Turning Points

Grandpaw and Archer

(My dad with Great-Grandchild #9, Archer Wiley)

 

I’ve been simmering on this for a while, and I figured since I’m away from home this Father’s Day, this would be a good day and a good way to honor my dad.  My daughter Carrie did this for me last year and reposted it again here.   I also wrote this about what I learned from my Mama last year.

Regardless of the many influences and teachers I’ve been blessed by over the years, none of them has taught or influenced me more than my dad. I have mentioned often that I was blessed to have a father who actually wanted to be a dad and influenced me to want to be one.  With 8 grandkids of my own now, I would say that desire has definitely passed through to another generation.

There are many practical things my dad taught me over the years, including how to drive a nail, play dominos, put on a jacket without bunching up your sleeve, ride a bicycle, and bathe the 36 different body parts that need cleaning up every day.

But what interests me most are the ideas that still speak to me today as principles.  These are transferrable to almost any endeavor. I could just as well title this, “Ten Things My Dad Would Teach to Pastors,” or “Ten Things My Dad Could Teach to School Teachers.”

So here, in no certain order, are ten lessons that still speak to me most every day.  I’m sure there are many more than this, but these are for starters.  See if they don’t speak to you on some level, while my daddy says, “Your welcome!” [click to continue…]

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Garth Brooks

Count me in.  I now know what all the fuss is about.

Went to hear Garth Brooks in concert over the weekend in Birmingham, Alabama.  Definitely a step outside of my routine, but anybody with experience I talked to about the upcoming event told me, “It’s one of the best, if not THE best, concert experiences you will ever experience.”

Yeah, that.

Six of us took a road trip with center-section, row 9 seats.  Close enough to see the sweat and be covered when the confetti dropped.  And as-advertised, it was an extraordinary experience.  In part I felt like an outsider looking in because I didn’t know every word of every song like most of the crowd apparently did.  But on this night it didn’t matter. I was part of something bigger than myself, regardless of my lack of experience.  Garth and his team saw to that.

Now before you “Older Brother” types write me off and resume your search for friends in HIGH places, hang with me.  I’ve had some time to think about what we saw and heard that night. I’ve looked at it through several different lenses.  A leadership lens.  An organization lens. Even a Church World lens. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned that can speak to your world, too. [click to continue…]

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Isolation

Some of the most profound lessons in life can only be discovered face down in a proverbial ditch.  And that’s where I found myself about 25 years ago.  My career was crumbling. My family life was devastated. Whatever influence I had was waning quickly.  My dreams were being shattered.  I was a complete failure privately, and was about to be exposed as one publicly.  And for the moment, it was right where God wanted me to be.

There as life was crashing in all around me, I asked the Lord one of the most life-changing questions I could have asked, and He was gracious enough to give me an answer.

How did I wind up here?

The Lord showed me three things – three huge, blinding, colossal choices or habits that set me up for a trip to the ditch.  The first I’ve already covered here – I allowed myself to get discouraged in one area of my life, and soon discouragement spread like spiritual cancer.

Here is the second.  I read it on the 18th of the month – I know this because it was in Proverbs 18. But reading it was like reading a lab report on the condition of my heart.

A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment (Proverbs 18:1, NKJ)

At first blush it was obvious what that meant.  I was a pastor.  I was a public figure who made my living with words and relationships and eternal truths.  I was “on” 24/7, or so I thought.  So I gave every effort to play the part.  I smiled pastor smiles. I prayed pastor prayers.  I said pastor things.  And when people asked me how I was doing, I gave pastor replies.  “Good!” I would say, smiling.

I never told anybody otherwise.

I never shared what my biggest, most challenging obstacles were.  I never shared the depths of what my dreams were, either for myself or for the church.  I never told anybody I had gotten discouraged. I never asked for wisdom or help. I was a professional problem solver. I was supposed to be the solution to other people’s problems and the complete solution to my own… all the while presenting a front and leaving an impression that all was well.

The only way to pull all this off was to isolate myself.  I even had a name for it – I called it “transparency to a point.”  I would let people see and hear enough to believe I was being open and honest, but wouldn’t tell them too much.

Why?  Pride, for sure, but that’s the third answer to the question… more on that later.  Why isolate, then?  Because I didn’t want people advising me to do what I didn’t want to do.  I didn’t want to ask for anybody else’s help to succeed.  And I didn’t want to expose my life and work to somebody else’s opinion, wisdom, or direction.

In short, I isolated myself, and I was an idiot to do so.  I would caution you against the same mistake. [click to continue…]

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LK

Dear Laura Kate,

It was seven years ago this month that we welcomed you into the world.  And what an amazing seven years it has been.  Of course, there are plenty of things in this world to feel alarmed or sad about.  For example, I seriously doubt that anyone has watched the news or read a newspaper in the last seven years that didn’t contain the word “terrorist” in it.

You have never known a world where, if people wanted to communicate, they actually had to look someone in the eye and use their voices to make words – or get a piece of paper and use a pen, pencil or crayon to write.

You have never known a world where English wasn’t a second language to “Textlish.”

You have never known a world without FaceBook, YouTube, or the iPhone.  “Grammy/Mommy/Papa/whoever, can I play with your phone?” became standard conversation early in your life.

Over the years, thanks to social media and places like this site, we have watched you grow and known that you were created without a mold. So when you marshalled your forces and launched an all-out invasion on First Grade, we all braced for impact.  [click to continue…]

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Wreck 2

Why?

It’s the favorite question of three-year-olds, because at three you’re still innocent enough to believe it always merits an answer.

But as time passes and our “whys?” become more sophisticated, we begin to understand that there are often multiple layers and perspectives of answers to that question.

Then sometimes there is no answer at all.  At least no answer that will ever satisfy our demand to know what on earth (or heaven or hell) is going on.

I don’t know why, and probably never will, somebody decided to stop dead still with no lights of any kind on in the fast lane of a freeway in New Orleans – just around a little curve.

I don’t know why, and probably never will, that had to take place just ahead of me.

I don’t know why, if such an appointment was necessary, it couldn’t have taken place during one of the many times I’ve cruised that stretch of highway alone, instead of when I was driving with my daughter and two grandsons.

I don’t know why, and probably never will, that high-speed rear-end collision turned into a hit-and-run.  I hit and he ran, never to be seen or heard from again. [click to continue…]

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IMG_6724

When was the last time you literally felt the tension or stress melt off of you?

How long has it been since you were so relaxed, breathing felt optional?

Where do you go to remember who you are, or reconnect – not just spiritually, but emotionally and physically also?

What would it look like for you if you suddenly found yourself surprised by peace?

All that and more has a single answer for me:  Friday.  That was the day we interrupted our regularly-schedule life and made the two-hour drive to the farm.  Know why?  Don’t laugh…

I wanted to see the flowers. [click to continue…]

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(Or Ministry…  Or Job…  Or Spiritual Gifts…  Or Life Mission… Or…)

Servant Leader

Years ago I had the privilege of visiting South Korea and preaching in two different evangelistic crusades.  One day our hosts took us to a beautiful national park – a very busy place, with lots of booths, a walkway up a small mountain, and a Buddhist temple.

As we were walking down the mountain and enjoying the beautiful scenery along the wide walkway, a young Korean woman approached me and asked if I was from America.

“Could I talk to you as we walk?” she asked.  “I’m learning to speak English and it helps to practice with someone who speaks it.”

She spoke English pretty well, albeit with a beautiful Asian accent.

“What do you do for a living?” she asked.

If you travel overseas or have any experience speaking to an ESL (English as a second language), it’s pretty common to try to simplify your vocabulary in order to be understood.  I was a pastor at the time, and was pretty sure she wouldn’t know what a pastor was. So I chose a different word…

“I am a minister,” I said.

Her whole countenance changed.  Suddenly she was in the presence of someone important!

“Oh!  You are a government official?”

Yes, I know I shouldn’t have… but I literally laughed out loud.  Then I tried to explain to her that in the U.S. we use the English word “minister” in a different way.

I think she was disappointed.  Anyway… [click to continue…]

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Archer

Dear Archer,

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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Raw Chicken

Have you ever had somebody you wanted so badly to impress that you were sure to set yourself up for disaster?

Not really?

Okay, you can just laugh at my story then.

I was in my first pastorate – a lovely country church just out on the edge of a small town in southwest Alabama.  People there were so kind and gracious to us.  I was new and eager to impress, plus was passionate and excited about reaching people and seeing the church grow and flourish.

But this isn’t about reaching people or growing churches.  It’s about chicken.

Grilling chicken, to be precise. [click to continue…]

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Mama and the Twins

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…]

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