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Shifting Gears

Gear Shift

The very first car my wife and I bought together, right before we married, was a 1974 Mustang II. It did not have an automatic transmission but, rather, was a five-speed manual. She had never driven a stick shift before, so the training began. Nothing like learning to drive a five-speed to see how well you will really be able to get along. She was doing quite well until one day we had an errand to drive where the area was quite hilly.

Unfortunately, the traffic light caught us where the hill was the steepest, and now the real test was about to begin. When the light turned green she tried, but we rolled backwards. Again, she tried but the result was the same. The man behind us was quite concerned waving his hands and honking his horn. I pulled up the emergency hand break in the middle console, told her to gun it, pop the clutch, and I let the brake down.   You can get rubber even in a 4-cylinder!

She became very proficient with a manual transmission, which proved to be quite useful while we were living in Romania.   Learning to know when to be in the right gear at the right time allows the engine to function at its optimum. In the wrong gear at the wrong time and the engine labors and can even shut down. Being in the right gear at the right time is also important in our lives for us personally, our families, and wherever we may work. If you are in the wrong gear at the wrong time damage can be done.

The following gears are used in the book Five Gears: How to Be Present When there Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram. The key is being aware of the gear you are in, the gear others are in around you, and then being willing to shift into the needed gear for the moment. We will run over people if we choose to continue at the speed we are traveling and are unwilling to down shift, slow down, and be fully present and focused on them where they are at the moment.

  • First Gear is the Recharge Mode. This is where you completely unplug and are able to get refreshed, recharged, and reenergized. This is your time alone with God and making sure you get the rest and relaxation that you need. This is why there is a day and a night, a Sabbath, a time to work and a time to rest. God placed these rest rhythms into our lives for our health and well-being. Do not skip over first gear and try to start off too fast in another gear because eventually you will damage your engine.
  • Second Gear is the Connect Mode. We must learn to be fully present with our families. The people we love the most deserve our best in the area of our undivided attention during quality time together. We cannot afford to always be distracted and guilty of being physically present but not emotionally. Are you connecting appropriately with your wife and with your children? The reality is that miscommunication grows exponentially the busier our lives become.
  • Third Gear is the Social Mode. This middle gear gives us the ability to shift down or up pretty easily. We can downshift into second gear where we can spend quality time with someone that allows up to get to know them more personally. Look for these opportunities and capitalize on them but also be ready to upshift to being able to multi-task. The key to third gear is being aware of what is needed at the moment and having “EQ” which is emotional intelligence.
  • Fourth Gear is Task Mode. This is where we are multi-tasking and working hard in several different areas. It is interesting that 85% or people are usually in this gear but you cannot stay there forever. It is not good if the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night is to check your email. There is a time that all of us need to learn to shut it off and to shutdown. This gear can be exhilarating and bring a lot of personal satisfaction as we check things off of our to-do list.
  • Fifth Gear is the Focus Mode. Now you are 100% focused on the task and you are uninterrupted as you complete it. This has been described as being “in the zone.” I have asked several what that looks like in their particular field. A policeman shared with me that it is when he is able to help someone. An owner of a factory shared with me that it is that 2-3 minutes every day when everything and everyone is working in perfect harmony. An NFL quarterback said it is when he can see the whole field and knows what everyone is going to do and how the defense will react, the opposite of tunnel vision.

When are you in “the zone?” Where is your sweet spot when you are at your best and can be the most productive you can be? It may be in 90-minute segments, early mornings, or right after lunch. Maybe you need to get around people to be “in the zone” or you need to be locked in a room by yourself with a white marker board as you dream and visualize. Once again, though, you cannot stay in fifth gear forever. There will be time to downshift into multi-tasking and then even downshift again to be social again.

To properly drive a five-speed transmission you must be aware of how the engine sounds, the terrain, the correct speed needed, and sensitive to what is needed at the moment. The same is true in our lives as we become more self-aware of the gear needed for us to be productive and personable. You cannot always be the social butterfly because there is work to be done nor should you continually be all about the work while ignoring relationships.

Healthy Christians know when to shift gears!

 

REDEEMING THE TIME

Redeem Time

One of the greatest challenges of leadership is the proper management of your time.  This has been verbalized many different ways.  Dr Ronnie Floyd said, “Pastor, rise up in your leadership and quit focusing on secondary things.”  Through the years I have heard several say, “Make sure you are making the main thing the main thing.”  Another is, “Don’t allow your busyness to keep you from the real business.”  If you do not take charge of your calendar someone else will!

Redeeming the time is a challenge to make full use of it and not to waste opportunities.  It is a call to allow God to guide us in prioritizing our schedules.  We must have filters in place to help us better determine into what we should and should not invest our time.  First, what is unimportant and not urgent?  Second, what is unimportant but urgent?  Third, what is important but not urgent?  Fourth, what is important and urgent?  We must make sure we are using our time wisely.

The question then is – how do we redeem our time?  How do we prioritize our time and make sure we are focused on what we should be focused?  There are plenty of ways to waste our time and to invest our time in things that will never produce the results we desire.  In Growing New Churches (training materials by Dynamic Church Planting International) Hal Seed shares these tips on dealing with time demands.  He gives “Ten Biblical Guidelines for Managing Your Time.”  Here are the first five:

  1. Our time is precious! Ephesians 5:16-17, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”  Colossians 4:5, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.”  Redeeming time requires that you trade something for something else.  Are you trading your time for things of no value or for things of significance and eternal value?
  2. We will give an account of how we spend our time! 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”  All of us have three basic resources; our talents, our treasures, and our time.  Are we being good stewards of our time and using it for His glory?
  3. We must seek God regularly to guide our use of time. Jeremiah 10:21, “For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.”  The idea of “brutish” here is that they had lost their senses.  They were being stupid because they were not asking the Lord to direct them in what they should do!  Wayne Grudem has said, “I find the most helpful thing I do regarding the use of time is to spend time in prayer each morning bringing my plans and my ‘to do’ list before the Lord and seeking His direction.”
  4. We spend the most important time each day with God. Mark 1:35, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”  What is God saying to you in your daily walk with Him?  Todd West in a recent message challenged our church to discern between a “good” idea and a “God” idea!  The only way to do that is in His presence.
  5. Rest is important for our long term health and therefore our time management. Hebrews 4:9-11, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.  For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”  This is not meant to be a legalistic practice but is meant to help us make sure we are recharging ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  What do you do that helps you to recharge?  Here is what a recent tweet from our church said, “If you don’t come apart, you’re likely to come apart!” (Matt 14:22-27)

     In deciding how you will redeem your time, it is my prayer that this quote from Henry Cloud in Boundaries will challenge and guide you, “When we create boundaries, we aren’t saying to the world, ‘I can’t help you.’  Instead, we’re saying, ‘I must focus intentionally on the specific things God has placed right now in my direct influence.’ By saying no to people and to things that are not contained within God’s distinct vision for our lives, we’re actually saying ‘yes’ to His sovereignty.  He knows the best way for His will to be accomplished. For us to assume we can handle more is rebellious and counterproductive!”

HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR SUMMER

Summer

I just can’t believe it is already the middle of June.  Busy, busy, busy!!!  Every season has certain rhythms with summer being the time of vacations and trying to get away.  We must redeem even the summer time by taking full advantage of the opportunities that God gives us.  Are we doing that?  Are we taking full, complete, total advantage of the doors HE is opening?  What goals has God placed upon your heart for the next three to six months and what are you going to do to make them become a reality?

Please do not think I am talking about being busier because all of us are busy enough but we need to make sure we are doing the necessary things God has called us to do.  This is not about doing more, but rather, about doing the right things in the life rhythms we are already in.  Thom Rainer put it this way.  “God calls us to make a transformational impact on the world, not provide a carnival of frenetic activity for ourselves.”

This is one of the reasons I believe in a coaching/mentoring relationship so strongly.  All of us need a leader in our lives who helps us stay focused on the goals in front of us and how to best reach them.   The other day my coach said, “How will you maximize the summer instead of excusing the summer?”  Wow, that got me and caused me to wonder, “How could I maximize my time to help others to W.I.N. through evaluation?”  What are we doing well?  What do we need to improve?  What will we do different the next time?

Here are ways you can maximize your summer:

  • TAKE TIME TO INVEST IN OTHERS!  Who needs an encouraging call from you?  Who do you see that is struggling or could use a little tender loving care?  Which leader could use some mentoring in handling conflict, experiencing trials, facing discouragement or some other life issue?
  • DEVELOP A PLAN!  What changes do you need to make before the fall or the end of the year?  What strategies and processes need to be implemented now for them to become a reality in the future?  What organizational changes need to occur so people have more time for ministry instead of maintenance?
  • CONSIDER THE COST OF DOING NOTHING! What price are we willing to pay?  As you count the cost, every church must consider what they would rather have; the cost of an expanding God-sized vision or the cost of not gaining ground in obedience to Jesus’ command to make disciples?  Are we more in love with our comfort than God’s mission?
  • RECHARGE YOUR BATTERIES!  What do you personally need to do to reflect, refresh, and regroup?  What book should you read?  What training should you get?  What leader should you talk to?  When and where should your next prayer retreat be?  What beach do you need to visit?  (Just saying!)
  • EVALUATE HOW WELL YOU ARE MAKING DISCIPLES!  What do we need to do to improve the spiritual development process in our church?  What can we do better to connect people in a way that helps them grow in Christ?  Is our process clear and easy to replicate?  How do we move people from being a disciple to becoming a disciple-maker?
  • FIND SOMEONE TO SHOW AND SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST WITH!  Who is in your circle of influence that needs Christ?  Who are you praying for that needs a personal relationship with Christ?   What are you doing to build a relationship with them to show them His love?  How and when will you share salvation with them?  If we are not careful we will be good neighbors without being good witnesses.  Remember this three phase approach: Listen to their Story, Share your Story, and then Tell His Story.
  • DON’T WASTE ANOTHER DAY!  The best time to plant a tree was thirty years ago but the next best time is today.  If you want to be where God wants you to be tomorrow you must start today.   What strategies do you have in place to help reach your goals?  What are the barriers or obstacles that you need to address in order to accomplish your mission? 

So, let me end by asking you again the same question my coach asked me, “How will you maximize the summer instead of excusing the summer away?”  

Wasting Time

Wasting Time

Do you ever feel overwhelmed?  Do you sometimes feel like there are not enough hours in the day?  How do you decide what things must be done and what things should be done?  Twice in the New Testament (Eph. 5:16, Col. 4:5) we are told to redeem the time.  The idea is to rescue or recover our time from waste; to improve it for great and important purposes.  Time is a very precious commodity that once gone you can never bring back.  You can tell a lot about a person’s values by looking at their calendar and how they spend their time.

In Leading on Empty Wayne Cordeiro challenges to focus on our 5% that no one else can do for us.  He says that 85% of what we do anyone can do and that another 10% of what we do we could train someone to do those things for us.  How do you stay focused on the things only you can accomplish?  What is the best investment of the time God has given you?  We cannot afford to waste time because it will drain us physically, mentally, and spiritually.  “It is easier to train a doer than to activate a thinker.” –Andy Stanley 

Ron Edmonson has some great thoughts on how to not waste time.  He says, “I firmly believe if we get rid of common energy wasters we can dramatically improve our performance as leaders. With that in mind, I’ve spent time in my personal development finding ways to eliminate time and energy wasters.”  Here are 7 common wastes of energy in leadership that he shared in a recent blog.

Focusing attention on the naysayers – I have found that worrying over what the critics are saying, especially the ones I will never make happy, delays progress and takes time from and frustrates the positive people who believe in the vision and are ready to move forward.

Refusing to delegate – When I make every decision, or become too controlling as a leader, I rob myself and the team of valuable energy and talent and I feel overwhelmed more quickly.

Second guessing decisions – I find it is better to work to make better decisions moving forward rather than live in a pity party of bad ones already made.

Trying to have all the ideas – Many leaders feel they have to be the originator of all the creative energy of a team. They waste time brainstorming alone rather than expanding the creative process. Consequently, the best ideas often never surface. Original thoughts, better than ours, are usually in the room or the organization if we will welcome them to the table and it preserves my time for more efficient use.

Living with broken structure – Let’s face reality. Over time, rules take on a life of their own. What was once created to improve structure actually begins to slow progress and waste valuable time. Change the rules…or even drop them… and you often free up valuable space for people to breathe and enjoy their work.

Disorganization – Need I expand? Many leaders feel overwhelmed because they don’t have good organizational skills. Learning how to better handle routine tasks such as processing emails, calendaring, and scheduling work flow each week will drastically improve time efficiency.

Completing tasks not designed for me – This could be any number of things. Even reading a book. For example, perhaps a silly example, but I have discovered that sometimes I read too much. That sounds strange…I know…but really it’s because I read things I didn’t need to read. I start a book and within the first chapter I know it’s not helpful or even enjoyable…my sense of completion wants to finish. But, better is to put it aside and pick up another book. The novel length email…I try to determine first if I’m the one who should respond. Many times I’m not. It could be attending a meeting…or supervising a project. Whatever it is that I am not the best person for the job or it is just a time waster, the sooner I stop it or hand off the task, the more energy I preserve.