Goal-Setting Isn’t Just For Grown-Ups!

This past Sunday, I taught in our family venue service about Goal Setting. I don’t really remember anyone ever taking the time to explain how to set goals and see them through when I was an elementary school student. However, I believe that kids are never too young to learn big things and so I wanted to dive in to this subject as we collectively kiss 2020 goodbye (with our masks on of course).

As I set out writing and planning my sermon, it was a little harder than I anticipated. I wanted to convey to the children the difference between a “New Year’s Resolution” and a “Goal”. But when I went to define that, I hesitated. “What’s the difference?” I imagined a third grader asking after being called upon. I came to the conclusion that a resolution is a goal without any true planning. It’s like a hope that we don’t really plan for or that we begin with only our self-discipline but realize pretty quickly, self-discipline alone isn’t enough to attain what we wanted.

I told the story about the time when I was the kitchen manager at Chick-fil-A for a year or so. One of my responsibilities was to plan and chart the food prep needs for the entire day based on sales records and trends. At that time, we had 5 types of salads (and at Chick-fil-A, all salads are prepared fresh and individually, not shipped in). It took a lot of work to prepare salads. In January of that year, I made 40 of each type of salad (200 total). Around 3pm, I checked the inventory and there was no way the store would have enough salads to get them through the night. New Year’s Resolutions in full gear! By the end of that year, in December, we were able to make 10 of each salad (50 total) and make it through the entire day. What happened? People’s willpower and self-discipline slowly wane and once you get off the train, it’s that much harder to get back on!

So a goal is a resolution with legs and feet.  Sure, you can wander away from a goal or take a step back or lose momentum, but if you’ve done the hard work of planning how you will achieve your goal, it’s easier to get back in step and keep walking.

We checked out God’s Word to see what God tells us about goal-setting. Some people think goal-setting is selfish and an “all about me” kind of activity. But I disagree. I believe that God wants us to achieve our goals, especially when they become a means of godly transformation. God wants us to take care of our bodies. He wants us to be wise with our money. He wants us to be emotionally and mentally healthy. Kept in check, goal-setting can be godly. 1 Kings 6 tells us of King Solomon’s desire to build a house of worship for God. He looks out on the land and realizes that the people worship God in a tent while they all live in houses made of stone and brick. He ponders what this means about their relationship with God. How could they give themselves better than what they had given God? So Solomon tells God what his plans were; God reminds Solomon that He doesn’t need or require more than a tent; but in the end, God allows Solomon to dream, plan and achieve his goal. The details we read in the passage cover everything from how tall the temple would be, to how long, to how many rooms and their sizes, to what the floor, walls, ceiling, doors, pillars and altars would be made out of and how many supplies were needed. In the end, it took seven years for Solomon’s goal to be accomplished. I have a feeling Solomon needed more than willpower and self-discipline to see his desires become accomplishments.

While we didn’t have time to get into the specifics like S.M.A.R.T goal planning (go look it up on Google if you don’t know what the acronym stands for) we did discuss that there’s different categories in which to set a goal. It can be Physical, Social, School, Spiritual or Financial. For adults, I think we can add in there: Career, Family, Mental/Emotional, and more. We gave examples of what might be included in a Physical Goal, like trying out for a new sport we’ve never done before, or wanting to complete a running challenge, or even drinking more water. Social goals can include intentionally making a new friend at school or church, committing to call a grandparent once a month, or write a card/letter to a different adult who cares about you each month. Spiritual goals of reading through the Bible in a year or learning different ways to pray and Financial goals that help us to save money, begin tithing and giving offerings, or even donating to causes that we care about instead of just using birthday, Christmas and allowance money to be eaten up by toys.

We gave out a worksheet packet and gave time for parents to help their children think of ONE goal they could set out to accomplish in the year 2021. We encouraged parents to let their child pick the goal, rather than the parent dictating what it should be as that would help the child really invest in and own their goal.

So, parents, how will you help your children begin goal setting this year? Is this a new concept for you or do you already set family and individual goals? Would you be willing to share your goal or your child’s goal for 2021 in the comments? I’d love to hear from you!

Here are just a few of my goals this year:

  • School: complete my academic research and begin my group study for my doctorate
  • Family: be more intentional about sending birthday cards to my nieces and nephews on time
  • Financial: finish paying off my remaining credit card debts
  • Spiritual: set aside time for personal study each day; study a different person from the Bible each month
  • Physical: continue training for my second degree black-belt and complete my qualifier in October; decrease the amount of Dr Pepper and increase water
  • Reading: complete one book each month; increase books read for pure pleasure instead of letting school books take over

Anointed By Bob

I’ve been anointed three times in my life. 

In 2010, I was beginning a new college and young singles ministry at the church I attended and the leadership asked me to come in the evening of our kick-off to hear my heart and pray over me. As they prayed, I felt a hand lightly tousle my hair, anointing me with oil. I looked up and it was a man named Bob. As he prayed, it was as if he was talking to an old friend of his that had just joined us. We had never had a college ministry before and I wasn’t completely sure that I was the right person to be at the helm, but after Bob’s prayer that evening, there was no longer any doubt. He asked God to bless me as the leader of the college and young singles ministry. To bring the “missing generation” back to our church family. For God to work mightily through the people who would be impacted by my efforts.

In 2011, I was hired by that same church to be the children’s pastor. Right after I was hired, the elders scheduled my ordination to take place in the upcoming Sunday morning service. I was known in the church, but not as a children’s ministry leader so I had a few minutes to talk about my vision and plans going forward. Afterwards, Bob came up on the stage and again, anointed me with oil. Praying over me as a formal means of ordination. He asked God to bless me as the leader of the children’s ministry. To bring joy, fun, and energy to the youngest generation of our church family. For God to work mightily through the families that would come in contact with the church through our efforts.

Then, in 2017, when I was at one of the lowest points of my life–having left the church I had ministered to for the past six years and not yet knowing where I would land–Bob sent me a message asking me to come see him. Bob was in the hospital; he had been diagnosed with cancer in late 2015. That morning, I had committed to staying in bed all day. But how do you say no to a dying man’s request to come visit him? I got up and headed over. Any good pastor would know that the end of a hospital visit requires a prayer. But before I could offer to pray for him, Bob looked at me and said, “get over here. Let me pray for you.” Everything within me wanted to just burst into tears. How could I let HIM pray over ME in that moment? I briefly argued with him, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He asked for his anointing oil, dipped it on his finger and held my hand. And he asked God to bless me. To bring me new opportunities, new ministry, and a deeper trust that God wasn’t finished using me. For God to work mightily through the work that He had begun in me.

A week later on March 10th, I got word that Bob had died. I couldn’t believe it. And the blessing of being anointed by him hung over me with a special honor. I was the last person he anointed before he passed. Bob’s celebration of life was packed and every single person mentioned Bob’s acute ability to connect with God through prayer in order to bless and anoint others around him. 

From my first moments in ministry, Bob’s support meant the world to me. He was in his 70’s and he understood the necessity to have children as a part of the church family. My first VBS, I “voluntold” Bob to lead the 5th grade boys group (one of the hardest groups of any VBS or children’s ministry activity). He had those boys following his every word. It was incredible! Later on, I found out he was paying them dollars to behave and listen to him the whole week. 

When the city of Franklin wanted to ban pan-handlers from standing on street corners, Bob went (without telling anyone) to the city council meeting to defend the homeless in the area who didn’t have a means to make money any other way. He went on numerous international mission trips (in addition to all the ministry he did locally). His age meant nothing in terms of slowing down or “retiring”. Retirement to him only meant that he had even more time to serve and bless others.

Bob believed in the power of God at work in children. During the last year of his battle with cancer, the kids in the ministry made cards for him. We brought him down to kids church twice and the kids anointed him with oil and prayed over him. Never missing a beat, he would thank them for their cards and teach them about the power of prayer. At my last VBS, we had a child with special needs named Silas. Bob signed up to be Silas’ buddy the entire week. This was a picture captured from the week—

Bob was the person I called when I was upset with a leadership decision. He’d help talk me off the edge or agree to represent me well or both. He encouraged me. He saw and appreciated the growth in me as a leader, minister, and a regular person. Every prayer of Bob’s began with “Hallelujah Lord Jesus, we do, we thank you…..” 

Bob loved his family, fishing, serving, working with his hands, reading his Bible, and of course eating at Uncle Bud’s catfish. 

Every March 10th, I am reminded of a life well lived, a race well run, and a legacy left behind. I pray that I can be a “Bob” to those who are around me. I think I’m going to order me one of those keychain anointing oil holders like Bob had. That way, I don’t miss an opportunity to bless someone like Bob did for me.

Singled Out

Valentine’s Day seems like a great time to talk about being single. There seems to be a wide variety of feelings about V-Day. When I was a teenager having someone to celebrate Valentine’s Day with was the pinnacle of relationship success. The following day at school, everyone shared what was given, shared and done the night before. This was before social media…back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Did he make reservations at Olive Garden? Or did he just take you to a movie? Did he pick you up in his car—honk the horn or come to the door? Each decision signified the level of relationship you actually had and whether or not “he was a keeper”. 

When my twenties arrived, there were a few Valentine’s Days I was “lucky” enough to be in a relationship—so of course the expectation was spending the evening together, doing something fun or nice and feeling showered with extra attention and whatever love meant to me at the time. As college ended and single-adult life came on full-force, friends began marrying off and from what they described it seemed as if marriage was filled with endless V-Day like experiences. 

Naivete is what got me through all the years that I experienced loneliness on account of my relationship status. I hadn’t realized it, but high-school beliefs underscored my views on being single—mainly that if I was single after all these years then something must be wrong with me. It wasn’t until after breaking off an engagement, walking through some of the darkest days of my life up to that point, and coming through the other side that I began to appreciate the gift of singleness! 

 I wish that my tone of voice could come through this post so that you know there isn’t even a hint of sarcasm. Its written with honest and unabashed joy! I have come to realize the remarkable benefits that come with being singled out. To my single friends, be encouraged that as single people we get to enjoy:

  • Time—our time gets to be centered around making ourselves better and experiencing joy. We aren’t bogged down by making sure that we prioritize spouses and children.
  • Flexibility—want to add something to your plate? For the most part, it’s pretty easy to arrange our schedules accordingly.
  • Availability—we get to be available for friends and family in an uninhibited manner. I’ve met with friends for late night milkshakes and French fries at 1am; I’ve driven to the hospital in the wee hours to be with a friend experiencing a crisis, I’ve showed up at important events of friends kids and my nieces and nephews, being one of their people in the crowd cheering them on. 
  • Freedom—a married friend helped me understand how much freedom I have as a single person. When I’ve had a rough day and just want to be alone and soak in a bubble bath, I can do that. When I want to be spontaneous and hop in the truck to find a new adventure? I can do that. When I want to order pizza three nights in a row, I can do that. (Okay, if I ever marry, I hope I can still do that). 

It’s important to understand the difference in being alone and lonely. Being lonely is the feeling of isolation and abandonment. Feeling as though God is against you and withholding important potential relationships (aka ‘happiness’). Fighting with yourself and the idea of others who have what you’ve always wanted. Loneliness is a state of mind. Alone-ness, however, is a state of being. It’s all of the things on the list above and more. It’s realizing that being singled-out is a gift that comes with great blessings and special abilities that are uniquely given to you at this time. 

This Valentine’s Day, and actually every day, what would it look like for you to realize that you are complete, lacking nothing as a single person? What would it take to understand the difference between being lonely and being alone? What might change if you begin looking for the awesomeness of the single life rather than only the hard stuff?

Here I Am

I’m a sucker for learning something new.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the INCM Children’s Pastor Conference in Orlando, Florida and one of the General Session speakers brought an amazing message to us—actually ALL of the speakers were amazing—but this one in particular grabbed space and rooted itself in the soil of my heart.

There are two words in Hebrew for answering when your name is called. PO’ANI is literally, “I’m here.” It is used for communicating or announcing your physical presence—think of a classroom roll call. Andrews? (Po’ani) Davidson? (Po’ani) Smith? (Po’ani). You get the picture.

And then there’s HINENI (הנני). Which is translated in our English Bibles as “Here I Am”. However, there is a deeper meaning that isn’t captured by the simplicity of the translation. It means “Lord, whatever you are about to ask of me, I’m already in agreement of it.” It is used in this context only 8 times in the Old Testament. Abraham (x3), Jacob (x2), Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah.

WHOA! That’s completely different than just answering a roll call! There is so much that could be unpacked just off this tiny little word but I’ll save the exhausting amount of details that I could share for future posts.

Each time the persons respond with HINENI, they have yet to be given the details of their assignment—they’re simply responding to God’s call. Immediately after Abraham responds, God says, “I want you to take your son Isaac and sacrifice him.” When Moses responds, God tells him “Go tell Pharoah to let my people go.” When Samuel responds, God tells him, “Tell Eli (the priest who had been raising Samuel up in the temple) that he has dishonored Me by not disciplining his sons and so I’m going to remove him from his position.”

If He hasn’t already, one day you can be certain that God is going to call out to you–He’ll have something that only you can accomplish, that He has specifically chosen YOU for because if you will HINENI it will bring glory to Him in ways like never before. Can you imagine what might have transpired had Abraham said “Po’Ani!”? God’s plan was never for Isaac to be sacrificed by his father’s hand. But if Abraham had played it safe, if he had doubted in God’s goodness, if he had worried that God would ask too much of him, he wouldn’t have learned (and we wouldn’t have testimony) that God is Jehovah Jireh (The LORD is my Provider).

Life. Altering. Obedience. This is what is on the docket when we respond to God’s call with HINENI. No doubt it is big, crazy and scary sounding to be in agreement with God before you even fully know what He is about to ask. What would it look like for you to respond with HINENI the next time God calls out to you? What would change? How might you be transformed? How might God be glorified? What might He accomplish through you when you seek to be obedient first and fully-understand later?