Category Archives: Make You Better

Oh no…what did I do?

Did I really just announce to all of you that I will run a marathon in March? Ugh…documentaries…you know?

It has been awesome to hear the response from all of you about my decision to run this stupid distance…er…I mean…marathon. Really, your encouragement has meant a lot to me. It already seems a bit daunting but since I have already announced to all of you my reasons for doing so…there is no backing out.

One thing that has been interesting has been to see how many of you are thinking about getting back into running as well. All different ages and experiences…you go!

Because some of you might join me on this crazy journey, I thought I would start my first running post out with some thoughts about training for this distance. I have run 2 half marathons and learned a lot from the preparation and running of them both.

My first half marathon was in Disneyland. The night before the race, my wife and I attended a wedding in Arizona. We had already made plans to run but the wedding was short notice so we decided to do both. The wedding was great and at the reception…there was an open bar and some dudes were having a cigar. Ugh. Of course, I partook with a beer…well…two…and had the cigar. I know…not great race prep…but it was a great cigar! (don’t worry…I can definitively say that I still love Jesus after having beer and a cigar)

We arrived in Southern California at midnight the night before the race and did not get to sleep in our hotel room until 2am. Alarm goes off at 4:30am and I hated life. I put on the shoes I had been training in and a cotton shirt and gym shorts. All bad ideas. I finished the race in 2:28 and I had sweat so much that my shoes were making a “squish” noise when I walked and I looked as if I had stood in the shower for ten minutes. Gross. But, I finished.

The second half was in Sacramento. The night before, we met with friends over a pasta dinner…no beer…and went back to our hotel room which was a five minute drive from the race site. Drank a Gatorade and ate a banana…and fell asleep at 10pm. I woke up ready and alive. I put on my new shoes, (I had broken them in for 2 weeks) my actual running shorts and a running shirt from Nike. I finished the race at 1:58 and felt amazing afterwards. I was tired…but not soaked.

You learn things along the way that help you feel more comfortable out there and I hope you learn a little along our journey together through this blog. Below as promised are a few things to consider when beginning your training for any sort of distance.

1. Your weight. You may be thinking…I want to run to take off some of this weight…and it will work. But, if you have some more serious weight issues…its best if you focus on losing some weight first and leave yourself time to train after. Imagine carrying a 40lb bag of dog food around while running…think your joints will love you? Get your body used to moving by taking long walks (longer than 30 minutes) and reduce your calories. Your body will thank you.

2. Make a plan. Don’t just go out there and run for 30 minutes…out of breath and hurting. Do a walk run. Four minutes of jogging and two minutes of walking. Do this for thirty minutes 4 times a week (for two weeks) and see how you feel. Find a running plan online and try to stick to it.

3. Avoid injury. Make sure you are stretching before and after your run. Keep a pace that would allow you to talk…no matter how slow. Don’t push yourself too hard the first month or you will get hurt. My wife hurt her knee training for our 2nd half and she stayed away from running for one week with ice on the knee every night. When she returned, she ran at a much slower pace and kept up the ice packs when we finished. After three weeks…she felt much better and avoided serious injury.

4. Get the right equipment. When running 2-4 miles, you can get away with wearing cotton clothing and older shoes. But…when you start to seriously train…you need actual running shoes…not just Nike’s. If your knees are hurting you when you run…go to a running store and ask them to evaluate what kind of shoe you really need.  You will eventually want some good shorts and shirts as well to avoid chaffing.

5. Know your heart. It may surprise you, but jogging for under thirty minutes does very little to help your cardio endurance. The heart has not had to settle into a rhythm and really get worked like a muscle needs. Anything under thirty minutes and you are working your muscles, burning calories and teaching your body to run…which are all necessary things…but that’s about it. At first…training for 30 minutes is great because it allows your body to get used to the pounding…but once you’re less sore…its time to get in the longer runs.

Blessings and have great runs!

Jesse.

Wait, Talk and Pray…it will make you better

I think most people in ministry come to the crossroads wondering, “Is this really worth it?” This question comes into mind especially with Worship Pastors. “Why am I doing this…does it even really matter?” We can become preoccupied with tasks and to do lists. We can get overwhelmed producing week after week.

If you get to this point in ministry or in life…take a few moments and talk it out with someone you trust. I would suggest that it should not be your wife/husband, someone on staff with you or a volunteer in your ministry. Begin the conversation with someone who has a vested interest in your life…but not your church.

I say this because when you are first talking it out…you may say some pretty harsh things. Your emotions need a release and you may just need some perspective. I’m not saying you should never tell these people how you are feeling…but just be careful. They may love you unconditionally…but each of them has a vested interest in your leadership and none of them can truly be biased.

Sometimes, you just need a release and the ability to receive some guidance. It’s extremely important that you gain perspective and wisdom….because you could be wrong…or you might just need encouragement. It’s also important that you do not make any big decisions during this time…have the patience to wait, pray…and talk it through quite a bit. This time will pass and you may feel quite different a month from now.

If it comes time for you to leave your current ministry…there are a few things you need to remember:

  • Never leave without their blessing. You may have frustration in your heart, but it does no good to leave ANY situation behind without the blessing. You will enter into your next ministry or job with little to back you up…and most likely…you will have fewer friends.
  • Keep on smiling…and keep on walking out the door. Once you have made the decision to leave…be careful to stay too long and create tension. You have already agreed that this job, ministry, church is not the place for you…so strongly worded e-mails, letters or conversations will fall on deaf ears. In their mind…you have already left.
  • Approach church leadership before you begin to talk to your volunteer teams or other church staff. Church leadership may be the eldership…and they are there for a reason. Trust that God has placed them there for a reason.

Never make a decision under distress, always talk it out and always take plenty of time to pray about it. Hopefully, you can stick it out under stress…but if you come to the place where you need to leave…do so with grace.

Blessings. Jesse.

Expect God’s Presence…it will make you better

 “It’s where you need to be Jesse. Depending on God to show up is where you need to be. It won’t matter how good the band is…how well you play the songs or how you lead. It won’t be a success because you were able to manipulate the audience or because of your abilities…it will be great because God showed up. That is where you need to be…where you will not succeed unless God shows up.”

I will remember those words for the rest of my life.

I had just begun to tell my mom how worried I was about a particular worship leading situation and she reminded me that while my worries were justified…it was the right place to be. And she was right…I would fail miserably if I depended on my own strengths…and worse…I would be blocking God from working in the lives of others because I wanted to control the situation.

Guess what…God did show up.

I often wonder how many times I have stepped behind a microphone with only the power of my knowledge and experience. How many times…my fear had blocked not only myself but others from the presence of God? There is not much I can do to change this reality…but there is much that I can do to change future endeavors.

Living comfortably is not what we are called to and placing ourselves in situations where only God can rescue us and thus bring Him glory…that’s the place where I want to be. Expecting God’s presence in our lives, places us where only He can be praised.

I hope to remember this conversation…and this time in my life for as long as possible. I pray that I do not live comfortably in the settings of my abilities and that I am stretched beyond what I can achieve alone.  For the sake of the Kingdom and for my life…I pray that I continually learn to expect God’s presence…

Blessings. Jesse.

Simplify…it will make you better.

“I’ve got an idea for a video”…ever heard that one? As a worship pastor, we are continually being urged to help create a service where the message is strengthened through some sort of visual element. Whether it is a video, a drama…or special music, someone always has an idea for you to work on…which can get…very complicated.

More often than not, we are under such a tight deadline. We are consumed by the senior pastors decision and topic for the weekend. We are tied to an announcement that “needs” to have a video or long explanation from the stage so that people will respond. Ultimately, we are all working hard to get people to respond. Yet, we hardly take the time or money to create something that will truly cause a response…

This is not to say that all of our efforts are worth little. Many people laugh at our videos, are moved by the dramas and special music can touch our hearts. So, what do we do? How do we fulfill an expectation while crafting something we can feel proud of?

Simplify. Unless we work at a large church…we probably don’t have a large resource pool of money or talent…yet our church wants to feed the hungry. We may not have people who can create or act in an impactful drama…yet our church wants to help the poor. How much time/resources are we going to have to commit for a video you know would not show well even on YouTube…when we could be leading people to feed the hungry…or truly help the poor?

Why not document what our team is doing in a soup kitchen…or develop dance teams in underprivileged areas? More often than not…we do not create such impactful things because this is not what we are asked to do. We are asked to find a funny video online or make announcements…”more exciting.”

Begin to simplify. Begin to create dialogue with leadership that might change the direction of your weekends. It will not happen quickly and it would be job suicide to quit creating these things quickly. It may take some time…but start the conversation and take small steps towards spending your time…and your volunteers energy with strong intention.

I pray we are able to create with passion and focus that passion into something that truly changes peoples lives. I pray we have the patience to start the conversation. I pray for the sake of the world…that we all get…a little better.

Peace. Jesse.

Here is a video…about a life that has been changed…that was done…very well. You can create something impactful…when you simplify.

 

Gary Klein Testimony – Service Version from Rachel Clark on Vimeo.

Learn how to prepare…it will make you better

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
– Lucius  Seneca
“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” — Benjamin Fanklin

My jaw dropped a little. I wanted to be upset…problem is…he was right. He had just told me a truth about my life and I had to seek the reality of it. Sitting for lunch with a good friend is often how these moments take place and this time…it would change my life…and my goals.

“Jesse, you have so much natural and raw talent…but you take it for granted. If you were to actually set your mind to this and put in some effort…you would have a bunch of friends willing to jump on board…but I’m not sure you are willing to work hard enough.” Yeah…maybe you can understand now why my jaw dropped…just a little.

We were talking about a CD project and I was offering up my many excuses as to why I haven’t done one in a while. Problem is…he wasn’t so far off in many aspects of my life. In school…I hardly ever did homework…never really had to work at it because it just came naturally. With music…I never dug deep enough or worked through all the theory because it wasn’t all that important to me…besides, music theory is rough.

There are many areas of my life where my preparation did not meet my dreams. I had always been hoping that someone would take a large stake in my life and drive me towards doing something great. I hardly picked up the guitar unless I needed to. I sang without practicing correct breathing and strained my neck. I hoped my experience would be preparation enough even when I knew it would not be. I never wanted to work hard enough to achieve something great.

I have come to understand just how important it is to prepare. Working diligently through chord progressions, scales and applying discipline to my writing. I want to make another Live CD…I want to write a book…I would love to teach or lead at a conference someday…and none of these things will be handed to me. I have to prepare for them…so that when opportunities do arise…I am ready.

Do you prepare each week or even each day for something great? The amazing talent Michelangelo said this of his art: “If the people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.” It takes hard work and practice. Michelangelo most certainly had a gift…he did not rely on it simply as a rite of passage…he prepared.

Jerry Rice is one of the greatest receivers in NFL history and most could not keep up with his workout routine. Karl Malone and John Stockton would stay after practice to run extra miles on the treadmills. Eric Clapton even talks about spending hours at a time with his guitar…just going through the licks.

Big or small…are you preparing yourself for something great? Do you work hard to be ready? After this conversation with a great friend…I know my perspective has changed quite a bit.  I pray God gives you the tools and the desire to prepare…so that next time you are presented with an opportunity…you might just be…a little better.

Blessings. Jesse.

Find your passion…it will make you better

Life is action and passion; therefore it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of the time, at peril of being judged not to have lived.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I got to watch the movie, “This Is It.” Not the greatest movie I have ever seen…but I was moved. Not by the man…his awkward interactions or speeches…but by his passion. He danced in practice because he could do nothing else. He sang from his heart because he could not handle less. It was as if he could not contain himself…even when he wanted to. His passion was to dance, sing…and perform.

I’m often made the butt of jokes for my dancing when I lead…but I can’t help it. My feet just want to move and I can’t make em stop. Once I put on my white kicks and step into leading worship…my passion for it cannot be contained. My excitement for the moment cannot be controlled.

I used to stand still…contain my feet and emotions while leading until one night in the Staples Center. I watched Dave Matthews play his heart out and his feet followed. I know…it’s awkward for a white boy…but we have to. Dave’s passion for the audience and his music could not be restricted…and the results were a twisted face and shuffling feet. If Michael and Dave can’t help it…neither can I.

I am not using either one of these men as examples of healthy individuals…I am simply offering my opinions of what makes them move. What causes them to create and devote their life to a few moments on stage.

Passion is awkward, uncontainable, and the only piece that keeps moving me forward. It’s what wakes me up from the bed in the morning and causes me to act. One French novelist wrote, “Passion is universal humanity. Without it…religion, history, romance and art would be useless.”

Times where I am not following my passion are times in my life of confusion. I have a restless spirit and seem to complain more often than not. I retreat to areas where I am not bothered…stay away from hard conversations…and essentially shut down the one thing that makes me unique…my passion.

D.H. Lawrence talked about passion saying, “Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.” When your passions are unleashed…you cannot stop your feet from moving…your mouth from singing…or your heart from believing.

Be careful though…to let your passion alienate people and turn them off to the message God has sent you with. Vincent Van Gogh is defined as one of the premier painters who ever lived and his passion for art is evident in his brush strokes. Yet, while he lived…his paintings were worth very little. He had very few friends and his life ended in a tragic mess of sorrow and grief. He is now revered for his gifts…but when he was alive, he was a disturbed soul.

Learn to unleash your passion and live within it. Allow God to mold it…define it…and multiply it beyond your wildest imagination because in ministry…living outside of your passion leads to complacency. Passion cures the stirred soul and unleashes it to care for God’s people.

I pray that your passion is unleashed today. I pray that it is not seen as tragic, or revered after you have lived. I pray your passion is spread across the generations and causes your soul to stir for His calling in your life. In the words of Ice T, “Passion makes the world go round. Love just makes it a safer place.”

Peace. Jesse.

Communicate more better ;) …it will make you better

After talking for nearly thirty minutes, I stepped off the stage and into the sea of volunteers. I had just spent the last half an hour talking to my volunteer teams about where we were headed…what the next year was going to look like…and what I was going to be expecting out of them if they were to be a part of the “team.” During the talk, I looked for the usual non-verbal responses…eye connection, seat positioning, head nodding and such. They got it…they understood it…they liked it…or so I thought.

I spent the next hour answering questions. Questions related to how this was all going to happen…I thought…wait…didn’t they just listen? At first, there was frustration. How could they not understand…why didn’t they just listen? And then…it set in…no matter how clearly I spoke at them…they wanted this communication to be a conversation.

They had bought in…but they were curious and really wanted to understand. Their questions weren’t challenging my goals…they were questions that brought about cemented change in their life and my conversations with them were what was going to last.

Since this time in my life, I now understand that having a hundred conversations like this was way more effective than any 30 minutes I had prepared. Good communication is based off of listening skills and if you cannot listen with intent…then you will be your ability to create change will suffer.

Undersand that people will often agree to your comments without ever buying in to them. They will nod their head…say yes…say they understand…even if they don’t. They may really want to understand, but for fear of looking ignorant…they simply appease. How do I know this? I do it…and I have seen others as well.

As a leader, understand that your ability to communicate and be an active listener will be the rock from which your platform will be built. If you have vision, goals and passion…they cannot be under communicated. Over-communicate. Have as many meetings as it takes for your verbiage and goals to become theirs. You cannot accomplish your goals alone, and if your patience for communication is lacking…I have found…that your ministry will be as well.

Here are some ways I try to be more effective with my communication…emphasis on try:

  • Be an active listener. For more information on Active Listening…click HERE
  • Learn to ask clarifying questions like, “Does that make sense?” Interpret their body language as they respond.
  • Try to limit your assumptions of what they understand. Assuming the other person understands something can lead to miscommunication.
  • Finish your meeting with a plan. Re-communicate the plan and see if they can repeat it to you. Make sure you are not dictating the plan…but ask the question…”So, where do we go from here?”
  • Answer your phone or at least return the voicemails. Weeks come and go quickly in ministry…but for the volunteer…the days can pass a little slower.
  • Answer your e-mail. You may not have the appropriate answer on hand. But respond to their e-mail letting them know you’ll work it out. Follow-up.

I pray God gives you the tools to carefully craft His dream for your life. I pray you have the patience to ask as many clarifying questions as it takes. I pray we all…get a litte better.

 Peace. Jesse.