Spiritual Formation Part Eleven – Gratitude

While reading and studying how we grow spiritually, I found an interesting correlation between resentment, gratitude and our spiritual growth. It was Henri Nouwen that brought this to light in his book Spiritual Formation – Following the Movements of the Spirit.

As with most things I read, I may not necessarily agree with everything an author says but I try to not throw the baby out with the bath water.

So I thought I might just highlight some of his thoughts and see if you agree that when we move from resentment to gratitude it allows us to be more receptive to Jesus. Maybe it’s something that you keep resenting that is keeping you away from all that Christ wants you to be. So here are some of Nouwen’s thoughts for you to decide.

Nouwen: When we swallow our angry feelings and do not make them known, resentment settles in.

Nouwen: When you cling to your complaints, your heart is full of resentment, and there is no room for God to enter and set you free.

Nouwen: Gratitude is the attitude that enables us to let go of anger, receive the hidden gifts of those we want to serve, and make these gifts visible to the community as a source of celebration.

Nouwen: Resentment blocks action; gratitude lets us move forward toward new possibilities.

Nouwen: Spiritual Formation is the way by which resentment can slowly be transformed into gratitude.

Nouwen: In real formation, God is allowed to carve into the rock of our soul and pull out any stones of resentment.

Nouwen: To be healed of resentment and move into gratitude requires me to dance – to believe again, even amid my pain, that God will orchestrate and guide my life.

I want to encourage you to practice gratitude and see what happens in your spiritual life – I bet it’s going to be a catalyst for spiritual growth!

100 Questions – Whatever Happened to Blockbuster?

I have fond memories of renting movies from Blockbuster. Then there were the times that the movie was already rented, what a drag – now what were we going to do on Friday night? That left me aimlessly wandering the isles with others looking for random titles thinking – I wonder if this would be any good. This usually ended as a hit or miss. But it was awesome to get to Blockbuster early Thursday and actually get the movie you wanted for Friday before other grubby hands snatched it up! How dare them take my VHS movie, and eventually my DVD.

Then the unthinkable happened. It was mind blowing! They started renting video games which I was a big fan and player – yes, even as an adult!

But then, almost overnight Blockbuster went the way of the Buffalo. They slowly phased out of Meridianville, Huntsville AL. and the outermost parts of the world!

So what happened to Blockbuster?

The short of it – Amazon and Netflix. But there’s more to the story…There are life lessons to be learned – attention to detail and that small things matter.

From the book Tools of the Titans page 295…Chris Anderson calls it the “Long Tail” effect, for the visually graphed shape of the sales distribution curve: a low almost interminable line of items selling only a few copies per year that form a long “tail” for the abrupt vertical beast of a few best sellers. But the area of the tail was as big as the head. With that insight, aggregators had had great incentive to encourage audiences to click on the obscure items.

Blockbuster only focused, as the name states, predominantly on the “Blockbusters” which were few when looking at the big picture.

Others realized that there were a lot of people interested in niche movies – which would have been the tail of the graph but the tail was really, really long. There were a lot more “B” list movies than blockbusters that were really good.

And now you know why Blockbuster went the way of the Buffalo. They failed to focus on the little things so to speak – attention to detail.

And now you also know why you spend more time searching through Prime Video and Netflix seeing thousands of movies you’ve never heard of, than blockbusters. But rest assured that others – the niche market, are true fans of the movies you’re passing over! And Prime Video and Netflix are smiling all the way to the bank!

Small things matter…

Is Your Life Progressing?

Has your life become stagnant? Have your days become something you borrowed off the movie Groundhog Day?

Have you stayed in your comfort zone for too long? Need a jump start to get some creativity rolling in your day so that your days begin to have a little excitement?

When is the last time you learned something new? A new hobby, a new skill, a new language, etc… These and more can make a difference in your daily life.

I learned this lesson from a leadership viewpoint. My one time executive coach taught that leaders are learners and leaders are readers. I would commit to a minimum of 24 books a year. But then things started to all run together and then I realized that I could only remember about half of what I read.

So this year I decided to read a ton of Blog Posts in a way to continue to learn but in a speed learning fashion.

While discussing this phenomenon with someone that I have holding me accountable for this area of my life, he reminded me of an important fact. He too had hired the same executive coach years ago and he too became a prolific reader. He said he was having the same conversation with our coach – he couldn’t remember half of what he read. He said that our coach spun around in his chair and said (they were on Skype) look at all these books…. There were literally hundreds on his shelf… Imagine if I only remember half of all these, I’ve still learned a ton!

Get the point? If you only remember half of 5 books verses half of 100…

So I’m back to consuming a ton of books again. But this time in a new way. A way I’ve never tried before…I’m doing it through a paid subscription service called scribd.com which allows unlimited downloads a month for less than $9.00 a month. This includes book summaries, audio books etc….

I realize once again that I must practice a lifestyle of lifelong learning. Whether on the internet or a book service, etc… We live in an age that you can learn something daily. Your life can progress at a rate like no other time in history.

So if you believe you’re life is stagnant then become a lifelong learner and start today.

100 Questions – What Happened to the Mayan Civilization?

I know, I know, you didn’t see this one coming! But I’ve often wondered about civilizations that have been all but wiped off the face of the earth.

It will be helpful to understand how I’ve arrived at what I’m about to say as it’s not going where you think…

I’ve always been interested in civilizations and empires that have been all but wiped off the face of the earth. Like the Roman Empire and the Mayans.

That’s how this started…. But then I hit a wormhole known as the internet as I researched the topic. It was there that I’d learn something I’d never heard of before – global satellite exploration. I guess I should say that I was unaware of the extent that this is taking place – I was aware of the possibility…

Stay with me… I originally read an article from the Washington Post – This Major Discovery Upends Long Held Theories About the Maya Civilization. It noted that with recent satellite imagery we’ve been all wrong about the Mayans and their massive civilization. The article is worth a quick read – very interesting!

But as my research continued I hit the intellectual jackpot for global exploration known as global explorer… Stay with me…

Global explorer actually allows anyone with internet access to help stop archeological looting in Peru and other important historical sites around the world from your home!

How it works… You watch a short tutorial that teaches you about satellite tiles which are just land grids. Then you learn how to spot actual looting dig sites and tell them from, say trees, bushes, etc… You learn how to spot signs of looting by the shape of the holes, number of holes, bulldozer tracks, etc… all from satellite imagery!

Then, get this…. Once the tutorial is finished you actually go and start looking at tiles for potential archeological looting site in real time. The thought is that if they can get enough eyes on the images there is a high likelihood that they can minimalism the problem.

So today I did just that! I did my part in helping archeology stay in the hands of archeologists to preserve history by looking at 18 tiles.

I would encourage you to at least check it out on a rainy day at Globalexplorer.com. I actually found it VERY interesting and you may too.

100 Questions – How Can I be Better at Everything?

Everything? Well, I thought it would be worth the time to put in the research. Seriously, who doesn’t want to become better at everything? My original assumption was to believe this in real life isn’t possible. But what if I could find an idea, someone’s hypothesis on how I might get close?

The internet was full of possibilities but I found one that resonated with much of my own thoughts on the subject. Better yet, it focused on just 4 areas of your life. Perfect – right? Not so fast…

Those 4 areas, according to completehumanperformance.com are:

  1. Health
  2. Fitness
  3. Productivity
  4. Critical Thinking

While normally I’d summarize the material, this post deserves a full read and can be found by clicking here.

I felt that Critical Thinking is the one most overlooked.

See if any of the 4 are the missing link on you becoming better at something then leave a comment about it.

100 Questions – How Can I Stay Motivated to Keep a Healthy Lifestyle?

I have wrestled with this idea for most of my life – you may have too. Keeping a healthy lifestyle has never been a knowledge issue – I know what to do! The internet is full of diets, healthy eating suggestions, supplement ideas, walking plans, running plans, blah, blah, blah! The problem for me has always been execution.

Now for those that know me, that statement may seem out of place. I’ve been exercising most of my life. I remember reading the iconic book “Arnold” when I was in 9th grade and joining Bob’s gym – hardcore competitive bodybuilding and powerlifting gym in Montgomery, AL. I’ve set multiple state records in powerlifting as well as running 50 miles in a 12 hour endurance race. I’ve practiced the Paleo lifestyle, the Primal Endurance lifestyle, and practiced intermittent fasting.

In general, I’m a highly motivated person but… I have seasons where even I lack motivation to operate at the high level I think you need to stay healthy. I realize now it was the competition that drove me and still does to some extent. But when I’m not competing my motivation wanes.

Thus, the question – How Can I Stay Motivated to Keep a Healthy Lifestyle?

I know what’s worked so far… Get plenty of sleep – sleep is gold! I built a home powerlifting gym in my basement. I get up early so I have the time each morning to run or powerlift. Don’t keep junk food in the house but treat yourself periodically to something you know you probably shouldn’t eat. Make healthy food choices as often as possible and don’t tear yourself down when you don’t. You get the picture.

I recently read about the importance of intrinsic and extrinsic values. In other words, what motivates you to exercise – is it the compliments you receive or maybe the fact that you’ll feel better and live longer?

Here are a few ideas from a recent blog post from Nextavenue.org.

Get Personal: What Motivates You?

To determine your intrinsic motivation, ask yourself questions like:

  • What is most important to me? For Nolan, it was his family. (His wife, in particular, was concerned about his health.)
  • What activities do I enjoy that I don’t currently do, or that I’d like to continue doing? (Do you love golf? Do you want to take a walking tour of Europe?)
  • How do I feel when I’m doing something positive for my health? (Proud? Confident? In control?)
  • What simple steps can I take to move in the right direction? (This could be something as minor as eating more vegetables or walking every night after dinner.)
  • How would I like to feel about my health in a month? (Three months? Six?)

So at the end of the day I find my motivation in personal gains. It’s all about the competition. I just have an innate need to compete. But as I’ve gotten older I realize the competition is against myself. I have recently decided to come out of retirement and will be getting back into endurance racing again. So I’ve registered for an upcoming trail race. But I also realize I want to keep powerlifting and those don’t usually go together.

So what now? I’ve found people are hybrid athletes – they are in great shape and they do the endurance sports. You don’t need to be overly skinny to do endurance sports.

So, when all is said and done what’s the answer to my question? We’ll it’s one that I already knew that would work for me. It’s something that I’ve taught my kids. It’s something that I literally sometimes yell at the top of my lungs when home alone to get myself fired up for the day – what is it? “MOTIVATE YOURSELF!”

Become a student of motivation and execute. Nobody can do it for you. Eventually you have to get off the couch, cut off the TV, quit surfing the net and execute!

Spiritual Formation Part Ten – Study

As far as spiritual formation goes, we sometimes forget about the spiritual discipline of study.

To quote Dallas Willard from the book The Making of an ordinary Saint, by Nathan Foster, “We need to understand that Jesus was a thinker, that this is not a dirty word but an essential work, and that his other attributes do not preclude thought, but only ensure that he is certainly the greatest thinker of the human race: “the most intelligent person who ever lived on earth.””

Nathan Foster in that same book notes that there are 4 steps to study when seen as a spiritual discipline:

  1. Repetition
  2. Concentration
  3. Comprehension
  4. Reflection

Unfortunately many people believe that they have the intellectual ability to interpret scripture by just reading scripture – now I’m not saying some don’t, but I believe it’s rare without study. Add to that many don’t have study bibles or commentaries to do serious study. Fortunately the internet offers many study opportunities for study if you can find a trusted source.

In seminary the only bible we were allowed to use was the New Revised Standard Version. Scholars at the Candler School of Theology felt it was the cleanest translation. Of course the actual bible can be found on the internet for free as well as many commentators in any version you like.

I personally spend most of my time using the New International Version study bible as well as other commentaries.

So, the spiritual discipline of study has never been easier. This might be the one that provides a catalyst for your spiritual growth.

Remember the disciplines that seem the hardest, if we stick with it, may be the best. Also, some disciplines may work for a season and will need to be revisited in the future. Do what works for you! Just do it!

20 Plus Ways to Minister to Your Wife and Family

Whether you’re new to the faith or an old hand… Sometimes we forget that every family needs a spiritual leader. Let’s define family at a minimum a of a person of one! Even singles need to lead themselves – so we’re talking about everybody needing a spiritual leader in the family.

Once again this can be an intimidating proposition regardless of how far you’ve traveled on your spiritual journey, yet it’s a bridge we must cross. You’ll have a healthier family if you do.

While there are many ways to minister to your wife and family I found three to be very important.

  1. I’m always sure that my family is in Worship each week. When my kids were young and lived at home, I didn’t take a vote on who wanted to go to church or not. If it’s Sunday and you’re not sick we would pretty much be in church. We also found it important that they attended Sunday School so that they received appropriate age level teaching.
  2. We would also pray together each day. We would form a circle, ask for prayer requests and pray together to start our day before school. Now that we’re empty nesters we still hold hands and pray before work.
  3. My wife and I still have a date night EVERY week!

While these are just 3 possibilities, I found a post that offers even more ways to minister to your wife and family. I think number 8 is really important and something I think we forget too often – works for husbands and wives.

Check out this list of 25 ways to minister to your wife and family

Leave a comment and tell me which resonates or has worked for you.

Spiritual Formation Part Nine – The Crucible


  1. a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures.”the crucible tipped and the mold filled with liquid metal”
    • a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.

A situation of severe trial…. What does severe trial and spiritual formation have in common? Perhaps everything! But severe trial, seriously? Yup, you got it!

How? Why? Because it leads to the creation of something new. As we grow spiritually we become a new creation in Christ. When we become a new creation in Christ it becomes a game changer for all – not just us but for all those in our lives. It’s not just a gift to us but to other’s as well.

So back to the crucible. What might be the one thing that we might consider the crucible in the Christian church? For me, I would say it’s church membership, or as I like to refer to it, church partnership. Why? Because it provides a place of accountability. And if you’ve never been held accountable for your spiritual formation then it could feel like a severe trial!

Accountability isn’t welcomed by most. We’d rather others not know where we are spiritually. And that’s a problem. You see you can go through the christian motions – Life Groups, Sunday School, Revivals, Worship, etc… and remain in a stagnant place spiritually if someone isn’t holding you accountable. Basically this is the Christian version of phoning it in. All show and no go. Now don’t read what I’m not writing. All of these offer wonderful opportunities for spiritual formation – if you’re serious about following through with what’s taught. But there may be no substitute for accountability.

That accountability in the Christian church comes in the form of church partnership. When one partners with the church in the United Methodist tradition one says that will be faithful in their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. When you partner you are saying I give you permission to hold me accountable in these areas.

To quote Richard Rohr, from his book Falling Upward – A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (p74), “A crucible, as you know, is a vessel that holds molten metal in place long enough to be purified and clarified. Church membership requirements, church doctrine, and church morality force almost all issues to an inner boiling point, where you are forced to face important issues at a much deeper level to survive as a Catholic or Christian, or even as a human. I think this is probably true of any religious community, if it’s doing it’s job. Before the truth “sets you free,” it tends to make you miserable.”

The key to church partnership is that you take it seriously and stick with it long enough to, as Rohr notes, that you stay in place long enough to be purified and clarified, so to speak. That means being intentional about your accountability and that perhaps is best done by partnering with the church.

If you decide to consider partnership with the church and take on serious accountability or consider allowing others to hold you seriously accountable for the first time, it might feel like a severe trial.

A situation of severe trial…. What does severe trial and spiritual formation have in common? Perhaps everything! But severe trial, seriously? Yup, you got it!

Work/Life Balance – Really?

I began working when I was around 10 years old at my uncle Harold’s Ann Street Gulf gas station. It was a full service station if you can remember those. I would make a dime for every car that would allow me to take a small whisk broom and sweep out all the floorboards. The thought of work/life balance was a foreign concept to me then.

But over time things changed. I got married and had kids. As an adult I realized the importance of work/life balance. My mentor, Barry, instilled in me that no church was worth losing my family over (I’m a United Methodist minister). I’ve never forgot that. I try to take care of myself physically, take my days off and take all of my vacation time each year.

But over the years I have started to notice a trend in lives that are out of balance. It seems its become a bragging right to note how many hours a week one works. Some seem to wear it as a badge of honor. While burning the candle at both ends, as they say, other things can become just a memory that we can never get back. Often that sacrifice comes at the expense of our health, spouses, family and perhaps the most crucial, our faith.

This out of balance situation is often veiled under the premise that it’s just for a season. Once the season is over things will get better and life will balance out. I’ll get back to my health, spouse, family, and faith. But often this starts to look like seasons in the South. They all start to run together. Before we know it we’ve lost that time that we’d worked so hard for – to be with our kids, families, spouses and with Christ. It’s as though the season never changed.

I recently read an article by Michael Hyatt called – What No One Ever Told You About Work Life Balance. In that post he noted that: 1. Balance is not the same as rest, 2. Balance is Dynamic, 3. Balance is Intentional.

I want to encourage you to get a handle on your work/life balance before the things that matter are a memory and you spend your life wondering what might have been.

I want to encourage to read Michael Hyatt’s short post mentioned above by clicking here – you’ll be glad you did.