Thirty-five years ago, (April 19, 1987 on Easter Sunday) my wife Linda and I had the privilege of being spiritual mid-wives. We helped God birth one of His churches, Cape Christian. Along with two other couples, we locked our arms in a common vision to reach young unchurched families. Starting the first church in Cape Coral, Florida that was entirely focused on using contemporary worship music, down-to-earth messages, and relevant ministry to inspire and transform families, we have been Loving God and Loving People for well over three decades now. This past weekend, thousands of people gathered on our campus to worship the Resurrected Christ! I’m never surprised, but always in awe. God is good, so good. I’m blessed, very blessed!
Some ask, what is the secret? Are there a few keys to the success of Cape Christian? I’ve written about a lot of them in this blog over the last years. But on this 35th anniversary, here are 35 simple axioms I’ve learned and tried to live by over the last 35 years:
- Enjoy the journey. Live with a sense of awe and gratitude each day of the journey.
- God is always up to something new so embrace it instead of resisting it.
- “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” ~John Maxwell
- “The most powerful tool a leader has is personal example.” ~John Wooden
- “Humility is the first chapter in the book of success.” ~Mark Batterson
- Little things matter.
- You only get one chance to make a first impression.
- Every stage of an organization’s growth is unique and every stage is important.
- Organizations never grow in a straight line. There are many peaks and valleys, zigs and zags.
- We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period and underestimate what we can accomplish over a long period of time.
- Everything we do takes more time than we expect.
- Commit for the long haul. “Overnight successes,” usually happen through years of persistence by someone.
- Leadership is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Work hard. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” ~Thomas Edison
- Become a lifelong learner. My capacity to lead is determined by my capacity to grow.
- Explain the why, not just the what, when and how. People lose their way when they lose their why.
- Make the hard decisions when necessary. “Leadership is an extreme sport…requiring both courage and humility.” ~Cheryl Bachelder.
- The higher you go in leadership, the higher your character needs to be and the fewer options you will have.
- The higher you go in leadership, the greater your self-awareness needs to grow.
- Don’t try to be the hero. Be the guide.
- Great leaders take adequate time for reflection and rest.
- Blessing follows obedience and risk.
- Leadership is more about relationships than it is about results. In the long run, results are in proportion to the quality of your relationships.
- Giving leadership away is ultimately better than keeping it for yourself.
- The best leadership decision I ever made in 35 years was to develop a succession plan and execute it 13 years ago.
- The best leaders are servants. They help others succeed.
- If you are not intentionally choosing to grow, you are choosing to decline.
- Leaders determine their brand. You will be known for something. Choose wisely.
- Great leaders build teams that build great organizations. Great leaders grow leaders.
- Great leaders realize they stand on the shoulders of others who’ve gone before them.
- The best leaders have more questions than they have answers.
- If you chase two rabbits, both will escape. Keep the main thing the main thing.
- “Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.” ~Robin Sharma
- Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn in the right direction.
- My marriage and my family are my most important calling and my ultimate measure of success.
QUESTION: Which would be your top three axioms out of these thirty-five? I’m sure I’ve missed many, what would you add? Share it in the comment section below. Thanks!
Since this is the next-to-the-top viewed (over 3,000 times) of all my nearly 300 posts over the last decade, I thought it might be good for a rerun. Happy Valentine’s Day 2022!
According to Hallmark’s research department, 145 million cards will be exchanged, making Valentine’s Day the second-most popular greeting-card-giving occasion. This total excludes packaged kids valentines for classroom exchanges which, when included, goes up to 1 billion cards. I can’t find the numbers now but way back in 2010, an additional estimated 15 million e-cards were sent. An interesting tidbit is that Valentine’s Day is a procrastinator’s delight. Over 50% of all Valentine’s Day cards are purchased in the six days prior to the observance.
And while we are on fun facts about Valentines, did you know there are more than 40,000 Americans employed at chocolate companies. Why so many? Because we will buy 58 million pounds of chocolate for Valentine’s Day according to sweet-tooth researchers. That doesn’t include the unknown amount of chocolate consumed in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia—because they also celebrate Valentine’s Day.
There’s quite a bit of mystery surrounding the history of Valentine’s Day and the story of its patron saint. We know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day contains both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. The holiday began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. The most popular legend is that Saint Valentine was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. Related to this legendary account of St. Valentine, during his imprisonment he is said to have healed the daughter of the jailer and before his execution in AD 269, he wrote a note “from your Valentine” as a farewell to her.
The association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love grew in the Middle Ages and on through the 15th century when the tradition of courtly love flourished and Geoffrey Chaucer wrote romantic poetry and linked it to February 14 when St. Valentine was being honored in the Catholic Church. The day evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, candy or sending greetings cards, known as “valentines.” Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. And, over the centuries as Valentine’s Day was celebrated in various countries and traditions, hearts, roses, love birds, and cupids were woven into the symbolism and traditions.
As a pastor, I’ve had the privilege of doing two Valentine weddings on the same day, and many other weddings and vow renewals on this special day. Let’s certainly not lose this tradition of romance and expressing love to each other.
But let me suggest that we consider investing in our relationships with our significant others throughout the entire year and not just one day. Express love daily to your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, family members and friends. Acts of sacrificial love like St. Valentine demonstrated are just as powerful the other 364 days of the year. Cards, flowers and chocolate will be welcomed by most people any day of the year—especially when it is unexpected and for no particular “reason.” And let me give you guys a couple hints: roses are significantly cheaper outside the week of Valentine’s Day and one rose each month is often more appreciated than a dozen on Valentine’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day!
QUESTION: What suggestions do you have to add to the significance of Valentine’s Day? Share them in the Comment section below.
For over four decades, I’ve been serving in leadership roles. And, I’ve learned at least one small thing that always leads to big things. Now, I’ve seen loads of good intentions. I’ve read the written goals. I’ve heard the New Year’s resolutions. I’ve listened to the commitments. But in my experience, this one small thing, is the big thing.
You’ve probably seen it too. Every station and every machine at the gym are full the first two weeks of January. Many are talking about their new diet or a new weight-loss program. People show up in church that I haven’t seen since last January. New faces are visible at business networking meetings. Weekly recovery meetings have a bump in attendance. On and on. But, by February and March, it is back to the same old, same old. Nothing has changed.
Here is the one new tip for the new year. It is called,“The Consistency Effect.” It is really quite simple. But not very easy. Here it is: “Small things done consistently, over time, lead to big things.” Now, don’t misunderstand. Commitment is good. Commitment will get you to the starting line. It can set your intention. It can get you through January and maybe even February. But consistency will get you to July, September, and next December. You can change your life with small, consistent steps in the right direction.
“Small things done consistently, over time, lead to big things.” Thirty-five years ago, my wife and I started a church for our community. It was very small church. We had only two other couples in our core group at the very beginning. And, by the end of the first year, when we were ready for our public launch, only 18 adults and 19 kids, 37 total people were committed to the effort. But then we launched, and 60 new people showed up at our first worship service. But still, we only averaged 65 the first year. And it was 90 the next year. Small things done consistently, over time, can lead to bigger things. In our third year, we broke 100 in our average attendance. Now we measure attendance in thousands every weekend. But we were consistent. Day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade, we leveraged the consistency effect.
Don’t forget, consistency isn’t always a good thing. Consistency can go either way. I’m talking about consistency in the good habits, not the bad habits. We’ve all seen consistent poor service, mediocre effort, bad attitudes, rotten behaviors, or irrelevant methods and they definitely won’t grow something great. Only consistent excellence, quality, relevance and authenticity will lead to growth and effectiveness of an organization or one’s personal sphere of influence.
So where do you need consistency this year? Is it in your work life? Family life? Relationships? Health? Exercise? Developing your spiritual life? Enlarging your knowledge? Expanding your leadership footprint? Growing your business? A hobby? Increasing your emotional well-being?
What is one small thing you could do more consistently this year? You probably already know what the one thing is that you intend to do or to change every year but by February or March, you’ve not followed through with it. If you don’t know what that one thing is, ask a friend, a counselor, a dietician, a chaplain, a pastor, a co-worker or a coach. They can probably help you to know what it is with a 30-minute meeting. Schedule it now. That one small thing, might have a huge impact in your life over the next decade. Leveraging the consistency effect can create the big thing you have been dreaming of for years and years!
And, finally, the most consistent help you can get to be consistent is from God himself. He wants you to be the best version of yourself. He has said,“let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”(Galatians 6:9). And with our consistent effort, we can always count on His strength to be readily available in increasing measure when we lean into Him and trust Him.
What is one thing you want to be more consistent in during 2022? Would you mind sharing your “one thing” in the comment section below?
I’m a pastor and a chaplain. For over four decades, I’ve been praying for people. I’ve prayed for people when they are distraught, angry, hurt, sick or struggling. I’ve prayed with people who are grateful, happy and rejoicing about their circumstances.
My most favorite prayer is this one.
24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” – Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)
First the context. It is sometimes called the “priestly blessing” or the “Aaronic blessing.” God instructed Moses to tell his brother, Aaron and his sons who were priests, “This the way you shall bless the children of Israel.” To this very day, this prayer is still prayed in synagogues and churches around the globe. That’s the background of the prayer. Now, let’s take a closer look at the prayer.
“The Lord bless you.” God loves to bless people. He loves to have leaders who want their followers to be blessed. It’s a reminder that blessings come from God. And we remember that God’s blessing has always in mind our greatest and highest potential. We often expect blessing to mean a world of comfort and ease. But that isn’t always for our greatest and highest good. I love the fact that God knows how you and I need to be blessed, even if you or I do not. We often want to settle for happiness or comfort or wealth. True blessing from God is higher than happiness, or wealth or comfort.
“And Keep You,” the prayer goes on to say. Some are “kept” by their own choices that have become chains and prisons. Some are “kept” by their own bitterness, anger, or greed. But to be “kept” by the Lord, insures life, peace and ultimate success.
“The Lord make His face to shine upon you.” There is no greater joy that seeing the face of God smiling at you. Not always because of what you have done or who you are, but because He is who He is. It is tied to the next part of the line in this prayer, “And be gracious to you.” Grace is often defined as God’s undeserved favor. It’s hard to wrap our human minds around the thought that God shows mercy and care to us, even when we don’t deserve it. I long for every person in our world to see God’s smile and understand His grace. I pray that for you today and the next 364.
“The Lord turn His face toward you” begins the final line of the prayer. To know that God is paying attention to you, looking you in the eye, staring deep into your soul, is powerful. God isn’t just some distant deity that is keeping all the planets spinning is space. He knows you by name. He cares about you and what you are dreaming about, where you hurt, your pain, your sadness, your disappointments and your fears about the coming year.
“And give you peace,” the final part of the last line of the prayer. The Hebrew word is “shalom,” which is a whole lot more an end of hostility. It is much more than a cordial greeting to a stranger on the streets of Jerusalem. This is God’s word for wholeness and goodness and total satisfaction of life. This is the same thing as the “abundant life” that Jesus promised to His followers (John 10:10).
My heart for you this year is expressed in this prayer. That you will know that God wants to bless YOU, not just someone else whom you happen to think deserves it more. Six times in this prayer, the word “you” is mentioned. It’s not them, they, him, or her. It’s you. He wants to bless you. Will you open yourself up to Him and accept His blessing? His blessing will transform your life. Welcome it.
Have a Blessed New Year!
This past week, my “landscaper” neighbor who trims my shrubs and mows my lawn, planted a Jatropha tree outside our master bedroom window. The original tree in that spot died about two years ago. I’m thrilled that this empty space is now occupied by flora that blooms all year and tends to attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.
The planting of a tree made me remember a Greek Proverb that goes like this, “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” In my situation, I’ll most likely get to sit in some of the shade from this tree. At the least, it will shade the southern exposed master bedroom windows next summer and beyond. But I love this proverb. And here is why.
There is a grim absence of visionary shade-tree planters in our culture right now. Most are living for their own moment, with little thought for the future of others. We see it in record-high personal financial debt and record-low personal savings. It is a prominent theme in a lot of governmental decision-making. Leaders of companies, non-profits and religious bodies seldom develop plans for succession and the future value of their organization. Parents rarely keep the end in mind while raising their children.
Five years ago, I wrote a “Forward-Thinking Leaders” blog. It was based on the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. Visionaries like President Wilson, President Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir and Stephen T. Mather created pristine places for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of America and far beyond.
Take inventory of your own life. Am I just thinking about myself? Do I only plan for today, this week, this year, or even just for my lifetime? Am I setting up the next generations for blessing and success? Am I investing my life to leave the world around me a better place or am I just a consumer, taking all I can get? Will my grandchildren have more to enjoy or less to enjoy because of my decisions today? These questions are just a start for our self-evaluation.
I love this scripture that puts it all into perspective. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). It is so easy to get caught up in only what we can see at the moment. We must be very intentional if we are going to focus on things that aren’t in our immediate vision. My heart and desire is to help build a great community that plants “shade trees” that I will never sit under. How about you? Will you join me?
Since a recent blog called “Here’s to Good Health,” I’ve had multiple people wonder how I could just get away for two weeks at a time and take a “real” vacation. Then they usually go on to excuse their own inability to get away by making note of my older age and assume that I’m “sort of” retired (that’s a whole other topic) and therefore can more easily take time off. I’ve been reflecting. Why is it that some, especially those higher up in organizational leadership, have difficulty getting away from work and keeping a healthy pace that includes vacation time?
There could be multiple answers to the question I’ve raised above. It might be a seasonal matter. Peak times of demand. A temporary shortness of others to cover their job. A type of work that is done by only a few with a very unique skill set. And there could be another answer. One of my favorite bloggers, Carey Nieuwhof, recently wrote about why some leaders never get a break. It was spot on. This is a trap leaders fall in to. I’ve fought my whole life trying to stay out of it. It’s hard. The more successful you become, the more difficult it is. It comes down to one basic thing. A need to be needed.
Nieuwhoff writes about the signs to look for in yourself and your organization if you can never seem to get away and take time off. A look in the mirror might be what is needed most. We’ll look more at that in a moment. But two things happen when you can’t take time away. It can add up to a big personal cost over time. And, it can put a lid on your personal growth and the growth of your organization.
So what are some key signs that you might be a leader who needs to be needed. Carey mentions five:
You Have a Hard Time Taking Time Off – You might be a leader who needs to be needed if you either don’t want to leave or something always comes up to disrupt your plans. If you are a part of every decision and needed for everything, maybe you haven’t given away enough responsibility and authority to others around you.
You Like to Be Liked – Most healthy people like to be liked. But, let’s be honest. Many unhealthy people would rather be liked above everything else so they inevitably won’t do anything to disappoint people—like not be available for a week or two or even a month. If everyone else’s emergency or lack of planning controls your schedule, maybe you need to look inside as to why you allow that to happen.
You Don’t Like Quiet – Silence makes you nervous. You are an adrenaline junkie. You feel something is missing when things are calm and not running at a frantic pace. I know people who are on vacation who check in with their work just to see what’s going on because they can’t disconnect and enjoy the solitude or the change of pace. Frankly, that’s an internal problem that I would explore with a counselor.
You Have a Hard Time Delegating – This is hard for a lot of leaders. It’s nearly impossible for leaders who need to be needed. We have our reasons. People rely on me. I have no one who can really do that for me. I just don’t have the team yet. Yes, I’ve built an organization from the ground up. All of those can be true. But it’s a tape that plays repeatedly with leaders who need to be needed.
You Want to Know Everything – This is a huge challenge for us who founded organizations. And it’s a problem for small organizations. Actually, it’s one of the main reasons organizations stay small. But, if you are going to grow an organization, it has to change. The top leader is ultimately responsible for what happens, but you don’t have to know everything that is going on. I had to let that go multiple times in multiple ways so I didn’t become the lid for the organization I started. Nieuwhof rightly concludes, “If your need to know is bigger than your desire to grow, you won’t grow.” And, I will add, you won’t be able to get away and take some time off, missing all the health benefits previously mentioned. And eventually, it will cost you: personal health, family health and organizational health.
Now that you’ve had time to do a little self-reflection, what are your next steps if you discovered that you have an unhealthy need to be needed? Self-awareness is always the first and most important step of growth. A next step might be to do some reading by Dr. Steve Rose who discusses this topic quite a bit. And, I always find it helpful to talk with a skilled professional counselor who can help me sort it all out. Most often, the answers are within me, I just need some assistance finding those answers. Maybe you do too.
QUESTION: How have you battled with the “need to be needed” over the years? I’d love to know what steps you would advise others to take. Please share with me in the comments section below.
The next two weeks, I’ll be on vacation. Most of us, look forward to vacations. I sure do. This vacation is extra special in that it’s the third one of our “7 Year-Old Grandchild Trips.” This time, with our grandtwins, Noah and Haley.
We started the tradition with our oldest granddaughter when she turned 7. Now, she is nearly 16. A trip to Oregon, alone with Grandpa and Grandma. Given that all five of our grandkids live in Florida, even the seven-hours of flying diagonally from corner to corner of our country is special and unique. And, it is one entire week when it is all about them. Listening to the pounding surf of the majestic Pacific Ocean. Riding a hot-rod open sand rail on the steep dunes of the Oregon Coast. Playing in the snow of the Cascade mountains. Seeing the taller than tall fir trees of the Northwest. Hiking in the woods to a hundred foot plus tall series of waterfalls. It’s magical. At then at the end, the “grandpaparazzi” photographer and his assistant (my wife), create a custom-made photo book for each grandchild with the photo highlights of their week full of special memories with their grandparents.
And for a bit of background. Why Oregon? I grew up in Oregon. All my family still live on the West Coast. So, my grandkids who have grown up in Florida, get to spend precious time with my mom (their great grandmother), my siblings (their great uncles and aunts), and a myriad of cousins they haven’t met before. And, it’s all in a totally different climate and environment that is very dissimilar to southwest Florida. Mountains instead of flat land. Thunderous towering ocean waves instead of a lake-like Gulf of Mexico. Cool nights and warm summer days that remind them of a Florida winter. Tall evergreen trees instead of tropical palms. And more.
This is one of our family traditions for making memories. What are yours? I hope you will get some time this summer to make some memories of your own. Do you go to a cabin in the mountains? Do you go camping? Fishing? Boating? Beach? Theme park? A road trip? Do you go visit relatives in another state? Do you travel to a new country or a new part of our country? It is very important to take breaks. Get away from work and the daily routines of life. Will you be taking a vacation this summer?
People in the U.S. are working more hours and taking less time off, bringing on various mental and physical health challenges. I recently read that 212 million vacation days get forfeited annually. There are incredible benefits from taking vacation time. Especially during the past year of stress-filled pandemic uncertainties, a vacation may just be exactly what you need this summer.
Here’s why according to Dr. Kathryn Isham:
1. Improved Physical Health – Stress can contribute to heart disease and high blood pressure. Studies show that taking a vacation at least every two years compared to every six will lessen the risk of heart attacks. If that is true, why not take one or two vacations every year?
2. Improved Mental Health – Neuroscientists have found that chronic stress can alter your brain structure and bring on anxiety and depress. Vacations relieve stress and allow your body and mind to heal in ways it can’t while your are under pressure.
3. Greater Well-Being – According to a Gallup study, just three days after a vacation starts, physical complaints, quality of sleep and moved improved compared to before vacation. These gains were still present five weeks later.
4. Increased Mental Motivation – Many who return from vacation are more focused and productive. Taking time off is like getting a brain tune-up.
5. Improved Family Relationships – Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can strengthen your relationships. A study in Arizona discovered that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages.
6. Decreased Burnout – Employees who take regular vacations are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.
7. Boosted Happiness – Research shows that even planning a vacation can boost your happiness. Some people experience an elevated mood up to eight weeks before their time away.
The bottom line is, take a vacation this Summer or Fall if you possibly can. When you take time away, you will most likely improve your physical, mental and relational health. On top of it, your job performance and perspective toward work has a good chance of benefitting too because you have been recharged and refreshed. If you haven’t scheduled a time away, start planning now because, even that, will get you started toward more overall satisfaction and all-around good health.
QUESTION: What are your vacation plans this summer/fall? I shared some of mine and I’d love to hear yours in the comment section below.
This past week marked the 35th year of an adventure that started with the arrival of our chock-full rental truck, three young children and a God-sized vision for a new church in a new city. Milestones are a great time for reflections and musings. Musings are dictionary-defined as “your thoughts or comments on something you have been thinking about carefully and for a long time.” So, here are 3 musings—35 years in the making.
GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME. Sylvain Saurel wrote an article called, “Overnight Success Exists, But it Happens Only for Those Who Build It Daily Over Years.” That’s definitely true in the founding of Cape Christian. When we arrived in Cape Coral, FL on May 7, 1986 to begin the adventure of “planting” a church, that was just the first day of over 12,775 days of hard work, action, discipline, risk, failures, sacrifices, changes, resilience, consistency, lack of sleep, persistence, patience, stress, struggle, late nights, disappointments, doubts, motivation and more. Good things take time. To grow a church from three couples to three thousand regular participants involved all of the above multiplied by decades of time.
Guests who visit Cape Christian often look around at a 14-acre campus that includes an auditorium filled with hundreds of worshippers, a student center full of teens, a preschool, a café and a park with laughing children enjoying its playgrounds, splash pad, basketball court, play field, as well as people-filled benches and tables under blooming Crepe Myrtle trees connecting with each other as they enjoy the soothing sounds of fountains and waterfalls… and our guests ask me or my wife, “Are you surprised?” Our standard answer is always, “Not surprised. Always in Awe.” We’re not surprised because we know all of the words listed in the paragraph above were our constant reality over three and a half decades. We had setbacks, resistance, criticism and mountains to climb. But good things take time. Success happens only for those who build it daily over years and decades.
GOD ALWAYS PROVIDES. Looking back over the years, I can assure you that we had times when we didn’t know where the money was going to come from or if people would show up. I’ve learned, God always knows what we need and in what order. People that had specific gifts that were needed to go to the next level, have always had a way of non-chalantly appearing when the time was right. We have repeatedly watched people and financial resources provided at strategic times in the growth of Cape Christian. Even when a person with leadership gifts or significant financial resources moved on to other pursuits, I’ve observed God fill the gaps with someone or something that had even greater capacity for what was coming next. I’m very grateful for God’s constant, exceedingly above and beyond provision.
PASSIONATE OBEDIENCE BRINGS SIGNIFICANCE. My wife Linda and I are frequently filled with a deep sense of satisfaction and significance. We find peace in knowing that we’ve been living out our purpose for many years now. We can physically observe the legacy and the harvest of fruit from seeds we planted decades ago. We view God-transformed individuals and families that have shaped the outcome of the present and future generations. We don’t have to wait for the “well-done good and faithful servant” phrase to be spoken at our funerals. We hear and see it nearly every day. And we are reminded that using our unique gifts and passions has had its rewards. For the times we were tempted to take short-cuts because some decisions were difficult to make, we are most grateful now that we were obedient to the God-nudgings and whisperings. We’ve discovered that passion coupled with obedience, always leads to a destination of significance.
Milestones are always a good time to reflect, muse and give thanks. Thank you to each one of you who had a small or large part in walking with us the past 35 years. All of it matters. You matter… to God and to us. Thank you.
QUESTION: Which one of three key musings speaks to you the most at this season of your life? I would love to hear from you in the Comment section below. Thanks!
I’ve felt it. You’ve most likely felt it too. Especially during the last 12-14 months of pandemic stress. It’s that feeling that is hard to describe. My sister in-law has been calling it “meuky” the last seven years since her husband died of cancer at age 59. I call it “The Blahs.” But it turns out, there’s a name for that feeling.
New York Times contributing opinion writer, Adam Grant, titled it, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’ve Been Feeling: It’s Called Languishing” in a recent article. Grant said it isn’t burnout—when we still have energy. It isn’t depression—when we still have hope. It’s a joyless and aimless feeling. I call it “the blahs.” My sister in-law calls it “meuky.” Dr. Grant calls it languishing.
Dr. Grant says, “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.” Grant writes, “languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing—the absence of well-being.” Whatever we call it, it is the feeling that we aren’t firing on all cylinders. We aren’t quite functioning at full capacity. Our motivation is a bit dull, we aren’t totally focused.
As I reflect, I’ve felt these same feelings in multiple areas of my life—physical, spiritual, emotional, my work or in my relational life. And, not all at the same time. The research shows that when we start languishing in multiple arenas at the same time, we are more in danger to start on a downward slope toward depression. Dr. Grant says, “Part of the danger is that when you’re languishing, you might not notice the dulling of delight or the dwindling of drive. You don’t catch yourself slipping slowly into solitude; you’re indifferent to your indifference. When you can’t see your own suffering, you don’t seek help or even do much to help yourself.”
What can we do to make sure we are flourishing? Here are a few things that have helped me and others.
- Identify What You are Feeling – Psychologists have reminded us that one of the best ways to manage our emotions is to name them. Name what you are feeling—anger, grief, languishing, sadness. We taught our children (and now our grandchildren) to summarize their feelings with three questions at the end of each day: What made you sad today? What made you mad today? What made you glad today? What if we adults actually got better at naming our feelings beyond the word “fine” when someone asks how we are doing? What if we could get comfortable enough to instead say, “I’m languishing today”?
- Give Yourself Uninterrupted Time – Fragmented attention is the enemy of engagement and excellence. That means we need to set boundaries. Years ago, a Fortune 500 software company in India tested a simple policy: no interruptions Tuesday, Thursday and Friday before noon. When engineers managed the boundary themselves, 47 percent had above-average productivity. But when the company set quiet time as official policy, 65 percent achieved above-average productivity. Getting more done wasn’t just good for performance at work: We now know that the most important factor in daily joy and motivation is a sense of progress. The constant distractions and interruptions of email, texts and social media alerts contribute to languishing. If you struggle to focus, you will feel unproductive. Lack of productivity leads to less enjoyable work and ultimately discouragement.
- Disrupt Your Routines – A couple weeks ago, my wife and I literally left town for two and a half days for a change of scenery. Going to the Everglades for a boat ride, a sunset dinner on Key Largo, a snorkeling excursion and a relaxed meandering drive back home was just what we needed to recharge our souls and our relationship. Monotonous routine can be the enemy of renewal and refreshment. With photography as my hobby, I took my camera equipment for a walk through a nature preserve, shot a sunset, captured a Supermoon rise—3 times in the last 3 weeks—all for the purpose of preventing my coast into “the blahs.” I plan to take a two week vacation next month.
- Be Intentional to Get the Right Chemicals In To Your Brain – It has been researched many times. Certain activities release the “feel good” chemicals of Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin into our bodies. Exercise, fresh air, prayer, meditation, healthy foods, strong relationships and more contribute to the positive chemical dump into our brains that energize, motivate and calm us. When we are intentional, our bodies, minds and spirits reap the benefits. Our intentionality will protect us from languishing and put us on the path toward flourishing.
My goal is to help you be in tune with your life and the lives of others around you that you lead or have some connection with. I really believe that some of the ramifications of remote work and hybrid schedules that the pandemic has forced has impacted us more than we are aware. The unpredictability of the last months have caused a level of fatigue, a depletion of reserves that is most unlike anything we’ve walked through or led through before. Can you relate? I’m praying you will have clarity and the courage to take some next steps to make sure you are flourishing and not just languishing.
QUESTION: What are the clues you notice in yourself which alert you to languishing? (Share them in the comment section below)
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The third Monday of every January. Not many people get a holiday on the calendar. A group of Presidents got one. Jesus got a couple of them (Christmas and Easter), the Independence of our Country has a holiday. Mothers and Fathers each have one.
The reason we have MLK Day, is recognition of the impact of a courageous leader who left a legacy, trying to bring equal rights to all. He helped the United States of America restore many rights to black Americans, but the civil unrest since last January, loudly proclaims we have a way to go.
This story below, written by my wife, came out of a discussion on the importance of this special holiday. I proudly introduce my guest blogger, Linda.
(Circa 1959-1960 Youngstown, Ohio)
I heard the cries in the dark distance of our back yard. “Mr. Augsburger…. Mr. Augsburger!” I had gone outside to retrieve something from our family car and heard the cry for help. I promptly went back into the house and told my Dad, (Mr. Augsburger,) that someone was outside crying for help.
A few minutes later, my father walked into our kitchen through the back door, assisting a distraught, muddy, fur stole wearing, black woman carrying a suitcase. The story soon unfolded. The woman had been abused by her husband, and taking all the cash she could, she was leaving him in the dark of night. Walking through the back yard of our home and the neighbors, she slipped in the mud and needed help getting out.
Looking back as an adult, I am fascinated that in the middle of the Civil Rights Era, and the racial tension in our country, this black woman was calling out to the white “Reverend Augsburger” for help. What made her think this white family might help her out in her time of need?
This is the beginning of the story…
My parents moved to Youngstown, Ohio in 1953 with two little girls, ready to plant a church in the inner city. Beginning in a store-front in the dusty, dirty steel mill section of town, the church was born. By 1959 a small church building had been erected a block from our house. I was born in 1954 with a brother arriving in 1956 and another sister in 1962. Our family was one of just a few white families in our neighborhood. This was my home. I did not see a difference in any of the children I played with. There was no color…just kids having fun. I did not think about the fact that I was a “minority.” Our family did not see “color.” The church my father pastored did not see “color.” Sure, I knew we looked different, but what we saw were people created in the image of God. There was no “us” and “them.” I was “them.” We did life together as kids, unaware of the turmoil that was occurring daily in our country, in the still segregated South and the “unsegregated” North.
Now as a 5–6-year-old, on that dark night, I was witnessing an event that is forever burned into my memory. Our parents tried to send us children upstairs and off to bed. But I am so glad we peeked around the stair wall. There by the kitchen table, my mother Carolyn got on her knees with a pan of warm water and washed the cakey mud off the feet and legs of our night stranger. The memories blur, but I can still see tears streaming down the face of the unnamed woman. Why was she crying? I didn’t know then, but I do now!!
I see the police standing in our kitchen, not as a threat, but to assist the woman to safety. I am not sure how much time passed, but my next memory is of our unnamed stranger walking into our living room to leave by the front door to a waiting cab. There we had an old upright piano, with a swivel stool that adjusted to any height so the musician could easily bring music from the ebony and ivories. She stopped and said, “wait a minute.” Sitting down on the swivel stool, I can still see and hear her playing the piano and singing…
Bless this house O Lord we pray. Make it safe by night and day.
Bless these walls so firm and stout. Keeping want and trouble out.
Bless the roof and chimneys tall. Let thy peace lie overall.
Bless this door that it may prove ever open to joy and love.
Bless these windows shining bright letting in God’s Heavenly light.
Bless the hearth ablazing there, with smoke ascending Like a prayer.
Bless the people here within. Keep them pure and free from sin.
Bless us all that we may be fit O Lord To dwell with Thee.
Bless us all that one day we may dwell O Lord with Thee.
We never saw the unnamed woman again. And now as an adult reflecting on this memory, I am unraveled with tears. I now understand why she felt our home was a safe place. I understand her tears as my mother washed her feet. I understand the gratitude that brought forth such a beautiful song written by the great Mahalia Jackson. I am filled with gratitude for people like Dr. Martin Luther King, John Lewis, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Fred and Carolyn Augsburger, who led the way in equal rights and value for all human beings.
I am currently reading two books by Pulitzer Prize Winner, Isabel Wilkerson. “The Warmth Of Other Suns,” and “Caste…The Origins of Our Discontents.” I am undone with emotion. The Civil Rights Movement was needed. The unfair, unequal decisions, attitudes and actions of thousands in the history of our country over the past 400 years in this “land of the free,” wrecks me. Ebony and ivory make such beautiful music when blended together. We have much to be grateful for in America, but we have missed some of the best “music” in our country that comes from the blending of black and white. And not just black and white…red, brown, yellow and all the colors that skin comes in. Beautiful music waiting to be played!
Forgive us…and Bless this house…O Lord we pray.
(By Linda Augsburger Gingerich, January 18, 2021)
Pictures below from Linda’s early Childhood.