Let me assure you, God can take care of His own reputation.
All of us have had those moments. When, out of nowhere, we are confronted with the type of shattering event that shakes us to our core. We are going through the usual schedule of the day when, without warning, we look up at the flashing of the television screen only to find out tragedy has struck.
As time goes by, we can look back at these past events and remember the exact place we were when we got the news. We can easily recall that moment when life came to a screeching halt. Everything seemed to stand still. It was one of those perplexing times when we felt we were moving in slow motion as everything around us was moving at the speed of sound.
He has proven throughout history that He is able to grant humans the responsibility to make choices while working everything together to accomplish His purpose.
This is how I felt a few weeks ago when I got the news about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Every station rambled with report after report, attempting to keep us updated as the event unfolded, and just as fast as the news flashed, so did the questions in my mind. How could this happen? Who would do such a thing? What would drive someone to such a place of cruelty?
Now, the purpose of this is not to attempt to answer such questions or to have another gun control debate, but rather to address this one thought: “How do Christians respond in times of perplexing tragedy?” We know how we feel. As we stand there and watch the details open up, we learn how innocent children have been senselessly slaughtered and it’s like we’ve been sucker-punched right in the stomach. Many emotions arise that often scare us. We want revenge or at least, immediate justice. We want the guilty punished. We want to hug our own family tightly and secure them by every means available to us. And, we worry that God will be misunderstood again by those who are asking questions that we can’t answer.
...we have the presence of that same Jesus.
Let me assure you God can take care of his own reputation. He has proven throughout history that He is able to grant humans the responsibility to make choices while working everything together to accomplish His purpose. Part of our dilemma is that we think having our questions answered to our satisfaction will ease our pain. In the absence of answers, He grants us His presence. Quip theology and religious slogans don’t fit here. God and His presence can’t be contained in them. His mystery sometimes shrouds His Majesty, but only for a time. In our weakness, His strength is revealed. He will show Himself mighty and we will understand; gaining a greater awareness that ultimately He desires to open our eyes to His glory.
But, for now, we rejoice with tears in our eyes, knowing that more sorrow could be up ahead. What we have to take ahold of is the knowledge that Jesus slept peacefully in a boat full of frightened disciples as the storm rocked, and we have the presence of that same Jesus. So, it is our time to be nearby while those around us are alarmed.
...I will make that short drive every day.
I recently came to the striking awareness of how boring I must be. While in a conversation with a group of friends, listening to all the exciting places they have traveled, I quickly realized that this was not for me. One told of a recent trip to Brazil, another just returned from China, while someone else had just vacationed in South Africa. As I listened, and thought of my latest travels, the most thrilling place I had been was to the local mall.
Now, please don’t feel sorry for me, because it is at this assembly I am able to enjoy one of my favorite past times: people watching. In this melting pot culture, in a world full of creative diversity, let’s be honest – you never know what you’re going to see. On any given day, you can get a broad collection of ages, ethnic backgrounds, and a wide range of shapes and sizes. And what about the clothes? Nowadays, you’ll see outfits that make the way I dressed in the 70’s seem conservative.
“Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
It was during one of these exercises that a great question about leadership came my way. I had just sat down in one of the comfortable sitting areas next to all the other snoring husbands with a double-tall latte in hand, when a leadership billboard walked up. A nice looking young man was wearing a black t-shirt with bold white lettering that read, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
Now, if I were to ask you which point in his leadership outline made the most sense it seems many would straightforwardly say the first one. After all, we are drawn to strong leadership. Every part of society seems to be crying out for it. We value that deliberate personality who is not afraid to grab the bull by the horn and say, “Let’s do it.” We become connected to them because with their leadership comes a sense of commanding guidance that provides an impression of peace now that direction has been given. In other words, when someone is in charge, that makes us feel good.
...out of momentum comes a movement.
However, don’t overlook the importance of the other two thoughts. It may not be as intriguing, but being a good follower is equally valuable. Probably some of the greatest movements in history weren’t created by great leadership alone, but working skillfully together with loyal followers. Good leaders embrace good followers creating an atmosphere where it is no longer about the leader but rather about “them.” Because great followers teach others how to follow, it validates leadership. Then, momentum is created and out of momentum comes a movement.
Finally, the third viewpoint from my mall mentor: “Get out of the way.” As written, it seems a little abrasive. But, as I get past its arrogance I find a great leadership principle. Sometimes the best thing I can do for those I am leading is to delegate a task, get out of the way, and give them the freedom to succeed, or possibly fail. Either way, there is victory. With success comes applause and congratulations, and if the result doesn’t turn out as expected, we have great lessons learned. Failure scares us until we realize it doesn’t define us. When we give people the independence to do their best, regardless of the result, confidence is born.
So, I may not be a world traveler and may not have seen the exciting places others have seen, but if one trip to the mall can strengthen leadership principles in my life, I will make that short drive every day.
It’s pretty easy to say. Unfortunately, it only takes a moment to do. As the pressure mounts, and tension seizes our plan, we reach that place of limitation and throw our heavy-weighted hands in the air and scream out those life altering words: “I quit.”
"...you would be reading this in the dark."
It happens more often then we would like to admit. Culture has even assisted our surrender by providing quick escapes from our commitments. From creating a swift getaway through non-threatening rules, to massaging our conscience with messages that relieve responsibility, we easily excuse ourselves out of finishing.
There are many reasons as to why we would jump off the track of accomplishment and abandon our goals. Is it because we momentarily forget where our satisfaction comes from? Do we find it easier, in the rat-race world we live in, to give into the craving of convenience and settle into the place of ease?
As I have been thinking about this obstacle called “quit,” I couldn't help but think of how our lives would have been affected if some of the great leaders of history gave up. Thomas Edison made over 3,000 attempts at the light bulb before he came up with a finished product. If somewhere in the process he had called it “quits,” you would be reading this in the dark. Orville and Wilbur Wright failed multiple times before success caused Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to become a household name. Thankful they didn't quit? You should be; it’s a long walk to Atlanta. One of my favorites, after being beaten, falsely accused and imprisoned, the Apostle Paul wouldn't let quit win, and two thousand years later, the words of his writings still bring revelation to our lives.
"It's pretty easy to say. Unfortunately, it only takes a moment to do."
So, allow me to get nosey for just a moment. What is it that God has put in you, that you know has to come out and turn into accomplishment? What dream sits in your soul and stirs up the fire of conflict every time you pursue its completion? As your efforts clash with controversy, does that discouraging concept called “quit” flash in front of you like a warning light? Let me be perfectly clear, don’t stop! Because much like the leaders of the past, there is something in you we all need. Something there, that if left undone, generations coming behind you will not be able to benefit from.
In the book of Ephesians, chapter two, verse ten, it says, “[f]or we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works….” When God rules your world, you are not an accident going somewhere to happen, but rather a gift to the world, a divine work of art. You are someone so perfectly put together that you we carry the signature: “created in His image.” That is reason enough to keep going, and not jump ship. So, run the race, stay on track – and know He will always provide enough light for the next step. Press on!
"I have one regret; I wish I was a better father."
Sometimes we gain great insight from the craziest places. It has to be a huge surprise that an alarming lesson could come from one of professional basketball’s most controversial characters. The same man that changed the color of his hair more often than the blowing of a referee’s whistle, Dennis Rodman took a few moments from his intriguing life to remind us of man’s most important position. Recently, he stepped to the podium to deliver his acceptance speech during his induction ceremony into the National Basketball Association’s Hall of Fame. Typically, the allotted time given is forty-five minutes. The enigmatic star took only twelve. Surprisingly, his thoughts weren't turned toward the glory days of the Chicago Bulls, but rather, the heart of his message was captured in one sentence: “I have one regret; I wish I was a better father.”
"...what we need are men...to win in the home..."
While refreshingly honest, I can also hear the gut-wrenching sadness in his voice. It’s another life lesson that screams the question, “Are we accumulating trophies or are we leaving a legacy?” Men love victory; either on the job or on the athletic field. It’s easy to celebrate those victories. However, what we need are men of strength, heart and conviction, to win in the home, but they are far too often found sitting on the bench. Our culture is in deep trouble. At the heart of its trouble is its loss of vision for manhood. Over the last few decades, our world has relentlessly undermined the healthy idea of what it means to be a man. Once a noble call, we have let poor role models lead us to incompetency. Many years ago, a pressured-filled wife told me she takes care of everything from “the mailbox in.” The husband sitting next to her defended himself by stating the pressure he faced each day granted him a reprieve from the duties of the household. The measure of a man is not his wallet or financial portfolio, but rather the spiritual and emotional health of his family. A real provider has a vision for a marriage that maintains a meaningful bond, sons full of character, and daughters who are secure in their inner beauty because they know daddy’s love.
I am well aware of how tough it can be to be a man in this melting pot culture. We can easily be overwhelmed by the many roles we have to fill – leader, protector, provider, friend, lover, and don’t forget, we’re expected to know the answer to every question our children ask. Thankfully, God has given us a perfect blueprint for balanced manhood. His Word, His voice, and His leading draw a seamless picture for being the man He has called each of us to be. We may never stand at the podium to be inducted into any hall of fame, but we can proudly stand before our families and enjoy the victories of a Godly heritage.
Even God rested.
Life is full of cycles. Sometimes we find ourselves in a cycle that has an easy going pace to it that allows us to stop and enjoy the moment. Then there are those whirlwind cycles where everything is at “flash of light” speed, and it's all we can do just to keep up. Recently, it seems that for me the pace of life has been the latter. Because of this velocity, I have often asked myself, “When do I reserve some time for relaxation?”
Even God rested. In Genesis chapter two, verse two, it is clearly spelled out. The creator of the universe stepped back, reviewed His labor, and then hung a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. That being the case, wouldn't it make sense for those of us that struggle with the element of rest to make sure we find time to regain balance?
"When do I reserve some time for relaxation?"
I am always impressed with those that have a deep drive for accomplishment; the hard worker that is willing to put the cause on their shoulders and march forward. But, without a time of refreshing, the only thing that is produced is fatigue or burnout. So, it makes sense to find the time to rest. Here are few tips for those of us who love triumph, but struggle with taking it easy:
Control Your Calendar!
People have a tendency to feel qualified to know what you need. Intimidation is an ugly thing. It gets even uglier when we allow it to dictate our lives. So, it is important that you take confident charge of your time, not allowing others to infringe on your rest and recovery.
Are you Called or are you Driven?
The calling of God brings with it a “still water” peace, as David describes in the twenty-third Psalm that “restores our soul.” The demands we place on ourselves when only governed by a driven nature soon leads us a wild rushing river that quickly gets out of control. Trusting in God’s calling causes us to be reminded when we are not only following His path, but His pace.
Faith walks out when Fatigue walks in.
I have seen it a million times: we allow ourselves to become weary and our faith is assaulted. This enemy called fatigue disorients moods, destroys creativity and diminishes our sense of completion. Weariness obstructs the guarding of your soul and the protecting of your heart. But, faith diffuses the time bomb that fatigue attempts to ignite.
Rest allows us to enjoy the journey of life. In these days of hurried motion, I am trying to live by the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” These power packed words remove us from the whirlwind cycles of life, and let us live out our destiny in perfect peace.
A few weeks ago, while attempting to enter a local store, the door jammed and I was caught in the doorway. Now, you can only imagine how it probably looked for someone as tall as me to get stuck in a doorway. I was unable to go in or out, so I had to stand there completely at the mercy of a mechanism. When it was finally fixed, I walked away realizing how important doors are in life. Continuing with my errand, I remembered an instant long ago where I was in the office of someone most called “a big wheel.” He constantly complained about how little he seemed to be able to accomplish in his hurried day. So, one day, after noticing the continual stream of traffic that resembled a Thanksgiving Day Parade which came through his office continually, in the middle of one of his ramblings, I simply stood up, walked over and closed his door. Problem solved.
We anxiously wait for new doors to open. If they don’t, we rely on our strength to push on through until we get to where we want to go, usually to only regret it later.
Thinking on both of these stories helped me to conclude that there are many different types of doors we experience in life. There’s the open door – we love these. When these doors open, something bright and exciting happens and the opportunity allows us to enter that new “place.” Then, there are the closed doors. These are a little harder to deal with and at times we can try to force them open to no avail. But, after enough time has passed to think through its effect, our appreciation for that type of door enlarges. And then, there are life’s screen doors. We are aware that these doors are closed just as we want them to be, but honestly, we continually get drawn back to them to simply “look” through them. We see something that we’ve chosen to close ourselves off to, but since that decision is not complete, we’re tempted by what’s on the other side of the door.
"...there are many different types of doors we experience in life."
From this, I learned a couple of valuable lessons. First, I learned to control impulsiveness. Please forgive me, but truthfully, my first impulse was to use my size and strength to simply tear the door off its hinges. That would have been a big mistake and a costly repair bill. We have the same tendency with doors in our lives. We anxiously wait for new doors to open. If they don’t, we rely on our strength to push on through until we get to where we want to go, usually to only regret it later. Another lesson learned was to be thankful for the wise and competent people around you. You can only imagine how grateful I was for the maintenance man and his trusty tools. Because of his insight and expertise, he had me moving in the right direction in no time. God puts those types of people in our lives for the same reason. Their discernment and careful consideration help us to “get out of a jam” and keep pressing on.
So, with and without noticing them, doors are everywhere. Some are physical doors while many are metaphorical. Use wisdom in life and walk through the doors God wants you to walk through. In contrast, avoid the doors He does not want you to walk through by keeping them closed. And lastly, the most important door in your life, the door to your heart, it only welcomes guests in. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus declared He is standing at that door and knocking. The verse goes on to say, if we open that door, He comes in and “dines” with us. This is the best door that you can open and Jesus is the best person you can have walk through it.
In Revelation 3:20, Jesus declared He is standing at that door and knocking. The verse goes on to say, if we open that door, He comes in and “dines” with us.
I have now come to believe encouragement literally carries the power of the “gift of life.”
There must be a reason that my study time continually crosses the topic of encouragement. Though I am not certain most times, if for no other reason, it has forced to me to examine it more closely. I have now come to believe encouragement literally carries the power of the “gift of life.” It proves we can pass on that life-giving force to others. By speaking into their dreams and self-worth, we release a force that has the potential to shape someone’s future.
Many years ago, as a college freshman, an instructor signed my yearbook with the phrase, “with talents for leadership in God’s Kingdom.” I am sure she had no idea that I was struggling with significance and self-image. I was completely unsure of my place and value in life. But, those few words from the stroke of her pen shook me. They jumped off the page and burrowed into my soul. They encouraged me to believe that God had a plan and a place for me and my gifts. In addition, this gesture taught me this valuable lesson in life: that encouragement is a gift with starting power and staying power. Those words were spoken to me over thirty years ago, yet they still have a ringing influence.
Jesus was an encourager. He would constantly praise those around him with powerful, life-changing words. In the eighth chapter of Matthew, Jesus speaks to the centurion who asks for his servant to be healed and Jesus openly says, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Imagine the force of life that flowed into that centurion when the Son of God encouraged him with such a sturdy compliment. How it must have enlarged his life and impacted him for all of his days.
One of the overlooked truths concerning encouragement is that as we become encouragers, we fill our own hearts with courage. So, look around and be courageous - find a way to speak into the hopes and dreams of those around you. It may only be a small note or word, but it can carry with it an effect that can last for years.
"...this gesture taught me this valuable lesson in life: that encouragement is a gift with starting power and staying power."
Welcome to to my new blog site. Ill be posting here soon!