiritual life, etc.
  2. Come up with a system that will work. Talk to some others who seem to manage their time well and see how they do it, and how they got there. Just because it works for someone doesn’t mean it will work for me. However, there will probably be something to learn from their journey.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to this one, so I’m going to leave some open spots here to revisit later. I’d also love your thoughts…

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

It appears to me that a critical portion of this puzzle is looking back at the end of my day and saying, did I do what I was supposed to today? And being willing to see that possibly, I didn’t. But that that is not a bad thing. It may demand change, but not “being right all the time” or getting it all “under control” is not a necessity. In fact, I shouldn’t even expect it. Life will be a continual set of adjustments. But they should be adjustments to the things I see as important, not adjustments just because I am being put under the gun by someone else.

 

 

 

 

 

GPS – Leading my Son to Faith in Jesus Christ

Image Goes HereGOAL: LEAD MY SON TO FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST

GOAL SUMMARY: I was hesitant to even think of making up a Goal Planning Sheet for this. Why? Well, for starters, the whole point is that I want my son’s decision about his eternal destination to be just that… his decision. I remember next to nothing about my own salvation experience at four years old, and while that doesn’t invalidate it by any means, it’s also not something I can look back to and point out the steps I took to make it my own decision, versus something that was just told to me, I believed, accepted, and that’s that. And I don’t think that’s bad. In fact, it’s tremendously good. Should my son come to faith at that early of a place in his life, I think I’d be overjoyed. I also wonder if I’d wonder for quite a while, “was it real, or did I push him too hard?”

So that’s what this is here for… not to come up with some strategy that will get him saved by the time he’s seven or eleven or twenty seven, but for me, to set this as a meaningful goal, something that would obviously bring tremendous fulfillment to my own life, and also something that would alter the course or another life, for eternity. I want to do all I can to lead him to that point in his life, both in preparing him, teaching him, and modeling FOR him what an authentic relationship with Jesus looks like. Should that time come while he’s in my care, I want to write things down about it, to share with him later, so he can know the details… not just a retelling, but documentation, something to look back on, the process, the change in his life, the reality of his becoming a new creation.

So here we go….

GOAL:

Lead my son to faith in Jesus Christ

TARGET DATE:

MM/DD/YYYY

TODAY’S DATE:

August 30, 2010

REWARDS FOR ACHIEVEMENT:

  • My son’s eternal destiny will forever be determined.
  • I will be able to share with my son, both now and in the future, how he came to know Jesus. Should this time come early in his life, being able to look back on it in detail will be a source of encouragement and confirmation to him.
  • I will have had a hand in seeing my life’s eternal destiny set. While my own gratification means little in the grand scheme of seeing my son obtain new life, it will be tremendously fulfilling to see the part I played. Even if he accepts Jesus in a situation outside of my control, having this goal as an important part of my life means that I will do things every day to point him in this direction.
  • My son’s changed life may further affect other lives, further opening the door for others to be influenced for Christ (and as a side note… influenced, by actions taken by me)
  • My relationship with my son will take on new meaning, both as spiritual father and also as brothers. My influence in his life, and our bond itself, will be drawn tighter forever.

CONSEQUENSES OF NON-ACHIEVEMENT:

  • Between my wife and myself, we have more influence over our son during his early years in life than any other human being. We will lead him in some direction, regardless of whether or not we “try.” If we do not lead him in the right direction, that means we are either leading him away from it, or simply leaving him to flounder without a sense of direction.
  • I know fathers who have trained up their children as they should and seem them reject Christ. My goal here is not to make the choice for him, but to lead him to where he makes it on his own, in whatever state of childhood, youth, or even adult that he may be at the time he makes that decision. Should I not lead him in this direction, I will be forever regretful that I “could have done more but didn’t.”
  • My son may get influenced away from Christ by other sources.
  • My son may never come to the point of seeing that he must make his own decision of where to put his trust.

AFFIRMATIONS:

  • I am an influential part of my son’s life, if not the most influential part of my son’s life. What I do matters to him, and affects decisions he makes.
  • I am myself a new creation through Jesus Christ, and have seen what a change salvation brings.
  • I recognize the value of documenting this journey with my son, so that at a later time, we can look back and see where God had brought us.

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

My son will be resistant to the gospel

My role is not to make any decisions for him, but to lead him to the point where he realizes that he must make his own decision.

  1. PRAY for his heart to be softened beyond anything I say or do.
  2. During his early years, before I start losing influence to friends, school, and the fact that he is growing up, utilize both story telling, open conversation, Bible teaching, and even appropriate disciplines to bring him up in a parent/young-child relationship
  1. PRAY daily for my son’s salvation and journey toward Jesus. Make a record of these prayers so that I can do more than tell him “I prayed for you ever day.”
  2. Take advantage of the opportunity I have to have story time every night before bed, and read through a child appropriate bible or other stories pointing the way for him towards the gospel.
  3. Don’t try to be his best friend. Above all else at this stage of life, I am his PARENT.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

I will not know the words to use or stories to tell to “lead” him towards Jesus.

  1. PRAY.
  2. Read a children’s bible or stories pointing toward the gospel.
  3. Get involved in the lives of others teaching my son, such as his Sunday School teacher or influences at school, and learn from them how to “get through” to my son.
  4. Talk to others who came to (or have children that came to) know Jesus at various stages of life about the influences that led them to Jesus.
  1. Pray every day and make a record of it.
  2. Plan ahead for reading tim ewith my son each night before bed. Do more than just read, pray, and go to bed. Ask questions, let him ask questions, and see where God is leading him.
  3. Go out to dinner with Colton’s teachers / influences and let them know we support them and what we hope for them. Also find out things they may know about my son that I do not, and put them to work.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

Other influences in my son’s life may compete for what I want to lead him towards

  1. Make habits NOW.
  2. Make my home a place where my son’s friends want to come, instead of not knowing where he is at or what he’s doing when he’s at their homes.
  1. Continue evening story / Bible / Prayer time, but adjust it as my son ages.
  2. Invite my son’s friends and their families over to our home, or to activities we initiate, as often as possible, especially as he begins to get involved in the local publis school system.
  1. Erin will be a big part of all daily activities.
  2. Erin will also be heavily involved and even initate / make happen many play dates and activities with friends.
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

I might be taken out of my son’s life earlier than expected, or vice versa

  1. Make the most of every opportunity NOW.
  2. Find and enlist another man to take responsibility to the spiritual wellfare of my son, should I (and / or my wife) be taken out of the picture. My wife has tremendous influence, but nothing can simply replace a father (or mother, of course)
  3. Write things down so that my son can have them to look back on later in life.
  1. Continue evening story time, and adjust as he grows older.
  2. Enlist another man to take responsibility for my son’s spiritual wellfare, even while I’m IN the picture.
  3. Continue journalling, especially by writing notes to my son that he can look back on later.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

This “goal” is certainly a motivator in my life. And at the same time, it’s not one you can simply “achieve” at a given point in time… unless I guess that day my son would find his Savior, but even then, that’s not the end of my responsibility to spiritually care for him. This is much more one of those the journey is the destination goals, where the things I do every day matter, even when it seems they don’t.

On the other hand, many parts of the planning for this goal are very practical, and I can measure them day to day as I spend time with my son talking about and modeling to him what it looks like to be in relationship with God. There is no letting myself off the hook by saying it’s just his decision and I can’t influence it… because I can, and I am charged to. That alone makes this goal, along with my daughter, and the spiritual well-being of my family as a whole, a very motivating goal. As I use this as a goal, it can and should change the way I spend my time each day, both in what I do, and how and why I go about doing it.

GPS – Read or write for pleasure for an hour a day

Image Goes HereGOAL: SPEND AN HOUR EACH DAY READING AND WRITING FOR PLEASURE

GOAL SUMMARY: I dearly love to read and write for pleasure. Yet both seem to somehow lose their place on my priority list when other things “come up.” Is this because they’re really not that important to me? I don’t think so, because I definitely miss them in my life. Is it because I simply don’t know how to prioritize them so that they are a part of my life, no matter what? Maybe. I suppose this GPS will help me if that’s the case. Perhaps part of the reason I don’t read or write for pleasure as often as I should is because I don’t feel I deserve to enjoy a block of time like that each day. Now there’s an introspective thought. I could probably write for an hour or more just on that one.

Regardless, this is one of at least three goal planning sheets I’m working on this week. I’ve both broadened and narrowed this one already today. It initially was going to be “Spend 30-60 minutes reading each day.” That then got changed to “spend an hour reading each day” because as I think about what I really want, not just what I could probably squeeze in, it’s more then half an hour a day. I then added the writing and the “for pleasure” aspects, because there’s plenty of reading and writing that “need” to be done each day, and I honestly don’t want that to “count” toward a meaningful personal goal. Stuff like this GPS might count, because I enjoy it, but at the same time, it’s not really intended for my own release or growth.

So here we go…. my Goal Planning Sheet to help me turn this bit of a dream into reality.

GOAL:

Spend an hour a day, every day, reading or writing for pleasure.

TARGET DATE:

MM/DD/YYYY

TODAY’S DATE:

August 25, 2010

REWARDS FOR ACHIEVEMENT:

  • I will have at least an hour a day of “me time” to relax, unwind, and either fill my mind and heart with something I want to read abou, or, to clear my head an put my heart into written words.
  • As I read more, I will find new insights into topics that matter to me.
  • As I write more, I will develop ways of communicating what is in my head and heart into words, which drives them home more than just leaving them “stored” there.
  • I will develop my writing skills and produce material for later use, which will develop my potential for writing a book, devotional, or articles in the future.
  • I will develop reading skills, fill my mind with a steady flow of new ideas, and increase my horizons of understanding as I have time set aside each day. I will not limited to “must-reads.”
  • I will further develop the “trail” of my life that I or others can look back on later to see where God has led.

CONSEQUENSES OF NON-ACHIEVEMENT:

  • I will read and write spuratically, either too much or too little.
  • If I spend too much time on pleasure reading and writing, other areas of my life will suffer from lack of attention.
  • If I don’t spend enough time on pleasure reading and writing, my heart will go stale from lack of new input or from having too much “stuff” inside that is not allowed to be let out
  • I will continue to lose control of the hours I have each day.

AFFIRMATIONS:

  • I gain much insight from reading. I love to interact with books, and find things in them that I can use to build up my own life and those of others.
  • I write for my soul in a way that expresses it to others. I express thoughts that are important to me in ways that communicate my thoughts and intents to others, encourage them to consider how what I write may apply to their own lives, and in ways that I can come back to later and revisit.

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE
DELEGATED TO

SOLUTION

No “blocked off time” to read each day

  1. Read and write first thing in the morning.
  2. Read and write as the last part of my day.
  3. Schedule time at the beginning of each day or week to read, based on the planned activities of the day.
  1. Schedule some time for each day of the week to read or write, preferably first thing in the morning or during a block of time during the day.
  2. If the schedule does not work, rearrange it.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE

DELEGATED TO

Lack of variety in reading materials

  1. Have a reading plan that is always planning 2-3 books into the future.
  2. Have 2-3 books going at once, depending the place or time of day I am reading.
  1. Create an online reading list on my blog… what I’m reading, what I’ve recently finished, and what’s next.
  2. Pick a variety of topics, and do not read the same topic more than once out of every three books:
    • Matters of the Heart – Ransomed Heart
    • Being a Man, Husband, and Father
    • Historical Stories / Biographies
    • “How To” books on topics I’m interested in
  3. Have one book at home, and one at the office.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE

DELEGATED TO

Inbalance of reading and writing each day

  1. Consider before starting to read or write what it is I want to accomplish during the time I have.
  2. Read at least 3-4 times per week, and write at least 3-4 times each week as well.
  3. Spend at least one day each week just reading, and one day each week writing.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE

DELEGATED TO

Reading or writing for pleasure begins to require more than an hour a day.

  1. Cut back.
  2. Look at why it’s requiring so much time. Is it becoming more than just for “pleasure” that I should be planning into part of my day?
  1. Stick to the block of time I’ve allotte dfor now. 7 hours a week is a lot more then I have been reading.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE

DELEGATED TO

Literally do not have time to read or write some days.
  1. Have an audiobook in the car or on my PDA/IPod
  2. Be content to end my day with writing one good sentence.
  1. Put an audiobook on my Ipod or Blackberry so I can have it available wherever I am.
  2. Keep a journal by my bed to write a brief something at the end of the day when I just haven’t had time to do any reading or writing for myself.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

POSSIBLE OBSTACLE

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

ACTION STEPS

MUST-DO DATE

DELEGATED TO

Reading or writing for myself takes time away from my family.

  1. Evaluate what else I’m doing for myself. Spending an hour each day building into my own life is not a lot to ask. Perhaps there are other areas that could I am already doing that will fit into this goal, such as Daily Bible Reading.
  2. Confront the issue with my family, if I truly am not being “allowed” (by myself or others) to spend time developing my own heart.
  3. Perhaps I have too many other things I’m doing for myself. Evaluate whether these are “seasonal” and should be allowed to interfere for a SET amount of time, or whether they are more/less important than the goal, and cut one out.
  1. Make it a priority to set this goal in motion in the early morning hours, when I have the most time “to myself.”
  2. Share this goal with my wife.
  1. xxx
  1. xxx

 

So there we go… Did I miss any obstacles? If I do these things, will I accomplish my goal? Will this goal lead me toward my dreams of reading, writing, and sharing my thoughts in a more influential way, such as writing a book, creating a year-long devotional, or filling my heart and mine with thoughts that motivate and get me through tough circumstances?

Dream #61 – Hit A Home Run

Part of my business / life coaching experience is looking inside myself for what I really want to do. As I develop an inventory of 100+ dreams, I am searching inside myself for what motivates me. I believe that a big part of this experience is to explore the unknowns of my heart, but I also think it’s a practical search of the things that can be driving forces behind the changes I need to make, regardless of what “side” of my life it’s on.

Dream #61: Hit a home run at a softball game.

Why would something as “trivial” as that make my list? Well, apparently it’s not trivial to me, because it has been on my mind for several weeks as we wrapped up our softball season without any home runs. I wondered, should I make a Goal Planning Sheet for this? Can I simply create the motivation, identify the obstacles and solutions, and then pursue them one at a time, with the end result of hitting a home run at just the right time?

Bottom of the last inning. Game is tied. Bases loaded. 2 Outs. I step up to the plate. “This would be a nice time,” I think. … a nice time to pop out. I laugh that one off, because even now I can see that it wasn’t “pressure” that caused me to fly out. It wasn’t worrying about the home run dream. It was a pitch, a hit, and a catch. You just can’t force some of these things. You can do as much as you can to prepare for them, but in the end, the timing may not always be up to me. But that does not mean I need to give up. There’s always next year, right?

That was the message I was thinking I’d be taking into the fall. Hit the batting cage, work on flexibility… if hitting a home run is really that important, there are probably some practical steps I can do to “make it happen,” or at least prepare myself for the moment so that I’m ready…. right?

All this got me thinking… why in the world does this really even matter to me? Why does something that will take perhaps maybe 60 seconds of my life, and then be forgotten by everyone but myself, mean so much? There’s a quote by Christopher McCandless‘s journal that rings true to me:

It is important not just to be strong, but to feel strong.

That’s where this hits home. I don’t have many feats of physical strength in my life. I can point to a few. They’re nothing to write home about, but to me, they mean something. And hitting a home run was the one that made it to my dream inventory during this 2010 season of softball.

Yesterday, I. Hit. A. Home. Run.

It’s our softball tourney. The last day of the season. I don’t think I’d “given up” on my dream for this year, but it was to the point that I felt it wasn’t something to focus on – it never really was, for that matter. When I go to hit, I want just that, a good hit. But anyways, I come up to bat for the second time in the day, and smash one over the outfielder’s head. As it leaves the bat, I’m thinking, “That’s a nice double, for sure.” And then it goes over the guys head, and he’s chasing it, and my team is yelling for me to keep going, and as I round third headed home free and clear, it hits me… I GOT IT! Not in the way I thought it would come – practice, seeing if I had the range, playing on a shorter field… I got it by hitting a good hit. An in-the-ballpark home run. With no errors involved at that! How great is that. I not only feel strong for getting a decent hit, I got the opportunity to run all the way around the bases as fast as I could because I was going to earn this one. When you hit one out of the park, they let you go to first and then stop to keep the game moving. But I got to round the bases. I got to cross home plate at full speed.

Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.

So this one will go down on the list of fulfilled dreams and goals. Dream #61 has been achieved, and I don’t think I’ll forget it. It’s something small, yet it’s a moment in time I can go back to any time I want and say, “That was important to me. That made me feel strong. Because I was strong.” So many other parts of life are driven by something small. Some accomplishment that brings us satisfaction that we have what it takes. This is one of those moments for me. To keep dreaming. To keep looking for where those dreams might come to pass. And to keep praising God for His creativity, and his humor, in showing me that it’s not just the accomplishment of the dream that means so much, but the dreaming itself.

How I Feel Right Now

I have a friend, we’ll call him Henry, who is on the brink right now. On the brink of what I think he feels is a “trade-in” of one life for another, while in my opinion, is throwing a life worth living for away in exchange for a fantasy. Not just a fantasy that’s “too good to be true,” but a fantasy, that when even he looks at it, is “stupid.”

I agree. Well, I agree to the point that I agree that stupid is an understatment.

When my wife received the phone call a few days ago from her friend Henrietta, Henry’s wife, it was one of those moments when you immediately go “Oh no,” but at the same time, you’re thinking, “I saw this coming.” The slow drift into isolation. The increasing amount and friendliness of Facebook comments back and forth with another girl. The way thoughts about his family tended to focus only on his son, instead of his wife and entire family.

Henry was “told” to give me a call. He sounded completely normal… if that’s what you’d call what his attitude has evolved to over the past several months. We agreed to meet up later that evening and talk while we took a walk.

We wound up walking for about 2 1/2 hours, and about 6 miles I think. He definitely had time to vent, to share “his side” of why this all made sense while being a disaster at the same time, of how it all started when he was 8 or 9 years old with an infatuation for this girl, but since he never acted on it, she of course never knew, and nothing ever came of it. And then, earlier this year, she resurfaced on Facebook. From there to here, who knows how that journey comes about in various people’s lives, but I heard Henry’s version. Sad story. And all to familiar.

I didn’t have a specific girl from my past pop back up in my life, but I certainly have had experiences, memories, and actions that haunted me for many years, to the point that even when I thought I’d put them in the closet and locked the door, come to find out years later the door could be unlocked from either side, or might even just swing open if you didn’t keep a board nailed across it.

Is there anyone in the world who would somehow convince themself that it’s “worth it” to trade your family, and your children, for someone else? Apparently so. Although I think the choice to actually “trade” is not what ends up being made. There seems to be a refusal to really admit what you’re giving up, and what you’re really signing up for with your “new life.” I know that’s how it was with me any time I gave in to lust or other desire that drew me in and later vomited me back up. We don’t get it. We think we can get away with it. We think nobody will find out, notice, or even care. We think it will never go anywhere, and that we can say “stop” anytime we want. But sin isn’t like that. It’s appealing. It draws us in. It seduces us. It gives us what we need at the exact moment we think nobody else will give it to us anymore. It makes us feel strong. It makes us the people we think we really want to be. But in the end, and even in the process, it’s all a lie.

I brought up the idea of bait several times with Henry the other night. This woman has “offered” time and time again to step back so he can “take time to decide” if he wants to stay in this relationship or not, and even to “defriend him” on facebook. How nice. How polite. What a pile of bull shit. Every time she made him that offer, he’d bite, and then they’d wind up rekindling the flame, and my guess, based on personal experiences and Henry’s story, is that that reunion even tightened the bond between them, and the grip of the sin. Over and over, tighter and tighter, easier and easier to believe the lie. And then, months later, when Henrietta finds such-and-such on Facebook or wonders why lots-and-lots of money is going toward text messages, it suddenly all becomes an “issue.” Now her anger is an issue. Now she’s not a perfect wife. Now he’s confused about what to do.

Henry, you’ve already made your decision. I’d already made mine, years ago. The choice to pursue that which should not be pursued has already been made, even if you were only passively following along.

Does that mean you can’t get back what you had?

No, you can’t. It’s gone. Gone. Forever. But that’s not to say there’s nothing worth turning back for. Should you decide to tell Little-Miss-Perfect to never talk to you again and mean it, pursue your family with all your heart, and pray to God you’ll get them back, you might not. You’ve cast your vote. You’ve made your choice. It is no longer only your choice to stay or leave. It is your choice to humble yourself, to accept the fact that you’ve broken something to the point that it can’t simply be glued back together, and to do whatever is necessary, and more, for how ever long it takes, to get the chance to be part of that family you’ve helped create.

Is it worth it? That’s gotta be the question that crosses a heart. Why would I risk everything to go back to this broken family, when I’ve got this “for-sure” thing on the side that is so much more fulfilling and inviting? If it’s already broken, why shouldn’t I just give up and let it go, especially if my wife says “We’re through?”

I believe that it is always right to do what you know is right, and, conversly, it is always wrong to do what you know is wrong.

That may not mean that you know what’s right to do in a particular moment. I get that. But Henry, you sure as hell know what’s wrong, don’t you? And if you stop doing what’s wrong, would it not make sense that you’d have more open eyes to see what is right? I’m no expert, but I’ve walked this road. The best decision I ever made was to say “We need to talk. I have a problem.” That moment of truth led to hard decisions, hard phone calls, and an investigation into my life that I would have never asked for, should I not have wanted back what I finally saw I could lose. Why did I want it back? Certainly not because it looked good. Certainly not because I thought things could get better than where they were before. I don’t even think there was a guarantee that if I did X, Y would happen. But somehow, God got through to me early in this process of reconciliation and renewal, and showed me that there was LIFE on the other side. Life I’d never before experienced. Life not based on other’s expectations or my own feelings of being a disappointment to everyone important to me. There was an opportunity to be FREE of what had haunted and controlled me for years. And it wasn’t just lust. It was fear, and it was pride. Fear of being discovered for not being the man I wanted and was expected to be, and pride to pretend to be that very man, while at the same time being weak, broken, and immature.

I don’t think you can ever hear it from someone else and have it ring true for yourself. Even if that person has “been there and done that,” it’s still not true for you until you choose to make it important enough to commit to believe it, despite what it will cost.

I’m running out of words. These probably don’t even come out as a complete thought. There is probably a lot to add or even change and learn, but this is how I feel. I’m sorry, so sorry, for you Henry. I don’t think you were abandoned by your friends, but there were certainly places we could have pursued you harder. And even more for you, Henrietta. You didn’t choose this. While you are certainly a contributing partner to the quality of the relationship, you didn’t walk off.

That’s it. I’m out of gas. I don’t even know if I’ll post this.

A Hope and a Future

Jeremiah 29:11. An often used verse of hope for the future:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

How nice. Plans for a future. Hope in the future. But what about today? It wasn’t until I read the book Run With The Horses by Eugene Peterson that I saw this verse in it’s context.

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD.

This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 11:4-15

So often we use these verses as a “put your hope in the future.” We wind up in a situation or stage of life we can’t bear to live in, so we close our eyes to it and “look ahead.” But that seems to be the exact opposite of what God was telling the people to do, and the place at which this verse finds its home. These Israelites being written to are in exile. They’ve been taken from their home that God gave them, and are now living in a pagan land, surrounded by pagan people, pagan idols, and a pagan way of life. And what does God tell them to do?

  • Build houses and settle down
  • Plant gardens and eat what they produce
  • Marry, have kids, so that you can have grandkids
  • Pray for the prosperity of those who’ve taken you into exile

Every one of these seems counter-intuitive. You’d think that if you were in a place you didn’t want to be and hoped to get out of soon, you wouldn’t settle down or take the time to plant a crop of tomatoes. You’d do everything you can to prepare for your return. You’d live in seclusion, trying to separate yourself from the world around you. But God warns the people to not even listen to the prophets that tell the people what they want to hear (that they’ll be headed home soon). This exile thing is serious. It’s going to span multiple generations. BUT, says God, it’s not the end. I have plans for you. This is for your good. All of this pain, is for your good.

Over and over again, even in these few verses, God reminds them of the long term promise: I will bring you back. You may not even be alive when I bring you back in 70 years, but I will do it. Live like you want your family to be alive and ready when that time comes. Live like you believe in me. That’s where this “hope and a future” concept comes from… not simply hoping tomorrow will get here sooner, but hoping and realizing that today is part of the path God has for me to get there.

This understanding of the context of Jeremiah 29:11 has both helped me see the bigger picture of the hope God wanted for the Israelites, and has also opened my eyes to the world around me. The hard things I go through – whether they are learning new skills, parenting an infant, dealing with my own faults, living in an imperfect family… these things need not determine my future, but they are part of it. The future 5 years from now depends somewhat on what I do today, tomorrow, and next week. God’s promises will be fulfilled, but that doesn’t mean I should (or can) sit idley by and let him do all the hard work.

PDN Thoughts: Communication and Getting Appointments

Today I wrap up a week of sales training focusing on communications and getting appointments. I have had several meetings this week with existing customers and at least one of them has already turned into a great short-term contract for services. Another also opened up opportunities for referrals and a possible strategic alliance, while others simply expressed where I am in my business and life right now, and made some friends aware of the bigger picture of my life.

COMMUNICATIONS

  1. Effective communication only happens when both parties understand their own thoguhts and can express those thoughts in a way that the other party can also understand. A combination of empathy, high self-esteem, confidence, and non-verbal communication give me many avenues to increase the effectiveness of anything I have to communicate.
  2. Listening is a skill that can be developed. It gives me more opportunities to fully understand, while also giving the other party an awareness that I care about what they have to say.

GETTING APPOINTMENTS

  1. Getting appointments with potential new clients is not as scary or complicated as I’d like to make it out to be, if I will only look at it as a system… as a process. There is one step after another to follow, and while I must discover how those steps work for me, my personality, my business, and those I will communicate with, it is no longer something I can just not do because it’s too hard. It will require me to come up with an overall plan and methods of tracking what works and what doesn’t, as well as a determination and awareness that it can be done.
  2. The point in getting appointments is to build the appropriate amount of business to reach my goals. It is not to “grow the business” or to “meet a quota.” Those may be means to those goals, and while growing the business itself is a goal, the primary function of that is to attain more personal levels of satisfaction, fulfillment, and met purpose. This is important to remember during this transition time I am in right now, because while I must be concerned about the upcoming future, I must also not neglect opportunities that are right in front of me.

A FEW GOOD QUOTES:

  • “How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things, but by how well we are understood.” – Andrew S. Grove, Intel
  • “Successful communication requres feedback that indicates understanding, value recognition, the benefits of taking action now, or the consequenses of not taking action now… Before ideas can be accepted and acted upon, they must be known and understood clearly by the listener.”
  • “Make your goals big enough and exciting enough to stimulate your desire to achieve them.”

QUESTIONS

  1. Just how important are face-to-face meetings, versus phone call appointments, online meetings/presentations, etc.?