Personal Growth

Measuring what Matters

You’ve no doubt heard the adage…

“What you don’t measure, you can’t improve.”

It’s certainly true in business, sports, and, science, but what about life in general?

How do you measure progress in your life? Honestly, many of the things that matter in life are not measurable in an objective way. But they are measurable in a subjective or emotional way. (And yes, those emotional and subjective measurements are still useful).

With work or business, it might be a little easier because we could use our income. But what about our health, or our relationships, or our intellectual growth?

If we don’t measure those areas of life, it’s hard to improve them. You have to know where you are now before you can move beyond it.

And that’s why I am sharing this tool with you. It’s made by the guy that inspired me to start this blog, Michael Hyatt.

The LifeScore Assessment

(Watch the video above to see my walkthrough of the assessment)

This online self-assessment is easy, quick, and effective in helping you measure where you are in each domain of your life. It shows you where you’re excelling and where you should focus your improvement efforts. On the first screen, you can even select which life domains are the most important to you, and narrow your focus to all of them.

But you can only get the assessment for a limited time. It’s FREE, so check it out today!

If you take the assessment, email me a screenshot of your results page and let me know what your thoughts are.

Personal Growth

WTTWV – We are Sent, We are not Alone

When we’ve been through tragedy, at some point we will encourage others whose tragedy is more recent. That sending is scary, but we’re not alone.

Personal Growth

WTTWV (Part 3): Jesus Brings Peace, Understanding, and Joy

During times of tragedy, some of the encouragement from others may not feel true. Well-meaning people tend to either oversimplify or overcomplicate things.  Here is some encouragement from scripture, from Jesus himself.

Personal Growth

WTTWV (Part 2): Community is Critical

Tragedy often tempts us to isolate ourselves. The truth is that we heal best in community. Beyond that, we heal best in the right community. Do not go through your tragedy alone, let others in to help you.

Personal Growth

Walking Through Tragedy With Victory (Part 1): Introduction

On October 1st last year, I was at my brother, Jon’s memorial service.

This video and the four that follow it reflect some of the grieving, healing, and sharing done since that time. I hope you find this helpful.

Personal Growth

Update on the book, and back to regular blogging

It’s been awhile since I made a video. I’m here with a quick update. I’ve been working on two different projects that have taken most of my creative time and energy away from this blog. I want to give an update on those things.

Number one, my mom and I co-wrote a book on grief. We finished it inside of one year since my brother’s death. That was quite a process. That was very emotionally taxing. It was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life but I’m glad I did it. We’re finalizing a few things with that book now. The manuscript is done, the formatting is done. We’re just getting it figured out where we’re going to be making it available for people to get.

As a part of the launch for that book and getting publicity and some interest around that book for people that we can potentially help through their own grief journey, I need some help. I need some people to be committed to a couple of things.

  • Sharing it with some of their friends and family and colleagues.
  • I need a few people to read over the pdf manuscript, kind of the early reader’s version and be willing to submit a testimonial or a few thoughts that could be used to help generate more interest and more visibility for the book when it shows up in Amazon and other stores like Amazon.
  • If that is of interest to you. Click the button below, enter your email address and you’ll get sent a pdf copy of the book for free, no charge at all. The only thing I ask for that is that you please commit to submitting some sort of testimonial or review of the book. Whether you like it or don’t. Just any feedback, any testimonial that we can get is super helpful for us.

The second project is a suicide campaign called Our City Cares. The goal of that is to unite churches and small businesses and city governments and school districts is a community to combat suicide by spreading messages of hope.

There are a few different ways that that works. If that is something of interest to you, we need all the support we can get for that as well. Click here to check out Our City Cares.

Thank you for being a part of the support, part of the people who support this project. Hopefully, you find future videos helpful. If you do, please share them on social media. Please leave a comment or a question underneath the video and let me know what you think. Thank you.

Personal Growth

22 Suicides in 3 Months. Here’s one thing YOU can do.

22 teenagers died by suicide in Clark County, Washington between February and May of this year, 2017. I lost my own brother to suicide in August of last year. He wasn’t a teenager, but his suicide still very deeply impacted me. It made me very deeply concerned for my community to hear that number. 22 teenagers had so deeply lost hope that they chose to take their own lives. I am only one of many people in the community who is concerned about this and trying to do something about it. One of the things that I’m doing is that I made this survey. You’ll find either the survey itself or a link to the survey below this video. I think that a lack of awareness of the resources that exist in the community is part of the problem. I think that maybe those resources are not very easy to access. And I think there’s still a lot of stigma, or shame, or embarrassment about using those resources. So that’s what this survey is trying to measure.

This is meant to be an anonymous survey, you don’t have to enter your name, you don’t have to enter your phone number, your email or any of that. But in the very last question, for anyone who is interested in staying up to date or getting updates on the findings of the survey, you have an opportunity to enter your email address.

Please take the survey, no matter how you found it, no matter where you live. You don’t have to live in Clark County, Washington to take it, it’s still helpful information. Please share this with your friends, your family, your church, your school, your coworkers. Whoever is relevant in your life that either has a young person in their life or is a young person. Please share this because the more responses we get, the better data we get. And then the more empowered we will be as a community to respond to this challenge of teens that are losing hope. Thank you.

If you would like to collect survey responses on your website, please copy and paste the embed code below:
<iframe src=”” width=”1090″ height=”1090″ frameborder=”0″ marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″>Loading…</iframe>

Personal Growth

Tragedy has Struck How can God be Both Good and All Powerful?

How can God be both good and sovereign, when there is tragedy in the world?

How do you reconcile those three things? How do they work together? These are often posed as a question that acknowledges realities that seem to conflict with what is taught in the Church and in the Bible.

This has been a question I’ve dealt with academically, through my schooling; clinically as a counselor. And now, personally, at a much greater level than I had in the past.

Tragedy Strikes

For anyone is not aware, I lost my brother Jon in August of 2016, and in particular I lost him to suicide. Jon chose to take his own life.

Tragedy is Evil

That is an evil thing, that is a tragic thing that has caused me a lot of grief. It has caused my family a lot of grief. A lot of pain. I have dealt with depression in a way that I have not dealt with before that. And anger, I’ve dealt with anger in ways that I have not dealt with for a long time after losing my brother.

I’ve had some challenges personally that came out of that. That have made it very difficult for me to make these videos consistently. That has made it very difficult for me to write consistently or do anything for the blog consistently.

There have also been some really great things that have come out of that. Some good things. So here’s what’s going on. Right now, for the blog, for the website, I am in the middle of a series, or towards the end of a series on the fruit of the spirit, how to cultivate the fruit of the spirit in your life and your relationships. I’ve been going through those one by one, and I’m due for the video on gentleness. I haven’t done it yet. Because I’m taking a break to work on a project with my mom.

Healing from Tragedy is Real

There have been two more suicides in our community recently. The pain of this type of loss is fresh in our community, in our town. Now, my mom and I, my family and I, we do not want to presume that we have any right to speak into that pain. But, to the extent that we can bring hope and healing to the hurt of others, we want to do that, and we believe that we have a responsibility to do that.

So we have been writing down some of the things that have encouraged us through this journey. And the main product that is going to come of that is a devotional that goes through John Chapter 20. And what’s going on in John Chapter 20 is that Jesus has died and the disciples are not yet quite aware of His resurrection, the fact that He has come back to life after being killed. And Jesus comes to them in a locked room and He speaks to them, He encourages them, He shows them His hands, the wounds in His hands, and He shows them the wound in His side.

Initially you would not necessarily expect that that Scripture is something that you would use to encourage someone on a grief journey, or who is grieving a loss. Or recovering from a trauma. But my mom especially, and with the help of some of her close friends, did a lot of meditation on this this part of Scripture and drew a great deal of encouragement from it. And she developed a talk. She developed a little message from it, and I saw that, and so we’re writing some more. We’re developing that a little bit.

So here is, kind of the crux of the message, the main thing that we’re trying to answer in a way. Walking through tragedy with victory is possible because God is good and sovereign even though there is evil in the world. It deals very much with that question I opened this video with.

This is, an academic question. It’s dealt with by pastors and theologians and apologists, all throughout Christian history. It is a clinical question that counselors, and especially Christian counselors, deal with with their clients.

For me it is a personal question. For my family, it is a personal question because of the depth of loss that we have experienced and knowing that it is an evil thing. And we also know that God is good and God is sovereign in spite of that evil that we have experienced.

So just broadly, basically, here are some of the things that I want to share. Now, different streams of Christianity think a little bit differently about this question. Here’s where I’m at, from an academic level, from a clinical level and from a personal level.

God is Good, God is Sovereign, Even in Tragedy

God knew that Jon was going to die by suicide. God knows that evil things are going to happen in this world. He did not plan for them. They are not a part of His plan, but He allows them. Both in His sovereignty, in His all-powerfulness and in His goodness, He allows us to make some really stupid, really sinful, really hurtful and really tragic choices.

Those choices hurt us, they hurt others, they hurt people that we don’t even know. God allows sin for reasons that we don’t know, we don’t understand. But, God reserves, in His sovereignty, He reserves the right and the ability for Himself to redeem, or restore, good, and glory and righteousness and healing.

God reserves the right to redeem tragedy and to bring restoration, to bring healing to those things, to the pain that people have experienced.

The best example of that is Jesus Christ on the cross. The best person who ever lived had the worst thing possible happened to Him, and God redeemed it. That one in particular was part of God’s plan because that is what made salvation possible. That is what made the forgiveness of sins possible, but for all of the other sins, all of the other evils and all of the other tragedies that we experience, those are things that God allowed, and then over time redeems. He changes them. Takes the purpose of them from being an evil thing to being something that is good.

Redemption from sin is possible because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. And redemption from tragedy is possible because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but it is experienced as a process.

Triumph through tragedy is not a one-time thing. Walking through tragedy with victory is not a one-time thing. It is a process, it is something that happens continually. It is a daily choice in some cases, a daily prayer in some cases, and it’s a daily experience.

So that’s what I have to share for right now. There’s a whole lot more in this devotional that’s coming up. I hope that by hearing some of where I’m at, some of where I’ve been recently, that you are encouraged wherever you are at in your life. Whatever you’re going through.

Some of you have been through much worse things than me. Some of you have not been through something so hard. Either way, I hope that you were encouraged.

If you have a comment or a question, if you’re interested in getting a copy of this devotional, please leave a comment or a question below. Make sure you’re subscribed to the email newsletter, and I’ll make sure that you get information about the devotional when it is released. Thank you for reading.

Personal Growth

How to Cultivate Faithfulness in Your Life and Relationships

How do you cultivate faithfulness in your life and relationships?

Faithfulness is absolute loyalty, reliability, and consistency in your commitments. In the Bible, God’s faithfulness is to His name, to His character, and to His word.

If we are bearing the Fruit of the Spirit; if we are becoming more like Christ; if we are growing in Christ; then we will also be faithful to God’s name, God’s character, and God’s word.

Faithfulness to God’s Name

In the west, in the modern world, we don’t put a whole lot of stock in names, we don’t treat them like names are treated in the Bible. We treat names mainly as a way of distinguishing one person from another, it’s mainly an identifier. But in the Bible, names are also a description, not just the identifier of the person but of the person’s essential character, their essence. Not just who they are in terms of their name, but who they are deeply as a person.

For us to be faithful to God’s name means to put our identity in Him first. The wholeness of our identity, not just,  “my name is Dan Stephens,” but the wholeness of my identity, everything, the definition of me is in God first. It’s above my family, it’s above my country, it’s above my profession, it’s above my resume, it’s above my education. My identity is in God first. As a child of God created in his image, and even though I have sinned and I have damaged that relationship with God, He has forgiven me, and because of that forgiveness, I am becoming more like Him. That’s my identity. Not, “Dan Stephens, the former marine that’s now a counselor, that lives in the United States and he’s a loyal American citizen.”

Your identity, if you are a Christian, is in God first. That’s what it means to be faithful to God’s name.

Faithfulness to God’s Character

God has a number of character traits that are mentioned throughout the Bible, a number of character traits that many different theologians like to emphasize, and just to name a few, God is holy, God is just, He is righteous, He is sovereign, He is loving, He is joyful, He is peaceful, He is patient, He is kind, He is good, He is faithful, He is gentle, and He is self-controlled.

Now, throughout all of the variations of Christianity, Christians are divided as to just how God acts in light of those character traits. I don’t want to argue for any particular stream of theology right now, but however God acts in light of that character He does so consistently. And reliably. And absolutely so.

We as sinful human beings do not act so consistently or reliably. When my daughter is misbehaving, I like to remind her of her character, the things that I know about her. She is kind, she is sweet, she is loyal, and she is respectful. But right now her behavior doesn’t reflect that. Even I as her father, while trying to train her and teach her and help her make wise choices, I don’t act consistently all of the time with my character.

I do not always act consistently with my identity as a child of God created in His image, forgiven by Christ, and being slowly conformed to the image of Christ. I don’t always act in line with that. But faithfulness means that we are acting in line with that character more and more often. We learn about that character, we learn about those attitudes, those deep down traits of that new identity through Scripture.

Faithfulness to God’s Word

2 Timothy, 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God “and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, “for correction, for training in righteousness, “that the man of God may be complete “and equipped for every good work.”

Faithfulness to God’s word means several things:

  1. We treasure all of Scripture, not just the parts that we like.
  2. We teach from all of Scripture, not just the parts that we agree with.
  3. We rebuke and reprimand sinful behavior from all of Scripture, not just the pet behaviors that we particularly don’t like. And when we do that, (this is not in the verse that I was just looking at, but this is a part of the whole series), we do so after we have cultivated in ourselves character of being loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, and self-controlled.
  4. To be faithful to God’s word we correct false doctrine, false teaching, from all of God’s word, not just the pet doctrines and the pet scriptures and the pet proof texts that we like to use. And again, that’s after cultivating that character that reflects the Fruit of the Spirit.
  5. We train for righteousness from all of Scripture, not just in the simple things that we like that are easy.

Some of the benefits of being faithful to God’s word include these:

  1. We will be complete or whole and content, we will be finished works, we will become finished works.
  2. We will be equipped. That means having the tools and the resources that we need.
  3. And specifically, we will be equipped for every good work. Not just the good works in easy times, in easy places, with easy people, in easy circumstances, but also for those good works that are in difficult times, in difficult places, with difficult people.

This is what it means to be faithful to God’s word, to God’s character, and to God’s name. It starts with being faithful to His word, it starts with a high value of Scripture.


Personal Growth

How to Cultivate Goodness in Your Life and Relationships

How do you cultivate goodness in your life and relationships?

When you’re reading through the list of Fruit of the Spirit, it would be very easy and very tempting to just totally skip over the idea of goodness because it sounds bland and it sounds generic and it sounds like you’re being kind of patronized, just being told like a little child, “Well, be good because that’s what’s expected of you.”

But if you reflect on this and you think about it, to be a person characterized by goodness is a much higher compliment than just to be a good person.

To be a person characterized by goodness speaks to the consistency with which you are good, and it speaks to the consistency with which you choose, rightly, between the good thing or the wrong thing.

To be a person characterized by goodness means that you consistently choose:

  1. love over hate,
  2. joy over despair,
  3. peace over passivity or unneeded conflict,
  4. patience over anger, giving up or entitlement,
  5. kindness over neutrality,
  6. faithfulness over infidelity,
  7. gentleness over harshness,
  8. self-control over self-indulgence, self-righteousness, or self-promotion.

When you really think about it, goodness is not just an additive thrown into this list of otherwise good things. Goodness is a multiplier of all of these things wrapped together.

I hope that you find these articles helpful.

If you do, please:

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Thank you, see you next time.