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Talk Time

Posted on: August 27th, 2016 by Austin Evans No Comments

Take Time for Talk Time




Scintillate, scintillate, globule vivific,

Fain would I fathom thy nature specific.

Loftily poised in ether capacious,

Strongly resembling a gem carbonaceous.


You’ve had the experience before, right? You’re in a conversation with someone, doing your best to track with what they’re saying, but to no avail. No matter how hard you try, the words coming out of their mouth make no sense whatsoever. You walk away thinking “I have no idea what they’re talking about.”


It’s one thing when that person is an acquaintance, or perhaps even a perfect stranger. But when it’s someone you’re close to – your spouse, for example – it can be a frustrating experience. As the stress and pressures of life mount, couples often find themselves in situations where their communication has digressed to the point that they seem to be speaking different languages – if they talk at all.


But good, solid communication is the key to any relationship, all the more so in a marriage. The option to simply shrug your shoulders and walk away with an attitude of “whatever” is not on the table. You have to figure out how to communicate – clearly, with both compassion and understanding. It’s either that, or face the consequences of a slow, marital drift.


One of the best ways to jumpstart the communication with your spouse is to find an activity you both enjoy, and then do it together. It’s a strategy based upon a simple, but powerful premise:


When we do fun things together, we have fun things to talk about.


All too often, couples get bogged down in their communication because they only talk about the heavy, intense, difficult issues they’re facing. Every conversation becomes something both of them dread. It’s no wonder they develop a different language. If nothing else, it’s a protection mechanism.


But when you add some fun to the mix, it helps reestablish the common ground you once enjoyed, early in your relationship. It gives you a foundation of communication that’s both relaxed and enjoyable – one that helps pave the way for topics that are more demanding and complex.


And the best part is this: When you go back to the basics, the language tends to shift. Instead of gobblygook that makes you say shake your head and say “huh?,” the words become clear and recognizable. Instead of vague, confusing sentences, you get something even a child could understand:


Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.

Wisdom in Your Work

Posted on: August 20th, 2016 by Austin Evans No Comments

Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine was asked about his “Welcome to the Big Leagues” moment. He didn’t even have to think about it. Glavine told this story:

“During one of my early spring training games, I was facing Yankees star Don Mattingly. It was a 3 and 2 count, and I remember standing on the mound thinking ‘I’m just going to throw this guy a fastball and see how good he really is.’ Mattingly hit a homerun into the right field bleachers.”

I love that story because it perfectly illustrates a key principle on the path toward maturity. The difference between the rashness of youth and the understanding that comes with a little bit of “life experience” is something the Bible calls “wisdom.” A good working definition of wisdom? “The ability to live life skillfully .”

The Scriptures are full of admonition to pursue wisdom. In one of my favorite verses, Proverbs 8:11 reminds us:

For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.

You know, no matter how you define “The Big Leagues” in your job or profession, there’s a reason why the people who are already there are successful. Instead of testing them, a better course of action would be to respect and learn from them. In the process of doing so, you’ll be adding “wisdom” to your  career and your life.

Not Mad

Posted on: August 7th, 2016 by Austin Evans No Comments

I love Jesus, but I’m not mad about it. Not at you, or anyone else. Come to think ofit, I’m not even mad about something.

You’ve seen the clips on sites like YouTube…right? The ones where some preacher gets all worked up about someone else’s theology and launches into an angry tirade about how they’ve got it all wrong, while proceeding to label them as heretics of the first degree?

What I love is how they explain away their anger. Usually it’s by setting themselves up as THE Defender Of The True Faith, the only one (although there seem to be plenty of them out there) willing to display “righteous anger” over the “apostate preachers” who are “tickling the ears of the deceived.”

Give me a break. Personally, I think these guys have an anger problem they’ve never dealt with, one they’ve carried with them into ministry

First of all, it makes me wonder if  they’ve read the entire Bible. You do remember Jesus telling the parable of the wheat and tares, don’t you? The one where He specifically warned against any attempt to try and sort it all out using only our own limited wisdom? As I recall, He said something along the lines of “allow the tares to grow with the wheat until the harvest, lest you uproot the wheat while trying to get rid of the tares.”

But even if you choose to ignore those words there’s another, much larger issue at work. Since when did we get the idea that our anger was ever a passable substitute for God’s?

The Scripture is full of references to “the anger of the Lord.” Nowhere, though, does it call on us to stand in for Him. In fact, at that point the Bible is profoundly clear: “F or the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) Masking personal anger as righteous anger is not only a misrepresentation of Scripture, but an abuse of the very people we’re called to shepherd.

And please – don’t give me the “I love you so much I’m willing to say things that hurt” line. Switching the label on something and calling it what it’s not doesn’t change the true nature of what it is. I rather suspect that, if you muted the audio on those clips and asked an impartial group if they thought the guy in the video was angry, you’d get an affirmative answer 100% of the time.

So what do you do, if you’re angry at someone, or about something? If “being mad” is holding you back from your dream of making a difference, maybe it’s time to consider the following:

Admit it. As Rick Warren loves to say, “revealing the feeling is the beginning of healing.”You’re not going to get anywhere by simply stuffing your anger inside. That, as you well know, is a classic definition of depression. Find a close friend or counselor, and begin the process of identifying the root cause of your anger. Often the simple process of talking about it can be one of the most helpful things you can do.

Don’t take responsibility for the actions of others. Most of the time you’ll get mad because of other people – what they say , what they do, what they refuse to do. Let it go.Don’t let people get–or take–the best of you.You are not responsible for their behavior, or what they choose to do with their life. As difficult as it is for us to accept – and trust me, I’ve had my own struggle with this – they’re sometimes going to take your input and advice, and then do the complete opposite of what you’ve recommended. Release it. Pray for them, continue to be available to them, but don’t allow their actions to stir up anger inside of you. It’s not worth it.

Keep the main thing the main thing. If the Lord Himself came “to seek and to save that which is lost,” we would be well-advised to keep our focus there as well. I’m always amazed by how easily we get sidetracked, giving priority to issues that don’t really matter much in the eternal scope of things. One way to counteract that tendency is to work hard at building relationships with those who are unchurched. I’m always on the lookout for a lost person, someone I can build a relationship with and reach out to. It’s one sure way to keep me grounded – after all, why should I be angry if a lost person acts like a lost person?

By my way of thinking, there are enough people out there with microphones who are angry all the time, preying on the fears in people’s hearts. Those of us with pulpits should stand out by contrast. When people hear us speak they should walk away knowing – no matter how impassioned we might get – that we’re not mad about it.

Just think how refreshing that would be!

Step Out in Faith

Posted on: July 27th, 2016 by Austin Evans No Comments

Step Out in Faith

One of the big keys to strategically invest your life is, frankly, where the rubber hits the road. Connecting to the Source, knowing what I have been given, and taking on the responsibility will do little for any of us until they are energized by this truth: in order to move forward in life, I must be willing to step out in faith.

Think about it like this: nothing worth accomplishing ever happens unless someone decides to take a risk. Until I am willing to attempt something that is larger than I am – something that is beyond what I think are my normal limits, what I can see and touch and feel – then I might as well just play it safe. And if I’m playing it safe all the time, then I’ve not only settled for mediocrity , but I’ve also put myself in position to be displeasing to God.

The Bible says it like this: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” If all I do is play it safe, then I never need to exercise my faith. And if I never step out in faith, trusting in the “assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” then I miss out on both the opportunity to please God, as well as the adventure of watching something great happen right before my eyes.

Too often, I run into people who think that stepping out in faith is only for the hyper-religious types, or those who are born with a big vision of life, and lots of natural talent to go along with that big vision. But nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is, most of the great accomplishments of the last 100 years have been achieved by plain, ordinary people – people just like you and me. People who refused to allow their limitations to keep them from achieving what they dreamed about, what they hoped for. People who exercised their faith and took risks.

Stop and think about it. One of the most successful restaurant chains in America? Founded by an ordinary guy in Atlanta with a vision to “give to others without any expectation of return.” One of the largest transportation companies in the United States, a firm with over $2 billion in annual revenues? Started by a junior high dropout who was raised in rural Arkansas during the Great Depression. The greatest evangelist of all time, the man who has preached to more people face-to-face than anyone in history? Just a former youth worker who was willing to step out in faith.

Truett Cathy, J.B. Hunt and Billy Graham – and the thousands like them who have achieved extraordinary accomplishments – are just ordinary people who took a risk and stepped out in faith.

Sitting around on the sidelines, thinking that you could never do what you’ve dreamed about doing, will never get you anywhere. To invest your life strategically means that you’re willing to get in the game and take a risk – that you’re willing to step out in faith. I’d much rather attempt to do something great, and fail, then attempt to do nothing and succeed.

You might fail. But then again–you also might succeed.

The Principle of the Fight

Posted on: July 6th, 2016 by Austin Evans No Comments

What if you were at war, but didn’t know it?

Some pundits think that describes most Americans. We’re fighting on two fronts, but you’d hardly know it, if you looked at how most people live on a daily basis. The battlefield is so far away, so distant and removed from our everyday lives, that it’s easy to forget about the danger that lurks, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

But what if there was a battle that engaged you, personally, and you were still clueless about it?

Unfortunately, that describes many believers. We get so caught up in the day-to-day demands of our lives that we often forget we’re engaged in a war against an enemy who wants to utterly devour and thoroughly destroy us.

Think I’m being overly dramatic? Listen to how the Apostle Peter put it, in his letter to the churches scattered throughout Asia: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8)

Most of us don’t take the time to think about the unseen — but very real — spiritual battle that rages all around us, on a daily basis. But we should. The surest way to go down in defeat is to be unaware that you’re in a fight to start with.

The good news is the Bible tells us that, if we resist, the devil will flee from us (James 4:7). But how, exactly, do we do that?

At this point the Scripture is abundantly clear. Not only does God’s Word identify the enemy, but it also gives instructions on how to fight. In Ephesians chapter 6, the Apostle Paul encourages believers to “put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” As Paul points out in that passage, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against “the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

The fact is, God has equipped us for battle. He’s provided everything from “the sword of the
Spirit” (which is the word of God) to “the shield of faith” — with which, Paul reminds us, we’ll be able to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

We don’t need to fear the enemy. God Himself is our ally, which makes for a coalition force that can’t be beat. When we clothe ourselves in Christ, we’re thoroughly prepared for every challenge. But God also expects us to engage, and do our part in “fighting the good fight” (I Timothy 6:12).

Because, in the end, all the equipment in the world won’t do a bit of good, if we fail to acknowledge there’s a battle raging in the first place.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Posted on: June 12th, 2016 by Austin Evans No Comments

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Imagine trying to convince someone how much you care about them – how much you want to be their friend and support them. You want them to know that you enjoy their company , that you’re committed to the relationship.

But then you refuse to make time for them in your schedule. Every time they suggest getting together, you have some excuse as to why it can’t happen. No matter what words are coming out of your mouth, they’ll eventually get the real message you’re sending – right?

We all know that. Perhaps we’ve even experienced it in a friendship we wanted to pursue, one that never got off the ground because of a lack of interest from the other person.

Spending time together is a crucial ingredient for any relationship – of any kind. But you’d be surprised how many married couples lose sight of that. It’s as though they seem to forget that whatever suffers from a lack of attention will eventually shrivel away. Quit watering the plants in your home or office, and they’ll wither and die. Quit spending time with your spouse, and the same thing will happen to your relationship.

I’ve often said I can tell more about a person by looking at their calendar than almost anything else. Time is the one thing we all share in equal amounts. It doesn’t matter if you’re Bill Gates or a homeless person living on the streets – we all have the same 24 hours in the day . Can’t buy more, won’t get less. And how we choose to spend that time gives us – and our spouse – a clear picture of where our true priorities lay .

Working all the time? Chasing personal hobbies in every available moment of free time, activities that don’t include your spouse? Always in front of the television, or your computer, or playing with your smartphone? You may not be saying it verbally, but make no mistake about it: You are communicating your priorities–loud and clear.

My friends know I’m a reformed workaholic. I’ve had to learn to anchor time with T erri into my schedule – on a daily basis, of course, but also by carving out time for regular “let’s get away, just the two of us” trips. A couple of times a year, we go somewhere to relax, reconnect, have fun, and dream about our future together. It allows us to mutually say “because we value our marriage so much, we’re going to spend the time it takes to make it stronger.”

Perhaps one of the best things you can do for your marriage is to plan a block of time where just the two of you go away together. Pick something you’ll both enjoy.
Which means, by the way, that if one of you is a huge baseball fan, and the other person “puts up with it because it’s something Mark likes,” do not start planning a surprise getaway to see 13 Major League ballgames in 14 days. Do not do that. As in, that would be a huge rookie mistake – something only a young, dumb, newly married youth pastor could possibly dream up – and a lesson he learned quite well, very early in his marriage, thank you very much.

But do invest in getting away, and spending mutually enjoyable, quality time together. Because when it comes down to it, your spouse spells “love” T -I-M-E. There’s no substitute for it.

And in the end, actions really do speak louder than words.

Speed to Execution

Posted on: May 18th, 2016 by Austin Evans No Comments

Arthur Ashe is a name many people remember, both for his pioneering accomplishments in professional tennis, as well as his world-class demeanor in the face of incredible odds, on and off the court. The Stadium Court at Flushing Meadows, where the U.S. Open is held annually, is named in his honor. Ashe once offered this insight to the attendees at a tennis clinic where he was teaching:

“The single most important difference between the professional money players and the really good amateur players is “speed to execution.” The professionals are one critical second faster in their decision-making than the best amateurs. The best amateur players are one second faster than the average players, and so on and so forth. A mere one second in decisionmaking makes all the difference between a worldclass player and a good club player.”

I’ve thought about that recently, as I watch the world continue to “flatten” at rapid speed. Stop and think about it: things that were once “impossible” – like sharing large video files over the Internet – are now part of our everyday lives. A company that didnt even exist during the 2004 election cycle is now changing the face of politics and culture, with a $1.6 billion buyout from Google adding to the legend and lore of the Y ouT ube phenomenon. Everywhere you turn, it seems, technology is heating up and speeding up, increasing the pace of our lives.

Which means that the “speed to execution” that Ashe spoke of is all the more crucial for leaders. While it may not be reduced to “one critical second” as it is in tennis and other sports, today’s leader needs to be fully aware that technology is radically changing the speed at which important, critical decisions will have to be made. Often, the luxury of “having a meeting about it” or delaying the decision is no longer an option.

To separate yourself from the amateurs and play at a pro level, you’ve got to be ready to execute when your leadership skills are needed at a critical moment. Among other things, that means:

Sharpening your skills on a daily basis. Good decisions beget good decisions – and you’ll gain the confidence you’ll need for “speed to execution” by simply stringing together a succession of solid “non-critical” decisions on a day-to- day level.

Paying attention to the needs of your body , soul and spirit. Simply put – you cannot execute and be “on top of your game” when the chips are down, unless yourl ife is in balance. You need to mak esure that you’re getting the res tyou need, attending to your diet and exercise requirements, and feeding your soul and spirit with nourishment that stretches and strengthens you.

Keepingupwiththechangesaffectingyourparticularbusinessor industry . Leaders are readers – they stay abreast of the latest developments and trends, and take the time to “think ahead” about how those might affect their particular company or organization. The more you know , the more likely you are to avoid being blindsided by something that you never saw coming.

Improve your “speed to execution” and you’ll also see your leadership skills increase, from amateur to professional – and with it the success of the enterprise that you find yourself

God’s Megaphone

Posted on: May 3rd, 2016 by Austin Evans No Comments

God’s Megaphone

Best known for writing “The Chronicles of Narnia,” British author C.S. Lewis was also a lay theologian, thinking deeply about the ways God interacts with us. No stranger to pain in his own life, Lewis had this to say about the topic:

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience,
but shouts to us in our pain.
It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

If there’s a theme that runs deeply throughout the book of Job, it’s one of pain and suffering. And while few of us will ever experience it in Job-like proportions, it’s something that’s common to everyone. When it comes to pain, no one gets a free pass.

When we go through a period of suffering, God is telling us that something is not right with this world. It’s as though He’s reminding us — vividly and tangibly — that we’re broken, that we need fixing, that we need redemption, that we need Him.

Ironically, it’s when we’re in pain that we’re most tempted to believe God is being silent. Our hurt, grief and suffering becomes so loud that it drowns out the still, quiet voice of God.

No wonder, then, that God shouts to get our attention. Sometimes, it takes a megaphone to rouse us from our deafness.

Lighten Up

Posted on: April 22nd, 2016 by Austin Evans No Comments

Relax  Already

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright loved to tell the story about a walk he took when he was nine years old, across a snow covered field with his no-nonsense uncle. When they reached the far end of the field, his uncle turned and pointed out his own tracks across the field, straight and true as an arrow’s flight. Then he showed young Frank his tracks, meandering all over the field.

“Notice how you wander from the fence to the cattle to the woods, and back again,” said his uncle, “and see how my tracks aim directly at my goal. There’s an important lesson in that.”

Years later, the world famous architect related how that experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy about life. “I determined right then and there,” he said, “to not miss out on most things in life, as my uncle had.”

Most of us, if we’re honest, can relate more to the uncle than we can to Frank. W e make our plans, set our goals, and march directly toward them. No time for meandering allowed.

But there’s a price to be paid for that. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, some eight million Americans suffer from ‘leisure sickness’ when they attempt to relax. The symptoms are flu-like: fatigue, muscle pain, nausea. Add in the phenomenon of ‘weekend headaches’ – which account for roughly one-third of all migraines, and one-sixth of tension headaches – and you get a picture of a culture that doesn’t know how to unplug from the stress and demands of the workplace.

As Edward Creagan – a medical oncologist who writes the Mayo Clinic’s stress blog – puts it, “It’s been my experience that an ‘out of office’ response means nothing anymore. W e’re driving ourselves wacko with no time to power down.”

At one level, it’s easy to see why. Most of us carry a more powerful computer in our pocket than the one we had on our desk just a few years ago. Our office comes with us wherever we go. And, frankly , it’s addictive – the adrenalin rush we get from being constantly connected, always on call, can be exhilarating.

But just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. There’s a time and place for working hard, no doubt. It’s just not every waking moment. The toll it takes on the relationships within your family is too steep a price, no matter what success you might attain. And if that’s not incentive enough, consider what the Bible says:

“ A relaxed attitude lengthens a man’s life.” (Proverbs 14:30)

This weekend would be a great time to get reacquainted with what – and who – you’ve been missing out on, as you march straight across that field, smartphone in hand. Perhaps the best gift you can give those you love is to unplug from Facebook, to get DeTwittered and UnLinkedIn. Turn it all off–don’t worry, it will still be there when you get back – and observe the people around you. Stay present in the moment. Lighten up. Wander around a bit. Breathe. Pray. Meditate. Relax.

After the initial shock wears off, you might just find that you genuinely enjoy it.

The Elijah Syndrome

Posted on: April 1st, 2016 by Austin Evans No Comments

The Elijah Syndrome

It happens – across every profession, with little regard for one’s age, skill or level of accomplishment. And although many of us believe we should be immune to it, trust me on this one: No one gets a free pass.

Sometimes you can identify the cause. A particularly bad day at the office. An encounter with the one person who knows how to get you riled up, no matter how hard you try to keep your cool. A presentation that goes flat, hanging out over your audience like a soufflé that collapsed as you were taking it out of the oven.

Often, though, it comes out of nowhere and blindsides you, like a summer storm that turns blue skies black in the blink of an eye.You’re left bewildered,wondering what happened to your love for what you do.

When burnout hits, it makes us wonder why we even bother. Despair, fear and resentment erode our self-esteem, until anger and worry take root and begin their slow , destructive work on our confidence and sense of purpose.

So what do you do, when your ‘get up and go’ has gotten up and left? How do restore your passion and enthusiasm for life? What can you do to recharge and refresh?

When we find ourselves in ‘Elijah Mode’ – that place where we start thinking we’re the only ones who have ever had to deal with whatever it is we’re going through – it helps to take refuge in the same course of action God orchestrated for His weary and discouraged prophet (see I Kings 19). Instead of being detoured from your purpose and comparing yourself to others, you can find our way out of the valley by:

• Getting physical rest and relaxation. I don’t know where your ‘brook Cherith’ is (I Kings 17:3), but I do know you need one – a place where you can withdraw to get the rest and sustenance you need. ‘Pushing through it’ and ‘toughing it out’ are only going to make things worse. If you find yourself staring burnout in the face, the first thing you need to do is take care of your physical body .

• Getting your feelings out in the open with God. I sometimes think we get so used to being polite with everyone we meet that we forget: God’s not buying it. He already knows what you’re feeling inside, anyway . And there’s ample evidence in the Scripture that He can deal with the fact that sometimes, we simply need to blow off some steam. He’s quite capable of handling it. Let it out.

• Getting honest about what’s really going on. Let’s face it: The root of all burnout is our inherent tendency to play God, to act as though we’re in charge – not only of our own lives, but the lives of those around us. That thinking, of course, has no connection with reality . The sooner we can be honest about it, the quicker our perspective will return. We’ll remember that God never intended us to bear the burden of control, not in our own lives and most certainly not in the lives of others.

After God walked Elijah through this process, He told him this: “Go back the way you came.” (I Kings 19:15) Burnout shouldn’t be a final destination, the scrapheap where you go when your energy and strength have been utterly depleted. There’s still life and purpose ahead, awaiting your return.

It’s just a matter of finding your way back.