Posts Tagged ‘priorities’

For those of us who experienced the 90’s, you probably remember this scene from the movie “City Slickers”. The premise behind the movie was basically that these men from NY had lost their identity, so they travel out west to a cattle ranch to sort of ‘find themselves’.  In one of the most pivotal scenes in the movie, Jack Palance’s character, “Curly” the trail boss, turns to one of the men & says, “Do you know what the secret to life is? It’s this.” (and he holds up 1 finger) “Just 1 thing.” The man says, “That’s great, but what is it?” To which Curly replied, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

It’s a great question for all of us in light of a brand new year: What is your ONE THING?

As I was thinking about this, I made a note of every THING that intersects with my life in a typical week. Like most adults with kids, my schedule is pretty crowded:

  • Serve at church
  • Spend time w family
  • Get kids to school
  • Work
  • Pay bills
  • Get kids to practice
  • Physical Fitness/ Exercise
  • Social Media
  • Do stuff around the house
  • repeat

There are so many THINGS that occupy our time that if we’re not careful, we’ll allow the URGENT to replace the IMPORTANT. We’ll unintentionally CROWD OUT the most important things. We’ll get bogged down with the LITTLE things and fail to pursue our BIG dreams and GRAND adventures. Not because we don’t want to do them. They just get ‘lost’ amidst all the other things we’re doing.

Perhaps most striking: I noticed in my weekly schedule, I was doing almost nothing to realize the larger goals I had for myself. My ROUTINE wasn’t getting me any closer to my DREAMS.

This is where the book, ONE THING has been revolutionary for me. It helped me to look at my life as a series of goals I can set for myself. It coached me on how to break my large goals down into smaller steps I can take each day, each hour, etc. Here’s an example of some of the goals I have set this year:

My Personal Goals 2016

Now, I structure my week with the goal of simply ‘moving the ball forward’ in each category every day, no matter how small the progress. For example, if my goal is to save $ for a family trip to Disneyland, I may go without my morning latte and deposit that into my envelope designated for that event. Or, if it’s to run a half marathon by the end of the year, maybe I start by going on a walk around our neighborhood. In each case, I’m making progress. If I want to memorize a book of the Bible in a year, I start by memorizing two verses a month.

This gives me a sense of accomplishment each day. This gives me a series of “wins” in almost every category. It builds my confidence. It makes me happy. It gives me purpose. It is my MOTIVATION.

Even the apostle Paul knew the importance of ONE THING (singular focus) when he was writing to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

OK, I know it’s a ‘loose’ fit, but the point is that Paul wrote to the church in Philippi so that they would be reminded of their PURPOSE. So that they would not lose sight of their GOAL. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I’ve got the most important part of my equation figured out. All the rest of my life’s pursuits come second to following Jesus. Now, the rest is fun.

Just finished another post. Just chalked up another ‘win’. Hope this has been helpful. 

My hope for you this year is for you to find your ONE THING.


Among my most prized possessions is a picture that sits in my office. It hasn’t always been there. In fact, I’ve only had it on my shelf for a few weeks.  In that short amount of time, the visitors and staff who swing by will almost always ask, “Who is this?” or “What is this a picture of?” Inevitably, the comparison is made, “This looks like a scene from the Andy Griffith Show”.  Well, close. The Andy Griffith show stopped airing in 1968. This picture was actually taken in 1975. I was 4 years old.


It’s a picture of Dad taking me down to the fishin’ hole in Payson, AZ. It’s where I caught my first fish. It’s where we enjoyed some camping, rock collecting, hiking and exploring. We had campfires and smores and walked to natural springs of water where we drank straight from the stream.  There’s a lot of memories captured in that image. There’s a lot of emotions harnessed in that frame.

What’s most special to me about this picture, is that dad kept this in his office from 1975 to 2015–40 years!  I found it when we were cleaning out his workspace.  F-O-R-T-Y years?

I’d like to think it was dad’s way of remembering. I’d like to believe it was his way of unwinding. I would sometimes see him pondering while typing at his computer. He’d be facing his wall of shelves opposite his computer screen. I’d like to think he was looking at the picture. As if he was taking a mental break. As if the therapist was taking some therapy for himself. (he was our staff ‘counselor’) It was his way of being ‘out’ even while he was ‘in’.

My dad loved his job, but his greatest joy wasn’t in his WORK. It was in who he was OUTSIDE the office. He made great effort and took great joy in being a great husband, father, and grandfather. He recharged by continuously ‘reinventing’ himself through various interests over the years: photography, quad-riding, camping, hunting, astronomy, rocket building, shooting & reloading, etc. He even taught himself Spanish!  And…to top it all off…he even bought a boat two months before he passed away. To do more fishing!

As a transplant, dad always knew he was living on borrowed time. He was prepared to die. But he never waited for it. He was too busy living.

That’s how I want to live.  James S. Stewart said it best, “Let us live as people prepared to die, and die as people prepared to live.”

Since losing dad, I’ve found myself.  At least I’ve learned a little bit more about myself, what makes me tick & what matters most. I appreciate LIFE more. I value deeper RELATIONSHIPS. I seek out ADVENTURES and look for life’s STORIES to tell, no matter how big or small they are. I hoard MEMORIES and cherish RICH CONVERSATION. I know true FAITH is contagious. That most ‘ministry’ has nothing to do with what people see ‘on stage’.  I now trade QUANTITY for QUALITY. I’ve learned my FAMILY is my first MINISTRY and that being a pastor isn’t something you ever really ‘retire’ from.  And I’ve discovered that EVANGELISM isn’t something you DO. As a Christ follower, being an EVANGELIST is who you are.

And while I love my JOB, I understand my IDENTITY needs to be more about who I am OUTSIDE the office.

And speaking of the office, I now put more pictures of the kids on my shelves.  So they can remember. So they can discover. So they can find themselves.

I learned all of this…by finding dad.


Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) 1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

Time is the one thing you can’t recapture. Ever missed a moment? Lost an opportunity? Ever look back when the kids are grown and think, “Man, it seems like only yesterday they were babies.”? There’s even a morbid site called “” where it will fictitiously count down the “time” you have remaining.

I don’t want to be one of those guys who looks back on my life in old age and regret how I spent my time. In fact, I read these weird stats:

In an average 83 year lifetime, you will spend…                          [from]

23 years sleeping                                  2-5 years in the bathroom

19 years working                                  2 years in school

9 playing/recreation                          7 years traveling/in car

6 years eating                                        3 years being sick

1 year going to church  

If I was Aladdin, I’d wish for more TIME. Period. Wouldn’t it be great to have complete control of your calendar?  To be able hold back the clock to accomplish all you want in your day? week? month? year? life?  How many times have you thought, “There’s just not enough time in the day”?  I’m the Lead Pastor of a church with 3 athletic teenage daughters and a 5 year-old son, plus my wife works from home. Believe me, there’s not a week that goes by where we don’t wonder, “where’d the time go?”

Here are some time-management tips I’ve learned along the way. I hope these help you make the most of the time you’ve been given.

1. If YOU don’t prioritize your time, SOMEONE ELSE will do it for you.  It seems like if I’m not disciplined enough to schedule my day, “intruders” will creep in and dominate my time.  The URGENT will replace the IMPORTANT.  You’ve got to be disciplined enough to determine what comes “first” and schedule your events accordingly.  In our house, here’s our priority scale:

Matthew 6:33(NIV) “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

a. God – Nothing comes before my personal time with God. I make time 5 days a week to read the Bible & pray (currently, I’m reading through the Bible in a year).  I also plan my week around my Impact Group (Bible study with other families that meets in our home) and my Transformation Group (weekly Accountability group with other men; currently studying Hosea).  And of course, we attend church every weekend as a family. Even our kids know this comes first, so we plan our weekends accordingly and they schedule their time with friends around church events.  It’s amazing, but when God comes first, somehow everything else “fits”.  I challenge you to try it!

b. Family – If you’re married, your family is your next-highest priority.  Your SPOUSE should come first; THEN your kids.  My wife and I are very PROTECTIVE about OUR TIME together.  We take regular date nights and small trips together with just the two of us and we make it a point to talk together each day. We do our best to GUARD these times, even if it means putting our kids ON HOLD for a bit.  We do this to create a STRONG BOND in our marriage. The bottom line is: We didn’t marry the kids. We want to INVEST for our future.  We want to BUILD into something that we’ll have after the kids leave home.  We look forward to GROWING OLD together the rest of our lives.  I’ve seen too many “empty nest” divorces.  Too many times, the parents invest in the KIDS FIRST, only to realize that when they leave home, they don’t know how to connect with their spouse anymore.  The love is gone and the romance has faded. Don’t make that mistake.

With the kids, we try to take them out on “date nights” with mom and dad individually every month. We try to eat dinner together as a family 5 times/week. We take day trips periodically and take a family vacation once or twice a year. We intentionally “CREATE MEMORIES” with the kids that we hope will last a lifetime.

c. Personal – I try to ‘bake in’ regular “me” time for R & R. It’s so valuable, that I encourage this for my staff!  I want my identity to be found more in the stuff I do outside the office than what I do in the office.  My job does not define who I am.  I also try to FLIP THE SWITCH when I come home. (I’m not as good at this as I should be). When I’m AT WORK, I want to devote myself fully.  When I’m AT HOME, I want do devote myself fully. I have to learn to “turn off” my brain and really focus on my family when I walk in the door.

             d. Job (Church) – Christ gave his life for the church. People in ministry remind me of this all the time.  I love my job. I am totally stoked that I GET TO DO THIS for a living!  Nothing gives me more fulfillment than this.  I will always work hard. I will always care for people. I will always strive to IMPROVE my LEADERSHIP.  I do my best to schedule meetings, trips, and conferences that will help others, grow the church, and sharpen my leadership edge.  But I do my best to stay “in bounds” with my priority scale. I have a wife and kids who can help hold me to this and keep me accountable.

[note: If you’re a pastor, DO NOT make the mistake of moving your JOB of working at the church HIGHER on the priority scale. I’ve seen way too many marriages fail and godly men “fall” because of this. A GREAT BOOK on this subject is Andy Stanley’s “Choosing to Cheat”.]


2. Be intentional about scheduling times for “rest & recharging”.  The idea of the Sabbath was to completely shut down. To rest. To spend that time honoring God.  I think the practice of the Sabbath is lost on many Americans.

Exodus 20:8-11 (NIV) 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Lack of rest can really “cost” you.  Notice these stats from the American Medical Association:

  • 80% of people are over-stressed on the job
  • 460 Million vacation days per year are turned back in and not used
  • Cost of ‘stress & overcommitment’ costsUSeconomy $300 billion each year.
  • That’s $7500 per employee annually!

I believe the person who makes time for R & R will be a better person. They will be happier & healthier at whatever they do.  Here are some things I try to do during in my R & R times:

Sleep:  Most of us are “sleep deprived”. We should get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per day.  

Health & Fitness:  Running, exercise & healthy eating habits are vital.  Monitor your diet.  Take vitamins. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water per day will help your energy level, too.  I try to go to the gym 5 days/week.

Try a new hobby:  Soccer, hunting, shooting, and quad riding are some of my favorite activities.  Find something that fuels your passion and go do it.

Plan a hike, trip, or family outing:  Pick a destination to get out of the house and get your mind off of the day to day.


3.  Let your personal calendar vs. your professional calendar drive your life.

We do our best to schedule our family times 6 months in advance.  We usually start with the big things like vacations, or day-trips and go from there.  There are date nights for mom & dad, specific time with the kids, etc.  The farther planned our personal calendar is, the less chance our “work” calendar will interfere.


I hope some of these tips have given new priority to how you spend your time.  Let’s make the most of the time we have.  Each moment is precious. Each day is valuable.  Don’t waste it!

James 4:13-15 (NIV) 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

What time is it?

The Family Meal

Posted: January 17, 2012 in Parenting
Tags: , , ,

Eating together as a family is a rarity.

As a parent of teens,  all our kids are into cell phones, facebook, sports, friends, school clubs, and our youth ministry. For them, it seems like there’s always homework to complete, something to do, someplace to go, someone to see, something to post, etc.  My parents tried to “protect & prioritize” our family time by having dinner together during the week.  My wife and I have continued that tradition as best we can.

Here are some of the things we’ve noticed as a result:

1. Helps us communicate face to face.  Our kids have mastered communicating through the technical revolution with cell phones, blogging and facebook, but unless we MAKE them–they’re losing the art of simply TALKING with each other. This forces us into the great, lost art of the face -to-face conversation.  So much of communicating is through tone-of-voice & body language.

2. We get to share in each other’s journey, joys, and sorrows.  It’s great to hear how EVERYBODY is doing.  What we’ve noticed is that sometimes, mom & dad will really be wrestling with something, but the kids aren’t up to speed on it.  Another time, two of our girls had really been talking about something they were having a hard time dealing with at school and the rest of us were in the dark.

3. Helps us make ‘big decisions’ together.  Sometimes, after dinner we’ll huddle up for a “family meeting”.  Recently, some of our family discussions have centered around whether or not to “foster-to-adopt”, to move back to Surprise, and more!  Like I said, these are major decisions and it’s great to sort through these together. Our goal is to have complete unity as a family.

4.  Keeps us “on purpose”.  We use this as a centerpiece of our day.  We all know that no matter what our day looks like, we can come home and get “caught up” during dinner, then disperse for homework or evening plans. It’s a great “break” after a long day of meetings, classwork, going to practice, etc.  Helps us recharge and refocus for the rest of the evening.

5. Creates “team” atmosphere.  We’ve started to have some fun with HOW we gather.  We usually make a menu and all of us take turns preparing dinner.  We tag-team the set-up and clean-up as well.  It gets all of us involved and working together.

6. Helps us to make priority for each other.  We make it a point to turn OFF our cell phones and TV during our family meal.  Previously, the TV would be on and we’d end up watching it or hearing it from the other room.  We try to show our kids that during this time, family comes first!

7. Great opportunity to pray together. We noticed that we seldom gather for a ‘family prayer’, and this helps keep that a priority. We try not to just pray for the meal, but we gather to pray for each other as well.  It really helps us to ‘mix up’ our meal time prayer and not just pray the same thing over and over.  It gets us all sharing and harnessing God’s power for each other.  Powerful!

The early church enjoyed this type of experience as well:

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV) 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Maybe they realized the value of community.  Maybe they enjoyed the experience of meeting & eating together.  Maybe they enjoyed seeing God work through their church family in a powerful way.  I hope God works through our family, too.

Obviously, we can’t do this EVERY night.  Our goal is 3-5 dinners together per week.  I hope our kids look forward to this as much as Christy and I do. I hope they continue this tradition.  I hope they prioritize talking and meeting together as a family.

What’s for dinner?