You Don't Have to Try So Hard

You Don't Have to Try So Hard

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit If it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” - John 15:1-4

Twenty years of serving Jesus, and I had always read these words through the lens of fruit production.

“If I am a disciple, I’ll produce. The proof will be the fruit. I need to keep growing. I need to bear the fruit. It needs to always be evident. I can’t ever stop producing!”

Though the branches are representative of believers and disciples of Christ, I truly struggle to wrap my mind around the description of the grapevine. Maybe this would be easier if I grew up in a place like, say, California where vineyards are a normal view in some areas.

Louisiana isn’t prone to grow vineyards. No, the scenery along the highways from South to North Louisiana remains to be a green and brown transition from cypress trees to pine trees. I’ll helpfully imply which ones I grew up around. The street I grew up on was called Tall Pine Dr. 

Forgive me, but I just can’t see Jesus’ talking without seeing a pine tree. I think it’s OK for this discussion though.

When I read this, I imagine a branch in North Louisiana that fell off a pine tree. More specifically, it would be the kind of branch that you would get rid of when picking up and cleaning out the yard. 

It’s flaky. It’s dirty. It’s brittle and grayish brown. There’s no green on it, which means there’s no life. 

Now imagine yourself as that branch. 

Individual Talent is Overrated in the Team Building Process

Individual Talent is Overrated in the Team Building Process

With 6:45 left in the fourth quarter of the Eastern Conference Finals, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum caught the ball at the top of arc. He took four steps, as the Celtics were down 71-67 to the Cavaliers, and rose up and dunked over LeBron James.

The TD Garden went nuts — as well as my living room 1,614 miles away. Moments after this iconic moment, Tatum bumped LeBron with his chest … and it was on. Every Celtics fans could sense that this Game 7 would end with a celebration in Boston.

But, in typical LeBron fashion he ended the game scoring 35 points and the Cavs beat the Celtics 87-79. The next day however provided a silver lining for Celtics fans.

The Celtics were a few minutes away from playing in the NBA Finals. They accomplished this without their two best players — Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward — who had season ending injuries. Many believed the Celtics could win an NBA Championship the next year.

The same Celtics team came back for the 2018-2019 season paired with the addition of a healthy Irving and Hayward. Expectations were high! So high that in my years of being a Celtics fan this hype was second only to the 2007-2008 season that ended in Banner 17.

Yet, things shifted ever so quickly. Twenty games into the 2018-2019 season the Celtics were 10-10. They played like they hated each other. They had no chemistry. They had no heart. The most disappointing Celtics season in my lifetime ended with an early playoff exit.

On paper, this team was as talented as any team in the league. They were the most talented Celtics team since 2007-2008, but their talent alone could not carry them. They had a team of 15 individuals who were great basketball players, but as a team they struggled to function correctly with one another.

Ultimately, a team comprised of talented individuals failed as a team.

In organizations we lead or are a part of, the same can be true. There’s a desire to collect the most talented or most experienced individuals.

Within the Local Church, this may look like we’re trying to find the best singer to be the Worship Pastor. We look for the best communicator to be the Pastor. We look for the most personable or charismatic person to lead students or kids.

While talent and experience are desired traits in building personnel for a team — they should not be our main identifiers (especially within the Church). In building a team there are three qualities each individual must have within their DNA.

Motherhood: Planners and Playdates Aren't Enough

Motherhood: Planners and Playdates Aren't Enough

Have you ever felt full? (Don’t answer that)

No, I take that back. Not full. Let’s call it, stuffed. (Don’t answer that either

Full hearts, full minds, full schedules, full plans, full plates and full lives -- everyday feels like a highly anticipated holiday, but not in the good kind of way. No, I mean in the way where everything is a rush, you squeeze out seedlings of quick plans, and then comes the inevitable crash and exhaustion afterward.  

Recently after becoming a mom, I made a list of the main roles in my life. As I tried to piece together new routines and possible personal systems to be successful in each one, I came to the realization that tenured mamas already know. 

Yeah, it’s impossible. Should I end the blog here?

Here’s the main list I came up with:

  • I am 100 percent a follower of Christ.

  • I am 100 percent a wife.

  • I am 100 percent a mother.

  • I am 100 percent a pastor.

  • I am 100 percent a daughter and a granddaughter.

  • I am 100 percent a leader.

  • I am 100 percent a friend. 

These percentages never lessen, skew or become partial. The roles never go away or take an off day. They do not switch on and off in commute between home, the office, church or out-and-about.

On my best days these roles work together in synchrony like a championship winning team. On my worst days, they appear as opponents duking it out to be the Heavy Weight Champion of my schedule, focus and care. 

The Good Ole' Days

The Good Ole' Days

Despite the 45-year age difference, two of the closest people in my life are my grandparents. Our relationship goes far beyond the occasional trips or calls. There is a genuine love for one another.

This type of grandchild-grandparent relationship is rare, especially as both parties get older. Growing up, I would spend most of my days with my grandparents as my mom worked multiple jobs a day to provide for us. The more time I spent with my grandparents, the more I interacted with their peers — or what I used to call them — “old people.”

I pulled pranks on my grandparent’s peers, and I lost my weekly allowance to their late night card games. I accompanied them as they went to nursing homes. They gave me money (…$1…) to negotiate at the local flea market for the sports item I inevitably wanted. I illegally sat and played Keno at the Coffee Shop. I even took up the hobby of reading the newspaper.

I was 12-years-old going on 65-years-old — and I loved every minute of it … for the most part.

The more I was around the older generation, the deeper the stories got. I’m fairly certain 90 percent of their stories were fabricated for story-sake. I can confirm 99 percent of my grandfather’s stories are. There are cousins in our family who think he was in the mob!

The stories eventually turned to conversations about old houses, food and automobiles.

“When I was your age, I could get a hamburger and a soda for 10 cents. Those were the good ole’ days.”

“A brand new car cost $2,000. Those were the good ole’ days.”

“My first house cost $10,000. Those were the good ole’ days.”

In the beginning, I nodded my head as I anxiously waited for the next topic of conversation. As I got older, it clicked, and I learned about inflation. So, I always made sure to interject this to their stories:

“But, didn’t you only make a few thousand of dollars a year? We make more today, so everything costs more.”

I knew once I said that the conversation would change!

The statement ‘the good ole’ days’ feels innocent by nature. It’s a fun conversation — especially with those older than 60-years-old.

The slippery slope of this statement and perspective comes in when we magnify it on to the Local Church. Through conversations with church leaders and personal experiences, the mentality of this statement often places immovable obstacles in a local church experiencing change.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, this statement usually coincides with style differences (music, dress, service, etc.), a pastoral change, or in regards to the vision of the church.

The Book of Ecclesiastes is an interesting one. The author, Solomon, paints a painful reality of life from his perspective. It’s a perspective of ups and downs — and about everything else in between. Here’s what he said:

The Crossroads of Quitting & Why You Shouldn't Quit Just Yet

The Crossroads of Quitting & Why You Shouldn't Quit Just Yet

Muhammed Ali is widely-proclaimed as the greatest boxer in history. Ali’s charismatic personality was secondary to his systematic and often thunderous approach in the ring.

With all of his success — Ali finished his career with 56 wins and only five losses — you would assume that he loved all the preparation and time it took to be a champion. Not so fast — Ali famously hated training and preparing for his fights.

While we’re unsure of the amount of training Ali participated in, many trainers suggest that an average boxer should train 3-5 hours a day for five days per week leading up to a fight.

With that said, let’s look at a famous Ali quote regarding training:

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’

— Muhammed Ali

This statement gives an incredible snapshot of reality. I can’t imagine how many times he wanted to leave a training session early or cut corners in his workout, but he didn’t because he had his goal fresh in mind. His foresight and discipline led him to become the greatest boxer of all-time.

THE CROSSROADS OF QUITTING.

At some point in our lives — maybe on numerous occasions — we face the crossroads of quitting. We internalize a pros and cons list of the situation (job, school, relationship, etc.) and then proceed with our decision.

Due to the nature of society, our decision is often blurred through the lens of convenience. The greatest part of our society is the fact we can (literally) become anyone we want to be. With the wealth of industries and knowledge available for personal growth, we can develop into any version of ourselves that we imagine.

The greatest challenge in our society is because of that availability of training — we can rush processes that are essential for development.