Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Afternoon Interview

My heart is full. I have spent the last three days soaking in missions from Mario Freitas. He leads an organization called MAIS. Translated into English, that means MORE. MORE for the world. Doing MORE Together. MORE for those in need.

I have asked him a few questions (or a few hundred) and I think this would be helpful for us to understand missions and community development a little better. Check it out below:

1. Mario, your organization does work with the suffering church related to several areas...what are those areas?
MORE is an organization that works supporting the suffering church in areas where there is natural disaster, religious persecution and war. 
2. Mario, you have been talking about development work as a strategic move in missions. Can you explain what that looks like in a country like Haiti?
Haiti is one of the countries in the world where there was more international investment related to donations than any other developing country. Still, it is definitely the poorest country in the western hemisphere. That proves that preaching and giving were not enough. I believe that poverty has a lot to do with mentality and worldview. I would say that development is the available strategy to sufocate the poverty mindset. By teaching them development, we are just showing how far they could go and that is always empowering.
3. From your perspective how can short-term teams be exposed to missions, impacting their heart and mind, without messing up long-term development in those countries?
Short-term missions are an amazing strategy for churches to get their members involved in missions. Once a 17-year-old goes to the mission field for a week, his life will never be the same again. Even if he doesn't work in missions for his whole life, he will still be a mission oriented banker or real state developer or whatever his career path is. And if short-term teams work along with organizations that are doing a long-term development work on the ground in those countries, there will be no undermining of the work those organizations are already doing. The problem is when teams try to create ministries and donate money or goods without enough understanding culture and context.

Ultimately, we need to be thinking in terms of how we can support and come alongside locals who want to see their communities improve and who are willing to work to get it done. I'm excited about the work MORE is doing in the world in Haiti and beyond. It is truly a gift to be able to spend time with Mario. Thank you, Mario, for your time and investment in coming to share with The Church at Lake Travis this weekend. God has big plans for you and your ministry.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday for Missions

This week I have the honor of hosting Pastor Mario Freitas, a get-it-done-world-changer from Brazil. He is a missions guru. And, as I talk with him, I am reminded of how critical it is for us in the U.S. to be actively partnering with mission organizations who are getting-it-done. M.A.I.S. is a portugese acronym that stands for Missional Aide for the Suffering Church. And, they are accomplishing amazing things all over the world.

Mario was saying that in the world, most places where people are unreached are places that need development. So, when you are looking at organizations to give your hard earned money to, one of the primary questions you should be asking is: "Does this organization give handouts? Or, does this organization develop people, structures, and systems to facilitate God's kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy be established here on the earth."

Tomorrow, I'll share an interview with you from my time with Mario to share a little more about the work they are doing in the development department.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The "Fit"ness of a Leader, pt. 5

Recently, I let my car inspection go for 2 months! It was out in June. I got it inspected finally in August!
Have you let your inspection go?

Maybe this week has been a time for you to stop and inspect your fitness as a leader.

I have said that we would cover 4 areas of a leader's fitness. See those links on the side for pt. 1-4.

The first day, I talked about spiritual fitness. I spent two days on the physical side of things. While physical fitness isn't more valuable than spiritual fitness, it is sometimes easier to break it up between diet and exercise. Actually, spiritual fitness could probably be divided between diet (what you take in) and exercise (what you do with what you take in) too, but I digress.

Yesterday, I talked about emotional health. My heart is still full for that point. And, now that we have covered care for the heart, and gotten out of our head, let's go back to the head...yep...mental fitness.

If you are going to be fit as a leader in the area of mental health I am convinced you need to do a few things really well. When I am sharp and focused mentally, I am doing these things. When I am fuzzy and unfocused, it's because I am usually not doing these things.

1. Read voraciously. You may have heard this before. Leaders are readers and the moment you stop reading, you stop leading. There is a lot of truth to that axiom. Read broadly. Read fiction to relax. Read business to sharpen skills. Read art to stretch. Read leadership. Read culture. Reading helps you think differently about life. Reading inspires creativity.  Pick up a book off your shelf that has been on there collecting dust and discipline yourself to read it in a weeks time. Start the habit.

2. Listen. I listen to podcasts of various leaders. Thinking about what they say and more importantly why they say what they say is important to me expanding mental capacity.

2. Reflect. For me, this primarily happens through journaling. When I journal, I am able to transfer thoughts onto paper. Dawson Trotman, who was the founder of the Navigators ministry used to say, “Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” In other words, if you can't say it and you can't write it, then you haven't really thought about it. Take some time to reflect.

3. Retreat. I like to retreat weekly for an hour (Monday mornings), monthly for 8 hours (1st Friday of month), and quarterly for 24-48 hours (1st Friday extended or 1st Sunday or Monday). This is what I need to stay fresh mentally. When I retreat, I pray, I plan, I read, I listen, and I reflect. Oh, and I rest...take a nap. Sometimes the most productive, spiritual, physical, emotional and mental thing I can do is force myself to take a nap! Hard for guys like me, but necessary!

What are you doing to stay fit as a leader? As I conclude this series, let me ask you, are you "fit" to lead? Spiritually? Physically? Emotionally? Mentally? Evaluate yourself and do the work needed to get fit. Set a goal. Work towards it. And, enjoy the ride!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The "Fit"ness of a Leader, pt. 4

Have you been evaluating your fitness levels as a leader this week? I wrote about 2 key components to your fitness here, here, and here.

Today, let's dive into an area that most of us don't really like to deal with or look at.

Eastern cultures thrive around the idea that the "heart" is the seat of all emotions. And, somewhere along the way, westerners learned to wall off their heart and do life in their head. Which works really well at times. The brain is a powerful tool. More on that tomorrow.

Proverbs even talks about the importance of the heart: "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Everything? Yes, Everything.

Jesus even spoke to this issue: "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." 

The fitness of a leader in the area of emotional health is vital. 

Often our fitness in the area of our heart is weak, due to the fact that we live in our head space so often that we forget how to care for the heart. 

My theory is that many of us get beat up by life along the way. Someone labels us as a kid. Parents divorce. Addiction enters our life. A spouse cheats. Something happens that hurts us...damages our heart and we vow unconsciously to believe a lie about ourselves and others. 

Pop Psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw says it this way: "If your personal truth is damaged, you've got to change it."

I will admit that my emotional health journey has been a long one. And, like a turtle, I will retreat back into my shell when I sense danger. 

And, over the years, I have sought some serious help in this desire to get emotionally healthy. 

 Recently, I was chatting with my best friend and he said, "You find yourself with these various, serious reflective opportunities all along the way. And, it's almost like God is saying, 'Jeremy, you need a little more work...a little more help.'" I guess I'm one of God's special projects. 

If you are reading this today, consider it a prompt from God that you may need to pursue a little help in the area of your heart.

Here are a few things I have done that I would commend to you to pursue emotional health:

1. L.E.A.D. This program is so excellent it is already booked out into June of 2014! This is an experience that happens with your spouse, so there is continuity and no hiding. It was a defining moment for Ashley and I in our journey towards having healthy hearts. I highly recommend this if you're looking to evaluate where you are and walk out with a plan of where you want to go.

2. Counseling. I have spent several months in counseling in the last 10 years. It is never convenient. And, it is essential to get an outside voice speaking into the heart. Cost can be an obstacle, but there are a lot of free counseling services available. If you are a pastor in the Austin area, there is free counseling available to you and your family. Check it out here.http://abideleadercare.com/

3. Discovery- I hesitate to share this with you, because I just recently completed the first round of Discovery. However, it was certainly a powerful experience for me. And, I think it is a very helpful training to help people live and operate from their heart and live out their mission.

So, what are you feeling? Are you feeling anything? Have you lost touch with your heart? What is stopping you from getting help so you can feel again? 

If I can help you pursue emotional health, don't hesitate to ask.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The "Fit"ness of a Leader, pt. 3

After yesterday's post about the energy of a leader, I'd be remiss if I didn't write about how a leader's diet affects his energy level.

Picture this. A leader gets up in the morning, grabs a cup of coffee with cream and sugar, grabs a granola bar and a banana and heads off the the office. They ride the caffeine and sugar wave since 85% of everything he put in their mouth that morning is sugar or converts to sugar. And, sugar is a great energy source for short term.

Lunch rolls around and they go out with some colleagues. They order a burger and fries. By the time, 2 pm gets here, the eyelids are getting very heavy. UGH. That burger was too heavy. Or was it? Maybe it was the bun average 40 grams of carbohydrates of which 20 grams convert to our good friend sugar. And, fried potatoes. Well, they are a little hard for your body to digest.

So, our leader is getting sleepy and goes to grab another caffeine powered friend, Mountain Dew. Empty calories, they say, but it sure feels good. And, the cycle repeats itself until one day, they wake up with High Blood Pressure, Obese Body Fat percentage (32%+ for women, 25%+for men), Depleting muscle mass, and overall feeling low energy levels. I was so close to this description 2 years ago. I had crept up to 24% body fat and was feeling super sluggish.

And, then I discovered something people call "clean eating." Actually, I heard about Skinny Rules which then led to Paleo. And, I read some stuff from CrossFit which says: Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. 

Through a disciplined diet for over one year now, I have been able to reduce my body fat percentage into a fitness level that yields much more energy. I can actually see how much of my kids life I was missing out on all because I just didn't have the energy to get out and be with them. And, how much ministry I didn't accomplish because I didn't feel like it. Now, I know what my mentor was talking about!

Now, other than eating clean, Ashley and I put 2 things in our bodies during this season that help us achieve fitness through diet. Get ready for my commercial:)

1. At the top of my list is Shakeology. I'll let you read all about it, but regardless it is the most delicious, nutrient-dense, superfood-packed protein shake on the planet. And, if you want to
  • Curb cravings for sugar and junk food
  • Lose weight
  • Increase energy levels
  • Improve digestion and regularity
  • Support your immune system
  • Support cardiovascular health
then, you want Shakeology. Order here for your first month.  I am a Beachbody coach, so if you'd like to become a coach to receive deep discounts on Shakeology, let me know.

2. We use products from Advocare.  I just finished a 10 day Herbal cleanse that helped me feel even better. It's a gentle cleanse that helps repair damage to your gut that has been caused by improper nutrition. You can order that cleanse or go big guns if you want to get serious about dropping some weight and order the 24 day Challenge.

Finally, we count calories. We count calories to make sure we eat enough. Most people are worried about eating too much. However, when you are eating clean, you actually have to eat MORE to make sure you're getting enough to fuel your body...That's a good problem to have.

And, at the end of the day, if this way that I've outlined isn't yielding more energy for you as a leader, tweak it. Try something different. Eat some sweet potatoes at dinner. Try something that will add to your energy level.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The "Fit"ness of a Leader, pt. 2

I mentioned yesterday that I have been on a fitness journey and it has caused me to ponder the question: What makes a leader "fit" to lead?

We began with the definition of fitness:

The quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.

I remember when I first started out in ministry, my mentor Chris Goins, would say to me over an over again..."Keep your energy high. Do whatever it takes. Keep your energy high." I can honestly say at the time, I had no idea what he meant. 

I have learned, since then, what he meant. And, I have found that my energy level is a high value to me. It actually makes me mad when I don't have the energy I know that I should have to move forward. 

And, one thing that I discovered a little over a year ago that has caused my energy level to sky rocket is CrossFit. CrossFit is constantly varied, functional movements done at high intensity. And, after a couple of months of participating in group classes at CrossFit Lakeway and now at 36 years old, I feel like I'm in high school again with all of the energy I have. I even went and became certified as a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. 

In CrossFit, we say, you're either sick or you're fit. That may startle some of you. On the continuum, there isn't alot of wiggle room. Now, I will let you off the hook a bit. There is some wiggle room. Wellness is an in-between that we can all work towards. And, we should.

All of that to say, I am taking my physical health serious because I believe that my "fit"ness as a leader is directly connected to my energy level which is directly connected to my activity level.

What's your energy level like? Are you physically active? You don't need to be CrossFit. But are you moving? Are you winded when you climb stairs? Do you get on the floor and play with your toddler? Grandchild? Do you go outside and play with your kids on the trampoline? In the yard? Does your family go on bike rides? Do you and your spouse take walks together?

Here's what I know you know. You feel better if your are physically active. And, as you feel better, you are a better leader...the quality of your leadership improves. So, take care to get moving so your energy level will increase and you'll have more capacity to lead.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The "Fit"ness of a Leader, pt. 1

 In the last year, I have gone on this fitness journey. And, as I have been on this journey, it has stirred some other questions. One of those questions is: What makes a leader "fit" to lead? 

In order to discuss this, you first have to define fitness. Here's our working definition:

"The quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task."

As you think about areas of leadership, are you displaying a quality of being suitable to fulfill a role or a task?

Over the next few days, I am planning to write about 4 essential areas of "Fit"ness when it comes to leadership. As I do, I am going to share what I do to work toward "Fit"ness.

The first essential area of "Fit"ness is a leaders Spiritual life. 

Here's what I do to be fit spiritually:

1. I read God's word, the Bible. Sometimes I read 5 chapters. Sometimes I read 1 chapter. Sometimes I read 1 verse. I read and listen for God to speak to me.

2. I pray. I pray often. I pray aloud. I pray and pace. That means that I talk to God as I walk around my office. I pray when I'm driving in my car. I pray when I'm in meetings. I pray at most meals, although I sometimes simply forget to pray when I have a snack :) I also meditate. That just means I mull something I read in the Bible over in my mind throughout the day.

3. I stumble and fall. In other words, I fail. And, failure, thank God, isn't final. I will go a couple of days and realize I have gotten off track and need to get back on track. And, so I jump back on track only to be derailed by a busy day or some other excuse that I make for myself. I count failing when it comes to prayer and Bible reading because I believe it is part of the experience that reminds me that I am saved by grace, not by works. 

These are "no-brainers" right? And, yet, they aren't always easy disciplines to follow. 

Are you seeing any of these themes in your spiritual life? If the quality of your life as a leader has some unhealthy habits spiritually speaking, it may cause you to not be ready to fulfill your task. Stay tuned for evaluating your "Fit"ness level as a leader in 3 other vital areas.