Archive for My Life

My Favorite Mistakes of 2016

As each year ends, I like to look back at both my successes and misses. Both of them help me to adjust my trajectory moving forward.

I find that leaders must make some significant mistakes if they hope to make spiritual progress. I’m skeptical of the leader who doesn’t have a limp, or who are fearful of the whiplash that’d come from living transparently.

I like to share my mistakes with others, even to weave them into a weekend service message, in the hope that others in my life will realize that sometimes theirs aren’t all that unusual. In fact, sometimes theirs are better and funnier than mine.

Here a few from this year to mull over.

 

  • Not enough margin for failure

I tend to see “Margin” as the part of life that allows me to live in “Balance.” I no longer believe in the concept of balance. That word comes from physical matters such as walking. If you tape the walk of someone, then play it back in slow motion, you might surprise at just how “unbalanced” balance is. Just as one leg comes to the end of its forward stride, it looks like we are about to fall forward. Then at the last second, the other leg comes forward. Step after step this is repeated, as we move forward.

In short, my thinking has been akin to “Either goes for a win, or don’t try at all.” To fail in ministry can sometimes bring finances stresses.

If you are the pastor of a church of any size, and tick people off, for necessary reasons or not, chances are some will withdraw their financial support. We have to do what we have to do. Just make sure you must do it and make the call to change comes out of necessity, not your personal anger.

Most of the heroes of the faith in Scripture went through large trials. I’ve noticed that the majority of the biblical characters went through great trials. The trials weren’t so much a surprise as for where they came from – sometimes from God alone, but sometimes brought most of it on themselves.

Without their failures and some of the suffering of it, I’m not sure we’d have the famous “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews chapter 11.

  • Didn’t move into the future wilder and far riskier

If you are a leader, you may have been told in one way or another, that you’ve been too wild and dangerous. Some who look up to us want an absolute guarantee that they will not be a challenge with possible failure. If you model by testing others, you will make some feel uncomfortable. Without saying a thing leaders send a message that how they live is how their followers ought to live as well. Some critics in your world of influence may interpret “Failure” as real failure instead of seeing some of the spiritual parts that come with following God.

“Not wild enough?” you ask. “I thought great models of leadership were “Mature” and had few missteps.”

I don’t want to be a killjoy about your 2017, but if you insist on playing life safely, you won’t make much progress this year.

  • Didn’t ask for help

When I don’t ask for help or decide not to wait for it, bad things tend to happen.

Twice in the past couple of years, I needed help with simple moving – once a desk and later a sign on the sidewalk. Both times I could have gotten help. In fact, others volunteered to help me if I could just wait a few minutes till they arrived.

In my impatience a commercial from years ago captured It featured a Bandolero akin to revolutionary Pancho Villa. Ammunition belts crisscrossed his chest, and he gripped a six-shooter in each hand. His line was epic – “I don’t need no stinking help!” That could have been my slogan more often than not. After all, why wait when I can do it quickly by yourself.

I didn’t hold on, and I paid a huge penalty. Both of these weren’t your normal crashes. I dove headfirst into a wall once and onto the with the other.

When I severely broke my upper arm, I was in such pain that when the EMTs showed up, I passed out twice from the severe pain. With the other, it was my foot that broke two places. Both breaks were unusually severe according to the ortho doctors. The nurses got to know me so well on the many visits they knew me on a first-name basis.

Each break took me out of at least some commission for six months.

Even when I was finally “Healed” in the words of the ortho doctor put it, the bones were obviously not lined up. The ortho doctor declared “Basically cured” and that was as close it comes in their world.

God usually transforms the goofball blunders I make to sew his wisdom into the soil of my heart.

  • Sometimes I didn’t stop when God stopped

Scripture and people’s testimonies convey this same truth. All things eventually come to an end. One day each of us will breathe our last. As an insurance sales friend puts it, “The latest stats still indicate that the worldwide mortality rate hovers right around 100%.”

All things come to an end. Even what starts out to be exciting, is useful and fun will one day come to an end. As a Swedish missionary says, “Fire tends to go out eventually. Plan and train others according to that truth.”

Are you thinking about starting or building a mega something? Don’t look at the initial costs. It’s even more important to be in touch with the reality of money, and people power you’ll need further down the path.

Believers will inherit the challenge to sustain the mega-facilities or programs you started. Will they rejoice in what you are doing, or will they put your picture on their dartboard as a practice target?

It ‘s hard to get an accurate bead on “Real reality” when our default line is, “God told us to do thus and such.”

It has been easy for me to confuse enthusiasm with wise, thought through spiritual direction.

Like never in life, I’m committing to two vital convictions.

  1. I will find at least one experienced coach/mentor in life. Most of being a great coach come from finding a person who is willing to open their calendar to you and who has made enough significant mistakes that they can share their discoveries.
  2. For the rest of my life, I intend to be all about training several people who can replace me they have my same vision and heart. I want them to continue all the parts of the vision God sponsored.

I want them to be far more successful than me. Most leaders make training far too complicated matter, to the point of their being nearly impossible to pull it off by most leaders. “But I want to produce high-quality disciples. Let’s just do it the way Jesus did. Let’s just bring them along as we live life and do outreach and ministry this year.

During college, Inter Varsity Fellowship trained me to lead in light of the short duration of students’ availability in college. As a leader, I had two years of relationship till they began to have super jammed schedule with internships or possible training for a job.

Let’s adopt those two key words in the New Year.

  • Didn’t adequately express my love and appreciation to friends who had made a difference in my life

This year four friends passed. Three of them were completely unexpected. They weren’t obviously sick before they passed.

The year before I lost 5.

As you scan the list above maybe, you can relate to one or two. I hope the encouragement there will help you. If not, then just pray for me as a mistake-riddled person in 2017. I vow to make new and even better mistakes in the coming 12 months!

Steve Sjogren

Kindness.com

8.5 of My Favorite Mistakes of 2015

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”

– G. K. Chesterton

 

I take a bit of time at the end of each year to take an honest, deep look into how the year gone by has gone. I group these together as “Mistakes” that are as positive as possible – I try to see them as stepping stones going into the new year.

As much as I know that my memorable mistakes will lead to learning opportunities that will propel me into the coming year.

I tend to have short-term memory problems with what I learned in previous years. It is important that I take a to heart the AA saying that launches the 12 Steps.

“I choose to take a fearless, moral inventory” of how things have gone, where they are now, and where I hope they will go from here.

It is easy to fall into the opposite belief of the Chesterton quote above.

We can fall into the false belief that a successful life is built on the appearance of outward success. Jesus’ hand picked mentees, the Twelve, make it clear that God sees mistakes as key elements that will lead to personal growth and spiritual health.

Why call them my “Favorite” mistakes? These are the ones that have taught me the most over the past year. Without mistakes we won’t have traction we need in order to move forward. Mistakes are the rough surface that allows us to grip the wall in front of us.

Unless we make some great mistakes, we are destined to stay stuck in the ditch we’ve built from the false belief that perfection is the goal. The only difference between a ditch and a grave is the depth of each.

We tend to run from our mistakes – treat mistakes as though they were a sign of our incompetence.

We tend to hide our mistakes from our for fear they will categorize us as incompetent or immature. If others see our mistakes that draw that conclusion they need to rethink their view of an effective life versus one that only looks successful on the surface.

These are my “Favorite” mistakes of 2015. Believe it or not I had to pare my list down in order that this post won’t become too lengthy! As you read through these a button or two might connect with you and maybe even help you see more clearly about your life. Read More

Great Deal On “The Day I Died”

sjogren-dayidiedHere’s a great deal on one of my recent books.

For the next few days you can get it for the low price of $1.99. This price is a price that won’t return soon.

My book that captures my near-death experience (I “Died” when during a surgical accident my aorta was pierced twice).

This caused a multi-system shutdown with the majority of my organs.

It’s an exciting story that’s not just worthwhile for you to read – this is a great tool to loan to a Not-Yet Believer – talk about over a cup of coffee.

Click here for the deal: http://www.amazon.com/Day-I-Died-Steve-Sjogren-ebook/dp/B00LA9GBVC/

Heaven’s Lessons

If you haven’t read this yet, go for it.

Know someone who is skeptical about the reality of heaven? This might be the book for them.

Getting ready for Christmas

Sjogren Tree

Sjogren Tree

I love it when the Sjogren Christmas tree can be set up in a matter of an hour or so out of a box.

100% of the credit for the assembly goes to Janie – I’m just a tree “Consultant.”

Our condo here in LA is quite a bit smaller than anything we’ve had in a while but fits us and a tree just fine.

Focus on the future

Did you know that Apple stock purchased in 1997 has gone up 9000% to today’s market? I came close to investing heavily in Apple at around that time. I felt led of the Spirit to do so but made a fatal mistake – I consulted an expert who knew all about investments. The famous words spoken by a Christian money manager were, “What’s an Apple?” A couple of years later I felt a similar leading but made the same mistake of consulting this expert. I explained that the iPod had just been on the cover of Time magazine. His response was, “What’s an iPod?” (I was on my second one.)
Lessons learned:
  1. It’s probably not good to confine decisions to Christian professionals (strike probably; insert your own stronger word as you see fit)
  2. There’s no point in punishing ourselves for missed opportunities. Nothing will change as a result. List your learnings and move on.
  3. God’s leading always trumps the experts – ALWAYS, no matter what your age, experience and field of endeavor.
  4. There are always going to be more opportunities in the Kingdom of God. God not only owns all the gold and all the silver, because he is the Creator of opportunities. For those who are relatively free from fear doors will open passages we can walk through. I’d much rather have future opportunity than merely the present accumulation of goods. Goods come and go (mostly go). Opportunity is going to open amazing doors and prove that God is who he says he is.

Being Yourself or Being Outward

Like most people, I’m an introvert by nature. The ironic truth is, I struggle with the notion of doing an outreach every time it comes to going out to serve others. The consistent thought that goes through my mind is, “Isn’t there a book I need to read?” Or, “Don’t I need to study something right now?” Even though I have been doing outreach for 30 years I still go through this routine each time an outreach is scheduled. If that is the way I’m wired I suspect there is something in you that that resists reaching out. The bottom line is this – sometimes it’s best to not be ourselves.

#15: There Are Reasons For Hope

Fascinate: Some Things I Learned When I Died
Welcome to Steve’s new book in process. You are reading this new tome as it is being written. These are summaries of what will later appear in print and ebook format.
This is some of Steve’s most personal, heartfelt work yet.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please use the comment box below to connect.
#15: There Are Reasons For Hope
In going through a death one’s hope tank is emptied. Afterwards there is reason for hope again. God is faithful to touch us afresh. He sparks us with a new reality including the following truths:

God is present still.

God will go before me. I don’t walk forward without his presence. He has walked out this path already. I only need to step into his footprints.

God will pour out his presence upon me as I walk in the Spirit.

The story is not over yet. It’s one thing to be down, but you aren’t out. Great things are afoot. We can lose heart in the short haul, but greater things are on the way. That is always true in your life. The best is yet to come for you. Death is past. Good things lie ahead.

#9: You Will Need To Monitor Your Regrets

Fascinate: Some Things I Learned When I Died
Welcome to Steve’s new book in process. You are reading this new tome as it is being written. These are summaries of what will later appear in print and ebook format.
This is some of Steve’s most personal, heartfelt work yet.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please use the comment box below to connect.

#9: You Will Need To Monitor Your Regrets
A death will usher in a flood of second thoughts, regrets and negative inward ponderings. Such thoughts come easily to us in the aftermath of devastation.
Could I have done something differently…
Was it my fault that this happened…
Did I say something wrong…
If only thus and such had happened all of this pain could have been avoided…
To make matters worse, if you have a couple of friends like Job’s, you might get some false positive feedback from them that these inner irrational thoughts are spot on! Amazingly such people have an ability to sometimes accurately mimic our negative inner thoughts. Such ponderings are enough to drive a fairly sane person over the edge.

It is inevitable that voices like these will rear their ugly heads after you’ve gone through a horrific experience. We are wired for this sort of inner dialog. We all, to some degree, ponder matters that are unhealthy. It’s part of our fallen nature to dig into what might have been. A smidge (a tiny smidge at that) of these sorts of questions can be helpful, but only early on in the learning curve. Beyond that such things border on self-flagellation. We need to monitor how much we pay attention to such inner noise.

What ought a person do with such inner thoughts? How ought one to go forward?

Truth: There has been no conspiracy against you. Yes, people say and do dumb things toward you. But they are generally too busy thinking about themselves to be occupied with thoughts about how to mess with you.
Truth: You didn’t cause 100% of the trauma you’ve been through all by yourself. Still you need to own 100% of it now. On the balance you need to move on. Life is too short to ponder deeply all that has happened to you. Let go. Move on.
Truth: Bad things happen to good people all the time. Deal with it!
Truth: Forward progress won’t happen in your life until you let go of your anger, your resentment toward those who have done you wrong. You can move on in an intelligent manner by letting go of negative feelings you harbor toward those who have done you wrong. As long as you hold onto negative feelings those inner irrational questions will repeat in your head. It’s worth any price you pay to rid yourself of downward inner feedback.

#7: God Will Intervene

Fascinate: Some Things I Learned When I Died
Welcome to Steve’s new book in process. You are reading this new tome as it is being written. These are summaries of what will later appear in print and ebook format.
This is some of Steve’s most personal, heartfelt work yet.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please use the comment box below to connect.

#7: God Will Intervene
I was in a coma state for an extended time after my death. When I came out of the coma I was still attached to a ventilator—something that was incredibly uncomfortable. There is something painfully artificial about breathing through a small tube jammed down your throat!

I found it very difficult to sleep while on the breathing machine. At one point I went for a few days without sleeping at all. The ICU rooms at this hospital were pretty boring. The nurses were not humorous. No TVs. No windows. It was about impossible to figure out if it was daytime or nighttime. This all added to my insomnia.

In the midst of my restlessness something vital happened. At exactly 3:30 AM a nurse, an African-American woman, stepped into my room. She was different. Her hair was braided. She wore a bright, rainbow colored sweater and jeans under her lab coat. She carried herself a lot like Whoopi Goldberg. She was sassy and a little rude. She said, “Look, if you don’t rest you’re not going to make it. You have to get to sleep. Now go on—get to sleep. I mean now!” When she said, “You’re not going to make it” I felt a little shiver. It was a dire warning. More than just rude, she was mean. I determined that when I was able to talk I was going to complain about Nurse Whoopi. This was no way to treat a patient!

Soon after she left I feel asleep for the first time in days.

The next night came, and like all the others, I was unable to fall asleep. I just sat in bed staring. All the other patients in ICU were quiet and sleeping but again I was awake and alert. For whatever reason, my inner clock was confused. Again at 3:30 AM in walked the good Nurse Goldberg. She said about the same thing. “If you don’t get to sleep you aren’t going to make it. You have to get to sleep. Now I mean it. Get to sleep!” What a mean person I thought. She needs counseling! If she became a Believer, I thought, God would be able to deal with her anger issues. Again, I feel asleep quickly.

I won’t bore you with the details of the third night. Suffice it to say at 3:30 AM… You get the idea. Same nurse wearing the same clothes. Same bedside manner.

The next day my breathing tube was removed and I was able to talk. After I made some initial comments I followed through on my determined threat to complain to the head nurse. I explained in detail the times Whoopi showed up as well as the way she was dressed and of course her behavior. This woman looked a little perplexed. She explained there was no African-American nurse currently on a night shift. Besides it was not allowed to wear jeans as part of the uniform. She completely agreed that such behavior was inappropriate, but she couldn’t reprimand a non-existent employee.

One of two things happened those three nights.

  1. A.Someone with pull in the Screen Actors Guild talked the real Whoopi into visiting me those nights at University Hospital. In that case, she was just being herself. Therefore this story was not all that amazing. Or,
  2. B.God put this together. He called upon his cast of African-American angels. One of them stopped by my room a few times to do his bidding. (By the way, I wasn’t aware there were African-American female angels. I had always assumed all angels were blondes with blue eyes of Scandinavian descent like me. That’s how they look in paintings anyway.)

In any case, this “nurse” saved my life. The sleeping meds were revving me up. They were having the opposite of their intended effect. Her words were life giving if rough. I needed it.
When we go through an utter death we need a deposit to compensate for what we’ve lost. God comes alongside us with amazing nearness. Our part is to simply anticipate his presence. Loss is coming your way. In this fallen world that is a certainty. The good news is God is coming your way as well.