Exceptional leaders want to reach their ultimate potential in life and in relationships. It is not about the desire to do this but the knowledge of “How to” that can get in the way. During the next two months in the All Pro Pastors newsletter, I want to provide 5 keys that will help you as a Pastor unlock your and your congregation’s unlimited potential and enable you to “Live like someone left the gate open.”
Before I give you the keys, let me provide for you the picture of the “open gate” statement from earlier. My dog Missy has been with our family since December 2006. As our first dog for the family, we learned a lot of lessons on feeding, providing, and most importantly, protecting. We realized that a gate/fence was a very important piece of that last equation. When I let Missy out to do her business, I would sometimes forget to check to make sure the gate was closed. As you can guess, there were many, many times of running through the neighborhood to capture a run-a-way dog. I have learned also early to train her to come with treats. Food can be a great motivator in life. So what does the statement “Live like someone left the gate open” mean for us today? When Missy would “escape” she made the most of the situation and fully engaged in all that she could do, especially the areas with a lot of mud. What would happen if we fully engaged in life the same way- with an excitement and joy for the moments (just minus the mud). I believe we would be able to tap into the areas of our greatest potential. For this month, let’s consider some 2 of the 5 keys that help unlock our gate!
Key One: Learn to Adapt
The first key to unlock your gate of unlimited potential is the ability to adapt to the environment God has placed you in. This not only involves your sight (eyes) but your vision (heart). Sight sees what is in front of you and vision sees what is beyond you. It is all revolves around our attitude. I like the poem, “Two men looked through prison bars. One saw mud, the other saw stars. It is about perspective.” The question is, “Do you have your sights set on the stars or a muddy mentality?” The Apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:11, “… for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (KJV) There are a few items to consider in how to adapt to your current situation. In your new environment, remember that there are now new opportunities to explore and new rules to understand. With each move, my dog Missy would take advantage of the new backyard while learning what she could and could not do. With each move, the backyard would grow and she was able to stretch her legs. Let me explain the “new rules” portion of this key.
Since my wife and I have moved 19 times over the last 29 years of marriage and military, there are some valuable rules we have learned and lived. One of the most important is what to hold on to and what to let go of. We know that if it has been in a box for four years and we have never opened it, we probably do not need it. I will look in to make sure it isn’t anything I really need but we let it go. This is not only important with possessions, it is also true with people (not that you had them in a box). I have shared this statement with many of my Soldiers and young people, “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.” In adapting to a new environment, relationships with others may and will change. It is like taking a train with friends. At different stops, other friends will come on the train while others will get off. You want these older friends to stay but they have come to the end of that particular journey with you. You have a choice. Do you get off the train and stay where they are or do you stay on your train and keep moving forward toward the destination God is calling your heart to? It is hard to let go but there are times when those new friends around us are there to help us get to one of the many stops that lead to our ultimate destination. As you consider the first key of Adapting, consider this phrase given to me by my father when I was sixteen, “If you always do what you have always done, you will always be what you always have been.” This means that you need to learn from your past to help you grow in the potential of the present which leads us to the second key.
Key Two: Learn your Capabilities and Limitations
The second key to unlock the gate of your potential is found in discovering your capabilities and your limitations. The other day, I read a question that made me stop and think. “What is the enemy of great?” Is it challenges? It is overwhelming obstacles? No. It is simply settling for “good”. Good is the enemy of great. How many of you got up this morning and said, “I can’t wait to be average today!” If you are reading these words, chances are you are not one of the millions that believe and demonstrate this mentality. When you use this second key, you unlock a desire to move from ordinary to extraordinary. It is a step from the mundane to the majestic. It is becoming a king when others simply see a shepherd boy (1 Samuel 16).
It is more then just knowing what you can’t or should not do. It is about captivating on the energy building strength of what you are the best at doing. Let me explain the greatness in knowing your limitations. My biggest struggle in life is that I think I can do more than I physically can do. In a matter of speaking (or writing as the case may be), my mind writes a check that my body does not want to pay. It will pay it but is usually costs me more in the end. How can a fence be a good picture to visually help in this area of growth? Many years ago, there was a study done regarding fences around playgrounds, The children in the recreational areas that did not have fences generally stayed close to the swings, slides and the merry-go-rounds (yep that dates the study). The playgrounds that had fences, however, had kids all the way to the fence, some even climbing on it. What do you think they learned? What they learned was that children were hesitant to go out to the farthermost boundary of the playground because they did not have a structured feeling of security. The areas with the fences facilitated kids moving out and pushing the limits. Where do you think greatest grows? Does greatness grow in the safe gray area of hesitancy or in the trail blazing spirit of standing on the edge? Fences protect your capabilities to allow you to do as much as you can within the limits of your talent and strength. You can either do 10 things well or you can go 5 things with excellence. It is your choice. As that second key in turning in the lock, it teaches us to face our fears and failures head-on. As I have told many of my Soldiers and Law Enforcement Officers, “When you fall on the ground, pick something up when you get back up. That way it is not a wasted trip.” Let me ask you this question. When is failure final? Failure is final when you decide to stop trying. Small steps forward are always better than sitting still and sulking or coasting backwards and complaining. Yet, I do understand a time when it seems like it is impossible to stand back up because the floor feels better than the beating. What is that point called? It is our natural saturation point. Do you remember the time you spent in chemistry class testing a liquid to find out its saturation point? Although I never had the patience, it was the difference of a small dropper of a certain chemical and the liquid in the beaker. Drop by drop went the chemical into the beaker of clear liquid until, “PRESTO“, it changed from clear to blue. How does this relate to us? We all have a saturation point. It depends on the situation, the stresses, or the trial but like the chemical, drop by drop it falls into the pool of our heart and eventually impacts and overwhelms. So what do we do? In the Chemistry class, we would record the number of drops it took for the particular chemical to saturate the liquid. In our life, we can begin to feel the saturation point coming by our bodies, our minds, and our hearts becoming “burdened and heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28). If we know this, we now have the opportunity to do something about it. What do you think it is? If a liquid is saturated by a chemical, you can reverse the process by adding more of the liquid to overwhelm the foreign substance. In our life, we can add the “liquid of life” (John 4:14) into our heart to help us fight the saturated situations. What are at least three things that can pour into our heart that help us heal from the “blue turning” times? Three simple, yet profound items that can help us turn back to our original state before the crisis is family, friends, and faith. They help to re-establish a homeostasis type of healing that helps us move forward and begin a new normal. Issues in life will change our attitudes, our perspectives, and posture for a time but the length of that time is up to you.
The last area of knowing your limitations and capabilities is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Once we get settled in the easy chair of life, the longer we stay in the prone posture of self-preservation, the harder it is to get up and get going again. If I am unwilling to be stretched in my life, I will never be able to grow into the leader I am skilled to be. Think of it this way, “Comfort leads to complacency which leads to apathy which leads to atrophy.” Comfort may be great on a cruise (just not in a hurricane) but it has no place on a battleship. If you have ever toured a battleship, you will realize that the sleeping quarters, dining facility, and work stations are not designed for relaxation but for mission readiness. Everyone has a job and everyone needs to do their job. What is your primary job here on the battleship of life? When I am comfortable with being uncomfortable, I begin to learn the areas of my responsibility the best way possible. I seek to know more. I ask more questions. I take the necessary steps to do more so I can become more. Sadly, most people try to act as if they need no help or already know all the details of their jobs. They do not last long in their positions because they would rather preserve their false persona of perfection rather than the reality of their learning.
Next month, we will continue to unpack the last three keys to unlock your unlimited potential. Until then, remember that your limitation is your imagination. With you as a child of the King, make your plans BIG.
CHAPLAIN (MAJ-ret) DANIEL MIDDLEBROOKS
Chaplain (MAJ-ret) Daniel Middlebrooks was born in Plant City, Florida on 19 July, 1966. After receiving his AA degree from Hillsborough Community College, he entered the Active Duty on 27 May, 1988 at FT. Jackson, SC and began his career as a 91J- Physical Therapy Technician for three years at Fox Army Hospital, Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL (1988-1991). In November 1988, Daniel surrendered to the call of the ministry and worked toward his BS degree at Athens State College, Athens, Alabama. He left the Active Duty, May 1991 and entered New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the National Guard Chaplain’s Candidate Program. He was endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention, commissioned as a 2nd LT in January 1992 and served with the HQ STARC until Jan 1994. He completed his MDIV in the summer of 1994 and was commissioned at a 1st LT, January 1994 and transferred to 769th Combat Engineers, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was later transferred to the 2-117 FA in Oneonta, Alabama.
Civilian Ministry Experience:
CH Middlebrooks served at Williams Blvd Baptist church from 1991-1995 as the Minister of Newlyweds, Minister of young Adults, Minister of Family Ministries and Interim Music Minister. He moved to Morgan City, AL and served as the Associate Pastor and New Building Construction Director from OCT 1995-June 1997. He served as the Senior Pastor for Hopewell Baptist Church, Plant City FL from Feb. 2013- March, 2017. He currently serves as the Command Chaplain for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and as the Chaplain for Plant City. His also volunteers as the chaplain of Plant City Fire Department and Hillsborough County School Board-Security Division. He is the President/CEO of R3 Care & Consulting, LLC and Chaplaincy Care, Inc.
Active Duty Chaplaincy/Military Experience:
He entered Active Duty again in June 1997 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He served in the 626 FSB (97-98) and 1/502 IN BN(99-2000); Deputy 280th BSB CH (2000-02) and 1-26 IN , Schweinfurt, Germany (2002-03); 1st Recruiting Brigade as the OIC of the CH Recruiting team (2004-06);and 10th Combat Support Hospital, Fort Carson, CO (2007-10). He last served as the Chaplain’s Career Course Senior Course manager, instructor and developer/writer.
His military Schooling includes Chaplain Officer Basic Leaders Course (93), Chaplain Career Course (2003), USAREC Chaplain Recruiting Certification, CPE (2006), and ILE (2007), and the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School Faculty Development Training/Instructor Certification. CH Middlebrooks has deployed to MFO/Egypt (1999-00), Kosovo (2002), and Iraq (2008-09).
Awards: Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, The Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leave Clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with one Silver and four Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal with one Silver and two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Good Conduct Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with bronze star, GWOT, Humanitarian Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Oversee Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, and MFO Medal. He earned his Air Assault Wings in 1997 and his Recruiter badge with three silver stars in 2006. He was awarded the distinguished Witherspoon Award from the OCCH and National Bible Association in 2010. He is married to the former Arienne Plyler of Brandon, Florida. They have two daughters, Erica (23) and Allison (18). Over the last 29 years of marriage, the Middlebrooks family has moved 19 times and understands what means to “Bloom where God plants you”.