057: Who Is Driving Your Life? [Podcast] – Todd Stocker.com

who is driving your life.001Have you ever felt like your life was going in circles? Have you ever wanted to take control and make positive changes in your life?  Today, I’ll give you some advice that will help you take back your life.


Who is driving your life?  Is it you or someone else?

Invictus Poem:

“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”

– William Ernest Henley


You and I allow other people or even situations to drive our lives. 

Dan Miller talks about creating a transition plan.


  1. Identify where you want to go.
  2. Figure out where you are now.
  3. What are the obstacles in your way
  4. What is the first step that you need to take to get there

Remember, you have more control than you think!

This is where life-coaching comes in. Coaching is different from counseling.  Click here to find out more about Coaching.

Counseling is outside in. Coaching is inside out.





5 Ways To Choose Happy – Todd Stocker.com

chosehappy(The inspiration for this post comes from a comment make by my free Facebook groupYou can request to be a part of it here).

For me, spring changes everything.  The weather warms.  The birds rehearse their symphonies.  The ground reveals its growing hidden treasures.  The season lifts my spirits and makes me happy in a way that is unique. 

As wonderful as it is, I realize the environmental changes are external to me.  They happen outside of me and I react to them — in essence, making me a slave to their movements.  But did you know that there is a way to experience ‘Happy’ –beginning on the inside?  Did you know there are some simple practices that will change your attitude almost instantly.

Here are a few:

  • Shift Your Focus.  Most of us tend to let our attention drift to the small percentage of things that are going wrong in our lives.  When you’re feeling blue, shift your focus to that which is going well.  Sometimes, I write them down on paper.


  • Force A Smile.  Studies show that your physiology can affect your psychology.  When you feeling down, smile and make sure you show teeth.  When you do this in public, you’ll be amazed at how many people smile back at you.


  • Pray.  Praying activates a part of your brain that forces negative emotions to run and hide!  Praying helps you understand that there is someone bigger than you who has way more control over your circumstances than you do. 


  • Eat Clean.  Processed and ‘fake food’ stimulates your system momentarily but then drops you low on the emotional scale.  Eat greens and healthy meats to cleanse your system and positively affect your emotions.  Combine eating clean and exercising and you have a winning combination!


  • Choose Happy.  I know.  That’s the title of this post.  But when you tell yourself, “I Choose Happy,” you are making a commitment not to be weighed down by the emotions that are attached to external events.  When you make this kind of commitment, you are able to approach difficult work less emotional and more solution based!

Comment below on how you “Choose Happy.”


first name signature transparent small

(The inspiration for this post comes from a comment make by my free Facebook groupYou can request to be a part of it here).

You Need A Challenge And Here’s Why – Todd Stocker.com

okpit3.001Raise your mental hand if you have ever said ‘yes’ to something that sounded fun, realized that you were in over your head but then completely enjoyed the experience?

If you’re an ‘I’ on the DiSC personality assessment, most likely you’ll be the first to show your armpits.  We ‘i’s’ love anything that sounds fun, no matter how hard it may be.  Jump out of an airplane? I’m in.  Free-dive to an ocean depth of 150 feet? Show me my snorkel.  Play the banjo in a pit orchestra supporting a stellar high school cast performing Roger and Hammerstein’s musical, ‘Oklahoma’, when you have strummed the hummer in many moons?  I pick that! 

Yes, that has been my extra-work world for the past few weeks.  I was hoodwinked by my dear friend Jyl who needed my dusty talent to round out the sound and as an ‘i’, I took it.  I had no idea what I was doing and hadn’t played really since a kid in Shakey’s pizza parlor, but I lassoed the hard opportunity because I knew it would push me.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 7.53.33 AM

That’s what hard opportunities do.  They push you — push you to grow, push you to discover, push you to be better.  Too many of us live in a comfort zone that God intended only for recovery, not for dwelling.  He designed your skills and capabilities not to be used to create a nest in which you hunker down and live ‘comfortably’.  Your unique wiring can light up the world and flood you with that illusive sense of purpose, meaning and contentment.  

When was the last time you did something that you knew was within you abilities but outside your comfort zone?  When was the last time you served in a role that matched your passion and challenged your fear?  When was the last time you said ‘yes’ to a hard opportunity because you had no idea what you were doing? 

Performance weekend is this weekend.  Our whole crew has jitters but we don’t care.  We are loving what we’re doing because we are all challenge and we are doing it together.    


first name signature transparent small


What Decorates Your Life? – Todd Stocker.com

Christmas DecorationsIt’s early in the morning and my view is an elegant one.  Our simple Christmas tree, with small white lights and history-telling ornaments, stands in its ‘once-a-year’ place in front of our living room window.  Presents have begun to appear underneath its green branches and transparent red ribbons stream from Star to stump.

Decorations are part of why I love Christmas.  They change my environment and freshen my ordinary spaces.  They call me to seasons and renew my interests in things that have passed and things that will be.  If alive, they’d be proud because they know that even the smallest, simplest ones create and even smaller and simpler joy within me.  But that’s all I need because joy isn’t measure in its abundance.  It is valued simply in its presence [tweet that].

I wonder if I give that same kind of joy to others who see me? What decorates my life?  Are my words lovely ornaments through which others are encouraged?  Do my actions stream into peoples’ lives so that they know they are loved?  Are the presents that I hold to give ones of laughter, of happiness and of love? 

In a lowly backroom of an overcrowded guest-house — the place where animals lived during the winter months — God decorated the world with hope.  He offered the world sanity in the midst of  instability and light in the middle of chaos.  Jesus, the child promised, decorates my life in peace.  And like joy, changes everything, simply because of his presence. 


first name signature transparent small

015: You Don’t Have To Be Old To Retire Now – Todd Stocker.com

never too old to retireIn a few short months, we turn the calendar and start again. Are you ready for the new year? Would you like to do something different? The issue we’re going to be talking about today deals with retirement and it ties in with the new year in a very significant way.


“The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.” Abe Lemons

I picked this quote because I’ve talked with people at all stages of their life that have different views of what it means to retire. Folks in their 20’s say, “When I retire, i’m heading to the beach to sit in the sun and drink fruity drinks with umbrellas in them. folks that are heading closer to retirement say, “I’m going to do the things I’ve always wanted to do.”

So how is that connected to the new year? When I’m doing career coaching, I often do this exercise that helps people discover retirement now. I ran this with my staff the other day.

  1. On a 3×5 card, I had them answer this question. “if tomorrow was your first day of retirement, what could you see yourself moving into.” Take a longer view. Not just “Go to Cancun” But I mean, longer term. “what would get you up and out of bed in the morning?”  Then they’d write that down. We gathered the cards and one of our staff read the answers to the group. We had to guess whose card was whose. The answers were great! On person said, spend all of my time volunteering at an animal rescue shelter. One person said research and live the monastic lifestyle. Another said, write a book. That was fun guessing
  2. Then I asked, “Why not do that now?” The table fell silent. Why do we think we need to wait until retirement to chose to do the things we love to do. Yes you have responsibilities at work or raising a family, but are there aspects of what you really want to do in retirement that you can do now? If volunteering at an animal rescue shelter makes you come alive, start just one a month on a Saturday. If working in the ground or playing music makes your soul sing, find ways to do that now. If you’ve always wanted to write a book, go to bed an hour earlier to wake up an hour earlier and write your book. You don’t have all day to do it if you’re not retired, but you do have extra time in your day. Early morning for me is when I meet with God, reflection prayer but then I dive into personal writing projects, before I get the kids going and move into my schedule.

Often, retirement isn’t necessarily doing something different, but be able to shed the things you don’t want to do. For me, I love writing, speaking, career coaching, Leading… My role in leading a large organization also includes administrative work and lots of meetings. I may be rare, but I actually enjoy those pieces as well. But When in retirement, I’ll continue doing writing, speaking and those things, but I’ll move out of the parts of my job that i’m not the greatest at and that don’t necessarily make me come alive.

So ask yourself the questions, “What do I want to do in retirement?” and then “What aspects of those activities can I incorporate into my life today.” You might not be able to do them at work, but you have plenty of time before or afterwards. You just might need to shut off the tv. okay


Go out and Take Back Your Life!

first name signature transparent small



5 Feelings Your Pastor Feels Every Week – Todd Stocker.com

feelingpastor.001I’ve been a pastor for many years.  I’ve been able to serve wonderful congregations and ministries and have had the privilege of being part of a team to plant a fantastic church in a Phoenix suburb.

Every year of my shepherding journey, this awkward month rolls around called ‘October’ which has been deemed “Pastor Appreciation Month.”  Mostly, I shuffle my ego during this month as it reminds me of how incapable I am in this role.  I know I’m not alone as most of us clergy-folk would rather put our proverbial noses to the ministry grindstone and do what it takes to reach people for Jesus than to receive accolades for that which we feel woefully incapable of doing. 

As I reflect on this calling, I thought it helpful to rehearse 5 feelings with which your pastor may juggle in any given week of serving this beautifully messy thing called, ‘The Church’.  Please know that I don’t pretend to be the voice of the pastorate, but hopefully you’ll find this non-exhaustive list helpful.  

  • JOY/HAPPINESS. I know that’s two and there’s a difference but I’m sewing them together for this.  When we hear that in some small way, God used our words, our presence or our smile to make someone love Jesus more, it joyfully reaffirms and reawakens our reason for doing what we do.  That makes us happy. 
  • FEAR.  Having God whisper a new or augmented vision for the church we serve, most of us try to write it off as the effects of last nights tainted shellfish that wasn’t fully cooked.  Yet, when God doesn’t let us off the hook and the new idea is confirmed by a few others in the church, fear begins his assault.
  • FRUSTRATION. Dive deep into the heart of your Pastor and most of you will find a heart that loves Jesus and wants others to know Him as well.  Sometimes we want to push our timelines and not His. Sometimes we don’t understand why you don’t see what’s in our heads.  Sometimes we expect you in the pew to change based on one sermon or letter blast that 3% of you read.  We get frustrated.  We sometimes get numb and sometimes we may do things out of this feeling that we wish we could take back.
  • INSECURITY.  We are trained in theology, church history and Law-Gospel preaching.  Some of us have specific and enduring training in counseling, care ministry or outreach.  Rarely are we trained in how lead an organization with budgets, staff and programs.  We shoot from the hip and hope we don’t blowup anything important.  Many times a week, we feel more like imposters than pastors.  God help us.
  • OVERWHELMED.  The job is never done and yes, we do work more than 2 hours on Sunday.  Because most of us love what we do, we make ourselves available sometimes to the detriment of our families, other times to the detriment of other work.  It piles up and sometimes it ‘hits the fan’ and retreat is our only perceived option.

Okay, I’ll add one more:

  • HONORED.  The role of pastor is a serving role.  It is a role that helps steward the mysteries of God’s spiritual realm called the ‘Kingdom’.  In the quiet of our souls, we know what a huge risk God took when he called us into church-work.  We know our sin and pray you don’t.  We feel immersed in the knowledge of our incapability as it applies to the perceived pastor-role.  ‘Honored’ seems to be a white-washed word when it describes being able to serve the God of the universe by serving you.

We love you, Church, and most of us do our best.  While the above list seems to be negatively weighted, the joy we find in the small moments of our day far outshines the duties of the office.  I hope I speak for all of us when I say that it is a privilege to serve along side of you to help create environments through which the Holy Spirit can change lives. 


first name signature transparent small

[Pastors:  Here’s a free little resource that may help.  “5 Ways To Balance Your Life.”]

“For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.” Hebrews 6:10

Pain In The Night; Joy In The Morning – Todd Stocker.com

painjoyYou’ve had those nights.  The ones through which rest eludes you and worry torments you.  Your spouse — if married — sleeps soundly next to you but you listen to the nothingness that fills your dark room.

You are in pain. 

If it were only physical pain, you could take the pill, sip the nectar or rub the cream.  But this is worse.  It is the pain of a relational crumble that has you sleepless.  It is the grief of another loss that has you turning.  It is the fear of failure that won’t let you alone.

That’s pain in the night. 

What I love about those nights is the reminder that God’s promises joy in the morning.  Even if you aren’t a spiritual person or you believe this whole ‘God-thing’ is for fools, he gives all of us this gift of joy in the morning.  A renewal.  A beginning again.  A sense that it’s going to be okay if you just manage to get one foot on the floor. 

Sometimes it takes a few mornings for joy to catch up, but wait long enough and God can help ease the struggle. 

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5


first name signature transparent small

I Choose Joy

choose-joy-todayUp here, it’s cold, rainy and dark.  The yellowing tree leaves pretend to be the sun but it’s still rank with clouds.  Such it is transition for us Northerners from summer to winter through fall.

I enjoy the change but I have to choose to do so.  I like when old and new collide into a splattering of colors, but I have to choose to do so.  I happily breathe deep the morning chill that is the appetizer to frost, but I have to choose to do so.

My life – your life – is threaded with changes and transitions.  Losses and hurts, joys and euphorias, all write on the pages our your story.  How is God asking you to respond?  How do you handle the ache of an empty household?  How do you deal with the mountain of responsibilities that lean my way?

God says,

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12.

Basically, God indicates that I have the power of choice.

So, today, as the leaves fall around me and the fall-rain sets in, I choose joy.



Makenzie: Five Times Now, Today.

32638547100I’m up earlier than normal again.  The last few weeks have stolen hours of sleep from me, most likely because of today.

Five times now, I’ve endured the turning of this calendar page without my oldest daughter Makenzie.  Five times now, this day has kept me from work, from happiness and from others.  Five times is five times too many.

39437192100I spend this day, like the four before, pondering.  Like Mary in the Bible, like many others of whom I now know, I think deeply on the meaning of tragedy that befalls us.  Like my fraternity of other parents who’ve lost their children, I pace through the same pictures and videos that fib and tell me she’s still here.  I want more.  I wonder what life would be like if Makenzie had not died in the car accident.  Would it be a good life with her?  Would she be safe?  What would she be doing?  How many lives would she touch?  Would she be in love, married? Would I be called “Pops” by her beautiful child?  I wander the halls of these questions today and I miss her.  Random pecks on my cheek.  Goofiness. Snorty laugh.  Graceful dance.  I miss all of it.

Five times now.  And I have to.

Yet even in the cloudiness of this day, God meets me.  He flips through the pictures with me.  He laughs when a shot reveals Makenzie’s goofiness and He tears when He feels the hurt I feel.  Even five times now, He does the same.  And my sorrow is His sorrow.  My hurt is His hurt.  He endures with me and promises good from bad.  Five times now, He has been faithful.

Makenzie on Easter Day!

Makenzie on Easter Day!

So today, I will spend most of it simply with God, talking about my ballerina and foolishly asking Him what she’s doing in heaven.  I will find a corner in a coffee shop nestled in an old river town and buy Makenzie an iced Frappuccino – she loved those.  It will be the 5th one I’ll end up throwing away, un-drunk.  And in my ache, God will meet me as the clock digits 8:08 tonight, the time of the accident.  And I will be grateful that Makenzie is alive and safe, waiting with God who loves her more than I possibly could.




How to Find Happiness on $1.60

starbucks_coffeeCoffee house gift cards tend to be my favorite.  I use them up to last drop. However, the other day, I didn’t.  The barista handed me my tall half-caf and slid my used gift card across the counter.

“Can you check the balance?”
“Sure,” She said.  “There’s a dollar sixty left on your card.”
“Thanks,” I said.

My normal reaction would be well that’s not enough for a full coffee purchase but I’ll apply it to my next one.  This time, I had an idea.  Sliding the card back to the gal, I said,  “Would you apply the remaining balance to whomever is next in line at your drive-thru?” Her eyes and half-opened mouth gave away her confusion.  But then she understood and repeated back to me my request, just to make sure.

She smiled and walked the card to the hostess at the window.  I took a quick sip of my steaming coffee and walked to my car.

What happened next took me by surprise.

A feeling of happiness and exhilaration welled up inside me.  What caused it?  Was it the look on the Barista’s face?  Was it the fact that I had finished yet another gift card?  Maybe it was the kick of the caffeine.  None of the above.

What caused my heart to race and changed my attitude for the rest of the day was that I gave something to someone without any hope of getting something back.  Even though it was such a small amount, that’s how being a giver can change your attitude and your life!  Imagine what could happen if I took giving seriously!


Winston Churchill said  “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”  I believe that to be true.  Life is more than what you accumulate.   Life is made rich by the free sharing of that which you have.

I’ve become addicted by using gift cards in this way.  Several times since then, I’ve randomly paid for the person in line behind me with my gift card.  Be a giver and your attitude in the moment and your perspective on life will change.

Try it.  I dare you.




maryponderingA quick Christmas Day tour of Facebook reveals “pondering.” The student who is glad to be home for the holidays. The mom who watches her kids as they open gifts. The dad who reflects on his gratefulness for his family. The pondering heart is a thankful heart because to ponder means to throw ideas together and weave them into a tapestry of meaning.

As the sun crept over the line that marks evening from morning, Mary pondered. She thought of the visit by the angel nine months before. She remembered the pain it caused to tell Joseph her fiancé that she was pregnant, out of wedlock. She rehearsed her journey to see Elizabeth and the flowing heart of love that poured out into praises to God. She thought through the last months of dodging the condemning looks of the townspeople and the long journey to Bethlehem. She received the shepherds’ message with joy and she pondered it all.

I wonder. Do you ponder this morning. Jesus birth, the angels, the manger scene, what Jesus did for you – do you ponder it. Busyness chokes deep thinking and selfishness squelches love.

In the aftermath of presents and parties, gatherings and give aways, I pray that you wake up a bit earlier tomorrow and simple take time to ponder.

“… and Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Luke 2:19




The Christmas tree. Tall and green and decorated as a fixture in our home during the Christmas season. Each year, I sit on our couch next to our tree and admire the decorations that are so carefully placed on its branches. I admire the creativity of the handmade ones.  You know the ones.  The ones made from clay or paper.  The ones that kids bring home from school made especially for you.

The ornaments on the tree each have their own stories. They tell of that first Christmas. They speak volumes about your own childhood or that one special year. And maybe, they remind us of someone we love who is not here.

Ultimately all of the ornaments tell our story. One families story. Of hope, of struggle, of peace and of love.

As you look at your tree this Christmas, my prayer is that the memories that flood your mind are ones of goodness and grace.

Merry Christmas everyone.



Evil In The Morning

evil-latteI love and hate mornings.  The love comes from my experiencing the newness of the day, the time I spend in my prayerful SOAP devotions, and the creative Spirit that envelops my heart.  The hate comes from the barrage of negative thoughts that batter against the walls of my holy time.

This morning, I let some of The Negatives in.  They sat with me and told me that I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, that I’ve taken on too much, that I don’t have what it takes and that I’m not making any difference in anyone’s lives.  The result – they told me – is that I should scale back, hide away and quit.

As unsettled as they made me, I buckled them into my car and drove to my coffee-shop hide-away.  I bought them coffee and made a place for them as I opened my laptop to work.  Suddenly, the sun creased across the horizon and I saw The Negatives for what they were.  I saw The Negatives for what they wanted to do to me.  I understood that The Negatives did not bubble from the well-spring of life that God had birthed within me.

If Lamentations – of all books – is true, then what I should be entertaining in the morning is the newness of the Lord’s love, mercy, compassion and grace.  That means, once again, that The Negatives do not come from God.

So tomorrow morning, when The Negatives come knocking, I will recite out loud Lamentations and will wake to the movements of the Spirit of God.

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”  Lamentations 3:22-23



Makenzie – 2.1 Miles Away

makenziestockerI don’t know how many of you have a physical location in which you can say your life changed forever.  As I write,  Google informs me I am 2.1 miles away from mine.

Four years ago this evening, Makenzie finished her last pirouette, landed her last leap, and smiled one last time for the camera that loved her.  Four years ago this evening, she headed home as a passenger in a car that drove the last 2.1 miles of her life to the intersection that I now mostly avoid.  Four years ago this evening, God lifted my beautiful daughter from a horrible wreckage and said, “Welcome Home.”

It is a funny thing how my human experience is now interwoven with concrete and traffic lights.  I ponder how my mind continues to bring up joyful memories and grieving feelings.  But I also praise God’s way of death for Makenzie. Instant. Unaware. Painless.  I am so very thankful that her location – where she rests – is free from all that is ugly.

So today, I choose to celebrate in the location.  Later, I will walk the lake shore that provided a beautiful backdrop for her last photo shoot.  I will sit on the dock in the place where she sat and I will venture to that intersection in which everything changed.  But I will not grieve.  I will only thank God because she is in my future and not in my past.  She is home; safe and sound in the protection and grace of her Savior, Jesus.  What more could a parent ask for.

Sleep tight, button nose.



Easter in Heaven for Makenzie

Makenzie on Easter Day!

Makenzie on Easter Day!

(Several years ago, my oldest daughter, Makenzie was killed in a traffic accident.  Below is a re-post from our first Easter without her):

We have been comforted by many people over these last months after Makenzie’s death.  This week has provided countless opportunities for people to send their well wishes as we walked through Holy Week without Makenzie.  (Another of the “firsts” that we, who have lost loved ones, must endure).

One sentiment has repeated itself from several people.  “Just think.  This is Makenzie’s first Easter in Heaven.”  Truthfully, that was my thought as well because my human experience is the template through which I process life in heaven.  I have no choice but to think that my daughter, Makenzie lives there but follows the time table of here.

I know better.  It is not her first Easter in Heaven.  She has not been counting the minutes to have an Easter Egg hunt or eat egg-bake before the sunrise service.  She has not been fiddling with her Easter dress in the pew, waiting for the Heavenly choir master to raise his arms and cue the first chord of the hymn “Jesus Christ is Risen Today!”

The truth is EVERY DAY IS EASTER IN HEAVEN!  All the joy and laughter is a 24-7 deal.  The pomp and circumstance is multiplied a million-fold as Makenzie, along with so many others, celebrate what Jesus has done for the entire world!  The partying does not end!  The dancing does not slow!  The music does not wane!  Makenzie is whooping it up, praising her Savior and never wanting to stop! (And we are there too but that’s another post for another day).

I can’t tell you how happy and hopeful that makes me this Easter.  Yes, it is another “first-without-her.”  Yes, I wish I could see her crack open a hard-boiled Easter egg and fish out the yoke.  Yes, I would love to give her an Easter hug and hear her whisper “Happy Easter, Daddy.”    But how can I not be deeply, profoundly grateful to my risen Savior for letting Makenzie in on the party?  How can I not worship Jesus for giving His life so that she can have hers?  If He hadn’t done what He did, I would never see Makenzie again.  But this Easter I celebrate because Makenzie is in my future and not in my past.  And I celebrate because EVERY DAY IS EASTER IN HEAVEN!