Episode 21, The AWP: Finding Meaning in Your Work Through Hearing the Voice of God

Episode 21, The AWP: Finding Meaning in Your Work Through Hearing the Voice of God

We’ve all struggled with feeling lost, bored or devoid of mission at our work.

Whether you’re a CEO or stay-at-home mom, we’ve all been there.

But what if God had so much more for you in terms of your life’s work?

Regardless of the type of work, job, industry or position and regardless of how many times you changed jobs… what if there was one constant?

What if you could be in communication with God minute over minute, everyday at your work regardless of the task or mission?

The conviction of this episode is that you can hear from God from all sorts of crazy sources/inputs/channels AND…

That hearing from God/communicating with God on a daily basis is essential for finding true and lasting meaning in your life’s work!

Links I’ve referenced are:

  • Pete Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Leadership Podcast
  • Mark Sayers quote “we want a kingdom without a king” (from Disappearing Church)
  • Brother Lawrence’s book-The Practice of the Presence of God
  • Ravi Zacharis’ the four fundamental questions

listen here:

MP3

iTunes

Episode 18, The AWP: SQUARE UP! (With Your Belief & Vision, Featuring Seth Schmidt)

Episode 18, The AWP: SQUARE UP! (With Your Belief & Vision, Featuring Seth Schmidt)

We’ve all espoused some belief or vision that we regard in the deepest part of our hearts.

But how many of us are actually living that belief or vision daily?

To live our core convictions and to pursue the big dreams of clear visions God has given us for our lives requires a daily dose of truth and discipline.

Most of us are just too sloppy, distracted or isolated to make any progress on our vision or to live passionately into our core values!

Listen to this jarring experience my brother in law has begun this past fall and I think our conversation will inspire you to install some new habits in your life that will help you better square up with what you say you Believe!

I especially want my Christian listeners to be challenged in terms of what beliefs or values they subscribe to yet suspend when the rubber meets the road!

Here is the MP3

Here is the iTunes

Episode 5, The Applebee Way Podcast: How To Raise 7 Kids

Episode 5, The Applebee Way Podcast: How To Raise 7 Kids

First episode (of 2) this month is devoted to a listener question: how exactly are we able to keep up with 7 kids under the age of 7.

It’s also the first episode with a special guest star-my very own Rylee Applebee.

In this episode we talk about intentional practices, family values as well as the intrinsic strengths that make us who we are!

If you’re not on iTunes please use this link to listen here.

And if you’re an Apple user, please us this one!

Thanks for listening and 2 quick things:

  1. Let me know what content you’d like to hear more about!
  2. Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes/podcast app!

Are You a Leader that People Love to Follow?

Are You a Leader that People Love to Follow?

I have exciting things coming in 2018 that I can’t wait to tell you about but for now let me leave you with this question…

Are you a leader people love to follow?

As 2017 comes to a close, we all find ourselves at the wonderful intersection of looking back and looking forward.

(Don’t miss that part by the way-looking back. There’s learnings and lessons and all the good with the bad; you’d be a fool if you didn’t devote a serious portion of your thought life and let all of that inform you goals, hopes and dreams for 2018).

As you look back and look ahead, I want you to ask that question and I’ll be doing the same.

To get you started, I want to give you a surprisingly beautiful picture of why, of all the questions, this should be the question for you in 2018.

And I want us all to be reminded of our legacies in this picture. That’s what the end and beginning of each year builds anyway-our lifelong legacies.

It happened early this month watching (for the first time) the mid-century classic White Christmas with the wife and kids.

There’s this opening scene on the front lines of WWII and if you know anything about the film, of course, the guys break out in song.

It is the content of this one old Hollywood musical classic that is haunting me… and it goes like this:

We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go

Long as he wants to go opposite to the foe

We’ll stay with the old man wherever he wants to stay

Long as he stays away from the battle’s fray

Because we love him, we love him

Especially when he keeps us on the ball

And we’ll tell the kiddies we answered duty’s call

With the grandest son of a soldier of them all

I mean part of it is a satire because they only wanna follow him so long as he steers clear of any danger, and yet we all know that part’s not the picture of real life-hence the satire.

Real life is a battle; you’ll face foes both spiritual and natural-this was true in 2017 like it’ll be true in 2018. The defining moment for every leader is the repeated facing of decisions through conflict. Those who fought in WWII and any conflict since then would assuredly attest to this.

So if you can take the satire for what it is, then it’s: “We love him… we’ll follow him wherever he goes…”

That’s influence you cannot buy.
That’s a leadership built on love.
That’s a legacy of fear-no-evil followership.

The romantic side of me loves the military allusion and respects the character required to attain the rank of General (who this song is devoted to).

The Jesus-follower in me understands the fundamental difference between leadership by power, force, merit, rank or even pay and leadership by humility, compassion and peace-brokering martyrdom.

Which one inspires you more? Which one would you give your life for?

You think the disciples felt that way about Jesus? I bet you they did. Every last one of them followed him all the way to their own gruesome deaths. All for the leader they loved.

Can and will your people say the same? Your kids… your staff… your team… your employees… your church?

Man I sure hope so.

And because I know I’m not there yet, I want to be willing to have the passion, grit and discipline to do the things necessary to get there… starting today, tomorrow and 2018.

What are some of your hopes for 2018?

52 Week Blog Anniversary 

52 Week Blog Anniversary 

This week marks 1 year since I started this blog.

It also marks the completion of quite a sizeable goal: to write 1 post a week for 1 year. 

When I look at my dashboard it says that I’ve posted 51 times, which means after clicking ‘publish’ on this post I will have reached my goal. 

There’s a guy who writes about goal setting, I think its James Clear, when he talks about the aspiration to write a book-the discipline behind which is really just about writing consistently. And how if you could just commit to the discipline of writing consistently you would amass the equivalent of a full written work. 

Well with the average non-fiction book length of 50,000-60,000 words, I’ve produced over 57,000 words this past year (at an average post length of 1,100-a few hundred words too long by the way!). 

Obviously the purpose behind the goal was much more than to simply amass a load of written words. It was the implied meaning behind the words and the mission of my homepage-to impact, influence and ignite. And I can only hope that 1400 visitors from over 30 countries and 14 followers would feel in some way encouraged and motivated by these words this past year. 

In this past year I’ve tried my best to honestly convey the learnings and major takeaways from my life that they might be a living testimony to you and yours. This should show my attempts at being committed to lifelong learning (as opposed to presenting the words as an established profession). 

And, by the way, the blog is a fabulous learning journal medium to do just that-catalog all the things you’ve learned and processed as a means for looking back and actually tracking the wisdom and development that you’ve acquired. I don’t think we do this enough-life moves too quickly and we are prone to drift (as opposed to intentionally). 

And so maybe there will be a book… but what would be the big idea? Who would be the primary audience? How would it serve people? What book would you like to read or do you feel needs to be written?

Here are some early thoughts; send me your votes and ideas…

  1. I talk to a lot of people, typically millenials, who are perplexed and transient when it comes to their calling in life. This first book idea would be driven at these young people (and any others who feel at a vocational identity crisis). “Developing a personal mission statement: the 7 stages of discovering where all of you connects with the needs of the world”
  2. I believe that churches are at a loss in so many areas from the pragmatic (strategy, management and structural needs) to the spiritual (theology, mandate to reach the lost/next generation, mission and vision), this would be a call and a guide for churches to take the time to work ON the ministry not just IN the ministry. Passion: My personal manifesto for how the church ought to look. 
  3. For the longest time I have carried the conviction that you could tether a line from almost any social problem directly back to it’s family of origin experience; the common denominator for almost all spiritual, social and political flashpoints can be connected directly to what happens in that first community. The Family: the center and solution for every social problem

Okay, so there you have it. Would love to hear from you. 

Warrior Bride

Warrior Bride

Don’t just be “pro-life” on a picket sign. Be pro-life in every phase and in every way. Foster care and adoption is our yes to life. 

Last week our fost-adopt journey turned the corner for a new chapter.

As is usually the case with social services*, slow and sparring information is the only information, so I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised when my wife got a call from the county saying, ‘birth mom is out of prison earlier than expected and she has a visit due this week… can you make it up town tomorrow?’

Classic.

So it is that we were faced with the last-minute audible to gear up and get going.

And so we did.

But not before having a bit of a spiritual-psycho-emotional freak out.

You see up to this point in our fost-adopt journey (on baby number 2; Selah adopted last year, we’ve been licensed for about 3 years), we haven’t had what I would call the typical foster family experience…

We haven’t had to give kids back after years of bonding and attachment; we haven’t had to travel 30 miles twice a week for biological family visits (as some of our dear friends have-mind you with their other kids and family life moving ahead at normal pace/scheduling); we haven’t had to deal with multiple family members and the ups and downs of them making progress, back sliding, court mandating chaos that can be the very essence of foster care.

As I explained it to a friend recently, when you become licensed for fost-adopt your technical title is a “resource family.”

This means that you are like an expendable tool to be used at the disposal of the system, the kids and the biological families needs. This is the lens that you are trained to assume as a foster mom or dad.

Suffice to say, easier said than done.

Herein lies the essence of our spiritual-psycho-emotional freak out: you’ve held, carried, nourished, kissed, swaddled, midnight fed-in short loved the crap out of a being that-in this case-we’ve had since he was 2-days old.

All of this largely “uninterrupted” (meaning: most days, no ones come knocking to pick him up, take him away or even call to check in!). And when it’s like that-very few bio family visits and very few calls/court dates-you begin to really live the illusion that this child is yours.

And then one day you get a call with a stark reminder that, at least legally, that is not the case.

And so we have a  mental shock to the system and the mind begins to reel… ‘what if he is taken away… worse still, what if he is taken away and given to birth mom where he is abused or neglected.’

Stop for a second, imagine if you will that one of your biological kids was dropped off one day and handed to someone you barely know and definitely do not trust (and also has a history of abuse/neglect). Well biological or fostered, we do not know the difference-that is what it feels like.

So doubt, crisis, fear creeps in…

Insert the mental/biblical picture that God gave my wife…

It’s the picture of Abraham laying his son Issac on the altar. It comes from Genesis 22.

You remember the picture

IMG_0148

22 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

It’s gnarly.

So many questions here-I get it… what’s God thinking about? What’s God’s deal? Just flat-out: why? Well besides the fact that I’m not here to talk about all that today, I do think the answer is 4 words into the first verse… God tested Abraham’s faith.

Ironic how that was essentially the title of a sermon I shared just 1 week prior. The one point was essentially this: God is using all things as a manner of testing and preparing us for what comes next. (And prayer, by the way, is our gift for having eyes to see this.)

It’s no different right here, right now with our little 7-month old baby boy.

A second truth paralleled in our lives with this passage is this: our kids are not our own.

Whether our kids are biological or fostered or adopted-not anymore than our past, present or future-do they belong to us.

I allude to the concept of time because that is the dual thing that God is asserting ownership over by the way, in this passage.

You see he’s not only testing Abraham’s faith, he’s not only reminding Abraham that he owns his son, but he owns what his son represents.

And what Issac represented was the hope of another son-Jacob, who was the hope of Israel, whose hope was Jesus, who is the hope of the world.

I digress, except to say this: he holds the people and he holds the plans.

Same is true for us right here, right now.

So hand him over…

That was the bright idea my wife got.. AND the reality we get the chance to live.

Starting today, in the new normal, of driving up to the group home to visit birth mom, making sure that she gets an audience with her son.

And the prayer that helps us navigate this all?

It is prayer no longer for 1 life, but for 2.

That’s the call after all isn’t it? To find whoever we may be diametrically opposed to and love that person, pray for that person?

I fear it is a lost or dying 1st century art form. But in truth, we just so seldom get the chance to meet our “enemy.” Besides the person in the car riding my tailgate, I fear I have never really met the enemy Christ spoke of… until now.

And please understand how I’m using the word enemy. It is not to make biological mom bad, rather it is to explain exactly what I meant when I say diametrically opposed, and the person who has the potential to claim back what we love like it is our own feels like no subtle opposition.

In the end, this post was meant to be an affirmation of my wonderful and amazing warrior bride-Rylee. After all it was the biblical-word-image that God gave her, that she in turn shared with the world via social media, which in turn appears to have been an incredible encouragement for the faith and struggles of others.

When I saw her post I was uplifted and inspired by her… after all she is at the home front with these precious babes logging far more hours than I.
She is the frontline soldier of love-mending wounds, wiping tears (and bottoms!), channeling screams and demands, listening, waiting, loving patiently and graciously.

So in a way it is her baby even perhaps a little more than my baby that is being asked to the altar now.
And so it is her courage and faith and boldness and prayers that emboldens us both now to keep taking one step after the next in faith and preparation for whatever it is that God has next…


*And not to disparage the many incredibly hard-working social workers out there-I am constantly floored by the amazing volumes of work and case loads they carry-and enormously gut-wrenching at times too. These workers match any ministry or church hustle I have ever seen-those who really are devoted and focused that is.

 

Extraction: The Art of Actualizing What’s in Your Head

Extraction: The Art of Actualizing What’s in Your Head

Have you ever had something in your head that you needed to get out? Some vision, idea, program, talk, training, “how-to” guide… some thing you needed to move from abstract constellation of thought into a clearly outlined, usable thing?

When I was transitioning from my last church job my supervisor-a man whose analytical genius is always bent toward better execution-suggested that I write down a general who, what, when, where, why for my successor. 

When we would check in for our weekly 1:1s, a greater and greater percentage of our time was devoted to passing the baton (of information and how-tos) well.

During our time together he would drive me deeper and deeper into cataloging the most important standard operating procedures held under the 2 or 3 major hats that I wore. 

I will never forget what he said one day toward that end. He said very simply, “we need to get what’s in your head out.”

As basic as that might sound it triggered something in me…

For starters it made me think: what are the hundreds of little things I do each day that no one knows about, that’s not in writing somewhere, that no one told me to do, but it effectively gets my job done. 

And while, at the end of my transition time, I did not produce a list with every one of those hundred items, I was able to produce the broader strokes of my past deliverables. 

The second thing my supervisor’s comment triggered was a an affirmation of this blog actually. 

The whole point behind this writing discipline was two-fold: 

1, as an external tool to inspire, influence and ignite something in others and;

2, as an internal tool of recapping all that I had learned in the past year-a sort of personal development journal for the sake of never forgetting all the amazing takeaways.  

Herein lies the first principle of what I will call Standard Mental Operating Procedure Extraction or SMOPE for short:

(1) SMOPE requires a pause in our daily mental activity so that we may become more conscious of what’s behind our daily decisions and actions. 

The answer to my rhetorical question above (have you ever had something in your head that you wanted to get out?) is: of course you have. Everyone has…

I just think that most people sell themselves short on this level of thought life and ideation.

Most people will go about their work and leadership never having given a second thought to why it is they do a certain thing the way they do!

And that is a fundamental component of principle #1: it’s not pausing to think about what you just decided or did, it’s pausing to reflect how or why you did it that way. 

I should back up and give some definition 

SMOPE is the standard operating procedure of your mind. You do it, almost unconsciously, every single day… you plan, you act, you execute.

And there is most certainly a very particular mental model or procedure you use that you could go your whole life never thinking about distilling or bottling that very good thing in order for your very good “way” to ever go beyond yourself.

This brings me to point number two…

(2) SMOPE is all about extending your legacy beyond yourself. 

Whether it’s in the example I listed above about a simple job transition or it’s the CEO of a Fortune 500 company working through a major succession, the difference between good and great is extension beyond yourself. 

Why is this so critical-the ability to pass your excellent mental methods of success and growth? Here’s an example from both the church and marketplace context. 

Take the multi-level marketing example. Say what you will about them, the bottom line is this: you have a product or service that, assuming authentic quality, you can spread like wildfire through multiple tiers of people leading others and multiplying their methods. 

In other words they train and equip those below them to achieve similar results.

Now whether it’s multi-level marketing or just any scalable business where you include the large-scale training of people, there was someone along the way who distilled and bottled what was in their head.

The companies and organizations who have the best ability to do this will also continue a proven legacy that goes beyond any founder or CEO.

The church belief and process of discipleship is no different. This example is one of the most deeply held beliefs of our organization.

Jesus did it; Jesus commanded it and it is essentially the one central model, method, vehicle-whatever you want to call it-way to spread the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection and grow the church. 

Now, even though there may be no two churches alike in what they will call their discipleship process or system, the point remains the same: Jesus took what was in his head, heart, spirit he spoke about it, he lived it and he invited 12 other men along to see, do and multiply. 

The churches and faith-based organizations that create a plan for discipleship (and actually work their plan!) will also experience a proven legacy that extends across the generations. 

There’s another thing you should know about SMOPE.

(3) SMOPE is the ability to move from unknown, unformalized, unstandardized (however, not random) thought life to a clearly outlined and action-oriented system of organization.

This is the crux of the issue. It’s one thing to pause and intentionally think about the why and how behind your decisions and actions. It’s another thing entirely to distill and bottle that product into a clear and scalable tool.

This third principle and step is really where you will live. While it is truly an ongoing discipline to begin holding every thought captive (and training your people to do the same!), the main gear and life-cycle of this process is slowly and intentionally taking the mental operating procedure and putting it into tangible malleable material. 


Closing Thoughts:

As 1 of the top 5 fastest growing restaurant chains in America, Chic-fil-A just opened it’s 2000th restaurant… that is not a typo. That is not an extra 0. TWO THOUSANDTH location. 

I’m sorry, maybe it’s just me (and I know there are chains with more locations in the world), but I sat amazed when I read this in a Business Insider article weeks ago! And I’m still talking about it so there! 

I mean how many reference points can you have for thinking about a scaled, legacy-oriented thing like that. 

And it’s not like someone said one day, ‘well this whole selling chicken thing is going well, how about we open another store and go on ahead and let the managers of that place just do whatever they see fit in their own eyes’

NOOOOO they said, ‘here’s what makes us great now go and do the same… cause we took the time to distill and bottle that sucker!’

Consider a more personal example: maybe you’re a high level leader or maybe you know a high level leader (that’s all of you!) we have a tremendous opportunity to make sure that the following conundrums recieve an excellent response…

What was that marketing method he or she used in a down market?

How was it that he/she filed that year during tax season?

What did he/she always do with that one difficult customer?

How did he/she deal with litigation in this one case?

That high level leader and, who knows, maybe the executive team who worked with that leader for years-they know the how and why behind their standard operating procedures but shoot, does anybody else outside their own brain space?!

Action:

Regardless of your position in the organization, take a step today and catalog, record, WRITE DOWN the why or how behind a few things (just 1 thing even!) that you do well within your scope of responsibilities… you have no idea; it could just be the thing that gets distilled and bottled to over 24,000 locations in 74 countries (Starbucks)…