Love is a Journey

I’ve had most of this latest post ready but have been waiting to publish it in the hopes that some additional words would fully express the true meaning of love in my life. The reality is that no eloquent text will give it justice… love is perfect but it doesn’t always look that way. The best definition is in scripture – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

 

The title of this post is simple. Love can take us far. And while the journey may have ups and downs, the experiences make us whole. I think that is God’s plan. Not to experience a perfect life but to experience His perfect love; with all the ups and downs. That is when patience comes in and kindness shows up. Just like the scripture states.

This has been true for me. When I look back at my life I can definitely see where love played a part in making moments count; in creating it memorable. While love isn’t always easy, I can look back and recall each season with a smile. So this post is more of a nostalgic walk on how love has shaped me.

As a child

I remember my parents telling me that they loved me more than I could ever imagine. That first memory in the hallway of our home is still stamped in my mind. My parent’s love for me was the first catalyst to make me believe in myself.

I also recall my parents fighting and telling me that they loved my brother and I more than each other. That coded statement confused me for most of my childhood. I thought their love was what I was supposed to aim for. Their love for each other was imperfect but it was okay. It was still beautiful. Ultimately, their imperfect relationship made me realize that my example for marriage would have to come from something higher than my parents.

As a teenager

I look back at my middle and high school years and recognize that most of my relationships were one way and heart breaking. The formative decade of the 90’s made me want something more. From hurtful friendships came a desire to experience sacrificial love.

My first experience of real love came through a soccer game that led to a weekly youth group. I remember true kindness showing up when we would ride an old van to pick up folks for small group, enjoy a meal together, sing hymns, read scripture and witness Jesus to each other. This was when I first experienced perfect love by imperfect people.

As an adult

As I got in to college my heart beat raced fast for a beautiful American girl. Her smile got my attention and her laughter made me happy. But it was her sacrificial commitment to others that made me fall in love with her. She moved to a new country, learned a new language and walked the roads less travelled to share the love of Jesus. True love becomes clear when you recognize the spring from where it flows.

That spring of love led me to a new family that welcomed me as their own. They heard my stories and recognized it as my journey. They have been there ever since. Always cncouraging. Always uplifting. When you follow love, love follows you back. 

And as I recognize this journey, I’m now able to show my children the road. They are part of the blessing of love. And while I will one day let go of their hand, I know God’s perfect love will lead them the right way.

What is your journey of love?

 

 

The best formula to build Commitment

As part of my new year’s theme I’ve decided to focus on one word: Commitment. I blogged about it on my first post of 2016. I recall this word coming to me during a time of prayer and meditation. Commitment is a word that is present in everyone. We all make decisions and commitment is the intrinsic muscle that allows us to keep the course. Commitment is non-negotiable. It doesn’t change based on the results of a decision. Commitment isn’t always easy but it is one of the greatest standards of leadership.

Over this last month I’ve learned much about the definition of commitment and believe there is a formula that can help anyone stay committed to their decisions, goals and dreams.

Discipline

Discipline can be synonymous with restraint and self-control. For many people it provides an image of suppression which can be both good and bad. I tend to focus on the positive and believe discipline along with motivation help us stay the course. In many ways it creates an environment of clear direction.

I’ve seen the fruits of discipline play out in my life when I was young and even now…

I see discipline in my life when I wake up every morning and read my bible to meditate on God’s truth. 

I see discipline in my life when I wake up extra early to go on a morning run three times a week.

I see discipline in my life when I take an hour of the day to read a book that will help me both in my personal and professional life.

Accountability 

When I think of accountability I think of responsibility. We answer by our own actions. I think most of us were first introduced to the notion of accountability in our youth with our parents. I can still remember them keeping me straight on what was expected of me. I do the same with my children. But accountability is not so much the reinforcement of rules as much as it is the empowerment of ones ability to keeping the course. To staying committed. To doing what we are supposed to do.

Even as an adult, and even as a leader, I still find value in accountability. Every week I have a set of friends who will check on me and confirm my direction with decisions I make. I do the same for them. They are not mentors but rather accountability partners that provide encouragement and support. To me, they reflect the beauty of Proverbs 27:17:

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

Discipline and Accountability will help you keep your Commitments. In reality they can help you establish your new year theme and achieve your goals.

How are you building discipline and who is keeping you accountable?

Choosing a theme for 2016

We are a few days into the new year and by now you might have already made some mistakes that jeopardize your new year’s resolution. That happens to most of us – making plans for a new year and falling short of them. At least that is what statistics tell us.

I was reminded this weekend that one of Jesus’ first commands to us, as shown in Matthew 6:25, was to not worry:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat of drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

While some of us dwell on what they wish they did more of last year, others quickly focus on the opportunity to redeem themselves. Setting new year’s resolutions can create stress and anxiety. So instead of creating a list of new things to accomplish, I’m choosing a theme in the new year. I’ve done this in the past and encourage others to do the same. Choosing a theme provides a broader perspective for the new year allowing you the freedom of flexibility to adjust your decisions and steps along the way.

This year I felt challenged by a friend to pray for a word that would describe my theme. Asking God for direction allows you to dig deep into your motives. The word I felt given to me was…
COMMITMENT

Commitment is such an amazing word that acknowledges the power in decisions. So in 2016 I will choose of theme of Commitment…

To my wife in my marriage – being present to serve and love
To my children in my parenting – being willing to equip and prepare them for life
To my family and friend – being aware of them and ready to support and love
To my work and co-workers – being willing to lead with a reflection of integrity
To my neighbors – being able to connect and know them
To God – being intentional

So that is what I will encourage others to focus on this year: to choose a theme word for 2016. What will your theme be?

2015 in review

I received an email from the WordPress.com team where they highlighted some of the features from my site. This couldn’t have happened without all  of you who read my blog. So thank you for…

2014-emailteaser

Signing up for my email list…

Sharing my links on Facebook…

Following me on Twitter…

And spreading some of my experiences for the world to read!

Here’s a pretty cool analogy of what my blog looked like in 2015 (courtesy of WordPress.com):

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 890 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 15 trips to carry that many people.

These were the Top 5 Most Read posts. If you haven’t checked yet, do it now and share it with a friend!

Ambition and Contentment

1. Ambition and Contentment – Can they co-exist?

MARRIAGE WILL%0AKILL YOU

2. Marriage will kill you

Learning from your connections

3. Learning from your connections

Raising Leaders

4. Raising leaders – the parenting example

Community

5. The Gift of Community

As we celebrate 2015, I wish you all an awesome 2016 filled with more learning experiences and opportunities to share from within.

 

 

Growing up with a reflection of Christmas


The story of Christmas is captivating and beautiful. I never truly understood the significance of this day until I read the gospels as an adult. But looking back I can see that a reflection of Christ was around me during my younger years. As I build new memories with my wife and children I’m reminded of the traditions that made Christmas special. I cherish the time I spent with my cousins Fatima and Paula. If you find this picture of the nativity scene intriguing, let me tell you more about them.

My cousin Fatima is handicap. She was introduced to this world with forceps that caused permanent damage on her brain. She can’t talk and is limited in her physical abilities. Still, I remember carrying a conversation with her. Through her moans and noises she would make herself clear and was able to get a message across. Her younger sister Paula was always there, present and willing to help. Through the years Paula took a back seat for the greater needs of Fatima and served selflessly. The simple nativity scene built out of an egg container and construction paper is in the home they share and in which I spent many of my Christmas’ growing up.

The meaning of Christmas was right there in front of me through all the years I spent with Fatima and Paula. Through scripture we find out that life became broken when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. And God planned for deliverance to come in the form of a baby boy who would one day die on the cross for our sins. The reality is that we are all broken. We all have a handicap. Some are visible on the outside like Fatima. All of us have it on the inside.

I saw the reflection of Christmas in my cousin’s limitations. Mankind, limited by their sinful condition. I saw the reflection of Christmas as Paula and the whole family served selflessly. Christ, born in a manger, came to provide the ultimate sacrifice. This is good news to all as revealed in Luke 2:10-11…

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord.”

I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Creating a Culture of Thankfulness

My last blog post highlighted my appreciation for Thanksgiving as a pure holiday that is quickly forgotten. Today I want to showcase three habits that we can all adopt in order to create an environment where gratitude is center stage to our life. These are simple actions that I’ve taken with family, friends and co-workers. Simple gestures with great power.

Building Thankfulness at Home

Recently my youngest, Ava, brought home a rock she was given at pre-school. It is just a rock but with great meaning. She can hold it in the palm of her hand and she makes it a point to bring it to our dinner table every night. She calls it “The Thankful Rock”.

A month has passed since she brought this rock home but every night, during dinner time, she pulls up “The Thankful Rock” and shares about what she is thankful for today. She will then pass the rock around the table and we all share what we are thankful for.

Courtney and I have always tried to engage with our children during dinner. We use our meal time as an opportunity to engage with each other as we all express the good and the bad that went on during our day. But this rock has now brought a new dynamic to our meal time that provides clarity on the blessings we are given daily.

What do you do with your family that fosters a sense of gratitude?

Sharing Thankfulness with Friends

One of my best memories of Portugal was in 2003 when my wife and I, along with another couple, planned a retreat for our church’s youth group. I can still remember the excitement we had in renting a big house away from the city and packing over 20 people for a weekend of relaxation with messages of hope, love and thankfulness.

During our stay everyone was given a small lunch bag that we were to identify as our own and place it in a visible area of the house. Throughout the weekend we were encouraged to use index cards and write a message of thankfulness for each person.

The goal was for everyone to have a source of encouragement to help us during life’s hardest times. I still have my own lunch bag. And while it’s been some time since I last read my messages, I still remember the times I spent writing a card during that weekend. Being thankful became easy as I recognized natural kindness in my friends.

How do you show gratitude with friends?

Fostering Thankfulness at Work

In a time where the busier we are the more important we feel, it is hard to slow down and recognize meaningful ways to communicate. While everyone uses email and IM to share thoughts and decisions, I believe the best way to share a feeling of thankfulness is by simply wiring a note. I do this often and for the most common tasks.

It is easy to write a note for someone’s birthday or during the holidays. But what about recognizing someone for that regular task they do, day in and day out. Every now and then I get an interoffice package with documents that need to be signed. I have made a conscious decision to often place a post-it note by my signature simply thanking my co-worker for fulfilling this task.

Recognizing employees for what they do, no matter the task, fosters thankfulness and creates a sense of pride in someone’s work that raises the bar on excellence.

How do you let your co-workers know you are thankful for what they do?

These are just some of the ways I’ve embraced gratitude and thankfulness. Join the conversation and share some of the ways you say Thank You to people in your life.

Turkey leftovers – remaining thankful

It’s December already and another Thanksgiving has come and gone. And as I think of Thanksgiving, again, I’m reminded of all the reasons I have to be thankful. The beauty of Thanksgiving is in its pure and simple meaning: Giving thanks. I love the opportunity to spend time with family and focus on all the blessings around me. Unfortunately consumerism has highjacked the peace we establish on Thursday just to twist the meaning of the season on Friday.

Isn’t ironic that the day after Thanksgiving people are encouraged to wake up early for the opportunity to shop for a bargain? Where is all that thanksgiving spirit anyway? As the busyness of life resumes, I’m reminded that thankfulness is a medicine for the soul. My friend Matt reminded me of that in his recent blog post.

As I look at my long list of to-do’s and get back to work, I will acknowledge my blessings as a form of worship as established in Psalm 69:30:

I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify Him with Thanksgiving.

Some of my blessings might be big while others might be small; still, I will choose to be thankful. Like those turkey leftovers, I will consume thankfulness again.

In the first years of Thanksgiving it is said that the pilgrims kept five kernels of corn as a reminder of what they didn’t have before so they could appreciate their meal with the right attitude. In today’s Thanksgiving we have plenty of “leftovers” but we should also remember the challenges we’ve faced so we can have the right attitude. Here are my 5 kernels of corn:

Blessed with a beautiful, smart and God-filled wife. Courtney, you are my best friend and every day I’m reminded of the blessing it is to do life with you.

Blessed by healthy children that are both smart and funny. Caden, Blake and Ava, you all make my days brighter.

Blessed with an amazing family who welcomed me as their own son. Thank you Jim and Cheryl Holt for always making me feel like your son. You are truly my Dad and Mother.

Blessed with an amazing group of friends who become like family. To my Small Group and the folks at the Marketplace Matters Ministry, you have made me feel loved and cared for.

Blessed by a great God who loves me beyond compare. Thankful for Jesus and His sacrifice on my behalf. His blood washed me clean.

What are your kernels of corn?

Balancing life through priorities

The following blog post was first published on the Hope Community Church website as part of the Marketplace Matters Ministry. I’m honored to serve along side other Christ-followers who find purpose in their work. If you live in Raleigh-Durham, I encourage you to visit us and attend one of our monthly networking and leadership events.

It happens every year. As we get closer to Thanksgiving, all I want is some rest. Managing expectations at home and work can be an everyday challenge and by the end of the year you can be both physically and mentally exhausted. Have you ever felt that way? You most likely have but if you are not sure, ask the people closest to you. Your spouse can normally tell.

A few years ago I read a wonderful book titled Ordering Your Private World by Gordon McDonald. He shares how his life changed after the day he “hit the wall.” That reference was filled by details of a drained life, pulled in so many directions that he felt helpless in the midst of all his responsibilities at home and work. Throughout the book he provides memos to his readers as reminders of how we should live our lives “organized.” None spoke as much to me as this one:

“If my private world is in order, it will be because I am convinced that the inner world of the spiritual must govern the outer world of activity.”

This message opened my eyes as it provided perspective. While an organized life needs discipline, it must first have priorities. This is an inside-out approach. The bible makes it clear in Matthew 6:31-33:

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying. ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Still, the world around us tells us a different story. One where we must seek our own glory. One where the busier we are the more important we should feel. This has been the biggest lie told throughout Corporate America. And the worse part about it is that our families suffer the most – spouses having dinners alone and children wondering when daddy/mommy will be home. I know this because I too have made these mistakes. Prioritizing is not just an option for balancing life, it is a responsibility. But there is hope.

We must reassess the meaning of our lives through eternal lenses. When we do that priorities become clearer and we can find balance between home and work. It’s a paradigm shift but one we need to make if we are to have an intentional impact in both places. Paul reminds us of this mentality in Romans 12:1-2:

“Therefore, I urge, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Remember these truths as you embrace a Thanksgiving through eternal lenses.

The Gift of Community

I had a great weekend! This past Saturday morning I helped a friend move to his new home. It was great to see a whole group of guys coming together for a family who lived in the neighborhood for so many years. While we will miss them, the memories we built together were cemented by the opportunity to help and make their transition an easy one. All of this happened on my birthday, which truly allowed me to look introspectively at one of the biggest gifts I have: community.

The word community is a great construction of thoughts: common + unity. When you think about the people that live around you, do you think of the common aspects that bring unity? I don’t think many cultures foster these thoughts. We are more focused on being independent and showing everyone else, sometimes even the ones closest to us, that we can live our life on our own without anyone’s help. A 2010 a Pew Research Study shows that only 19% of Americans claim to know all of their neighbors. In contrast, my wife and I make every effort to welcome new families and help others to feel part of a community that stands by each other; ready to step in and be the helping hand needed for any moment.

Saturday’s experience was amazing example of community: a group of people united with a goal of serving selflessly. Some moved boxes, others moved gardening tools and I helped pack the U-Haul. Common unity at it’s best. That wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t know each other. If we didn’t spend time at the park, attended the seasonal neighborhood events or hung out by the pool.

When you give love, love comes back to you

I truly believe that God called us to live in community as a catalyst for love as shown in the bible verse of 1 John 4:11:

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Ultimately, when we do life together it allows people to stand in the “gap” and cover for your needs. They help you when you least expect it and often when you need it the most. I’ve been reminded of that again this month as my wife travelled to serve in Uganda for two-weeks and friends cooked for me, picked up my kids and generally checked-in to see if I needed any help. All of this without me even asking. Fast-forward to last week and my car died. Once again, a friend was ready to step in and offered me to use his second car while I look for one to buy. Community doesn’t happen unless you invest in people. I believe that when you love people they are more eager to love you back. It becomes organic and contagious. It grows and it spreads.

Community is a gift wrapped in love. One that is shared with others around you.

Your Personal Brand

As a marketing aficionado I am passionate for story telling. I recall from a young age creating my very own magazines and story books with cut out pictures of soccer heroes (from Sporting Clube de Portugal) and drawings of wrestling foes (WWE was one of the first American exports I consumed). I knew early on I would be involved with communicating stories and so my future became clear to me. My youth influenced my definition of marketing:

“The ability to share a message that compels others to act; to embrace what is being witnessed and experienced; to join in.”

Simple and objective. That is what a marketing message should be like.

I often see my own life through the lens of the marketer inside of me. And this is where it gets messy.

Marketing yourself – truth vs. deception

In today’s world everyone has a Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profile. We post to our advantage, smiling bright on our never-ending selfies, and commenting eloquently as we share highlights from our own little world. With every Like our brand impact increases. But the reality is that we are all image managers trying our hardest not to fall apart and adjusting to our audiences. Eager to satisfy the cravings of a hungry mob we adjust our thinking and our attitudes for attention.

Some succeed. Some don’t. In some cases, the lies take over and pure souls are swallowed. If we are brutally honest, inside, we are broken. In secret we try to mend our broken hearts and glue pieces of our shattered lives so we can look perfect. No one posts the fights they had with their spouse on Facebook. Professionals don’t shine the spotlight on the mistakes they made at work on LinkedIn. But when I look in the mirror that is what I see. The reality is that I’m not perfect. I make mistakes often and fail terribly in my role as husband, father, son, friend and co-worker. I’m a broken leader but that’s okay.

Branding for a purpose

Creating a personal brand should be aimed at more than a career. Instead we need to look for a purpose. Defining and focusing on a purpose allows your brand to be real, alive and… imperfect. You learn the most when you are vulnerable and accept your mistakes. It also provides perspective. You see, perspective doesn’t shape reality. Instead, reality shapes the perspective of your brand. The world may  tell me that the image I need to portray is one of confidence and ease; but my purpose reminds me that through my daily struggles my leadership is being shaped to better understand those around me and just lead. And there is no better way to lead than selflessly.

Made for something bigger than me

True purpose gives room to real selflessness. When you aim for something bigger than yourself your storyline becomes simple and clear; even through the brokenness. I want to be a leader at home and at work. This is why I serve with Hope Community Church and the Marketplace Matters Ministry. Through the years I’ve been able to pour into people’s lives and grow in the process. I’ve shared my struggles and my deepest pains. Still, I’ve grown to lead well by knowing that it is not about me. It is about serving my family, my neighbors, my co-workers, my friends. This was clear in Jesus’ teachings and exemplified by His ultimate sacrifice.

So how would your personal brand look if your value proposition and culture statement reflected brokenness and selflessness? God provided Paul an image that exemplifies it perfectly in 2 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 9:

“But he (the Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”

Paul went on to boast of his weaknesses knowing that God’s power would rest on him. That was his purpose and it was aimed at connecting others with God not him. His brand was shaped in a way that to this day people look at Paul as an example to follow.

Are you building your brand with a purpose?