Last weekend, I realized I need a diet.
Although I’m sure my typical menu could use a tune up as well, that’s not the kind of diet I’m thinking about today. I’m thinking about a mental diet. I realize I’ve been ingesting way too much mental junk food and need to switch to a more beneficial mental intake.
The deceptive part about all the mental junk I’ve been taking in is that none of it is overtly sinful. I’m not looking at anything online I shouldn’t be or reading total trash. But I’ve been watching a lot of meaningless tv. I’ve been killing more time on the internet. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have seen a lot more of me.
And I’ve been neglecting these things called books. Bottom line: I need to read more. More things that stir my affection for Christ. More things that grow me as a leader and pastor. More things that inform my thinking about the church and ministry. Biographies. Good novels. Basically, things that make me a better and more interesting person.
So, this summer I’m cutting out the mental junk and am reading more. I’m trying to walk in the wisdom of what the Apostle Paul shares in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Maybe you’ll join me in a little mental diet over the summer.
Laura and I are headed out of town for the weekend with some friends (and Jack…can’t forget him!!) and to make it a real vacation, I’m shutting off all technology until Tuesday morning. No computer, no phone, no texting, no tweeting, no anything!! It’s an oddly freeing thought.
Maybe you don’t go cold turkey for four days over the weekend but why not take a break for a day or even a few hours. Unplug and enjoy the weekend a bit!
If you don’t have an audience in mind when writing or preaching, odds are good you’ll end up without an audience at all.
This simple truth has done more to help me as a communicator than any other principle I’ve learned over the years. Writing and preaching aren’t just about creating a great piece of work. They’re about leading an audience to the response you want. They’re not about impressing, they’re about connecting.
The importance of audience was beaten into me by an English professor I had as an undergrad. Before we wrote a paper, he made us write a short paper about our audience! Who did we want to read this paper? What did we know about them? Why were they reading this? What did they want to get out of their reading? What did they understand about the topic already? How old were they? Were they going to like what I had to say? What was I trying to accomplish? And the list would go on and on and on.
The funny thing was, the more we defined our audience, the better our papers got. By the way, I don’t just mean we get better grades. I mean we wrote more clearly and effectively. And I was hooked on the power of understanding an audience.
So, before you write that next sales pitch, sermon, blog or email, think about your audience. Ask yourself some questions about them and then write to them not for them. That simple pattern will pay huge dividends in your communication.
Sometimes you just need to shut your email off and get things done.
Don’t get me wrong – email is a wonderful tool. I use it almost every day and can’t imagine life without it. But it’s also a major productivity and creativity killer. It’s almost impossible to focus on bigger projects if you are constantly distracted by the message that just hit your inbox. Sometimes the distraction comes from the way we’ve set up our computers – a chime or flashing message every time we get an email. But a lot of the time my distractions come from my own obsession with checking my inbox. Ever find yourself working on a project and all of the sudden checking your email like it’s some kind of subconscious decision? I know I have!
Here’s my suggestion: turn it off.
Your computer actually works without Outlook or Mac Mail open all the time! The world will be fine if you aren’t on email for a few hours. Sure, one hyperactive co-worker will probably have a melt down if they don’t get a reply instantly but, let’s be honest, that person’s going to have a daily meltdown no matter what you do! So, just turn the email program off and watch your productivity increase.
For extra credit, you can turn your work email off on your smartphone when you get home for the evening. If you think the lack of distraction will make you more productive and creative at work, imagine what it will do for your relationships at home.
Breaking free of email might just be the greatest leadership decision you can make today.
Have you ever noticed that God is really into timing?
Take the birth of Jesus for example. Galatians 4:4 tell us, “When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son.” Jesus was right on time – at exactly the point in history God had chosen for the Incarnation. A few years later, Mary told Jesus about the lack of wine at the wedding feast of Cana. Part of His response included, “My hour has not yet come.”(Jn. 2:4) Yes, He turned the water to wine but not because He suddenly got the ability but because it was finally the right time. Later in John’s gospel, the disciples were trying to get Jesus to come into Judea to perform miracles at the Feast of Booths. Again, Jesus objects with “My time is not yet here.”(Jn. 7:6) In other words, “Guys, I would be a hit…but it’s just not the right time.” It’s about timing for God. It’s about waiting for the right moment. It’s about waiting for the God moment.
I’m so impatient that I have a really hard time remembering that principle in my life. If I think of something, I want to do it now. If I’m uncertain, I want clarity now. If I write something, I want to publish it now or preach it now. I don’t like the thought of having a great talk in me that doesn’t come out for months…what a waste! Waiting and I have never really gotten along so well.
Honestly, I just don’t like it when God’s timing isn’t the same as mine – which is too bad, since it almost never is!
I’ve been praying a lot about timing recently. I not only want to know the right things to do but I also want to know the right time to do them. The right thing at the wrong time isn’t any more helpful than the wrong thing at the right time. It takes patience to remember that – but it also cultivates a sense of excitement on a daily basis as I wait to see when God is going to unfold things in His perfect timing.