This past week I sat down and planned out some goals for the areas I lead at work. This is a normal part of what I do each year, but this year was a little different. I incorporated some personal goals into my work goals.

As I started this process, I realized that what I was planning for work, could impact my family and personal time. It made me think about how I will get it all done (four pages of goals and objectives). I have to be honest, I was a little overwhelmed. So I started listing out some personal goals for spiritual, emotional and physical growth in my life.

I think goals are good, because they keep us focused on the important stuff. However, goals can also get us off track if we don’t mix work and personal goals together. You see if all I think about is work stuff, then that is what my highest priority will be. I will tend to not think about how work can affect family and personal things. If you don’t have a plan for your personal life it will get off track very quickly.

That is why I put my personal goals on the same document as work goals. It helps me to stay balanced as I review my work goals, I see my personal goals as well. So here is my challenge to you. If you have set some work goals for the year, pull them out and add your personal goals to it.

How do you plan on growing spiritually this year? How will you grow more emotionally healthy? How will you get in better physical condition? How will you spend more time with your family? How will you improve your relationships? How will you invest in your marriage?

Write them down and then keep reviewing them throughout this year. Hopefully it will bring some clarity to your priorities and help you stay more balanced in your life.

It also helps to have someone keep you accountable on your goals. Our boss does that at work, so find someone to ask you how you are doing on the personal side. I plan on sharing my personal goals with my men’s group. Then they can ask me how I am doing throughout the year.

Thoughts on Marriage

Lately, I have been doing a good bit of marriage counseling. I have been meeting with couples together and individually. Some really want to work on things, others don’t know if they want to put the work in. As I listen to the problems, conflicts and situations, I see some recurring themes. Most of these couples are not communicating, they are fighting. They are also focused on their problems and not on God.

When I meet with a couple, I first want to hear how they met and fell in love. I ask about their families and some of their past. The reason I do that is two fold; first I want to hear their stories to better understand them and secondly, I want them to remember something good, and why they got married.

After that we begin to zero in on what the problems seem to be. Many of the problems are a result of a much deeper issue or issues. The hard work is digging down to discover what is causing you to react in this way when problems come up. Why do I get so angry when she does this? Why do I get so upset when he does that?

If you are not willing to look under the surface and deal with the old junk, hurts or habits, the surface problems will continue. You see, we all have core fears that trigger these reactions of anger, defensiveness, blaming, manipulation, sarcasm or withdrawal. Identifying your fear buttons is an important first step toward working through it. A great book called “The DNA of Relationships” by Dr. Gary Smalley can help you identify your fears and help you work through them.

In a marriage relationship communication often is a big problem. I believe one of the reasons we struggle with communication is that men and women are usually speaking different languages. Can you imagine living with a person that speaks mostly Japanese with a few English words mixed in? While you speak mostly English and understand a few Japanese words. It would be very difficult to communicate and gain understanding, especially if you don’t make an attempt to learn their language.

Men and women think and communicate in different ways. Men tend to think and communicate with logical steps and want to fix things. Women tend to think and communicate with emotion and want to express themselves and be understood. When my wife and I have a conflict, it is usually because I have not spoken her language. To avoid that I need to try to listen more and speak less. I need to listen and try to understand and not fix. I also need to think before I say something. How will she filter this message I am about to deliver. To do that I need to know my wife and how she thinks and what is important to her. I need to know what her “Love Language” is and what her “fear buttons” are. Some books to consider reading are “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, “Love & Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

That takes some time and work. It means I need to become curious about my wife and try to find out what makes her tick. Unfortunately many couples don’t want to work at that. It is much easier to go on the attack, to do the selfish thing, to ignore the problems, to escape through work, recreation, alcohol or the Internet. It is easier to just say whatever I think and not be concerned about the hurt I am causing.

There is a better way and it leads to healthy relationships. You see on our own we can’t do the stuff I talked about. We can’t love our wives or respect our husbands. It takes bringing God into your marriage. It means giving God your spouse and marriage. It means turning your focus from your spouse and problems and focusing on growing in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Even if your spouse is far from God, you can grow in your walk with God. When you do that God will give you the ability to deal with the problems, to react in a different way, to use different words, to show love & respect. Ephesians 5:33 says this “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

I always try to point couples to God. I ask about their prayer time and if they are reading God’s Word. Are they attending Church together and involved in a small group. Most of the time the answer is no. Did you know that couples that pray together on a consistent basis rarely get divorced. It doesn’t mean they don’t have conflict, but they are working together as a team. They are on the same side and working together to work through conflict. If you are not viewing your marriage relationship as a team effort, then you are struggling in your marriage. You will act in selfish ways and view the other person as the opposition, instead of a teammate.

My question is this, what is your next step in your marriage? Do you need to reconnect with God, get counseling, pray together, go on a date, stop using hurtful words, start learning his/her love language, start speaking his/her love language, Discover your core fears, get in a couples group, read a book on marriage together. I don’t know what it is for you, but you need to take a step.

A Quiet Friday

Friday’s are usually quiet around NewPointe. There are only a handful of people working. For me it is a good day to catch up and get things done. I only had one appointment today, so I thought I should be able to get some projects finished. I ended up making two more appointments. One with a guy I had been trying to call all week and we finally made contact. He said he wanted to talk, so I told him to come in at noon.

When he got here I soon discovered that he was really seeking God. He had walked away from God in the past, but found himself in a difficult situation. That situation brought right back to God. He had a lot of questions and even wondered if God was punishing him. We talked for a while about how God doesn’t punish us for being bad, He loves us.

I could tell that he was very open to spiritual things, so I asked him if anyone has explained what it means to be saved. He said no, so I used the bridge example to show him that Jesus bridged the gap between us and God. I also took him to some Scriptures that explain how we are all sinners and need to be saved and that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ. We read the Scriptures together and then I read Revelation 3:20 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock, If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” I asked him if he wanted Jesus to come into his life. He said yes!

We prayed right there in my office. I gave him a Bible and showed him where to start reading. I will be following up with him to see if he has questions and to get him more connected with other believers.

There were many other people investing in his life. His family & some friends had all been encouraging him. They would give him CD’s from NewPointe and invite him to church. All that investing worked!

My other two appointments had to do with relationships. I hope I was able to help point them to God and to refocus their relationship with Jesus and not on all their problems. It is so easy to get distracted and off track. Sometimes people just need to be reminded that God is on their team and He is waiting for them to come to Him.

I feel very humbled that on a quiet Friday at NewPointe I was able to connect some people to God.

My Weekend

Wow, what a weekend! It was a very busy Saturday and Sunday for me, but it was all good. It actually started on Friday night with a rehearsal for a wedding. Jason Schmachtenberger (try saying that fast) and Ashley Brooker got married on Saturday here at NewPointe. The rehearsal went well and we enjoyed a great meal afterward at the Pro’s table (that’s one of the perks of doing weddings).

On Saturday morning I met with my men’s group for 2 and half hours. We had some great conversations and really opened up to each other. It was one of those times that you lose track of time because you are so into the conversation. We have been connected and getting to know each other much better over the past 6 months. I look forward to just hanging out with these guys on Saturday mornings.

After that I met with an engaged couple to get them started on our mentoring process. It happened to by my cousin Missy Miller. I am so happy for them, Cliff & Missy are a great couple.

After that is was home to get changed for the wedding at 2:00 for Jason & Ashley. This was a fun wedding, they are both laid back and we had a lot of fun. This was the first wedding that I did that when I asked Jason if he takes Ashley to be his wife that he paused and then huddled with the guys first. Of course he said yes.

I shared with them that the Bible has much to teach us about relationships and marriage. Much like learning to dance we need to practice and learn the right steps. Three dance steps from the Bible include:
1. Watching your words (Proverbs 12:18 says Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing)
2. Settle your Disagreements (learn to work through conflict and don’t ignore it)
3. Practice Forgiveness ( Ephesians 4:32, Be forgiving one to another just as God in Christ has forgiven you)

Here are some pictures from the reception at the Amish Door in Wilmot (I attempted to line dance):

I also met a couple of great guys at the wedding, Ryan & Kenny (both attend Bowling Green University). We played a joke on Kenny by putting a huge amount of mashed potato’s on his plate when he left. After he ate a little of it he created a giant Hershey kiss with the potatoes (Very Creative). Here are some pictures:

We ended our week by going to church on Sunday. What an amazing service. Dwight really challenged us to trust God. After the service my small group went to help a family move up in Canton. Of course we had to eat first, so we went to Chipotle in Canton, now that’s good stuff! Our small group consists of John & Jennifer Troyer, Keith & Tami Stone and Vikki & I. We are going to GroupLink this Saturday to add one or two new couples to our group. Requirements to join our group included liking to eat and liking cats.

The family we helped was Jennifer Troyer’s sister. Laura has the grey sweatshirt on in the second picture and her husband Kevin has the Browns Sweatshirt on. They have two children, Jessica & Logan. Jennifer & Laura’s parents were their as well (Jennifer & Her parents are in the last photo).

I think they were very surprised that we would want to give up a Sunday afternoon to come and help them move. It was a real blessing to all of us to help them out. We love to serve together as a group. It helps us get to know each other better and make a difference in other peoples lives.

Looking Ahead

I find it very interesting that this time of the year most people are hopeful for a good year. We make resolutions, set goals and dream big. We quickly try to forget about the past year and look to the future. Exercise equipment and gym memberships sell well, as we make an attempt to get into better shape.

I was in Walmart today and was amazed at how much exercise and weight loss stuff they had. I have to admit that I am thinking about how much weight I need to lose (20 pounds would be nice).

So why do we get so excited about the future? Could it be because the future is unknown and that gives us hope? A hope that things could be better. Without hope we have little reason for living. We hope for a better future, whatever that looks like to you. That hope helps us to keep going, to keep trying, to keep pursuing our purpose in life.

As I look ahead to 2008, I hope to grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I don’t want to remain the same. I want to keep growing and maturing in my faith. I want to be healthy emotionally, so that my relationships can be better. I want to break through any walls that are holding me back from a deeper relationship with God.

I am very excited about what God is going to do in 2008. The stories of life change that I will get to hear. The people I will get to meet. The books I will get to read. The messages I will get to hear. The prayers I will get to pray. The places I will get to go. The relationships I will get to develop. The conflicts I will get to work through. The decisions I will have to make.

This past Sunday was the first Sunday in 2008. Three people at NewPointe Community Church made the decision to commit their lives to Jesus Christ. They have a brand new hope, a new life. I am so excited for those three people and all the others that will discover new hope in 2008.

No matter where you are at in your walk with God, you can keep growing. I encourage you to take that next step in 2008. For some people it will be to make that first time commitment. For others it will be to recommit their lives to God. For some it will be to be baptized, or maybe get into a small group. For others it may be to start serving in an area of ministry or maybe take on a more challenging volunteer role. For some people it may mean going on a short term mission trip. For others it may mean restoring a relationship. For some it may be to start tithing. I don’t know what step God has for you, but I do know He has a step He is asking you to take. Be strong and courageous and walk boldly forward on your spiritual journey in 2008.

The Refrigerator

This weekend my wife cleaned out the refrigerator. I don’t know about you but sometimes we leave stuff in there longer than we should. She found a dish that she knew had been in there a while. When we opened the container we were amazed at what we saw. Here is a picture for your enjoyment.

I have seen many kinds of mold, but not hair. I thought about putting some on my head, but quickly changed my mind.

As I thought about this amazing hairy growth, it made me think about how many of us don’t regularly take the time to clean out our personal “refrigerators”. Many of us have hurts, habits and hangups that get stuck away in a corner of our heart and we try to forget about it. Unfortunately, they don’t just stay there, they begin to grow and become pretty ugly if they are not thrown out or dealt with.

If we neglect the deep emotional and spiritual issues locked away in those corners of our hearts they can grow into something that stinks up the entire place. It can cause us to do things we normally would not do, and say things we normally would not say. These neglected “containers” can cause relational damage, emotional damage and keep you from growing in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Are there things in your “refrigerator” that are causing you to be angry, unforgiving, sarcastic, greedy, jealous, depressed, anxious, or maybe full of pride?

So my question today is what stuff do you have growing in your heart that you don’t want in there? Do you need to start 2008 by cleaning our your refrigerator?

Back from Eight Days of Hope

I just got back from Bay St. Louis Mississippi. Eight Days of Hope had their 5th Katrina relief event there. All I can say is Wow! What an amazing organization, the passion and commitment are incredible. I was very impressed with the leadership of EDOH. They have learned a lot over the past 2 years and have made an amazing impact in the communities they have worked.

About 1,100 people were a part of this outreach. People from 43 different states. There were 16 people from NewPointe that made the trip. I traveled and worked with Doug Miller (left) and Mike Miller (right) (no relation).

We left last Thursday night and drove 16 hours straight (we stopped 5 times). We got there Friday morning around 10:00. We checked in and they asked if we wanted to go work right away. There was an 80 year old lady that needed some some small jobs done. She had just moved back into her home from her FEMA trailer. We worked at her place for about 5 hours and then went back and got settled in.

Our first official work day was Saturday December 29th. We got to pick out our job on Friday night, so we hit the ground running on Saturday morning. Mike, Doug and I hooked up with Lowel Rice and his wife Shirley. Lowel had built three home and was retired. Another retired couple Pete and Pat also joined us to round out our team of seven.

Our job was for a single lady, Ms. Leonardine Curry. She had been living in a tiny FEMA trailer for over two years, just her and her dog. We had to install wood Pergo flooring in every room, hang all the interior doors and one exterior door, and put down all the finish trim. We ended up doing a bunch of other small jobs for her as well.

At the end of the four days we had everything done and she was ready to move in. All she had to do was get the gas turned on and have a final inspection. She was very grateful and gave most of us a hug. We all gathered around and prayed for her and her new home.

In the first four days of work over 100 projects were completed. There was another 50-75 to complete and four new houses that needed to be finished. Originally they wanted to build seven new homes but three did not have enough pre-work done to get started.

I really enjoyed getting to know the people I worked with and the families we met. The people are so grateful for the volunteers that come to do work. For many people they cannot afford to pay someone to do the work, so it sits there until they can save a little money. Many of these folks also have been taken advantage of by dishonest contractors.

I ran to Lowes about 6-7 times to pick up supplies and materials and met some nice folks there as well. This area is slowly coming back.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was Steve Wingfield. Steve is an evangelist from Virginia and I have known him for almost 10 years. He spoke to all the volunteers on New Years Eve. What a great message! He really challenged and encouraged all of us to not be “normal”, but abnormal. What normal person takes a vacation to go work on homes in Mississippi? He said that the people that we are trying to reach, those that are not saved, view Christians as boring, judgmental and hypocritical. He also shared some amazing stories of how God has been working in Long Beach MS, which is the area he has been working with the past two years. God is truly Good and Amazing.

This trip helped to increase the fire inside of me. I want to make a difference in this world with the time I have left. I want to bring the Eight Days of Hope attitude to this community and our church. I want more people to be so in love with Jesus that they do abnormal things. I want our church to show compassion to the hurting people in our community. I want to be Jesus with skin on. I hope many of you will join me.

Eight Days of Hope will be doing another trip later this year back to MS. They also will start doing shorter 4-5 day projects throughout the country. Probably two per year. The next one is scheduled for April or May in northern Mississippi.

Here are some more pictures from my experience. Enjoy!