Tim Butler

Counselor, Life Coach & Speaker

Get Real

In the messiness of life, it is necessary to Get Real to better understand and manage our unrealistic expectations.

Whether it is a marriage that seems messy, or the family life that leaves us pulling our hair out, we all have some form of less-than-ideal conditions which need attention. Stress can rob us of joy; not living in reality can lead to increased levels of stress.

Taking into consideration the fact that we are not always able to change our circumstances to match our expectations, learn how to find peace with it all. There is peace in resignation.

Listen to the full version of this 30 minute topic.

How To Survive The Dead Of Winter: Burnout

Burnout…that condition in which we persistently and consistently experience less than optimal functioning in our work life and/or personal life. Whereas this can be quite normal, it is not pleasant at the very least, and can leave us frustratingly unproductive at the very most. Also, it usually will not just “go away” on its own.

Just like an electrical fuse that keeps blowing, there is a reason it is happening. Something in our life is pushing us to the end of our emotional limits. If we do not address our burnout and take steps to manage our emotional limits better, the future will look too much like the past.

Watch this 30 minute video of a live presentation on this topic.



Tim Butler gives a message at CedarCreek about how to avoid burnout.

5 Lessons from The Parable of the Talents

One of the topics that is near and dear to my heart is the notion of being faithful, more than being overwhelmed by success. Part of my passion on this topic is driven by what I feel God has revealed to me over the years through so many Bible verses that speak to that end. The other reason I am passionate about it is the increased focus on cultural lies that have been growing in our society over the last few decades. Namely:

  1. If you work hard enough, you can be anything you want to be: True we have lots of opportunities in the free world, but we all have personal limitations. Namely, we all cannot be president, just because we want to.
  2. You can be the best in the world: Again, to be your best is very different from being the best. 
  3. Everyone is a winner (everyone deserves a trophy): Clearly all people are not winners when competing. Some loose. 

In addition to not being true, all those sentiments focus on success, not the value of being faithful

In Christian circles, success can easily become an idol. Tim Keller in his book Counterfeit Gods says this: 

“More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are God; that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. You are supreme.”

Thankfully, Scripture gives us a strong antidote to our cultures misguided idea of success. One passage that explains it beautifully is in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents as recorded in Matthew 25: 14-30. A parable is a story Jesus told which had a spiritual lesson in it. For sake of space, I will summarize it here, but encourage you to read it in its entirety.

Through this parable Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man going on a journey. Before he goes, he gives 3 workers different amounts of money, denominated by talents, which were weights used for money in that day. The actual value of a talent is not clear, but it was a very substantial amount of money to be entrusted to workers of that day. 

To one, he gave 5 talents; to the second he gave 2 talents, and to the third he gave 1 talent, each were given talents according their ability.

Upon his return he asks what they did with the money. The first and second workers invested their talents and doubled their money, and received the masters praise.

Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase of the Bible, entitled The Message records the master’s words as saying: “Good work! You did your job well. From now on, be my partner.” 

The third servant, who was given 1 talent, safeguarded his money but did nothing to increase it. As a result he was condemned by the master for his inactivity.

The parable of the Talent teaches us at least 5 important things about the biblical meaning of success while dispelling the cultural myths listed above. 

1. We are not all created with equal skills, abilities and opportunities.

The narrative says each man was given talents “according to his own ability.

The master understood that the one-talent servant was not capable of producing as much as the five-talent servant. Initially we may read that and say “that doesn’t seem fair.”

But intuitively we know that diversity is woven into the tapestry of our world. We are all different in many ways. Not to say we should not treat everyone humanely, with respect and dignity. But, for example, we are not all created as athletically inclined and as such we cannot all be in professional sports. Again, not a bad thing, just a reality.

As one commentator (Hugh Whelchel: Exec. Dir. of the Institute for Faith Work & Economics) puts it,

“In a free society, absent of dishonesty and cronyism, disparity of wages is not a sign of injustice; it is the result of God’s diversity within His creation. But even though we are not created equal in regards to the talents given, there is an equality found in this parable and in Gods economy; it comes from the fact that it takes just as much work for the five-talent servant to produce five more talents, as it does for the two-talent servant to produce two more talents. That is why the reward given to each by the master is the same. The master measures success by the degree of effort.”

2. Success only occurs when we take action.

  • Adam and Eve were put in the garden to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15)
  • Paul told the church in Thessalonica that if someone did not work, they should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
  • Proverbs 12:11 tells us that“Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense” 

A farmer has to work the land to get crops, but he cannot guarantee the outcome of that planting. But without working the land, he will definitely not reap a harvest.

The man receiving only 1 talent did not work, and as a result he earned nothing in return. Out of fear he kept his talent buried, the passage says, and thus guaranteeing it would not be lost, or, put another way, he would not fail. 

It’s our job to be faithful with all God has given us, which means we need to leverage our opportunities.  We are to work; using our talents to glorify God, to serve the common good, and to further the Kingdom.

Biblical success is working diligently, in the here and now, using all the talents God has given us to produce the return, expected by God.

3. When we do work, our efforts are to be aimed toward God and not our own self-pleasure or agenda.

It was not uncommon in those days for masters to entrust possessions to their servants in their absence. If we are followers of Christ, we are His servants—we chose to die to self, and follow Him. The Bible teaches us that everything we have—whether acquired or given at birth—is Gods.

Paul says in I Corinthians (6:20), that we are not our own, we have been bought with a price of His life. So Christ has a claim to everything which belongs to us—everything which may be turned to good. We are told to glorify God as we use our bodies in our work. Our end is not self-satisfaction, but God-satisfaction.

However, that does not mean that “winning” is wrong—if God gave you the ability to win when competing with others, and, you give God the credit. Eric Liddel, for example, portrayed this in the classic movie, “Chariots of Fire”. He said that “when I run I feel (God’s) pleasure”.  And he also said, “to give that up would be to hold (God) in contempt. To win is to honor Him”

Winning is relative to what others have: Your success is relative to what you have.

We are not all winners—contrary to current cultural lies. 

Winning depends on who else is playing the game. 

But we can all be successful when we do the absolute best we can. Both servants were successful, even though one ended up with a greater return

Because we live in a fallen world, we may not always “feel His pleasure” when we are being faithful to do the work God has given us—or at least not the pleasure we will feel in Heaven. But to the degree that we remind ourselves that we are here to honor God, we can find peace in our faithfulness. Seeking to win to honor Him.

4. God always gives us everything we need to do what He has called us to do.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). The Master, in the parable, expected his servants to do more than passively preserve what had been entrusted to them. God expects us to generate a return by using our skills and abilities toward a productive end

The servant who received 5 talents had everything necessary to produce 5 more. The servant who received 2 talents had everything necessary to produce 2 more. The servant who received 1 talent had everything necessary to produce 1 more. But out of fear, he chose to do nothing. 

Fear trumps faith, if we let it.

When we you attempt to follow what God has entrusted to you it is not always easy. That’s why it is so important to stay faithful and let God take care of the success. Never so true as when a new life has been entrusted to you, called a baby. Even though God gives us everything we need, to be the parent he wants us to be, the role of a faithful parent will have plenty of pushback and opposition until adulthood is accomplished—sometimes beyond!

The key is to stay faithful and let God take care of the success. Just like the servant who—out of fear—did not invest his talent, so too with parenting, fear of our child’s response can make us back away from the mission.

 Fear trumps mission if we let it. Fear makes cowards of us all, if we listen to its message more than God’s Words.

In Ephesians 2:10 Paul says we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

God does not NEED us, but He has chosen to use us in this thing called life.

In Ezekiel 3, the Lord told Ezekiel to take His word to heart, and then to share it with the Jewish exiles in Babylon—where Ezekiel himself was an exile. God told him in to speak the words “whether they listen or not”. In other words, determine to be faithful in speaking the Word, not worrying about the success of them receiving the Word 

5. We will be held accountable.

The unfaithful servant in the parable did not waste the masters money, he wasted an opportunity.

As a result he was judged wicked and lazy. I am sure we have all felt that wasted opportunity from time to time as it relates to sharing the gospel. We are responsible for what we have been given, and one day we will be held responsible.

Genesis 1:28 says

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

Nancy Pearcey, in her book Total Truth, explains why it’s been called the “cultural” mandate.

The first phrase, ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, ‘subdue the earth,’ means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, and compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations—nothing less.”

The introduction of sin has corrupted all areas of culture.

But one thing is clear, we are told to make disciples of all nations, and, we are not here to merely wait for our fire insurance to kick in.

  • We are here as ambassadors of the Creator
  • We are created beings, placed into God’s created world
  • We work at the pleasure of our Lord and our work is to be driven by our love of our master
  • Our only desire should be to hear Him say, when He returns, “well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the master”

A man who was a committed Christian and the most successful college basketball coach in history, the late John Wooden, when asked how he defined success, said this: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable”

Success is when you lay your head on the pillow at night, knowingyou were faithful to do what you were called to do. And certainly the proper balance is to ensure that we do our best to glorify God, and not to just make ourselves look good.


  • Think back to the parable of the talents to see which servant might best represent your life.
  • In your quiet time, inquire of God as to what areas of your life He is calling you to increase your faithfulness.

NOTE: Some thoughts from byfaithonline.com were used in the content of this blog

Emotions: Real, but not always reflecting reality

I had the great privilege of sharing those thoughts—and more—over a recent weekend at Cedar Creek Church. Regardless of the place you occupy in your spiritual journey, we all have emotions we try to manage and sort through. Some struggle more with feelings than others, depending on how you are wired. But we were created with the ability to feel deeply when life comes at us with circumstances we did not expect. The title of the series was Comeback; overcoming from what life has dealt you, or, recovering from life choices that were harmful.  Let me share some of the more salient points.

You can watch the entire message below.

Emotions are real, but, they do not always reflect reality. Just because you feel hopeless, for example, does not mean that life is—in fact—hopeless. It may just be your emotions clouding your vision.

We certainly cannot deny our emotions, but we also cannot deify them, or make them the only driving force in our lives. Balance. Perspective. Time. These all play a part in managing them.

It is my belief that God created us. As such it is super comforting to know that God does not change, even though my circumstances and moods can fluctuate greatly. We all need something to hang on to; some reason to hope. We have more stability with a power that is greater than us. The Creator of the universe is my anchor.  That gives me hope in dark times.

Depending on your spiritual journey, the name Jesus Christ may engender peace…or all kinds of questions. That’s fine. 

The Bible says once we begin a life devoted to following the example of Jesus, and understanding that we are a sinner and need Jesus as our savior, he will never let us go. That will bring comfort in the middle of whatever you are trying to recover from: Peace in the middle of the storm. 

One component to the Comeback is the notion of time. We are not a patient culture in 2016. Now, more than ever, we are led to believe that we can have almost anything super fast. Immediate gratification. Instant results. Quick fix.

Regrettably though, that does not always apply to our emotional healing. Life takes time. Emotional healing takes time. 

Process our emotions and follow the will of our Creator in our lives. Simple but not easy.

Think about it; God creates us and has a plan for our lives. We, on the other hand, are consumed with our own agenda. That is a natural response, but not an effective way of living life, long term. So, as a final step for overcoming whatever it is in your life that has you down, reconnect with your Creator and see what his plans are for you now. 

Look at your pattern of behavior, actions, responses, emotional reactions. See which ones are helpful, and be honest about the ones that are not helping, and the ones that might not be Godly. Let someone speak into your life, if you are not able to see your blind spots clearly (who can, right?). Change what you need to change and reexamine your relationship with God. 

Some thoughts to ponder as you attempt to keep those emotions in the right place, as you move over the boulders in your life. 

Free Download: Wheel of Life

How Balanced Is Your Life?


Once you’ve completed each category, connect the marks to see how balanced your life is right now.

A perfectly balanced life would be represented by a perfect circle.

But life isn’t perfect. Is it? Use what you find out to set new goals for yourself. Be specific in goal setting. Repeat the process to keep track of your improvements.

Why Invest in a Life Coach?

Maybe by process of elimination I can help you answer that question:

  • I do not suggest a Life Coach if you have all the answers to life’s complexities 
  • I do not suggest a Life Coach is you want to stay exactly where you are now, financially, emotionally, vocationally, spiritually, physically, and relationally
  • Definitely do not hire one if you hate looking at yourself in a metaphorical mirror

OK. So you get my point. 

Life Coaching is not for everyone. However, it can be a game changer for those who present with the following characteristics:

  • You love gaining new insight in your life
  • You are going through transition and need an objective professional opinion
  • You need someone to hold you accountable to the plans you make
  • You are a procrastinator and are slow to make any plans
  • You need inspiration and motivation
  • You want to know why you’re consistently making the same self-defeating mistakes 
  • You listen to your emotions more than the realities in your life, and you hate that about yourself

Now I could go on, but clearly there is a lot of room in most people’s lives for personal improvement.  Life Coaching will not solve all your problems. Actually, it really won’t solve any problems, but, it will give you the space, direction, and encouragement that you need to analyze and improve your life. 

By definition, Life Coaching sheds light on your current trajectory and habits and provides you with objective insight that can help you remove roadblocks. It will show you where you are now, and where you need to go. 

Life Coaching will help you establish your own priorities and an action plan(s) that you can—and will—put in place. I say “will” because the very fact that you put forth the time and money to hire a Life Coach says a lot about your readiness. 

A Life Coach helps you stay focused and on target. A good Life Coach should only want the best for you that you can create, and never attempt to make you a clone of his/her life. 

Life is very personal, but should not be lived in secret. 

Open yourself up to the objectivity of a trained opinion and see if you can move forward in ways you may have not thought of previously. Or, jump on the opinion-train that claims that Life Coaching is a waste of money and is only good for letting someone else tell you what to do.  Who needs that?

Your call. If you make it.

Right vs. Happy

You can be right, or you can be happy, but you can’t be both.

Have you heard that before? Or, have you ever said that to yourself? Chances are it’s not new to you, but the larger question is, how accurate do you feel it applies to your life?

I remember sharing this thought with a fellow golfer who was frustrated with the organizer of the golf outing. The components that were bothering this golfer were things that only the organizer was able to change. The golfer could either keep railing against the policies, or, accept them. He chose the former. When I shared my comment of right vs. happy with him, he looked at me with a blank stare and said, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

In my practice as a therapist and my work as a life coach, I often quote the right vs. happy mantra and get the very same response; blank stare. We feel so justified in our rightness, that we lose sight of the impossibility of our efforts. Clearly we all know the other oft-quoted sentiment of doing the same thing over and over again—expecting a different result—qualifying for a diagnosis of insanity. But, yet when we find ourselves in this loop of insanity, we justify it with our own passion for rightness.

Never so true as in a marriage, or long-term employment relationship. These are the dyadic relationships that are long-term, predictable, repetitive, socially intimate and potentially most irritating. We do not like what someone else does, and we experience them doing it again and again. We have spoken to them about our views and preferences, but nothing seems to change. We may have even straight-up asked them to stop, but they chose not to comply with our wishes.

So now what? I have a right to be happy. Wait, they are getting in the way of my happiness. So, now, my unhappiness is their fault. I am irritated. I am a victim. And the cycle continues.

Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy? That is the question I must wrestle with if I am to live in emotional freedom. Sometimes, the more right I stay, the moremiserable I become. What is the answer?

Death to our expectations. Death to our sense of control. Grieving.

We refuse to grieve. We refuse to give up hope of change in the other person, or the situation over which we have no control. We don’t like to let go. We also don’t like to give in. Seems to be a defeatist attitude doesn’t it? “So what, am I to have no expectations?“, I hear repeatedly. Well, that might be the first step in heading down the road towards peace, versus, rightness.

But really, are there not endless shades of gray between the polarities of black and white? Are there not other options that we could explore and employ? Does it have to only be, hang on to rightness, or merely lose?

The point is to be aware enough of our own struggles, and corresponding inner turmoil (research Emotional Intelligence for more on this) to know when we need to loosen our grip on rightness and look to our own peace or joy. I loved the quote I read (forgetting which author) after the death of my daughter in 2002 which said there was peace in resignation. It is so true. When I resign myself to the truth of my reality, I will then be better equipped to secure peace.

But we hate to lose control, and resigning seems to not be an American value. But then, neither is peace, or joy it seems. We find great merit in not giving up. Stick it out. Determination. Resolve. Don’t they apply? Sure. But now we are back to the shades of grey.

A coaching client recently wrote this about her experience with this inevitable dichotomy:

“Right versus Happy. I had never thought of it that way – for almost ten years of my marriage I had been holding onto right!  This sense of right was controlling me and I refused to let go.  I would feel so justified in my rightness that I was willing to fight (either internally or outwardly) unceasingly until I felt “understood”, because after all I was right.  But honestly, almost never, did I ever feel happy.  Even if I ended up being right.

The most recent example the engine light in my new van was malfunctioning and constantly reading check engine every time I started up the van.  I had asked my husband to get the light fixed and for months he continued to say that he would take care of it. For months I waited and it never happened.  Every time I drove somewhere there was a constant nagging and annoyance that would take over me.  Depending on my day, mood, circumstances I would just deal with it huffing and puffing or I would become angry and justified and begin to nag my husband about it.

Then one night while driving home with my four small kids I decided that I had enough, that I was right the engine needed tended too and that I was no longer going to let him get away with it.  I laid into him.  I was mean and I demanded my sense of right with every word I shouted.  It didn’t end pretty, in the end I was the one apologizing and I was the one miserable.  It felt disgusting.  The next day an appointment was made to fix the engine but I still didn’t feel any better – in fact I felt more miserable.

As a result, this notion of not being able to be both right and happy was brought to my attention.  It was the most revolutionary thing I had ever heard.  For years I had been trying to control my anger (in my marriage) with Bible verses, talking to friends, excusing myself for a walk in the heat of the moment and although these were goodand healthy steps to take I wasn’t really experiencing a lot of victory. My heart was still feeling annoyance, anger, disappointment and justification. I wouldn’t let go of things and when they had stewed long enough I would unleash – despite my best efforts to keep calm.

My heart needed to change and I began to really think about and digest this idea of not being able to be both right and happy at the same time.  I thought about it in connection with my own life; my history of emotionally exploding, my annoyances with my husband and it all began to add up.  Although I was “right” in many of these situations, there was ultimately a choice that needed to be made.  If I chose to pursue being right, it would came at a cost.  The cost of fighting with and belittling my husband, the cost of losing control, the cost of living annoyed and frustrated and ultimately it was never worth it. I always ended up feeling worse, never happy and empty.  But choosing happiness in these moments though and laying aside my right to be right wasn’t near as costly and actually a lot more freeing.

I began to experience victory as I have started to walk this out over the last several months.  Most recently we had taken our family out to eat. As you can imagine with four little ones under 5 it can be quite the dining experience.  For whatever reason, I was mad at my husband that night while leaving the restaurant.  I decided I was going to let him know about it when we got home and the kids were asleep.  Then the phrase, “You can’t be both right and happy tonight, Ali” began to play in my head.  I thought about it – and it was so true.  Although I was pretty certain I had valid reasons to be right that night it wasn’t worth the cost.  If I started in on my husband, even gently expressing all my annoyances it was going to come with a cost.  It was going to create distance between us for the rest of the evening, it would allow things to stew that didn’t need to be said, it would make me feel angry, grouchy and I didn’t want to spend my evening in a funk.  My rightness was so not worth it!  So I let it pass and it was a glorious and sweet night.  I was so glad I chose happy in that moment.

I now have written on a piece of scratch paper and taped it under my coffee pot – “Right vs. Happy”, as a reminder to choose happy over right.  As I continue to practice this and put it into action I am a strong believer that it is worth it every time. Tim, said it so clearly, ”Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy? That is the question I must wrestle with if I am to live in emotional freedom. I am finding, the more ‘right’ I stay, the more miserable I become.” I am going to choose happy!”


Ali G. Bowling Green, Ohio


Is your situation one in which you are finding a pattern of being filled with angst, more than being able to create rightness? If so, then maybe it would be prudent—and healthy—to resign yourself to your reality. And pursue happiness.