Turning Bad Experiences Into Growth Encounters

We want to look at how to turn a bad experience into a growth encounter.
Someone once said, “Experience isn’t really the best teacher but it sure does serve as the best excuse for not trying to do the same silly thing again.” If you want your bad experiences to keep you not only from doing the same silly things but to also lead to significant personal growth and maturity, I would suggest you consider embracing the following five actions…
1> Choose a positive life stance
“Life stance” is a term used to describe people’s overall frame of reference – the set of attitudes, assumptions, and expectations people hold about themselves, other people, and the world in general. It comprises, for instance, people’s attitudes towards money, assumptions about their health, and expectations for their children’s future. The product of any person’s life stance is their overall way of looking at things: whether they tend to be optimistic or pessimistic, cheerful or gloomy, trusting or suspicious, friendly or reserved, brave or timid, generous or stingy, giving or selfish. If you can maintain a positive life stance, you put yourself in the best position to manage bad experience and turn them into positive growth encounters.

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So, What Are You Looking At?

43 years ago on Friday I was in a service in a small town in Saskatchewan, the Canadian province where I live

I was there, one of 18 people, and I was there basically as a skeptic and a critic
The preacher spoke from 3 John 2
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers”
He spoke on healing and health

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Choosing a Mentor

Personal growth should be the number one priority of all believers who are serious about following Jesus and reaching their divine purpose in life. Since I began my walk with the Lord over 43 years ago I have had a series of mentors.
At first, I simply grabbed hold or anyone who was willing to impart information into my life. This was good as I was a young believer and gained a great deal from other more mature believers and leaders. But this was a scattershot approach. Although I learned a lot I did not achieve the traction that I had hoped for. Then I figured out that I needed to focus my growth on my areas of personal strength: relationships, communications, teaching, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When I did that, my effectiveness in growth started to increase. Most of my early mentors were authors whose books I devoured.
Through one of my mentors I started to learn to glean from what I was studying. Resources have little value unless you can pull from them the essentials that you need. That meant learning that I didn’t have to finish a book simply because I started it. I could read only the portions that I needed and deemed important at the time. I learned how to take useful notes, gather quotes, and, most importantly, reflect on what I was learning. I often summarized what I learned and wrote follow-up points inside the front and back covers of a book that was significant and life-changing for me. And, I learned to collect, categorize, and file stories and quotes every day. I also put into practice anything I learned at my earliest opportunity.

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ENERGIZE YOUR LIFE (Passion)

I want to share with you something the Lord has been speaking to me about…

There are two scriptures that have been speaking to me over and over again recently

And the focus of the scriptures is “passion”

Or, how to energize your life so you live it ‘alive’ for the Lord – up, excited, engaged

But first, a video that I discovered this past week…

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THE PAUSE THAT REFRESHES

In the last few weeks I have been involved in an intentional “Pause That Refreshes.”
If you are as old as I am, you may remember an old slogan used by Coca-Cola.
They called Coke “the pause that refreshes”
Well, that is what I have been doing – pausing
And, that is not as easy as one may think because we live in a very busy world and have a large number of daily demands and obligations that need to be taken care of
iPhone, Facetime, Skype, Viber, Whatsapp, Messenger, iMessage, Emails
So, pushing the pause button on life is never an easy thing to accomplish and must be something we intentionally do once every while
In my life I have been taking time to let my ‘thinking catch up to my feelings’
That is the short season I am in currently as I adjust my life and grow into the challenges and changes that I will soon be facing
And sort through the changes and experiences and circumstances of the last three or four months
In these intentional pauses we settle things on the inside
For me it like I have all these things twilling around inside slapping me hard in the heart and mind as they go by and so the ‘pause that refreshes’ is a time to reflect, think, feel, sort, and assimilate (file things into my memory bank) so that they stop flapping in the breeze
Here is what I was taught many decades ago
Learning to pause allows growth to catch up with you
“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action”  Peter Drucker
There are many different ways of growing and an infinite number of lessons to be learned in life
But to really learn ‘life lessons’ and thus grow  – a person must intentionally pause to allow the Holy Spirit to bring things together so that we gain wisdom from our experiences
And, not just have experiences for the sake of experiences
Bishop Bompas … Anglican bishop in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, while travelling from the east to Athabasca to establish the Church was moving with his First Nations guides and helpers at a terrific pace day after day after day
From early morning to long after sunset every day.
One day he woke up and was ready to move out and the helpers refused to go…
When Bishop Bompas asked why, they replied, “We need to pause and let our souls catch up with us”
The “pause that refreshes”
There are many ways to grow and mature as people and as believers
But there are some kinds of growth that come to us ONLY if we are willing to stop, pause, and allow the lessons to catch up with us
Let’s talk about these intentional “pauses that refresh”
Here are my observations concerning the power of the pause and how taking time to reflect can help you to grow…
1> Reflection turns experience into insight
For over 2,000 years, people have been saying that ‘experience is the best teacher’
According to one expert, the earliest recorded version of this saying came from Roman Emperor Julius Caesar who wrote, “Experience is the teacher of all things.”
I disagree with that statement
Experience is not the best teacher. Evaluated experience is!
The only reason Caesar was able to make that claim was because he had learned much by reflecting on his life and writing about it … He had spent time evaluating his experiences in life
Let’s admit it, people have innumerable experiences every day, and many learn nothing from them
Because they never take the time to pause and reflect on those experiences
That is why it is so important to intentionally pause and let your understanding catch up with you
Personally, I am intentionally taking time to “let my thinking catch up with my feelings” so that I can gain fresh, new insights into myself, my relationships, my ministry (work) … and changes that I need to be making
2> Everyone needs a time and a place to pause
I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t benefit from pausing and reflecting
Stopping to reflect is one of the most valuable activities people can do to learn, to grow to mature, and to make positive changes in their life
Stopping to reflect is much more valuable than even motivation or encouragement
Pausing allows you to make sure that you are on the right track
If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation or encouragement to speed up
He needs to stop, reflect, and change course getting back on the right track
I believe we need to identify or even create a ‘thinking place”
A place where you can get away from busy life and “pause to reflect” and be refreshed
If you create such a place and schedule time to use it – you are more likely to actually push the pause button and use it
Life Markers – Life Makers
Most people are fairly busy – even retired people often find themselves being busier than when they worked full-time
We rush from place to place, from event to event …trying to accomplish things
Along the way we have certain experiences that are life markers
You go to a place, are part of an event, meet a person, experience a major relational change that marks you for life – changes you because something important happened
These life markers identify for you a time of transition, change, or transformation
But, if we don’t take the time to “pause and reflect”, we can miss the significance of the event
“The Pause That Refreshes” allows those experiences to move from being life markers to life makers
If we pause to allow growth to catch up with us
If we stop for a bit to let our souls catch up with us
If we take time to let our thinking catch up with our feelings
We better understand what has really happened
We see what God is trying to teach us
We understand the significance of what has happened
We implement changes and course corrections in our journey
And thus we have ‘life makers’ and we experience life and experience it in abundance because we took time out, paused, and reflected
Life Markers (major experiences) can become Life Makers if….
3> Pauses with intention expands and enriches thinking
As I read biographies and autobiographies of people who have had an impact on the world
Political – – business – – cultural – – spiritual world
Virtually in every case, they spent a considerable amount of time alone thinking and reflecting
Solitude – exploring their feelings and thoughts
Solitude – exploring their ideas and experiences
Time alone allows you to sort through your experiences, put them into perspective, and plan for the next steps in life that you need to take
I encourage you to find a place to think and to disciple yourself to pause and use it
It has the potential to change your life
It will help you to sort out what is really important and what isn’t
4> When you take time to pause, use your I’s…
When you take time to pause and reflect – to let your thinking catch up with your feelings – there are really three basic directions your thinking can go…
A> Investigation
There’s a corny old joke about two guys who have been given the job of cleaning out the stable
They are up to their ankles in horse manure, and one says to the other, “There must be a horse around here somewhere.”
Yes. There must be a horse…
Some things are obvious and don’t require a pause to reflect and figure things out
Others require a person to play detective and investigate
The great scientist Galileo said, “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered. The point is to discover them. That takes investigation.”
Pausing means more than just slowing down to smell the roses
It means stopping and really figuring them out
That means asking questions .. .we will look at them in a few minutes
The thing to remember is that continual growth from experiences is only possible when we discover insights and truths within them
That takes investigation
B> Incubation
Incubation is taking an experience of life and putting it into the slow cooker of your mind to simmer for a while
It is very similar to meditation
When you meditate, you listen to God’s Word and listen for His voice
When you incubate, you are listening to your feelings and your thoughts
Listening and learning and thus changing
Sometimes experiences and feelings remain in the slow cooker for a length of time before you reach the next step
C> Illumination
I spend time each day – usually late in the evening – playing back the events for the day
What did I accomplish?
How am I feeling?
Did I do my best?
Who did I speak with?
Who did I connect to?
Did I possibly wound anyone during the day by my words or actions?
Is there some follow-up required?
What did I learn about myself?
What do I need to change?
I am settling things down, thinking them through, sorting and filing – assimilating them into my “life experience” file folder … a small, daily pause that refreshes
This is what  “illumination” is all about –
But remember, some events and “life markers” need to sit and soak for a longer time … the intentional “pause that refreshes” … before they become “life makers” in time
So more than a one night thought flashing through your mind or a quick feeling remembered in your emotions
These longer “pause that refreshes” lead to “aha” moments in your life
Those epiphanies when you experience deep realization or insight
It is when the proverbial lightbulb turns on
Few things are more rewarding than such moments
I find that I experience moments of illumination only after I spend time investigating an idea and then allowing it to incubate for a period of time
And, it is always worth taking the time to pause and reflect because then the lights turn on
Good questions are the heart of reflection
When you take “the pause that refreshes” you need to ask yourself questions
Whenever I am thinking and reflecting and I feel like I have hit a roadblock, it is time to ask myself questions
If I am spotting an insight into myself and can’t quite grab hold of it, I ask myself questions
If I am seeing something that needs to change in my life, I ask myself questions
I spend a lot of time  in my life asking myself questions and that is a good thing
If you want too experience regular and steady personal growth – I cannot overemphasize the importance of asking good questions during your times of pausing and reflecting
Only you can know which question to ask
The question to ask must be tailored to the situation
The question to ask will be unique to your personality
The question to ask will be connected to where you are at currently
The key to asking good questions is to have a great grasp on who you are > self-awareness
To be personally aware of your strengths and weaknesses
To know yourself well so that your “pause that refreshes” becomes valuable and useful
So, let’s end this teaching with a series of questions I have asked and answered that helped me to develop personal self-awareness …
1> What is my biggest asset?
In my life, the learned ability to take one day at a time and not worry or be anxious
Jesus said, “Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”  (Matthew 6:34 – The Passion Translation)
KJV “Sufficient are the evil of today for today”
Maybe for you it is your “attitude” towards life…
2> What is my biggest liability?
In my life, I believe in people too much and that leads me to expect too much from them that then leads to disappointment and frustration
I see the potential and focus on that … and am often (usually) disappointed
Maybe for you it is that you don’t believe in yourself
Maybe you have unrealistic expectations of others or even of yourself
Maybe you are passive and lethargic
3> What is my highest high?
In my life, I get the greatest kick seeing people reach for their potential and fulfilling the prophetic words spoken over them
Romans 4:17 “… calling things that are not as if they were”
Maybe in your life it is leading someone to Christ
Maybe it is finally defeating a bad habit or truly forgiving someone
4> What is my lowest low?
In my life, it is watching family members making mistakes and knowing I could have helped them avoid the mistake IF they had only asked
Maybe in your life it is your family members not walking with Jesus
Maybe it is when you disappoint yourself doing or not doing something when you know better
5> What is my most worthwhile emotion?
In my life, it is commitment. You would know it as love.
We live at our best when we love what we do, love our friends and family, even love our enemies … and, of course, love God with our whole heart
Matthew 22:37 “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart…”
In your life maybe your most worthwhile emotion is satisfaction from a job well done
Maybe it is feeling understood by those who are closet to you
6> What is my least-worthwhile emotion?
In my life, the least attractive emotion is feeling sorry for myself (self-pity)
Happens when I am really tired and can’t have the food being served
Happens when I am tired and feeling used and abused in a ministry situation
In your life it might be being misunderstood
7> What is my best habit?
In my life, it is the habit of reading books and the Bible daily regardless and recording what I am learning in an electronic journal
Maybe in your life it is eating correcting and exercising daily
8> What is my worst habit?
In my life, it is impatience with people who know better and still do stupid and even harmful things to themselves and to relationships … Repeating the same thing over and over again hoping for different results
Maybe in your life it is being the center of your own universe with no room for others in your heart
9> What is most fulfilling to me?
In my life, the thing I enjoy doing most is teaching and leading people who are really hungry and willing to pay the price to grow
Mentoring people who are called of God to accomplish big things for theKingdom – and who know it and are actively pursing it
Maybe in your life…
10> What do I prize most highly?
In my life I value nothing as highly as I do my faith – it forms my values, guides my actions, it is foundational too my teaching ministry, it is my source and my security
Having faith and knowing its value in my life helps me to have a divine perspective every day otherwise I easily get off course
Maybe in your life…
These ten questions are ones I actually ask myself to prompt myself to reflect and to help me to grow in the area of self-awareness.
They help me to pause, focus, and learn about who I am and what changes are happening or should be happening
They help me in my ‘becoming” the person God created me to be
Conclusion:
All of this probably sounds like a lot of steps and a lot of trouble as well as a lot of work
You are right, it is
That is why most people never do it
But it is worth every bit of effort you put into it
The farther you go in life, the more critical it is that you take the time to pause and reflect
The older you are, the less time you have to stay on purpose and do the things you were created to do
But the good news is: If you have been diligent in your efforts to grow along the way, you will be better equipped to fulfill that purpose, even if it requires you to make significant changes or course corrections
Never forget that your goal is personal self-awareness and personal growth to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for your life
The purpose is to reach your God-given potential
To do that, you need to keep pausing, keep asking questions, and keep growing every day
Extra material:
You can ask questions of yourself in any area that you are examining and wanting to change…
For example, if you want to grow in the area of relationships, you could ask the following questions …
Do I value people?
Do people know I value them?
How do I show it?
Am I a ‘plus’ or a ‘minus’ in my most important relationships?
What evidence do I have to confirm my opinion?
What is the love language of the people I love?
How can I serve them?
Do I need to forgive someone in my life who needs to be given grace?
Who in my life should I take the time to thank?
Who in my life should be receiving more of my time?
Or if you want to pause and think about where you are in the area of personal growth, you could ask yourself the following:
Do I know what areas of my personal life that I need to focus on and grow in?
Which one should I work on first?
Is there someone who can help me to grow in this area? (friend, author, family)
Am I growing daily?
What am I doing daily to grow?
How am I growing?
What are the roadblocks that are keeping me from growing?
What are the breakthroughs I need to keep growing?
What were the potential learning moments I experienced today, and did I seize them?
Am I passing on to someone what I am learning?
What you want to accomplish in this stage of your life… And, where you are in your journey
Will determine what areas you most need to pause and think about today, asking the questions that need to be asked
And, you should write down both the questions and the answers! Why?
Because you will discover that what you think after you write the answer is different from what you thought before you wrote it
Writing helps you to discover what you truly know, think, and believe and record it for future reference

Faith-Fueled

This past weekend I was in Manitoba ministering

I went on faith, not feelings – did not feel like going
Spiritually – emotionally – mentally not in the best space
Working through big picture ‘life’  … 50 years to the day of the first time I preached
Normally the trip involves 6 or 7 days
Boiled it down to two days removing everything else
I went “by faith” because God told me many decades ago, “Never ask for a speaking engagement, never say no when asked”

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THE FOUNDATION OF FAITH

Hebrews 11:1-2, 6 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation … And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Last week we looked at:
Having faith
Being faith-filled
Being faith-fueled

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Is It The Right Time?

Over a decade ago I heard a prophetic word from a recognized international prophet that I was to write a book. I was busy pastoring and church planting. So, I put the word to one side and thought that I would do it later, probably much later. Several years after that the same prophet was back in the network of churches I relate to and prophetically spoke a number of things over my life – including that I was to write books. That’s ‘book’ but plural. My reaction? I went up to him and said, “What do you mean books?” I don’t have the time to write even one book – the one you first prophesied over me. Now you are saying ’books’.” I was not happy. 

Did I start writing? No! I was busy ministering. Then a few years later as I was flying home from overseas the Lord spoke to me at 36,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. He said that writing a book or books was not taking time away from my ministry. Writing books was part of my ministry and He would make the time for it to happen. I made the decision right then to begin preparations to write books. The desire to write was released. I decided to write the books.

Did it happen? Not yet. You see, often we miss God’s best for us because we think “it is not the right time to begin.”

John Maxwell tells the story about his childhood. His father’s favourite riddle to them went like this: Five frogs were sitting on a long. Four decided to jump off. How many are left? John goes on to say, the first time his father asked him that, he answered “one.” His father responded, no, there were still five. Why? Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing!

So, I had decided but that is not the same as actually doing it. I just kept thinking, “It is just not the right time. I am so busy…”

Then I read this the other day. “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.” Oh, how true! At least in my life.

So, now is the right time to start growing and developing in this new field of work and ministry. I have done more than decide. I am now intentionally doing.

Maybe you have something you know you need to do or should be doing. And, the pressure is building. But, you are still making excuses including suggesting that it is not the right time to begin. Well, it is time to stop procrastinating and move forward in your life. Now is the time to accept the next challenge and start growing even if you feel that you are not ready. Don’t wait until tomorrow. 

Author and professor Leo Buscaglia asserted, “Life lived for tomorrow will always be a day away from being realized.” The reality is that you will never get much done unless you go ahead and do it before you are ready. If you are not already intentionally growing, you need to get started today. If you don’t, you may reach some goals, which you can celebrate, but you will eventually plateau. Once you start growing intentionally, you can keep growing and keep asking, “What’s next.”

It is always the right time to be intentional about accepting the next challenge and growing into it as you move forward in faith.

A Sense Of Direction

Do you have a sense of direction? Any person who wants to grow as a person but doesn’t know himself will fail to accomplish any growth as a person. To grow you must know yourself: your strengths and weaknesses, your interests and opportunities. You must be able to gauge not only where you’re been, but also where you are now. Otherwise you cannot set a course for where you want to go, And, of course, every time you want to learn something, you must be able to take the new thing you’ve learned today and build upon what you learned yesterday to keep growing. That’s the only way to gain traction and keep improving yourself.

To reach you potential, you must know where you want to go and where you currently are. Without both of those pieces of information, you’re liable to get lost. Knowing yourself is like reading “You Are Here” on a map when you want to find you way to a destination.

I have observed that there’re really only three kinds of people when it comes to having direction and thus purpose in life.

1> People who do not know what they would like to do

These people are often CONFUSED. They lack a strong sense of purpose. They don’t possess a sense of direction for their lives. If they are growing, they are unfocused about it. They dabble. They drift. They can’t reach their potential because they have no idea what to shoot for; what direction to go in.

2> People who know what they would like to do but don’t do it

These people are usually FRUSTRATED. Every day they experience the gap between where they are and where they want to be. Sometimes they aren’t doing what they want because they worry that it will cause them to neglect other responsibilities, such as providing for their family. Sometimes they aren’t willing to pay the price to learn, grow, and move closer to where they want to be. Other times fear prevents them from changing course to pursue their passion. No matter what the reason, they, too, miss their potential.

3> People who know what they would like to do and do it

The third kind of people know themselves, possess a strong sense of passion, are focused on purpose, grow in areas that help them move closer to their purpose, and do what they were created to do. The word that best describes them is FULFILLED.

Most people fall into the first category. They don’t know what they want to do. I believe the main reason is that they don’t know themselves as well as they should, and thus remain unfocused in their growth – if they grow personally at all. 

Knowing yourself isn’t necessarily an easy thing for everyone to do. What makes finding themselves and growing to their potential difficult for some people is that it can be a bit of catch 22. You have to know who you are to grow to your potential. But you have to grow in order to know who you are. So what’s the solution? Explore yourself as you explore growth.

The way to start is to pay attention to your passions. In my life my passion is to teach and mentor young men, raising them up into the calling that God has on their lives and releasing them to accomplish their purpose in the Kingdom. This involves four areas represented by the word REAL: relationships, equipping, attitude, and leadership. My passion led to my growth. But then my growth led to my passion as I discovered my love for and ability to mentor the next generation of apostles and prophets. That continues to be a major focus of my life and ministry even today after 40 years. 

So, self-awareness is the key to growing, changing, finding one’s passion and purpose, and then moving from where you are to where you should be and need to be to live fulfilled and on purpose.  

A Good Mentor

A major theme in my life is the desire to add value to people and make a difference in their lives. One of the ways this happens is in a mentoring relationship (see yesterday’s blog – “Christians Can’t Be Passive). A mentor can be a great encourager when the person they are mentoring is wanting to grow and develop in the Christian faith and in their calling. In other words, they are not passive but are willing to invest time, effort, and even money to move forward in their knowledge, understanding, and application of biblical principles. To mature as a believer and minister.

In our world today we often substitute other words for “mentor.” The most familiar and common is the word “coach.” A coach is someone who carries a valued person from where they are to where they want to be. The key is ‘they want to be.” Otherwise, as I mentioned yesterday it just ends up in frustration… like pushing a parked car with the brakes on uphill by yourself. Not interested. 

In an article called, “A Coach By Any Other Namer” Kevin Hall describes what it means to be a coach. He writes,

      • In other cultures and languages, coaches are known by many different names and titles.
      • In Japan, a “sensei” is one who has gone further down the path. In martial arts, it is the designation for master.
      • In Sanskrit, a “guru” is one with great knowledge and wisdom. “Gu” means darkness, and “ru” means light – a guru takes someone from darkness into the light.
      • In Tibet, a “lama” is one with spirituality and authority to teach. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is the highest ranking leader.
      • In Italy, a “maestro” is a master teacher of music. It is short for “maestro de cappella,” meaning master of the chapel.
      • In France, a “tutor” is a private teacher. The term dates back to the fourteenth century and refers to one who served as a watchman.
      • In England, a “guide” is one who know and shows the way. It denotes the ability to see and point out the better course. 
      • In Greece,. A “mentor” is a wise and trusted advisor. In The Odyssey, Homer’s Mentor was a protective and supportive counsellor. 

All these words describe the same role: One who goes before and shows the way. No matter what word you use to describe them, coaches make a difference in others’  lives. They help them grow. They improve their potential. They increase their productivity. They are essential to helping people effect positive change. 

Andy Stanley in “The Next Generation Leader” states, “You will never maximize your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be. We all do better when someone is watching and evaluating … Self-evaluation is helpful, but evaluation from someone else is essential.”

John Maxwell states, “In my opinion, good coaches share five common characteristics. They…

      • Care fort the people they coach
      • Observe their attitudes, behaviours, and performances 
      • Align them with their strengths for peak performance
      • Communicate and give feedback about their performance
      • Help them to improve their lives and performance 

We all need at least one mentor in our lives.