You entered our world today, December 18, 2014, and may I just say, you didn’t disappoint! We fretted a little that we wouldn’t get here in time from Alabama, but like the gentleman you already are, you politely waited for us arrive, then for good measure took a few more hours for everybody to get their bearings. Then in the fullness of time, you let it be known that you were large (our largest grandbaby yet), loud (probably the loudest, too), and in charge!
Other babies have been born on this day, but only you can claim to have a sister who’s the Sasster. In a world of brothers and all-boy cousins, she’s the only girl, and I think she sorta likes it that way. I know she loves being your big sister. “He’s just adorable,” she said when she saw you for the first time. And no, I don’t know how a first grader knows the word “adorable,” but she can probably also spell it, parse it, and say it in German, Spanish and Swahili.
You’ll learn the ropes from your brothers Shepherd and Fischer soon enough. And yes, that frightens me just a bit. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.
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I once heard someone say that every Christ follower is a missionary or a mission field. And when you cease to become a missionary – that is, a functioning ambassador for Christ – you become someone else’s mission field. Whether that’s true or not, one thing is certain: every believer has been given the mandate to impact other lives positively for a living Christ and His gospel.
Yes, that means you, even though you most likely don’t consider yourself a missionary in the classic sense of the word. But I want to remind you that you quite likely stand on the spiritual shoulders of a first-century Apostle who had this to say:
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
This man dedicated his life to sharing a message of hope, grace and forgiveness for one purpose: winning. But not winning in the sense of producing a gaggle of losers in his wake. No, he said winning meant that those who heard his message became fellow partakers of the good news. That meant an ongoing relationship. And when you read the letters Paul wrote, you see that he did that very thing… he kept “partaking” in the gospel with them… showing them its implications, giving and receiving its encouragements.
So what about you? Who are the potential “fellow partakers” in your world? Who are the people you are uniquely positioned to influence?
Before you give me that “aw shucks” kick in the dirt or your eyes glass over, let me show you three ways to answer that question. Answer these three questions and you’ll find three fields of influence in your life: [click to continue…]
Wrote a letter of recommendation the other day. That in itself is nothing unusual – I do that often and have done it for years. I often joke with whoever I’m writing it for that after I’m done I need a bath, or a priest or something.
“I’ve already lost the boots… I’m just trying to save the hat!”
But we both know I’m joking, and that I would never be deliberately dishonest – that would eventually catch up with them and me.
But between that and the opportunity I have to preach this weekend (here, if you are in the Mobile, Alabama area), I’ve been thinking about relationships.
(Preaching moment: Your life is the sum total of your relationships… with God, with others, and with yourself. As your relationships go, so goes your life. Okay, I’m done.)
This morning I was thinking about that reference letter, and about another one I wrote a couple of months ago. That one didn’t have to do with a job application, and it wasn’t even requested. I saw a friend and colleague’s LinkedIn profile, and spontaneously wrote a letter of recommendation for his professional practice. It was honest, heartfelt, and a total surprise, really to him and me both.
It was also a wonderful relationship builder. [click to continue…]
Ever have a conversation like this?
Whatever happened to ________? I really thought he was going places.
Not sure. Ever since [insert a distracting or demoralizing event] he never was quite the same.
I’ve witnessed countless scenarios like that one. I even lived out a few of them.
The idea of leadership is that you’re influencing people, formally or informally, to move together toward a certain goal. If it were easy, anybody could do it. But because you’re dealing with people, and because leadership often involves matters of the heart, it’s easy to find yourself sucked into leadership quicksand.
At best, it’s a distraction and you lose focus.
At worst, it can paralyze and ultimately destroy your influence.
Here are 10 sloughs to avoid (or get out of today) to allow your leadership to see another day: [click to continue…]
A lighthouse in a harbor stands on solid ground,
Declaring simple truth to all who would see.
“Here I stand,” it calls to the ocean.
“No wave formed against me will ever prosper…
I bow at the mercy of no storm or sea.”
On a firm foundation the Lighthouse in the Harbor
Refuses to surrender, sound the retreat or compromise.
It stands in simple splendor, against the tide.
Though it may show signs of wear and aging,
Though it may look unimpressive to untrained eyes,
The Lighthouse in the Harbor yet still stands upon a rock –
And you… yes, you… are that Lighthouse in the Harbor. [click to continue…]
Today my mother would have turned 76 years old. She passed away suddenly four years ago – a reminder to anybody who’s paying attention that there are no guarantees in this life.
Like anybody whose life has touched another for that long, I have lived long enough myself to see Mama’s mental, emotional, and moral DNA flowing throughout my own and my sister’s life, as well as through the lives of her grandchildren and now seven (soon to be 9) great-grandchildren.
We had our points of disagreement, some of them quite loud. We also had hours of conversation – some of them way past bedtime. And like Abel in the Bible, I love the fact that long after her life here was over, she still speaks to me today.
Give her a chance, she’ll speak to you, too. Here, in no certain order, are the life lessons I learned from her. [click to continue…]
“What is the secret of your life?” asked Mrs. Browning of Charles Kingsley; “Tell me, that I may make mine beautiful too?”
He replied, “I had a friend.” -William C. Gannet
It was 18 years ago this month that I came to this place… this place of tumbleweeds and dust and amazing sunsets and more amazing people.
It was nothing short of surrender. I had given up on me – the “me” of my own making or imagination, that is.
My friends in Atlanta asked, “Where are you moving?”
“To hell,” I replied. “If the world was flat, Lubbock would be on the edge of it.”
But oh what I discovered when I showed up as a shell of the man I once was. Most importantly, I discovered that God was here all the time, waiting so patiently for me to get here. [click to continue…]
Nobody who takes on a leadership role sets out to blow it. I’ve never heard of a CEO who dreamed of halving his market share, a pastor who fantasized about getting the right foot of fellowship, or a government leader who longs to go from hero to zero.
But leadership failure happens. Often. And while it can happen quickly at times, usually there are warning signs. Unfortunately, most of the time we wait for hindsight to convince us of what foresight and insight have probably been hollering all along.
If you’re a leader, or have the ear of one, you may want to pay attention to these seven warning signals before it’s too late. [click to continue…]
(Sort-of-random thoughts on the anniversary of infamy and conspiracy theories and high-powered cold medicine, which doesn’t really go with the previous two subjects but can sure make you see them in a whole new way…)
So many years gone… I was only five at the time. Still I remember the solemn funeral, the haunting image of the caisson and that black, riderless horse, and Mrs. Kennedy standing behind the veil. I don’t remember much else of the time, except for the fact that we had a black-and-white TV with three channels available, and when the president was on TV, we could forget watching Captain Kangaroo or Tom and Jerry because he would be on all three channels at the same time.
Wow… how did I ever survive a childhood without Sesame Street, the Cartoon Network, or Nick Jr.? The “Disney Channel” of course! Which came on for an hour every Sunday night at 6:00 on NBC.
Okay, so – in case you missed it – I wanted to let you know that there are people who still believe that no single shooter could have ended the days of Camelot. [click to continue…]
We needed $370.00. That’s what I figured up after looking at the bills.
That was how much month we had left at the end of the money.
Why was this important on this day? Because I was leading a “praise revival” at a small church in north Texas. Because we were newly-married. Because we were short on cash. Because this was the last day of the conference, and the love offering check would soon be coming in.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that preachers prayed about such things.
Anyway, on this day, we needed $370. I could have asked the Lord for more; after all, it’s nothing to God to see to it I got $1,000, or $10,000 for that matter.
I could have asked for nothing, and said, “Lord, whatever your will is – that’s fine with me.”
But I sensed the freedom to ask – not big, but not small either. To pray specifically for a need. The need was for $370.00, so that was what I asked the Lord for. [click to continue…]