Month: February 2020

Character Strengths

In the 1990s some very exciting research was taking place and being presented to the American audience. It was the Strengths Finder research by Marcus Buckingham, Donald Clifton, and the Gallup organization.

The core idea is that there are many different strengths. You cannot be good at all the strengths. You need to find out what your strengths are. You will make much more progress in developing your strengths than in trying to upgrade your weaknesses.

This was NOT the prevailing conventional wisdom of the time.

The conventional wisdom said to identify your weaknesses and go to work on them. You must focus on your weaknesses or they will hold you back.

But here is what happens when you focus on your weaknesses:

  • First, it takes a LOT of time and energy to attend to a weakness.
  • Second, even a lot of focus only yields partial results (that’s discouraging).
  • And third, when you stop focusing on your now rather small improvements to a weakness, you quickly revert back to previous levels! And that is even more discouraging. Still we kept telling people to work on their weaknesses.

The Strengths Finder research launched a new and much-needed movement. “No,” they said, …

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A Geography Lesson for the Soul

If I told you I have two completely paid trips for you to enjoy a vacation on an archipelago, you may not be so excited.

But if I told you I have two all-expenses-paid trips to Hawaii, now you might think I am a very good friend.

The Archipelago

Hawaii is an archipelago. And it serves as a short geography lesson that becomes a metaphor to understand character formation.

An archipelago is a series of islands that are connected underneath the water. They are formed by volcanic overflow as volcanoes on the ocean floor erupt and the lava builds up. The lava build up is uneven. As it continues over a long period of time, the lava builds up above the surface of the water and the result is an island. Or many islands. Or a string of islands, which we call an archipelago.

The Philippines is an archipelago of over 7,000 islands. Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands.

By comparison, Hawaii has only 137 islands. Not all of these Hawaiian islands are created equal. Some are much larger than others. In the Hawaiian chain, there are 8 major islands and perhaps another 12-15 smaller islands, sometimes …

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Parenting with Post-it Notes || Guest Post by Pastor Garrett Lowe

Do you struggle finding the right place and time to say all the things that your children need to hear?  

Is it difficult to find ways to engage in deeper conversations with your children about the stuff that really matters in life?  

Are you looking for one more way to encourage or direct their heart?   

Consider the power of the Post-it Note!  

As a parent, I feel like I need all the help I can get! I’m always looking for fresh and creative ways to help my daughter grow in her love for God and others. I want to see her flourish in the way and wisdom of Jesus! 

Our church community is currently in a message series on character formation. What an important topic for the next generation! However, it can be difficult to engage our children in conversations about their character.  

This month, in the Parent Vault, I introduce you to a father who found a way to use Post-it Notes to pass on love, wisdom, and encouragement to his three daughters. He has used these notes to spark many conversations on a variety of topics over the years, and it is just one more way

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The Deadly Sin of Sloth

While we are focusing on virtue and not on vice, it is still worthwhile to be alert to the vices. This past Sunday, the message was on GRIT. Here is the word cloud we created to show the virtue of GRIT and its opposite, SLOTH.

Sloth. Ugh! What a word!

The Book of Proverbs uses the language of “sluggard.” You will find it 14 times.

It is pretty fascinating. When I am energetic, it seems like my energy levels rise and I am less tired! When I work out regularly, I feel stronger (not weaker). When I study hard, my mind is sharper and more alert.

And when I am lazy, it is easier to be lazy some more. If I get into a vegetative mindset of “vegging” out, I can veg out for a long time. A few months ago I got into a rut. I got tired. I decided to veg. And wow, was it hard to stop vegging! The longer I vegged, the more inertia I had to overcome.

I also recently was in the “zone.” I was experiencing flow—energy, enthusiasm, press on, push ahead, give it everything. And that was exhilarating, not tiring!

Virtue and …

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The 10 Contributors to Resilience (The Second Five)

Yesterday we covered the first five contributors to resilience. Here are the remaining factors that produce resilience.

For each factor, give yourself a letter grade for how strongly it is true for you.

A is really high and D or F is really low.

6|| Have role models.

Role models are vital in helping us see what resilience is like. They inform, they inspire, and they empower us. You need resilient people in your life for all three purposes. For me, my dad was one of the great role models of resilience. As a pastor, there are so many people at Living Word who display great resilience—cancer survivors, those in recovery, those dealing with ongoing illness, single parents—the list goes on.

7|| Pay attention to your physical health and strength.

Of course you should take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, sleep well. The more strength you have the more stamina you will have. When I pay attention to my physical health I have so much more energy to keep on keeping on. If there is one thing I wish most of us would do much better it is to take care of our physical health. Take care of …

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The 10 Contributors to Resilience (The First Five)

On Sunday, the core virtue was GRIT. One of the main parts of GRIT is resilience. Many researchers see GRIT and resilience as synonymous or interchangeable word. I still prefer to see resilience as one BIG part of GRIT.

I decided to dive into the studies on what makes for a resilient life. I did a little research and found four good and somewhat different books on resilience. It turned out they weren’t as different as I thought they would be. The same themes were described, just in different ways.

Here are the 10 things that produce and sustain resilience (five today and five tomorrow). I decided to use the organizing framework from the book Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges. By the way, I don’t recommend this particular book. It is more academic. If you want just ONE great book, read GRIT by Angela Duckworth.

Resilience is a byproduct of other factors. If you want resilience, then attend to each of the following. Pick several of them and start there. Later, add another item.

For each factor, give yourself a letter grade for how strongly it is true for you.

A is really high and D …

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So Many Words

We are diving into our Character Formation Series (Breaking Bad, Becoming Good) in a big way. I love the conversations that have been generated. The feedback from so many people about themes and issues God has moved to the front burner of their attention is great.

We all know character and virtue are important. But like all good things, it takes time and energy to focus on character formation. That is why we are doing this series. We mapped out 10 weeks in 2020 for this theme. We could have devoted the entire YEAR to this theme.

The more I read, think, learn, and pray through these matters, the more pathways open up.

When I prepared for the message on GRIT, I had little idea just how much there was in this core virtue. I found out very quickly how big and wide the word is.


This is a needed detour.

In the 1920s a leading psychologist named Gordon Allport was developing a new field that would become known as Trait Theory. If you have even taken a DiSC test or a Myers-Briggs test, those tools are focused on helping you identify your primary traits and personality styles. …

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An Ancient Christian Symbol of Love || Guest Post by Aaron Kunce

This past Sunday, we looked at the ancient symbol of love from church history, sometimes depicted in stained glass, and it’s the image of a pelican.

And the reason that the pelican has been one of the ancient symbols of Christianity is because the pelican had been observed doing something very striking. If its little chicks were starving, the pelican, in an act of self-sacrifice, would pierce her own heart to give sustenance to her young ones so they would survive.

Medieval Christians began to use the image of a pelican to symbolize the sacrificial love of Jesus—who gave his life for our redemption and for the atonement he made through his passion and death. References to the pelican and its Christian meaning are found in Dante’s Divine Comedy, Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, and many other writings.

I don’t know if pelicans do this act of sacrifice or if it is merely legend. But the fact remains, that it became a powerful symbol of costly, sacrificial love.

And love has a cost—right?

Love can involve pain and it can involve discomfort. If there is no pain and no discomfort, is it actually love? Love is willing to be interrupted

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What is it That Keeps You from Love? || Guest Post by Aaron Kunce

In Jesus’ most famous sermon, he said:

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad…”

Matthew 5:43–44 (The Message)

Jesus calls everyone to the radical posture of love and to daily resist the lure of the vices that work against love in our lives. And for Christians, love is the heart of living, of being human.

Love is at the heart of the life of Christ, his teaching, and his death on the cross.

Even on the cross, Jesus expressed love for his mother, had compassion on the two rebels being crucified beside him, and loved his enemies … who were in the act of nailing him to the wood.

Jesus called people to turn and receive God’s love and …

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Love: A Theological Virtue || Guest Post by Aaron Kunce

On Sunday, we looked at the virtue of LOVE. Love is in a special category of virtue called the theological virtues.

Theological virtues are virtues associated in Christian theology and philosophy with salvation resulting from the grace of God.

Traditionally, they have been named faith, hope, and charity, and can trace their importance in Christian theology to Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 13, who also pointed out that “the greatest of these is love.”

The medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas explained that these virtues are called theological virtues “because they have God for their object, both in so far as by them we are properly directed to Him, and because they are infused into our souls by God alone, as also, finally, because we come to know of them only by Divine revelation in the Sacred Scriptures.”

And they are huge themes for Paul as he writes to the Thessalonian Christ followers. In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he declares that faithfulness, love, and hope are essential to the life, witness, and mission. It was true when he wrote it almost 2,000 years ago, and it’s true now.

This triad—from the very beginning of the Christian faith—is how we …

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