“When my wife and I moved to Florida for her career, I wasn’t sure how this older congregation would receive my spiky hair and outside-the-box personality, but they embraced me and encouraged my vision for the church and reaching out to young persons.”
I serve as the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Reddick, Fla. As the only staff of this small, rural church, I am responsible for preaching, worship, teaching, visionary leadership, pastoral care, evangelism and coordinating volunteers to help with our ministries. A regular week includes 30-60 hours of work. I spend most of that time researching and preparing for the Sunday morning worship service (including my sermon), attending to pastoral care needs and attending church events—such as committee meetings, fellowship gatherings and Bible studies. I spend the remainder of my time completing district and conference paperwork, preparing for weddings and funerals, managing conflict, preparing ordination paperwork and brainstorming/preparing for future events. I am blessed with great volunteers who I trust to prepare the youth and family activities and take care of the financial responsibilities, building management and marketing/evangelism needs. Even though I do not have a staff, these volunteers make my job much easier. Part of my job is to oversee their work, educate them on how to improve and continually celebrate the work they have done for the church.
How did you get there?
My senior year of high school, I delivered my first sermon at the youth Sunday service. This time (and every time I delivered a sermon after that), I received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the congregation. I knew that preaching was my gift, so I majored in Christian Education at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth to prepare to be a minister. I served as a youth minister at three different churches before becoming an associate pastor while I finished seminary at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. In The United Methodist Church, there is an ordination process to qualify each minister for a lifetime of service, and I am pursuing ordination as an elder in The United Methodist Church.
When my wife and I moved to Florida for her career, I wasn’t sure how this older congregation would receive my spiky hair and outside-the-box personality, but they embraced me and encouraged my vision for the church and reaching out to young persons. I have served in Reddick for 2 1/2 years now. In this time, the church has transformed from having an average of 15 during worship to 115. The church started with 5 youth and we now have more than 25. Before, the church was unable to pay bills without constant fundraisers and now we are self-sufficient and able to meet 100% of our conference apportionment payments. Now, funds raised help families in tough situations and help support the family, youth, and children’s ministries. We recently had 26 new members join the church in one Sunday. This is a testament to the excitement in our church, the motivation of the leadership and the joy that new, younger families bring to our congregation.
Why do you like it?
Tommy, Julya, and Luke Sims started attending our church when I first started my appointment in Reddick. I saw them every Sunday in worship, so I was surprised to learn that they were not attending church as a family at all before.
Tommy and Julya enjoyed my passionate and genuine sermons, and Tommy appreciated the fact that he could wear shorts to church. When Tommy’s lung cancer progressed, they asked me to pray for his upcoming operation. They informed me then that my sermons, leadership and attention to youth saved their family, their marriage and their faith.
Tommy died in September 2011 at the age of 42. At his funeral, I was touched to see he was wearing a wristband that says, “God is Big enough,” which I gave all of our church members during a sermon series I did on dealing with suffering. Julya told me he never took the wristband off. She said, “Russell, Tommy didn’t say much, but he definitely believed God is big enough.” There were more than 300 people at Tommy’s funeral, and we have many new church members today because the witness at Tommy’s memorial service touched them.
We had a mission trip in June 2012 where we helped local families with projects such as wheelchair ramps, yard work and home repairs. Julya and Luke both attended the mission trip to serve these families and do the hard, sweaty work in the middle of the hot Florida summer. Julya told me at the end of the week that this mission trip was the most transformative experience of her life and she felt that she could move on with her life after Tommy’s death. Twelve-year-old Luke broke down in tears one evening on the trip. He told me he knows he is going to be okay because his dad still lives within him.
I don’t just like my job; I love my job. To see the transformation of the Sims family in spite of tragedy is just one example of why I love what I do. There are countless stories of families and individuals who remind me of the eternal smile that a new life in Jesus Christ can bring. I continually have more confidence and passion to be a pastor in The United Methodist Church because of the inspirational transformations I am blessed to witness day after day.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up?
As a kid, I did not have much confidence. I felt like I was just mediocre at everything. I played “left out” on every sports team I was a part of, I didn’t excel in band and I wasn’t the brightest student. The only place where I felt special was in church. My youth group included my closest friends and nothing excited me more than to hear about how God can affect our lives. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I considered becoming a veterinarian or joining the military or working with computers, but I wanted a job that meant something to me.
After I delivered my first sermon, this was the first time I felt like someone special. This was the first time I felt like I could excel at something. I found the confidence to be someone through my church and my calling to be a pastor. I was the shyest, nerdiest kid growing up, but now every Sunday I stand up in front of my church and I know God gave me a gift. God made me to be awesome! I am humbled and blessed by the opportunity I have to serve as the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Reddick, Fla.I believe God made everyone to be awesome! My ministry is to empower people to do the ministry they are called to do.
Russell would love to answer any questions you have about his life or your own on his profile. Read more about his story and ask him questions on his Sokanu Profile
I’m a scuba diving instructor affiliated with two international agencies; individual and group adventure planner and leader; underwater photographer and videographer. I teach through private lessons, dive shops and local colleges, and have the qualifications to teach the sport anywhere in the world I am welcome.
How did you get there?
For the first 30 years of my professional life, I worked in the trenches of retail jewelry sales and management. Became a watch repairman —even put myself through the Gemological Institute of America to broaden my technical skills and make myself more marketable within the more specialized areas of the industry.
Most folks would think of this as a dream career, and it was up until the final few years, when things got a bit tough in retailing and Corporate didn’t seem to realize that our customers couldn’t simply opt out of the recession just because they decreed it. Going in to work was less and less of an anticipation and became more and more of a burden to be endured.
Realizing I had reached a crossroads after examining where I projected things heading, I resigned my last position on 24 December 2007 and have not looked back since.
There was no way around it; it was time for a frank evaluation of where I was in life, what additional skills I had, and what I could do to make certain that I never had to grade or sell another diamond again just to make ends meet.
So I followed the well-worn path others have before me and started listing the things I had done, could be doing and most of all—interested me in doing. I was looking for something outside the ordinary and mainstream that allowed me to take advantage of skills I already could identify and develop.
I hit on the unlikely thought of becoming a professional in the scuba industry. Since I was already a certified diver, I started enrolling in classes that brought me greater knowledge and training, and so began to move up the ladder.
I also lucked into a position with a maker of Dive Computers that helped me hone my technical knowledge even further, as well as my people skills dealing with Domestic and International clientele. (Thank you Cochran Undersea.)
Why do you like it?
Even as unfocused as I was in those early days of escape from the Company grind, I had started building the foundation that today affords me the joy of showing others the wonders of a world that most on Earth never experience—the 2/3rds of our planet hidden underwater. Life is enriching and exciting again, full of challenges to be met and overcome. I go to work in swim trunks and sandals, get plenty of fresh air and sunshine plus meet a variety of enthusiastic people who come to my classes from all walks of life.
As time has gone by, I found additional ways to take that initial scuba interest to new heights as a professional in the industry and to satisfy my desire to travel to far-away places and document in photos and videos the things seen and experienced by adding another title—Adventure Leader—booking and taking divers (and non-divers as well!) on journeys to places that will give them the same thrills that I have over the years from Australia to the Caribbean and beyond.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Someone people could look up to. I think I finally made it!
John Lewis is a scuba instructor holding active membership with two international training organizations, teaching through dive shops and his local community college. An Adventure Travel Planner and Leader, you can engage his travel services through the website www.aqualifeadventures.com and get to know him personally through his website www.johnlewisscuba.com or LinkedIn . His next major Adventure will be leading a group of divers to the Republic of Fiji in November 2013.
I have come to believe that high stress, constant anxiety over tasks and work and life, social anxiety … is all a part of the modern way of life.
Most people just don’t feel a sense of peace, of calm, of serenity, throughout their day.
I have to admit that I’m the same way some of the time, but I have learned a few things that have helped me create a feeling of calmness much more of the time than ever before.
It’s a series of habits that have developed over the last few years. I’m not perfect at them, but I do practice them, and they are always helpful.
These are habits, not a one-time change in my surroundings or work pattern. Changing your environment is great, but you can’t control the things that happen to you much of the time, and you certainly can’t control how other people act. The only thing you can control is your response — and this response matters. You can respond to the same event with anxiety or anger, or you can respond with peace and calmness.
Let’s figure out how.
The Habits of Calmness
These are the habits to develop that will help you develop calmness (based on my experience):
A calm morning ritual. Many people rush through their mornings, starting the day out in a stressful rush. I wake up a little earlier (5 a.m. these days, though that changes), and start with a little meditation, then a few yoga poses. I then start writing, before I let the noise in. Exercise is another component of my morning routine. You don’t need to do the same things, but find the quiet of the morning and make the most of it.
Learn to watch your response. When something stressful happens, what is your response? Some people jump into action — though if the stressful situation is another person, sometimes action can be harmful. Others get angry, or overwhelmed. Still others start to feel sorry for themselves, and wish things were different. Why can’t other people behave better? Watch this response — it’s an important habit.
Don’t take things personally. Many times the response (that you noticed in Habit 2) is to take things personally. If someone does something we don’t like, often we tend to interpret this as a personal affront. Our kids don’t clean their rooms? They are defying us! Our spouse doesn’t show affection today? He/she must not care as much as he/she should! Someone acts rudely at work? How could they treat us this way?! Some people even think the universe is personally against them. But the truth is, it’s not personal — it’s the other person’s issue that they’re dealing with. They are doing the best they can. You can learn not to interpret events as a personal affront, and instead see it as some non-personal external event (like a leaf falling, a bird flying by) that you can either respond to without a stressful mindset, or not need to respond to at all.
Be grateful. Sure, lots of people talk about gratitude … but how often do we apply it to the events of our day? Things are crashing down at work, or our boss is angry, or our co-workers are rude, or our kids are misbehaving, or someone doesn’t love us as we’d like … do these cause anger/anxiety/unhappiness, or can we be grateful? Drop the complaints, and find a way to be grateful, no matter what. And then smile. This unbending habit can change your life.
Create stress coping habits. Many times, when we are faced with stress, we have unhealthy responses — anger, feeling overwhelmed and withdrawing, eating junk food, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, shopping or otherwise buying stuff, going to time-wasting sites, procrastinating, and so on. Instead, we need healthy ways to cope with stress, which will come inevitably. When you notice stress, watch how you cope with it, and then replace any unhealthy coping habits with healthier ones. Healthy stress coping habits include: drinking tea, exercise, yoga, meditation, massaging your own neck & shoulders, taking a walk, drinking some water, talking with someone you care about.
Single-task. I’ve written numerous times in the past about single-tasking vs. multitasking, but I think people multitask now more than ever. People text while on the train, while walking, while driving. They tweet and post to Facebook and Instagram, they email and read blogs and news, they watch videos while getting things done, they watch TV while eating, they plan their day while doing chores. This is a great way to cause a level of anxiety that runs through everything you do, because you’re always worried you should be doing more, doing something else. What if, instead, you just did one thing, and learned to trust that you shouldn’t be doing anything else? It takes practice: just eat. Just wash your bowl. Just walk. Just talk to someone. Just read one article or book, without switching. Just write. Just do your email, one at a time, until your inbox is empty. You’ll learn that there is peace in just doing one thing, and letting go of everything else.
Reduce noise. Our lives are filled with all kinds of noise — visual clutter, notifications, social media, news, all the things we need to read. And truthfully, none of it is necessary. Reduce all these things and more, and create some space, some quiet, in your life.
Visit Zen Habits for more amazing and inspirational posts from Leo
Love and Success: How Supporting your Partner Can Help your Career
By Jeremy Newcombe
Working Together For Success
Almost a year ago, I left a job that I found was making me unhappy. It wasn’t a bad job per se, but I found it unsatisfactory, exhausting, and requiring a disproportionate amount of my energy compared to how it made me feel and what I earned. I decided to go back to school to learn the skills I would need to do something I actually enjoyed and had passion for.
Now, my situation is possibly a little bit different than most. Many people would love to be able to step out of their job and learn to go do what they love, but there are unfortunately many roadblocks along the way. I can tell you, I don’t think I would have been able to do this without the help and support of my wonderful wife. We were married last October, but for the years we’ve been together she has always been extremely compassionate and helpful in helping me find what I want to do in life. This post is about how our support and care for each other makes it possible to do what we enjoy.
What We Do
My wife works a nine-to-five in for a good company in a field she truly enjoys. Seeing her get satisfaction out of going to work is something I’ve always admired about her—she knows what she wants to do, she’s taken the necessary steps and worked hard to get there. On top of that, she’s very good at what she does, which makes her work all the more appealing to her. Personally, I find it very encouraging to see someone who works so hard be rewarded in this way, and watching someone work at a job that they enjoy is incredibly uplifting.
Of course, like any job, hers has its challenges. So does my schooling, for that matter, no matter how much I enjoy and learn from it. There are always hard days at the office, or exams to prepare for, and sometimes even doing what you love can make you feel beat. But this is where it fits together so well—our support for each other makes it possible for us to pursue our goals. My wife helps me in ways I can’t begin to describe, and I do whatever I can to make her life even just a bit easier.
How We Do It
For instance, I go to school at night. That gives me the day to prepare our meals, so that when she gets home (albeit always after I’ve had to leave for class) she has food ready for her. Conversely, while I have the time to do the cooking, I have a significantly hampered income while I’m back at school, so she ends up paying most of our grocery bills. This takes monetary stress off of me and allows her to ease up on her already busy work schedule. This kind of symbiotic relationship is incredibly helpful, and allows us to both live a little better (and eat better, for that matter. I have a feeling that without working together we’d both be living on a diet of Kraft Dinner and frozen perogies).
Of course, she isn’t just a sugar momma. I really don’t want to give that impression! Her love and support is not tied to her (or my) financial situation. The point to be taken from that example is how our strengths can compliment the strengths of the other. We work together very well, which is, after all, the reason I fell in love and married her.
I know I’m very lucky. I’ve been very fortunate to have such a fantastic support network—of whom my wife is a key member—that have let me go back to school to study and leave a job I wasn’t happy in. Through the support we give each other we’ve been able to spur each other on to live better and happier lives. I hope that anyone reading this can find the same in their friends and loved ones.