Courage

CriticOnce there lived a hard-to please husband whose wife was determined to try her best to satisfy him, if just for one day.

“Darling,” she asked that morning, “What would you like for breakfast? “

He growled, “Coffee and toast, grits and sausage, and two eggs ‑ one scrambled and one fried.”

She soon had the food on the table and waited for a word of praise.  After a quick glance, he exclaimed, “Well, if you didn’t scramble the wrong egg!”

Now that’s hard to please!

Of course, critics are nothing new. As long as people have aspired to rise above the level of the mediocre masses there have been people who attacked their motives for doing so.

As long as people have exhibited qualities of leadership there have been those in positions of power who used verbal attacks, “coaching,” and “constructive criticism” to “keep them in their place” and maintain control.

As long as somebody has offered to try to make something better by (gasp!) changing some things, there have been gossips and fish heads who questioned their right to be there, or anywhere for that matter.

Other than politics, nowhere will you find more criticism than the kind that’s hurled around in the name of God or religion. And if that describes you, I have a message for you:  God just called and He wants His name back. [click to continue…]

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Sword and Scripture

(If you never read another thing I write, before going any further, please read this short piece my daughter wrote to her children, ages 5, 2, and ten months. Click here, if you dare, and brace for impact.)

Okay.  Back?  Let’s get to it.

You don’t have the luxury of praying for people you love – especially your children or grandchildren – like a sissy.

The time is too short…

The enemy is too cruel…

The church is too powerless…

The Lord is too near His return…

…for you and me to sit on an arsenal mightier than a nuclear weapon and ask God to make their lives more comfortable…

easier…

safer.

Safer to whom, for God’s sake? The devil? The world? The ACLU? The media?

Stop asking God to make your little angels little angels. Or mild-mannered weenies.  In the name of all that is holy, I dare you to ask God to make them dangerous. Call on Him, in the heavenly realm, to put a sword in their teeth and courage in their hearts to blast a hole in the kingdom of darkness. [click to continue…]

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obstacle courseSecond period was blue.  Dark blue.  That was the color of our gym shorts in seventh grade.  Well, at least for those who sailed down the steps at Azalea Road Junior High to greet the red shorts brigade who was returning from Coach Crenshaw and Coach Perkins’ gym class.

Always anxious for coming attractions, we’d ask the boys from first period, “What are we doing?”  Sometimes it was something awesome like battle ball or football.  Sometimes it was something exotic like gymnastics.  But one thing was sure to send a chill up my adolescent spine:

The Obstacle Course.

I should probably mention here that my athletic ability was legendary.  In my own mind.  But running headlong into a class of 60 or so peers left little doubt that my gateway to glory wasn’t through athletics.

And if there was any doubt – if there was any shred of athletic dignity left in me – the Obstacle Course loomed as a reminder of the inglories that awaited. [click to continue…]

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Working Alone(Inspired by and dedicated to a great group of leaders I have had the privilege of working with over the last 12 weeks.)

It was a lonely life, but Jesse’s baby boy made the most of it.  His brothers probably learned the same way he did, but had gone on to other exploits.

David?  He was confined to the idiot patrol.  He was his father’s shepherd.  And it was there – alone with the dumbest animals on the planet – that David learned to be a leader.

He was alone when a lion came and seized a lamb from his flock.  He was alone when a bear did the same.  He was alone when he delivered those sheep from the valley of the shadow of death.  And the passion, courage, and wisdom he gained there – alone – forged pathways of leadership in Israel that were still in place years after his death.

Goliath?  That was just mop-up duty.

It’s true that leadership is on display when everybody else is looking.  It’s also true that leadership is being forged when no one is.  You may feel you’re in a wilderness, stuck making up silly songs to sing to the sheep.  In fact, you may assume that your solitude or lack of position means you’re no leader at all.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Here are eight ways to influence an entire generation, even when nobody is looking to you as the obvious solution to their leadership needs.  [click to continue…]

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Mountain BridgeNehemiah discovered a gap between what was and what should be.

What was – local thugs were keeping the holy city of his fathers in ruins as the people there had tried to rebuild it for 40 years.

What should be – a city with a wall around it.

In that discovery, he made a risky decision.  It wasn’t enough to pray or weep over it.  He needed to take action.  So Nehemiah aimed for The Gap.  And 52 days after his arrival in Jerusalem, the wall was completed.

Moses was hiding from his past on the back side of the desert when he discovered a gap between what was and what should be.

What was – the cries of the oppressed Israelites had reached the ears of their God.

What should be – a nation of slaves set free to inherit the land of God’s promise.

In that discovery, he made a risky decision.  It wasn’t enough to stand there and try to argue with a burning bush and the God who was calling him.  He needed to take action.  So Moses aimed for The Gap.  And weeks later, he and a few million of his family members stood at the edge of the Red Sea.

This is the essence of leadership.  [click to continue…]

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Tricycle WreckHave you ever felt as though you were good – really good – at something?  I don’t mean false pride or arrogance.  I mean being a person with faith.  Faith in God.  And almost as important, faith in yourself, at least in certain circumstances.

The word for that is confidence, and without it, you’re toast.

Have you ever moved confidently into a situation and blown it?  I’m not talking about giving in to your weaknesses.  I mean digging deep into the well of your greatest talent, knowledge, or skillset and serving up what they call “gopher balls” in baseball.

All of us can shrug off those areas of weakness.  We know we won’t be perfect at everything.  (You do know that, don’t you?)

But it’s hard to know where to go or what to do when we get hammered for what we think we’re good at.

I’ve seen a lot of that lately.  I’ve had a few of those experiences myself, but I’ve also come across a variety of other people who’ve faced the same thing.  Their confidence has been rattled, and they’re not quite sure what to do next. [click to continue…]

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Child Heart

We all were born with the capacity to dream.  To envision a life that could be… that will be… and the pathways to get there.  To imagine a tomorrow that’s better…

Safer…

Happier…

Stronger…

Lovelier.

“Be fruitful and multiply,” He said.  That’s the stuff that dreams are made of.  We dream of fruitfulness.  We dream of abundance.

But life on this side of the Garden sometimes aims our dreams toward the mirror.  Nighttime comes to the soul, and our imagination gets lost in what once was.  Of those we once dreamed with or about, but now for whatever reason are lost to us.  And it hurts like hell. [click to continue…]

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Where can I go to get away from your Spirit?
Where can I run to get away from you?
If I go up to heaven, you are there.
If I make my bed in hell, you are there.
If I climb upward on the rays of the morning sun
or land on the most distant shore of the sea where the sun sets,
even there your hand would guide me
and your right hand would hold on to me (Ps 139:7-10, GW)

It’s the fundamental reality – the primal fact on which all else we know is built.  The immortal, invisible, only-wise God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, knows no limits of time or space.  For those who have experienced the kindness of His grace, the implications of that are profound.  Simply put, wherever you are, there He already was, is, and shall be. [click to continue…]

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John Smoltz was famous for getting himself in trouble.

He’ll be in the Baseball Hall of Fame for the ways he could get himself out.

Smoltz didn’t always start well, but he knew what to do when he got himself into trouble.  He describes the mental process he would go through in his book, Starting and Closing.  At some point he would take his game to an entirely different level.  And the mental signal he would give himself:  Rally time.

That’s a theme that I’m seeing all over the world these days.  In one situation after another, we’ve gotten ourselves into trouble.  In baseball language, there’s one run in, the bases are loaded, and nobody out.

Rally time.

It’s rally time in places like Colorado and Pennsylvania, as people are looking to make sense out of the senseless and somehow create a world where kids can be safe.  But the rally comes from recognizing that our hope isn’t built on metal detectors and psychobabble, but on the peace of God that passes all understanding.

It’s rally time in places like Washington and state capitals everywhere, as incumbents try to keep their jobs and others try to take them away – all based on promises and politics.  But the rally comes from recognizing that our hope isn’t built on Republicans or Democrats, but on the government of the Lord God. [click to continue…]

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The other day Laura Kate, age 4, decided (again) what she wants to be when she grows up.  She wants “the person who dumps those big piles of dirt.”

The other day I, age 53, decided (again) what I want to be when I grow up.  I want to be the author of a book on leadership.

She’ll think of other things she wants to be when she grows up, and I’ll think of other things I’ll want to be when I grow up.  I guess when either of us quits thinking of who or what we want to be at a point of maturity, it’ll be time to die.

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There is only one person who gets to measure love by obedience – that’s Jesus.  All the rest of us have a different standard.

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