Look behind you.
Not literally; behind me right now is the back of a chair.
Metaphorically speaking, look behind you, and you’ll probably find somebody following you. They may be following your instructions, following your example, or even following your dreams. They may be following your words and images on social media, but that’s not the same thing.
Look beside you and guess what? You’ll find people following there, too. They may position themselves more as friends or colleagues, but they make sure to stay in your orbit. In NASCAR they call this “side drafting.” And people are probably side drafting you, whether you realize it or not.
Let me pause here to roll my eyes and tell you – again – that even if you don’t think of yourself as a leader, you are. Everybody influences somebody. Somebody looks to you as the person to obey, the example to follow, the partner to collaborate with, or the sense maker in their times of uncertainty or confusion.
That leads to the Big Question then… Where are you leading them?
All you need to do to find the answer to that question is look ahead. [click to continue…]
This photo from December 2013 – People scatter rose pedals during an interfaith graveside memorial service.in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Suppose you were hosting an event for a crowd north of 1,400 people. Where would you have it?
That’s a pretty serious venue. Unless your name is something like Biltmore, you can probably scratch the back yard or dining room off the list. But hey, your local hotel ballroom may fit the bill. Depending on the nature of the event, a few church houses or large theaters or auditoriums would work.
When was the last time you were part of a crowd that big? I was there a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve got to tell you, it was noticeable. Parking was a bit of a challenge. The venue was a little crowded. The energy was palpable. Lots of noise and excitement.
And no, I’m not referring to a Black Friday sale at Walmart.
But I want to tell you about a different kind of assembly. One where 1,430 people came together and hardly anyone noticed. Parking wasn’t a problem. Noise wasn’t an issue. In fact, all was deathly(!) quiet, at a venue that was shockingly small.
The location: a mass grave. [click to continue…]
You never know who’s watching.
You never know who models his or her life after you. Sure, there are the ten percent who make it clear, but like icebergs, the other ninety are quiet. Below the surface and virtually invisible, but no doubt there.
All the while watching… for a path to follow… a faith to imitate… or a life that’s contagious.
So walk your path authentically. Believe hopefully. Live abundantly, all the while leaving clues for searching hearts to find.
Because somebody’s watching. And they’re following you. [click to continue…]
It was a funny exercise. The memory-making type of thing that happens randomly when you spend time hanging out with kids. Or in my case, grandkids.
Laura Kate and Shepherd (#1 and #3 of 9 if you’re keeping score) were in the back seat and we were headed home from a VBS family night. With everybody’s schedule crossways on this particular night, I got to be the “family.” We’d had the program, topped off by some awesome brain-freezing shaved ice. They had played in the bounce houses some, and now we had escaped the Alabama humidity and were back in the truck headed to their house.
We got to talking about different sounds that animals make, and I was asking them if they could imitate them. Then, on a whim, I asked, “Can you imitate Fischer?”
Fischer is their four-year-old little brother.
Laura Kate popped up: “Mama, Shepuhd and Sistuh huht my feewings.”
You just had to be there… It was dead-on and hysterically funny.
We went from that to others, like their parents, but the first one was the hit of the night.
Who doesn’t love a good impression – especially a funny one? And it’s true, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – even to an 8-year-old.
It’s also a raw demonstration of leadership at a very fundamental level. [click to continue…]
One of my favorite pics of Grandpaw and Button
It was one of the many differences between us. Maybe it was generational. Maybe it had more to do with personality. I don’t know. To me it was silly at best, annoying it worst.
Corny, that’s it. It was corny.
But my dad did it without apology, and routinely yucked about it.
“This is so-and-so,” he would say, “but I call him [insert nickname here].”
To know him well enough to banter at all – which for him meant more than one conversation – usually earned you some sort of nickname.
The manager of the local bank: “I call her Cuz.”
A friend and pastor’s wife: “Here comes Trouble.”
His and Dean’s friend Dolores got a play on the pronunciation, for no apparent reason: “Doh-loh-reez.” [click to continue…]
You’ve probably never heard of Yarbo. Unless, of course, you’ve spent some time tooling through Washington County, Alabama. This unincorporated community, positioned halfway between Chatom and Millry, flies by your car window pretty fast on Highway 17. A couple of old chicken houses, an abandoned softball field, a few house trailers, that’s about it.
At least that’s how it looks through my window. Yarbo is a place on the way to some other place.
My dad had a different view.
On his regular excursions between Millry, his home at the time, and Chatom or Mobile, he would notice a singular figure sitting in the shade of one of those mobile homes. An older black gentleman would spend hours there, offering a friendly wave at passers-by. And there in the warmth of those Southwest Alabama summer days, my father found a kindred spirit.
He waved back.
Eventually he came to look for his nameless friend and would make a point of tooting his horn and waving. Though separated by all the things that make for TV news sound bites – race and economic status and culture and probably politics – each of these men found in a simple gesture a point of connection.
That wasn’t enough for my dad. [click to continue…]
I started writing this last Wednesday with an urgent prayer that I would get home in time to see my dad before he passed away. What would normally have been a routine knee replacement surgery poked a vicious bear called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. He would never leave the hospital.
Lynchburg to Charlotte
On the plane headed home from Lynchburg. Going home to a father who is going home himself. It seems that everybody – including him – has concluded that there is no fight left. He gets weaker every day and this morning he has some sort of infection that requires everybody to wear a glove and mask to be in the room with him.
I postponed the weekend trip to Lubbock. Cassie and Joel are on the way. They will get to Mobile ten minutes before I do. It’s just a matter of time.
It was both distracting and comforting to be at a conference filled with worship leaders, listening to people sing about victory over death and the power of the blood of Jesus – even the old standby “I’ll Fly Away.” It takes on a totally new meaning when my daddy is about to be doing the flying. [click to continue…]
Imagine with me.
You’re an actor, and your dream is to land a role on the Ultimate Stage – a place where your talent can be on display for the entire world to sit up and take notice. A role that can lead to even bigger and better things. You don’t have to be the star. You just want to be able to show your star power.
The script: Interesting. It’s a modern retelling of a famous scene from the Bible – the time when Jesus fed about 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish.
You’ve been summoned to a callback audition and informed you have a spot in the play. That’s all you know.
Can you imagine the excitement? The anticipation you’re feeling? This is what you have dreamed for, wished for, prayed for, and endured a lot of questions and unhelpful go-be-a-teacher suggestions for.
You. Are. Going. To. Broadway. [click to continue…]
The late Luciano Pavarotti holds the Guiness World Record for the most curtain calls by a singer or actor – a staggering 165. Together with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, he sang in the biggest-selling classical record of all time.
When Pavarotti sang, no one sang along. They would sit breathlessly, passively, allowing themselves to be carried away by the extraordinary power of the tenor’s voice.
“Excellent” hardly conveys the talent the world lost on September 6, 2007.
Garth Brooks is the greatest-selling albums artist in the U.S. since 1991 and the second-best-selling solo artist of all time in the U.S. His concerts literally sell out in 15 minutes. And when he takes the stage he takes his audience with him.
When Garth Brooks sings, if you don’t sing along you look a little strange. Take it from experience, if you don’t know all the words you’ll act like you do.
Excellent? Oh my yes, in a completely different way. [click to continue…]
Why Chariots of Fire Remains One of My Favorite Movies
Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
-William Blake, “Jerusalem”
I was a single seminary student in 1981 when I passed a bulletin board poster for the film Chariots of Fire. Rex Reed called it “A masterpiece.” Vincent Canby described it as “an exceptional film. Unashamedly rousing, invigorating.”
I figured it was on the seminary bulletin board for a reason, so I bit.
I’ve been smitten ever since. Through 32 years of marriage, three kids, 8 grandchildren, and various twists through life, that movie with its iconic 80s soundtrack and cast of young dreamers still captures my imagination. But only recently have I stopped to consider, at the urging of counselor and life coach Dwight Bain why this film still resonates nearly 35 years later.
I don’t care whether you love it, hate it, or have never even seen it. Behind the partly-fictionalized story of Great Britain’s 1924 Olympic team lies the epic question that challenges anybody who ever aspired to anything:
Why do you do it?
I won’t rehash the details of the plot which you can easily find here or here. I’ll just say that four characters in the film reflect four driving motivations. At any given time, any of these characters can represent my driving force for what I do, and each has its place. These motive checks allow me to consider whether my “why” is useful to my life purpose and goals.
In other words, I may be doing the right things, but for impotent reasons.
Why do you do what you do? [click to continue…]