Leadership, Parenting

The reason you are tired.

Would you rather be a good father, mother, pastor, lawyer, friend, employee, boss, farmer, etc but have everyone think you were a terrible father, mother, pastor, lawyer, friend, employee, boss, farmer, etc?


Would you rather be seen as being a good father, mother, pastor, friend, employee, boss, farmer, etc but actually, in reality, be a terrible father, mother, pastor, friend, employee, boss, farmer, etc?

Which is more important to you?

To actually be?


To be seen as such?

Nassim Taleb says the question is as ancient as Cicero and Machiavelli, but I can’t imagine a more relevant one.

For you, because you are tired and might not know it is because of the tremendous energy it takes to be seen certain way instead of just be.

And specifically for pastor’s, who wonder why they have ended up with a career as opposed to a ministry; a church as opposed to a niche.


Sexy Lexy burns premium like you burn appreciation.

Last night was PAC’s 4th Annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet and I was drawing a blank for how to creatively offer words of appreciation.

  • Years 1 and 2, I took a bunch of real-life anecdotes and wove them into a fictional story about the journey of a new family to PAC and how their lives changed over the years thanks to our volunteers.
  • Year 3, I read letters from “Future PAC” to “2017 PAC”  to try to show how the faithful service of our volunteers leads to large-scale transformation over time.
  • Also Year 3, I belted out “Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show while the cheesecake was being handed out.

The stories and letters were appreciated – mixed reviews for the song. Thumbs down from my daughter and wife. Thumbs up from everyone else. An aspiring 70’s rock vocalist is not without honor except in his own home.

This year I decided to use the pastors of the Bible as mentors and ask:

“How would James, Peter, Paul, and John encourage their churches?”

Turns out, none of these four pastors would be on your shortlist as guest speakers to invite to your volunteer appreciation banquet. They rarely encourage their congregations about specific behaviors. There are a few places, but for every word of affirmation, there are pages of correction. Not really the sort of vibe we have at our banquet which is really more of the “no correction, all appreciation” genre.

Now, they are smart guys. They led churches. They know how important morale is and that stuff needs to get done. Why the absence of cheerleading?

My thinking is they understand sustainable ministry requires better fuel than appreciation. If you are running on appreciation you’ll find you burn through it faster than a 2000 Lexus 470 burns through premium fuel (painfully fast) and your tank will generally feel empty and your wife will wonder why we even bother keeping Sexy Lexy on the road.

This is true of volunteers. This is true of pastors.

This is why James, Paul, John, and Peter didn’t focus their attention on affirming specific behaviors and focused their encouragement elsewhere.

They coached behavior, they affirmed identity.

Some quick examples:

  • “You love because God first loved you.” – John
  • “You are a firstfruit of all creation.” – James
  • “You were rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son.” – Paul
  • “Nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Paul

If you know you are a child of God, the right behaviors will simply flow because the hearts of sons and daughters are naturally poised to do the work close to the Father’s heart.  Your heart cherishes and longs for the same things as the Father and so you serve.  You don’t need cheesecake, encouraging emails, pats on the back, and renditions of “Sylvia’s Mother” to keep you going. And if you do get them – as nice and deserved as they may be – they won’t be enough to keep you going.

John, James, Peter, and Paul might not be the best examples of how to pump up the parking team with the eternal significance of their contribution to the mission but they do clarify the truth that sustainable ministry doesn’t come from consistently pumping up the troops with hype. But rather, from a rhythmic re-enforcement of exactly who the troops are in Christ.

What’s nice about this is a pastor wanting to encourage doesn’t necessarily have to be a gifted visionary or salesman and figure out how to add deep mission significance to every action or explain how personal fulfillment is connected with volunteer service. Those are helpful skills maybe, but not the ones we see on display from John, James, Peter, and Paul.

We see them focus on identity.





Podcast, Portage on Purpose

Portage on Purpose Episode #1: Chris Tompkins.

Episode #1: Portage Clinic COO Chris Tompkins on humility, insecurity, potatoes, and rec. hockey glory.

Click link to listen and click one of the share buttons below to help spread the word.


Next month episode features Portage Regional Economic Director Vern May.


Sabbatical Sessions

Judge Not Lest Ye Become A Paranoid Mess.

Our brilliant Jesus tells us to not judge or else we will be judged.

And so we imagine, somewhere down the road,  a robed figure with a gavel assessing our life and giving the verdict.

Somewhere down the road……..we miss the NOW.

We miss the truth that no one ever gets away with anything.

To use James K Smith’s words:

“What you do does something to you.” 

It may not be visible initially, but given enough time and the person who judges will take the judgment into themselves. At that point, they cease to be merely a judgemental person who occasionally chooses black and white from the full spectrum of colors. They have become “judge”; only capable of seeing black and white. Judge not, lest ye become judgified….

Life gets pretty dang small right about then because it is no longer something to be lived, it is something to be evaluated and compared.

And that is not all.

With judgment present everywhere inside of you, you now believe it is present just as thoroughly everywhere. What started out as a character flaw has become “just how it is”.  You exist in an atmosphere of judgment.

Everyone is talking about you.

Everyone is evaluating you.

Everyone is judging you.

You become very, very, paranoid.

So listen to Jesus. Don’t judge!

Not just because He is always right, but because to not listen to Him is to inject poison into your veins.

As E. Stanley Jones says:

“We don’t break God’s laws, we break ourselves on them.” 

Sabbatical Sessions

Sabbatical Sessions #3: Short Shifts.

Shifts in pro-hockey are about 45 seconds. Lactic acid builds up and eventually shuts your body shuts down.  Generally, the higher the level of hockey – the shorter the shifts required. Out there too long and you will get burned.

It is true even if your last name is McDavid.

It is especially true if your last name is Byfuglien.

Life is like that too. If you are really really tired it won’t matter:

  • How good you are at holding your tongue.
  • How good you are at avoiding temptation.
  • How good you are at having a positive attitude.
  • How good of a leader you are.
  • How good a teacher you are.
  • How patient parent you are.
  • How understanding a spouse you are.

If you are tired, something starts unraveling.

So go get some sleep.







Sabbatical Sessions

Discovering poop is never life-changing.

I first noticed my incredible gift when our kids were in diapers.

All I had to do was grab the straps of those little OSH KOSH B’GOSH overalls and slow them down for a second and I’d just KNOW if they were poopy or not.

I began to get a reputation as someone who had incredible discerning powers when it came to the presence of poop. And it wasn’t just specific to my kids! If there was any kind of crap present. I could smell it almost instantly.

And oh, the gratitude people expressed as I identified all the poop all over the place. Kept many people from stepping in it, I did.  Hardly anyone moved an inch.  My discernment was paralyzing.

Then someone came along and told me it didn’t really take discernment to smell poop. That I was mistaking having a nose for having discernment.

They said:

“Discernment is more about finding treasure than finding fault.”

They had the audacity to claim you can’t be discerning and fearful at the same time.  They suggested maybe the reason I was so good at smelling poop is not that I was discerning. It was because I was scared.

I wasn’t so sure. Something was starting to smell funny.

But before I could exercise my gift of discernment and pass judgment on them….they pressed on, having the audacity to suggest people who are only looking for what stinks are doing this because they know what to do with what they find. Discovering poop is never life-changing.

But, find new treasure and you will probably have to change. Especially if you find something beautiful. The discovery of beauty is always life-changing. Beauty is undomesticated – you can’t tame it or it ceases to be beauty. And untamed, it has its way with us.

Continuous transformation will be the true fruit of discernment as consistent encounters with beauty bring personal growth.

I was kind of lost so they summarized for me:

Where scared people smell poop and stay the same, discerning people see beauty and grow.

That helped.









Sabbatical Sessions

Sabbatical Sessions #1: We Love You Because of Who Your Parents Are.

Stopped to visit friends of my parents. The kind of stop you make to save a few bucks on a hotel and so your dad will stop telling you how much it would mean if you stopped in to see the “Chambers”.  So you stop in to see the Chambers.

The Chambers treat us like royalty.

Their genuine delight to host us is overwhelming.

Especially since we are pretty much strangers. I haven’t spent any real time with them for over 30 years but their joy in our presence and the hospitality in the atmosphere has me on the verge of tears for most of our evening together.

And then Cathy Chambers says this:

“We love you because of who your parents are.” 

It was a funny thing to say and she would end up saying it four times. Every time it had a seismic effect on my soul as holy tremors reverberated. The Holy Spirit was using that phrase to shift how I thought about a few things. I was wobbly.

I think she said it as frequently as she did because she was trying to understand why it was she felt so deeply about us. I suspect the power of her affection for us, surprised her. She knew she’d probably like us. she was surprised by her love for us.

It was a distinctly Christian kind of love – and this is why I was wobbly. It was love based on whose image we are made in and not because of anything we have done. She was surprised by it, we were blessed by it. Unmerited love poured out on us.

And it was so clearly blessing her. Why wouldn’t it?

It would be a beautiful way to go through life being consistently surprised by how much affection you have for people you hardly know. And you can I suppose.

Every single person you meet is made in the image of God and for that reason, they are worth loving.

Could you say to someone “I love you because the Holy Trinity are your parents?”

Can that work?

Yes, because we are not talking about cultivating a love for all mankind. Good luck with that. We are a pretty difficult bunch to love. Unless you adore our parents.

Then the love kind of just happens.